The Edge: The Not-So-Great Escape

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The Edge is National Journal's daily look at today in Washington -- and what's coming next. The email features analysis from NJ's top correspondents, the biggest stories of the day -- and always a few surprises. To subscribe, click here.

The Not-So-Great Escape

There's never a good place or time for presidents to go on vacation.

They can pretty much count on an awkward juxtaposition of all hell breaking loose overseas while they are trying to relax. In 2007 it was George W. Bush on a golf course vowing to fight terrorism before adding, "Now watch this drive." In 1990 it was his father tooling around a Maine lake in his gas-guzzling cigarette boat as Iraq invaded Kuwait and sent gas prices spiking. This week, as President Obama plays golf and basketball on Martha's Vineyard, it's Egypt, where security forces killed and injured hundreds of protesters and the interim president declared a state of emergency.

Political attacks are inevitable but usually silly. Obama, for instance, is taking flak for the cost of his Vineyard stay; the arrival of his dog in an Osprey (no, Bo was not airlifted in his own personal helicopter); and his supposed overuse of vacation (only 92 days, compared with at least 349 for W. at this point in his presidency). By contrast, Bill Clinton took deserved ribbing for trading the Vineyard for the Tetons in 1995 and 1996. He was running for reelection and the mountains polled better with voters.

Jill Lawrence
@JillDLawrence

TOP NEWS

EGYPT DESCENDS INTO CHAOS FOLLOWING MILITARY CRACKDOWN. Nearly 200 people are reported killed and hundreds more injured after Egyptian security forces, in riot gear and flanked by armored vehicles, bulldozers, and helicopters, destroyed a protest camp today where supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi had been staging a sit-in, Reuters reports. Egypt's interim vice president, Mohamed ElBaradei, a pro-reform leader, resigned in protest of the violent crackdown, and the country's remaining leadership imposed a monthlong state of emergency and nighttime curfew. At least two journalists caught in the fray were killed, and others reported being attacked. Images of death and destruction in Cairo circulated online reveal acts of violence by both the military and protesters. Read more

  • Today's bloodshed could be a harbinger of things to come in the Arab world—and a sign that the tolerant democracies many hoped would rise out of the Arab Spring may be little more than a fading pipe dream, The New York Times' Rick Gladstone writes. Read more

PENTAGON: SAME-SEX BENEFITS READY BY SEPTEMBER 3. The Pentagon said today that it will begin granting same-sex couples federal benefits by Sept. 3, The Hill reports. The move is in response to the Supreme Court's ruling against the federal Defense of Marriage Act earlier this summer. "It is now the Department's policy to treat all married personnel equally," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a memo announcing the new benefits. "The Department will construe the words 'spouse' and 'marriage' to include same-sex spouses and marriages, and the Department will work to make the same benefits available to all military spouses, regardless of whether they are in same-sex or opposite-sex marriages." The changes include housing, medical, and family-separation benefits. Read more

  • Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., called the access to benefits for same-sex couples a part of the Obama administration's "liberal socialist agenda," The Washington Post reports. Read more

IT'S BOOKER VS. LONEGAN FOR NEW JERSEY'S SENATE ELECTION. Newark Mayor Cory Booker moved a step closer to Senate stardom Tuesday with a celebrity-powered win over three other New Jersey Democrats seeking to fill the seat of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, National Journal Daily's Mike Magner reports. Booker earned the right to take on Republican Steve Lonegan, a former mayor of Bogota, in a special Senate election set for Oct. 16. Meanwhile, Hotline's Kevin Brennan reports that allies of Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, expect the governor to offer Lonegan a formal endorsement, but don't expect the governor to lift a finger to campaign or raise money for his party's nominee. Read more

  • Well on his way to the Senate, Booker is poised to become "the highest-profile member of the Democratic Caucus," The Washington Post's Sean Sullivan writes. Read more

JESSE JACKSON JR. GETS 30 MONTHS FOR CAMPAIGN CASH THEFT. Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill. was sentenced to 30 months in prison today for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign money that he and his wife, former Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson, used to support a lavish lifestyle, The Washington Post reports. Jackson, 48, told the D.C. federal court that he "could not have been more wrong" for his actions and that "I was wrong and I do not fault anyone." Jackson and his wife pleaded guilty in February to inappropriately using $750,000 of campaign cash to pay for things including, a gold-plated Rolex watch, and trips to Costco, ThePost notes. Read more

CLINTON FOUNDATION FACES 'UNEASE' OVER FINANCES, FUTURE. Two attorneys who conducted two weeks of interviews with executives and former employees at the Clinton Foundation in 2011 made some "unsettling conclusions" about the way the foundation does business, The New York Times reports, as former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton plans to move her staff into offices at the foundation's Manhattan headquarters in the fall. Concerned the foundation relies too much on former President Bill Clinton's endless fundraising efforts, the Clinton family, including daughter Chelsea, is set to begin a push to raise an endowment of $250 million. But balancing political and philanthropic interests is never easy, and lends itself to conflicts of interest and financial scrutiny, TheTimes writes. Read more

LAWMAKERS. TOWN HALLS. ADVOCACY-GROUP RHETORIC. IT MUST BE AUGUST. Voters raise their voices. Congressmen in shirtsleeves deliver bromides. Advocacy groups attempt to rally grassroots activists. It must be the August recess, National Journal Daily's Michael Catalini reports. With Congress already into the second week of its five-week break, reports have begun to surface nationwide of clashes between lawmakers and activists of all ideologies. And while the action has perhaps been louder in years past, plenty of lawmakers are getting an earful. Many advocacy groups agitate at town-hall meetings and other gatherings, hoping that a well-placed question can generate a firestorm online. Read more

