Fox News First

Bigotry a better issue for Obama than ISIS

Republicans outraged when Obama calls their criticism of his Syrian refugee plan a 'potent recruitment tool' for ISIS. 'On the Record' investigates


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Buzz Cut:
• Bigotry a better issue for Obama than ISIS
• Hillary plots hawkish path, but fears Dem base
• New Hampshire is Trump territory
• Take Five: Wisconsin not so simple for Dems
• Sure they were ‘destroyed’… with some chile sauce

You have to give it to the White House.

The dominant national political discussion less than a week after an audacious, successful raid on an allied capital by an enemy pronounced “contained” by President Obama hours beforehand  centers on Republicans defending themselves against charges of bigotry.

In terms of message control, this is like kicking a 55-yard field goal in a snowstorm… while being attacked by a rabid marmot.

In the face of mounting evidence that the president’s “containment” strategy is failing as ISIS escalates its efforts to strike at the West, he sounded annoyed – even bored – when he was discussing the new, virulent phase of the enemy’s battle plan.

But Obama lashed out at Republicans who called for a freeze in migration from its territories. This was not only bigoted the president said, but actually helped the enemy by providing a “recruitment tool.”

Some Republicans sputtered, amazed that the guy whose refusal to enforce his own “red line” and obvious initial misapprehension of the threat from ISIS were so glaring.

Others embraced the xenophobe label (and the attention) promising not just to block new refugees from coming for now, but to make the ban permanent and root out the ones already here. Just another day on the job for the “deportation force.”

Both sides in the GOP fight would argue that Obama “doesn’t get it” and misunderstands the way the world works. Maybe so, or maybe not, but he sure knows how to work the press and to get Republicans to start ripping each other apart.

In 2015 America, accusations of bigotry wail like air-raid sirens. Duck and cover, because the shockwave is heading your way. Obama knows that if he can frame the battle as between himself and Donald Trump, the president might be able to turn public opinion, which is sharply against him now. But even if Obama fails to convince the public, he may buy the time that he desperately needs.

Obama may be right that in the long run, the Islamic State will not achieve its aim of reestablishing a Muslim caliphate to rule from Cordoba to Kazakhstan.  But even if the “arc of history” bends away from the Umayyads, it may bend toward deepening chaos and more attacks in the West, including here. It’s certainly starting to feel that way.

As Walter Russell Mead observes, this is just getting started: “The Syria war has not finished creating refugees, undermining regional and even global security, putting WMD in terrorist hands, or spreading the poisons of radicalism and sectarian war across the Middle East and among vulnerable Muslims in Europe and beyond. Things can and will get worse as long as American policy continues to flounder; instead of arguing about how to shelter a few thousand refugees we need to look hard at how we are failing to address the disaster that has created millions, and that continues to grow.”

That is the very conversation the president has successfully avoided by playing into the media’s obsession with bigotry. If the political press views the ongoing catastrophe in Iraq and Syria through the same lens as campus protests over hypothetical Halloween costumes, that’s very good for Obama.

WSJ: “Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner for president, is laying out her strategy for defeating Islamic State and dismantling the growing terrorist infrastructure in a speech Thursday aimed at better defining her approach to what has become an acute foreign-policy challenge. Her speech, at the Council on Foreign Relations less than a week after a deadly, devastating attack in Paris, will lay out ‘her strategy for countering ISIS and for the longer-term struggle to combat radical jihadism across the globe,’ a Clinton aide said, previewing her remarks. Ahead of the speech, the aide offered no detail on how she would go about this other than to name her ‘overarching objectives.’ He said she aims to defeat ISIS in Syria, Iraq and across the region; to ‘disrupt and dismantle the growing terrorist infrastructure’ that facilitates the flow of fighters, money, arms and propaganda; and harden defenses in the U.S. and allied countries against both external and homegrown threats.”

If you have been impoverished by a birth too recent or an education too faddish to know the value of rote learning, you might never been forced to memorize the Gettysburg Address, delivered on this date in 1863. You might have instead had a computer game in which you imagined how Americans of different stations and views would have felt about the speech or made a diorama with a pipe-cleaner Abe Lincoln on a popsicle-stick stage or fashioned a stovepipe hat out of recyclables. If that’s so, you were ripped off. Everyone ought to know the speech that is the best, briefest encapsulation of the American idea of freedom conceived by the Founders and bought with the lives of more than 1.3 million troops at war. The good news is that it is easily remedied. At 278-words, even the most screen-addled ought to be able to learn it.

