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First Thoughts: Rules of engagement

Obama’s speech reframed the rules of engagement on terrorism for the United States … Two White House reviews coming within three weeks of each other ... Lerner put on leave at IRS, more to come... The trickiness of immigration politics ... Weiner's tough rollout ... Walker's, Paul's differing views on the future of the GOP ... Christie would welcome Obama, calls climate change "esoteric" as it relates to Sandy.

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President Barack Obama tries to speak as Medea Benjamin, an activist from the organization called Code Pink, shouts at him while he spoke at the National Defense University May 23, 2013 in Washington, DC.

*** Rules of Engagement: The news of President Obama’s speech Thursday was thought to likely be about drones – and that he would acknowledge for the first time the widely reported killing of an American citizen overseas, Anwar al-Awlaki. And it was, but only in part. And, yes, he was interrupted three times by an anti-war activist, but don’t get distracted by that. What was important was the text of Obama’s speech, the breadth of what he laid out, the marker it set in American foreign policy, and how it re-framed how the United States should go about fighting terrorism. The New York Times editorial page called Obama’s 6,500-word speech “the most important statement on counter terrorism policy since the 2001 attacks, a momentous turning point in post-9/11 America. For the first time, a president stated clearly and unequivocally that the state of perpetual warfare that began nearly 12 years ago is unsustainable for a democracy and must come to an end in the not-too-distant future.” The speech was notable in the arc of a presidency, and one that historians will look back on. In fact, historian Michael Beschloss, an NBC contributor, noted that it “would be fascinating to hear some past Presidents discuss w[ith] similar nuance their secret consideration of possible plots vs. foreign leaders.”

*** Two White House-mandated internal reviews of IRS, Justice due out within three weeks of each other: Obama also used the speech to address one of the controversies that has dogged his administration in the past week -- the Justice Department’s obtaining emails and phone calls of reporters for the Associated Press and Fox News. He called for an internal review at the Justice Department, with media input, on how to improve the relationship. The report is due out July 12, he said. So mark your calendars… in the span of three weeks – from June 22 when the White House-mandated IRS review will be completed to July 12 – there will be two more reports on what happened with two of the controversies of the past two weeks.

*** Another move at IRS: IRS official Lois Lerner was put on administrative leave Thursday. “This can only really be the beginning,” Robert Gibbs said on Morning Joe of what will be the Obama administration’s response to the IRS. Gibbs noted that there are only a couple of political appointees at IRS, making it tougher to oust officials who are civil servants and that there is a process. But more moves are likely coming.

*** Immigration politics are still very tricky: NBC’s Carrie Dann has a must read on the state of play on immigration reform and how many moving parts still remain despite progress: “After clearing the first hurdle in some of the most delicate legislative jockeying in recent memory, advocates of a comprehensive immigration reform bill are already looking to the next stage of the legislation’s progress as it heads toward a high-profile airing in the full Senate. While some groups aligned with Democrats failed to secure their desired changes to the sweeping Senate legislation as it worked its way through 30 hours of debate in the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month, many are looking to the floor debate as a second shot to include their priorities in a final bill.”

*** Weiner’s rough rollout: In New York, Anthony Weiner’s rollout of his campaign to run for mayor began with a slickly produced, very New York ad that could be described as “boroughs and businesses.” But yesterday, the wheels on the campaign bus looked shaky. His campaign website incorrectly displayed, not the skyline of New York, but that of PITTSBURGH (!!!). A media crush surrounded him at his first campaign stop, turning into something of a New York circus, as was to be expected. And he just couldn’t escape questions about the scandal that led him to resign from Congress, in which he Tweeted lewd photos of himself. In fact, on WNYC – New York public radio, not exactly tabloid central – after questioning about the scandal, why voters should trust him, and if there are more pictures or emails that could come out, Weiner acknowledged that it’s possible more is to come. “People may decide they want to come forward and say, here’s another email that I got or another photo,” Weiner said. To top it off, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said if Weiner’s elected mayor, “Shame on us.” His staff later said Cuomo was only joking, though it hardly came off as a joke. Step back for a minute, and realize, that was only DAY ONE. There’s a lot of talk about the tabloids in New York, but there’s more media than just that – and as evidenced by the WNYC interview – even the most benign outlets are going to be focused on Weiner’s scandal, and it’s going to be hard for him to turn the page to issues.

