Essential Politics: Paris presents a new political reality


I’m Christina Bellantoni, the Essential Politics host today. Let’s get started.

There is a new political reality confronting elected officials, the White House and the men and women who want to be the next commander-in-chief — at least for the moment.

Friday’s horrific, orchestrated attacks in Paris cast a shadow over just about everything related to politics, and will keep the conversation centered on global affairs and terrorism at a critical moment ahead of the first contests in February.

President Obama’s trip abroad — with meetings already expected to be dominated with discussions about the chaos of the Syrian civil war and the ensuing refugee crisis — is reframed in an even more serious light as the world mourns the tragedy that French President Francois Hollande dubbed an "act of war." Christi Parsons, covering the G-20 summit for the Los Angeles Times, has more.

Back in Washington, you can expect new calls for a vote on an Authorization for Use of Military Force against Islamic State, something that has languished all year.

And the events in France provide an opportunity for presidential campaigns to refocus on serious matters of global consequence — a strength for former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and a weakness for the current Republican frontrunners.

Columnist Cathleen Decker summed up nicely how Saturday’s presidential debate in Des Moines was "hijacked by a foreign policy crisis dominating the news from a world away." From her analysis:

As metaphors for the last two presidencies go, the turnabout was apt: Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama came into office with domestic issues prime on their minds, only to have conflicts abroad hobble and frustrate their tenures.

Foreign policy, and specifically her vote for the Iraq War, also frustrated Hillary Rodham Clinton in her unsuccessful run for president in 2008. Not even an ad that year asserting that she was most experienced to take the 3 a.m. crisis call—the implication being that Obama wasn’t—was enough to overcome Democrats' embrace of his early opposition to the war.

As much as anything, Saturday night's debate in the shocked aftermath of the Paris terrorist attack offered Clinton an opportunity to argue anew that her experience is necessary—and her opponents' is insufficient--for any 3 a.m. call. That allowed her to eclipse her rivals on stage, although in doing so, she may have created vulnerabilities a Republican could exploit next fall.

Read the rest here.

On a less serious note, here are a few things I noticed Saturday evening:

Sen. Bernie Sanders was more aggressive in his answers, pointedly highlighting areas of disagreement with Clinton. Team Sanders also deployed a stepped-up rapid response operation compared with the October debate.

Both Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley went after Clinton in a similar fashion to 2008 campaign era-Barack Obama. Sanders criticized Clinton’s vote in favor of the war in Iraq. O’Malley called Clinton "Annie Oakley," similar to a knock from Obama, to suggest she was coming late to the gun control game.

Here’s a video flashback.

And Clinton again reminded debate viewers of the historic nature of her campaign, noting 60% of her donors are women.

We covered the debate from every angle. Catch up on Trail Guide, read how Mary McNamara found the debate a display of congeniality, how CBS fared in ratings, get our official take from Evan Halper in Iowa and Mark Z. Barabak in California and Stephen Battaglio delivers the behind-the-scenes John Dickerson must-read.


Sarah Wire talked with Monterey County Deputy Dist. Atty. Jimmy Panetta about his interest in running for the newly open 20th congressional district in Monterey County.

Democratic Rep. Sam Farr, who over the years has handily won re-election in the overwhelmingly Democratic district, announced his retirement Thursday.

Panetta is the son of Leon Panetta, the former secretary of Defense and CIA director who once held the seat for 16 years. He said he expects to make a quick decision after what he dubbed as "serious discussions that need to be had with all family members."

Panetta won’t have the field to himself. State Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) told Wire he is "certainly looking at that race."

Another possible contender is state Senate Majority Floor Leader Bill Monning (D-Carmel). Republican Pacific Grove City Council member Casey Lucius, a former national security professor at the Naval War College, already has announced a bid.

More detail on the district is here.

Wire also talked with Farr about his decision to say farewell after nearly 22 years. He told her he wants to focus on being a "full-time grandpa."


During last week’s House recess, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) led a group of lawmakers including Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) and Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) on a trip to Tibet, Beijing and Hong Kong.

It was the first congressional delegation to enter Tibet since 2008, Pelosi said in a statement. The members spoke with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and other government leaders in Beijing about respecting religious freedom in Tibet, human and women’s rights across China and Hong Kong’s autonomy.


-- Decker’s Sunday column dives into our USC/LAT poll and finds three problems for the California GOP.

-- George Skelton writes in his Monday column how GOP U.S. Senate candidate George “Duf” Sundheim is looking to Democrats and independents as well as Republicans in his bid to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer.

-- David Zahniser gets inside the AirBnB campaign.

-- California's urban areas should prepare to keep conserving water until at least next fall, Gov. Jerry Brown said Friday. A new executive order means that if the drought continues through January, mandatory water cuts will remain in effect until October.

-- California’s economy is booming, so why is it No. 1 in poverty? These charts explain.

-- Lisa Mascaro details how Sen. Ted Cruz has been rising from fringe to presidential material. Here’s a hint as to why: Donald Trump. She also details the increasing tension between Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio over immigration.


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