יום חמישי, 30 ביוני 2016

Trump's Pennsylvania campaign is missing in action

In a swing state that's central to his fortunes, local GOP leaders say there's almost no sign of Donald Trump's operation.


Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally June 11 at a private hanger at Greater Pittsburgh International Airport. | AP Photo

Nearly everyone can agree that Donald Trump’s path to the White House goes through Pennsylvania.

But local party leaders in some of the state’s most pivotal counties say there’s been almost no outreach from his campaign so far, and there’s scant evidence of any Trump-driven ground organization. What infrastructure is in place lags behind the Democratic coordinated campaign on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

“The good news is, the level of enthusiasm for Mr. Trump in this county is the strongest I’ve ever seen for anyone,” said Michael Korns, Republican chairman of Westmoreland County, the second biggest in western Pennsylvania and the site of a Trump speech on Tuesday. “The bad news is, the resources at our disposal are by far the worst I’ve ever seen in any campaign, at least in any presidential campaign.”

“The Trump campaign has not specifically reached out to me,” said Bill Urbanski, the GOP chair of Wilkes Barre’s Luzerne County, a populous county in northeastern Pennsylvania where, according to a recent Republican poll, Trump led by 17 points.

Trump will need a heavy turnout in counties places like Luzerne and Westmoreland to offset Clinton’s advantages in the two big-city Democratic strongholds on either end of the state, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

So far, though, local officials report little interaction with the Trump campaign.

“I’ve not had much contact directly from the campaign,” said David Show, Republican Party chairman of Fayette County in southwestern Pennsylvania. Fayette gave Trump 70 percent of the vote in the primary. “State party-wise, they’re starting to get more active, but as far as direct contact with the Trump campaign, no. I haven’t heard much.”

“The state committee, the state party has people on the ground,” said Bill Donnelly, the chairman of the Montgomery County GOP in suburban Philadelphia. “The Trump people themselves I haven’t heard from.”

When there is outreach, Korns said, it’s not always from credible or official sources.

“There are a number of individuals, with varying levels of authority, some self-appointed, some not, that sort of float around on that campaign, so it’s definitely been a bit of a learning curve on our end,” Korns said.

Trump’s strategy differs from past nominees in that it cedes organizational control and direction to the Republican National Committee and the state party. And several GOP county leaders stressed that the state Republican Party is in contact with Trump’s operation — Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, has been in touch with the GOP state chair, as has Jim Murphy, the campaign’s new political director.

Local officials noted that the state and local parties were working hard on the GOP nominee’s behalf, in coordination with the Republican National Committee, which has 54 paid staffers in Pennsylvania and “hundreds of trained organizers and volunteers,” according to a spokeswoman.

“No other campaign, committee, or organization has been doing this for as long as we have,” said RNC spokeswoman Lindsay Walters, adding that the RNC has had a presence in Pennsylvania since 2013. “We are the infrastructure for the entire GOP ticket. And the Trump campaign has embraced that.”

Boris Johnson not running for Tory leader and PM

‘That person cannot be me,’ says Johnson in surprise announcement.

Boris Johnson will not run for the post of Conservative Party leader and U.K. prime minister, he announced on Thursday, saying he preferred to support the next Tory government and “stick up for the forgotten people of this country.”

The former London mayor’s surprise decision followed the equally unexpected announcement earlier on Thursday that his fellow Leave campaigner Michael Gove, the justice secretary, was throwing his hat in the ring for the Tory leadership.

After laying out his vision for an inclusive country that welcomed immigrants and would have greater influence around the world thanks to last week’s vote to leave the EU, Johnson dropped a bombshell by saying: “Having consulted colleagues, and in view of the circumstances in parliament, I have concluded that person cannot by me.”

“My role will be to give every possible support to the next conservative administration,” said Johnson.

Gove said he had decided to run for leader on his own, rather than backing Johnson, because “Boris cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead.”

Gove acknowledged that he had repeatedly claimed that he did not want to be prime minister, but said that “events since last Thursday have weighed heavily with me.”

Cracks in the Gove-Johnson alliance first became apparent when an email sent by Gove’s wife Sarah Vine leaked Wednesday. The email, intended for Gove, urged her husband to seek specific assurances about his future role before announcing his support for a Johnson candidacy.

U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May and Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom, another Leave campaigner, also announced their intention to run.

יום רביעי, 29 ביוני 2016

Clinton reshuffles the swing state deck

The sudden interest in North Carolina is a sign of Donald Trump's recent slide in the polls.

Hillary Clinton arrives to speak at a campaign event at the Grady Cole Center in Charlotte, N.C., on

When President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton take the stage for their symbolic joint rally on July 5, it will send a subtle but unmistakable signal about the evolving outline of the swing state map.

By announcing Wednesday that the rescheduled event will take place in Charlotte, North Carolina, rather than Green Bay, Wisconsin — the original plan several weeks ago — the presumptive Democratic nominee’s campaign telegraphed that it sees newfound promise in a battleground state that narrowly rejected Obama in 2012.

Earlier this month, the major pro-Clinton super PAC Priorities USA Action signaled the same, announcing it would expand its swing state ad barrage beyond its original list to North Carolina.

It’s a reminder of the fluidity within the swing state universe, but also a sign of Trump’s decline in national and swing state polling over the past two weeks. Holding Clinton’s highest-profile rally yet in North Carolina suggests national Democrats see an opportunity to go on the offensive and expand their map there — an investment that could have a higher return than placing it in a battleground state like Wisconsin where Republicans have lost in seven straight presidential elections.

