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Early signs of how Hillary Clinton would be a different president than Obama

BY Domenico Montanaro, Terence Burlij, Rachel Wellford and Simone Pathe  June 6, 2014 at 9:18 AM EDT
Does Hillary Clinton's new book, due out Tuesday, give a hint at what a Clinton presidency would look like? Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Does Hillary Clinton’s new book, due out Tuesday, give a hint at what a Clinton presidency would look like? Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Clinton calls Iraq vote “wrong,” but would have been more interventionist on Syria
  • Mississippi race gets personal
  • Liberals begin to push back on Bergdahl story
  • Obama remembers D-Day, 70 years later

The Hillary Clinton reintroduction: Hillary Clinton’s book tour kicks off next week with with events in New York Tuesday — when her book is officially released — and Washington Friday. The former Secretary of State, senator, and first lady also begins TV interviews on the book and mixes in another paid speech in Chicago Tuesday. In early excerpts leaking out, Clinton addresses Benghazi, her concussion, the discussions to negotiate for American soldier Bowe Bergdahl’s release in Afghanistan and notably admits — in her most explicit way — that she was “wrong” on her vote in favor of the Iraq war, a vote that imperiled her 2008 presidential bid in the Democratic primary against Barack Obama. “I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple,” according to CBS, which purchased an early copy of the book “Hard Choices.” That is the beginning of something of a reintroduction for Clinton given the liberal base’s wariness of her perceived hawkishness

Split on Syria with Obama: But there are also some indications of how a President Hillary Clinton would be different from Mr. Obama as president, most notably on foreign policy — and she would be more hawkish. On Syria, she would have armed moderate Syrian rebels earlier. “I returned to Washington reasonably confident that if we decided to begin arming and training moderate Syrian rebels, we could put in place effective coordination with our regional partners,” she writes. But President Obama disagreed. “No one likes to lose a debate, including me. But this was the President’s call and I respected his deliberations and decision. From the beginning of our partnership, he had promised me that would always get a fair hearing. And I always did. In this case, my position didn’t prevail.” Notice how she threads the needle. She wants to appeal to a universe of people who think Obama hasn’t been firm enough, while at the same time not alienating the president’s devoted base.

Addressing health concerns: Also notice the deft move she pulls in writing about her concussion, bringing in Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., the 2012 Republican vice-presidential nominee. She asked Ryan at Obama’s inauguration about whether as an athlete he’d ever had a concussion. He says yes, but got over it with rest. As the New York Times writes, her frenetic pace on the speaker circuit also serves to show “that she has the energy and stamina required of a presidential candidate.” If there was any doubt about Clinton’s likelihood at running, this book seems to read much more as a candidate book than a reflective tell-all memoir.

Cochran seeks to expand electorate: Having narrowly survived an outright defeat in Tuesday’s Senate Republican primary, Mississippi Republican Sen. Thad Cochran will attempt to counter the grassroots enthusiasm behind tea party favorite Chris McDaniel by reaching out to Democratic and independent voters, as we noted in Morning Line Thursday. Henry Barbour, who runs the pro-Cochran Mississippi Conservatives PAC, told the New York Times: “We’re going to make certain that everybody knows they have a stake in this, and the state needs somebody to represent the interest of all three million Mississippians.” The one complication with that strategy is that the more than 84,000 voters who cast ballots in the Democratic primary earlier this week are barred from participating in the GOP runoff on June 24. And a race that has already seen its share of nasty politics is only likely to grow more heated over the next three weeks.

Getting personal: On Thursday, the Club for Growth, which backs McDaniel, took a personal shot at former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Henry Barbour’s uncle, one of Cochran’s top supporters and a founding partner of a D.C. lobbying firm. “You’d be hard pressed to find a more desperate person than a Washington lobbyist who thinks his fees are being threatened,” Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller said in a statement. “Haley Barbour is supposed to be all powerful, but he’s losing a race in his own backyard, and his influence business in Washington will take a big hit when he no longer has a Mississippi senator in his back pocket.” The weird story of McDaniel staffers locked in a courthouse where ballot boxes were got even weirder, when the sheriff’s spokesman said it was a “fabrication” that a uniformed officer let them in. That drew this comment from Haley Barbour, subtly alluding to the arrests of McDaniel supporters who allegedly illegally took photos of Cochran’s wife in a nursing home: “The McDaniel campaign, they seem to always be on the wrong side of a door. Have you ever heard of a group of people who were in places they weren’t supposed to be more often?” Meanwhile, the Washington Post’s Paul Kane contrasts the Cochran campaign with the reelection operations this cycle for Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., noting that if Cochran loses, “it will happen at least in part because of a campaign that bears all the hallmarks of a veteran who had no feel for modern political combat or a full grasp of insurgent challenges to the GOP establishment.”

The difference between coordination and communication: A fundraising plea from the Tea Party Express Thursday exclaimed: “We just got off the phone with the McDaniel campaign and they need our help!” The missive from Tea Party Express chief strategist Sal Russo sounded alarms about potential coordination between the group and the McDaniel campaign. Election laws prohibit coordination of spending on ads and other activities between campaigns and outside groups. “We talk to campaigns constantly and meet with candidates all the time to find out what they’re doing but we never coordinate expenditures,” Russo explained to the Wall Street Journal. The episode highlights the murky nature of modern-day politics, where communication with a campaign and coordinating strategy are seen as two different activities. Remember, this is not just a Republican thing, either. President Obama tried to draw that line, too, in 2012 when he would speak at events and encourage activities of groups like Organizing for America, but not explicitly coordinate. Outside groups spent more than $8 million ahead of Tuesday’s Senate primary, and as we noted in this space Thursday, another $5 to $7 million could pour in over the next three weeks.

