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AT LONG LAST: President Obama held his first full-fledged White House press conference in months today, fielding questions from a press corps largely focused on the twin stories of the moment inside the Beltway: the looming "fiscal cliff" and the scandal that cost Gen. Petraeus his job. In the process, the president also found time to send a few not-so-subtle reminders to congressional Republicans about who won last week's election, and to mount a forceful defense of Susan Rice.
ON THE CLIFF: New York Times: "The president used his first official news conference since June to urge haste in budget negotiations meant to avert abrupt shifts in taxes and spending at the end of the year, and he called on Congress to extend middle-class tax cuts immediately, before lawmakers begin working on a complete deficit agreement. ... He reiterated his pledge to push for increasing taxes on the wealthy, but added that an extension of the middle-class tax cuts must go into effect at once."
ON PETRAEUS: Washington Post: "Obama said Wednesday that a sex scandal involving his CIA director has evidently not resulted in the disclosure of classified information that has damaged U.S. national security. ... 'I have no evidence at this point from what I’ve seen that classified information was disclosed that in any way would have had a negative impact on our national security.' Asked about the FBI’s decision to delay informing him of its investigation of Petraeus, Obama replied, 'The FBI has its own protocols in terms of how they proceed.'"
ON RICE: Politico: "Obama offered a fiery defense Wednesday of his administration’s handling of the attack on Americans in Benghazi, dismissing Republicans’ critiques of United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice as 'outrageous.' Obama specifically rebutted Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham, who earlier Wednesday called for a 'Watergate-style' investigation into the attacks and said they don’t trust Rice because of her statements on Benghazi. Rice is seen as a top contender to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state."
THE PULL-QUOTE: "If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me," Obama said. "For them to go after the U.N. ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received, and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous."
FULL LIST OF QUESTIONS: Here.
MORE FROM SLATE: David Weigel on John McCain's long war against Rice; Matthew Yglesias on why Washington's number-one priority in budget talks should be to save the payroll tax; and Will Oremus on why, despite the president's lip service to climate change this afternoon, he made it clear he has no intention of pushing for action on the issue.
FRIENDS NO LONGER: ABC News: "Jill Kelley, the Tampa socialite at the center of the Petraeus scandal, has lost the privilege of visiting MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa without an escort. The base is home to U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command, and Kelley, who enjoyed rubbing shoulders with top military brass, had been granted unescorted access to the base under a program [known as 'Friends of MacDill'] initiated by the Air Force unit that runs operations at the base. ... A person must be nominated to enter the program, and must pass a background check by the wing's security office. The official did not know who nominated Kelley for the program."
FINANCIAL PROBLEMS: Associated Press: "Hundreds of pages of court documents in several lawsuits detail financial troubles for the Kelleys and Jill Kelley's twin sister, Natalie Khawam, who lived with the couple. Chase Bank sued Scott Kelley in 2010 over a $25,880 unpaid credit card bill, and an investment by the Kelleys in a Tampa office building turned into a dispute with the tenant over $28,000-a-month rent. The couple didn't pay the mortgage and entered into foreclosure."
MORE: Updates on the drip, drip, drip of the Petraeus scandal here. Your handy cheat sheet (no pun intended) for the full cast of characters here.
TROUBLE IN GAZA: New York Times: "Israel on Wednesday launched one of the most ferocious assaults on Gaza since its invasion four years ago, hitting at least 20 targets in aerial attacks that killed the top military commander of Hamas, drew strong condemnation from Egypt and escalated the risks of a new war in the Middle East. The Israelis coupled the intensity of the airstrikes with the threat of another ground invasion and warnings to all Hamas leaders in Gaza to stay out of sight or risk the same fate as the Hamas military commander, Ahmed al-Jabari, who was killed in a pinpoint airstrike as he was traveling by car down a Gaza street."
ABOUT THAT WARNING: It came via Twitter, where wars are apparently started now.
MEANWHILE, IN EUROPE: Wall Street Journal: "General strikes against government austerity programs racked Spain, Portugal and Greece, but they appeared unlikely to sway the leaders of countries that are becoming inured to protests after four years of economic distress. Protest fatigue, along with declining levels of unionization and factionalism within the labor movement, have combined to take much of the bite out of strikes as tools for changing government policy, analysts said."
ETAN PATZ UPDATE: Associated Press: "A man authorities say confessed to the infamous 1979 disappearance of a 6-year-old boy from his New York City neighborhood has been formally charged with murder and kidnapping, a major milestone in a case that has stymied investigators and Etan Patz's devoted family for decades. The indictment against Pedro Hernandez, 51, of Maple Shade, N.J., was made public Wednesday and sets up a potential showdown at trial over whether prosecutors can convince a jury that his claim that he strangled the boy—a secret kept for more than 30 years—is credible."
SLATE QUICK HITS—
History: How Texas Could Mess With Us
Explainer: Could the United States Join OPEC?
Bad Astronomy: xkcd Explains How To Go to Space in Simple Language
DON'T MISS: The Trendiest Guy in New York City by Justin Peters.
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