A call answered grudgingly
Joe Biden is on his third run for the presidency, but he talks about it this time around more as an obligation than a never-satisfied hunger for the job.
“Could I die happily not having heard ‘Hail to the Chief’ play for me?” Biden told a New York Times interviewer. "Yeah, I could,” he said. “That’s not why I’m running.”
He is running, he said, because “I think it’s really, really, really important that Donald Trump not be reelected.” If a more conventional Republican was in the White House, like a Jeb Bush or a Mitt Romney, he said he's "not sure" he'd be in the race. “I hadn’t planned on running again.”
Biden's friends said he got in because he believed he had the best chance of defeating Trump. His former chief of staff, Ted Kaufman, explained: "If he did not run this time and Trump won, then what would he think of himself when he looked in the mirror?”
Though he has goals if he became the 46th president — restoring the middle class, uniting the country — he doesn't sound especially eager to assume the burdens of office. “The longer I’ve been around, the less that appeals to me,” he said. “I’ve watched up close and personal what eight years in the White House is like.”
For now, the electability argument has been enough to keep him in the lead with Democratic primary voters for whom beating Trump matters most.
Rival candidates have tried to stoke qualms about his past record, but there's little sign any of it has stuck, The Washington Post writes. In the third debate next week and the run-up to the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, they hope Biden's stumbles will start to take a toll and that more voters will become receptive to leaving the comfort of the familiar and embrace their arguments for more transformative change.
Afghan peace not quite at hand
Hours after the Trump administration's envoy briefed the Afghan government on a U.S. agreement "in principle" with the Taliban, the insurgent group claimed responsibility for an explosion in Kabul that killed or wounded scores of people.
The blast occurred as the envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, was on a live television interview describing what a deal might mean for Afghanistan's future. The agreement, which still needs Trump's approval, calls for 5,000 U.S. troops to leave the country within five months.
The target of Monday night's attack was the Green Village compound, which houses several international organizations and guesthouses.
Still a Rocket Man
Trump has maintained he is unperturbed by North Korea's continuing missile tests. He calls them "very standard" tests of short-range weapons and explains that Kim Jong Un just “likes testing missiles."
But U.S. intelligence officials and outside experts have come to a different conclusion, The New York Times reports: Kim is developing missiles with greater range and maneuverability that could overwhelm American defenses for eight U.S. bases in the region with more than 30,000 troops, as well as threatening South Korea and Japan.
Trump still voices confidence that denuclearization negotiations with Kim, who writes him "very beautiful letters," will get back on track. But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has hinted to foreign counterparts in private meetings that he is fearful the administration is being strung along, Japanese and South Korean officials told the Times.
Mattis: Trust Trump with button
While he hasn't said so publicly — and won't — aides and friends of James Mattis said the former Defense secretary found Trump to be of "limited cognitive ability," The Atlantic reported.
But Mattis, asked in a PBS interview if he was confident that Trump "could be trusted with the nuclear codes," said "Yes." He said he had not heard anything that would indicate "there was some irresponsibility there."
Reprieve for sick immigrants
The Trump administration on Monday announced it would reopen and process some applications from seriously ill immigrants who sought temporary reprieves from deportation while undergoing lifesaving medical care in the United States, CBS News reported.
That's a reversal of a previous decision that drew withering criticism from immigrant advocates and Democrats. But the program still will be closed to future applicants and to those who did not have a request pending by Aug. 7.
A memoir by the founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington said he was disappointed by Trump's reaction when he visited in 2017 as president-elect.
Lonnie G. Bunch III writes that before Trump arrived, his aides told Bunch that Trump “was in a foul mood and that he did not want to see anything ‘difficult.’ ” Nevertheless, Bunch started the tour in galleries about the history of slavery.
After viewing an exhibit about the role of the Dutch in the global slave trade, Bunch said, Trump turned to him and said, "You know, they love me in the Netherlands." Excerpts from the book were reported by The Washington Post.
“There is little I remember about the rest of the hour we spent together," Bunch wrote. "I was so disappointed in his response to one of the greatest crimes against humanity in history.”
What else is happening:
- House Democrats plan to open a new investigative front: Trump's hush-money payoffs to keep two women from telling stories about affairs with him, The Washington Post reported.
- Trump stayed home from a planned visit to Poland because of Hurricane Dorian but managed Monday to get in his second trip of the holiday weekend to his Virginia golf course. He received hourly storm updates while there, according to White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham.
- Not that those storm updates were accurately conveyed. Trump insisted on saying Alabama was somehow in the hurricane's path, while the National Weather Service firmly denied it.
- Vice President Mike Pence is staying at Trump's Doonbeg golf resort on a visit to Ireland. He'll fly from nearby Shannon Airport to Dublin for meetings with Irish officials, and then fly back for a second night at Doonbeg.
- Florida Republican leaders are telling Trump that it will pay off with the state's Cuban American and Venezuelan American voters if he gives Venezuelans fleeing their economically distressed, socialist-run nation a reprieve from deportation, Politico reports.
- It has been nearly a year since an anonymous senior official wrote an op-ed for The New York Times describing himself or herself as part of "the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration." A brief White House investigation failed to expose the writer, whose identity remains unknown, The Washington Post reported.
- Entrepreneur Andrew Yang has secured a niche in the Democratic 2020 contest as a "cheerful doomsayer" warning that artificial intelligence will wreak havoc on America’s economic, emotional and social well-being, Politico Magazine writes. He's also attracted a few disaffected Trump voters.