WASHINGTON — Both can be true: Bernie Sanders is running a better campaign than he did four years ago, and he’s in worse shape to win the Democratic nomination than in 2016.
The better campaign: Sanders has more aggressively worked on his shortcomings with African-American and Latino Democrats.
And today he delivers a speech on why democratic socialism is the only way to defeat to oligarchy and authoritarianism (more on that below).
But here’s how he’s in worse shape: He’s one of some 20-plus Democrats running instead of Hillary Clinton’s main competition.
He and Elizabeth Warren are competing on much of the same turf (see Data Download below).
The 2018 midterms proved that Democrats can win tough races without democratic socialism — look at Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona, or Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan or Abigail Spanberger in Virginia.
And maybe most important of all, the Democratic memories about 2016 – the fights with the DNC, the chaos at the Philly convention, the dispute over superdelegates — make it harder to win over a party that wants to move on from that last presidential campaign.
“Loser” vs. “Childishness”: Trump and Biden brawl in Iowa
Trump vs. Biden in Iowa yesterday pretty much played out as expected.
Before departing for the Hawkeye State, Trump called Biden a “loser” and someone who never won “more than 1 percent except Obama took him off the trash heap.”
More: “Now, I have to tell you, he’s a different guy. He looks different than he used to, he acts different than he used to, he’s even slower than he used to be.”
And when Trump got to Iowa: “Sleepy Joe. He was someplace in Iowa today, and he said my name so many times that people couldn’t stand it anymore.”
Meanwhile, here was Biden on Trump: “By the way, I was pleased to know that his alliance with Kim Jong Un where he and Kim Jong Un thought that maybe I shouldn’t be president.”
Also: “Whoa. You know, he doesn’t do any of the right things. Instead he gets up in the middle of the night while he is at Normandy and tweets an attack on Bette Midler? The mayor of London because he’s Muslim. The Speaker of the House who is there with him at Normandy. Stunning display of childishness and the whole world watched.”
Buttigieg makes his case
As Trump and Biden traded verbal punches yesterday, Pete Buttigieg took on both men — directly regarding Trump, indirectly regarding Biden — in his foreign policy speech at Indiana University.
“Faced with this moment of great challenge and possibility, it’s not enough just to say we won’t conduct foreign policy by tweet,” Buttigieg said, per NBC’s Jonathan Allen.
“Nor would it be honest to promise that we can restore an old order that cannot, in any case, meet the realities of a new moment. Democrats can no more turn the clock back to the 1990s than Republicans can return us to the 1950s.”
As Allen reminds us, Biden served as ranking member and chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the 1990s and early 2000s.
2020 Vision: FDR = democratic socialist?
At 2:00 pm ET, Bernie Sanders will give a speech from DC on democratic socialism – and how it’s the only way to defeat oligarchy and authoritarianism.
Sanders ties Franklin Roosevelt to democratic socialism, according to excerpts of his prepared remarks.
“It is the path that I call democratic socialism. Over eighty years ago Franklin Delano Roosevelt helped create a government that made huge progress in protecting the needs of working families,” Sanders is expected to say, per NBC’s Shaquille Brewster.
“Today in the second decade of the 21st century we must take up the unfinished business of the New Deal and carry it to completion. This is the unfinished business of the Democratic Party and the vision we must accomplish.”
Historians, however, point out that FDR was a capitalist, though he believed capitalism needed to be saved after the Great Depression.
FDR also was criticized from the left — hello, Huey Long — for the New Deal not going far enough.
And as the New York Times’ Jonathan Martin reminds us, Roosevelt had a socialist opponent in 1932 and 1936: Norman Thomas.
On the campaign trail today
Joe Biden remains in Iowa, traveling to Eldridge and Clinton before hitting a fundraiser in Chicago… Bernie Sanders delivers his address on democratic socialism in DC… Jay Inslee stumps in New Hampshire… Beto O’Rourke appears on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert… And Eric Swalwell discusses gun violence in Las Vegas.
Data Download: The number of the day is … 29 percent
That’s the share of support that both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are pulling from Democratic primary voters who describe themselves as “very liberal” in the latest Quinnipiac University poll.
That’s compared with 16 percent of very liberal Democrats who say they support Joe Biden and 12 percent who support Pete Buttigieg.
It’s been apparent that Warren and Sanders are battling over voters in the same progressive lane, but the fact that they’ve got exactly the same share of support in the progressive wing of the party hammers home that neither has a lock on them yet.
Sanders does lead Warren and the rest of the Democratic pack among voters under 50, pulling about 32 percent support, compared with 18 percent for Biden and 16 percent for Warren.
Tweet of the day
The Lid: The times … they are a-changin’
Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we took a look at new polling that shows how Americans’ views of gender and transgender rights are evolving (fast.)
ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss
Trump may be having second thoughts about his proposed choice of Patrick Shanahan as the next Defense Secretary.
Representatives of 22 different foreign governments have spent money at Trump properties, according to a new NBC News review.
What’s going on with the protests in Hong Kong?
Donald Trump Jr. will be interviewed behind closed doors by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
And Jon Stewart is in the news for his criticism of no-show lawmakers at a 9/11 victims fund hearing.
Trump agenda: What’s going on?
Trump has been boasting about a new deal with Mexico. The New York Times lays out what we know and don’t know about what’s going on.
AG William Barr says he’ll tell the president to assert executive privilege for documents in the Census fight if the House holds him in contempt.
POLITICO profiles new White House counsel Pat Cipollone.
The Washington Post asks: What does Trump really think about what he calls “the I-word.”
2020: Beto’s new plan
Beto O’Rourke is proposing a new plan to protect LGBTQ rights.
Kamala Harris says her DOJ would have “no choice” but to pursue obstruction charges against Trump.
Pete Buttigieg says he’s work for repeal of the post-9/11 war powers resolution.
Democratic candidates are joining striking fast-food workers this week.
Jeremy Corbyn says Boris Johnson ‘hasn’t won support of our country’ and demands election
Doctors find differences in brains of U.S. diplomats who alleged mystery attacks in Cuba
WASHINGTON — A group of U.S. government workers potentially exposed to unexplained phenomena in Cuba have less white matter in their brains and less connectivity in the areas that control vision and hearing than similar healthy people, doctors have found.
The findings from University of Pennsylvania researchers are the most specific to date about the neurological condition of the U.S. diplomats, spies and their families who reported strange sounds and sensations while serving in Havana between 2016 and 2018.
Yet while doctors found “significant differences” in their brains compared to a control group, they couldn’t say whether they were caused by whatever may have happened in Cuba, nor whether those differences account for the Americans’ symptoms.
Watch Josh Lederman on Andrea Mitchell Reports today for more
The medical findings, revealed Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, come as U.S. national security officials tell NBC News that more than two years into the mystery, the government still has not determined who or what is responsible for what transpired in Havana.
The FBI, enlisted in 2017 to investigate what the U.S. has called “targeted attacks,” paid multiple trips to Havana but has exhausted its leads in the case, individuals briefed on the investigation say. While the investigation hasn’t been formally closed, no external energy source in Cuba has yet been identified that could have caused the injuries, they said. The FBI declined to comment.
Although the Trump administration has not retreated from its assertions that its workers in Cuba were attacked, officials at the FBI, the CIA and the State Department are also examining the possibility that mass psychogenic illness, or psychosomatic symptoms that spread through a community, may be to blame in at least some of the cases, officials said.
The Cuban Embassy in Washington didn’t respond to a request for comment. But Dr. Mitchell Joseph Valdés-Sosa, the Cuban Neuroscience Center chief who has been investigating the U.S. claims, said there were major “causes for concern” in the study’s methodology, including the makeup of the control group and assertions about brain changes that he said could have resulted from “many factors, including psychological states.”
“The most worrisome aspect is the attempt to link these findings with an unspecified ‘directional phenomenon,'” Valdés-Sosa said. “The research in this area has been cloaked in secrecy, and driven by cold war paranoia.”
Twenty-six Americans who served in Cuba were “medically confirmed” by the State Department to have been affected. The Penn study included most of those workers, their relatives who lived with them and other U.S. workers referred to Penn for potential exposure, bringing the total to 40.
Using a battery of advanced MRIs, researchers created a detailed map of their brains, including the pathways and connections that let parts of the brain communicate with one another. It takes a computer more than 24 hours to process the data and create the maps, officials tell NBC News. The results from all individuals in the Cuba group were combined, then custom software was used to compare those results to a map made from MRIs of 48 individuals of similar age and ethnicity.
Doctors found that in measuring white matter — nerve fibers that form the brain’s communications network — the Cuba patients had a mean volume that was 27 cubic centimeters smaller than the control patients. Overall, they had similar volumes of grey matter — rich with brain cells that process information — but in some regions of the brain, the Cuba patients had more grey matter.
Advanced neuroimaging that tracks how water molecules travel through the brain found decreased connectivity in the networks related to seeing and hearing, which tracks with many of the symptoms reported, but not in the networks that handle higher-level thinking processes. Still, doctors were unable to draw a clear connection between the findings and the patients’ symptoms, which also included problems with balance, sleep and memory.
NBC News Medical Correspondent Dr. John Torres said the small sample size and high sensitivity of the brain scans could have produced results that appear unusual but aren’t clinically significant.
“Even though, as a group, these government personnel have changes to parts of their brains seen on MRI images, those changes cannot be tied directly to what they report happened in Cuba,” Dr. Torres said.
Starting in late 2016, U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers in Cuba started reporting strange incidents that the Penn study describes as “potential exposure to uncharacterized directional phenomena” of unknown origins, “manifesting as pressure, vibration or sound.” Some reported ear-piercing sounds in their homes at night that would suddenly disappear when they moved just a few feet away.
The mysterious noises initially led investigators to suspect a sonic weapon, but investigators ruled out the possibility sound waves could have caused the damage. Officials have explored other possibilities such as a microwave or other electromagnetic energy source, as well as potential environmental causes and psychosomatic illness.
Because of how much is still unknown about the brain’s inner workings, it’s difficult to say whether any of those theories could neatly explain the specific changes to brain matter volume and connectivity identified by the MRI study, medical experts said.
The bizarre saga has inflicted significant damage on a U.S.-Cuba relationship that was only beginning to warm in recent years following half a century of enmity.
After declaring that its diplomats had been attacked, the United States pulled most of its workers out of Cuba and warned all Americans not to travel there. Those ties have been further weakened by the Trump administration’s crackdown on Cuba and re-imposition of sanctions and travel restrictions that had been eased during the Obama administration.
In addition to Penn’s study, the National Institutes of Health is conducting its own “brain injury research study” involving the Cuba patients with help from Energy Department supercomputers and national laboratories capable of processing massive amounts of neurological data. The Defense Department has also been engaged to look into technologies that could have been used to harm the Americans, NBC News has reported.
The State Department said it was aware of the new study from Penn doctors and “welcomes the medical community’s discussion on this incredibly complex issue.”
“The department’s top priority remains the safety, security and well-being of its staff,” the State Department said in a statement.
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