Trump vs. McConnell

Wednesday, August 23, 2017Screen Shot 2017-08-23 at 11.04.13 AM

Good Wednesday morning, 
Here are some of the stories making news in Washington and politics today:
— The First Draft Team
News Analysis

Trump Seeks a Clear Victory in a Murky War

Military members listening to President Trump's address on Afghanistan at Fort Myer in Arlington, Va., on Monday.

Military members listening to President Trump’s address on Afghanistan at Fort Myer in Arlington, Va., on Monday. Al Drago for The New York Times

President Trump’s declaration that “we will win” in Afghanistan came with bellicose language about taking “fast and powerful” retribution against militants and a promise to succeed where other presidents have failed to resolve the nearly 16-year-old conflict.
Left unclear by the Trump administration was the answer to a question that has stumped Washington, including the two previous commanders in chief, since the United States became involved in the war there: What does winning look like in Afghanistan?
For Mr. Trump, winning looks a lot like a very long war.
“From now on, victory will have a clear definition,” Mr. Trump said on Mondayduring his prime-time televised address on his strategy for Afghanistan. “Attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing Al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge.”
But hours before Mr. Trump spoke, the president’s top advisers offered a far different view of success, arguing that the ultimate solution to the conflict in Afghanistan was a settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban, who would theoretically be beaten down by the Americans and forced to the negotiating table.
Read more »
President Trump met with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt in April in the Oval Office.

U.S. Slaps Egypt on Human Rights Record and Ties to North Korea


The Trump administration denied Egypt $96 million in aid and delayed $195 million in military funding despite the president’s lavish praise.

Louise Linton and her husband Steven T. Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, at President Trump’s inauguration in January.

Louise Linton Goes From Lap of Luxury to Center of a Social Media Storm


Ms. Linton’s in-the-clouds lifestyle abruptly collided with her husband’s political day job after she dressed down a stranger on Instagram.

67 Former State Attorneys General Have a Message: Condemn Hate Bluntly

The former Alabama attorney general Bill Baxley, now a defense lawyer, during a trial in Opelika, Ala., last year.By MAGGIE ASTOR

In a statement on Monday, the former attorneys general recommended a response along the lines of Bill Baxley’s salty letter to a K.K.K. leader in 1976.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. meeting American troops at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan in January 2011.

The Forerunner of Trump’s Plan for Afghanistan: Joe Biden’s


The strategy the president laid out this week has the same hallmarks as the one the former vice president unsuccessfully pushed for in 2009.

Men gathered around a vehicle hit by a drone strike last year in Pakistan. The location of the strike was a sign that the Obama administration had grown weary of Pakistan’s failure to move against the Taliban.

For Help in Afghanistan, Trump Tilts Political Balance Toward India Over Pakistan


Besides chastising Pakistan for harboring terrorists, the president is calling on India, Pakistan’s archrival, to help stabilize Afghanistan.

President Trump addressed members of the military at Fort Myer, Va., during his speech on Afghanistan on Monday, saying they were “the inspiration our country needs to unify, to heal.”

Trump Tries Out a New Line on Charlottesville: Echoing His Generals


In his Afghanistan speech, the president pointed to troops who “transcend every line of race, ethnicity, creed and color” as “the inspiration our country needs to unify, to heal.”

A military parade celebrating the 105th birthday of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il-sung, in Pyongyang in April.

Tillerson Suggests North Korea May Soon Be Ready for Talks


Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson went out of his way to compliment Pyongyang for a two-week pause in missile tests even as new sanctions were announced.

A demonstration against Nafta last week in Mexico City. The United States has begun renegotiation of the trade pact with Canada and Mexico.

Labor Wants to Make Nafta Its Friend. Here’s the Problem.


The A.F.L.-C.I.O. is pushing for a living-wage clause in the trade pact, but mandating Mexico’s standard of living is unlikely to save American jobs.

Right and Left: Partisan Writing You Shouldn’t Miss
Read about how the other side thinks. We have collected political writing from around the web and across ideologies.
From the Right
• Raheem Kassam in Breitbart:
“H. R. McMaster’s voice was clear to hear. It’s a voice that appears to have been carried over from the George W. Bush administration, and even the Obama White House.”
Mr. Kassam heard a “neoconservative bent” to the president’s speech that he predicts will be “alien to his electoral base.” The new, hawkish voice, he argues, does not belong to the president, but to his national security adviser, H. R. McMaster, a figure that Breitbart writers have been consistently critical of for his foreign policy views. Mr. Kassam warns that these views will draw the president into an open-ended war. The speech wasn’t a change in perspective; it was “the swamp getting to him.” Read more »
From the Left
• James Fallows in The Atlantic:
“It’s like any of the speeches that other politicians could have given about Afghanistan, which the pre-presidential Trump ridiculed for having no end point or concept of victory. He was right then.”
Mr. Fallows found President Trump’s previous resistance to intervention and “defiance of convention” when it came to Afghanistan to be “the most refreshing thing about him.” In his view, Mr. Trump’s “‘normal’ speech about Afghanistan is a shortcoming rather than an achievement.” Read more »
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