The new Afghanistan strategy sounds a lot like the old Afghanistan strategy

President Donald Trump changed the subject last night. Instead of another day of news on the fallout from his horrific response to a white supremacist rally, the commander in chief announced a new strategy for the U.S. in Afghanistan in a prime-time televised address. It wasn’t a typical Trump speech: he read carefully from a teleprompter.

Foreign policy isn’t my strong suit, so I’ve spent much of today reading analysis by those who have closely followed our military and diplomatic strategy during our country’s longest war. The consensus: Trump’s strategy for Afghanistan is neither new nor likely to produce the victory the president promised.

To my knowledge, the only Iowan in Congress to release a public statement on last night’s speech was Senator Joni Ernst. I enclose her generally favorable comments near the end of this post, along with a critical statement from Thomas Heckroth, one of the Democrats running in Iowa’s first district. James Hohmann compiled some other Congressional reaction for the Washington Post.

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Paul Dahl becomes third Democratic candidate in IA-04

Paul Elliott Dahl announced his candidacy for Iowa’s fourth Congressional district yesterday, describing himself as “a progressive populist wanting to serve Democrats, Independents, and Republicans in the United States House of Representatives with integrity, industry, and innovation.” A resident of Webster City, Dahl is a transit bus driver in Hamilton County. His previous work experience includes some adjunct teaching and fifteen years as either a librarian or library director. He promised to focus his Congressional campaign on seven issues: agriculture, campaign finance reform, education, environment, government spending, health care, and Social Security.

In the past month, J.D. Scholten and Leann Jacobsen launched their own campaigns against Representative Steve King. I asked Dahl about any previous election experience or Democratic Party activism, as well as why he decided to run for Congress, rather than for some other office where there aren’t already two Democrats running. (Dahl lives in Iowa House district 48, represented by Republican Rob Bacon.)

He replied via e-mail that he sought the Democratic nomination in what was then Iowa’s fifth Congressional district in 1994, when he was living in Humboldt County and working as a United Methodist pastor. He grew up in Black Hawk County, where his father was a United Auto Workers official and “quite active in Democratic politics.” Dahl sees himself having a fundraising advantage over the competition, since the counties where he has lived have a larger combined population than the counties where Jacobsen and Scholten are now based.

Ties to larger-population counties don’t automatically translate into campaign contributions. I would be surprised if Dahl is competitive with the other Democrats running against King on this front. Scholten has connections through sports all over the fourth district, and former candidate Kim Weaver has helped him raise money through her large e-mail list of supporters. Jacobsen has extensive business experience and is a past president of Technology Association Iowa. We’ll see when the campaigns file their third-quarter financial reports with the Federal Election Commission in October.

I’ve posted more background on Dahl below. You can find his campaign on the web at Dahlforthehouse.net, or on Facebook.

UPDATE: I didn’t remember that Dahl ran for governor in 2013, and he didn’t mention that short-lived campaign. John Deeth wrote about it at the time. Dahl didn’t qualify for the 2014 primary ballot.

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IA-Gov: Read the messages Fred Hubbell is testing with Iowa Democrats

Are Iowa Democrats more likely to support a successful businessman who is not a politician? Are they sympathetic to the argument that a self-funding candidate for governor is less susceptible to influence by special interests? Are they more impressed by private- or public-sector jobs Fred Hubbell has held, or by his charitable giving to causes like Planned Parenthood?

A recent survey of Democratic voters appears to be the Hubbell campaign’s first attempt to answer those and other questions.

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Weekend open thread: Bye bye Bannon

Steve Bannon’s position as chief White House strategist appeared to be secure this week after President Donald Trump doubled down on framing “both sides” as equally at fault for last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville. But after a couple of ill-advised interviews with the New York Times and the American Prospect, Bannon was dumped on a Friday afternoon, like several Trump associates gone before him. Among other things, the president apparently didn’t appreciate Bannon’s habit of taking credit for his election victory.

Representative Steve King told the New York Times earlier in the week that conservatives would be “crushed” if Bannon were ousted. On August 17, he lamented to Philip Rucker of the Washington Post, “With Steve Bannon gone, what’s left of the conservative core in the West Wing?”

King didn’t elaborate on what conservatives admired in Bannon, but he has never espoused the “economic populist” agenda of higher taxes on the rich or tearing up trade agreements. Rather, Bannon and Republicans like King share a delight in exploiting racial and ethnic resentments for political gain.

I am inclined to agree with Sarah Kendzior: “Bannon may be just as useful for Trump outside the White House as he was within it–perhaps more so.” Bannon himself told Bloomberg reporter Joshua Green, “I’m leaving the White House and going to war for Trump against his opponents — on Capitol Hill, in the media, and in corporate America.” (Green wrote the book Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency.)

Another sign Trump has not repudiated Bannon’s views: white supremacist allies Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka remain the president’s senior policy adviser and deputy assistant, respectively.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome. The funniest political story I read this week was by John Bresnahan and Rachael Bade for Politico, detailing the “agonizing, 8-page memo” of instructions for staffers charged with driving GOP Representative Todd Rokita of Indiana. I’ve heard some good stories from Iowans who have chauffeured candidates or elected officials, but nothing approaching that level of high-maintenance behavior.

UPDATE: Added below more comments from Bannon and Trump.

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IA-03: Austin Frerick welcomes fight with the Koch Brothers

Austin Frerick is building his Congressional campaign around the case against economic concentration, which he has called “the fundamental issue of our time.” His opening shot was a Des Moines Register guest column last month. In that piece, Frerick called for the federal government to block the proposed Monsanto-Bayer merger and break up “Big Ag corporations” that command near-monopoly power, “limiting farmers’ choices and making the products they need even more expensive.”

Frerick’s column provoked a response in the Register by the head of a conservative think tank, who defended the Monsanto-Bayer merger and questioned Frerick’s “political motivations.” At last week’s Iowa Wing Ding event and in a statement released today, the Democrat embraced this fight with “a right-wing organization” funded by the Koch Brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

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