President Obama waves before boarding Air Force One to depart Ethiopia yesterday, the final leg of his African trip. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

THE BIG IDEA:

— Encouraging African leaders not to cling to power for life, Barack Obama expressed confidence during a speech in Addis Ababa yesterday that he could win a third term if he ran. “I love my work, but under our Constitution, I cannot run again,” he said. “I actually think I’m a pretty good president. I think if I ran, I could win. But I can’t. So there’s a lot that I’d like to do to keep America moving, but the law is the law.”

It is a fun parlor game to speculate on Obama’s reelection prospects if there was no 22nd Amendment. He’s about as popular right now as he was at this stage in 2011; his approval rating is 45 percent in our latest poll. The economy is stronger in key ways. And the Democratic base is more passionate about him than Hillary Clinton.

But Obama—who won in 2008 as an outsider—is now seen as an insider, at a time when Americans want a change agent. See the summer success of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

Becoming a lame duck has liberated the president to take action on issues like immigration, Iran and climate change. These positions could backfire with independents in a general election, but they could also galvanize record turnout among Hispanics, African-Americans and young people.

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The debate over Obama’s electability is moot, but it dovetails with a broader, ongoing conversation within the Clinton campaign about the extent to which she should tie her fortunes to the president’s. She knows that she needs the so-called Obama coalition to turn out in force next November, which is one reason she’s tacked to the left in recent months. Many of these voters, registered by the Obama campaign in 2008 or 2012, will only turn out for Hillary if they see a vote for her as a vote for a third Obama term.

Obama with Clinton in Dec. 2008 after announcing that she was his choice as Secretary of State. (AP Photo)

Hillary is not actively distancing herself from her ex-boss as much as many observers predicted throughout 2014. Almost exactly a year ago, during an interview with The Atlantic, Clinton criticized Obama for not taking more action in Syria and for an internal White House mantra buzzed about at the time (“Don’t do stupid sh**”). This prompted Obama allies like David Axelrod to point out that Clinton, not Obama, voted to authorize the Iraq war in the first place. Hillary phoned Obama to say she had not meant “to attack him,” and her spokesman announced that she looked forward to “hugging it out” when they were both on Martha’s Vineyard a few days later. We haven’t seen a blow-up quite like that since then.

From the preternaturally cautious and calculating Clinton, watch for a continued balancing act. When she distances herself, it will be more implicit and subtle than during that Atlantic interview. Her campaign leadership team is also stocked with Obama alumni who were still at the White House during this time last year. “I’m not running for my husband’s third term and I’m not running for Barack Obama’s third term,” she declared in New Hampshire this spring. In the very next breath, she added: “I’m running to continue the positive, results-oriented policies that both of them worked for.”

Some additional distancing is probably inevitable. Vice President George H.W. Bush’s talk during the 1988 campaign about “a kinder, gentler America” was a calculated effort to show he was different than Ronald Reagan. Few remember it now, but Reagan’s approval rating in the summer of 1987 was in the 40s because of the Iran-Contra scandal. A July 1987 Gallup poll asked how Reagan would go down in history: only 9 percent said he would be remembered as “outstanding”; 28 percent said “above average”; 34 percent said “average”; and 26 percent said either “below average” or “poor.” It’s a good reminder Obama could be viewed very differently next November.

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

— Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) made the case for ousting John Boehner as Speaker. (Spoiler alert: it’s not going to happen.) Toward the end of the day, he filed a rare “motion to vacate the chair,” catching even anti-Boehner Republicans off guard. Others who had wind of it discouraged him from following through.

— Congressional Republicans are going all in on try defunding Planned Parenthood. Iowa freshman Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) filed a bill last night to completely block any federal money from going to the group. It came at the end of a day that saw the release of a third undercover video by a pro-life group. Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell are among the cosponsors. Democrats will never allow this to happen, but Republicans believe that they can play offense on the abortion issue in 2016 (unlike in 2012 when the issue cost them two Senate seats in red states). To improve the optics, GOP leaders are leaning on women to lead the fight. Besides Ernst in the Senate, Rep. Diane Black is expected to be front-and-center in the House. Hillary defended Planned Parenthood in New Hampshire yesterday and will continue to do so.

