— I spent yesterday at Georgetown University for a Professional Speechwriters Association conference. The most interesting session featured Lissa Muscatine, who wrote for Hillary Clinton when she was first lady, during the 2008 campaign and at the State Department. Now co-owner of the Politics and Prose bookstore, Muscatine has no formal role on the 2016 campaign.

Still very much a Clinton loyalist, she candidly diagnosed the Democratic front-runner’s failure to connect: “How do you square the public perception of Hillary as not very human, not very likable, not very authentic, let’s go down the list with my own perception of her? How do we square that in trying to write for her?”

It’s obviously the question of this moment, and I think the campaign could be doing a better job of that,” Muscatine said. “But here’s what I will say in her defense: she is probably the most scrutinized public figure in the history of this country. … She obviously thinks, and I don’t think she’s exaggerating, there’s an entire industry devoted to her downfall. Most of us would be a little gun shy in that situation. So she’s naturally a little bit more protective than maybe would be optimal to try to evoke the natural side to her…

“The greater problem is people think they know her. She always says, ‘I’m the least known, best known person in the world.’ People have very strong perceptions of her. They think they know a lot about her, and they have strong associations with her, but they may not be the actual, real associations, or certainly the full portrait.”

Musctaine said she’d  like to see Clinton engage in more casual Q&A-style conversations. She praised her appearance on “Saturday Night Live” and was surprised to see her sing in public, something that once would have been “unthinkable.” She was also happy when Clinton answered a question, without hesitating, that her favorite drink is a vodka martini.

“President Obama is obviously one of the most gifted orators … He’s amazing, but he’s best scripted, frankly. He speaks so well off a teleprompter that you don’t even know he’s using a teleprompter,” said Muscatine. “Hillary, by contrast, is much better extemporaneously. She sounds scripted when she’s reading from a text and when she goes off text she sounds much more natural.”

“It’s helping to make fun of herself,” the longtime aide, who remains in her orbit, added. “It’s there; it’s just been shuttered in because every time she opens her mouth she gets attacked by somebody. She’s a human being, but you have to find ways for that to come out and for her to feel comfortable with that.”

There are, of course, risks to inconsistent flashes of authenticity. In Iowa this week, the Illinois native declared she will be rooting for the Cubs in the playoffs. Critics quickly pointed out she ran for Senate in 2000 as a Yankees fan. In fact, the issue came up back then and Clinton insisted that New York is her favorite American League club while Chicago is her pick in the National League. The haters cite this as another example of Clinton’s cravenness. The loyalists say it proves that she just can’t win.

— By coming out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership yesterday, Clinton once again risks being caricatured as a finger-in-the-wind politician. Politically, it makes sense to placate a core Democratic constituency. On Monday, I wrote she would oppose the deal to get to Joe Biden’s left on an issue so important to organized labor. After her husband spearheaded NAFTA and after she repeatedly promoted TPP as secretary of state, Clinton’s lurch toward protectionism may help shore up wavering blue-collar support. But it is dangerous in this era when voters so badly crave authenticity.

Judging by their statements yesterday, watch for trade to play a big role in next Tuesday’s debate:

  • Bernie Sanders: “As someone who voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Central American Free Trade Agreement and Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China and who has helped lead the effort against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, I am glad that Secretary Clinton has now come on board.”
  • Martin O’Malley: “Wow! That’s a reversal! I was against the Trans Pacific Partnership months and months ago. We were told in NAFTA all sorts of great promises and what we got in return were shuttered factories and empty pockets. I believe we need to stop stumbling backwards into bad deals. Secretary Clinton can justify her own reversal of opinion on this, but I didn’t have one opinion 8 months ago and switch that opinion on the eve of debates.
  • Biden: Promoting Obama’s agenda, including on trade, the VP told a crowd yesterday: “We need your muscle, we need to move. If I don’t move, I’ll be demoted to Secretary of State or something.” He added, “That’s a joke.”

Hillary is walking a fine line as she unveils her Wall Street reform plan today. Barney Frank has been advising her on this issue, and today she will unveil a proposal to more severely punish financial executives and firms that are found to have committed wrongdoing, Wonkblog reports. Clinton will promise more prosecutions of individual executives and bankers at firms. She will also bar more people convicted of crimes from working in any capacity in the industry. This could alienate moderate Democrats and Wall Street donors.

