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Feb. 9 2016 10:13 PM

Hillary to Voters After Losing New Hampshire: Let’s Get Real, America

Hillary Clinton’s impressive concession speech Tuesday night, which followed Bernie Sanders’ even more impressive win in the New Hampshire primary, was a bracing call for getting real. Clinton is making a version of the case she made against Barack Obama in 2008: Voters may be inspired by her opponent, but they should vote for her if they actually want change to occur. The argument didn’t quite succeed in 2008, although Clinton and Obama battled to what was nearly a tie. Against a weaker (if surprisingly formidable) opponent this time, will it be enough?

In her speech, Clinton mentioned Flint, Michigan, and health care, along with a couple other old standbys, and acknowledged that voters were right to be angry. But rather than appeal emotionally to that anger, she urged them to be pragmatic, saying that people should be “hungry for solutions” and labeling herself the “best change-maker.” It was a clever use of a key Obama word, and it highlighted her argument: If you want change, don’t rely on hope.

What made the speech better than many of her previous efforts—I’m not including her Goldman Sachs speeches, since we haven’t seen those—was that she mixed this practical approach to leadership with a surprising amount of heart. “I know I have some work to do, particularly with young people,” she intoned. “Even if they are not supporting me now, I support them.” This reference to her low levels of support from Kids These Days led to several other relatively heartfelt lines about her awareness of “what it’s like to stumble and fall.” (Against Obama, Clinton had her best moments when under attack or when voters were reminded of her past troubles.) Clinton also mixed in a passionate appeal for racial justice of the sort that neither she nor any candidate would have included eight years ago.

In all, it was a strong performance, but it failed to resolve doubts. Clinton has had several strong debates, she has given several impressive speeches, and she has released an impressive set of policy proposals. She occasionally seems to have transcended her previous flaws as a candidate and public figure. But then there is the constant stream of stories about possible staff shakeups; about Bill misbehaving, or speaking out of turn; about a coziness with Wall Street that rightly makes Democrats squirm; about emails. Her argument for experience and pragmatism should be enough to get her past Bernie Sanders, but mainly by default. 

Feb. 9 2016 8:13 PM

Donald Trump Just Won New Hampshire. Sad!

CNN just called it: Donald Trump has won New Hampshire’s 2016 Republican presidential primary. This is not a drill. I repeat: This is not a drill.

We’ll have to wait until all the votes are tallied to see whether this is a disaster for the Republican Party or just a massive debacle. But regardless of how the final standings shake out for the establishment-backed foursome of Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Chris Christie, the big story leaving New Hampshire will be Trump. He just won a presidential nominating contest run by one of the two major political parties in the United States—an outcome that seemed unthinkable this past summer when many political observers didn’t expect his campaign to last into the fall.

The victory will legitimize Trump’s candidacy in ways that his polling performances and crowd sizes have been unable to. He just bested the best the Republican Party has to offer in a state where his establishment rivals have no excuses, given primary voters there are considerably more moderate than Iowa’s GOP caucus-goers. Trump still has his work cut out for him in future contests, but it’s now impossible to dismiss him as a paper tiger, as many of his rivals were eager to do after he failed to win the Iowa caucus last week.

The real estate tycoon has now gone from polling front-runner to real-life winner of a state where primary voters have backed the past two GOP nominees and four of the past six in contests without an incumbent. Trump has an uncanny ability to steal the media spotlight, but in New Hampshire on Tuesday, he earned it.

Additional Slate coverage of the New Hampshire primary:

Feb. 9 2016 8:08 PM

Supreme Court Deals Blow to Obama Plan to Curb Carbon Emissions From Coal

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday to temporarily halt the Obama administration plan to impose federal regulations on coal emissions from power plants, which is part of a broader effort to combat climate change. The 5-to-4 vote, along partisan lines, means that the Environmental Protection Agency regulations, part of a transformative plan to shift the American power grid to cleaner sources, will be put on hold until legal challenges to the Clean Power Plan can make their way through the courts.