“The Obama administration has decided to give states more time to comply with proposed regulations that will require dramatic cuts in greenhouse-gas pollution from power plants,” Joby Warrick scoops in a story that posted at 11:47 p.m. “The Environmental Protection Agency will give states an additional two years — until 2022 — to begin phasing in pollution cuts, even as the agency toughens the standards that many states will ultimately have to meet. At the same time, the EPA will offer credits and other inducements to encourage a rapid shift to renewable energy under the Clean Power Plan, the administration’s ambitious and controversial proposal to cut pollutants blamed for climate change.” The final version of the regulation is expected to land in the next week.

— Afghanistan officials said that the leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Omar, has died. The militant group has not confirmed the claim but plans to comment soon, the BBC reports.

GET SMART FAST:

  1. Congress is poised to pass a stopgap, three-month highway bill, punting the issue into the fall, after House and Senate Republicans could not agree on a compromise.
  2. The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to ban the possession of firearm magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, a measure the NRA has already promised to challenge in court.
  3. “A Florida man has been charged with plotting to set off a backpack bomb at a beach after becoming inspired by the terrorist group ISIS,” NBC reports. “Harlem Suarez, 23, of Key West was arrested Monday after he received what he thought was a working bomb but which was actually a phony device provided by the FBI.”
  4. An unclassified email network used by Army General Martin Dempsey and other members of the U.S. military’s Joint Staff was taken offline yesterday because of suspicious activity, per Reuters.
  5. Jonathan Pollard, the Israeli spy whose treachery may have put U.S. secrets in the hands of the Soviets during some of the darkest days of the Cold War, has officially been granted parole and will be released in November, his lawyers announced. Now his lawyers want Obama to waive a legal requirement that he stay in the United States for at least five years, so that he can resettle in the country he spied for.
  6. Fox News removed a requirement that a candidate pull at least 1 percent in national polling in order to appear in the consolation debate of undercards next Thursday (which will air at 5 p.m. Eastern, before the top 10 candidates appear together at 9 p.m.). This means that all 16 declared GOP candidates will get TV time.
  7. Tom Brady and the players’ union are headed to a legal clash with the NFL over DeflateGate after Commissioner Roger Goodell rejected Brady’s appeal and upheld the four-game suspension of the New England Patriots quarterback and reigning Super Bowl MVP,” Mark Maske reports. The NFL revealed yesterday that Brady directed his cell phone be destroyed shortly before meeting with its investigators in March.
  8. Now that Boston is out of the running, Los Angeles leaders have reached out to their Bay Area counterparts about a potential joint bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics. (San Francisco Chronicle)

POWER PLAYERS IN THE NEWS:

  1. Jake Tapper offered Ben Carson condolences on the death of his mother during an interview on CNN last night. It got awkward when Carson pointed out that his mom is still alive! “I’ve never been happier to be wrong,” the anchor told Mediaite.
  2. Jeb Bush has told folks that he’s lost 45 pounds since going on the Paleo diet, according to the New York Post’s Page Six.
  3. Chris Christie promised to re-criminalize marijuana if he’s elected. “If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it,” he said at a New Hampshire town hall. “As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws.”
  4. Donald Trump said Sarah Palin would have a role in his administration, perhaps in the cabinet. “Because she really is somebody who knows what’s happening and she’s a special person,” he said on a show called “The Palin Update.
  5. Trump is actually worth about $2.9 billion, according to a Bloomberg calculation, far less than the $10 billion he claims.
  6. Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, apologized for insisting to the Daily Beast that, “by the very definition, you can’t rape your spouse.” Trump told CNN that he disagreed with his close confidant. “He’s speaking for himself,” The Donald said. “He’s not speaking for me, obviously.”
  7. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) put a hold on the intelligence spending bill that funds the FBI and NSA because of a provision requiring social networks to report terrorist activity to the government. The measure passed through the Senate Intelligence Committee 15-0 last month. (USA Today)
  8. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) has more than $5 million cash on hand for his gubernatorial campaign, more than the three other candidates combined. (Times-Picayune)
  9. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin’s daughter, Christina, who has been living out of a trailer parked on the grounds of the governor’s mansion (!), will move in the face of public outrage and the discovery that it violates a state code, The Oklahoman reports. Here is a picture of the trailer from KFOR-TV (via the AP):

