Author Archive: Economist

Sanders, Warren Among 2020 Candidates to Address Native Americans

For the first time in more than a decade, Native Americans have the opportunity to question presidential candidates on issues of importance to Indian Country.“This is our chance to tell candidates that they can earn our votes,” said organizer O.J. Semans, co-executive director of the national Native American voting rights organization FILE – O.J. Semans, of Rosebud, S.D., executive director of the voting advocacy group Four Directions, At a South Dakota Election Board hearing, July 31, 2013.Nine presidential hopefuls, Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, former U.S. secretary of housing and urban development Julian Castro, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Montana Gov., Democrat Steve Bullock, Navajo pastor Mark Charles and author Marianne Williamson say they will participate in the Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum.The two-day event opens Monday in Sioux City, Iowa. Organizers say invitations were extended to candidates from all major political parties, although so far only these nine candidates hoping to unseat President Donald Trump in the 2020 election have confirmed their attendance. The organizers also say talks are continuing with several other campaigns.Mark Trahant, a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe and editor of Four Directions co-founder O.J. Semans, right, and Marcella LeBeau, whose ancestor died at Wounded Knee, June 25, 2019,Of the hundreds of issues of importance to Native American voters, panelists will focus on two in particular, said Semans:The Earth Feather Sovereign, left, of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, playing drums and signing in the Capitol Rotunda after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law, Wednesday, April 24, 2019, in Olympia, Wash.“Actually, underfunding is the fundamental to all these issues,” said Semans. “We wouldn’t have to be discussing funding for our transportation or infrastructure, we wouldn’t have to have discussions on housing and health care and law enforcement if the federal government fully honored the treaties.”In a related development, Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced Friday she will work with New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland (Pueblo of Laguna) on legislative proposals addressing chronic federal underfunding of tribes, as well as barriers to tribal sovereignty.The federal government has a responsibility to write a new chapter in the story of its government-to-government relationship with tribal nations. Read my and @SenWarren’s OP-ED in @IndianCountry:— Rep. Deb Haaland (@RepDebHaaland) August 16, 2019The last time Native Americans had a chance to speak directly to presidential candidates was in August 2007 at the “Prez on the Rez” forum on the Morongo Reservation in California. Only three candidates, all Democrats for the 2008 race, participated. Then-New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, former Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel took part.This week’s forum is named for civil rights leader Frank LaMere, a citizen of the Winnebago tribe in Nebraska. He died in June.Co-sponsors include the Native Organizers Alliance, the National Congress of American Indians and the Native American Rights Fund.

