HUFFPOST HILL - President Shifts Focus To Asia, Technically

08/08/2014 05:39 pm ET | Updated Aug 08, 2014

There isn't a red America or a blue America, only an America that can't seem to stop dropping laser-guided bombs on Iraq. Lisa Murkowski doesn’t want to be seen as Mark Begich’s friend -- then again, her name isn’t British Petroleum so he couldn't probably care less. And The White House won’t say how long military action against Iraq will take, noting that it will take at least three days for the President’s flight suit to be fitted and ready. This is HUFFPOST HILL for August 8th, 2014:

GULF WAR THREE: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED'D - "American warplanes struck Sunni militant positions in northern Iraq on Friday, the Pentagon and Kurdish officials said. The action returned United States forces to a direct combat role in a country it withdrew from in 2011. Two F-18 fighters dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery target near Erbil, according to a statement by Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary. Militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria were using the artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Erbil, 'near U.S. personnel,' Admiral Kirby said. The strike followed President Obama’s announcement Thursday night that he had authorized limited airstrikes to protect American citizens in Erbil and Baghdad, and, if necessary, to break the siege of tens of thousand of refugees who are stranded on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq...Kurdish officials said the American bombs struck on Friday afternoon in and around Makhmour, a town near Erbil. They reported an airstrike in the same location on Thursday, before the president’s announcement; the Pentagon denied that American warplanes carried out that earlier attack. Kurdish fighters, known as pesh merga, have been hard pressed in recent days by the militant fighters, who have seized several towns near Erbil from the Kurds and took the Mosul Dam, one of the most important installations in the country. The airstrike appeared intended to help stem the tide." [NYT]

@igorbobic: Been waiting on statement on Iraq airstrikes from Rand Paul’s office for 3 hours now.

All killer, no filler: "The White House gave vague assurances on Friday that U.S. military involvement in Iraq will be limited in nature, seeking to ease political and public concern about Americans being drawn back into another war. During his daily briefing, White House press secretary Josh Earnest repeatedly stated that the U.S. would not engage in "prolonged" efforts to beat back the Islamic State, the militant group formerly known as ISIS. But Earnest wouldn’t define what the administration viewed as prolonged, and, notably, he told reporters an end date hasn't been set for military operations, which began on Friday morning with two airstrikes." [HuffPost's Sam Stein and Jen Bendery]

PUSH FOR LETTING KURDS SELL THEIR OIL - Ryan Grim: "A leading Democratic voice on foreign affairs called Friday for the White House to drop U.S. opposition to allowing the Kurdistan Regional Government to sell its own oil. On Thursday night, President Barack Obama declared that the United States would defend the Kurds, who are facing an onslaught from the militant forces of the Islamic State. By Friday morning, that promise had turned into airstrikes on Islamic State positions threatening the Kurdish regional capital, Erbil. But at the same time, the administration is contributing to a problem that undermines the Kurds at their most vulnerable moment: They are running out of cash. The Iraqi national government is required to share oil revenue with the Kurdistan Regional Government, but the Kurds say it has failed to do so recently. Meanwhile, the Obama administration has moved to block the Kurds' efforts to sell oil on their own. A State Department official told The Washington Post that the U.S. government is warning potential buyers that they face 'serious legal risks.' And so, even as the Kurds are under siege, a tanker carrying $100 million worth of their oil just sits in the Gulf of Mexico, one of several such stranded tankers. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said on Friday that 'if the Iraqi government does not resume the financial support owed to the Kurds, we should end our resistance to the direct sale of Kurdish oil.'" [HuffPost]

JAMES BRADY'S DEATH RULED A HOMICIDE - Looks like John Hinckley's a strong candidate for Worst Week in Washington. "The death of James Brady -- President Ronald Reagan's press secretary who was wounded in the attempt on Reagan's life in March 1981 -- was a homicide, the District of Columbia medical examiner ruled Friday. The medical examiner said Brady died as a result of the grevious injuries he suffered 33 years ago, which means that gunman John Hinckley Jr. could be charged with Brady's murder in federal court." [NBCWAshington.com]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Shahien Nasiripour and Zach Carter: "Fewer than one-third of Americans report being better off financially than they were five years ago, with weak household savings and hefty debt burdens holding back large segments of the economy, according to a new Federal Reserve survey. Just 30 percent of survey respondents described themselves as better off than they were in 2008, with 34 percent saying they were doing about the same and 34 percent saying they were worse off." [HuffPost]

EXTRA DOUBLE DOWNER - Chas Sisk: "U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais declared victory in the Republican primary for the 4th Congressional District, as state officials hustled to finalize results from Thursday's vote. Robert Jameson, a spokesman for the DesJarlais campaign, said they do not believe enough ballots remain uncounted to shift the outcome of the race. DesJarlais holds a 35-vote lead over state Sen. Jim Tracy in an unofficial tally." [Tennessean.com]

Haircuts: Andrew Perez (h/t Andrew Perez). Eliot Nelson (h/t Eliot Nelson).

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MITCH MCCONNELL'S WIFE THE BENEDICT ARNOLD OF COAL - Turncoat! Yahoo News: "For months, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell has accused his Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, of engaging in a 'war on coal,' casting her as an outright enemy of one of the state’s most vital industries. But while McConnell presents himself as a defender of Kentucky coal mining, a member of his own family who serves as a key campaign surrogate is taking a role in an organization that funds one of the most aggressive anti-coal campaigns in the country. McConnell’s wife, former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, sits on the board of directors of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which has plunged $50 million into the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal initiative, an advocacy effort with the expressed goal of killing the coal industry. In 2011, Bloomberg Philanthropies teamed up with the Sierra Club to target coal plants for closure in an effort to 'end our nation’s reliance on dirty coal, plant-by-plant, community-by-community, and state-by-state,' according to Bloomberg Philanthro pies’ website. The Bloomberg Philanthropies-funded campaign has a stated goal of 'retir[ing] a third of the nation’s 500 coal plants by 2020, replacing the majority of retired coal plants, and keep[ing] coal in the ground in Appalachia.' The organization boasts that it has 'prevented 150 coal plants from being built' and has taken direct action against 16 plants in McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, arguing that coal production is a health hazard and is harmful to the environment. The website takes credit for retiring 172 “dirty power plants” with '351 to go.'" [Yahoo News]

TEA PARTY NOT HAVING THE BEST CYCLE - Jeez, Bill Kristol has had better elections than this. Samantha Lachman: "Republicans hoping to take back the Senate are breathing a sigh of relief Friday as the final primary contest that could have toppled an incumbent didn't bear a scalp for a tea party-affiliated challenger. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who prevailed against state Rep. Joe Carr in a Thursday primary, was considered the last Republican Senate incumbent of the midterm election season in danger of losing his nomination. Earlier contests were all decided in the incumbents' favor, from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) victory against businessman Matt Bevin to Sen. Pat Roberts' (R-Kansas) Tuesday win over radiologist Dr. Milton Wolf. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), who both faced a handful of conservative challengers, moved on to their general elections with relative ease. Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) is expected to win his primary on Aug. 19. In the country's messiest race, Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel has continued an attempted challenge of his runoff loss to Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), though the state's Republican Party has refused to preside over an investigation. Republicans were looking to avoid nominating candidates like Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle, Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin, who contributed in part to the GOP’s failure to take the Senate in 2010 and 2012." [HuffPost]

Speaking of Bill Kristol...

World's greatest deliberative jerkface: "The relationship between Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) appears to be a bit chilly. A Murkowski attorney sent a 'cease and desist' letter Thursday demanding that Begich's campaign take down an ad featuring a photo of the two senators standing together. Begich, who is one of the more vulnerable Democratic incumbents up for re-election this year, has been promoting his record of voting with Murkowski. However, the letter from Murkowski's legal representative argues that they didn't give permission for his campaign to use her image. It also argues that the man talking up Begich's record in the ad isn't actually a 'lifelong Republican,' as he claims...The photo flame-up continues an awkward trend between the two senators. After Begich sent out a press release touting that he and Murkowski both voted to advance a July bill that would have required all for-profit companies to cover birth control regardless of the owners' religious beliefs, Murkowski asked to be removed from the release, arguing that she had only voted to proceed with debate on the bill but not for its final passage." [HuffPost]

WISCONSIN LIBERALS HOPES' RISING FOR WALKER DEFEAT - Jon Ward: "Walker’s Democratic challenger, Mary Burke, had been down by several points in most of the Marquette University polls -- the one Wisconsin politicos pay the most attention to. But in May, she drew even. The July survey validated that she was indeed neck and neck with Walker. That was despite $1 million the Republican Governors Association spent on TV ads attacking Burke in the spring. Suddenly, Burke, the daughter of Trek Bicycle Corp. founder Richard Burke and a former executive at the company, is 'the belle of the ball' for the liberal money crowd, one Democrat said. If that’s true, it would help. Burke has raised $6 million since entering the race last fall, but Walker has had more time to raise funds for his re-election, and has hauled in $18.7 million since winning the recall in June 2012. If things continue to slip for Walker, he will face the unhappy prospect of having counted his chicks too soon. The recall win in 2012 made him a stronger candidate by giving him a national fundraising network, and it helped put the Republican Party and conservative grassroots on an equal footing with Democrats in terms of organizing, get-out-the-vote operations and voter data. Wisconsin may be the only state in the country where that’s the case." [HuffPost]

TENNESSEE SUPREME COURT SURVIVES TEA PARTY CHALLENGE - Is you is or is you ain't my con-stich-en-cee? The voters of Tennessee were clear: They is these judges' con-stich-en-cee. Amanda Terkel: "Three Tennessee Supreme Court justices kept their seats Thursday night, surviving a well-funded Republican attempt to oust them for supposedly being too liberal. Voters handed another eight-year term to Chief Justice Gary Wade and Justices Sharon Lee and Cornelia Clark on Thursday, with each winning about 56 percent of the ballots cast. All three were appointed by former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D), essentially giving Democrats a majority on the five-member court. Under Tennessee's system, voters decide whether to retain justices rather than have them run for re-election against challengers. Generally, the contests aren't controversial; only once since the system was put in place in 1971 has a justice been replaced. But this year, Republicans, spearheaded by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R), tried to change the balance and create vacancies that the GOP governor would then be able to fill. Losing any one of the Democrat-appointed justices would have given Republicans a majority on the court. Ramsey spent at least $425,000 from his own political action committee on the effort. National groups such as the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity also joined in. The justices' opponents tried to paint them as "liberal on crime" and hostile to business." [HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here's a cat mosh pit.

COMFORT FOOD

- You think you can bloody Mary? Well try a bloody Mary with a bloody entire fried chicken stuck on the top.

- Improving commercials to make them stranger, more murder-y.

- What a metro system in the "Game of Thrones" universe mike look like.

- The New York Post really couldn't be happier about a squeegee man sighting.

- Posh-looking British dude does disturbingly good Shaggy impression.

TWITTERAMA

@pourmecoffee: John McCain thinks our military response should be stronger. In other news, Richard Simmons thinks you should get up and move that body.

@HeyMattConnolly: The White House press corps looked at the clock. 8:06 and still nothing. "The evite clearly said 8 pm," it muttered, pausing the Prince CD.

@dceiver: If being late is a sign of comtempt then you can expect my response to Jennifer Rubin's piece in 2023.

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