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Friday, February 28, 2020

Opinion When a Pandemic Meets a Personality Cult

When a Pandemic Meets a Personality Cult

The Trump team confirms all of our worst fears.

So, here’s the response of the Trump team and its allies to the coronavirus, at least so far: It’s actually good for America. Also, it’s a hoax perpetrated by the news media and the Democrats. Besides, it’s no big deal, and people should buy stocks. Anyway, we’ll get it all under control under the leadership of a man who doesn’t believe in science.

From the day Donald Trump was elected, some of us worried how his administration would deal with a crisis not of its own making. Remarkably, we’ve gone three years without finding out: Until now, every serious problem facing the Trump administration, from trade wars to confrontation with Iran, has been self-created. But the coronavirus is looking as if it might be the test we’ve been fearing.

And the results aren’t looking good.

The story of the Trump pandemic response actually began several years ago. Almost as soon as he took office, Trump began cutting funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, leading in turn to an 80 percent cut in the resources the agency devotes to global disease outbreaks. Trump also shut down the entire global-health-security unit of the National Security Council.

Experts warned that these moves were exposing America to severe risks. “We’ll leave the field open to microbes,” declared Tom Frieden, a much-admired former head of the C.D.C., more than two years ago. But the Trump administration has a preconceived notion about where national security threats come from — basically, scary brown people — and is hostile to science in general. So we entered the current crisis in an already weakened condition.

And the microbes came.

The first reaction of the Trumpers was to see the coronavirus as a Chinese problem — and to see whatever is bad for China as being good for us. Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, cheered it on as a development that would “accelerate the return of jobs to North America.”

The story changed once it became clear that the virus was spreading well beyond China. At that point it became a hoax perpetrated by the news media. Rush Limbaughweighed in: “It looks like the coronavirus is being weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump. Now, I want to tell you the truth about the coronavirus. … The coronavirus is the common cold, folks.”

Limbaugh was, you may not be surprised to hear, projecting. Back in 2014 right-wing politicians and media did indeed try to politically weaponize a disease outbreak, the Ebola virus, with Trump himself responsible for more than 100 tweets denouncing the Obama administration’s response (which was actually competent and effective).

And in case you’re wondering, no, the coronavirus isn’t like the common cold. In fact, early indications are that the virus may be as lethal as the 1918 Spanish Flu, which killed as many as 50 million people.

Financial markets evidently don’t agree that the virus is a hoax; by Thursday afternoon the Dow was off more than 3,000 points since last week. Falling markets appear to worry the administration more than the prospect of, you know, people dying. So Larry Kudlow, the administration’s top economist, made a point of declaring that the virus was “contained” — contradicting the C.D.C. — and suggested that Americans buy stocks. The market continued to drop.

Paul Krugman’s Newsletter

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At that point the administration appears to have finally realized that it might need to do something beyond insisting that things were great. But according to The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman, it initially proposed paying for a virus response by cutting aid to the poor — specifically, low-income heating subsidies. Cruelty in all things.

On Wednesday Trump held a news conference on the virus, much of it devoted to incoherent jabs at Democrats and the media. He did, however, announce the leader of the government response to the threat. Instead of putting a health care professional in charge, however, he handed the job to Vice President Mike Pence, who has an interesting relationship with both health policy and science.

Early in his political career, Pence staked out a distinctive position on public health, declaring that smoking doesn’t kill people. He has also repeatedly insisted that evolution is just a theory. As governor of Indiana, he blocked a needle exchange program that could have prevented a significant H.I.V. outbreak, calling for prayer instead.

And now, according to The Times, government scientists will need to get Pence’s approval before making public statements about the coronavirus.

So the Trumpian response to crisis is completely self-centered, entirely focused on making Trump look good rather than protecting America. If the facts don’t make Trump look good, he and his allies attack the messengers, blaming the news media and the Democrats — while trying to prevent scientists from keeping us informed. And in choosing people to deal with a real crisis, Trump prizes loyalty rather than competence.

Maybe Trump — and America — will be lucky, and this won’t be as bad as it might be. But anyone feeling confident right now isn’t paying attention.“

Black South Carolinians To Candidates: Quit Pandering l FiveThirtyEight

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Anderson Cooper: Ignorance doesn't kill viruses

DR. CHEIKH ANTA DIOP: The African Origins Of Humanity

How Biden’s Campaign Explains His ‘Arrest’ in South Africa

Biden once again panders to Black voters by lying and saying he got arrested going to visit Nelson Mandela in jail.

How Biden’s Campaign Explains His ‘Arrest’ in South Africa

By Katie GlueckFeb. 26, 2020

Joe Biden’s claim of being arrested trying to see Nelson Mandela drew skepticism. His campaign called it a “separation.’’

CHARLESTON, S.C. — At least three times this month, Joseph R. Biden Jr. has asserted that he was arrested as he sought to visit the anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela in prison, even saying that Mr. Mandela later thanked him for going to such an effort.