“The plan was designed to lower carbon emissions from U.S. power plants by 2030 to 32 percent below 2005 levels,” according to Reuters. “It is the main tool for the United States to meet the emissions reduction target it pledged at U.N. climate talks in Paris in December.” A coalition of coal-producing states and the coal industry is opposing the deal as federal overreach. Here’s more from the New York Times:

The states challenging the regulation, led mostly by Republicans and many with economies that rely on coal mining or coal-fired power, sued to stop what they called “the most far-reaching and burdensome rule the E.P.A. has ever forced onto the states.” A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in January unanimously refused to grant a stay… The states urged the Supreme Court to take immediate action to block what they called a “power grab” under which “the federal environmental regulator seeks to reorganize the energy grids in nearly every state in the nation.” Though the plan’s first emission reduction obligations do not take effect until 2022, the states said they had already started to spend money and shift resources to get ready. Eighteen states, mostly led by Democrats, opposed the request for a stay, saying they were “continuing to experience climate-change harms firsthand — including increased flooding, more severe storms, wildfires and droughts.”

The Supreme Court’s willingness to intervene in the case is an ominous sign for supporters of the plan as it suggests there are significant doubts about its legality among the conservative majority of the justices.

Feb. 9 2016 8:03 PM

Bernie Sanders Wins New Hampshire

CNN is calling it: Sen. Bernie Sanders has won New Hampshire’s 2016 Democratic presidential primary.  

Sanders entered the day up big in the polls, which may knock the smallest amount of luster off his victory given the absurd day-of expectations game that most politicos, pundits, and political journalists engage in. But make no mistake: Bernie’s win is a significant achievement for a candidate who was widely dismissed as a Doc Brown–haired sideshow when he launched his challenge to the most dominant nonincumbent in history less than one year ago.

Yes, the demographics of New Hampshire’s Democratic electorate skewed in Sanders' favor. And, yes, the Vermont senator enjoyed near–native son status in the Granite State, where voters have a history of favoring their fellow New Englanders in primaries. But none of that changes the fact that Bernie has now battled Hillary to a near-draw in the first nominating contest of the year and handed her a convincing defeat in the second. As recently as this past summer, Sanders was still struggling to be treated as a legitimate candidate for the Democratic nomination; after New Hampshire, there’s no denying he’s a bonafide contender.

To be clear: Clinton remains the overwhelming favorite to win the nomination. The former secretary of state still has the same advantages she did before voting began: the campaign and super PAC war chest, the ground game, the endorsements, the pledged superdelegates, and the general support of a party establishment that hasn’t hesitated to tilt the scales in her favor. She can see brighter days are on the horizon, too, in the form of the Nevada caucus on Feb. 20, the South Carolina primary on Feb. 27, and a March 1 Super Tuesday slate full of Southern states likely to provide her with a warm welcome. The next week or two will be rough for her, but she wouldn’t trade places with Sanders if given the chance.

Yet she now has a very real reason to worry. Her team tried its hardest to tamp down expectations in the lead-up to Tuesday’s primary and will continue to do everything it can to spin the loss into something resembling an inconsequential footnote, a challenge that becomes more difficult the further she finishes from Sanders in the final New Hampshire count. But while Tuesday’s results won’t decide the nomination, the results can be discounted only so much. Sanders had the wind at his back in New Hampshire over the past few months, but the state can’t be mistaken as hostile territory for Clinton. Bill Clinton used a surprise second-place finish in the 1992 primary as a springboard to the nomination that year and went on to win the state in the general election both that fall and four years later. In 2008, Hillary beat then–Sen. Barack Obama by nearly 3 points in New Hampshire, surprising pollsters in the process. This year, she had the backing of the state’s Democratic governor, Maggie Hassan, and the state’s sole Democratic senator, Jeanne Shaheen. She led Bernie by roughly 40 points this past summer and had regained a polling lead as recently as December. Tuesday's results should sting.

Sanders and his supporters, meanwhile, should be ecstatic. Last May, Bernie launched his campaign in New Hampshire with calls for a “political revolution.” But while talking to reporters later that same day, the self-styled democratic socialist’s rhetoric soared closer to earth. “I fully concede that I get into this race as a major underdog,” Sanders said then, before adding: “We’re going to do better than people think, and I think we’ve got a shot to win this thing.” Less than a year later, Bernie’s already proved himself right on both counts.

Additional Slate coverage of the New Hampshire primary:

Feb. 9 2016 5:18 PM

Trump Is Beating Cruz in the War Crimes Primary

Among many other landmarks, the 2016 GOP primary may be remembered as the contest that made it not only acceptable, but politically advantageous, to advocate for committing war crimes.