WAPO HIGHLIGHTS:

“Companies have found something to give their workers besides wages,” by Ylan Q. Mui: “More businesses are upping their spending on benefits such as one-time bonuses, health care and paid time off…Many are rolling out perks such as free gym membership, commuting subsidies, even pet health insurance…Often, those benefits are being provided in lieu of higher salaries…Companies say they are catering to the growing workforce of millennials who seem to prize short-term flexibility over long-term financial security, and the change allows bosses to reward star employees without permanently increasing costs.”

Maryland Senate candidate Donna “Edwards won’t buck outside cash in Senate race,” by Rachel Weiner: “For Edwards, what might seem a tough decision ideologically is also a necessity for political survival. Vastly outraised by Democratic primary opponent Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the four-term member of Congress says she will need spending from outside groups to stay competitive in her bid to succeed retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D). Van Hollen, a prolific fundraiser and former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has $3.75 million ready for the race, according to the most recent campaign filings. Edwards has $419,000.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

ZIGNAL VISUAL: Ted Cruz’s crusade against Planned Parenthood allowed him to win the day online. Tuesday belonged to Ted Cruz, who commanded more media attention than any GOP contender who has never had his own reality TV show. Cruz’s call to defund Planned Parenthood stoked the conservative net roots. Cruz himself drove the social-media chatter with a series of widely-circulated tweets:

cruztweetsjuly29

The gambit proved so successful at generating attention for the Texas Senator that one of his fellow GOP contenders decided to join the fray. Look at what happened to Ben Carson’s mentions when he also pushed for the government to defund Planned Parenthood on Tuesday evening:

cruzcarsonchart29

But Cruz was the one who got the cameras. Carson received 40 percent of the Twitter mentions that Cruz did, but the Texas senator had five times as many television mentions, meaning his story reached millions more people than Carson’s announcement. Look at that same total mentions graph when we only chart mentions of the two candidates on network and cable television:

cruzMSM29

–WHAT EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT:

Pictures of the day:

President Obama laughs at the hair nets that reporters had to wear to cover his tour of Faffa Food in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia:


(time)

Here’s a shot of the press pool from the Post’s Juliet Eilperin:

Scott Walker visited Philadelphia’s iconic rival cheesesteak shops, Pat’s and Geno’s, where he ran into protesters:

Tweets of the day:

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) shared a photo of his bald head, the result of chemotherapy for non-Hodgkins lymphoma. “It looks like there is another white dome in Annapolis! I’m losing hair, but I’m winning the battle,” he tweeted.

The Post has a front-page profile this morning of Hogan’s little-known lieutenant governor, Boyd K. Rutherford, who has found himself thrust into a somewhat awkward role. “At a minimum, Rutherford is filling in more frequently for Hogan at meetings, ribbon-cuttings and other events,” Paul Schwartzman writes. “But the gravity of Hogan’s illness and treatment regimen also creates the possibility that Rutherford may have to step up in a more permanent way.” Fun fact: “Rutherford, a District native whose grandmother was an ally of the city’s political maestro, Marion Barry, joined the Republican Party in his 30s after deciding that policies championed by Barry and other Democrats had failed blacks.”

Maryland Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford in Annapolis last month. (Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) thanked Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) for pointing out a hole in his suit and “offering to take me shopping”:

Instagrams of the day:

It was a day for fast food on the campaign trail, as Chris Christie lunched at McDonalds:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

New York Times, “Under Oath, Donald Trump Shows his Raw Side,” by Michael Barbaro and Steve Eder: “Hundreds of pages of sworn testimony by Mr. Trump over the past decade show something less flattering. Some of his claims, made under oath, and under pressure, are shown to be hyperbolic overstatements, and others to be shadings of the truth or even outright misstatements. And in rare instances, he turns boorish and demeaning…It showcases Mr. Trump’s fixation with his image as a financial success, and lays bare his hypersensitivity to any suggestion of failure.” Also, the story sheds lights on some of Trump’s habits: he doesn’t drink alcohol, doesn’t really watch TV, doesn’t use text messages and “very rarely” used email as of 2013.

