POLITICS
06/05/2014 06:15 pm ET | Updated Jun 05, 2014

HUFFPOST HILL - President Apologies For Nothing, NOTHING!

President Obama refused to apologize for the Bergdahl prisoner swap as he only apologizes for doing stupid shit. An Alison Lundergan Grimes campaign ad featured a European male model posing as a coal miner — but at least he wasn’t from *old* Europe. And Mitch McConnell won’t endorse any HHS nominee who supports Obamacare, insisting that the president nominate someone who will sit under their desk all day hugging their knees and yelling “NOOOOOO!” This is HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday, June 5th, 2014:

SANDERS, MCCAIN UNVEIL BIPARTISAN VA BILL - Usually, John McCain only interacts with socialists when he's hostilely spraying them with an old-fashioned flit gun in the park. Today was more constructive. Jen Bendery: "Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced Thursday that they have reached a deal on bipartisan legislation aimed at reforming the veterans' health care system. Sanders, chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, outlined the framework of the forthcoming bill on the Senate floor. The proposal comes in response to reports of misconduct at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities around the country. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned last Friday. The legislation from Sanders and McCain would allow for the construction of 26 VA medical facilities in 18 states, provide $500 million for hiring new VA doctors and nurses, allow veterans to see private doctors if they experience long wait times or live more than 40 miles from a VA facility, provide aid to veterans who can't afford to go to college under the post-9/11 GI bill, provide resources for victims of military sexual assault, and ensure that the spouses of veterans killed in battle can take advantage of the post-9/11 GI bill. In addition, the bill would make it easier to fire VA staffers for wrongdoing, though it would also create an expedited process to allow those staffers to appeal. It would establish a new presidential commission to work with the private sector to help develop better technology for the VA. Sanders said he would have preferred that the proposal went further, but given that he and McCain are 'people who look at the world very differently,' their compromise is a major success." [HuffPost]

It's not a question of whether this photo of John Kerry becomes a meme. It's a question of how AWESOME a meme it will become.

SENATE COMMITTEE HANDS BIG HEMP A VICTORY - The Meridian Hill Park drum circle is going to be extra robust this weekend. Ryan Grim: "The Senate Appropriations Committee voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to block efforts by the Drug Enforcement Administration to crack down on hemp, following the DEA's recent action against the state of Kentucky. An amendment co-sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who both represent states with farmers interested growing hemp crops, cruised through the powerful spending committee on a 22-8 vote. Congress legalized hemp for research purposes earlier this term, but the DEA argued that the law had not made it legal to import seeds, and subsequently seized a delivery bound for Kentucky's Department of Agriculture, leading to a drawn-out public battle. 'This measure will help prevent our legal hemp seeds secured by state Departments of Agriculture and used for legal pilot programs from being blocked by DEA or other federal agencies in the future,' McConnell said. 'These legal pilot programs authorized by my legislation could help boost our state’s economy and lead to future jobs.' The House previously passed similar legislation, indicating that opposition to the DEA move is bicameral as well as bipartisan." [HuffPost]

Heads up! Jobs report tomorrow.

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - A rising economic tide lifts yachts only. "Between 1979 and 2013, productivity grew 64.9 percent, while hourly compensation of production and nonsupervisory workers, who comprise 80 percent of the private-sector workforce, grew just 8.2 percent. Productivity thus grew eight times faster than typical worker compensation," write Josh Bivens, Elise Gould, Lawrence Mishel, and Heidi Shierholz. "Much of this productivity growth accrued to those with the very highest wages. The top 1 percent of earners saw cumulative gains in annual wages of 153.6 percent between 1979 and 2012—far in excess of economy-wide productivity." Hourly wages for the rest of us have stagnated or declined. [Economic Policy Institute]

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SENATOR: OFFICIALS HAD REASON TO BELIEVE BERGDAHL MAY HAVE BEEN KILLED IF DEAL LEAKED - Igor Bobic: "The Obama administration had reason to believe that U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's life would have been in serious danger had negotiations for his release become public before the exchange on Saturday, according to Sen. Angus King (I-Maine). 'They had intelligence that, had even the fact of these discussions leaked out, there was a reasonable chance Bowe Bergdahl would have been killed,' King told CNN's Kate Bolduan on Thursday. 'And that was one of the pieces of information that we learned yesterday that gave it some credence in terms of why it had to be kept quiet so long.' In a closed-door, classified briefing on Wednesday, senators viewed a “proof of life” video taken of Bergdahl in captivity and questioned administration officials on the merits and legality of the exchange, which included five senior Taliban leaders. Reaction to the video was mixed. Some senators, including King, said Bergdahl appeared sickly. 'He looked terrible,' King told CNN. 'And I think that video should be released at some point. He could barely talk. He couldn't focus his eyes. He was downcast. He was thin. He looked like a man -- I looked around the room, as that video was shown, and I think it was clearly effective. And when the video stopped -- it wasn't very long, maybe 30 seconds -- there was a dead silence in the room.'" [HuffPost]

