POLITICS
12/13/2012 06:08 pm ET | Updated Feb 12, 2013

HUFFPOST HILL - Susan Rice Harriet Miers'd

Pundits were stunned to learn that a qualified person was denied a Washington job. Thanks to Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, Fox will never be able to run a show called "The Asshole Factor." And that petition to have the U.S. construct a Death Star reached the necessary number of signatures to prompt a White House response. That explains why Northrop Grumman has pulled all its people from Alderaan. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday, December 13th, 2012:

MERLOT SUMMIT - @jaketapper: Just like a therapy session, the POTUS/Boehner meeting lasted just 50 minutes. From 510 pm to 6 pm.

NONPARTISAN REPORT RISES FROM DEAD, STILL SAYS TAX HIKES FOR THE RICH WON'T DESTROY AMERICA - Republicans tried to kill this report, succeeding only in giving it more attention. It is massively discrediting for their tax policy. Mike McAuliff: "A Congressional Research Service report that was reissued Thursday after Republicans complained about it before the elections still finds little evidence that the Bush-era tax cuts spurred growth or that hiking the top rates would have more than a 'negligible' impact on the economy. The CRS study did find, however, that the lower tax rates in place since 2001 have had a strong impact on increasing income inequality in America. 'Analysis of such data conducted for this report suggests the reduction in the top tax rates has had little association with saving, investment, or productivity growth,' the study says. "It is reasonable to assume that a tax rate change limited to a small group of taxpayers at the top of the income distribution would have a negligible effect on economic growth." [HuffPost]

Hits from the report: "Statutory tax rates affecting taxpayers at the top of the income distribution are currently at their lowest levels since the end of the second World War....[T]he top tax rate reductions appear to be correlated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution. "

SUSAN RICE WITHDRAWS NAME FOR STATE CONSIDERATION - NBC News: "Embattled U.N. envoy Susan Rice is dropping out of the running to be the next secretary of state after months of criticism over her Benghazi comments, she told NBC News on Thursday. If nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly -- to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities,' Rice wrote in a letter to President Obama, saying she's saddened by the partisan politics surrounding her prospects. That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country...Therefore, I respectfully request that you no longer consider my candidacy at this time,' she wrote in the letter obtained by NBC News...She has been under intense fire from Republicans for initially characterizing the Sept. 11 assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, as a spur-of-the-moment response to a crude anti-Muslim film...As more details emerged suggesting it was a premeditated terrorist action, GOP critics accused Rice of misleading the public at the height of the presidential campaign. She countered that she went with the best information available about the attack, in which Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed." [NBC News]

@LisaDCNN:RICE - WHAT HAPPENED: Sources tell @danabashcnn, @gloriaborgercnn that Rice's meetings on the Hill went poorly, esp. mtg w/ Sen. Collins.

Read Rice's letter here.

Statement from President Obama: "Today, I spoke to Ambassador Susan Rice, and accepted her decision to remove her name from consideration for Secretary of State. For two decades, Susan has proven to be an extraordinarily capable, patriotic, and passionate public servant. As my Ambassador to the United Nations, she plays an indispensable role in advancing America's interests... While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character, and an admirable commitment to rise above the politics of the moment to put our national interests first. The American people can be proud to have a public servant of her caliber and character representing our country.

Idea: The president nominates Scott Brown to be the next secretary of State because f--- you.

PARANOID SELF-LOATHING GOP LOBBYIST SPIKES THE BALL - HuffPost Hill's Paranoid Self-Loathing GOP Lobbyist, whose holiday card features the words "Best Wishes To You And Yours" on top of a photo of himself wearing a ski mask beside a reef on the steel-plated door of his panic room, is delighted by Susan Rice's withdrawal from President Obama's State shortlist. "Bush stood by Harriet Miers for much longer," PSLGOPL writes. "I'm starting to feel really good about this whole fiscal cliff showdown." Thanks, PSLGOPL!

PSLGOPL adds: "Jon Favreau channeled Susan Rice eloquently in the withdrawal letter. Don't you think?"