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, “Assembly passes arena deal, sends it to Scott Walker,” by Patrick Marley and Jason Stein: “Almost seven months after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker proposed public money for the new Milwaukee Bucks arena, the Assembly Tuesday returned a $250 million bill to him…While campaigning at two South Philadelphia cheesesteak joints, the governor said he would sign the much-revised measure, calling it a good deal for Wisconsin…’the main reason I got into it was because it protected state revenues,’ Walker said, citing the income taxes Wisconsin would lose if the team leaves the state. ‘That just creates a big hole for everything else. … This was really about protecting the taxpayers of the state.'”

Huffington Post, “Vermont media want a piece of the Bernie Sanders story,” by Michael Calderone: “VT Digger, a nonprofit Vermont news site with a full-time staff of 10, reported earlier this month that the mother of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 46-year-old son Levi was an old girlfriend — not the candidate’s first wife… Sure enough, just 12 hours after its publication, Politico, which specializes in covering the fine details of lawmakers’ biographies, blasted out a feature built largely on the very same nugget…The emergence of Sanders (I-Vt.) as a major presidential candidate has provided a second act on the national stage for a quirky press corps from one of the country’s smallest states.”

Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Twin Cities dentist admits killing beloved lion, thought he was acting legally,” by Paul Walsh and Brandon Stahl: “Walter J. Palmer of Eden Prairie, a practicing dentist in Bloomington and a prominent bow-and-arrow hunter, issued a statement addressing the killing on July 1 of Cecil, a lion that was a favorite among tourists and wildlife researchers. ‘I hired several professional guides, and they secured all proper permits,’ Palmer’s statement read. ‘To my knowledge, everything about this trip was legal and properly handled. I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt. I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt.'”

Health care —

Good news: “Mortality rates among Medicare patients fell 16% from 1999 to 2013. That’s equal to more than 300,000 fewer deaths a year in 2013 than in 1999,” according to a Journal of American Medicine Study that USA Today reports on.

Bad news: “By 2019, midway through the next president’s term, health care spending will be increasing at roughly 6 percent a year, compared to an average annual rise of 4 percent from 2008 through 2013,” says the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of the Actuary, per the AP.

BUZZING AT THE CAPITOL:

— Washington Post, “Former members of Congress not invited to pope’s speech,” by Colby Itkowitz: “If any former members of Congress planned a return trip to Capitol Hill for Pope Francis’s anticipated visit, they might want to check the refund policy. The House on Tuesday passed a rule for who can attend the pontiff’s planned Sept. 24 speech in the House chamber. Unlike other major addresses, like the State of the Union or Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March visit, the hundreds former members didn’t make the cut. ‘I think they literally have an unmanageable interest from everyone in the Pope’s visit,’ Catholic-convert former Speaker Newt Gingrich told us in an e-mail.”

— National Journal, “Senate Democrats get a 2016 pitch from Bernie Sanders,” by Sarah Mimms and Rachel Roubein: “Senate Democrats got a side of Bernie Sanders with their lunch Tuesday, as their independent colleague pitched them on his presidential candidacy during the conference’s weekly gathering. Sanders’s presentation follows one earlier this month by his rival for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton, whom a majority of his colleagues already support … Sanders’s presentation was relatively brief and largely a laying out of his ideology and vision for the nation’s future, members said. He also discussed the large crowds that have shown up for his speeches around the country.”

