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Is Jeb Bush trapped on Iraq?

The Iraq question was always going to be problematic for Jeb Bush.


*** Jeb gets trapped on Iraq: The Iraq question was always going to be problematic for Jeb Bush. Either he throws his brother under the bus, saying George W. Bush made an error in judgment in starting the war. Or he defends the war and finds himself on the wrong side of public opinion (with two-thirds of the country saying the war wasn’t worth it, per the Oct. 2014 NBC/WSJ poll). But when he was asked by Fox’s Megyn Kelly if -- knowing what he knows now -- he would have authorized the 2003 invasion, Jeb gave a politically unsustainable answer: “‘I would have [authorized the invasion], and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody. And so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.” Why is it politically unsustainable? Because as conservative writer Byron York points out, even his brother had admitted that the intelligence was wrong. More York: “As for whether Hillary Clinton would have authorized the invasion ‘knowing what we know now’ — it's hard to believe that Jeb Bush is serious when he says she would. Of course she wouldn't.”

*** Does Jeb walk it back? The only rational explanation for Jeb’s answer was that he didn’t hear the “knowing what you know now” part of the question. Indeed, Fox’s Kelly thinks that was the case: “I do think, in fairness to Gov. Bush, when I said ‘knowing what we know now would we have invaded Iraq,’ I think he was trying to answer the question: ‘Do you think it was a mistake at the time?’” she said. But we haven’t heard those words from Jeb or his team. Do they walk it back? York believes they HAVE TO. “Jeb's statement is likely to resonate until he either changes his position or loses the race for the Republican nomination. Should he become the nominee, the issue will dog him into the general election campaign,” York writes. To his credit, George W. Bush wrestled with the consequences of his decision to invade Iraq. Other war supporters were forced to re-think their positions, too. In coming days, Jeb Bush will likely have to do the same.”  

*** Jeb on immigration, religious liberty: Also in the Fox interview, Bush said he would NOT immediately reverse Obama’s executive actions on immigration, the New York Times says. “Mr. Bush said that rather than overturning the order, he believed in ‘passing meaningful reform of immigration and make it part of it.’” And he talked religious liberty. “I don’t think it’s appropriate for people on the left or people that don’t have a guiding faith to be able to say to others, look you can’t do anything. That’s the kind of the world we’re moving towards, that the First Amendment rights only exist for people that don’t have faith.  I mean if we reflect on this the right way I think we will realize that we’re a big enough country to allow dissenting views on any subject. That’s where we need to get."

*** Obama’s trade agenda faces its first big test: NBC’s Frank Thorp reports that the Senate will hold a procedural vote at 2:30 pm ET on the “fast track” Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation, which limits the congressional rules on considering the upcoming free-trade agreement with Asian nations. The procedural vote needs to obtain 60 votes to pass, but leadership aides on both sides of the aisle say it's unclear if the votes are there, with some saying it will largely depend on what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) decides to include in the package. Democrats, Thorp adds, are calling on McConnell to include four different bills in the package, including TPA, Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a Customs bill which includes currency manipulation provisions favored by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and the African Growth and Opportunity Act. It's not clear how many Democrats will be needed to help reach the 60 vote threshold needed tomorrow, as a small number of Republicans are also expected to oppose the measure -- like Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) voted against the bill in Committee).  Seven Democrats supported moving the legislation out of the Senate Finance Committee to the floor for consideration, while five Democrats voted against it.

*** It’s official: Obama’s presidential library to be based in Chicago: Per NBC’s Kristen Welker, the Barack Obama Foundation announced this morning that the Barack Obama Presidential Center (including the library, museum, and office space) will be located on Chicago’s South Side -- at the University of Chicago. But the Foundation also said that it will maintain “a presence” at the two other finalists: Columbia University and Hawaii.

*** De Blasio, Warren look to push Hillary to the left: At 10:45 am ET in DC, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and others unveil a new economic agenda. Politico puts today’s event in the context of the presidential contest. “Like Elizabeth Warren, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio isn’t running for president — he’s running to influence the presidential race. So when he and Warren appear together Tuesday at the National Press Club in Washington before he unveils his Contract with America for the left, it will be the latest step in the Democrats’ primary within the primary: liberals’ effort to figure out how to push Hillary Clinton to the left.”

*** Mayor of New York -- or of the progressive movement? Speaking of de Blasio, he clearly isn’t satisfied with just his day job. The New York Times: “After 16 months as mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio seems determined to escape the confines of his day job and to prompt a national liberal movement — even as he leaves himself open to criticism that he is not making problems at home a priority... By the time Mr. de Blasio returns, he will have been traveling outside New York on political trips for at least a portion of 10 of the last 31 days. (Throw in a vacation to Puerto Rico and college visits with his son, and the mayor has spent about a third of April and May on the road.)” But his approval rating in New York is just at 44%, per a recent Marist poll. His advisers defend his extracurricular activities. “He’s using every tool as mayor of New York City to combat the central issue of our times, which is income inequality,” political consultant John Del Cecato told the Times.

*** The Saudi snub has been years in the making: The New York Times also looks at the Saudi Arabia’s snub to Obama -- with King Salman not coming to Washington -- saying it’s been years in making. “Both countries insisted on Monday that the king’s absence was not a snub, even as it was hard to ignore four powerful factors that have led to rising tensions between the two nations: the administration’s pursuit of a nuclear accord with Iran, the rise of the Islamic State in the region, the regional unrest that came to be known as the Arab Spring and the transformation of world energy markets. An American oil boom in particular has liberated the United States from its dependence on Riyadh and changed a decades-long power dynamic.”

