At the White House
IT'S ALMOST THANKSGIVING: Which raises the question — will President Trump finally visit U.S. troops deployed to a combat zone? It's been two years since Trump took office, and he has yet to make a trip to Afghanistan, Syria or Iraq.
Historically, presidential trips to visit U.S. troops in combat zones have been “a bipartisan practice going back to World War II.” Bush 41 and Bush 43 both paid visits to troops overseas during the holiday.
- Press coverage: At the time, presidential historian Douglas Brinkley told CNN the surprise trip by W. to Baghdad on Nov. 27, 2003 for Thanksgiving dinner was “a perfectly executed plan” that would be “one of the major moments in his biography.” In addition to signaling respect, gratitude and “a gesture of genuine concern,” a visit from the president to an active war zone would be likely to garner similarly positive press coverage.
- Last year, Trump retreated to Mar-a-Lago, the “Winter White House,” where he fired off boastful tweets and video-chatted with troops stationed all around the world. He then went to hand out sandwiches at a Coast Guard station nearby.
- Meanwhile, Vice President Pence could be found at Naval Air Station Meridian in Mississippi where he spent Thanksgiving with his son Michael (a Marine aviator in training). Pence made a surprise visit to Afghanistan in December of 2017.
Why? Earlier in October during an interview with the Associated Press, this is what Trump had to say about not yet visiting a military base in a combat zone:
- Trump: “Well, I will do that at some point, but I don’t think it’s overly necessary. I’ve been very busy with everything that’s taking place here. We have the greatest economy in the history of our country . . . I’m doing a lot of things. But it’s something I’d do. And do gladly. Nobody has been better at the military. Hey, I just got them a pay raise. I haven’t had a pay raise in 11 years . . . I just got them new equipment. They have stuff that was so old that the grandfathers used to fly it. I have done more for the military than any president in many, many years.”
- No validation: The New York Times reported last week that “one reason [Trump] has not visited troops in war zones, according to his aides, is that he does not really want American troops there in the first place. To visit, they said, would validate mission he does not truly believe in.”
Directly: Fox News's Chris Wallace asked the president head on yesterday: Why hasn't Trump visited U.S. troops serving in war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan in the two years he's been in office?
- Trump: “Well, I think you will see that happen. There are things that are being planned. We don’t want to talk about it because of — obviously because of security reasons and everything else. But there are things that are planned. As you know, I was very much opposed to the war in Iraq. I think it was a tremendous mistake, should have never happened . . . I don’t think anybody’s been more with the military than I have, as a president . . . I’ve had an unbelievable busy schedule and I will be doing it. On top of which you have these phony witch hunts. On top of which — I mean, we’ve just been very busy. But I will be doing that.”
Southern border: An easy enough trip for the president to pull off would visiting troops at the Southern border, which Trump deployed to protect against the caravan of Central Americans he dubbed an “invasion.” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen did visit troops there, however.
- Still: A Corpus Christi Caller-Times columnist penned an op-ed arguing troops deployed along the border deserve “a thank you from Trump and a straight explanation of why they are spending the holiday away from their loved ones.”
- Reminder: 5,800 troops have been deployed along the southern border to defend against the migrant caravan, which began arriving a few days ago in Tijuana, Mexico.
The White House did not respond to Power Up's request for comment regarding Trump's plans for Thanksgiving, and when he intends to visit troops. (Although, security measures would largely prohibit the White House from commenting on that anyway.)
It's not just Thanksgiving: Trump also just skipped a trip during his recent visit to France to the cemetery where 2,000 American soldiers killed during the Battle of Belleau Wood during World War I are buried. And he also opted out of a visit to Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day (Trump told Wallace on Sunday he should have “in retrospect” made the trip, a 3-mile drive from the White House.)
- 'My military': The NYT points out while Trump has “embraced the United States’ 1.3 million active-duty troops as 'my military' and 'my generals' and has posted on Twitter that under his leadership, [he] has not fully grasped the role of the troops he commands, nor the responsibility that he has to lead them and protect them from politics,” according to top Defense Department officials.
- Key Quote: “They like having robust funding for the last year; they like that,” said Michèle A. Flournoy, a former [Obama] undersecretary of defense who turned down a chance at the No. 2 job at the department under Mr. Trump. “But I think a lot of military people are deeply disturbed by the degree of partisanship and division.”
To add insult to injury: Trump also went after retired Admiral William H. McRaven yesterday on Fox. He said the four-star admiral battling chronic lymphocytic leukemia should have caught “Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that.” He also called him a “Hillary Clinton fan” and an “Obama backer.” The Post confirmed a statement McRaven gave to CNN saying he didn't back anyone during the 2016 presidential election.
Takeaway: Trump's approval ratings among the troops are slipping. A poll conducted by the Military Times last month showed that the president's “approval rating among active-duty military personnel has slipped over the last two years, leaving today’s troops evenly split over whether they’re happy with the commander in chief’s job performance”.
Thanksgiving surprise? Trump said he “very easily” answered written questions from special counsel Robert Mueller and someone close to the investigation said they could be turned over before the holiday, per colleagues Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey.
‘VERY FULL REPORT,’ VERY SOON: Trump talked with CIA director Gina Haspel and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over the weekend to discuss Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s alleged role in the killing of Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The president said there will be a “very full report” on the issue by Tuesday. The Post reported Friday the CIA has concluded MBS ordered the assassination, yet Trump has remained skeptical, possibly looking for ways to avoid pinning the killing on the Saudi crown prince.
