|6:28 PM, Sep 11, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
In New York's 21st congressional district, Republican Elise Stefanik is leading Democrat Aaron Woolf 46 precent to 33 percent, according to a new poll released by Siena College Thursday evening. Green Party candidate Matt Funiciello garners 10 percent of the vote, and 11 percent remain undecided.
The race for the 21st district has been rated a "toss-up" by the Cook Political report. Incumbent Democrat Bill Owens, who won the seat narrowly in 2010 and 2012, announced his retirement earlier this year.
5:09 PM, Sep 11, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The mother of James Foley, one of the American journalists beheaded by ISIS, talks to CNN's Anderson Cooper about the handling of her son's capture. Here's a clip from CNN (courtesy of Anderson Cooper 360°):
And here's a partial transcript (as released by CNN):
DIANE FOLEY: as an American I was embarrassed and appalled… I think our efforts to get Jim freed were an annoyance you know…
ANDERSON: an annoyance to the government?
DIANE FOLEY: Yes and it wasn’t -- didn’t seem to be in our strategic interest if you will… I was appalled as an American. Jim would have been saddened - Jim believed til the end that his country would come to their aid
DIANE FOLEY: We were, you know asked to not go to the media - to just trust that it would be taken care of. um we were told that we could not raise ransom, that it was illegal, we might be prosecuted um
ANDERSON: you were told you would actually be prosecuted?
DIANE FOLEY: Yes that that was a real possibility, told that many times. We were told that our government would not exchange prisoners umm would not do a military action um… so we were just told to trust that um he would be, be freed somehow miraculously and he wasn’t was he? And we're dealing with very difficult people when we talk about ISIS. Their hate for us is great and yet some of our response to them has only increased the hate. So I feel there’s a need for debate, discussion. I, I pray that our government will be willing to learn from the mistakes that were made and to acknowledge that there are better ways for American citizens to be treated.
3:11 PM, Sep 11, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
White House spokesman Josh Earnest couldn't define what victory against ISIS will look like. "I didn't bring my Webster's dictionary," he told a reporter.
"What does victory look like here?" asked a reporter. "I mean, you've talked about destroying ISIL. I honestly don't know what that means. What does it mean"
"I didn't bring my Webster's dictionary with me up here," Earnest said.
2:34 PM, Sep 11, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The Des Moines Register reports:
Vice President Joe Biden will make a splash in Iowa with an official White House visit next week, just three days after Hillary Clinton basks in a major media spotlight here.
Both Democrats are considered potential 2016 presidential candidates.
A White House aide told The Des Moines Register exclusively this afternoon that Biden will travel to Des Moines on Wednesday for an official event.
Biden will deliver remarks at a kick-off event for the Nuns on the Bus "We the People, We the Voters" bus tour. Details on the vice president's trip will be released later, the aide told the Register.
12:22 PM, Sep 11, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont has been making coy about running for President. He will be visiting Iowa this weekend and yesterday, as CNN reports, he established some distance between himself and Hillary Clinton, the nominee in waiting.
"If we do not get our act together to come up with public policy which expands the middle class, if we don't overturn Citizens United, if we don't move to public funding of elections, we are going to live in an oligarchic form of society," Sanders said. "Now is Hillary Clinton going to say that?”
Mrs. Clinton has the money, the name recognition, the support of the media, and everything, it seems, except a willingness or ability to say or write (even with the help of ghost writers) anything interesting or original. If she runs – and she has promised to let us know by the end of the year – then it will be a long and unedifying campaign.
Mrs. Clinton can be challenged from within her own party. And should be. The Sanders dare points up her vulnerability on the matters of income inequality, her friendly relations with Wall Street, and her personal status and style as a member of the one-percent and the elite of the political class. And, then, there is her record as secretary of state in an administration whose foreign policy is in tatters. She has already attempted to put some daylight between herself and the president but there is only so much she can accomplish in this regard without alienating people she will need.
It would be good for Mrs. Clinton, and the nation, if she should be pushed into actually working for the nomination, rather than having it bestowed upon her like a crown.
