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Hagel's Long Day on the Hill: Washington Post: "Lawmakers on Thursday demanded that secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel explain controversial remarks he has made and votes he cast during his Senate career, as the Nebraska Republican sought to defend his record at a confirmation hearing. In a tense exchange, Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) pressed Hagel on whether he stood by his opposition to the decision to surge U.S. troops into Iraq in 2007. Hagel, who once called the surge the 'most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam,' resisted McCain’s repeated attempts to solicit a 'yes' or 'no' answer. ... Hagel’s is likely to be among toughest confirmation hearings for the defense secretary job in recent years. His predecessor, Leon E. Panetta, sailed to confirmation in the summer of 2011, as he transitioned from the helm of the CIA. Panetta’s predecessor, Robert M. Gates, another former CIA chief, was unanimously confirmed by the Armed Services Committee in December 2006, replacing Donald H. Rumsfeld, who left the post as an unpopular secretary."
The Back Story: New York Times: "Mr. McCain, like many Republicans, was furious at Mr. Hagel’s skepticism about the Iraq War. It led to a falling-out between the two men, both Vietnam veterans, that appeared to have been patched up when the two met last week after Mr. Hagel was nominated for the Pentagon job. Mr. McCain described their discussion as a 'frank and candid' exchange between two 'old friends.'"
Slate's David Weigel Watched the Whole Thing Unfold. Among his blog offerings: Hagel Struggles Through the Obvious Questions; Ted Cruz's Bogus Attack on Hagel; and Hagel Hearing: Carl Levin Shrinks the Aperture.
Speaking of the Senate: Politico: "With little fanfare Thursday, the Senate agreed to suspend the nation’s $16.4 trillion debt ceiling until May 19, postponing the specter of default that threatened the nation as early as February. The vote was 64-34. It now heads to the White House for President Barack Obama’s expected signature. ... First pitched by House Republicans at their annual conference retreat, the debt ceiling bill is meant to reconfigure the order of major fiscal showdowns that had been facing Congress. By delaying a debt ceiling fight until May, lawmakers will next be confronted by automatic spending cuts to defense and non-defense programs in March, as well as funding for the federal government that is set to expire March 27."
The Great Inauguration Mystery Solved, Kind Of: "I am a perfectionist and one thing about me, I practice until my feet bleed, and I did not have time to rehearse with the orchestra," Beyonce told reporters at a Super Bowl press conference this afternoon after belting out a surprise rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. "Due to the weather, due to the delay, due to no proper sound check, I did not feel comfortable taking a risk. It was about the president and the inauguration and I wanted to make him and my country proud. So I decided to sing along with my pre-recorded track, which is very common in the music industry, and I’m very proud of my performance."
That Doesn't Really Clears Things Up: Brow Beat: "What still remains unclear is to what extent we actually heard Beyoncé’s live vocals on that wintry day. She rightly noted how common it is for singers to double up on vocals, but now we’re left to wonder how loudly the soundtrack was turned up versus her microphone (even though this really shouldn’t matter). If Beyoncé didn’t answer that question today, we’ll probably never know. As to the Super Bowl? 'I’ll absolutely be singing live," she affirms.'" Watch video of the press conference here.
Another School Shooting: Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "A 14-year-old student shot in the head at an Atlanta school Thursday is 'alert, conscious and breathing,' said police. The shooting occurred just before 2 p.m. outside Price Middle School in southeast Atlanta, said Atlanta police spokesman Carlos Campos. The male victim has been taken to Grady Memorial Hospital. One suspect, another Price Middle student, is in custody, police said. No teacher was injured, despite initial reports, said Campos. At 3:45 p.m., a school official emerged and told anxiously waiting parents that 'All children are safe.'"
Syria's Surprising Threat: Reuters: "Syria protested to the United Nations on Thursday over an Israeli air strike on its territory and warned of a possible 'surprise' response. The foreign ministry summoned the head of the U.N. force in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to deliver the protest a day after Israel hit what Syria said was a military research centre and diplomats said was a weapons convoy heading for Lebanon. ... The ministry said it considered Wednesday's Israeli attack to be a violation of a 1974 military disengagement agreement which followed their last major war, and demanded the U.N. Security Council condemn it unequivocally."
Te'o Hoaxer's Dr. Phil Sit-Down: Deadspin has you covered with all the highlights from Day One of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo's televised confesssion. The saddest quote: "You've heard of recovering drug addicts? It takes a lot of courage to stand and say that," he said. "To recover from homosexuality and this type of thing. Not only that, coming back to your real life, as hard as a task as that is I'm going to do all that I can to live right."
Booker May Square Off With Geraldo For Senate Seat: The Hill: "Television personality and radio host Geraldo Rivera announced Thursday he’s 'truly contemplating' a run for Senate in New Jersey. 'I mention this only briefly, fasten your seatbelt,' Rivera said on his radio show. 'I mentioned this only briefly to my wife ... but I am and I’ve been in touch with some people in the Republican Party in New Jersey. I am truly contemplating running for Senate against Frank Lautenberg or Cory Booker.' New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D), 89, is up for reelection in 2014 but hasn’t announced whether he plans to seek another term."
More Quick Hits From Slate—
Brow Beat: Lena Dunham Is Working on a New Show
Brow Beat: In Defense of Anne Hathaway
Explainer: Do Corporate Name Changes Ever Work?
This post was updated at 5:05 p.m. to include additional analysis of Beyonce's press conference.
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