The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Goodell and Barra: Students of the Obama Era of American Leadership


From the Monday Morning Jolt:

Goodell & Barra: Students of the Obama Era of American Leadership

Does our president just reflect a broad cultural trend in the behavior of leaders, or does he set the tone from the top?

Consider some recent examples of leaders of large organizations with important responsibilities, once they find themselves in the public eye:

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told CBS This Morning he never saw the second tape of Rice striking his wife before Monday. He said, “when we make a decision we want to have all the information that’s available. When we met with Ray Rice and his representatives it was ambiguous about what actually happened.” Friday afternoon, he announced the league would be making a new effort in dealing with unacceptable player conduct . . . by forming a special committee.

Then there’s General Motors CEO Mary Barra, whose company has recalled 2.6 million cars with defective ignition switches. The faulty parts have been linked to at least 13 deaths and 54 accidents since 2009 and have led to numerous lawsuits. She said, “I don’t really think there was a cover up. I think what we had, and it was covered in the report, there were silos of information, so people had bits and pieces and didn’t come forward with the information or didn’t act with a sense of urgency, and it simply was unacceptable.”

Did anyone at NBC News ever answer for the decision to hire Chelsea Clinton for $600,000 a year for three years?

Freedom Industries, that company that spilled ten thousand gallons of chemicals into the Elk River, forcing 300,000 residents to stop drinking, cooking, washing or bathing in their tap water, will face a ton of lawsuits. Their management and leadership has been hard to identify, much less hold accountable; apparently no one with the company feels the need to stand before the public and face the consequences of their actions and inaction. (Notice this is a story tailor-made for even the left-leaning MSM — evil corporation pollutes water of innocent people — and yet there’s been little coverage outside of West Virginia.)

These are all private-sector scandals, of course. Every administration and every era has its scandals. What our current moment seems to feature is a bumper crop of (alleged) leaders insisting they can wait out the storm, often displaying a glimpse of indignation at suggestions that they resign because something terrible happened on their watch. Somehow tapes of criminal behavior never reach the folks at the top, nor reports of a defect in ignition switches.

Everybody’s got rogue low-level staffers in Cincinnati, it seems.

You get that joke because you’re a well-read audience, but also because we’ve seen leaders point the finger below them so many times. The moves of the unaccountable leader, caught with a mess on his watch, are so predictable now: This is the first I’m hearing of it. I learned about it from media reports. I’m as outraged as anyone. We’re going to get to the bottom of this. I’m promising a comprehensive review. It will report to me, and I will let you know about the results of that review, several news cycles from now. Subtext: Hopefully in a few weeks you’ll have forgotten about it.

No, Obama didn’t invent this “leadership” dynamic, but you can argue America’s frustration with it in the previous administration helped drive the president there: The wrong intelligence about Iraq. “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.” The Abramoff scandal. The Wall Street meltdown, jeopardizing the entire economy, with the lingering sense that few of those who made the decision to invest heavily in the “toxic assets” ever paid the price for bad judgment.

The country feels deeply betrayed by its governing and economic elites. Enter Obama. He’s elected. In his inaugural, he declares, “In the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. . . . Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those that prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.”

And you know what we got. Stimulus waste; State Department employees on paid leave over Benghazi; “At this point, what difference does it make?”; the VA, where the secretary belatedly discovered an “unacceptable lack of integrity within some of our veterans health facilities,” Obamacare, where Kathleen Sebelius let the president go out and say things about the website she knew weren’t true, and still kept her job for several months. The NSA.

Now here’s the new IRS commissioner, allegedly in place to clean up the mess of the last one:

Under his management, the agency has ignored and strung out congressional demands for documents and witnesses. Mr. Koskinen waited months to tell Congress the IRS had “lost” the emails of Lois Lerner, the former IRS official at the center the probe, and arguably only did so because an outside lawsuit revealed that the email record was incomplete. He testified that there were no backup tapes with Lerner emails, but we have since learned there are 760 server drives that may contain copies.

The message has been sent, far and wide: Accountability is for suckers.


Tags: Barack Obama , Roger Goodell , Mary Barra , GM , NFL

Chris Christie, Victim of a Reckless, Partisan National Media


You may love Chris Christie, you may hate him. But wherever you are on the spectrum, you have to admit, he’s one of the biggest victims — er, no pun intended — of partisan agenda journalism in modern U.S. politics.