- Inside the briefings: “The president has seized on the question of whether evidence shows that Mohammed ‘ordered’ Khashoggi’s death, asserting that his advisers haven’t offered him definitive proof,” The Post’s Shane Harris and Josh Dawsey reported. “He has also asked CIA and State Department officials where Khashoggi’s body is and has grown frustrated that the journalist’s remains haven’t been found.”
- Key quote: “Privately, aides said, Trump has been shown evidence of the prince’s involvement but remains skeptical that Mohammed ordered the killing.”
- At odds, again: Trump’s doubts have opened up yet another rift between the president and his intelligence officials. One aide, who regularly speaks to Trump, told The Post that “If the president had his way, he would stay entirely out of the Middle East and all of the problems. This is a problem that he wants to go away.”
- ‘I don’t want to hear the tape’: U.S. officials have the audio recording of Khashoggi’s killing, but Trump said he won’t listen to it. It is “a suffering tape,” he said in a Fox News interview. Trump added that the U.S. has already sanctioned Saudi Arabia and that the kingdom is “an ally that in many ways has been very good.”
Read more: Why bring a bonesaw to a kidnapping, Your Highness? by Fred Hiatt, editor of The Post's editorial page, where Khashoggi was a contributor.
On The Hill
AOC'S FIRST WEEK ON CAMPUS: Rep-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (and her squad) has only been on the Hill for a few days, but the Democrat from New York has already made her mark in Washington, from her address to protesters staging a sit-in in Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) office, to pushing for a “Green New Deal” and backing a campaign to primary fellow Democrats, all the while bringing her 775,000 Instagram followers along for the ride. Here are some highlights from the freshman's first week in D.C.:
- The youngest-ever member of the House, AOC was apparently confused for a spouse or intern during her first few days at the Capitol. She tweeted, “People keep giving me directions to the spouse and intern events instead of the ones for members of Congress”
- AOC paid her first visit to Pelosi's office — not to chat up one of her party's most powerful leaders, but to join a group of protesters staging a sit-in on climate change. “This is to show that we are here to back up bold action," Ocasio-Cortez told the ralliers.
- The frosh called out Amazon and New York lawmakers over the company's announcement it would open a Queens headquarters, receiving billions of dollars-worth of subsidies. She wrote on Twitter that such steep tax breaks “at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need MORE investment, not less, is extremely concerning to residents here.”
- AOC fended off scrutiny of her clothing from a conservative journalist whose comments were widely panned as sexist. After the journalist deleted his tweet, she fired back, posting a screenshot of the deleted tweet and writing, “You’re a journalist — readers should know your bias.”
- Whether you like her tactics (and whether they're effective legislatively), AOC is a master of social media. On Sunday night, she live-streamed herself cooking dinner on Instagram live sporting a black Teamsters T-shirt while chatting about policy with her followers.
Outside the Beltway
FLORIDA DONE: “Three-term Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D) conceded to Gov. Rick Scott (R) Sunday after a bitter and drawn-out campaign to retain his seat, acknowledging that preliminary results from a manual statewide recount left him with no path to victory,” The Post reported on Sunday afternoon.
MISSISSIPPI NEXT: President Trump will head to Tupelo and Biloxi, Miss. next week to rally for Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who is facing a Nov. 27 runoff against former Democratic congressman Mike Espy.
- The Post's Matt Viser breaks down the Senate race that was "supposed to provide an easy Republican win" turned competitive contest that will ultimately serve as " another measurement of whether the South is truly in the midst of a political transformation."
Yikes: “Hyde-Smith stumbled recently when, in praise of a supporter, she spoke of her willingness to sit in the front row of a public hanging if he invited her — words that, in the South, evoked images of lynchings. She has struggled to grapple with the fallout, baffling members of her party and causing even faithful Republicans to consider voting for her opponent," Viser reports.
More: “That Espy is attempting to become the state’s first black senator since shortly after the Civil War made her remarks all the more glaring. It has positioned him to take advantage not only of a substantial black turnout but of a potential swell of crossover support from those put off by Hyde-Smith’s campaign.”
In the Media
- What to read when you don't know what's real anymore: ‘Nothing on this page is real’: How lies become truth in online America by Eli Saslow via The Post
- What to read when deciding what to listen to: How podcasts became a seductive — and sometimes slippery — mode of storytelling by Rebecca Mead via The New Yorker
- What to read if you haven't somehow been following the World Chess Championship: Chess world rattled as someone nearly wins game by Oliver Roeder via FiveThirtyEight
- An autopsy of one of the country's worst public school systems: How South Carolina’s ‘minimally adequate’ education system fails too many students by Paul Bowers, Glenn Smith, Seanna Adcox, Jennifer Berry Hawes and Thad Moore via The Post and Courier
- The human consequences of the military industrial complex: Who killed Lt. Van Dorn? by Zachary Stauffer, Eli Olson and Jason Paladino via The Investigative Reporting Program
- For the Millennial-Industrial Complex skeptics: How Friendsgiving Took Over Millennial Culture by Ashley Fetters via The Atlantic . A real quote from this piece: “Friendsgiving... is a propaganda weapon used by the ruling class to further their plans for wage stagnation.”