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Desperation drove Obama stumble on Bergdahl

Bergdahl Picture.jpg

May 31, 2014: U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is pictured in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Army. (Reuters)

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Buzz Cut:
• Desperation drove Obama stumble on Bergdahl
• Hillary hammered on Wall Street ties
• Oklahoma race doesn’t fit national narrative
• McDaniel campaign staffer’s access to ballots probed
• Gee, this oppression is delicious!

DESPERATION DROVE OBAMA STUMBLE ON BERGDAHL
Why did Team Obama so badly botch the publicity of the release of five Islamist militant leaders in exchange for an accused Army deserter? The deal was sure to have been controversial, but might have, if done with humility and a low-key approach, engendered respect. Instead, the publicity blitz backfired on the administration. New Fox News polling explains how the struggling White House team ended up here, with Democrats in open rebellion and President Obama’s old rivals in Hillaryland taking potshots at his judgment? Desperation seems to be the thing. After a damaging turn with the revelation of widespread abuse of veterans at government hospitals and deepening concerns about the administration’s foreign policy setbacks in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia, the president’s previous strong suits are a shambles. The desire to return to the high point of his presidency, the killing of Usama bin Laden and subsequent Afghan drawdown, was understandable. But with a milky foreign policy speech at West Point, N.Y. and then the accused deserter PR fiasco, Obama finds himself in even worse position. But the poll shows us why he got greedy for a big win.

[No sale - A classified White House briefing Wednesday for Senators, many bruised over the administration’s go-it-alone deal with the Taliban, apparently fell flat. Fox News: “[M]any said the briefing did little to quell their concerns, with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., saying he left the briefing with more questions than answers.…]

Worse than Bush - The latest Fox News poll shows Obama’s job approval on foreign policy, previously his most reliably good measure, slipping to the bottom of the heap, with just 36 percent approval, lower even than on the economy and health care, his perennial weak spots. But what ought to truly terrify Democrats who are running for office is that a president whose unofficial foreign motto was recently revealed to be “don’t do stupid sh*t” is widely seen as incompetent. Obama was viewed as less competent than both of his predecessors, with a 48-percent plurality saying that Obama’s administration is less competent than that of George W. Bush, including 18 percent of Democrats. That’s dire, given Bush’s low ratings on those issues at this point in his tenure. Worse still, the poll shows that 55 percent of voters, including 53 percent of female voters, believe the president has made America less safe.

[The survey, which was taken before full details had emerged about ransomed Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s alleged desertion and the dangers posed by the released Taliban members were widely known, showed split opinion on support for the deal. But as to the question of whether negotiating with the Islamist terrorist group would encourage more American hostages to be taken, 84 percent agreed.]

And kind of like Nixon - George Will: “The 44th president, channeling - not for the first time - the 37th (in his post-impeachment conversation with David Frost), may say: ‘When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.’ Already the administration says events dictated a speed that precluded complying with the law. … This episode will be examined by congressional committees, if they can pierce the administration's coming cover-up, which has been foreshadowed by the response to congressional attempts to scrutinize the politicization of the Internal Revenue Service. If the military stalls on turning over files to Congress pertaining to the five years of Bergdahl's absence, we will at least know that there is no national institution remaining to be corrupted.”

Kelly File: White House ‘Swift Boat’ charge gets broadside from the right - Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., told Fox News host Megyn Kelly Wednesday allegations by administration aides that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s platoon members are “swift boating” are “pathetic” and designed to “hide a foreign policy move.” Hunter told Kelly, “When you’re fighting and it’s dirty and you’re tired and hungry, it’s not always for your flag and for your country but for the man and woman standing next to you. He betrayed that. That is the most sacred trust you have in the military.” Watch the full interview  courtesy of the “Kelly File.”

And volley from the left - On MSNBC, staunch Obama defender Chris Matthews cried, “Wait a minute! The swift boating of John Kerry was a dishonest PR campaign!” Matthews continued, “Where’s the dishonesty in the portrayal of Bergdahl so far? I haven’t seen it. What’s been misconstrued about him so far?”

The Judge’s Ruling: unfaithful to duty - New Today at Fox News Opinion Judge Andrew Napolitano asks Can President Obama faithfully enforce the laws?: “The president has a serious problem with competence and with fidelity to his oath. In one week, he has alienated and demoralized much of the intelligence community by revealing the true name of one of them and by releasing their worst nightmare back into the theater of Middle East warfare. He has, as well, flagrantly failed to enforce federal law by materially aiding a non-state terrorist group condemned by American law. This is almost inconceivable in an American president.”