And for a week, Mr. Biden’s campaign declined to answer questions seeking comment and clarification on those remarks, which were rebutted by a former United States ambassador to the United Nations in an article in The New York Times. Mr. Biden did not mention the episode in his memoir, had not spoken of it prominently on the campaign trail, and a review of available news accounts by The Times did not turn up any mention of an arrest.

But on Tuesday, Kate Bedingfield, a deputy campaign manager, said Mr. Biden was referring to an episode in which he was separated from black colleagues in Johannesburg while on a congressional delegation trip to South Africa in the 1970s. It was the campaign’s first explanation to date — but one that still left many questions unanswered and did not square with Mr. Biden’s most recent remarks.

“He was separated from his party at the airport,” Ms. Bedingfield said when pressed by reporters following Tuesday’s presidential debate here.

When a reporter noted that being separated did not constitute an arrest, she repeated: “It was a separation. They, he was not allowed to go through the same door that the — the rest of the party he was with. Obviously, it was apartheid South Africa. There was a white door, there was a black door. He did not want to go through the white door and have the rest of the party go through the black door. He was separated. This was during a trip while they were there in Johannesburg.”

Ms. Bedingfield’s account echoes comments Mr. Biden has made in the past, including in his 2013 statement marking Mr. Mandela’s death — but that is not what he has relayed most recently as he campaigned in Nevada and South Carolina, two diverse states.

“I had the great honor of meeting him,” he said of Mr. Mandela, speaking in South Carolina earlier this month. “I had the great honor of being arrested with our U.N. ambassador on the streets of Soweto trying to get to see him” on Robben Island, where Mr. Mandela was imprisoned. Soweto is more than 700 miles away from Robben Island.

Andrew Young, who was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 1977 to 1979, told The Times that he had traveled with Mr. Biden to South Africa but had never been arrested there, and he cast doubt on the idea that members of Congress were arrested in the country.

“No, I was never arrested and I don’t think he was, either,” Mr. Young said in a telephone interview last week.

Mr. Biden also said recently that when Mr. Mandela was released, the civil rights leader thanked Mr. Biden during a trip to Washington.

“After he got free and became president, he came to Washington and came to my office,” Mr. Biden said of Mr. Mandela while speaking in Las Vegas. “He threw his arms around me and said, ‘I want to say thank you.’ I said, ‘What are you thanking me for, Mr. President?’ He said, ‘You tried to see me. You got arrested trying to see me.’”

Ms. Bedingfield said that “it was a reference to Mandela coming to D.C. after he was released from prison, he met with Senator Biden, thanked him for his work, his anti-apartheid work.”

She went on to cite Mr. Biden’s “long record fighting apartheid” and said he was “one of the leading voices in the United States Senate in the ’80s” on the issue.

Although Mr. Biden has previously said that Mr. Mandela thanked him for his support of anti-apartheid sanctions — that was not his emphasis as he campaigned this month and spoke three times of being arrested.
How Biden’s Campaign Explains His ‘Arrest’ in South Africa

Trump Fears The Coronavirus Crisis Will Spoil His Reelection Campaign

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Bloomberg Vs Trump - Last Week Tonight With John Oliver 02/24/20

Why black Americans love Fidel Castro

“When it came to matching words with deeds on the topic of racial equality, the most stalwart leader of the Western hemisphere, over the course of the 20th century, was Fidel Castro.
I say this as a black American who came to bond closely with Latin America as an adult, living in Mexico for almost two years, traveling and staying with families in the Dominican Republic, and making more than half a dozen visits to Cuba, where I strolled through its enchanting cities and drove into the far reaches of the countryside, forging relationships with its people, especially those of darker hue...”

Chris Hayes on why Bernie’s success should not be surprising

Monday, February 24, 2020

Bernie Sanders’ Rise Prompts Media Meltdown, Establishment Panic: A Clos...

“Sanders has hurdles to overcome, but clearly, he could defeat Trump.

Opinion Columnist

Supporters waiting to hear Bernie Sanders speak at a campaign rally in Santa Ana, Calif., on Friday.
Credit...Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Stop saying that Bernie Sanders can’t win.

Stop saying that he can’t defeat President Trump. That is by now a given. In fact, in head-to-head national polls, Sanders consistently outperforms Trump.

Sanders is, for the moment, the clear front-runner to win the Democratic nomination. And he has a national infrastructure and a committed band of supporters and donors that make it clear that he could go the distance.

Furthermore, Sanders’s impressive win in Nevada proves that he can attract a broad range of support, at least in one part of the country. This in particular is an significant feat. When Sanders ran four years ago, the breadth of his appeal was indeed an issue, which was an issue similar to the one Pete Buttigieg faces during this election. Since then, Sanders has recognized that shortcoming, and has worked hard to address it.

If Sanders can sustain this momentum, he will be the nominee. And then it will be on to a matchup with Trump. Now, trying to predict what voters will do in November is dicey business, but I am by no means counting Sanders out.

