The man who won the presidency in 2008 because he opposed the Iraq war and then ended it now finds himself facing this dilemma: Once you’re back in, how do you get out? That very dilemma, according our reporting, was PRECISELY why President Obama until yesterday hadn’t committed U.S. force against the militant Sunni group ISIS, even as many in the intel community and on his own national security staff were urging him to act sooner. The fear: You get in even incrementally, and it’s hard to get out. Because how do you STOP helping if the initial help doesn’t work? But Obama’s main calculus changed yesterday when he announced the authorization of force -- because ISIS is on the march against the Kurds in Erbil. And if you lose the Kurds, you lose Iraq. (The United States has also authorized the use of force to help the Yezidi whom ISIS has chased into the mountains; Obama used the word “genocide.”) In his statement last night, the president vowed that U.S. soldiers won’t set foot in Iraq. “I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq. And so even as we support Iraqis as they take the fight to these terrorists, American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq, because there’s no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq.” But it’s never easy to be half of the way in, especially when the United States makes the determination that ISIS can’t overrun the Kurds. Obama right now is a reluctant warrior, and that’s probably an understatement. The second-guessing about acting on ISIS has been taking place for months and may take place for years.
U.S. drops bombs on ISIS
This late-breaking news from NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube: U.S. officials tell NBC News that two US Navy FA-18's dropped two five-hundred pound bombs on ISIS enemy forces outside Erbil this morning. No word on casualties. The two fighter jets flew off the USS George HW Bush aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf. The Statement by Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby: At approximately 6:45 a.m. ET, the U.S. military conducted a targeted airstrike against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorists. Two F/A-18 aircraft dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece near Erbil. ISIL was using this artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Erbil where U.S. personnel are located. The decision to strike was made by the U.S. Central Command commander under authorization granted him by the commander in chief. “
Alexander wins in Tennessee, but with less than 50% of the vote
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Well, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) won his primary last night, as expected, but it was a little closer than many might have thought it would be. Alexander got a shade less than 50% of the vote (49.6%), while his top challenger Joe Carr got less than 41%; five other candidates split up the rest. What certainly helped Alexander: 1) the fact that it wasn’t a one-on-one race against Carr, and 2) that there wasn’t a 50% threshold to avoid a primary. Meanwhile, scandal-plagued Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) leads challenger Jim Tracy by just 35 votes (!!!), while Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN) narrowly defeatd challenger Weston Wamp (whose father used to hold the seat) by 1,700 votes. We said this yesterday, and we’ll say it again: It would be amazing for DesJarlais -- a conservative doctor who had pushed his ex-wife to get two abortions and who had affairs with his patients -- to win his primary but for former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to not win his.
Still a divided GOP
So, yes, the GOP establishment has bested the Tea Party on the Senate primary battlefield this cycle. But the party seems just as divided today as it was two years ago -- maybe even more so. Just this week, Sen. Pat Roberts gets less than 50% against a very flawed primary opponent. Ditto Lamar Alexander. And don’t forget the issues that Carr used against Alexander: immigration and Common Core. The establishment has won at a pretty hefty cost, and the party isn’t any less divided.
Aloha, Mr. Abercrombie (and Mr. Schatz)
Tomorrow, Hawaii holds its primaries, which feature the two-best intraparty Democratic contests of the cycle -- incumbent Gov. Neil Abercrombie vs. state Sen. David Ige, and appointed Sen. Brian Schatz vs. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. Polls have shown Abercrombie to be trailing Ige, while they’ve been all over the place in the Senate primary. But the biggest story of all in Hawaii remains the weather. “Iselle was downgraded from a hurricane to a strong tropical storm late Thursday just as the brunt of the large weather system started hitting the Big Island,” the Honolulu Star-Advertiser writes. “Iselle is the first of two hurricanes heading toward the Hawaiian islands. Julio strengthened into a category 3 hurricane Thursday as it approached the Central Pacific and is following a similar path as Iselle, although its track is a little more northerly. Forecasters expect Julio to weaken and be a tropical storm when it nears Hawaii Sunday.”
Walsh exits Montana Senate race
Appointed Montana Sen. John Walsh (D-MT) ended his Senate bid on Thursday after allegations of plagiarism scandal has rocked his campaign. "I am ending my campaign so that I can focus on fulfilling the responsibility entrusted to me as your U.S. senator," he said in a statement. "You deserve someone who will always fight for Montana, and I will." Walsh -- who will serve out the remainder of his term, which ends in January -- was competing in a Senate race against Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT), in which the Republicans were already favored. Democrats say they will try to recruit another candidate to run for the seat, and they say Walsh's decision was made to help downballot Dems -- who might have suffered with Walsh on the top of the state's ticket. Per the Billings Gazette, “The Montana Democratic Party will call a state central committee nominating convention in the coming days to select a candidate to replace Walsh on the ballot.” (Oh, and as expected, former Gov. Brian Schweitzer and current Gov. Steve Bullock have said they aren’t running.) Last month, the New York Times reported that Walsh plagiarized his 2007 master's thesis at the United States Army War College.
Other nuggets from the NBC/WSJ poll
Finally, here are some additional findings form this week’s NBC/WSJ poll:
- By 63%-35%, Republicans believe that the United States is a country where anyone can succeed, regardless of background. Democrats, by a 69%-29% margin, disagree saying the widening income gap undermines that idea. Independents side with Democrats, 62%-34%.
- Among those with incomes above $75,000, 60% believe the U.S. is NOT in a recession. But among those making less than $30,000, 62% believe the country is IN a recession.
- And 50% of those who believe the country is headed in the right direction say that something upsets them enough to carry a protest sign for a day.
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