With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA: If I had to stock Hillary Clinton’s new memoir in a bookstore, I’d be tempted to place it in a section on self-help or bereavement.
“What Happened” was quickly strip-mined for political nuggets after its publication last Tuesday. As I went through it over the weekend, though, what struck me most was how the wounded Democrat coped after her crushing defeat last November.
In short, Clinton has read voraciously and eclectically — for escape, for solace and for answers.
The collection of works that she cites across 494 pages showcases a top-flight intellect and would make for a compelling graduate school seminar.
“Friends advised me on the power of Xanax and raved about their amazing therapists,” writes Clinton, 69. “But that wasn’t for me. … Instead, I did yoga. … I also drank my share of chardonnay. … [And] I tried to lose myself in books.”
Parts of “What Happened” remind me of Joan Didion’s “ The Year of Magical Thinking,” Sheryl Sandberg’s “Option B” and even Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love.” Blowing an election that she was confident she’d win — thereby allowing Donald Trump to become president — represented a humiliating, degrading and very public loss for the former secretary of state.
Yes, the book oozes with the sort of Clintonian grievance Americans have grown accustomed to — and exhausted by — over the past quarter-century. Her finger pointing, from Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein to James Comey, Julian Assange, and even Matt Lauer, has been well-documented by now.
But her account is also rawer, and thus better, than we expected. Clinton is much harder on herself than the mainstream media’s coverage of her rollout has given her credit for. She confesses that she’s wrestled with why she lost every single day since Nov. 8. “Sometimes it’s hard to focus on anything else,” Clinton writes. “I do sometimes lie awake at night thinking about how we closed the campaign…”
-- At first, Clinton turned to mystery novels in a bid to get the election results off her mind. She inherited her love for this genre from her mother, and she’d plow through a full book in a single sitting. “Some of recent favorites are by Louise Penny, Jacqueline Winspear, Donna Leon, and Charles Todd,” Clinton writes. “I finished reading Elena Ferrante’s four Neapolitan novels and relished the story they tell about friendship among women.”
Just as if she lost her appetite for a time, the biographies of former presidents that weigh down the bookshelves at her home in Chappaqua, N.Y., held no appeal. To keep her failure in perspective, Clinton thought instead about how good she still has it compared to Fantine in Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables.” She resolved that she does not want to spend the rest of her life like Miss Havisham from Charles Dickens’s “Great Expectations,” stirring around her house stewing.
-- She went back to stuff that has given her joy or comfort in the past, including poetry by Maya Angelou, Marge Piercy and T.S. Eliot.
She reread one of her favorite books, “The Return of the Prodigal Son” by the Dutch priest Henri Nouwen. “It’s something I’ve gone back to repeatedly during difficult times in my life,” she writes. “Maybe it’s because I’m the oldest in our family and something of a Girl Scout, but I’ve always identified with the older brother in the parable. … It’s a story about unconditional love — the love of a father, and also The Father, who is always ready to love us, no matter how often we stumble and fall.”
Clinton’s flinty father always told her that he’d love her unconditionally. As a little girl, she’d ask him if he’d still love her even if she robbed a bank. Or murdered somebody. Absolutely, he’d tell her. “Once or twice last November,” she recalls, “I thought to myself, ‘Well, Dad, what if I lose an election I should have won and let an unqualified bully become President of the United States? Would you still love me then?’”
Nouwen was inspired to write his 1992 book by observing the Rembrandt painting that depicts the scene when the prodigal son comes home. “I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment,” the Catholic priest wrote. “I can choose to speak about goodness and beauty even when my inner eye still looks for someone to accuse or something to call ugly. I can choose to listen to the voices that forgive and to look at the faces that smile even while I still hear words of revenge and see grimaces of hatred.” Reading this again and again offered Clinton a reminder about the importance of being grateful even when things aren’t going well.
Thinking about the process of mourning, Clinton looked to another book by Nouwen called “Bread for the Journey.” In it, he writes: “To console does not mean to take away the pain but rather to be there and say, ‘You are not alone, I am with you. Together we can carry the burden. Don’t be afraid. I am here.’ That is consolation. We all need to give it as well as to receive it.”
-- A few weeks after the election, Clinton picked up a copy of a sermon called “You Are Accepted” by the Christian theologian Paul Tillich. She remembered sitting in a church basement in Park Ridge, Ill., decades ago as her youth minister, Don Jones, read it aloud. “Years later, when my marriage was in crisis, I called Don. Read Tillich, he said. I did. It helped,” Clinton recounts. “Now I was sixty-nine and reading Tillich again. There was more here than I remembered.”
“God strikes us when we are in great pain and restless,” the sermon says. “Sometimes at that moment, a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: ‘You are accepted.’”
-- She was also moved by the TED Talk that Pope Francis delivered this April, in which he called for “a revolution of tenderness.” “What a phrase!” writes Clinton.