So, please Senator Sanders, run. You, too, Senator Warren. And Governor O'Malley.
And bring it on, Jim Webb.
11:43 AM, Sep 11, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Just before 3 a.m., a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the office of Rep. Emanuel Cleaver. The office targeted was in his home district in Missouri, and not his Washington, D.C. office.
"Police say someone threw a Molotov cocktail through a window at Congressman Emanuel Cleaver's Kansas City district office," reports KCTV. "This is the second incident within the last six years when someone attempted to throw an item or items at the building, said Cleaver's chief of staff John Jones."
A security alarm alerted police shortly before 3 a.m. Thursday to a smashed window at the building at 101 W. 31 St.
When officers arrived on the scene, they found a window on the northwest side of the building to be broken out.
On the ground below the window, police found two broken bottles with paper towels sticking out the necks of the bottles resembling a Molotov cocktail.
There was also a chemical odor resembling that of lighter fluid, police said. Investigators say the homemade explosive did not blow up, and there did not appear to be any fire damage to the building.
Officers called in a bomb and arson squad to help investigate the item thrown through the window. No one was injured.
11:21 AM, Sep 11, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
In deciding how to destroy ISIS, President Obama has rejected the "best military advice." The advice was recently given to the commander in chief from his military leaders.
"Responding to a White House request for options to confront the Islamic State, Gen. Lloyd Austin, the top commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, said that his best military advice was to send a modest contingent of American troops, principally Special Operations forces, to advise and assist Iraqi army units in fighting the militants, according to two U.S. military officials," the Washington Post reported just hours after Obama's address to the nation last night.
"The recommendation, conveyed to the White House by Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was cast aside in favor of options that did not involve U.S. ground forces in a front-line role, a step adamantly opposed by the White House. Instead, Obama had decided to send an additional 475 U.S. troops to assist Iraqi and ethnic Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment.
"Recommitting ground combat forces to Iraq would have been highly controversial, and most likely would have been opposed by a substantial majority of Americans. But Austin’s predecessor, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, said the decision not to send ground troops poses serious risks to the mission.
"'The American people will once again see us in a war that doesn’t seem to be making progress,' Mattis said. 'You’re giving the enemy the initiative for a longer period.'"
10:01 AM, Sep 11, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
An NBC affiliate in Virginia reports that nearly 250,000 people in that state will lose their health care plans due to Obamacare:
"Nearly a quarter million Virginians will have their current insurance plans cut this fall," said the local anchor. "That is because many of them did not--are not following new Affordable Care Act rules, so a chunk of the companies that offer those individuals their policies will make the individuals choose new policies."
Says the reporter, "This goes back to that now heavily-criticized line we heared before Obamacare was put in place: 'If you like your plan, you can keep it.' Ultimately, that turned out not to be true for thousands of Virginians and companies in the commonwealth. ... Wednesday Virginia lawmakers on the health insurance reform commission met for the first time this year. Turns out, a staggering number of Virginians will need new plans this fall."
A Virginia health official says, "Cancellation is a word that's used all the time...but really what's happened is the law has changed. We're not allowed to offer those plans anymore. So what we're saying to them is, you need to move to one that's compliant with the law because that's what we can offer."
UPDATE: A spokesman for Ed Gillespie emails this statement from the Republican Senate candidate:
"Because Mark Warner worked to pass Obamacare, 250,000 Virginians are losing the health insurance they liked, with thousands getting hit with huge out of pocket cost increases while unable to see the doctors they trust."
9:15 AM, Sep 11, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Jeanna Smialek of Bloomberg reports that:
The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week to a two-month high, interrupting a steady decrease to the lowest level since before the last recession. Jobless claims climbed by 11,000 to 315,000 in the week ended Sept. 6, which included the Labor Day holiday, a Labor Department report showed today in Washington. It was the highest reading since June 28 and compared with a Bloomberg survey median forecast of 300,000.
This report, coming just after the exceedingly disappointing unemployment number for last month is reason to be skeptical, at the very least, that the recovery is gaining steam. And reason to feel some trepidation about a possible stall.
