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Amid more bad news, Obama returns to base baiting

President Barack Obama at a reception to observe LGBT Pride Month in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, June 30, 2014.

President Barack Obama at a reception to observe LGBT Pride Month in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, June 30, 2014.  (AP)

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Buzz Cut:
• Amid more bad news, Obama returns to base baiting
• Hillary hits Hobby Lobby hard on campaign trail
• ObamaCare report cards expected today
• Crossroads reserves $20 million in key states
• With your third cup of coffee…

So far, 2014 is shaping to be the worst year of President Obama’s tenure. The economy is bad, scotching a Democratic plan to hold the Senate majority by touting the long-awaited economic recovery. The Supreme Court, which once spared Obama’s signature health insurance law, has turned from friend to foe. Justices have issued setback after setback to the president, his allies in government worker unions and to his argument that legislative gridlock allows him to broadly expand his powers. The grades are in, and the man who ran for office touting his status as a constitutional lawyer flunked this term. Obama is trying to get back to even on the scandal that rocked the Department of Veterans Affairs, meanwhile them other lingering scandals, particularly the targeting of Obama’s political enemies by the IRS, have gotten new life instead of fading away. Oh yeah, and ObamaCare is still being implemented.

[Crisis of confidence - RCP: “Americans have less confidence in [President Obama’s] administration than they did for George W. Bush’s at the same point in his presidency, according to a new Gallup survey.”]

Over there - How’s it going internationally? Foreign policy is usually the centerpiece of a president’s second term, so maybe that’s going better. As Obama sends more troops back to Iraq to fend off an Islamist army spawned by the still unresolved civil war in Syria, he undercuts what had been his strong point on foreign affairs. Meanwhile, hostilities are quickly escalating between Israel and Hamas; the fragile cease-fire in between Russia and the Ukraine is about to break; and the prospects for what will follow the end of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan are bleak indeed. There are lingering resentments among military members over Obama’s decision to trade the release of an alleged Army deserter for five senior Islamist militant commanders without the required congressional notification. So suffice to say, the president won’t be talking up foreign policy too much in this election year.

Trolling for relevancy - So what’s an embattled lame duck to do? Pivot, right? And this president, having pivoted more times than a ballerina practicing pirouettes, is ready to dance. Obama is putting into effect a long-promised threat to use executive action to grant residency to some of the millions in the country illegally. Even as the court’s rebuke on ObamaCare rules was still echoing off the marble steps, Obama stepped out to announce that he and Attorney General Eric Holder will “identify additional actions my administration can take on our own within my existing legal authorities to do what Congress refuses to do and fix as much of our immigration system as we can.” Given the explosiveness of the issue among Republicans and the growing anxiety on the right about Obama’s executive overreach, the president seemed to be deliberately trolling his opponents. He’s done it before, and it has worked. Democrats disillusioned with the president’s missed expectations have again and again stepped up to defend him against what they see as a GOP mob. A cynic might even surmise that the president is hoping to push Republican hard-liners to start drafting articles of impeachment. With a lawsuit looming over Obama’s authority to ignore or repurpose existing laws, this move is audacious to say the least. Republicans may oblige him, but it says a lot about the state of this presidency that Obama considers his current best option to bait his foes into a constitutional crisis.

The White House and Obama Democrats wasted no time in making use of the administration’s Supreme Court defeat on a bid to force family-owned businesses to pay for birth control drugs that devout Christians, Jews and Muslims believe terminate human lives. The decision, though limited, provides an opportunity to frighten potential supporters and donors ahead of a difficult midterm election for the president’s party. What better way to remind liberal activists of the stakes of losing the Senate than to accuse justices of patriarchal discrimination against women? With vacancies looming, the donors keeping Democratic midterm coffers flush with cash need to be reminded of the consequences. But the Democratic 2016 frontrunner jumped out even farther on the issue, offering a new insight on her strategy. In a campaign appearance hosted by Facebook and the Aspen Institute, Hillary Clinton called the Supreme Court’s decision “deeply disturbing.” Campaigning in the battleground state of Colorado, Clinton touted her own record and issued dire warnings about eroding women’s rights. “You watch women and girls being deprived of rights,” Clinton told supporters. “Among those rights is control over their bodies, control over their own health care, control over the size of their families.” Clinton placed the court’s decision on the same spectrum, albeit “far away,” as regimes “that don’t even issue birth certificates to girls.”

[By the numbers - How common is the “morning after pill” and other forms of birth control taken in the 72 hours after intercourse to prevent a fertilized egg from developing? The Centers for Disease Control found in 2013 that 11 percent of women who had ever had sex had used such a product, usually just one time in their lives. The most common kind costs about $50 and is available without a prescription.]

LAT: “The Supreme Court dealt a limited setback to organized labor Monday, ruling that personal home-care employees in Illinois cannot be forced to pay union dues. But to the relief of the nation’s largest unions, the justices refrained from extending the ruling to all public-sector workers, at least for now. In a 5-4 opinion written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., the court said the home healthcare assistants, some of whom care for their own loved ones, had a constitutional right not to support a union they opposed….More ominously for unions, the decision practically invites the National Right to Work Foundation, which brought the case, to bring additional legal challenges that could apply the same legal reasoning to millions of other public workers.”

The Department of Health and Human Services will release two inspector general reports today, Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., told Fox News. According to Moran, the first report finds that ObamaCare exchanges lack internal controls to verify applicant’s information and prevent fraudulent activity. The second report dives into the inconsistencies that occurred during the failed enrollment launch. Moran says, “The IG finds that most exchanges were unable to resolve the majority of inconsistencies, most often relating to income and citizenship. In particular, the federal exchange was unable to resolve 2.6 million out of 2.9 million inconsistencies as of February 2014.”

[Watch Fox: Chief National Correspondent Jim Angle takes a deep dive into the ObamaCare reports.]

National Journal: “It’s going to be a little more difficult to ferret out which members of Congress are lavished with all-expenses-paid trips around the world after the House has quietly stripped away the requirement that such privately sponsored travel be included on lawmakers’ annual financial-disclosure forms. The move, made behind closed doors and without a public announcement by the House Ethics Committee, reverses more than three decades of precedent. Gifts of free travel to lawmakers have appeared on the yearly financial form dating back its creation in the late 1970s, after the Watergate scandal. National Journal uncovered the deleted disclosure requirement when analyzing the most recent batch of yearly filings. Free trips paid for by private groups must still be reported separately to the House’s Office of the Clerk and disclosed there. But they will now be absent from the chief document that reporters, watchdogs, and members of the public have used for decades to scrutinize lawmakers’ finances…”

Huge protests have erupted in Hong Kong as Chinese officials continue to tighten their grip on the former British colony. The protestors, numbering more than a half-million, want guarantees from the regime in Beijing that the promised freedoms that were part of the July 1, 1997 handover to the communist country will be honored. Beijing, on the other hand, is losing patience with its semi-autonomous subjects who, having known liberty, are unwilling to so readily submit. Amid the protests and on the anniversary of the British handover, a look back at The Independent’s account of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s visit to Beijing to try to keep Hong Kong free: “She did not, according to one civil servant, find China very attractive: 'She was a great exception to the general rule among political and business leaders, that having reached [Beijing] and had their tummies tickled, they are captivated by the place, seeing themselves as latter-day Marco Polo figures. When she went as Leader of the Opposition, she found it a rather unpleasant place governed by rather unpleasant people.’”

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Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve –  41.9 percent//Disapprove – 53.6 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 29 percent//Wrong Track – 62.5 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 42.8 percent// Republicans 41.4 percent

The Des Moines Register: “Likely 2016 presidential candidate Rand Paul [R-Ky.] is beefing up his political work in Iowa, just days after GOP forces aligned with the establishment snuffed out the last vestiges of liberty movement control over party politics here. Rand Paul …announced [Monday] that he’s hiring Steve Grubbs, a former Iowa GOP chairman, as the chief Iowa strategist for his political action committee. Grubbs will play a role on RAND PAC’s national team to work to elect Republicans in Iowa this year and to build ‘an organization for something more significant thereafter,’ Grubbs told The Des Moines Register in a telephone interview [Monday]. Paul… has told Iowans he’s ‘seriously looking at a presidential run.’ He was recently in Des Moines to give a speech at the Republicans’ state convention on June 14.”

[Dr. Rand - WaPo: “Paul plans to join a medical mission to Guatemala [this summer], where he will team up with eye surgeons, nurses and technicians from the University of Utah to visit Salamá, a small manufacturing and commercial center nestled between two mountain ranges 3,000 feet above sea level, north of Guatemala City.]

Christie back to Iowa - Des Moines Register: “Republican [New Jersey Gov.] Chris Christie’s Iowa fundraising dinner for [Gov. Terry Branstad, R-Iowa,] will take place at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport, the Iowa governor’s campaign aides said Monday. And, unlike the event Christie did for Branstad earlier this year, it will be open to the media — namely reporters from Iowa and elsewhere who are constantly scouting for news in the 2016 presidential race. Christie, the governor of New Jersey and a potential White House candidate, has promised to do two fundraisers for Branstad. One took place on the East Coast in May, and the other was set for July 17 in Iowa.”

