Degraded: Obama’s ISIS response prompts new worries

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Buzz Cut:
• Degraded: Obama’s ISIS response prompts new worries
• Dems take risk in backing Obama amnesty
• Jeb to test ‘Right to Rise’ in Detroit
• Can Hillary really dodge debates?
• B.Y.O.B. (Bring Your Own Blubber)

There’s chutzpah and then there’s being self-deluded. President Obama appeared to veer toward the latter when he  vowed to “redouble vigilance” against ISIS in the wake of the Islamist militant’s latest and most depraved atrocity, burning alive a pilot from a key member of the U.S.-coalition fighting the group. With mounting evidence that the current U.S. strategy is not meeting the president’s promise that the group will be “degraded and ultimately defeated,” and anguished pleas from Jordan and others to move decisively against ISIS, it seems unlikely that the president will be able to stay the course in Iraq and Syria. As in other conflicts, including Libya and Afghanistan, the president will be reluctantly dragged deeper into the fight. He was pushed into this conflict by political pressure last year, and as pressure grows he will continue to escalate it. But as prior experience shows, reluctant hawks leave the fight as soon as pressure abates or shifts again, not when victory is won.

[Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., tells WashEx’s Byron York that Jordan’s King Abdullah II quoted from Clint Eastwood’s western opus “Unforgiven” to describe his intention to strike back at ISIS for killing a captive Jordanian pilot: ‘He said there is going to be retribution like ISIS hasn’t seen,’  Hunter said, after a meeting with the king. Abdullah apparently meant it.]

What was that name again? - And the fact that the president wouldn’t say the name of “radical Islam” and instead chose to be facile in denouncing “whatever ideology they are operating off of” as “bankrupt.” Hmmm. Which ideology is it again? Are they feminists? Dadaists? Jacobites? Maybe Jedis? If you cannot even bring yourself to say the name, how likely are you to maintain the fight even amid losses or public opposition? Remember that the “bankrupt” ideologies of the previous century, communism and fascism, led to the deaths of tens of millions and the oppression of hundreds of millions more. And they did not eventually fail because they were poor philosophical concepts, but rather because they were defeated.

[The effectiveness of President Obama’s efforts to counter ISIS militants and Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine are expected to be questioned at confirmation hearings today for Ashton Carter, the president’s nominee to lead the Department of Defense.]

Reset - It was particularly telling that Obama made his remarks on the very day that his administration acknowledged that the other war in which the West is engaged – the struggle with Putinist Russia over Ukraine – is going poorly. A senior official told the WSJ “It’s fair to say that costs haven’t risen high enough for the Russian leadership to rethink their course of action.” To be so dismissive of ISIS on the same day that your team tacitly acknowledges misunderstanding the motives and dangers of the other major, ongoing threat kind of says it all about the current condition of the Obama foreign policy. Like a point guard with a sore elbow heading into the tournament, it’s always “day-to-day.”

“Number one is that [President Obama] does seem to have a problem defining what the ideology is. Much less doing something about the ideology…The other thing that I’m struck by with the president’s remarks is he says we’re going to double down. Well, if you double down on empty words, you still end up with nothing.” –Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, on “The Kelly File” Watch here.

Author Harper Lee is set to release her second book Go Set a Watchman more than 50 years after her iconic book, To Kill a Mockingbird was published. As Rolling Stone reports the original transcript was rediscovered by Lee’s friend and lawyer, Tonja Carter last year. It features an adult Scout traveling from New York to Alabama to visit her father, Atticus, centering on the relationship between the two and the racial tensions of that time. Watchman, though originally written first served as the inspiration for Mockingbird. As Lee explains, “My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout's childhood, persuaded me to write a novel from the point of view of the young Scout. I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told.” Lee was hesitant to consider publication of Watchman, saying, “I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.” HarperCollins has set a release date for July 14th.

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Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve – 46 percent//Disapprove – 49.6 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 34.6 percent//Wrong Track – 57 percent

While Senate Democrats certainly risk being branded “obstructionists” by blocking policies favored by the Republican majority, that’s a charge with little electoral sting. As Republicans demonstrated in last year’s elections, while voters generally say they want “compromise” there is a higher price to be paid for bad votes. Blocking unpopular legislation, however, is a plus. Remember, voters don’t tell the whole story to pollsters. When survey respondents say that they believe both sides should work together to advance common goals, what they often really mean is that the other side should give up. “Obstructionist” is just another word for someone who disagrees with you. When Republicans were being branded obstructionists over the past six years, they were telling voters at home it was to block President Obama’s agenda, a strategy that delivered two midterm tsunamis for the party. So what are Democrats blocking now?

[EPA offers cover for Obama Keystone veto - WashEx: “The Environmental Protection Agency challenged the State Department's environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline, saying the analysis should ‘give additional weight’ to whether low oil prices could cause the project to drive the development of oil sands.”]

That was easy - We’ve had two notable tests of Democratic resistance so far in the new GOP-controlled Senate. The first was on the Keystone pipeline, on which nine red- or swing-state Democrats jumped the aisle to pass. This was a low-cost vote, except for perhaps vulnerable Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, who has to face global-warming absolutists in his party base. But if the president vetoes the measure, as expected, and then vouches for Bennet, the Sierra-Club-set should be easily mollified. So, all-in-all, good politics.

The hard part - But on the more controversial issue of immigration, no Democrats were willing to buck the president on his executive action to grant a temporary amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. That looks like bad politics. Not only do Americans overwhelming disagree with the means by which Obama is implementing his plan, many residents of even deep blue states worry about the effect that illegal immigration has on job availability and pay. Blocking a plan that would fully fund the Department of Homeland Security but roll back Obama’s move would seem designed primarily to save the president from embarrassment. You can bet that Democrats will see that vote thrown back at them in campaign spots, especially Sen. Joe Manchin if he proceeds with a contemplated run for West Virginia governor next year.

Club for Growth shopping for McCain challenger - The Hill: “The fiscally conservative Club for Growth is keeping a close eye on a possible primary challenge to Sen. John McCain [R-Ariz.], its president said Tuesday morning. ‘In Arizona, we will watch that carefully. We'll look at John's record and his score,’ Club for Growth President David McIntosh told The Hill during a Tuesday breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor. Reps. David Schweikert [R-Ariz.] and Matt Salmon [R-Ariz.] have both told The Hill they're considering a challenge to McCain. Both Tea Party-leaning congressmen have been supported in the past by the group, which has also been critical of McCain. ‘We'll see if either of the two members, you're right, they're people the Club's supported and thinks well of in Congress, does one of them decide to enter the race,’ McIntosh continued.”

Hypothetical example stinks in reality - AP: “[N]ewly elected GOP Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina… raised the issue when speaking Monday to the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington. Restaurant chains such as Starbucks should be able to skip obligatory hand-washing by workers, he said, ‘as long as they post a sign’ and take other steps to alert the public. ‘Let them decide’ such issues, Tillis said.”

GOP hopes in Florida Senate race boosted by possible Grayson entry - The Hill: “Rep. Alan Grayson [D-Fla.] is talking like a man who will run for Senate in 2016. In an interview with The Hill on Tuesday, Grayson said he’s thinking about running…‘We have some very substantial advantages,’ Grayson said in an interview with The Hill on Tuesday.”

Detroit News: “Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is scheduled to speak in Detroit Wednesday about ‘restoring the right to rise in America,’ the first in a series of speeches that will test potential themes for his possible run for president in 2016. Bush, a Republican who runs a leadership political action committee, plans to outline a ‘positive conservative vision for the future’ on domestic issues during the Detroit Economic Club speech, said Kristi Campbell, a Bush spokeswoman. His talk will discuss ‘policies that will allow for middle-class families and those in poverty to move up the economic ladder,’ Campbell said. Republicans have criticized President Barack Obama for presiding over the slowest economic recovery since World War II. But the GOP also has been criticized for not adequately emphasizing in presidential campaigns policies that help the middle class. Bush also plans to hold a variety of private finance and political meetings in Metro Detroit, Campbell said.”

[Campaign Carl Cameron is in Detroit to cover the big speech and he wants to know: “if any potential rivals will be able to beat Rand Paul to posting something critical or snarky online?”]

Windy City Windfall? Jeb lines up big donors in Illinois - Chicago Sun Times: “On Feb. 18, Bush will headline a reception at the Chicago Club in the Loop, where tickets start at $1,000. After that, Bush will go to a dinner at the Lake Forest home of Melissa and Reeve Waud, he runs an investment firm, where the minimum is $25,000 to be raised or contributed…According to the invitation, the top tier ask is for $250,000 to raise or donate to be listed as co-chairs; the tab is $100,000 to give or raise to be a sponsor.”

[Power Play - Mitt’s out, Jeb and Scott Walker are on the rise as the deck is shuffled. Join Power Play host Chris Stirewalt for his latest ranking of 2016’s GOP contenders, in 90 seconds. WATCH HERE.]

Walker rolls out conservative budget blueprint with school vouchers, tax cap and deep cuts - Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: “To bridge a budget chasm, Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday proposed holding the line on local property taxes and school spending, cutting public universities and expanding private K-12 voucher schools using money otherwise earmarked for public education. On a wintry Wisconsin night, Walker outlined the two-year, $68 billion proposal that will serve as a blueprint for state government as well as his own potential presidential bid…One year after touting an expected budget surplus, Walker proposed sweeping spending cuts such as ending state funding for highway beautification, and Wisconsin Public Radio and Television; phasing out a long-standing racial integration program for students; and leaving most prison watchtowers vacant at night…Walker's plan would also eliminate about 400 state jobs, though not all those would translate to layoffs because at least half the jobs are currently unfilled.”

Would it be simpler at this point to ask who didn’t? - Daily Mail: “Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz smoked marijuana in his youth, his campaign [said]… ‘Teenagers are often known for their lack of judgment, and Sen. Cruz was no exception,’ a Cruz spokesperson said.

Pence to take Congress to school in education hearing - Fort Wayne Journal Gazette: “Gov. Mike Pence will be in Washington today to talk about education, and President Barack Obama will visit Indianapolis on Friday to speak to educators and students. Pence, a former member of Congress, is scheduled to testify this morning at a hearing of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. The hearing is titled ‘Expanding Opportunity in America’s Schools and Workplaces.’”

Boots and Books - Mike Huckabee’s book tour continues with a stop in Dallas, Texas today.

When Chris Matthews (the Democratic staffer turned cable news host not the Seattle Seahawk) is taunting the head of the New Hampshire Democratic Party for being “so scared of Hillary Clinton” that he won’t even call for presidential debates ahead of the first-in-the-nation primary, we are approaching full absurdity of the Clinton coronation drive. Clinton has reportedly decided that she will wait to see if she must actually debate. This makes good sense for her, since dangling the chance to appear in a highly-publicized, nationally televised debate might entice a challenger to jump in. Rather, Clinton seems more likely to stay within the deep baffles of her campaign cocoon for now. Then, if no credible threats emerge, submit to a debate or two – purely symbolic stuff with adorable third-tier challengers like Sen. Bernie Sanders. Like an alderman turning over the first shovel of dirt at the new rec center, Clinton can have a “debate” in which she will actually praise her “opponents” for being so passionate. The question is whether Democrats can overcome their anxieties about Clinton’s weakness as a candidate and demand that their nominee at least suit up for the real thing before giving her the crown.

All that’s missing is the candidate: ‘Run Warren Run’ hires N.H. director, opens office - [New Hampshire] Union Leader: “An experienced New Hampshire activist is the new state director of ‘Run Warren Run,’ which announced three other hires and the opening of its first campaign office in the state. Kurt Ehrenberg, a former political and legislative director for New Hampshire AFL-CIO, was just hired, Democracy for America said Wednesday. He previously worked for Sierra Club in the state and region. Jake Belanger, Diego Hernandez, and Jennica Simms were hired as regional field directors in the Granite State.”

Ah, hipsters. Boston Magazine reports that a resident of Cambridge, Mass. named Pierre is looking to cash in on the recent blizzard with an airbnb listing for the ultimate in minimalist lodgings. Pierre has built an igloo on Putnam Avenue in the hometown of Harvard and MIT, and it comes with a blue tarp and a yoga mat. Pierre brags that he perfected his igloo-building skills on a recent trip through Siberia, but acknowledges that the space is small. He says it will sleep one person “comfortably” or two people “curled up.” The price is $10 a night, but it does include use of the kitchen and bathroom in his house “if needed.” Your host reminds you, however, that you have to provide your own sleeping bag. Oh yeah, the forecast low for Cambridge on Thursday is 2 degrees below zero.

“So here we are bringing in Jordan for symbolic reasons yet a real pilot is shot down in real time and then executed in this horrible way causing a reaction in Jordan where the King is now on the spot…He’s got a lot of internal dissent which we have seen over the years. This is a way to stir the cauldron in a country that is stable, was stable but is easily destabilized and that’s what ISIS is after” —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