— The e-mail scandal continues to get worse for Clinton. Two significant developments overnight raise fresh questions about the security of her private server, which stored information now deemed classified:

First, The Post’s Tom Hamburger and Rosalind S. Helderman scoop: A technology subcontractor that worked on the e-mail setup expressed concerns the system was vulnerable to hackers, BUT it was rebuffed by the company managing the Clinton account, which said the FBI instructed it not to make changes. “The subcontractor, Datto, which specializes in backing up data, had not been aware that it was handling Clinton e-mails until media reports in August noted Platte River Networks’ involvement with the controversy. … Datto officials, worried about the ‘sensitive high profile nature of the data,’ then recommended upgrading security by adding sophisticated encryption technology to its backup systems, said a Datto official.”

Second, the server was the subject of attempted cyber attacks originating in China, South Korea and Germany after Clinton left office in early 2013. The Associated Press reports: “While the attempts were apparently blocked by a ‘threat monitoring’ product that Clinton’s employees connected to her network in October 2013, there was a period of more than three months from June to October 2013 when that protection had not been installed … That means her server was possibly vulnerable to cyber attacks during that time.”

Key quote from Justin Harvey, chief security officer of Fidelis Cybersecurity: Clinton “essentially circumvented millions of dollars’ worth of cybersecurity investment that the federal government puts within the State Department. She wouldn’t have had the infrastructure to detect or respond to cyberattacks from a nation-state. Those attacks are incredibly sophisticated, and very hard to detect and contain. And if you have a private server, it’s very likely that you would be compromised.”

Republicans today will select their choice to succeed John Boehner as Speaker of the dysfunctional House. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) is poised to win the majority of the 247 Republicans who will vote behind closed doors starting at noon. The conservative Freedom Caucus dealt McCarthy a serious blow yesterday afternoon by backing Florida Rep. Daniel Webster. Conservatives insisted they couldn’t stomach the status quo and that Webster represents their best chance to change the “process,” or House rules they complain don’t give them a voice.

The right’s move is another big headache for McCarthy, but he should be okay. Before yesterday, some Capitol Hill Republicans joked that the dead Daniel Webster, the Whig who served in the Senate before the Civil War, could get more votes than the Florida House member. The Freedom Caucus’ decision is only binding in conference today and NOT when the full House votes on Boehner’s successor on Oct. 29. On the floor, Democrats will support Nancy Pelosi, so McCarthy can’t afford to lose more than 29 GOP votes, per Mike DeBonis.

Profiling Webster, the Orlando Sentinel describes him as “a three-term Congressman with a low profile, no powerful committee positions, and no strong identity with the various interest caucuses that roil in Congress. He also has a short list of accomplishments. In August InsideGov … listed Webster among the 10 least-effective members of Congress.”

Today’s Republican pow-wow will likely be a multi-hour affair. Signaling the intra-party drama, former Vice President Dick Cheney released a rare statement at 10:15 p.m. last night endorsing McCarthy for Speaker. Cheney himself was once in House GOP leadership.

Conference Chair Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (Wash.) is expected to publicly announce the vote totals. So we’ll be know how far short of 218 votes McCarthy falls.


— Rupert Murdoch, whose media empire includes Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, said that Barack Obama is not “a real black president.” The News Corp. founder has been praising Ben Carson for days on Twitter. On Tuesday night, he told followers not to miss the retired neurosurgeon’s appearance on Megyn Kelly’s show. This past Saturday night, Murdoch touted a poll showing Carson ahead of Donald Trump. Last Friday, the media mogul complained about pundits underestimating Carson. But at 10:04 p.m. Eastern last night, Murdoch injected race into his musings:

Then the 84-year-old mogul recommended a New York magazine story, published yesterday, asking whether Obama has done enough for the black community.

A former DNC communications director’s response foreshadows today’s cable firestorm (We predict CNN and MSNBC will cover the above comment obsessively):

— The Cubs beat the Pirates 4-0 in the N.L. wild card. Jake Arrieta, Chicago’s right-hander, looked really good. The Cubs now face the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday in a National League Division Series.

— “The United Auto Workers union narrowly avoided a strike against Fiat Chrysler of America, announcing an agreement less than two days after threatening to pull as many as 40,000 workers off the job while contract negotiations soured,” Lydia DePillis reportsThe union posted on Facebook just after midnight that that bargaining committee had “secured significant gains” in a new agreement, and that leaders would be voting on it on Friday.”

