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Trump bows to generals, agrees to more troops in Afghanistan

President Donald Trump points to the sun as

President Donald Trump points to the sun as he arrives to view the solar eclipse, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, at the White House in Washington. Credit: AP / Andrew Harnik

Trump’s stamp on Afghan war

For years, Donald Trump urged getting out of Afghanistan. “We should have a speedy withdrawal,” he tweeted in 2013. “Why should we keep wasting our money — rebuild the U.S.!”

Even as he became president, Trump said Monday night, “My original instinct was to pull out.”

But the generals persuaded him that getting out would be more dangerous than staying in. “A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists” would fill, Trump said in a solemn, stick-to-the-script speech to a military audience.

So what’s going to be different as the war approaches its 17th year?

“We are not nation-building again,” Trump said. “We are killing terrorists.” There will be no deadlines on the commitment, he added. But as Trump vowed, “We will fight to win,” yet his vision of the path to victory appeared hazy.

U.S. officials said before the speech they expect him to accept the Pentagon recommendation for nearly 4,000 more U.S. troops. See Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday. Afghan officials reacted positively to the address.

He’s a risk-taker

Standing with first lady Melania Trump and their 11-year-old son Barron on the White House’s Truman Balcony, the president took several glances at the solar eclipse without protective eyewear.

An aide standing below shouted, “Don’t look!” Trump eventually put the special glasses back on.

The take-away: Elite club

The “elites” who Trump railed against during the campaign, from Hollywood to Goldman Sachs to the military establishment to Washington’s lobbyists, are still doing just fine, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.

Poll: Wrong on Charlottesville

Only 28 percent of Americans approved of Trump’s response to the deadly clashes between white supremacists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12, while 56 percent disapproved and 16 percent had no opinion, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Among those surveyed, 9 percent called it acceptable to hold neo-Nazi or white supremacist views, equivalent to about 22 million Americans.

Trump’s overall job approval stood at 37 percent with 58 percent disapproving.

Hot night in Arizona

Officials in Phoenix are preparing for a tense evening Tuesday as Trump holds a rally for supporters at the Arizona city’s convention center -- his first since the Charlottesville violence.

Phoenix’s Democratic Mayor Greg Stanton had asked Trump to delay his visit because of inflamed racial tensions.

Trump has said he is considering a pardon for former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio — who ran his own illegal-immigration crackdowns and was convicted of defying a federal judge in a case involving racial profiling of Latinos.

In a Washington Post op-ed, Stanton said a pardon of Arpaio “adds insult to very serious injury.”

GOP lines his pockets

Republican Party committees have spent nearly $1.3 million at Trump hotels and golf resorts so far this year, according to a study of campaign finance filings by The Washington Post.

The spending by the Republican National Committee and at least 25 congressional campaigns, state parties and the Republican Governors Association has helped offset a slump in business at some core properties.

What else is happening:

  • North Korea's Kim Jung-Un threatened the United States again with "absolute force" that could turn its enemies into "heaps of ashes."
  • Before the Phoenix rally, Trump will visit a section of a U.S.-Mexican border fence in Yuma, Arizona, and is expected to make a pitch for his proposed wall.
  • Trump’s popularity slump has extended to three Rust Belt states that were critical to his 2016 victory, a new Marist poll finds. The approval/disapproval numbers are 36 percent / 55 percent in Michigan, 33 percent / 52 percent in Pennsylvania and 33 percent / 56 percent in Wisconsin.
  • Five days after taking office, Trump signed an executive order to swiftly hire 5,000 new Border Patrol agents, but the agency’s staffing has instead dropped, and recruitment efforts are struggling, The Los Angeles Times reports.
  • Trump plans a fall fundraising tour to raise tens of millions of dollars for his 2020 re-election campaign, Politico reports.
  • The Secret Service is feeling the strain from Trump’s frequent travel to his resort properties and large number of family members under its protection. Secret Service director Randolph “Tex” Alles told USA Today that more than 1,000 agents have already hit the annual caps for salary and overtime.
  • Loyalty to Trump is becoming a litmus-test issue dividing Republicans in 2018 Senate primary contests, Politico reports.

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