with Mariana Alfaro
Imagine how much greater a country we might be today if the Founding Fathers had heeded her call to “remember the ladies” from the get-go. Their failure to do so was one of America’s original sins. Instead, women would not be guaranteed the right to vote for another 143 years. Things have improved significantly, but the pay gap and sexual assault remain endemic.
Marianne Williamson is alarmed that the mistakes made at the dawn of our republic will be repeated in Afghanistan as the United States negotiates a troop drawdown with the Taliban. While her fellow Democratic presidential candidates tout their desire to end America’s longest war as soon as possible, the author and self-help guru has emphasized more than any of her rivals the need to use the leverage that comes with a large troop presence to extract enforceable security guarantees for women and girls. She says a gentleman’s agreement is not good enough.
The 67-year-old said during an interview yesterday afternoon that she’s been concerned about the subjugation of Afghan women since long before the U.S. invasion in the wake of 9/11. “This has been a feminist issue since before 2001,” Williamson told me as she drove from Sioux City, Iowa, to Des Moines. “One positive thing that’s come from us being there has been the lessening of brutality towards women and the rights of women that came into full expression as a result of liberation.”
Williamson expresses visceral concern that conditions for women will revert to the way they were during the last time the Taliban dominated if President Trump agrees to a bad deal. Women were not allowed to attend school before. Today, about 3.5 million are enrolled in primary and secondary schools. Women were routinely flogged for not wearing full-body burqas or if they went outside without a male chaperone. Today, women can vote. In fact, they constitute a larger share of the parliament in Afghanistan than of the Senate in the United States.
Williamson said she’s been closely tracking coverage of the ongoing negotiations, and she finds it “very disturbing” that safeguarding the gains made by women over the past 18 years has not been a top priority. “I know some people seem to think that this new generation of Taliban leadership is somewhat more lenient towards women, but that to me is not enough,” she explained. “I want to see that subject front and center as part of America's official negotiating posture.”
She would not have excluded the Afghanistan government from the bilateral U.S. talks with the Taliban. Williamson said she would consult closely with Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United States, who is a woman, and speak directly with other female leaders in Kabul’s civil society to get their input on what a workable deal might look like. “If we're going to talk about moving forward in a new direction, then we have to start now,” she said. “The rights and the protections of the women of Afghanistan in current negotiations with the Taliban is a perfect example. We must not wait and do these kinds of things later.”
To be sure, Williamson is still a dove at heart. On Monday, for example, she unveiled a detailed plan to create a Department of Peace. But while her odds of winning the nomination certainly remain slim to none, the first-time candidate is devoting a ton of time on the trail to talking about a profoundly important issue that, frankly, seems like an afterthought for the top-tier candidates. It’s always a crowd-pleaser when the various candidates promise to “end the endless wars.” Trump does it at his rallies, as well. But the degree to which Williamson emphasizes that a pullout must be done in a thoughtful manner is striking. For folks who know only the reductionist caricature of her that they’ve seen during the first two debates, it’s also surprising.
Williamson chastises her fellow Democrats for leaning on talking points when it comes to matters of war and peace. “‘Bring them home’ is a slogan. It’s how we bring them home and under what conditions do we bring them home,” she told me. “I wouldn't be running if I thought that everything that needed to be said was already being said about this and so many other things. …
“Large groups of desperate people should be seen as a national security risk,” she continued. “Large groups of desperate people are more vulnerable to ideological capture by genuinely psychotic forces. Until we have a fundamental break with the thinking and the behavioral patterns of the past, all we're doing is removing a symptom that will almost inevitably morph into another one down the road.”
Giving women seats at the table would be a central aim of Williamson’s foreign policy doctrine. “Over and above the fact that we're half the human race, and violence against women is as egregious a human rights violation as could possibly exist on the planet, there is no serious path forward for peace on Earth that does not include much greater attention given to the rights and the protection of women,” she said. “There are four factors which, when present, statistically raise the probability of peace and decrease the probability of conflict. Number one is an expansion of economic opportunities for women. Number two is the reduction of violence against women. Number three is the expansion of educational opportunities for children. And number four is the amelioration of unnecessary human suffering.”
Williamson said that the voters she’s been talking with seem to appreciate her nuanced views vis-a-vis Afghanistan. She said she doesn’t discuss the country because she thinks it will garner support but because she thinks the issue is critically important. “It is my experience that the American people are so much smarter than the conventional political establishment seems to think,” she said. “I don't think the role of leadership is to wait to be told what you should talk about. I think the role of leadership is to say what needs to be said.”