“It does send a message. The only things that’ve really changed [since the event was originally scheduled for Wisconsin] that I think are notable have been that Bernie [Sanders] supporters have consolidated around Clinton as the nominee and Trump has taken another big pivot by doubling down on Trumpisms. It gives them the sense — it’s not yet foot-on-the-neck time, but it’s time to be aggressive,” said Democratic strategist Dan Kanninen, Obama’s state director for Wisconsin in 2008. “Rather than go back and defend your blue wall, go chase him into North Carolina.”

In the three weeks since Obama endorsed Clinton and her campaign originally announced that they would be appearing together in Green Bay, the political ground has tilted decidedly toward Clinton.

Between Trump’s response to the mass shooting in Orlando (the cause of the rally delay in the first place), the firing and replacing of his campaign manager, and the revelation that his campaign has far less money than widely expected, the national polling average has grown in Clinton’s favor to 6 points.

As a result, Democrats on Wednesday viewed the doubling down on North Carolina as evidence of an attempt to seize the political moment, even as they acknowledged a swing state fluctuation that worked against them — potential signs of Trump strength in Pennsylvania, where Priorities recently launched its first ad buys and the Clinton campaign started reserving time.

“You can stretch him really thin,” Kanninen said of Trump. “We did this to Romney and we did it to [John] McCain. You can stretch the map on your terms.”

While candidate trips to certain states don’t always tell the whole story of a campaign’s priorities — Obama didn’t visit Florida until late July 2008, for example, and Clinton still hasn’t since she dispatched Sanders — operatives are well aware that they send a public message when they organize events or book the candidate in purple regions.

Tuesday’s trip will be Clinton’s second in two weeks to North Carolina, a state where Democrats believe any dollar or minute spent by a Republican is a defensive move that takes away from that opponent’s ability to compete elsewhere. With two recent public trips there, North Carolina is taking on the look of a top-tier state for the Democrat. Only Virginia — which has gotten two trips and $1.7 million of television ad spending from the Clinton camp and Priorities between mid-June and the beginning of July, according to media trackers — and Ohio (four trips, $4.6 million) have been repeat public destinations for her in the general election so far.

“The fact that their first joint appearance will be in Charlotte proves what we have been saying all along. North Carolina is in play. Our state’s importance on the electoral map is evidenced by the races for president, governor and U.S. Senate all trending in favor of the Democrats,” said Raleigh lawyer Bruce Thompson, a member of Clinton’s national finance committee. “Donald Trump has virtually no presence here and is a drag on the rest of the GOP ticket. Hillary Clinton has a field staff in place and is investing heavily in media. She has the momentum in North Carolina and is capitalizing on it. North Carolina has clearly become an important state in this election.”

Still, the one state that both campaigns have hinted will be crucial to them is the old standby: Ohio.

For Trump, whose path to 270 electoral votes goes through the Rust Belt, it’s even more important than to most recent Republican candidates, given Clinton’s widely expected strength in Florida — thanks to that state’s growing Latino population and its current status as the single biggest recipient of Clinton and super PAC ad money.

Clinton has prominently used two of her high-profile surrogates — vice-presidential contenders, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren there in recent weeks. And Trump spoke in St. Clairsville Tuesday night after a high-profile speech on trade in Pennsylvania.

Clinton allies view her rapid-fire Ohio appearances as a way of pre-butting the week worth of saturation-level earned media Trump is likely to get in the state from his party’s convention in Cleveland in July.

“What they’re saying is Donald Trump is going to take this Rust Belt path that has eluded the Mitt Romneys of the world. So if she stops him there, she’ll win the election,” said John Morgan, an Orlando attorney and prominent Democratic fundraiser, reflecting on Clinton’s relative lack of public travel to his state so far. “What did Tim Russert make famous? ‘Florida, Florida, Florida.’ I think this year it might be ‘Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan.’ [For Trump,] that’s throwing three no-hitters.

Marine Le Pen Prepares for a “Frexit”

Marine Le Pen, the head of France’s far-right National Front, has said that she would hold a referendum on the country’s membership in the E.U. within six months of attaining power.
Marine Le Pen, the head of France’s far-right National Front, has said that she would hold a referendum on the country’s membership in the E.U. within six months of attaining power.

On Thursday evening, Marine Le Pen, the head of France’s far-right National Front, gathered with Party leaders at a fish-and-chips restaurant in the Sixth Arrondissement of Paris, in a kitschy salute to what they believed would be a continuance of their shared destiny with the British. Around 1 A.M., when some of the group was still out revelling, the polls began to suggest the real possibility of a Brexit. The Party leaders scrambled to assemble a response. “The British people have given not only to Europeans but to people around the entire world a shattering lesson in democracy,” Le Pen, surprised but triumphant, told reporters the next morning. “A new Europe will emerge,” she said. “For all patriots, for anyone who loves liberty, today is a day of joy. It is not that Europe is dead but that the European Union is teetering, and the nations are being reborn.”

Since 2013, Le Pen has maintained that, if she attains power, she will hold a referendum on France’s membership in the E.U. within six months. A survey in March found that fifty-three per cent of French voters would support such a referendum, and another, published today, found that only forty-five per cent are certain they would vote to remain. Le Pen consistently leads polls for next spring’s Presidential election, and is all but certain to advance into the second round of voting. On Friday, she proclaimed Britain’s vote a first concrete step toward her vision, and the European question certainly will now become central to the campaign. “Before, this was unheard of,” Florian Philippot, a National Front vice-president and Le Pen’s top strategist, told journalists gathered at the Party headquarters, in Nanterre. “Now it’s no longer unheard of. There’s a precedent, and that changes a lot.” Philippot brushed aside suggestions that Britain’s exit would be painful for France, which is more economically integrated into the E.U., and that the fallout might affect public opinion. “That’s the propaganda of the Europeanists,” he told me, predicting that the market upset was temporary. “They have nothing else to say other than to try to scare people.” Le Pen and Philippot called for a “new European project,” of sovereign and “independent” nations.

