Giving it a gloss
Gearing up for an election year, the Trump administration is proclaiming forward progress on several fronts. As usual, the merits of their assertions form a muddy picture.
In Afghanistan, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo assured the Daily Signal conservative website that “we have delivered” on the original U.S. mission in Afghanistan of keeping al-Qaida from staging terrorism from that country.
Despite reports of a peace pact "in principle," however, two NATO service members, an American and a Romanian, were killed Thursday in yet another suicide car bomb attack attributed to the Taliban near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. At least 10 Afghan civilians also were killed.
Markets jumped, meanwhile, on word of a resumption of trade talks between the U.S. and China. These will be held early next month, according to officials on both sides. But they'd occur after new American tariffs take effect, which could further hinder chances for Beijing to make concessions that looked unlikely all along.
U.S. company payrolls grew by 195,000 in August, above earlier estimates, said a new report Thursday from ADP and Moody’s Analytics. "Really Good Jobs Numbers!" the president tweeted by midmorning. For the moment, that offsets other negative data — such as findings this week that factory activity has slowed and that Americans overall are working fewer hours, especially lower-paid hourly employees.
As The Wall Street Journal reports, Mexico's effort to deport Central American migrants has slowed border crossings to the U.S. in the past three months. Relevant arrest numbers decreased for the third month in a row after Trump threatened Mexico with crippling tariffs.
For perspective, however: That's down from record high numbers in May.
Waving Fannie, Freddie goodbye?
The federal government controls two massive companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which back half of the nation’s mortgages. But that might come to an end under a plan the administration is unveiling. The two highly-regulated entities were seized by officials 11 years ago during the global financial crisis.
Republicans in Washington have been pushing for some time to privatize them again.
Laughs about gaffes
On Wednesday night, front-running Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden appeared on CBS' "Late Show" with Stephen Colbert, who took it to the former vice president:
"In the last few weeks, you’ve confused New Hampshire for Vermont, said Bobby Kennedy and MLK were assassinated in the late ’70s, assured us, ‘I’m not going nuts.’ Follow up question: Are you going nuts?”
"Look," Biden replied. "The reason I came on the Jimmy Kimmel show is because ..."
His not-so-funny longer answer added up to the idea that blowing the details of anecdotes he tried to tell was not harmful.
“Look, I think it’s fair to go after a political figure for anything,” Biden continued.
“We stand up, and it comes with the territory. But here’s the deal: Any gaffe that I have made — and I’ve made gaffes like every politician I know has — have been not about the substantive issues.”
Abstention of Mattis
Having worked under a president who has called global warming a Chinese hoax, former Defense Secretary James Mattis is at greater liberty to say as he did before that he sees climate change as a serious "national security issue."
But Mattis, while clearly alienated, declined to knock Trump.
"For those who are adamant there is no climate change — you look at the receding sea ice and have different explanations — why wouldn't we take out an insurance policy and do prudent steps to make certain the generation that's coming up is not going to be caught flat-footed by this?" Mattis told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell.
Meanwhile, the Navy has quietly shut down its specialized Task Force Climate Change whose work he supported.
What else is happening:
- Trump dug in further to his loopy meteorological claim about Alabama a day after displaying a doctored, outdated weather chart.
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is pushing the State Department for details about Vice President Mike Pence's stay at Trump's Ireland resort.
- Ex-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort’s lawyers insist their imprisoned client shouldn’t have to face prosecution in New York State due to double-jeopardy laws.
- Besieged British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was greeted and encouraged by Pence in London.
- Trump awarded ex-NBA star Jerry West the Presidential Medal of Freedom.