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Hailing A First, Clinton Claims Democratic Nomination

Hillary Clinton declared herself the Democratic Party nominee for U.S. president on Tuesday, embracing her role in history as the first woman to lead a major party in a race for the White House.

The former first lady, senator and U.S. secretary of state celebrated her victory in the nominating race over rival Bernie Sanders at a raucous event with supporters in Brooklyn, New York, where Clinton placed her achievement in the context of the long history of the women’s rights movement.

“Thanks to you, we have reached a milestone,” Clinton said in a speech. “We all owe so much to who came before.”

Clinton, 68, spoke shortly after beating Sanders in New Jersey’s nominating contest, expanding her lead in the delegates needed to clinch the nomination and setting up a five-month general election campaign against presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump in the Nov. 8 election.

New Jersey was one of six states holding contests on Tuesday, including California, the big prize where Clinton was still at risk of an embarrassing loss to Sanders as she heads into the campaign against Trump.

Polls in California closed at 11 p.m. EDT, but news networks said the race was too close to call.

In her speech, Clinton appealed to Sanders supporters to join her and said the Democratic Party had been bolstered by his campaign for eradicating income inequality, which has commanded huge crowds and galvanized younger voters.

By contrast, Clinton harshly attacked Trump for using divisive rhetoric that belittled women, Muslims and immigrants, and took specific aim at his recent condemnation of an Indiana-born judge of Mexican heritage.

“The stakes in this election are high and the choice is clear. Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit to be president and commander-in-chief,” she said.

“When Donald Trump says a distinguished judge born in Indiana can’t do his job because of his Mexican heritage, or he mocks a reporter with disabilities, or calls women pigs, it goes against everything we stand for,” she said.

 

GLASS CEILING

Clinton also won in New Mexico while Sanders, 74, was projected to win in North Dakota. There were no immediate projections in Montana or South Dakota in the final series of big presidential nominating battles that began on Feb. 1 in Iowa. The District of Columbia, the last to vote, holds a Democratic primary next Tuesday.

In a fundraising email to supporters, Clinton declared her campaign had broken “one of the highest, hardest glass ceilings.”

On Twitter, she said: “To every little girl who dreams big: Yes, you can be anything you want – even president. Tonight is for you.”

Clinton’s race against Trump, 69, will unfold as she faces an ongoing investigation of her use of a personal email server while secretary of state. Opinion polls show the controversy has hurt Clinton’s ratings on honesty and trustworthiness.

Clinton now must try to unify the party and win over Sanders supporters after a bruising primary battle. But Sanders, a democratic socialist U.S. senator from Vermont, has vowed to stay in the race until July’s party convention that formally picks the nominee, defying growing pressure from party leaders to exit the race.

Although Sanders will be unable to catch Clinton even if he wins the primary in California, America’s most populous state, a triumph there could fuel his continued presence in the race and underscore Clinton’s weaknesses as she heads into the fight with Trump.

Clinton edged Sanders out, especially among older voters, with a more pragmatic campaign focused on building on President Barack Obama’s policies.

Steven Acosta, a 47-year-old teacher living in Los Angeles, voted for Clinton on Tuesday, saying that was partly because he believed she stood a better chance of winning in November.

“I like what Bernie Sanders says and I agree with almost everything that he says,” Acosta said. “The problem is that I think Republicans would really unify … even more against him.”

 

‘RUSH TO JUDGMENT’

Sanders was determined to stay in the race, even after the Associated Press and NBC reported on Monday night that Clinton had clinched the number of delegates needed to win the nomination. A Sanders campaign spokesman castigated what he said was the media’s “rush to judgment.”

Under Democratic National Committee rules, most delegates to the July 25-28 convention in Philadelphia are awarded by popular votes in state-by-state elections, and Clinton has a clear lead in those pledged delegates.

But the delegate count also includes superdelegates, party leaders who can change their minds at any time. Clinton’s superdelegate support outnumbers Sanders’ by more than 10 to 1.

The Sanders’ campaign has said it can still persuade superdelegates to switch to him, although in practice superdelegates who have announced their intentions are unlikely to change their minds.

