THE BIG IDEA: When you come at the former vice president, you best not miss.

Julián Castro finally took his shot at Joe Biden last night in Houston, but he got his facts wrong.

The former housing secretary telegraphed where he was heading in his opening statement. “Our problems didn’t start with Donald Trump,” the 44-year-old said. “We won’t solve them by embracing old ideas.”

A few minutes later, Castro accused the 76-year-old Biden of having a memory lapse during an exchange over health care. “Are you forgetting already what you said two minutes ago?” Castro said, repeating his question three times.

He was accusing Biden of having just said that his public option plan would not automatically enroll people. In fact, Biden had said: “Anyone who can’t afford it gets automatically enrolled in the Medicare-type option we have.”

The attack backfired as others onstage sided with Biden. “Come on, guys,” said entrepreneur Andrew Yang. “A house divided cannot stand,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar. “This is why presidential debates are becoming unwatchable,” said Mayor Pete Buttigieg, “because this reminds everybody of what they cannot stand about Washington.” Castro was uncowed. “Yeah, that's called the Democratic primary election, Pete,” he shot back. “That's called an election!”

After last night’s debate, Castro told ABC: “I wasn’t taking a shot at his age.” But, of course, he was. Castro insisted to reporters in the spin room that he was simply “fact-checking” Biden. “The vice president and I were having a disagreement about health-care policy,” the secretary said matter-of-factly.

Castro follows in the footsteps of Eric Swalwell, who ripped into Biden and told him to “pass the torch” during the first debate only to get nowhere. The California congressman dropped out days later. Castro certainly won’t. This isn’t fatal. But the exchange illustrated Biden’s underappreciated strengths. While he’s widely perceived as having a tenuous lead in the early polls, Biden’s support has thus far proven remarkably durable. At the same time, however, Castro broached an issue that is of genuine concern among many Democratic leaders and may have foreshadowed what’s to come as the field winnows and lower-performing candidates become desperate to break through.

Sen. Cory Booker said after the debate that "tone and tenor are important,” but then he played footsie with a similar message. “I think that we are at a tough point right now because there's a lot of people who are concerned about Joe Biden's ability to carry the ball all the way across the end line without fumbling, and I think that Castro has some really legitimate concerns,” the senator from New Jersey said on CNN. “And he has every right to call that out.” When Dana Bash asked if he was saying Biden is too old to be president, Booker said no. “I’ve listened to Joe Biden over the years and often felt like there were times that he is going on or meandering in his speech,” he said.

While flawed in some memorable ways, Biden performed better last night than in the previous two debates. He sounded more like the candidate who fared well as an underdog in 2008 Democratic primary debates against Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

“My time is up,” Biden said in June, abruptly cutting himself off during the first debate in Miami. He’d been urged by advisers not to drone on and to keep his answers tight. But it sounded like an allegory.

Last night, Biden brushed aside a moderator who tried to cut him off. “No,” he said. “I’m going to go like the rest of them do! Twice over, okay?” The crowd applauded.

As he prepared to deliver his final answer of the night, Biden was interrupted by hecklers who want to preserve DACA and abolish ICE but not until the very end of the debate, long after the immigration discussion. It was just as he began to talk about losing his wife and young daughter in a 1972 car crash. It was the worst possible timing for activists to draw attention to their cause, and it also made Biden a more sympathetic figure to the audience watching at home.

Even the director of rapid response for Trump’s reelection campaign came to Biden’s defense:

“I lost my faith for a while,” Biden said during the answer that followed. Referring to the death of his son Beau to brain cancer in 2015, Biden explained that he only got through it by “finding purpose.”

“And my purpose is to do what I've always tried to do and stay engaged in public policy,” he said. “And there's a lot of people been through a lot worse than I have who get up every single morning, put their feet one foot in front of another, without the help I had. There are real heroes out there.”

Here are six other takeaways from the nearly three-hour debate:

1) Biden benefited from the presence of fewer moderates onstage.

He came out swinging at the liberal senators on both sides of him, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, over their Medicare-for-all plan. Biden noted that union members took pay cuts to get better health benefits, and Medicare-for-all would take away private insurance they bargained for. He asked if Sanders thinks companies are going to make up for it. Sanders said they would under his plan. “For a socialist,” Biden quipped, “you’ve got a lot more confidence in corporate Americn than I do.”

Klobuchar also fared better because other more moderate candidates did not qualify for the debate, including Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan. There was also no John Delaney, the former congressman from Maryland, or John Hickenlooper, the former Colorado governor who is now running for Senate.

Democrats have spent two-and-a-half years attacking Trump for using executive power to enact his agenda, but several of them promise in the next breath to use executive power to advance their own agenda. Biden called this out on the issue of an assault weapons ban. Sen. Kamala Harris has proposed banning the importation of assault weapons via executive action, something the Obama administration opted not to try after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. “I would say, Joe, instead of saying ‘No, we can’t,’ let’s say ‘Yes, we can,’” said Harris, delivering one of several lines that sounded overly rehearsed. “Let’s be constitutional,” Biden replied.