THE DOMESTIC AGENDA:
-- Lucy and the football, cont.: The inside story of how Trump caved to the National Rifle Association yet again on taking meaningful action to curb gun violence. Josh Dawsey and David Nakamura report: “Since the shootings, NRA officials have repeatedly told the president and senior White House officials that universal background checks won’t do much to prevent mass shootings, according to people familiar with the private conversations. NRA officials also have lobbied Vice President Pence’s office and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, as well as governors and lawmakers who face potentially difficult reelection races in 2020. … White House aides and NRA officials have pointed out to Trump that many of the states he needs to win next year have a strong contingency of NRA members who would be frustrated if Trump made any drastic moves on gun control. …
“Trump’s campaign commissioned a poll on guns after this month’s shootings, and his political advisers warned him that there is little support for significant action among Republican voters, and even some Democrats, people familiar with the conversations said. ‘He is going to be very careful,’ said one person close to the president … ‘He isn’t inclined to do much right now.’ …
“Some Republicans noted that Trump has shown no inclination to lead an effort on any legislation opposed by the GOP base. Last year, he floated support for offering a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants in exchange for billions in funding for a border wall but quickly backed off in the face of a conservative backlash. In February 2017, a week after taking office, Trump rolled back Obama-era regulations aimed at making it more difficult for mentally ill people to buy firearms. [He did so at the behest of the NRA.]
“Behind the scenes, Trump’s communication with key lawmakers, including Sen. Joe Manchin III, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia who has sought to develop bipartisan gun-control measures, has gone mostly cold, according to Capitol Hill aides. … [Mitch] McConnell has rebuffed calls to bring the Senate back to Washington to deal with the issue, and his advisers acknowledged that he is unlikely to act without Trump’s leadership. McConnell has told advisers that he would push legislation only if the president were fully on board.”
-- Meanwhile, Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) co-sponsored the Democratic bill to ban assault weapons. "They are weapons of mass slaughter," he told the New York Daily News. "I don’t see any need for them in everyday society." King said he hopes other House Republicans follow him, but he's not optimistic.
-- A group of states is preparing to move forward with a joint antitrust investigation of big technology companies. From the Wall Street Journal: “The effort involving state attorneys general is expected to be formally launched as soon as next month. It is likely to focus on whether a handful of dominant technology platforms use their marketplace powers to stifle competition. As part of the probe, the states are likely to issue civil investigative demands, similar to subpoenas, to tech companies and other businesses. The new investigation could dovetail with plans by the Justice Department, which last month announced its own antitrust review that will focus on tech companies including Alphabet Inc.’s Google unit and Facebook Inc. … The political makeup of the multistate group isn’t set. A bipartisan probe could give the investigation broader leverage and help insulate GOP officials from questions over whether their actions are motivated by political concerns, such as how online platforms treat conservative speech.”
-- Planned Parenthood officially pulled out of a federal family planning program rather than abide by a new Trump administration "gag rule" prohibiting clinics from referring women for abortions. From the AP: “Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood’s acting president and CEO, said the organization’s nationwide network of health centers would remain open and strive to make up for the loss of federal money. But she predicted that many low-income women who rely on Planned Parenthood services would ‘delay or go without’ care. ‘We will not be bullied into withholding abortion information from our patients,’ said McGill Johnson. ‘Our patients deserve to make their own health care decisions, not to be forced to have Donald Trump or Mike Pence make those decisions for them.’ … Planned Parenthood was not the only organization dropping out. Maine Family Planning, which is unaffiliated with Planned Parenthood, also released its letter of withdrawal Monday. The National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, an umbrella group for family planning clinics, is suing to overturn the regulations.”
-- The White House is eyeing a temporary payroll tax cut as a way to reverse the economic slowdown. Damian Paletta reports: “The talks are still in their early stages and have included a range of other tax breaks. The officials also have not decided whether to formally push Congress to approve any of these measures ... But the White House increasingly is discussing ideas to boost a slowing economy ... Even though deliberations about the payroll tax cut were held Monday, the White House released a statement disputing that the idea was actively under ‘consideration.’ … Workers pay payroll taxes on income up to $132,900, so cutting the tax has remained a popular idea for many lawmakers, especially Democrats seeking to deliver savings for middle-income earners and not the wealthiest Americans.
"But payroll tax cuts can also add dramatically to the deficit and — depending on how they are designed — pull billions of dollars away from Social Security. The payroll tax cuts during the Obama administration reduced taxes by more than $100 billion each year, but the administration directed revenue to Social Security programs so those initiatives did not lose money. The cuts added to the deficit, however. If Washington implemented a similarly sized reduction, the tax cut could equate to a bigger tax break for many families than the 2017 tax law.” (Economics correspondent Heather Long prepared 15 charts to compare the Trump economy to the Obama economy.)
-- Nearly 3 out of 4 economists surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics predict a recession in the United States by 2021. Jonnelle Marte reports: “The outlook reflects growing skepticism among economists and investors that the U.S. economy will be able to withstand a protracted trade war with China without serious harm amid a weakening global outlook. … The survey of 226 economists was conducted from July 14 to Aug. 1, before Trump announced the latest round of tariffs against China and before the last bout of market volatility. The report reinforced the pessimism seen earlier this year, illustrating that for many economists the question is not so much whether the U.S. economy will enter a recession but when. Some economists delayed the timeline for when they expect a slowdown to start. The share of economists expecting a recession this year dropped to 2 percent from 10 percent in February. In addition, 34 percent now expect a recession in 2021, up from 25 percent in February. Still, about 4 out of 10 economists expect a slowdown in 2020, roughly unchanged from the previous report.”
-- Trump called on the Fed to cut interest rates by at least 100 basis points while attempting to play down the risk of a recession. He also pinned the blame for a potential economic downturn on the central bank and its chairman, Jerome Powell. Felicia Sonmez and Damian Paletta report: “The Fed funds rate, which Trump is trying to tell central bankers to cut, is currently set at 2.25 percent. Slashing it 100 basis points would lower this rate to 1.25 percent, giving them very little additional wiggle room to maneuver if a full-fledged recession began. … Fed officials have said they do not make decisions based on political pressure, but Trump has taken his attacks on the central bank to new extremes, particularly this month amid numerous signs that the U.S. economy is weakening more than expected. … Trump’s Twitter posts on Monday marked a new wrinkle in his push for the Fed to cut interest rates. In the past, he has said such a move is necessary to help the U.S. economy. But on Monday, he said it would be necessary to help the world economy. Other central banks, however, have already begun cutting interest rates, and it’s unclear why Trump believes that specific actions by the Fed would be enough to lift countries such as Germany out of a downturn.”
-- Trump's industrial policy takes a hit: U.S. Steel plans to lay off hundreds of workers in Michigan. From Reuters: “In a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification filed on Aug. 5, the Pittsburgh-based company said it expects to let go fewer than 200 workers following its decision to halt production at the Michigan facility. In mid-June, the company said it would idle two blast furnaces at its Great lakes and Gary Works plants, citing lower steel prices and softening demand. U.S. Steel said the lay-offs at the Michigan plant could last beyond six months. They will impact nearly every area of the facility, from blast furnace to finishing operations, a company spokeswoman told Reuters."
-- Another sign of an economic slowdown: RV shipments are slipping. Elkahrt, Ind., the capital of the country’s recreational-vehicle industry, is often watched by economists and investors for early indications of waning consumer demand for luxury items – an early sign of economic anxiety. (Wall Street Journal)
-- But resilient U.S. earnings buck recession fears, per the Financial Times: “Earnings season in the US has gone better than analysts anticipated. Despite early forecasts for dismal second-quarter results, earnings for S&P 500 constituents are down just 0.4 per cent as of Monday.”
-- Global stocks paused this morning as investors took a wait-and-see approach to trade developments and the Fed’s next moves, per the Wall Street Journal: “The Stoxx Europe 600 ticked up 0.1%, with rises in its health-care constituents mostly offset by losses in its basic-resources sector. … Shares in the world’s largest miner, BHP Group, dropped 1% after Chief Executive Andrew Mackenzie said the trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies had clouded the company’s outlook. In Asia, major indexes were mostly positive or flat, though Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 0.2% as recent political protests put pressure on the city’s government to enter talks. Japan’s Nikkei gained 0.6% and the Korean Kospi jumped more than 1%. … Investors will pay close attention to the minutes from the Federal Reserve’s latest meeting on Wednesday, as well as any statements from Chairman Jerome Powell ahead of the economic symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyo., starting on Friday. The U.S. dollar was unchanged on Tuesday, holding on to its recent gains.”
-- The bigger threat: Climate change could cost the U.S. economy up to 10.5 percent of its GDP by 2100, according to a new study published yesterday. Andrew Freedman reports: “At a time when there’s concern about a global economic downturn, the new study, published as a working paper in the National Bureau of Economic Research, warns of a far bigger cut to economic growth if global warming goes unchecked. … The study found that continued temperature increases of about 0.072 degrees per year (0.04 Celsius) under a roughly ‘business as usual,’ or high-emissions, scenario would yield a 7.2 percent cut to GDP per capita worldwide by 2100. (This is relative to a world in which countries see temperature increases equal to their 1960 to 2014 rate of change.) In contrast, if countries were to cut greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris climate agreement, then such effects could be limited to closer to a 1.1 percent loss in GDP per capita.”
-- The White House has mounted an effort to prevent any more automakers from joining a pact with California to oppose the president’s auto emissions rollbacks. From the Times: “Toyota, Fiat Chrysler and General Motors were all summoned by a senior Trump adviser to a White House meeting last month where he pressed them to stand by the president’s own initiative, according to four people familiar with the talks. But even as the White House was working to do this, it was losing ground. Yet another company, Mercedes-Benz, is now preparing to join the California agreement, according to two people familiar with the German company’s plans. Mr. Trump, described by three people as ‘enraged’ by California’s deal, has also demanded that his staffers step up the pace to complete his plan. His proposal, however, is directly at odds with the wishes of many automakers, which fear that the aggressive rollbacks will spark a legal battle between California and the federal government that could split the United States car market in two.”
-- The New York Police Department fired the officer who was caught on video with his arm around the neck of 43-year-old Eric Garner just before he died five years ago. Devlin Barrett reports: “NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill announced the decision Monday, weeks after a departmental disciplinary judge recommended the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, be terminated. Pantaleo’s union said they would try to overturn the decision. ‘In this case the unintended consequence of Mr. Garner’s death must have a consequence of its own,’ said O’Neill. ‘It is clear that Daniel Pantaleo can no longer effectively serve as a New York City police officer.’ O’Neill called the decision ‘extremely difficult,’ acknowledging that the move probably would anger rank-and-file officers. ‘If I was still a cop, I’d probably be mad at me,’ he said.”
-- Attorney General Bill Barr has replaced the head of the Bureau of Prisons in the wake of Jeffrey Epstein's death in federal custody. Devlin Barrett reports: “Hugh J. Hurwitz, the agency’s acting head, will be replaced by Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, who served as Bureau of Prisons director from 1992 to 2003. Barr also appointed Thomas R. Kane to serve as her deputy, a position currently vacant. … Even before Epstein’s death, Justice Department officials privately expressed frustration with senior officials at the Bureau of Prisons, but the apparent management flaws found since have angered the department’s leaders, including the attorney general. … The Justice Department sent additional Bureau of Prisons personnel from across the country to buttress the workforce [at the Manhattan correctional center], and a suicide reconstruction team was sent to the facility to determine exactly how Epstein died.”
-- Epstein signed his will just two days before his suicide, leaving behind a nearly $600 million fortune, according to court documents obtained by the New York Post: “The court document, filed in the US Virgin Islands, where the convicted sex molester owned two isles … was filed Aug. 8. The 66-year-old former hedge-fund manager was worth $577,672,654, or about $18 million more than he previously stated in court papers while futilely trying to land bail on federal sex-trafficking charges, the new documents show. He put all of his holdings in a trust, called The 1953 Trust, after the year he was born. … Epstein’s will was filed with court officials in St. Thomas. One of the two Brooklyn lawyers listed as witnessing its signing is Mariel A. Colon Miro — an attorney for drug kingpin Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman. Miro was once accused of flouting court rules by passing a phone to Chapo’s wife so the spouse could communicate with her imprisoned husband. Miro has denied the claim.”
-- Two members of the far-right Proud Boys were convicted of assault for fighting with members of a leftist group in New York last year. Eli Rosenberg reports: “A jury found Maxwell Hare, 27, of Harrisburg, Pa., and John Kinsman, 39, of Morristown, N.J., guilty of attempted gang assault, three charges of attempted assault and rioting. Hare and Kinsman were among 10 members of the Proud Boys charged after the October street fight. All but three of them pleaded guilty to various charges; one faces trial later."
MORE ON 2020:
-- While raising money from some of the nation's richest people in the Hamptons, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) distanced herself from the Medicare-for-all plan that she co-sponsored with Bernie Sanders. From the Daily Beast: “I think almost every member of the United States Senate who's running for president, and many others, have signed on to a variety of plans in the Senate. And I have done the same,’ Harris said, according to remarks provided by her campaign. ‘All of them are good ideas, which is why I support them. And I support Medicare-for-all. But as you may have noticed, over the course of the many months, I've not been comfortable with Bernie's plan.’ … That the senator now has reservations about the legislation was not, her campaign argued, a matter of political convenience but, rather, the end product of having worked on the issue more."
-- Harris, who emphasized to the Hamptons crowd that she believes in capitalism, also held finance events on Martha's Vineyard. She wasn't the only candidate trying to curry favor with moneyed elites. From Bloomberg News: "Harris’s event on Sunday night went head to head with one at musician Jon Bon Jovi’s house for Cory Booker. Pete Buttigieg will be in the Hamptons over Labor Day weekend. Joe Biden, who’ll be in the Hamptons next weekend, has already hit up Cape Cod, Aspen and Sun Valley, Idaho. In the woods of Water Mill, at the home of public-relations executive Michael Kempner, Aretha Franklin and Alicia Keys songs played in the background as former Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards, Centerview Partners’ Blair Effron and Citigroup’s Ray McGuire waited to hear Harris’s pitch while would-be donors grazed on mini pizza."
-- Sanders fired back:
I don't go to the Hamptons to raise money from billionaires. If I ever visited there, I would tell them the same thing I have said for the last 30 years: We must pass a Medicare for All system to guarantee affordable health care for all, not just for those who can afford it.— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 19, 2019
-- But Harris is not the only Democrat backing off her support from Medicare-for-all. Chelsea Janes and Michael Scherer report: “In recent months, amid polling that shows concern among voters about ending private insurance, several of the Democratic hopefuls have shifted their positions or their tone, moderating full-throated endorsement of Medicare-for-all and adopting ideas for allowing private insurance in some form. … Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, who in 2017 embraced Medicare-for-all as the ‘best way,’ now similarly supports a plan that would preserve the current employer-based insurance system. … Five of the seven U.S. senators in the race have co-sponsored the Medicare-for-all bill drafted by [Sanders]. But they have begun to shade their messages, suggesting that the bill represents a long-term vision rather than an immediate plan. Many of the candidates are now focusing on steps they say would push the country closer to universal health care without a major disruption, such as creating a ‘public option’ that would let people join Medicare without making it mandatory. Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), for example, co-sponsored the Sanders bill and emphasizes that he still supports it, but he describes himself as a ‘pragmatist’ who would focus on ‘the immediate things we would do,’ which do not include eliminating private health insurance.”
-- Sen. Elizabeth Warren opened her remarks at a Native American presidential forum with a more straightforward version of the apology she has offered in the past for identifying as a Native American for two decades while she was a law professor. “I want to say this, like anyone who’s been honest with themselves, I know that I have made mistakes,” Warren (D-Mass.) said. “I am sorry for harm that I have caused. I have listened, and I have learned a lot, and I am grateful for the many conversations that we’ve had together.”
“Warren used her appearance Monday to try to pivot toward policy — she recently released a lengthy proposal about how she would try to help close health, income and wealth disparities in Native American communities,” Annie Linskey and Holly Bailey report. “The bulk of her appearance focused on parts of that plan, which would provide tribal leaders with far more influence than they now have over federal policy that affects their land. She was introduced by Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), one of the first two Native American women to be elected to Congress and a lawmaker who has worked with Warren on part of her proposal. Haaland called it the ‘boldest’ plan yet to ‘address the promises that have been broken and the need in our communities.’”
-- After a series of racist incidents that have shaken the state, liberals in New Hampshire are grappling with reparations and racial justice. Julie Zauzmer reports: “That’s a major shift from the past, says Gibson’s Bookstore owner Michael Herrmann. Herrmann’s quaint shop in Concord has served as a pit stop for politicos for years. ... [Buttigieg, Harris, Booker, Beto O’Rourke and Julián Castro] have stopped by in the past few months. And white voters have asked them about their stance on reparations. When candidates visited in 2016, reparations never came up, Herrmann said. Now, it’s part of the conversation. ‘It’s taken seriously in a way it wasn’t just four years ago,’ he said. … JerriAnne Boggis, the executive director of the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire, said she has seen an uptick in interest from white residents who want to learn about race. Her organization convenes ‘tea talks’ on subjects like disenfranchisement or the role of religion in racism. A few years ago, an average talk drew 40 attendees. Recently, 300 people showed up to hear ‘Black Girl in Maine’ blogger Shay Stewart-Bouley.”
-- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) would not say if she would oppose a political comeback by former senator Al Franken, whose resignation she demanded amid allegations of sexual misconduct. She did say, however, that she believes there is “always room for redemption.” Bob Costa reports: “And should her campaign fail to win the Democratic nomination, Gillibrand said she’d be willing to serve as the party’s vice-presidential nominee. ‘Of course,’ she said. ‘I will do public service in all its forms.’”
-- Former housing and urban development secretary Julián Castro became the first 2020 candidate to introduce a comprehensive and detailed animal welfare plan. From HuffPost: “Castro’s plan calls for $40 million in federal funding for a ‘Local Animal Communities Grant Program,’ which would help defray the costs of vaccinating, spaying and neutering animals. The money would also go toward programs that promote animal adoption. The plan also says that new affordable housing units will be pet-friendly. As part of his campaign, Castro has laid out a housing plan that would create 3 million new affordable housing units over 10 years. Castro also says he will work with homeless shelters that receive federal support to ‘ensure pets belonging to homeless individuals seeking refuge are not prohibited entry.’”
-- Castro qualified for the September Democratic debates after getting 2 percent in a CNN poll.
-- Hotel assignments for the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee next summer could stretch as far as Chicago’s O’Hare airport. From the Journal Sentinel: “Many of the delegates will be housed in hotel clusters in downtown Milwaukee, near Mitchell International Airport and in Brookfield, convention organizers have said. The hotels around O'Hare come into play because of their size and ability to handle large group bookings. Organizers have noted that drive times to Milwaukee are expected to be shorter in duration than trips to conventions in Philadelphia in 2016 and Charlotte, N.C., in 2012. Convention organizers are responsible for setting up a shuttle bus system to get delegates to and from Fiserv Forum.”
