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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.

A Heartwarming Political Ad. Seriously.

Even on a good day, Washington is a disheartening place, locked in ideological arm-wrestling over the budget, the debt, the new health law, and an array of emotional social issues. This week has been especially dark, starting as it did with the mass murder of a dozen people at the Navy Yard.

But a beam of light is penetrating the gloom. It’s a heartwarming political ad—and that’s not an oxymoron. The costars are Carl Sciortino Jr., a gay state legislator running for Democratic Sen. Edward Markey’s old House seat in a Dec. 10 special election, and his dad, Carl Sciortino Sr. The dialogue starts out like this:

Jr.: “I had to come out and tell him…”

Sr.: “Wait for this…”

Jr.: “That I was a Massachusetts liberal.”

Sr.: (incredulously): “And he’s proud of it.”

Jr.: “Dad’s in the tea party.”

Sr.: “Damn right.”

The two go on to argue good-naturedly over guns, abortion, banks, equal rights, and other hot-button issues, before saying—believably—that they love each other.

Yes, yes, I know, this is one family, not the American family, and Congress will never be mistaken for a family. But watch it anyway. You’ll feel better.

Jill Lawrence


HAGEL TO ORDER SECURITY REVIEW OF ALL U.S. MILITARY BASES. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said today he plans to order a security review for all U.S. military bases around the world as revelations about the suspect in Monday’s shooting at Washington Navy Yard continued to emerge, The Washington Post reports. Aaron Alexis, the alleged shooter in an attack that claimed 12 lives, had a spotty record during his four years as a Navy reservist and had been treated for mental-health issues—among them paranoia and a sleep disorder—by Veterans Affairs since August. Talk of gun control, inevitably, began shortly after the attack, though few expected the massacre to spur the passage of any legislation. Read more

  • Despite being the largest mass-casualty shooting since efforts to pass gun-control legislation failed, Monday’s attack is “a form of terrorism we have learned to live with,” The Atlantic‘s Garance Franke-Ruta writes. Read more

WITH SUMMERS OUT, YELLEN BOOSTERS PUSH AHEAD. Federal Reserve Vice Chairwoman Janet Yellen immediately became the front-runner to become the central bank’s next chief when former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers bowed out of contention over the weekend, The Wall Street Journal reports. Yellen reportedly did not expect this turn of events, given the “messy public contest” for the top spot over the last few months. Summers’s failed bid is a reminder that the White House’s relationship with Senate Democrats, who are being credited with taking down the economist via a small but vocal rebellion, is on shaky ground even with titanic fiscal fights around the corner. Read more

WHO IS SERGEI LAVROV? LOOK TO THE MAN’S VICES. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov may be the man most responsible for averting a U.S. military strike against Syria, but the man behind the rapid-response diplomacy has long been extremely effective and a thorn in the side of senior U.S. officials, The New York Times reports. Lavrov has held his post for a decade, during which time he has worked to shift Russia’s role on the world stage beyond a post-Cold War paradigm. “For now, he’s one of the most skilled diplomats in the world,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor in chief of the policy journal Russia in Global Affairs. “The time of real diplomacy has come back.” Read more

  • Israel is calling for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a move that marks a major shift in its public rhetoric, Reuters reports. Read more

CBO: OUTLOOK ON DEBT REMAINS BLEAK. The Congressional Budget Office said today that the long-term outlook for national debt remains negative, despite recent drops in the deficit, The Hill reports. Federal debt held by the public, if left unchanged, will rise from 73 to 100 percent of gross domestic product from 2013 to 2038, which could spark the sort of fiscal crises seen in Europe. “The bottom line remains the same as last year: the federal budget is on a course that cannot be sustained indefinitely,” CBO Director Doug Elmendorf said. House Republicans, meanwhile, are still at odds over efforts to defund the Affordable Care Act at the risk of causing a government shutdown. Read more

CENSUS FINDS INCOME, POVERTY LEVELS AT STEADY RATE IN 2012. A Census Bureau report released today paints a broad picture of well-being in the U.S. in 2012 and finds that the median household income and the poverty rate were unchanged from 2011, while the percentage of people without health insurance dipped, The New York Times reports. The numbers mark the first time in five years that income did not fall and poverty did not rise, but also show an economy failing to better conditions for some of the nation’s most needy. “The poverty and income numbers are a metaphor for the entire economy,” said Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution. “Everything’s on hold, but at a bad level.” Read more

