Obama blames bad intel for underestimating Islamic State group

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • President Obama says bad intelligence, Iraqi army led to rise of IS
  • Pressure is on Democrats in Iowa, as Senate control hangs in the balance
  • Republicans tighten the screws in Kansas
  • The Secret Service under new pressure

Blaming the intelligence: President Obama told CBS’ 60 Minutes that the intelligence community “underestimated what had been taking place in Syria” with the Islamic State group and that the U.S. overestimated the Iraqi army’s capabilities. “Over the past couple of years, during the chaos of the Syrian civil war, where essentially you have huge swaths of the country that are completely ungoverned, they were able to reconstitute themselves and take advantage of that chaos. … And so this became ground zero for jihadists around the world.” Meanwhile, an NBC/WSJ/Annenberg poll out over the weekend shows 72 percent of Americans believe U.S. ground troops will be used to fight IS at some point. And a plurality now says it would support the use of them if generals say they are needed — 45-37 percent. Channeling his GOP conference, House Speaker John Boehner went a step further than he has previously, backing more forcefully the idea of using U.S. ground troops. “These are barbarians,” Boehner said on ABC’s This Week, adding that if no other countries would put troops in, the U.S. would have to. “We have no choice.” Will this line from Obama to military personnel earlier this month wind up being another “red line”? “As your commander-in-chief, I will not commit you and the rest of our Armed Forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq.”

So goes Iowa: The gold standard Iowa poll, conducted by Ann Selzer, shows Republican Joni Ernst leading Democrat Bruce Braley, 44-38 percent. That signals a big problem for Democrats. Democrats consider Iowa one of their three firewall states (along with North Carolina and Colorado), races they have to win to retain the Senate. Given the deluge of attack ads in the state, voters are much more familiar with the two candidates, and both have negatives nearly as high as their positives. But Braley’s biggest problems are bigger than Ernst’s — and they’re not his farmer remark. When asked about attacks on the candidates, Iowans said Braley missing committee hearings on the VA scandal and his being part of final negotiations on the health care law both were bigger problems than Ernst’s support of privatizing Social Security benefits.

Orman under pressure: Independent Greg Orman is facing new, intense scrutiny in Kansas, as Republicans amp up the pressure relating to his Wall Street ties, including to Rajat Gupta, a former Goldman Sachs board member now serving time in prison for insider trading. The Washington Post’s Phil Rucker goes to Wichita and finds Orman, who is trying to unseat longtime Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, short on specifics on a host of issues. Reporting for PBS NewsHour, Jeff Greenfield found the same thing, especially when it comes to the question of who he will caucus with.

2014 watch: A pair of CNN/ORC polls show tight races in Louisiana and North Carolina. In Louisiana, Incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu leads 43-40 percent, but close to the 50 percent needed to avoid a Dec. 6 runoff. Both sides still expect a runoff. Democrats insist Landrieu can get to 50 in a runoff, given she’s done it in the past, but it’s tough to see where the extra votes come from. … In North Carolina, one of the other firewall states, Kay Hagan continues to be one of Democrats’ bright spots. She leads 46-43 percent. … The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin looks at how third-party candidates could play in this election. In North Carolina, for example, there’s a Libertarian candidate who could tip the balance. Third-party candidates are also playing in governors’ races in Maine, Florida and Georgia. So what’s happening? “It’s much more a part of our strategic decisions now versus four years ago or 10 years ago because they’re going to get some of the vote,” Democratic pollster Fred Yang told the Times. “The environment out there is more conducive to another option because of record-high disapproval ratings of Congress.”

Secret Service troubles continue: The Washington Post’s Carol Leonnig broke the news in an in-depth Saturday piece that the Secret Service in 2011 botched the response to a man who fired an assault rifle at the White House and hit the building while the Obamas’ youngest daughter and First Lady Michelle Obama’s mother, Marian Robinson were inside. As agents rushed to respond and drew weapons, a surprising order came down: “No shots have been fired. … Stand down.” The supervisor concluded it was merely backfire from a construction vehicle. The Secret Service eventually did believe there was gunfire, but that it was between rival gangs — in one of the safest sections of D.C. It wasn’t until a staffer noticed broken glass upstairs that they looked into the possibility that bullets had actually hit the White House. Perhaps the most damning line on the climate within the Secret Service was this one: “Officers who were on the scene who thought gunfire had probably hit the house that night were largely ignored, and some were afraid to dispute their bosses’ conclusions.”

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1983, The War Powers Act was used for the first time by Congress. What did they authorize President Reagan to do? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Yvonne Gibney ‏(@Lillyvonne228) for guessing last Tuesday’s trivia: What was the purpose of Nixon’s “Checkers” speech? The answer was: To defend allegations that he abused a campaign fund.


  • Obama’s day: The president meets with HUD Secretary Julian Castro at 10:45 a.m. EDT, then raises money for the Democratic National Committee at 3:30 p.m. EDT, followed by a private dinner with India’s Prime Minister Modi at 7 p.m. EDT.

  • Republican Joni Ernst and Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley faced off in the first debate of the Iowa Senate race on Sunday.

  • Marijuana legalization has become an issue in the Kentucky Senate race, and not surprisingly Alison Lundergan Grimes and Mitch McConnell are split on the issue.

  • North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis goes after Sen. Kay Hagan for missing Armed Services Committee hearings and allowing the Islamic State to grow stronger. The spot claims Mr. Obama and Hagan dropped the ball, saying, “the price for their failure is danger.”

  • Louisiana Rep. Bill Cassidy gets the endorsements of three women who had previously voted for Sen. Mary Landrieu in his latest campaign ad.

  • Debates in some of the most contested races are not happening as much this year, particularly in Maine, Michigan, Mississippi and California.

  • Six weeks after visiting Israel, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a trip to Afghanistan, which he mistakenly called part of the Middle East, this weekend with a delegation of governors to learn about the threat posed to New York from the Islamic State.

  • Ohio Democrats are largely giving up on the governor’s seat and instead focusing on down-ballot races, with the hopes that a botched Democratic gubernatorial candidacy doesn’t keep too many Democratic voters at home on Election Day.

  • House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer isn’t as optimistic as Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi about the Democrats’ chances of picking up House seats this fall, although he’d be happy to be the party leader or speaker if Pelosi wasn’t around.

  • Former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey has been urging former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb to challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in 2016.

  • Perks like the congressional gym and a substantial salary are being used as an attack in multiple midterm ads.

  • Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud leads Maine Gov. Paul LePage 40 percent to 38 percent among likely voters, with Independent Eliot Cutler holding just 12 percent in a Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.

  • Rick “the Rooster” Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator and former Republican candidate for president, is getting a jump start on his 2016 bid.

  • Speaker John Boehner thinks an immigration overhaul is still possible and believes he can bring his party along. Border security, he maintains, needs to come first though.

  • California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill to help reduce sexual assaults on college campuses that requires schools to adopt a “clear consent” standard.

  • Americans remain evenly divided into thirds on a scale of their preferences for government activity, according to a Gallup poll, but when asked about current government activity, 54 percent of Americans say it’s trying to do too much that should be left to businesses and individuals.

  • The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza likens Sen. Rand Paul’s rise to Obama circa 2008 in an extensive profile of the Kentucky senator.

  • Reporters who covered Jim Traficant remember the former Ohio representative, who died Saturday.

  • Ludacris attended a Friday campaign event for Georgia Republican Gov. Nathan Deal at a charter school, but Deal insists it wasn’t an endorsement.

  • Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky has arrived.

  • 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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