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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

At a rally in Montana yesterday, President Trump said when he turned to the fear-the-caravans part of his speech: "We have our military, now, on the border. [Cheers.] And I noticed all that beautiful barbed wire going up today. ... Barbed wire, used properly, can be a beautiful sight." Trump repeated his ode to barbed wire during a rally in the Florida Panhandle last night.

Why it matters: This is a fitting coda to a barbed strategy of choice, not circumstance. Imagine if Trump had done the unthinkable — chucked the fear and loathing bit and crusaded across the country thundering about promises made, promises kept and an American economy on fire. 

Imagine if his speeches echoed the top of this column by the NY Times' Bret Stephens:

  • "The night Donald Trump was elected was supposed to be, for most liberals and a few conservatives, the beginning of the end of the world. The economy would surely implode. The U.S. would probably blunder into a catastrophic war. The new American president would be blackmailed into conducting foreign policy as Putin’s poodle."
  • "None of that has happened — not yet, at any rate. On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported the fastest rate of annual wage hikes in almost a decade, depriving Democrats of one of their few strong arguments about the true state of the economy. Unemployment is at its lowest rate since Vince Lombardi coached his last game in December 1969. The North American Free Trade Agreement has been saved with minor modifications and a new name."
  • "Oh, and: The Islamic State is largely defeated. Tehran has not restarted its nuclear programs despite America’s withdrawal from the Iran deal. U.S. sanctions on Russia are still in place. Democrats badly damaged their chances of taking the Senate with their over-reaching and polarizing crusade to stop Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court."

Instead, it’s caravans ("Four others ... are forming," he warned yesterday), enemies of the people, Pocahontas, fake news, plagues and diseases.

  • And it's contagious: GOP officials and candidates around the country "have concluded that their best shot at victory is embracing the Trump political playbook of demonization" — including the caravans, now playing in an attack ad near you, the NY Times' Jeremy Peters reports.

This might work to save the Senate, but surely will cost the GOP House seats and probably the whole House. 

  • And, here’s the dirty little secret among Republicans: All they really needed was the Kavanaugh fireworks to electrify their base and exploit one of the most favorable Senate maps imaginable.

Truth is, bragging about accomplishments and the economy could have helped grow the Senate and keep the House. It might have helped the elections from turning into the boys against the girls. 

  • To the dismay of many Republicans too fearful to challenge Trump, they will never know.
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Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Up to 17 U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children were among up to 17 American Christian missionaries and their relatives kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, the New York Times first reported.

The latest: Haitian police inspector Frantz Champagne identified the 400 Mawozo gang as the group responsible, in a statement to AP.

Hollywood union reaches deal with studios to avert strike

Photo: AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

A Hollywood workers' union reached a tentative deal with studios, networks and streamers that will guarantee better working conditions, meal breaks and increased wages for low-paid workers, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) announced Saturday night.

Why it matters: The deal, which still needs to be ratified by IATSE members, will avert a nationwide strike by film and television workers that was set to start Monday. It would have been the first strike in the union's 128-year history.

Bill Clinton released from hospital following treatment for non-COVID infection

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former President Bill Clinton was discharged from the University of California, Irvine Medical Center on Sunday, nearly a week after he was admitted for a non-COVID-related infection, according to his spokesperson Angel Ureña.

What they're saying: "His fever and white blood cell count are normalized and he will return home to New York to finish his course of antibiotics," wrote Dr. Alpesh Amin, who has been overseeing the team of doctors treating Clinton. "On behalf of everyone at UC Irvine Medical Center, we were honored to have treated him and will continue to monitor his progress."

Worth noting: Clinton had a urinary tract infection that spread to his bloodstream, per CNN.

  • The California-based medical team had been administering IV antibiotics and fluids, and was in constant communication with Clinton's New York team, including his cardiologist, according to the former president's physicians.
  • President Biden spoke by phone with Clinton on Friday to see how he was doing, and the catch-up included a discussion of recent politics.

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