If the British political establishment has turned out to be surprisingly fragile, the French have reason for serious concern. The U.K. has remained one or two percentage points ahead of France in economic growth over the past few years, and Britain’s unemployment rate is half that of France. That’s to say nothing of the two major terror attacks on French soil within a year, along with a spate of smaller ones, which have destroyed public confidence in the French government. Eighty-five per cent of French voters do not wish to see President François Hollande stand for reëlection next year. And yet Hollande remains unwilling to take risks—hovering in the background, for example, while his Prime Minister and members of his Cabinet take much of the public wrath for unpopular but necessary labor reforms—until after 2017. One parliamentarian, at a post-Brexit panel discussion on Saturday, dolefully cited a political truism that has special currency in France right now: “If you are having visions, then you should go see a doctor.”

The director of France’s domestic-intelligence agency, Patrick Calvar, recently warned a parliamentary committee that France was “on the brink of civil war.” A few weeks earlier, Calvar had told the National Assembly that one or two more terrorist attacks by self-proclaimed jihadists could easily provoke far-right violence against Muslim communities. It’s a hypothetical not wholly unimaginable after the murder of Jo Cox, the British Labour M.P., before the Brexit vote, as well as a tense standoff in Newcastle on Saturday evening, when competing protests between far-right demonstrators and refugee-aid groups came to a head. Calvar said that radicalism of various types was increasing across Europe, and that some far-right extremists were “only waiting” for a confrontation. “It is up to us to anticipate and block all these groups who would like, at one moment or another, to trigger these clashes,” he said in the earlier testimony.

A rare concurrence between Le Pen and the establishment took shape over the weekend, when Hollande and his Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, agreed that it is now necessary to “invent another Europe.” Of course, the two sides diverge on their conception of what that Europe should look like. Some younger voters, and others who feel that the party organizations in France are increasingly meaningless, are looking to Emmanuel Macron, France’s maverick thirty-eight-year-old economy minister, and his frank, straightforward speaking style. Macron rankled his colleagues in April, when he launched his own political movement, meant to transcend the left-right divide, on a free-market-reform, pro-entrepreneurial, pro-Europe platform. His supporters, who his staff have said number more than fifty thousand, have been going door to door across the country to take measure of French citizens’ concerns, which the movement will present as part of a “diagnostic” at the end of the summer.

“It’s clear that there are two Great Britains, one that is content with globalization and with Europe, and another that cannot find itself,” Macron said in a public discussion on Saturday, noting that the same division exists in France. “When Europe is no longer anything more than an open market, when it no longer has any sense, people cannot find their place in it,” he said. “We don’t know anymore why we decided to build a common entity, and so we have a Europe that has lost its ambition. Whereas the European project does have meaning, which is to be stronger together.” Macron proposed a solution that sounded revelatory in the context of the myopia of the political class: a conversation. “That’s what politics is,” he said. Le Pen understands this very well—she has been defter than her opponents at making her ideas heard. It’s unlikely that she will actually be able to win a majority of votes and carry out a referendum, but those who disagree with her will have to make their case just as loudly.

Sunderland and the Brexit Tragedy

The economically depressed regions that were most eager to leave the E.U. may have more to lose if their decision triggers a recession. Photograph by Ian Forsyth / Getty

In 1986, as a young reporter just out of the Columbia Journalism School, I went to Sunderland, an old and proud but depressed shipbuilding city on the River Wear, in northeast England, to report on an effort to get jobless people back to work. From the train station, I asked a cab driver to take me to the shipyards, which peaked in the nineteenth century, when they provided many of the sailing vessels and, later, iron-hulled steamers that serviced the far-flung British Empire.

By the nineteen-eighties, the shipyards had already experienced decades of decline, much of it borne of foreign competition. Many of the yards had been closed, and those that were still operating had been placed under public ownership. Sunderland’s unemployment rate was well into double digits, and when I ventured into a local pub I found a lot of skepticism about the Thatcher government’s new “Restart” scheme, which provided counselling, training, and job-placement services for the unemployed. “People around here are bitter,” Thomas Swinburn, a man in his forties who had lost his job in the shipyards, told me. “We grafted all our lives only to put up with this. We had fighting shipyards. Where has it all gone?”

Sunderland’s last two shipyards closed down twenty-eight years ago, in 1988. Despite the fact that the city and its surrounding areas have attracted some new businesses, including a big Nissan car plant in nearby Gateshead, Sunderland has never fully recovered. Although the jobless rate isn’t as bad as it was in the eighties, it’s still high relative to the rest of Britain, and in last week’s Brexit referendum more than sixty per cent of Sunderland’s inhabitants, who have traditionally supported the Labour Party, voted to leave the European Union. When a New York Times reporter, Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, visited the city to find out why, she emerged with some quotes that sounded eerily familiar to me. “All the industries, everything, has gone,” Michael Wake, a fifty-five-year-old forklift operator, said. “We were powerful, strong. But Brussels and the government, they’ve taken it all away.”

In reality, Brussels had little or nothing to do with Sunderland’s decline. According to the data Web site Statista, the five biggest shipbuilding nations are now China, South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and Taiwan. The only European country in the top ten is Germany, and its industry is tiny compared with those of the big Asian producers. But in the minds of many inhabitants of Sunderland and places like it, Brussels and Westminster represent the political face of an economic system that has ignored them. As Wake told de Freytas-Tamura, the Brexit referendum enabled disgruntled voters to “poke the eye” of the political establishment.

