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First Thoughts: Privacy vs. transparency

Privacy vs. transparency… How much political staying power does this story have?... May jobs report: 175,000 jobs added last month; unemployment rate ticks up to 7.6%... The White House’s health-care PR problem… Ranking the 2016 GOPers… Christie’s appointment and Booker’s slam dunk… This week’s 2016 wrap… And other noteworthy nuggets from the NBC/WSJ poll.

AP

This undated government photo shows an aerial view of the National Security Agency (NSA) in Fort Meade, Md. The Obama administration on Thursday defended the National Security Agency's need to collect telephone records of U.S. citizens, calling such information "a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats."

*** Transparency problems: The news of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs has dominated the last 48 hours. To understand the political impact of this story, it’s perhaps instructive to look at it through this lens: privacy vs. transparency -- and transparency could be the most potent issue for an administration that promised to be the most transparent in history. What the White House has to understand is this: The president’s own credibility is on the line on this story when it comes to transparency. Candidate Obama expressed outrage over many of these programs back in the day and at the time, and when pressed at the time his outrage usually centered on how the tactics were implemented, not necessarily with the tactics themselves. The president promised more transparency about some of these operations, tactics and about making sure the public was comfortable that there was a serious process when it comes to oversight of these programs. You can’t just take anyone’s word for it, even he has said that numerous times. And that’s the political problem he needs to nip in the bud. The public expects a level of secrecy but not an abuse of it and they certainly expect an explanation. 

*** Privacy less an issue:  As privacy issue, it’s likely that the American public will collectively shrug its shoulders over this. Why? Because they probably realize that corporations are already tracking their every purchase and that surveillance cameras are already capturing their every movement. And even if they don’t shrug and it bothers them, they probably feel a bit powerless about it. But as a transparency issue, the story might have more legs. The whole reason this has become front-page news -- when USA Today had already reported about the NSA phone-record program back in 2006 -- is because of its secrecy. And the question the Obama administration must ask itself is: Would it be better off if the American public knew about this? Would it restore more trust in the government? 

*** How much staying power does this story have? As a strictly partisan issue, however, we’re not sure this story has staying power. After all, outside of a handful of libertarian Republicans (Rand Paul, Mike Lee), GOP politicians are defending the NSA’s programs. On the Democratic side of the aisle, there are critics too, but it appears to be a minority of the party. As we figured would happen, bipartisanship broke out in a big way yesterday on this issue -- both in support of the tactics and in opposition. But that bipartisanship on both sides of this issue probably also means it’s not exactly an issue that will have political staying power. If you’ve learned anything about American politics, a story becomes supercharged when the opposition party begins raising its voice in unison. And out of all the controversies the Obama administration is facing (IRS, Benghazi, leak investigations, and now NSA), this is one a majority of Republicans have no problem with.

*** 175,000 jobs added in May, unemployment rate ticks up to 7.6%: Meanwhile, here are the breaking job numbers from May, per the AP: “U.S. employers added 175,000 jobs in May, steady hiring but below the more robust pace that took place during the fall and winter. The Labor Department says the unemployment rate rose to 7.6 percent from 7.5 percent in April. The increase occurred because more people began looking for work, a good sign.” This economy is trying so hard to recover; call it stagnant progress. Many Democrats are going to be arguing today that if it wasn’t for the austerity standoff in Washington (including sequester), the economy would be recovering A LOT faster. The Republicans will likely focus their ire on the slowness of this recovery on the new tax increases. But make no mistake: Progress is being made.

*** The White House’s health-care PR problem: In California at 11:50 am ET, President Obama delivers a statement to reporters on implementing the Affordable Care Act. And it’s another opportunity to mention the numbers from our recent NBC/WSJ poll: The health-care law’s unpopularity has reached new heights -- 49% say it’s a bad idea (the higher number recorded on this question since the poll began measuring it in ’09), while just 37% say it’s a good idea. The poll also finds that 38% say they and their family will be worse off under the health-care law, which also is the highest percentage on this question that dates back to 2010. By comparison, 19% say they'll be better off, and 39 percent say the law won't make much of a difference. The poll, however, shows deep divisions by political party and health insurance status. By a 35%-to-11% margin, Democrats say they'll be better off under the health-care law. But Republicans say they'll be worse off, 67% to 4%. What's more, those who currently don't have health insurance have a more positive view of the health-care law than those who have insurance -- either through individual purchase or through their employer. Bottom line here: The Obama White House has a massive PR problem with health care. And it probably doesn’t help that opponents have outspent supporters on TV ads by a 5-to-1 ratio since 2010, per Kantar Media CMAG.

*** Ranking the GOP 2016ers: Since December, our NBC/WSJ poll has begun measuring potential 2016 candidates. And here’s a fun little exercise: We’re ranking these GOP politicians among Republican respondents in the poll, as well conservatives respondents. Here’s the order among Republicans:

Paul Ryan (62%-13%)
Rand Paul (53%-6%)
Marco Rubio (49%-6%)
Jeb Bush (48%-7%)
Chris Christie: (40%-16%)
Scott Walker (21%-5%)
Ted Cruz (21%-6%)

And here’s the ranking among conservative respondents in our poll:

Paul Ryan (58%-11%)
Rand Paul (47%-5%)
Marco Rubio (45%-6%)
Jeb Bush (44%-7%)
Chris Christie (33%-15%)
Ted Cruz (21%-6%)
Scott Walker (19%-5%).