2) But, but, but: Biden, seeking the presidency for a third time, still cannot figure out how to speak effectively about racial issues.

During a rambling answer about racial inequality in schools, Biden focused on class. He said one way to help educate impoverished children in bad schools is to “make sure the record player is on at night.” His point was that this is a way for them to pick up new words they might not hear otherwise.

“Play the radio, make sure the television, excuse me, make sure you have a record player on at night,” Biden said. “Make sure that kids hear words, a kid coming from a very poor school, or a very poor background, will hear four million fewer words spoken by the time they get there.”

There were related gaffes and malapropisms, “Nobody should be in jail for a nonviolent crime,” he declared at one point. In the spin room, Biden clarified that he meant “nonviolent drug offenses.”

3) After the surprising Obama pile-on at the Detroit debate in July, several of the candidates recalibrated on the former president. They love him again. But Castro was right in one respect: Biden is still trying to have it both ways.

According to the transcript, Obama’s name was invoked 29 times onstage at the historically black college that hosted the debate.

Biden sought to use Obama as a cudgel. He attacked Warren for supporting the Medicare-for-all bill that was written by Sanders. “I know that the senator says she’s for Bernie,” Biden said. “Well, I’m for Barack.”

“I want to give credit first to Barack Obama for really bringing us this far,” Warren replied, praising his courage, talent and will “to see us this far.”

“I want to do what Barack Obama wanted to do from the very beginning, which is a public option,” Klobuchar said of her approach to health care.

Castro even said he’s the rightful heir to Obama. “I’m fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama, and you’re not,” he told Biden. “That’d be a surprise to him,” replied Biden.

When Univision anchor Jorge Ramos pressed Biden on whether he supported the deportation policies carried out by the Obama administration, Biden grew uncomfortable. “I’m the vice president of the United States,” he said.

Castro said Biden always tries to take credit for popular actions Obama took but distances himself from the unpopular. “I stand with Barack Obama all eight years, good, bad and indifferent,” Biden insisted. “I did not say I did not stand with him.”

Later in the night, however, Biden volunteered that he opposed Obama’s surge in Afghanistan a decade ago. “It's an open secret,” he said.

4) A striking split screen: Democrats praised John McCain in Houston as Trump criticized him in Baltimore.  

As Harris explained why the Affordable Care Act remains in danger so long as Trump is president, she said: “The late, great John McCain, at that moment at about 2 o'clock in the morning, killed his attempt to take health care from millions of people in this country.” The crowd applauded McCain.

As Warren answered a question about Afghanistan, she told a story about traveling to Afghanistan with McCain two summers ago. “I think it may have been Senator McCain's last trip before he was sick,” she said. “And I talked to people — we did — we talked to military leaders, American and local leaders, we talked to people on the ground and asked the question, the same one I ask on the Senate Armed Services Committee every time one of the generals comes through: Show me what winning looks like. Tell me what it looks like. And what you hear is a lot of, ‘Uh,’ because no one can describe it. And the reason no one can describe it is because the problems in Afghanistan are not problems that can be solved by a military.”

It's inconceivable that McCain, if he was alive, would say that the problems in Afghanistan cannot be solved with a military. For his part, though, Trump singled out McCain, though not by name, for thwarting his effort to repeal Obamacare while he spoke last night at the House Republican retreat in Baltimore. Colby Itkowitz noticed that the president was criticizing McCain at almost the same time as the Democrats were praising him. Who would have foreseen this 11 years ago when McCain was the GOP’s standard-bearer?

5) Beto O’Rourke’s Hail Mary means he’ll never be able to run for Senate in Texas again.

The former Texas congressman touted his plan for a mandatory government buyback of assault weapons, a position he took after the Aug. 3 massacre in El Paso. “Hell yes,” he said when a moderator asked if he’s confiscating guns. “We're going to take your AR-15 [and] your AK-47. We’re not going to allow them to be used against your fellow Americans anymore.”

In a reflection of the degree to which his rivals have concluded that he lacks a viable path to the nomination, a bunch of the Democrats onstage praised him effusively. “The way he handled what happened in his hometown is meaningful,” Biden said. “Beto, God love you for standing so courageously in the midst of that tragedy,” said Harris. “I so appreciate what the congressman’s been doing,” said Klobuchar, even as she said she doesn’t support a mandatory buyback.

6) Buttigieg would have benefitted from more speaking time. He had two poignant moments that captured why he raised so much money this spring.

The mayor of South Bend, Ind., got 11.4 minutes of speaking time. That was sixth-most of the 10 candidates. Biden got the most, with 17.4 minutes. He was perhaps the most polished candidate on stage.

In lieu of closing statements, all the candidates were asked about the most significant professional setback they’ve faced. Buttigieg reflected on his decision to come out of the closet as gay, even though he was up for reelection in the “socially conservative community” that is home to Notre Dame, a Catholic school.