HILLARY HAMMERED ON WALL STREET TIES
Former Gov. Brian Schweitzer, D-Mont., who is continuing to paint himself as a liberal alternative to Hillary Clinton, laced into the 2016 Democratic frontrunner, telling Time magazine, “You can’t be the candidate that shakes down more money on Wall Street than anybody since, I don’t know, Woodrow Wilson, and be the populist. You can’t be the one to say we’re going to focus on rebuilding America if you voted to go to the Iraq war. There were 30 some Democrats who voted against that.” Asked what questions Democrats should be asking in choosing their 2016 nominee Schweitzer wasn’t subtle: “Are we going to choose more leadership that is going to roll over and get scratched on the belly by corporations like a fat dog?” And what would Schweitzer’s strategy be if he decides to take on the Team Hillary? “Look, if you wanted to make a big machine that matches the machine that is likely to be built around Hillary then you would have to have started eight years ago. But if the outcome is always known with a superior slow moving army then we would still be part of England and we would still have a king,” he said.

Load ‘em up - As the blitz surrounding release of Hillary Clinton’s “Hard Choices” goes into overdrive, Ready for Hillary will take to the highway in a bus, shadowing the 2016 frontrunner coast-to-coast. Dubbed the “Hillary Bus,” the group said they plan to follow Clinton on to several locations on her book tour, with additional stops at college campuses and state fairs. Ready for Hillary called the bus a “mobile advertisement allowing our organization to reach new supporters in every corner of America,” as they plan to enlist a “grassroots army of supporters who are encouraging her to run.” While no schedule for the tour has been released, the bus does have its own Twitter account that says it is “getting ready to fire up the engine.”

Putin talks Hillary: ‘Maybe weakness is not the worst quality for a woman’ - Russian PresidentVladimir Putin offered his own critique of Hillary Clinton during an interview with French press Tuesday. According to the English transcript, released by the Kremlin Wednesday, Putin criticized Clinton for being “weak.” “It’s better not to argue with women,” said the Russian president. “But Ms. Clinton has never been too graceful in her statements. Still, we always met afterwards and had cordial conversations at various international events. I think even in this case we could reach an agreement. When people push boundaries too far, it’s not because they are strong but because they are weak. But maybe weakness is not the worst quality for a woman.”

[The latest Fox News poll finds Clinton getting a boost in favorability, 54 percent view her favorably while 43 percent do not. That is up five points from an April poll.]

Team Clinton goes after NYT - Washington Free Beacon: “Some of Hillary Clinton’s closest aides blasted the New York Times for what they said was unfair coverage of the former first lady during a recent secret meeting with the paper’s Washington bureau…Sources said the meeting included Clinton advisers Philippe Reines and Huma Abedin, as well as Times Washington bureau chief Carolyn Ryan and national political reporter Amy Chozick, who has been on the Clinton beat for the paper. During the closed-door gathering, Clinton aides reportedly griped about the paper’s coverage of the potential 2016 candidate, arguing that Clinton has left public office and not be subjected to harsh scrutiny, according to a source familiar with the discussions.”

[Careful Hill, that’s the deep end! - Hillary Clinton graces the cover of this week’s People magazine with a poolside pose that has provoked some provocative punditing – no, that’s not a walker she’s leaning on, says The Wire.]

CHRISTIE SWING COURTS CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIANS AND GRANITE STATE VOTERS
New Jersey Star-Ledger: “[Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J.,] will head to New Hampshire to campaign for GOP gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein on June 20. Havenstein said Christie will join him at various retail campaign stops and grassroots events in the Manchester area and attend a fundraiser in Atkinson later in the day…Christie will also speak that day in Washington D.C. at the annual Road to Majority, a conservative Christian conference held by the Faith and Freedom Coalition…The three-day event is expected to draw more than 1,500 to 2,000 evangelicals to the nation's capital.”

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE…
There’s a little patch of American soil on the coast of France. It’s the final resting place of 9,387 American men who died in the Normandy invasion, which began 70 years ago. Time is quickly robbing us of first-person recollections of the most audacious successful amphibious invasion in history. D-Day is longer ago for Americans living today than the end of the military occupation of the South following the Civil War was for the Americans of 1944. The grass has done its work. As you go about your business today, please take a moment to imagine the feelings of your countrymen on the eve of the invasion. Men who would soon be standing on the pitching deck of a tiny landing craft, hearing the sound of German bullets ricocheting off of the metal bow in front of them. And if you will excuse us for being preachy, please also consider whether what we as citizens and as a society are doing is worthy of their sacrifices. It isn’t worth much for us to be in awe of their courage if we’re not making the best use of the liberty they helped secure. Remember, gratitude is an action word.