Will he get an apology from Jimmy Fallon and Bruce Springsteen?

And the consequences for MSNBC will be absolutely nothing. This is why people hate the media.

Tags: Chris Christie


It’s a United Kingdom After All!


From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

It’s a United Kingdom After All!

Sorry, lassies.

The ‘nays’ have it!

Voters in Scotland decisively rejected independence from the United Kingdom in a referendum that had threatened to break up the 307-year union, but also appeared to open the way for a looser, more federal Britain.

With results tallied from all 32 voting districts, the “no” campaign won 55.3 percent of the vote while the pro-independence side won 44.7 percent. The margin was greater than forecast by virtually all pre-election polls. . . . 

The decision spared Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain a shattering defeat that would have raised questions about his ability to continue in office and would have diminished his nation’s standing in the world.


One of the first voices I want to hear from when there’s big news in the British Isles is Daniel Hannan, member of the European Parliament and friend of NR:

Thank God. Just thank God. I don’t much care at the moment whether God is Scottish, and is glowering approvingly at Great Britain from over His bands and Geneva gown, or whether He is English and is raising a glass of sherry with an absent-minded smile. At least my country is intact.

When I say, “my country”, I don’t just mean what it says on my passport. I’m one of those UK nationals — a minority, perhaps, but not an insignificant one — who self-identify as British. In England, Scotland and Wales, older patriotisms generally take precedence (Northern Ireland is a special case, obviously). Although many people across Great Britain are convinced, indeed passionate, Unionists, a “Yes” vote wouldn’t have forced them to redefine their identity. The UK might have been divided, and they might have been sorry to see it go, but they’d have carried on being English or Scottish or Welsh.

Those of us who are British first had no such fall-back. A “Yes” vote would have meant the end of the country we belonged to — the end of its name, of its flag, of our internal map of home.

Hannan notes a likely future step is expanded local control for certain government powers — something both capital-C Conservatives and small-c conservatives generally like to see.

A happy ending in the news, for once!

Last night’s tweets as Sean Connery can be found here.

Tags: Scotland , United Kingdom

Senate Democrats: We Won’t Vote on War Until After the Election


Of course:

Senate Democrats plan to debate and vote on a broad resolution authorizing military strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) after the election, dodging the danger of angering liberal voters this fall.


Above: Democratic senators emerge from the caucus room and announce their decision to postpone a vote on military action until after the election.

Tags: Senate Democrats , ISIS

The Great Big Polling Roundup for Thursday


Also in today’s Jolt, a quick update on some key midterm races . . . 

At least the polls are coming rapidly now, instead of the one-a-month schedule we endured this summer.

A slew of polls hit the public late Wednesday.

Kansas: A bit of relief for Republicans: A Fox News poll finds incumbent Senator Pat Roberts at 40 percent, and “Independent”-who’s-really-a-Democrat Greg Orman at 38 percent. As a couple of analysts have noted, it’s Kansas, and while Roberts survived a brutal primary, Kansas voters are not in the habit of tossing out Republicans in favor of options to the left. Republicans ought to keep this one on the radar screen, but a decent get-out-the-vote effort from the Kansas GOP should keep this one safe. Check back in early October.

Louisiana: Fox News puts Landrieu at 31 percent in the open primary, 38 percent when head-to-head with Republican Bill Cassidy. This is the worst poll for Landrieu in a while, but it’s not that much worse; she’s consistently been on course for a runoff and then trailed the head-to-head matchups for a runoff. Of course, national Democrats will spend every last dime they have to save her in a runoff.

Colorado Senate: Right after NRO posts my lengthy piece on how Cory Gardner still has a shot for a narrow win in this state, USA Today/Suffolk drops a poll showing Gardner ahead by 1. The guy needs money, he needs the outside conservative groups to come in and blast the airwaves, he needs to keep targeting those casual voters who are sour on Obama and the direction of the country, and he needs to chip a few percentage points off incumbent Democrat Mark Udall’s numbers among rural Democratic voters.

Of course, this morning Quinnipiac blew up the conventional wisdom on this race by showing a big Gardner lead.

Regarding the Gardner/Tillis strategy, one reader responded, “This mining for votes is a timid strategy that Karl Rove used to eke out two extremely narrow victories for a dismally poor politician. . . . Try to win big, try to win over large swaths of voters to your side. Talk about Obamacare, the IRS scandal, Benghazi. Call your opponents out on these issues. Make them answer for their pro-abortion extremism rather than cowering in fear lest you have to talk about the issue at all.”