Yes, I know all the issues with a Sanders candidacy.

First, he is a self-described democratic socialist. I don’t believe most people know what that means, but it is different and Trump will make it sound frightening, and many Americans are likely to be wary of it.

The larger problem here is that the absolute definition isn’t quite fixed. In 2017 Vox’s Jeff Stein wrote an article entitled “9 questions about the Democratic Socialists of America you were too embarrassed to ask.”

Stein’s first question was, “What does D.S.A. believe in?” His answer:

“Like most socialist organizations, D.S.A. believes in the abolition of capitalism in favor of an economy run either by ‘the workers’ or the state — though the exact specifics of ‘abolishing capitalism’ are fiercely debated by socialists.”

Not even academics agree. As Frances Fox Piven, a scholar of the left at the City University of New York and a former D.S.A. board member, told Stein, “The academic debates about socialism’s ‘meaning’ are huge and arcane and rife with disagreements, but what all definitions have in common is either the elimination of the market or its strict containment.”

Sanders has his own definition, which he explained in a CNN town hall in Washington, D.C.:

“What democratic socialism means to me is having in a civilized society the understanding that we can make sure that all of our people live in security and in dignity. Health care is a human right.”

He went on to say, “When I talk about democratic socialism, what I talk about are human rights and economic rights.”

That’s too broad and amorphous. This will be a tremendous hurdle. He will need to refine the term and defang it. But, being in the throes of a presidential campaign is not exactly the time to educate the American people on an exotic political label.

In addition, the Russians and Donald Trump seem to want him to win the nomination. That is worrisome. The Russians may well like some of Sanders’s noninterventionist foreign policy instincts, but it is just as likely that they find Sanders to be the most destabilizing Democratic candidate. As Gleb Pavlovsky, a political scientist who used to advise Vladimir Putin, told GQ’s Julia Ioffe, “Our candidate is chaos.”

And, in the end, both the Russians and Trump presumably believe that Sanders will be the easiest to defeat.

Then there is the overall idea that Sanders is calling for nothing short of a political revolution that fundamentally reshapes the country. For some people, particularly many young ones, this is an extremely attractive idea. But for others it is absolutely terrifying.

“Medicare for all,” one of Sanders’s central policies, has a problem gaining traction even among Democrats. As a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found, “More Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents would prefer voting for a candidate who wants to build on the A.C.A. in order to expand coverage and reduce costs rather than replace the A.C.A. with a national Medicare-for-all plan.”

Furthermore, there are jitters among the Democratic political class that Sanders is running against them, not with them, and will have a negative effect down ballot. Sanders’s Twitter account tweeted last week:

“I’ve got news for the Republican establishment. I’ve got news for the Democratic establishment. They can’t stop us.”

That establishment includes the Democrats now in office. They include the Democratic majority that now controls the House of Representatives. Indeed, you could argue that it even includes Sanders himself.

Sanders has work to do. He has some very real hurdles to clear. And it will not be easy. His opponents would use every instrument at their disposal during a general election to tar and feather him.

But, all that stated, I still wouldn’t doubt his ability to win. There is a very real desire for real change in this country. It would be a mistake to discount it.“

Sanders & Socialism: Debate Between Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman & Social...

Sanders & Socialism: Debate Between Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman & Social...

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Bloomberg has pumped an unprecedented $464 million of his own fortune so far into White House bid e - CNNPolitics

 Bloomberg addresses supporters during a campaign stop in Sacramento, California.

"(CNN)Billionaire Michael Bloomberg plowed nearly $464 million into his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination through the end of January, new campaign filings show -- blowing past all previous records for self-funding candidates in his quest to face President Donald Trump in November's general election.

The media and business data tycoon spent more than $220.6 million in January alone -- much of it on advertising and to quickly assemble a campaign staff that now tops more than 2,000, his aides said. In all, Bloomberg has spent $409 million between November, when he entered the race, through the end of January.

The figures come a day after Bloomberg's weak performance in a contentious debate Wednesday in Las Vegas. The former New York mayor, in his first appearance on the Democratic debate stage, faced ferocious criticism from his rivals over his record at the helm of the nation's largest city, his policing policies and his treatment of women in his private ventures.

Bloomberg and his aides argue his vast resources and centrist positions make him the best contender to confront the President.

"Mike is the only candidate with the record and resources to build the national infrastructure Democrats need to beat Donald Trump," campaign manager Kevin Sheekey said in a statement Thursday.

In January alone, Bloomberg spent $126.5 million on television commercials. Another $45.4 million went to digital advertising, more than half of which went to Facebook, his filings show.

His campaign also sent more than $13.6 million last month to one of Bloomberg's companies, Hawkfish LLC, which serves as the campaign's digital ad agency. Another $2.1 million went to MRB4USA LLC, a firm that Bloomberg's media strategist Bill Knapp launched to work on the campaign.

