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3 Takeaways from the GOP’s Latest Poll of Women

Republicans are out of touch, and now they have the data to prove it. Earlier this week, Politico released details of a survey funded in part by Karl Rove’s PAC. Here are our three key takeaways from the research (not that we expect them to change the GOP’s attitudes toward women).

1. Republicans “fail to speak to women in the different circumstances in which they live.”

Republicans’ research found that women “believe that ‘enforcing equal pay for equal work’ is the policy that would ‘help women the most.’” Women still make just 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man, adding up to over $430,000 in lost compensation on average in a lifetime. By repeatedly voting against policies to ensure that women receive equal pay, the report warns, “Republicans who openly deny the legitimacy of the issue will be seen as out of touch with women’s life experiences.”

2. Republicans are “stuck in the past.”

The women polled for the report described Republicans as “intolerant” and “lacking in compassion.” In an effort to change this image, the GOP wants to, in the words of the study, “pursue policy innovations that inspire women voters to give the GOP a ‘fresh look.’” Suggestions included “strengthening enforcement against gender bias in the workplace.” The only problem? We’re still waiting for Republicans to join us in supporting the Paycheck Fairness Act!

3. The GOP isn’t changing their position; they’re changing the subject.

When it comes to addressing the issues that matter to women the most, Republicans are quick to change the subject. The research concludes that when it comes to tough issues like reproductive health, Republican leaders should “deal honestly with any disagreement on abortion, then move to other issues.” But Republicans aren’t moving on – they’re committing time and taxpayer money to restricting access to reproductive health care. That’s time they could be spending on policies that help working families, like raising the minimum wage, expanding access to paid sick leave, and making childcare more affordable.

There are less than ten weeks until Election Day. Share this article to keep the conversation going, and make sure your friends and family vote: 

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DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Statement on Tonight’s Primary Results

Washington, DC – DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement on tonight’s primary results:

“I would like to congratulate all of the Democratic candidates who won their primary contest tonight, including the next governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, and the next lieutenant governor of Florida, Annette Taddeo. Over the course of this campaign, Charlie and Annette have embraced policies that will help Florida’s middle class families, a stark contrast to the current governor, Republican Rick Scott, who is beholden to special interests and radical Tea Party ideology.

“After overseeing the largest Medicare fraud in history, it is ironic that as governor, Scott has notably failed to secure federal funding for Medicaid expansion. He has cut over $1 billion from Florida’s public schools, and oversaw tuition hikes at Florida’s colleges and universities while making cuts to the Bright Futures scholarship program. His climate change denialism ignores the serious risks that rising sea levels and severe weather pose to Florida’s communities and our economy. Scott has offered the Hispanic community little more than platitudes and pandering. To add insult to injury, he refuses to answer the most basic questions, let alone face Florida’s toughest challenges.

“Charlie and Annette join Democratic candidates throughout Florida and across the country who are committed to expanding opportunity for all Americans. Republicans, especially those like Scott, have demonstrated that their priorities are instead focused on the select few. Come November, Florida voters will reject the failed policies of Rick Scott and welcome a new day for the Sunshine State.”

DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Statement Celebrating Women’s Equality Day

Washington, DC – DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement in celebration of Women’s Equality Day:

“Today we celebrate Women’s Equality Day, the 94th anniversary of the certification of the 19th amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote. Since our nation’s founding, the struggle to form a more perfect union has moved America forward. The 19th amendment is among the steps our nation has taken towards greater equality by ensuring that more Americans are able to make their voice heard.

“Unfortunately, Republican actions at the state and federal level threaten to undo the progress our nation has made. Last year, the Supreme Court gutted a key component of the Voting Rights Act. Republican governors and state legislatures have moved to restrict early voting periods and enact policies like voter ID that make it harder to vote. These policies disproportionately affect women, as well as young people and people of color.

“The right to vote is fundamental for women to elect officials who share their priorities. I am proud that the Democratic Party is fighting for paycheck fairness and to defend a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions. In light of Republican opposition to these policies, this anniversary is a reminder that the key to expanding opportunities for women is to empower women at the ballot box.”

DNC Seniors Coordinating Council Chair Statement on Paul Ryan’s Visit to Florida

ATLANTA, Ga. – Today, former Republican Vice Presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will visit three cities in the Florida panhandle as part of his tour to promote his new book, The Way Forward. Ahead of his visit, Steve Regenstreif, the chair of the Democratic National Committee’s Seniors Coordinating Council, released the following statement:

“Paul Ryan may call his book The Way Forward, but what it details is nothing more than a step-by-step formula for how to move our country backward. Ryan may claim he’s fighting for the poor and seniors, but even in his new book he’s pushing the same radical ideas that would gut the social safety net and weaken access to health care – all while providing more benefits for the wealthy and big corporations. Voters haven’t forgotten that. His new book tour is a national showcase of recycling the same failed ideas that Americans rejected when Paul Ryan was the GOP’s vice presidential nominee in 2012. If Paul Ryan got his way, both Medicare and Social Security would be on a fast track toward privatization – leaving the health and economic security of seniors to the whims of insurance companies and Wall Street. Floridians know better than to buy Ryan’s new rhetoric because the same old failed GOP record is hiding behind it. Seniors in Florida and across the country want leaders committed to them, not ideologues who believe the only way to save the safety net and boost the middle class is to gut the very programs that support them.”

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and DuBose Porter Discuss Voter Expansion today

Atlanta, GA— DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, DNC Secretary and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Georgia Democratic Party Chair DuBose Porter held a press conference at the DNC summer meeting in Atlanta today to discuss the DNC’s commitment to expanding the right to vote in 2014 and beyond.

In June, the DNC launched the Voter Expansion Project -- a permanent infrastructure within the Democratic Party that is focused on protecting and expanding the vote. The DNC’s Voter Expansion Project’s mission is to ensure that every eligible voter is registered, every registered voter is able to vote, and that every vote is accurately counted. Expanding the electorate is a priority for Democrats because we think our country is better off when more people participate unlike those on the other side of the aisle who know their best path to victory is if fewer people vote.

See below for excerpts as prepared for delivery:

DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz:

“There is a reason that we are in Georgia. A year ago, in Arizona, I promised that Democrats were committed to planting our flag in every corner of the country. We are here because the DNC is expanding the map, spreading the Democratic message, and we plan to turn Georgia blue.

Today’s Republican Party is so out of touch with the American people that they know their best path to victory is if fewer voices are heard, if fewer Americans exercise one of their most basic constitutional rights– and at the DNC we will work tirelessly to prevent them from getting what they want.

“We believe it is easier and more convenient for a citizen to participate in the electoral process when she understands when to vote, where to vote, what to bring with her to vote. That’s why we have provided all of the “rules of the road” for all fifty states and the District of Columbia in one simple location at And this week, we launched the Spanish language version of the site,

“We’ve also already hired state voter Expansion Directors in places like Ohio, Texas, Colorado, and Florida. And just this week, the DNC and Georgia Democratic Party are announcing the hire of Georgia’s new Voter Expansion Director -- I’m thrilled that she’ll be joining our team.”

DNC Secretary and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake:

“This notion of getting more people involved in the process isn’t just a program for us or a tactic – it is one of the most fundamental values that we share as Democrats.  It’s not just about strengthening our Party.  It’s about strengthening our democracy.

“Our country is stronger when more voices are heard. The diversity of opinion is one of the things that make our country strong and vibrant and we will do everything in our power to make sure that no cynical partisan ploys can ever drown out any of these voices.

“Democrats are committed to expanding rights not taking them away – we want to empower people, to break down barriers and to expand opportunity for all Americans.”

Georgia Democratic Party Chair DuBose Porter:

“Make no mistake – it’s not just our Party that is diverse and growing – our state is, too. It’s up to us to us engage every single Georgian. As the Chairwoman said earlier, when more people are registered and vote, Democrats will win.

“While our Party has become more inclusive, the other side has been turning away folks left and right, including their own candidates at the ballot box. We have a governor who brags about fighting against the Voting Rights Act while he was in Congress. That is unacceptable. We’ve had Republicans in the legislature try to cutback early voting. That is unacceptable. We’ve seen attempts to intimidate voters by moving the polls to inside police stations.  That is unacceptable.

“This culture of suppression has to stop. That is why the Voter Expansion Project is critical for the democracy in our state.”

DNC Launches Project Ivy Tech Ecosystem

Tech Partner NGP VAN Releases Platform of APIs, Users, and Network Effects


Washington, DC – Earlier this year, the Democratic National Committee launched Project Ivy, the fourth iteration of the Democratic Party’s investment in data and technology. The program builds on a decade of investments by the DNC and aims to give campaigns of all sizes the same tools that the Obama campaign built and so successfully utilized in 2012.

The DNC and key technology partner NGP VAN are launching a significant new innovation in Project Ivy’s program: a set of tools to allow developers and other technologists to build an ecosystem around the DNC’s voter file data and technology platform, VoteBuilder.

The DNC’s Developer Portal being launched today has two key elements:

  • A new set of APIs (a series of technical specifications that detail how software interacts) for the DNC and NGP VAN platforms that will be made available to developers.
  • An innovative ActionID login system that allows current users to seamlessly access new apps and tools created through the APIs.

The APIs are built on an easy-to-use RESTful architecture that allows campaigns and companies to pull and push information directly from VoteBuilder.  The ActionID login systems will allow the hundreds of thousands of existing users of the NGP VAN tools to login to other apps created by the others in the ecosystem, with one simple secure login that they can take from campaign to campaign.

The Portal is now live at

“This new developers’ platform allows Democrats to build new apps more easily and nimbly, enabling a 360 degree view of voters and a campaign’s interactions with them across all channels.” said DNC CEO Amy Dacey.  “Simply put: our tools are helping candidates in 2014 while we’re laying the groundwork for the next generation of campaign technology in 2016 and beyond.”

“NGP VAN is focused on helping the DNC drive the innovation that will help Democrats maintain and build our technological edge,” said Stu Trevelyan, NGP VAN’s CEO.  “We’re honored that so many Democrats use our tools to elect progressive candidates up and down the ballot. The tools we’re building will enhance Democrats’ ability to connect directly with voters, where they are, and in the ways they get their information.”

This release advances Democrats’ capabilities on one of the key trends in political technology: giving state parties and campaigns the ability to speak directly and more efficiently with voters. This technology will improve Democrats’ addressability– giving campaigns the ability to connect with specific individuals through online and TV ads and traditional methods like phone calls and door knocks.

The DNC and NGP VAN have already seen success with the APIs in recent months.

  • The APIs are behind the recently released DNC Arbor Project to enhance efforts to register voters.
  • The just released version of MiniVAN, the iOS and Android app that powers mobile canvassing, was rebuilt using the APIs.
  • At a recent NGP VAN hackathon, in a few hours engineers built a new, free Open Virtual Phone Bank App which allows supporters to make calls to targeted voters without having to get a login to VAN.

DNC Launches

Washington, DC – Today the DNC launched the Spanish website as part of our Voter Expansion Project and commitment to increasing access to the ballot box for all Americans. is the Spanish companion site to, the DNC’s one-stop site for all the information Americans need to cast their ballot.

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said on the launch of the new site:

“In early June, the DNC launched as part of our Voter Expansion Project. The goal was to make it easier and more convenient for Americans to participate in the electoral process, by empowering them with the information they would need to exercise their right to vote.

“Democrats are committed to inclusion and diversity. That is why we have launched a Spanish language version of,, so that language does not pose an unnecessary barrier to electoral participation for those voters who are more comfortable getting information in Spanish.

“The Hispanic population in the United States continues to grow and it’s more important than ever to ensure that we can provide the information and resources for Hispanics to actively participate in our democracy and elect leaders that share their community’s priorities.”

You can follow the DNC’s new Spanish Twitter account at @DNC_Espanol

DNC Chair Rep. Wasserman Schultz on GOP’s New Shutdown Threat

Washington, DC – DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement on the GOP’s New Shutdown Threat:

“We now have it confirmed – electing a Republican Senate majority would put us back on the road to another shutdown. It’s been a year since Republicans shut down the government and brought us to the brink of default, costing our economy $24 billion and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has said the GOP is ready to do it all over again.

“Instead of joining with Democrats to expand opportunity for all Americans by fighting for equal pay and a raise for millions of Americans, investing in infrastructure and education, and creating jobs, Republicans have recommitted to digging in their heels and causing rampant dysfunction that hurts middle class families.

“That’s the choice voters face in every race this November.”


Read the article "McConnell’s plan to ‘shutdown’ Obama" here.

The logistics for BBQ with POTUS

I work for the Operations Team here at the DNC. That means that I spend a lot of time making sure things run smoothly at headquarters -- that people are where they're supposed to be so we can be the party that works for you. But being behind the scenes doesn't always give me the opportunity to interact with our supporters and hear why they're excited about the ideas that make our party what it is.

That's why I love these contests.

Seriously: One of the most rewarding parts of my job is booking the flights and hotels for supporters who've won the chance to meet our President. There is just something so gratifying in knowing I have a hand in someone's experience of a lifetime.

So, will you enter our contest to attend a barbecue with President Obama in New York over Labor Day weekend? I'll book you a flight and car!

You'll have an amazing journey. You can travel with a guest, and the flight and hotel stay are on us. You don't have to worry about a thing -- I'll make sure it all runs smoothly.

Just chip in $3 or whatever you can to be automatically entered to win:

President Obama is so excited to meet you, and I'm so excited to help get you there.

Good luck, and I hope we talk soon!


WASHINGTON, DC – The Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee today filed an Advisory Opinion Request with the Federal Election Commission to ask that they may each raise federal funds into a segregated account under a separate contribution limit, or alternately into a convention committee, solely to finance convention expenses for their 2016 nominating conventions that would previously have been paid for with federal funds. After filing the AOR (HERE), the committees released the following statement:

“Conventions are essential to the nominating process for both parties and to the next presidential election. With the loss of public funding for some aspects of these events, a staple of convention financing for decades, the two parties need greater flexibility to raise the resources to build necessary infrastructure and carry out essential operations. As one step towards achieving that goal, we are jointly requesting that the Federal Election Commission allow both parties to raise these infrastructure and operation funds under separate limits into a dedicated account with full disclosure requirements so both parties can continue to operate safe and seamless conventions that present their candidates and platforms to the electorate.”


