True leaders play down religion ― Osinbajo » Tribune Online

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has observed that true leaders play down religion to cater for the issues that concern the welfare of all citizens.

He said such was the attitude of first republic leaders who he observed touched the lives of everyone regardless of religious or ethnic background.

Osinbajo was speaking at the opening session of the General Assembly of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs in Abuja on Friday.

Osinbajo said “Decades ago in this same country, it would not have been a major topic. Leaders in the first republic did not consider religious intolerance as a major national issue, they were more concerned about the issues that touched everyone regardless of religion or ethnicity; they were concerned about providing food, shelter, education and decent livelihoods. But today, no true leader can ignore the threat that religious bigotry and intolerance poses for the development of our nation. That is just the way it is.

“But it is my respectful view that the burden of ensuring that faith promotes national development as opposed to impeding it is on leaders. This is the challenge I pose to you today.”

Drawing on the Biblical teachings of love and compassion by Jesus Christ, the Vice President challenged all leaders in the country to learn from the Good Samaritan who showed compassion to a stranger where even religious people failed. and Imam Abubakar who saved Christians from being slaughtered in Plateau State.

Osinbajo said: “All leaders and this is my challenge to you today, need to learn from the simple, but deeply profound actions of the Good Samaritan and Chief Imam Abubakar. Both of them showed great love and compassion. They were not concerned about the race or religion of those whose lives they saved or whose properties were destroyed. All that mattered was that they were flesh and blood like themselves. They were simply ready to make any sacrifice for another human being.

“We are at a historic juncture in the existence of our nation. Here and there are religious and tribal tensions. Many are beating the drums of ethnic and religious superiority. Some even seek to divide the nation into ethnic zones. “Yet our constitution speaks in the clearest and highest terms of our national commitment to the equality of all Nigerians regardless of ethnicity, religion or status. It speaks of the imperative of all individuals and governments to respect the rights and dignity of every Nigerian. “Our constitution speaks of freedom of worship, the liberty to belong to the faith of one’s choice and even change that faith without consequence.

“But constitutional declarations mean nothing unless there are men and women ready to make the personal sacrifices to bridge the gap between rhetoric and constitutional ideals. Such men and women are not usually very many. But they do not have to be many to make a difference.”

Osinbajo regretted that whereas a particular Muslim state governor was rebuilding churches burnt during the crisis in his states, some declined to approved certificates of occupancy in theirs.

“Yet there are States where Governors refuse to grant certificates of occupancy for the building of churches or places of religious gathering in outright violation of the constitution they swore to uphold,” he said.

He noted how tolerant President Muhammadu Buhari has been citing an example of the worship in Aso Rock villa.

According to Osinbajo, “Every Sunday, my family and over 100 Christians attend service in the Chapel at the Villa. The Chapel is located in the premises of the President and his family. It is located a few seconds away from the First Lady’s kitchen. Sometimes when I see the President on a Sunday morning, he asks me whether the service is over already or I am escaping from the service! That is the sort of tolerance that we need in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society and it is the duty of leaders to show that sort of example.

“It is the courage of leaders to live up to the ideals of their faith and their sworn commitments that invariably build nations. Leaders must live up to the commitments to which they swear, especially political leaders.

“Nations are built by the sacrifices, the hard work of leaders who do not care even if they are condemned by persons of their own religion or ethnicity, so long as they are confident that they act in obedience to the oaths they swore and to the Almighty God. Such men and women are few, but the profundity of their actions invariably transform communities and nations as they bend the arc of history in the direction of unity, peace and progress.”

Osinbajo remarked that the challenge of nation-building was not the noise of the religious bigots and nihilists, but “it is the silence and inaction of leaders of different faiths who know better, those who say and do nothing, and to whom we appeal today. Your words and actions may make the difference between peace and tragedy.”

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Why the fight against disinformation, sham accounts and trolls won’t be any easier in 2020

2020 Election

The big tech companies have announced aggressive steps to keep trolls, bots and online fakery from marring another presidential election — from Facebook’s removal of billions of fake accounts to Twitter’s spurning of all political ads.

