First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
The Great Democratic Trade War: Labor targets House Democrats
With the House vote on giving President Obama “fast track” authority coming either later this week or next, Democrats are once again eating their own. The AFL-CIO yesterday began airing a TV ad slamming freshman Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) who now supports giving Obama this authority. “Why should we ever trust Kathleen Rice again?” the ad asks. This follows an earlier TV ad the AFL-CIO ran against Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA), one of the most vulnerable Democrats heading into 2016 given the ideological makeup in his swing district. “Congressman Ami Bera will do anything to keep his job -- including shipping your job overseas.” These Democratic members are wondering why the AFL-CIO is targeting them when they support labor on most issues, especially when they will likely face competitive general-election contests from Republicans. A Rice spokesman told Vox: "I wouldn't want to be a labor leader and have to explain to my hardworking nurses or truck drivers or tradesmen why we're wasting hundreds of thousands of their families' dollars attacking a progressive Democrat who's with them on nearly every issue but this bill. And I certainly wouldn't want to have to explain to those workers that if their money is successful, they'll get a staunch anti-union representative as their reward."
And it shines the spotlight on Hillary’s non-position on trade
An AFL-CIO spokesman tells First Read that it cares about the policy, not politics. “This isn’t about politics; it’s about policy that’s bad for working people,” the AFL’s Josh Goldstein said. “All we’re looking at now is a choice, a very clear choice -- standing with working people or standing with corporate entitlements.” For all the attention that the GOP’s own ideological civil war (Establishment vs. Tea Party) received over the last four years, this Dem-vs.-Dem infighting is noteworthy. (Remember when Sen. Sherrod Brown said President Obama was being disrespectful to Sen. Elizabeth Warren by referring to her by her first name?) And, of course, it’s all a reminder that Hillary Clinton still hasn’t taken a side on the free-trade agreement. Is she seeing these kinds of TV ads the AFL-CIO is airing against vulnerable Dem members? If fast track passes the House, she will have to make up her mind. Oh, and don’t miss the piece by NBC’s Alex Moe on Nancy Pelosi’s own balancing act on trade.
Obama plans to send hundreds more U.S. “military trainers” to Iraq
Some big news via the New York Times: “In a major shift of focus in the battle against the Islamic State, the Obama administration is planning to establish a new military base in Anbar Province, Iraq, and to send up to 450 more American military trainers to help Iraqi forces retake the city of Ramadi. The White House on Wednesday is expected to announce a plan that follows months of behind-the-scenes debate about how prominently plans to retake Mosul, another Iraqi city that fell to the Islamic State last year, should figure in the early phase of the military campaign against the group.” Per NBC's Kristen Welker, an administration spokesman says: "As the president has noted, we are considering a range of options to accelerate the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces in order to support them in taking the fight to ISIL. Those options include sending additional trainers to Iraq."
Will Jeb’s Super PAC not raise $100 million after all?
On Tuesday, we told you that Jeb Bush hiring a new campaign manager -- before his campaign officially begins -- is a sign that all hasn’t gone well for Team Bush over the last few months. And according to the Washington Post, it appears that this now includes the money situation. “A super PAC backing former Florida governor Jeb Bush is likely to fall short of collecting $100 million by the end of this month, despite widespread expectations that the group would hit that record-breaking sum,” the Post says. “The exact size of the war chest is closely held, but two individuals familiar with internal discussions believe the total that the Right to Rise super PAC will report in mid-July could be substantially lower than the nine figures that senior Republicans have anticipated.” There are two ways to read this: One, there is a money problem in Jeb World, which would be a psychological blow to an organization that’s relying on money to paper over a GOP grassroots that hasn’t exactly embraced Jeb. Or two, Team Jeb is trying to lower/reset expectations on a number they know will still be impressive. We’ll get the final answer on the fundraising numbers on or around July 15.
Bush downplays campaign shakeup, is open to sending U.S. troops to the Baltics to deter Putin
Meanwhile, in Germany earlier today, Jeb downplayed his campaign shakeup, and he said he was open to sending U.S. troops to Eastern Europe to deter Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine. When NBC’s Chris Jansing asked Bush about his new campaign manager, he responded: “Well, first of all, we don’t have a campaign, so there was no switching, but David Kochel is going to be the chief strategist, which is where his skill sets are. I have gotten to know Danny Diaz over the last couple of months as he was part of the Right to Rise team and I think he is going to be a really good campaign manager… David has got great success in these early states, particularly Iowa and he has also got a great strategic mind and Danny is a grinder.” Bush also dismissed the early polls. “It’s June for crying out loud, so we got a long way to go.” As for dealing with Russia, Bush said, “I think we ought to consider putting troops there for sure… If I was president of the United States I would clearly take the advice of the commanders on the ground . But from the outside, without having any classified information, it appears that we could have a more robust response.”
Scrutiny (fair or not) comes with running for president
A day removed from yesterday’s New York Times look at Marco Rubio’s finances, our verdict is: The details ($80,000 boat, expensive car, cashing out retirement account early) are yellow flags -- but not red ones. Yes, Rubio’s finances look sloppy. Then again, that’s true for LOTS of Americans. But our friend Chris Cillizza had the best take on the story: This is the kind of scrutiny you get when you run for president. “Of all the candidates running for president, Rubio is not only the youngest but the one whose path to get where he is today has been scrutinized the least. Remember back to the 2010 Senate race where Rubio crushed Republican-turned-independent Gov. Charlie Crist and Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) to win his current seat. That race was entirely defined by Crist's slow-motion implosion.”
Kasich lures Weaver, Davis
Finally, don’t miss the two strategists whom John Kasich has lured for his all-but announced presidential campaign: John Weaver and Fred Davis. We’re hearing a bunch of snickering from rival Republicans about Kasich hiring two men who worked for Jon Huntsman’s not-so-stellar campaign in 2012. Then again, some of these same Republicans have to be a little worried about the wildcard that Kasich might present to the ’16 field.