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Obama’s Iraqi quicksand

BY Domenico Montanaro, Rachel Wellford and Simone Pathe  August 11, 2014 at 9:08 AM EST
Iraqis hold a giant portrait of Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki during a demonstration to support him on Monday in Baghdad's central Saadoun Street after Maliki said he was filing a complaint against the president for violating the constitution. Maliki's Shiite coalition won April polls comfortably but his standing has been undermined by a jihadist offensive launched on June 9 that overran large swathes of Iraq. Photo by AMER AL-SAEDI/AFP/Getty Images

Iraqis hold a giant portrait of Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki during a demonstration to support him on Monday in Baghdad’s central Saadoun Street after Maliki said he was filing a complaint against the president for violating the constitution. Maliki’s Shiite coalition won April polls comfortably but his standing has been undermined by a jihadist offensive launched on June 9 that overran large swathes of Iraq. Photo by AMER AL-SAEDI/AFP/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Back to Iraq – a bombing campaign and no political resolution in sight
  • Hillary Clinton more forcefully distances from President Obama
  • A St. Louis shooting with echoes of the Trayvon Martin case
  • 2014 watch: Still waiting on Hawaii, Tennessee results

Iraq – no way out? Nearly two months ago, we asked if the U.S. was heading back into Iraq — something that would have been remarkable given that President Barack Obama won in 2008, in large measure, because of his opposition to the Iraq war. Well, it looks like the U.S. is back in Iraq and possibly for the “long term,” as President Obama indicated over the weekend before heading for his two-week vacation to Martha’s Vineyard. “I don’t think we’re going to solve this problem in weeks,” Obama said. “This is going to be a long-term project.” And no political resolution in the country appears in sight — Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, who the U.S. sees as a big part of the problem, is digging in. But the one thing the U.S. believes it cannot let happen is to allow the Kurds to fall. So, the U.S. began a bombing campaign of ISIS targets over the weekend, and Kurdish forces were able to retake two towns. The U.S. is also directly arming the Kurds. The longer the U.S. is in Iraq — and the longer the country is unstable — President Obama may have his own political crisis back home, especially considering Americans have shown little appetite for more international intervention. By the way, like most presidential vacations, presidents deal with a lot of news. It’s possible to hear from the president’s national security team today.

HRC weighs in: You know what they say about Washington — if you want a friend here, get a dog. Hillary Clinton is doing Obama no favors on Iraq and ISIS. As we’ve written previously, subtle differences over foreign policy have emerged during Clinton’s book tour between the former Obama secretary of state and the president. She wanted to arm the Syrian rebels and is open to staying longer in Afghanistan, but in an interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, Clinton rips the Band-Aid off. “The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad—there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle—the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” Clinton said. She later said of Obama’s “Don’t do stupid [stuff]” foreign policy doctrine, “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.” If Obama’s approval numbers continue to slide, expect to hear plenty more of this more forceful distancing from Clinton. And it’s again an indication of where her head is at for 2016. She was always more hawkish than this president and without a (serious) Democratic challenger in 2016, she can — and will — do more of this. By the way, not everyone believes arming moderate rebels in Syria would have worked. Mike Morrell, former deputy director of the CIA, said on CBS This Morning that even though ISIS was strengthened by the unrest in Syria, the U.S. would have needed a much larger footprint there to make a difference and geopolitically that could have been problematic.

Killed teen in St. Louis could become political: An unarmed teenager in a St. Louis suburb was shot and killed by police, sparking outrage in the community. Attorney General Eric Holder has ordered the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division to monitor the situation. The NAACP wants the FBI to step in. This is already national news and could become one of those cases that gets into the political bloodstream. Remember, during the Trayvon Martin case, President Obama waded in and said Martin could have been his son. The same lawyer who represented Martin will represent the family of the killed teenager. Speaking of Trayvon Martin and politics, check out this mailer using Martin’s likeness in a Democratic primary.

2014 watch — Abercrombie & Ditch-ed: With GOP incumbents handily defeating their tea party primary opponents in Kansas and Tennessee last week, the drama shifted to the Democrats in Hawaii Saturday, where Gov. Neil Abercrombie badly lost his primary against state Sen. David Ige, and the race between Sen. Brian Schatz and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa remained too close to call on Sunday. Schatz leads by fewer than 2,000 votes. The rival Democrats were headed to the Big Island Sunday to survey damage from Tropical Storm Iselle, which postponed primary voting in two precincts. Those roughly 8,000 registered voters will be able to vote by mail over the next three weeks, the AP reports. In last week’s other too-close-to-call election, Rep. Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee’s 4th Congressional District declared victory in the GOP primary, despite leading his challenger by a mere 35 votes. Finalizing results could take several weeks.

What to watch this week: Connecticut, Minnesota and Wisconsin voters head to the polls Tuesday. The races to watch are on the Republican side in the governor’s race in Connecticut, as the incumbent Democratic governor, Dan Malloy, is vulnerable this fall; and the GOP primaries in the Senate and governor’s races in Minnesota for who takes on incumbent Democratic Sen. Al Franken and Gov. Mark Dayton. Plus, we’ll find out who will replace outgoing Rep. Michele Bachmann; and the competitive governor’s race in Wisconsin officially kicks off between incumbent — and possible 2016 hopeful — Republican Scott Walker and Democrat Mary Burke. In Wisconsin, although residents do not have to bring photo ID, there is still confusion about the state’s law.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1984, President Ronald Reagan was preparing for his weekly radio broadcast when he made a joke about the Soviet Union that was later leaked, during testing of the microphone. What did he say? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. No one correctly guessed Thursday’s trivia: Andrew Johnson was one of five presidents who never ran for the office; who were the other four? The answer was: John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Chester Arthur and Gerald Ford.

LINE ITEMS

  • A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was brokered by Egypt and went into effect at midnight.

  • A federal judge backed new limits to voting in North Carolina, going against the wishes of the Justice Department and civil rights groups.

  • Committees in the Florida state House and Senate agreed on a redrawn map of two congressional districts, which had been ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge last month.

  • One of the Republicans hoping to unseat Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, Mead Treadwell, admitted to smoking marijuana, during a televised debate.

  • In his own, more subdued version of Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst’s “make ‘em squeal” ad, Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., tells voters, “Let’s shake up the Senate” in a new ad attacking Colorado Sen. Mark Udall for supporting Obamacare.

  • With their eyes on a Senate majority, establishment Republicans are preparing a 2015 agenda to show that they can get things done.

  • Unlike previous midterm election years, no dominant theme has emerged nationally for 2014, the Washington Post reports. “This is an election about nothing — and everything.”

  • In a Friday memo to congressional Republicans, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy laid out a post-recess legislative agenda that will give members plenty to talk about back home in their districts, including an energy bill to support Keystone XL and reduce regulation. Not on the list: avoiding a government shutdown.

  • Conservative 2016 contenders, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, appealed to social conservatives at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa this weekend.

  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Friday unveiled his federal super PAC — RickPac — to help Republicans running in the midterms.

  • Perry was ever so happy to explain to The Atlantic’s Michelle Cottle how he got those new dark-rimmed glasses, which Cottle takes as a sign of a changed, more deliberate politician trying to prove he’s ready for 2016.

  • Montana Sen. John Walsh has withdrawn from his Senate race, but the plagiarism scandal could still deal a blow to his military career if the Army War College were to revoke his master’s degree.

  • The “kissing congressman,” Rep. Vance McAllister, R-La., says he’s moved past the scandal, and many voters of both parties who attended question-and-answer sessions with McAllister this weekend seemed to agree. One Louisianan who doesn’t share that sentiment is Gov. Bobby Jindal.

  • Roll Call’s Shira Center catches up with Arizona Rep. Ron Barber, who’s running his third campaign for former Rep. Gabby Giffords’ seat, on a drive through his hometown.

  • Two-thirds of New York’s likely voters haven’t heard of the Moreland Commission, the anti-corruption panel established by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and whose proceedings the U.S. attorney is investigating the governor for interfering with, according to a Siena College poll.

  • Georgia gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter is tiptoeing around his grandfather’s position on Hamas, after former President Jimmy Carter co-authored an op-ed arguing that Hamas should be recognized as “a legitimate political actor.”

  • The fight for Republican control of the legislature is not limited to the national stage.

  • National Journal’s Marcia Coyle looks at the U.S. Supreme Court justices as legal superheroes.

  • Before New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio began his push to bring the Democratic National Convention to Brooklyn, he made sure he had the support of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Several Clinton veterans are leading the city’s bid to host the convention. Philadelphia, though, likely has the edge as the frontrunner for the 2016 convention.

  • 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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