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Bernie Sanders is clobbering Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, according to a new CNN/WMUR poll.

Conducted January 13-18 among 972 New Hampshire Democrats, the poll shows Sanders leading the national frontrunner 60 percent to 33 percent, an increase of ten points since a late November/early December poll. 

According to the same poll, 52 percent of Democrats in the state say they are decided on who they will vote for, and within that contingent, Sanders holds an even bigger lead: 64 percent to Clinton’s 35 percent. CNN attributes some of Sanders’s climb in the polls to a reduced focus on foreign security.

This poll is an outlier so far, with previous polls showing a much tighter race. Still, there are some worrisome signs for the Clinton camp, including Sanders’s sky-high favorability rating of 91 percent.

April 22, 2017

Emily Atkin

The March for Science was a march against Donald Trump.

Organizers had described the Earth Day event as a non-partisan celebration of science and evidence-based policymaking. But as Saturday’s rainy rally in D.C. showed, it’s kinda hard to control the message of hundreds of thousands of people. Sure, many marched for reasons totally unrelated to Trump; I met one woman who just wanted to express her love for Miss Frizzle. But walking around the rally, it was hard to avoid one main theme: that a lot of people consider the president to be a threat to science and objective truth. In the spirit of the march, here is some evidence:

Many attendees were upset about Trump’s proposed budget cuts to scientific research. Amy and Dana Blackmer, from Richmond, Virginia, have two daughters who are scientists, one of whom is trying to get into a National Institutes of Health program that studies the CRISPR gene-editing method. “She has been studying her little butt off to get in,” Dana said. Trump’s budget proposes cutting NIH by 18 percent.

The only PhD scientist in Congress on fighting Trump’s cuts: “Republicans get cancer as well as Democrats.”

About an hour before pouring rain started to pummel the thousands of attendees at Saturday’s March for Science in D.C., Congressman Bill Foster of Illinois was hanging outside of the media registration tent, taking photos with science enthusiasts (and security guards). While there are a few mathematicians and doctors in Congress, Foster is the only formerly practicing scientist with a PhD in physics, which gives him a pretty unique perspective on the increasingly increasingly relevant intersection between science and politics. Foster and I chatted briefly about the state of science literacy in Congress, and whether any Republicans are nerdier than we think.

So do you hang out with the math people and the doctors in Congress?

Oh yeah, we sit there and make math jokes from time to time. But it’s a serious business. The attacks on science and the scientific method and just generally the disrespect for scientific truth is something that has all scientists on edge. That’s why we’re here—this is a day for wet scientists and bad humor.

And bad puns, right?

That’s right. But also a very serious opportunity for scientists to stand up and look the dragons in the eye.

You spent time in a lab before coming to Congress, right?

Oh, I spent almost 25 years as a high-energy particle physicist. I was on the experiment that discovered the top quark, the heaviest known form of matter, and I actually designed and led the construction of one of the last of the giant particle accelerators in the United States.

So what’s the difference between the mood in the lab and the mood in Congress?

Well there’s a big difference between scientific facts and political facts. Because a political fact is whatever you can convince people of. And in science, you’re debating what the logically possible answers are to a question, and what experiments you can perform to figure out which one of those logical possibilities is actually represented in the universe.

In politics, I think partly because due to the fact that we’re dominated by lawyers, the question is always what can you convince people of, rather than what is true.

The people that you work with in Congress, do you think any of them care about what’s happening today?

I think they do. And I think we’re likely to see a lot more public support for the budget at the National Institutes of Health. Because everyone knows someone who’s suffering from cancer, and is aware of the incredible breakthroughs that are happening as we speak and the fact that they’re due to decades of federally funded basic research. Because it turns out, Republicans get cancer as well as Democrats.

Putting climate change aside, do you think your colleagues in Congress are generally scientifically literate?

There’s a wide spectrum. There’s a lot of enthusaism for the economic benefits of science. And unfortunately that sometimes doesn’t get reflected in the budgets.

Is there anyone in Congress who is maybe more scientifically nerdy than we know?