Readout of the Vice President's Call with Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani

This morning, Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani.  The Vice President and President Barzani discussed the humanitarian assistance and military strikes that the U.S. has provided to support the Iraqi people trapped in the town of Amirli.  Both leaders expressed their support for the ongoing efforts by Iraqi Security Forces and Kurdish Peshmerga, with U.S. and international support, to break the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant's siege of Amirli.  President Barzani underscored his commitment to forming a new Iraqi government as quickly as possible.

Statement by NSC Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden on European Council Meeting


We welcome the European Council's consensus today to show strong support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and to prepare further sanctions for consideration in coming days. We are working closely with the EU and other partners to hold Russia accountable for its illegal actions in Ukraine, including through additional economic sanctions.  We remain committed to supporting Ukraine as it seeks a diplomatic resolution to the crisis and call on Russia to immediately remove its military, including troops and equipment, from Ukraine and end its illicit support to the separatists.


Statement by the Press Secretary on the Election of a New European Council President and High Representative


The President congratulates Prime Minister Donald Tusk of Poland on his election as President of the European Council, and Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini of Italy on being chosen as High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.  As we advance security and prosperity around the world, the United States has no more important partner than Europe. We look forward to working closely with President Tusk and High Representative Mogherini, as well as Commission President Juncker and all of the new Commissioners.


Readout of the President's Phone Call with Prime Minister Harper of Canada


The President spoke to Canadian Prime Minister Harper today to discuss the upcoming NATO Summit and the situation in Iraq. Both leaders agreed on the importance of ensuring Alliance unity on measures to strengthen NATO's readiness and responsiveness to the full range of current and future threats.  The President stressed that agreement on increased defense investment in all areas is a top priority at the NATO Summit. 



WHITE HOUSE VIDEO MESSAGE: Celebrating our workers on Labor Day


Office of the Press Secretary


WHITE HOUSE VIDEO MESSAGE: Celebrating our workers on Labor Day

WASHINGTON, DC – In this week’s address, in celebration of Labor Day, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Pérez honored hardworking Americans who have helped the economy grow and contributed to our booming energy, technology, manufacturing and auto industries.  That progress can be advanced by raising the minimum wage and fighting for ways to strengthen the middle class.  

The audio of the address and video of the message will be available online HERE.

Remarks of U.S. Secretary of Labor, Thomas Pérez

Spanish Weekly Address

The White House

Hi, everybody.  Happy Labor Day weekend. I hope you spend time with your family.

We set aside Labor Day to honor the working men and women of America.  And this Labor Day, we’ve got more American workers to celebrate.  Over the past 53 months, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs.  Our energy, technology, manufacturing, and auto industries are all booming.  Last month, for the first time since 1997, we created more than 200,000 jobs for the sixth straight month.  And for the first time in over a decade, business leaders worldwide have declared that the number one place to invest isn’t China – it’s America.

So there are reasons to be optimistic about where we’re headed. 

Think about it this Labor Day.  The things we now take for granted – things like a 40-hour workweek and weekends, Social Security and Medicare, workplace safety laws and the right to organize for better pay and benefits – we didn’t always have those.  Workers and the unions who get their back had to fight for them.  And those fights built a stronger middle class.

To build a stronger middle class in today’s changing economy, we’ve got to keep fighting.  We’ve got to fight for the right to health insurance.  The right to fair pay, family leave, and flexibility.  The right to a fair living wage.  No one who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.  Raising the minimum wage to ten dollars and ten cents an hour would be one of the best ways to give a boost to hardworking Americans and to our entire economy right now.  It would help 28 million Americans from all walks of life pay the bills, provide for their kids, and spend that money at local businesses.  And that grows the economy for everybody. America deserves a raise. 

America has built the greatest middle class the world has ever known, not by making sure a fortunate few at the top do well, but by making sure that everyone who’s willing to work hard and play by the rules can get ahead.  That’s the bedrock this country is built on.  Hard work.  Responsibility.  Sacrifice.  And looking out for one another as one united American family.

Let’s keep that in mind this Labor Day, and every day.  Have a great weekend, everybody.


Weekly Address: This Labor Day, Let’s Talk About the Minimum Wage

WASHINGTON, DC —In this week’s address, the President wished Americans a Happy Labor Day weekend, highlighted the important economic progress we’ve made, and reaffirmed his commitment to accelerate our progress and ensure that our growing economy fuels a strong middle class. To do this, the President reiterated that Congress should do right by hardworking Americans across the country and raise the minimum wage and he praised the 13 states and Washington, DC as well as employers large and small who have heeded his call and taken action to provide their citizens and employees a fair wage. The President underscored that America built the world’s greatest middle class by making sure that everyone who’s willing to work hard and play by the rules can get ahead – an economic patriotism worth remembering this Labor Day, and every day.

The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at at 6:00 a.m. ET, August 30, 2014.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
August 30, 2014

Hi, everybody.  Whether you’re firing up the grill, fired up for some college football, or filling up the car for one last summer roadtrip – Happy Labor Day weekend.

We set aside Labor Day to honor the working men and women of America.  And this Labor Day, we’ve got more to celebrate.  Over the past 53 months, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs.  Last month, for the first time since 1997, we created more than 200,000 jobs for six straight months.  And for the first time in over a decade, business leaders worldwide have declared, two years running, that the number one place to invest isn’t China – it’s America.

So there are reasons to be optimistic about where we’re headed.  And the decisions we make now will determine whether or not we accelerate this progress – whether economic gains flow to a few at the top, or whether a growing economy fuels rising incomes and a thriving middle class.

Think about it this Labor Day.  The things we often take for granted – Social Security and Medicare, workplace safety laws and the right to organize for better pay and benefits, even weekends – we didn’t always have these things.  Workers and the unions who get their back had to fight for them.  And those fights built a stronger middle class.

To build a stronger middle class in today’s changing economy, we’ve got to keep fighting.  We’ve got to fight for the right to affordable health insurance for everybody.  The right to fair pay, family leave, and workplace flexibility.  The right to a fair living wage. 

Let me focus on that last one for a minute.  In America, no one who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.  A hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay.  And raising the minimum wage would be one of the best ways to give a boost to working families.  It would help around 28 million Americans from all walks of life pay the bills, provide for their kids, and spend that money at local businesses.  And that grows the economy for everyone.

The bottom line is, America deserves a raise.  But until we’ve got a Congress that cares about raising working folks’ wages, it’s up to the rest of us to make it happen.  And in the year and a half since I first asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, Americans of all walks of life are doing just that.

Thirteen states and D.C. have done their part by raising their minimum wages.  Four more states have minimum wage initiatives on the ballot this November.  And the states where the minimum wage has gone up this year have experienced higher job growth than the states that haven’t. 

Business leaders at companies like The Gap are doing their part.  They’re raising base wages for tens of thousands of workers because they know it’s good for business.

Mayors across the country are doing their part.  Mayor Emanuel in Chicago and Mayor Garcetti in L.A. are working to lift their cities’ wages over time to at least thirteen dollars an hour.

I’ve tried to do my part by requiring companies that get contracts with the federal government to pay their workers a fair wage of ten dollars and ten cents an hour. 

And earlier this month, the president of Kentucky State University set a great example by giving himself a $90,000 pay cut, so that he could give raises to his lowest-paid employees.  His sacrifice will give more of his workers and their families a little extra money to help make ends meet. 

That’s how America built the greatest middle class the world has ever known.  Not by making sure a fortunate few at the top are doing well, but by making sure that everyone who’s willing to work hard and play by the rules can get ahead.  That’s the bedrock this country is built on.  Hard work.  Responsibility.  Sacrifice.  And looking out for one another as one united American family.

Let’s keep that in mind this Labor Day, and every day.  Have a great weekend, everybody.

Readout of the Vice President's Call with President Aquino of the Philippines

Vice President Biden spoke with President Aquino of the Philippines today to express U.S. support for the Filipino peacekeepers currently surrounded by armed non-state groups in the Golan Heights. The two leaders discussed their shared interest in strengthening UN peacekeeping operations. The Vice President praised the commitment of the Philippines over many years to UN peacekeeping missions, including in Liberia, where the support of the international community remains critical to addressing the Ebola outbreak. The two leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to a strong bilateral alliance.



Remarks by the President at a DNC Event -- Purchase, New York

Private Residence

Purchase, New York


4:49 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, everybody.  How is everybody doing?  (Applause.)  I just want to begin by saying thank you to the Wolf family.  As Robert mentioned, he and Carol and Luke and James, they have been great friends for years now.  I don’t think I was ever behind Dennis Kucinich in the polls.  (Laughter.)  That doesn’t ring a bell.  But it is true that Robert was a huge supporter before a lot of people knew how to pronounce my name.  And anybody who is a friend of Robert’s knows that once he’s your friend, he doesn’t stop.  He’s there for you through thick and thin, and I could not be prouder to know him.  (Applause.)

You also have an outstanding congresswoman here -- Nita Lowey is here.  Where did Nita go?  There she is.  (Applause.)  We love Nita. 

You know, it’s a little warm in here.  I’m going to take off my jacket.  My tan suit is a lot cooler.  (Laughter.)  This one is a little warmer.  But let me just -- let me start off by saying this -- Robert mentioned what things were like when I was first starting politically, when I had first broken on the national scene.  But I want to talk a little bit about what things were like right before I was President.

At the time, we were in the midst of two wars, and we were about to plunge into the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.  And when Ronald Reagan ran in 1984, and first in 1980, he asked a simple question:  Are you better off than you were four years ago?  And the one thing that I can say is that because of the incredible resilience and strength of the American people, but also because we made some good decisions even though they were tough at the time, we are better off as a country than we were when I came into office.  (Applause.) 

And when you think about what was happening then, we were losing 800,000 jobs a month.  The economy was actually contracting at a faster pace than had happened during the Great Depression.  Today, we’ve now seen 53 straight months of job growth, over 10 million jobs created.  Unemployment rate has come down faster this year than any time in the last 30 years.  The deficit has been cut by more than half.  We have seen record corporate profits.  The stock market has not just recovered but actually gone well beyond where we were pre-crisis. 

Our energy production here in America is higher than it’s ever been.  For the first time in maybe 20 years, we actually produce more energy than we import.  We’re producing twice as much clean energy as we were when I came into office, 10 times more solar energy, three times more wind energy -- which partly accounts for why we reduced carbon emissions faster than any other advanced country in the world.  The housing market has moved in the right direction.  And across the board, around the world, when investors are now asked what’s the best place to invest anywhere in the world, for two years running now, and the first time in a decade, people no longer say China, they say the United States of America.  That’s what we’ve accomplished working together.  (Applause.) 

And that doesn’t include things like education reform, and expanding access to college for millions of young people and capping their debt repayments every month so that they can take teaching jobs or social work jobs and still afford to pursue their dreams.  That doesn’t include the incredible progress that we’ve made in terms of LGBT rights and marriage equality.  (Applause.)  We are a more prosperous nation and a fairer nation, a more just nation than we were when I came into office. 

Now, having said all that, a lot of people still feel anxious.  And the question then is, why is it that if things have gotten better, why are people anxious?  Why is there still disquiet across the country?  Why is it that people feel cynical about the possibilities for the future?  And I’d offer three reasons.

The first is that although the economy as a whole has done well, there are still too many folks who have been left behind.  Those of us at the very top have done very well.  But there are still a lot of people out there out of work; still a lot of people who, at the end of the month, are struggling to pay the bills; still a lot of families who work really hard every single day but can’t figure out how to pay for childcare, or can’t imagine how they’re going to save for their kid’s college education, or have no idea how they’re going to retire.  Corporate profits have gone up, stock market has gone up, but wages and incomes have barely budged not just in the last six years, but in the last 20 years. 

And so there’s a sense that the compact that has held this country together -- the idea that the economy grows from the bottom up and the middle out, and that if you work hard no matter who you are or where you start or what you look like, what faith you belong to, that you can make it if you try -- that basic notion people feel more skeptical about. 

And that’s why, for the last six years and for the next two that I am President, we are going to continue to focus on basic steps that can strengthen the middle class and provide more ladders for people to get into the middle class.  Making sure we’ve got early childhood education in place, because we know that gives us a good bang for the buck.  Making sure that college is more affordable for more young people, because we know there’s no better investment to be in the middle class and stay there than a college education.  (Applause.)  Making sure, yes, that we continue to provide affordable, quality health care to every single American so they don’t go bankrupt when they get sick, and making sure the health care system works better for people.  (Applause.)  Making sure that childcare is accessible, and family leave is available so that ordinary families who are doing the right thing feel like they’ve got a little bit of support.  

And some of those efforts are going to cost money.  But the truth is, is that we’ve also got a whole bunch of corporate loopholes out there that could be closed, and a tax system that doesn’t work.  And if all of us are doing our fair share, then all of us can do well, not just some of us.  And that is what America is about, and that’s what I’m about.  And that’s what we’re going to keep on fighting for for the next couple of years.  (Applause.) 

Second reason people are feeling anxious is that if you watch the nightly news, it feels like the world is falling apart.  (Laughter.)  Now, let me say this:  We are living through some extraordinarily challenging times.  A lot of it has to do with changes that are taking place in the Middle East in which an old order that had been in place for 50 years, 60 years, 100 years was unsustainable, and was going to break up at some point.  And now, what we are seeing is the old order not working, but the new order not being born yet -- and it is a rocky road through that process, and a dangerous time through that process.

So we’ve seen the barbarity of an organization like ISIL that is building off what happened with al Qaeda and 9/11 -- an extension of that same mentality that doesn’t reflect Islam, but rather just reflects savagery, and extremism, and intolerance.  We’ve seen divisions within the Muslim community between the Shia and Sunni.  We continue to see an unwillingness to acknowledge the right of Israel to exist and its ability to defend itself.  And we have seen, frankly, in this region, economies that don’t work.  So you’ve got tons of young people who see no prospect and no hope for the future and are attracted to some of these ideologies.

