Foreign pitfalls undercut Obama’s Asia pivot

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Buzz Cut:
• Foreign pitfalls undercut Obama’s Asia pivot
• The Jarrett factor
• Scramble for backup plans ahead of ObamaCare reboot
• It’s 2016 already: Sentimental survey
• His soul mate’s a gator

For President Obama, even Beijing’s notoriously polluted air just might feel like a breath of spring. Unfortunately, as the president pivots away from the disastrous drubbing Democrats in the midterms, looking for cover in foreign affairs won’t bring much solace. The climate there isn’t much better overseas: a toxic mix of ISIS, Russian adventurism in Ukraine, Iran playing the U.S. for time on nukes, and China flexing its military clout in Asia only serve to highlight the pitfalls of Obama’s foreign policy. The president will be talking trade on his Asia swing – a topic expected to find common ground among Republicans in Congress – but as with his domestic policy travails a quick scan of news tells you there’s little Obama can point to bolster the reality of a weakened presidency, and global U.S. posture.

[“We are very concerned by intensified fighting in eastern Ukraine, as well as numerous reports…that Russian backed and supplied separatists are moving large convoys of heavy weapons and tanks to the front lines of the conflict.  We continue to call on all sides to strictly adhere to the cease-fire.” – From a White House statement Sunday on heavy fighting in Ukraine.]

Putin cozies up to China - WSJ: “As ties between Moscow and Washington have frayed over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, [Russian] President Vladimir Putin has turned to China. The Russian and Chinese leaders have strengthened their relationship in defiance of the U.S. as the West has tried to isolate Moscow with economic sanctions. They presided over the signing of a natural gas agreement earlier this year and have developed a personal relationship that [President Obama] has failed to achieve with either [Chinese President Xi Jinping] or Mr. Putin despite White House efforts. During his three-day stay in China, Mr. Obama will come face to face with Mr. Putin for the first time since June...”

[“The airstrikes have been very effective in degrading ISIL’s capabilities and slowing the advance that they were making. Now what we need is ground troops, Iraqi ground troops, that can start pushing them back. –President Obama on “Face the Nation.”]

Poor intel impedes strikes on ISIS - NYT: “More than three months into the American-led air campaign in Iraq and Syria, commanders are challenged by spotty intelligence, poor weather and an Iraqi Army that is only now starting to go on the offensive against the Islamic State, meaning that warplanes are mostly limited to hitting pop-up targets of opportunity…only one of every four strike missions — some 800 of 3,200 — dropped its weapons, according to the military’s Central Command. In Syria, the United States has a very limited ability to gather intelligence to help generate targets. Many Islamic State training compounds, headquarters, storage facilities and other fixed sites were struck in the early days of the bombing, but the military’s deliberate process for approving other targets has frustrated several commanders. In neither country are American commandos conducting raids on militant camps or safe houses, operations that in Afghanistan and in the Iraq war generated a continuous trove of information for additional missions.”

Fox News: “President Obama repeated Sunday that he intends to change U.S. immigration law through executive action, over Republican leaders’ repeated requests to wait and dire warnings about the consequences of sidestepping Congress. ‘I’m going to do what I need to do,’ Obama told CBS’ ‘Face the Nation,’ …‘If a bill gets passed, nobody would be happier than me,’ Obama said… ‘I believe [executive action] will hurt cooperation on every issue,’ Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., told ‘Fox News Sunday.’ ‘I think it would be like the president pulling the pin out of a hand grenade and throwing it in as we are trying to actually work together. I am hoping that cooler heads at the White House can prevail.’’’

[“We got beat… And so whenever, as the head of the party, it doesn't do well, I’ve got to take responsibility for it, The message that I took from this election, and we've seen this in a number of elections, successive elections, is people want to see this city work.” –President Obama on “Face the Nation.”]