“What happened was that, when I trusted voters to judge me based on the job that I did for them, they decided to trust me and reelected me with 80 percent of the vote,” he said. “And what I learned was that trust can be reciprocated and that part of how you can win and deserve to win is to know what's worth more to you than winning.”

Interestingly, he also used that same frame to criticize Sanders and Warren over Medicare-for-all. “The problem, Sen. Sanders, with the ‘damn bill’ that he wrote, and that Sen. Warren backs, is that it doesn’t trust the American people,” Buttigieg said during the round on health care. “I trust you to choose what makes the most sense for you. Not my way or the highway.”

Buttigieg has tried to straddle the fence by endorsing a plan he calls “Medicare-for-all who want it.”

“I trust the American people to make the right choice for them,” Buttigieg said, using the language of the abortion rights community. Turning toward Sanders and Warren, he asked: “Why don’t you?”


-- A reality check:The lengthy discussion appeared to do little to change the overall contours of the Democratic primary, with few standout moments or major missteps during the course of the nearly three-hour event,” Toluse Olorunnipa, Annie Linskey and Matt Viser write in our lead story. “Warren, who has been ascendant in the polls in recent months, spent long stretches without speaking Thursday, and did not end up challenging Biden directly during her first face-to-face debate with the former vice president.”

-- “Biden was aided as much by the fact that neither Warren nor Sanders was the dominant force on Thursday as by his own performance,” Dan Balz writes. “Biden did not dominate from start to finish and did not make it through the evening mistake free. But on balance this was the kind of evening he needed, after two previous debates in which he drew mixed to negative reviews…”

-- Our Fact Checker team scrutinizes eight statements made by candidates onstage. Three examples from Glenn Kessler, Sal Rizzo and Meg Kelly: “Contrary to Biden’s claim, the Obama administration did use caged enclosures beginning in 2014 to hold families apprehended along the southern border by U.S. authorities.”

Booker’s claim that there are more African Americans under criminal supervision today than all the slaves in 1850 is false: “The 1850 Census counted 3.6 million slaves. That’s compared to African Americans constituting 2.3 million [in prison] … Moreover, even if the black men comparison is correct in terms of raw numbers, it’s still misleading because the U.S. population has soared since 1850.”“Campaigning for universal health care, Sanders claims 500,000 people go bankrupt every year from medical bills or illness. … Sanders’s claim is based on a study published by the American Journal of Public Health in March. But the study doesn’t establish that … The lead researcher behind the study says Sanders’s claim might be on target when measuring only the share of respondents who said medical bills or illness ‘very much’ contributed to their bankruptcies. But those estimates are not in the study itself. … The research team Sanders cited once included [Warren], who contributed to earlier versions of their study when she was a Harvard professor. Interestingly, though, Warren doesn’t appear to make the same claim…”

-- The focus on health care, which was the top topic in the previous debates, left other topics uncovered. Philip Bump created charts of how much time ABC devoted to each issue and which issues the candidates got to talk about:

-- Our graphics team made this chart to illustrate which candidates went on the attack. By their tally, Castro leveled more attacks than anyone else:

-- And here's who talked the most:

-- What 10 pundits are saying about who won and lost:

  • The Fix’s Aaron Blake calls the Democratic Party the night’s biggest winner for finally being able to get all its leading candidates on one stage. He says Warren, Buttigieg and Obama also won while Castro’s attack on Biden, Harris’s zingers and Yang’s $120,000 gimmick made them losers.
  • The New York Times’s opinion desk ranked Warren as No. 1 and Yang as the worst debater.
  • CNN’s Chris Cillizza thinks Biden, O’Rourke, Obama and Harris’s opening statement won while Castro, Yang, Warren and the U.S. economy lost.
  • Politico’s Steven Shepard was impressed by O’Rourke, whom he called “the most improved debater.” Biden, he believes, was the “Most Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde” candidate and Harris was the most eager to fast-forward to the general election. Klobuchar and Yang took home awards for “cringiest lines.”
  • The New Republic’s Alex Shephard argues that, while most of the attention was focused on Biden, Warren and Sanders, the second tier of candidates actually fared quite well, bringing big ideas to the table.
  • Vox’s team says O’Rourke, Castro, American foreign policy and the 10 random families who gave Yang their emails are the night’s winners. As for losers: mid-tier candidates like Harris and Buttigieg, American courts and free trade.
  • Fox News’s Doug Schoen thinks Warren fell short of expectations while Biden – though not perfect – exhibited strength and preparedness.
  • USA Today’s David Mastio gave Biden an “F” for being “feeble” while Jill Lawrence gave him a “B ” for giving an energetic performance. O’Rourke was the only candidate that got “A’s” from both.
  • Business Insider crowns Castro and Buttigieg the winners and Biden and Harris are losers.
  • Conservative opinion writer Ed Rogers ranked Warren as the very best and placed O’Rourke last in his ranking.

-- More coverage and takes this morning from across the media ecosystem:

  • Politico’s John Harris: “It was a big stage of people who still seem smaller than the position they are seeking. Biden’s previous uneven performances didn’t dislodge him atop the race, and so caution is justified in predicting bleeding wounds from this one. … Can he withstand four more months of this before actual Democratic voting begins?”
  • New York Times: “Marathon Democratic debate includes no questions about women’s issues.”
  • The Boston Globe: “Warren may have benefited by allowing others to attack Biden.”
  • Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr.: “The Democratic presidential candidates realized that their opponent is President Trump and acted accordingly.”
  • Post opinion blogger Jennifer Rubin: “Moderates stood out in the third debate. Too bad it won’t make much of a difference.”
  • The Nation: “Jorge Ramos delivered a master class in how to make a presidential debate meaningful.”
  • Slate: “The moderators of the Democratic debate did a good job, for once.”
  • BuzzFeed News: “The real Democratic primary starts now. And it’s all about Elizabeth Warren.”
  • The Wall Street Journal: “Rather than seeing substantive arguments, each candidate quickly made lofty education promises.”
  • Los Angeles Times editorial writer Michael McGough: “Biden flubbed yet another Democratic debate question about deportations.”
  • Financial Times columnist Edward Luce: “The battle for the 2020 challenger to Trump is now between Warren and Biden.”  
  • Mother Jones’s Pema Levy: “The Democratic presidential contenders spent less time attacking each other … and more time confronting a different target: the ghosts of their own past stances that haven’t aged well.”
  • The Daily Beast: “No one laid a glove on Biden – except Joe Biden himself.”
  • The Hollywood Reporter: “Not even candidates’ quips can enliven epically long Democratic debate.”
  • Fox News: “Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) who didn't qualify for Thursday night's presidential primary debate, says the Democratic National Committee’s qualification system could be sowing distrust among voters.”

-- Correction: The original version of this story mischaracterized Harris’s proposed executive action on guns. She is proposing banning the importation of assault weapons, not a full ban, through executive action. 

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-- The Trump administration said it would seek to open up the entire coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration. Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin report: “In filing a final environmental impact statement, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management took a key step closer to holding an oil and gas lease sale for the nearly 1.6 million-acre coastal plain, which is part of the 19.3 million-acre ANWR. The administration said its preferred plan would call for the construction of as many as four places for airstrips and well pads, 175 miles of roads, vertical supports for pipelines, a seawater treatment plant and a barge landing and storage site.”

-- The White House is moving forward with its plan to strip California of its authority to set its own vehicle greenhouse gas standards. From Reuters: “Trump met with senior officials on Thursday at the White House to discuss the administration’s plan to divide its August 2018 proposal to rollback Obama era standards through 2025 and revoke California’s waiver under the Clean Air Act to set state requirements for vehicles. … Following the meeting, sources said the administration plans to move ahead in coming weeks to divide the final regulation and finalize first the portion dealing with preempting states before issuing the new yearly standards.”

-- Trump’s proposal to tackle California’s homelessness faces local and legal obstacles. Scott Wilson reports: “The White House effort has taken state officials by surprise, as the president has shifted from criticizing California’s management of homelessness on social media to proposals that would insert the federal government directly into the crisis, including relocating homeless people living on the street and in tent camps to a federal facility. But the state’s growing homeless problem hasn’t been contained by similar policy initiatives in the past. It is an unusual crisis stemming in part from the state’s economic success and one where the lack of political will, rather than a lack of public resources, is often the primary obstacle to resolving it. … Angry local politics has also emerged around the issue. In recent months, residents have organized against plans for neighborhood homeless shelters, from once-solidly conservative Orange County to the liberal Bay Area. Local ballot measures approved in recent years to raise money to address homelessness have become tangled in legal challenges. … Even with the additional shelter space the FAA building might provide, city officials would face the challenge of getting homeless residents to use it. One Trump administration official said Wednesday, ‘We’re not rounding up anyone or anything yet.’”

-- The federal deficit increased to more than $1 trillion in the first 11 months of the fiscal year, the first time that year-to-date deficits have topped that amount in seven years. From the Wall Street Journal: “Higher spending on the military, rising interest expenses on government debt and weak revenues early in the fiscal year combined to push the deficit up 19% from October through August, compared with the same period a year earlier. Government spending climbed 7%, to $4.1 trillion, outpacing higher federal tax receipts, which grew 3%, to $3.1 trillion. That brought the total deficit to $1.07 trillion so far in fiscal 2019, which started Oct. 1, or 4.4% as a share of gross domestic product. The last time the U.S. recorded a budget gap of that magnitude in the first 11 months of the fiscal year was in August 2012, when the deficit totaled $1.16 trillion, a period when the U.S. was still climbing out of a deep recession."