The campaign also wrote checks totaling $45,000 in January to the consulting firm of one of his prominent endorsers, former Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter, a "national co-chair" of the Bloomberg campaign.

All presidential candidates must file reports Thursday with the Federal Election Commission, detailing their fundraising and spending. The filings cover January activity only.

Bloomberg has continued to spend heavily this month on advertising in a push to overwhelm his rivals ahead of the Super Tuesday contests on March 3, when he will appear on the ballot for the first time. As of Thursday morning, he has spent more than $427 million on advertising, according to Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group.

The nearly half a billion dollars Bloomberg donated to his campaign through January dwarfs the spending by other rich candidates who have sought federal office. Trump, who partially funded his 2016 White House bid, spent a little more than $66 million of his own money and has relied on donations from others to fuel his reelection.

On Thursday, Trump and the Republican National Committee said their joint fundraising efforts had brought in $60.5 million in January. Team Trump started this month with more than $200 million in cash reserves, campaign officials said."

Bloomberg has pumped an unprecedented $464 million of his own fortune so far into White House bid e - CNNPolitics

Friday, February 21, 2020

Republicans mail out fake census documents

Pete Buttigieg’s race problem - The Washington Post

Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg speaks at a town hall in North Charleston, S.C., last May.  (Meg Kinnard/AP)

Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg speaks at a town hall in North Charleston, S.C., last May. (Meg Kinnard/AP)
As the Democratic nomination race shifts to the South and into states with more African American voters, the party’s white front-runners must directly confront the question of race and explain how their policies uplift black America. Each of them has been criticized for harboring a superficial understanding of American anti-blackness, if not manifesting outright racism. Amy Klobuchar has a questionable prosecutorial record; Joe Biden has drawn criticism for his voting record on civil rights legislation; Elizabeth Warren’s campaign was accused of marginalizing staffers of color, for which she apologized; and Bernie Sanders was criticized for conflating the conditions of poor whites with people of African descent.
But it is Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Ind., who arguably demonstrates the most consistent racial ignorance among his cohort. Not only does he hold a dismal record in representing the black residents of his municipality, but his past musings on race and the state of black America — from his 2011 discussion of young black kids failing due to the lack of role models, to his invocation of the “All Lives Matter” mantrajust five years ago, to the recent accusations that his campaign uses black supporters as political props — expose shallow analysis of systemic racism throughout his political career.
To his credit, Buttigieg rarely tries to rationalize these remarks and promises to work through his past mistakes regarding race relations and systemic injustice. But his recent remarks invoking the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. should keep concerns about his commitment to addressing racism front and center. While Buttigieg encouraged Americans to “recommit” to King’s work, and asserted that we can realize King’s dream by building a future defined not by exclusion “but by belonging,” he repeated a common error committed by white Americans in King’s time and today. His posts said nothing of the specific plight of African Americans and appeared to invoke a colorblind vision of post-racial unity that many incorrectly ascribe to MLK.
For many on the left, Buttigieg represents the corporatist, moderate wing of the Democratic Party, in which candidates court donations from billionaires, support continued military engagements and reject the expansion of social programs. It is this demographic of “white moderates” that now-celebrated figures such as King vocally criticized. In 1967, King published his fourth book, “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?” in which he called for equitable housing and education, condemned systemic inequities that left black people poor and marginalized and warned against craven allies who betrayed the principles of the civil rights movement. His message — both the ideas he advocated and the allies he warned against — still matter today for a Democratic leadership struggling to lead on issues of racial equality.
King argued that after the civil rights movement secured legal victories after the march on Selma, it needed to address the deeper structural issues of inequality: poverty, exploitation and discrimination against African Americans. This second phase of the movement, he claimed, never garnered widespread support among white liberals who had supported the quest for legal equality: “When Negroes looked for the second phase, the realization of equality, they found that many of their white allies had quietly disappeared.” King proposed that such abandonment revealed how the “ordinary white citizen” had more in common with the white segregationist than “either had with the Negro.” In other words, white people expressed support for the struggle but refused to push for radical social change, and they retreated from the ground-level organizing.
Elsewhere in “Where Do We Go from Here,” King wondered, “Why does white America delude itself … why does it rationalize the evil it retains?” Indeed, he noted that most white Americans “consider themselves” committed to justice for African Americans but drift away after the legislation is passed. Because white allies viewed legal segregation as the primary driver of inequality, they also assumed that the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act and the implementation of affirmative action solved the problem of racism.
But they didn’t. King cited the grim statistics confronting black Americans to show how by every socioeconomic measure, African Americans lagged far behind their white counterparts. In all positive areas of life, including housing, education and well-being, African Americans lagged behind whites by a whopping 50 percent. Similarly, by all negative measures, African Americans received a double share in comparison to European-descended Americans, including in black unemployment and infant mortality. In driving this point home, King poignantly declared, “When the Constitution was written … the Negro was 60 percent of a person. Today another curious formula seems to declare he is 50 percent of a person.”
What’s more, King noted, most white Americans still remained uncomfortable with full integration. Many rejected interracial marriage or even black people moving into majority-white neighborhoods. For all the legal victories won by civil rights activists, white Americans were reluctant to actualize the movement’s ultimate goals. As King put it: “A good many observers have remarked that if equality could come at once the Negro would not be ready for it. I submit that the white American is even more unprepared.”
In many respects, King was predicting sentiments expressed by Pete Buttigieg when the mayor admitted he was “slow to realize” that South Bend remained racially segregated into the 21st century. Buttigieg’s lack of urgency about remedying the systemic inequities faced by South Bend’s black population reflects how an indifferent white majority deals with racial friction: Ignore it and pretend it is irrelevant until it can no longer be ignored.
But King also presented a solution, one that Buttigieg and the other Democratic candidates need to understand: they must make a sustained effort to educate themselves out of racial ignorance. White allies must not abandon the quest for social and economic justice under presumptions that U.S. laws are enforced in a colorblind fashion.
King held a deep concern for everyone affected by poverty, and he actively recruited poor whites to join his “Poor People’s Campaign.” He also reflected glowingly on the white allies who risked everything to march with him, even if they were a small percentage of white Americans. His concern for the white poor allowed him to understand how different groups must work together and recognize their unique roles in the struggle, stating: “Negroes hold only one key to the double lock of peaceful change. The other is in the hands of the white community.”
When considering that the candidates for the Democratic nomination went from one of the most racially diverse groups in history to the remaining front-runners, all of whom are white, it is worth asking how these politicians can be held accountable for the promises they make to people of color whose votes they must win to secure the nomination. If Buttigieg hopes to be an ally and pursue social justice, he should study King’s radical model for a cross-racial alliance that, if truly realized, could set the path for authentic societal change. King recognized who shattered his dream, and if we want to repair it, we must reclaim the totality of his vision and work to fulfill it.

