What The President Will Say Tonight

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


In his speech to the American people tonight at 9 PM Eastern, President Obama will outline an expansion of the military effort to defeat ISIS clarifying what he meant when he said over the weekend that "the next phase is now to start going on some offense." Here's ABC's JONATHAN KARL's rundown:

  • IN IRAQ this means expanding U.S. airstrikes beyond the currently narrowly-defined mission (protecting U.S. personnel and key Iraqi infrastructure and preventing a humanitarian catastrophe). It also means more support (training, advising and arming) to Iraqis - something that can be done now that there is a new, inclusive Iraqi government.
  • IN SYRIA this means ramping up support for the moderate Syrian rebels - including setting up training camps in the region where U.S. special forces can train the supposedly moderate Syrian Free Army, a group that has been fighting (rather unsuccessfully) both Assad and ISIS. The president told Congressional leaders he needs Congress to vote quickly to give him the authority to do that. He will eventually also need additional funds for this.
  • AIRSTRIKES IN SYRIA: Don't expect the president to announce a decision on launching airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria tonight. But he will make it clear that he is prepared to strike ISIS in Syria just as he has in Iraq. As a senior official told ABC's JONATHAN KARL this morning, "the President is prepared to go wherever necessary to defeat them."
  • FLASHBACK: The president's speech tonight comes exactly one year after his last prime-time address on Syria (a speech delivered from the exact same location). In that speech, he explained why he had determined it is in the national security interests of the United States to hit Syria with a "targeted military strike." Back then the target would have been Assad. Now the target is Assad's mortal enemies. The strike against Assad, of course, never happened because of the deal struck with the Russians to remove his chemical weapons.


ABC's RICK KLEIN: "Bad." "Haywire." "Scary." "Horrible." "Unrest." "Downhill." "Box of chocolates" - as in, you never know what you're going to get each day. Those are some of the terms a group of "Walmart Moms," all likely but uncommitted voters with kids at home, shared to describe the state of the country today during a focus group in Little Rock, Ark., Tuesday night. The 10 moms, plus a similar gathering right afterward in Des Moines, provided a glimpse into an anxious and unsettled electoral climate, as a group of Washington-based reporters watching remotely. They had little interest in or knowledge of congressional politics. (None of the Arkansas moms knew who the Koch brothers were, and one started to convince the others than Donald Rumsfeld was a current member of congressional leadership.) But neither were they disinterested in world or international affairs. They were at least slightly scared for their children, mentioning the ISIS threat alongside the economy, Ferguson, and school violence as part of long lists of things that concern them about the present and the future. "It just feels unstable all the time," one mom said. The majority offered something closer to pity than to anger toward President Obama, who gets credit for trying to get things done (though not for time spent on the golf course). Most of what they know about Senate candidates came from attack ads. And none of the moms was convinced that a change in congressional leadership would change very much about the direction of the country. The strong suggestion is that we're poised for an election about anxiety far more than anger - a volatile stew of concerns and issues that offer few ready solutions for voters. These were voters in search of leaders who are able to tell them what the country needs, rather than fill out issue checklists.

ABC's JEFF ZELENY: President Obama believes he doesn't need Congressional approval to order airstrikes in Syria, which the White House is signaling will be the next phase in the long fight against ISIS. There are many members of Congress who agree with him, including a sizeable contingent who would prefer to not be asked to take a difficult vote on another military operation. But there is a strong chorus of opposition, largely led by Democrats, who are disappointed and disturbed at the president's posture to act without Congressional debate and approval. On the Senate floor yesterday, it was one of the president's earliest and strongest supporters who made a forceful case. Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, delivered an impassioned plea: "We ask our troops to give their best even to the point of sacrificing their own lives. When compared against that, how much of a sacrifice is it for a president to engage in a possibly contentious debate with Congress on whether military action is a good idea?"



-THE BIGGEST SHOCKER CAME IN MASSACHUSETTS where nine-term Democratic incumbent John Tierney lost to his 35-year old Democratic challenger, Harvard-educated former Marine Seth Moulton. According to the Associated Press, with 100% of precincts reporting Moulton came in with 49.3% to Tierney's 41.4%. It was the first time in 22 years there was a successful primary against a House incumbent in the Bay State's all Democratic congressional delegation. In what was a quiet primary cycle (besides Eric Cantor's shocking loss), Tierney is only the fourth incumbent to fall this cycle and the first Democrat. Tierney had the backing of the Democratic establishment, most notably Sen. Elizabeth Warren, but Moulton's nomination in the state's sixth district actually looks to be a boost for Democrats heading into what will be a competitive general election, even in in bright blue Massachusetts. Moulton will face Republican Richard Tisei, the man Tierney beat by a mere percentage point in 2012 and was considered just as an aggressive competitor this time around. Tierney has been dogged by a gambling scandal involving his wife. The controversy almost took him down in 2012 and would likely play a role in the general election this time around as well. Now Democrats won't have to worry about that with a fresh face going after Tisei. But, Tisei-openly gay and moderate-is still a formidable challenger. Another surprise came down to some numbers.

