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Deadly reality trips up Trump's Taliban peace parley show

Taliban officials including the group's top political leader,

Taliban officials including the group's top political leader, Abdul Ghani Baradar, third from left, in Moscow in May. Credit: AP / Alexander Zemlianichenko

The bold and the fruitless

When President Donald Trump announced via tweet that he had called off negotiations with the Taliban on a peace deal that would allow a partial U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, that was the aftershock.

The shock was that he had invited leaders of the Islamic extremists who harbored al-Qaida to Camp David, the presidential retreat, on the anniversary week of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that killed almost 3,000 people. Afghan officials also were to be part of the talks had they opened as planned on Sunday.

Trump said he canceled the meeting because of a Taliban car bomb attack in Kabul on Thursday "that killed one of our great great soldiers, and 11 other people." He asked, "What kind of people would kill so many in order to seemingly strengthen their bargaining position?" That would be the same people who put out a video earlier this year standing by their support for the 9/11 attacks, who slaughter civilians with bombs as a standard tactic and whose attacks on U.S. and Afghan government forces had already been intensifying.

While painstaking negotiations with the Taliban had led U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad to declare the "threshold of an agreement," there were loose ends that worried some top Trump advisers and outside critics. They didn't trust the Taliban to keep its word, let alone prevent al-Qaida from becoming a resurgent threat. So the president decided that his personal touch would boost the chances for an acceptable agreement and show off his self-acclaimed prowess as a dealmaker, according to The New York Times.

It's the kind of bold stroke he's tried before, such as his walk across the Korean DMZ with Kim Jong Un, that have produced more dramatic images than results. "It’s just another example of the president treating foreign policy like it's some kind of game show,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democratic 2020 contender, on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “This isn’t a game show. These are terrorists … he loves the showmanship, but then all the details aren’t done.”

Some Republicans also recoiled over the Camp David invite. "No member of the Taliban should set foot there. Ever,” tweeted Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney. Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.), a former Army Green Beret officer who served in Afghanistan, said on CNN: "I do not ever want to see these terrorists step foot on the United States soil. Period.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, appearing on five Sunday talk shows, defended the Camp David choice and Trump's aborted personal intervention. "If you’re going to negotiate peace, you often have to deal with some pretty bad actors,” Pompeo said. He also said Trump told him of the warring Afghan factions: "I want to look them in the eye." For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

Suite deals for Trump

It can seem as if Trump's hotels have magic gravitational fields that keep pulling government business their way.

The latest such story, in Politico, describes how an Air Force plane cargo flight en route to Kuwait this spring made a refueling stop at a civilian airport in Scotland — rather than pick up cheaper fuel at a military base along the way — and its crew was sent to the Trump Turnberry golf resort to spend the night. That itinerary is part of a broader House Oversight Committee inquiry into U.S. military expenditures at and around the property.

The Turnberry report comes after Vice President Mike Pence made Trump's Doonbeg resort in Ireland, on the opposite coast from Dublin, his choice for a two-night stay. Also, after Attorney General William Barr booked a $30,000 private holiday party at Trump's hotel in Washington. That's also a hotel favored by foreign officials, lobbyists and Republican groups, and from which Trump's former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt tried to buy a used mattress.

Newsday's Figueroa reports on how Trump continues to promote his properties, such as the Doral resort near Miami as a top contender to host next year's G-7 summit, despite a vow before taking office to keep his business interests and presidential duties separate.

Between June 2015 and 2018, Trump’s campaign operation and federal agencies such as the Secret Service spent at least $16 million on Trump-branded hotels and resorts, according to a 2018 analysis by ProPublica. An analysis conducted by the nonpartisan group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) found that since Trump took office, there have been at least 630 visits to Trump properties from at least 250 Trump administration officials.

Ethics watchdogs cry foul, but Trump makes no apologies: "People like my product, what can I tell you? … I guess they say, ‘We want to stay at a place that’s better than someplace else.’ ”

Janison: Fresh impeachment meat

As House Democrats look at possible causes for impeachment, the menu has expanded way beyond whether he tried to obstruct the Russia investigation, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.

Pence's Doonbeg stay and Trump's touting of his Doral resort for the G-7 are but two of the items. Another fresh issue is whether Trump seriously offered subordinates "pardons" if they broke the law while rushing to get the border wall built. The hush-money payoffs to Stormy Daniels and another woman who said she had affairs with Trump also may get Capitol Hill scrutiny.

One nation under Trumps?

Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale predicted at a California Republican meeting that the president and his family will become "a dynasty that will last for decades."

Asked later about his comments, Parscale said, "I think they’re all amazing people … with amazing capabilities. I think you see that from Don Jr. I think you see that from Ivanka. You see it from Jared. You see it from all.”

Not mentioned by name: Eric Trump, his half-sister Tiffany and half-brother Barron.

Sailing against the wind

The Washington Post reports that hours after the Birmingham office of the National Weather Service reassured worried Alabamians on Sept. 1 that Hurricane Dorian was not coming their way, a directive from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was sent to all NWS personnel, warning them against contradicting the president.

On Saturday night, while Dorian had moved on to Canada, Trump tweeted a strange meme that showed him distracting a cat sitting atop a CNN logo with a laser pointer in front of a still photo of his Wednesday session displaying a Sharpie-altered hurricane map.

His point was obscure, but conservative websites late last month mocked a CNN reporter for observing at the G-7 summit in France that trying to get Trump to answer a direct question was “like a cat chasing a laser pointer."

Calls for change on climate

There is a sharp divide between the Democrats' 2020 field and Trump on climate change. Most fundamentally, none of the Democrats calls it a "hoax."

But there are contrasts in how they propose to deal with it, reports Newsday's Emily Ngo. Bernie Sanders has a 15-year, $16.3 trillion plan to address it; Joe Biden's proposed spending $1.7 trillion over 10 years. Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris favor a carbon tax. Sanders and Elizabeth Warren want to get rid of nuclear power, while Booker and Biden see it as part of a clean-energy solution. See Ngo's story for more examples.

Associated Press fact-checkers flagged Buttigieg and Beto O'Rourke for false claims during last week's CNN town hall on climate change with the top 10 Democratic candidates. Buttigieg said the world could lose half its oxygen by 2100 because of ocean warming; scientists put the number at under 1%. O'Rourke overstated the threat to the world's oxygen from the Amazon fires.

Gray is a primary color

A CBS News Battleground Tracker poll found 37% of Democrats in early primary and caucus states think Sanders is too old to be president and 31% feel that way about Biden, but only 5% think likewise about Warren. Sanders turned 78 on Sunday; Biden is 76. Warren is 70.

The three remain on top of the Democratic field in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll. It showed Biden with support from 27%, followed by Sanders with 19% and Warren with 17%.

The rest of the field is in the single digits, including 7% for Harris, 4% for Buttigieg and 3% apiece for O’Rourke and Andrew Yang.

What else is happening:

  • Hofstra University chose not to apply to host a presidential debate in 2020 and didn't offer an explanation for the decision, reports Newsday's Candice Ferrette. The Hempstead campus was a debate venue in 2008, 2012 and 2016, and Hofstra remains the only university to have landed three such turns on the national political stage.
  • Billionaire Tom Steyer's 2% showing in a CBS News/You Gov poll in Nevada has clinched him a place in the mid-October Democratic debate. He became the 11th candidate to qualify, which is why the debates may stretch over two nights. He didn't make it for Thursday's debate.
  • J.P. Morgan has come up with an index — called the "Volfefe Index" — to measure the effect of Trump's tweets on volatility in the bond market, CNBC reported.
  • After golfing and watching TV Sunday, Trump returned to an old target of his trivial Twitter sneering, singer John Legend and spouse Chrissy Teigen. The president's gripe seemed to consist of getting no credit, in an NBC show on mass incarceration, for having signed a reform bill.
  • Mark Sanford, a former congressman and South Carolina governor, became the third GOP challenger to Trump's reelection. He said on Fox News Sunday: "I think that as the Republican Party, we have lost our way.” He joins radio host Joe Walsh and former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld in the race.
  • Even as Trump remains the overwhelming favorite of GOP voters, party efforts are increasing to deny his opponents a primary-season stage. Republican officials in South Carolina and Nevada voted Saturday to cancel their nominating contests in 2020, and the GOP in Nevada and Kansas plan to do likewise.
  • Harris apologized for her response to a rallygoer who called Trump's actions "mentally retarded" at a New Hampshire event last week, saying she didn't hear the slur. Harris had appeared to laugh at the remark and commented, "Well said."

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