Sanders would have to get more than 60 percent of the superdelegates backing Clinton to switch their votes. So far, his campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, acknowledged they had yet to convert a single delegate.

Trump, who became his party’s presumptive nominee last month, outlasting 16 Republican challengers, is struggling to get the party’s leaders solidly behind him after a bitter primary campaign during which he made a series of controversial statements directed at Muslims, Latinos, women and the disabled.

On Tuesday night he addressed a crowd of supporters in New York, welcoming Sanders supporters “with open arms” should they decide to support him and declaring a new phase of the campaign had begun.

“Tonight we close one chapter in history and we begin another,” Trump said.

“I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week, and we are going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons,” he said. “I think you are going to find it very informative and very, very interesting. I wonder if the press will want to attend.”

 

(Writing by John Whitesides; Additional reporting by Amanda Becker, Alana Wise and Megan Cassella in Washington; Jonathan Allen and Chris Kahn in New York; Joseph Ax and Frank McGurty in New Jersey; Alex Dobuzinskis and Dan Whitcomb in California; Editing by Howard Goller)

 

Photo: Hillary Clinton arrives to speak during her California primary night rally held in Brooklyn.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson  

Sanders Poised To Win West Virginia, Despite Opposition To Coal-Powered Energy

In the 2008, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama in the West Virginia primary, taking 67 percent of the vote and 20 of the 28 delegates up for grabs in the state. Eight years later, she looks set to lose the state’s primary to another challenger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. But how is an avowed opponent of coal mining and fossil fuels set to win the vote in a state defined by its coal mining industry?

Part of the answer could be that Sanders has appealed to white, working-class voters who could be convinced to support a Democratic platform more in line with their values than that of the Republican Party. “We have millions of working-class people who are voting for Republican candidates whose views are diametrically opposite to what voters want,” said Sanders to The Washington Post last fall. “How many think it’s a great idea that we have trade policies that lead to plants in West Virginia being shut down? How many think there should be massive cuts in Pell grants or in Social Security? In my opinion, not too many people.”

During an interview with The Charleston Gazette-Mail, one of the state’s biggest papers, Sanders further outlined how he would bring economic vitality to regions facing deindustrialization and economic malaise. “We are going to create an economy that works for all people by providing affordable loans for small and medium-sized businesses, by investing in the most hard-pressed communities throughout this country,” he said.

And in an interview with NPR, Sanders made it clear that the Democratic Party needed to be an ally of working class Americans who were losing their jobs in a rapidly changing economy. “I think one of the challenges we face, what my campaign is about, is making it clear that the Democratic Party must be on the side of working people and low-income people,” he said. “And the stand we gotta make is the stand with the people in McDowell County, W.Va., and poor people and working people all over this country.”

The contrast between Sanders and Clinton grew starker after Clinton was forced to apologize for the sound bite “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” made in reference to her plans to bring renewable energy jobs to the state. Her full remarks, made in a CNN town hall in March, were:

So for example, I’m the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country. Because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right?

And we’re going to make it clear that we don’t want to forget those people. Those people labored in those mines for generations, losing their health, often losing their lives to turn on our lights and power our factories.

Despite agreeing with Sanders on the need to pursue green energy, Clinton’s phrasing of that sentence has made her unpopular among the state’s Democrats, to the point that she wasn’t welcomed into the town of Logan, West Virginia. “Bill and Hillary Clinton are simply not welcome in our town,” wrote local officials in a letter to Senator Joe Manchin, who has endorsed Clinton and is a Democratic super delegate. Clinton has proposed a $30 billion stimulus package to aid Appalachian mining communities reeling from mine closures as part of her platform.

The state’s residents are already aware of the numerous challenges facing West Virginia’s coal mining industry. The decline has eaten away at the industry’s workforce, its production levels, and its financial contributions to the state. More power plants are switching over to natural gas, which has seen its prices drop as fracking has taken off around the country. Coal mining output has dropped by 15 percent in the state since 2008 and coal-fired power plants account for just 33 percent of the country’s total energy output today, compared with 50 percent half a century ago. Global demand has gone down too. China’s sudden economic slowdown created a surplus of raw materials, from iron ore to coal, leading to a collapse in commodities prices.