-- Trump is, indeed, the king of debt, writes Philip Bump: “One of the things he talked about a lot during the campaign was the federal budget deficit and the long-term federal debt. By my count, he talked about the debt or the deficit on 190 distinct days from 2011 to 2016… As a businessman, Trump relied on debt. At one point during the campaign, he called himself the ‘king of debt,’ a bit of bragging about how he had increased his wealth. As it turns out, though, that bit of bragging was a better predictor of his presidency than his pledges to keep the debt under control. … Trump stands out, not only as having overseen numerous months of increasing deficits but also in the scale of those deficits. Since 1992, there have been 11 months in which the deficit topped $200 billion. Seven of those have happened under Trump.”

-- Chief Justice John Roberts changed his vote to block Trump’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. From CNN's Joan Bikuspic, a biographer of Roberts: “For the most part, Roberts' opinion in the census case laid out why Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had significant latitude to add a new question. He was joined by his four conservative brethren on that point. But then the chief justice swerved, and joined by the four liberal justices, said Ross' justification for the citizenship question, tied to enforcing the Voting Rights Act, was contrived. After the justices heard arguments in late April, Roberts was ready to rule for Ross and the administration. But sometime in the weeks that followed, sources said, Roberts began to waver. He began to believe that Ross' rationale for the citizenship question had been invented, and that, despite the deference he would normally give an executive branch official, Ross' claim had to matter in the court's final judgment, which Roberts announced on June 27.”


-- The Justice Department authorized prosecutors to charge former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, alleging that he lied to investigators. Matt Zapotosky and Spencer S. Hsu report: “A top official in Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen’s office notified McCabe’s team that his appeal to Rosen to abandon the case had failed. … McCabe’s team had been told last month that line prosecutors recommended charges and later that U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu of the District of Columbia had endorsed that decision ... McCabe’s team had then appealed to Rosen in what was considered one of his final chances to persuade officials not to move forward and seek an indictment from a grand jury. The legal team had been waiting for a response. The notification was notable in its own right but particularly suggestive that charges were imminent, because a federal grand jury investigating McCabe was suddenly recalled this week after a months-long hiatus. But the panel was released Thursday with no immediate signs of an indictment."

-- Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo) traded insults as they tried to prove their alignment with Trump. John Wagner reports: “What began as an exchange of different views on Afghanistan policy moved on to other subjects during several tweets and an afternoon television appearance by Paul. During a CNN interview, he questioned the allegiance of both Cheney and her father, the former Republican vice president Richard B. Cheney, to Trump. ‘I guess the problem with the Cheneys, both Dick and Liz, is that they’ve always been Never Trumpers. They hate President Trump’s foreign policy, they want to stay in Afghanistan forever,’ [Paul said]. … Cheney responded shortly afterward on Twitter, referring to Paul’s Republican bid for president in which he was eclipsed by Trump in the primaries.”

-- Trump kicked off the House GOP’s retreat with a speech bashing Democrats and the media. Rachael Bade and Paul Kane report: "He started his speech an hour later than planned, but in so doing managed to take the stage in Charm City at the exact minute that the 2020 Democratic presidential debate got underway. … In Trump’s speech and in a GOP leadership news conference launching the event, Republicans introduced their new colleague, Rep.-elect Dan Bishop, the North Carolina state lawmaker who narrowly won a special election in a strong GOP district. ... 

“At one point, Trump veered off script to take a shot at the Democrats onstage in Texas at that moment, calling Biden ‘Sleepy Joe’ and Sanders ‘Crazy Bernie.’ ‘I hit Pocahontas way too early,’ he said, referring to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) ‘I thought she was gone. She’s emerged from the ashes and now it looks like she could beat Sleepy Joe, he’s falling asleep. He has no idea what the hell he’s doing or saying.’ Trump, who just weeks ago endorsed stronger background checks for gun owners, made no mention of gun control at all. The president has since rescinded that position. …  Despite the [House] Judiciary Committee’s vote earlier Thursday, Trump steered clear of impeachment until the one-hour mark of the speech, mocking their investigations briefly and then quickly moving on.”

-- Baltimore residents welcomed Trump with protests and (inflatable) rodents. Erin Cox and Ovetta Wiggins report: “The visit by the president — who maligned Baltimore as a ‘disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess’ where ‘no human being would want to live’ — was limited to a dinnertime speech kicking off the GOP retreat at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel in Harbor East. In a small park a few blocks away, more than 100 protesters strongly embraced the rat motif. Signs likened the president and the GOP to rodents, and people donned masks, petted stuffed vermin, or wore them on their heads. ‘Trump is the real rat!’ the crowd chanted. Evening commuters leaned on their horns in support.”

-- Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) said he wants to run for president again – in 2024. “We came very, very close in 2016. And it’s the most fun I’ve ever had in my life,” he told the Christian Science Monitor.

-- Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said doesn’t plan on endorsing anyone in 2020. (CNN)

-- The man Trump once called “my African American” at a rally is leaving the GOP. He explained why to PBS: “Gregory Cheadle … is fed up. After two years of frustration with the president’s rhetoric on race and the lack of diversity in the administration, Cheadle [said] he has decided to leave the Republican party and run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives as an independent in 2020. Now, the 62-year-old real estate broker, who supported the Republican approach to the economy, said he sees the party as pursuing a ‘pro-white’ agenda and using black people like him as ’political pawns.’ The final straw for Cheadle came when he watched many Republicans defend Trump’s tweets telling four congresswomen of color, who are all American citizens, to go back to their countries, as well as defend the president’s attacks on Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and his comments that Cummings’ hometown of Baltimore is ‘infested.'"

-- A new Republican PAC ran an ad during last night's debate comparing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. Tim Elfrink reports: The ad compares the congresswoman’s support of democratic socialism to the communist Khmer Rouge regime that killed an estimated 1.7 million people in the 1970s. “The spot, funded by a newly formed Republican PAC and narrated by a recently defeated California GOP candidate, left Ocasio-Cortez accusing its producers of racism and critics to question why ABC approved the ad. (The network didn’t immediately respond to messages on Thursday night.) ‘Know that this wasn’t an ad for young conservatives of color — that was the pretense,’ Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. ‘What you just watched was a love letter to the GOP’s white supremacist case.’ The ad was produced by New Faces GOP, a PAC that aims to bring ‘candidate from all races, ethnicities, gender, or geography’ to the Republican Party. The Fresno-based organization is fronted by Elizabeth Heng, who lost in November to Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.) in a 16th Congressional District race; he received 54 percent of the vote to her 46 percent. Heng narrates the ad by highlighting her family’s story. Her parents, Chieu Heng and Siv Khoeu, survived the Khmer Rouge regime under Pol Pot, during which roughly a quarter of the country’s population died from summary executions, famine, disease and overwork from 1975 to 1979.”

-- A man honored by Trump for his heroic actions during the El Paso shooting made up his story, police claim. From ABC News: “Chris Grant was supposed to receive an honor this week from the White House for heroically distracting the gunman … and possibly saving lives. Instead, he was detained by the Secret Service in Washington ahead of the visit and his story has been called into question. … Grant, who sustained bullet wounds during the shooting, gave an interview from his hospital bed in which he said he threw soda bottles at the gunman to distract him from shooting others, prompting the gunman to turn his weapon on Grant. The White House event went ahead as planned despite Grant being detained. His mother, who was in attendance, was given a certificate of commendation on her son's behalf, and Trump praised Grant's actions. … However, El Paso police have since reviewed video surveillance that they say contradicts Grant's story. But they declined to describe what action, if any, Grant took, or comment on any interaction he might have had with the gunman.”

-- A conservative group paid to rent Trump’s D.C. hotel ballrooms for events headlined by Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. David A. Fahrenthold reports: “Pence spoke Thursday night at the hotel, during a gala put on by the Concerned Women for America, a 40-year-old conservative nonprofit organization that says it promotes ‘Biblical values and Constitutional principles.’ Tickets to that event cost at least $99, according to the group’s website. Pompeo will speak at a separate event at the Trump hotel on Friday, a ‘celebration luncheon’ held by the same conservative group, his staff said. … Spokespeople for Pence and Pompeo defended the speeches, saying the appearances did not steer this business to the president’s hotel, as the nonprofit had already chosen the venue before inviting the two officials. They said the appearances had been vetted for ethical or legal concerns and approved by others in the White House and the State Department.”

-- An examination of the military layovers at Trump’s resort in Turnberry, Scotland, paints a complicated picture. From the Times: “There is little evidence of a systematic scheme to enrich Mr. Trump. But the military bookings at Turnberry are the latest in a series of episodes in which the president’s private businesses have intersected with his public position in ways that he can profit from. The pattern also raises questions about how military officials failed to anticipate the questions that would accompany a large number of American military personnel marching into the opulent halls of one of the president’s golf resorts at public expense. … The military says the vast majority of American military personnel who have passed through since 2016 have stayed at other area hotels, not Mr. Trump’s. On Thursday, the Air Force said in a statement that it had found 659 instances when its flight crews stayed overnight in the area in the past four years. Of those stays, the Air Force estimated that 6 percent, or about 40 — far more than had previously been identified publicly — went to Mr. Trump’s property.”

-- The inspector general for the Department of Housing and Urban Development cleared Secretary Ben Carson of misconduct for ordering a $31,000 dining room set for his office. Tracy Jan reports: “The investigation was launched more than a year ago following accusations that Carson had violated federal law in 2017 by ordering furniture above the $5,000 legal limit for office redecorating without notifying congressional appropriators. … The investigation concluded that the purchase order was initiated after HUD staff determined that the 30-year-old furniture in Carson’s suite was in poor condition and should be replaced. Staff also told Carson that departmental funds were available and that the money would be lost if not spent by a certain date, the report said. The evidence showed that Carson was ‘fine’ with replacing the furniture but left the details to his staff and his wife, Candy Carson, who provided ‘stylistic input.’”

