Two weeks out from the first GOP presidential debate, Donald Trump‘s candidacy has dominated news headlines and TV airwaves with his nothing-to-lose bombast. On Tuesday, his feud with Sen. Lindsey Graham escalated when he read the hawkish lawmaker’s personal cell phone number on live television in retribution for Graham calling him a “jackass.” With Trump still riding high in the polls and likely to earn a spot at center-stage in Cleveland, Republican candidates are struggling with how to handle the volatile threat in their midst. None wants to be seen as deferring to the real estate magnate and reality television star, but going on offense has risks of its own. But the weekend’s showdown with Sen. John McCain has made the prospects of fireworks all the more likely. Get your popcorn.
Conservatives are rallying over a series of videos purporting to show a Planned Parenthood doctor negotiating over the price for the tissue of aborted fetuses. The group claims the videos have been edited unfairly, but GOP presidential candidates and House Speaker John Boehner are calling for investigations into the revelations, igniting a controversial debate going into a presidential year.
On the lighter side: Seeking attention, Sen. Rand Paul used a chainsaw to destroy a pile of papers representing the federal tax code. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been caught flip-flopping on his favorite New Jersey rock star. And try your hand at our new Donald Trump insult generator.
Here are your must-reads:
How George W. Bush Made Both Barack Obama and Jon Stewart Possible
TIME’s Philip Elliott explores the dynamic as Obama and Stewart meet no air for a final time
With Planned Parenthood Videos, Activist Ignites Abortion Issue
Republicans prepare to go on the offensive [New York Times]
Donald Trump Heaps Insults on Lindsey Graham, Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton, Other Foes
Gives out Graham’s cell phone on live television [TIME]
Lawmakers, White House Explore Tax Revamp for U.S. Firms Overseas
Effort to fund highway bill shows early signs of bipartisan progress [Wall Street Journal]
Will GOP Debate Be the Trump Show?
Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Definitely, yes. [Politico]
“Bon Jovi.” — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to conservative radio host Laura Ingraham flip flops when asked to choose between Bruce Springsteen and his fellow New Jersey rock star.
“I can’t believe you’re leaving before me. I’m going to issue an executive order. Jon Stewart cannot leave the show. It’s being challenged in the courts.” — President Obama on his final appearance on The Daily Show. Stewart, who will leave the air next month, replied, “to me this is a state’s rights issue.”
Bits and Bites
Obama’s Plan for Guantánamo Is Seen Faltering [New York Times]
Conservative Airwaves Grapple With Donald Trump, Aiding His Rise [New York Times]
Old Senate Colleagues Critical of Kerry’s Work on Iran [Boston Globe]