But it’s a never-ending game of whack-a-mole that’s only getting harder as we barrel toward the 2020 election. Disinformation peddlers are deploying new, more subversive techniques and American operatives have adopted some of the deceptive tactics Russians tapped in 2016. Now, tech companies face thorny and sometimes subjective choices about how to combat them — at times drawing flak from both Democrats and Republicans as a result.

This is our roundup of some of the evolving challenges Silicon Valley faces as it tries to counter online lies and bad actors heading into the 2020 election cycle:

1) American trolls may be a greater threat than Russians

Russia-backed trolls notoriously flooded social media with disinformation around the presidential election in 2016, in what Robert Mueller’s investigators described as a multimillion-dollar plot involving years of planning, hundreds of people and a wave of fake accounts posting news and ads on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube.

This time around — as experts have warned — a growing share of the threat is likely to originate in America.

“It’s likely that there will be a high volume of misinformation and disinformation pegged to the 2020 election, with the majority of it being generated right here in the United States, as opposed to coming from overseas,” said Paul Barrett, deputy director of New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.

Barrett, the author of a recent report on 2020 disinformation, noted that lies and misleading claims about 2020 candidates originating in the U.S. have already spread across social media. Those include manufactured sex scandals involving South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and a smear campaign calling Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) “not an American black” because of her multiracial heritage. (The latter claim got a boost on Twitter from Donald Trump Jr.)

Before last year’s midterm elections, Americans similarly amplified fake messages such as a “#nomenmidterms” hashtag that urged liberal men to stay home from the polls to make “a Woman’s Vote Worth more.” Twitter suspended at least one person — actor James Woods — for retweeting that message.

“A lot of the disinformation that we can identify tends to be domestic,” said Nahema Marchal, a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute’s Computational Propaganda Project. “Just regular private citizens leveraging the Russian playbook, if you will, to create … a divisive narrative, or just mixing factual reality with made-up facts.”

Tech companies say they’ve broadened their fight against disinformation as a result. Facebook, for instance, announced in October that it had expanded its policies against “coordinated inauthentic behavior” to reflect a rise in disinformation campaigns run by non-state actors, domestic groups and companies. But people tracking the spread of fakery say it remains a problem, especially inside closed groups like those popular on Facebook.

2) And policing domestic content is tricky

U.S. law forbids foreigners from taking part in American political campaigns — a fact that made it easy for members of Congress to criticize Facebook for accepting rubles as payment for political ads in 2016.

But Americans are allowed, even encouraged, to partake in their own democracy — which makes things a lot more complicated when they use social media tools to try to skew the electoral process. For one thing, the companies face a technical challenge: Domestic meddling doesn’t leave obvious markers such as ads written in broken English and traced back to Russian internet addresses.

More fundamentally, there’s often no clear line between bad-faith meddling and dirty politics. It’s not illegal to run a mud-slinging campaign or engage in unscrupulous electioneering. And the tech companies are wary of being seen as infringing on American’s right to engage in political speech — all the more so as conservatives such as President Donald Trump accuse them of silencing their voices.

Plus, the line between foreign and domestic can be blurry. Even in 2016, the Kremlin-backed troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency relied on Americans to boost their disinformation. Now, claims with hazy origins are being picked up without need for a coordinated 2016-style foreign campaign. Simon Rosenberg, a longtime Democratic strategist who has spent recent years focused on online disinformation, points to Trump’s promotion of the theory that Ukraine significantly meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, a charge that some experts trace back to Russian security forces.

“It’s hard to know if something is foreign or domestic,” said Rosenberg, once it “gets swept up in this vast ‘Wizard of Oz’-like noise machine.”

3) Bad actors are learning

Experts agree on one thing: The election interference tactics that social media platforms encounter in 2020 will look different from those they’ve trying to fend off since 2016.

“What we’re going to see is the continued evolution and development of new approaches, new experimentation trying to see what will work and what won’t,” said Lee Foster, who leads the information operations intelligence analysis team at the cybersecurity firm FireEye.

Foster said the “underlying motivations” of undermining democratic institutions and casting doubt on election results will remain constant, but the trolls have already evolved their tactics.