Warren, Sanders Get Personal with Young, Black Christians

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren framed their Democratic presidential bids in personal, faith-based terms Saturday before black millennial Christians who could help determine which candidate becomes the leading progressive alternative to former Vice President Joe Biden.Sanders, the Vermont senator whose struggles with black voters helped cost him the 2016 nomination, told the Young Leaders Conference that his family history shapes his approach to President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and the rise of white nationalism in the United States.”I’m Jewish. My family came from Poland. My father’s whole family was wiped out by Hitler and his white nationalism,” Sanders said at the forum led by the Black Church PAC, a political action committee formed by prominent black pastors.”We will go to war against white nationalism and racism in every aspect of our lives,” Sanders said, promising to use the “bully pulpit” to unite instead of divide. Warren, a Massachusetts senator and United Methodist, quoted her favorite biblical passage, which features Jesus instructing his followers to provide for others, including the “least of these my brethren.””That’s about two things,” Warren said. “Every single one of us has the Lord within us. …. Secondly, the Lord does not call on us to sit back. The Lord does not just call on us to have a good heart. The Lord calls on us to act.”Sanders and Warren are looking for ways to narrow the gap with Biden, who remains atop primary polls partly because of his standing with older black voters. Polls suggest that younger black voters, however, are far more divided in their support among the many Democratic candidates.The senators, both of whom are white, connected their biblical interpretations to their ideas about everything from economic regulation and taxation to criminal justice and health care.”This is a righteous fight,” Warren said, who noted that she’s taught “fifth-grade Sunday School.”Sanders, while not quoting Scripture as did Warren, declared that “the Bible, if it is about anything, is about justice.” His campaign, he said, is “not just defeating the most dangerous president in modern American history. We are about transforming this nation to make it work for all of us.”Warren and Sanders received warm welcomes, with notable enthusiasm for their proposals to overhaul a criminal justice system both derided as institutionally racist and to eliminate student loan debt that disproportionately affects nonwhites. “They obviously tailored their message in a way that would resonate with this audience,” said Chanelle Reynolds, a 29-year-old marketing specialist from Washington, D.C. But that means they spoke to issues and concerns that we care about.''Reynolds described her generation of black voters - churchgoing or not - as more engaged than in the past, but cautious about choosing among candidates months before the voting begins. "I'm going to take my time,'' she said, adding thatthe last election, with Trump, shook us up, and we’re not going to let this one go by.” Indeed, the youngest generation of voters typically doesn’t shape presidential primary politics, for Democrats or Republicans. Impact of black votersBlack voters collectively have driven the outcome of the past two competitive Democratic nominating fights. But Barack Obama in 2008 and Hillary Clinton in 2016 built their early delegate leads largely on the strength of older black voters in Southern states with significant African American populations. Those states again feature prominently in the opening months of Democrats’ 2020 primary calendar, giving black millennials in metro areas such as Atlanta, along with Nashville, Tennessee, and Charlotte, North Carolina, a chance to wield their influence early in the process. Beyond the primaries, the eventual Democratic nominee will need younger black voters to flip critical states that helped elect Trump: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. “Anybody who’s not talking to every community, particularly within the African American community, you’re running a fool’s race,” said the Rev. Leah Daughtry, a pastor from Washington, D.C., and member of the Democratic National Committee, who co-moderated the Black Church PAC forum.Three other 2020 candidates – Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, former Obama housing chief Julian Castro and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana – attended the conference on Friday. Booker and California Sen. Kamala Harris are the most prominent black candidates in the 2020 race.Mike McBride, a pastor who was Daughtry’s fellow moderator, stressed that the black church and the black community as a whole are not monolithic. Democrats, he said, must reach beyond the traditional Sunday services in places such as South Carolina, the first primary state with a sizable black population. “We need candidates to show up on our turf, not always asking us to show up on their turf,” McBride said in an interview. Daughtry said all Democratic candidates were invited, and she noted the absence of other leading candidates, including Biden, who is attending campaign fundraisers in the Northeast this weekend.”He missed an opportunity,” Daughtry said, to “make his case” to younger voters “who don’t know him like older folks do.”