Pete Buttigieg’s race problem - The Washington Post

Bloomberg quietly plotting brokered convention strategy - POLITICO

Michael Bloomberg

"LAS VEGAS — Mike Bloomberg is privately lobbying Democratic Party officials and donors allied with his moderate opponents to flip their allegiance to him — and block Bernie Sanders — in the event of a brokered national convention.

The effort, largely executed by Bloomberg’s senior state-level advisers in recent weeks, attempts to prime Bloomberg for a second-ballot contest at the Democratic National Convention in July by poaching supporters of Joe Biden and other moderate Democrats, according to two Democratic strategists familiar with the talks and unaffiliated with Bloomberg..."

Bloomberg quietly plotting brokered convention strategy - POLITICO

Steve Schmidt says Trump not wanting Congress briefed on Russia interference 'An abuse of power'

Black and Latino Voters Are Looking for ‘More Than Just Some Token Words’ - The New York Times


Black and Latino Voters Are Looking for ‘More Than Just Some Token Words’

Voters in Nevada and South Carolina face an all-white top tier of 2020 candidates that was winnowed down by a largely white electorate.
Bridget Bennett for The New York Times
"LAS VEGAS — Kristina Alvarez, a 36-year-old medical aide in Las Vegas, knows how badly the Democrats want her attention and ideally her vote. So does JA Moore, 34, a state representative in Charleston, S.C., whose endorsement was highly sought after.
The people being wooed most aggressively by Democratic candidates at the moment — Latino voters in Nevada and black voters in South Carolina — are essential to victory in both states, where white voters make up less than half of the Democratic electorate. The courtship includes mariachi bands and gospel choirs at campaign events, and an extensive debate stage discussion about the importance of “black and brown” voters.
It’s a one-size-fits-all approach in many mays, and it’s not always resonating with the voters the all-white top tier of 2020 candidates are hoping to reach.
“We want to hear more than just some token words,” Ms. Alvarez, who is undecided about which candidate she’ll support on Saturday, said last week. She cares most about college costs and the worrying rise in hate crimes around the country, but found the Democratic candidates to be more focused on responding to President Trump than anything else. “He’s made it so that if we hear anything aside from racism, we want to say hallelujah,” she said. “There’s something else, but what’s the something else?”
Mr. Moore was even more direct in his assessment of the efforts some candidates were making.
“It’s degrading,” he said, during an event, featuring a gospel choir, for former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. last week in South Carolina. “Black people listen to more than gospel music.”
Interviews with dozens of black and Latino Democrats in both states in recent days show that many feel ambivalence or disappointment in the party that is relying on them and anger over the process that narrowed the most diverse slate of candidates in history to the current contenders.
In South Carolina, the word “rigged” came up several times as black voters contemplated the remaining options, expressing sadness that black candidates had been forced out by financial woes and poor poll results before South Carolinians had a chance to cast their votes.
In Nevada, Latino voters said they were resigned to mostly superficial talk around race for the foreseeable future, and expressed resentment that candidates were relatively slow to focus on crafting an appeal to them.
For many people, the frustration was not over the fact that they wouldn’t have the chance to vote for someone who shared their background or who looked like them. Rather, they chafed at the narrowness of the message when candidates address black and Latino voters.
Tierra King, a political science major at the University of South Carolina, was never that enamored with the black candidates.
“There’s a saying that everybody’s who’s skinfolk ain’t kinfolk,” Ms. King, 20, said as she walked on campus last week. “I didn’t feel that the candidates were speaking to me.”
Mr. Moore, the South Carolina representative, had considered Mr. Biden, who has been looking to the state’s black voters to resurrect his floundering campaign.
But he ultimately took issue with Mr. Biden’s record, and his suggestion that his poor showing in Iowa and New Hampshire was because those states lacked diversity. Now Mr. Moore is backing former Mayor Pete Buttigieg and argues that residents of those two mostly white states actually have a lot in common with people in South Carolina.
“African-Americans are Americans,” Mr. Moore said. “I have a young daughter, so I’m concerned about her public education. I’m concerned about health care. I’m concerned about clean water to drink.”
Zayda Russiello, a 72-year-old retired educator in North Las Vegas, felt similarly about what she’d heard at a candidate forum.
