The Edge is National Journal's daily look at today in Washington -- and what's coming next. The email features analysis from NJ's top correspondents, the biggest stories of the day -- and always a few surprises. To subscribe, click here.
Race-Baiting, Godlessness, and Elitists at GOP’s CPAC
This was a bad day for the Republican Party. The Conservative Political Action Conference is an annual reminder of how easily the GOP could slip into obscurity if right-wing activists are given full control of the party’s image.
Celebrity mogul Donald Trump opened CPAC’s second day with a rambling address that predicted “serious trouble” for his party and touted a racially tinged immigration agenda. Trump predicted that 11 million illegal immigrants “will be voting Democratic” if given legal status, and he endorsed freer borders for European immigrants—“people whose sons went to Harvard!”
That won’t help the GOP’s miserable standing among Hispanics.
NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre criticized “elitists” who support background checks for guns, ignoring the fact that he had just marginalized 90 percent of Americans.
Failed presidential candidate Rick Santorum suggested, absurdly, that President Obama wants “a society that is Godless.”
Finally, Mitt Romney brought some sense to CPAC. "As someone who lost the last election,” he said, “I'm probably not in the best position to chart the course for the next one.”
Wiser words were not spoken.
ROMNEY TELLS GOP TO ‘LEARN FROM’ HIS 2012 MISTAKES. Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney received a sustained standing ovation from those gathered at CPAC today, and went on to tell those gathered: “We've lost races before, in the past, but those setbacks prepared us for larger victories. It's up to us to make sure that we learn from our mistakes, and my mistakes, and that we take advantage of that learning to make sure that we take back the nation.” Read more
McCONNELL TELLS ‘CRYBABY CAUCUS’ TO UNITE. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned conservatives to stop looking backwards or risk another round of electoral setbacks. “I’m a little tired of the hand-wringing. Conservatives were never meant to be part of the crybaby caucus,” he said at CPAC today. Of Democrats, he said, “These guys are well-organized, they’re well-financed, they’re ruthless, and if you don’t put this election behind us soon, they’re going to eat our lunch again.” Read more
ROB PORTMAN’S LESSONS FOR CONGRESS – AND US. It’s impossible not to be touched by Sen. Rob Portman’s words about his son and his reversal on gay marriage, National Journal’s Matthew Cooper writes. Even if you cling to the belief that marriage should be between one man and one woman, Portman’s love for his son, declaration of faith, and commitment to his own marriage was a rare display of authenticity at a time when almost all of our leaders' utterances seem poll-tested and scripted. And while that kind of empathy is welcome, it’s also worth noting that with many politicians, it takes a personal experience to make them enthusiastically embrace government action. Read more
- "I told Mitt Romney everything," Portman, who was vetted for the vice presidential candidacy under Romney, said on CNN.
AFTER SCATHING REPORT, JPMORGAN OFFICIALS GRILLED ON HILL. A high-ranking executive at Wall Street giant JPMorgan Chase said today that CEO Jamie Dimon withheld information on losses at the firm from federal regulators because of concerns over “confidentiality,” the Associated Press reported. That was just one revelation at a Senate hearing on a 2012 trading debacle that lost the Wall Street giant more than $6 billion. On Thursday, Senate investigators released a report that found that the firm “ignored internal controls and manipulated documents as the nation’s biggest bank racked up trading losses last year, while its influential chief executive, Jamie Dimon, briefly withheld some information from regulators,” according to The New York Times. Read more
OBAMA: IRAN ‘OVER A YEAR’ AWAY FROM HAVING NUKES. Obama told Israel’s Channel 2 TV that Iran is more than a year away from completing a nuclear weapon, The New York Times reports. “Right now, we think it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon, but obviously we don’t want to cut it too close,” he said. The president reiterated his preference for a diplomatic resolution, adding that he continues “to keep all options on the table.” Read more
MENENDEZ TO FACE GRAND JURY INVESTIGATION. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., will still face a federal grand jury investigation for his role in "advocating for the business interests of a wealthy donor and friend," The Washington Post reports. Menendez's relationship with his friend, Florida opthamologist Salomon Melgen, has been under scrutiny for weeks, since the senator acknowledged intervening with federal health care officials on Melgen's behalf over a billing dispute. Melgen has provided Menendez with plane flights to the Dominican Republic and Menendez allegedly pressured the Dominican government to honor a contract with Melgen’s port-security company, The Post reports. Read more
OBAMA WANTS $2 BILLION FOR RESEARCH ON CLEANER FUELS. In a speech Friday afternoon on energy policy, Obama proposed shifting $2 billion from oil royalties toward research on cleaner fuels, The Washington Post reports. The plan will likely encounter resistance from Republicans who will see it as a tax on energy producers, but the idea has some business support. “After years of talking about it, we’re finally poised to take control of our energy future,” Obama said at an event in Illinois. Focusing his first energy speech on research, an idea that appeals to both Republicans and Democrats, sends a signal that the president wants to find common ground on a usually divisive policy issue, Reuters reports.Read more
SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION RANKS TRANSPARENCY IN STATE GOVERNMENTS. The Sunlight Foundation took a long look at which state governments are most transparent with their legislative data. Among the most open are Texas, Kansas, New York, and Washington; among the least are Alabama, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Nebraska. See the full report here.