Got a TIP from the RIGHT or LEFT? Email FoxNewsFirst@FOXNEWS.COM

POLL CHECK
Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve –  43.4 percent/Disapprove – 52.6 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 30 percent/Wrong Track – 62.8 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 43.2  percent/Republicans 41.6 percent

[Poll Watch: The latest Fox News Polls on the interest in the midterm elections, generic ballot, how Democrats and Republicans are handling various issues, the economy, stock market and congressional job approval rating will be released in the 6 p.m. ET hour during “Special Report with Bret Baier.”]

OKLAHOMA RACE DOESN’T FIT NATIONAL NARRATIVE
With the latest Clemson University poll showing Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., poised to win his party nomination outright on Tuesday and the runoff in Mississippi looking increasingly like a foregone conclusion, attention is shifting to Oklahoma’s June 24 Senate primary as the next example of the ongoing range war between the Republican establishment and conservative outside groups. The race has just turned ugly and it looks from a distance to be a reprise of May’s Nebraska contest that featured an establishment-backed candidate versus one with insurgent support. In this version, former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon is the outside man, while Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., is playing the inside game to win the seat being vacated by the retirement of conservative hero Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. As the primary approaches and national reporters look to rekindle the once-fading narrative of Republican civil war, the focus is shifting to Oklahoma. But does the outside-inside definition really fit in the Sooner State?

[New On Fox News Radio - Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. is facing a six-way primary challenge next week in the Palmetto State. Listen to this week’s Balance of Power Podcast for a preview of the race and more fallout from Tuesday’s primaries.]

Mixed up - Outside groups backing Shannon have touted polls they say show the former House speaker surging past the two-term congressman from Oklahoma City. But a poll from a pro-Lankford group says quite the opposite, showing the congressman up by 22 points. The Lankford campaign released another survey in late May showing him up substantially and still gaining. Lankford’s strength in must-win Oklahoma County is also nothing to sneeze at. In fact, one can assume that the decision to go on the attack by Shannon’s outside backers is an acknowledgement that Shannon is trailing as the primary nears. And the fact that Shannon subsequently denounced the ads running on his behalf further emphasizes the complexities of the race. Lankford, who is only in the fourth year of his first elected office and the former longtime director of a huge Baptist summer camp in the state, has the backing of outside favorites like former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Benghazi select committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. A source close to the Lankford campaign declined to respond to the attack ads directly, but took strong issue with the idea that Lankford is an insider. “Look, Oklahoma is an extremely conservative state and voters have two very conservative candidates to choose from,” said the Lankford team member. “National reporters will say what they want, but it doesn’t fit here.”

Dr. Maybe? - The missing piece in this race is the man who both candidates are endless invoking: Coburn himself. Coburn hasn’t taken a position, and doesn’t seem inclined to, which is understandable given the way he had to buck his party elders to win and remain in the House and Senate over the past 20 years. But his blessing for either of the contenders would be enormous in a state where Coburn has gone from ornery outsider to lionized leader. If Coburn’s support for Nebraska GOP Senate nominee Ben Sasse changed that race, imagine what it might do at home. Neither side is ruling the possibility of last-minute support. “Anyone who says they know what Dr. Coburn is going to do obviously doesn’t know Dr. Coburn,” said member of Lankford’s team.

MCDANIEL CAMPAIGN STAFFER’S ACCESS TO BALLOTS PROBED
Clarion-Ledger: “The Hinds County [Miss.] Sheriff's Department is investigating why three people, including a high-ranking Chris McDaniel campaign official, were found locked in the Hinds County Courthouse in Jackson [Miss.] hours after an election official says the building was closed early Wednesday morning. Hinds County Sheriff's Department spokesman Othor Cain said investigators are trying to figure out how Janis Lane, Scott Brewster and Rob Chambers entered the courthouse. They were inside until about 3:45 a.m., Cain said. Brewster is a former coordinator of presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's Mississippi operation and is currently McDaniel's campaign coalition coordinator. ‘There are conflicting stories from the three of them, which began to raise the red flag, and we're trying to get to the bottom of it,’ Cain said. ‘No official charges have been filed at this point, but we don't know where the investigation will lead us.’’’

KINGSTON GETS GINGREY
Athens Georgia Banner-Herald: “[Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga.] who came in fourth in last month’s [Georgia GOP Senate] primary with 19 percent, formally endorsed [Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga.,], the second-place finisher. Kingston is in a runoff against frontrunner David Perdue that concludes July 22.”