I’d really like to live in a world where a Republican candidate can win big in a state like Colorado by talking about “Obamacare, the IRS scandal, Benghazi, and pro-abortion extremism.” But I’m about 99 percent convinced we don’t live in that world. The Coloradans who care about Obamacare, the IRS scandal, Benghazi and pro-abortion extremism are already voting for Gardner. We have yet to find a surefire way to get the low-information and low-interest voters to care about these sorts of issues; it’s not merely a matter of getting conservatives and GOP candidates to talk about these issues more.

Colorado Governor: Take your pick. Either incumbent Democrat John Hickenlooper is ahead by 2, or he’s trailing Republican Bob Beauprez by 10. For what it’s worth, the poll with Beauprez ahead big has a much bigger sample. Either way, Hickenlooper’s got good reason to work like he’s trailing.

Wisconsin Governor: Rasmussen puts Scott Walker up 2, Marquette puts him up 3. As ominous as that sounds, remember that this is a state Walker won 52–46 in 2010. Ron Johnson won the Senate race that year with 51.9 percent. A Republican candidate is going to have a hard ceiling of about 5253 percent here. Yes, Walker won the recall election by a bigger margin, but he enjoyed the benefit of some voters who opposed the concept of the recall election and voted “no” on that basis — a factor not around in this routine election year.

Florida Governor: Survey USA puts incumbent Republican Rick Scott ahead of Charlie Crist, 44 percent to 39 percent. I feel like the national coverage of that race hasn’t really noted how consistently Scott has been ahead — usually by a small margin, but ahead nonetheless:

Tags: Pat Roberts , Greg Orman , Rick Scott , Charlie Crist , 2014 Midterms


BOOM! Quinnipiac Finds Gardner Ahead of Udall, 48–40



Colorado U.S. Sen. Mark Udall trails U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, his Republican challenger, 48 – 40 percent among likely voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Independent candidate Steve Shogan gets 8 percent.

With Shogan out of the race, Rep. Gardner leads 52 – 42 percent, the independent Quinnipiac University poll finds. This survey of likely voters can not be compared with earlier surveys of registered voters.

In the three-way matchup, Gardner leads Udall among men 53 – 34 percent, with 9 percent for Shogan. Women go 46 percent for Udall, 43 percent for Gardner and 7 percent for Shogan.

And to think, I just wrote in my state-of-the-race piece, “Cory Gardner is not going to win big.”

(Despite this poll, it’s probably still likely to be a close result. But I guess we’ll see how the next few polls go!)

Tags: Cory Gardner , Mark Udall

Can Our Forces Bomb an Outhouse in Syria Without Presidential Approval?


From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Can Our Forces Bomb an Outhouse in Syria Without Presidential Approval?


The U.S. military campaign against Islamist militants in Syria is being designed to allow President Barack Obama to exert a high degree of personal control, going so far as to require that the military obtain presidential signoff for strikes in Syrian territory, officials said.

Welcome back to Vietnam, and General William Westmoreland’s experience:

Somewhere, some Baby Boomers are chuckling about what happens once you elect a president too young to have served in — or, it seems, remember — Vietnam.

Remember Obama’s boast, “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m going to think I’m a better political director than my political director.” I guess he thinks he’s a better general than his generals and a better bomber than his bombers.

Mark Halperin and John Heilemann’s book “Double Down: Game Change 2012” notes President Obama commenting on drone strikes, reportedly telling his aides that he’s “really good at killing people.”

Oh. So he really does think he’s an expert at killing people.

How the heck did we end up in this mess?

Through tight control over airstrikes in Syria and limits on U.S. action in Iraq, Mr. Obama is closely managing the new war in the Middle East in a way he hasn’t done with previous conflicts, such as the troop surge in Afghanistan announced in 2009 or the last years of the Iraq war before the 2011 U.S. pullout.

In Iraq, Mr. Obama had delegated day-to-day management to Vice President Joe Biden.


Well, that explains a lot.

In other news, Mr. Vice President, look out for that bus!

Tags: Iraq , Syria , ISIS , Barack Obama , Joe Biden

And You Thought You Didn’t Like Mark Udall Before!


From today’s Morning Jolt:

And you thought you didn’t like Mark Udall before:

Republican operatives believe they have found a smoking gun against Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, who said during a 2008 debate he was against a “government-sponsored” solution for health care.

