Fox News First

What’s with the word game on Islamist militants?

Insight into the administration's approach


**Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**

Buzz Cut:
• What’s with the word game on Islamist militants?
• Obama to use pen to impose new methane regs
• Hillary hires but still ducks declaration
• Power Play: Trust gap hampers work on ObamaCare
• Delicious bootlegging sure to ensue

Since when did White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest become a theologian? Pressed on the administration’s tortured effort to avoid the I-word when talking about attacks by Islamist militants, Earnest offered a long disquisition as to why. But the core reason seemed to be that since the Islamists’ conduct did not comport with Islamic values, the militants did not qualify for membership: As Earnest put it, it stems for a desire for “accuracy.” This hearkens to President Obama’s claim this summer that the Islamic State is not Islamic because its conduct doesn’t reflect the values of the faith and not really a state, either. Okay. Or, reaching back to the beginning of what was then known as the Arab Spring, when a top administration official claimed the Muslim Brotherhood was “a largely secular” organization. Or the claim this week from a State Department spokeswoman who said that talking about Islamist extremism might improperly minimize the threat from other forms of violent ideological extremism. Like which ones? Well…

The president and his team seem to have lashed themselves to the idea that somehow non-Muslim politicians in the West have some say in defining the Pillars of Islam. Facing increasing press criticism for tortured and obfuscatory language, however, the armchair theologians of the White House are spending a lot of time explaining their view of the faith. This stubbornness is interfering with the effort to explain the administration’s policy to a skeptical public and rally support for the president’s plan (whatever that may be).

Sekulow: Legal semantics blunt sane strategy - Fox News Opinion: Pointing to the deadly threat posed by Western jihadists carrying out attacks on the homeland, Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice writes that it’s time to strip U.S. citizenship from those who enlist in militant groups: “The law currently provides that Americans can lose citizenship when they enter or serve in the armed forces of an enemy foreign state. But ISIS and al Qaeda are not “foreign states,” so the law doesn’t apply….stripping citizenship and revoking passports represent just two small steps – but critical ones – towards a sane national security strategy. However, it’s difficult to take even these small steps with the Obama Administration steadfastly refuses to name our enemies (Mr. President, our enemies are Islamic radicals, not generic “extremists”), accurately describe their ideology (no, they are not “nihilists”), or even to acknowledge their obvious, widespread appeal in the Muslim world.”

The House is poised to vote today to block President Obama’s immigration executive actions granting temporary amnesty to illegal immigrants, despite a White House veto threat. Fox News: “The House began debate Tuesday night on a Department of Homeland Security spending bill which Republicans want to use to defund and undo the president’s immigration plans…. ‘We’re voting to block the president’s overreach, his executive overreach, which I believe is beyond his constitutional duty and frankly violates the Constitution itself,’ House Speaker John Boehner said. ‘This is not about the issue of immigration. What it is about is the president acting lawlessly.’…But House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md.,…called Republicans’ approach ‘indefensible’ and ‘irresponsible.’ Democrats, and even some Republicans, warn that the effort to wage the immigration fight during debate over a DHS spending bill risks vital security funding – at a time when the department is ramping up security measures in the wake of the Paris terror attacks. Current DHS funding expires at the end of February”

Keep it simple - WashEx’s Byron York wrote recently that unless Republicans lawmakers bill to block President Obama’s immigration actions is simple and direct they risk failure: “Republicans have two basic options, and as the time to act nears, it appears they are preparing to choose the one more likely to fail. The first option is to pass a brief, simple bill that denies funding for the implementation of Obama’s action…Such a move would be direct, unambiguous, and would focus specifically on Obama's action, which is what the controversy is about in the first place. The second option is to begin with a defunding measure but then add other provisions, targeting not just Obama’s executive action but also a large chunk of the president’s immigration policy going back five years….In answering the president's overreach on immigration, Capitol Hill Republicans are engaging in some overreach of their own.”

NYT: “In President Obama’s latest move using executive authority to tackle climate change, administration officials will announce plans this week to impose new regulations on the oil and gas industry’s emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, according to a person familiar with Mr. Obama’s plans. The administration’s goal is to cut methane emissions from oil and gas production by up to 45 percent by 2025 from the levels recorded in 2012. The Environmental Protection Agency will issue the proposed regulations this summer, and final regulations by 2016, according to the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the administration had asked the person not to speak about the plan….Environmental advocates have long urged the Obama administration to target methane emissions, and the rules would be the first to do so….The oil and gas industry has pushed back against methane regulations, insisting that new rules could stymie a booming industry and that voluntary industrywide standards are sufficient to prevent methane leaks….The new rules are part of Mr. Obama’s push for regulations designed to cut emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases from different sectors of the economy. The White House says it can make the moves under the Clean Air Act, rather than by trying to push legislation through the Republican-controlled congress.”

Is climate change real? Senate to put it to a vote - The Hill: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday he will allow the Senate to vote on an amendment asking if they agree that climate change is impacting the planet. At his weekly press briefing, McConnell said ‘nobody is blocking any amendments’ to legislation that would approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline….But a measure proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) had raised questions about whether he would stick to that commitment. The Sanders measure asks whether lawmakers agree with the overwhelming consensus of scientists who say climate change is impacting the planet and is worsened by human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. Democrats believe the measure could be a tough vote for some Republicans, particularly GOP senators running for reelection in 2016 in states carried by President Obama in 2012….Sanders's amendment is one of many Democrats are looking to tack on to the controversial bill, which Republicans are eager to send to President Obama’s desk. The White House has threatened to veto the Keystone legislation.

Ludwig van Beethoven
relied in part on the beats of his heart to continue to compose masterpieces after he lost his hearing. Now, some researchers argue that some of the irregularities in his music may directly correspond with cardiac arrhythmia. Co-author Joel Howell, M.D., Ph.D, says, “When your heart beats irregularly from heart disease, it does so in some predictable patterns. We think we hear some of those same patterns in his music.” Cardiologist Dr. Zachary Goldberger says that while Beethoven was linked to a variety of illnesses nothing could be diagnostically proven at the time, “However, the symptoms and common association of an abnormal heartbeat with so many diseases makes it a reasonable assumption that Beethoven experienced arrhythmia – and the works we describe may be ‘musical electrocardiograms,’…While these musical arrhythmias may simply manifest Beethoven’s genius, there is a possibility that in certain pieces his beating heart could literally be at the heart of some of the greatest masterpieces of all time.”

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

Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve – 44.4 percent//Disapprove – 52 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 28.1 percent//Wrong Track – 64 percent

[Watch Fox: The latest Fox News polls will be released tonight on “Special Report with Bret Baier.” Topics include President Obama’s job ratings, the new GOP Congress, the status of the Keystone XL Pipeline and terrorism.]

Louisville [Ky.] Courier Journal: “About to embark on a three-state trip that includes multiple stops in New Hampshire, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is criticizing Mitt Romney as too liberal for the Republican Party in 2016. Romney, the 2012 GOP standard-bearer whom Paul endorsed, has signaled a sudden interest in making a third bid for the White House. But Paul, a likely 2016 rival, told [Fox News Radio host John Gibson] that Romney's promise to be a ‘conservative alternative’ to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush won't wash and the former Massachusetts governor’s time has passed…‘Look, I like Governor Romney, I like him personally, I think he is a good person, I think he was a great businessman,’ Paul said. ‘But you know that’s yesterday’s news.’ ‘He’s tried twice - I don’t really think that there is a third time out there,’ the Kentucky lawmaker said. ‘I think he did a lot of things right, but in the end you got to have a bigger constituency, you got to get new people, you got to attract new people to win and I think it’s time that probably the party is going to be looking for something fresh and new.’”

To Nevada this week - KNPR: “Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is scheduled to visit Nevada this week as he gears up for a possible presidential bid in 2016. The Republican lawmaker is planning to visit Las Vegas on Friday evening and Saturday morning, although campaign staffers haven't provided his itinerary for that stop.”

Picks campaign manager - WaPo: “Sen. Rand Paul on Tuesday announced the hiring of a campaign manager for his likely 2016 presidential bid, part of an aggressive effort to build a national political team as the race for the White House heats up. The hiring of strategist Chip Englander, who recently guided a gubernatorial candidate to victory in Illinois, marks a clear step forward for the Kentucky Republican as he prepares to transform his cadre of loyalists into a full-scale campaign.”

WaPo: “‘Regardless of what Mitt Romney does, I don’t know how excited anybody could be with Jeb Bush’s candidacy,’ said [Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah], the chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. ‘I’ll support the nominee, and if Bush gets the nomination I’ll support him. But I want to win the White House and I don’t like the idea of another Bush-Clinton race. Been there, done that.’”

[In a Gravis/Townhall poll, Mitt Romney leads in Iowa with 21 percent, former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., follows at 14 percent.]

Jeb sets March speech in Ohio - Columbus [Ohio] Dispatch: “Former Florida Gov. and possible 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush will be the keynote speaker at the Ohio Chamber of Commerce's 2015 annual meeting…

David Drucker
reports: “Perhaps no one is smiling more about Mitt Romney’s entrance into the presidential sweepstakes than Gov. Scott Walker [R-Wis.]. The Wisconsin Republican plans to enter the 2016 contest by mid summer, and Team Walker calculates that a competition between Romney and Jeb Bush for cash and endorsements slows the former Florida governor’s momentum, providing Walker with more room to maneuver. Walker’s supporters also believe that he holds a key advantage over other Republican candidates, particularly the governors.”