For instance, they’ve gotten better at obscuring their online activity to avoid automatic detection, even as social media platforms ramp up their use of artificial intelligence software to dismantle bot networks and eradicate inauthentic accounts.

“One of the challenges for the platforms is that, on the one hand, the public understandably demands more transparency from them about how they take down or identify state-sponsored attacks or how they take down these big networks of authentic accounts, but at the same time they can’t reveal too much at the risk of playing into bad actors’ hands,” said Oxford’s Marchal.

Researchers have already observed extensive efforts to distribute disinformation through user-generated posts — known as “organic” content — rather than the ads or paid messages that were prominent in the 2016 disinformation campaigns.

Foster, for example, cited trolls impersonating journalists or other more reliable figures to give disinformation greater legitimacy. And Marchal noted a rise in the use of memes and doctored videos, whose origins can be difficult to track down. Jesse Littlewood, vice president at advocacy group Common Cause, said social media posts aimed at voter suppression frequently appear no different from ordinary people sharing election updates in good faith — messages such as “you can text your vote” or “the election’s a different day” that can be “quite harmful.”

Tech companies insist they are learning, too. Since the 2016 election, Google, Facebook and Twitter have devoted security experts and engineers to tackling disinformation in national elections across the globe, including the 2018 midterms in the United States. The companies say they have gotten better at detecting and removing fake accounts, particularly those engaged in coordinated campaigns.

But other tactics may have escaped detection so far. NYU’s Barrett noted that disinformation-for-hire operations sometimes employed by corporations may be ripe for use in U.S. politics, if they’re not already.

He pointed to a recent experiment conducted by the cyber threat intelligence firm Recorded Future, which said it paid two shadowy Russian “threat actors” a total of just $6,050 to generate media campaigns promoting and trashing a fictitious company. Barrett said the project was intended “to lure out of the shadows firms that are willing to do this kind of work,” and demonstrated how easy it is to generate and sow disinformation.

Real-life examples include a hyper-partisan skewed news operation started by a former Fox News executive and Facebook’s accusations that an Israeli social media company profited from creating hundreds of fake accounts. That “shows that there are firms out there that are willing and eager to engage in this kind of underhanded activity,” Barrett said.

4) Not all lies are created equal

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are largely united in trying to take down certain kinds of false information, such as targeted attempts to drive down voter turnout. But their enforcement has been more varied when it comes to material that is arguably misleading.

In some cases, the companies label the material factually dubious or use their algorithms to limit its spread. But in the lead-up to 2020, the companies’ rules are being tested by political candidates and government leaders who sometimes play fast and loose with the truth.

“A lot of the mainstream campaigns and politicians themselves tend to rely on a mix of fact and fiction,” Marchal said. “It’s often a lot of … things that contain a kernel of truth but have been distorted.”

One example is the flap over a Trump campaign ad — which appeared on Facebook, YouTube and some television networks — suggesting that former Vice President Joe Biden had pressured Ukraine into firing a prosecutor to squelch an investigation into an energy company whose board included Biden’s son Hunter. In fact, the Obama administration and multiple U.S. allies had pushed for removing the prosecutor for slow-walking corruption investigations. The ad “relies on speculation and unsupported accusations to mislead viewers,” the nonpartisan site FactCheck.org concluded.

The debate has put tech companies at the center of a tug of war in Washington. Republicans have argued for more permissive rules to safeguard constitutionally protected political speech, while Democrats have called for greater limits on politicians’ lies.

Democrats have especially lambasted Facebook for refusing to fact-check political ads, and have criticized Twitter for letting politicians lie in their tweets and Google for limiting candidates’ ability to finely tune the reach of their advertising — all examples, the Democrats say, of Silicon Valley ducking the fight against deception.

Jesse Blumenthal, who leads the tech policy arm of the Koch-backed Stand Together coalition, said expecting Silicon Valley to play truth cop places an undue burden on tech companies to litigate messy disputes over what’s factual.

“Most of the time the calls are going to be subjective, so what they end up doing is putting the platforms at the center of this rather than politicians being at the center of this,” he said.