Even weak and fitful recoveries eventually run out of steam and the economy falls into recession.
8:33 AM, Sep 11, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Michael Morrell, a former acting director of the CIA under Barack Obama, says that the strategy his old boss is using to go after ISIS in Syria does not have a high chance of being successful:
"So on the Iraqi side of the border, Charlie, I'm confident that we're going to be able to roll [ISIS] back. What gives me that confidence is a new political deal that the United States deserves a lot of credit for, putting advisers, military advisers in to assist the Iraqi army and the Kurdish army, and broader U.S. air strikes. I think all those together will make a big difference in Iraq," said Morrell.
"It's the Syria side of the border that I'm worried about. We are going to double down, we are going to go all in with the Syrian opposition and that's how we're going to try to win this thing. But the Syrian opposition is a very weak group. They're much weaker than two years ago. This is the long pole in the tent. This is what's going to be hard."
CBS host Charlie Rose then asked, "Is that the only option we have on the ground in Syria, the Free Syrian Army?"
"I think so, unless you want to throw your lot in with Assad who has butchered his own people, which I don't think we want to do. So I think going with the Syrian opposition is our best chance of success. The chance of success is not high, though. It will take a lot of work," said Morrell.
8:04 AM, Sep 11, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
A largely overlooked posting on the White House's Twitter account the very day of the assault on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya in 2012 is a painful symbol of the president's portrayal of the world versus reality. Two hours after word first reached the White House, around the time President Obama was meeting in the Oval Office with then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, a photo of the 9/11 memorial ceremony from earlier that day appeared on the White House Twitter feed with the accompanying text: "President Obama: 'The true legacy of 9/11...will be a safer world; a stronger nation & a people more united.'"
Perhaps the unkindest cut of all from the administration's perspective is that the three men in the photo are the same three who were gathered at the White House almost at the very moment of the tweet learning details of the burgeoning disaster. Obviously facts were thin, and likely classified, at that time, so it's not surprising that the White House social media team would not have been aware of what was taking place. In retrospect, however, the concurrence of the tweet and the attack is devastating.
Whatever the long term prospects are for a safer world, a stronger nation, and a more united people, two years after Benghazi even the president's most ardent supporters would be hard pressed to provide evidence of clear progress. With each passing week bringing tidings of a new or renewed conflict, a humanitarian crisis, or a terror attack or atrocity, only a die hard Pollyanna could make the case we're headed toward a "safer world." With military budget cuts and a lead-from-behind foreign policy broadcasting American weakness to the world, belief in a "stronger nation" would require an equally naively optimistic outlook. And while the president often insists that, despite the "most obstructionist" Congress ever, the American people are united behind him and his policies, polls continue to paint a continuing picture of a polarized America almost six years after President Obama was elected.
On the thirteenth anniversary of the original 9/11 attacks and the second anniversary of the Benghazi, the president is once again laying out his vision of how best to keep America safe and strong, hoping to build a united front for the challenges the country is currently facing.
12:02 AM, Sep 11, 2014 • By KATHERINE ZIMMERMAN
In an address Wednesday night to the nation, President Obama held up America’s strategy in Yemen as a model for the counterterrorism strategy he intends to pursue in Iraq and Syria. By doing so, he committed to a strategy of targeting terrorists from the air and supporting local security forces in their counterterrorism fight. But the disconnect between the picture of success in Yemen and the realities on the ground is stark. If the strategy in Iraq works as well as it has in Yemen, we can be sure that the Islamic State will retain safe-havens, plan and conduct terror operations against Americans, and regain ground as the local security forces crumble. That is what is actually happening in Yemen now.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is nowhere near defeat. Its leader, Nasser al Wahayshi, became al Qaeda’s general manager in August 2013, in fact. Its threats caused the closure of over 20 U.S. diplomatic posts across the Middle East and North Africa at that time. Its bombmaker, Ibrahim al Asiri, was behind a threat to U.S. airlines just over six months ago. AQAP is still trying to kill Americans and continues to probe U.S. security protocols for a chance to do so. A successful counterterrorism strategy would have deprived AQAP of the capabilities to operationalize such plots. The strategy we have actually pursued in Yemen is allowing AQAP to continue probing to find our weaknesses. It’s hard to call that success.