-- Clinton’s focus on novels and religious texts didn’t last too long, largely because of revelations about Russian interference in the election. “I read everything I could get my hands on,” she writes, referring to press accounts. “The voluminous file of clippings on my desk grew thicker and thicker. To keep it all straight, I started making lists of everything we knew about the unfolding scandal. At times, I felt like CIA agent Carrie Mathison on the TV show ‘Homeland,’ desperately trying to get her arms around a sinister conspiracy and appearing more than a little frantic in the process.” (She goes on to argue that what’s happening now is worse than Watergate.)
-- Between long walks in the woods, Clinton kept devouring books. She started looking for answers to the question that animates her book: What happened?
“Since the election, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why I failed to connect with more working-class whites,” Clinton writes.
Clinton first refers to the book “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”: “After John Kerry lost to George W. Bush in 2004, the writer Thomas Frank popularized the theory that Republicans persuaded whites … to vote against their economic interests by appealing to them on cultural issues – in other words, ‘gays, guns and God.’ There’s definitely merit in that explanation.”
She then cites “Hillbilly Elegy,” which remains near the top of bestseller lists: “Anger and resentment do run deep. As Appalachian natives such as J.D. Vance have pointed out, a culture of grievance, victimhood and scapegoating have taken root as traditional values of self-reliance and hard work have withered. There’s a tendency toward seeing every problem as someone else’s fault, whether it’s Obama … undocumented immigrants … or me.”
Clinton notes (correctly) that the breakdown in civil society is a long-term trend that predates Trump and cites Robert Putnam’s “Bowling Alone,” a classic of this genre. The Harvard professor’s title alludes to declining membership in bowling leagues, which illustrates how people are growing apart and becoming less social. Putnam’s 2000 book was based on a 1995 article, but the problems he identifies have only gotten worse in the years since.
Hillary insists that she was not blind to the anger that existed in the Rust Belt before the election results came in. During the campaign, she writes that she and her husband Bill both read “The True Believer,” the 1951 classic by Eric Hofer about the psychology behind fanaticism and mass movements. She says she even told her senior staff that they should read it too.
Clinton says her most profound post-election insights about her struggles with working-class whites came when she went back to “Democracy in America.” She was first exposed to Alexis de Tocqueville’s book in an undergraduate political science class. The Frenchman traveled across the nascent country in the 1830s, marveling at the degree of social equality and economic mobility here compared to Europe. As first lady, Clinton leaned on “Democracy in America” to make the case in “It Takes a Village” that our national character has always been imbued with a belief that our own self-interest is advanced by helping one another.
After losing a national campaign, she zeroed in on another theme of de Tocqueville’s narrative. “After studying the French Revolution, he wrote that revolts tend to start not in places where conditions are worst, but in places where expectations are most unmet,” Clinton explains. “So if you’ve been raised to believe that your life will unfold a certain way—say, with a steady union job that doesn’t require a college degree but does provide a middle-class income, with traditional gender roles intact and everyone speaking English—and then things don’t work out the way you expected, that’s when you get angry. … Too many people feel alienated from one another and from any sense of belonging or higher purpose. Anger and resentment fill that void and can overwhelm everything else.”
-- Clinton is honest in the book that she’s routinely had to fake a smile since November. More than two dozen women, mostly in their twenties, have approached her to apologize for not voting for her. One time an older woman dragged her adult daughter and ordered her to apologize to Clinton’s face. “I wanted to stare right in her eyes and say, ‘You didn’t vote? How could you not vote?! You abdicated your responsibility as a citizen at the worst possible time! And now you want me to make you feel better?’” Clinton recalled. “Of course, I didn’t say any of that! These people were looking for absolution that I just couldn’t give.”
Often Clinton wound up doing the comforting, rather than being comforted. “It’ll be ok, but right now it’s really hard” was her go-to line when people asked how she was getting along. If she was feeling defiant, she’d respond: “Bloody, but unbowed.” That’s a phrase from “Invictus,” a poem by the 19th century English poet William Ernest Henley. It’s no coincidence that it was also one of Nelson Mandela’s favorites.
“My mistakes burn me up inside,” Clinton writes. “But as one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver, says, while our mistakes make us want to cry, the world doesn’t need more of that. The truth is, everyone’s flawed.”
The coverage that greeted Trump’s 100th day as president was painful because it prompted Clinton to think about what the stories would have said about her. “A haunting line from the nineteenth-century poet John Greenleaf Whittier comes to mind,” she adds. “For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been.’”
In March, Clinton turned to Eleanor Roosevelt for inspiration. She made a “pilgrimage” with a handful of girlfriends to Hyde Park, N.Y., to see Val-Kill, which was the former first lady’s private cottage. This is where she went to think and write. Hillary looked at Eleanor’s favorite books on a shelf, and then a historian escorting her group around shared copies of some of her letters. “Reading the mix of adoring fan mail and nasty, cutting diatribes was a reminder of the love-hate whiplash that women who challenge society’s expectations and live their lives in the public eye often receive,” Clinton writes.