Florida Leaders Move to Condemn White Nationalism 

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA – Florida legislators are moving to officially condemn white nationalism, with Democrats and Republicans alike drafting resolutions against hate-spurred violence, but the unity could be short-lived as elected officials plunge into debates over how the government should intervene to prevent more mass killings and rein in white supremacists. 
The condemnations come amid an outcry over a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, in which authorities believe the gunman posted a racist screed online shortly before the attack.  
Following the shooting, Florida Senate President Bill Galvano, a Republican, called the violence a “reminder that we have more work to do,” and he called on a legislative committee to review what can be done to address white nationalism.    Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris speaks at the Presidential Gun Sense Forum, Aug. 10, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa.Earlier this week, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, a Democratic presidential hopeful, called for a federal red flag'' law that would allow law enforcement to take away guns from white nationalists, if a judge agrees if a person poses an imminent danger. 
While Galvano says he's open to possibly expanding the Florida's
red flag” laws, he told the Associated Press on Thursday that the two issues should be addressed separately. 
Do both issues need to be considered and talked about? The answer is yes, but I don't know if you can just merge them,'' Galvano said. 
Since Florida's
red flag” law went into effect in March 2018, there have been 2,434 risk protection orders reported to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which prompted the agency to suspend 595 concealed weapons licenses. The protection orders give law enforcement the authority to temporarily confiscate guns. Rubio’s call
Following the 2018 mass shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio called on Congress to follow his state’s lead in enacting a federal red flag'' law — a call that  he again made following the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio that killed 31 people. 
In the wake of those shootings, Florida Republicans have focused their condemnation on hate groups and their attention on keeping guns away from those with mental illness. 
A trio of Republican state senators began circulating a resolution on Thursday that rejects white nationalism as
hateful, dangerous and morally corrupt.” 
That followed a move earlier in the week by Democrats in the Florida House, who introduced legislation spurning white supremacy as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of Florida and the United States.'' 
But while both parties were united in their condemnation of race-based hate, it remains to be seen what policy changes will be enacted.  FILE - Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, participates in debate April 17, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla.
We can have lots of discussions about hate as it relates to white supremacy and white nationalism, but it does not get us to the solution of dealing with guns — and that’s the bottom line for any discussion that should be done,” said Sen. Audrey Gibson, the Democratic leader in the Republican-controlled state Senate. 
In a letter sent to Galvano on Wednesday, she said it was still too easy to access a gun in Florida. 
Gun-control activists are trying to place a measure on the 2020 ballot that would ban assault weapons. Common thread
Whether the massacre unfolded in El Paso, Dayton or Las Vegas, Newtown, Parkland or Pulse, the one inescapable common thread that has bound each and every one of these horrific mass shootings is the presence of an assault weapon,'' Gibson said. She said the state could do better in controlling access to guns, strengthening background checks for private gun sales and expanding the state'sred flag” laws to allow relatives, not just law enforcement, to seek a court order when they think a family member might pose a risk. 
Galvano said everything would be on the table'' as his chamber begins work on strengthening laws to curb mass violence and to expand the laws enacted in response to the Parkland shootings. But when pressed, Galvano said he would leave it to legislative committees to come up with specific legislation. 
In the best-case scenario, the most effective way to begin to approach the state’s role in these things is to look comprehensively — everything from law enforcement and how we’re doing it, and policy changes in funding, mental health screenings, red flags and gun safety.” 

Hickenlooper Ends White House Bid, Weighs 2020 Senate Run

DENVER — Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday ended his longshot bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and said he might run for the Senate in 2020 against a Republican considered one of the most politically vulnerable incumbents. 
In a video message, Hickenlooper said many in his state had urged him to enter the Senate race. They remind me how much is at stake for our country. And our state. I intend to give that some serious thought,'' he said.  
Colorado's shift to the left could put GOP Sen. Cory Gardner in jeopardy, and at least 10 Democrats have launched campaigns, setting up a competitive primary even before Hickenlooper, 67, decides. 
Hickenlooper became a political giant in Colorado for his quirky, consensus-driven and unscripted approach to politics. He once jumped out of a plane to promote a ballot measure to increase state spending and he won two statewide elections during years of Republican waves. He also was Denver's mayor. 'Worthwhile' effort
He began his White House campaign in March, promising to unite the country. Instead, he quickly became a political punch line.
While this campaign didn’t have the outcome we were hoping for, every moment has been worthwhile,” he tweeted on Thursday. 
Founding a series of brewpubs made Hickenlooper a multimillionaire. But shortly before taking his first trip to Iowa as a presidential candidate, he balked on national television at calling himself a capitalist. Then, at a CNN town hall, he recounted how he once took his mother to see a pornographic movie.  
With the campaign struggling to raise money, his staff urged Hickenlooper to instead challenge Gardner. But Hickenlooper stayed in and hired another group of aides in a last-ditch effort to turn around his campaign.  
He positioned himself as a common-sense candidate who couldn’t be labeled a socialist'' by Republicans. But Hickenlooper couldn't make his voice heard in the crowded Democratic field of about two dozen candidates.  Not much of a speaker
It didn't help that, by Hickenlooper's own admission, he was a mediocre debater and an erratic public speaker. In the end, he could not scrape together enough money for many of his trademark quirky ads, only launching one in which avid beer drinkers toast Hickenlooper by comparing him to favorite brews.  
Hickenlooper softened his denials of interest in the Senate in recent weeks as his campaign finances dwindled and pressure increased from other Democrats. He started telling people he'd decide by the end of this week.  
He even met with Colorado's Democratic secretary of state, Jena Griswold, who was mulling a run against Gardner. Griswold last week announced she would not challenge Gardner, and that helped to spark speculation among Colorado Democrats that Hickenlooper would eventually jump in.  
If he entered the Democratic primary, Hickenlooper would be
the absolute favorite,” said Mike Stratton, a veteran Democratic strategist in Denver.  
But some of Gardner’s challengers have said they don’t intend to step aside even if the former governor runs.  
“What I heard Gov. Hickenlooper tell everybody who asked is he wasn’t cut out to be a senator and didn’t want the job,” former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, one of the primary contenders, said in a radio interview. 
Hickenlooper isn’t the first Democratic hopeful to end his 2020 presidential bid. U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell of California announced his departure in July. 

