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The Edge: Adlai, Colin, and John: Making the Case

The Edge is National Journal's daily look at today in Washington -- and what's coming next. The email features analysis from NJ's top correspondents, the biggest stories of the day -- and always a few surprises. To subscribe, click here.

Adlai, Colin, and John: Making the Case

 

There he was—a former Democratic presidential nominee turned Cabinet officer, insisting a great danger loomed.

It wasn't John Kerry on Friday but Adlai Stevenson 51 years ago. As America's U.N. ambassador, Stevenson argued before the Security Council in 1962 that the Soviet Union had nuclear missiles in Cuba. When he asked the Soviet representative at the U.N. if the Soviets had put the missiles there, Stevenson barked: "Don't wait for the translation, answer 'yes' or 'no'!"

If Adlai, as he was known, set the standard for appealing to the world, Colin Powell, by his own admission, fell short—armed, he soon realized, with dubious evidence about Iraqi "weapons of mass destruction."

 

We'll know soon where Kerry lies on the Stevenson-Powell continuum as he makes the case that the Syrian regime has committed "a crime against humanity."

Matthew Cooper
mcooper@nationaljournal.com

TOP NEWS

OBAMA, KERRY MAKE CASE FOR 'LIMITED NARROW ACT' AGAINST SYRIA. President Obama said today he was considering a "limited narrow act" against Syria to punish President Bashar al-Assad's government for allegedly using chemical weapons last week on its own civilians, though he reiterated he has yet to make a final decision, The New York Times reports. "This kind of attack is a challenge to the world," Obama said. Earlier today, Secretary of State John Kerry emphatically declared there was "clear" and "compelling" evidence that Assad's government used chemical weapons against its citizens and cited a newly released unclassified intelligence report on the country's use of chemical weapons. He added there was a moral imperative for the U.S. to defend universal human values and its own credibility. Read more

  • As a new poll shows four of five Americans want Obama to get congressional approval for a missile strike, British Prime Minister David Cameron, in a surprising turn, failed to secure votes in his Parliament for such an attack, The New York Times reports. Read more

HOUSE GOP GEARS UP FOR FALL'S FISCAL BATTLES. Conservative members of the House GOP are plotting their own strategy on how to approach the fiscal fights awaiting Congress when it reconvenes after the August recess. A group of hard-liners has been communicating over the break about how to have a voice in the fiscal debate and make sure the House leadership listens to its demands. These demands include a run at defunding the Affordable Care Act as part of a deal to keep the government running and seeking to maintain spending levels consistent with the sequester and the House-passed budget. The White House and a group of GOP senators were at an impasse Thursday on the deficit after months of private talks. Read more

 
  • Grover Norquist told The Hill that Republicans need to ask President Obama for "reasonable things" during the fiscal fight, and characterized any efforts to defund the ACA as "unwise." Read more

CLAPPER: NSA WILL RELEASE VITAL STATS ON SURVEILLANCE PROGRAMS. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Thursday he will release data detailing the total number of secret court orders, including those by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, issued to communications providers and the number of people targeted in those orders, The Hill reports. The decision follows a directive from President Obama to declassify as much information as possible about U.S. surveillance programs without jeopardizing national security. The reports will include the number of people "targeted," but the National Security Agency could still be gathering information on a much larger number of people, The Hill notes. Read more

SYRIA STRIKE WON'T ELIMINATE CHEMICAL-WEAPONS THREAT. As speculation swirls about a pending U.S. strike to "punish" Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for allegedly using chemical weapons to kill civilians, experts say one key point is getting lost: Military action is not guaranteed to deter the embattled leader from continuing to use weapons of mass destruction, National Journal's Sara Sorcher reports. In fact, chemical-weapons analysts tracking the situation closely say such a strike may encourage the custodian of one of the world's largest stockpiles of chemical weapons to use them more frequently. The result could be that the U.S. and its allies, in the course of enforcing the "red line" against chemical weapons laid down by President Obama, are drawn deeper into the conflict. Read more

OBAMA TO PUSH HARD ON ACA AS EXCHANGES ROLL OUT IN OCTOBER. The White House is strategizing a strong push of the Affordable Care Act to coincide with the opening in October of insurance marketplaces around the country, Politico reports. President Obama, as well as first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, are expected to be deployed to promote the law and encourage people to sign up for exchanges that many Americans still don't understand. Former President Clinton is also expected to play a major role in the campaign to alter perceptions of the law, and he is scheduled to discuss it in Arkansas next week at the White House's request. Read more

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CONSUMER CONFIDENCE IN AUGUST TICKS DOWN FROM SIX-YEAR HIGH IN JULY. Consumer sentiment slid down slightly in August from the six-year high posted last month, Reuters reports. A poll conducted by Reuters and the University of Michigan found an overall index on consumer sentiment of 82.1 in August, down from 85.1 in July. The score beats a mid-month reading and topped economists' expectations, which were set at 80.5. "Most of the late August gain was due to more favorable income expectations, with consumers expecting the largest income gains in nearly five years, although the median expected increase was just 0.9 percent, less than the expected rate of inflation," survey Director Richard Curtin said. Read more

  • Because of disappointing gains in consumer spending and the turmoil surrounding Syria, U.S. stocks tumbled Friday as the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index looked poised to post its worst month since May 2012, Bloomberg reports. Read more

PALESTINIAN LEADERS TELL ISRAEL COMMITMENT TO PEACE TALKS IS REAL. Palestinian leaders have been holding a series of peace negotiations with their Israeli counterparts in Europe, Israel's parliament, and, next week, in the West Bank, and are doing their best to communicate that they are serious about finding a peace agreement that involves a two-state solution, the Associated Press reports. "Our constant message to the Israelis is the only solution is the two-state solution, and this solution is in the interests of both peoples, not only the Palestinians," said Nidal Fuqaha, director of the Palestinian Peace Coalition. Next Tuesday is the "most ambitious event yet," with Palestinians planning to host about 12 Israeli lawmakers at Mahmoud Abbas's West Bank offices in Ramallah. Read more

SUNDAY TV

Please note: This is not a comprehensive list of Sunday show guests, and lineups are subject to change. Please consult network websites for details.

  • Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J., will discuss the U.S. response to events in Syria on NBC's Meet the Press.
  • Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., will appear on CBS's Face the Nation.
  • Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and James Inhofe, R-Okla., will discuss Syria on FNC's Fox News Sunday. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., will discuss recent disclosures about U.S. surveillance.
  • Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Reps. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and Scott Rigell, R-Va., will appear on CNN's State of the Union.
  • ABC's This Week will focus on the ongoing situation in Syria.

QUOTABLE

"They talk to us a little better, treat us with a little more respect. The need is so great. We're becoming indispensable—we hope." -- Eudes, a day laborer from Mexico, on the treatment immigrant workers have received in New York in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy (Al Jazeera America)

BEDTIME READING

DOES WELFARE FRAUD PAY? David and Candice Lynn Heath struggled to support a blended family in McAlester, Okla., ultimately committing welfare fraud, The New Yorker's Rob Fischer writes for Al Jazeera America. Because the family was ineligible for public assistance—authorities considered David's $40,000 salary but not his child-support payments—one caseworker advised Candice to seek a divorce. Instead, she followed the advice of another caseworker, establishing a separate residence by moving in with her mother. Ultimately, Candice was indicted on charges of illegally obtaining public assistance, and she pleaded guilty to two felony charges. Candice became "depressed," according to her husband, and died of a heart attack at age 30. "When it comes to violating the welfare rules, most welfare recipients are damned if they do and doomed if they don't," says Kaaryn Gustafson, a law professor at the University of Connecticut. On average, SNAP recipients have a household income of just $9,000. According to a 2008 study, those convicted of welfare fraud had an average annual income of $13,356. Read more

THE QUIRK

WALLED OFF FROM THE WORLD, AND THE WEB. Inmates in the federal prison system are legally barred from accessing the Internet, and as a result many long-term prisoners have never been online, BuzzFeed's Justine Sharrock reports. State prisoners fare no better in most cases; in interviews, inmates at San Quentin State Prison in California shared their impressions of an Internet they have never seen. After gaining an abstract understanding of the Web via the Last Mile program, they revisited their initial impressions. "I was completely in the blind about the purpose," said one inmate who had seen advertisements for the Internet and apps on television. "I thought they were just sites for people to socialize and spend their idle time." Another said, "The technical aspects of it make me go, Hmmmm? I realize everything is getting faster and moving toward mobile, so I often wonder about who's doing all this stuff and where is it all taking place?" Read more

REALITY CHECK

THIS IS YOUR BRAIN. THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON POVERTY. A "groundbreaking" study published today in the journal Science examines the finite resources of the brain and the mental burden that living in poverty imposes on one's cognitive performance. It concludes that the poor "have little bandwidth left over to do many of the things that might lift them out of poverty," such as attending night school, getting a new job, or remembering to pay bills on time, The Atlantic Cities' Emily Badger writes. Living in poverty, according to experiments by the researchers, created "a mental burden akin to losing 13 IQ points, or comparable to the cognitive difference that's been observed between chronic alcoholics and normal adults." Badger notes that the findings help explain why poor people who aren't good with money may also struggle with parenting—the two problems are not unconnected. Read more

 

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Don't Miss Today's Top Stories

Chock full of usable information on today's issues."

Michael, Executive Director

Concise coverage of everything I wish I had hours to read about."

Chuck, Graduate Student

The day's action in one quick read."

Stacy, Director of Communications

Great way to keep up with Washington"

Ray, Professor of Economics

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