-- Clinton acknowledges suffering bouts of self-doubt that cause her to re-litigate decisions that she made during the heat of the campaign. “I have a new appreciation for the galvanizing power of big, simple ideas,” she writes. “It’s easy to ridicule ideas that ‘fit on a bumper sticker,’ but there’s a reason campaigns use bumper stickers: they work. … In my introspective moments, I do recognize that my campaign in 2016 lacked the sense of urgency and passion that I remember from ’92.”
Before she announced her candidacy in 2015, Bill and Hillary both read a book called “With Liberty and Dividends for All: How to Save Our Middle Class When Jobs Don’t Pay Enough.” Peter Barnes makes the case for a new fund that would use revenue from natural resources to pay an annual dividend for every American. The idea is inspired by the Alaska Permanent Fund, which distributes the state’s oil royalties to citizens of the state every year. It would theoretically ensure that everyone received a modest basic income every year.
This fascinated the Clintons, and they spent weeks excitedly exploring it. They wanted to call it “Alaska for America.” Ultimately, Hillary shelved the plan after concluding that the numbers did not really add up. Looking back, she thinks maybe she should have just embraced it anyway. “To provide a meaningful dividend each year to every citizen, you’d have to raise enormous sums of money, and that would either mean a lot of new taxes or cannibalizing other important programs,” she writes. “I wonder now whether we should have thrown caution to the wind and embraced ‘Alaska for America’ as a long-term goal and figured out the details later.”
Bigger picture, Clinton complains that Bernie put her in a tough spot by running on the kind of pipe dreams that made “Alaska for America” look pragmatic. “No matter how bold and progressive my policy proposals were — and they were significantly bolder and more progressive than anything President Obama or I had proposed in 2008 — Bernie would come out with something even bigger, loftier, and leftier,” Clinton fumes. “That left me to play the unenviable role of spoilsport schoolmarm, pointing out that there was no way Bernie could keep his promises or deliver real results.”
-- As the months wore on, Clinton focused increasingly on the role that she could play in the so-called Resistance movement. She decries the emergence of “alternative facts,” a term popularized by White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. “Attempting to define reality is a core feature of authoritarianism,” Clinton writes. “This is what happens in George Orwell’s classic novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four,’ when a torturer holds up four fingers and delivers electric shocks until his prisoner sees five fingers as ordered. The goal is to make you question logic and reason and to sow mistrust toward exactly the people we need to rely on: our leaders, the press, experts who seek to guide public policy based on evidence, ourselves. For Trump, as with so much he does, it’s about simple dominance.”
“On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century,” the thin volume by Yale history professor Timothy Snyder, has been especially popular in elite circles this year. This quote from the book resonated the most with HRC: “To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle.”
Writing about sitting through Trump’s inauguration, Clinton laments: “We were in a ‘brave new world.’”
-- A few months later, looking for inspiration as she prepared to deliver the commencement address at Wellesley College, her alma mater, Clinton reread Vaclav Havel’s “The Power of the Powerless.” Under the yoke of Soviet oppression, the dissident who would become the first president of the Czech Republic wrote an essay in 1978 about the ability of individuals to wield the truth like a weapon against the regime’s “thick crust of lies.”
“The moment someone breaks through in one place, when one person cries out, ‘The emperor is naked!’ — when a single person breaks the rules of the game, thus exposing it as a game — everything suddenly appears in another light,” Havel wrote.
Clinton muses: “Havel understood that authoritarians who rely on lies to control their people are fundamentally not that different from neighborhood bullies. … This felt like the right message for 2017.”
-- The cosmopolitan Clinton quotes a diverse range of other international voices in the book, including Lebanese writer Kahlil Gibran, Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Austrian novelist Rainer Maria Rilke, Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw and German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
-- To be sure, Clinton has also watched a lot of television since November. The weekend after the election, she turned on “Saturday Night Live” and fought back tears as she watched Kate McKinnon — in character as her — perform Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” She binge-watched old episodes of “The Good Wife,” “Madam Secretary” and “Blue Bloods.” She caught up on “NCIS: Los Angeles,” which Bill thinks is the best in the CBS franchise.
One day, she even watched a video of one of her three debates against Trump. When the sound was off, Clinton realized that “between his theatrical arm waving and face making and his sheer size and aggressiveness, I watched him a lot more than I watched me.” “I’m guessing a lot of voters did the same thing,” she laments.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- What everyone is talking about: “[Trump’s] legal team is wrestling with how much to cooperate with the special counsel looking into Russian election interference, an internal debate that led to an angry confrontation last week between two White House [lawyers],” the New York Times’s Peter Baker and Kenneth P. Vogel report. “The debate in Mr. Trump’s West Wing has pitted Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, against Ty Cobb, a lawyer brought in to manage the response to the investigation. Mr. Cobb has argued for turning over as many of the emails and documents requested by the special counsel as possible … Mr. McGahn supports cooperation, but is worried about setting a precedent that would weaken the White House … He is described as particularly concerned about whether the president will invoke executive or attorney-client privilege to limit how forthcoming Mr. McGahn could be if he himself is interviewed by the special counsel as requested.”