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Neal Cassel lost his job handling computer support for a law firm in October of last year. The Brandon, Fla., resident suspects that his status as one of the long-term unemployed may be making it harder for him to get back to work. "As you're out of work longer, someone may see that and assume maybe you're not a good candidate because you've been out of work so long," Cassel, 53, said in an interview. "Maybe I'm just trying to justify the fact that I haven't gotten hired." A growing body of research suggests employers do look askance at long-term unemployed job candidates. The latest, a recently released policy brief by Rand Ghayad and William Dickens for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, finds that people out of work six months or more are missing out on the recovery. "It's not that they don't have the skills –- it's just that employers don't hire them because they think badly of them," Ghayad told DDD. [HuffPost]

UPSIDE DOWNER - New unemployment claims fell dramatically. If Chicago guys are cooking the books, then the books now resemble Clark Griswold's Christmas turkey. "In the week ending December 8, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 343,000, a decrease of 29,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 372,000. The 4-week moving average was 381,500, a decrease of 27,000 from the previous week's revised average of 408,500." Labor Department

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CHUCK HAGEL THE FAVORITE TO RUN DEFENSE DEPARTMENT - Hagel, the former Nebraska senator and -- as has been pointed out on more than one occasion -- the most Kyle Chandler-y lawmaker ever to grace the upper chamber, is said to be the favorite to replace Leon Panetta at Defense. Bloomberg: "Former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel has emerged as the leading candidate to become Obama's next Secretary of Defense and may be nominated as soon as this month, according to two people familiar with the matter. Hagel, who served as an enlisted Army infantryman in Vietnam, has passed the vetting process at the White House Counsel's office, said one of the people. The former Nebraska senator has told associates that he is awaiting final word from the president, said the other person. Both requested anonymity to discuss personnel matters. Other contenders are Michele Flournoy, former defense undersecretary for policy, and Ashton Carter, deputy defense secretary, administration officials have said. Obama invited Hagel to the White House on Dec. 4 to discuss the position with him, according to an administration official. The president hasn't made a final decision, said another official. Both asked for anonymity to discuss internal deliberations." [Bloomberg]

@NBCNews: A senior White House official says "I can say there will be no new cabinet secretaries announced this week." per @chucktodd

@aterkel: Next DoD Secretary would need to see implementation of DADT repeal. Hagel had a 0% rating on LGBT issues

'THE ASSHOLE FACTOR' - Rep. Lynn Westmoreland on why some GOP members got booted from their committees. Roll Call: "What I tried to explain to them was, it didn't have anything to do with your voting record, a scorecard, your work across the street or anything else. It had to do with your ability to work within the system and to try to work. And to be, I guess, constructive in things. And I said, 'I guess you could say it was an asshole factor,'" Westmoreland said. "Now I wasn't calling any member in particular an asshole, I was just trying to describe an environment where some people that you're trying to work with, they just don't want to work within the system." [Roll Call]

HARRY REID: DEAL BY CHRISTMAS UNLIKELY - Looks like Hill staffers are going to be getting their presents late this Christmas -- not just because they'll be working but because Santa will have to have his gifts tested for anthrax before they can enter the Capitol complex. WaPo: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters Tuesday that it will be “extremely difficult' to get a deal done to avert the 'fiscal cliff' before Christmas. 'We can do things very quickly, but this is not something we can do easily, at least as far as bill-drafting goes,' he said. 'But until we hear something from the Republicans there's nothing to draft.' House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said earlier Tuesday that President Obama would have to offer spending cuts to move negotiations forward." [WaPo]

Grover Norquist is convinced that President Obama's fiscal efforts will be thwarted by congressional Republicans and he'll be forced to channel his frustrations into bombing Tuvalu. Nick Wing: "Speaking on C-SPAN's 'Washington Journal,' Norquist argued that congressional Republicans had a number of weapons ready to wield against Obama and Democrats in order to ensure that there would be no spending increases or tax hikes. 'Obama will be on a very short leash, fiscally speaking, over the next four years,' Norquist said. 'He's not going to have any fun at all; he may just have to go blow up small countries he can't pronounce because it won't be any fun to be here, because he won't be able to spend the kind of cash he was hoping to.'" [HuffPost]

POLL: DEMOCRATS HAVE EDGE IN FISCAL CLIFF DEBATE - Pew: "The Democrats are in a strong position with the public as they engage in negotiations to find a solution to the fiscal cliff crisis. Barack Obama's first post-reelection job approval rating has risen to 55%, up five points since July and 11 points since the start of the year. Obama's job rating is markedly higher than George W. Bush's first job measure (48%) after he won reelection in 2004. When it comes to the reaching an agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff, 55% say Obama is making a serious effort to work with Republicans. But just 32% say Republican leaders are making a serious effort to work with Obama on a deficit deal...Just 25% approve of the way Republican leaders in Congress are doing their jobs, while 40% approve of Democratic leaders' job performance. And the GOP's lead negotiator, House Speaker John Boehner, is viewed more unfavorably (40%) than favorably (28%)." [Pew]