“They are addressing issues with mass incarceration, but they’ve got so many other things they are focused on,” she said. “I want to hear more about education, about action.”
In Nevada, black and Latino voters repeatedly mentioned the similarity of a lot of the pitches they were hearing from Democrats: boasting about the diversity among campaign staff, talking about their family’s migration from European, reminding immigrants that they, too, are welcome in the country. Above all, criticizing President Trump, calling him a racist and decrying the way he has divided the country around racial and ethnic lines.
For some voters, reacting to President Trump is precisely the problem. They say the president has made it so that Democrats devote their speaking time and mental energy to decrying him, rather than articulating their own policy positions.
Isaac Barron, a high school teacher and city councilman in North Las Vegas, a suburb with a large Latino population, has watched nearly every candidate come through his neighborhood in the last several months. They try, he said, to appeal to communities like his own, but there is always something missing, absent a mix of urgency and passion when it comes to talking about the problems they’re facing.
“It just goes to show you that it might be 2020, but things haven’t changed,” Mr. Barron said, adding that in many ways he feels the conversation about racial injustices has lost a sharp focus in recent years. “There’s a real lack of understanding. Poverty is a huge issue, but we’re not talking about it. We care about immigration, yes — I’ve lost track of the number of students who come to me with tears in their eyes because their father got arrested by ICE. But we still have difficulty getting beyond the basics.”
Steven Olmos, a 34-year-old operations manager, initially supported Senator Kamala Harris, but worried that as a black woman she would face too many insurmountable challenges, including being seen as too forceful.
“Right now, they are being careful not to offend anyone, not to take on topics that are too hot and will alienate people,” he said, as he stood outside a rally for Pete Buttigieg in North Las Vegas on Sunday, holding a “Juntos con Pete” sign.
Mr. Olmos was not impressed with this week’s debate, either. “They talk about having support from certain demographics, or reaching out to those groups, but I don’t believe any of them spoke about how their policies correlate to those groups.”
Juli├ín Castro, the former federal housing secretary, had hoped to be in Nevada this week as a candidate but is instead here as a surrogate for Senator Elizabeth Warren. He dropped out of the 2020 race at the beginning of the year and has spoken critically about the way black and Latino voters are essentially boxed out of the earliest and most decisive contests because Iowa and New Hampshire set the terms for the entire race in terms of polling, attention and resources.
“This is really a voting rights issue — who gets to vote for their first choice candidate?” he said. “There are people who dropped out of the race that if other states were to go first, may well have had a stronger footing.”
The question of who makes the ballot also speaks to voter engagement, and who feels represented in the political process.
Darius Davis, a 20-year-old music major from Beech Island, S.C., had never been interested in politics until Senator Cory Booker came to his campus here, Allen University.
Mr. Booker’s speech last year at the historically black college left Mr. Davis with a candidate crush for the very first time.
“I would have voted for Cory Booker hands down,” said Mr. Davis, 20, who had been swayed by Mr. Booker’s upbeat message of unity as well as his oratorical skills. “That made me want to learn more about politics.”
“I was pretty disappointed,” Mr. Davis said of Mr. Booker’s withdrawal. “Not pretty. I was very disappointed.”
Terrence Culbreath, the mayor of Johnston, S.C., was also a Booker supporter.
Last week, though, he found himself packing up the detritus of a failed political campaign — gas canisters used for a barbecue, lapel buttons, posters, and a pile of bright blue “Deval for South Carolina” T-shirts.
Deval Patrick had been the last black candidate standing in the 2020 race, and it was time to shut down his office in the
Before joining Mr. Patrick’s campaign, Mr. Culbreath, who at 35 is one of the state’s youngest black mayors, had been the South Carolina political director for Cory Booker, whose office four blocks away had been shut down in January.
He only worked for Mr. Patrick for 10 days, brought into the campaign in what he described as a “Hail Mary.” Mr. Culbreath said he was now uncertain about the remaining candidates, but optimistic about the future for black candidates, generally.
“It’s a prequel for what the future looks like,” he said. “You’re going to see more black candidates, and not just for president.”
“What size do you wear?” asked another campaign worker, offering a free Deval Patrick T-shirt."