SEQUESTER CUTS HOURS AT NATIONAL ARCHIVES. In response to sequester-mandated budget cuts, the National Archives is cutting visiting hours, the Associated Press reports. Normally, the archives extends its closing time from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. between March 15 and Labor Day, in order to accommodate tourists. It will not do so this year. Read more
** A message from CIT:Growmerica™ Growth opportunities created when CIT finances America’s small- and middle-market businesses. CIT provides credit access to businesses in your communities, offering the lending, leasing and advisory services your constituents need to prosper. Visit cit.com.
PLAY OF THE DAY
A WASHINGTON CONCLAVE? Pope Francis’s election remains the biggest topic on late-night TV (including the news that he spent his early years as a bouncer), but domestic matters were not ignored, including the fact that the Obama administration spends more than $250,000 a year on calligraphy. The Tonight Show’s Jay Leno even looked at Michelle Obama’s upcoming Vogue cover. Watch it here.
“The one thing a violent rapist deserves to face is a good woman with a gun.” —NRA executive vice presidentWayne LaPierre (Washington Post)
IN MISS., THE MYSTERIOUS MURDER OF A GAY, BLACK POLITICIAN. Marco McMillian, a 33-year-old political consultant who was both black and gay, had spent most of his adult life building a promising career in Washington and Memphis, Tenn. Recently, he did what few people who leave Clarksdale, Miss., ever do by choice: He came back. And he decided to run for mayor. But he never got the chance. On Feb. 27, sheriff’s deputies discovered his body next to a levee outside of town, where it had been dumped days earlier. McMillian had been beaten, dragged, and set on fire, according to his family. They want his killing investigated as a hate crime. The coroner and the sheriff dispute the family’s account and say they have no reason to approach it as anything other than a typical murder, as National Journal’s Ben Terris reports. Read more
THE ASSAULT-WEAPONS VOTE WAS A HIGHLY PRODUCTIVE SHAM. Thursday's Senate Judiciary Committee vote on assault weapons was a sham if you think the purpose was to ban assault weapons, writes National Journal's Fawn Johnson. What the vote did offer lawmakers was an important opportunity to parse and deliberate complicated and unresolved questions about the Constitution, guns, and violence. California's Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the bill’s sponsor, is well aware that her proposal to outlaw some assault-style, semiautomatic weapons has almost no chance of passing the Senate. But that isn’t the point. Since the Newtown, Conn., massacre last year, the point has always been to see how far the gun-control crowd can push the gun-rights folks toward regulating guns. Read more
BELTWAY BUDGET WEEK IN REVIEW. This week's Sunday shows will focus on the rival budgets put forth by leaders from both parties. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., will be on Face the Nation, while House Speaker John Boehner will be doing a one-on-one interview with ABC's Martha Raddatz on This Week. Read more
NBC’s Meet the Press hosts Cardinal Francis George, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend
CBS’s Face the Nation hosts Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.; Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus
ABC’s This Week hosts House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif.
Fox News Sunday hosts Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
CNN’sState of the Union hosts Reps. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; American Conservative Union President Al Cardenas; Rep. Raul Grijalva, R-Ariz.; and Dr. Ben Carson.
Bloomberg’s Capitol Gains hosts Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.
C-SPAN’s Newsmakers features Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La.