That Joe Biden, the man picked by America’s first black president as his number two, should now be suffering attacks over his record on race might seem surprising. Senator Kamala Harris, the only black woman in the Democratic presidential field, forcefully questioned Biden on his opposition in the 1970s to court-ordered busing programs aimed at integrating public schools. Harris noted, in a quavering voice, that as “a little girl in California” she was “part of the second class to integrate her public schools” in a busing program.
Democrats’ fragmentation, support for undocumented immigrants, and silence on issues affecting the heartland leaves a big opening for Trump‘Except for healthcare, the debates missed areas to challenge Republicans in the heartland or mobilize Democratic voters outside of the traditional progressive base.’ Photograph: Byrnn Anderson/APAfter two nights, and four hours, of Democratic debates, it is now up to the pundits and spin doctors to convince Americans – the majority of whom did not watch the debates – which candidates won or lost.Clearly, this was not your parents’ Democratic party. The stars of both debates were largely “non-traditional” candidates – women and ethnic and sexual minorities. The first debate was won by Elizabeth Warren, who combined facts with passion. There were also breakout performances by Julián Castro and Cory Booker. The second debate was won, hands down, by Kamala Harris, with strong performances by Pete Buttigieg and Kirsten Gillibrand. We also saw (older) white men boast about their parenting, and a non-white woman and a gay man leverage their military experience.Still, there was some traditional gendered behavior too. There was a lot of interrupting and shouting over each other – predominantly, but not exclusively, by older white men. More than half an hour of the combined four hours of debate was wasted on mediocre white guys who poll less than one percent, and I’m not even counting the time wasted by moderator Chuck Todd pontificating rather than asking questions.The clear losers on stage were “traditional” candidates – white men again – most notably Beto O’Rourke and Joe Biden. The main loser off stage was NBC News – not just for an embarrassing technical glitch with the microphones in the first debate, but also for the format of the debates. Together with the Democratic National Committee, NBC decided to invite far too many candidates and divide them by lot rather than support in the polls.This mainly hurt Warren, who ended up in Wednesday’s second-tier debate, in which the candidates represented less than 25% of the Democratic vote in current polls (most of that support is for Warren). This denied her the opportunity to face her key opponents, Biden and Sanders, head-on.That said, the large field also had some positive side-effects. It provided comic relief (Marianne Williamson), put climate change front and center in the first debate (Jay Inslee), and, thanks to Eric Swalwell, introduced the slogan – “pass the torch” – that will haunt Biden throughout the campaign.Moreover, somewhat paradoxically, having 20 candidates made the Democratic party look less divided than the three (really two) candidates in 2016. Rather than being ideologically divided, let alone polarized, the Democratic party today is fragmented – devoid of a clear leader.Partly for that reason, there was another unofficial, offstage winner: the Republican party, and Trump in particular. The debates saw Trump’s main challengers falter (Biden) or fade (Sanders), the second-tier perform strongly (Warren, Harris, Buttigieg), and some new challengers emerge (notably Castro and Booker). This increases the chances for a long, internally divisive, Democratic primary – allowing the Republican party to look stable and united in contrast as well as benefit from free opposition research as the Democratic candidates try to tear each other down.The debates also gave disproportionate attention to the plight of non-Americans, notably asylum seekers at the southern border and undocumented immigrants throughout the country. While this is understandable and even morally admirable, given the Trump administration’s inhumane immigration policies and the salience of the issue at this moment, it provides an easy opening for Republicans.> Rather than being ideologically divided, let alone polarized, the Democratic party today is fragmentedThis was only made worse by the moderators’ fondness for stupid “raise your hand” polls, like the one which asked candidates to raise their hands if their preferred healthcare system would cover undocumented immigrants. All did, and within seconds the internet exploded with rightwing pundits claiming that this proved Democrats care more about “aliens” than Americans. One of the people to weigh in, of course, was President Trump, who breezily tweeted: “All Democrats just raised their hands for giving millions of illegal aliens unlimited healthcare. How about taking care of American Citizens first!? That’s the end of that race!”The other reason Republicans are probably pleased