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Iraq crisis another foreign policy complication for Obama

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Iraq descends, as White House scrambles
  • Clinton’s testy exchange on same-sex marriage
  • Another slight difference emerges between Clinton and Obama and again, it’s on foreign policy
  • House GOP leadership drama appears to fade

‘Groping for a response’ on Iraq: Militants in Iraq took the city of Mosul and captured two more cities as they advanced toward their goal of taking Baghdad in an unfolding crisis that is already having political ramifications for President Barack Obama back in the United States. Conservatives jumped on the latest upheaval, blaming President Obama for pulling out of the country in 2011, while Democrats pointed back at former President George W. Bush for getting the U.S. into a country with no easy exit in the first place. Everyone agrees on one thing: There are no good options now. That’s because the Shiite Maliki government in Iraq is widely seen as corrupt and not having the trust of Sunnis in his country, so much so that the Army laid down its arms and wouldn’t even fight the far smaller insurgent group advancing on them. The deteriorating situation amounts to yet another potential foreign policy mess for the Obama White House with no good options — just like with Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine. The New York Times said the White House was “groping for a response.”

About that carefully-orchestrated rollout…: To the woman who COULD be president… Hillary Clinton, the former Obama secretary of state, called what’s happening in Iraq a “dreadful deteriorating situation” in an appearance before the Council of Foreign Relations Thursday, but offered no concrete steps the Obama administration should take in response. On her whirlwind book tour, Clinton also got a preview Thursday of what the next three years would be like should she decide to launch another presidential bid. Following a largely successful launch of her new memoir Tuesday — minus the stumble about being “dead broke” after leaving the White House and struggling to pay mortgages on “houses” — she generated a wave of headlines Thursday after a testy exchange with NPR’s Terry Gross about same-sex marriage. Gross pressed Clinton repeatedly to explain how she came to her decision to support it. Clinton took exception with Gross’ questioning and played a bit of media critic. The issue is more style over substance, frankly. One of the “narratives” about the Clintons is that they don’t much care for the press and can be prickly when pushed. But on policy, Clinton’s pro-same-sex marriage stance will prove a stark contrast to whomever emerges from the 2016 GOP field. As the Cook Political Report’s Amy Walter tweeted, Clinton merely “sounds like every other D who switched on gay marriage over last few years.”

Another difference with Obama emerges: Speaking of that Council of Foreign Relations appearance, we got another difference with President Obama, in addition to how she would have handled Syria. Clinton was asked if she would, as president, consider leaving U.S. troops in Afghanistan longer than Mr. Obama’s proposed timeline if the new Afghani leadership asked for it, and she replied, “I would. You know, it depends upon conditions on the ground and what was being asked for.” It’s a fine needle she is threading once again. She defended the importance of timelines but also notes “conditions on the ground.” So far, notice on this book tour, the two differences that have emerged with President Obama for what kind of president Clinton would be both have to do with foreign policy — and both indicate a slightly more hawkish, more interventionist approach. Clinton, a champion of “Smart Power,” also offered this when asked about a “Clinton doctrine”: three Ds — defense, diplomacy, and development.

McCarthy emerges as only candidate to replace Cantor — so far: The expected drama to replace Eric Cantor as majority leader fizzled Thursday night when Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, dropped out of the race, leaving Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the current majority whip, as the only (current) candidate in the race, as NewsHour’s Quinn Bowman reports ahead of Thursday’s leadership elections. “Today, it became obvious to me that the measures necessary to run a successful campaign would have created unnecessary and painful division within our party,” Sessions said in a statement. “At this critical time, we must remain unified as a Republican Conference.”

Dissension remains: Still, McCarthy being elevated will not likely quell the dissension within the conference. At least one tea party-backed conservative, Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador, told the Washington Post Thursday he was considering a bid for majority leader and aiming to make a decision Friday. And a Twitter campaign launched Thursday urged Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the former chair of the conservative Republican Study Committee, to run for the leadership post. The race for majority whip, meanwhile, looks to be heating up, with Reps. Peter Roskam of Illinois, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, and Marlin Stutzman of Indiana all throwing their hats in the ring. The fight is expected to come down to Roskam, the establishment pick and current deputy to McCarthy, and Scalise, the current head of the RSC, who is more closely aligned with the tea party in what could highlight the bubbling regional fractures within the GOP more than the majority leader contest.

Quote of the day: “We had probably 15,000 card-carrying Democrats come into this primary. There’s just no way to anticipate something like that. My guess is now looking at the precinct-by-precinct analysis, probably half this electorate wasn’t Republican.” — Eric Cantor campaign manager Ray Allen blaming Democratic meddling for his campaign’s loss to tea party upstart Dave Brat.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1967, President Lyndon Johnson nominated Thurgood Marshall to become the first black justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. How many other Supreme Court justices have been black? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia, and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Ed Byrnes (‏@Ed455B) and Rachael ‏(@CreativeArtistB) for guessing Thursday’s trivia: Where was Reagan when he issued the challenge “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”? The answer was: the Brandenburg Gate.


  • President Obama will travel with the first lady to Bismarck, N.D., to visit the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. At 4:30 p.m. ET in Cannon Ball, N.D., he will deliver remarks to announce the next steps the administration will take to support jobs, education, and self-determination in Indian Country.

  • David Ignatius: “The stunning gains this week by Iraq’s Sunni insurgents carry a crucial political message: Nouri al-Maliki, the Shiite prime minister of Iraq, is a polarizing sectarian politician who has lost the confidence of his army and nation. He cannot put a splintered Iraq together again, no matter how many weapons the Obama administration sends him.”

  • The NewsHour dove into the unfolding situation in Iraq Thursday night with freelance journalist Jane Arraf, Iraq’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations from 2004 to 2007 Feisal Istrababi, and James Jeffrey, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2010 to 2012.

  • Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl arrived in Texas Friday morning, after five years of being held in captivity by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

  • Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston’s Senate bid got a boost Thursday in the form of an endorsement from the National Rifle Association. Kingston will face former Dollar General chief executive David Perdue in a runoff on July 22.

  • A new automated survey from Republican pollster Magellan Strategies puts Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes up 49 percent to 46 percent over Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the Kentucky Senate race.

  • Ron Paul will campaign with Republican Senate candidate Chris McDaniel at a “Second Amendment Rally” in Hattiesburg, Mississippi on Saturday afternoon.

  • Iowa’s the place to be this weekend. Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz holds a press conference with the state Democratic Party while Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and former Pennsylvania Gov. Rick Santorum attend the state GOP convention.

  • Texas Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott leads Democrat Wendy Davis 44 percent to 32 percent in a new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll.

  • Americas PAC, a conservative super PAC, has reported spending more than $300,000 in ads against Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., this year.

  • Ready for Hillary PAC has already spent $4.86 million since April 2013, when it began. With no independent expenditures to make yet, they’ve been renting Clinton’s 2008 campaign email list for fundraising appeals. The Fix’s Jaime Fuller breaks down their other spending.

  • The commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced he is ordering an internal investigation into the claims that unaccompanied minors were mistreated by border patrol officers after they were caught crossing into the U.S. illegally.

  • The Virginia General Assembly passed the 2015 state budget late Thursday, and did not include Medicaid expansion.

  • The Vermont Republican Party is having trouble finding any candidates.

  • National Journal’s Fawn Johnson takes a closer look at the political activism of “Dreamers,” who by and large “get politics,” and the effect that’s having on immigration policy, especially at the state level.

  • Despite resistance from Maine’s Democratic Attorney General Janet Mills, the state Department of Health and Human Services is planning to exclude undocumented immigrants from welfare services under orders from GOP Gov. Paul LePage.

  • The Sunlight Foundation lays out how partisan state legislatures really are.

  • The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey confirmed Thursday that they’re being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for diverting $1.8 billion to pay for road repair in New Jersey at the behest of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s administration.

  • Not to worry: President Obama appears to be in tiptop shape, following a checkup by the president’s doctor, save for some “recurring plantar fasciitis.”

  • Happy Friday… Chris Christie joined Jimmy Fallon for some “dad dancing” in honor of Father’s Day. Christie, you might remember, was recently named Father of the Year by the national Father’s Day/Mother’s Day Council.

  • 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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