By CHRIS GOOD ( @c_good )
ABC's JEFF ZELENY: Those five words from President Obama, "We don't have a strategy yet," will hang over the debate as the U.S. prepares to confront Islamic extremists in Syria. His remarks yesterday stood in sharp contrast to those from his top military advisers, who have been dramatically escalating the urgency of the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The president's phrasing may have been inarftul, considering how swiftly the White House rushed to clarify he simply meant there was no imminent plan to launch air strikes. But those five words carried a real purpose: He was sending a signal to Congress that he's not yet made a decision. There has been increasing worry - among Democrats, in particular - that the Pentagon was on the verge of opening another full-scale attack in the Middle East. His words were intended to reassure Congress that he will seek their support if he does decide to act. But by bluntly declaring he doesn't have a strategy, did he make that sales job more difficult?
ABC's RICK KLEIN: There are carts and there are horses, and there are last opportunities to wear your tan suit. Then there's the gaffe - and that's what it was - by President Obama: "We don't have a strategy yet" to combat ISIS in Syria. The White House clean-up attempts are focusing on the Syria part of that equation. But that doesn't make it much better: We know ISIS is deeply in Syria, and the "S" in "ISIS" is for … "Syria." Beyond that, what makes the statement damaging is that it undermines the president from virtually every direction. Republicans are pouncing for quite obvious reasons, viewing at a sign of presidential vacillation and weakness. The statement reinforces liberals' worry that airstrikes are taking place without a broader plan in place. And the president heads off huddle with NATO allies next week with the United States now on record saying the nation doesn't have a strategy just yet.
ABC's CHRIS GOOD: The U.S. hasn't had a foreign-policy election since 2008, and given the prominence of health care and the financial crash in that one, you have to go back to 2006, when Iraq and congressional ethics scandals dominated as issues. Since then, aside from some very mild buzz about aid to Pakistan, candidates haven't really played to foreign policy. ISIS and the diplomatic crisis over Ukraine might change that, as Republican candidates learn to hit President Obama over his perceived lack of direction, and as Hillary Clinton becomes a magnet for such questions from journalists and criticism from Republicans as the 2016 frontrunner. Most reporters (I think) are rightly (I think) loath to give free press to candidates' YouTube videos, but Scott Brown's one-minute clip hitting Obama's foreign policy seems significant: It suggests that ISIS, Syria, Iraq, and Ukraine will permeate through campaign ads and talking points this fall and on through 2016. If Scott Brown, whose political identity isn't built on foreign-policy cred, can level an effective critique, many others probably will too.
THE BUZZ, with ABC's ERIN DOOLEY ( @erindooley1)
PROSPECT OF ANOTHER DC SHUTDOWN LOOMS OVER IMMIGRATION SHOWDOWN. The prospect of another economically and politically crippling government shutdown looms over President Obama's talk of taking executive action on immigration next month and Republican threats to thwart him by blocking certain funding measures, ABC's Arlette Saenz reports. Republicans insist they are not interested in another shutdown and that the possibility is being raised by fear mongering Democrats, but the GOP does raise the possibility of using a September vote on a continuing resolution to fund the government as a weapon against any executive action by Obama. http://abcn.ws/1qkHZco
VA SCANDAL TAKING CENTER ROLE IN 2014 POLITICAL ADS. Judging by candidates' ads, the hottest issue in House and Senate midterm elections this year is easily care for America's veterans, according to ABC's Shushannah Walshe. This month alone, 23 House races and 10 Senate races have seen over 13,000 airings of television ads on the topic of veterans' healthcare or veterans' benefits according to Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG). http://abcn.ws/1paO4En
HILLARY CLINTON BREAKS HER SILENCE ON FERGUSON. Just off a three-week vacation in the Hamptons, Hillary Clinton used her first day back on the speaking circuit Thursday to address the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, applauding President Obama for his response to the protests and calling for a nationwide effort to improve racial inequalities that she said still persist in the American justice system, according to ABC's Liz Kreutz. "Watching the recent funeral for Michael Brown, as a mother, as a human being, my heart just broke for his family," Clinton said. "Nobody wants to see our streets look like a war zone. Not in America." http://abcn.ws/1qGKIxX
CANADIAN, RUSSIAN NATO MISSIONS TROLL EACH OTHER ON TWITTER. In case the actual war in Ukraine wasn't enough, there's also a Twitter battle raging between the Canadian and Russian missions to NATO, ABC's Ali Weinberg notes. It all started with the Canadian Twitter account, which on Wednesday tweeted a snarky map intended to "help" the Russian soldiers who ended up in Ukraine but reportedly claimed they didn't know where they were going. http://abcn.ws/1qMxb4r
IMMIGRATION SIT-IN OUTSIDE WHITE HOUSE RESULTS IN ABOUT 100 ARRESTS. For the second time in a month, progressive activists disillusioned with the Obama administration's immigration policies intentionally had themselves arrested outside the White House in what they called an act of "civil disobedience," ABC's Matt Larotonda reports. The highly choreographed sit-in, organized by a coalition of labor, immigration reform and religious groups, featured roughly 100 demonstrators who sat down on the sidewalk outside the president's residence in an area already cordoned off by law enforcement. After several warnings from law enforcement officers on standby, the scores of protesters were peacefully detained for obstructing sidewalk traffic. http://abcn.ws/1qMwHLD
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND RECALLS 'PORKY' CRACK BY MALE COLLEAGUE. In her upcoming book "Off the Sidelines," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., reveals she was the subject of insensitive comments about her weight from male colleagues in the House and Senate, ABC's Arlette Saenz notes. According to an excerpt posted by PEOPLE magazine, Gillibrand details an incident in her book where a male colleague saw her in the gym said, "Good thing you're working out, because you wouldn't want to get porky!" According to the Huffington Post, Gillibrand responded, "Thanks, a-hole." http://abcn.ws/1qkHZco
@politicalwire Romney In Demand by GOP Candidates http://politicalwire.com/archives/2014/08/29/romney_in_demand_by_gop_candidates.html#.VABw60qcaCQ.twitter …
@AnupKaphle The birthplace of an outbreak - stunning images from Sierra Leone, epicenter of #Ebola crisis. http://wapo.st/1orTZoq
@usembassybeirut #AmbHale: This weaponry and ordnance is paid for by the American people. #partnership #PromisesToKeep
@Sarah_Boxer Big @oaklandtrib front page: San Jose Police Dept. getting rid of its army vehicle to keep community trust: http://www1.newseum.org/todaysfrontpages/hr.asp?fpVname=CA_OT&ref_pge=lst …
@gretawire Benghazi chairman says probe should end in '15 | TheHill http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/216223-gowdy-benghazi-probe-should-be-over-by-end-of-2015#.VABvm9EF5kQ.twitter … via @TheHill