Two remarkable nuggets:
- “The friction escalated in recent days after Mr. Cobb was overheard by a reporter for the New York Times discussing the dispute during a lunchtime conversation at a popular Washington steakhouse. Mr. Cobb was heard talking about a White House lawyer he deemed ‘a McGahn spy’ and saying Mr. McGahn had ‘a couple documents locked in a safe’ that he seemed to suggest he wanted access to. …”
- “Tension between the two comes as life in the White House is shadowed by the investigation … The uncertainty has grown to the point that White House officials privately express fear that colleagues may be wearing a wire to surreptitiously record conversations for Mr. Mueller.”
The Times reporter tweeted this image after the story was published:
A former Obama DOJ spokesman observed this:
Notable that McGahn, who participated in the ugly early months & could face his own legal issues, wants to cooperate less than Cobb does. https://t.co/KXALisjNYl— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) September 18, 2017
-- Ryan Zinke recommended in a memo last month that Trump shrink at least four national monuments created by his immediate predecessors and modify six others. Juliet Eilperin reports: “The memorandum … shows Zinke concluded after a nearly four-month review that both Republican and Democratic presidents went too far in recent decades in limiting commercial activities in protected areas. The secretary’s set of recommendations also would change the way all 10 targeted monuments are managed. It emphasizes the need to adjust the proclamations to address concerns of local officials or affected industries, saying the administration should permit ‘traditional uses’ now restricted within the monuments’ boundaries, such as grazing, logging, coal mining and commercial fishing. If enacted, the changes could test the legal boundaries of what powers a president holds under the 1906 Antiquities Act.”
-- “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Veep” and “Big Little Lies” were the big winners at the Emmys, hosted by Stephen Colbert. Hank Stuever writes: “The overall message this Emmy night? Hey, America, there’s never been a better time to tune out reality by tuning into — and collapsing into the comfort of — your multiple TV screens. Unload your anxieties by sticking to the couch. It’s an embarrassment of riches, luring even the biggest schtars into its fold. … President Trump, as expected, was the subject of most of the evening’s jokes. How could he not be, given his well-known resentment of being overlooked for an Emmy back when he was mostly just a reality-TV star?”
-- Sean Spicer also made a cameo appearance to parody his false statements about the size of Trump’s inauguration crowd. After Colbert complained there was no way to know how many viewers were tuning in to the Emmys, Sean Spicer rolled in from the wings on a press secretary’s podium that looked like it was ripped straight from SNL’s set. “This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period, both in person and around the world!” Spicer announced. (Emily Yahr)
GET SMART FAST:
- At least nine people were arrested in suburban St. Louis during the weekend’s demonstrations over the acquittal of Jason Stockley. Stockley, a former St. Louis police officer, was involved in the 2011 fatal shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, a black drug suspect. (Jim Salter and Summer Ballentine)
- British authorities arrested a second man in connection with the London subway bombing attack, which injured at least 30 people and has been labeled by police as terrorism. (William Booth and Rick Noack)
- The U.S. military is taking steps to establish closer communication with Russian forces in Syria, following an airstrike Saturday on U.S. proxy forces near the Deir al-Zour province that left several fighters wounded. (Thomas Gibbons-Neff)
- California lawmakers voted Saturday to become a “sanctuary state,” advancing to the governor’s desk legislation that would prohibit local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration officials. California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is expected to sign the controversial bill into law. (Kristine Phillips)
- Police investigating the fatal and seemingly random shootings last week of two black pedestrians in Baton Rouge said there is a “strong possibility” the killings were racially motivated. Authorities said a 23-year-old detained on unrelated drug charges is a “person of interest.” (Amy B Wang)
- Four Boston College students were attacked with acid at a train station in southern France. Authorities said Sunday that a 41-year-old woman was arrested in connection with the attack, and there were no indications of terrorism as the motive. (Kristine Phillips)
- Georgia Tech police shot and killed the president of the university’s Pride Alliance on Saturday night. Authorities said the 21-year-old computer engineering student was brandishing a knife and advancing toward officers before one fired his weapon. (Avi Selk)
- The National Hurricane Center issued tropical storm watches for parts of the East Coast on Sunday, warning that Hurricane Jose is expected to cause “direct impacts from Delaware northward to New England.” Maria also continued to gain strength in the Atlantic — and was upgraded to hurricane status, prompting warnings on the islands of St. Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat. (Greg Porter)
- Rolling Stone is being put up for sale, ending the half-century reign of founder and president Jan Wenner. “I love my job, I enjoy it, I’ve enjoyed it for a long time,” Wenner said, adding that letting go was “just the smart thing to do.” (New York Times)
I spoke with President Moon of South Korea last night. Asked him how Rocket Man is doing. Long gas lines forming in North Korea. Too bad!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 17, 2017
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- The Trump administration warned Sunday that time is “running out” for a peaceful solution with North Korea, citing the growing threat from Pyongyang’s nuclear program and reiterating Trump’s intent to confront the crisis at his first U.N. General Assembly this week. David Nakamura and Anne Gearan report: “Trump, who spoke by phone with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Saturday, referred to Kim on Twitter as ‘Rocket Man’ and asserted that ‘long gas lines’ are forming in the North because of recent U.N. sanctions on oil imports. Though Trump’s top aides emphasized that the administration is examining all diplomatic measures to rein in Pyongyang, they made clear that military options remain on the table[.]”