Black and Latino Voters Are Looking for ‘More Than Just Some Token Words’ - The New York Times

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Russia Backs Trump’s Re-election, and He Fears Democrats Will Exploit Its Support - The New York Times

American intelligence agencies concluded that Russia, on the orders of President Vladimir V. Putin, interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

"A classified briefing to lawmakers angered the president, who complained that Democrats would “weaponize” the disclosure.

American intelligence agencies concluded that Russia, on the orders of President Vladimir V. Putin, interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

Feb. 20, 2020

Updated 7:01 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON — Intelligence officials warned House lawmakers last week that Russia was interfering in the 2020 campaign to try to get President Trump re-elected, five people familiar with the matter said, a disclosure to Congress that angered Mr. Trump, who complained that Democrats would use it against him.

The day after the Feb. 13 briefing to lawmakers, Mr. Trump berated Joseph Maguire, the outgoing acting director of national intelligence, for allowing it to take place, people familiar with the exchange said. Mr. Trump cited the presence in the briefing of Representative Adam B. Schiff, the California Democrat who led the impeachment proceedings against him, as a particular irritant.

During the briefing to the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Trump’s allies challenged the conclusions, arguing that he has been tough on Russia and strengthened European security. Some intelligence officials viewed the briefing as a tactical error, saying that had the official who delivered the conclusion spoken less pointedly or left it out, they would have avoided angering the Republicans.

That intelligence official, Shelby Pierson, is an aide to Mr. Maguire who has a reputation of delivering intelligence in somewhat blunt terms. The president announced on Wednesday that he was replacing Mr. Maguire with Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany and long an aggressively vocal Trump supporter.

Though some current and former officials speculated that the briefing may have played a role in the removal of Mr. Maguire, who had told people in recent days that he believed he would remain in the job, two administration officials said the timing was coincidental. Mr. Grenell had been in discussions with the administration about taking on new roles, they said, and Mr. Trump had never felt a kinship with Mr. Maguire.

Spokeswomen for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and its election security office declined to comment. A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A Democratic House intelligence committee official called the Feb. 13 briefing an important update about “the integrity of our upcoming elections” and said that members of both parties attended, including Representative Devin Nunes of California, the top Republican on the committee.


Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, is planning to leave government, according to an American official.Credit...Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Mr. Trump has long accused the intelligence community’s assessment of Russia’s 2016 interference as the work of a “deep-state” conspiracy intent on undermining the validity of his election. Intelligence officials feel burned by their experience after the last election, where their work became subject of intense political debate and is now a focus of a Justice Department investigation.

Part of the president’s anger over the intelligence briefing stemmed from the administration’s reluctance to provide sensitive information to Mr. Schiff. He has been a leading critic of Mr. Trump since 2016, doggedly investigating Russian election interference and later leading the impeachment inquiry into the president’s dealings with Ukraine.

After asking about the briefing that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and other agencies gave to the House, Mr. Trump complained that Mr. Schiff would “weaponize” the intelligence about Russia’s support for him, according to a person familiar with the briefing. And he was angry that no one had told him sooner about the briefing, the person said.

Mr. Trump has fixated on Mr. Schiff since the impeachment saga began, pummeling him publicly with insults and unfounded accusations of corruption. At one point in October, Mr. Trump refused to invite lawmakers from the congressional intelligence committees to a White House briefing on Syria because he did not want Mr. Schiff there, according to three people briefed on the matter.

Mr. Trump did not erupt at Mr. Maguire, and instead just asked pointed questions, according to the person. But the message was unmistakable: He was displeased by what took place.

Ms. Pierson, officials said, was delivering the conclusion of multiple intelligence agencies, not her own opinion. The Washington Post first reported the Oval Office confrontation between Mr. Trump and Mr. Maguire.

The intelligence community issued an assessment in early 2017 that President Vladimir V. Putin personally ordered an influence campaign in the previous year’s election and developed “a clear preference for President-elect Trump.” But Republicans have long argued that Moscow’s campaign was designed to sow chaos, not aid Mr. Trump specifically.

And some Republicans have accused the intelligence agencies of opposing Mr. Trump, but intelligence officials reject those allegations. They fiercely guard their work as nonpartisan, saying it is the only way to ensure its validity.

At the House briefing, Representative Chris Stewart, a Utah Republican who has been considered for the director’s post, was among the Republicans who challenged the conclusion about Russia’s support for the president. Mr. Stewart insisted that Mr. Trump has aggressively confronted Moscow, providing anti-tank weapons to Ukraine for its war against Russian-backed separatists and strengthening the NATO alliance with new resources, according to two people briefed on the meeting.