-- The father of Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes was found guilty of illegally funneling contributions to his daughter’s 2014 race against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Felicia Sonmez reports: “Jerry Lundergan, former chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party, and Democratic consultant Dale Emmons were convicted on 10 and six counts, respectively. Prosecutors said the two had carried out a scheme to direct more than $200,000 in corporate contributions to Grimes’s campaign in violation of federal election laws, the Herald-Leader reported. … The Lundergans are one of the most prominent families in Kentucky Democratic politics. In addition to serving twice as state Democratic Party chairman, Lundergan also served in the Kentucky state House. He has had a long-standing political rivalry with another Kentucky Democratic stalwart, former governor Steve Beshear. Thursday’s verdict is the latest political setback for Grimes, who had been viewed as a rising star in the Democratic Party even after her 2014 loss to McConnell. She was among the speakers at the 2016 Democratic National Convention and sharply criticized Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) for running for reelection at the same time that he pursued a presidential bid.”

­-- Harvard is reviewing millions of dollars it received in donations from Jeffrey Epstein. From CNBC: “‘Jeffrey Epstein’s crimes were repulsive and reprehensible,’ Harvard President Lawrence S. Bacow wrote. ‘I profoundly regret Harvard’s past association with him. Conduct such as his has no place in our society.’ Bacow said the review is ongoing, and that it has already found that wealthy financier Epstein made several gifts to the school between 1998 and 2007, including a $6.5 million gift to Harvard’s Program of Evolutionary Dynamics. The president also said that the review has not found any donation from Epstein after he pleaded guilty to a sex crime in 2008.”


-- The rise of nationalism around the globe may be reflected in the outcome of the Israeli elections on Tuesday, explains foreign affairs columnist Robert Kagan: “In the growing confrontation between the liberal world order and its anti-liberal nationalist and authoritarian opponents, which side does Israel want to be on? The question would have been absurd even a decade ago, when Israelis still regarded themselves as members in good standing in the liberal world. But in recent years, Israeli foreign policy has been trending in a decidedly anti-liberal direction. Since about the middle of 2015, the Israeli government has: embraced Hungary’s avowedly ‘illiberal’ Prime Minister Viktor Orban … warmly embraced Brazil’s right-wing nationalist leader Jair Bolsonaro; provided a state visit for President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, who once likened himself to Adolf Hitler; worked consistently to woo Russian President Vladimir Putin … [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, who faces a difficult reelection vote next Tuesday, insists he is only leading Israel out of international isolation, but the common denominator among all these new partners has been an avowed hostility toward liberalism and the liberal world order, and the prime minister himself has become something of a ‘central figure in the global non-liberal camp,’ as Israeli commentators have noted.”

-- Facebook suspended a chatbot operated by Netanyahu’s official account for violating hate speech rules after it sent a message saying that Israel’s Arab politicians “want to destroy us all.” The New York Times's Isabel Kershner reports: “The message, which went out in the name of a Netanyahu campaign volunteer, was trying to rally right-wing support for Mr. Netanyahu and his conservative Likud party in next Tuesday’s election. … It urged supporters to come out to the polls to prevent the advent of ‘a dangerous left-wing government,’ whose Jewish leaders, it said, would rely on the support of Arab politicians ‘who want to destroy us all — women, children and men — and enable a nuclear Iran that would wipe us out.’”

-- China said it would call off planned tariff hikes on soybeans and pork and “support purchases” as a conciliatory gesture toward the United States days after Trump delayed tariff increases of his own. “The move, announced by state media, adds to a sense that momentum is building in lower-level negotiations ahead of the next round of high-level meetings in Washington sometime next month,” Gerry Shih reports from Beijing.

-- In the Bahamas, Hurricane Dorian exposed one of the world’s great faultlines of inequality. Kevin Sieff reports: “For years, wealthy visitors to Baker’s Bay could ignore the precarious living conditions in the Mudd. But now, in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, that’s no longer possible. The shantytown has been destroyed. Many people were killed; the rest are homeless. The devastating human toll has exposed an economic dependency — there’s no one to repair the mansions. The inequality between rich and poor, tourist and worker, was laid bare as the storm approached. When Dorian made landfall on Great Abaco Island as a Category 5 hurricane, the people of Baker’s Bay had cleared out. Its homeowners, almost all seasonal residents with primary homes in the United States or Europe, hired local workers to put up hurricane shutters and prepare for the storm while they tracked it from afar. But the Mudd was full. Some residents wanted to stay to guard their homes and belongings. Others — many of them undocumented Haitians — fled to local churches for shelter. They said there was little opportunity to leave the island ahead of the storm. Within hours, the entire community was flattened. Homes were blown to rubble. At least dozens were killed — the number climbs as more bodies are found.”