Pen power could prompt budget battle - Republicans may have some ammunition to make a pre-emptive strike should the president take executive action on immigration, picking a fight before the deadline to pass a short-term spending bill. WSJ: “‘If the president really is serious about acting unilaterally on immigration, then it may be that we need to keep short-term funding mechanisms available to us in order to fight back,’ said Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R., S.C.)… It is unclear how many other Republicans will lobby their leaders to pick a fight before this year’s spending deadline or pass a short-term bill that extends into early 2015, when they will assume control of both chambers. House GOP leaders plan to discuss options with their rank-and-file at closed-door meetings this week.”

[Newly elected Republican Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W. Va., and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., casted their legislative priorities on “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Watch here.]

With eyes on possible shakeups in President Obama’s administration following his party’s midterm losses Tuesday, New Republic’s Noam Scheiber takes a deep dive on one of Team Obama’s most trusted advisers: Valerie Jarrett,noting just how expansive her role in the administration is: “[President Obama] has said he consults Jarrett on every major decision, something current and former aides corroborate. ‘Her role since she has been at the White House is one of the broadest and most expansive roles that I think has ever existed in the West Wing,’ says Anita Dunn, Obama’s former communications director. Broader, even, than the role of running the West Wing. …Jarrett’s inescapable presence made her an object of fear and scorn. ‘It’s pretty toxic,’ says another former administration official. ‘She went to whatever meeting she wanted to go to—basically all of them—and then would go and whisper to the president. Or at least everyone believed she did…People don’t trust the process. They think she’s a spy.”’

Following last year’s botched rollout of ObamaCare’s Web site, the Obama administration is scrambling with backup plans in case things go awry again. Some of the last minute are efforts are coming down to the wire ahead of Saturday’s open enrollment reboot. WaPo: “Despite such efforts, the confidential documents written in recent weeks hint at elaborate backup planning that undercuts the administration’s predictions that an improved will be able to handle everyone who wants to sign up… One document from late October, for instance, describes a new system known as ‘throttling,’ which will be deployed if the number of people trying to use at the same time strains the Web site’s enlarged capacity. This throttling could send groups of people using different parts of the site into separate online ‘waiting rooms’… Other confidential CMS documents show that federal health officials drafted contingency plans involving notices for people who have insurance through the exchanges. The notices provide important information, such as whether enrollees appear eligible for federal subsidies for the coming year. The notices were supposed to be in consumers’ hands by Nov. 1. But by the third week of October, a document says, fewer than 1 million of 7.6 million notices were ready to be mailed or e-mailed.”

[Watch Fox: Chief National Correspondent Jim Angle examines what the future holds for ObamaCare.]

The Hill: “VA Secretary Bob McDonald told CBS’s ‘60 Minutes’ that the department aims to simplify the process because too many patients ‘don’t know where to go.’ He will formally make the announcement on Monday, one day before Veterans Day and about 100 days into his tenure. Some of the changes will be behind the scenes, such as streamlining the nine different organizational structures across the country. The department will also create a website that allows people to have ‘one entry point’ into the system, he said. McDonald said the current system, which requires multiple user names and passwords, is “not acceptable.” Another key improvement will involve a “customer service representative” that can offer one-on-one help. He also pledged to take action against people who violated the department’s mission – as many as 1,000 employees.”

This week marks 25 years since the Berlin Wall fell. Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent Greg Palkot reflects on his first assignment as a foreign correspondent, witnessing the events that led to the collapse of communism: “It was cold. It was wet. It was amazing. In those heady days following the fall of the Berlin Wall, we were there as the first waves of East Germans poured through a breach in the barrier. ‘There is so much here,’ one said to me, his family in tow. ‘This must be a very rich land,’ another remarked. Those of us lucky enough to be assigned the story knew we were covering a big chunk of history. There was too much joy and celebration all around to dwell on the politics. A people who had been kept down and oppressed against their will by a communist Soviet regime were set free overnight. Of course, that was just the beginning of eastern Germany’s long road to normalcy. But it had begun. More than that, it set into motion a chain of events throughout eastern Europe and the former Soviet states that would change the world. The end of the Cold War. The demise of Communism…But like those brave, bedraggled and dazzled East Germans, streaming through the gap in that Cold War concrete barrier 25 years ago, those seeking freedom still can in the end come out on top. And we’ll be watching.”

