Obama Vows Again to Close Guantanamo Prison

President Obama said that he will do “everything I can” to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Reuters reports.

Said Obama: “It is something that continues to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world, the fact that these folks are being held. It is contrary to our values and it is wildly expensive. We’re spending millions for each individual there. And we have drawn down the population there significantly.”

Activists Try to Rile Up Christie

Washington Post: “Since his first year in office, in 2010, Christie has engaged in at least 14 raised-voice confrontations with regular people, often at town halls. These moments, played and replayed on YouTube, have become a defining characteristic of the governor — as proof that he’s either a tough, no-nonsense leader or a swaggering bully.”

“Now, as Christie considers whether to run for president, he is increasingly facing questions about whether his hard-nosed act will play among voters who may not be quite so hard-nosed as those in New Jersey. Christie will also have to contend with those… who just want to goad him into a candidacy-killing moment.”

Bush Has Big Hurdle in Iowa

“With no love lost for Jeb Bush among the Republican base, the Iowa caucuses could be an early stumbling block in his 2016 quest,” The Hill reports.

“The former Florida governor’s business-friendly stances and willingness to criticize GOP hard-liners make him popular with the donor class. But the first-in-the-nation state hasn’t been kind to establishment candidates in recent years.”

Clinton Still Holds Commanding Lead

A new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds Hillary Clinton is off her peak but still overwhelmingly strong in support for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. Clinton leads with 61%, followed by Joe Biden at 14% and Elizabeth Warren at 13%.

“Still, Clinton’s support has slipped from 69 percent in June, down by 8 points, while support for Warren is up by 6 points – not remotely enough to make it look competitive at this stage, but movement nonetheless. Biden has held essentially steady.”

Chinese Annoyance with North Korea Shows

“When a retired Chinese general with impeccable Communist Party credentials recently wrote a scathing account of North Korea as a recalcitrant ally headed for collapse and unworthy of support, he exposed a roiling debate in China about how to deal with the country’s young leader, Kim Jong-un,” the New York Times reports.

“For decades China has stood by North Korea, and though at times the relationship has soured, it has rarely reached such a low point, Chinese analysts say.”

Ohio Tries to Make Elections More Competitive

“Of 435 House races in November, only a few dozen were considered competitive — a result of decades of drawing district lines for partisan advantage, generally by state legislatures,” the New York Times reports.

“But in an era of hyperpartisan gerrymandering, which many blame for the polarization of state and national politics, Ohio took a step in the opposite direction last week. With the support of both parties, the Ohio House gave final approval Wednesday to a plan to draw voting districts for the General Assembly using a bipartisan process, intended to make elections more competitive.”

North Korea Warns U.S. Not to Retaliate

“Warning of ‘serious consequences’ if the United States retaliates against it over the damaging cyberattack on Sony Pictures, North Korea on Saturday insisted that it was not behind it, and it offered to prove its innocence by taking part in a joint investigation with Washington to identify the hackers,” the New York Times reports.

Said a North Korea spokesman: “We have a way to prove that we have nothing to do with the case without resorting to torture, as what the C.I.A. does.”

Vitter Wants White House Screening of ‘The Interview’

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) is asking President Obama to invite members of Congress over to the White House to screen the movie, “The Interview,” the New Orleans Times Picayune reports.

“The flick was pulled from a planned Christmas Day release after Sony Pictures’ computers were hacked and violent threats were made against theaters that showed the film. The FBI said North Korea was behind the attack.”

Bailouts Actually Yielded $15 Billion in Profits

“Six years after President George W. Bush began the auto bailout, the Obama administration on Friday declared a profitable end to the sweeping federal interventions in Wall Street and Detroit, saying a final sale of stock from General Motors’ former finance arm had closed a turbulent chapter of the financial crisis, the New York Times reports.

“The government actions, initially seen as necessary in Washington and on Wall Street to prevent a collapse of the economy on the order of the Great Depression, agitated the political world, helping give rise to the Tea Party movement on the right and the Occupy Wall Street movement on the left.”

“In all, through TARP and other efforts, taxpayers injected $426.35 billion into banks and auto companies. The sale of stock and interest payments brought in $441.7 billion.”

Rand Paul Slams Marco Rubio as ‘Isolationist’

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) “is hitting back against Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Cuba in a preview of a possible debate between two presidential hopefuls,” The Hill reports.

“In a series of tweets at Rubio on Friday afternoon, Paul called the Florida senator an ‘isolationist’ for opposing the opening to Cuba announced by President Obama on Wednesday, turning a label often used against himself around.”

Washington Post: “The feud is the loudest public dispute so far between potential GOP 2016 candidates and lays bare the divergent world views of traditional hawks — including Rubio and past Republican presidents and nominees — and the emerging, younger libertarian wing represented by Paul.”

Obama is Finally Free

Politico: “It’s taken Obama – who spuriously predicted the 2012 election would break the ‘fever’ of partisan gridlock – two miserable years to approach the level of presidential liberation he believes he earned that night. Yet there was always something slightly off about the idea that Obama would do better without a campaign in his future. The truth, according to current and former aides, is that the absence of a presidential election – the natural Obama habitat – actually contributed to the ennui and frustration that has hallmarked most of his second term.”

“Obama’s turnaround in recent weeks – he’s seized the offensive with a series of controversial executive actions and challenges to leaders in his own party on the budget — can be attributed to a fundamental change in his political mindset, according to current and former aides. He’s gone from thinking of himself as a sitting (lame) duck, they tell me, to a president diving headlong into what amounts to a final campaign – this one to preserve his legacy, add policy points to the scoreboard, and – last but definitely not least – to inflict the same kind of punishment on his newly empowered Republican enemies, who delighted in tormenting him when he was on top.”

John Avlon: The liberation of the lame duck

Huffington Post: Obama ends 2014 with a swagger

Obama Accepts State of the Union Invite

President Obama is accepting an invitation to deliver the 2015 State of the Union on Jan. 20, Roll Call reports.

“The date was suggested in a letter sent Friday by Speaker John A. Boehner. The Ohio Republican previously dismissed the idea of not inviting Obama to deliver the address, as had been floated by some critics in the immediate aftermath of Obama’s executive actions on immigration policy.”

Bernie Sanders Campaigns in Iowa

The New York Times follows Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in Iowa: “At 73 and famously gruff, he may be on one of the most quixotic adventures in American politics: In a country that just put Republicans in charge of Congress, he is testing whether Democrats will embrace a socialist for the White House in 2016. He is certainly the only potential candidate to carry a brass key chain from a campaign of Eugene V. Debs, a five-time Socialist Party nominee for president.”

“He has virtually no chance of winning the nomination, but he does have a chance to shape the debate — presuming he actually runs. With his fiery populist attacks on Wall Street and ‘the billionaire class,’ he could become either a nettlesome thorn to Hillary Rodham Clinton or a convenient foil for her, if she runs.”