Further complicating matters, social media sites have generally granted politicians considerably more leeway to spread lies and half-truths through their individual accounts and in certain instances through political ads. “We don’t do this to help politicians, but because we think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an October speech at Georgetown University in which he defended his company’s policy.

But Democrats say tech companies shouldn’t profit off false political messaging.

“I am supportive of these social media companies taking a much harder line on what content they allow in terms of political ads and calling out lies that are in political ads, recognizing that that’s not always the easiest thing to draw those distinctions,” Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state told POLITICO.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

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Bernie Sanders and the 2020 age debate

(CNN)With only120daysuntil the Iowa caucuses, the 2020 election will be here before you know it.Every Sunday, I round up the5BIG storylines you need to know to understand the upcoming week on the campaign trail. And they’re ranked — so the No. 1 story is the most important of the coming week.

5. Trump, unleashed: Donald Trump has spent the last week talking and tweeting almost nonstop as he tries to fight his way out of mounting allegations over his pressure campaign to get the Ukrainians to look into debunked allegations of wrongdoing against Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
And the rhetoric from Trump has gone to previously unseen heights — even for Trump. He’s accused Rep. Adam Schiff (California) of treason, he’s attacked Mitt Romney in deeply personal terms — more on that directly below — and he’s repeating, repeating, repeating long disproven lies.
All of which means that when Trump travels to Minneapolis on Thursday for a “Keep America Great” rally, well, look out. Trump is always at his most, well, Trump-y at these campaign rallies — and, given the walls closing in on him in Washington, he could well use the Minnesota rally as a venting session the likes of which even longtime Trump observers rarely see.
Stay tuned. It’s going to be a doozy.
4. Any other Mitt Romneys out there?: Republicans have, almost uniformly, closed ranks around Trump even as a second whistleblower has emerged regarding the President allegedly using the power of his office for political gain during interactions over the summer with Ukraine.
Only Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah) has publicly criticized Trump in any way, calling the President’s urgings of China and Ukraine to investigate the Bidens “wrong” and “appalling.” Trump immediately struck back, referring to Romney as a “pompous ‘ass'” (I have no idea why he put “ass” in quotes) and suggesting that the 2012 Republican nominee was “begging” to be his secretary of state.
Any Republican who was weighing speaking out about Trump’s behavior with Ukraine (and his plea for China to investigate his main rival for the 2020 nomination) now can have no illusions about what such criticism will be met with: Pure, unadulterated anger from Trump — and likely vilification from the President’s base.
Is any prominent Republican other than Romney willing to risk speaking out when that reaction is assured? Principle vs. politics, anyone?
3. Fundraising losers…: With the third fundraising quarter ending at the close of last month, most of the major candidates have released how much they brought in and how much they spent between July 1 and September 30.
Let’s go through the losers first.
* Joe Biden: When you are a former vice president and the race’s frontrunner, you need to be at or very close to the top of the money chase. Biden’s $15 million raised in the third quarter is well off the pace and a significant drop-off from when Biden raised $21.5 million from April 1 to June 30 — his first three months of active fundraising. His numbers will re-ignite the debate over whether he has real grassroots energy behind his establishment candidacy. Think about this: The mayor of South Bend, Indiana — Pete Buttigieg — raised $4 million more than Biden in the third quarter and has now out-raised the former vice president for six months straight.
* Cory Booker: The New Jersey senator’s plea for $1.7 million in the final days of the quarter — in order, he said, for him to remain in the race — drew a ton of publicity. Even though Booker met his goal, he still only brought in $6 million for the entire three-month period. That likely means he will be facing another dire financial deadline in the not-too-distant future.
2. … and fundraising winners: 
* Bernie Sanders: Even as his poll numbers have stagnated somewhat, the Vermont senator’s small-dollar, online fundraising network continues to deliver. Sanders topped the field in the third quarter with more than $25 million raised and has now raised more than $71 million this year. That ensures he will not only have real organizations in all of the early states but will also be able to continue fighting for the nomination for months.
* Elizabeth Warren: While Sanders edged out Warren for the top spot by about $500,000, Warren’s third quarter fundraising is yet another data point proving how much momentum she has built behind her candidacy. Warren already has the best organization in Iowa, and fundraising like she put on the board over the last three months ensures her campaign will be able to fund a (TV) air assault as well.
* Andrew Yang: The tech entrepreneur raised $10 million in the third quarter, which, at least to me was the single most surprising result of the fundraising race. Yang’s total put him well above what Booker, as well as Sen. Michael Bennet (Colorado) and Gov. Steve Bullock (Montana) raised, and within shouting distance of Sen. Kamala Harris (California). That’s a stunner, and shows how far he’s come since the year started and almost no one knew who he was.
1. The age/health debate is here: It was probably inevitable, given that the four most likely candidates to be president in 2021 are 70+ years old, but Bernie Sanders’ recent heart attack has officially injected the issue of age and health into the 2020 campaign.
After several days of uncertainty, Sanders’ campaign confirmed that he had suffered a heart attack on the campaign trail and, following his release from the hospital late last week, he has returned to Vermont. His campaign has canceled its events until further notice but has said Sanders will be at the next debate — set for October 15 in Ohio.
While the relatively advanced ages of Sanders (78), Joe Biden (76) and Elizabeth Warren (70) has been a sort of low buzz in the background of the Democratic race so far, those days are now over. All three candidates had previously pledged to release their medical records before the Iowa caucuses on February 3, 2020, but the urgency of those releases is significantly higher now than it was even a week ago.
(Remember that Donald Trump was the oldest person ever elected to a first term when he won the presidency in 2016 at age 70. During the campaign, his personal physician released a letter proclaiming that Trump “would be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” Trump is now 73. In January of this year, he underwent a physical which found him in “very good health overall.”)
In a May Pew Research Center poll, just 3% of Democrats said their ideal candidate would be in their 70s. A near- majority — 47% — said a candidate in their 50s would be best. On the other hand, more than 6 in 10 people told Gallup in May they would vote for a presidential candidate over 70 years old.