Mr. Stewart declined to discuss the briefing but said that Moscow had no reason to support Mr. Trump. He pointed to the president’s work to confront Iran, a Russian ally, and encourage European energy independence from Moscow. “I’d challenge anyone to give me a real-world argument where Putin would rather have President Trump and not Bernie Sanders,” the nominal Democratic primary front-runner, Mr. Stewart said in an interview.

Mr. Trump believes that Russian efforts to get him elected in 2016 have cast doubts about the legitimacy of his campaign victory.

Under Mr. Putin, Russian intelligence has long sought broadly to sow chaos among adversaries around the world. The United States and key allies on Thursday accused Russian military intelligence, the group responsible for much of the 2016 election interference in the United States, of a cyberattack on neighboring Georgia that took out websites and television broadcasts.

Though intelligence officials have previously informed lawmakers that Russia’s interference campaign was ongoing, last week’s briefing did contain what appeared to be new information, including that Russia intends to interfere with the ongoing Democratic primaries as well as the general election.

The Russians have been preparing — and experimenting — for the 2020 election, undeterred by American efforts to thwart them but aware that they needed a new playbook of as-yet-undetectable methods.

They have made more creative use of Facebook and other social media. Rather than impersonating Americans as they did in 2016, Russian operatives are working to get Americans to repeat disinformation to get around social media companies’ rules that prohibit “inauthentic speech.”

And they are working from servers located in the United States, rather than abroad, knowing that American intelligence agencies are prohibited from operating inside the country. (The F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security can, with aid from the intelligence agencies.)

Russian hackers have also infiltrated Iran’s cyberwarfare unit, perhaps with the intent of launching attacks that would look like they were coming from Tehran, the National Security Agency has warned.

Some officials believe that foreign powers, possibly including Russia, could use ransomware attacks, like those that have debilitated some local governments, to damage or interfere with voting systems or registration databases.

Still, much of the Russian aim is similar to its 2016 interference, officials said: Search for issues that stir controversy in the United States and use various methods to stoke division.

One of Moscow’s main goals is undermining confidence in American election systems, intelligence officials have told lawmakers, seeking to sow doubts over close elections and recounts. Confronting those Russian efforts is difficult, officials have said, because they want to maintain American confidence in voting systems.

Both Republicans and Democrats asked the intelligence agencies to hand over the underlying material that prompted their conclusion that Russia again is favoring Mr. Trump’s election.

How soon the House committee might get that information is not clear. Since the impeachment inquiry, tensions have risen between the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the committee. As officials navigate the disputes, the intelligence agencies have slowed the amount of material they provide to the House, officials said. The agencies are required by law to regularly brief Congress on threats.

While Republicans have long been critical of the Obama administration for not doing enough to track and deter Russian interference in 2016, current and former intelligence officials said the party is at risk of making a similar mistake now. Mr. Trump has been reluctant to even hear about election interference, and Republicans dislike discussing it publicly.

The aftermath of last week’s briefing prompted some intelligence officials to voice concerns that the White House will dismantle a key election security effort by Dan Coats, the former director of national intelligence: the establishment of an election interference czar. Ms. Pierson has held the post since last summer.

And some current and former intelligence officials expressed fears that Mr. Grenell may have been put in place explicitly to slow the pace of information on election interference to Congress. The revelations about Mr. Trump’s confrontation with Mr. Maguire raised new concerns about Mr. Grenell’s appointment, said the Democratic House committee official, who added that the upcoming election could be more vulnerable to foreign interference.

Mr. Trump, former officials have said, is typically uninterested in election interference briefings, and Mr. Grenell might see it as unwise to emphasize such intelligence with the president.

“The biggest concern I would have is if the intelligence community was not forthcoming and not providing the analysis in the run-up to the next election,” said Andrea Kendall-Taylor, a former intelligence official now with the Center for New American Security. “It is really concerning that this is happening in the run-up to an election.”

Mr. Grenell’s unbridled loyalty is clearly important to Mr. Trump but may not be ideally suited for an intelligence chief making difficult decisions about what to brief to the president and Congress, Ms. Kendall-Taylor said.

“Trump is trying to whitewash or rewrite the narrative about Russia’s involvement in the election,” she said. “Grenell’s appointment suggests he is really serious about that.”

The acting deputy to Mr. Maguire, Andrew P. Hallman, will step down on Friday, officials said, paving the way for Mr. Grenell to put in place his own management team. Mr. Hallman was the intelligence office’s principal executive, but since the resignation in August of the previous deputy, Sue Gordon, he has been performing the duties of that post.

Mr. Maguire is planning to leave government, according to an American official.

Eric Schmitt and David E. Sanger contributed reporting."

Russia Backs Trump’s Re-election, and He Fears Democrats Will Exploit Its Support - The New York Times