DEMS WHINE ABOUT WHITE HOUSE HANDLING OF BERGDAHL - Carl Hulse: "While Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who leads the Intelligence Committee, went public with her dissatisfaction at not being notified in advance about the exchange, other lawmakers and officials said privately that Democrats felt exposed by their lack of knowledge about the circumstances surrounding Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s capture and the backgrounds of the five Taliban officials traded for his freedom." [NYT]

OBAMA ON BERGDAHL: 'I MAKE NO APOLOGIES' - He also said your "Bergdahzi" joke isn't funny. Sam Stein: "Saying that he no longer gets surprised by 'whipped up' controversies in Washington, D.C., President Barack Obama on Thursday gave his most forceful defense to date of his decision to swap five Taliban leaders for an American prisoner of war. 'We saw an opportunity and we seized it, and I make no apologies for that,' he said. Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, Obama said that his administration acted on a bedrock principle that the United States does not leave soldiers behind on the battlefield. On several occasions, he was defiant while explaining why he needed to bring Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl home to the U.S. after five years in captivity. 'I think it was important for people to understand that this is not some abstraction, this is not some political football," Obama said. 'You have a couple of parents whose kid volunteered to fight in a distant land, who they hadn't seen in five years, and weren't sure whether they'd ever see again. And as commander in chief of the United States armed forces, I am responsible for those kids.'" [HuffPost]

Americans are split on the swap: "A new HuffPost/YouGov poll has found that Americans are slightly more likely to disapprove than approve of the recently negotiated prisoner exchange that released Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl over the weekend, and that, more generally, there is little support for swapping potentially dangerous prisoners for American prisoners of war. But the survey also suggests that the revelation of further details about the circumstances of Bergdahl's capture could play a major role in how the public comes to see the deal over time. Thirty-five percent of Americans in the new poll said they approve, and 39 percent said they disapprove of the deal that freed Bergdahl, while another 26 percent said they weren't sure. The poll shows a partisan divide over the deal. Democrats were largely in support, by a 48 percent to 19 percent margin, while Republicans opposed it by a 61 percent to 26 percent margin. Independents also tended to be opposed, 41 percent to 30 percent." [HuffPost's Emily Swanson]

IDAHO REPUBLICAN CRITICIZES PARTY FOR BERGDAHL RESPONSE - Traitor! Amanda Terkel: "Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) chastised some members of his party Tuesday for their reaction to the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, saying they should stop acting like the prisoner swap President Barack Obama arranged was unprecedented. 'I'm a little bit disturbed by some of the Republicans out there who keep saying this has never happened before,' Labrador said during an interview with the radio station 670 KBOI in Boise, Idaho. 'That is not entirely true. If you look historically, at the end of any conflict, you have a swap of prisoners, and that happens. Usually our side will release people that are less than desirable in order to get some of our people back in these swaps. So I would suggest that anybody who's being hyper-critical about this, they should look at the history. This has happened before.'" [HuffPost]

MCCONNELL OPPOSES 'SKILLED' HHS NOMINEE BECAUSE OBAMACARE - You won your primary, dude. Ease up. Mike McAuliff: "Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell opposed the nomination of Sylvia Mathews Burwell to head the Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday, saying she appears to be qualified but that he opposes the Affordable Care Act that she would have to administer. 'By most accounts, Sylvia Burwell is a smart and skilled public servant,' McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor of the current head of President Barack Obama's Office of Management and Budget. It was an assessment that he shared in the past, when he and 95 other senators voted to confirm her for the OMB post. However, the fact that Burwell was willing to take on the daunting job of running the HHS and Obamacare apparently has changed McConnell's opinion. 'Her embrace of Obamacare calls her policy judgment into question,' McConnell explained. 'And when it comes to the task of implementing this ill-conceived and disastrous law, the president may as well have nominated Sisyphus, because as I indicated, Ms. Burwell has been asked to do the impossible here.' The move harks back to the days before Senate Democrats used the 'nuclear option' to change Senate rules and stop filibusters of qualified nominees. That allowed them to approve, for instance, Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The GOP had blocked him because they opposed the agency, not Cordray." [HuffPost]

MS-SEN: COCHRAN TRYING TO LEVERAGE CLOUT - Jon Ward: "For the moment, the Cochran campaign is drawing attention to a senior aide on the McDaniel campaign who was found locked into the Hinds County courthouse in the wee hours of Wednesday after entering it with two other tea party activists. That episode is guaranteed to provide some unwelcome headlines for [opponent Chris] McDaniel, and local law enforcement is investigating why the McDaniel aide was there. But it’s not yet clear what it will amount to, beyond another example of amateurish behavior by McDaniel supporters. Regardless of how that story evolves, however, the Cochran campaign will likely hold as many events as possible in front of major infrastructure, military, research and university projects that owe their existence to Cochran’s work in Congress and on the Senate Appropriations Committee. 'He really needs to ramp up the message that he has devoted his life and career to service of the nation and the state. I’d have him standing in front of the Biloxi Bay Bridge, that was repaired in record time after Katrina, and the Bay St. Louis Bridge,' said Andy Taggart, an attorney and veteran of state Republican politics, who has endorsed Cochran. 'Both were rebuilt directly as a result of federal appropriations that Senator Cochran helped direct.'...But McDaniel could be put on the defensive if the Cochran campaign is able to focus the runoff, day by day, on specific projects that Cochran helped fund. McDaniel told a crowd at the University of Mississippi earlier this year, 'I’m not going to do anything for you. I’m going to get the government off your back, then I’m gonna let you do it for yourself.'" [HuffPost]

TEXAS GOP PLATFORM DRAFT ENDORSES GAY CONVERSION 'THERAPY' - "So why don't we role play? Jeff, you'll be... not gay, and Bob, you'll be... also not gay." Amanda Terkel: "A draft of the Texas Republican Party's new platform embraces gay conversion therapy, arguing that it is a viable option for 'patients who are seeking escape from the homosexual lifestyle.' The Texas GOP convention kicks off Thursday, and one of the tasks of delegates is rewriting the party's platform. The current document, adopted in 2012, sharply condemns equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. There are multiple sections dealing with the issue, including language that reads: 'We affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country's founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.' According to a draft of the new platform obtained by the San Antonio Express-News/Houston Chronicle, that language is gone. It still, however, contains a section criticizing homosexuality." [HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is a wimpy goat.

LUNDERGAN GRIMES TRYING TO REACH OUT TO REGULAR OL' HANS SIX-PACKS - And by six-packs we mean six-packs of of Grolsch. Politico: "A European male model pretending to be a coal miner appears prominently in a newspaper advertisement released by Kentucky Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes. The ad’s initial release resulted in lots of valuable, earned media for the Grimes campaign, which says it flagged the issue and replaced the photo before it ever actually went to print. President Barack Obama’s new EPA rules on carbon emissions are politically toxic in Kentucky, so it’s no surprise that the Democrat challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying to distance herself. Her campaign blasted out an ad on Monday afternoon that says, 'President Obama and Washington Don’t Get It … Alison Grimes Does.' Accompanying that message is a large picture of a man in a hard hat with a sooty face holding out a piece of coal toward the camera. It was taken by Ukrainian photographer Victor Gladkov and is for sale on the photo website Shutterstock. Also available there are pictures of the same model dressed as a doctor, engineer, soldier, student, carpenter and painter. He is also shown making an obscene gesture toward the camera in one image." [Politico]

COMFORT FOOD

- Kittens get down to "Turn Down For What." [http://bit.ly/1l9hTaO]

- Arianna once appeared on "Roseanne," which warms our hahhhts, dahling. [http://huff.to/1nmr3kl]

- Google Maps let's you have first-person views of the World Cup stadiums. [http://bit.ly/1tKZxxN]

- Animated rendering of Philip Seymour Hoffman discussing happiness. [http://bit.ly/1kF5tIb]

- Here's a book with a cover made of SKIN. [http://bit.ly/1j4bLN1]

- High school students pranked their principal by having a mariachi band follow him around. [http://bit.ly/1tJKtjN]

- "William Tell Overture" played on bottles. [http://bit.ly/1pUVUF3]

TWITTERAMA

@Kagrox: I wonder where the Obama administration got the idea that Republicans were OK w breaking the law if you claimed it'd save a soldier's life.

@AdamSerwer: Never date a journalist. That's my advice on dating journalists.

@bendreyfuss: Also, another term for “self-employed reporter” is “curious unemployed person."

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