with the Democratic debates is that, except for healthcare, very few topics were seriously discussed that could challenge Republicans in the heartland or mobilize Democratic voters outside of the traditional progressive base. The debate barely touched on the opioid crisis, for example, and the issue was largely reduced to punishment of big pharma rather than discussion of how to help addicts and their families. It is depressing to see the Democratic party once again ignoring this clearly progressive issue, which affects almost half of all Americans in a personal way.There was also no serious discussion of America’s crumbling infrastructure – a particularly ripe issue for big-government Democrats like Sanders and a huge missed opportunity, given that it is an election promise on which Trump has clearly failed to deliver. More generally, neither moderators nor candidates really addressed the broader issue of work, from the threat of automation (only Andrew Yang) through the highly salient issue of minimum wage to the explosion of the precariat in the wake of the Great Recession.Finally, with the exception of Ohio congressman Tim Ryan’s pseudo-populist appeal to Trump voters in the rust belt, there was no discussion of the ever-growing urban-rural divide and the plight of rural America. Republicans will undoubtedly exploit this by continuing to accuse the Democrats of being the party of coastal elites and minorities, while presenting themselves as the voice of the implicitly white “real America”.If the Democrats want to defeat Trump in 2020, they need to expand beyond relatively narrow progressive causes and start planning their messaging for the general election. Nothing less than the White House is at stake. * Cas Mudde is a Guardian US columnist and the Stanley Wade Shelton UGAF professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia
Recent events, particularly the downing of a U.S. Navy MQ-4 Triton by Iranian military forces, again raise the possibility of war between the United States and Iran. The on again, off again standoff between Washington and Tehran, now in its fourth decade is periodically instigated by both sides, and each time Iran grows stronger. If Iran decides to stage an attack against a larger target, such as an American destroyer or even aircraft carrier, how might it use its missile force to do so? Iran has invested considerable resources in its ballistic missile forces over the past forty years, for the same reason China and North Korea did: military aviation is an expensive proposition, and developing and maintaining an air force to rival the United States is very expensive indeed. Ballistic missiles offer a relatively inexpensive way to launch conventional, chemical, biological, and even nuclear payloads long distances. As an added bonus intercepting such missiles is complex and itself an expensive undertaking. All three countries developed large ballistic missile arsenals of varying sophistication, occasionally trading in illicit information among themselves and others.
Defense lawyers in the murder trial of a U.S. Navy SEAL rested their case on Friday after three days of testimony contesting accusations that the platoon leader had fatally stabbed a wounded Iraqi captive and shot innocent civilians. The last defense witness called by lawyers for Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher was Navy Lieutenant Commander Robert Breisch, who testified that no one made a report to him accusing Gallagher of war crimes while his platoon was in Iraq. Breisch, the SEAL Team 7 troop commander during the 2017 Iraq deployment in question, testified that complaints about Gallagher had only involved personal, petty issues or tactical grievances, until months after the troops returned.
The Senate’s top Democrat said Sunday that the U.S. government should step up efforts to investigate the deaths of at least eight Americans in the Dominican Republic this year. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives should lend support to the FBI and local law enforcement, said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., noting the agency has offices in the Caribbean and the technical and forensic expertise that could aid the investigation. “Given that we still have a whole lot of questions and very few answers into just what, if anything, is cause for the recent spate of sicknesses and several deaths of Americans in the Dominican Republic, the feds should double their efforts on helping get to the bottom of things,” Schumer said in a statement.
More than 2,000 people protested Sunday in the northern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, calling for a ban on the anti-Boko Haram CJTF militia they accuse of abuses after the killing of a rickshaw driver. The protesters blocked major roads in the Suleimanti area of the city and set fires, causing chaos despite pleas from police and military officers, an AFP reporter at the scene saw. “We want the CJTF to be banned from the city because of the abuses we suffer in their hands,” said Suleimanti resident Bukar Saleh.
