The Political World Starts to Weigh in on Ferguson Violence

Riot police clear a street with smoke bombs while clashing with demonstrators in Ferguson, Missouri August 13, 2014. Police in Ferguson fired several rounds of tear gas to disperse protesters late on Wednesday, on the fourth night of demonstrations over the fatal shooting last weekend of an unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, 18, by a police officer on Saturday after what police said was a struggle with a gun in a police car. A witness in the case told local media that Brown had raised his arms to police to show that he was unarmed before being killed. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW CIVIL UNREST) MARIO ANZUONI / Reuters

The situation in Ferguson, Mo., escalated overnight as officers in riot gear reportedly used tear gas on crowds and arrested sixteen people, including two reporters. And the political world is increasingly weighing in on the conflict. In a statement, Gov. Jay Nixon called the situation “deeply troubling” and announced that he will visit the area. “While we all respect the solemn responsibility of our law enforcement officers to protect the public, we must also safeguard the rights of Missourians to peaceably assemble and the rights of the press to report on matters of public concern,” Nixon said. The White House said last night that President Obama has been briefed on the escalating situation, which erupted after 18 year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer whose name has so far been withheld.

Do we hear from Obama on this today?

The president hasn’t shied away in the past from using the bully pulpit in situations involving law enforcement and race. Remember Henry Louis Gates? And last July, Obama gave a surprise press conference to address the death of Trayvon Martin - a case many observers have compared to Michael Brown's. "I think it’s important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away," he said then. Race is obviously a major factor in the clashes between police and residents in Ferguson. Just consider this statistic: of the police department’s 53 commissioned officers, 48 are white, according to the Los Angeles Times. This police force just doesn’t look like the community it represents here. In a written statement on Tuesday, Obama urged residents of the community to remember Brown "through reflection and understanding," but stopped short of discussing the racial tensions fueling the clashes. If the situation in Ferguson isn’t deescalated today, is the president obligated to use the bully pulpit to address it?

August optics

After speculation about their foreign policy disagreements dominated the political news cycle this week, Obama and Hillary Clinton both did their best to project that they had a grand time paling around last night. At a soiree for Vernon Jordan’s wife, the Obamas “danced nearly every song” and “were happy to have the chance to spend time with Secretary Clinton and former President Clinton,” a spokesman said. The awkward personal dance between Obama and Clinton this week had already come across as strained. But the optics of the White House laying out the “surf and turf and pasta” menu at a tony Martha’s Vineyard party -- at the same moment that news organizations live streamed the violence in Ferguson -- made it seem even sillier.

Hug or no hug, the Clinton story’s not going away

No one is enjoying the clunky “hug summit” performance as much as Republicans, who get to paint Hillary Clinton as trying to have her foreign policy cake and eat it too. Karl Rove said she’s trying to position herself as “the Goldilocks of foreign policy” and accused her of “covering her political posterior.” The problem for Clinton: When she distances herself from Obama, to a degree she distances herself from, well, herself. With the book rollout, she’s been suggesting that her “hard choices” at the State Department are a key qualifier for her 2016 bid, so how much can she really pull away from the person who gave her the job?

If you read one thing on foreign policy today

The Wall Street Journal offers this assessment of U.S.- Israel relations: They’re at “the lowest point since President Barack Obama took office.” MORE: “Israeli and U.S. officials say that the adroit bureaucratic maneuvering made it plain how little influence the White House and State Department have with the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu —and that both sides know it .. Now, as Egyptian officials shuttle between representatives of Israel and Hamas seeking a long-term deal to end the fighting, U.S. officials are bystanders instead of in their historic role as mediators. The White House finds itself largely on the outside looking in.” Oof.

Hawaii Five-O

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa has filed for an emergency temporary restraining order to delay a planned Friday vote to settle the Senate primary battle against incumbent Brian Schatz. A hearing is scheduled for this morning in Hilo, Hawaii. Hanabusa, who trails Schatz by about 1600 votes after last Saturday’s election, says that the continued impact of storm damage makes the quick one-day election unfair for residents of affected area of Puna. “"It is completely unrealistic to think people struggling to find basic necessities or get out of their homes will have the ability to go to the polls this week,” she said.

The Un-Vale-ing

Congrats to mom Savannah and a great big welcome to the world to Vale Guthrie Feldman, born early Wednesday morning and weighing in at 8lbs, 5 oz and 19.5 inches long. Seriously folks, you have got to check out the chubby cheeks on this beautiful baby girl. All the best to Savannah and her family from the First Read team!

Summer Fridays

Your First Read team will be taking some time off on Fridays for the rest of August, starting tomorrow. But we'll be back at it bright and early next Monday with all the latest news and analysis. Happy summer!

Click here to sign up for First Read emails. Text FIRST to 622639, to sign up for First Read alerts to your mobile phone. Check us out on Facebook and also on Twitter. Follow us @chucktodd, @mmurraypolitics, @carrienbcnews