By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's JEFF ZELENY: President Obama's battle with Republicans is about to intensify on the looming budget fight, but the White House has a bigger problem: the increasing discontent among Democrats and the inability to rally them behind the administration. Larry Summer's decision to relinquish his quest to become the Federal Reserve chairman is the latest example of how Democrats are increasingly ignoring the West Wing. Perhaps the White House could have worked harder and faster to secure support for Summers, but the rising opposition among Senate Democrats on this and an array of other things shows the art of presidential arm-twisting is lost or badly in need of a tune-up. The back-to-back setbacks in the Senate over Syria and Summers suggests that the president's juice is no longer organic - even to his fellow Democrats.
ABC's RICK KLEIN: Things have gotten more complicated since last we stood on the brink. Forget about Obama vs. Boehner - that's so 2011. The fights that are defining national policy now intramural in character, with neither President Obama nor House Speaker John Boehner in anything close to control of his own base. The biggest setbacks suffered by the White House and on Capitol Hill of late - the Syria resolution, the spending bill meant to keep the government open, and now the Larry Summers nomination - all were the result of intraparty mini-rebellions. As The Washington Post's Zachary Goldfarb and Paul Kane point out today, that leaves both Obama and Boehner significantly weakened as they come up against a critical series of deadlines. They may want to blame each other, but that would be easy compared to the reality of their circumstances. http://wapo.st/17BU183
ABC's DEVIN DWYER: The U.S. and Iran could be on the verge of a thaw in direct diplomatic relations that have been frozen for over three decades. In his interview with George Stephanopoulos on "This Week," President Obama confirmed publicly for the first time that he has exchanged letters with the new president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, and remains hopeful the two can "strike a deal" over Tehran's contested nuclear program. While he did not disclose the content of the communications, Obama said he believes his threat to use U.S. military force in Syria and subsequent pursuit of a diplomatic resolution of Syria's chemical stockpiles has sent a signal to the Iranian regime. "What they should draw from this lesson is that there is the potential of resolving these issues diplomatically," he said. "I think this new president is not going to suddenly make it easy," Obama added of Rouhani. "But you know, my view is that if you have both a credible threat of force, combined with a rigorous diplomatic effort, that, in fact … you can strike a deal." Both leaders will be at the United Nations General Assembly in New York later this month. What are the odds they meet face-to-face?
ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: Steve Lonegan, the man running for U.S. Senate in New Jersey against Newark mayor Cory Booker, weighed in on what he thinks of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Rand Paul's war of words. "I think the governor is as concerned about civil liberties as is Rand Paul. It's just how you get there and what the level of security that is needed," Lonegan said in an interview with ABC News before Lonegan campaigned with Paul Friday. "I anticipate that ultimately the governor comes down on the side of civil liberties with us." "I think there are far more important issues to the public," he added. "While this is entertaining, it's not critical." Despite Christie's warm relationship with Booker and their own past rivalry (Christie and Lonegan faced off for the New Jersey gubernatorial nomination in 2009), Lonegan said Christie is "out there 100 percent, so it's all really good." "I'm sure the governor is open to dialogue and to unifying the party," Lonegan said. The two will hold a fundraiser together Thursday. Lonegan grabbed headlines last month when he seemed to raise old rumors that Booker might be gay, but in the interview he said if he had to do it over again, he wouldn't do anything differently. "No, do I regret it? No. … I never ever questioned whether Cory Booker is gay, that never came out of me or my campaign even in the slightest bit," Lonegan said. "That was something contrived by his campaign and they took pride in it."