*** Setting the stage for a busy early August: Turning back to the 2016 contest, Red State’s Erick Erickson announced that Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, and Carly Fiorina are set to appear at the Red State gathering in Atlanta Aug. 6-9. Writes Erickson: “Though I am loathe to ever suggest a topic for speakers, I have asked each of the 2016 candidates to focus on one thing: if they become President, their re-election would be in 2020. I’d like them to present their 2020 vision for what the nation should look like after their first four years. We do not need Obama bashing.” But it’s unlikely that the candidates will appear EXACTLY on Aug. 6, because that’s the announced date of the first GOP debate -- in Cleveland, OH.

*** On the trail today: Chris Christie is in New Hampshire, where he lays out a five-point plan to create economic opportunity for the middle class… Carly Fiorina headlines Michigan Chamber of Commerce fundraiser in Lansing, MI… Marco Rubio raises money in Boca Raton, FL… And Rick Santorum delivers a speech in Manchester, NH.

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OBAMA AGENDA: Chicago-style library

It's official: The Obama Library is headed to Chicago.

"The Obama administration is urging lawmakers to pass a bipartisan bill that would end the National Security Agency’s mass collection of Americans’ phone records, an effort that has been boosted by a federal appeals court’s ruling last week that the program was unlawful," writes the Washington Post.

Secretary of State John Kerry is poised to hold the first direct talks with Vladimir Putin in two years.

CONGRESS: Today’s trade vote is coming down to the wire

The trade deal vote is coming down to the wire.  

"Senate Banking Chairman Richard Shelby plans to unveil on Tuesday a wide-ranging bill that would heighten congressional scrutiny of the Federal Reserve and revamp numerous rules faced by small- and medium-size banks, according to Republican committee aides," reports the Wall Street Journal.

POLITICO writes that David Vitter is winning no love from his colleagues as he continues to try to scrap health care subsidies for lawmakers and their staffs.

OFF TO THE RACES: Will Hillary back the free-trade deal?

This is a big number. A new Pew survey finds that the Christian share of the population has fallen eight percent since 2007.

The first GOP debate is coming: August 6 in Cleveland.

BUSH: In addition to Bush's comments on Iraq, here's what he said about religious liberty in yesterday's interview with FOX News: " I don’t think it’s appropriate for people on the left or people that don’t have a guiding faith to be able to say to others, look you can’t do anything. That’s the kind of the world we’re moving towards, that the First Amendment rights only exist for people that don’t have faith.  I mean if we reflect on this the right way I think we will realize that we’re a big enough country to allow dissenting views on any subject. That’s where we need to get."

From the Washington Post: "A nonprofit group allied with former Florida governor Jeb Bush is playing a more expansive role in his current political operation than previously known, housing several top policy advisers who are expected to join his eventual campaign, according to people familiar with the structure. At least four people with expertise on energy issues, foreign affairs and communications are working with Right to Rise Policy Solutions, a nonprofit advocacy group that can accept secret, unlimited donations from individuals and corporations."

POLITICO reports on the tensions between Jeb Bush and Karl Rove. "As Bush intensifies fundraising for his Right to Rise super PAC, expected to reach $100 million by the end of this month, he finds himself approaching many of the same contributors as Rove, whose American Crossroads super PAC is also financially dependent on many of the givers who have long supported the political causes and campaigns of the extended Bush family network."

CLINTON: Will she support the Pacific trade deal or not? The New York Times: "The issue has become the first major policy test in her fledgling campaign, with Mrs. Clinton under mounting pressure to pick a side in the delicate and heated debate over the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, a 12-nation trade agreement that Mr. Obama has aggressively pursued and that is facing a critical vote in Congress on Tuesday."

And here's Jon Ward in Yahoo News: "Labor and progressive groups are eager to see Clinton come out swinging against the deal. But Clinton would open herself up to charges of flip-flopping and cynical pandering if she did so now, given her past remarks and her generally pro-trade positions in the past."

More, from the Washington Post: "Clinton’s silence on trade, coming at the worst possible time for Obama, dovetails with her transformation into a presidential candidate eager to align herself more squarely with the liberal wing of her party. In other areas in which Clinton has moved to the left — such as immigration reform and gay marriage — White House aides have been delighted that she has forcefully embraced the president’s governing record.'

The AP: "During Hillary Rodham Clinton's tenure as the top U.S. diplomat, lawyers and other ethics officials in the State Department's Office of the Legal Adviser gave near-blanket approval to at least 330 requests for Bill Clinton's appearance at speeches, dinners and events both in the U.S. and around the globe. More than 220 paid events earned the family nearly $50 million, according to a review of State Department documents and Hillary Clinton's financial disclosure forms by The Associated Press."

PAUL: The New York Times looks at how Rand Paul has positioned himself as the candidate of civil liberties.

RUBIO: Bloomberg notes how Marco Rubio became more hawkish after the failure of his immigration reform hopes.

SANTORUM: One of Iowa's most frequent campaigners is making a rare visit to New Hampshire.

And around the country…

TEXAS: "Texas Republicans are pushing legislation to bar local officials from granting same-sex couples licenses to marry, launching a preemptive strike against a possible U.S. Supreme Court ruling next month that could declare gay marriage legal."

WEST VIRGINIA: Billionaire Jim Justice is running for governor as a Democrat. 

NBC News' Mark Murray contributed reporting.