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Obama agenda: Clinton to testify on Benghazi

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies on the attacks in Benghazi Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations at 9:00 am ET and the House Foreign Affairs Committee at 2:00 pm ET.

NBC’s Tom Curry: “The political stakes will be high Wednesday morning when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about her role in the events leading up to the September attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, that resulted in the killing of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The stakes will also be high for a Republican member of the committee, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, whom some pundits see as a possible presidential candidate in 2016. It will be a rare instance when one potential White House hopeful gets an opportunity to interrogate a potential rival from the opposing party. Clinton herself is thought to be a strong contender for the Democratic nomination, should she chose to throw her hat into the ring.”

“President Obama's swearing-in Monday to a second term also marked the end of an extraordinary chapter in Hillary Clinton’s life,” the New York Daily News writes. “For 20 years, Clinton has been a fixture in Washington, capturing the nation’s attention as First Lady, a U.S. senator from New York and secretary of state. … But next week, she will reclaim her private life. After logging nearly 1 million miles and visiting 110 countries as the nation’s top diplomat, she will step down from the State Department to relax and recharge. … The big question now is whether her departure from the Obama administration is her farewell to public service — or if she’ll back in four years on the same stage for her own inauguration as Madame President.”

The New York Times’ Zeleny says, “The Constitution may promise President Obama another four years in the White House, but political reality calls for a far shorter time frame: he has perhaps as little as a year to accomplish his big-ticket goals for a second term.”

Also from the New York Times: “The governor of Nebraska on Tuesday approved a revised route through the state for the Keystone XL pipeline, setting up a decision for President Obama that pipeline opponents say will be a crucial test of his intentions on climate change.”

Reuters: “The Obama administration is likely to rely mostly on existing rules and on flexing executive power to execute its second-term environmental agenda, sidestepping Congress as it sets about radically reducing greenhouse gases generated by major polluters. … More details on climate initiatives could come out of the president's State of the Union address on Feb. 12.”

Beth Reinhard: “Even as Democrats relish President Obama’ second inauguration, some party leaders are worried about whether the campaign’s decision to form its own advocacy group will hamstring future generations of Democratic candidates… Some activists foresee a power struggle between the national party, which aims to elect Democrats above all else, and the new group, which aims to build the president's legacy -- and may have to pressure wavering swing-state Democrats to tow the unapologetically liberal agenda laid out in his inauguration speech.”

The NRA’s Wayne LaPierre made the case yesterday that “absolutism” is a good thing.

In an address yesterday, he said: “Obama wants to turn the idea of absolutism into a dirty word. Just another word for extremism. He wants you, all of you, and Americans throughout all of this country, to accept the idea of principles as he sees fit. It’s a way of redefining words so that common sense is turned upside down and that nobody knows the difference. …

“We believe in our right to defend ourselves and our families with semi-automatic firearms technology….  I’ve got news for the president. Absolutes do exist. Words do have specific meaning in language and in law. It’s the basis of all civilization. … Without those absolutes, without those protections, democracy decays into nothing more than two wolves and one lamb voting on, well, who to eat for lunch.”

AP: “Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has been elected vice chair of the Democratic National Committee.”

Sacrebleu! Ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy was planning to flee France for England because the taxes are too high and to avoid a corruption probe.

Speaking of fleeing for taxes, golfer Phil Mickelson also says he considered bolting California and even the U.S. because of tax rates. Mickelson has since said he regrets making the comment public. He made $45 million last year and had been considering buying the San Diego Chargers. Mickelson’s take-home pay is estimated at $24 million. Golfers, including Tiger Woods, who’s from California, generally live in either Texas or Florida because there’s no state income tax.