“If North Korea keeps on with this reckless behavior, if the United States has to defend itself or defend its allies in any way, North Korea will be destroyed,” Nikki Haley said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “None of us want that. ... But we also have to look at the fact that you are dealing with someone … who is being reckless, irresponsible and is continuing to give threats ... So something is going to have to be done.”
“The question remains, however, how realistic the Trump administration’s threats are as the North quickly advances its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities,” our colleagues write.
-- Administration officials warn of escalating tensions with China. Axios’s Jonathan Swan reports: “They believe the confrontation with Pyongyang's portly dictator will define Trump's first term in office. The consensus view among [Trump, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and national security adviser Henry McMaster] is that this conflict is heading toward two options, both with high risks: escalated confrontation with China and the military option. … Officials are waiting to see how the latest United Nations sanctions agreement affects North Korean behavior, but if the regime keeps firing rockets and testing nukes, watch for escalated tension with China.”
-- One option: “When North Korea launched long-range missiles … it powered the weapons with a rare, potent rocket fuel [known as UDMH] that American intelligence agencies believe initially came from China and Russia,” the New York Times’s William J. Broad and David E. Sanger write. “The United States government is scrambling to determine whether those two countries are still providing the ingredients for the highly volatile fuel and, if so, whether North Korea’s supply can be interrupted[.]"”
“Despite a long record of intelligence warnings … there is no evidence that Washington has ever moved with urgency to cut off Pyongyang’s access to the rare propellant. But inside the intelligence agencies and among a few on Capitol Hill who have studied the matter, UDMH is a source of fascination and seen as a natural target for the American effort to halt Mr. Kim’s missile program. ‘If North Korea does not have UDMH, it cannot threaten the United States, it’s as simple as that,’” said Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.).
-- As Rex Tillerson readies for this week’s U.N. General Assembly, an ascendant Nikki Haley is “waiting in the wings” — and risks overshadowing the top U.S. diplomat on his most public stage yet. Politico’s Annie Karni reports: “It would be unprecedented for a U.N. ambassador to upstage a secretary of state at the diplomatic Super Bowl. But ‘unprecedented’ is the Trump administration’s unofficial slogan. And Haley … is seen as one of its most ambitious players, competing for prominence against a former Exxon Mobil CEO who has been criticized for accepting the lead role at the State Department only to oversee a dramatic shrinkage of its budget and influence. Haley is expected to attend almost all of the bilateral meetings with Trump and Tillerson, an amped-up role for the ambassador. She has also been involved in reviewing the remarks Trump is expected to deliver Tuesday, which will mark Trump’s main event of the week …”
-- The United States and Iran are trading charges of noncompliance and “viciousness” as the administration mulls altering the nuclear deal. Carol Morello reports: “Rex Tillerson acknowledged that Iran is in ‘technical compliance’ with its obligations under the pact negotiated by the Obama administration and five other world powers. But he faulted Tehran for its non-nuclear activities in the Middle East — backing militias in Yemen and Syria, supporting terrorist groups and testing ballistic missiles. … For his part, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the ultimate power in Tehran’s theocracy, took to his English-language Twitter account to label Washington as, in turn, domineering, bullying, oppressive, hounding and cruel — and corrupt and lying to boot.”
-- Meanwhile, the ongoing Persian Gulf conflict threatens to heighten United States tension with Iran. Karen DeYoung writes: “The Trump administration, which depends on the gulf states as its main air and sea launchpad for the fight against the Islamic State, and as a bulwark against Iran, is starting to get worried. … The failure of Trump’s personal diplomacy has left the United States with few options. There is little reason to think that the president, who plans to meet with some leaders from the region during [UNGA] will have much better luck in person.”
SUNDAY SHOW HIGHLIGHTS:
-- H.R. McMaster denied on Sunday that Trump is reconsidering his decision to pull out of the Paris climate deal, but he reiterated the president is “open to renegotiation” on a better agreement. “The president decided to pull out of the Paris accord because it's a bad deal for the American people and it's a bad deal for the environment,” McMaster said on “Fox News Sunday.”
