Fox News First

Obama’s summer of LBJ

President Barack Obama at Farm Neck Golf Club, in Oak Bluffs, Mass., on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014.

President Barack Obama at Farm Neck Golf Club, in Oak Bluffs, Mass., on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014.  (AP)

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Buzz Cut:
• Obama’s summer of LBJ
• Perry sticks to his guns
• GOP candidates get personal in Alaska finale
• Power Play: Top dollar duel in Virginia
• Germans very serious, especially about vacation

What’s brought the president back to town for two days in the midst of his Martha’s Vineyard vacation? It might be anything. But for now, the White House wants you to know that the president is holding meetings about two hot topics: the ongoing unrest in Ferguson, Mo. and the newly resumed U.S. war against Islamist separatists in Iraq. How do you know Team Obama wants you to know those things? Because an administration that forbids reporters from seeing even happy events is allowing journalists to observe the president talking to senior officials about these unhappy subjects today. And for this president, there could hardly be two subjects more sensitive than his reinvigorating the war he took credit for ending and for why the Democratic governor of Missouri has ordered National Guard troops to suppress race riots. It’s Obama’s Summer of LBJ: war abroad, unrest at home and a party slipping out of his grasp.

[Chait was right - TNR: “Hardly a day goes by without a volley and counter-volley of accusations of racial insensitivity and racial hypersensitivity. And even when the red and blue tribes are not waging their endless war of mutual victimization, the subject of race courses through everything else: debt, health care, unemployment …]

Guns, not butter - These are certainly photo-ops. Obama could have gotten an Iraq briefing remotely from his point man for all things terrible, Vice President Joe Biden. Whatever else the president does on his trip back to the office, he wants you to see him working today. With his party’s 2016 frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, pushing him hard on an ineffectual policy against Islamism, other hawkish Dems are calling out the president, including one congressional Democrat who bemoaned that the fight against Islamism has been “lost” under Obama. But that’s nothing compared to the furor that Obama will face from his base as he escalates what promises to be a prolonged effort to push back ISIS, and does so without congressional authorization. How long until U.S. bombs start falling in Syria? And just wait until things start cooking off again in Ukraine. The president promised amid his re-election campaign that the time had come for “nation building here at home,” but Democrats are instead watching world events gobble up Obama’s second term. And as for the president’s domestic agenda, just check out the streets of suburban St. Louis.

[AP: “Russian army helicopters have landed in northern China to take part in multinational anti-terrorism drills, underscoring continuing close ties between Beijing and Moscow despite tensions with the West over Ukraine.”]

Hell no, they won’t go - Obama just entertained his point man for the Missouri violence, Attorney General Eric Holder, in Massachusetts last week and the White House is adamant that Obama is briefed continually on the latest developments in Ferguson. So what will the president and the attorney general be discussing after the reporters leave the room? Likely it will be how to deal with the facts as they have unfolded, particularly the military move by Gov. Jay Nixon, D-Mo. An autopsy in the police shooting that first triggered the riots could be seen as supportive of the officer’s telling and contradict the claims that Michael Brown had been shot in the back. While the postmortem was conducted for Brown’s relatives, it is defenders of the police who have been bolstered by the news. Especially as the law-and-order crowd is emboldened, civil rights activists are not likely to tolerate more calls for calm and patience from Obama. As Michael Eric Dyson said on “Face the Nation”: “It is not enough for [President Obama] to come on national television and pretend that there’s a false moral equivalency between police people who are armed, and black people who are vulnerable constantly to this. He needs to use his bully pulpit to step up and articulate this as a vision… But we need presidential leadership. He needs to step up to the plate and be responsible.

[Flashback - In the furor over the Trayvon Martin case, despite calls from African American leaders to spearhead a national conversation on race Obama instead resorted to a personal dialogue.]

Times they are a-changin’ - Obama is currently antagonizing what are arguably his two most important constituencies: war-weary voters and black Americans. This horrid summer will certainly accelerate Obama’s lame-duck dive, but more significantly it will further erode Democratic hopes of keeping the Senate. Obama won re-election by hammering his opponent’s character and then motivating key Democratic blocs with narrow-cast appeals. Without a single nominee to personally diminish and with the party base in an uproar, Democratic hopes that the 2012 strategy might work for 2014 look as remote as Obama’s chances of actually enjoying his vacation.

[Deroy Murdock: “When Obama entered office on January 20, 2009, U.S. unemployment stood at 7.8 percent. By April 2014, that Bureau of Labor Statistics figure had fallen to 6.3 percent — a modest improvement. Among blacks overall, joblessness dropped, though less significantly — from 12.7 to 11.6 percent. But for blacks aged 16 to 19, unemployment grew from 35.3 to 36.8 percent.”]

America awoke to a permanently altered political world on this day in 1998. The night before, then-President Bill Clinton had almost confessed to what The Drudge Report had first reported eight months earlier and what Clinton and his wife had vehemently denied ever since: That the president had lied about having an affair with a White House intern. Or, as Clinton put it in his terse address, “a relationship … that was not appropriate.” Clinton partly owned up to what Americans already overwhelmingly believed and what he had been forced to admit before a grand jury earlier that day. It wasn’t the mea culpa that changed modern politics. It was what came next. Clinton rejected the relevancy of the scandal, saying “it’s nobody’s business but ours” and attacked the prosecutor for his “pursuit of personal destruction.” Then-first lady Hillary Clinton had first deployed similar talking points less than two weeks after the story broke. But that was when the Clintons still resolutely denied the allegations. This counterattack came after the admission of guilt than many believed would force his resignation. The Clintons and their party would make unprecedented gains in the upcoming midterm elections and the president would survive impeachment on perjury charges to serve out his term. A previous scandal-plagued president had hoped to “brazen it out” but ended up resigning. After August 18, 1998, though, political scandal management would never be the same.

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Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve – 41.3 percent//Disapprove – 52.6 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 27.2 percent//Wrong Track – 64.5 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 41.2 percent// Republicans – 40 percent

Fox News: “… Gov. Rick Perry [R-Texas] stood behind his decision Sunday to veto giving money to a state agency run by a prosecutor with legal problems, despite an indictment saying he abused his official powers, and ramped up his criticism of the official. Perry told [‘Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace’] that he would make the same decision again… Perry, a 2012 GOP presidential candidate and potential 2016 candidate, has already said the indictment filed Friday is a ‘farce’ and on Sunday suggested, as supporters have, that the case is politically motivated. ‘That’s not the way we settle political differences in this country,’ Perry said. ‘We settle [them] at the ballot box.”

Potential rivals have Perry’s back - While he may be a potential challenger in 2016, it is not stopping Govs. Bobby Jindal, R-La., Jeb Bush, R-Fla., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, from jumping to Gov. Rick Perry’s, R-Texas defense as he faces an indictment for an alleged abuse of power.  In a statement, Cruz said the indictment which alleges Perry abused his power by vowing to veto $7.5 million in state funds for the public-integrity agency run by District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, after she pleaded guilty to the April 2013 drunken-driving charge and didn’t resign, is “extremely questionable.” “Unfortunately, there has been a sad history of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office engaging in politically-motivated prosecutions… Rick Perry is a friend, he’s a man of integrity – I am proud to stand with Rick Perry,” Cruz said. In a tweet, Bush called the charges “ridiculous” and “a major overreach.” Jindal also took to Twitter, calling the indictment a, “blatant misuse of the judicial system by liberal activists who couldn’t defeat him at the polls.” Perry on Sunday thanked former President Obama adviser David Axelrod as well as Cruz, Jindal, and Bush for their support.

Granite State GOP behind Perry - NH Journal: “The state Republican Party is giving a strong vote of confidence this morning to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is scheduled to visit the state later this week after being indicted by a grand jury in his home state on charges related to alleged abuse of power….State GOP Chairman Jennifer Horn called the charges against Perry “ridiculous” in a statement Monday morning…. Perry will be in the state on Friday for several events, including a NHGOP ‘Victory Rally’ in Stratham. He is also scheduled to attend a picnic in Chichester co-hosted by the Merrimack County and Concord Republican committees and be the featured guest at a forum hosted by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation of New Hampshire.”

Fox News: “The Las Vegas Review-Journal obtained [2016 Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s] contract and related documents related to a scheduled October 13 speech at a University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) Foundation fundraiser. The documents show that Clinton received $225,000 to speak at the fundraiser, a discount from her initial $300,000 asking price. But the fee was only the first of Clinton’s many stipulations.  The former Secretary of State insists on staying in the ‘presidential suite’ of a luxury hotel of her staff’s choice, with up to five other rooms reserved for her travel aides and advance staff. Clinton also reportedly requires that the Foundation provide a private plane. However, the jet cannot be any private plane; only a $39 million, 16-passenger Gulfstream G450 ‘or larger’ will do the job.”

[Baronial view - Washington Examiner’s Michael Barone explains why Hillary Clinton is not hitting the campaign trail for Senate candidates the way former President Richard Nixon did in 1966.]

-- 78 days until  Nov. 4 --

Ahead of one of the last consequential Senate primaries of 2014 on Tuesday, AP looks at the long race in Alaska: “In this remote and lightly-populated state, where residents refer to the Lower 48 as ‘outside,’ personal connections and loyalty to Alaska matter. [Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, R-Alaska]  and Tea Party favorite Joe Miller are counting on the personal, Alaska touch to level the playing field against front-runner Dan Sullivan. The former state attorney general, a relative newcomer in state politics, is backed by national GOP powerbrokers like Karl Rove and has raised $4.2 million, nearly four times as much as either rival… As he reminds virtually every voter he’s met, Treadwell has lived in Alaska for 40 years. Rather than just relying on voter-targeting data, he knocked on doors picked by a 21-year-old intern who had gone to the local high school and knew most of the families in the subdivision… Sullivan is countering Treadwell and Miller’s homespun approach with television ads that have run for months and a sophisticated get-out-the-vote operation that includes statewide field offices, a robust roster of paid staff with national political experience and his own cadre of local volunteers. The contrast in styles will be tested Tuesday in the state’s primary, with the winner expected to face Democratic Sen. Mark Begich in November…”

Preach it - Alaska’s Senate candidates hit the pulpit Sunday to make their final pitch, the Alaska Dispatch News has the details.

New Hampshire Republican hopeful Scott Brown is hitting Sen. Jean Shaheen, D-N.H., for not holding a town hall in over two years, on the heels of a local report finding the tradition is on the decline in the Granite State. Brown’s campaign hopes to drive the point home as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who used town halls to win over the state’s voters during his two presidential bids, joins the former Bay State Senator at a foreign policy forum today in Derry, N.H.

GOPAC tries new look for N.H. ads -  Conservative leadership political committee GOPAC is putting $50,000 worth of advertising behind Republican state Rep. Marilinda Garcia’s congressional bid in New Hampshire’s second district. From the ad: “Marilinda Garcia, not what you would expect, exactly what you need.” N.H. Journal has more.

Des Moines Register: “U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Braley will air a new statewide TV ad…that highlights his work securing ‘respite pay’ for Iowa National Guard soldiers who served in Iraq. The 30-second spot features veteran Todd Prichard, who served in the 133rd Infantry Regiment of the Iowa National Guard. He describes the unit’s long deployment in Iraq during the war there and the Department of Defense’s failure to provide extra compensation it had promised for an extended deployment… ‘Bruce Braley went to bat for us and made sure that we were paid,’ Prichard, who’s now a Democratic state representative, says in the ad. ‘He did this because he cared about us. Because we were from Iowa. He fought for us. He got us results.’’’

Republicans have their sights set on picking up six seats to win back control of the Senate from Democrats. Here are the seats Fox News First readers feel are most likely to flip from blue to red: Arkansas (13.6%), Montana (12.1%), Louisiana (11.7%), West Virginia (11.3%), South Dakota (10.8%) and North Carolina (9.6%).  Reader Ben Wright of Michigan shares the consensus and adds that replacement Montana Democratic Senate nominee Amanda Curtis doesn’t stand a chance against Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., because the race “is a shoe - in for Republicans.” Do you agree with Wright or could Curtis pose a challenge to Daines? Let us know your top picks.

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

One of the most costly congressional races in the House this cycle will be in Virginia’s 10th District.  A once solidly red seat in suburban Washington, DC has since become more purple thanks to a skyrocketing population working in and around the federal government. Will GOP nominee, state delegate Barbara Comstock’s past experience working for retiring Congressman Frank Wolf make the difference over Democrat Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust?   Watch Chris Stirewalt’s interview with Comstock here.

Are you slogging through dozens of post-vacation emails today? Maybe you are out of the office and looked with dread at all the unopened digital envelopes you saw when you sneaked a peek at your inbox to retrieve today’s Fox News First? If you worked for German automotive giant Daimler you wouldn’t have to worry. The Benz makers’ German employees have out-of-office notifications that warn off senders with Teutonic severity. The BBC reports: “Email these people while they are on holiday and you will get a message like this: I am on vacation. I cannot read your email. Your email is being deleted. Please contact Hans or Monika if it's really important, or resend the email after I'm back in the office. Danke Schoen.Heiliger Bimbam! Try that in an American office and your vacation might be permanent.

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 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.