Can Obama let Baghdad fall?

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Buzz Cut:
• Can Obama let Baghdad fall?
• Clinton coyly conditional on Iraq
• Power Play: Rocky rollout for Hillary
• Cochran on Cantor: ‘I haven’t really followed that’
• Fermisht and fertummelt

As Americans flee Iraq ahead of an advancing column of Islamist soldiers hell-bent on toppling the U.S. backed government in Baghdad, the likelihood of American military involvement is growing. Though the Obama administration, not usually a stickler on legal constraints of the executive branch, is claiming legal obstacles, it seems hard to imagine that any American president would allow Baghdad to fall to a group as despicable as the ISIS, militants so vile that even al Qaeda won’t claim them as their own. More than 4,000 Americans were killed liberating and then pacifying Iraq, at a cost of an estimated $1.7 trillion. Plus, failing to stop the worst of the worst now may mean a third invasion of Iraq at a later date. (Read Dexter Filkins’ concisely excellent explainer to get the picture.) But for a president who has factored domestic politics more heavily into foreign affairs than perhaps any in history, nothing is ever straightforward. After all, no one thought that Obama would flinch on Syria after promising attacks amid a genocidal onslaught, especially with lots of liberal support. But he did.

[New Gallup poll shows that 51 percent of Americans do not think President Obama “is honest and trustworthy.”]

Negative calculations - Remember that in the last midterm cycle, Iraq was a selling point for Democrats –even more so in 2012. Taking ownership of foreign intervention would deny Democrats one of their few remaining strong points with base voters. If they could find a cutout or proxy to do the work, as they did in Libya, maybe. But U.S. bombs falling in Iraq again? That’s no winner in the Obama coalition. But that calculation is immaterial if mainstream voters revolt. Sure, moderate voters would recoil at the thought of U.S. boots on the ground, but beheadings in the Green Zone would be intolerable. And the thought of Islamist radicals having an oil-rich haven from which to launch new strikes against the U.S. and our allies, would be even less acceptable.

[President Obama is scheduled to be in California this weekend, including some serious buckraking with the Hollywood elite. The president and first lady will reportedly be spending most of the rest of the weekend at the desert golf haven of Palm Springs, Calif.]

Shadows from Taliban prisoner swap - The political backdrop for this horrifying moment comes as the Obama administration is fighting a losing spin battle to defend the president’s decision to release five Taliban commanders as part of his plan to leave Afghanistan. News that the head of the black-flagged battalions of Islamist forces driving on Baghdad was once a U.S. prisoner, released from captivity in 2009, does not cast the Taliban release in a very favorable light. This weekend’s talk shows will be full of stern warnings that the Taliban five pose a similar risk in Afghanistan.

[Fox News Sunday - Host Chris Wallace welcomes Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., the House Intelligence Committee Chairman, about the developing situation in Iraq and Al Qaeda strength in the Middle East. “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” airs at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET on Fox News. Check local listings for air times in your area.]

President Obama’s administration continues to reinforce claims that the five Taliban leaders freed from the prison at Guantanamo Bay pose no threat to the U.S. But new revelations in The Weeekly Standard tie one of the five to a key player in the 9/11 attacks. This development is a game changer in knowing how dangerous these five really are, especially after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said to NBC News last week, ‘These five guys are not a threat to the United States. They are a threat to the safety and security of Afghanistan and Pakistan.’” Bret Baier.

Democratic 2016 frontrunner Hillary Clinton, ever mindful of the dangers posed by her party’s dovish base, said the President Obama should withhold military support for Iraq until Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki has shown he’ll be more “inclusive.” The former secretary of state’s advice came after President Obama said he was looking at “all options” in Iraq. In an interview with BBC Newsnight, Clinton said that before the U.S. provides military backing “Maliki has to be willing to demonstrate unequivocally that he is a leader for all Iraqis, not for a sectarian slice of the country,” adding, “The army, which has not been able to hold territory, has to have an injection of discipline and professionalism, something the U.S. has been trying to help with.” With billions already spent to train and equip Iraq’s military, the White House is promoting a counterterrorism fund to stave off Islamist militants threatening Baghdad. Clinton, who voted for the Iraq war, a decision that cost her in her 2008 bid for the presidency and which she now says she regrets, is no doubt weighing the political calculus of the prospect of U.S. military re-engagement in the country.

Open to keeping troops in Afghanistan - Distancing herself from her former boss, Clinton disagrees with the president’s plan to pull all U.S. forces from Afghanistan two years from now. The Hill: “[O]n Thursday said she would be open to keeping U.S. military forces in Afghanistan past 2016, President Obama’s deadline for withdrawal. At an event at the Council on Foreign Relations, the think tank’s president Richard Haass asked Clinton whether she would be open to keeping a residual force after 2016. ‘I would. It depends upon conditions on the ground,” said Clinton.’”

[Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has campaign events today in Washington, including a stop at George Washington University.]

Hillary: Russia ‘reset’ was a ‘brilliant stroke’ - The Clinton watchers at conservative group America Rising grabbed an amazing soundbite from the Democratic frontrunner’s BBC interview: Asked about whether she was “embarrassed” by her presentation of a “reset button” to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in light of Russia’s increasingly belligerent posture. Her answer: “No, I think it was a brilliant stroke which in retrospect it appears even more so, because look at what we accomplished. Between the Russian invasion of Georgia in August 2008, which of course torpedoed relations between United States and the Russia for good reason. We come into office, and for that period of time, the interregnum if you will, Medvedev is President, Putin is Prime Minister, and there were jobs that we wanted to get done. We wanted to get Russia on board with tough sanctions against Iran. We wanted to have a new START Treaty to limit nuclear weapons. We wanted to get their help in transiting across through huge country to get things we needed into Afghanistan. We got all that done. Putin comes back. Look where we are now. He invaded another country, so yes, but while we had that moment, we seized it, we used it, and succeeded.”

And that’s how she talks to her friends - NPR’s Terry Gross seemed to be offering 2016 Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton a lifeline on how to explain her and her husband’s dramatic about face on the issue of same-sex marriage, going from advocating the law that forbade it to championing the expansion of gay rights. Gross suggested that Clinton had never really opposed the practice but was constrained by political realities. Well, you can lead a frontrunner to water, but you can’t make her drink. Clinton got cross and scolded Gross, hardly a hostile interviewer, for “playing with her words.” The strained laughter of the two women makes for cringe-inducing listening. Clinton was insistent that her public statements always matched her private feelings, and seemed offended that Gross suggested any calculation. Gross eventually abandoned her effort to suggest that Clinton was secretly ahead of her time on the subject.

Now that’s more like it – When it came to questioning Clinton, Dan Doctoroff, the head of news giant Bloomberg, took no chances of offense. Doctoroff was hosting Clinton at a luncheon to celebrate her commitment to environmental causes. His questioning, says NYPost, was more to Clinton’s liking: “The biggest question presumptive presidential candidate Hillary Clinton faced at the World Resources Institute’s Courage to Lead luncheon was whether her pregnant daughter Chelsea Clinton is ‘having a boy or a girl.’”

Bubba headlines in a battleground state - AP: “Former President Bill Clinton is headlining an Ohio Democratic Party event to help raise money in one of the nation’s top presidential battleground states. He’s scheduled to speak [today] at the party’s annual state dinner in Columbus. Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern says about 2,350 people plan to attend the dinner, the political organization’s largest fundraising event. Bill Clinton carried Ohio in both of his presidential elections. Hillary Clinton won the state’s Democratic primary in 2008 over eventual nominee, President Barack Obama.

Christie the gambler - On “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” Fallon asked New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie if hypothetically both Hillary and he run for president, if Christie would beat her. Christie responds, “Hypothetically? You bet.”

How’s the Clinton campaign rollout going? Democratic strategist Penny Lee of Venn Strategies and Republican strategist Lauren Zelt of FP1 Strategies join Power Play host Chris Stirewalt to breakdown the kickoff of this phase of Hillary Clinton’s White House push. Will early slip-ups get in the way of her 2016 effort or is the inevitability train back on track?  Watch the discussion of the rollout here and check out Part II on the anticipated GOP response here.

No guarantees in life - Like another candidate with close ties to Wall Street and who campaigned from within a thick bubble of handlers and security, Hillary Clinton isn’t as inevitable as polls would suggest. Lauren Zelt, writing in The Hill: “Rather than focus on the inner workings of the upcoming election for a new majority leader … or the endless debate about the ideological makeup of the political right, we would do ourselves a big favor to focus on this one true fact - no candidate is inevitable.”

[#mediabuzz Host Howard Kurtz focuses on the media misfire on House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s loss with guests including Brit Hume and Laura Ingraham who had a memorable moment on “The Kelly File” on election night.]

Maybe you should have stayed in bed. Not only is it Friday the 13th with a full moon on the rise, but today a there is a Solar Storm Heading Toward Earth: “…[T]wo new sunspots … are turning toward Earth now, and they are showing signs of possessing unstable magnetic fields. That means they may erupt with flares at any moment. This onslaught of solar tempests was not unexpected, since the sun is currently at the peak of its 11-year cycle in activity.” At least if the office calls, you’ll be able to blame sunspots for not answering the phone.

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

Real Clear Politics Averages

Obama Job Approval: Approve –  42.9 percent//Disapprove – 53.1 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 29.4 percent//Wrong Track – 62.9 percent 
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 42 percent// Republicans 41.4 percent

Many pundits have extrapolated a link between House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s defeat and the looming June 24 runoff election for Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., who faces a tough climb in defeating challenger state Sen. Chris McDaniel. His supporters are acutely aware of the potential parallels. But asked by Fox News on Thursday about Cantor’s defeat, Cochran wasn’t up to speed:

Q: What happened in Virginia the other day, does that concern you in your chance this year in this run off?