The then-congressman, who was running for an open seat in the U.S. Senate, echoed arguments made by conservatives.

“I’m not for a government-sponsored solution,” Udall said. “I’m for enhancing and improving the employer-based system that we have.”

In a debate overshadowed by other issues — rising energy prices and the war on terror — Udall’s answer that July barely created a ripple. But in the context of Sen. Udall’s vote for the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and his tough re-election bid against Republican Congressman Cory Gardner in November, the statement takes on new meaning.

These red and purple state Democrats just lie. They say they oppose these liberal ideas, and then once they’re in, they go along with Pelosi and Reid and all the rest.

Because by 2010, Udall, the guy who insisted he didn’t want “a government-sponsored solution,” said he supported the public option:

Bennet made national headlines by writing a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid demanding the chance to put a “public option,” government-run insurance alternative in the final legislation. More than 40 senators signed the letter, but the public option was never reconsidered. Udall, however, was not among the Democrats who signed Bennet’s letter.

Udall said he supports creating a public option, but added, “I thought we needed to bring this drawn-out process to an end.”

Words don’t have much meaning anymore, huh?

Tags: Mark Udall , Obamacare

New Poll Puts GOP’s Ernst Ahead in Iowa, 50–44


Remember when I said Republicans should be a bit more concerned about the Senate race in Iowa? Never mind, apparently:

Neutralizing the traditional Democratic lead among women voters, Republican State Sen. Joni Ernst leads U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, the Democrat, 50 – 44 percent among likely voters in the race to replace U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin in Iowa, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Ernst leads among men 56 – 39 percent, while Braley leads among women by a smaller 50 – 44 percent margin, the independent Quinnipiac University poll finds. This survey of likely voters can not be compared with earlier surveys of registered voters.

That likely-voter screen is a real pain for Democrats, huh?

Cheer up, Congressman Braley. Ernst’s hog had a worse morning.

Tags: Joni Ernst , Bruce Braley , Iowa

Jindal on 2016: ‘I’m Not Going to Be Coy, I’m Thinking About Running’


“I’m not going to be coy, I’m thinking about running for president and praying about it,” Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal said at a lunch with conservative bloggers today. He added he considers it a mistake for any Republican to spend a lot of time focusing on the 2016 presidential election while there are still midterm elections to be won. Jindal mentioned he had been campaigning for Florida governor Rick Scott, Arkansas Senate candidate Tom Cotton, and North Carolina Senate candidate Thom Tillis.

“We’re big fans of SEC football back home, and everyone likes to ask the coach, ‘Are you going to win the championship this year?’ The answer is always, ‘First, we’ve got to win the game right in front of us right now.’”

He said he doubted he would make any decision until “after the holidays” at the end of the year.

Jindal said that Americans are “hungry for big change, looking for a hostile takeover of D.C..”

“I think we will win [the Senate] in 2014,” Jindal said. “But if we don’t do anything with it, there will be a backlash. We can’t just be the party of ‘no.’”

Jindal unveiled a series of proposals for a national energy policy today. This morning our Eliana Johnson looked at Jindal’s ideas-focused positioning for 2016.

Tags: Bobby Jindal

Dan Sullivan Hits ‘Both Ways Begich’


The Dan Sullivan for Senate campaign in Alaska is unveiling a new “micro-site” — — and running a new ad, pointing out that while Alaska senator Mark Begich claims he’s a “thorn in Obama’s side,” he votes with the president’s position 97 percent of the time:

Tags: Dan Sullivan , Mark Begich

The Left Begins to Realize Their Guys Haven’t Delivered


From the Tuesday Morning Jolt:

The Left Begins to Realize Their Guys Haven’t Delivered

Zephyr Teachout, who challenged Andrew Cuomo in the New York State Democratic primary, contends that the Democratic party “needs a kick from the left.”

The dissatisfaction of liberals ought to be useful antidote to glum conservatives convinced that America has sold its collective soul to collectivist statism. But it’s worth noting what Teachout finds most objectionable about Cuomo:

Our challenge came at an important moment for the Democratic Party. While we believe our party is on the right side when it comes to the issues the nation is facing, it is not wholly immune to the cronyism and corruption that has contaminated the Republican Party. Some of the problems we identified with the Cuomo administration — prioritization of donor needs and support for Republican candidates and Republican causes, for instance — can be found around the country. We are at the beginning of a serious debate about what the Democratic Party really stands for, and we would like to think we have helped to start that discussion.