Conservative PAC American Crossroads and the affiliated non-profit Crossroads GPS have set aside more than $20 million for fall election T.V. ads in six key Senate contests. Five of the six states are races to oust the Democratic incumbent. The Karl Rove backed PAC has allotted nearly $10.5 million to the Alaska, Iowa, and Montana senate races, while the non-profit group will target more than $9.75 million to Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina race. The buys range from $1.68 million in Montana to $5.5 million in Alaska. The ads will be aired between early September and early October. Crossroads GPS is currently funding more than $2 million of ads in Rep. Cory Gardner’s, R-Colo., quest to unseat Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.

The Kansas City Star: “If tea partier Milton Wolf is going to make a run at incumbent Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, he’s got to get going now. Fresh off a statewide poll last week that showed him trailing Roberts by 56-23 percent, Wolf has announced a $250,000 TV ad buy that will start Wednesday and carry him through primary election day on Aug. 5. Wolf’s camp said the buy is targeted at Wichita and Topeka, regarded as affordable media markets, but will include a statewide Fox News cable buy for the entire five-week stretch that will bring the ads into the KC market. This will be the Wolf campaign’s first broadcast TV buy.”

Alaska reporters going through more than 100 Wikileaks documents from former Assistant Secretary Dan Sullivan’s, R-Alaska, two plus years at the Bush State Department say they shed light into his foreign policy credentials and stance on issues, including climate change. The leaked documents show that while Sullivan agreed that humans contributed to climate change in some way, he would only agree to long-term global greenhouse gas reduction guidelines if the “major economies” were also bound by the same restrictions. Sullivan currently leads the Aug. 26 GOP Senate primary against Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and Joe Miller. The winner will then go on to challenge Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, in November.

(N.C.) News & Observer: “[The Democratic Senate Majority PAC, affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid,] supporting U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan’s re-election will run a new TV ad starting Monday that criticizes her rival House Speaker Thom Tillis for the state legislature’s cuts to education. The ad says that Tillis gave no pay raises to teachers, forced them to pay more out of pocket for classroom supplies and eliminated more than 9,000 classroom jobs. The Senate Majority PAC spent more than $800,000 on the ad, which will show on both broadcast and cable stations across the state over 13 days…The ad also points out that Tillis protected tax breaks to yacht owners. That’s a reference to the legislature’s decision to preserve a sales tax cap of $1,500 on yachts and jets, a provision that cost the state $10 million a year in lost revenue. In the ad, a teacher leads children up to a yacht. Someone on it asks, ‘Can I help you?’ ‘Our classroom is too small. I thought we could use your yacht?’ the teacher replies.’”

Republicans have their sights set on six seats to win back control of the Senate from Democrats. So which seats are most likely to flip from blue to red? The current consensus among Fox News First readers: Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina and West Virginia

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

William Ayers
, a leader of the radical Weather Underground in the 1960s and early 1970s during the group’s campaign of U.S. bombings, tried to dodge tough questions from Fox News Channel’s Megyn Kelly, but Kelly wasn’t buying. Ayers, now an academic at the University of Illinois and a onetime friend of President Obama, sought to deflect responsibility saying he was only involved in bombings that resulted in “property damage.” Kelly pressed Ayers on how his own girlfriend died with two others while building a nail-filled bomb intended to rip through a dance hall filled with U.S. soldiers, and how his current wife, once at the top of the FBI’s most wanted list, claimed credit for bombing the home of a federal judge and his admission that he couldn’t ‘rule out’ conducting more terror activities against America. At one point, Kelly asked Ayers, “You realize people could’ve been hurt, you admitted it in the beginning.” “I realized people could’ve been hurt,” Ayers replied. “Thank God they weren’t, but we made every attempt not to and they weren’t.” “Do you recognize the recklessness of that?” Kelly asked. “Who are you to endanger the lives of the individuals who may have been in or around the building at that time?” “I don’t say it wasn’t reckless and I don’t say it wasn’t illegal, it was illegal,” Ayers said. “We crossed lines with legality.” Watch full interview from “The Kelly File” here.

The Boston Globe goes on a sugar trip to experience global variations on the New England’s most popular export: Dunkin’ Donuts – the good, bad and the ugly. The Philippines’ marshmallow-encrusted Supreme Rocky Road and the Indonesia’s tiramisu might be welcome here, but some others, like China’s riff on dried pork and seaweed or the Indonesian treat of shredded cheese and chocolate icing may need to wait. But hey, donuts have always been an international phenomenon….

“It’s in no way going to prevent access to contraception. As if the court has ruled that gendarmes are going to be outside pharmacies patrolling it to make sure women can’t get in and get their contraceptives. This is simply a way of protecting religious practice which is inevitably impinged on whether intended or not, and it probably was unintended in the law as the government expands.”Charles Krauthammer 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

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.