When asked on ABC’s “This Week” whether “it is possible the [U.S.] would stay in if you can get a new agreement,” McMaster replied, “If there's an agreement that benefits the American people, certainly.”
-- British Prime Minister Theresa May told George Stephanopoulos that she and Trump “work very well together,” even as she expressed disagreement with his Paris decision: “I've made very clear I was dismayed when America decided to pull out of that. And I, as I've said to President Trump, I hope that they'll be ... able to find a way for America to come back into the agreement.”
-- “On CBS's ‘Face the Nation,’ [Rex Tillerson] criticized the Paris accord as being ‘out of balance’ for the United States and China but said the administration is seeking ‘other ways’ to work with other countries on tackling climate change ‘under the right conditions,” Anne Gearan reports. "‘I think under the right conditions, the president has said he's open to finding those conditions where we can remain engaged with others on what we all agree is a challenging issue,’ he said.”
-- Tillerson signaled the United States is considering closing the U.S. Embassy in Havana, following mysterious attacks at the diplomatic mission. “We have it under evaluation,” he commented. “It’s a very serious issue, with respect to the harm that certain individuals have suffered, and we’ve brought some of those people home. It’s under review.” (Carol Morello)
THE CONGRESSIONAL AGENDA:
-- One last time: Republican senators are racing to get the latest Obamacare repeal effort — the Graham-Cassidy bill — to the Senate floor before the end of the month (when budget rules expire allowing them to cut out Democrats). Elise Viebeck and David Weigel report: “The Congressional Budget Office is in the process of estimating the cost and coverage impact of the … [bill, which] would provide states with funding to establish health insurance programs outside ACA protections and mandates, an approach that could force millions off insurance rolls. … Democrats are taking the latest chatter seriously, and liberal lawmakers spent the weekend slamming the bill on social media. …
“Republican leaders are now trying to determine whether they have enough votes to begin debate on the bill, according to Senate aides. They are also trying to get Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whose ‘no’ vote sank the most recent Republican health-care bill in July, fully on board. McCain has said he supports the bill in theory but wants to assess its impact on Arizona.” But at least one Republican senator, Rand Paul, has already said he would not support the bill because it keeps too much of Obamacare in place.
-- Mitch McConnell has said he'll give the bill a chance on the floor if it has the support of 50 senators. Politico’s Burgess Everett and Josh Dawsey report: “Right now, support for the bill … among Republican senators is short of 50 votes. But McConnell and his lieutenants will gauge support this week in private party meetings with help from [Trump], administration and Capitol Hill sources said. … White House officials began making calls last week to Republican Senate offices and plan to whip Senate votes this week … Some Republicans believe that if the bill were put on the floor Monday, it would have the support of 49 senators. …
“At lunch last Thursday, most of the caucus pushed for another try on health care, and McConnell was favorably inclined, as long as it won’t fail again.” With Paul already against the bill, McConnell will have to win the approval of two of the three Republican senators who voted against the July proposal: McCain, Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine).
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen said Sunday that he “expects to testify” on Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee in connection with its ongoing Russia probe. CNN’s Eli Watkins, Jim Acosta and Cristina Alesci report: “Cohen [said] in May that he was declining invitations to testify from the House and Senate intelligence committees … But he said at the time that he would ‘gladly’ comply with a subpoena compelling his testimony and that he had nothing to hide.”
-- Meanwhile, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee said that her panel plans to call on Donald Trump Jr. to testify publicly. “I think it's Senator (Chuck) Grassley's intent, and it's certainly my intent, to have him before the committee in the open and be able to ask some questions under oath,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein said. The California Democrat also said the committee would likely subpoena Paul Manafort if he declined to appear before the committee.
CONFLICTS OF INTEREST:
-- The Trump Organization is losing a significant share of its nonpolitical customers, but it's making up for their absence with political groups. David A. Fahrenthold, Amy Brittain and Matea Gold report: “Trump’s properties are attracting new customers who want something from him or his government. But they’re losing the kind of customers the business was originally built on: nonpolitical groups who just wanted to rent a room. To assess the state of Trump’s hospitality business, [The Post] … identified a sample of more than 200 groups that had rented out meeting rooms or golf courses at a Trump property since 2014. Of those groups, 85 are no longer Trump customers …”
“But it did show, clearly, that one part of that business is thriving. The business of political events. At least 27 federal political committees — including Trump’s reelection campaign — have flocked to his properties. They’ve spent $363,701 in just seven months … At Trump’s D.C. hotel, there have also been a slew of events involving groups that have come to Washington to influence policy decisions. Through the first four months of the year, the hotel turned a profit of $1.97 million … [surpassing] its own revenue expectations.”