A New Era Dawns for US Intelligence

Washington’s top two intelligence officials are spending their last day on the job Thursday, preparing to leave the nation’s intelligence community in the hands of an acting director as U.S. President Donald Trump oversees an overhaul of his intelligence leadership.The departures of Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and his top deputy, Sue Gordon, come as tensions rise between China and a protest movement in Hong Kong, and while other potential crises simmer in the Persian Gulf, on the Korean Peninsula and elsewhere.
Trump announced Coats’ resignation on Twitter late last month and followed up less than two weeks later with a tweet about the resignation of Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence Sue Gordon, who had been in line to become the acting director.FILE – This image provided by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence shows Deputy National Intelligence Director Sue Gordon. 
But in a note accompanying her resignation letter, Gordon made clear her departure was an “act of respect & patriotism, not preference.”
“You should have your team,” she wrote.
Trump selected Coats, a former Republican lawmaker and one-time U.S. ambassador to Germany, to be his top intelligence official shortly after taking office.
But while Coats quickly won praise from lawmakers and veterans in the U.S. intelligence community for “speaking truth to power,” his public assessments repeatedly clashed with the president’s own assertions.Read also: US Intel Chiefs Warn Washington Risks Losing Friends, InfluenceMost recently, Coats and other U.S. intelligence chiefs stoked Trump’s ire this past January when they testified before Congress, contradicting the president’s assessment of Iran, of U.S. efforts to denuclearize North Korea as well as the president’s declarations that the Islamic State terror group had been defeated.
In a series of tweets, Trump declared Coats and the others, “are wrong!” and further suggested, “Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!”NEW: @POTUS taking a shot at his intelligence chiefs on #Iran – calls them “extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers…They are wrong!”— Jeff Seldin (@jseldin) January 30, 2019 
Coats also publicly split with the president in July of last year, when he told an audience at a security forum that Trump’s decision to meet alone with top Russian officials at the White House was, “probably not the best thing to do.”There was also this moment from the #AspenSecurity Forum in July 2018, when outgoing @ODNIgov Dir Coats was asked about @POTUS’ White House mtg w/#Russia FM #Lavrov & then Amb #Kislyak…”[Sighs] Probably not the best thing to do”— Jeff Seldin (@jseldin) July 28, 2019 
For now, the U.S. intelligence community will be led by Joseph Maguire, a retired admiral and former Navy SEAL, who until now had been serving as director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC).
Maguire has garnered praise both from intelligence officials, including Coats, and from key lawmakers.
“The president seems to like Maguire,” said Fred Feitz, the president of the Center for Security Policy and a former CIA analyst.“I think there will be a good relationship,” Fleitz said, adding Maguire has the ability to “provide the intelligence to the president that he needs to hear.”And Fleitz, who told VOA he has already interviewed to be the next national intelligence director, said no matter who Trump ultimately selects, he or she will be held to the same standard.“The president knows the purpose of the intelligence community and he’s determined that it provides him with the information he needs to keep our nation safe,” he said. 

FILE – Retired Vice Adm. Joseph Maguire appears at a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 25, 2018. President Donald Trump has named Maguire acting national intelligence director.During his NCTC confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee last year, Maguire assured lawmakers he would not allow politics to influence how intelligence would be presented to the president.
“I am more than willing to speak truth to power,” he said told lawmaker at the hearing last year. “To color and shape the information to please other folks would be a disservice.”
Before naming Maguire as his acting director of national intelligence, Trump announced he planned to nominate Republican Congressman John Ratcliffe to the post. But Ratcliffe withdrew his nomination days later, following growing questions about his credentials and experience.A “humbled and honored” @RepRatcliffe tweets he asked @POTUS to nominate someone else to @ODNIgov”I do not wish for a national security and intelligence debate surrounding my confirmation, however untrue, to become a purely political and partisan issue”— Jeff Seldin (@jseldin) August 2, 2019 Read also: Trump’s Pick for National Intelligence Director Withdraws
Trump has said he is considering several candidates to serve as a permanent director of national intelligence, but told reporters last week, “I’m in no rush because we have a great acting [director].”
“That’s a job that everybody wants, DNI. Everybody” Trump said. “We’ll come up with somebody that’s great. We have a lot of choice. A lot of people want the job.”
 Reaction from Intelligence Community
Despite such assurances, some former U.S. intelligence officials are leery, expressing concern that Trump will ultimately seek to appoint a political ally, like Congressman Ratcliffe, instead of an experienced intelligence hand.
Trump “is clearly ignorant of the wounds he inflicts on US national security,” Larry Pfeiffer, a former CIA chief of staff and former senior director of the White House Situation Room, tweeted last week following the news of Gordon’s resignation.Sue Gordon’s forced resignation as deputy DNI today is an assault on inteligence. @realDonaldTrump is clearly ignorant of the wounds he inflicts on US national security.— Larry Pfeiffer (@LarryPfeifferDC) August 8, 2019Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a former veteran CIA officer who served as the spy agency’s Europe division chief, was even more pessimistic.
“This is a sign Trump is going to do something unacceptable in his efforts to control intelligence&law enforcement and consolidate power,” he tweeted.Deputy Director of National Intelligence reportedly just met Trump and decided to resign. I know Sue Gordon personally. She’s a loyal American. This is a sign Trump is going to do something unacceptable in his efforts to control intelligence&law enforcement and consolidate power.— Rolf Mowatt-Larssen (@AmericanMystic) August 8, 2019Some key lawmakers have also expressed distress at the way Trump has handled the country’s intelligence agencies.
“The  president has shown that he has no problem prioritizing his political ego even if it comes at the expense of our national security,” Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chair Mark Warner, a Democrat, said in a statement last week.In an opinion piece published Thursday by The Hill, a former chair and a former ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee said regardless of party, the injection of politics into the way the country’s intelligence agencies are run is worrisome.“Playing political games with the leadership of the intelligence community is setting a dangerous precedent for the future, where this and successive administrations will only be told what they want to hear or what the intelligence community believes they want to hear,” wrote former Republican Congressman Mike Rogers and current Democrat Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger. “That is something we cannot afford.”This story was updated at 1:55pm on August 15