The most recent example came in Saturday’s debate, when front-runner Donald Trump argued that because “In the Middle East, we have people chopping the heads off Christians” and other “things that we have never seen before,” it is necessary to “bring back waterboarding” and “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.” No one’s denying ISIS’s cruelty, but why past American enemies—Nazi Germany, say—didn’t meet Trump’s torture threshold is a little unclear. Trump stood by his stance on the Sunday shows but declined to say what “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding” meant or make clear how he would get around recent laws passed by Congress banning these techniques. On Monday, Trump’s son Eric usefully contributed his observation about waterboarding, which “quite frankly is no different than what happens on college campuses in frat houses every day.”

The common stance of Republican candidates is a variation on Dick Cheney’s argument that the U.S. does not torture prisoners and that techniques the U.S. has used in the war on terror, such as waterboarding, are not torture—they are enhanced interrogation techniques. We’ve heard versions of this argument from Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush. Trump, who says the U.S. must do “frankly unthinkable” things to defeat ISIS, is unbothered by such distinctions, though. In the past, he has openly, and positively, used the T-word to describe old U.S. interrogation techniques, arguing that, “As soon as the next attack happens, everyone’s going to want to go back to the torture.”

Trump is likely happy to be talking about torture again, because it’s the rare issue on which rival Ted Cruz is relatively moderate, compared even to “establishment” candidates like Rubio and Bush. The senator, who has talked about his father’s torture by Fidel Castro’s regime, has said that “Torture is wrong, unambiguously. Period. The end,” and something that only “bad guys” engage in. On Saturday, Cruz wiggled out of that position a little bit saying that waterboarding is “enhanced interrogation” rather than torture, but still said he “would not bring it back in any sort of widespread use” and pointed out that he had co-sponsored legislation with John McCain to restrict its use.

Of course, in an election where the foreign policy debate has often been a competition to espouse the most bloodthirsty rhetoric rather than bring any new ideas to the table, Cruz has found other over-the-top and probably illegal activities for which to advocate. His promise to “carpet-bomb ISIS into oblivion,” meaning to bomb an area without distinguishing between military and civilian targets, would violate both U.S. military guidelines and international humanitarian law. (To be fair, it is quite possible that Cruz doesn’t actually know, or care, what carpet bombing means.)

Further down in the polls, other candidates have tried to make clear to voters that they too are open to ideas that, in other settings, might earn a head of state a trip to the Hague. Jeb Bush has promised to “Get the lawyers off the damn backs of the military once and for all.” Ben Carson has described the killing of civilians, including children, as “merciful.” These statements might have garnered a lot of attention if these candidates weren’t running against a man who openly advocates for killing the families of ISIS members. Instead, they seem almost quaint.

Feb. 9 2016 4:48 PM

The Tuesday Slatest Newsletter

Today's New Hampshire primary day, and while we don't have results yet, it did occur to me that you could sing the words Welcome to New Hampshire to the tune of "Welcome to the Jungle," so there's that.

(Here's what various N.H. outcomes might mean to the Republican and Democratic races per our ace campaign blogger Josh Voorhees.)

In other news:

Have a good primary night out there!

Feb. 9 2016 3:33 PM

Republican Maine Governor Says “Black Dealers” Are at Fault in State’s Drug Epidemic

In early January, Republican Maine Gov. Paul LePage answered a question about Maine's addiction epidemic by complaining about drug dealers with names like "D-Money," "Smoothie," and "Shifty" who bring heroin in from out of state and often "impregnate a young white girl" before they leave. LePage and his spokesman then strenuously denied that the statement about "D-Money" getting a "white girl" pregnant had anything to do with race. LePage:

"I never said anything about white or black traffickers. ... What are they, black? I don't know. I just read the names," he said. 

And his spokesman:

“The governor is not making comments about race. Race is irrelevant,” Steele said in a statement he emailed in response to a request to have the governor explain his comments.

Well, now LePage says he was talking about black people. From the Huffington Post:

"I had to go scream at the top of my lungs about black dealers coming in and doing the things that they’re doing to our state," he said on his weekly radio appearance on WVOM.

So—the governor of Maine, whose party calls itself an advocate for "personal responsibility and accountability," thinks drug addiction is something "black dealers" are doing "to" his state.

Where do we go from here?

Feb. 9 2016 11:59 AM

Hong Kong’s #FishBallRevolution Is About Much More Than Fish Balls

A violent clash between street vendors and police that broke out in central Hong Kong on Monday night has been jokingly called the “fish ball revolution” on social media. It was the city’s largest unrest since the mass pro-democracy protests of 2014.

The clash broke out when police tried to clear street food vendors who had set up in the central shopping district of Mong Kok for Monday night’s Lunar New Year celebration. Authorities usually turn a blind eye to these unlicensed vendors but this year tried to take a tougher line. When the police moved in, the vendors started throwing bottles and paving stones. Police used pepper spray and batons and at one point fired warning shots. While Hong Kong cops are usually armed, gun violence is very rare and it’s unusual for them to fire their weapons.

Rioters in the Mong Kok district on Feb. 9, 2016.

Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images

Police clash with protestersin the Mong Kok district on Feb. 9, 2016.

Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

An injured protester receives help in the Mong Kok district on Feb. 9, 2016.

Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images

Demonstrations are common in Hong Kong, but the violence of this one, which led to 90 people injured and 54 arrested, was not. The incident also comes at a time of heightened tensions over what pro-democracy groups view as Beijing’s attempts to undermine the city’s political independence and civil liberties. There have been a number of demonstrations over the apparent abductions of the owners and employees of an anti-Beijing book shop by mainland Chinese authorities. 

Twitter users mocked the police’s use of overwhelming force against hawkers selling fish balls and contrasted it with the police’ blasé attitude toward the alleged abductions of the booksellers:  

While Monday’s clash had no direct link to Hong Kong’s Occupy movement, which shut down much of the city in the 2014 pro-democracy protests that became known as the Umbrella Revolution, the BBC reports that some anti-Beijing activists went to Mong Kok to support the vendors. Vendors’ rights might seem like an obscure cause for activists to take on, but the use of force against a local tradition that had long been tolerated by the city’s relatively easy-going political system, is just the sort of thing to push the buttons of those who see Hong Kong’s culture and freedoms now threatened. Things seem to have returned to normal in Mong Kok for now, so this may all blow over. But it wouldn’t be the first time that anger over the treatment of a street vendor by the police has sparked something much larger.   

Feb. 9 2016 11:19 AM

At Least Nine Killed in Head-On German Train Crash

Two commuter trains somehow collided head on at an estimated 60 mph near Munich on Tuesday, killing at least nine people and injuring many others. From CNN:

The trains collided at a bend on the Mangfall Valley Railway, a single-track regional rail line between the towns of Rosenheim and Holzkirchen, German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said.
"There's a curve there, so we must assume that the train drivers must not have been able to see each other beforehand," he told reporters at a news conference.

The crash occurred at 6:48 a.m. local time. Both drivers are believed to have been killed.

It's not yet known whether it was a technical or human error that led to both trains being on the same track; the Guardian says both were equipped with automatic brake systems that should have kicked in when/if their drivers failed to stop at a red light signal. 

Feb. 9 2016 9:44 AM

OK, Yeah, Donald Trump Referred to Ted Cruz as a “Pussy” on Monday

The idea that Donald Trump will reverse the "pussification" of America has been one commonly repeated by his supporters during the presidential campaign. Monday night at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, Trump made this theme literally explicit by calling Ted Cruz a pussy.

Here's New York magazine quoting the remark, which involved Trump repeating something that an audience member was shouting while Trump complained that Cruz apparently isn't aggressive enough about torture policy:

"You know what she said? Shout it because I don’t want to say it,” he said. “OK, you’re not allowed to say [it], and I never expect to hear that from you again. She said—I never expect to hear that from you again! She said he’s a pussy.” 

(The approach of merely repeating someone else's crass remark about an opponent fits generally with Trump's theme of framing obnoxious comments as criticisms he's not making.)

The woman in the audience later told Mic that she supports Trump because he has large, watermelon-sized testicles.

Trump defended the remark on an MSNBC appearance: "We were all just having fun. It was a great moment—I got a standing ovation, the place went wild."

You know, if this paunchy real estate heir who can't even own up to his own crass remarks is America's best hope for restoring a bold masculine character to our metaphorical genitals, we actually might be in trouble.