  • Roughly 3 million people gained health insurance from 2011 to 2012, but that decrease is because of a growth of enrollment in Medicaid and Medicare–and not because of the Affordable Care Act, The Washington Post‘s Sarah Kliff writes. Read more

IRAN: ROUHANI HAS EXCHANGED LETTERS WITH OBAMA. Iran’s centrist-leaning President Hassan Rouhani has exchanged letters with President Obama in a rare burst of diplomatic contact between the two countries that have been adversarial ever since the Iran hostage crisis in 1980, Reuters reports. Iran confirmed Obama sent Rouhani a letter of congratulations following his election. Rouhani’s predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wrote a letter to Obama three years ago, and Obama has written twice directly to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 2009 and 2012. “This letter has been exchanged,” an Iranian spokeswoman said. “The mechanism for exchanging these letters is through current diplomatic channels.” Read more

CITING SPY WORRIES, BRAZIL’S ROUSSEFF POSTPONES WHITE HOUSE VISIT. The White House announced today that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has postponed a planned state visit on Oct. 23 due to concerns stemming from U.S. surveillance programs, Reuters reports. Rousseff has previously threatened to cancel her visit after news reports revealed the National Security Agency had monitored her communications with aides. Read more


PANEL TO DISCUSS FIRST AMENDMENT, NATIONAL SECURITY CONCERNS. The Newseum will hold a discussion on “Security, Freedom, and Privacy in the Digital Age,” focusing on “the need to balance national security with preserving journalists’ First Amendment freedoms,” at 9 a.m.

AGENCY OFFICIALS TO TESTIFY ON SURVEILLANCE PRACTICES. The House Judiciary Committee will hold a closed hearing on “Oversight of the Administration’s use of FISA Authorities” at 10 a.m. in HVC-301. Deputy Attorney General James Cole, General Counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence Robert Litt, National Security Agency Deputy Director John Inglis, and Andy McCabe, assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Counterterrorism Division, are scheduled to testify.

HOUSE PANEL CONVENES ON BENGHAZI. The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing, “Benghazi: Where is the State Department Accountability?” at 10 a.m. in 2172 Rayburn. Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy is scheduled to testify.

ZUCKERBERG TO DISCUSS THE KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY.The Atlantic will hold an interview session with Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg on “the knowledge economy, including Zuckerberg’s involvement in the immigration debate and his mission to provide Internet access for the world’s next five billion people” at 4 p.m. at 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.


“Have you ever been offered a job by a poor person? No one has. So, this class warfare against people who’ve managed to employ other people and create wealth and create jobs, I think is silly.” –Businessman Matt Bevin, a Republican challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. (International Business Times)


OCCUPY MOMA? By January 2012, frequent attendees of meetings for Occupy Wall Street–which kicked off two years ago today—were focused on the upcoming May 1 general strike, Nathan Schneider writes, adapting part of his book, Thank You, Anarchy: Notes From the Occupy Apocalypse, for Guernica. The strike managed to bring, at times, warring coalitions together, but as May Day drew closer, it was brought up less frequently at OWS meetings. And by mid-April, worry had set in that the strike “might not be everything it would need to be to rescue the world—much less, the movement,” Schneider writes. In retrospect, it wasn’t, with organizers scattering after the May Day event. “Maybe nobody really believed the transcendental expectations in the first place,” Schneider writes. “But I know that from time to time I did—in glimpses, like passing a seductive canvas in a gallery.” Read more


HONORING THE CONSTITUTION. Today is Constitution Day, and that’s as good a reminder as any that our nation’s founding document requires citizen participation in order to remain strong, Andrew Guthrie Ferguson, an assistant professor at UDC David A. Clarke School of Law, writes for The Atlantic. It’s easy to fulfill the participatory obligation (as Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., proved today by tweeting the text of the entire document), Ferguson says before offering five simple suggestions and adding that “Constitutional values, and not race, ethnicity, or religion bind us together as a nation.” Read more


THE THIN LINE BETWEEN WORK AND PLAY? Members of Congress don’t have to walk very far to be able to raise money for their reelection bids, according to a study by the Sunlight Foundation, which mapped the locations of political fundraisers held during the last five years. More than three-fourths of all political fundraisers in Washington take place within three blocks of the U.S. Capitol building, with the Capitol Hill Club topping the list with 1,966 events. Read more


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