Notice the casual conflation of “cronyism and corruption” with “support for Republican candidates and Republican causes.”

Is “too much support for Republican candidates” the problem that should the Left? Or merely the aspect of modern Democratic governance that bothers them the most? New York is beginning universal pre-K, even though a lot of schools still stink. The unemployment rate has slid down as Americans leave the workforce, but few would claim this is a booming era of hiring and opportunity. Obamacare has reduced the number of uninsured nationally to a mere . . . 41 million. Premiums are set to go up about 8 percent next year. Dodd-Frank completely failed to end the era of “Too Big to Fail.” There was massive fraud in the stimulus program, costing taxpayers “billions”, but the Left would much rather talk about the Koch brothers. Our foreign policy is a dumpster fire right now.

The bigger problem for the Left is that their preferred president and their preferred governors and legislators, enacting their preferred policies, have not generated their preferred results.

Teachout took about a third of the vote in a New York Democratic primary that had low turnout.

Above: Governor Cuomo reacted to his primary victory by cackling, “BWAHAHAHA! NO ONE CAN STOP ME NOW!”

Tags: Andrew Cuomo , Zephyr Teachout

Hillary Clinton, World-Champion Pretend Griller


How perfectly Clintonian:

While a crowd of several thousand Democrats waited on a sloping, grassy field below, Mrs Clinton, her husband and Senator Harkin staged a mini-grilling of steaks for the press at a single barbecue grill in a fenced-off enclosure, framed by a handsome tree and a picnic table filled with some patient Iowans. Mrs Clinton gamely posed, pretending to grill a steak that had been pre-cooked for her.

Why, they’re just regular folks, just like us! (AP photo.)

Remember all those relentless media references to George W. Bush’s alleged “fake” “plastic” turkey while visiting the troops in Iraq?

Tags: Hillary Clinton , Something Lighter

CNN Poll in New Hampshire: Jeanne Shaheen 48 Percent, Scott Brown 48 Percent


We’ve seen three public polls of New Hampshire’s Senate race since July. WMUR put incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen up by 2; YouGov put her up by 6.

And now:

Think about it, New Hampshire. You have the power in your hands . . . to make a Princeton professor eat a bug:

Tags: Jeanne Shaheen , Scott Brown , New Hampshire

A Longshot GOP Candidate Makes Gains Among Independents


Allen Weh, the Republican candidate for Senate in New Mexico, is one of this cycle’s longshots. And the latest poll out in the Land of Enchantment does not indicate he’s on the verge of an upset.

But when a longshot candidate starts getting some traction, a bit of credit is deserved:

[Democrat incumbent Sen.] Tom Udall led Weh with independent voters 62 percent to 26 percent in August. The latest survey showed Udall’s advantage among the group down to 41 percent to 38 percent.

Sadly for Weh, that shift is not a game-changer; independents just don’t make up enough of the state’s likely electorate:

Just over half of the likely New Mexico voters surveyed – 51 percent – said they supported Udall for re-election in the September poll, conducted Tuesday through Thursday last week. Thirty-eight percent said they preferred Weh. Another 11 percent were undecided.

In 2012, Heather Wilson lost the New Mexico Senate race, 51 percent to 45 percent, to Democrat Martin Heinrich. Back in 2008, as Obama was winning the state in the presidential election, Udall beat GOP congressman Steve Pearce, 61 percent to 38 percent.

Tags: Allen Weh

Why Is Our President Thinking About What He Would Tell ISIS if He Were Advising Them?


From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Why Is Our President Thinking About What He Would Tell ISIS if He Were Advising Them?

A strange presidential comment, revealed to the world Sunday by the New York Times:

But the president said he had already been headed toward a military response before the men’s deaths. He added that ISIS had made a major strategic error by killing them because the anger it generated resulted in the American public’s quickly backing military action.

If he had been “an adviser to ISIS,” Mr. Obama added, he would not have killed the hostages but released them and pinned notes on their chests saying, “Stay out of here; this is none of your business.” Such a move, he speculated, might have undercut support for military intervention.

Why is our president thinking about what he would tell ISIS if he were advising them?

Does the president spend a lot of time thinking about this? Or did it just strike him as a fascinating little nugget of insight to share with a guest while discussing ISIS?