*** Christie would welcome Obama back; calls climate change “theory” on Sandy “esoteric”: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) was on NBC’s Today, and asked about his saying that there’s no proof Superstorm Sandy was caused by climate change, Christie said he doesn’t have time for “esoteric theories.” “All I said was I haven’t been shown any definitive proof that that’s what caused it -- and this is,” he said, per NBC’s Sarah Blackwill. “This is a distraction. I’ve got a place to rebuild here and people want to talk about esoteric theories.” Christie also said he’d welcome another visit by President Obama to see the progress of rebuilding – regardless of the political consequences. “I think that what people in my state want me to do more than anything else is for me to do my job,” he said. “The fact of the matter is he's the President of the United States, and if he wants to come here and see the people of New Jersey, I'm the governor. I'll be here to welcome him.”

*** Two different messages on the future of the GOP: With 1,264 days until the 2016 election, Gov. Scott Walker (R-IA) was in Iowa Thursday, and on Monday Rand Paul was in New Hampshire. Both delivered very different visions of the Republican Party going forward. Walker didn’t mention how the party should change, just that it should follow the lead of governors. Walker, of course, was embroiled in controversy over collective bargaining and union rights in Wisconsin and survived a recall bout, endearing him to the conservative base. “The president and his allies they simply measure success by how many people are dependent on the government, how many people are on Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment compensation,” Walker said, per NBC’s Alex Moe, sounding notes of the 2012 campaign. “We should measure success by how many people are not.” Rand Paul, on the other hand, was in New Hampshire Monday and said the GOP does need to change. "If you want to be the party of white people, we're winning all the white vote,” he said, adding, “We need to be white, we need to be brown, we need to be black, we need to with tattoos, without tattoos, with pony tails, without pony tails, with beards, without."

*** More 2016 roundup: Ted Cruz said he doesn’t “trust” Republicans. “I don’t trust the Republicans. And I don’t trust the Democrats,” he said on the Senate floor Wednesday. Cruz doesn’t want Republicans to go to conference on the budget, wanting the GOP to hold the line on the debt ceiling, something establishment Republicans like John McCain want to avoid.  … Despite the Benghazi hearings, Hillary Clinton maintains very high approval ratings – 62%/28% from a Washington Post/ABC poll. … Marco Rubio’s doing a lot of the heavy lifting to try and sell conservatives on immigration reform. He’ll be on FOX for an hour-long town-hall special to make the case for it. … Jeb Bush also wrote an op-ed boosting the Senate’s work on immigration reform. He didn’t mention Rubio, by the way. … Vice President Joe Biden flubbed again during a commencement speech at the Coast Guard Academy and called Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy, “Governor O’Malley.” Martin O’Malley is the governor of Maryland, of course. AP looks at O’Malley laying the groundwork for a 2016 bid.

*** In Decision 2013 news… Cuccinelli ordered investigation of McDonnell: The Richmond Times Dispatch: “Gov. Bob McDonnell is under investigation over the statements of economic interest he has filed. The investigation was initiated by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who sent a letter in early November 2012 to Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael N. Herring, appointing him to review McDonnell’s statements. By law, elected officials are required to account for all gifts received in excess of $50. ‘I did what I have consistently tried to do as attorney general, which is to uphold the law impartially,’ Cuccinelli said in a statement.”

*** The rundown: President Obama delivers the commencement address at the Naval Academy at 10:00 am ET, then signs the Congressional Gold Medal Bill, honoring the lives of the four girls killed at a church in Birmingham, AL, in 1963. The bombing is seen by many as the impetus for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.