The Nobel Prize for literature was awarded this morning to Belarusian journalist Svetlana Alexievich. Among other books, Alexievich wrote “Voices from Chernobyl,” about the nuclear plant disaster survivors in Ukraine in 1986.


  1. President Obama apologized to Doctors Without Borders for an airstrike that killed 12 aid workers and 10 patients in Afghanistan, even as the White House withheld U.S. support for an international inquiry the relief group says is needed to investigate an attack that may qualify as a war crime. (Missy Ryan and Daniela Deane)
  2. The Oregon gunman was discharged from the Army after attempting suicide. He got dropped in 2008 after just one month. (WSJ)
  3. NOAA scientists are sounding the alarm about a dramatic worldwide coral bleaching because of warmer water temperatures. From Hawaii to the Indian Ocean, they the loss of over 4,500 square miles of coral reef this year alone. (Chris Mooney)
  4. A majority of the Supreme Court justices sounded dubious of the Kansas Supreme Court’s rationale for overruling a death penalty sentence, Robert Barnes observed.
  5. The CBO reported that the deficit in FY2015 was $435 billion, $48 billion less than the previous year. (CBO)
  6. The Coast Guard called off its search for the 33 missing mariners of the El Faro at sunset last night. (CNN)
  7. An NYPD panel recommended departmental charges of excessive force and abuse of authority against the two cops who tackled and arrested former tennis star James Blake. (ABC)
  8. A former Reuters journalist was found guilty for conspiring with the hacker group Anonymous to change a headline on the Los Angeles Times website. Prosecutors are reportedly only seeking less than five years, even though they could go for a maximum of 25. (Time)
  9. Senate Democrats will unveil a list of three gun control principles today that they plan to use as the foundation for legislation: closing background check loopholes for Internet and gun show sales, expanding the background check database and cracking down on the illegal gun market. (PowerPost’s Kelsey Snell)
  10. Citing a Daily 202 scoop, the American Democracy Legal Fund filed an ethics complaint against 23 House Republicans who signed a contract with the NRCC pledging to privately detail their “legislative strategy,” along with “political justifications,” for review by party operatives.


  1. Harry Reid filed a civil suit against the company that makes and markets a flexible exercise band that he says broke or slipped from his hand during an arm-strengthening routine on New Year’s Day, causing him to fall and suffer face, rib and eye injuries. He seeks more than $50,000 in damages for. “The suit also seeks damages for Landra Gould for the loss of marital consortium,” per the AP.
  2. Clinton Foundation President Donna Shalala is out of the hospital after suffering a stroke last week. She said she’s feeling strong enough to get back to work. “If you have symptoms, don’t wait to get help,” she said in a statement.
  3. After Trump sued him for $10 million, Washington restaurant owner Jose Andres has counter-sued for $8 million. (Emily Heil)
  4. George F. Will calls on new House Republican leadership to impeach IRS director John Koskinen in his column today.
  5. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) will become the first member of Congress to endorse Bernie Sanders. (Huffington Post)
  6. Nebraska Rep. Jeff Fortenberry will endorse Fiorina today (Omaha World-Herald)
  7. Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.) says he has the 218 signatures needed to force a floor vote on reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank and will file the petition by Sunday, a procedural gambit that has incensed conservatives. (The Hill)
  8. Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu canceled a visit to Germany “after a spate of attacks that included the stabbing of an Israeli soldier by a suspected Palestinian militant who police said was then shot dead by special forces,” per Reuters.


Syria forces begin ground offensive backed by Russia air and sea power,” by Andrew Roth and Erin Cunningham: “Russia’s Caspian Sea fleet on Wednesday launched a complex cruise missile strike against Syrian rebels from nearly 1,000 miles away. … The bombardment was the first naval salvo of Russia’s week-old military intervention in Syria, where it has already launched more than 100 airstrikes against the Islamic State and factions of Islamist and U.S.-backed rebel forces opposed to President Bashar al-Assad. The attack showcased Russia’s advanced military capabilities and closer coordination with the governments of Iran and Iraq, whose airspace the missiles traversed before striking targets in Syria held by the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, an affiliate of al-Qaeda. … Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in a nationally televised briefing that the ships launched 26 cruise missiles, destroying 11 targets and killing no civilians. He also said that Russian planes continued to carry out airstrikes Wednesday.”