FIRST IN FOX NEWS FIRST: NRSC POUNDS GRIMES FOR REID FUNDRAISER
The National Republican Senatorial Committee is hitting back against Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Allison Lundergan Grimes for her support of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, despite her attempts to distance herself from the administration’s newly announced regulations limiting carbon emissions. Fox News First has a preview of the attack: “Twenty-four hours after Majority Leader Harry Reid blocked Senator Mitch McConnell's Coal Country Protection Act, the ‘Coal Makes Us Sick’ Senator is ironically hosting a fundraiser to celebrate Alison Lundergan Grimes so that she can collect as many liberal campaign checks as she can get her hands on. The big dollar fundraiser undercuts Grimes’ claims of independence and standing up for Kentucky coal, and reinforces the notion that she's on a different team than most Kentucky voters.”

PETERS PRAISES FIRM AFTER DONATION AND STOCK BUY
Politico: “Michigan Senate candidate [Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich.] heaped praise on the Dow Chemical corporation’s work days after buying stock in the company, which has also donated to his campaign… Responding to an audience question on cap-and-trade legislation last week, the three-term Democratic congressman used the opportunity to single out the Michigan-based firm’s efforts to develop renewable energy solutions… His remarks came less than two weeks after Peters purchased between $1,001 and $15,000 in Dow Chemical stock, according to a financial disclosure filed with the House of Representatives. In addition, Peters owned between $15,001 and $50,000 in Dow assets as of 2012 — the last year his full financial disclosure report is available. That same year, he reported receiving as much as $1,000… Dow also has given generously to Peters’ campaign, according to federal campaign finance data. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Dow’s political action committee and its employees have given nearly $30,000 to Peters in campaign donations this cycle.”

BROWN BACKS AWAY FROM CONTROVERSIAL COMPANY
New Hampshire Republican Senate hopeful Scott Brown announced Wednesday he is resigning from the advisory board of Global Digital Solutions Inc., whose executives came under fire in 2012 for allegedly committing securities fraud. The Boston Globe initially raised questions about Brown’s connection to the company Sunday. “My continued role with the company would be an unnecessary and unwanted distraction,” Brown said in a statement.

MERKELY PLAYS TO POPULISTS IN LATEST AD
In his debut ad, Sen. Jeff Merkley, is sounding a positive tune to play up his working-class roots and a populist message. From the ad: “He’s sponsored legislation to protect Social Security and Medicare, and forced millionaires to pay their fair share. He’ll always fight for the middle class.”

BRALEY ATTACKS ERNST HOGWILD ADS
How effective was Iowa Republican Senate nominee Joni Ernst’s famous hog castration ad? Democratic nominee Rep. Bruce Braley made his own debut general election ad about it. In his first post-primary ad, Braley says Ernst’s “ads are hard to forget, but her record just doesn’t cut it.” The ad continues, “We’ve all heard the one about pigs squealing. But when Joni Ernst had the chance to do something in Iowa, we didn’t hear a peep.”

PICK SIX: GOP’S HAWKEYE HOPES
Republicans only need to gain six additional seats to gain control of the Senate. Which Democratic held seats are most likely to land in the GOP’s hand’s come November? The current consensus among Fox News First readers: Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina and West Virginia. Reader Gerry Turner is adding Iowa to the list after Joni Ernst’s win in the GOP’s Senate primary Tuesday. Do you agree with Turner? Can Ernst deliver Iowa for Republicans? What other states aren’t on the list that you feel should be? Let us know.

Share your top six picks. Email them – just your top six, please – to FOXNEWSFIRST@FOXNEWS.COM or tweet @cstirewalt.

GEE, THIS OPPRESSION IS DELICIOUS!
Don’t like the military takeover of your country? Perhaps a free haircut would change your mind. Thailand’s recently installed military regime wants its subjects to know that it’s about more than just the brutal repression of peaceful protests; it’s about fun, too! To that end, the military has been staging “happiness events” around the country that feature Western-style concerts by military musicians, troops deployed to clean up litter-strewn streets as well as free desserts and free haircuts. The Christian Science Monitor reports from Bangkok: “The soldier yodeling on stage wears a guitar, a cowboy hat, and army fatigues. Behind him three female soldiers bop to the rhythm with beaming smiles. ‘Thailand, be happy!’ the soldier bellows into the microphone, before breaking into an English language version of the country song ‘Honky Tonk Man.’ …  ‘We’re trying to bring happiness back to Thailand,” says a Thai Army sergeant… ‘We want to show people that the big boss of the army is smiling, he wants to bring everyone together, the police, the military, and the people.’ In addition to the free music, the crowd came for free food, free haircuts, and an opportunity to pose for photos with a group of models wearing Army issue tank tops and studded dog collars.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“They [the Obama administration] have no idea what they actually did. Even those of us who might grudgingly accept the cost of that swap would understand that this is a defeat for the United States.” –Charles Krauthammerdiscussing the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl on “Special Report with Bret Baier.” Watch here.

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First” political news note and hosts “Power Play,” a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.”  He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.