-IN NEW YORK, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his running mate Kathy Hochul beat back a challenge from the liberal wing of the party, but the final numbers were surprising. With 98.3% of precincts reporting, Cuomo came in with 62.1% to Fordham University law professor Zephyr Teachout's 34.2%. Cuomo has said on the campaign trail he believes low turnout primaries aren't always representative of popular opinion, but by nabbing a third of the vote with her bare bones campaign, showed clear dissatisfaction with Cuomo in the party's left wing. Despite winning this is something that could come back to haunt him in his future political life. Not in the general election where he is expected to soundly defeat his Republican opponent, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, but with his possible presidential ambitions. The New York Times reports Teachout's effort was on pace to record the strongest challenge to an incumbent since primaries began in the state in 1970. Hochul was thought to have a more serious challenge with Teachout's choice Tim Wu, a Columbia Law School professor and Wu also put up a strong challenge. With 98.3% of precincts reporting, Hochul came in with 59.9% to Wu's 40.1%.


In honor of Ann Compton's first day of retirement, Jon Karl gets a bird's eye view of the White House grounds to reminisce with Ann about her ground-breaking, 41-year career. ( ABC's RICHARD COOLIDGE says "Be sure to watch until the very, very end….")

When 27-year-old Ann Compton arrived at the White House as an ABC News television correspondent in 1973, she broke a glass ceiling for women and launched a career that became, by many measures, legendary. Over 41 years, Compton reported on seven administrations and covered 10 presidential campaigns, visiting all 50 states and six continents with presidents, vice presidents and first ladies. She was the first woman ever to cover the presidency full-time for a major American network. "To come in as the first woman wasn't that intimidating," Compton told "Politics Confidential" during an interview on the balcony outside the vice president's ceremonial office overlooking the West Wing. "To come in as somebody who was 26 years old, 27, alongside of colleagues who had been in the motorcade when John Kennedy was shot, or in Panmunjom when the armistice was signed in Korea, I was out of my league." She quickly proved her mettle, earning widespread admiration and an Emmy for her reporting on Sept. 11, 2001, when Compton was the only broadcaster aboard Air Force One with President George W. Bush. VIDEO AND MUCH MORE: http://yhoo.it/1tK5krW



BOEHNER SILENT ON GROUND TROOPS, CALLS ON OBAMA TO 'DESTROY' ISIS. As lawmakers question whether ground forces should be an aspect of the U.S. strategy to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, House Speaker John Boehner refused to enter the growing debate. Instead, he punted to President Obama, ABC's JOHN PARKINSON reports. "What I'm hoping to hear from the president today is a strategy that goes after ISIS and destroys them," Boehner, R-Ohio, said during a news conference on Capitol Hill. "I've been calling for a strategy to deal with the growing terrorist threat since January, when ISIS came across the border in Western Iraq," he stressed. "We have a very serious problem and what we need is a strategy, and until there is a strategy, there is no reason to talk about any of the specifics because I don't know how they fit into the broader strategy." http://abcn.ws/1Av12U6

RAY RICE VIDEO POINTS CONGRESS TO 'FORCEFUL INITIATIVE' ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. ABC's RICK KLEIN reports the Ray Rice episode is spurring members of Congress to develop new ways to force sports leagues to more aggressively punish domestic violence cases, with rumblings of bipartisan efforts to make sure leagues and franchises don't minimize such allegations in the future. In the latest episode of the ESPN-ABC News podcast "Capital Games," Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said the fact that only "gruesome, gripping footage" of the alleged assault led the NFL to suspend Rice indefinitely suggests that pro sports entities still don't get the gravity of domestic violence. Blumenthal, who led the charge in Congress calling for a harsher penalty when the Rice incident first surfaced earlier this year, said he's planning to huddle with both Democratic and Republican colleagues to react to the fallout. The reaction may include legislation on Capitol Hill, though no plans have been put forward yet, he said. http://abcn.ws/1rBzuaN