Cochran: I don’t know what you are talking about, what happened in Virginia?

Q: With Eric Cantor losing his seat.

Cochran: (shaking head) Well, I haven’t really followed that campaign very closely at all.

Q: So you have no comment that you want to make?

Cochran: No, I can make a comment. You asked me what happened. I don’t know. I didn’t follow that campaign very closely.

Q: Well, Eric Cantor lost his seat as majority leader.

Cochran: Well, it happens. Members of Congress, some win some lose. It’s not an automatic proposition that you get reelected because you’ve done a good job. Voters make their own decisions and I respect their judgment.”

[The (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger: “The Chris McDaniel campaign released a polling memo today boasting an 8-point lead over incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran among likely runoff voters.”]

Lott lauds Cochran’s bacon bringing - Washington Examiner: “Trent Lott — who was a founder of the Breaux-Lott Leadership Group, a lobbying firm that has now partnered with K Street giant Patton Boggs — is appearing in a campaign ad for Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss.” In the ad Lott says “Sen. Cochran has the power and experience to protect the Gulf Coast.”

[Sen. Thad Cochran jokes that as a kid he did “all sorts of indecent things with animals.” Watch here.]

Retiring Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. blasted the outside groups supporting T.W. Shannon, one of the Republican candidates vying for his seat. Coburn, who hasn’t endorsed in the race, is sticking up for Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., against claims made by outside groups, particularly the Senate Conservatives Fund: “I have come to know James Lankford in his short but very productive time in Washington, and I know he is a man of absolute integrity,” Coburn said. “We haven’t always agreed but he is one of the most honest, thoughtful and sincere men I have met in my time in Washington.” While Shannon has spoken out against attack ads from outside groups in general, the revered Coburn is increasing the pressure for Shannon to speak directly against the groups working hardest to keep him in the race: “As a voter,” says Coburn, “I believe the conduct of a campaign is a critical test of how a man or woman values this great trust.  How someone runs a campaign says a lot about how that person would govern.”

The ad - The Hill: “A national conservative group that’s endorsed former Oklahoma Speaker T.W. Shannon for Senate there is launching a new ad touting him as part of a ‘new generation of conservative leaders.’ The ad, from the Senate Conservatives Fund, slams Shannon’s main opponent for the GOP nomination for the seat, Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.), as a ‘Washington insider.’ ‘Washington insiders like James Lankford will never change Washington. Wasteful spending, trillions in new debt,’ a narrator says. ‘It has to stop.’ The narrator adds that ‘that’s why we need’ Shannon. …The ad is running on a $130,000 buy in the Oklahoma City market through the June 24 primary — the area of the state where Shannon most needs to cut into Lankford's lead if he hopes to make it to the runoff.”

National Review: “The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will vote on legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline next Wednesday. And that creates a political headache for [Sen. Mark Udall]. The Colorado Democrat is trying to hold onto his Senate seat in a state with extensive oil and gas development and a strong environmental streak. Udall has tried to play to both sides. He supports oil and gas production but has also won applause from green groups. On Thursday, LCV Action Fund officially endorsed the senator in his race against Republican Rep. Cory Gardner. Observers on both sides have been clamoring to put Udall on record on the pipeline. He voted against a nonbinding pro-Keystone resolution when it came to the Senate floor last year. He managed to sidestep a vote, however, last month when it seemed likely that a bill to fast-track the project would come to the Senate floor.”

Republicans have their sights set on six seats to win back control of the Senate from Democrats. So which seats are most likely to flip from blue to red? The current consensus among Fox News First readers: Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina and West Virginia. Fox News First reader Mike Brantley from North Carolina says, “Not so sure that [Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C.] is as vulnerable as people think. Here’s why. [Republican nominee Thom Tillis] is not as well known in the state as people may think he is. Name recognition is important in this state. Some people, even in Raleigh and much of Wake County, don’t even know the name.”

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

Yeah, I’m talking to you - Fox News Sunday Host Chris Wallace celebrates this Father’s Day with the one and only Robert De Niro. De Niro will talk to Chris about the HBO documentary made in honor of his father, “Remembering the Artist: Robert De Niro, Sr.”

New York State Sen. Malcolm Smith may not be Jewish, but he’s developed a sudden fascination with Yiddish. NYT reports that he and two other defendants in a corruption case have submitted nearly 300 recorded phone calls made or received by Moses Stern, a government informer in the case, all in Yiddish. The defendants don’t speak a lick and the prosecution claims the calls have nothing to do with the case. But since there is a lack of court-certified Yiddish translators, it would take weeks of shvitzing and kveching to have the calls translated. The judge will decide today if he will adjourn the case or declare a mistrial and bring in a new jury.

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.