WHAT WE'RE WATCHING
NEW YORK CITY'S "CIA": THE INSIDE STORY OF THE NYPD'S SPYING UNIT. In the aftermath of Sept. 11, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly - determined to prevent another terrorist attack - initiated a series of sweeping counterterrorism measures that included the creation of New York's very own CIA-like spying program. AP journalists Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman argue that extraordinary measures compromised civil liberties, but did little to make New Yorkers safer. In their new book "Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD's Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden's Final Plot Against America," Apuzzo and Goldman explain how the NYPD created a secret spying unit led by David Cohen, a former high-ranking spy at the CIA. Goldman tells "Politics Confidential's" JONATHAN KARL that the NYPD's decision to bring in Cohen to run the department's Intelligence Division an "unprecedented move in American policing." "The CIA is trained to subvert the laws of foreign government and operate where the constitution doesn't apply, and we put him inside a municipal police department," said Goldman. WATCH: http://yhoo.it/17D7IUg
OBAMA 'LESS CONCERNED ABOUT STYLE POINTS' ON SYRIA POLICY. President Obama says a tumultuous month as commander in chief, when his policy toward Syria took a number of unexpected turns, may not have looked "smooth and disciplined and linear," but it's working. "I'm less concerned about style points. I'm much more concerned with getting the policy right," Obama told ABC's GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS in an exclusive interview on "This Week." Obama said his surprise announcement on Aug. 31 that he would seek congressional authorization for U.S. military strikes against Syria, then the abrupt cancellation of a vote this week and pursuit of a diplomatic plan led by the Russians, has put the country "definitely in a better position," reports ABC's DEVIN DWYER. "My entire goal throughout this exercise is to make sure what happened on Aug. 21 does not happen again," the president told Stephanopoulos of the large-scale chemical weapons attack outside Damascus that he said killed more than 1,400 civilians. "We have the possibility of making sure it doesn't happen again," he said. http://abcn.ws/1aBOi3k FULL TRANSCRIPT - PRESIDENT OBAMA'S EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: http://abcn.ws/166qU8U
CLIMATE, COAL TAKE THE SPOTLIGHT IN VIRGINIA RACE. Virginia's gubernatorial race is becoming a test case in climate campaigning, ABC's CHRIS GOOD reports. The two candidates, Republican state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and former Democratic National Committee chairman Ken Cuccinelli, are prototypes: A Republican lobbing coal attacks and a Democrat alleging climate denialism in his opponent. Fueling the dispute, the state chapter of the League of Conservation Voters has donated $900,000 directly to McAuliffe's campaign, the group and the campaign confirmed to ABC News, making it the largest donation to McAuliffe's campaign not to come from the Democratic Governors Association. Cuccinelli and Republicans have been hammering McAuliffe-who leads the race by six percentage points, according to the latest major poll released by Quinnipiac University in mid-August-for allegedly participating in a Democratic Party "war on coal," a leftover meme from the 2012 presidential campaign that's been given new life in Virginia with the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) pending release of new emissions caps for coal and gas power plants on Thursday. McAuliffe, meanwhile, has attacked Cuccinelli for his anti-climate-regulation stances. In his recent book, "The Last Line of Defense: The New Fight for American Liberty," Cuccinelli expressed doubts over scientific consensus about climate change and its causes and questioned the designation of carbon dioxide as a pollutant. Along with other state attorneys general, Cuccinelli also sued to try to prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions-a suit that ultimately failed in federal court.
MAN IN THE MIDDLE: CORY BOOKER OPPONENT COURTED BY RAND PAUL, CHRIS CHRISTIE. New Jersey Senate candidate Steve Lonegan calls himself "a regular New Jersey guy" who "worked with a bunch of hard working guys who curse and drink beer," but as he faces off against Newark Mayor Cory Booker, the Democrat with the national profile and celebrity ties, he is also negotiating the tricky waters of the Republican Party, with Sen. Rand Paul on the one hand and Gov. Chris Christie on the other, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE reports. Lonegan, who says the election will be "a referendum on Obama," hit the stump with Paul by his side Friday. Fundraising with Christie, he said, will come Thursday. "I think Steve Lonegan can be the answer to how we grow the Republican Party," Paul said at the rally in Clark, N.J. "Republicans can win in New Jersey the same way Republicans can win in a presidential election, if we become a bigger party … black, white, brown. We need a party that looks like the rest of America and we can be that party." The rally followed a champagne brunch fundraiser where donors could also get a photo with Paul and Lonegan. Lonegan told the crowd:, "Cory Booker is the Hollywood stand-in in this election for Barack Obama." http://abcn.ws/1eFbNO9