  • Rand Paul called a no-fly zone over the country a “terrible idea” that could “lead to World War III” if anyone was stupid enough to follow through.
  • The House and Senate intelligence committees are probing why our intel community was slow to detect Moscow’s build-up in the Middle East, per Reuters.

Time is running out for Obama to fulfill promise to close Guantanamo,” by Missy Ryan and Adam Goldman: “Administration officials have been scrambling for months to devise a viable plan for shuttering the controversial military prison, a goal that Obama announced on his first day in office but which has been stalled for years by opposition in Congress and, internally, slowed by resistance at the Pentagon … In late August, [Defense Secretary Ashton] Carter and Obama met at the White House to discuss, among other issues, the effort to close Guantanamo by the time the president leaves office in 2017. At that meeting, Carter assured Obama that he was taking steps to break a bottleneck in the Pentagon’s process and was working through most of the backlog of detainee transfers … But most of those 12 transfers had been arranged months or even years earlier under previous secretaries. And there still 114 detainees at the prison, a number the White House wants to bring well below 100 by the end of the year.”

Why Paul Ryan doesn’t want to be House speaker,” by Kelsey Snell: “The Wisconsin Republican is instead sitting back and playing the long game by holding on to the chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee in hopes a Republican occupies the White House in 2017 and he can finally begin making a reality out of his big policy ambitions … his focus in Congress has always been on sweeping changes to programs like Medicare and Social Security and cutting taxes by simplifying the code, issues all under the jurisdiction of Ways and Means … He has also picked his spots to collaborate with the president and some Democrats.”


— ZIGNAL VISUAL: TPP position leads to mention spike for Hillary. Our analytics partners at Zignal Labs tracked more than 100,000 mentions of Clinton on Wednesday across print, broadcast and social media. More than 23,000 mentioned her opposition to TPP. Here is an hour-by-hour track of Clinton mentions throughout the day, which shows traffic doubles from the previous hour once her interview with News Hour’s Judy Woodruff aired:

–Pictures of the day:

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) took this shot from the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon. “Just a few moments looking out this window was a welcome break from a day taken up almost entirely by work on Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Russia,” he wrote. “No easy answers; one of my colleagues said as we left a briefing this afternoon, ‘the more you learn, the more complicated it gets'”:

Hillary wrote that she wants to be the “small business president,” and “if that involves snacking, then so be it”:

John Kasich talked cars with Jay Leno, who was apparently not impressed that he owns a Toyota Avalon:

–Tweets of the day:

Former Obama adviser David Axelrod took issue with Mark Putnam’s ad for the Draft Biden super PAC:

Former Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) made light of his hospital stay, which continues:

Trump defended Carson for seeming to second-guess the Oregon shooting victims for not defending themselves:

Clinton joked with a guy named Kevin McCarthy — not the congressman — about receiving mean tweets because of his username:

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) weighed in on the Golden Arches offering all day breakfast:

–Instagrams of the day:

Jeb Bush met with some of the women behind The Skimm after he gave an interview:

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) met with Harrison Ford to discuss natural resource management:

Rick Santorum shows off one of the shirts that we saw on sale in the Des Moines Marriott gift shop:


New York Times, “Biden bid could lead to battle for minorities,” by Jonathan Martin: “Clinton’s campaign has reminded her supporters that she will be better positioned to defeat Mr. Sanders once the primary fight moves to more racially diverse states, where polls show she has a large advantage over him among blacks and Hispanics. But a late entry by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. into the Democratic contest could complicate Mrs. Clinton’s strategy, particularly if he were able to portray himself to minority voters as President Obama’s rightful heir. There may be no more consequential element to a campaign by Mr. Biden … But interviews with Democratic strategists and elected officials, as well as polls of Democrats, suggest that it would not be easy for Mr. Biden to poach blacks and Hispanics from Mrs. Clinton, who, along with former President Bill Clinton, remains highly popular with those voters.”

Boston Globe, “Marco Rubio doesn’t dwell on lack of experience,” by Matt Viser: “The candidate took the stage and railed against Washington’s corrupt culture and dysfunctional government, even though he was a sitting United States Senator. He spoke about his ideas for the future, but didn’t dwell on the fact that his own resume included few legislative accomplishments. The Granite State crowds couldn’t get enough of the charismatic man with a compelling life story, a boyish face, and an eager smile. The candidate was Barack Obama, just over eight years ago. The candidate is also Marco Rubio, right now … Rubio’s stump speeches are almost exclusively forward-looking, as he articulates his policy-heavy plans for developing a more muscular stance on foreign policy, lowering corporate taxes, and reforming the nation’s approach to vocational schools and higher education. On his New Hampshire swing this week, he barely mentioned his own political history.”