Oh, [Colorado Democrat] Ed Perlmutter. He is always sending me emails with things he’s found in the science blogs.

Any Republicans?

Yes, I have a very good email conversastion going with [Texas Republican] Lamar Smith, the chair of the science committee on which I serve. [Note: Smith is one of the most notorious climate deniers in Congress.] We talk about human genetic engineering and what that means for humans.

My conversations with Lamar resulted in the first-ever science committee hearing on human genetic engineering, which I have been told was one of the best-ever-attended hearings on the science committee.

So you guys don’t fight all the time about climate change then?

No. And when we had that hearing, Democrats and Republicans asked very thoughtful and probing questions, and generally behaved themselves, which does not always happen when fossil fuels and climate change gets brought up.

So you think aside from the climate debate, the state of science literacy in Congress is maybe not so dire?

That’s right, but the way to understand what a politician really believes is to look at the budgets they vote for.

April 21, 2017

This is the most damning anecdote from the Clinton campaign tell-all Shattered.

Written by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, the book has caused quite a stir since it was published last week. It portrays the Clinton campaign as a Balkanized group of rival factions fighting behind the scenes, and is littered with damning quotes like, “Our failure to reach out to white voters, like literally from the New Hampshire primary on, it never changed.” It also, at times, reads like a series of second-rate Veep jokes. Clinton’s famously testy interview with CNN’s Brianna Keilar resulted from an aide hearing “Brianna” when Clinton said “Bianna”—meaning Yahoo anchor Bianna Golodryga, who is married to a former Hillary aide. Robby Mook declined to purchase poll data three weeks before the election. And one problem seemed to follow Clinton wherever she went: She just didn’t know why she was running for president.

Juicy anecdotes like these have appeared throughout the week in Politico’s Playbook and Axios Presented By News Corp. But these excerpts and early reviews have overlooked the most damning anecdote in the book, which appears on page 88 in a chapter about the campaign’s early struggles with Bernie-mania:

Raising the minimum wage and college-tuition assistance were prime examples of Sanders’s digging in at an outpost on the left and making Hillary look cautious, conservative, and very much a creature of the establishment. Every time she said she wanted to increase the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour—the main proposal from Senate Democrats—Bernie said he’d settle for no less than “fifteen bucks.” When she said she wanted students to emerge from college without debt, Bernie reminded voters that his plan would let them attend for free. Hillary’s advisers thought it was reminiscent of the scene from There’s Something About Mary in which a crazed hitchhiker tells Ben Stiller’s character that he can make a fortune by turning “eight-minute abs” into “seven-minute abs.”

The Clinton campaign’s struggles with millennials in one sentence! There’s Something About Mary came out in 1998 and, as far as I can tell, hasn’t been watched since. That this was the first pop culture reference on hand for (apparently) multiple advisers is incredibly troubling.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the Something About Mary reference may not even have been original. It was used as the lede of an October 3, 2015, New York Times piece by Josh Barro, who seems to be a fan:

In the 1998 film “There’s Something About Mary,” there is a scene where Ben Stiller’s character picks up a hitchhiking drifter. The drifter explains that he’s really a businessman, and he has an idea that will someday make him a fortune: Seven-Minute Abs, a home exercise video that will produce the same great results as Eight-Minute Abs, but in one minute less.

Mr. Stiller’s character responds that it sounds like a great idea, unless someone comes out with Six-Minute Abs. The drifter, played by Harland Williams, gets angry. “Nobody’s coming up with six! Who works out in six minutes? You won’t even get your heart going!”

With my apologies in advance for comparing him to an unhinged drifter, this is roughly what happened to Jeb Bush in September.

The timing of this roughly tracks with the timing of the Shattered anecdote. I’m not sure what’s worse—that members of the Clinton campaign independently used a Something About Mary reference, or that members of the Clinton campaign stole a Something About Mary reference from Josh Barro.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Bernie Sanders admits he put his foot in his mouth.