I can see the value in trying to understand the thinking of your enemy. I can see the value in thinking through an ultimatum to the group, contemplating what you’ll demand and what consequences to threaten. You can “offer advice” to a foe in the sense of, “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

But Obama’s “if I was an adviser to ISIS” comment doesn’t sound like any of these — at least from the context that we’re given by the Times’s sources, individuals who have met with the president in the past week. It’s just, Hey, if I were advising the enemy, this is what I would have told them.

Okay . . . what’s the point? Why spend any time thinking about that scenario? Did ISIS call and ask for advice? They didn’t attach notes; they detached heads. That’s the choice they made. Now the question is what we’re going to do about it.

Notice Obama’s assessment presumes ISIS wants to avoid a U.S. military intervention. Is this a manifestation of the mirroring effect, where Obama projects its own values and priorities onto its foes? (Think about how often he insists publicly that seizing Crimea and moving into Ukraine isn’t in Russia’s interest, or that bellicose or provocative actions on the part of Iran aren’t in that country’s interest.) ISIS appears to want to send the message, far and wide, that they don’t fear a clash with the U.S. military. Perhaps they want to demonstrate that they can commit horrific crimes against American civilians with no serious repercussion. Maybe they think God wants them to do this. Maybe they’re nuts! In the end, the “why” matters less than the “what.”

Viewed from another angle, President Obama’s comment sounds like a complaint. If ISIS hadn’t beheaded Americans, there wouldn’t be such widespread demand for action against ISIS in the American public.

“If I were advising ISIS . . . ”

Well, you’re not, Mr. President. What, are you looking for another job? Some sort of freelance consulting gig on the job, when you clock out as Commander-in-Chief?

Walter Russell Mead:

It is probably true that a lower profile by ISIS would have made it more difficult to win support for airstrikes in the United States and around the world, but that’s hardly the point. ISIS is a master of the pornography of politics and the pornography of perverted religion: slave girls, heads on spikes, executions uploaded to the Internet, naked defiance in the face of its enemies. ISIS isn’t trying to win a conventional geopolitical chess match, it wants to electrify millions of potential supporters and change the nature of the game. The execution of American hostages succeeded brilliantly, from an ISIS point of view. It has made President Obama look weak, forced him to change his entire Middle East policy and brought the jihadi movement back into the world spotlight. The politics of spectacle has eclipsed Al-Qaeda, weakened Assad’s position, drawn the awe and admiration of jihadi wanna-bes and funders, and elevated 30,000 thugs and nutjobs to a major force in global events. Yes, that elevation carries with it the risk of serious pushback and even conventional military defeat, but jihadi ideology has benefited enormously from what ISIS has accomplished so far. ISIS still isn’t going to conquer the world, but radical Islam is closer than ever to launching the clash of civilizations of which bin Laden dreamed.

ISIS has much less money than President Obama does, many fewer fighters, much less equipment and in every other conventional measure of power it is a pipsqueak compared to the Leader of the Free World. But who is acting, and who is reacting? Who is dancing to whose tune?

Are we about to learn what happens when the United States goes to war with a commander-in-chief who doesn’t really want to go to war? A president who’s ordering a particular military action because he feels he has to in order to placate public opinion, but that he has deep doubts about? How can that possibly turn out well?

Josh Jordan: “Shorter Obama: If I were advising ISIS, I’d tell them not to execute Americans on video so I can keep pretending they aren’t a threat to us.”

Ladd Ehlinger Jr.: “Ah yes, I remember when FDR thought-experimented an advisorship position with Imperial Japan.”

Doug Powers: “Obama also probably would have advised ISIS to pin OFA donation envelopes and voter registration forms to the shirts of released hostages.”

Iowahawk to the president: “If you were advising ISIS, they would be bankrupt.”

Tags: Barack Obama , ISIS , Syria , Iraq

Iowa Republicans: We’re Happy With the Senate Polls


The Republican party of Iowa e-mails:

CNN: GOP Remains Happy About Iowa

CNN’S JOHN KING: “There’s a big senate race, Tom Harkin, the senator hosting the steak fry, he’s retiring. In the race to succeed him, another brand new poll that we are releasing now. Look at this dead heat. Bruce Braley is the Democrat, he’s a congressman. You see him on the right of your screen there, 49 percent. Joni Ernst, 48 percent the Republican candidate. If you are the Republicans, you are happy here, because Iowa is a blue state. President Obama carried it comfortably twice and you have a dead heat in Iowa. Republicans slightly ahead in some of the red states that has to be a cause of concern.”