So note how well Ryan and Paul are faring, and note how Christie is trailing among these groups.

*** Christie’s appointment and Booker’s slam dunk: Speaking of Christie, he announced yesterday that he was appointing state Attorney General Jeff Chiesa to temporarily fill the Senate seat vacated by Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s (D-NJ) passing. Make no mistake: Appointing a caretaker like Chiesa wasn’t Christie’s first choice, but he had no choice after announcing that the Senate election would take place in October. (If you’re a Republican, you’d rather want to run alongside Christie in November, or wait until 2014.) But here’s perhaps the biggest story out New Jersey this week: No one has been more helped by this entire process than Cory Booker. Quick Democratic primary? Check. Two Democratic congressmen who are also running (Pallone and Holt) that might split the anti-Booker vote? Check. October general election? Check. On paper, Booker’s election is starting to look like a slam dunk.

*** This week’s 2016 wrap: Also this week, Hillary Clinton spoke at Frank Lautenberg’s funeral; she was argued over during a Massachusetts Senate debate; and at a fashion awards gala she joked about her pantsuits. Wearing one designed by Oscar de la Renta, she said she had pitched a new reality show, “Project Pantsuit.”… Vice President Joe Biden also spoke at Lautenberg’s funeral and the L.A. Times dubbed him, “King of the eulogy.”… Martin O’Malley’s (D-MD) still dealing with the fallout of a scandal at a Baltimore jail… Marco Rubio continues to walk a very fine line on immigration reform, speaking out at times against the very bill he helped author and voted for out of committee… Raul Labrador may have walked away from the group negotiating a compromise immigration bill in the House, but Paul Ryan endorsed it, calling it a “good product” and “good policy.”… And Rand Paul’s not happy with the NSA or President Obama; he claimed Obama’s “bent towards authoritarianism is probably worse” than Bush; and that we’re living in the novel “1984.”

*** By the way, here are the fav/unfav numbers among ALL the potential 2016ers from this week’s NBC/WSJ poll:

Hillary Clinton
Overall: 49%-31%
Women: 54%-24%
Men: 43%-40%
Whites: 41%-38%
African Americans: 76%-12%
Latinos: 58%-19%
Dems: 83%-6%
Indies: 32%-36%
Republicans: 15%-61%

Chris Christie
Overall: 41%-12%
Women: 39%-12%
Men: 42%-12%
Whites: 41%-12%
African Americans: 41%-11%
Latinos: 36%-7%
Dems: 43%-10%
Indies: 41%-9%
Republicans: 40%-16%
Tea Party supporters: 40%-22%

Ted Cruz
Overall: 10%-12%
Women: 6%-12%
Men: 13%-12%
Whites: 10%-12%
African Americans: 5%-18%
Latinos: 16%-8%
Dems: 3%-23%
Indies: 11%-8%
Republicans: 18%-5%
Tea Party supporters: 28%-10%

Jeb Bush
Overall: 26%-23%
Women: 32%-21%
Men: 29%-26%
Whites: 30%-22%
African Americans: 6%-32%
Latinos: 16%-24%
Dems: 11%-38%
Indies: 22%-24%
Republicans: 48%-7%
Tea Party supporters: 53%-10%

Scott Walker
Overall: 12%-12%
Women: 9%-10%
Men: 15%-14%
Whites: 13%-12%
African Americans: 5%-12%
Latinos: 8%-6%
Dems: 4%-20%
Indies: 11%-10%
Republicans: 21%-5%
Tea Party: 33%-4%

*** Other noteworthy nuggets from our NBC/WSJ poll: Chris Christie has better ratings among liberal Democrats (44% positive, 14% negative) than he does among Tea Party Republicans (37% positive, 23% negative)… Eric Holder is viewed overwhelmingly negatively by Republicans (4% positive, 55% negative) and independents (5% positive, 32% negative). Democrats are more likely to view Holder positively than negatively, but their feelings are just so-so (19% positive, 13% negative). Perhaps most striking, Holder is much better known among Republicans (72% name ID) than he is among Democrats (50% name ID)… While all socioeconomic groups view the Internal Revenue Service in a negative light, those with incomes under $30,000 are almost twice as likely to view the IRS positively (27%) as those with incomes of more than $75,000 (14%)… Among Tea Party Republicans, Ted Cruz has a name ID of 57%, plus a 28% positive, 7% negative personal rating. But among non-Tea Party Republicans, his name ID is just 22%, and he has a 7% positive, 5% negative rating… And Among those who believe that the Dow hitting highs is a sign that the economy is doing better overall, 68% are satisfied with the economy and 31% are dissatisfied. But among those who believe that the Dow highs are an indication that corporations and the wealthy are doing better but not the overall economy, just 26% are satisfied with the economy and 74% are dissatisfied.

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