[NY Post has the scoop on recently released secret recordings former president Ronald Reagan made with foreign leaders including Margret Thatcher and Pakistani President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq.]

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Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 41.7 percent//Disapprove – 53.4 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 27.7  percent//Wrong Track – 65.5 percent

Acknowledging the potential and pitfalls of analyzing sentiment, BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith shares the results of a “sentiment analysis” Facebook performed to gauge users feelings of the likely 2016 field based on what they post: “Some details from the first simple cut of sentiment data we got, spanning Oct. 26 to Nov. 5: [Hillary Clinton,] the most discussed Democrat on Facebook, and [Sen. Elizabeth Warren] have almost identical sentiment ratings — 57% positive and 40% negative for Clinton; 56% positive and 40% negative for Warren. Fascinatingly, Joe Biden, though subject of just a quarter Clinton’s volume of conversation, is also viewed in a warmer light, with 67% of the conversation about him positive — a hint of the sort of politician, raw and authentic and occasionally stumbling, who thrives in this new medium. On the Republican side, Chris Christie is the most discussed figure, but the results are far more mixed: 47% of the sentiment is positive, 45% negative….The most warmly viewed Republicans are Condoleezza Rice and [Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.] Sentiment about Jeb Bush, meanwhile, is underwater.”

Govs rule - “I do think if we’re [Republicans] going to beat Hillary Clinton in this next election, we’ve got to have a message that says, ‘Hillary Clinton is all about Washington.’ I think in many ways, she was the big loser on Tuesday because she embodies everything that’s wrong with Washington…Paul Ryan may be the only exception to that rule. But overall, I think governors make much better presidents than members of Congress.”—Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., on “Meet The Press.”

[How’d she fair Howie? - #mediaBuzz host Howard Kurtz goes beyond the headlines to ask if Hillary Clinton was helped by the Democrat’s midterm wipe out: “The midterms were probably a wash for Hillary. This whole notion that when a big shot goes out and campaigns for candidates and gets some credit for the victories and some blame for the defeats — it’s a journalistic construct. Most voters don’t care about endorsements.”]

Warren butters up Hollywood with populist pitch - Hollywood Reporter: “Sen. Elizabeth Warren, [D-Mass.] regarded by many progressive Democrats as their party’s alternative to Hillary Clinton, told an ACLU gala in Beverly Hills Sunday that ‘economic opportunity is slipping further and further out of reach’ for average Americans. She said bluntly: ‘We have to face the game is rigged in Congress’…In too many instances — whether it’s raising the minimum wage or appointing non-corporate lawyers to federal judgeships — the playing field in Washington is tilted against working Americans,’ Warren said.”

Dubbya ready for Jeb run - Former president George W. Bush said there is a “50-50” chance his brother, former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., will run for president in 2016. “I occasionally fuel the speculation by saying that I hope he runs,” Bush told CBS News. “He and I are very close. On the other hand, he’s not here knocking on my door, you know, agonizing about the decision. He knows exactly -- you know, the ramifications on family, for example. He’s seen his dad and his brother go through the presidency.” The 43rd president added, “If he wants me out there publicly, I’ll be out there publicly. If he wants me behind the scenes, I’ll be behind the scenes. You know, I’ll—I’m all in for him.”

[Family matters - WSJ: “In his new book…Bush writes that his father [George H. W. Bush] seriously considered not running for reelection in 1992 because of his son Neil’s legal troubles with a failed savings and loan. He ran for reelection but lost to Democrat Bill Clinton.”]

Already primary season for Perry - Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, continues his six-stop swing through New Hampshire today. More.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is taking a nasty shot at Republican Bill Cassidy in her first new ad in the Louisiana Senate runoff. The spot features a May speech Cassidy gave to the Republican leadership conference in which he stumbles over his words as a narrator rips Cassidy for cuts to social security benefits and tax cuts for the wealthy.

[Byron York: “GOP strategists with years of work in Louisiana are wary of declaring victory a month before the election. ‘We’ve been close to knocking Mary out before,’ says the Republican. ‘In 2002, Republicans had a big night in November, and December people sort of let their guard down and she was able to win. The point is, we can't take it for granted.’ The fact is, the outlook for Cassidy looks very good. But it is also true that one-foot putts are occasionally missed. Despite all the factors in their favor, that is what Louisiana Republicans are trying to keep first in their mind between now and December 6.”]

[Alaska] News Miner: “The Alaska Division of Elections will begin counting outstanding votes on Tuesday…In the race for the U.S. Senate, [Republican Dan Sullivan] currently has 110,203 votes to [Sen. Mark Begich’s, D-Alaska] 102,054. Sullivan is anticipated to pick up 24,363 more votes and Begich is anticipated to pick up 22,366 more votes. That leaves Begich with a wider gap than he saw on election day, at a 10,146 vote deficit. Supporters are quick to point out Begich fared well in his 2008 victory over former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, [R-Alaska] rising from a 7,000 vote deficit to a 3,000 vote victory after absentee ballots were counted. This number could potentially shift in Begich’s favor if there’s a surge of absentee ballots from Democratic-leaning rural districts that heavily favored the Democratic incumbent on Tuesday. But the total number of outstanding ballots is smaller than in 2008.”

Just how big was Sen.-elect Ben Sasse’s, R-Neb., win Tuesday? The Lincoln Journal star breaks it down: “You’ve got to go back to Gov. Jim Exon’s [D-Neb.] first Senate victory in 1978 to find a bigger win. That’s the only Nebraska Senate victory in an open-seat election that was larger than the one Sasse racked up last week. Exon defeated Republican nominee Don Shasteen by 35.4 percentage points 36 years ago. Sasse defeated Democratic nominee Dave Domina by 33.7 points last week…Some of the county-by-county results in the Sasse-Domina matchup recall the old Republican joke in rural Nebraska that ‘we spray for Democrats out here.’ Banner, 249-31; Chase, 1,201-125; Dundy, 591-69; Furnas, 1,341-213; Hayes, 399-33;Sheridan, 1,451-206.”

AP: “Republican Carl DeMaio on Sunday conceded defeat to incumbent Scott Peters in one of the nation’s most hotly contested congressional races to represent a large part of San Diego, ending a bitter campaign that was rocked by claims that he sexually harassed a former staffer. DeMaio, who is openly gay, said he will work within his party to make it more inclusive, echoing a theme of his campaign.”

AP: “Democrats are planning an extensive review of what went wrong in the 2014 and 2010 elections, hoping to find ways to translate success in presidential campaigns into future midterm contests. A party committee will conduct a ‘top-to-bottom assessment’ of the Democrats' performance in recent midterm elections and try to determine why they have struggled to turn out its core voters in nonpresidential election… ‘Our party has a problem,’ [Democratic National Committee head Debbie Wasserman Schultz ]said in a video announcing the project.

[“Where the hell is the Democratic party? You’ve got to stand for something if you want to win.” –Former Gov. Howard Dean, D-Vt., on “Meet the Press.”]

Sky News: “A self-proclaimed ‘alligator whisperer’ who is accused in Florida of harassing the reptiles says he has done nothing wrong. Hal Kreitman, of Miami Beach, is facing multiple charges over his up-close interactions with the creatures. The 51-year-old has posted videos online of himself petting the alligators and even giving one a kiss on the nose. The former chiropractor, who calls himself ‘The Haligator’, was arrested in the Florida Keys on 29 October. Undercover wildlife officials reported seeing him lead guests into the Everglades for encounters with the reptiles. Police also said he began charging tourists $250… to come and see him in the water with the creatures. Kreitman faces a felony charge of enticing and capturing an alligator, which he denies…Kreitman acknowledged his pastime is risky. ‘I’m not going to say I’m never going to get bit,’ he told Sky News, …‘When I’m in the water, I’m thinking what he’s thinking; he’s thinking what I’m thinking. I think the alligator feels peace.’”

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