“Forget the clean power plan. You cannot build a coal plant that meets existing regulation today that can compete with $5 gas,” said Charles Patton, president of Appalachian Power, at a state energy conference recently. “It just cannot happen.”

“In the past we always knew that the demand for coal would rebound and the jobs would come back,” said Cecil E. Roberts Jr., the United Mine Workers of America president, in a speech reported by The New York Times in June 2015. “This time, there is no such certainty. Fundamental changes are underway in America and across the world that will have a lasting impact on the coal industry and our jobs.”

Along with his focus on taxing the wealthy and denouncing Wall Street’s reckless behavior, Sanders has dedicated part of his fiery speeches to the threat of global warming, one that must be countered by a green tech revolution. The same message isn’t as closely associated with Clinton’s candidacy, leading to confrontations like the one between her and coal miner Bo Copley last week.

On Israel, Bernie Sanders Is Right (And Hillary Clinton Knows It)

The most significant moment of the Democratic primary debate in Brooklyn – and perhaps any presidential debate this season – came when Bernie Sanders challenged Hillary Clinton over her refusal to criticize Israel’s excessive use of force against the Palestinians in Gaza. For the first time in memory, a major American political figure insisted publicly that the Jewish state and its leaders are “not always right” – and that in attempting to suppress terrorism, they had killed and injured far too many blameless human beings.

Asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about his judgment that Israel’s military response to attacks from Gaza in 2014 was “disproportionate and led to the unnecessary loss of innocent life,” the Vermont Senator answered firmly: “Yeah, I do believe that.” He mentioned that many other nations, including longtime allies of Israel, had denounced the atrocities in Gaza, along with human rights organizations around the world.

Having reiterated that he supports Israel as our ally — with every right to self-defense — Sanders said that “in the long run, if we are ever going to bring peace to that region which has seen so much hatred and so much war, we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity.”

That should be blindingly obvious, especially to Clinton, who has worked alongside President Clinton and President Obama toward a decent two-state solution for almost a quarter century. Hillary Clinton’s disappointing reply to Bernie Sanders on Israel reflected her political priorities in the New York primary, rather than her commitment to human rights or her assessment of American diplomatic interests.

She talked about her effort in negotiating a Gaza ceasefire, but that self-serving paean was evasive, as Sanders pointed out. Pressed for a serious answer, she pandered to the most conservative voters, Jewish and Christian, who mistakenly believe friendship with Israel means supporting any violence perpetrated by Israel’s government. She blamed the casualties among Palestinian civilians solely on Hamas, even as she vaguely mentioned “precautions” that Israel should have taken to prevent them.

This display of subservience to the most right-wing elements in Israel and its Washington lobby was all too typical of American presidential aspirants. Rarely does any U.S. politician dare to utter the truth about the conflict in Israel and Palestine. But coming from Clinton the usual pap sounds worse because, unlike the average pol, she possesses deep knowledge of the region.

When Bill Clinton was president, he and Hillary became close friends of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, a former general in the Israel Defense Forces and a war hero who courageously sought a just peace with the Palestinians – and paid for that brave policy with his life when a right-wing fanatic assassinated him in November 1995. Her memoir, Living History, describes hopeful moments with Rabin and his wife Leah around the time of the Oslo accords — and an affecting account of the moments after President Clinton, who loved Rabin like a father, told her he had been murdered.

Hillary Clinton knows that the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu, responsible for the Gaza disgrace and more, is far closer in outlook to the ultra-nationalists who applauded Rabin’s assassination than to the peacemaker whose death she lamented. She knows that Netanyahu’s aim is annexation, not negotiation. She knows that our interests – indeed, those of the entire world — can only be advanced by a just peace that both protects Israel and relieves the suffering of the Palestinian people.