The tragedy is that this gesture wasn’t just pointless—it was counterproductive. If the U.K. economy now enters a recession, which many economists believe is likely, Sunderland will suffer along with everywhere else. And if Britain goes ahead and leaves the E.U. (which isn’t guaranteed, as I wrote on Monday), already suffering cities will lose access to one of the few remaining sources of funding for economic-revival efforts.

During the referendum campaign, Boris Johnson and other Brexiteers made much of the fact that Britain, like the other rich countries in the E.U., such as Germany and the Netherlands, makes a (small) net fiscal contribution to the E.U. In 2015, this amounted to about 8.5 billion pounds. But that’s a national figure that doesn’t account for local variations. As a depressed region, the northeast of England is eligible to receive money that Brussels allocates to the E.U.’s less prosperous areas via several purses, including the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund.

In recent years, de Freytas-Tamura pointed out, the E.U. has helped finance a number of projects in Sunderland, including a new campus for the University of Sunderland, a business park for software developers, and a fancy leisure center. While some local residents complain that they can’t afford access to these facilities—membership at the leisure center costs thirty pounds a month—the projects are physical manifestations of the E.U.’s commitment to building up poorer regions (a commitment that, over the years, has also done a great deal for countries like Ireland and Portugal). And more help was in the offing. For the period from 2014 to 2020, the E.U.’s development arms had allocated about four hundred and fifty million pounds to England’s northeast.

Unfortunately, during the Brexit campaign, the leaders of the Remain campaign did little to highlight these and other positive features of the E.U. But local civic and business leaders have been less reticent. Under the auspices of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, they have put together a regional economic plan that relies heavily on E.U. funding and is thus now in jeopardy.

“While we acknowledge this decision by the electorate, the North East LEP is very aware of the many ways in which this region has benefited from being a member of the EU,” Andrew Hodgson, a marine engineer who chairs the Enterprise Partnership, said in a statement after the Leave victory became apparent. “This has included access to European trade and investment and European funding, which has helped to regenerate our towns and cities, support business growth and investment in science and support many of our rural stakeholders including farmers.”

Of course, E.U. funding won’t bring big shipyards back to Sunderland or reverse the effects of half a century of globalization—which have helped other parts of the U.K. and, indeed, parts of the northeast to prosper. But one of the great ironies and tragedies of last week’s vote is that the E.U., while it has certainly promoted trade and economic modernization, has always taken regional disparities seriously. More seriously, arguably, than governments in London.

“We are now urgently seeking assurances from the Government that it will help us reduce the impact of leaving the single market in terms of funding, jobs and investment,” Hodgson said in his statement. With “Mr. Austerity,” George Osborne, still running the British Treasury, which has savaged local-government budgets in recent years, there is little chance that Hodgson’s request for assistance will be met. Unless the Brexit vote is somehow reversed, the residents of places like Sunderland will most likely be left to fly the Union Jack and fester.

Why Brexit Might Not Happen at All

There are reasons to doubt whether last week’s decision by British voters to leave the European Union, a move supported by Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London, will ever be implemented. Photograph by Neil Hall / Reuters

As I noted on Friday, Britain won’t be exiting the E.U. anytime soon. If and when the U.K. government invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty of 2007, which grants member states the right to leave, there will be at least two years of negotiations about the terms of Britain’s future relationship with Europe. And that invocation of Article 50 is likely to be delayed for quite a while.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to resign in the fall has stopped the clock until a new leader of the Conservative Party is elected to replace him, which won’t be until the start of September. Even if Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London, who helped lead the Leave campaign, were to win the leadership vote, it’s not clear when he would invoke Article 50. In a column for the Telegraph on Monday, Johnson said that Britain’s departure from the E.U. “will not come in any great rush.” Indeed, his primary intention seemed to be to prevent panic. “I cannot stress too much that Britain is part of Europe, and always will be,” he wrote.

As someone who has watched Johnson’s rise, with amusement, since he was a journalist living in Brussels and writing scare stories about the European Union for the Telegraph, I wouldn’t necessarily take anything he says at face value. In this instance, though, he may have inadvertently told the truth. Four days after the British public voted, narrowly, to leave the European Union, there are reasons to doubt that the referendum result will ever be implemented.

If Cameron had invoked Article 50 on Friday morning, Britain would now be on its way out: the exit process is irreversible. But thanks to the Prime Minister’s clever maneuver—which is surely what it was—the country has some time to reflect on the consequences of Brexit, which are already turning out to be far more serious than many of the people who voted Leave realized. In addition to plunging the country’s political system into chaos, the referendum result has prompted a big fall in the stock market and the value of the pound sterling, and it has raised questions about Britain’s creditworthiness. On Monday night, news came out that Standard & Poor’s had stripped Britain of its triple-A credit rating, another blow to investors. Ordinary people may be more concerned that, with the school holidays coming up, the cost of taking a European vacation, which many Brits of all social classes do every year, has jumped by about twelve per cent.

So far, then, the Leave vote has made people poorer, confirming some of the warnings that the British Treasury and other supporters of the Remain side had issued. Going through with Brexit would also have more lasting implications for British businesses, particularly those in the country’s enormous financial sector. Talk of big European and American banks quitting the City of London, which by many measures is the world’s largest financial hub, are exaggerated. But there is no doubt that some jobs would be relocated to places like Dublin, Frankfurt, and Paris. “The financial center won’t die, but it will get weaker,” John Cryan, the chief executive of Deutsche Bank, which employs about eleven thousand people in London, said on Monday.

Some respected economists are now predicting an economy-wide recession, and then there is the future of the British Union, which is much more ancient than the European Union. As the pro-Brexit writer Fraser Nelson pointed out in The Spectator on Monday, it is an exaggeration to say that a British departure from the E.U. would inevitably lead Scotland to declare independence from the U.K.—data from opinion polls doesn’t point in only one direction. It can’t be denied, though, that Brexit would create the biggest crisis in the relationship between England and Scotland since the 1707 Acts of Union, and it would also raise serious questions about the future of Northern Ireland, which receives a lot of funding from Brussels, and which, like Scotland, voted to Remain.