(Bloomberg) — Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un agreed to restart nuclear talks after an hour-long meeting Sunday which saw Trump become the first American leader to set foot in North Korea while in office.Trump hailed ties with Kim, whom he has now met three times, and invited him to visit the White House. The meeting was hastily planned after the president issued an offer on Saturday via Twitter for Kim to join him at the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas.Kim said he was “surprised” by Trump’s request to meet, and called the U.S. president’s short walk over the demarcation line into North Korea “a very courageous and determined act.”Teams from each side will resume talks over the next few weeks “and we’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters at the DMZ. He said sanctions would remain for now but suggested some could be lifted in the course of the negotiations. South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who took part in at least some of the meeting, praised Trump’s “bold, drastic, creative approach.“We want to get it right,” Trump said of nuclear talks that had been stalled for months since a failed summit with Kim in Vietnam. “We’re not looking for speed. We want to get it right.”“The relationship that we’ve developed has meant so much to so many people,” he told reporters, standing next to the North Korean leader. He thanked Kim for showing up, saying his willingness to meet on short notice “made us both look good.”While Trump has met Kim twice before at summits in Singapore and Hanoi, no U.S. president has ever sat down with a North Korean leader at the DMZ. Trump made his audacious invitation to Kim while in Japan for the Group of 20 summit, jolting the gathering of world leaders as well as officials in the U.S. and Seoul.“I saw that tweet and it felt like you’ve sent a flower of hope for the Korean Peninsula,” Moon told Trump on Sunday. “If you shake hands with Chairman Kim Jong Un at the Military Demarcation Line, it would be historic, just by the picture of it.”Trump and Kim have maintained friendly relations despite failing to agree on a path forward to a deal that would ease sanctions in return for steps toward eliminating North Korea’s nuclear threat. Their Hanoi meeting collapsed after Trump refused Kim’s demand for sanctions relief in exchange for only dismantling his main nuclear complex at Yongbyon.‘Starting Point’Moon said on Sunday that if Kim were to “sincerely, completely” dismantle Yongbyon, the international community would be able to discuss easing sanctions.“It’ll be the starting point for an irreversible denuclearization,” he said.Trump defended his meetings with Kim and claimed that his predecessor, Barack Obama had sought a meeting with the North Korean leader and been refused.“A lot’s been done,” he said, citing Kim’s restraint from testing nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles since talks first began. “President Obama wanted to meet and Chairman Kim would not meet him. They were begging for meetings constantly.”Ben Rhodes, who was Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said in a tweet the former president never sought to see Kim. “Trump is lying,” Rhodes said. “Foreign policy isn’t reality television it’s reality.”U.S. relations with North Korea took a significant turn for the worse in 2009 after Pyongyang evicted international inspectors from Yongbyon and resumed development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.Trump Becomes First Sitting U.S. President to Enter North Korea: In PicturesDuring meetings with Moon and his visit to the DMZ, Trump repeatedly complained he hasn’t received enough credit for lowering tensions with North Korea, and exaggerated the state of relations with the country before he took office.“It was a fiery mess,” he said. “Bad things were going on. The last administration was nothing but trouble.”“We are so far advanced from where we were” in 2016, Trump said. He has repeatedly claimed the U.S. and North Korea would be at war if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had defeated him for the presidency.“What’s happened is there was nuclear testing, there was ballistic missile testing, they had hostages of ours, as you know,” he said. “Very tough situation. And now we’re getting back our remains. We got back the hostages. There’s been no ballistic missile tests. And there’s been no nuclear tests. And South Korea’s a whole different place. And Japan.”Meaningful HandshakeThroughout their meetings Sunday morning, Trump and Moon both appeared unsure whether Kim would appear. The U.S. president cautioned the logistics were complicated, and he said any meeting would be little more than a photo op.“Chairman Kim wants to do it,” he said. “A handshake means a lot,” he added.Moon accompanied Trump to the DMZ but it wasn’t clear how much of it he was invited to attend. Kim’s regime has scoffed at Seoul’s attempts to act as an intermediary in negotiations with Trump.“The South Korean authorities would better mind their own internal business,” North Korea’s news agency KCNA said last week, citing a foreign ministry official.To contact the reporters on this story: Margaret Talev in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org;Jihye Lee in Seoul at email@example.com;Jennifer Jacobs in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at email@example.com, Daniel Ten Kate, Rosalind MathiesonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.