THE WASHINGTON POST’S JACKIE KUCINICH: “Well, Joni Ernst came out very strong from a five-way primary and I think it’s helped her and Bruce Braley has suffered from some unforced errors, with his comments about Grassley not being a lawyer. Right now if you look at the number this is a fight over the middle. Democrats are voting for Bruce Braley and Republicans are voting for Joni Ernst. It’s that middle they’ll be fighting for and it’s a very soft middle, because they don’t know where they’re going to go yet.”

CNN’S JOHN KING: “Do these numbers shock you? This was the state that launched President Obama, we’ve been making little jokes about it, but this is where he beat Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Iowa Caucuses. It was his launching ground into the national politics. Look at the president’s approval rating right now in Iowa: 37 percent approve and 56 percent disapprove. Again in a normal midterm year that would tell me if that number holds and that race is still that close on Election Day, that tells me the Republican is going to win because of voter intensity and the anti-president sentiment.” (CNN, Inside Politics, 09/12/14)

“If you’re a Republican, you’re happy here.” Ernst is keeping it close, sure. But if she loses a close one — a distinct possibility — then no, Republicans won’t be so happy on Election Night. Note that the race is tied, or a slight Braley lead, with the president’s approval rating so abysmal in Iowa. Braley is running 12 percentage points ahead of Obama’s approval rating.

Tags: Iowa , Republicans , Joni Ernst , Bruce Braley

Time for GOP Concern About Colorado, Iowa, and North Carolina


It is not quite time for Republicans to panic about the Senate races in Colorado, Iowa, and North Carolina, but it’s worth ratcheting up the concern another notch.

In Iowa, it’s been a while since Joni Ernst enjoyed a lead:

The last poll that had her ahead — by 1 — was conducted from July 5 to 24.

In Colorado, the good news is that incumbent Democrat Mark Udall remains below 50. But Cory Gardner can’t seem to get over the hill and take the lead:

In North Carolina, the concerns about Thom Tillis are triggered mostly by one poll showing a surprising six-point lead for incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan. But he, too, has had difficulty getting the lead against an incumbent with indisputable problems, and this is in a state Romney won.

Republicans can still win control of the Senate without these races. They need to hold GOP-held seats Kansas, Kentucky, and Georgia; win the expected near-locks of Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia, and then win in Arkansas, Alaska, and Louisiana. But it must be disconcerting that as the national polling environment looks better and better for the GOP, these three races — and for that matter, Michigan — are not seeing a comparable boost for the Republican candidates.

Tags: Cory Gardner , Joni Ernst , Thom Tillis

The Sneaking Suspicion That Obama Doubts His Own Decision


From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

The Sneaking Suspicion That Obama Doubts His Own Decision

Here’s what I fear is going through the president’s mind right now:

I don’t want to do this. I’m supposed to be the peacemaker president. I didn’t become president to start wars.

I’ve been telling people for years that there is no military solution to the problems in Iraq. Now somehow I’ve ended up telling people that I have a military solution for that and Syria.

We don’t have any reliable allies on the ground. There are at least fourteen different rebel groups, and they keep splitting into smaller groups, each one with a new name, and all of them sound the same. In March, a bunch of them formed the “Sham Legion.” Just perfect. I’m supposed to go out and tell Americans, ‘Hey, let’s give a bunch of weapons to the Sham Legion.’

This assumes that the Sham Legion or the Fake Brigades or whoever don’t just drop their guns and run away, leaving ISIS even more American weapons to use. Why can’t the Iraqis get their act together? We spent years and billions training the Iraqi army and they collapsed in their first real fight. I just went out and promised to do more training. Another couple hundred American soldiers over there, hoping to teach them how to fight. Is ISIS just going to sit and wait while we finish the training? Here’s the first lesson, guys. Stop throwing down your guns and running away.

Where the hell are our allies? I’m the exact opposite of Bush. I’ve talked about the importance of the multilateral approach until I’m blue in the face. You would think that in exchange for being consulted early and often, our allies would be more eager to help. Instead, every time I ask Susan Rice if the Germans are on board, all I hear is mother-blankers this and mother-blankers that. She did it while Rahm Emanuel dropped by and he asked her to tone down her language. It’s almost as if most of our allies don’t really mean it when they complain about not being consulted, like they just want to sit back and wait for somebody else to solve the problem.