O’Rourke Restarting White House Bid As Battle Against Trump

Democrat Beto O’Rourke recast his presidential campaign as he rejoined the race on Thursday following a nearly two-week pause, using a speech in his Texas hometown where a mass shooting killed 22 people to argue that Donald Trump must be denied a second term.
The former congressman gave a speech at an El Paso park close the U.S.-Mexico border _ delivering what he billed as a “national address.” O’Rourke described himself as waging a battle against a president who has fomented fear of immigrants and white supremacist attitudes that helped spark violence.  His aides say the next phase of O’Rourke’s campaign won’t simply focus on plodding through states that vote early in the presidential primary, like Iowa, but instead feature their candidate drawing more sharp contrasts between himself and Trump and arguing why the president must be voted out of office.
On Friday, O’Rourke is planning to head to Mississippi, where federal immigration agents last week arrested 680 Latino workers in a massive workplace sting at seven chicken processing plants, shocking the community. After Trump took office, then-Acting Director Thomas Homan declared that ICE would try to increase al enforcement actions at worksites believed to be employing people in the country illegally, like the Mississippi plants, by 400%.  
O’Rourke was campaigning in Nevada on Aug. 3 when a gunman who denounced immigrants in an online screed opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso. He rushed home and has attended funerals and vigils, visited victims who remained hospitalized and donated blood while appearing repeatedly on national television to say Trump’s fiery and often racist rhetoric helped cause the shooting.
In the meantime his campaign which in recent months had seen once promising polling and fundraising slump sharply remained suspended. In the aftermath of the shooting, O’Rourke even stopped sending emails to supporters asking for donations and pulled online fundraising ads, though he still took donations via his campaign’s website.
O’Rourke now finds himself in a precarious position. He has again seized the national spotlight, but for all the wrong reasons.
As he hits the campaign trail anew, it’s unclear if becoming the public face of his grieving hometown, and blaming Trump for what happened, will resonate with voters elsewhere _ even as he begins again traveling the country to woo them. Thursday’s speech comes almost exactly five months after O’Rourke stormed into the presidential race amid rising buzz and expectations.
O’Rourke already tried a major strategy shift and reintroduction months ago, increasing his appearances on national television and releasing a string of policy proposals, attempting to show would-be supporters that he didn’t prioritize political style over substance. That effort largely failed to get his campaign back on track, though.  
While he was away, O’Rourke missed scheduled campaign stops in Nevada, California, Colorado and Iowa. Last weekend nearly the entire, 24-candidate field of 2020 Democratic White House hopefuls visited the Iowa state fair and crisscrossed the state to try and impress voters who will kick off presidential primary in February.

Biden Still Leads Democratic Pack Despite Doubts

According to the polls, former Vice President Joe Biden continues to hold a lead over the large pack of Democratic presidential contenders for next year’s election.Despite his standing in the polls, concerns linger about Biden’s age and his habit of making verbal gaffes, and that has some Democrats questioning whether he is the best candidate to go up against President Donald Trump next year.Like most of his rivals, Biden has focused his campaign efforts in the early voting state of Iowa in recent weeks. Iowa will kick off the primary voting process with its caucus votes Feb. 3.President Donald Trump talks to reporters at Morristown Municipal Airport in Morristown, N.J., Aug. 13, 2019.Targeting TrumpIn speaking to Democratic voters, Biden often makes the desire to defeat President Trump his primary campaign focus.“If we give him eight years, and I really believe this from the bottom of my heart, he will forever change the character and the nature of who we are,” Biden told a rally in Boone, Iowa, last week. “That is why we have to defeat Donald Trump in 2020. Period.”Biden remains atop national and key state polls for now but faces strong competition from a large field of rivals that includes Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.“2020 is our chance. We can make this government work for all of America. Let’s do this, Democrats! Dream big! Fight hard! Let’s win!” Warren urged Iowa voters last week.Warren has been surging in the polls in recent weeks and has moved into a slight lead for second place behind Biden in an average of national polls, according to the nonpartisan political website, RealClear Politics.Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks at a campaign event, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019, in Franconia, N.H.Atop the pollsThe RealClear average of polls shows Biden atop the field with 30%, followed by Warren at 18%, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders at 17%, California Senator Kamala Harris with 8% and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 6%. The rest of the Democratic field is at less than 3%.Biden also retains smaller leads over the Democratic field in the key early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Biden leads in Iowa by an average of 9 points, but in New Hampshire, his edge has come down to less than 3 points over Sanders and Warren.Even at age 76, Biden remains an energetic campaigner. But he has also drawn scrutiny in recent weeks for a series of verbal gaffes that have sent shudders of nervousness through some Democratic voters.Biden got confused about the locations of the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, at one point referring to shootings in Houston and Michigan.He told a crowd in Iowa that he had met as vice president with students from Parkland, Florida, after the mass shooting there in February 2018, even though he had left office in early 2017.And Biden seemed to inject an element of race into comments he made about education and the poor during a campaign speech in Iowa.“Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids, wealthy kids, black kids, Asian kids,” he said.
Biden Still Leads Democratic Pack, Despite Doubts video player.
FILE – Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., waves to supporters as he arrives at a rally at Santa Monica High School Memorial Greek Amphitheater in Santa Monica, Calif., July 26, 2019.Biden continues to emphasize the argument that he would be the strongest nominee to take on Trump, while key rivals Warren and Sanders emphasize a broader agenda of reform on the economy and social issues.This split within the Democratic Party over whether to focus primarily on Trump or push for broader political change remains vibrant, said Brookings Institution analyst Darrell West.“A lot of the current debate among the Democrats is, do we need small changes and basically bring America back to what it was like before Trump, or do we need much more substantial changes?” he said.That dilemma will be on display again when Democrats gather for a third debate in Houston next month.