— Politico, “Carson, Cruz and Paul rally against Planned Parenthood,” by Eliza Collins: “Sen. Ted Cruz called on the Department of Justice to open a criminal investigation into the people who appear in undercover videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue donation. Cruz was speaking at an anti-abortion rally organized by Students for Life of America on Tuesday, just after activists released their third undercover video of Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal body parts in graphic detail … Cruz was one of three presidential candidates, along with Sen. Rand Paul and Dr. Ben Carson, who spoke at the event.”

HOT ON THE LEFT

America still wants to fund Planned Parenthood after sting videos. From The Huffington Post: “Nearly two-thirds of American voters said they oppose a Republican proposal to strip federal funds from Planned Parenthood after the release of two undercover “sting” videos of the family planning provider, according to a new poll released Tuesday by the liberal Hart Research Associates … Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) started the process last week of fast-tracking a bill that would zero out federal family planning funding for Planned Parenthood. But the new poll found that only 28 percent of voters favor that proposal, and just a quarter of voters would prefer a congressional candidate who supports defunding the family planning provider over one who would continue funding it.”

HOT ON THE RIGHT

University of California offers six choices for gender identity. From Fox News: “Admission applications used by the UC system are giving potential students a host of choices for gender-related questions – including six varieties to describe “gender identity.” The questions, which will go into circulation this fall, are voluntarily answered and responses don’t impact the admissions process … Applicants can choose male, female, trans male/trans man, trans female/trans woman, gender queer/gender non-conforming and ‘different identity’ … The gender and sex questions are just one change slated for the UC system. Gender-neutral restrooms and changing rooms are being installed and “the university is initiating a two-year project designed to coordinate and promote interdisciplinary study of genders and sexualities,” according to a UC press release.”

DAYBOOK:

–What’s happening today on the campaign trail: The Bernie Sanders campaign will hold its first ever national organizing meeting. Rick Perry will campaign in New Hampshire, focusing on Carroll County. Chris Christie will attend a meet-and-greet in Hooksett, New Hampshire and participate in the Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security Forum at the University of New Hampshire in Manchester. Scott Walker will attend a breakfast for the Greenwich Republican Town Committee in Connecticut. [On Saturday, trying to capitalize on the debt crisis, Martin O’Malley will travel to Puerto Rico.]

–On the Hill: The Senate kicks off the day with a round of votes at 10 a.m. The House will also convene at 10 a.m. on what could be its last day before summer break. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Martin Dempsey, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the Iran nuclear deal at 9:45 a.m.

–At the White House: President Obama will host House Democrats for a working reception to discuss his legislative priorities, including the Iran agreement.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“The response from Jewish people has been overwhelmingly positive.” – Mike Huckabee defended his comment that Obama is marching Israel “to the door of the oven” with the Iran deal, as a procession of Jewish leaders criticized him

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

— It’ll be another sweaty day, but we should avoid rain until tomorrow. “Heat and high humidity combine with partly sunny skies (once we burn off patchy morning fog) for a classic late-July ‘steamer,'” the Capital Weather Gang forecasts. “The heat part could be worse, with highs hitting the fairly typical low 90s. But with a muggy light breeze from the south keeping dew points up in the low 70s, the afternoon heat index peaks near or past 100.”

Left fielder Jayson Werth and first baseman Ryan Zimmerman returned from the disabled list last night, but the Nationals still lost to the Miami Marlins, 4-1, their fourth loss in five games. The Nats also acquired Philadelphia Phillies veteran closer Jonathan Papelbon in a complicated trade deal that will displace Drew Storen from ninth-inning duties. Papelbon agreed to a pay cut in exchange for Washington picking up his option for 2016.

Dee Gordon of the Marlins turns a double play as Jayson Werth slides into second in Miami last night. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

VIDEO OF THE DAY:

Jack Black, Morgan Freeman, Natasha Lyonne and Valerie Plame Wilson endorsed the Iran deal in a video for Global Zero:

An excavation in Jamestown unearthed four bodies that were buried in 1609 inside a long-vanished church. Michael E. Ruane has a fascinating story in the paper this morning about the archaeologists involved and the questions raised by a mysterious box discovered with the bones.

This image from the Smithsonian shows the four sets of human remains excavated in Jamestown, Va.