All of that makes things pretty frightening.  And then, you turn your eyes to Europe and you see the President of Russia making a decision to look backwards instead of forward, and encroaching on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of their neighbors, and reasserting the notion that might means right.  And I can see why a lot of folks are troubled.

But -- and here’s the main message I have for you -- the truth of the matter is, is that American military superiority has never been greater compared to other countries.  Our men and women in uniform are more effective, better trained, better equipped than they have ever been.  We have, since 9/11, built up the capacity to defend ourselves from terrorist attacks.  It doesn’t mean the threat isn’t there and we can’t be -- we don’t have to be vigilant, but it means that we are much less vulnerable than we were 10 or 12 or 15 years ago. 

And the truth of the matter is, is that the world has always been messy.  In part, we’re just noticing now because of social media and our capacity to see in intimate detail the hardships that people are going through.  The good news is that American leadership has never been more necessary, and there’s really no competition out there for the ideas and the values that can create the sort of order that we need in this world. 

I hear people sometimes saying, well, I don’t know, China is advancing.  But I tell you what, if you look at our cards and you look at China’s cards, I promise you you’d rather have ours.  (Applause.)  People say that, I don’t know, Russia looks pretty aggressive right now -- but Russia’s economy is going nowhere.  Here’s a quick test for you:  Are there long lines of people trying to emigrate into Russia?  (Laughter.)  I don’t think so.

Yes, the Middle East is challenging, but the truth is it’s been challenging for quite a while.  And our values, our leadership, our military power but also our diplomatic power, the power of our culture is one that means we will get through these challenging times just like we have in the past.  And I promise you things are much less dangerous now than they were 20 years ago, 25 years ago or 30 years ago. 

This is not something that is comparable to the challenges we faced during the Cold War.  This is not comparable to the challenges that we faced when we had an entire block of Communist countries that were trying to do us in.  This is something we can handle, because we are Americans and that’s what we do.  And around the world, when you travel to Asia, or you travel to Europe, or you travel to Latin America, or you travel to Africa, what you find is, among ordinary people, they are still looking to America as a beacon of hope and opportunity.  And we should not forget that.  (Applause.) 

Which brings me to the last reason that people are anxious, and that is that Washington doesn’t work.  It’s hard to describe how unproductive this Congress is.  Harry Truman campaigned against what was known -- what he called the “do-nothing Congress.”  But compared to this Congress, that was a do-a-whole-lot Congress.  (Laughter.) 

And I have to tell you that, you know what, Democrats aren’t perfect.  We’ve got our own foibles.  Democratic politicians, like all politicians, they’re concerned about getting reelected.  But the truth of the matter is, there’s one reason why Congress is as broken as it is, and that is that the other party has become captive to the most ideologically rigid, most unproductive, most cynical group that I have ever seen. 

They don’t seem to be interested in getting things done.   They seem constantly interested in the next election as opposed to the next generation.  And that’s not inherent in the Republican Party.  I come from Illinois.  My favorite President was the first Republican President, a guy named Abraham Lincoln.  But that is what is happening now.

So the reason all of you are here today is because you understand it doesn’t have to be that way.  There has been a certain cynical genius to what some of these folks have done in Washington.  What they’ve realized is, if we don’t get anything done, then people are going to get cynical about government and its possibilities of doing good for everybody.  And since they don’t believe in government, that’s a pretty good thing.  And the more cynical people get, the less they vote.  And if turnout is low and people don’t vote, that pretty much benefits those who benefit from the status quo.

And so the fact that they haven’t gotten anything done shouldn’t be that surprising, but it should also not feed your cynicism -- it should feed a determination to want to get out there and have something better.  (Applause.)  And that is something that I cannot do alone.  I’ve got to do it with all of you. 

I was in a meeting earlier today and somebody asked, you know, Mr. President, what can you do, these folks, they just -- all they do is just oppose whatever you propose even if they used to be for it, now they’re against it; if you said the sky was blue, they’d say it was green; they deny the facts, they don’t have any ideas for growing the economy or helping the middle class -- maybe you just need to announce a state of emergency.  I said, well, now, I’m not going to do that, that’s not how the Constitution works.  (Laughter.)  I said to them, you know, there’s actually a solution to this that our Founders envisioned, and that is people being involved citizens and getting out there and voting, and bringing about change through the ballot box. 

And we have the opportunity to do that during these midterms.  And the young people here especially -- some of whom may be eligible to vote for the first time -- you’ve got to understand, this is your country.  It doesn’t work unless you are involved.  It doesn’t work unless you assert what you believe in, your values, your ideals.  If you get cynical and you just say, well, you know what, it’s not going to make any difference, then we’ll continue to have this kind of dysfunctional government and we will not be able to tackle the issues that you care about -- like climate change, or making sure that the economy is working for everybody, or making sure that college is affordable.  We won’t be able to do those things.

So my challenge to all of you is to make sure that this midterm election you’re paying attention, and you are engaged and you’re involved.  Even though there’s no presidential election yet, don’t wait until 2016.  You’ve got to get involved now.  (Applause.)  Because even if you agree with your President, you’ve got to have a Congress to work with your President in order to make things happen and deliver on the promises that all of us share.

So my closing comment -- and this, again, is directed to the young people.  And I say this sometimes -- there was one young lady here who was a White House intern a couple of years ago.  And I meet with the White House interns at the end of their six-month stint and they ask me questions.  And usually they ask things like, how do you stay in shape, is Bo as sweet as he looks.  (Laughter.) 

But sometimes they just ask about -- as young people, what advice would you give me.  And I typically tell them, number one, nothing is handed to you; you’ve got to work hard.  I said, number two, don’t just focus on what you want to be, focus on what you want to do, what you want to accomplish; focus on something you care about that’s important and is not just about you. 

But the third thing I tell them is, be hopeful.  And I say to them, if there was any moment in human history in which you could be born, and you didn’t know who you were going to be ahead of time -- you didn’t know whether you were going to be Bill Gates or some poor child in a slum in Calcutta -- and you just asked, when is it that you would want to be alive, at what moment, the answer without hesitation should be, right now.  Because the world has never been wealthier or healthier.  (Applause.)  It’s never been more tolerant.  It’s never been better educated.  It’s never been more connected. 

Yes, there are dangers.  Yes, there are challenges.  But they’re all challenges we can meet -- as long as you choose to meet them.  I’m ready to work with you.  Let’s make it happen.

Thank you very much, everybody.  God bless you.  (Applause.) 


5:07 P.M. EDT

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 8/29/2014

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room


11:52 A.M. EDT

MR. EARNEST:  Before we get started, and just for the sake of efficiency, I know that there is at least one aspect of the President’s news conference yesterday that attracted some attention.  So I thought I might just sort of go over at least one aspect of that argument.  And it’s specifically this:  The President stands squarely behind the decision that he made yesterday to wear his summer suit at yesterday’s news conference.  (Laughter.)  It’s the Thursday before Labor Day -- he feels pretty good about it.

So, anyway, with that bit frivolity out of the way -- Nedra.

Q    So why aren’t you wearing --

MR. EARNEST:  I will say that I contemplated it.  It seemed like it might be a little too much.

Nedra, do you want to get started with some more serious questions today?

Q    Yes.  Does the United States see a higher terror threat here following the announcement by Britain today?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Nedra, I can confirm that the British government has raised its domestic threat level from substantial to severe.  Senior White House officials and other national security officials in the administration had been in touch with their British counterparts about this.  I’d refer you to the British for the explanation about why they had made this determination in terms of their own terror threat level.

I understand that they have -- that, generally speaking, that it’s related to the threat posed by foreign fighters that have Western passports, that have British passports that are fighting alongside ISIL in Syria.  This is a threat that the United States has been focused on.  We’ve been coordinating closely with our allies, both the Brits but others in Europe, about countering this threat and mitigating it.  We’ve been doing that by cooperating through law enforcement channels, through national security channels, but also through intelligence channels as well.

As it relates to the United States national terror alert system, I don’t anticipate at this point that there’s a plan to change that level.  But those are official announcements that are made by the Department of Homeland Security, so I’d refer you to them for an official determination on that.  But it’s my understanding right now that there are no plans to change it.

Q    Does this administration believe that the Islamic State militants currently pose a threat to Americans here in the United States?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the concern, Nedra, that we have articulated is not dissimilar from the threat that the British have identified and acted on today.  For a number of months now, we have been monitoring those individuals that have Western passports, that are citizens of Western countries -- either the United States or in Europe -- who have made the decision to travel to Syria or that broader region, taken up arms alongside ISIL.  But they pose a threat because they’ve received military training, they are now battle-hardened, and they’ve demonstrated a willingness to risk their lives for their cause.  Those individuals, as I mentioned, have Western passports, and that does give them some freedom of movement that could allow them to come back to the West and carry out acts of violence. 

That is why the United States, in conjunction with our partners -- so these are other allied countries of ours -- have been monitoring this situation, have been tracking -- or at least monitoring the movements of these individuals. INTERPOL is involved in this effort.  There are also countries in the region that have been supportive of the efforts of the United States and our allies to monitor the situation. 

The United States is always making adjustments to counterterrorism measures.  Some of those measures are seen and some of those are unseen.  We talk about this typically when it comes to aviation security.  But it is true as it relates to other aspects of our nation’s homeland security system. 

So this is a threat that we are monitoring.  It’s one that we had been focused on for quite some time.  It has been the focus of intensive discussions inside the administration.  It’s also been the focus of intensive discussions with governments in the region and around the world.

Q    Can you explain why the President changed his travel plans today to come back to the White House tonight?  Does it have anything to do with this terror threat?

MR. EARNEST:  It is not specifically related to any sort of assessment or change in the terror threat that’s currently emanating from that region of the world.  Merely, this is an opportunity for the President -- when he saw his schedule -- decided that he’d rather just make the late evening flight back here home to the White House.  He can sleep in his own bed, do a little work tomorrow, spend some time with his family, and then travel back to New York tomorrow evening to attend a private event.

Q    When you say “do a little work,” is he planning to meet with advisors on any of these current pressing world problems?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t know at this point of any specific meetings.  But if there are meetings that take place that we can tell you about, then we’ll let you know.


Q    Did the President yesterday mean to signal that he’s nowhere near a decision on airstrikes in Syria, and, in fact, is not convinced that it’s a good thing to do?

MR. EARNEST:  I think the President was pretty explicit that he is determined to make sure that every element of his national security strategy is thought through.  The strategy that he’s laid out is multi-faceted.  It includes a lot of important diplomatic work, both with the Iraqi government, but also with governments in the region.  It includes some military work, separate from active kinetic strikes, but military work that’s focused on offering support to the Kurdish and Iraqi security forces.  There’s a lot of -- there’s an important military-to-military relationship there, and one that we’re going to continue to cultivate. 

But military action by the United States is also a part of this -- is also an important component of this strategy.  The President has authorized military action in Iraq.  And those military actions have produced some positive results.  Just in the last few weeks, because of American military action, we averted a humanitarian disaster at Mount Sinjar.  Because of military action in support of Kurdish and Iraqi security forces, we were able to blunt the rapid advance on Erbil.  That’s important because there’s an American consulate in Erbil and American citizens, American personnel who are working in Erbil on a range of functions, including closely coordinating with Iraqi and Kurdish security forces.

There was also important work that was done by the United States military to conduct strikes in support of Iraqi and Kurdish security forces to retake the Mosul Dam.  That’s a piece of critical infrastructure in Iraq. 

So we’ve already demonstrated, and the President has already demonstrated, a willingness to order military action and strikes in Iraq.  Those were part of a thought-through strategy in terms of trying to safeguard American citizens who are in Iraq.  And the President wants to be similarly rigorous as we think through other aspects of our strategy that could include military action.  There are some who have called for the President to take action -- or order military action in Syria.  The Pentagon is developing plans or military options for the President to consider, if he decides that it’s necessary to do so.  But at this point, the President hasn’t made any decisions and hasn’t ordered any military action in Syria.  But if he does take that step it will be one that is carefully considered, one that is deliberately arrived at, and one that will be made in close consultation with the United States Congress.

And what sort of timeframe are you looking at in the decision-making process? 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I wouldn’t speculate about timeframe at this point.  The President has been deliberate about this process, he’ll continue to be.  And I think that was evident from his answer on this question yesterday.

Q    And lastly, on the immigration order question, is there -- are you thinking about delaying it for a little while because you don’t want to impact the discussions over the CR that could trigger a budget shutdown, a government shutdown?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, at this point, Steve, I don’t have an update in terms of timing.  You did hear from the President yesterday where he reiterated his strong commitment to take action within the scope of his authority to solve or at least address so many of the problems that are created by our broken immigration system. 

There is legislation that has passed through the Senate, as we know, that would have addressed so many of these problems in a way that would have had substantial benefits for our economy.  Unfortunately, we’ve seen Republicans in the House engage in a political strategy to block that piece of legislation from even coming up for a vote. 

The President is disappointed that House Republicans have pursued that political strategy, and that’s why the President has resolved to use as much authority as he can muster within the confines of the law to try to solve this problem on his own.  He does that hoping that House Republicans will come to their senses at some point and pass a piece of legislation that would be even more impactful in terms of solving those problems, and would supersede any sort of executive action that he might take.

But the President is determined as ever to take that kind of action on his own, simply because House Republicans have blocked the ability of Congress to try to solve this problem.


Q    Josh, getting back to that comment, “We don’t have a strategy yet,” we know that the President was talking about a strategy for ISIS in Syria.  But having said that, would he like to have that one back?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Jim, I want to clarify one thing -- what you described.  The President was talking specifically about military options for countering ISIS in Syria.  There are a number of things that we’ve already done as it relates to the broader situation in Syria to confront some of the challenges there.  The United States, as we’ve discussed many times in this room, is the largest single donor of humanitarian aid to Syria in terms of dealing with the terrible humanitarian situation that has been caused by the violence in Syria.  We’ve seen significant numbers, millions of people, who have been displaced by the violence there.

The United States has been engaged in an effort to support the moderate Syrian opposition.  There are a range of ways in which that support is provided.  There’s also some diplomatic support that’s been provided to them. 

So there already has been some work underway in Syria to try to address some of the challenges there.  But the President was candid about the fact that the Pentagon is still reviewing options that may be available to him, military options that may be available to him, to counter ISIL militarily in Syria.

Q    But when you’re the President, words matter.  And just getting back to that first question, does he wish he hadn’t articulated that sentiment differently?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Jim, he was asked a very specific question.  And he was asked a question about --

Q    Not a helpful comment, right?  I mean --

MR. EARNEST:  Well, he was asked -- let me finish this, this is important.  He was asked a very specific question about whether or not the President would seek congressional authorization before ordering any sort of military action in Syria.  And the point the President made was that that’s putting the cart before the horse.

The President hasn’t yet laid out a specific plan for military action in Syria.  And the reason for that is simply that the Pentagon is still developing that plan, and he’s still reviewing them.  And it would be putting the cart before the horse to talk about what sort of congressional authorization would be required for a plan that hasn’t even been put in place yet.

Q    I don’t mean to belabor it, but the fact that you came out so quickly and tried to explain what the President had to say suggests that what he said was not what he intended to say.  Or are you saying that just the rest of us took it the wrong way?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think what I would --

Q    You know what I mean?

MR. EARNEST:  Yes, I do know what you mean.  The reaction that we had at the White House yesterday was not in response to the President’s comments, it’s in response to the way it was being reported.  And I don’t mean that to sound as a criticism of you all doing your jobs; you all have an important job to do.  But we do believe that it’s important for people, both you and your readers and viewers, to understand what message the President was trying to communicate and what strategy he has already laid out for confronting ISIL, and what decisions remain to be made as it relates to military options that are available to him in Syria.

So, again, that is not a critique of the media, it is just an observation that we didn’t listen to the President’s news conference and go formulate a strategy for responding.  We listened to the President’s news conference, watched your reporting, and recognized that if we wanted people to have a very clear understanding of what the President was trying to communicate, that we needed to engage you directly to do that.  And that’s what we tried to do.

Q    And getting back to Prime Minister Cameron’s comments, he said that this is not some foreign conflict thousands of miles from home.  He seemed to take a tougher tone with respect to ISIS than the President did yesterday.  And a lot of people observed that the President’s comments yesterday were not really in line or in sync with the urgency expressed by Secretary Hagel, Joint Chiefs Chairman Dempsey, who described it as beyond anything we’ve ever seen, talking about ISIS in Syria; that you can’t really take care of the ISIS problem without dealing with Syria.  What do you make of that?  Is the President on the same page as his Cabinet when it comes to dealing with ISIS?

MR. EARNEST:  I think the more important observation, Jim, is that the Cabinet is on the same page as the Commander-in-Chief.  And I am fully confident that that’s the case.

Q    There’s no debate inside the Situation Room when it comes to striking ISIS immediately in Syria? 

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t think “debate” is the way that I would describe it.  I mean, I’m not going to be in a position to read -- providing a detailed readout of a private meeting between the President and his National Security Council.  But you’ve been -- you’ve had the opportunity now to observe the President’s leadership style, and you recognize that the President is interested in hearing the unvarnished assessment of his senior advisors.  That’s true when he’s talking to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the Secretary of Defense about our military strategy.  It’s also true when he’s talking to his press secretary about our political strategy, or our communication strategy. 

So the President is interested in eliciting the unvarnished opinion of everybody that’s sitting around the table.  And it wouldn’t be particularly helpful to the President of the United States if everybody sitting around the table had exactly the same opinion or exactly the same perspective on this challenge.

So the President --

Q    So there are differing opinions as to --

MR. EARNEST:  Again, I’m not reading out the meeting, but I am in a position to convey to you that the President is determined to get the unvarnished assessment of the professionals who sit around the table and meet with him as he makes important decisions.

But I have no doubt -- and if you do, then you should go ask each one of them -- about whether or not they’re on the same page as the Commander-in-Chief.  I am confident that they are.

Let’s move around a little bit.  Justin.

Q    I wanted to loop back to your answer on immigration a little bit.  You said that there was no update on timing.  And so I just wanted to read back to you that -- in fact, earlier this month you said that you expected the review to end at the end of summer, and that you anticipated that the President would act on those recommendations shortly after receiving them.  The President also said that he intended to adopt the recommendations without further delay, both of which would indicate that you’re going to get these recommendations before the end of summer and act on them before the midterm elections.  And so my question to you is, is that still what we should be operating under?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I don’t -- the President got asked a specific question about immigration yesterday --

Q    And he didn’t answer about timing.

MR. EARNEST:  I think what he did answer was, if you’ll allow me to offer up my own view on this, he answered the most important part of that question, which is, is the President still committed to taking action where House Republicans won’t.  And the President is as determined as ever to make sure he is going to use all of the elements of his authority within the confines of the law to try to address some of the problems that have been created by our broken immigration system.

There’s an easy solution sitting on Capitol Hill that’s already passed the Senate with bipartisan support.  It has strong bipartisan support all across the country, but House Republicans are blocking it right now.  The President is disappointed that Republicans have chosen to pursue that strategy that may, in the minds of some Republican political strategists, be in their best partisan political interest.  But it’s certainly not in the best interest of the country.  And that’s why the President is determined to take the kinds of steps that are available to him to try to address this challenge.

Now, a secondary legitimate question is what’s the timeframe for that, and I just don’t have any additional information to share with you about what that timeframe is.

Q    Well, I mean, the reason that I asked -- the Los Angeles Times reported today, quoting a senior administration official, that you guys are considering splitting up the recommendations so that you’d implement things that are more palatable to both Republicans and Democrats running in vulnerable races to roll out before midterm elections and then push off some of the broader, sweeping things that we’ve certainly heard the interest groups that are coming in here discuss until after the midterm elections.  So I’m wondering if you can talk at all about whether that’s something that you’re considering, or whether you expect, when the President comes out and talks about immigration, that we’re going to hear him fully lay out everything that he plans to do.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I guess I’d say it this way -- to borrow a phrase that was used in a different context yesterday -- that’s putting the cart before the horse.  The President hasn’t actually received the final recommendations from his Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security for what options are available to him for acting unilaterally to address some of the problems of our broken immigration system. 

So those who are speculating about how those recommendations might be implemented are a little ahead of themselves.

Q    Are the political concerns being sort of spoken about by Senate Democrats who are running in vulnerable races going to play into your guys’ decision when you make a choice about when or if or how to implement -- immigration?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Justin, what we have seen, as I mentioned earlier, is a conclusion that has been reached by House Republicans that it is in their political interest to do something that’s not in the nation’s interest, and that is to pass comprehensive, common-sense, bipartisan immigration reform legislation.  That’s unfortunate. 

It’s House Republicans who are making politically motivated decisions right now.  The President is focused on trying to solve problems.  And what the President would like to do is to have a legitimate, fact-based debate about this current condition of our immigration system.  There are problems in our immigration system.  That may be the one thing that is widely agreed upon among both Democrats and Republicans -- that our immigration system is broken.  Right now, there’s only one side that seems determined to try to fix it.  And the President, in the context of using his own authority to try to fix that problem, wants to have a debate about the status of our immigration system, what the consequences are for allowing that broken immigration system to persist, and what Republicans have done -- or in this case, not done -- to try to confront that problem.

So that broader debate is an important part of the context in which the President wants to act.  And --

Q    Yes, sorry to belabor the -- this is my last one on this.  But if the President is genuinely only concerned about solving or addressing the issue, and then we’re hearing reports that the President might for political reasons delay implementing some of these recommendations that are going to come to his desk, don’t those seem contradictory in some way?  Wouldn’t the President want to immediately implement all steps that he thinks, or is told, that would help resolve this issue?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think -- there may be some people who are speculating that the President is making a political decision as it relates to immigration.  I would put forward probably a non-controversial suggestion that those are probably people who are regular critics of the President.  So I take that declaration with a grain of salt.

What the President wants to do is he wants to solve problems.  He also wants to do that in the context of a debate that’s well understood by the American public.  And the context of that debate is an unvarnished assessment of the current state of our immigration system.  He wants to make sure that the American public understands what the consequences are for our broken immigration system to persist, without solving it.  And the President wants to make sure that the context of that debate is understood in that there is a reasonable, common-sense proposal that’s already been passed in bipartisan fashion through the Senate, and would pass the House if House Republicans weren’t blocking it.

Q    What message could Secretary Kerry convey to the Gulf countries that he hasn’t conveyed before?  And what makes the President now confident that the Sunni neighbors of Iraq and Syria would behave differently, knowing that they contributed to the creation of extremists like ISIS and others through funneling money and arms to Syria for a long time?

MR. EARNEST:  I think the President alluded to this a little bit yesterday when he was talking about this subject.  It is very clearly in the interest of Iraq’s and Syria’s neighbors, even those Sunni countries, to not have a violent, extremist organization wreaking havoc in their neighborhood.  It’s destabilizing and it poses a pretty direct threat to those countries.  So it is in their interest as never before for them to work in partnership with other countries in the region, and even other interested countries in the world, like the United States, to counter that threat and to mitigate the destabilizing impact of those violent activities that we’ve seen perpetrated by ISIL.

That will be part of the message and that will be the topic of discussion that the Secretary of State will carry with him when he goes to the region.  I’m sure that they’ll at least, one way or another, the State Department officials who are traveling with the Secretary will read out those meetings.  So I wouldn’t want to get ahead of what those discussions look like.  But it is clear that the backdrop for those conversations is that the clear interest of these governments has in the last several weeks been crystallized.

Q    Does the President agree with Prime Minister Cameron?  And is he willing to go as far as Prime Minister Cameron, saying that the establishment of an Islamic state in Iraq constitutes a direct national threat to the United States?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I didn’t see all of Prime Minister Cameron’s remarks.  The aspect of his remarks that I did see was the explanation put forward by his government about why they decided to change their terror threat level.  And that specifically was related to the threat that is posed by individuals with Western passports that have been fighting alongside ISIL, that could, using their passports, travel back to the West and carry out acts of violence in the West. 

And so I know that there are a number of security changes -- or changes in their nation’s security posture that they have put in place.  The United States is regularly monitoring our security posture.  We’re also working very closely with our allies both at a law enforcement level, as well as a national security level, to try to mitigate this threat.  That’s something that we have been engaged in for quite some time.  And those efforts continue to this day, even this hour.


Q    A question on the Ukraine.  The British government, who I guess is being the hawks today, is pressing European allies to block Russia from the SWIFT bank network, which is an important financial network.  That would be a significant escalation in the financial sanctions against Russia over Ukraine.  Does the U.S. government share the British government’s view on this?  Are you also trying to do something like that, to block them from the SWIFT network and damage their financial relations?

MR. EARNEST:  I haven’t seen those reports, Mike.  I’d refer you to the Treasury Department, who can talk about what sort of financial tools are available to the United States and our allies as we consider efforts to impose additional economic costs on Russia for their actions in Ukraine. 

Q    Broadly speaking, though, are you looking to step up the financial sanctions at the moment, take them to another level when it concerns the financial sector?

MR. EARNEST:  Speaking as a general matter, based on Russia’s continued conduct in Ukraine, based on their continued effort to escalate that situation militarily, we have seen the continued movement of equipment and materiel across the border from Russia into Ukraine.  We’ve even seen pretty definitive reports that Russian troops have moved across the border and are now firing on Ukrainian military positions.

So we have seen Russia interfere in Ukraine in ways that the international community is completely unwilling to tolerate.  And as a result of that, it does put Russia at risk of facing additional economic costs that can be imposed by the United States in concert with our allies.

Q    But putting aside the specific tactic I mentioned, would you expect to see further steps from the United States to isolate Russia in the financial sector? 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Mike, as you know, the President is traveling to Europe next week.  He’ll have the opportunity to meet with a number of our NATO allies, and the situation in Ukraine is a prominent item on the agenda.  And I’m confident that there will be serious discussions about imposing additional economic costs on Russia.


Q    Josh, in Ukraine, is it an invasion?  And did the Russians commit an act of war?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, what we have seen from the Russians is consistent with the kind of behavior that we’ve seen from them for many months now.  We have seen -- there’s ample intelligence, social media reporting to indicate that they’re actively --

Q    But the EU and the NATO Secretary General now call it Russian regulars in Ukraine with military equipment.  Is that an invasion?  Is it an act of war?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the evidence that has been presented by NATO is compelling, and it does indicate that Russia is continuing to do the kinds of things, using their military might, to further destabilize the situation in Ukraine.

What we have asked -- called on the Russians to do is actually use their influence in Ukraine to try to deescalate the situation there.  And it’s clear that they’re not doing that right now.

Q    But doesn’t the language matter in this case?  Is there something that is -- you are reluctant to use those words to describe what appears to be happening in front of everyone’s eyes in Ukraine?

MR. EARNEST:  I think we’ve been very clear about describing what exactly has happened there.  The President did when he was asked this question yesterday, and we have been for many months.  As the Russian military has allowed weapons and materiel to be transferred across the border, as the Russian military has fired on Ukrainian military positions, as the Russian military has even put boots on the ground in Ukraine, we have regularly marshaled evidence to indicate what exactly is happening despite the protestations of the Russian government that for some reason would have us all believe otherwise.

The fact is, those denials are completely without any credibility, and we’ve been pretty candid about that, I think.

Q    You mentioned earlier that the United States government is monitoring the movements of these individuals, meaning Americans who have gone into Syria to fight on behalf of ISIS or ISIL.  Does the decision so far not to increase the threat level here indicate that there is a higher degree of confidence within the United States intelligence community to monitor these people in a way that the British do not currently share?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I don’t want to be in a position of assessing sort of the competence or success of an ongoing intelligence operation.

Q    I’m not trying to ascribe competence.  I’m trying to get a question of confidence, which are two separate things.

MR. EARNEST:  They are.

Q    The ability to monitor and have visibility of -- do we feel confident of our ability to monitor and have high levels of confidence about our ability to track these Americans in ways that possibly the British government does not?

MR. EARNEST:  Again, that is an assessment of our intelligence capabilities that I don’t want to venture from here.  But let me say this:  The United States, on our own right now, is dedicating significant resources and time and attention to mitigating this threat.  We are also, in addition to that, working very closely with other interested parties, including the British, to try to counter this threat, to monitor these individuals and mitigate the threat of violence that they may pose to Western interests.  And that is something that continues. 