I will be in Huntsville, Alabama, on Saturday night to support Luther Strange for Senate. "Big Luther" is a great guy who gets things done!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 16, 2017
-- The Alabama Senate primary race is shaping up to be a Republican test run for next year’s midterms, with McConnell’s campaign machine facing off against Steve Bannon’s anti-establishment followers. Michael Scherer and Matea Gold report: “Strategists from both sides of the party’s divide say recent focus groups and polling have shown that the frustration within the Republican base has only grown since the 2016 election, stoked by an inability to repeal and replace [Obamacare]. … In a sign of fights to come, the two Republican candidates [in Alabama] are now competing to demonstrate their disgust with Washington politics.”
While Trump has backed McConnell’s pick of incumbent Sen. Luther Strange, Bannon is pushing former state Supreme Court judge Roy Moore: “Allies of McConnell have been blanketing the Alabama airwaves to shrink Moore’s polling lead. After spending nearly $4 million on ads before the first primary vote in August, the Senate Leadership Fund plans to blitz the state with another $4 million before the Sept. 26 runoff. … The Senate Leadership Fund is also taking aim at Bannon himself in an effort to tarnish his position as a champion of the Trump political movement. … Bannon’s allies scoffed at the notion that the McConnell-allied groups could drive a wedge between Trump’s supporters and Bannon. ‘At the end of the day, folks like that think the president’s base is stupid,’ said a person close to the conservative media executive. ‘It shows the arrogance of the Republican political class in Washington.’”
-- Trump’s announcement that he would campaign with Luther next weekend could provide a necessary boon to the incumbent, especially after former candidate Rep. Mo Brooks endorsed Moore in the race. Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reports: “Strange spoke several times with Trump by phone last week and asked him to visit before the election. … Strange’s Republican colleagues got in on the push, too. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, who is up for reelection in 2018 and faces the prospect of a primary challenge, spoke extensively with Trump on Friday. … Trump’s refusal until Saturday to commit to a pre-runoff rally fueled fears at the highest levels of the party that the unpredictable president would switch his endorsement to Moore.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump retweeted a supporter's doctored GIF showing him hitting Hillary Clinton with a golf ball. While the move may have been meant to rekindle the approval of his far-right base, it was widely criticized by commentators:
The account that first posted the GIF had a history of anti-Semitic tweets. From BuzzFeed News's deputy news director:
The account Trump RTd deleted the tweet saying "Please get rid of the Hasidic Jews. They are the worst people on the planet.” Here it is: pic.twitter.com/5lUx0kL9MP— Tom Namako (@TomNamako) September 17, 2017
From the former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics:
The President of the United States just retweeted a video vignette that imagines him assaulting his political rival. The man is unfit. pic.twitter.com/ETXrs4JwGY— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) September 17, 2017
From one of the New York Times’s White House correspondents:
Classy retweet by the leader of the free world, man with nuke codes, fella who reads TelePrompter on national unity and respect for women. https://t.co/jNpNAd0thq— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) September 17, 2017
From George W. Bush’s former speechwriter:
When Kathy Griffin fantasized about doing violence to him, Trump demanded the whole nation share his outrage. Most did. And now ... https://t.co/ypD9OIFniS— David Frum (@davidfrum) September 17, 2017
From the MSNBC host:
We are far down the rabbit hole for this but just step back and marvel that we are debating whether a retweet is an endorsement.— Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC) September 17, 2017
From one of The Post’s national political correspondents:
I count a dozen presidential tweets so far this morning. Kelly might want to think about ordering that the White House kitchen serve decaf.— Karen Tumulty (@ktumulty) September 17, 2017
Democratic senators issued a warning about reports that the Graham-Cassidy health-care bill is gaining steam:
Let me repeat: The Graham-Cassidy @SenateGOP "health care" bill IS Trumpcare, & it will rip health care away from millions of Americans.— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) September 17, 2017
They only need to flip 1 vote by end of September to ruin your healthcare. Light up the phones, please. This really is their last chance.— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) September 17, 2017
This is happening. Drop what you are doing to start calling, start showing up, start descending on DC. Game on. https://t.co/WrNVAhXTcJ— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) September 17, 2017
Trump’s new nickname of “Rocket Man” for Kim Jong Un set off an avalanche of Elton John jokes. From New York Magazine’s Washington correspondent:
Who will he label Tiny Dancer— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) September 17, 2017
From the Atlantic’s editor in chief:
It's lonely out in space.https://t.co/lWwDcY5aQF— Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg) September 17, 2017
From a CNBC Washington correspondent:
The Toronto Star's Washington correspondent questioned Sean Spicer's appearance at the Emmys:
On Kimmel and tonight, Spicer is having it both ways: seeming good-natured about his deception without actually admitting he was deceiving.— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) September 18, 2017
From a BuzzFeed News reporter:
Seeing Sean Spicer during the Emmys mock the actual lie he told the American people about inauguration crowd is I don't know, not funny.— Mary Georgantopoulos (@marygeorgant) September 18, 2017
From Slate's chief political correspondent:
The degree to which Sean Spicer has faced no consequences is a glimpse into the post-Trump future.— Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie) September 18, 2017
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- The Atlantic, “Mike Huckabee and the Rise of Christian Media Under Trump,” by Emma Green: “Mike Huckabee’s got a new gig. The former Arkansas governor will kick off a new show on Trinity Broadcasting Network in October, featuring music, faith, and some good old-fashioned politics. He’ll have an auspicious first guest: Donald Trump. In an interview, I asked him whether he was concerned about fellow Christians who feel alienated by Trump, and whether he takes seriously criticism from leaders like William Barber, who has accused Trump-supporting Christians of ‘theological malpractice that borders on a form of heresy.’ ‘I totally don’t,’ Huckabee said.”