If Leave supporters could have foreseen the result of their votes, how many would have changed sides? Vox-pop interviews conducted in the course of the weekend indicated that at least some of them were having second thoughts. And one prominent Brexit campaigner has wavered as well. “When I put my cross against leave I felt a surge as though for the first time in my life my vote did count. I had power,” Kelvin MacKenzie, the former editor of the Sun, Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper, wrote on Monday. “Four days later, I don’t feel quite the same. I have buyer’s remorse. A sense of be careful what you wish for. To be truthful I am fearful of what lies ahead.”

As reality sets in, E.U. leaders may well be content to let the Brits stew in their own juices for a while. Initial talk of forcing the U.K. to begin the process of leaving straight away has been replaced by calls for patience. Monday’s edition of the Wall Street Journal quoted Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, as saying, “Politicians in London should have the possibility to think again about the fallout from an exit.” To leave now, he added, “would be a deep cut with far-reaching consequences.” A majority of the politicians at Westminster probably agree with Altmaier’s analysis. But what, if anything, can they do to reverse the march toward Brexit?

One possibility being floated by some pro-E.U. campaigners is a vote in the House of Commons against invoking Article 50. During the weekend, a number of constitutional experts pointed out that, under the British system, sovereignty rests in Parliament, and so the Leave vote was purely advisory. “MPs are entitled to vote against it, and are bound to vote against it, if they think it’s in Britain’s best interest,” Geoffrey Robertson, a prominent British barrister, told the Independent. “It’s not over yet.”

To be sure, it’s not. But Parliament simply overriding the result of the referendum may not be a realistic option. More than seventeen million people voted Leave. If their preferences were to be ignored, civil unrest could well result. As Cameron said in announcing his intention to resign, “The British people have voted to leave the European Union, and their will must be respected.”

A more likely outcome is a general election, a second referendum, or both. In 2011, Britain switched to a system of five-year fixed-term Parliaments, and under that system the next election isn’t due until 2020. But the Brexit crisis has already generated calls for the fixed term to be junked. In the Commons on Monday, Nick Clegg, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, who served as Deputy Prime Minister from 2010 to 2015, called for an early election. Cameron didn’t reject the idea. He said that it would be for his successor, the next leader of the Conservative Party, to decide.

Most of the British politicians and commentators I’ve been in touch with in the past few days think that Johnson will be the next Prime Minister. But it’s far from certain that he could deliver what he has been promising: a break from the E.U. that preserves Britain’s full access to the single market. Several European officials have already said that the price of such a deal would be Britain agreeing to free movement of labor (as Norway, which is a member of the European Economic Area but not of the E.U., does). However, restricting immigration was a central plank of the Leave campaign.

If Johnson couldn’t guarantee British firms access to the huge European market, would he still support leaving the E.U.? Even he might have trouble answering that question with an enthusiastic “yes.” All indications are that Cameron’s resignation caught Johnson unprepared. Should he move into 10 Downing Street, he would face dissident backbenchers in his own party, and cries for an early election would be hard to resist. If one were called, the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party, which by then may well have a new and more credible leader to replace Jeremy Corbyn, would probably campaign on a platform that promised another referendum. The opposition parties would get a good deal of support in this from the U.K. business community, and from the dissident Tories.

At this stage, it is impossible to say how all of this will play out: there are too many variables. When I started working on this post, my guess was that the odds of Brexit ultimately happening were about fifty-fifty, and possibly less. In the course of writing, I spoke to a couple of pro-E.U. people in London whose opinions I respect, and both of them said that I was being too optimistic. Passions have been inflamed, they pointed out, and many of the players have staked out positions that limit their flexibility.

Maybe I’ve fallen victim to wishful thinking; I hope not. The Britain I grew up in took pride in its common sense and pragmatism. Affinities for ideology and political extremism were regarded as suspect, European qualities. For the sake of Britain, and also of Europe, I hope that my countrymen and countrywomen rediscover their modest virtues before it’s too late. Watching from afar, it’s clear that a mistake has been made, and that it’s time for a rethink.

Who Bombed the Istanbul Airport?

Travellers flee Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport after early Wednesday’s suicide-bomb attack. Photograph by Defne Karadeniz / Getty

When ISIS fighters killed a hundred and thirty people in Paris, in November, the group’s leaders in Syria took credit for the attack the next morning. When ISIS zealots murdered thirty-two in Brussels, in March, the group claimed responsibility the same day. After the attacks in San Bernardino and Orlando, ISIS’s leaders took credit for both, even though they appeared to play little or no role in helping to plan or carry them out.

So here we are, more than twenty-four hours after three suicide bombers killed at least forty-one people at Atatürk International Airport, and no one has stepped forward—neither ISIS nor anyone else. Why not?

Shortly after the attack, Turkey’s Prime Minister, Binali Yıldırım, said that ISIS was the main suspect. But he didn’t offer any evidence to buttress his claim, and he hasn’t said anything since. John Brennan, the head of the C.I.A., told Yahoo News that he thought that ISIS was probably the culprit—but, like Yıldırım, he showed no proof.

So who did it? It’s not inconceivable that the attack was carried out by someone other than ISIS—namely, the Kurdish Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., which has been leading an armed struggle against the Turkish state for decades. The war with the P.K.K. has flared up over the past two years, and the Turkish military has carried out several strikes against both the P.K.K. and the group’s affiliates in northeastern Syria, where they have set up a quasi-independent state. Kurdish militants have carried out suicide attacks before, though, as a rule, the P.K.K. has never targeted foreigners, who would have been present at an international airport.

Events will probably prove Brennan and Yıldırım to be correct, that ISIS is to blame for the attacks in Istanbul. There’s certainly circumstantial evidence. The attack, which was carried out by three men wearing suicide vests, is consistent with previous ISIS attacks. June 29th marks the second anniversary of the group’s declaration of a new caliphate in the territory it had conquered in Syria and Iraq. Under relentless Western bombardment, as well as pressure from Shiite militias and the Iraqi military—Iraqi forces expelled ISIS from the center of Fallujah this week—ISIS’s leaders are no doubt desperate to remind the world that they are still a potent force.

If the facts ultimately show that ISIS indeed carried out the Istanbul attacks—and if the group maintains its silence—it will also illuminate the deeply complex relationship between ISIS and Turkey that has evolved over the past five years.

ISIS owes its existence in part to the Turkish government. In the years following the uprising against Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria, which began in 2011, Turkey became the main conduit for the tens of thousands of foreigners who flocked to Syria to fight against the Assad regime. Many of those volunteers ended up joining ISIS. The reason that Turkey was the main gateway for jihadists moving to Syria was because President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government wanted it that way. Erdoğan, once a friend of the Assad regime, made the decision that his old friend needed to go, and he was willing to do almost anything to see that happen. Turkey’s five-hundred-mile border with Syria became a sieve, and many of those fighters who joined ISIS used Atatürk International Airport to complete their journey. At the same time, ISIS militants were able to set up networks inside Turkey itself.

Last year, under American diplomatic pressure, Erdoğan reversed his pro-ISIS policy, joining the U.S.-led coalition to fight the group. Since then, ISIS has treated Erdoğan, a fellow Muslim, like a traitor. According to the Soufan Group, which monitors ISIS, Turkey has been called out several times in Dabiq, ISIS’s English-language magazine. Last September, Erdoğan was even featured on the magazine’s cover, and accused of being part of “the crusader alliance.”

But even as ISIS has reacted to Erdoğan with anger, the group has been reluctant to take credit for causing bloodshed inside Turkey, perhaps out of concern about alienating the Turkish people. The Istanbul assault, if it was indeed carried out by ISIS, would not be the first attack inside Turkey blamed on ISIS for which the group did not take credit. In January, a suicide bomber blew himself up in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet district, killing thirteen people, all foreigners. According to Turkish authorities, that attack was carried out by a Syrian national named Nabil Fadil, a fighter for the Islamic State. Even so, ISIS never took credit. In March, a suicide bomber blew himself up just off the city’s historic Itiklal Street, killing five people. Turkish authorities blamed the attack on a Turkish citizen who, they said, had links to ISIS. Still, ISIS never took credit.

Oddly enough, ISIS’s leaders have been happy to take credit for assassinations—usually of Syrian opposition leaders—carried out in southeastern Turkey. In November, for instance, ISIS released a graphic video claiming responsibility for the murders of two Syrians, including a co-founder of Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, a group of journalists and human-rights activist who documented ISIS abuses in Raqqa, the Syrian city that ISIS claims as its capital.

Terrorism is usually about one of two things: sending a message or making chaos. On the first of these counts, in Turkey, ISIS seems to have failed utterly. How can you send a message if you’re not even willing to take credit for your attack? But on the second count, ISIS, sadly, has been strikingly successful. Among other things, Turkey’s tourism industry has been in a free fall. Its domestic politics are more unstable today than they have been in years. If nothing else, ISIS is making the Turkish government appear weak and ineffectual. When it come to making chaos, ISIS, sadly, knows exactly what it is doing.

יום שבת, 18 ביוני 2016

Why Sweden’s free schools are failing

Perhaps most galling for Swedes is how schools appear to be increasing inequality, rather than eroding it.
By Tim Wigmore

We have seen the future in Sweden and it works,” Michael Gove told the Daily Mail in 2008. A few months earlier, Gove and other leading Conservatives had visited schools in Sweden for the first time, a journey that they would repeat in the following years.

“They’ve done something amazing,” he said in a video made for that year’s Tory party conference. “They challenged the conventional wisdom [and] decided that it was parents, not bureaucrats, who should be in charge.”

Sweden’s 800 friskolor make up about a sixth of the country’s state-funded schools. Introduced in 1992, they gave parents the ability to use state spending on education to set up new schools and decide where to send their children. In that decade, friskolor were made easier to set up, with companies given the right to make a profit from running them; other schools were decentralised and a voucher system, allowing parents to choose their children’s school and then awarding funds based on parental demand, was introduced. Tony Blair praised the Swedish model in a 2005 government white paper. For Tories, Sweden’s schools held out a simple message: that competition could transform state education in England.

That message was appealing because it came from “a social-democratic country, far to the left of Britain”, as Gove put it. This was true but only up to a point. The reforms that he enacted after 2010 – notably the introduction of free schools, the speeding up of academisation and changes to the curriculum – owed as much to US “charter schools” as to educational reforms in Sweden.

Even as Gove cited Sweden’s successes in education, its international standing was in decline. Since 2000, standards there have fallen more than in any other country ranked by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) using tests known as the Programme for International Student Assessment, or Pisa. Results released in 2013 rated Sweden below Denmark, Finland and Norway by all three measures – reading, maths and science – and worse than the UK. In 2014, 14 per cent of students performed too poorly to qualify for secondary school at 16, a deterioration of 10 per cent on the 2006 level.

Last year, the OECD published a report in which it warned: “Sweden’s school system is in need of urgent change.” Underinvestment is not the problem. The Swedes spend more on education as a percentage of GDP (6.8 per cent) than the OECD average (5.6 per cent). The report describes an education system in chaos, hopelessly fragmented, failing those who need it most. It criticises its “unclear education priorities”, “lack in coherence” and “unreliable data”.

Swedish schools lack “discipline” and “a calm work environment”, which makes it hard to attract good teachers, says Barbara Bergström, the founder of the Internationella Engelska Skolan, one of Sweden’s most successful free-school chains. The country is expected to face a deficit of 60,000 teachers by 2019.

While first- and second-generation immigrants in England and many other countries perform above the national average, in Sweden they have been blamed for dragging standards down. In March this year, Anna Ekström, the director of the government-run Swedish National Agency for Education, claimed that immigration was “not an insignificant” factor in declining attainment. The proportion of students from immigrant families rose from 11 to 15 per cent between 2000 and 2012 and has increased sharply since the beginning of the migration crisis.

Perhaps most galling for Swedes is how schools appear to be increasing inequality, rather than eroding it. “We need to put our focus on building equality into the system,” Gustav Fridolin, Sweden’s education minister, said recently. The voucher system has created more opportunities for middle-class parents to ensure that their children attend the best institutions. The OECD report called on Sweden to “revise school-choice arrangements to ensure quality with equity” and “improve the access of disadvantaged families to information about schools”.

Bergström notes that only 14 per cent of students assessed using Pisa tests attended free schools. Moreover, even before the reforms of the early 1990s came in, the country suffered because it lacked a culture of rigorous testing.

Schools were merely “telling themselves and their parents that things were getting better” when there was no evidence that they were, says Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s director for education and skills. He views free schools as “more symptom than cause”.

Above all, Sweden’s decline is “the story of a weak education system that has devolved more and more responsibility to local and school level without doing much to raise aspirations, monitor progress and deal with underperformance”, Schleicher says. “The difference is that England has an established exam system and, more importantly, Ofsted. At least you’ll know when things start to go wrong.”

Putin clarifies Trump comment and says America is the world's 'only superpower'

Welcomes restoration of US-Russia relations but critical of intervention
Calls presumptive Republican nominee ‘flamboyant’
Vladimir Putin: ‘Trump’s a striking person. And well, isn’t he striking? Striking. I didn’t make any other kind of characterization about him.’ Photograph: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Alan Yuhas

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“America is a great power. Today, probably, the only superpower. We accept that,” the Russian president said at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. “We want to and are ready to work with the United States.”

Alluding to US-EU sanctions on Russia in response to its military actions in Ukraine, he continued: “The world needs such strong nations, like the US. And we need them. But we don’t need them constantly getting mixed up in our affairs, instructing us how to live, preventing Europe from building a relationship with us.”

Asked about the presumptive Republican nominee for president, Putin again described Trump as a “flamboyant” or “colorful” man, using a Russian word – “яркий” – that can be translated with ambiguous connotations, from gaudy to striking to dazzling.

“You see, it’s like I said,” Putin told his questioner. “Trump’s a colorful person. And well, isn’t he colorful? Colorful. I didn’t make any other kind of characterization about him.

“But here’s where I will pay close attention, and where I exactly welcome and where on the contrary I don’t see anything bad: Mr Trump has declared that he’s ready for the full restoration of Russian-American relations. Is there anything bad there? We all welcome this, don’t you?”

In December, months before Trump clinched the Republican nomination, Putin called him “a colorful person, talented, without any doubt” and said: “It’s not our business to decide his merits, that’s for US voters, but he is absolutely the leader in the presidential race.”

Trump has for months misinterpreted Putin’s comments as “a great honor” and clear praise, rather than consider the various meanings of the word.

“When people call you brilliant, it’s always good, especially when the person heads up Russia,” he told MSNBC shortly after Putin’s original comments.

In May Trump falsely described the comments as a compliment of his intelligence. “They want me to disavow Putin,” he said. “Putin of Russia said Trump is a genius.”

Putin also spoke carefully on Friday about the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, saying he did not work much with her directly when she was secretary of state.

“She probably has her own view of US-Russian relations,” he said.

“I can even say that I’m grateful to him for several moments, when I was making my entrance into world politics. On several occasions he showed signs of attention, respect to me personally and to Russia.”

The diplomatic remarks belie the cold and increasingly hostile relations between Clinton and Putin toward the end of her time in the Obama administration. In 2011, when he was prime minister of Russia and facing massive street protests, Putin accused the then secretary of state of fomenting dissent. Clinton’s state department, he said, had sent a “signal” and “support” to opposition leaders.

On Friday Putin insisted Russia does not interfere in other nation’s affairs, and that the Kremlin would be glad to work with any leader elected abroad.

“We need to bring back trust to Russia-European relations and restore the level of cooperation,” he said.

More Fighting Words from Bernie Sanders

By John Cassidy
In his live online address on Thursday, Bernie Sanders quickly made clear that this was no concession speech, but rather a rallying cry for his supporters. Photograph by David McNew / Getty

If there was any doubt what Bernie Sanders would say in his live online address on Thursday night, he quickly resolved it by making clear that this was no concession speech, but rather a rallying cry for his supporters, and a road map for a future that extends well beyond Tuesday, November 8th. “Election days come and go,” Sanders began. “But political and social revolutions that attempt to transform our society never end. They continue every day, every week, and every month in the fight to create a nation of social and economic justice.”

For the first ten minutes or so of the twenty-one-minute address, which Sanders delivered standing in front of a blue backdrop, he didn’t mention Hillary Clinton at all. Instead, he recalled how many commentators had initially regarded his campaign as a “fringe” phenomenon, and how he had gone on to attract more than twelve million votes and win twenty-two states. “Our vision for the future of this country is not some kind of fringe idea,” he said. “It is not a radical idea. It is mainstream. It is what millions of Americans believe in and want to see happen.”

Sanders had a point. As I’ve noted before, he has expanded the political space and put issues like inequality and political capture front and center. He isn’t just another Democratic politician—he is the tribune of a progressive movement that emerged from the antiwar demonstrations, the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon, the nationwide effort to boost the minimum wage, the outrage over the Citizens United ruling, and the general disenchantment with money politics. When Elizabeth Warren declined to enter the Presidential race, Sanders stepped in, running an insurgent campaign that conveyed a clear message and relied on small donations—more than eight million of them. “We showed the world that we could run a strong national campaign without being dependent on the big-money interests whose greed has done so much to damage our country,” Sanders pointed out.

Even establishment Democrats concede that Sanders ran an impressive campaign, forcing Clinton to move left on issues like trade, Social Security, and the Keystone pipeline. But what now? The primary season ended last week. Clinton won fifty-six per cent of the popular vote and fifty-five per cent of the elected delegates. As MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki pointed out the other night, this primary contest wasn’t a squeaker in the tradition of Walter Mondale’s victory over Gary Hart, in 1984, or Barack Obama’s win over Clinton, in 2008. It was a solid win, like Jimmy Carter’s over Ted Kennedy, in 1980, or Bill Clinton’s over Jerry Brown and Paul Tsongas, in 1992.

When Sanders did turn to the general election in his speech on Thursday, he began not with Clinton but with her opponent. “The major political task that we face in the next five months is to make certain that Donald Trump is defeated, and defeated badly,” Sanders said. “And I personally intend to begin my role in that process in a very short period of time.” This suggested that Sanders would pretty soon begin campaigning for Clinton. But what he said next gave a different impression. “Defeating Donald Trump cannot be our only goal,” Sanders went on. “We must continue our grass-roots efforts to create the America that we know we can become. And we must take that energy into the Democratic National Convention on July 25th, in Philadelphia, where we will have more than a thousand and nine hundred delegates.”

Finally, Sanders brought up Clinton—but not to concede defeat or congratulate her. Referring to his meeting with Clinton at the Capital Hilton, in Washington, on Tuesday night, Sanders said the two of them had discussed important issues facing the country and the Party. “It is no secret that Secretary Clinton and I have strong disagreements on some very important issues,” he said. “It is also true that our views are quite close on others. I look forward, in the coming weeks, to continued discussions between the two campaigns to make certain that your voices are heard and that the Democratic Party passes the most progressive platform in its history and that Democrats actually fight for that agenda. I also look forward to working with Secretary Clinton to transform the Democratic Party so that it becomes a party of working people and young people, and not just wealthy campaign contributors.”

This was fighting talk, and Sanders followed it up with a long series of policy demands, several of which Clinton has so far resisted despite her recent moves to the left. Sanders reiterated his calls for free tuition at public universities and colleges, a federal ban on fracking, a tax on carbon, and “modern-day Glass-Steagall legislation” to break up the big banks. While the Clinton campaign has indicated that it is willing to make some concessions on the Party platform, it seems unlikely that it would be willing to go as far as Sanders wants on these issues.

The Sanders campaign is also pushing to reform the primary process. Sanders wants to get rid of superdelegates, end closed primaries, and allow same-day voter registration. Sanders didn’t spell out this agenda in his remarks. But, without mentioning any names, he still took the Democratic Party leadership to task, saying that it “has turned its back on dozens of states in this country and has allowed right-wing politicians to win elections in some states with virtually no opposition—including some of the poorest states in America.”

Sanders continued, “The Democratic Party needs leadership which is prepared to open its doors and welcome into its ranks working people and young people.” Only by doing this, he argued, could the Party hope to reverse the big losses it has sustained at the local level over the past decade. “State and local governments make enormously important decisions, and we cannot allow right-wing Republicans to increasingly control them,” he said. “I hope very much that many of you listening tonight are prepared to engage at that level.”

By this point in the speech, it was clear that Sanders wasn’t going to make any concessions himself. This wasn’t intended as a coming-together moment, or a finale. It was a strident re-declaration of the message that Sanders has been delivering for the past year and a half, and it ended on a note of optimism. “We have begun the long and arduous process of transforming America, a fight that will continue tomorrow, next week, next year, and into the future,” Sanders said. “My hope is that, when future historians look back and describe how our country moved forward into reversing the drift toward oligarchy, and created a government which represents all the people and not just the few, they will note that, to a significant degree, that effort began with the political revolution of 2016.”

The instant reaction to the speech was divided along predictable lines. Using the hashtag #OurRevolution, Sanders supporters celebrated his defiance and his ambition. “Loved tone of @BernieSanders speech,” Cenk Uygur, the host of The Young Turks online news show, tweeted. “We’re not fighting this campaign as much as fighting for #OurRevolution. A revolution can’t be suspended.” Clinton supporters were less impressed. “Wait, did I miss the part where Sanders conceded? I just heard his stump speech, again,” Salon’s Amanda Marcotte, who has written pieces challenging the argument that progressives should support Sanders, tweeted. She went on, “At this point, I honestly don’t see why the Dems wouldn’t marginalize Sanders. Giving him concessions means he just shits on you more.”

The Sanders-Clinton story is an ongoing one. The Democratic Convention isn’t for another five weeks, and the negotiations over the Party platform are only beginning. Perhaps Sanders is holding off on an endorsement to maximize his leverage. Perhaps, as some observers have suggested, he is overplaying his hand. But, in any case, he isn’t going quietly. Appearing on “Morning Joe” on Friday, Sanders’s campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, was asked whether Sanders was still an active candidate. He replied, “He is an active candidate for President, yes.”