We’re working very closely with the British on this.  I mean, one thing that has been observed publicly -- that I would observe publicly from here, I think -- is that part of the British concern is that there is, according to published reports, a relatively large number of individuals with British passports who have gone to the region to fight alongside ISIL.  The published reports, as they relate to the number of Americans who are there, is somewhat lower.

Q    Okay.  The President, in addition to saying there was no strategy in Syria said, “We can rout ISIL militarily.”  He said that; that’s a direct quote from the President near the end of the press conference yesterday.  First of all, how does he know that?  And is that the goal ultimately of U.S. policy?  If we don’t have a strategy to get them in Syria, which is their base of operations, might be their aspirational capital of their caliphate, how does he know we can rout them militarily?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’ll say a couple of things about that.  One of the things that the President said in the now-famous statement is the word “yet” was at the end.  So the Department of Defense is hard at work on developing some military options for the President in Syria.  Now, whether the President chooses to take advantage of one of those options, whether the President orders one of those options, remains to be seen.  But these are plans that are being developed.

The President does have a lot of confidence in the military apparatus to develop some solid plans for him.  But any sort of strike or military action that he orders will be a -- if ordered, will be a component of a broader strategy for defeating ISIL and mitigating the threat that they pose to the United States and to Western interests.  And that will all be done with our partners both in the Iraqi government and the governments in the region, and with countries around the world.  This will be a joint effort.

Now, let me say one other thing about what you said, because it’s important.  The question in the mind of the President is more complicated, and in some ways even bigger, than does the United States in conjunction with our allies have the capability to rout -- as he described it -- ISIL.  The real question is, how do we sustainably secure the situation in Iraq so that even if ISIL is routed, that they can’t sprout back up and make significant gains in Iraq, or anywhere else, for that matter? 

And that is why the strategy that the President has put forward has at the top of that list a unified, successful, sophisticated, integrated Iraqi government that can unite that country to face the threat that’s posed by ISIL, and to ensure that the Iraqi people can take responsibility themselves for the security situation in their country.  That ultimately is how we will be in a position to deny ISIL the ability to create a safe haven where they could threaten other countries in the region or eventually even other countries around the world.

Q    I understand that, and I appreciate you for saying that.  Is there any risk, Josh, for this President to see complexity and it become an excuse for paralysis?  Because people who look at this region say, if you solve this militarily then a lot of these other issues can be addressed, but you can’t address these other issues if ISIS presents an ongoing, expanding terroristic and military threat to ever-larger pockets of space in Iraq and Syria.  I mean, just this week they took four runs at an airbase, each and every one of them more tactically and operationally sophisticated than the one before it, and the fourth one was successful.  They have shown a penchant to adapt on the battlefield, use ever-more sophisticated techniques, and gain space they believe are important to their overall territorial objectives.  I mean, there would be those who would say, yes, there are all these other complex issues, but the military issue is before you now, and you better deal with it or else you can’t get to the rest of these things.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, that’s why the President has been pretty clear about the idea that these things need to move together.  And that’s why the President, as the Iraqis have made progress in forming the kind of inclusive government that we have called on them to adopt for any number of months now, has moved side by side with the President’s plan to authorize military action in Iraq.  I mentioned earlier that there are a number of things that have been accomplished by the Iraqi security forces with the important support of the U.S. military.

Q    But even the President said yesterday that those bombing raids will be limited and pose little risk of exposure to U.S. forces.  I mean, it’s still a minor league effort.

Q    But they’ve been -- I don’t think I would describe it that way.  They’ve been successful in encouraging Iraqi and Kurdish security forces as they retook the Mosul Dam.  They’ve been supportive and successful in blunting the offensive that was underway against Erbil.  Again, that would not have been possible without the American military intervention there.

But the President is also determined -- and the President said this not in yesterday’s appearance in the briefing room, but in his previous appearance in the briefing room -- that he’s the Commander-in-Chief of the United States military.  And he will use that in support of Iraq’s security forces to accomplish some of these goals.  But the President is not going to become the Commander-in-Chief of the Iraqi air force; that ultimately, we need to have a situation where the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government and Iraq security forces can take responsibility for their own security. 

And the United States and this President is willing to devote significant resources to assist and support Iraq’s government and Iraq’s people as they take that responsibility.  But we can’t do it for them, and the President is not going to try.

Q    Last question on this.  So absent that coalition and complex array of other issues, ISIL can stay? 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I guess I don’t know what you mean.

Q    If it takes the Iraqis to do this, if we’re not going to be the Iraqi air force, and the other partners in the region don’t come in in ways that they’re currently not coming in, ISIL gets to stay.  I mean, what is the lead dynamic here?  Is it defeating them the lead dynamic, or dealing with all these other things that make the complex over time more livable?

MR. EARNEST:  The overriding dynamic here is making sure that the national security interests of the United States of America are protected.  That is always at the top of the President’s agenda. 

Q    Is that consistent with ISIL existing or not?

MR. EARNEST:  What it’s consistent with -- that strategy requires the Iraqi government to do the right kinds of things that will unite that country to face down this threat.  The good news is they’re making those kinds of steps.  When I was speaking before you three weeks ago, Prime Minister Maliki was still Prime Minister Maliki.  He isn’t anymore.  He has stepped aside, and Iraq does seem to be -- Iraq’s political leaders do seem to be pursuing the kind of inclusive governing agenda that we would like to see them pursue.

Now, they’ve got more work to do.  They still have to form a cabinet, but that work is underway.  We saw that Iraq’s security forces and the Kurdish security forces were being overrun by ISIL forces, but thanks to the intervention of the United States military and the bravery and courage and service of American servicemen and women, they’ve been able to turn the tide in support of Iraq security forces.

Never before -- and I mentioned this earlier -- never before has it been so clearly in the interest of regional governments to combat this violent extremist organization that’s wreaking havoc in their neighborhood.  That’s not in their interest.  So we’re optimistic about the success that we may have in rallying them to this cause as well. 

So we’ve made important progress on this over the last few weeks, but make no mistake, the President does not believe that just pursuing a military strategy is a substitute for the more comprehensive strategy that will be required to arrive at an enduring solution to this problem. 


Q    In light of the British raising the terror threat there, and this being Labor Day weekend with a lot of Americans traveling, a simply question -- and we’re monitoring these Americans and Westerners with passports -- is there any evidence from the TSA, from the FBI, CIA, NSA, any of our resources, that any of those people with the Western passports have been on planes or are on the way back from the United States, or are already in the United States?

MR. EARNEST:  Jim, the most detailed intelligence assessment that I can offer from here is that there is no evidence or indication right now that ISIL is actively plotting to attack the United States homeland.  That’s true right now. 

That said, it is important that we take the steps that are necessary as a part of the President’s comprehensive strategy, to deny them a safe haven that would give them the kind of comfort that they would need to consider plotting those kinds of attacks.  We also need to be very vigilant about the threat that is posed by foreign fighters, individuals with Western passports that have been fighting alongside ISIL that may be considering returning to the West to carry out some acts of violence here, too.

So we’re vigilant about those things.  And that is work that often takes place behind the scenes; that as we calibrate our security posture and have the kinds of discussions about intelligence and national security matters that are important to the safety of the United States of America, those things aren’t often evident to the American people, but people can have some confidence that the administration and our national security professionals and our law enforcement professionals are very vigilant about the threat that we face in this regard.

Q    If we are, in fact, monitoring, as you said, are we confident that we know all of the Americans that have gone to Syria to fight next to ISIL?  And are we confident that we know that they’re still there and not here, back here?

MR. EARNEST:  I can’t offer an assessment about the depth of our intelligence as it relates to this specific question.  I can tell you that this is a challenge that our national security apparatus and our intelligence apparatus is very focused on, and it’s why we’re working so closely with our partners and allies around the globe to mitigate this threat.

Q    On the other subject of immigration, if I could for a moment -- in June, there were 354 unaccompanied minors coming across daily, across the border in the United States from Central America.  In the latest figures that are for August that came out, it’s down to 104 a day.  Is the crisis among unaccompanied minors over on the border right now?

MR. EARNEST:  For now.  But what we have seen, Jim, is that these numbers are very volatile and that there are important steps that this administration is taking to try to prevent those numbers from going back up.  Unfortunately, we haven’t gotten the kind of support in the form of resources that are necessary from the United States Congress.  The President put forward a very detailed proposal for the kinds of resources that he would like to see that could be used to try to prevent those numbers from increasing again.

So this is a problem that, while the numbers have improved -- and we’re certainly pleased about that -- this is a problem that we still remain very focused on, because this has been a very volatile situation, and those numbers have, without a lot of warning, on some occasions spiked.  And so we’re going to continue our diplomatic efforts to work with the home countries of these individuals where we’re seeing this population moving toward the southwest border, to make sure they understand that they shouldn’t try to make this dangerous journey. 

We’re still going to be focused on shifting resources from the interior to the border to make sure that we can continue our efforts to secure the border.  The President is still using his own executive authority to devote additional resources to the immigration courts so we can make sure we can both respect the due process to which these individuals are entitled, while at the same time we’re making the wheels of justice turn efficiently.

Q    Josh, on those measures that you’re talking about right now that you think have been successful to a point as of now -- I was just in --

MR. EARNEST:  Let me say one other thing about that, which is -- I mean, the other factor here is the weather, that traditionally we have seen a decline in the numbers when the weather gets hotter.  So I don’t want to leave the impression that’s only because of what the administration has done that we’ve seen these numbers go down.  There are a variety of factors.  But there’s no doubt that the administration has made a substantial contribution to the reduction in those numbers.

Q    And as far as the measures -- if I can finish that question --

MR. EARNEST:  Yes, I apologize.

Q    That’s okay.  I was just in Guatemala, and as recently as last week the Guatemalans continue to allow rafts to go across the Mexican border with unaccompanied minors, uninhibited by police.  You say they have cooperation.  Why aren’t they stopping them?  I just finished talking to the immigration judges, to the president of their union, who says the money that has been promised by the administration has not yet shown up, and they still have huge delays in the court system.  If that’s not happening, those two things aren’t happening, what is working?  What have you done that is actually stopping, or at least reducing the numbers?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I do think that the first place to start here is the numbers do speak for themselves, that we’ve seen these numbers dramatically lower for a variety of reasons.  But it is clear that some of the steps that the administration has put in place have had an effect.  As it relates to the government of Guatemala, there clearly is more work that needs to be done to ensure that they’re playing as constructive a role as possible in stemming the flow of children or adults who are traveling with children to the southwest border.

What I would say is we have seen some important announcements over the last couple of months from the Mexican government, and that they have been playing an important role in preventing and tightening their borders in a way that is, frankly, clearly in the interest of the Mexican government and Mexican people and their own national security, but it has an intended benefit for the United States.  And that’s why we closely coordinate with them on these issues.

As it relates to resources for our immigration court system, there’s no doubt that we’d like to see additional resources being deployed to reduce that backlog.  That’s why the President specifically asked for money from Congress to ensure that our courts could have the resources that they need to administer justice.  And House Republicans were engaged in a pretty coordinated effort to prevent those resources from being provided. 

So that’s why the administration has had to resort to reprogram some funds to try to dedicate to this effort.  But there certainly is more that can be done and more that would be done if Congress and Republicans in Congress weren’t blocking it.


Q    What was the calculation that went into the President’s comments yesterday on Russia?  They seemed -- although you say they were explicit, they were much less passionate than what Samantha Power had to say at the U.N.  Is there some attempt to try and stop the clash of Ukraine becoming a direct U.S.-Russia confrontation?  Or are there things that a U.N. ambassador can say that the President can’t without sort of elevating direct tensions with Putin?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I mean, Stephen, I think the President’s answer made clear a couple of things.  The first is, the President did draw a distinction between the United States’ relationship with our NATO allies and the Article 5 commitments that we have to those allies, and how that is different than the kind of commitment that the United States has to a nation like Ukraine, that while is a friend to the United States, is not a NATO ally to the United States.  However, because the United States does have an important relationship with Ukraine, the United States will, as the President said, stand shoulder to shoulder with the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian government as they counter these destabilizing activities from the Russians.

But the President felt it was important, as a matter of policy and as a matter of giving the American people some insight into his thinking, to clarify that we’re not trending toward a military conflict between the United States and Russia in this region over this issue.  There’s a lot that we can do to support the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people.  There’s a lot that we can do in acting in concert with our allies to impose costs on Russia for the tactics that they’re employing right now.  But people should also have a pretty clear understanding of where the President’s head is on this, and I think that that’s what he was trying to lay out last night.

Q    Does the administration think that Russia appreciates that distinction between U.S. attitudes toward Ukraine, the new attitude -- U.S. intentions towards a NATO ally like somewhere in the Baltics?  I mean, clearly, if that message isn’t wholly understood that’s a dangerous situation. 

MR. EARNEST:  You’re talking about an administration that, when presented with photographic evidence that Russian boots were on the ground in Ukraine, stood there and denied that Russia had military in Ukraine.  I saw -- according to one news report I saw, that the foreign minister suggested that maybe it was -- these were video game graphics that had been trumped up to try to frame the Russians.  That sort of irrational explanation makes it hard to tell exactly what they’re thinking.


Q    Josh, as you were speaking, we heard Marine One leaving here so the President can go raise campaign money in Rhode Island and New York.  And I wonder what you think about the optics of the President from that podium yesterday saying he still does not have a strategy to deal with ISIS in Syria militarily, and the next day, without that strategy, goes out and raises campaign money.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the President did convene a meeting with his National Security Council immediately after leaving this podium yesterday to talk through with his top national security advisors, including top officials from the Pentagon, about our more broad comprehensive strategy against ISIL.  That included a discussion about the military options that are available to the President for dealing with ISIL in Syria.  That’s the responsibility of the Pentagon.  There are dedicated professionals there who are responsible and take seriously their responsibility.

