This could very well be President Obama’s biggest week to rally the world against ISIS. Or it could be yet another example of how feckless and dysfunctional the United Nations is. Tomorrow, Obama heads to New York for the United Nation’s General Assembly, and on the agenda will be ISIS, Ebola, and climate change. On Tuesday, Obama will deliver remarks at the U.N.’s climate summit. On Wednesday, he’ll address the General Assembly (and you can expect an ISIS-heavy speech). That same day, he’ll head a Security Council discussion on ISIS and foreign fighters. As U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power previewed on “Meet the Press” yesterday, “President Obama, comes ... and convenes a meeting at the security council, very rare thing to have a head of state summit in the security council, dedicated to the cause of stopping the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, cutting off their financing, etc.” And then on Thursday, the president will speak on the Ebola epidemic in Africa. In sum, this could be a very important week for the U.N. Or it could be another chance for the U.N. to fail to come together on big issues. As we’ve seen, the U.N. never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity. When Power was asked what is more dysfunctional -- the U.N. or Congress -- here was her answer: “No comment. I'm a diplomat.” Ouch.
Congress is gone -- until mid-November
Speaking of Congress… “After swiftly dispatching with their labors of keeping the government funded and authorizing the training of Syrian rebels, Congress headed home Thursday night for its scheduled break for the rest of the month. And next month. And part of the NEXT month,” writes NBC’s Frank Thorp. What’s more, “this Congress has done even less work in the pre-election doldrums than it did in the last two election cycles. In that time, the House held 515 roll call votes. In 2012 – a presidential election year – it held 603 votes before the fall break. And in the midterm cycle in 2010, the House mustered 565 votes.” And get this: The 113th Congress has passed just 163 bills into law, compared with 174 at this same point in the 112th Congress. As Roll Call points out, this puts the 113th Congress on pace to enact the fewest laws in 60 years. And, of course, it was the last Congress that had produced the previous record low.
Mullen: Obama vs. generals storyline “blown way out of proportion”
Also on “Meet the Press” yesterday, former Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen said that the storyline that President Obama has been in disagreement with his generals on the possibility of U.S. ground forces in Iraq/Syria has “been blown way out of proportion.” Said Mullen: “There should not be any question in the end, who decides this. And that's the president. So I think what General Dempsey was trying to do was certainly explain, to some degree, how the process works. I think it's been blown way out of proportion in terms of the disagreement between the military and the president.”
Who are the Syrian rebels being trained to fight -- ISIS or Assad?
Additionally on “Meet,” U.N. Ambassador Power was asked this question: Who are the Syrian rebels being trained to fight -- ISIS or Assad? Who are we training the moderate Syrian opposition? Her answer: both. “Our national security imperative is to go after ISIL and to degrade and destroy it over time. And the moderate opposition now will have greater capabilities to do that, thanks to an overwhelming bipartisan vote in Congress to support that... [T]he training also will service these troops in the same struggle that they've been in since the beginning of this conflict against the Assad regime... So we think, with an infusion of support, these fighters, who have actually held their own against this wide array of actors fighting on all fronts, will be in a much stronger position, both to go after ISIL and to put pressure on the regime so we can get back to negotiating table for a political solution.”
Prosecutors: Bridge-gate investigation isn’t over
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his supporters cheered an NBC 4 New York report from last week that no evidence -- so far -- has been found showing the governor’s direct involvement in last year’s closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge. But the Wall Street Journal reminds us that the investigation isn’t over. “The federal investigation into the George Washington Bridge lane closures isn't over, as attorneys for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's staff respond to subpoenas and witnesses are called to testify before a special grand jury, said people familiar with the matter... The nine-month investigation is ‘very much ongoing,’ a spokeswoman for Mr. Fishman said. She declined to comment about any conclusions prosecutors have drawn so far.” And the problem here for Christie is that news of any indictment (of a subordinate or appointee) or any new discovery will revive the Bridge-gate storyline. And as one of us wrote on Friday, Bridge-gate might very well be the least of Christie’s worries -- given New Jersey’s credit-rating downgrades, the Atlantic City casinos folding up, and conservatives already gunning for Christie.
“I was in the wrong place at the wrong time”
Over the weekend, Politico reported that Democrat Paul Davis, who is challenging Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R), was at a strip club back in 1998 -- when he was 26 and single -- that was being raided in search of drugs. “Davis was not charged with any crime, but a police chief involved in the raid wrote afterward that he had been drinking and was found ‘in a somewhat compromising position … in a back room of the club.’ According to police reports, he was alone with a topless stripper who was wearing only a G-string.” Davis released this statement to Politico: “‘When I was 26 years old, I was taken to a club by my boss - the club owner was one of our legal clients,’ said Davis, a state representative. ‘While we were in the building, the police showed up. I was never accused of having done anything wrong, but rather I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.’” On the one hand, this is an embarrassing story for Davis, who could very well be slight favorite in this gubernatorial contest. On the other hand, if this is the worst story out there for Davis, how many of his potential voters would hold it against for this, especially when he was in his 20s and single? Yet whether it’s the gubernatorial contest or the Senate race, it’s pretty clear that Brownback and Pat Roberts believe that scorched earth is their best chance of holding on in Kansas this November.
Just helping a bro out doing a keg stand
Speaking of fun or inappropriate behavior -- take your pick -- Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) helped an LSU bro do a keg stand before last Saturday night’s college football game in Baton Rouge. The dispatch from Roll Call: “After running into a family friend, Landrieu made her way across a portion of the expansive field to a tent of welcoming fans, who quickly asked her to do a keg stand. She declined, but agreed to hold the spigot for someone else, who gripped the metal keg as others held his legs in the air. ‘They tried to get me to do it,’ Landrieu told CQ Roll Call immediately after. “His father was there, so I felt OK about it.’” You’ve got to look at the photo…
First Read’s Race of the Day: GA-12: Barrow vs Allen
Democrat John Barrow has the distinction of being the last white Democratic congressman in the Deep South -- a Blue Dog who’s broken with his party on big votes, including against passage of the federal health-care law. He beat the odds in 2012 by defeating Republican Lee Anderson in this Augusta district by a comfortable margin, but Republicans think this might be their year. Republican Rick Allen, a wealthy construction company owner, is considered a stronger candidate than some of Barrow’s past foes.
Countdown to Election Day: 43 days
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