On Friday, the independent senator from Vermont released a statement clarifying his position on Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, whom Sanders had called “not a progressive” earlier this week:

Let me be very clear. It is imperative that Jon Ossoff be elected congressman from Georgia’s 6th District and that Democrats take back the U.S. House. I applaud the energy and grassroots activism in Jon’s campaign. His victory would be an important step forward in fighting back against Trump’s reactionary agenda.

If anything, it’s surprising Sanders didn’t issue this statement sooner. There’s no evidence he ever opposed Ossoff, but his “progressive” remark rankled Democrats, who see the Georgia race as their first chance to replace a Republican in Congress in the Trump era. “It is true that Ossoff’s platform isn’t staunchly progressive,” The New Republic’s Brian Beutler noted on Thursday. “But Ossoff also wasn’t running to anyone’s right. There was no more progressive option in the jungle primary on Tuesday—no one whom Sanders would have favored over Ossoff—and the race is now a choice between him and a Republican.”

Sanders doesn’t think of himself as a partisan. He explicitly refuses to call himself a Democrat, even as he’s working to “transform” the party in his progressive image—one of several reasons he stumbled during his unity tour this week with Democratic national chairman Tom Perez. But if he’s going to work with the party, he has to avoid alienating it needlessly—and that starts by not dismissing the one candidate that Democrats have reason to be excited about.


This is the dumbest town hall a Republican congressman has ever done.

GOP members of Congress have had a rough go of it since Donald Trump became president. Faced with swarms of angry constituents, some lawmakers have limited the number of people who can attend, banned posters, and snuck out the back door to avoid confrontation. Some are just straight-up skipping events altogether.

Freshman Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida has had a few unruly town halls of his own, thanks to his support of a bill to completely eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency. But that hasn’t deterred him. On Thursday, he held a town hall on the grounds of a contaminated Superfund site in Pensacola, for the purpose of arguing that the EPA is not necessary.

The American Creosote Works Superfund Site was once a wood-treating facility, which for 80 years seeped chemicals into the soil and groundwater. The EPA designated it a Superfund in 1983, and the site still hasn’t been completely cleaned up. Gaetz’s logic is that this is all the EPA’s fault, claiming that “if the money that goes to the EPA instead went to the states, Florida would have done the job by now,” ABC affiliate WEAR reported.

There’s no evidence that the pace of the cleanup is due to EPA incompetence. The Superfund program is supposed to compel the polluters themselves to clean up the messes they made, but American Creosote Works went bankrupt in 1981. That means cleanup has to come solely from federal funds, and the Superfund program has been underfunded for years, unable to keep up with all of the pollution from companies that have folded. Trump’s proposed budget would shrink the Superfund program even more, cutting $330 million from its $1.1 billion budget.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Don’t blame Bernie Sanders for Heath Mello.

Liberals have discovered there’s a mayoral race in Omaha, Nebraska. They simultaneously discovered that the Democratic Party’s candidate, Heath Mello, is not exactly progressive on the subject of abortion. During his time in the state Senate, Mello, a devout Catholic, supported a 20-week abortion ban and restrictions on telemedicine that affected rural access to abortion. The only reason people who do not live in Nebraska are paying attention to any of this is because Bernie Sanders and DNC Chair Tom Perez campaigned for Mello on their ill-fated unity tour.

Cue the whirlwind:

Sanders hasn’t helped himself, either:

Some provisos are necessary here. Mello earned a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood Nebraska in 2015, and recently said that his religious beliefs would not lead him to restrict abortion rights as mayor of Omaha. But abortion rights advocates are reasonable to be skeptical of these claims: Abortion access is in crisis, and American women can ill afford opposition to abortion from the Democratic Party.

But it’s notable that Sanders became a lightning rod here. He’s campaigning with Perez, after all. They are, presumably, stumping for Mello because that’s what the national party wants them to do. Consider the uproar when Sanders reiterated his long-standing status as an independent and when he declined to describe Jon Ossoff, the Democrat in Georgia’s special House election, as a progressive. People are outraged when he refuses to join the party, and they are outraged when he does what the party asks him to do.

Does this say something about Sanders’s priorities? Maybe, maybe not. But the liberals who want to condemn Sanders seem more interested in re-litigating the Democratic primary than in addressing the real problem: that the party itself is willing to go squishy on abortion to win elections in red-to-purple areas. Hillary Clinton chose Tim Kaine to be her running mate despite a slightly checkered history on the issue. Democratic Senators Casey, Manchin, Donnelly and Heitkamp won’t budge in their defense of the Hyde Amendment.

Sanders and Perez shouldn’t have campaigned for Mello. It’s the wrong message to send on a “unity tour.” But if liberals want to get mad about Mello, they should direct their anger at the proper culprit.

Saul Loeb/Getty

Trump is freaking out about his first 100 days.

On his 100th day in office, next Friday, the government could be shut down, which would be a fitting metaphor. And, with no movement on health care, infrastructure, and tax reform, Trump will almost certainly hit that milestone without a legislative accomplishment. Considering that his signature executive orders have been both horrific and blocked by courts, and that his young presidency has largely been defined by infighting and incompetence, Trump is facing a rash of negative press coverage—and what will likely go down as one of the least effective first 100 days in presidential history. His team is very well aware of this and it has spent the last week trying to get ahead of the negative coverage with spin. On Friday, Trump tried his hand at making the case that, actually, everything is fine:

This tweet characteristically tries to have it both ways: The first 100 days is silly! But also I’ve done so much! To an extent, he’s not wrong on the first count: The first 100 days is a pretty silly construct. (Why not 50 days? Or 150?) But, as I wrote yesterday, it is a pretty good measure of an administration’s momentum and how well it utilizes the political capital it earned in the election—and by both of those standards, Trump’s first 100 days have been historically bad.

Trump points to his only real accomplishment, which is barely an accomplishment at all—Trump’s justice would’ve been confirmed so long as he didn’t nominate Omarosa. (Furthermore, Republicans had to blow up the filibuster to do it.) That’s not to say that confirming Neil Gorsuch isn’t huge—he could be on the Supreme Court for the next four decades, retiring only when the average global temperature has hit 113 degrees and we all live under the dome. But it also underscores how little Trump has gotten done and how desperate the administration is to suggest otherwise.

Pascal Le Segretarian/Getty

Did Donald Trump just endorse Marine Le Pen?

The first round of the French elections is being held on Sunday. This year’s race is a challenge for pollsters, featuring four main candidates who are each polling at around 20 percent: the centrist Emmanuel Macron, the far-right Marine Le Pen, the far-right but not as far-right as Le Pen (and also corrupt, though we’re also talking about French politics) Francois Fillon, and France’s Bernie Sanders, Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Until a late surge by Mélenchon, the race had been widely seen as the next great battle between the populist far-right and a centrist status quo. Le Pen has been repeatedly compared to Donald Trump—she hung out at Trump Tower during the transition—and some believe the race could be the harbinger of a “Frexit.” On Thursday, the election was rattled by a terror attack on Paris’s Champs Elysees that left one policeman dead.

ISIS quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, suggesting that it was intended to influence the election—radical terror groups, which are intent on driving a wedge between Muslims and Western society, believe that Le Pen’s National Front would help do this. Le Pen seized the initiative, saying the attack was a “symbol of [state] failure” and proof that France needs to fight back against Islamism. On Friday morning she got a boost from Trump, who made a similar, albeit subtler case:

Trump likes to try his hand at cable news punditry—in an alternate universe, he was given a Fox News show years ago and Greg Gutfeld is president—so this may just be Trump doing horse race analysis or parroting something he saw on TV. But it does crawl up to the edge of endorsing Le Pen—the implication seems to be that the terror attack will push the French to vote for Le Pen. (Trump’s own presidential campaign was boosted after the Paris terror attacks in 2015.)

The French elections have become a weird proxy war for American politicians—Barack Obama is backing Macron in a similarly subtle-but-not-too-subtle way. Still, it’s hard to think of a more irresponsible tweet from Trump, who is essentially signal-boosting the narrative that ISIS wants to promote.

April 20, 2017

Liberals have finally discovered the joys of the Benghazi conspiracy theory.

Jason Chaffetz’s announcement that he would not be running for re-election in 2018 was surprising. Chaffetz’s own explanation—that he wants to spend more time with his family and make some dough—may very well be all there is to it. Another possibility is that the chairman of the House Oversight Committee looked into the future, envisioned two years of running interference for President Trump, and decided that this was not going to do his career any favors. But some folks decided that Russia must be behind it because Russia, a moderately powerful state with a sputtering economy, is behind everything bad in America these days.

The first rumor was standard Russia conspiracy theory nonsense: Chaffetz was resigning because Russia had compromising information about him and was using it as blackmail! There is, of course, no reason to believe that Chaffetz, a guy from Utah, had been swept up in Russian operations. The source for this bizarre story was Louise Mensch, who has carved out a niche tweeting and writing nearly incoherent articles citing no evidence (beyond shadowy sources) of Russian interference. Mensch, a former member of the British Parliament, is either a nut or the best-sourced national security reporter in the country—there is no middle ground.

But on Thursday, Andrea Chalupa, a writer with the name of a Thomas Pynchon character, took things a step further in a viral thread that accused Jason Chaffetz of essentially orchestrating the Benghazi attacks so they could be used to discredit Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy four years later.

Citing a “credible source,” Chalupa suggests that Chaffetz and other Republicans voted to cut the budget for security in Benghazi so the consulate there would be attacked, damaging Clinton’s credibility. (For some reason, four of the tweets in the relatively short tweetstorm are about Blackwater founder/evil person Erik Prince, who was not involved in Benghazi.) Chalupa appears to be saying that Chaffetz is concerned that his treasonous act will be discovered in the investigation into the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia, and that he is leaving to get his house in order.

This is, to put it lightly, insane. It’s never explained, for instance, why the GOP would want to do Benghazi to hurt Hillary and not Obama, who ran for re-election two months after the Benghazi attacks. How these GOP congressmen were able to anticipate Clinton’s response to the Benghazi attacks, which was the source of the controversy, is not explained. It’s also remarkably irresponsible, as it essentially escalates “GOP congressmen voted against budget increases that affected diplomatic security” to “GOP congressmen literally orchestrated the murder of a U.S. ambassador.” This theory is basically the inversion of the right-wing conspiracy theory of Benghazi: that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama intentionally caused the attack for... uh... yeah um... reasons.

One of the few good things to come out of Donald Trump’s presidency is that it ostensibly put the Benghazi attacks—which were incredibly tragic and the result of a lot of human error and exactly zero nefarious plots—to bed. But this is a moment in which there is an incredible appetite for explanations for why our very bad and screwed-up world is so bad and screwed-up. The problem is that nuts are filling the void, and Benghazi has now become a building block in a budding left-wing conspiracy theory complex. The liberal 13 Hours is going to be dope though.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Jeff Sessions knows Hawaii is a state. He just doesn’t care.

Sessions, the racist Keebler elf of Donald Trump’s administration, has two true loves: white nationalism and making cookies in his treehouse. Today he took some time out of his busy Fudge Stripes production schedule to issue a good old-fashioned dog whistle to the people of Hawaii:

Sessions is attempting to criticize Judge Derrick Watson, who recently blocked Donald Trump’s Muslim ban and is based in Hawaii. But it’s interesting that he chooses do so by attacking Hawaii itself—which is, of course, not just “some island in the Pacific.” It’s the most diverse state in the nation. It’s a state because we invaded it and staged a coup that overthrew its indigenous leadership. Sessions should love this story!

Donald Trump does not rule by fiat. He cannot snap his fingers and sprinkle racist pixie dust on the laws of the United States. Watson was well within his rights to block Trump’s executive order, and Sessions’s refusal to recognize his judicial authority is cause for real concern. This authoritarian streak—and dismissiveness toward diverse communities—is in line with what we’ve come to expect from the Trump White House.