Obama outlines ‘next phase’ against Islamic State

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Obama says it’s time to deal with Islamic State
  • The president punts on immigration executive action
  • Republican Senate candidates looking strong in new polls
  • Why Senate control matters

Obama readies ‘next phase’ against Islamic State: President Barack Obama will address the country Wednesday to outline the administration’s game plan to confront the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. “The next phase is now to start going on some offense,” the president said in an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” The U.S. began launching airstrikes against Islamic State forces in northern Iraq last month, with the latest wave coming late Saturday. The president said his remarks Wednesday would not include “an announcement about U.S. ground troops.” “We’re not looking at sending in 100,000 American troops,” he added. Instead, the president framed the effort as “similar to the kinds of counterterrorism campaigns that we’ve been engaging in consistently over the last five, six, seven years.” The president said the administration’s strategy will be comprehensive, weaving together political, economic and military elements. He said the goal is not just to “blunt the momentum” of the Islamic State, but “systematically degrade their capabilities … shrink the territory that they control” and ultimately defeat them. The New York Times reports that some administration officials believe the campaign to destroy the Islamic State “may take three years to complete, requiring a sustained effort that could last until after President Obama has left office.”

Getting ‘buy-in’ from Congress: The president also said he would meet with congressional leaders on Tuesday to bring them up to speed on the administration’s approach. “I do think it’s important for Congress to understand what the plan is, to have buy in, to debate it,” the president said. But that does not appear to include asking lawmakers for a vote on authorization of his strategy, as some on Capitol Hill have called for. “I’m confident that I have the authorization that I need to protect the American people,” the president added. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, welcomed the president’s comments Sunday during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It’s overdue, but the president is now there,” said the California Democrat. Michigan GOP Rep. Mike Rogers, who leads the House Intelligence Committee, called the tough talk by the president “a good thing.” Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio declared his support for expanding airstrikes into Syria, but criticized the president’s overall handling of the situation. “I believe this president has committed presidential malpractice in his foreign policy,” Rubio said during an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” While some lawmakers have urged the administration to take a more aggressive posture in dealing with the Islamic State, tying action to congressional action in an election year would add a layer of uncertainty to the process.

Obama punts on immigration executive action: After saying in late June that he would take executive action on immigration before the end of the summer, the president now plans to hold off on making any moves until after November’s midterm elections. The decision will be welcome news to red state Democrats worried such steps could have further energized conservative voters in what is already shaping up to be a tough cycle. But for immigration advocates and Democrats in states with significant numbers of Latino voters, the move produced frustration and disappointment. The president said his desire to preserve a Democratic Senate was “not the reason” he decided to delay action. He suggested the politics surrounding the issue shifted this summer due to the surge of child migrants crossing the border. “I want to spend some time, even as we’re getting all our ducks in a row for the executive action, I also want to make sure that the public understands why we’re doing this,” the president told NBC. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said he was “disappointed” the president had delayed action, while also faulting House Republicans for blocking a comprehensive overhaul.

Battle for the Senate: One of those red state Democrats who could benefit from the immigration delay is Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor. A new NBC News/Marist poll released Sunday found him trailing Republican Tom Cotton by five points, 45 percent to 40 percent, among likely voters. Another NBC/Marist survey out of Kentucky showed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell up eight points on his Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes. In Colorado, meanwhile, Mark Udall held a six-point advantage over Republican Cory Gardner, 48 percent to 42 percent. Republicans need to gain just six seats to win majority control of the Senate. Three states already look safely in the GOP column. So if they can pick up Arkansas and hold onto Kentucky, then all they would need is two more states to fall their way.

Control of the Senate does matter and here’s why: It’s easy to dismiss this election and say it doesn’t matter all that much, because there will be continued gridlock. And in a lot of ways, because of the 60 vote threshold to pass almost any legislation, that’s true. But here are two reasons why the election DOES matter: (1) this is an obvious one, but it’s about tone and power positioning. For the first two years of the Obama presidency, Washington was dominated by Democrats. Then one piece shifted to Republicans with their taking the House after the 2010 midterms. Obama was re-elected in 2012 and Democrats held the Senate but now that is threatened. If Republicans take the Senate, it will be a further erosion of this president’s leverage in his last two years. (2) A more practical and overlooked area is judges. When Majority Leader Harry Reid changed the rules to require just just a simple majority to fill lower court vacancies, this president has been able to fast track his nominees. If Republicans control the chamber, it will be MUCH harder for this president to get them through. Beyond the power points, the political bent of judges throughout the country matters to the arc of social issues. As longtime political analyst and PBS contributor Jeff Greenfield told Morning Line, “With control over the Senate machinery and all committees, I’m not sure Obama could put a single federal judge on the bench–not to mention the end of whatever domestic agenda he might have.”

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1974, President Gerald Ford granted an unconditional pardon to former President Richard Nixon. What did critics call the incident? 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 Friday’s trivia: Who tried to kill President Ford, but was stopped by a Secret Service agent? The answer was: Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, a follower of Charles Manson.


  • Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., went after his Independent challenger for being a “liberal Democrat by philosophy” during a state fair debate this Saturday.

  • Now that Roberts is facing a more difficult re-election bid, the three-term senator is bringing in a new campaign manager, who ran Karen Handel’s losing Senate campaign earlier this year.