Liberal push back on Bergdahl story: With the 70th anniversary of D-Day today, the cable-news firestorm over the prisoner swap for American soldier Bowe Bergdahl has died down. But liberals are beginning to push back on the conservative backlash. Brian Beutler at The New Republic writes that Republicans may come to regret the outrage: “The problem for the diffuse conservative outrage industry is that nuanced debates over public relations strategies and the relative ‘value’ of Guantanamo detainees probably wouldn’t have satisfied bloodthirsty right-wingers. So rather than compartmentalize all of these worthy lines of inquiry, conservatives jumbled them all together and laced the amorphous controversy with a bunch of unseemly innuendo. I imagine many Republicans will come to regret this.” Sam Stein at Huffington Post: “The gush of commentary obscured the complexity of the story at hand. The various critiques of the administration all ran in wildly different directions. Some clearly need to be addressed, but many others seem based on flimsy foundations, undone by basic counterfactual questions.” As we wrote Thursday, there are legitimate questions, but there’s always the risk of going too far in these controversies. Case in point: Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., said this on Fox: “As John Kerry threw his medals over the White House fence and turned his back on all of his Vietnam brothers and sisters, that’s what Bergdahl did. Bergdahl walked away from his men, and he left them in a bad spot.”

D-Day anniversary: Speaking of the D-Day anniversary, President Obama is in Normandy, France, joined by dignitaries from around the world, including Queen Elizabeth II, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German President Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande. Obama spoke at Omaha Beach early Friday morning: “Here, we don’t just commemorate victory, as proud of that victory as we are; we don’t just honor sacrifice, as grateful as the world is; we come to remember why America and our allies gave so much for the survival of liberty at its moment of maximum peril. And we come to tell the story of the men and women who did it, so that it remains seared into the memory of the future world.” The D-Day remembrance comes in the midst of tension between Russia and the United States and its western European allies over the annexation of Crimea and the continuing conflict in Ukraine. Despite those circumstances, President Obama called for an ongoing fight for liberty throughout the world. “But it was here, on these shores, that the tide was turned in that common struggle for freedom. What more powerful manifestation of America’s commitment to human freedom than the sight of wave after wave of young men boarding those boats to liberate people they’d never met?”

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1833, President Jackson became the first U.S. president to ride in a train. Where did he go? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia, and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Thursday’s trivia: What year did the federal government first circulate paper currency? The answer was: 1862.

LINE ITEMS

  • The U.S. economy added 217,000 jobs and the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.3 percent for the month of May.

  • Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and John McCain, R-Ariz., announced a bipartisan deal on reforms for the Veterans Affairs health care program Thursday.

  • A print ad released by the campaign of Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes featured a European male model pretending to be a coal miner. The Grimes campaign says it caught the error before the ad ran and replaced the image.

  • Pete Aguilar, the Democratic Mayor of Redlands, California, will face Republican military veteran Paul Chabot in the November general election, after a very close race for second in California’s 31st Congressional District.

  • Republican Rep. Cory Gardner, who is challenging Sen. Mark Udall in Colorado, said Thursday he supports citizenship for undocumented immigrants who serve in the military.

  • Rep. Bruce Braley, the Democratic Senate candidate for Iowa, is facing criticism after releasing an ad, in which he compares the Republican candidate Joni Ernst to a chick.

  • Democratic state Sen. Steve Sodders, a Braley supporter, criticized Joni Ernst’s “make ‘em squeal” ad, calling pig castration “mutilating animals.” Sodders later said he chose his words “poorly.”

  • Ted Cruz is all in for Joni Ernst. The Texas Senator posted a glowing endorsement of the GOP nominee on his Facebook page Thursday.

  • The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has added 35 seats to their offensive “Red to Blue” program, backing Democrats they think can hold their own in open seats or defeat incumbent Republicans.

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham is out with two new ads before the South Carolina primary Tuesday. A recent Clemson University poll has Graham at 49 percent among Republican primary voters.

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has proposed legislation that will allow students and their families to refinance their student loans at lower interest rates than when they originally borrowed. Democrats expect to vote on the measure next week.

  • Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill Thursday repealing Common Core math and English standards in Oklahoma.

  • New Jersey state troopers are challenging in court Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to take $2.4 billion from public workers’ pensions to fill his budget hole.

  • The Senate voted 78 to 17 on Thursday to confirm Sylvia Mathews Burwell as Secretary of Health and Human Services. More than 20 Senate Republicans joined with Democrats to back her nomination.

  • The New York Times’ Jackie Calmes examines how Burwell’s West Virginia small-town roots have helped her cultivate relations in Washington.

  • Despite the bipartisan show of support for Burwell — Louisiana GOP Senate candidate Bill Cassidy blasted Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu for voting in favor of the HHS nominee. “Landrieu’s vote for Ms. Burwell is yet another vote for Obama’s bad policies,” Cassidy said in a statement.

  • Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., is in hot water after saying, “I’m sorry it just feels like a bunch of midgets up here worrying about some CBO issue”, during a Senate Banking Committee vote Thursday.

  • The National Archives is releasing more documents from the Clinton administration Friday. The subjects are expected to include the handling of gays in the military and the 1994 slaughter in Rwanda.

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

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Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Terence Burlij at tburlij-at-newshour-dot-org.

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