Q    Right.  So they’re handling it and he can go out and raise campaign money?  Because I ask because last week when he made the statement right after James Foley’s beheading, and within minutes was on the golf course.  Is he detached?  Does he feel like the critics coming after him, it just doesn’t matter anymore?  Why is he still raising campaign money, playing golf, when he’s acknowledging he doesn’t have a strategy to deal with this?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Ed, the job of any U.S. President is to be able to handle a lot of different responsibilities at the same time.  That’s why the President has a national security team in whom he has a lot of confidence.  It is also why he works closely with his advisors on a range of issues to make sure that he is leading them in the right direction, that he is setting a vision for the future of this country.  That’s what allows him to handle a lot of responsibilities at the same time.  And one of his responsibilities, as the head of the party, is to support Democratic candidates who are on the ballot.  And that’s why the President is also spending a little bit of time supporting their efforts.

But the President, there’s no doubt -- anybody who has looked at the President’s schedule understands that he is devoting significant more time and energy to the more important responsibility that he has to ensure the safety and security of the American people.

Q    On the substance of his comments yesterday, so you today and the President yesterday are trying to make this broader argument that it was sort of the media pundits and others who sort of suggested we were inching closer to airstrikes against Syria.  And I wonder if the President himself didn’t help set that expectation on August 20th when he commented on James Foley’s beheading and said, “This shocks the conscience of the entire world…when people harm Americans anywhere, we do what’s necessary to see that justice is done and we act” -- he said -- “we act against ISIS standing alongside others.”  Was that just an empty threat?

MR. EARNEST:  No, Ed, as we’ve discussed, the President ordered military action in Iraq in pursuit of --

Q    But he had already been doing that before that statement.  Before the beheading, there were already acting military in Iraq.

MR. EARNEST:  That’s right, and that’s an indication of how serious the President takes this.

Q    And then General Dempsey and others said we have to go into Syria if we’re really going to take ISIS out.  So my question is, is there a way to get justice -- as he told the American people and world he was going to do -- without military action in Syria?

MR. EARNEST:  Ed, the President will get justice.

Q    How?

MR. EARNEST:  The President promised that he will do that.

Q    How do you get to -- is there a way to get justice without military action is what I’m trying to get at.  Is it working with partners?

MR. EARNEST:  I know -- but, Ed, we just talked about the fact that the President has already ordered military action in Syria --

Q    In Iraq.

MR. EARNEST:  They’ve carried out --

Q    Not in Syria.

MR. EARNEST:  In Syria.

Q    In Iraq.

MR. EARNEST:  The President has ordered military action in Iraq to go after ISIL elements that are threatening Americans, and we’ve talked about how substantial and important those military actions have been in support of protecting American citizens in Iraq.  So the President is not shying away at all, and he has already demonstrated that he is not going to shy away at all from using all of the elements of American power -- whether it’s military might or diplomatic influence -- to represent American interests and to protect the lives of Americans in that region of the world.

Q    Two other quick ones to get beyond the language of what he said, what he meant.  Simple question:  Why does he not have a strategy yet?

MR. EARNEST:  Because the Pentagon is still developing military options for the President, for the Commander-in-Chief to use against ISIL in Syria.  There are some who probably would make the case that it’s okay to not have a formulated comprehensive strategy, but just as one pundit I know recently suggested, that we could just go drop some bombs and see what happens.  That is not what the President believes is a smart approach.  The President believes it’s important for us to pursue a comprehensive strategy where military action is one component of that strategy.

Q    How does the Pentagon still not have a strategy?  You’re saying the Pentagon -- it’s the Pentagon’s issue?  They haven’t put this strategy together yet?  Is the Commander-in-Chief not saying, I want this plan on my desk tomorrow?

MR. EARNEST:  What the President is saying is that he wants -- he is going to be deliberate about which components of our strategy can best be employed to protect the national security interests of the United States of America.  He wants the Pentagon to be deliberate as they develop the kinds of options that may or may not be available to him.  And the President will consider them, and he will act in a timely fashion as he assesses the best interest of the United States of America.

Q    In terms of a timely fashion, last one -- August 2013 -- a year ago this month -- the President had a news conference here and Jon Karl of ABC asked a question about whether the President still believes al Qaeda has been decimated.  And the President said, core al Qaeda, as he said many times, has been decimated but we’re seeing these other groups metastasizing into regional groups that can still be dangerous.  And the President went on to say -- he didn’t name ISIS, but groups like ISIS -- and said, “So that requires us then to make sure that we have a strategy that is strengthening those partners so that they’ve got their own capacity to deal with what are potentially manageable regional threats.”  August 2013, he is talking about how we need to be putting together a strategy.  One year later, how could he not have that strategy?

MR. EARNEST:  Ed, as we’ve talked about quite a bit, the President has been very explicit about what the comprehensive strategy is.  That comprehensive strategy --

Q    You’re saying that, but he said I don’t have that strategy specifically for Syria.

MR. EARNEST:  But, Ed, what I’m trying to -- if you’ll let me answer the question here, the point of that statement -- and this is a sentiment, a strategy that the President has reiterated on a number of occasions.  He reiterated this at West Point when he spoke there on May 28th of this year.  He says, “I believe that we must shift our counterterrorism strategy, drawing on the success and shortcomings of our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, to more effectively partner with countries where terrorist networks seek a foothold.”  He reiterated that strategy when he spoke to the nation over in the State Dining Room earlier this month, where he talked about how the core component of our strategy needs to be building up regional partners so that the United States isn’t responsible for, in this situation, providing security for the people of Iraq. 

We need to build up our partners and make sure that we have a cooperative government so that the Iraqi people can provide for their own security.  That is the way that we will find an enduring way to deal with the threat that’s posed by ISIL.  If we rely only on America’s military might, there is no question that because of the bravery and skill of our American servicemen and women, that they can have a substantial impact on the battlefield, that they could -- as the President said yesterday -- “route” ISIL on the battlefield, there’s no question about that.  But if we want to make sure that ISIL doesn’t come back, we need to make sure that we have effective partners who can provide for the security of their country and prevent ISIL from making a return.

Now, there is a role for the United States to play, both diplomatically and even militarily, to support those efforts, but we’re not going to be able to solve this problem for them.  And I recognize that some of the President’s critics don’t agree.  Some of the President’s critics believe that the United States should act militarily, that we can go out and solve this problem for them.  But that’s going to require a substantial commitment of American military forces, an occupation of another country.  And that’s just not a strategy that the President believes succeeds.  It certainly didn’t succeed in Iraq last time around, and the President doesn’t believe that’s a recipe for success this time, either.


Q    Josh, thanks.  Following up on the military options, you said that during the meeting yesterday the President discussed possible options with his national security team.  So just to be clear on this point, has the Pentagon presented any military options at this point?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’m not in a position to -- as we’ve discussed a couple of times this week -- I’m not going to get into a detailed play-by-play of the back-and-forth between the President and his senior military advisors.  But I will tell you as a general matter that the President has been discussing with his national security team and with his senior team at the Pentagon the range of options that are or may be available to him for countering ISIL militarily, both in Iraq and in Syria.

Q    So he has been presented with some options then?

MR. EARNEST:  I will say that the President has discussed with his national security team some of the options that they’re developing.  I’m not going to, again, get into a play-by-play about whether or not they finalized their plans, whether or not the President has received them, whether or not he has reviewed them, whether he has gotten back to them about those finalized plans.  I just -- I’m not going to provide that much insight into this understandably private process.

But I will tell you that the President has had a number of discussions with his national security team about military options that may or may not be available to him.

Q    And going back to the discrepancy between the President’s comments yesterday and Secretary Hagel, Chairman Dempsey last week, I know you’re saying that they’re on the same page right now, but does the President feel as though they got out ahead of him on this issue?  Because they seem to be laying the groundwork for the strong possibility that there would be some type of military intervention in Syria.

MR. EARNEST:  I continue to be confident, as I was earlier, that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense, and all the other senior members of the President’s national security team are on the same page as the Commander-in-Chief.  And if you have any doubt about that, you should ask them.  But I’m confident they’ll tell you the same thing. 

Q    Why the public discrepancy, Josh?  Why do you have Secretary Hagel saying that this is a threat beyond anything that we’ve seen?  Why are we seeing this discrepancy in the public comments?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think it’s important to differentiate, though, between a discrepancy about the policy and strategy that the President is pursuing, and the different words that the Secretary of Defense has chosen to describe this situation.  He was offering up his honest assessment of what he perceives, based on his knowledge of what’s happening on the ground.  And I don’t think it’s particularly -- the words that he used were different than what the President has said about this, but the policy implications of that for securing the United States of America and our interests are completely consistent.

Q    So you think they’re on the same page?  Does the President share that assessment that ISIS is beyond anything we’ve ever seen, the threat from ISIS?

MR. EARNEST:  The President was asked a couple of times yesterday about his assessment of ISIL and the threat that they pose to the United States, so he has talked about this quite a bit, so I’d just refer you to his comments.

Q    And does he -- in terms of the sense of urgency that he feels to come up with a strategy -- I mean, obviously he has dispatched Secretary Kerry to try to create an international coalition -- does he have a timeline?  Is this something that he is going to have a strategy within a matter of days, within a matter of weeks?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, again, Kristen, he has laid out a comprehensive strategy for dealing with ISIL.  It starts with the formation of an effective, inclusive Iraqi government.  It includes stronger support and a stronger relationship, and a more effective Iraqi and Kurdish security forces.  It includes a greater engagement from regional governments who have a clear stake in this outcome.  It involves the participation of countries around the world who are concerned about the threat that’s posed by ISIL.  And it includes the military actions that the President has already ordered take place in Iraq, in support of all of those goals.

So there are a range of components to the President’s strategy.  He has laid that out very clearly, and that’s the strategy that we’re going to pursue because the President believes it’s in the best national security interest of the United States of America.  It’s also the only way we’re going to get an enduring solution to this problem.

Q    And, Josh, let me finally just get you to respond to something that the New York Times Editorial Board wrote yesterday.  They wrote, “One problem is the administration’s incomplete knowledge about ISIS or ISIL, its numbers and organization.  This is alarming given the billions of dollars spent since September 11, 2001, in developing technologies and strategies for detecting and assessing terrorist threats.”  Is that a fair assessment?  Does the administration not have a complete sense of ISIL at this point in time?  And why isn’t there a better understanding of this group so many years after September 11th? 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, for our assessment of ISIL’s capabilities, I’d refer you to the Intelligence Community.  But I can tell you that at the direction of the President, every element of the President’s national security team is focused on making sure that we are putting in place the kind of strategy, and implementing and executing on the strategy the President has laid out for protecting the national security interests of the United States.


Q    Josh, when the Ukrainian people hear you saying we’re not trending toward military action in Ukraine, and of course the comment that the President made flatly ruling that out, and when they see constant threats of increased notching up of sanctions which, again, we’re hearing about that have only seen Russia take more robust action in their incursions, if that’s what you want to describe it as -- why shouldn’t they think their country is being written off?

MR. EARNEST:  The people of Ukraine?

Q    Yes.

MR. EARNEST:  Because the President also in his news conference said that the United States stands shoulder to shoulder with the people of Ukraine.  I believe that was the phrase that he used.  That’s a pretty strong signal of support from the United States, the one indispensable nation in the world, in support of their cause. 

You’ve also seen the United States, acting in concert with our allies, impose significant costs on Russia for Russia’s strategy in Ukraine.  And those economic costs have taken a toll on the Russian economy.  We’ve seen significant capital flight from Russia.  There is a pretty clear indication that Russia -- that the global, investing public doesn’t think that Russia is a pretty good place to park your money right now.  In fact, there were --

Q    But they also have artillery units rolling all through Ukraine now, too.  It has no effect.

MR. EARNEST:  They do.  They also -- well, again, the sanctions have had an effect.  They have taken a toll on their economy.  Capital flight -- we’ve seen the Russian currency weaken so much that the central bank has expended significant sums of money to try to prop up the value of that currency.  We have seen economic projections, as it relates to economic growth in Russia, significantly curtailed.  We’ve seen Russia’s credit rating downgraded by independent credit rating organizations.  So there has been a toll that’s been taken on the Russian economy, and ultimately it will be up to President Putin to determine exactly how he wants to respond to the situation.  But the fact is -- and the President said this yesterday, too -- that for all of Russia’s continued agitation in Ukraine, Russia is becoming only more isolated and more weakened.

Q    Do you see that, though, having any effect on its military actions in Ukraine?  No.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, what we have seen is we’ve seen the Russians continue their efforts to transfer weapons and materiel and even personnel across the border from Russia into Ukraine.  But, ultimately, those sorts of decisions are made by President Putin.  But there’s a significant cost associated with those decisions.  We’ve seen the impact it has taken on the Russian economy.  We’ve seen Russia become more isolated.  And, in the President’s view, Russia is weaker as a result.  And so President Putin needs to make a decision about whether or not he is willing to significantly weaken his country just to destabilize a country that’s on their border.

Q    What do you think Putin is up to today with comments like reminding a young audience of Russia’s nuclear capability?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, as I mentioned I think in answer to Stephen’s question, that when they’re denying photographic evidence of Russia’s military actions in Ukraine, it’s pretty hard to tell what exactly they’re thinking over there.

Zeke, I’ll give you the last one.  Then we’ll do the week ahead.

 Q    So is it your assessment that -- or the administration’s assessment that the threat level based in the United States from ISIS/ISIL is lower than that in Britain, and that’s the reason why the threat level hasn’t been elevated?

 MR. EARNEST:  Well, I wouldn’t draw that clear of a line.  I think what I would do is I would say the President has been clear about the threat that ISIL does pose in the form of these foreign fighters to the United States and our interests.  That’s something that we’re concerned about, focused on, and actively working to mitigate.  And we don’t, at this point, however, see a reason to change the threat level in this country.  But, again, for an official assessment of that, though, I’d refer you to the Department of Homeland Security that’s responsible for making those decisions.

Q    And to a follow up on that, I mean, in terms of the -- you said before you didn’t anticipate a change in the threat level and just repeated that now.  What would change that assessment?  What is the trigger that the President and his administration would look for?

 MR. EARNEST:  Well, it would be the responsibility of the Secretary of Homeland Security to make that determination, and so what factors would play into that I’d refer you to the Secretary of Homeland Security.

So with that, why don’t we do a quick week ahead and then we’ll call it a day. 

The President, as we all know, will be departing here tomorrow evening with his family to go to New York to participate in a private event -- to attend a private event in New York.

On Monday, the President is looking forward to celebrating Labor Day in Milwaukee.  He will be traveling there for an event where he’ll deliver remarks. 

On Tuesday morning, the President will depart the White House for his trip to Europe.  He will travel to Estonia.  He’ll spend Tuesday night in Estonia.  He’ll do a range of meetings with the leaders of the Baltic nations in Estonia before leaving Estonia on Wednesday night to travel to Wales for the NATO summit. 

The NATO summit will take place Thursday and Friday, and the President will return on Friday evening back here to the White House.

Over the course of that trip, I do anticipate you’ll have a couple of opportunities to hear directly from the President, and even ask him a question or two.

Thanks, everybody.

Q    Presser in Tallinn and Wales?

MR. EARNEST:  That’s the current plan, yes.


12:55 P.M. EDT

Presidential Proclamation - National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, 2014


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Childhood obesity is one of the most urgent health issues we face in the United States. Nearly one in three American children are overweight or obese, putting them at risk for many immediate and long-term health problems -- including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. As a Nation, we have a responsibility to ensure our children have every chance to fulfill their potential, and that starts by providing them with the opportunities to make healthy choices. Recent data show progress is possible: obesity rates have fallen by 43 percent among children ages two to five years old. But we must remain committed to improving the health of kids of all ages. This month, we build on our progress and raise awareness of the benefits of healthy eating and active living so our children can lead prosperous and productive lives.

First Lady Michelle Obama's

Let's Move! initiative is striving to ensure every young person has a chance at a healthy childhood. For more than 4 years, Let's Move! has brought together stakeholders across the public and private sectors to encourage and expand access to physical activity and nutritious foods -- two components of a healthy lifestyle. Across America, more communities have gained access to healthy and affordable food and the information needed to make more nutritious choices. Businesses are marketing healthier foods to kids, and families are buying healthier products.

Family members, caregivers, and other role models can also play a critical role in helping children make healthy choices. Those who support our kids can model healthy behaviors by staying active and preparing healthy meals at home. Families can plant kitchen gardens, cook together, and encourage lifestyle choices that support a healthy weight.

My Administration is working to make sure the hard work parents and caregivers are doing to teach kids healthy habits will not be undone outside the home. We have fought to improve the overall quality of school meals, and as students return to school this fall, they will have more opportunities than ever before to make healthy choices -- including changes in foods offered in vending machines and a la carte lines. This past year, my Administration announced a new proposal to prohibit items that cannot be sold or served in schools from being marketed in schools. These measures build on the progress already made by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which this year will allow more than 22,000 schools across the country to qualify to serve free, healthy breakfasts and lunches for all their students.

Each American has an important part to play as we build healthier communities for young people across our Nation. During National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, we continue our work to provide every child with healthy food, active play, and a good example to follow. By committing to a healthy lifestyle for our families and eating right ourselves, we can help turn the tide against childhood obesity across our country.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2014 as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. I encourage all Americans to learn about and engage in activities that promote healthy eating and greater physical activity by all our Nation's children.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-ninth day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.



Open thread for night owls: Procrastination—Is delaying hard work all about our moods?
Night Owl
Derek Thompson at The Atlantic writes The Procrastination Doom Loop—Delaying hard work is all about your mood. An excerpt:

When I woke up this morning, I had one goal: Finish this article by 11 a.m.

So, predictably, by the time it was 10 a.m., I had made and consumed two cups of coffee, taken out the trash, cleaned my room while taking a deliberately slow approach to folding my shirts, gone on a walk outside to clear my head, had a thing of yogurt and fruit to reward the physical exertion, sent an email to my aunt and sister, read about 100 Tweets (favorited three; written and deleted one), despaired at my lack of progress, comforted myself by eating a second breakfast, opened several tabs from on my browser ... and written absolutely nothing.

What's the matter with me?* Nothing, according to research that conveniently justifies this sort of behavior to my editors. Or, at least, nothing out of the ordinary for writers, as Megan McArdle has explained on this site. I'm just a terrible procrastinator.

Productive people sometimes confuse the difference between reasonable delay and true procrastination. The former can be useful ("I’ll respond to this email when I have more time to write it"). The latter is, by definition, self-defeating (“I should respond to this email right now, and I have time, and my fingers are on the keys, and the Internet connection is perfectly strong, and nobody is asking me to do anything else, but I just … don’t … feel like it.”).

When scientists have studied procrastination, they've typically focused on how people are miserable at weighing costs and benefits across time. For example, everybody recognizes, in the abstract, that it's important to go to the dentist every few months.

The pain is upfront and obvious—dental work is torture—and the rewards of cleaner teeth are often remote, so we allow the appointment to slip through our minds and off our calendars. Across several categories including dieting, saving money, and sending important emails, we constantly choose short and small rewards (whose benefits are dubious, but immediate) over longer and larger payouts (whose benefits are obvious, but distant).

In the last few years, however, scientists have begun to think that procrastination might have less to do with time than emotion. Procrastination "really has nothing to do with time-management,” Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University, told Psychological Science. “To tell the chronic procrastinator to just do it would be like saying to a clinically depressed person, cheer up.” [...]

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2009Kennedy, Nixon, and Bush:

According to Fox News, the thing that made Ted Kennedy special was that he was always willing to make deals with Republicans, and that he'd sell those deals to his fellow progressives.

Kennedy, they say, was always in pursuit of a half-a-loaf. And the best example? His support for President Bush's medicare prescription drug benefit.
But there's a problem with Fox's claim: it's not true. Although Kennedy did reach a deal with Bush on prescription drugs, Bush screwed Kennedy and reneged on the deal at the last second, leaving Kennedy fuming.

Far from supporting Bush's Medicare prescription drug plan, Kennedy was one of its most outspoken critics. And it's all on video tape.

In mid-2003, before the Bush Administration stabbed him in the back, Kennedy did support reaching a deal on prescription drug coverage, making the case for compromise by hearkening back to an opportunity to achieve universal health care coverage during Nixon's presidency.

Tweet of the Day
Really, @GovernorPerry if you can't guard your official private twitter account, how can we trust you to guard the border?

Every Monday through Friday you can catch the Kagro in the Morning Show 9 AM ET by dropping in here, or you can download the Stitcher app (found in the app stores or at, and find a live stream there, by searching for "Netroots Radio."

Top Comments

President Bush declared Iraq a 'catastrophic success' ten years ago
The disastrous U.S. invasion of Iraq wasn't just an American war of choice. As much as anything else, it was a war of talking points. Designed, as President Bush once explained, to "catapult the propaganda," the tried and untrue sound bites about "the smoking gun that could come in the form of mushroom cloud," about Saddam seeking uranium in Africa, about being "greeted as liberators," about an insurgency in its "last throes" in 2005, about the "ties going on between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's regime" and so much more converted the Bush administration into a weapon of mass deception.

But it was ten years ago this weekend that George W. Bush vomited forth one of the more reprehensible defenses of his debacle in Iraq. Nineteen months after launching the invasion, 17 months after announcing "major combat operations in Iraq have ended" and 14 after declaring "bring 'em on" to the growing ranks of insurgents, President Bush offered this lone lament in an August 29, 2004 interview with Time magazine:

"Had we had to do it [the invasion of Iraq] over again, we would look at the consequences of catastrophic success - being so successful so fast that an enemy that should have surrendered or been done in escaped and lived to fight another day."
Fight another day, indeed. Eleven years after George W. Bush opened the Pandora's Box of sectarian conflict in Iraq and 10 after he proclaimed it a "catastrophic success," the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS) has emerged with a vengeance. And ISIS owes its stunning battlefield victories to a deadly alliance of Al Qaeda fighters Bush admitted he attracted to Iraq, Sunni tribesmen alienated by his man in Baghdad Nouri al-Maliki and, it turns out, some of Saddam's former officers who "should have surrendered or been done in."

Continue reading about President Bush's "catastrophic success" in Iraq below.

To fight ISIS the West must do more to integrate potentially alienated Muslims
People who feel a part of the national community do not join ISIS.
It is disturbing, to say the least, to hear that an American was killed fighting for ISIS, and that, depending on which estimate one reads, anywhere from a few dozen to three hundred Americans may have likewise joined up. Even more disturbing is that there are "twice as many" British Muslims serving in combat with ISIS than there are serving in that country's military, according to Khalid Mahmood, a member of the British Parliament. Think about that.

Let me now make clear what this article is and is not about. It is not an endorsement of any specific level of U.S. military action in Iraq or Syria, or military action by other Western countries. It is also not an argument about the level of military threat posed by ISIS—irrespective of the horrific, evil nature of their acts—to the United States. One astute writer warned against overestimating that threat. Nor am I accusing Muslim communities in the West of failing to condemn the brutal violence committed by ISIS. In fact, I wrote just the opposite a little over a week ago.

What I am writing about is this: people leaving Western countries to join ISIS means that there is something wrong in those societies—both in the mainstream and the Muslim communities—something that is emblematic of a larger problem. Namely, Western democracies overall are failing to successfully integrate newcomers into the society and the national community. The problem appears to be even worse in Europe—in particular among Muslim immigrants in Europe—than in the U.S., despite the heinous 2009 murder of thirteen American military personnel by a Muslim American, Nidal Malik Hasan.

Compared to Europe, the U.S. has had much more experience and success integrating immigrants. This includes Muslims, who show a "negligible" level of support for jihadi extremism according to extensive surveys done by Pew in 2007 and 2011. Furthermore, from the 2007 report:

"Although many Muslims are relative newcomers to the U.S., they are highly assimilated into American society. On balance, they believe that Muslims coming to the U.S. should try and adopt American customs, rather than trying to remain distinct from the larger society."

Nevertheless, we, along with our fellow Western democracies, need to do more to help immigrants integrate, and certainly not only because of ISIS.

Please follow me beyond the fold for more.

Can you still doubt plight of black men with police irrespective of socio-economic circumstances?

I am a father, a son, a husband, a brother, an engineer, a software developer, a host of several radio shows, an author, a blogger, a vlogger, a political activist, a business owner, an entrepreneur, a musician, and a black man. That last adjective to a large percentage of the police makes me a suspect. Sadly, I am a member of the #FitTheDescription hashtag/meme. I understand and feel Charles Belk’s pain. I expressed some of it in my piece “I was Trayvon Martin the day I came to America.”

But I digress. A copy of Charles Belk’s story is at the end of this post. In short, Charles Belk is a graduate of Hillside High School in Durham, North Carolina, who completed his BS degree in Electrical Engineering at the University of Southern California and received an MBA from Indiana University and a Executive Management Certificate from Harvard University School of Business.

On his way to put money in his parking meter he was arrested by several police officers. He was handcuffed tightly. He spent north of 6 hours in the Beverly Hills jail. Why? Because he fit the description of a tall, bald black male who was possibly involved in a bank robbery.

He was not told why he was arrested. He was treated with disrespect as his pleas went ignored and unanswered. You see, to the cops, he was not a person. He was a black man.

Think about it. Would cops arrest the first blue-eyed blond white man that fit a description and was not acting suspiciously? Even if they did, would they be more careful and listen to his pleas to be sure they had the right person? How many stories have been heard of white criminals released just because the cops were not sure? The Beverly Hills cops did not even have the decency to validate his picture with available videos in the six hours he was held.

Please read below the fold for more on this story.

Quick question for white conservatives: Is it ever NOT okay to shoot dead an unarmed black man?
A makeshift memorial is pictured near where black teenager Michael Brown was shot to death by police over the weekend in Ferguson, Missouri August 12, 2014. Police said Brown, 18, was shot in a struggle with a gun in a police car but have not said why Bro
Among the many profoundly disturbing aspects of the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson has been the reflexive reaction of white conservatives in the media. Whether it was the quickly debunked lie that Brown had damaged Wilson's eye socket or the utterly irrelevant question of Brown's use (like millions of other American teens) of marijuana, the talking points have been rolled out, rolled around, and quickly rolled away to make room for the next talking points. What must not escape notice about the talking points is the apparently desperate need of white conservatives to find such talking points. The real problem isn't the false content of those talking points, it's that desperate need to search for them in the first place.

A young man was shot dead. An unarmed young man was shot dead. An unarmed young man who had no criminal record was shot dead. What sort of vacuum of the soul causes a person reflexively to need to rationalize and excuse something so horribly sad? An unarmed young man who had no criminal record was shot dead. And the bottom line, among white conservatives in the media, seems to be that the shot dead unarmed young man who had no criminal record was black, and his shooter white. That white conservatives in the media reflexively demonize the black victim and defend the white shooter is not a unique event. It is part of a pattern, and in that pattern the pathology is revealed.

The talking points blur. The voices drone into a monotonous buzz. Bobble-heads babble, and very earnest acting alleged experts are plopped in front of cameras no matter how many times they have proved incompetent or dishonest. Yet another unarmed young black man who had no criminal record was shot dead by a white man, and the act must be made to be seen as okay. Those who are upset that yet another unarmed young black man who had no criminal record was shot dead by a white man must be proven wrong. Those who are upset that yet another young unarmed black man who had no criminal record was shot dead by a white man must be shown that this is simply how things work. Those who are upset that yet another young unarmed black man who had no criminal record was shot dead by a white man must come to accept that this is simply how things work so that the next time it happens, as it inevitably will happen, the peace and quiet of white conservative righteous privilege will not be disturbed. This is what must be stopped. The violence is not the white men shooting dead unarmed young black men who had no criminal records, it is the reactions of those who think something about it is wrong.

The question in the title of this essay is quite simple. It is an attempt to clarify the conservative mindset. Are there any conditions under which it is acceptable for people to be upset that a white man shot dead an unarmed young black man who had no criminal record? Are there any conditions under which a white man shooting dead an unarmed young black man who had no criminal record is itself not okay?

Daily Kos Elections Power Rankings: The Governors (Back to School Edition)
Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott speaks at a meeting of the Latin Builders Association in Miami, Florida January 27, 2012.    REUTERS/Joe Skipper   (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
For the fourth month in a row, Florida's Rick Scott sees his re-election near the top of the Power Rankings.

If we wanted to give an alternate title to the Power Rankings this month ("back to school", from a calendar perspective, made the most sense), we could have selected from two worthy options.

This could have been:

Daily Kos Elections Power Rankings: The Governors (Revenge of the Primary Effect)
Or, perhaps it could have been:
Daily Kos Elections Power Rankings: The Governors (Everyone in the Pool!)
That's because, unlike the Senate Power Rankings, the late-developing primaries did play a small amount of Hell with the gubernatorial list this month, including launching a new #1 race that, one has to believe, won't be in the top spot come November.

Also, for the first time in the history of the Power Rankings, every single race on the gubernatorial roster scored at least single points, meaning they were either polled (which is precisely what happened) or merited a mention in our DKE daily digests.

So, with the primaries garnering attention, and everyone getting on the board, how did the monthly top ten shake out? Head past the jump to find out.

'Stuck in the past' on women? Play offense, say GOP strategists
Women make less than men in almost every field 4 years after graduation.
GOP solution? ignore this and blame the poor.
"We have to quit sitting back and taking it on the chin. I think we have to play offense on this.”
--Katie Packer Gage, Republican strategist
Two conservative groups did a study about the attitudes of women voters toward the Republican Party. As reported to Politico, the results were thoroughly unsurprising: the study, which combined both focus groups and quantitative surveys, found that in general, women felt that the Republican Party lacked compassion and was "stuck in the past." The same study showed that among women, Democrats have massive advantages in perceptions of who cares about making health care more affordable, who cares about women's interests, and who tolerates the lifestyles of others.

It's not a pretty picture for the Republican Party: while they may skate by in 2014 on the basis of it being a lower-turnout and more Republican-friendly midterm election, they will undoubtedly face significant trouble in 2016, especially with the possibility looming of facing off against a very popular figure in Hillary Clinton who will motivate women to vote—and not just because of her gender, but because of her actual stance on issues important to women. So while it's conceivable that Republicans could make gains this year despite the gender gap, they will almost certainly lose the White House for a third straight time absent some sort of significant change.

And what sort of change do they think they need? According to some Republican strategists, it's to "go on offense" on women's issues. More below the fold.

The best and worst campaign ads of 2014 (so far)

The 2014 campaign is well under way, and the ads have been flying. Most spots are unmemorable, but there are a few that stick out. Some of them offer a compelling and memorable case to voters, either in a primary or general election. Others ... don't.

What follows is a look at 10 spots from up to this point in the 2014 cycle. Five of them are good, and five of them have a serious flaw. There are plenty of great and terrible ads that didn't get included. These 10 spots were chosen because each offers a lesson in political messaging, and they are worth learning from.

Let's start with the above commercial, a spot that is almost universally mocked.

MI-Sen: Terri Lynn Land (R): This may go down as the most memorable ad of the cycle, and not in a good way. Republican Terri Lynn Land decided to counter Democratic attacks that she favors policies that hurt women by ... drinking coffee. Seriously. Land concludes the ad by declaring that as a woman, she may know a little more about women than her Democratic opponent Gary Peters.

Republican pollster Frank Luntz memorably called it "the worst ad of the political process," and it's not hard to see why. The spot is trying to use humor to point out what it thinks is an absurd idea, that a woman could be part of a war on women. Only it's not at all absurd: Peters and his allies have attacked Land for opposing policies like equal pay for women and abortion rights. By saying nothing to counter the attacks in her spot, Land is actually giving them more credibility.

What we can learn: Don't just assume that voters will immediately take your side when you're being attacked, even if you think the attacks are ridiculous. Also, don't spend two-thirds of an ad doing nothing.

Head below the fold for more.

White man jaywalks with gun...guess what happens?

When I saw this video posted here recently, I had to go back and look at it again.

I saw a white man with a gun.

I heard a policeman saying, "Place the weapon down on the ground, please. ... are crossing the street illegally ... I need you to put the gun down before I talk to you. ... You have committed a crime ... you are jaywalking. ... I don't want to shoot you, I'm not here to do that. ... Why are you so angry. ... Why are you cursing at me?"

Watching the whole incident all I could think of were those dead (unarmed) black men and boys who never had the opportunity to be "talked down," called "sir," and were murdered by police.  

Or they were leaning on a toy gun in Walmart. Like John Crawford III.

a photo of John Crawford III gunned down in Walmart
John Crawford lll, gunned down by Beavercreek, Ohio police in Walmart, August 5, 2014.
I wanted to find out what happened to this white man who defied police, made obscene gestures at them and who cursed them out.

The man, Joseph Houseman, is a gun rights advocate. He got his 15 minutes (more like 40 or 50) of fame and walked.  

In the Department of Public Safety's decision not to pursue charges, Webster said later that even though Houseman did not have the rifle in a sling and was  "fidgeting" with it, it was not evident that he was "brandishing" it.
This news got covered as a "gun rights" story.

From my perspective it's a "white rights" story.  

Does anyone honestly believe a black man, or teen, or boy would have walked away from this alive?

Follow me below the fold for more.

Abbreviated Pundit Round-up
I try to stick one story at the start of these things, but sometimes you have to acknowledge two.

Michael Wines looks at police, race and the lack of actual data.

If anything good has come out of this month’s fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., it is that the death of the black teenager shined a spotlight on the plague of shootings of black men by white police officers. And maybe now, the nation will begin to address the racism behind it. ... few doubt that blacks are more likely than whites to die in police shootings; in most cities, the percentage almost certainly exceeds the African-American share of the population.

Such arguments suggest that the use of deadly force by police officers unfairly targets blacks. All that is needed are the numbers to prove it. ...

Researchers have sought reliable data on shootings by police officers for years, and Congress even ordered the Justice Department to provide it, albeit somewhat vaguely, in 1994. But two decades later, there remains no comprehensive survey of police homicides. The even greater number of police shootings that do not kill, but leave suspects injured, sometimes gravely, is another statistical mystery.

The government's inaction in collecting data on police activity, is exactly equivalent to the NRA's action in blocking the collection of information about gun violence. Both are very uncomfortable about what the numbers would say.

Leonard Pitts on true American exceptionalism

Sometimes you read a sentence and you think to yourself: only here, only us. Here’s one such sentence.

“A 9-year-old girl from New Jersey accidentally shot and killed her instructor with an Uzi submachine gun while he stood to her left side, trying to guide her.”

That’s from a New York Times account of the death of 39-year-old Charles Vacca, who worked for the Last Stop shooting range in White Hills, Arizona. He died Monday when his preteen student lost control of the Uzi. Apparently, the gun was in “repeat fire” mode, the recoil lifted the muzzle, the little girl couldn’t master it and Vacca was struck in the head. ...

What kind of shooting range allows a prepubescent girl to fire an Uzi? What kind of instructor does not guard against recoil when a child is handling such a powerful weapon? What kind of parents think it’s a good idea to put a submachine gun in their 9-year-old’s hands? And what kind of idiot country does not prohibit such things by law?

It is the last question that should most concern us. There’s not much you can do about individual lack of judgment. Some people will always be idiots. Some companies will always be idiots. But a country and its laws should be an expression of a people’s collective wisdom. So for a country to be idiotic says something sweeping about national character.

Ummm... Amen?

Come in, let's see what else is up...


Decaying Guantánamo Defies Closing Plans
More than 12 years after the Bush administration sent the first prisoners here, tensions are mounting over whether President Obama can close the prison before leaving office.

Judge Blocks Abortion Law in Louisiana
A federal judge has temporarily blocked enforcement of Louisiana’s new abortion law that requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of their clinics.

Desperately Dry California Tries to Curb Private Drilling for Water
Farmers have long believed that landowners controlled groundwater, but the state legislature passed new controls that establish a framework for managing water withdrawals through local agencies.

U.S. and Iran Unlikely Allies in Iraq Battle
The fight for Amerli appeared to mark the first time American warplanes and militias backed by Iran were working with a common purpose on the battlefield against militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

NATO Set to Ratify Pledge on Joint Defense in Case of Major Cyberattack
For the first time, a cyberattack on any of the 28 NATO nations could be declared an attack on all of them, much like a ground invasion or an airborne bombing.

One Judge to Decide the Future of Detroit
In a trial set to open on Tuesday, nothing short of this city’s future is at stake, with a judge to decide whether to approve a blueprint to eliminate more than $7 billion of its estimated $18 billion in debts.

Libyans Overrun Compound Abandoned by U.S. Embassy in Tripoli
A video circulating online Sunday showed gleeful trespassers diving off a balcony into a pool in the residential compound abandoned by the American Embassy when it pulled out of Tripoli in July.

Recovery in Need of a Recovery: The Changing Face of Temporary Employment
The number of temps has reached a new high, and many are working in more dangerous situations than full-time workers.

Letter From Washington: Two Parties Stake Claims in Elections
Republicans need to win a net of a half-dozen seats to take charge of the United States Senate, the grand prize of the 2014 elections.

Kochs’ Network Wrestles With Expectations for Presidential Primaries
Some activists involved in the political network overseen by Charles and David Koch are urging it to consider a more active role in the 2016 primaries.


Hendrik Hertzberg: Anthony Weiner’s all-digital sex scandal.
It’s been another political season of impressively gaudy sex scandals, further confounding America’s hard-won reputation as a nation of censorious puritans. The paradox isn’t so surprising, when you think about it: the broader the range of sex-related activities deemed immoral, unnatural, or . . .

John Cassidy: Don’t give up on Detroit.
If you were to visit the Detroit Institute of Arts, home to Diego Rivera’s magnificent murals depicting scenes at the Ford Motor Company in the early nineteen-thirties, and then take a stroll through the surrounding streets, you might be surprised at what you would find: coffee shops . . .

Jelani Cobb: The folly of Stand Your Ground laws.
For some years, the N.R.A.’s approach to gun-rights advocacy has amounted to a variant of the old Maoist dictum, to the effect that democracy flows from the barrel of a gun. In March, the group provided a novel twist on the theme of sidearm liberty when it . . .

George Packer: Why Egypt is a foreign-policy puzzle.
American foreign aid has always been an awkward exercise in high-minded self-interest—humanitarian goals balanced uneasily with strategic calculations. Whenever these two come into conflict, Presidents inevitably find a way out of their loftier commitments. In 1947, when Secretary of State George C. Marshall proposed a huge . . .

Jeffrey Toobin: The end of DOMA and the future of gay rights.
The Supreme Court’s embrace of gay rights last week had an almost serene majesty. The obvious correctness of the Court’s judgment, its curt dismissal of a monstrous injustice, had a grandeur that requires little elaboration. Yet the decision had its roots in something prosaic and largely . . .

Steve Coll: Obama sends weapons to Syria.
The carved minaret above Aleppo’s twelfth-century Umayyad Mosque collapsed in April. The city, which is Syria’s most populous, has endured Hittite, Macedonian, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman rule, little of it benevolent. But this year, forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have delivered a distinctly . . .

Hendrik Hertzberg: Difficult questions about the N.S.A.
Since the first week of June, when the Washington Post and London’s Guardian, doing the work that journalism is supposed to do, published detailed news of the National Security Agency’s gigantic programs of cell-phone and Internet information-gathering, the world has been riveted. These were . . .

Steve Coll: Why journalists deserve better protections.
In 1969, when nothing excited the public’s interest like the depredations of drug fiends, the Louisville Courier-Journal sent a reporter named Paul Branzburg to penetrate Kentucky’s marijuana underground. He published eyewitness accounts; a photograph accompanying one of them showed hands hovering over a pile of . . .

William Finnegan: The struggle for immigration reform.
It was edifying while it lasted. A bipartisan immigration bill, supported by an unusually wide coalition of business, labor, church, and humanitarian groups, made its way through the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, the baying over Benghazi and the Internal Revenue Service was fierce and rising . . .

Elizabeth Kolbert: What’s at stake in Obama’s Keystone decision.
A lot of what’s known about carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can be traced back to a chemist named Charles David Keeling, who, in 1958, persuaded the U.S. Weather Bureau to install a set of monitoring devices at its Mauna Loa observatory, on the island of Hawaii. By . . .

60 MINUTES +/-

Pink Panthers: Daring heists rake in half-a-billion dollars
Using expert planning and military discipline, a loose group of European thieves dubbed "the Pink Panthers" have stolen $500M over 20 years

Living to 90 and beyond
What factors determine which of us will make it past age 90? Lesley Stahl reports on a groundbreaking study that has revealed some unexpected findings

Return of the humpback
60 Minutes travels to the South Pacific on the trail of the humpback whale

Fukushima: Three years later
Bob Simon reports on the aftermath of the disaster in Fukushima, Japan, and finds toxic ghost towns frozen in time

The Data Brokers: Selling your personal information
Steve Kroft investigates the multibillion-dollar industry that collects, analyzes and sells the personal information of millions of Americans with virtually no oversight

So you want to see your cartoon In The New Yorker?
New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff lets 60 Minutes cameras into the weekly process of picking the magazine’s famous cartoons

Affordable Care for those still uninsured
Nurse practitioners are providing badly needed health care to the uninsured working poor in Appalachia -- medical mercy for those left out of Obamacare and ineligible for Medicaid

Is the U.S. stock market rigged?
Steve Kroft reports on a new book from Michael Lewis that reveals how some high-speed traders work the stock market to their advantage

The Case of Alex Rodriguez
Details in the doping case of A-Rod, including an interview with MLB’s chief witness against him, the recently indicted Anthony Bosch

GoPro's video revolution
Anderson Cooper reports on GoPro, one of the world's best-selling cameras that's revolutionizing video production

60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll: Ethics
A new poll on ethics asks Americans tough questions about their morality including whether they would report illegal immigrants living next door

The Con Artist: A multimillion dollar art scam
For decades, art forger Wolfgang Beltracchi made millions in a scam that eventually led him to a six-year prison sentence and lawsuits totaling $27 million

Tabasco: Fighting bland food since 1868
The hot sauce industry is on fire with revenue of more than a billion dollars, but it all began with just one name: Tabasco

China's real estate bubble
China's economy has become the second largest in the world, but its rapid growth may have created the largest housing bubble in history

ALMA: Peering into the universe's past
A $1.3 billion radio telescope is allowing scientists to see parts of the universe they've seen never before, offering insight into how it all began

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