-BACKSTORY: Paul and Christie, both potential Republican presidential contenders for 2016, have engaged in a war of words since last month, criticizing each other's stances on issues ranging from national security to Hurricane Sandy relief funding. Paul offered to bury the hatchet over a beer, but Christie said he was too busy, citing his gubernatorial re-election campaign. But on Thursday a massive fire broke out on the Jersey shore, devastating an area re-built after Superstorm Sandy, and instead of a planned Florida getaway, he spent the weekend on the Jersey Shore this time for another disaster. Although Christie endorsed and campaigned with Lonegan last month, they were rivals when they faced off for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2009. Despite the endorsement, Christie has had a past warm relationship with Booker. "I'm sure the governor is open to dialogue and to unifying the party," Lonegan said. So, what does Lonegan, known for his own blunt style, think of the Christie-Paul squabble? He doesn't see it as a "feud at all." "I think the governor is as concerned about civil liberties as is Rand Paul. It's just how you get there and what the level of security that is needed," Lonegan said. "I anticipate that ultimately the governor comes down on the side of civil liberties with us." http://abcn.ws/1eFbNO9
BIDEN IOWA VISIT FEATURES POSSIBLE CAST OF 2016 CHARACTERS. Remarks by Vice President Joe Biden in Iowa yesterday could be seen as a standard campaign stump speech, were the next presidential election not three years away, ABC's MATTHEW LAROTONDA notes. Appearing at a pair of democratic fundraisers aimed at assisting the potential successor of outgoing democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, Biden called his political opposition "a different breed of cat," and "not your father's Republican party," taking aim at one of its leading rising stars. "Unless we can maintain this seat, unless we can begin to break down the majority in the House of Representatives, everything you have fought for the last six years and beyond is in jeopardy," he told supporters at a reception at Principal Park, a minor league baseball stadium. "This is now a party where the tail is wagging the dog, where Ted Cruz is running the show, a freshman, in terms of the ideas of the party. "I'm not making moral judgments, but they have a fundamentally different view of America than we do. A fundamentally different view," he said. The theme continued at an annual steak fry hosted by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, now in its 36th year. Aside from the beef cookout, the venue is a common stop for Democrats with Oval Office ambitions. (In 2007, six presidential hopefuls appeared at the event: Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd, Barack Obama, and Biden himself.) Also appearing at the event were a pair of younger democrats quickly gaining prominence within their party: San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and his brother, Rep. Joaquim Castro. Mayor Castro, who followed in then-Sen. Barack Obama's footsteps as a keynote speaker at the last Democratic National Convention, was called "the future of our party" by Harkin. http://abcn.ws/1dgSTc8
NOTED: WILL OBAMA STAY NEUTRAL IN 2016? President Obama declined to say whether he would stay neutral in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election that could potentially pit Vice President Joe Biden against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should the two Democrat powerhouses decide to vie for their party's nomination for the White House. "What I would say to folks out there is we are tremendously lucky to have an incredible former secretary of state who couldn't have served me better, and an incredible vice president who couldn't, who couldn't be serving me better. And I suspect if you asked both of them, they'd say, 'It's way too premature to start talking about 2016,'" Obama told ABC's George Stephanopoulos during an interview for "This Week" when asked what he would tell fellow Democrats weighing the two potential candidates, and whether he was "determined to stay neutral throughout this whole process" of choosing a 2016 Democratic nominee. http://abcn.ws/14XejWg
WHAT'S PROSTITUTION GOT TO DO WITH OBAMACARE? Last week, Sen. David Vitter has antagonized Democrats by insisting on a vote that would strip lawmakers of a valuable health care subsidy they have enjoyed for years, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ notes. But now, Senate Democrats are showing Vitter two can play at this game, hitting the Louisiana Republican, who was once embroiled in a prostitution scandal, where it hurts. Here's how it all started: In August, the federal government announced that it would continue to contribute to the health care coverage of members of Congress and their staff. Had the government not stepped in, the health care premiums of lawmakers and their aides would have jumped by thousands of dollars each year. When the Senate returned from recess this week, Vitter introduced an amendment that would repeal the regulation, and he has taken to the Senate floor to press for a vote on his proposal. So, Senate Democrats decided to counter Vitter's idea by floating one of their own: legislation that would deny these government contributions to lawmakers' health care coverage if there is "probable cause" that they solicited prostitutes. While that may seem like a strange group of senators to punish, it may be a direct jab at Vitter, who was involved in a prostitution scandal in 2007. Not surprisingly, Vitter is less than thrilled with the Democrats' attempt to dredge up the scandal, arguing that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-N.V., and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., are guilty of "bribery" by tying lawmaker's access to money for their health care coverage to their acts or votes in the Senate. Democrats are refusing to budge. http://abcn.ws/182er9f
@tedhesson: The number of Americans who consider themselves lower class is going up http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-77419040/ …
@jonathanchait: The Summers revolt is the most potent exercise of liberal opposition power of Barack Obama's presidency http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/09/how-larry-summers-paid-for-obamas-sins.html …
@BurgerInfo: Quelle surprise! France's Francois Hollande takes some credit for Syria deal http://www.latimes.com/la-fg-wn-hollande-france-syria-deal-20130915,0,6772120.story …