-- AP, “Request denied: States try to block access to public records,” by Andrew Demillo and Ryan J. Foley: “Lawmakers across the country introduced and debated dozens of bills during this year’s legislative sessions that would close or limit public access to a wide range of government records and meetings, according to a review by The Associated Press and numerous state press associations. Most of those proposals did not become law, but freedom-of-information advocates in some states said they were struck by the number of bills they believed would harm the public interest, and they are bracing for more fights next year.”
-- Politico Magazine, “Mark Lilla Is Getting Identity Politics All Wrong,” by Joshua Zeitz: “Identity politics—the practice of appealing to voters’ tribal instincts at the expense of weaving a more all-embracing agenda—is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it’s as American as apple pie. More to the point, throughout our history, identity politics has almost always meant white identity politics—a style of persuasion rooted in appeals to white resentment and privilege. … It’s ironic, then, that today’s critics of identity politics focus not on the GOP, which has progressively degenerated into a revanchist white pride party, but on Democrats who, according to Columbia University’s Mark Lilla, espoused a politics of inclusive liberalism ‘from the New Deal up until 1980,’ but then pivoted toward an ‘ideology … that fetishizes our individual and group attachments’ at the expense of ‘a universal democratic “we.”’”
HOT ON THE LEFT
“Juggalos Draw Bigger Crowd On The National Mall Than Pro-Trump Rally,” from HuffPost: “[F]ans of the eccentric Detroit rap duo Insane Clown Posse assembled a larger rally on the national mall this Saturday than the president’s diehard supporters stationed a few hundred yards away. … Unlike the pro-Trump rally, Juggalos, as clown-makeup-wearing Insane Clown Posse fans call themselves, protested on the National Mall on Saturday for an actual specific purpose. That could explain why the gathering that surrounded the base of the reflection pool at the Lincoln Memorial this afternoon was significantly larger than the pro-Trump rally.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT
“MO Governor on St. Louis Protests: Only Safe Space for Looters Is a Jail Cell,” from FoxNews Insider: “Missouri governor Eric Greitens (R) warned protesters against violence. ‘We had leaders who wanted to give people a safe space to loot and to burn,’ Greitens told Fox News. ‘Now in Missouri if you loot the only safe space you're going to have is in a jail cell.’ ‘If you're going to riot we're going to cuff you,’ he continued. ‘Violence and vandalism is not protest. It is a crime[.]’”
Trump will be at the U.N. General Assembly in the morning and then at the Lotte New York Palace Hotel for meetings with world leaders.
Pence will host Honor Flight veterans at the White House before joining Trump in New York for meetings.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Sen. Bernie Sanders addressed accusations that he didn’t do enough to help Hillary Clinton’s general election campaign during an appearance on “Meet the Press”: “I worked as hard as I could to see that Hillary Clinton would be elected president. … People say, 'Well, not everybody who voted for Bernie ended up voting for Hillary.’ No kidding. That's what happens in politics.”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- D.C. will see a bit more of summer weather today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Some areas of fog are likely early on and may take several hours to burn off. But increasing sunshine is a good bet by the late morning and afternoon. A passing shower could pop up late (20 percent chance), but more of us are dry than not. Highs are close to 80 with a light wind from the northeast.”
-- The Redskins beat the Rams 27-20. (Liz Clarke)
-- The Nationals won against the Dodgers 7-1. (Jorge Castillo)
-- Democratic Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz is expected to announce a gubernatorial bid this week. Josh Hicks reports.
-- Republican Virginia Del. Robert G. Marshall refuses to debate his Democratic challenger Danica Roem, who would be the state’s first openly transgender person to win elective office. Marshall has cited fears that he will be labeled “a bigot” or “a hatemonger” in explaining his position. (Antonio Olivo)
-- The chairman of the Metro board said that the agency should request $25 billion over the next 10 years to improve the transit system. The figure represents a significant increase from the $15.5 billion that Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld requested. (Faiz Siddiqui)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Stephen Colbert's Emmys opening encouraged television viewers to tune out reality:
D.C. Public Schools trended on Twitter after Dave Chapelle gave them a shoutout at the Emmys:
The Post analyzed how many times Trump has tweeted about Hillary Clinton since beating her in last year's election:
And NASA celebrated an end to Cassini's successful mission: