THE BIG IDEA: “If you haven’t read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate, and you will be incompetent, because your personal experiences alone aren’t broad enough to sustain you,” Jim Mattis writes in his new memoir, which came out yesterday. “Any commander who claims he is ‘too busy to read’ is going to fill body bags with his troops as he learns the hard way.”

The commander in chief has repeatedly said that he’s too busy to read. “I never have. I’m always busy doing a lot. Now I’m more busy, I guess, than ever before,” President Trump told The Washington Post in 2016.

Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead” is not the kind of tell-all that many of Trump’s critics hoped for. But there are already plenty of those for sale. Nine months after he resigned in protest, Mattis remains unwilling to speak candidly about his 712 days as secretary of defense. Instead, the book is entirely a memoir about four decades as an officer in the Marine Corps – with references to Trump only in the first and final pages. The book is chock full, however, of implicit and illuminating contrasts between Mattis’s management style and Trump’s.

There were no shelves of books in his office at Trump Tower. Meanwhile, Mattis amassed a private collection of more than 7,000 books, despite deployments around the world. “Reading sheds light on the dark path ahead,” he explains. “By traveling into the past, I enhance my grasp of the present.”

In a series of interviews with my colleague Marc Fisher three years ago, Trump was adamant that he does not need to read extensively because he reaches the right decisions “with very little knowledge other than the knowledge I [already] had, plus the words ‘common sense,’ because I have a lot of common sense and I have a lot of business ability.”

Trump also insisted that he does not need to read anything that’s long because he absorbs complex issues quickly. “I’m a very efficient guy,” he said. “Now, I could also do it verbally, which is fine. I’d always rather have — I want it short. There’s no reason to do hundreds of pages because I know exactly what it is.”

Mattis, who prefers the nickname “Warrior Monk” to “Mad Dog,” repeatedly leans on his bibliomania throughout his 300-page book. The book reads like a literature review at times, as the 68-year-old recommends dozens of titles and name-checks too many authors to mention here. He also makes time to mock the scholars who said after the Cold War that it was “the end of history.”

The way some people prepare for a marathon, Mattis challenges himself intellectually by picking some battle or area of history where he’s weak. Then he fixates on the subject and reads everything he can find until he feels like an expert. “Living in history builds your own shock absorber, because you’ll learn that there are lots of old solutions to new problems,” he explains. “Strategy is hard, unless you’re a dilettante. You must think until your head hurts.”

On Fox News in May 2016, Megyn Kelly asked Trump to name the last book he read. “Oh, no, it's so long, because now I read passages,” he replied. “I just don't have the time. … I would love to sit down and read a book, but I just don't have the time anymore.”

The 73-year-old does, however, seem to have lots of time to watch television. And play golf. And tweet.

Mattis is partial to studying Roman generals and historians, from Marcus Aurelius and Scipio Africanus to Tacitus. “I followed Caesar across Gaul,” he writes wistfully. “I marveled at how the plain prose of [Ulysses] Grant and [William Tecumseh] Sherman revealed the value of steely determination. … Biographies of … Native American leaders, of wartime political leaders and sergeants, and of strategic thinkers from Sun Tzu to Colin Gray have guided me through tough challenges.”

Mattis argues that intellectual rigor is just as important as physical rigor to excel in his beloved corps. He remembers a grueling jog from decades ago on a sweltering day with an Israel exchange officer in the Virginia woods, probably at Quantico. “Read the ancient Greeks and how they turned out their warriors,” the Israeli bellowed. So he did.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson asked Trump in 2017 what he reads at night. The president replied that he had a copy of an Andrew Jackson biography, whose estate he was poised to visit in Tennessee, but he was too distracted to get into it. “Every time I do about half a page, I get a phone call that there’s some emergency, this or that,” Trump said. “I don't get to read very much, Tucker, because I'm working very hard on lots of different things, including getting costs down. The costs of our country are out of control.”

The president’s disinterest in reading books is historically unusual. Barack Obama still occasionally shares reading lists on his Facebook page. During his second term, George W. Bush competed with Karl Rove to see who could polish off the most books each year. As president, Trump regularly plugs hagiographies about himself on Twitter, but there’s no indication he’s read them.

Trump’s dearth of historical knowledge has almost certainly played a role in the biggest miscalculations of his administration, especially the fateful decision to launch a trade war against China that he promised the American people would be quick and easy to win. Lack of elementary knowledge about Asian history also contributed to his naive approach toward Kim Jong Un and North Korea.

On the other hand, Mattis has been keenly interested in Asian military history since he was a young infantry officer. On a live-fire range in the Philippines while he was still in his 20s, one of his company commanders recommended that he read “Lee’s Lieutenants” by Douglas Freeman and “Strategy,” by Liddell Hart. Another time, while he was still a lieutenant, Mattis was training in the jungles of northern Okinawa. On a Saturday morning, his sergeant major gave him a book about a Roman centurion. “It would be best if you did your homework first,” Mattis remembers the sergeant, whom he technically outranked but had far more battlefield experience, telling him.

Formulating plans for invading Afghanistan in 2001, Mattis read about the British experience in Burma. He was especially interested in the Chindits, a long-range penetration force led by Brigadier General Orde Wingate in 1943 that successfully projected forces behind enemy lines.

The Marine Corps maintains a list of required reading for every rank. Mattis, who was assisted in writing the book by Marine veteran Bing West, said this common core curriculum proved critical as he rose in the ranks because he could comfortably cite specific examples of how fighting forces had faced similar challenges in previous eras, knowing that his troops would understand what he was referencing. “This provided my lads with a mental model as we adapted to our specific mission,” he explains. “Slowly but surely, we learned there was nothing new under the sun: properly informed, we weren’t victims – we could always create options.”

The book showcases a multitude of moments that an institutional insistence on studying history paid off for Mattis and his Marines. During the first Gulf War, Mattis adapted a technique used by Roman legions, which built rectangular camps. He organized his camp in a triangular shape so that every man knew where he fit. “The triangle always pointed north toward the enemy,” Mattis remembers. “We continued this routine for months, sleeping on the ground without cots. At night we sat together like Horatio Nelson’s lieutenants, arguing tactics by moving rocks to simulate units. …

“Sitting on sand dunes, I pulled out books I carried in my rucksack that revealed how others had handled desert warfare,” he adds. “Using a technique I had found in my reading, I intended to gather information that bypassed normal reporting channels by means of ‘focused telescopes.’ I copied this from Frederick the Great, Wellington, and Rommel, among others.”

Erwin Rommel, a Nazi general, isn’t the only American adversary Mattis learned from. In 1991, Mattis’s battalion captured an Iraqi major who spoke English and tutored him on the way that army used “skip-echelon techniques” to cut down on staff size. In Afghanistan, a decade later, Mattis emulated this so that he could keep his staff as small as possible. He pared down a brigade that could have had a staff of over 200 to only 32, something he’s immensely proud of.

In late spring 2002, Mattis was promoted to a two-star general. He took command of the 1st Marine Division and was ordered to prepare to go to war in Iraq. Mattis writes that the idea of invading Iraq “stunned” him. “Even assuming he had chemical weapons, I believed we had him boxed in with our daily combat air patrols and sanctions against his oil exports,” he volunteers. “Having served 20 years in the region, I knew that [Saddam Hussein’s] hatred of Iran worked to our strategic advantage.”

But Mattis said his commanding officer told him that his job was to get 22,000 troops ready for combat, regardless of whether he thought it was a good idea. That night, he remembers, “I dumped my gear in my quarters, pulled books off the shelves, and began studying campaigns in Mesopotamia, starting with Xenophon’s ‘Anabasis’ and books on Alexander the Great – working my way forward.”

His division deployed to Kuwait. As they waited around for the president to issue the go order, Mattis ate MREs and devoured books to prepare mentally for war. “Marcus Aurelius’s ‘Meditations’ was my constant companion. His advice kept me dispassionate in some of the most infuriating planning conferences,” Mattis remembers. “‘The Siege,’ by Russell Braddon, described a British defeat in Iraq in World War I on the same ground I’d be fighting through. Of course, T.E. Lawrence’s classic ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’: few Westerners in recent history had achieved his level of trust with Arabs on the battlefield.”

Mattis studied Sherman’s March to the Sea at the end of the Civil War, looking for insight on how “to always keep enemies on the horns of a dilemma, left or right, front or back.” He also read a biography of Gertrude Bell, who helped create modern Iraq. “I’m an opportunistic learner,” he explains. “I may not have come up with many new ideas, but I’ve adopted or integrated a lot from others.”

After the invasion, Mattis’s headquarters wound up being only 500 meters from where Alexander the Great laid in state in Babylon. He laments in the book that much of the trouble that followed in the occupation would have been foreseeable, and even avoidable, if political decisionmakers had studied the British occupation of Iraq after World War I and the French battle for Algiers in 1956 the way that he had.

Mattis also reveals that he opposed the initial battle for Fallujah after private contractors were publicly executed, recalling a book he read about the 1968 Marine battle in Hue, Vietnam. But he was ordered to proceed any way by Bush political appointees. In the face of grim images and public backlash, Mattis was then ordered to stop the fighting. “If you’re going to take Vienna, take … Vienna,” he snapped, using profanity, at a general who came to his forward operating base to deliver the directive from Washington. “I was repeating Napoleon’s outburst to his field marshal who had hesitated to seize that city,” Mattis notes.

Later in the book, Mattis criticizes Obama and Joe Biden for being soft on Iran and too eager to get out of Iraq. Mattis was pushed out as the head of Central Command by the Obama administration because of his hawkishness toward Tehran, though he didn’t want Trump to pull out of the nuclear agreement.

Another theme that has long preoccupied Mattis is battlefield communication in the fog of war. Viscount Slim, a British field commander in Southeast Asia during World War II, wrote in his memoir “Defeat into Victory” about various methods he used to direct units that were faraway and in deep jungles, out of radio contact for days or weeks. One approach was to explain his broader intentions to junior officers so that they would understand the strategy when they needed to make decisions outside the chain of command. Mattis took this to heart.

He also enjoys fiction. Sitting in combat zones, Mattis recalled scenes from “The Killer Angels,” Michael Shaara’s historic novel about Gettysburg, and Dante’s “Inferno.”

The general even recommended to his Marines that they read poetry. “Other men’s flowers,” an anthology by Lord Wavell, is one of his personal favorites. Trump does not read poetry.

The love of reading dates to his childhood. Mattis said he grew up in Richland, Wash., with a well-stocked home library, “instead of a television.” As a boy, he remembers devouring young adult titles like “Treasure Island,” “Captains Courageous,” “The Last of the Mohicans,” “Call of the Wild” and “Swiss Family Robinson.” Ernest Hemingway was his favorite childhood author, followed closely by William Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald. He read everything he could about Lewis and Clark because their expedition had passed through his hometown on the Columbia River a century and a half before.

Mattis was commissioned as a second lieutenant in early 1972 during the doldrums of Vietnam when the draft meant that many Marines didn’t want to be there. Deployed with a carrier group in the North Arabian Sea as a young grunt, Mattis filled his free time by reading everything from “Starship Troopers” to “The Battle of Okinawa.”

In contrast, the president prefers visuals over written text when it comes to briefings on the hard issues that reach the Resolute Desk. The New York Times reported in 2017 that National Security Council staffers were told to keep briefing papers for Trump to a single page, with bullet points and graphics. Reuters reported that the president’s daily briefers strategically placed Trump’s name in as many paragraphs as possible in a gambit to hold his attention. The Atlantic has called Trump “America’s first post-text president.”

“I like bullets, or I like as little as possible,” Trump told Axios in 2017. “I don't need, you know, 200-page reports on something that can be handled on a page.”

Mattis makes clear in his book that Afghanistan cannot be handled on a page. Nor can Iraq. Or NATO. He decries the deceptive simplicity of PowerPoint, which he calls “the scourge of critical thinking.”

“It encourages fragmented logic by the briefer and passivity in the listener,” Mattis writes, adding that “it makes us stupid.”

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-- Hurricane Dorian, now a Category 2, is lashing the east coast of Florida with tropical storm conditions. The storm is forecast to come very close to making landfall in the Carolinas later this week. Andrew Freedman and Jason Samenow report: “As of Tuesday night, tropical storm conditions had reached Florida’s Space Coast. Although Dorian is no longer the Category 5 powerhouse it was on Labor Day, it has grown in size, and it’s capable of moving more water toward the shore than a smaller storm of similar intensity. As it moves parallel to the Florida coast, its expanding swath of tropical storm and hurricane force winds will push north, into coastal Georgia, while driving dangerously high surf toward the shoreline, resulting in coastal flooding and beach erosion. … The storm’s growing wind field is capable of producing a damaging storm surge along the coasts of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, and hurricane warnings and watches have been hoisted from the Florida coastline northward to the North Carolina Outer Banks. A storm surge watch is in effect all the way north to Hampton Roads, Virginia.”

­-- Dorian left behind terrible destruction in the Bahamas, where authorities fear a massive loss of life. Jasper Ward, Anthony Faiola, Patricia Sullivan and Joel Achenbach report: "Authorities said Tuesday that nearly three out of every four homes on Grand Bahama are underwater, and recovery from the catastrophic damage will cost billions of dollars. An even grimmer spectacle lies to the east, where the first aerial images of the island of Great Abaco since the storm’s retreat showed a pulverized landscape that is little more than a debris field. ... Winds that gusted to 220 mph lifted boats from their moorings and tossed them onto what used to be dry land. Roads and airports in the northwest Bahamas remain impassably flooded, and large portions of the islands have become, for now, little more than extensions of the Atlantic. ... Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said Tuesday night that the official death count was raised to seven but that he expects more deaths to be recorded as authorities reach damaged areas. During an aerial tour of Great Abaco, Minnis saw a ravaged landscape, including the destruction of the Mudd, a shantytown neighborhood in Marsh Harbour that sits in a low-lying area."


-- Trump's new man at the Pentagon formally approved a diversion of $3.6 billion from the military budget to pay for Trump’s border wall. This move will defund 127 military construction projects that had been approved by Congress, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said. Paul Sonne and Seung Min Kim report: “Esper determined that the use of the military construction funds was necessary to support American forces deployed to the southern border with Mexico under the national emergency that Trump declared in mid-February. The formal determination allows Trump, under an obscure statute in the federal code overseeing the military, to tap the funds appropriated for other purposes without sign-off from Congress. The Pentagon declined to disclose which projects would be defunded. Chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman said the list would be made available later this week after the Defense Department notifies lawmakers with affected projects in their districts and foreign embassies with affected projects in their countries. During a briefing Tuesday, top Pentagon officials said the $3.6 billion will fund 11 projects providing 175 miles of new or reconstructed wall along the border with Mexico and help reduce the need for American troops deployed there.”

-- Esper said in a letter to the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee that some of the wall will actually be fencing that replaces existing, older barriers. From the Daily Beast: The letter “does not use the word ‘wall,’ but the White House will likely highlight the construction as part of the president’s effort to keep his signature campaign promise. ... The letter describes both ‘primary pedestrian fencing’ — fencing right along the border designed to keep people from walking across it — and ‘secondary fencing’ — fencing that is typically farther inland and designed to act as a reinforcement. … The largest chunk of new primary pedestrian fencing is planned to run from a point of entry in Laredo, Texas along the Rio Grande for 52 miles, according to the letter. It will cost almost $1.3 billion. The letter also details plans for more than 30 miles of new pedestrian fencing in Arizona, replacing vehicle barriers and costing $527 million. It also covers plans to replace more than 23 miles of vehicle barriers in New Mexico with new pedestrian fencing. That project will cost $476 million.”

-- Walmart will stop selling handguns and ammunition for military-style weapons and will no longer allow customers to openly carry firearms at its locations following two deadly shootings inside its stores. Abha Bhattarai reports: “The decision was a blow to gun-rights advocates, some of whom had been showing up at Walmart locations carrying guns on their hips in the hope that the retailer would not shift its policies. Walmart in 2015 had stopped selling the military-style rifles that have become common in mass shootings. But it continued to own a large slice of the ammunition market: about 20 percent overall. That share now could fall to as little as 6 percent, the company said. … In announcing the move, Walmart’s chief executive Doug McMillon acknowledged the difficulty of the decision, referencing both a string of mass shootings — including one this weekend — and his own history of growing up in a hunting culture. ‘In a complex situation lacking a simple solution, we are trying to take constructive steps to reduce the risk that events like these will happen again,’ he said in a memo to employees on Tuesday. ‘The status quo is unacceptable.’”

-- The Kroger supermarket chain also told customers to stop openly carrying firearms in its stores. (Reuters)  

-- The gunman in the West Texas rampage that left seven dead on Saturday obtained his assault-style rifle through a private sale, which allowed him to avoid a federal background check that would have blocked him from getting a gun. From the AP: He “had tried purchasing a firearm in January 2014 but was denied, the Texas Department of Public Safety said in a statement Tuesday. The agency said it was precluded by law from disclosing why, but the law enforcement official told the AP it was due to a ‘mental health issue.’” The official “did not say when and where the private sale took place.” And “private sales, which some estimates suggest account for 25 to 40 percent of all gun sales, are not subject to a federal background check in the United States. If the person selling the firearm knows the buyer cannot legally purchase or possess a firearm, they would be violating the law. But they are not required to find out if the person can possess a firearm and are not required to conduct a background check.” (Democrats want universal background checks so that this wouldn't be able to happen, or at the very least to make it harder for people like this to get guns. Trump initially said he wanted strong background checks after August shootings, as he has in the past, but steered clear of mentioning the issue as a possible solution on guns in the wake of the West Texas shooting.) 

-- Trump's reelection campaign is peddling Facebook ads straight out of the National Rifle Association’s playbook following the shooting in Odessa, Tex. Isaac Stanley-Becker reports: The president “delivered a very different message, pointedly warning a select group of voters that Democrats were intent on repealing the Second Amendment and asking them to sign their names to a petition to defend gun rights. … The appeal went out as a Trump surrogate — a member of his 2020 advisory board — promoted a conspiracy theory on Twitter falsely tying the Saturday gunman to Beto O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman and presidential candidate. … Last weekend, Trump again embraced the NRA’s talking points, asserting that background checks would ‘not have stopped any of it.’ Still, he said, ‘we’re doing a package, and we’ll see how it comes about.’”

-- As Congress returns from recess, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell remains noncommittal about bringing new gun safety legislation to a vote. Colby Itkowitz reports: “The Kentucky Republican was asked during an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt specifically about a House-passed bill to expand background checks on firearm sales, which has stalled in Congress since the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn. ‘Well, we’re in discussions about what to do on the gun issue in the wake of these horrendous shootings,’ McConnell said. ‘I said several weeks ago if the president took a position on a bill so that we knew we’d actually be making a law, I’d be happy to put it on the floor.’”

-- In today's paper, there's a full page with the names of mass shooting victims in the wake of the shooting in West Texas. The Post's Editorial Board asks how many more names will be added to the list before McConnell stops blocking action.

-- Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren, a key central bank official, said the U.S. economy is “relatively” strong and doesn’t need lower interest rates. Heather Long reports: “Top Fed officials, including Rosengren, will meet Sept. 18 to determine if interest rates should decline or stay the same. Trump has tweeted 34 times in the past month demanding that the Fed lower the funds rate by a significant amount as recession fears have risen, but Fed officials remain divided on whether even a modest cut is warranted. ‘This isn’t a free lunch. There are costs to accommodating at a time when the economy is doing reasonably well,’ Rosengren told The Post. … Rosengren said the U.S. economy is in a ‘relatively strong’ place with low unemployment, rising wages and solid growth driven by consumer spending. He does not see a need for lower interest rates until there are clearer signs of distress from the trade war on consumers. If the Fed lowers rates too soon, he is worried it would leave little firepower left to fight bigger problems later on.”

-- Factory activity in our country shrank for the first time in three years amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing. From the Wall Street Journal: “Tuesday’s Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index, a widely watched gauge of factory activity, fell to 49.1 in August from 51.2 in the prior month. Readings above 50 indicate activity is expanding across the manufacturing sector, while those below 50 are a sign of contraction. … The report — coming after data pointing to contracting factory activity in the U.K., Germany, Japan and South Korea — fueled fears that a manufacturing slowdown elsewhere in the world had reached the U.S.”

-- Days after leaving his post, a former top Interior official who pushed to expand drilling in Alaska said he’ll join an oil company there. Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson report: “Joe Balash — who oversaw oil and gas drilling on federal lands before resigning from Interior on Friday — is joining a foreign oil company that’s expanding operations on Alaska’s North Slope. Balash, who had served as the Interior Department’s assistant secretary for Land and Minerals Management for nearly two years, confirmed in a phone interview Tuesday night that he will begin working for the Papua New Guinea-based Oil Search, which is developing one of Alaska’s largest oil prospects in years. The company is drilling on state lands that lie nearby — but not inside — two federal reserves where the Trump administration is pushing to increase oil and gas development: the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. During his time at Interior, Balash oversaw the department’s work to hold lease sales on the coastal plain of the 19.3 million-acre refuge and to expand drilling on the 22.8 million acre reserve to the west of the refuge.”

-- Michigan will become the first state to ban flavored e-cigarettes in an attempt to protect young people from the potentially harmful effects of vaping. Laurie McGinley reports: “Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), in an interview, said the state health department found youth vaping constituted a public health emergency, prompting her to take the action. ‘My number one priority is keeping our kids safe and protecting the health of the people of Michigan,’ Whitmer said … The ban, which covers both retail and online sales, goes into effect immediately and will last for six months, and can be renewed for another six months. In the meantime, state officials said, they will develop permanent regulations banning flavored e-cigarettes. The state legislature could try to block those rules, but such legislation would face a veto, they added. … While Michigan is the first state to prohibit sales of flavored e-cigarettes, several cities and communities have restricted or banned sales of e-cigarettes. In late June, San Francisco became the first major city in the United States to ban the sale and distribution of all e-cigarettes; the ban goes into effect early next year.”

-- Students who claim they were defrauded by colleges and want their student loans erased will have a tougher time seeking forgiveness after the Trump administration set higher hurdles in the process. Danielle Douglas-Gabriel reports: “A 1995 law known as ‘borrower defense to repayment’ gives the Education Department authority to cancel the federal debt of students whose colleges misled them about graduation or job placement rates to get them to enroll. The Obama administration updated the regulation to shift more of the cost of forgiveness onto schools, after the closure of for-profit giant Corinthian Colleges ushered in a flood of claims. The Trump administration Friday finalized its rewrite of the Obama-era rules, after two years of trying to delay and then scuttle the regulations. Those efforts have spawned lawsuits, with the courts forcing the Trump administration to implement the 2016 rules and process a backlog of applications for debt relief. Still, more than 180,000 borrowers await answers.”

-- Federal prosecutors said in closing arguments that former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig sought to fool Justice Department officials in order to avoid registering as a foreign agent for his work on a Ukraine-related project in 2012. “However, Craig’s defense stressed that prosecutors were asking the jury to believe that Craig was essentially willing to throw away a reputation built over half a century,” Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports.

-- A judge blocked the White House’s decision to revoke the press pass of Playboy Magazine correspondent Brian Karem over a dispute with former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka in July. From Politico: “U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras issued a decision Tuesday evening granting a preliminary injunction restoring Karem’s so-called ‘hard pass’ on the grounds that the reporter had no clear notice of the rules governing press behavior at events like the presidential appearance that preceded the heated exchange. … Contreras said a four-decade-old federal appeals court precedent regarding White House press credentials requires that such rules be clear and that they be laid out in advance.”

-- More than half of the state-level attorney generals are preparing an investigation into Google for potential antitrust violations. Tony Romm reports: “A smaller group of these state officials, representing the broader coalition, is expected to unveil the investigation at a Monday news conference in Washington, according to three people familiar with the matter … It is unclear whether some or all of the attorneys general also plan to open or announce additional probes into other tech giants … Over the summer, some attorneys general met privately with officials from the Justice Department, which announced its own broad review into big tech, to discuss their antitrust concerns. … It is unclear whether the Justice Department will join the states at the event, and a spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.”


-- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered a devastating loss on his first key Brexit vote, which may lead to a snap general election. Kevin Sullivan and Karla Adam report: “A rough day for Johnson, when 21 members of his own Conservative Party joined opposition lawmakers to take control of the parliamentary agenda and force a vote on a Brexit delay, concluded with the prime minister introducing a bill seeking a general election. He suggested he would seek action on that election bill if Parliament votes Wednesday to postpone Brexit by three more months. … While denying that he wanted an election, the prime minister added, ‘If the House votes for this bill tomorrow, the public will have to choose who goes to Brussels on October 17 to sort this out.’ That is the date British and European Union officials are scheduled to meet next. … The prime minister would need the support of two-thirds of Parliament to schedule an election, which could happen as soon as Oct. 14. It would be Britain’s third general election in five years. Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party was prepared to fight an election, but he first wanted Parliament to pass the delay bill and ensure that Britain won’t abruptly crash out of the E.U. in October without a deal to manage the withdrawal. …

“Johnson lost Tuesday’s procedural vote, 328 to 301. That capped a humiliating day for the prime minister, who was appearing before Parliament for only the second time since taking Britain’s top job. … As Johnson spoke, Conservative lawmaker Phillip Lee dramatically crossed the chamber to defect to the Liberal Democrats, explaining in a statement that Johnson’s party had become ‘infected with the twin diseases of populism and English nationalism.’ Lee’s theatrical move stripped Johnson of his single-vote working majority in the House of Commons, making it all but impossible for him to enact legislation and increasing his incentive to ask the nation’s voters for a mandate.”

-- Winston Churchill’s grandson will be expelled from the Conservative Party after voting against Johnson on Brexit. Rebecca Tan reports: “Nicholas Soames, a member of Parliament representing Mid Sussex, was among the group of 21 Conservative politicians who defied Johnson’s wishes by voting for a motion that paves the way for Brexit to be delayed till 2020. Hours after the vote Tuesday, a spokesperson for 10 Downing Street said conservative MPs who did not support the prime minister ‘will have the Tory whip removed,’ the Financial Times reported, meaning that they would not be allowed to stand as Conservative representatives in Parliament.”

-- Theresa May has returned to Parliament amid the Brexit chaos, but she wasn’t the target this time. Rick Noack reports: With Johnson “losing his parliamentary majority on Tuesday amid larger opposition from within his own party, speculation has swirled around how May will handle her role as a rank-and-file lawmaker. Will May join the rebellion against Johnson as some have suggested after she chose to watch cricket instead of attending Johnson’s first speech as prime minister? Or will she back him in his effort to suspend Parliament during a critical period ahead of the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline? In a first indication, May voted with Johnson on a key procedural vote on Tuesday — a vote Johnson still lost, as other Conservative MPs joined forces with the opposition to pave the way for a legislative Brexit battle on Wednesday. Those who know her say May is unlikely to make moves that will draw attention in the future, too, breaking a tradition of former British leaders who loomed large over politics after leaving office.”

-- ISIS women are imposing a brutal reign of terror at a sprawling tent camp in al-Hol, Syria. Louisa Loveluck and Souad Mekhennet are there: “Half a year after the territorial defeat of the Islamic State, the vast sprawl of tents at the al-Hol camp is becoming a cauldron of radicalization. About 20,000 women and 50,000 children who had lived under the caliphate are held in dire conditions at the camp, which is operated and guarded by 400 U.S.-supported Kurdish troops. With the men of ISIS imprisoned elsewhere, the women inside the fences of al-Hol are reimposing the militant group’s strictures, enforcing them upon those deemed impious with beatings and other brutality and extending what residents and camp authorities call a reign of fear. Several guards have been stabbed by women who concealed kitchen knives in the folds of their robes. Women are threatened for being in contact with lawyers who might get them out of the camp or for speaking with other outsiders. A pregnant Indonesian woman was murdered, medical officials say, apparently after speaking to a Western media organization. Images of her body suggest she might have been whipped. ‘It’s happening at night and it’s happening in the shadows, but no one informs on who did it,’ said a senior member of the camp’s intelligence department. ‘They’re afraid of each other here.’”

-- The U.S. punished Iran’s space agency, saying it’s developing ballistic missiles under the guise of a program purported to launch satellites. Carol Morello reports: “The State Department designation, the first imposed on the Iran Space Agency and two affiliated research institutes, was another step up in tensions between Tehran and Washington. … The Iranian government says it is working to launch satellites, including for communications purposes, but its tests have resulted in explosions several times. The United States considers satellite launches a violation of a U.N. Security Council Resolution calling on Iran to shun the development of ballistic missiles that could be equipped with nuclear weapons.”

-- Italy is moving closer to the formation of a new government, thanks to an online poll. Chico Harlan reports: “Nearly 80 percent of grass-roots members of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement voted in favor of forging ahead in their alliance with the center-left Democratic Party, removing one of the final — and most unorthodox — potential stumbling blocks to the deal. An online rejection of the coalition would have pressured the Five Stars to back away from the agreement, probably setting up new elections that would have sprung a far-right government into power. Instead, the more European Union-friendly Five Star-Democratic Party government could be in place by the end of the week.”

-- Trump may score a symbolic win in a long fight with Germany over larger NATO contributions. Anne Gearan and Michael Birnbaum report: Under a new compromise plan, Germany would pay slightly more toward administering the military alliance, lowering the U.S. bill. “The White House did not confirm details of the proposal, which was unveiled formally Tuesday at a weekly meeting of NATO ambassadors in Brussels. … Under the U.S.-backed proposal, American contributions toward NATO’s common funding would drop from 22.1 percent of the total to 15.9 percent, beginning in 2021, officials said. Germany would increase its share from 14.8 percent to 15.9 percent, matching the U.S. share and allowing both nations to point to a small area of agreement.”

-- Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced she would formally withdraw the bill allowing extradition to mainland China, conceding on the least difficult of five protester demands. Shibani Mahtani and Timothy McLaughlin report from the island: “Lam, however, stopped short of announcing a fully independent investigation into the crisis, including the police response and use of force — and many are already rejecting her concessions as too little and too late. She had already suspended work on the bill in June, but a day later, about 2 million more people took to the streets, the first clear indication that it was an insufficient step. Lam then labeled it ‘dead,’ but the protests continued, growing in intensity, scale and scope. Protesters had insisted that she fully withdraw it from the legislative agenda, which requires a formal process.” 

-- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) writes in an op-ed for today’s paper that the U.S. shouldn’t watch from the sidelines as China shows its true nature in Hong Kong: “China’s leaders today are using the same messaging playbook that they have followed since they intervened in North Korea in 1950. We were surprised then; we should be prepared now. The United States and the international community must make clear to Chinese leaders and power brokers that their aggression toward Hong Kong risks swift, severe and lasting consequences. In particular, the administration should make clear that the United States can respond flexibly and robustly in Hong Kong.”

2020 WATCH:

-- Democrats are proposing spending trillions in the fight against climate change ahead of a series of back-to-back climate-focused town halls. From the AP: “New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Obama Cabinet member Julián Castro laid out [their plans] on Tuesday. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar released hers over the weekend. The release of the competing plans comes as issues of climate and the environment have become a central focus of the Democratic primary. … The issue is so urgent among Democratic voters that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee made action to limit the worst extremes of climate change the core of his presidential bid. But Inslee dropped out of the presidential race in August after failing to earn a spot in the September primary debate. Warren says Inslee’s ideas ‘should remain at the center of the agenda,’ and she met with him in Seattle when she visited the state for a rally before Labor Day … Warren’s clean-energy proposal builds on Inslee’s 10-year clean-energy plan in seeking to implement 100% clean-energy standards in three key sectors of the American economy. … Booker’s $3 trillion plan includes nearly a dozen executive actions to reverse Trump administration moves. … Castro’s $10 trillion plan aims to have all electricity in the United States be clean and renewable by 2035.”

-- Joe Biden’s advisers are trying to tamp down expectations, declaring that the primary campaign will become a long slog and saying that the former vice president does not need to win Iowa. Matt Viser reports: “During a 45-minute conference call with reporters, the campaign advisers portrayed the former vice president as uniquely positioned as the candidate most likely to be able to defeat President Trump, while also attempting to address some of his perceived shortcomings. Advisers said that they were escalating efforts in the states that vote on Super Tuesday, a month after Iowans caucus, looking further down the calendar in what could become a long campaign slog as top candidates fight for delegates. But for a campaign that has often touted polls and his perceived electability, it was a unique concession: Biden could afford to lose the first two contests. … During Biden’s previous two presidential campaigns, Iowa was a thorn. In his first race, it was the scene of him plagiarizing words from a British politician, which led him to drop out of the race in 1987, well before the next year’s caucuses. During the 2008 campaign, he received less than 1 percent of the vote and soon dropped out.”

 -- Marianne Williamson did not make it to the September debate stage, making her feel as if the “overt and covert message” to candidates like her is that they’ve had their fun, but it is time to go home, writes Taffy Brodesser-Akner in a New York Times Magazine profile of the self-help guru.

-- A pro-Trump super PAC paid thousands of dollars to a firm owned by the president’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale. It would be illegal for the PAC and Trump’s campaign to work together. From CNN: “Federal Election Commission records indicate that Red State Data and Digital has received  $910,000 from  America First Action,  the super PAC formed in 2017 to support the Trump-Pence agenda and  fellow Republican candidates. After CNN initially published a story about Parscale's wife, Candice, being an owner of Red State, her husband contacted CNN and acknowledged he owns the company even though she is listed on legal paperwork. ‘I am the owner of Red State,’ Parscale told CNN. … Super PACs can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on behalf of federal candidates, but they are barred from coordinating spending decisions with those campaigns, among other limitations. Brad Parscale and his wife both insist their arrangement is legitimate and that there is no coordination.

-- A crucial bloc of Trump’s coalition is affluent but less educated white people. Diving into the data shows that education – more than income – is driving this era's political realignment, according to a great analysis by Tom Edsall in the Times: “In less than a decade, from 2010 to 2018, whites without a college degree grew from 50 to 59 percent of all the Republican Party’s voters, while whites with college degrees fell from 40 to 29 percent of the party’s voters. The biggest shift took place from 2016 to 2018, when Trump became the dominant figure in American politics. This movement of white voters has been evolving over the past 60 years. A paper published earlier this month … provides fresh insight into that transformation. The authors, Herbert Kitschelt and Philipp Rehm, political scientists at Duke and Ohio State, make the argument that the transition from an industrial to a knowledge economy has produced ‘tectonic shifts’ leading to an ‘education-income partisan realignment.’ … Perhaps most significant, Kitschelt and Rehm found that the common assumption that the contemporary Republican Party has become crucially dependent on the white working class — defined as whites without college degrees — is overly simplistic. Instead, Kitschelt and Rehm find that the surge of whites into the Republican Party has been led by whites with relatively high incomes — in the top two quintiles of the income distribution — but without college degrees, a constituency that is now decisively committed to the Republican Party.”

-- A number to keep in mind: Only two House Democrats from districts Trump won in 2016 have backed impeachment proceedings against the president. (Emily Davies, Rachael Bade, Laura Hughes)

-- A North Carolina court unanimously ruled that the state’s legislative districts are unconstitutional. Felicia Sonmez and Robert Barnes report: “In their ruling, the judges stated that the plaintiffs had proved the effect of the ‘partisan’ maps drawn by the state legislature was that, ‘in all but the most unusual election scenarios, the Republican party will control a majority of both chambers of the General Assembly.’ … North Carolina Senate Leader Phil Berger (R) blasted the decision, which he argued ‘contradicts the Constitution and binding legal precedent,’ but said that the General Assembly does not plan to appeal it. … Republicans control both chambers of North Carolina’s bicameral General Assembly. The state Senate has 50 seats, with 29 held by Republicans and 21 held by Democrats. In the state House, Republicans control 64 seats, while Democrats hold 55 seats, and one remains vacant.”

-- The Democratic Party in South Dakota will no longer have a physical presence in the state because of funding. From the Argus Leader: “The state party is closing its offices in Sioux Falls and Rapid City at the end of September, and party staff will begin working remotely due to the party's dwindling finances, according to SDDP Chair Paula Hawks. The party is also canceling a Black Hills fundraising event scheduled for next month. No layoffs related to the party's financial situation have taken place, Hawks said. … The SDDP started the month of July, the most recent reporting period, with $31,267 in the bank and ended the month with $3,181, according to the Federal Elections Commission.”


An MSNBC correspondent visited survivors of the West Texas rampage:

The White House released a video in response to a Post story from the weekend on how Trump lost the summer. But a CNN correspondent noticed that the video featured footage of victims of the country's latest mass shootings:

A handicapper for the Cook Political Report emphasized the importance of Arizona in the 2020 election: 

A Times reporter noted that the Trump team of advisers is more worried about Warren than the president himself:

Warren handily won the bean ballot at the Minnesota State Fair: 

Trump, in an attempt to attack the London mayor, misspelled his name: 

Democrats continued to hammer Vice President Pence for staying at the president's golf resort in Ireland, even though it was three hours away from his meetings on the other side of the island:

From a Hawaii senator:

Kellyanne Conway's lawyer husband made this quip about a Coke bottle he found:

And a Rhode Island senator celebrated his daughter's wedding:


McKrae Game, a conversion therapy center founder who sought to turn LGBTQ Christians straight, came out as gay and renounced the cause he's devoted his professional life to advancing. “It’s all in my past, but many, way TOO MANY continue believing that there is something wrong with themselves and wrong with people that choose to live their lives honestly and open as gay, lesbian, trans, etc. The very harmful cycle of self shame and condemnation has to stop,” Game wrote on Facebook. (Marisa Iati)



Some schools are now being built with spaces designed to protect students from shooters: 

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) posted this hilarious video as a metaphor for the unintended consequences of Trump's trade war:

Like us, Stephen Colbert is back from his hiatus. He mocked Trump's inaccurate tweets about Hurricane Dorian:

Seth Meyers also went after Trump for his comments on the hurricane: