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By Jonathan Allen
WASHINGTON — Congress wanted to honor the ailing Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. President Donald Trump did not.
In extended remarks during a visit to Fort Drum in upstate New York to sign the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 — this year’s version of an annual bill that sets defense policy — Trump chose not to mention the former prisoner of war and Senate Armed Services Committee chairman who is battling brain cancer. He even omitted McCain’s name when citing the title of the bill.
The two men have long been fierce critics of each other, with McCain calling Trump’s supporters “crazies” in 2015 and Trump retaliating by questioning whether McCain, who was subjected to torture in a Vietnamese prison camp, is really a “war hero” because “he was captured.”
The snub at Fort Drum, home to the combat aviation brigade of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division, did not escape the notice of McCain’s allies.
“For those asking did I expect Trump to be an a—— today. No more than I expected it to be Monday,” Mark Salter, McCain’s longtime aide, wrote on Twitter.
McCain’s condition — dire enough that a recent HBO documentary on him was titled “John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls” — has not stopped Trump from deriding the Arizona senator at political rallies. Though Trump does not use his name, he tells crowds that he would have been able to repeal Obamacare if not for a thumbs-down sign from one senator — McCain.
The senator’s own statement included Trump’s name in the headline and in a preamble written by staff. But the words attributed to McCain did not.
“I’m very proud that the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 has been signed into law,” he said.
John Bolton travels to Japan, South Korea amid trade dispute between U.S. allies
National security adviser John Bolton departed on Saturday for a trip to Japan and South Korea as a trade dispute between the two countries shows no signs of easing.
A White House National Security Council spokesman said on Twitter that Bolton planned to “continue conversations with critical allies and friends.”
President Donald Trump on Friday offered his help to ease tensions in the political and economic rift between the United States’ two biggest allies in Asia, which threatens global supplies of memory chips and smartphones.
Lingering tensions, particularly over the issue of compensation for South Koreans forced to work for Japanese occupiers during World War Two, worsened this month when Japan restricted exports of high-tech materials to South Korea.
Japan has denied that the dispute over compensation is behind the export curbs, even though one of its ministers cited broken trust with Seoul over the labor dispute in announcing the restrictions.
The export curbs could hurt global technology companies.
Japan’s foreign minister said Friday that Tokyo will take “necessary measures” against South Korea if the interests of Japanese companies are harmed in the escalating dispute.
Trump told reporters at the White House later that day that that South Korean President Moon Jae-in had asked him if he could get involved.
“If they need me, I’m there. Hopefully they can work it out. But they do have tension, there’s no question about it,” he said, adding “it’s a full-time job getting involved between Japan and South Korea.”
In Seoul, a 78-year-old South Korean man died hours after setting himself ablaze near the Japanese Embassy on Friday, police said.
Police said the man had phoned an acquaintance earlier to say he planned to self-immolate to express his antipathy toward Japan. Kim’s family told investigators that his father-in-law had been conscripted as a forced laborer during the Japanese occupation.
During his trip, Bolton is also likely to seek support for a U.S. initiative to heighten surveillance of vital Middle East shipping lanes, which has been greeted warily by allies reluctant to raise tensions with Iran, which Washington blames for attacks on tankers.
Japanese media has said the issue could be on the agenda when Bolton visits Japan, where any military commitment abroad would risk inflaming a divide in public opinion in a country whose armed forces have not fought overseas since World War Two.
A South Korean official said last week Washington had yet to make any official request to Seoul on the issue.
Japan is the world’s fourth-biggest oil buyer and 86% of its oil supplies last year passed through the Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping route linking Middle East oil producers to markets in Asia, Europe, North America and beyond.
Japan’s position is complicated by the fact that it has maintained friendly ties with Iran which it would be reluctant to damage.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made an unsuccessful bid to ease tensions in the region when he met Iranian leaders in Tehran last month.
Associated Press contributed.
Boris Johnson net worth: What is BoJo worth amid plans to furnish No10 with taxpayer cash?
O’Rourke’s campaign is cratering. But he’s got a plan to bring back ‘Betomania.’
EL PASO, Texas — Beto O’Rourke has gone from phenom to front-runner to flailing in five months, and so he came home to this dusty border town last week to regroup, prepare for the next debate and try to recast himself as the underdog in a Democratic presidential race in which many have already counted him out.
O’Rourke says that he doesn’t plan to change his freewheeling style much, but that a top priority now is to raise the money needed to keep building his campaign organization so it will be ready to rebound.
“If you remember in Texas, it didn’t happen overnight,” O’Rourke told NBC News of his Senate race last year against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. “It was a really long process that was against the odds, very often counted down and out.”
He said of the current Democratic primary, “I think it’s a really small minority of Americans who have made up their mind and maybe a relatively small minority of Americans who are paying close attention.”
Dark horse is a mantel O’Rourke has worn well for most of his political career, from his early campaigns for City Council here and for Congress, both against entrenched incumbents in Democratic primaries, to his long shot bid against Cruz that made him a national star, even though he lost.