-- Thousands of migrants fleeing persecution, most from Central America, line up daily at the southern border hoping for asylum. The Supreme Court’s ruling makes almost all of them not eligible for asylum. From the Times: “The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed the Trump administration to enforce new rules that bar asylum applications from anyone who has not already been denied asylum in one of the countries they traveled through on their way to the United States. The rule is among the most stringent measures taken by this administration in its battle to halt migration, upending decades of asylum and humanitarian norms. It is likely to affect hundreds of thousands of migrants traveling through Mexico to reach the United States: Eritreans and Cameroonians fleeing political violence. Nicaraguans and Venezuelans fleeing repression. And the largest group of all: Hondurans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans escaping the twin scourges of poverty and gangs. ‘This takes away all hope,’ said Eddie Leonardo Caliz, 34, who left San Pedro Sula in Honduras with his wife and two kids three months ago to try to escape gang violence, and spoke from a shelter in southern Mexico. With measures like this, he said, the Trump administration ‘is depriving us of the opportunity to be safe.’”

-- Trump wants Honduras to accept more asylum seekers. Claudia Mendoza and Mary Beth Sheridan report: “It’s one of the poorest and most violent nations in the hemisphere. Anti-government protests have swept the capital. Its president is fending off allegations by U.S. prosecutors that he financed his campaign with narco cash. Hundreds of thousands of citizens have fled. And now, the Trump administration wants it to sign a migration deal that could require it to take in U.S.-bound asylum seekers. American officials are seeking to establish ‘safe third country’ deals throughout the region, to diminish the crush of asylum seekers at the U.S. border. Authorities already have pressed Panama and Guatemala to reach such accords. Honduran officials have confirmed talks on migration but have been guarded about the details. … The closed-door talks have alarmed activists, analysts and opposition politicians in this Central American nation."

-- Millions of refugees from Venezuela are straining their neighbors’ generosity. From the Economist: “The exodus could exceed 8 [million], a quarter of the population, by the end of 2020 unless democracy and stability return, predicts the Brookings Institution in Washington. … Until now, the largest displacement of people in Latin America’s history has occurred without much international fuss. In part that is because it has taken place mostly by land, unprompted by war or natural disaster. … But as Venezuela’s crisis has dragged on, destination countries are withdrawing their initial warm welcome. Recent refugees are poorer than those in earlier waves. They are arriving in countries where economic growth is slow, good jobs are scarce and budgets for health and education are stretched. Early promises to co-operate in dealing with the flow of migrants are being broken. Door-slamming adds to the number of unlawful migrants, who are vulnerable to exploitation by employers and recruitment by criminal groups.”

-- The speaker of the U.K. parliament promised “creativity” to ensure Prime Minister Boris Johnson obeys the new Brexit delay law preventing him from taking Britain out of the E.U. without a deal at the end of October. From Reuters: House of Commons speaker John Bercow “who has been accused by the government of breaking parliamentary rules to help lawmakers try to force a delay to Britain’s exit from the EU, said it was ‘astonishing’ that anyone was entertaining the idea of not obeying the law. ‘If we come close to being there I would imagine that parliament would want to cut off such a possibility and to do so forcefully,’ he said in a lecture to lawyers late on Thursday.”


One of the 2020 candidates who didn't qualify for the debate opined from home:

Viewers were entertained by entrepreneur Andrew Yang's plan to give 10 families $1,000 a month as a test of his universal basic income plan:

Yang, by the way, gained the most new Twitter followers: 

These were the most talked about candidates on Twitter during the debate:

A disgraced former Fox News host took offense at some of Harris's statements:

A CNN reporter poked fun at one of Biden's debate moments by bringing back a gaffe from an earlier debate: 

Beto O'Rourke, riffing off a Warren motto, introduced a new slogan:

After promising mandatory gun buybacks, O’Rourke received what he described as a “death threat” from a fellow Texas politician:

The lawmaker doubled down after O’Rourke called him out:

Twitter removed the lawmaker’s original tweet because it violated the company’s terms of service, which prohibits violent threats. (Antonia Noor Farzan

O'Rourke's digital director shared some instant feedback: 

Cory Booker doubled down on his joke that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's hair is "menacing":

Klobuchar's communications director posted a picture of her on the debate stage after everyone else had left, prompting jokes:

Over at the Republican side of things, House GOP members logged in to their retreat's WiFi network with this password:

A Post reporter noted a pattern in the styling of some of the vice president's tweets:

Trump, days after firing his national security adviser, claimed that John Bolton held him back:

And, as promised, the president's reelection campaign team flew a sign over Houston during the Democratic debate telling the city that socialism would kill its economy: 

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I feel betrayed by a man that I supported in every way for more than 20 years,” Judith Giuliani, wife of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, said in an interview amid the couple’s pending divorce. “I’m sad to know that the hero of 9/11 has become a liar.” (New York Times)


Stephen Colbert pointed out that Biden called Sanders "the president," before correcting himself to "my friend from Vermont":

Trevor Noah was worried about Sanders's voice during the debate, saying that hearing him with a "diminished voice" is just not the same: 

Hillary Clinton read her emails as part of an art exhibit in Venice:

And the dogs of a Chevy Chase dog park that was recently made leash-only, following a tense fight, shared their side of the story: