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Baier Tracks: Obama’s war with words

Leland Vittert reports from Washington


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Buzz Cut:
•             Baier Tracks: Obama’s war with words
•             Hanky Banky: Swiss bank leak shows tax-dodging Clinton donors
•             Jeb continues his slide away from Common Core
•             Walker stakes his claim in Iowa
•             Come for the backbreaking work, stay for the lousy weather

“For a president and his administration, words matter. His tone and tenor matter. His emphasis matters. That is why there is such an uproar over President Obama’s recent statements about Islamist militants and the threat of terrorism. It’s been quite a rhetorical run of late. There were the president’s comments to Vox about a terrorist ‘randomly shooting folks in a deli in Paris,’ which spurred a day-long rhetorical dance at the White House and State Department. Prior to that, there was the president’s comparison at the National Prayer Breakfast of the acts of ISIS to the conduct of the Crusades of a thousand years ago. And throughout it all, there has also been the administration’s repeated use of the euphemism ‘violent extremists’ when talking about Islamist terrorists and militants.

In the president’s interview with Buzzfeed this week, he was asked about ISIS and Vladimir Putin and other world threats. But here was interviewer Ben Smith’s take: ‘Obama saved his sharpest words Tuesday for American companies who have not entirely embraced the spirit of the Affordable Care Act, his health care overhaul.’ Is it possible that the president used his ‘sharpest words’ to discuss American companies? This all comes as supporters of the president’s request for congressional authorization to continue the war against ISIS are asking the president to make a forceful case for his policy. But recent statements suggest the president does not like to talk about war if he doesn’t have to. For the authorization to get the votes needed, he may have to.” –Bret Baier 

[Watch Fox: Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, appears on "Special Report with Bret Baier" in the 6 p.m. ET hour.]

Obama looks to get GOP on hook for ISIS strategy - Fox News has details on President Obama’s Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), which sounds like it will seek to be all things to all lawmakers. The three-page resolution, sent to Capitol Hill this morning, “bans ‘enduring offensive combat operations’” as a nod to Republicans who blanched at language in an earlier draft that forbade any ground troops at all. But by deploying the modifier “enduring,” the White House pretty clearly is sending a message to Democrats that he has no intention of mounting an all-out war effort. The truth, of course, is that the language is largely meaningless. As this president and his predecessors have demonstrated, all such definitions are fungible. And since Obama has already promised that the war would last well past his time in office, Congress will have even less certainty about how the war will proceed.  

“What the president needs to come up with is a strategy, militarily, to defeat them… We need to authorize the use of force sufficient to defeat them, to destroy them.” –Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on “The Kelly File.” Watch here.

[Watch Fox: President Obama delivers a statement on the AUMF at 3:30pm ET]

So why now? - There’s no thought that the president would end or alter his war strategy if Congress doesn’t approve his request or one like it. But by making this demand, the president can politically inculpate Republicans in Congress for his much-criticized strategy of a low-and-slow effort to deal with Islamists in Syria and Iraq, a strategy in keeping with his newly outlined doctrine of “strategic patience.” Since many Democrats can be expected to balk and Democratic leaders have little incentive to prod their members, it will fall disproportionately to Republican leaders to scrounge up the votes to pass it.

[Watch Fox: Chief Congressional correspondent Mike Emanuel reports on the latest from the discussions]

20,000 Islamist fighters flock to aid ISIS - AP: “Foreign fighters are streaming into Syria and Iraq in unprecedented numbers to join the Islamic State or other extremist groups, including at least 3,400 from Western nations among 20,000 from around the world, U.S. intelligence officials say in an updated estimate of a top terrorism concern. Intelligence agencies now believe that as many as 150 Americans have tried and some have succeeded in reaching in the Syrian war zone, officials told the House Homeland Security Committee in testimony prepared for delivery [today]. Some of those Americans were arrested en route, some died in the area and a small number are still fighting with extremists.”

Administration tries, fails to defend calling attack on Kosher deli “random” - In his interview with Vox released Monday, President Obama said the attackers in last month’s Paris kosher deli killings “randomly [shot] a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.” In Tuesday’s White House briefing, reporters tried to get some clarification from Press Secretary Josh Earnest. Earnest doggedly stood by the president’s claim saying that “there were people other than just Jews who were in that deli” even though it was four Jews who were taken hostage and killed by an Islamist terrorist. After Earnest finished his odd efforts, it was State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki’s turn, “I believe if I remember the victims specifically, they were not all victims of one background or one nationality.” Later in the day, however, both Earnest and Psaki took to Twitter to say exactly the opposite of what they had been defiantly insisting to reporters hours earlier.

Josh Earnest @PressSec “Our view has not changed. Terror attack at Paris Kosher market was motivated by anti-Semitism. POTUS didn't intend to suggest otherwise.”

Jen Psaki ‏@statedeptspox “We have always been clear that the attack on the kosher grocery store was an anti-semitic attack that took the lives of innocent people.”

WON’T BACK DOWN: BIBI DEFIES DEMS TO GIVE SPEECH IN CONGRESS“This is not a personal disagreement between President Obama and me. I deeply appreciate all that he has done for Israel in many fields. Equally, I know that the President appreciates my responsibility, my foremost responsibility, to protect and defend the security of Israel. I am going to the United States not because I seek a confrontation with the President, but because I must fulfil my obligation to speak up on a matter that affects the very survival of my country. I intend to speak about this issue before the March 24th deadline and I intend to speak in the US Congress because Congress might have an important role on a nuclear deal with Iran.” --Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Statement

National Journal: “The Federal Communications Commission is misleading the public about its 332-page plan to regulate the Internet, a Republican member of the commission said Tuesday.  The net-neutrality plan could in fact open the door to new fees and taxes, as well as government control over the prices that Internet providers charge their customers, Commissioner Ajit Pai told reporters. The claims echo attacks from Republicans on Capitol Hill, who are also scrambling to thwart the new regulations. Committees in the House and Senate have launched investigations into whether President Obama inappropriately influenced the FCC's decision, and Republican lawmakers are working on their own alternative net-neutrality legislation to override FCC action.  FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who unveiled his plan last week, has denied that it would impose new fees or regulate prices. But it's difficult to determine who is right, because the commission won't release the actual text of the regulations until after it approves them on Feb. 26.”

[Watch Fox: Correspondent Shannon Bream has the latest on the internet regulation plans.]

Today the Government Accountability Office is slated to list the Department of Veterans’ Affairs health network among high-risk federal programs according to congressional auditors for the first time. The audit is issued every two years and includes broad indictments of the $55.5 billion VA program. The Concerned Veterans of America has added Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., to the speakers’ list for their February 26 event Fixing Veterans Health Care Taskforce Summit where they will work toward improving delivery of care to our nation’s veterans.

Dessert may expand your bottom line but it does no favors for the restaurant’s bottom line. As WaPo reports the slices of cake and cups of ice cream tend to come at the establishment’s expense. “It's hard to make money on desserts in the restaurant business today,” said Tyler Cowen, an economics professor at George Mason University who has written extensively about the economics of eating out. “I don't think many [restaurants] benefit when people order them anymore.” Restaurants traditionally operate on thin profit margins relying heavily on mark-ups to drinks, not food. Desserts provide the thinnest of margins. With food costs soaring, diners’ wallets only stretch so far as Todd Kliman noted recently in the Washingtonian the limit tends to be $30 for entrees not matter what the ingredients. In an industry where time is literally money, adding dessert to the dining experience extends customers’ time at the tables thus allowing fewer parties to dine. “The more people they serve, the more revenue they get,” Cowen said. “A lot of restaurant costs are fixed. Being able to serve more people, to sell them food, drinks, and especially expensive wine, is what varies.”

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Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 45.8 percent//Disapprove – 49.7 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 35.3 percent//Wrong Track – 56.4 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 budget and economy and terrorism.]