But the “Betomania” fever broke not too long after O’Rourke entered the 2020 presidential race.
The opening last week of his first field office in Texas, a state crucial to his path forward, was a homecoming of sorts.
“Given the moment that we’re in, this would try the faith of any single one of us,” he said of the state of the country, but perhaps also of his campaign.
Surrounded by family, friends and longtime supporters, O’Rourke stood next to — rather than on top of, as has been his attention-grabbing custom — a chair brought out for him and reminded those assembled that they had once helped him beat a Border Patrol agent-turned congressman who was backed by Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
“We took on the incumbent and we took on the odds and we did it together,” he said. “A come-from-behind underdog victory, against the polls. Counted out, some counted us down, but we believed in each other and we made it happen.”
It wasn’t only a message about what he did then, but about what he needs to do now.
It’s a long way from the heady days of March, when he was drawing bigger crowds than President Donald Trump at their dueling rallies on the border and making Iowa voters believe they were witnessing history.
But his early missteps — a widely mocked Vanity Fair cover story, a joke about his wife staying home with the kids that he had to apologize for, a flip-flop on “Medicare for All,” and all on his first day in the race — helped fuel a backlash.
Now, some of his supporters on Twitter can sound a bit like Trump fans, blaming the media for building O’Rourke up in 2018 only to tear him down in 2019. “We all know about the corporate media and they have their favorites, that’s clear,” Josh Simmons, a former field organizer on O’Rourke’s Senate campaign, said.
O’Rourke’s standing in the polls and fundraising have both plummeted. And his performance in the first Democratic debate last month was widely panned, when some wondered how he could take on Trump if he couldn’t fight back against fellow Texan Julián Castro.
“I hope he doesn’t run out of money and have to drop out,” supporter Eugenio Morales said. “I hope he gets another magic moment.”
Still, there are assets that stop some Democrats from declaring it’s over.
“It’s that energy that he has, that tenacity,” Paul de La Peña, a talk radio host in El Paso and O’Rourke friend, said.
But a comeback won’t be easy.
“The problem with being the shiny new thing is that another shiny new thing will come along,” said Grant Woodard, a veteran Iowa Democratic operative who is not aligned with any candidate. “In this primary, there’s literally something for everybody. What is your message, other than I’m young, I’m fresh?”
Allies point to several factors they say are working in O’Rourke’s favor: a work ethic at retail politicking second to none; raw political talent and a celebrity aura, though diminished; one of the biggest email fundraising lists in the field; and an ability to speak about race and immigration, thanks to his political upbringing in a city that is 80 percent Hispanic.
O’Rourke is still drawing relatively large crowds in Iowa — some 125 at Sioux City and another 100-plus in Sioux Center this weekend — and his campaign just opened 11 new field offices in the state, where he’s well on his way to visiting all 99 counties.
“Obviously we are going to need more resources for the national effort, but Iowa is a top priority for this campaign,” Norm Sterzenbach, the O’Rourke campaign Iowa director, said.
The campaign also hopes to make a major play for delegate-rich Texas, which votes early in the primary process next year. The state hasn’t been polled in over a month, but O’Rourke was in second place behind former Vice President Joe Biden in early June.
First, though, O’Rourke will need a much better performance in the second Democratic debate at the end of the month on CNN, and he’s been spending more time off the road to prep for it than he did before the last faceoff in late June.
“I know that Beto is excited about how he’s going to handle the next debate,” said Cindy Bernat, a top O’Rourke donor who co-hosted a fundraiser for the candidate in New York City in May and has known him since he was a child. “I think he needs to know how to manage all these people talking over everybody else.”
O’Rourke prides himself on being accommodating to opponents, but some allies have been re-watching last year’s debate in which he quoted Trump to slam Cruz as “lyin’ Ted” and are hoping that he’ll show that ferocity again — even though O’Rourke later said he took that attack against Cruz “a step too far.”
And despite his sagging fortunes, O’Rourke and his well-regarded campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, continue to attract top-flight staffers, many of whom were courted by multiple campaigns, to El Paso, where they work out of a headquarters so close to the border they can walk to Mexico for dinner.
There are now at least 120 people on the payroll, according to recent campaign finance filings, including a robust policy team that is now regularly rolling out detailed plans and trying to combat the notion that there is little substance behind O’Rourke’s smile that many have likened to Robert F. Kennedy’s.
“We’re building our team in El Paso slowly but surely. … We’re going to grow, and our ability to fundraise is going to grow with it,” O’Malley Dillon wrote in a recent memo to supporters.
They’ll need the money. His campaign spent almost 150 percent of what it raised in the last quarter, the second-highest “burn rate” of any candidate in the field.
NBC News asked O’Rourke why voters should give him a second look when there are so many other candidates to choose from?
“That’s going to be their decision,” he said. “My choice is to make myself present in my communities, to go where they are. And not to write anybody off or count anybody down.”
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