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Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval:
Approve – 44.4 percent//Disapprove – 51 percent
Directions of Country: Right Direction – 28.6 percent//Wrong Track – 64.1 percent

The latest Fox News poll in New Hampshire has troubling news for the GOP’s old guard. Despite weakening with the Republican base in states that look more like the national party as a whole, especially among Christians, Donald Trump is so far rock-ribbed in places where the party establishment usually managed to turn back insurgencies. But Trump, who draws support from lower-income white Democrats and liberal independents attracted by his tough talk on trade and immigration, has an advantage. Rather than a Southern, evangelical conservative trying to stage a raid in the less-religious, more moderate Northeast, the insurgent is from the region and shares many of its voters’ values. These are his people. That might add up to a Trump nomination, but more likely it will be the smothering of the old guard and the opening of the way for insurgents like Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio that would have been frozen out up north in cycles past.

Challengers riding the top of the ticket to victory is a big factor for Democrats looking to pick up five Republican held seats to retake control of the Senate. Not so fast in Wisconsin says Steven Law, CEO of super PAC American Crossroads, who shares his take five picks in the latest episode of “Power Play with Chris Stirewalt.” WATCH HERE.

Your picks - The current tally of Fox News First reader votes on the top five battlegrounds for control of the Senate: 1) Illinois; 2) Wisconsin; 3) Pennsylvania; 4) Ohio; 5) Florida.

Hassan hit for waffling on Syrian refugees -  NH1: “Governor [and Dem Senate candidate] Maggie Hassan, under fire from the left and right for her stance against Syrian refugees sound[ed] a different tone [Tuesday]. Hassan says restrictions on admitting Syrians here should be temporary.  ‘I am asking for a pause while the federal government reassesses and double checks its vetting systems,’ the two-term Democrat says… ‘We are deeply saddened by the governor’s decision to try to link the refugees fleeing Syria to the attacks in Paris,’ says Devon Chaffee, executive director of the state’s Civil Liberties Union. And the two declared Democratic candidates for governor disagree with her…Sen. Kelly Ayotte says Hassan merely parroted what she said on the issue. ‘You’ll have to ask her what her motives are,’ Ayotte says.”

Toomey pens Obama on refugees - WHTM: “US Senator Pat Toomey tweeted pictures today, showing the Pennsylvania Republican personally signing a letter to President Obama. The letter seeks the suspension of the program that allows thousands of Syrian refugees to enter the Unites States. Several Democrats vying to challenge Toomey in next year’s general election also offered comments on the reigning international issue since last week’s deadly terror attacks in Paris….“We have a very tough vetting process,” insists [Democratic candidate] Joe Sestak. “In fact, we have a classified extra one that involves numerous agencies, Defense, State, Homeland Defense, the FBI, that vet and screen. We can do this.”

Dem highlights split on guns in Ohio - “PG Sittenfeld, trailing in the polls and in fundraising, on Tuesday portrayed himself as the one candidate in the U.S. Senate race willing to take on the gun lobby and push for gun reforms he says most Americans want. Sittenfeld, who on some issues shares views similar to former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, intends to ride this issue as one that offers voters a choice in the March primary between the two Democrats vying to challenge Republican Sen. Rob Portman. ‘When it comes to guns, Sen. Portman and Gov. Strickland are just different sides of the same coin. They've both earned 'A' ratings from the NRA by doing exactly what they're told to do,’ Sittenfeld said at a news conference.”

Share your wisdom - Which races do you think are prime turf in the battle for control of the Senate? We’d like to offer up your analysis here in Fox News First.

Send us your top five picks. Email them – just five, please – to FOXNEWSFIRST@FOXNEWS.COM or tweet @ChrisStirewalt.

AP: “The contraband was carefully wrapped in corn husks and concealed in the luggage of a traveler when authorities moved in for a tamale takedown at Los Angeles International Airport. The search by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents turned up 450 pork tamales individually packaged in plastic bags. ‘Although tamales are a popular holiday tradition, foreign meat products can carry serious animal diseases,’ said Anne Maricich, CBP acting director of field operations in Los Angeles. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Wednesday the customs form filed by the traveler from Mexico acknowledged the person was carrying food but had lied when asked if there was any meat. Tamales contain cornmeal, meat or other fillings cooked in husks or leaves. The tamales seized Nov. 2 at the airport were destroyed under CBP supervision.”

Chris Stirewalt is the 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.