-- Anthony Scaramucci, the former White House communications director, says he was wrong about Trump all along in an op-ed for today's newspaper: “This isn’t a Road to Damascus moment; my concerns have been building publicly for a while. And I’m not seeking absolution. I just want to be part of the solution. The negatives of Trump’s demagoguery now clearly outweigh the positives of his leadership, and it is imperative that Americans unite to prevent him from serving another four years in office. When I decided to support Trump’s candidacy and later to work in his administration, it wasn’t because I agreed with all of his policies or liked every aspect of his personality.
"My public praise of the man was over the top at times, but my private estimation of him was more measured," the Mooch asserts. "I thought Trump, despite his warts, could bring a pragmatic, entrepreneurial approach to the Oval Office. … I naively thought that, by joining the administration, I could counteract the far-right voices in the room. I thought wrong. And, yes, many of you told me so. … As we lie on the bed of nails Trump has made, it’s often difficult to see how much the paradigm of acceptable conduct has shifted. For the Republican Party, it’s now a question of whether we want to start cleaning up the mess or continue papering over the cracks.”
-- Trump’s base probably will not be enough to carry him in the 2020 election. From the Atlantic's Ron Brownstein: “The latest such evidence comes in a new study released today by Navigator Research, a consortium of Democratic research and advocacy groups. The report ... examines a group that many analysts in both parties believe could prove to be the key bloc of 2020 swing voters: Americans who say they approve of Trump’s management of the economy but still disapprove of his overall performance as president. And it shows Trump facing significant headwinds among that potentially critical group, partly because of the divisive language and behavior he’s taken to new heights, or lows, since last weekend— tweeting about the congresswomen and encouraging his supporters to attack them as well. … In Navigator’s polling, the economy emerges clearly as Trump’s greatest advantage. … For now, these conflicted voters give the president a crushing 55 percentage-point edge over congressional Democrats when asked which side they trust more to handle the issue … But on every other front, Trump faces headwinds. In the surveys, these voters prefer congressional Democrats over Trump to handle taxes (by nine points), immigration (by 10 points), and health care (by 34 points).”
-- Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) blasted Israel for blocking their visit. Rachael Bade reports: “Speaking to reporters at the Minnesota state house in St. Paul, Omar called into question the millions of dollars in U.S. aid given to Israel each year and encouraged other lawmakers to visit in their stead to see first-hand the humanitarian conditions of Palestinians on the ground, a top goal of their upended trip. … Tlaib, speaking at times through tears, took a more personal approach, expressing remorse about not being able to visit her grandmother who lives in the West Bank. After Israel blocked their official visit, Tlaib (D-Mich.), a Palestinian American, made an appeal to Israel officials to allow her to visit her relatives. Israeli officials agreed, but would have required her to sign a promise restricting her speech and her movement. Tlaib ultimately declined to go. ‘My grandmother said … I’m her bird. She said I’m her dream manifested,’ Tlaib said, her voice growing angry as she started to cry. ‘I’m her free bird, so why would I come back and be caged and bow down when my election rose her head up high, gave her dignity for the first time?’”
-- Months before blocking the congresswomen’s entry into Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a letter opposing both Democrats to Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.). Adam Taylor reports: “The letter reveals that Netanyahu had long identified Tlaib and Omar — fierce critics of Israeli policy on Palestinians — as a problem for his government. At the heart of his opposition was the idea that they support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. Netanyahu’s letter shows how the BDS movement and its growing support could become a wedge between the Israeli government and Democrats."
-- In June, Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) clashed with her left flank after she and other moderates voted to approve $4.6 billion in emergency aid for migrants at the border. She learned sometimes your biggest foes are in your own party. Jenna Portnoy reports: “'That week showed me that for some people, ideology matters more than putting food in the mouth of a child,’ she said. ‘And that was stunning to me.’ In the eight months that Spanberger has served in Congress, she has been a lawmaker in the middle. … As she steers through the political divisions within her swing district, Spanberger is also trying to navigate conflicts inside her own party. … Spanberger and other moderates thought an alternative bill had little chance of getting through the Senate. ... The humanitarian aid package was just the sort of hard-fought accomplishment that made it worth it to leave a good-paying job at an education company and upend a stable suburban family life, Spanberger said … Then she read the torrent of insults directed at lawmakers like her.”
-- Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), a close ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, became the highest-ranking House Democrat to endorse impeachment proceedings against Trump. He likely did this to boost himself in a competitive primary for Senate in his home state. (Politico)
-- Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who appears vulnerable to a primary challenge, said the media and GOP leaders owe him an apology after he said that humanity might not exist if it weren’t for rape and incest. Felicia Sonmez reports: “He took aim at the Des Moines Register, which broke the news of King’s remarks, as well as the Associated Press, which also reported on them. ... The Des Moines Register did correct another quote it ran on King’s remarks. But the part about rape and incest was reported accurately.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Twitter and Facebook said they took action against China for using hundreds of fake accounts to sow discord in Hong Kong. Marie C. Baca and Tony Romm report: This marks “the first time the social media giants had identified Beijing directly for spearheading such an operation. Twitter said it was suspending nearly a thousand Chinese accounts and banning advertising from state-owned media companies, citing a ‘significant state-backed information operation’ related to protests in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, Facebook said it was removing five Facebook accounts, seven pages and three groups after being tipped off to the use of ‘a number of deceptive tactics, including the use of fake accounts.’ … Facebook said that the pages it removed had about 15,500 accounts following one or more, while 2,200 accounts joined at least one of the groups. The company said its investigation had found ‘links to individuals associated with the Chinese government.’ Though Facebook is not considering a ban on advertising from state-sponsored media, the company said it is working on additional transparency measures.”
-- Hong Kong's leader said she will try to have a dialogue with protesters who want her gone, but didn’t offer any specifics. From the AP: “Chief Executive Carrie Lam also said the city’s police watchdog will carry out a fact-finding study of the protests and related incidents as it looks into 174 complaints about police behavior. The movement held a massive but peaceful rally on Sunday after earlier protests had been marked by violence. The government has conditioned dialogue on the leaderless protest movement remaining peaceful. Lam didn’t say that the communication platform will be used to specifically contact protesters. It will be used for ‘open and direct’ dialogue with people from all walks of life, she told reporters, while giving few specifics on how it would work. … Lam’s comments fell short of the protesters’ five demands, which include her resignation and an independent inquiry into what they say was police brutality.”
-- Flexing its muscle, a rising China is investing heavily in Central Europe. But there are lots of strings attached, and some countries are already coming to regret the relationship. Michael Birnbaum reports: “Czech President Milos Zeman has met with Chinese President Xi Jinping eight times — an unusual amount of face time for the leader of 10 million people. Zeman has welcomed Chinese investment and tried to position his country as China’s portal to Europe. He even appointed a Chinese business tycoon, Ye Jianming, as an economic adviser. … The relationship has hit some serious bumps.”
-- A British consular official was detained by Chinese authorities while returning from a trip to China, the British government said. Gerry Shih reports: “Simon Cheng, a 28-year-old trade and investment officer at the consulate, planned to attend a technology conference in the border city of Shenzhen on Aug. 8 and return to Hong Kong the same day by high-speed train, his girlfriend told Hong Kong news website HK01.com. ... Cheng’s disappearance threatens to further strain China’s already tense relations with the West. Beijing, locked in an increasingly bitter trade dispute with the United States, has accused Washington and London of fomenting protests that have convulsed Hong Kong, a former British colony.”
-- Democracy in retreat: Turkey suspended three of its mayors over allegations that they’re linked to Kurdish militants. Kareem Fahim reports: “The suspension came five months after the mayors won landslide victories in local polls. Opposition parties criticized the move as anti-democratic, saying it was the latest evidence that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government is intent on marginalizing pro-Kurdish voices. The mayors — of Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van provinces — are members of the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party, or HDP, a pro-Kurdish party. Between them, they won nearly a million votes in local elections held in March — easily defeating candidates from Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP. Erdogan has frequently accused the HDP of links to the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has fought a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish government.”
-- India loosened its clampdown on Kashmir, but the region’s leaders remain detained. Joanna Slater and Niha Masih report: “Residents of Srinagar, the Kashmiri capital, confirmed that the authorities had reconnected some landlines, although many were still unreachable. Mobile connections and Internet access remained severed, and hundreds of local politicians were being held incommunicado. Most schools remained closed. … It is not clear how long the clampdown will last. … A top local bureaucrat had pledged Friday that within days, life in Jammu and Kashmir, as the region is officially known, ‘would become completely normal.’ But there was little sign of that Monday.”
-- “A young Indian couple married for love. Then the bride’s father hired assassins,” Slater reports: “Pranay Perumalla strode into the wedding hall in a midnight blue suit, his face lit by a grin as he clasped the hand of his bride, Amrutha Varshini. … One bright afternoon less than a month later, the couple left a doctor’s appointment in the small southern Indian city where they grew up. A man came up behind them carrying a large butcher knife in his right hand. He hacked Pranay twice on the head and neck, killing him instantly. Pranay, 23, was a Dalit, a term used to describe those formerly known as ‘untouchables.’ Amrutha, 21, belongs to an upper caste. Her rich and powerful family viewed the couple’s union as an unacceptable humiliation. Her father, T. Maruthi Rao, was so enraged that he hired killers to murder his son-in-law, court documents say.”
-- A woman in El Salvador who was charged in the death of her stillborn baby was acquitted by a judge, a ruling that advocates say is a win in a country with one of the world’s most severe abortion bans. Michael Brice-Saddler reports: “A judge’s decision to acquit 21-year-old Evelyn Hernández marks the culmination of a tragic saga that began when she was raped at the age of 18, her lawyers said. Those close to Hernández say she didn’t know she was nearly 34 weeks pregnant in 2016, when she walked into a latrine and delivered a stillborn child. Her mother found her, bleeding and unconscious, before rushing her to a hospital. Paula Avila Guillen, director of Latin America Initiatives at the Women’s Equality Center, said a doctor concluded that Hernández’s condition was a result of an “incomplete abortion.” Police discovered her fetus in the latrine and charged Hernández with aggravated homicide. In 2017, she was handed a 30-year prison sentence.”
-- The U.S. warned Greece against hosting the Iranian tanker that was released by Gibraltar a few days ago. From the Wall Street Journal: The United States said “those who facilitate the vessel, which is carrying oil deemed illicit, would face immigration and potential criminal consequences. ‘We have conveyed our strong position to the Greek government on the matter, as well as all ports in the Mediterranean that should be forewarned about facilitating this vessel,’ the State Department said. The Iranian tanker Adrian Darya 1, previously called the Grace 1, was moving eastward toward Kalamata, Greece, and is expected to arrive there on Monday, according to shipping tracker MarineTraffic. The tanker left Gibraltar’s waters late Sunday after the territory’s Justice Ministry rejected a warrant from the U.S. Justice Department seeking its seizure for alleged violations of American sanctions. Gibraltar officials said the territory follows the European Union’s laws, not the U.S.’s.”
-- Australian Cardinal George Pell, the highest Vatican official jailed for child abuse in the Catholic Church’s 2,000-year history, appealed his guilty verdict. A. Odysseus Patrick reports: “Pell will appear before three judges of the Victorian Supreme Court on Wednesday morning in Australia, and learn if he has been able to overturn a conviction for sexually assaulting two choir boys. Justices Anne Ferguson, Chris Maxwell and Mark Weinberg could uphold the conviction, order a retrial, or dismiss some or all of the charges and allow the 78 year-old to walk out of the court building in downtown Melbourne a free man. … Lawyers said it was impossible to predict if the cardinal’s appeal would succeed.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump coopted this Greenland meme:
Hillary Clinton hit back at Trump, who shared a misleading study about the results of the 2016 election:
In Minnesota last night, Elizabeth Warren drew what appears to be the biggest crowd of her whole campaign:
Meanwhile, another presidential candidate from Warren's home state got carded in Iowa. He just cannot catch a break:
Kamala Harris's husband shared a picture from the beach, where they snuck in some time after a fundraiser:
Mayor Pete Buttigieg is leading in a very Hamptons-specific poll:
Warren cups were the final addition to the roster, Smith says, because people were asking for them, even though her/Sanders are the only two candidates not out here fundraising. Most cups not racing out the door? Biden’s.— Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou (@misyrlena) August 17, 2019
A number of Sinclair Broadcast Group stations ran and promoted stories on their websites about new Trump campaign merchandise:
After the leaders of the Log Cabin Republicans endorsed Trump's reelection, one of its members (a former chair of the New Hampshire GOP) stepped down in protest:
Jennifer Horn, national board member of Log Cabin Republicans, resigns in protest after group endorses Trump re-election: “I could never endorse him for President of the United States and still look my children in the eye,” she writes in resignation letter.— Steve Peoples (@sppeoples) August 20, 2019
The president once again lashed out against one of his former aides:
Trump, 2017: "Anthony is a person I have great respect for, and he will be an important addition to this Administration."— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) August 19, 2019
Trump, 2019: "Anthony Scaramucci is a highly unstable 'nut job.'"
Yesterday marked the fifth anniversary since journalist James Foley was murdered by ISIS in Syria:
I lived in Baghdad when this happened. It shook me to my core. This could have been any of us. Please take a moment today to remember the reporters (both the foreign correspondents and local journalists) who continue to risk their lives in pursuit of the truth. https://t.co/m5kTCTRIxw— Vivian Salama (@vmsalama) August 19, 2019
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“So yes, you know, your candidate might be better on, I don’t know, health care than Joe is, but you’ve got to look at who’s going to win this election, and maybe you have to swallow a little bit and say, ‘Okay, I personally like so and so better,’ but your bottom line has to be that we have to beat Trump,” said Jill Biden, the wife of Joe Biden, during a campaign event in New Hampshire. “You may like another candidate better, but you have to look at who’s going to win. And Joe is that person.” (NBC News)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Joe Biden is going on the air with his first ad in Iowa:
The White House shared a video of workers, speaking Spanish, putting up portions of the border fence:
In a widely circulated speech, former congressman Beto O'Rourke spoke to Arkansan voters about the ubiquitous presence of racism in America's history:
Hasan Minhaj investigated why America's public transit systems aren't the best:
And Trevor Noah explored the concept of "Donsplaining":