Free Syrian Army fighters carry their weapons as they walk on a frontline in Mork, Syria on March 8, 2015. 
Photo by Khalil Ashawi/Reuters

Let Me Start: May 21, 2015

Let me start with the stories the Hardball Staff is talking about this morning.

ISIS ADVANCES:

There are reports that ISIS militants have seized control of Palmyra in Syria.  This is the second city to fall to ISIS this week following Ramadi and with this advancement, the group now controls more than 50 percent of Syria.

WATCH MORE: ISIS seizes ancient Syrian city

There have been calls from the right for the Obama administration to seriously consider a more aggressive U.S. role to continue battling the terrorist group in Iraq and Syria.  Senator John McCain (R-AZ) reiterated that point today during an Armed Services Committee hearing.

“The fall of Ramadi and capture by ISIL of American-supplied military equipment is another setback for the United States and further undermines our credibility as a reliable strategic partner in the region,” McCain said.  “And yet, the Obama administration seems unwilling or unable to grasp the strategic significance.”

HILLARY CLINTON EMAILS PUBLISHED?:

The New York Times publishes what are reportedly the first batch of Hillary Clinton’s emails from her time as Secretary of State.  The Times reports that the emails shed light on her concerns for the U.S. embassy in Benghazi prior to the attack on September 11, 2012, including an update from Ambassador Christopher Stevens on the decrease in security.

READ MORE: What’s inside the first batch of Clinton emails made public?

“The envoy’s delegation is currently doing a phased checkout,” the Times reports one email said to Clinton from her aide, Huma Abedin. “He will monitor the situation to see if it deteriorates further, but no decision has been made on departure. He will wait 2-3 more hours, then revisit the decision on departure.”

The State Department is countering the New York Times report, saying the published emails are not fully redacted and resemble a version of the documents turned over to Congressman Trey Gowdy’s (R-SC) office several months ago for the Benghazi investigation committee.

2016 UPDATE:

Jeb Bush isn’t the only one forgoing the Iowa Straw Poll in August.  Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says he won’t be participating in the poll either, citing his reasoning in a Des Moines Register editorial.

READ MORE: Mike Huckabee to skip Iowa straw poll

“Conservative and hard-working Iowans want a strong and principled conservative Republican nominee for president who represents their values,” Huckabee wrote.  “I have concluded this year’s Iowa straw poll will serve only to weaken conservative candidates and further empower the Washington ruling class and their hand-picked candidates.”

The Iowa Straw Poll hasn’t been known for it’s accuracy.  Michele Bachmann was the winner in 2011, but came in sixth in the state caucuses.  Huckabee won the Iowa caucus in 2008.

 

Hardball - Let Me Start, Hillary Clinton, ISIS and Mike Huckabee

Let Me Start: May 21, 2015