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
Jeb gets trapped on Iraq
The Iraq question was always going to be problematic for Jeb Bush. Either he throws his brother under the bus, saying George W. Bush made an error in judgment in starting the war. Or he defends the war and finds himself on the wrong side of public opinion (with two-thirds of the country saying the war wasn’t worth it, per the Oct. 2014 NBC/WSJ poll). But when he was asked by Fox’s Megyn Kelly if -- knowing what he knows now -- he would have authorized the 2003 invasion, Jeb gave a politically unsustainable answer: “‘I would have [authorized the invasion], and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody. And so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.” Why is it politically unsustainable? Because as conservative writer Byron York points out, even his brother had admitted that the intelligence was wrong. More York: “As for whether Hillary Clinton would have authorized the invasion ‘knowing what we know now’ — it's hard to believe that Jeb Bush is serious when he says she would. Of course she wouldn't.”
Does Jeb walk it back?
The only rational explanation for Jeb’s answer was that he didn’t hear the “knowing what you know now” part of the question. Indeed, Fox’s Kelly thinks that was the case: “I do think, in fairness to Gov. Bush, when I said ‘knowing what we know now would we have invaded Iraq,’ I think he was trying to answer the question: ‘Do you think it was a mistake at the time?’” she said. But we haven’t heard those words from Jeb or his team. Do they walk it back? York believes they HAVE TO. “Jeb's statement is likely to resonate until he either changes his position or loses the race for the Republican nomination. Should he become the nominee, the issue will dog him into the general election campaign,” York writes. To his credit, George W. Bush wrestled with the consequences of his decision to invade Iraq. Other war supporters were forced to re-think their positions, too. In coming days, Jeb Bush will likely have to do the same.”
Jeb on immigration, religious liberty
Also in the Fox interview, Bush said he would NOT immediately reverse Obama’s executive actions on immigration, the New York Times says. “Mr. Bush said that rather than overturning the order, he believed in ‘passing meaningful reform of immigration and make it part of it.’” And he talked religious liberty. “I don’t think it’s appropriate for people on the left or people that don’t have a guiding faith to be able to say to others, look you can’t do anything. That’s the kind of the world we’re moving towards, that the First Amendment rights only exist for people that don’t have faith. I mean if we reflect on this the right way I think we will realize that we’re a big enough country to allow dissenting views on any subject. That’s where we need to get."
Obama’s trade agenda faces its first big test
NBC’s Frank Thorp reports that the Senate will hold a procedural vote at 2:30 pm ET on the “fast track” Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation, which limits the congressional rules on considering the upcoming free-trade agreement with Asian nations. The procedural vote needs to obtain 60 votes to pass, but leadership aides on both sides of the aisle say it's unclear if the votes are there, with some saying it will largely depend on what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) decides to include in the package. Democrats, Thorp adds, are calling on McConnell to include four different bills in the package, including TPA, Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a Customs bill which includes currency manipulation provisions favored by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and the African Growth and Opportunity Act. It's not clear how many Democrats will be needed to help reach the 60 vote threshold needed tomorrow, as a small number of Republicans are also expected to oppose the measure -- like Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) voted against the bill in Committee). Seven Democrats supported moving the legislation out of the Senate Finance Committee to the floor for consideration, while five Democrats voted against it.
It’s official: Obama’s presidential library to be based in Chicago
Per NBC’s Kristen Welker, the Barack Obama Foundation announced this morning that the Barack Obama Presidential Center (including the library, museum, and office space) will be located on Chicago’s South Side -- at the University of Chicago. But the Foundation also said that it will maintain “a presence” at the two other finalists: Columbia University and Hawaii.
De Blasio, Warren look to push Hillary to the left
At 10:45 am ET in DC, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and others unveil a new economic agenda. Politico puts today’s event in the context of the presidential contest. “Like Elizabeth Warren, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio isn’t running for president — he’s running to influence the presidential race. So when he and Warren appear together Tuesday at the National Press Club in Washington before he unveils his Contract with America for the left, it will be the latest step in the Democrats’ primary within the primary: liberals’ effort to figure out how to push Hillary Clinton to the left.”
Mayor of New York -- or of the progressive movement?
Speaking of de Blasio, he clearly isn’t satisfied with just his day job. The New York Times: “After 16 months as mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio seems determined to escape the confines of his day job and to prompt a national liberal movement — even as he leaves himself open to criticism that he is not making problems at home a priority... By the time Mr. de Blasio returns, he will have been traveling outside New York on political trips for at least a portion of 10 of the last 31 days. (Throw in a vacation to Puerto Rico and college visits with his son, and the mayor has spent about a third of April and May on the road.)” But his approval rating in New York is just at 44%, per a recent Marist poll. His advisers defend his extracurricular activities. “He’s using every tool as mayor of New York City to combat the central issue of our times, which is income inequality,” political consultant John Del Cecato told the Times.
The Saudi snub has been years in the making
The New York Times also looks at the Saudi Arabia’s snub to Obama -- with King Salman not coming to Washington -- saying it’s been years in making. “Both countries insisted on Monday that the king’s absence was not a snub, even as it was hard to ignore four powerful factors that have led to rising tensions between the two nations: the administration’s pursuit of a nuclear accord with Iran, the rise of the Islamic State in the region, the regional unrest that came to be known as the Arab Spring and the transformation of world energy markets. An American oil boom in particular has liberated the United States from its dependence on Riyadh and changed a decades-long power dynamic.”
Setting the stage for a busy early August
Turning back to the 2016 contest, Red State’s Erick Erickson announced that Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, and Carly Fiorina are set to appear at the Red State gathering in Atlanta Aug. 6-9. Writes Erickson: “Though I am loathe to ever suggest a topic for speakers, I have asked each of the 2016 candidates to focus on one thing: if they become President, their re-election would be in 2020. I’d like them to present their 2020 vision for what the nation should look like after their first four years. We do not need Obama bashing.” But it’s unlikely that the candidates will appear EXACTLY on Aug. 6, because that’s the announced date of the first GOP debate -- in Cleveland, OH.
On the trail today
Chris Christie is in New Hampshire, where he lays out a five-point plan to create economic opportunity for the middle class… Carly Fiorina headlines Michigan Chamber of Commerce fundraiser in Lansing, MI… Marco Rubio raises money in Boca Raton, FL… And Rick Santorum delivers a speech in Manchester, NH.