Most Republicans have no problem making wealthier Americans wait just a little bit longer to add body spray fixtures to their yacht bathrooms. WSJ: "A month after the presidential election highlighted divisions over taxes, spending and political stewardship, Americans now solidly back compromise to solve the biggest budget challenges facing the country, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds. About two-thirds of Americans of all political stripes would like Congress to strike a deal to reduce the federal budget deficit, even if means cutting Social Security and Medicare and boosting some tax rates, the survey released Wednesday found. An even larger share--more than three-quarters of Americans, including 61% of Republicans--said they would accept raising taxes on the wealthy in order to avoid a 'fiscal cliff' of large spending cuts and tax increases now set to take place in January." [WSJ]

JAN BREWER MULLING UNPRECEDENTED THIRD TERM - Nick Wing: "Arizona GOP Gov. Jan Brewer's second and final term -- at least according to the state constitution -- is set to come to an end in 2014. But now, as she stands as one of the more controversial Republican governors in the nation, rumblings about her taking steps to challenge the law and run for an unprecedented third term are growing louder. Brewer has been asked about the prospect and repeatedly suggested that she's open to the possibility. 'I haven't ruled anything out,' Brewer said on Wednesday, according to Bloomberg. 'I'm doing my job as governor. I have two more years.'" [HuffPost]

JOSEPH ALLBRITTON, SATAN'S HANDMAIDEN, DEAD AT 87 - Joseph Allbritton -- who ran a bank that helped deposed Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet hide his fortune from authorities, ignored financial regulations that allowed funds to be transferred to Islamist terrorists and sheltered money for Equatorial Guinea's notoriously craven dictator, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo -- is no more. In his later life, he moved into television and print media, purchasing a number of news outlets and founding Albritton Communications, the parent company of Politico. Had Allbritton been born William Randolph Hearst, we suspect he not only would have championed America's entry into the Spanish-American War but would have helped Emperor Nicholas II liquidate assets seized during the pogroms. He was a really swell guy. Now he is no more. Pity that Tom Wolfe never turned him into an outlandishly gluttonous character in a novel. That he died happy and rich is a tragedy. That he died free is an injustice. [Politico]

VIRGINIA FOXX: THE JOSEPH ALLBRITTON OF THE MEMBERS-ONLY ELEVATOR - On a much lighter note, stories have been emerging over the last several weeks that North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx has been terrorizing Hill staffers in the Capitol complex's members-only elevators, the lifts that only people in Members-Only jackets can use are restricted to House members during votes. The Hill: "One tipster recalls it was either the first or second week of his congressional internship in October of last year when he was running an errand to a committee room, and still had a 'healthy fear of the members-only elevator.'... Our insider says the congresswoman asked if he had seen the 'members-only' sign outside the elevator before demanding his name and the office he worked for. 'She was very intimidating, especially for a brand-new intern,' As our elevator rider describes it, 'She walked up to a [Capitol] police officer and told on me for riding on her elevator, and he was as dumbfounded as I was.'" [The Hill]

That petition to build a Death Star reached the necessary number of signatures to trigger a White House response. We hope the response will include a point about the weaknesses of its thermal exhaust ports: "The Death Star petition on the White House website has gained enough signatures to merit a response from President Obama's administration. The petition, which calls for the administration to 'begin construction of a Death Star by 2016,' crossed the mark Thursday for 25,000 signatures, which is the level the White House requires before it will respond." [Washington Times]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Bulldog puppy bulldog puppies for about five minutes.

FISCAL SPLIFF - HuffPost DC: "The long wait for medical marijuana in D.C. is almost over as local officials have OK'd certificates of occupancy for the city's first marijuana dispensary and cultivation center." [HuffPost]

COMFORT FOOD

- The trailer to "The Dark Knight Rises" remade entirely with LEGOs. [http://chzb.gr/UGFzBF]

- Seven sites you should be wasting time on right now, via HuffPost Comedy. [http://huff.to/VB0Nlw]

- Human beings, such as yourself, are vomit-inducingly disgusting, as this video demonstrates. [http://chzb.gr/VB4VSD]

- A recap of last night's 12.12.12 benefit concert for victims of Hurricane Sandy. [http://bit.ly/ZkT81m]

- Jimmy Fallon performs "Jingle Bells Batman Smells" in a pitch-perfect Dylan voice. [http://huff.to/UVPzeO]

- Gorgeous timelapse video of Norway's western coast. [http://bit.ly/W8RtYl]

- Heistent cat timidly asks for attention. [http://bit.ly/ZkYcTl]

TWITTERAMA

@alisonforns: John McCain just changed his anti-Susan Rice breakfast meeting to "flex angry time".

@nycsouthpaw: RICE FRIED, DEMOCRATS STEAMED

@elisefoley: YOU get a cease fire! YOU get a cease fire! RT @aterkel: Oprah for Secretary of State!

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