Politico, “Gallup gives up the horse race,” by polling guru Steven Shepard: “Gallup has been the country’s gold standard for horse-race election polling ever since its legendary founder, George Gallup, predicted Franklin Roosevelt’s landslide reelection in 1936. But after a bruising 2012 cycle, in which its polls were farther off than most of its competitors, Gallup (revealed that) it isn’t planning any polls for the presidential primary horse race this cycle … It’s a stunning move for an organization that built its reputation on predicting the winners of presidential elections. But it comes at a time of unusual tumult in the polling world. Other top-level brands like the nonprofit Pew Research Center have yet to poll the horse race, and still others have expressed concern about the accuracy of polling at a time when fewer people are reachable or willing to talk to pollsters.”


Bernie Sanders says he’ll work ‘very aggressively’ to attract Latino voters. From the Huffington Post: “Sanders acknowledged Wednesday that his campaign has more work to do to win over Latino voters … ‘Let me be very honest with you. I come from a state, the state of Vermont, [and] it’s a small state; there aren’t a lot of Latino people,’ he told reporters after speaking at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s annual Public Policy Conference. ‘What we are trying very, very hard to do — you are going to see us moving very aggressively in that area — is introduce myself to the Latino community,’ Sanders continued.”


Rand Paul auctioning signed copy of Hillary Clinton’s memoir. From the Washington Examiner: After Clinton sent a signed copy of her memoir to all the Republican presidential candidates, the Kentucky senator responded by signing the book with a message for Hillary and then auctioning the memoir on eBay. “Hillary, you refused to provide security for our mission in Benghazi,” Paul wrote. “Should forever preclude you from higher office! Rand Paul.” The book, signed by both Paul and Clinton, has received several bids online and is going for more than $300 as of press time.


— What’s happening today on the campaign trail: Hillary presents an award at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s 38th Annual Awards Gala in D.C. Jeb’s Iowa swing continues. He greets voters and speaks in Indianola and Des Moines. Marco Rubio holds a rally in Las Vegas. In New Hampshire, Lindsey Graham holds multiple events in Keene. 

— On the Hill: The Senate meets at 9:30 a.m. to resume consideration of the motion to proceed to the Energy and Water appropriations bill. The House meets at 10 a.m.

— At the White House: President Obama speaks at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s 38th Anniversary Awards Gala. Vice President Biden speaks at the American Job Creation and Infrastructure Forum. Both events are in Washington.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “If you could see the emails and phone calls I got, being associated with Turing — they’re vicious, hateful, in bucketfuls,” said Allan Ripp, a spokesman for the pharmaceutical company that raised the price of Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 a tablet. “‘You scumbag, pig.’ You can’t help but have an existential crisis and ask, ‘Am I doing the right thing?’ … There’s now a built-in assumption that you have a wife beater.” (The quote is in PowerPost lobbying reporter Catherine Ho’s piece on how Turing is upping its D.C. lobbying presence after becoming a national punching bag and the face of price gouging. Read it here.)


Good weather today: “Today has ‘sunbundance’ helping to make up for the deficit we suffered last week. There are a few showers and maybe even a crack of thunder to contend with late Friday. But the payoff is a fabulous fall weekend,” per the Capital Weather Gang.

A religious affairs staffer in D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office was arrested for cocaine distribution.

FBI agents are embedding with D.C. cops to combat the surge in violent crime. 


House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) and Vice Chairman Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) placed a friendly wager on the NLDS:

Another member of the Duck Dynasty family said he’s friendly to Donald Trump’s candidacy (sorry, Bobby Jindal):

Dan Rather insisted that it is not outside the realm of possibility that Trump gets elected:

Hillary released a video joking about an Iowa supporter named Kevin McCarthy, who slammed the House Majority Leader for his comments on the Benghazi investigation:

“I don’t have any tickets for Taylor Swift or anything,” John Kasich said when calling on a young woman at a town hall:

Christie told Leno that his first car was burnt orange:

Yesterday was Fox News’ 19th birthday. Watch a clip from Bill O’Reilly’s first show that night here.

On a lighter note: See a good collection of photos of the Northern Lights here.