AQAP’s safe havens in Yemen are critical to its strength. These remain, and have grown in areas, despite the efforts of partnered Yemeni forces on which the Obama strategy relies. AQAP has concentrated recent efforts on controlling parts of Yemen’s eastern Hadramawt governorate, where government forces are scarce. Insurgents briefly, but publicly, held ground along a strategic corridor that would give the group easy transit to more important populated Yemeni areas. Two weeks ago, AQAP detonated four car bombs in two days targeting Yemeni military sites in al Qatan in Hadramawt and Azzan in neighboring Shabwah governorate. AQAP typically fields a single car bomb and had not shown the ability to coordinate attacks like this previously. The attack in Shabwah came in an area that Yemeni forces had supposedly already cleared.
Hosted by Michael Graham.10:35 PM, Sep 10, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with editor William Kristol on President Obama's speech on his administration's strategy to take on ISIS.
This podcast can be downloaded here. Subscribe to THE WEEKLY STANDARD's iTunes podcast feed here.
9:21 PM, Sep 10, 2014 • By FREDERICK W. KAGAN and KIMBERLY KAGAN
President Obama just announced that he is bringing a counter-terrorism strategy to an insurgency fight. He was at pains to repeat the phrase “counter-terror” four times in a short speech. Noting that ISIL is not a state (partly because the international community thankfully does not recognize it), he declared, “ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.” Neither of those sentences, unfortunately, is true.
ISIL is an insurgent group that controls enormous territory in Iraq and Syria that it governs. It maneuvers conventional light infantry forces supported by vehicles mounting machine guns and occasionally armored personnel carriers against the regular forces of the Iraqi Army and the Kurdish Peshmerga—and wins.
It is purely and simply not a terrorist organization any longer. Neither is it the simple manifestation of nihilistic evil the president makes out.
ISIL has described a very clear vision of seizing control of all of the territory of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories. It intends to abolish all of the borders and redraw them according to a new structure of governance suitable to its hateful version of an old Islamic heresy. That vision also makes it more than a simple terrorist organization. It’s awfully hard to develop a sound strategy when you start by mis-diagnosing the problem so profoundly. That’s why the “strategy” the president just announced has no chance of success.
9:02 PM, Sep 10, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama's remarks on destroying ISIS, as prepared for delivery:
Remarks of President Barack Obama
Address to the Nation
September 10, 2014
As Prepared for Delivery
My fellow Americans – tonight, I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.
As Commander-in-Chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people. Over the last several years, we have consistently taken the fight to terrorists who threaten our country. We took out Osama bin Laden and much of al Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We’ve targeted al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, and recently eliminated the top commander of its affiliate in Somalia. We’ve done so while bringing more than 140,000 American troops home from Iraq, and drawing down our forces in Afghanistan, where our combat mission will end later this year. Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, America is safer.
Still, we continue to face a terrorist threat. We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm. That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today. That’s why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge. At this moment, the greatest threats come from the Middle East and North Africa, where radical groups exploit grievances for their own gain. And one of those groups is ISIL – which calls itself the “Islamic State.”
Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not “Islamic.” No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state. It was formerly al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria’s civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognized by no government, nor the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.
In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are unique in their brutality. They execute captured prisoners. They kill children. They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage. They threatened a religious minority with genocide. In acts of barbarism, they took the lives of two American journalists – Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff.
So ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria, and the broader Middle East – including American citizens, personnel and facilities. If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region – including to the United States. While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland, ISIL leaders have threatened America and our allies. Our intelligence community believes that thousands of foreigners – including Europeans and some Americans – have joined them in Syria and Iraq. Trained and battle-hardened, these fighters could try to return to their home countries and carry out deadly attacks.
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