The Guardian: “The charitable foundation run by Hillary Clinton and her family has received as much as $81m from wealthy international donors who were clients of HSBC’s controversial Swiss bank. Leaked files from HSBC’s Swiss banking division reveal the identities of seven donors to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation with accounts in Geneva. They include Frank Giustra, a Canadian mining magnate and one of the foundation’s biggest financial backers, and Richard Caring, the British retail magnate who, the bank’s internal records show, used his tax-free Geneva account to transfer $1m into the New York-based foundation. Hillary Clinton has expressed concern over growing economic inequality in the US and is expected to make the issue a cornerstone of her widely anticipated presidential campaign in 2016.”

“The new allegations that HSBC colluded to help wealthy people and rich corporations hide money and avoid taxes are very serious. If true, the Justice Department should reconsider the earlier deferred prosecution agreement it entered into with HSBC and prosecute the new violations to the full extent of the law.” –Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., in the Financial Times

Power Play: Dysfunction junction - The molten core of ego and infighting at the center of Planet Hillary erupted this week as consultants and advisors fight for control of the $2 billion endeavor. Chris Stirewalt gives you the new terrain map in just 60 seconds. WATCH HERE.

Money man jumps from foundation to campaign -  NYT: “Dennis Cheng, a trusted aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton, will leave his post at the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation this week and is expected to join Mrs. Clinton’s campaign preparation efforts as a fund-raiser…During his three and a half years at the Clinton Foundation, Mr. Cheng helped the philanthropic group tap into a vast donor base to build up a $246 million endowment in 18 months, according to a Clinton Foundation email announcing his departure.”

Hillary fundraising off to slow start - WaPo: “Hillary Rodham Clinton’s decision to delay an announcement about her presidential ambitions until as late as July has stymied efforts of a major allied super PAC to come out of the gate early with a slew of big-money commitments. Priorities USA Action, which has positioned itself as the main advertising vehicle to back a Clinton candidacy,  had hoped to line up dozens of seven-figure pledges before April as a show of strength but has secured only about 10, according to people familiar with the situation. One factor that has contributed to the reluctance: Many wealthy political givers on the left have written large checks to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, part a drive to raise money for the nonprofit organization before a likely Clinton presidential run…Priorities’ slow progress has prompted internal conversations about whether the group will recalibrate what it can expect to raise this cycle, a sum that people close to the operation originally expected to be around $300 million.”

Fed election board in disarray - Fox News: “Democrats on the federal agency responsible for enforcing campaign finance law are being accused of taking a partisan turn, by voting to give liberal-leaning groups and campaigns a pass for alleged violations -- though the agency was tough on conservatives when they were under the microscope. The claims come as the Federal Election Commission prepares for a hearing on Wednesday that will examine, among other matters, the hot-button issue of whether it should regulate election-themed Internet videos -- an area that for years has been largely hands-off for the government.”

Time: “Appearing [Tuesday] at an education summit in his home state, [former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush] avoided using the phrase [Common Core] in a 44-minute question-and-answer session… ‘I am for higher standards,’ Bush said, declining to utter the politically charged phrase himself, but dispelling some of the more outlandish misconceptions about the program. ‘I am for creating real restrictions on the federal government’s role in this so you can alleviate people’s fears that you’re going to have some kind of control by the federal government of content, of curriculum, or even standards. I’m against all that.’ ‘I’m against the federal government being involved in demanding that assessments are done in a certain way,’ he added.”

Start of the slide - “In my view, the rigor of Common Core state standards must be the new minimum in classrooms. For those states choosing a path other than Common Core, I say this: Aim even higher, be bolder, raise standards and ask more of our students and the system.” Jeb Bush in a November 2014 education policy address in Washington.

Major moolah - Politico: “Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will raise money on Wall Street on Wednesday at an eye-popping $100,000 per-ticket Park Avenue event hosted by private equity mogul Henry Kravis and his wife.

Kissinger’s pick? -  The New York Observer: “[B]ut it’s an event scheduled to take place this Thursday afternoon, February 12th, that might send the clearest signal yet of Jeb Bush’s dominance of the Republican establishment. According to two sources, including one inside the Bush organization, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger will be the star attraction at a lunch hosted by Right to Rise at which Mr. Bush will also appear.”

Comedy leads to errors - USA Today: “Jeb Bush’s chief technology officer said Tuesday night he resigned from his post, a day after he removed tweets from his personal account that the likely presidential candidate considered to be ‘inappropriate.’ Ethan Czahor announced his resignation from Bush’s political committee following an uproar about tweets dating back to at least 2009 that referenced women as sluts and made other derogatory comments about them.”

Des Moines Register: “Scott Walker, the Republican who leads the presidential pack in Iowa polling, is the first of the 2016 White House aspirants to open an office here. A political organization created by Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, has leased the space at 2775 86th St. in Urbandale, an office with a storied Republican political history. The strip-mall storefront, located behind a Panera Bread cafe, has been occupied over the years by campaigns for Terry Branstad for governor, Tom Latham for Congress, Bill Northey for agriculture secretary and other Iowa races as part of GOP Victory efforts. In 2012, it headquartered Michele Bachmann's team for the Iowa caucuses and Mitt Romney's general election campaign. It was John McCain and Sarah Palin's Midwest regional campaign headquarters in 2008. Walker's Our American Revival 527 organization has claimed it for 2016.”

Scott’s surge - WaPo examines Gov. Scott Walker’s [R-Wis.] recent surge in popularity following the Iowa Freedom Summit in two charts.

Perry back to New Hampshire - Houston Chronicle:Rick Perry is taking his post-gubernatorial road show to New Hampshire for a two-day swing through the state well-known as a presidential proving ground…He is scheduled to attend a business roundtable [today] at a marketing agency in Bedford, a social hour and dinner hosted by the Seacoast Republican Women later Wednesday in Greenland and the Strafford County Republican Committee's Lincoln Day Dinner on Thursday night in Dover.”

Christie to speak at Iowa ethanol rally - [New Jersey] Star-Ledger: “Gov. Chris Christie … [will] attend next month's Iowa Agriculture Summit, an event showcasing 2016 presidential hopefuls presented by Republican campaign donor and multimillionaire pork and ethanol mogul Bruce Rastetter…. On March 7, Christie will take the stage at the Iowa Fair Grounds in Des Moines and be interviewed for 20 minutes by Rasetter.”

Go ahead and Gitcho self to Jindal’s campaign - The woman once widely expected to helm the communications effort for Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential campaign will instead work on the campaign of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Gail Gitcho, the communications director for Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, served under Christie during his tenure as chairman of the Republican Governors Association last year.

The Republican National Committee holds its third-annual 3rd annual Trailblazers Award ceremony today. From the release: “The 2015 honorees include a trailblazer whose death we recently mourned, Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts and present day history makers Sen. Tim Scott, first black Senator elected from the South since Reconstruction; U.S. Representative Mia Love, the first African-American female Republican to serve in Congress; and U. S. Representative Will Hurd, the first black Republican elected to Congress from Texas.”

Japan Today reports that a record 305 teams competed in the 15th edition of the national hole-digging championships, an event designed to boost tourism in Narita during the winter months. This year’s winner was a team from Saitama who took home the grand prize of about $835 in cash and a golden shovel after reaching depths of more than 11 feet in the allotted 30 minute time frame. The wooden spoon prize went to the “Red Lantern” team who managed to reach a depth of 1 centimeter. Official Ai Okazaki said, “That was probably because some teams were more interested in art than digging. And other teams had kids with them who were just playing in the dirt.” The prizes for best costume which went to “Team Salmon,” a team of 6 women dressed in fish-shaped headgear. The team from Hokkaido took home the “humor prize” for sculpting a giant creepy hand emerging from their hole. Officials now face the task of refilling the holes, Okazaki said, “It takes about a week for our staff to gradually refill the holes.”

“They spent the whole day pretending [the Paris attack] wasn't [anti-Semitic], which made them look silly…President [Francois Hollande] of France said that it was an egregious anti-Semitic act. What does it take? And why did they spend a whole day with this ridiculous pretense that it wasn't? Because, otherwise, it would have meant admitting that the president is not infallible and that he left out an adjective and he should have said kosher deli. That's all it took.” —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 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.