DOZENS OF HIGH-LEVEL JOBS AT KEY DEPARTMENTS UNFILLED. The pace at which high-level positions in government departments are filled has been slow under President Obama, and besides the rigmarole of the confirmation process, he has only himself to blame, Politico reports. Obama officials assert that Senate Republicans are preventing the president from putting personnel in place, but more Democrats are pointing to Obama's slow movement on posts like executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (a position that doesn't require confirmation). "The administration needs to be putting up candidates for these slots faster and more comprehensively. Congress needs to move on nominations," said the president and CEO of the company that provided vacancy details to Politico. Read more

WHITE HOUSE RESISTS SENATE PRESSURE ON FED PICK. White House officials are working to silence Senate Democrats who have been attempting to lobby Obama to name Federal Reserve Vice Chairwoman Janet Yellen to succeed Chairman Ben Bernanke, The Wall Street Journal reports. Obama is reportedly displeased by the efforts to box him into a selection, which include a letter dated July 25 from about one-third of Democratic senators urging the president to nominate Yellen and not former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, whom Obama is reportedly considering. According to a senior Democratic Senate aide, "The message was: 'The president thinks it's his prerogative to make these decisions.'" Read more

SEN. RON JOHNSON: KILLING ACA IS 'NEXT TO IMPOSSIBLE.' Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said that stopping government funding of the Affordable Care Act is "next to impossible," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. "Even if we were to not pass the continuing resolution [to fund the federal government], you're not going to be able to defund Obamacare, absent of President Obama signing a law, which I think is highly unlikely," Johnson said. "So I appreciate the fact that they've raised the issue. But defunding Obamacare, with President Obama in the White House and Harry Reid in the Senate, I think is next to impossible." Several Republicans are pressuring GOP leaders to risk a government shutdown to attempt a repeal of the law. Read more

TWO CHARGED IN 'LONDON WHALE' CASE. After Justice Department officials reached an agreement not to prosecute former JPMorgan Chase trader Bruno Iksil, prosecutors filed criminal charges against two others today in an investigation of the "London whale" trade that resulted in more than $6 billion in losses for the bank last year, The Wall Street Journal reports. Javier Martin-Artajo and Julien Grout, former JPMorgan employees who worked with Iksil, are alleged to have hidden growing losses on bad bets that resulted in the bank giant's $6 billion loss. Iksil's deal stems from his cooperation, which yielded evidence about internal communications at the bank that continued as losses from the trades grew. Read more

AGREEMENT REACHED ON LONG-CLOSED KOREAN JOINT ECONOMIC PARK. Today, North and South Korea agreed to restart the troubled Kaesong industrial complex, a joint economic operation between the two nations, Reuters reports. "South and North guarantee the industrial zone's normal operation ... without influence of any kind from the political situation," said the two sides in a joint statement. The facility closed in April when the North removed its 53,000 workers, amid heightened tension with the South and the U.S. The reopening of the plant raises the hope that political ties between the two nations are improving. No date has been given for the official reopening of the complex. Read more

QUOTABLE

"During the [congressional] recess, when I would hope that he would be around folks in South Carolina, getting their feelings on so many issues that affect their lives, [Sen. Lindsey Graham] has instead chosen to take his time to be a community organizer for the Muslim Brotherhood and that concerns me." —South Carolina state Sen. Lee Bright, who plans to take on Graham in next summer's GOP primary. (Columbia State)

BEDTIME READING

UNDER PRESSURE. Dr. Anindya Dutta, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, describes his funding situation as "living off of fumes," The Huffington Post's Sam Stein reports. Dutta will have to give up his postdoctoral fellow in December, and when he reapplied for National Institutes of Health funding for his microRNA project last year, his proposal was rated as a lower priority than when he originally applied in 2007. Due to funding limits imposed by sequestration, the NIH has to cut $1.7 billion from its $29.1 billion budget this year. (The American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Defense Department also are cutting back their research grant money.) Although NIH has an ally in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., a bill to replace the organization's lost funding has yet to be introduced. Read more

THE QUIRK

THE GRAY LADY GOES DOWN.The New York Times experienced a website outage late this morning and into the afternoon, and visitors to the site were greeted with a "service unavailable" message. The technical problems reportedly also impacted the paper's mobile applications. In a statement issuedviaTwitter, TheTimes explained that e-mail as well as the website had been rendered unavailable, and that the outage was believed to be attributable to "an internal issue." The Daily Beast compiled a number of tweets from those reacting to the outage, from The Onion to Times staffers. See it here

TODAY'S GRAPHIC

FIELD OF PIPES. While Washington chews on the Keystone XL pipeline, hundreds of miles of pipe have lain dormant for two years in a field near Gascoyne, N.D., a town of fewer than 20 people, National Journal Daily's Amy Harder reports. After years of delay and political wrangling, Obama is expected to decide by year's end whether these pipes will go to their intended purpose, or whether TransCanada, the company seeking to build the pipeline, must repurpose them. By the numbers, here's what you need to know about the most famous pipeline in the world and the field it calls home for now. See it here

 

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