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Obama ‘appalled’ by journalist’s beheading, but what is the world willing to do about ISIL?

BY Domenico Montanaro, Terence Burlij, Rachel Wellford and Simone Pathe  August 21, 2014 at 9:06 AM EST
President Obama makes a statement about the execution of American journalist James Foley at the press filing center at the Edgartown School Wednesday in Martha's Vineyard. Photo by Rick Friedman-Pool/Getty Images

President Obama makes a statement about the execution of American journalist James Foley at the press filing center at the Edgartown School Wednesday in Martha’s Vineyard. Photo by Rick Friedman-Pool/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Obama talks tough on ISIL
  • McDonnell begins testimony in corruption trial
  • Pryor touts support for “a law” that happens to be the Affordable Care Act

The Iraq box: President Barack Obama said Wednesday the world was “appalled” by the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley at the hands of ISIL. “People like this ultimately fail,” Obama said, reminding of his speeches on the arc of history bending toward justice. “They fail because the future is won by those who build and not destroy. The world is shaped by people like Jim Foley and the overwhelming majority of humanity who are appalled by those who killed him.” The president also called for “a common effort to extract this cancer so that it does not spread.” But what President Obama and the world can — or is willing — to actively do about it is an open question. Americans are reticent to get heavily involved in Iraq and Syria — and other Western allies remain even more cautious. The conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page writes, “We know Barack Obama can do empathy. We know he can channel a family’s grief for a murdered son and express a nation’s outrage. What we don’t know is if he can muster the will and fortitude to defeat an enemy that is growing in strength and danger on his watch.” Iraq and Syria are particularly difficult situations for the president with no clear solution. Despite those calling for stronger intervention, it’s not clear that kind of action would actually work and it’s even more complicated by limited European support. The administration also revealed — after several outlets were going to report on it — that there was a failed mission to rescue Foley in Syria. And unlike European allies, the U.S. would not pay a ransom to release Foley.

McDonnell takes the stand: Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell began his testimony Wednesday, offering a personal rebuttal to charges he and his wife used the governor’s office to help promote the dietary supplement company of a Richmond businessman in exchange for $177,000 in loans and gifts. The Washington Post reports McDonnell pushed back on the characterization that the decision to host an event at the governor’s mansion for Star Scientific, the company owned by Jonnie Williams, represented unique treatment. “I would say things like meetings and mansion events . . . I certainly viewed those as the mere basic routine access to government and not unusual,” McDonnell said. The former governor, once seen as a GOP rising star, also spoke about the role of money in the political process, making the case that elected officials must “separate the receipt of a contribution from what you believe is the right thing to do on a particular policy issue.” McDonnell also started to outline another part of his defense strategy expected to be addressed in more detail Thursday — that he and his wife could not have conspired to boost the company because their marriage was so damaged. He suggested his wife was “disappointed” by his salary as a local prosecutor after graduating from law school and “tense” about assuming the role of first lady. For McDonnell, his political future appears to have been sealed by the allegations, but his legal fate will depend considerably on his sales job on the stand.

Pryor touts vote that happened to be for the Affordable Care Act: In a first this election cycle, a Democrat is up with an ad that appears to support the health care law and defend his vote for it. “When Mark was diagnosed with cancer, we thought we might lose him,” says David Pryor, incumbent Mark Pryor’s popular former senator father says in the ad. “Mark’s insurance company didn’t want to pay for the treatment that ultimately saved his life.” Mark Pryor adds, “No one should be fighting an insurance company while you’re fighting for your life. That’s why I helped pass a law that prevents insurance companies from canceling your policy if you get sick and deny coverage for pre-existing conditions.” It’s an example of how Democrats can try and fight back against the Republican narrative on health care. But notice that Pryor calls it “a law,” not the Affordable Care Act or “ObamaCare,” which remains largely unpopular, especially in red states.

Everyone on both sides of health care: As GOP attacks on the health care law have waned this cycle, the ad allows Pryor to do three things — highlight his popular father, tell a powerful personal story, and try to combat a hit against him. But it also has a weakness — it’s not exactly leaning into health care. “This is not about endorsing ACA,” said Justin Barasky, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “If it was, he would have mentioned it by name.” But that will raise charges of wanting to have it both ways. Meanwhile, Republican Brad Dayspring, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said that “ensuring that people with pre-existing conditions have access to coverage has long been a popular policy, and one where there is bipartisan agreement.” Of course, Republicans did all they could to block the health law and didn’t propose a serious health care plan of their own. By the way, there was another ad this cycle supporting a candidate and the law, run in Alaska. “I now have health insurance again because of Mark Begich,” a woman says in the ad paid for by Super PAC Put Alaska First.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Who were the original sponsors of the bill? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. No one correctly guessed Wednesday’s trivia: How many presidents have lost the popular vote but won the election? The answer was: 4: John Quincy Adams, Benjamin Harrison, Rutherford B. Hayes and George W. Bush.

LINE ITEMS

  • Attorney General Eric Holder traveled to Ferguson, Mo. Wednesday to meet with residents and community leaders. In one meeting, Holder said, “I am the Attorney General of the United States, but I am also a black man.”

  • Virginia was scheduled to begin same-sex marriages Thursday, but the Supreme Court put a stay on those, pending appeals.

  • The Justice Department’s controversial “Fast and Furious” program could be back in the spotlight soon, after a federal judge set an October 1 deadline for the agency to release documents about the program to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., are calling for an independent investigation into the Air Force Academy’s handling of sexual assault cases.

  • Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren says the Senate will vote again on her student loans bill, after Republicans kept the legislation from coming to the floor earlier this summer.

  • The Dallas Morning News’ Wayne Slater rounds up the reasons why the conventional wisdom about Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s indictment may be incomplete.

  • Speaking of Perry, the Texas governor is in DC Thursday talking on an immigration panel at the Heritage Foundation, called, “The Border Crisis and the New Politics of Immigration,” beginning at 11 a.m. ET.

  • Put Alaska First went after GOP nominee Dan Sullivan in a new ad the day after the primary. Sullivan is also the target of Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s largest buy so far this cycle in a digital campaign attacking his opposition to abortion.

  • Breaking with the conservative right, Iowa GOP Senate nominee Joni Ernst backed the Export-Import bank in an interview with CNBC Wednesday.

  • Virginia’s Ed Gillespie has released his first biographical spot, which makes no mention of his time at the head of the RNC.

  • EMILY’s List is making the largest single outside expenditure in Georgia’s Senate race, buying $1 million in Atlanta airtime to attack Republican David Perdue for the gender pay discrimination lawsuit brought against Dollar General.

  • “Sometimes I get a little frustrated with them,” Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told Roll Call of outside groups like Heritage Action.

  • The former chief of staff to Sen. Chuck Grassley is running for a seat of his own in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District. But the advice Don Young received from the state’s senior senator years ago has played a big role in his campaign: “He said, ‘[whatever] your constituents want, anything and everything, you do it,’” Young told Roll Call. “‘If they want you to cut their toenails, you cut their toenails.’”

  • The Washington Post’s Ben Terris talks to the pollster who predicted former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor would win his primary and hasn’t lost any 2014 clients since his upset.

  • With Florida’s primary less than a week away, lawyers argued Wednesday over the legislature’s latest version of redrawn districts, with the original opponents of the districts saying that the new ones are little different and would maintain a GOP advantage.

  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is sending out email solicitations on behalf of GOP Senate candidate Jeff Bell, but he doesn’t go so far as to criticize by name Sen. Cory Booker, with whom he had a working relationship when Booker was mayor of Newark.

  • 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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