The day after the Brooklyn debate, her campaign issued a lengthy press release: “Hillary Clinton and Israel: A 30-Year Record of Friendship, Leadership, and Strength.” But its failure to mention Palestinian rights and needs again revealed weakness, not “strength.” We can only hope that if she wins the presidency, she will prove herself to be a true friend of Israel and its people – as her husband did when he warned that unless they achieve a durable agreement with a new Palestine, Israelis will eventually lose their nationhood, their democracy, or both.

Unfortunately, Clinton’s current approach is the dismal standard in American politics, which made Sanders’ honesty even more refreshing. What a surprise to hear a Jewish candidate for president — the first with a realistic shot at his party’s nomination — speak so candidly and courageously about the country where he worked on a kibbutz as a young man. With those words Bernie made a bit of history, and earned a lot of respect.

The Biggest Losers on Tuesday Were the Pollsters

When the dust settled after Tuesday’s Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton expanded her commanding lead over Bernie Sanders by 18 delegates. This was the political bottom line, but it wasn’t THE story, was it?

The story was that by confounding pollster expectations that Clinton would handily take Michigan, Bernie scored a huge upset. Thus, Clinton’s loss in Michigan was “shocking” and Bernie’s win “stunning,” according to The Washington Post.

Actually, the two split Michigan pretty much evenly. Bernie’s 49.8 percent victory in Michigan was no more spectacular than Hillary’s 49.9 percent win in Iowa.

We are assuming it’s the vote that matters, as opposed to the story. Bernie’s great triumph came from upending the predictions of pollsters who, obviously, weren’t doing a very good job of polling. It’s all part of a pundit-pollster complex in which the analyzers play the man behind the curtain and the voters are munchkins who serve to validate their confidently delivered predictions.

Bernie did run a strong campaign in Michigan. He wisely showed up in the smaller cities, such as Traverse City and Kalamazoo. And he profited from his simple, if simple-minded, message that trade agreements single-handedly killed thousands of factory jobs in the Rust Belt.

One can understand the anger of a worker whose employer packed up and moved to Mexico. And the North American Free Trade Agreement provides a handy explanation of why that happened.

It’s a lot harder to examine the complex dynamics of trade. Reputable economists who have studied NAFTA, including some of its critics, have concluded that the accord modestly helped the American economy on the whole.

How many of the jobs that did leave for Mexico would have otherwise gone to even-lower-wage China? And how has rising demand for U.S. products from Mexico’s growing middle class helped U.S. manufacturing?

Back to the pundits.

The herd has stampeded to the importance of “angry white working-class men,” a group with which Bernie did quite well in Michigan. And they are important. (Many Democrats have long erred in cultivating racial and ethnic identity politics at the expense of white blokes.)

At the same time, THE story could have lingered longer on Clinton’s decisive win in Mississippi, where 90 percent of that state’s large African-American electorate chose Hillary over Bernie. Black votes matter just as much as white votes, do they not?

My Bernie friends have been cross with me of late. They accuse me of being blindly in love with Hillary.

Not true. I don’t love Hillary. She exasperates me on a number of counts. Bernie is more lovable, but he bothers me more. I am suspicious of radical promises from one who couldn’t get a single senator to co-sponsor his single-payer plan. And Bernie’s scheme for funding his proposals was so off-the-wall unrealistic it left even liberal economists gasping.

I do share with my Bernie friends a fear of the Republican candidates, except (in my case) John Kasich. My Bernie people will persist in sending me polls “showing” that he could more easily defeat any of the leading Republicans in a general election than could Hillary.

What those polls really show is how well Bernie would do if he were the nominee and Republicans let his politics, writings and personal history skate into November without comment. Hillary has already been copiously dumped upon.

Really, how much stock are you going to put in an eight-months-hence prediction from the same fellows who couldn’t get Michigan right the night before? The biggest losers on Tuesday were the pollsters, for sure.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

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Photo: Bernie Sanders thrusts his fists in the air as he speaks to supporters on the night of the Michigan, Mississippi and other primaries at his campaign rally in Miami, Florida March 8, 2016.    REUTERS/Carlo Allegri