WHITE HOUSE DISPUTES SOTLOFF FAMILY CLAIM HE WAS 'SOLD' BY US ALLIES. The White House disputed claims made by a spokesman for the family of slain American journalist Steven Sotloff that he was sold as a hostage to ISIS by the so-called moderate Syrian opposition, the same forces President Obama is now seeking to fund and arm, according to ABC'S DEVIN DWYER. "As it relates to the specifics of this matter, based on the information that has been provided to me, I don't believe that is accurate," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in response to a question from ABC's Jonathan Karl. Barak Barfi, representing the Sotloffs, told CNN that the family believes ISIS paid up to $50,000 to "moderate rebel" tipsters who flagged when Steven Sotloff crossed the border into Syria. "Somebody at the border crossing made a phone call to ISIS, and they set up a fake checkpoint with many people," Barfi told CNN. "Steve and his people that he went in with could not escape." Earnest said the incident remains under investigation by the FBI. http://abcn.ws/1uuSSKx

OREGON GOP SENATE CANDIDATE UNVEILS PRO-GAY MARRIAGE AD. The ad, from the campaign of Dr. Monica Wehby who is challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley, prominently features a gay couple - Ben West, of Portland, who filed a lawsuit in 2013 with partner Paul Rummell to overturn Oregon's same sex-marriage ban that went into effect in 2004. ABC'S KIRSTEN APPLETON reports their case was combined with other Oregon couples who also sought the right to marry after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2012. Oregon's same-sex marriage ban was later ruled unconstitutional. The majority of the Republican Party has opposed gay marriage, making Wehby a maverick in her party. In her own statement Wehby, who is aiming to broaden her appeal to pro-gay marriage voters in the solid blue state, said that she is "proud and humbled to have the support and Ben and Paul." http://abcn.ws/1Bq3EoI

WHY ROUNDING UP ARAB SUPPORT AGAINST ISIS COULD BE JOHN KERRY'S 'MISSION IMPOSSIBLE'. ABC'S ALI WEINBERG reports Secretary of State John Kerry will have a hard time getting Arab nations on board with a U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, as he is trying to do this week with a trip to the region, some Middle East experts warned.President Obama, who sent Kerry on the mission, seemed confident he would get a broad coalition of Arab leaders to combat the Islamist extremist group when he appeared on NBC's Meet the Press. "Because of American leadership, we have, I believe, a broad-based coalition internationally and regionally to be able to deal with the problem," Obama said. But that comment doesn't take into account some of the tough realities Arab nations present. For example, some Arab governments, for domestic political reasons, are wary of being seen as following America's lead, said Ramzy Mardini, a fellow with the Atlantic Council. "It makes it a Western initiative, hence joining that effort makes them look like puppets of the West," Mardini told ABC News via email. "Take this as a rule of thumb - the less Western a military coalition is, the better when you're operating in the Middle East. That ought to be common sense by now." http://abcn.ws/1pMpZEl

REID DEMANDS APOLOGY FOR GOP CANDIDATE'S 'PLANTATION' CRACK. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says Rep. Bill Cassidy, who is running for Senate as a Republican in Louisiana, owes him a "big time" apology, after Cassidy accused him of running the Senate "like a plantation," reports ABC'S JORDYN PHELPS and ARLETTE SAENZ. "With all the things going on in America today, that's fairly insensitive. That's really insensitive, very insensitive and if there were ever a statement that deserved an apology, this is it, big time," Reid told reporters on Capitol Hill. "I mean, has he been taking lessons from Donald Sterling? Where did he get this?" Cassidy, the Republican front-runner challenging Democratic three-term incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu in this year's midterm election, was quoted comparing Reid to a plantation owner in an article published by Environment & Energy News. http://abcn.ws/1qCjk4S


@bensherwood: Godspeed, Ann and thank you for 40 years of great journalism MT @AnnCompton: Last Marine One departure for me! @ABC pic.twitter.com/63A2Rjt2Nw"

@markknoller: Gracious as always, @AnnCompton thanks colleagues for the tribute and years of friendship. pic.twitter.com/I4DfKlUfLW

@mitchellreports: Here's to you, @anncompton! http://on.msnbc.com/1Be0ZOO

@GlennThrush: If there is a more graceful, helpful and insightful reporter than @AnnCompton I haven't met her… Will miss seeing her at the WH

@MajorCBS: Fond farewell to cherished colleague @AnnCompton. Hers was an historic, dedicated, memorable & humane run through the WH gauntlet.

@ron_fournier: I already miss @AnnCompton on the White House beat. Whether you realize it or not, you do, too …

@NorahODonnell: Congrats to my mentor @AnnCompton who crashed thru glass ceilings and is a dear friend to so many WH correspondents. #Pioneer

@danbalz: ABC's @AnnCompton has been the consummate professional during her distinguished career. Wishing her all best as she retires. #wewillmissher

@jaketapper: America will miss you Ann!!

@AnnCompton: Done. and grateful. pic.twitter.com/ebtbXMM5xK