Biden Still Leads Democratic Pack, Despite Doubts

Opinion polls show that former Vice President Joe Biden continues to lead the large pack of Democratic presidential contenders for 2020. But concerns about Biden’s age and his habit of making verbal gaffes have some Democrats questioning whether he would be the best candidate to go up against President Donald Trump next year. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington on Biden’s status as the Democratic Party frontrunner.

Jon Huntsman, US Ambassador to Russia, Resigns

U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon M. Huntsman Jr. will resign from his post effective Oct. 3 — capping a tumultuous two-year tenure in Moscow defined by sinking bilateral relations, despite efforts to stem the damage.”American citizenship is a privilege and I believe the most basic responsibility in return is service to country,” wrote Huntsman in a FILE – Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stands behind prior to their talks in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, May 14, 2019.Hopeful days early onHuntsman came to Moscow as Trump’s surprise choice for the Russian ambassador’s post — a political appointee and elder Republican statesman with little knowledge of Russia.Moreover, he had little history with a president who seemed to value trusted family and insiders above all else.”The good news is Huntsman doesn’t bring any negative baggage when it comes to Russia,” noted foreign policy analyst Vladimir Frolov in an interview at the time. “But the reality is, he doesn’t have much of a relationship with Trump. He’s not in Trump’s inner circle.”Indeed, Huntsman — a centrist Republican who was ambassador to China in the Obama administration — seemed by nature out of step with the slashing partisan politics of the Trump era.Early on, Huntsman embraced Trump’s calls to improve relations with Moscow — even pushing to open doors in Washington for his Russian counterpart, Anatoly Antonov. “I made it clear when I started this job that I wanted to make sure that wherever the Russian ambassador [had access], then I had similar access, and where I get access, Ambassador Anatoly Antonov should get access,” Huntsman said in FILE – White House national security adviser John Bolton, left, and U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman wait to begin talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin in Moscow, June 27, 2018.Search for next ambassador Huntsman is widely rumored to be eyeing a gubernatorial run in Utah.Meanwhile, attention turns to whom Trump may nominate next, with intrigue already in tow.A recent CNN report raised eyebrows when it reported Trump and Putin discussed Huntsman’s departure — and possible successor — during a phone call last week in which Trump offered U.S. assistance to help combat raging wildfires in Siberia. Yet some observers say the charged political environment in Washington means the Moscow post may stay vacant for some time.”Before the U.S. presidential elections in 2020, it’s unlikely we’ll see a new ambassador in Russia,” said Nikolai Zlobin, president of the Center for Global Interests, a Russian think tank based in Washington, in an interview with Moscow’s Business FM radio. “There are not many candidates,” he said, “and not many in Washington are interested in the position.” 

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