  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo finally hit the campaign trail this weekend — three days before his Democratic primary.

  • Former Florida GOP Gov. Charlie Crist, now running as a Democrat, is getting some help from party big shots. Former President Bill Clinton stumped for him Friday, and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick will appear with him Monday. Later in the month, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley will campaign for him.

  • During an NPR interview, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said he’d be comfortable with Hillary Clinton as president, but that he plans to support the Republicans.

  • However, former Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., could be a strong non-Clinton option for Democrats with his history of opposing military intervention in Iraq and Libya and his anti-Wall Street background.

  • The divisions in Rhode Island’s Democratic gubernatorial primary on Tuesday may reflect the schisms the party will have to grapple with in 2016, and already, it’s the most expensive gubernatorial race in the state’s history. The overhaul of the state’s pension fund is still having a big impact on the state’s electoral politics.

  • In her forthcoming memoir, Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis reveals she had two abortions due to medical issues.

  • Expect to hear a lot more about Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s criminal justice overhaul this fall, especially as Deal’s campaign is likely to try to undercut Democratic State Sen. Jason Carter’s support among black voters by touting his efforts to keep nonviolent and juvenile offenders out of jail.

  • The Democratic Senate candidate in West Virginia, Natalie Tennant, does not appear to be in good shape according to a CBS News/New York Times Upshot/YouGov poll; she trails Shelley Moore Capito by 24 percentage points.

  • Mitt Romney provides a strong endorsement of New Hampshire GOP candidate Scott Brown in an ad from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

  • In response to the controversy surrounding an attack ad from the Begich campaign, Alaska Republican candidate Dan Sullivan says his campaign is going to “stay positive”.

  • Meanwhile, officials are looking into tax breaks Sullivan may have received from the state of Maryland, while he was still voting in Alaska.

  • Both Alaska Senate candidates are steering away from attacking each other (for now). Dan Sullivan went positive in an ad touting his history standing up for teachers, while Sen. Mark Begich turned his attention to the Koch Brothers.

  • Begich isn’t the only one responding to Koch attacks. Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley goes after the Kochs for “spending millions on deceptive attack ads to elect Monica Wehby.”

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell continues to link Alison Lundergan Grimes to President Obama.

  • Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton breaks out mom’s seal of approval in his latest ad. Meanwhile, The Washington Post’s Fact Checker takes a closer look at the mudslinging hitting Arkansas’ airwaves, handing Cotton “four Pinocchios” for claiming that Sen. Mark Pryor supported Social Security benefits for illegal immigrants.

  • Mark Pryor defends his record on Medicare in his latest ad.

  • Vulnerable Massachusetts Democratic Rep. John Tierney may have narrowly defeated Republican Richard Tisei last cycle, but this time, he has to overcome four fellow Democrats in Tuesday’s primary before he can take on Tisei again.

  • Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, is going after Republican Joni Ernst for her record on abortion and birth control.

  • Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf released an ad that looks at lot like a Jeep commercial.

  • Illinois gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner also promotes his car choice in a new ad attacking Gov. Pat Quinn for living in Chicago and flying to Springfield.

  • The Republican Governors Association says Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper likes to make television ads, but not “tough decisions”.

  • The RGA has added the Nebraska Democratic gubernatorial candidate to the list of people to attack on immigration.

  • The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee goes after Colorado GOP Rep. Cory Gardner on abortion.

  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce calls Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., a lap dog for his party and says Republican candidate Martha McSally is the bipartisan candidate.

  • The New York Times’ Nate Cohn looks at why Democrats have won the last two presidential elections, but cannot gain control of the House, and it’s not just about gerrymandering.

  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie hasn’t declared his candidacy for president, but you wouldn’t know that from his recent trip to Mexico. From the police motorcade to the hotel stocked with “laptop-wielding aides,” Michael Barbaro reports in the Times, Christie looked like he was rehearsing for a presidential campaign.

  • New Jersey’s credit rating was downgraded again Friday — the seventh time since Christie took office, handing him the gubernatorial record for the number of downgrades on his watch.

  • Congress was unable to pass legislation to deal with the border crisis before the August recess, but the difficulty passing a bill goes beyond Washington gridlock.

  • African-Americans suffer five times as many non-fatal injuries inflicted by police officers than white Americans, according to data collected by the Sunlight Foundation.

  • Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin is among the group of legislators calling for a look into reforming the militarization of police.

  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote an op-ed about Senate Democrats’ “assault on free speech.” Sens. Tom Udall and Bernie Sanders penned their own op-ed, saying, “Americans’ right to free speech should not be proportionate to their bank accounts.”

  • Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is to begin a 10-year federal prison sentence Monday for corruption.

  • A tracker from a liberal research group followed Scott Brown while he was canoeing on Friday. The explanation? “Wherever Scott Brown goes, so goes American Bridge”.

  • The New York Times profiles White House travel director Marvin Nicholson — the man who has played golf with President Obama 140 times.

  • President Clinton, President George W. Bush and President George H. W. Bush are launching a program at their three presidential libraries, plus the LBJ Presidential Library, to help scholars and business leaders learn more about the presidency.

  • 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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