Egypt, Jordan and Turkey have been screaming the loudest about ISIS, but now that we’re coming to do something, they’re tepid and not willing to make commitments. Heck of a job, Kerry. You know who’s most warmly welcoming the U.S. arrival? The Assad regime in Damascus. Those bastards.

I can’t shake the feeling ISIS loves the idea of us coming after them. They’re probably going to use some version of the Hamas playbook — provoke a fight with a more powerful, more technologically advanced foe, hide among civilians, play up any civilian casualties, and then declare yourself the winner once the bombardment ends.

Nobody wants to help. We’re trying to bomb an army, in the kind of “whack-a-mole” policies I used to criticize. The Democrats in Congress don’t want to touch this with a ten-foot pole. The Republicans will pounce on anything that goes wrong. The whole thing’s a distraction from what I really want to do with my remaining two years . . . 

In short, I think Obama has talked himself into a policy that he doesn’t really want to see through to the end. Which means that once it starts to go wrong — check Byron York for five ways this could go very wrong — President Obama will start having doubts. The moment flag-draped coffins start coming back to the United States, the public’s doubts will start to grow. Opportunistic politicians will read from Obama’s 2004 anti-war playbook.

Read the following and then ask yourself how long until you start hearing the word “quagmire”:

In Iraq, dissolved elements of the army will have to regroup and fight with conviction. Political leaders will have to reach compromises on the allocation of power and money in ways that have eluded them for years.

Disenfranchised Sunni tribesmen will have to muster the will to join the government’s battle. European and Arab allies will have to hang together, Washington will have to tolerate the resurgence of Iranian-backed Shiite militias it once fought, and U.S. commanders will have to orchestrate an air war without ground-level guidance from American combat forces.

“Harder than anything we’ve tried to do thus far in Iraq or Afghanistan” is how one U.S. general involved in war planning described the challenges ahead on one side of the border that splits the so-called Islamic State.

But defeating the group in neighboring Syria will be even more difficult, according to U.S. military and diplomatic officials. The strategy imagines weakening the Islamic State without indirectly strengthening the ruthless government led by Bashar al-Assad or a rival network of al-Qaeda affiliated rebels — while simultaneously trying to build up a moderate Syrian opposition.

Then Obama will want to undo this policy as quickly as he can. What happens when the United States tries to withdraw from a war “counterterrorism operation” in Iraq the second time?

Tags: Barack Obama , ISIS , Iraq , Syria

A Great Big Poll Roundup for the 2014 Governor’s Races


CBS News and the New York Times have unveiled a slew of new gubernatorial polls. Among the results that jump out:

Republican Doug Ducey is one point ahead of Democrat Fred DuVal in Arizona. Better than the alternative, but you’d like to see the GOP candidate build a lead in a red state like that. Ducey just emerged from a tough primary.

Incumbent Democrat John Hickenlooper and Republican Bob Beauprez are tied in Colorado. That’s in line with most recent polls. Hickenlooper’s consistently in the mid-40s, right on the edge of serious trouble for an incumbent.

This poll puts incumbent Democrat Dan Malloy ahead of Republican Tom Foley by a point in Connecticut. A bit surprising, since a poll a few days ago had Foley ahead by 6.

Rick Snyder trails a bit in Michigan, after leading a long time. That’s a little bit ominous.

Rick Scott leads Charlie Crist, 46 percent to 43 percent. Scott has now led eight of the past ten polls in Florida.

In Hawaii, Republican Duke Aiona is only down by two points in a three-way race.

In Illinois, Bruce Raunder is only up by 4 over incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn, a bit less than some other polling.

In Maine, Republican incumbent Paul LePage is hanging on, leading with 38 percent in a three-way race.

In Oregon, incumbent Democrat John Kitzhaber has a healthy six-point lead, despite overseeing the most disastrous Obamacare exchange in the country.Very little sign that there’s any real fallout from one of the most expensive messes of any state government ever. Ditto for Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown in Maryland, the Democrats’ nominee in that very blue state.

In South Carolina, Nikki Haley, who did not win by a huge margin four years ago, is now ahead by more than 20 points.

In Texas, Greg Abbott has 56 percent and Wendy Davis is on her way to becoming a trivia-question answer.

In Wisconsin, Scott Walker is ahead by 4, his best poll showing in a little while.

Tags: Republican Governors Association , Polling


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