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Obama tries to have it both ways on ISIS

FILE: August 23, 2014: A Shite fighter, who has joined in the fight against Islamic State, taking part in field training in Najaf, Iraq.

FILE: August 23, 2014: A Shite fighter, who has joined in the fight against Islamic State, taking part in field training in Najaf, Iraq.  (REUTERS )

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Buzz Cut:
• Obama tries to have it both ways on ISIS
• Neither steak nor sizzle for Hillary in Iowa
• Peters won’t drop stock despite controversy
• Power Play: Meet Al Franken’s challenger
• Large pizzas, small mammals

OBAMA TRIES TO HAVE IT BOTH WAYS ON ISIS
As President Obama seeks to escalate military action against Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria as part of what he says will be a lengthy not-war, he is looking for help. First from allies. Though officials have flatly refused to say who is onboard, we know now that some allies are willing to use U.S.-made warplanes with U.S.-trained pilots to conduct airstrikes. That might decrease the cost per bombing, but what the president wants are soldiers to fight, not just the U.S. trainers and covert operators he has already put on the ground. The only candidates so far are the Syrian rebels not explicitly part of the aspirant Islamist state. Not appealing allies, especially given that one of the key “moderate” groups recently cut a deal with ISIS. So that means the president needs political allies at home to authorize arming and training these folks, something neither party in Washington wants to do. Obama has offered a tendentious legal defense for the escalation, but needs stouter legal authority and, more urgently, shared political culpability.

[Against it before he was for it - Obama warned just last year that the law he says grants him the power to escalate the war needed to be scrapped or “we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight, or continue to grant presidents unbound powers…”]

Don’t worry, he doesn’t mean it - Liberals are furious as they see Obama being dragged into the very kind of conflict they once excoriated Republicans for advancing under George W. Bush. The best rationale emerging on the left is that what the president is saying and doing is okay because he is being insincere in order to mollify ignorant voters. Here’s Marc Ambinder: “I also suspect that the White House does not know how to explain to the country that in order to understand what he is doing, the American people must change the way they understand basic concepts of war and peace.” Oh, is that all? Needless to say, the “Don’t worry, we’re lying” defense would be pretty hard to pull off without voters catching on. So don’t expect Democrats to start cheering for this fight.

“…we are at war with Al Qaeda and its affiliates. And in the same context if you want to use it, yes, we are at war with ISIL in that sense. But I think it’s a waste of time to focus on that…” – Secretary of State John Kerry on CBS’s “Face the Nation”

Hawks take flight - The consequence of the president and his team chasing their tails in an effort to prevent more liberals from piling on has been to rattle the only folks in Washington predisposed to support a strategy that involves arming the rebels: the ultra-hawks of the GOP and Democratic establishments. They’re mad as hell that Obama has said far more about what the war isn’t than what it is and growing increasingly unlikely to back him under these constraints. Remember, these were the lawmakers who helped build a coalition for Obama’s surge in Afghanistan and regime change in Libya based on their mistaken belief that they could force the president to stick it out. They couldn’t. He didn’t. To rebuild his reputation with the hawks, Obama will have to start walking a straighter line to war.

“It is my estimation, that after all the dust settles…I’m betting we’re up to around 5,000 [soldiers] by the end of the year [in Iraq]” – Former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden on “Fox News Sunday”

REPORT: CLINTON STATE DEPARTMENT SOUGHT TO SEPARATE DAMAGING BENGHAZI DOCS
The Daily Signal: “Hillary Clinton confidants were part of an operation to “separate” damaging documents before they were turned over to the Accountability Review Board investigating security lapses surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. According to former Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell, the after-hours session took place over a weekend in a basement operations-type center at State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C. This is the first time Maxwell has publicly come forward with the story. At the time, Maxwell was a leader in the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA), which was charged with collecting emails and documents relevant to the Benghazi probe…. ‘I was not invited to that after-hours endeavor, but I heard about it and decided to check it out on a Sunday afternoon,’ says Maxwell. He didn’t know it then, but Maxwell would ultimately become one of four State Department officials singled out for discipline—he says scapegoated—then later cleared for devastating security lapses leading up to the attacks.”

NEITHER STEAK NOR SIZZLE FOR HILLARY IN IOWA
Alas, the steak-fry frenzy over Hillary Clinton’s return to Iowa delivered more fizzle than sizzle as the Democratic frontrunner delivered another non-announcement of her 2016 presidential bid. On hand with husband Bill, the former first lady ducked behind daughter Chelsea’s own expectations ( the grandma-to-be said she was checking in every five minutes) and then threw another twig in the 2016 pyre saying, “Well, it is true. I am thinking about it. But for today, that is not why I’m here. I’m here for the steak.” Right. Clinton’s visit to the critical caucus state that was not kind to her 6 years ago recalls a phenomenon that continues to plague her campaign: The more she campaigns, the less invincible she becomes. Hillary vowed to not “let another seven years go by. It’s time to write a new chapter in the American dream.”

[Clinton campaign tells Dems to eat their veggies - Daily Beast’s Ana Marie Cox looks at how the Iowa “Steak-fry Snoozefest” and how Clinton’s “coronation wants to be a movement” but lacks the zeal.]

‘What’s her vision for America?’ - Outgoing Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin was hosting the Clintons at his 37th and final steak fry. Harkin, a liberal icon, lavishly praised the former first couple in attendance, but raised a note of caution about their convictions when he was offstage. “We’re always nervous about people moving too far to the right,” Harkin told “This Week.” Asked where Hillary “is” Harkin said “Well, I don’t know…I think this is something that will be developed and we’ll find out when she – if – when and if she decides to run.  You know, what’s her vision for America?” Oh yeah, that.

Deporter-in-chief redux? Approached by three immigration activists at the rally, 2016 Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton was questioned about President Obama’s decision to delay executive actions granting amnesty until after the midterm elections. The conversation ended with Clinton saying, “Well, I think we have to elect more Democrats.” According to BuzzFeed, activist Erika Andiola didn’t like that answer saying, “If Hillary Clinton is going to try to stand for the immigrant community she’s going to have to show she’s better than the president — a champion for immigrants and not just another deporter-in-chief.”

KELLY FILE: KEEPING HER FAITH
Miriam Ibraheem
faced a death sentence in Sudan for refusing to renounce her Christian faith until global outrage forced her release. In Ibraheem’s first television interview since her release, she tells Megyn Kelly what kept her spirit going, despite the fact her young son was locked up with her, and she was forced to give birth to her second child while behind bars in horrifying conditions. Watch this gripping exclusive interview on “The Kelly File” at 9pm ET


WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...
Now regarded as one of America’s greatest films, “Night of the Hunter,” starring Robert Mitchum as a serial killer disguised as a preacher was a flop when it debuted in 1955. But as a consequence of its status as a late-bloomer, the initial publicity shots and other trappings didn’t get much attention at the time. But Cinephilia and Beyond shares seldom-seen photos from the making of the film and even some video outtakes that let you hear director Charles Laughton at work. (And if you want to get goodies like these on a near-daily basis, follow the great Terry Teachout.)

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

POLL CHECK
Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve – 41.6 percent//Disapprove – 53.9 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 26.4 percent//Wrong Track – 65.1 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 42.3 percent// Republicans – 46.2 percent

-- 50 days until Nov. 4 --

POWER PLAY: MEET AL FRANKEN’S CHALLENGER
Withpolls tightening in Minnesota’s Senate race, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has been going  on the defense against Republican businessman Mike McFadden. How does McFadden plan to turn a purple state red and get the last laugh against the comedian turned Senator? Watch “Power Play with Chris Stirewalt” to find out.

LANDRIEU TOOK TAXPAYER TRIPS FOR MORE THAN A DECADE
WGNO: “Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu’s campaign paid for more than 12 years of wrongfully taxpayer-funded travel…Landrieu’s campaign reimbursed the federal government $33,727 for chartered flights that were wrongly charged to her Senate office. The payment comes a month after the Louisiana Democrat ordered her attorney to audit her office’s travel spending to root out incorrectly-billed campaign travel. Landrieu said the ‘mistakes,’ which go back to 2002, stemmed from ‘sloppy book keeping.’”

DEMS CRY RACISM OVER GEORGIA VOTER FRAUD CASE
Allies of Georgia’s Democratic Senate nominee Michelle Nunn have until Tuesday to submit all records for more than 85,000 questionable voter registrations. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., is furious at the accusations saying, “It is unreal that almost 50 years after the Voting Rights Act was signed into law, there are individuals who want to take us back to another period by suggesting that only the wealthy or those with formal education deserve to have a voice in our society.” Citing six counties that initially came forward with voter registration forgery complaints, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a Republican, stands by his decision.

PETERS WON’T DROP STOCK DESPITE CONTROVERSY
Detroit News: “U.S. Rep. Gary Peters has no intention of selling stock in an oil company that produces a petroleum byproduct he has sought to regulate, despite criticism he’s taking from Republicans in Michigan’s U.S. Senate race over his personal investments. Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, said Saturday he won’t sell the $19,000 in stock he owns of Total S.A., a French energy company that produces the petroleum coke substance that Peters once called “dirtier than the dirtiest fuel.” Republican Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land’s campaign charges Peters’ investment runs counter to the public war he waged last year over a pile of pet coke stored near the banks of the Detroit River. “Am I going to sell it? I have no plans of it, no,” Peters told The Detroit News after speaking at the Michigan Democratic Party’s African-American alliance breakfast in Southfield. “It is an investment in the fourth largest oil company in the world. It has nothing to do with the Detroit situation.”

ERNST ANSWERS DEMS ON SOCIAL SECURITY
Over the weekend, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee started hitting Iowa Republican Senate nominee Joni Ernst in its latest ad accusing her of backing changes to Social Security just like “the New York billionaire Koch brothers.” Ernst is out with her response, a new ad out today that puts Ernst at a kitchen table talking about the need to “protect Social Security” and promises to go to Washington as “a mom, a soldier and someone who really cares about the Iowa we leave our children.”

MCCONNELL TOUTS DEAL MAKING ABILITY
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is up with a new ad touting his ability to forge deals with Democrats and the White House. The ad features news reports of how he brokered compromise during last November’s government shut down and later on the fiscal cliff.

SULLIVAN SPOTLIGHTS WORK FOR WOMEN
Alaska Republican Senate hopeful Dan Sullivan has launched a new ad highlighting initiatives he launched as Alaska’s attorney general to push tougher sentences for violence against women. Anchorage domestic violence attorney Stacy Walker appears in the ad saying, “What Alaskan women can know about Dan Sullivan is that he has got their back.”

[Watch Fox: Alaska Republican Senate nominee Dan Sullivan appears in the 4 p.m. ET hour]

Puff, puff, pass? - There’s a pot referendum on the ballot in Alaska this year, too. How will that alter turnout (if at all)? Fox News rolls up the latest trends from the national pot legalization movement.

ROUNDS RAILS ON WASHINGTON IN NEW AD
South Dakota Republican Senate candidate Mike Rounds appears in a new ad blasting ObamaCare and President Obama’s energy agenda saying, “The bureaucrats in D.C. need to get out of the way…Let’s fix things in Washington with some South Dakota common sense.”

‘AND NOTHING, NOTHING IS GOING RIGHT’
Charleston [W.Va.] Gazette: “…singer and songwriter Carole King advocated for equal pay for men and women Sunday while stumping for Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, in her race for U.S. Senate. “You men know, first of all, when momma’s not happy, no one’s happy,” said King… King and Tennant spoke to about 50 people crammed in a room at the new Kanawha County Democratic campaign headquarters on the corner of Washington and Elizabeth streets on Charleston’s East End…She led the crowd in the “Fired up! Ready to go!” call-and-response chant often used by President Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns and in singing her song ‘I Feel the Earth Move.’”

CHRISTIE RIDES IN FOR THOM TILLIS
Jackson [N.C.] Daily News: “New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will be in the Port City on Tuesday to headline a private fundraiser for N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis, who is challenging incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., in the November election….”

[The latest Elon University poll has incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan ahead of Republican challenger Thom Tillis by 4 points.]

PICK SIX: TATTERED TAR HEEL STATE DEMS DAMAGING HAGAN?
Republicans need six more Senate seats to take control of the upper chamber. Which blue seats are the most vulnerable in this year’s midterms? Here are the top picks among Fox News First readers: Arkansas (13.7%), Montana (13%), West Virginia (12.1%), Louisiana (11.6%), South Dakota (9.9%) and North Carolina (9.6%). Reader Kevin O'Brien of Huntersville, N.C., a life-long Democrat, is disappointed about the current conditions in his home and feels growing angst among Tar Heel state voters will help Republican Thom Tillis defeat Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C.

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

FITZGERALD FLOPS
The first 2014 Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch poll shows Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich with a commanding 2-to-1 ratio over Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald, 59 percent to 29 percent. Ohio Democrats appear to be sitting by idly for this election, if these numbers hold it would be the second worst loss for a major party in almost 200 years.

LARGE PIZZAS, SMALL MAMMALS
News.com.au reports that a Pizza Hut in Melbourne created a social media outrage with a sign for an innovative promotion that read: “Buy any 10 large pizzas and get one free small animal” from a local pet store. Next to the text was a picture of a very cute hamster. Animal rights groups (and presumably people afraid of a mix up when ordering pineapple and ham) were furious. Pizza Hut has released a statement saying that the “thoughtless” and “inappropriate” promotion was not approved or condoned by Pizza Hut Australia.

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 FoxNews.com. 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.