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Essential Politics: Trump talks tough, Brown's water plan gets walloped

Essential Politics: Trump talks tough, Brown's water plan gets walloped
Essential Politics (Los Angeles Times)

President Trump left some world leaders speechless. Congress has healthcare watchers on the edge of their seats over a late attempt to repeal Obamacare. And a Central Valley water district puts Gov. Jerry Brown's ambitious plumbing plan in danger.

There's a lot to cover across the nation and here in California in the world of politics.

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'TOTALLY DESTROY' NORTH KOREA

No matter what you think of it, Trump's speech to the United Nations is one for the history books. An American president threatening to annihilate another country while mocking its leader.

Trump repeated his Twitter criticism of Kim Jong Un, North Korea's leader, as "Rocket Man" and warned the United States would "totally destroy" the East Asian nation if the U.S. "is forced to defend itself or its allies."

But the 42-minute speech also did something else, as Noah Bierman and David Lauter point out: It was a clear outline of Trump's foreign affairs doctrine, that individual countries — not international organizations — should shape world events by pursuing their own interests.

And then there's this: What might Kim do now?

Our team annotated a transcript of Trump's remarks, including some references you might have missed the first time around.

THE OBAMACARE REPEAL REDUX

The sudden re-emergence of a Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act is going to be one of Washington's most important stories over the next few days.

Is it for real? Or has that ship already sailed?

For starters, it's important to know exactly what the Graham-Cassidy repeal effort would do, and Noam Levey has that covered.

One of the proposal's authors, Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy, joked on Tuesday that he's enlisting the help of "Darth Vader," a reference from a "Saturday Night Live" sketch about former presidential adviser Steve Bannon.

But there's opposition outside Washington, as the new effort has drawn sharp criticism by governors from both major political parties.

POLITICS LIGHTNING ROUND

-- Sen. Dianne Feinstein accused Trump of using his United Nations speech "as a stage to threaten war. Brown called the rhetoric "non-rational bluster" in a national TV interview.

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-- Brown fiercely defended California's new effort to limit local law enforcement help on immigration issues on Tuesday, even as Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions took aim at the state plan.

-- Three Democratic congressmen were removed from a New York City street on Tuesday from protesting over immigration issues in front of Trump Tower.

-- Iran's supreme leader is warning the United States against making the "wrong move" on the multilateral nuclear agreement struck in 2015.

-- Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. Embassy in Cuba may close after mysterious sonic attacks.

-- A former NFL player has been tapped by the White House to lead a new effort aimed at helping historically black colleges.

-- Two more Navy officers have been fired after deadly collisions with civilian ships in the western Pacific Ocean.

NO MONEY: A BIG BLOW TO BROWN'S TUNNELS

While the governor has been out of state this week talking about the dangers of climate change, with stops at the U.N. and Yale University, perhaps the biggest and most important infrastructure project of his current time in office was dealt a serious blow on Tuesday.

For now, his California WaterFix is broken.

Directors of the Westlands Water District — a major agricultural player in the Central Valley — voted against joining the effort to build a pair of twin tunnels to move water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

And here's why it's such a big deal: The district was expected to pay for as much as a third of the project's $17-billion price tag.

It's unclear what happens next. Southern California water officials made it clear that without Westlands, it's hard to imagine Brown's ambitious effort has any hope of coming to fruition.

A SACRAMENTO SPLIT BETWEEN LABOR AND ENVIRONMENTALISTS

Over the years, California unions have stood out for their embrace of green issues like renewable energy. But they've also been careful to safeguard jobs for their members.

This year, that priority conflicted with advancing the state's battle against greenhouse gas emissions at the state Capitol. Chris Megerian looks at issues involving energy, offshore drilling and more where unions either bent or blocked policies they didn't like.

TODAY'S ESSENTIALS

-- A Sacramento judge on Tuesday afternoon appeared ready to force state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra to rewrite the title and summary of a ballot measure seeking to repeal this spring's gas tax increase.

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-- A federal appeals court has blocked San Francisco's mandate for health warnings on soda containers.

-- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was shouted down at a DACA news conference in San Francisco for working with Trump. At a smoother press conference in Sacramento, Pelosi said Democrats want a "clean" Dream Act and no border wall.

-- Our Times reporters have been looking at the effect of the illegal immigration debate, and we've got two must-read stories. Brittny Mejia chronicles the return of families to Mexico with American-born children. And Esmeralda Bermudez talks to DACA recipients who now face losing their current legal protections.

-- California renters and homeowners could get larger tax breaks under a possible November 2018 statewide ballot measure.

-- Becerra asked the U.S. Senate this week for more tools to fight online sex trafficking.

-- 314 Action, a nonprofit seeking to elect more scientists to Congress, made its pick in the 39th Congressional District, endorsing Mai Khanh Tran, a Democratic doctor, and calling the race to unseat Fullerton Rep. Ed Royce a top priority.

-- After the state Assembly passed a resolution calling for the censure of the president, its Bay Area author is urging other states to join in the effort.

-- John Cox, a Republican candidate for governor, is relatively new to the state's politics, but not the big political stage. Before moving West, Cox ran for the U.S. Senate in Illinois in 2004. You may remember that race was won by Barack Obama.

-- The husband of the late Zsa Zsa Gabor says he wants another shot at leading California. Frederic Prinz von Anhalt opened a campaign committee for governor, his second try after a short-lived effort in 2010.

LOGISTICS

Essential Politics is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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