“What I need to decide and it’s the last decision I need to make is at this time in my life and at this time in my career where is the best place for me to achieve it. Is it in the Republican majority in the Senate or running for president and if I decide it’s running for president, then that’s what I'll do…We need to do it soon enough so we can mount a credible campaign and so we’re getting close.” --Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on “The Kelly File” Watch here.

In Alabama to pitch school choice plan - Yellowhammer News: “U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio [R-Fla.] is coming to Birmingham [today] in support of Alabama Republicans’ efforts to implement more school choice reforms during the upcoming legislative session. Rubio is scheduled to speak to the Birmingham Rotary Club and his remarks will focus on the school choice successes in his home state of Florida, as well as the broader impact it has on public education and the American economy.”

The Charleston [S.C.] Post and Courier: “Presidential contender and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will take part in Gov. Nikki Haley’s inauguration today…Christie will also take part in a private meet-and-greet tied to his potential run for president, to be held in the office of Columbia attorney Leighton Lord of the firm Nexsen Pruet…Lord said he was inviting a number of people interested in meeting Christie ahead of a possible run for the White House.”

WaPo: “Hillary Rodham Clinton is building out the senior leadership team for her likely 2016 presidential campaign, enlisting Joel Benenson as her chief strategist and pollster and Jim Margolis as her media adviser, Democrats familiar with the moves said Tuesday…Benenson, who is based in New York, served as the lead pollster on [President Obama’s] campaigns, but is poised to take on a broader portfolio for Clinton as her chief strategist, the role David Axelrod played for Obama…Margolis is a longtime political adviser to Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid [D-Nev.] and has worked on the campaigns of many Senate Democrats.”

Podesta timeline - WSJ:“John Podesta, a top White House adviser, will take on a senior advisory role in Hillary Clinton’s emerging presidential bid after he leaves the administration in February, three people familiar with the matter said. The move is one of the most definitive signs yet that Mrs. Clinton is building the apparatus to launch a 2016 campaign.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., gave what may have been her most categorical rejection of a 2016 run in an interview with former FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair for Fortune. Warren, who has previously favored a present-tense evasion, saying she is “not running” for president, was direct with her former colleague. Blair asked, “So are you going to run for President?” Warren offered a one-word answer: “No.”

But draft effort kicks into higher gear - AP: “[Liberal] activists hoping to draft Sen. Elizabeth Warren [D-Mass.] into the 2016 presidential race will hold their first meeting in the key early-voting state of New Hampshire on Saturday. Members of and Democracy for America are starting their ‘Run, Warren, Run’ New Hampshire effort with a meeting in Manchester.”

Nebraska’s freshman Republican Sen. Ben Sasse came to the senate with a unique resume on the number one issue for many in his party: A way to replace ObamaCare. Sasse, a former top Bush administration health insurance official, tells Power Play host Chris Stirewalt about the plan to replace the law and how Washington can restore enough trust with voters to tackle the topic. WATCH HERE.

The Hill: “Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer said Tuesday that he is close to deciding on whether to run for Senate in 2016. Steyer did not say whether he would run for the seat Sen. Barbara Boxer [D-Calif.] is leaving, nor which way he is leaning. ‘Holding office is a sacred trust in our society, and I am honored that so many colleagues and friends have encouraged me to consider entering this race,’ Steyer wrote Tuesday in the Huffington Post. ‘California Democrats are blessed to have a deep bench of talent, and I will decide soon based on what I think is the best way to continue the hard work we have already started together to prevent climate disaster and preserve American prosperity.’  Shortly after Boxer announced her intention to retire from the Senate in two years, a close ally of Steyer said he was considering running, and was reaching out to fellow Democrats in an effort to gauge their interest.”

Reuters reports that frugal Swiss residents will have to look for other ways to keep their cheap pizza delivery. The strong Swiss franc has residents crossing the border into Germany and France looking for deals. Swiss customs officials removed an exception that allowed food delivery including pizza to cross the border without having to pass through customs. That rule previously prompted businesses to offer deals targeted at the Swiss customers. The Chamber of Industry and Commerce of Hochrhein-Bodensee, a region of Germany that shares a Swiss border, had been lobbying for the exception to be reinstated for pizza deliveries. Officials have ruled against granting such waiver for now. “IHK Hochrhein-Bodensee is disappointed with this information and will, in the interests of our member companies, continue to work to find a solution,” the industry body’s Chief Executive Uwe Boehm said.

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.