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Bernie Sanders Raises Massive $25.3 Million in Third Quarter

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) campaign announced on Tuesday that it had raised $25.3 million in the third quarter of 2019 with an average donation of $18.07.

The massive haul beats out his prior fundraising totals during his second bid for the presidency in which he brought in around $18 million and is, at the moment, the largest single quarter reported of any 2020 candidates throughout the year. Sanders is the first among his rivals to reveal his numbers for this quarter.

That total, from 1.4 million donations, was fueled in part by a record-setting month for the campaign in September and arrived at a moment when the Vermont senator had appeared to be stagnating in some polls.

Bernie is proud to be the only candidate running to defeat Donald Trump who is 100 percent funded by grassroots donationsboth in the primary and in the general, Sanders campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, said. Media elites and professional pundits have tried repeatedly to dismiss this campaign, and yet working-class Americans keep saying loudly and clearly that they want a political revolution.

In the second fundraising quarter, both former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg outpaced Sanders in fundraising with $21.5 million and $24.8 million, respectively, though unlike Sanders they relied on high-dollar fundraisers to help fuel the totals.

The Sanders campaign also said the final day of the third quarter was the second biggest fundraising day of the campaign and that teacher was the most common occupation of his donors, with the most common employers being Starbucks, Amazon, and Walmart. Since launching in February, they have raised $61.5 million from 3.3 million individual donations, with more than 99.9 percent not maxed out and still able to continue giving money to the campaign.

And they're immediately putting that money to use in the first caucus state.

On Tuesday afternoon the Sanders campaign announced that they had purchased a $1.3-million ad buy in Iowa and released their first paid TV ad of the cycle thus far.

There will be both 30-second and 60-second versions of the ad that will begin running on Thursday morning and continue, in this initial buy, for two weeks.

The news comes as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who led a recent Iowa poll, announced a $10-million-plus buy in the early voting states. Some $4.7 million of that is devoted to television ad buys in the early primary and caucus states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina during the first two months of next year. Warren's campaign has yet to reveal her third quarter fundraising total.

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Trump and RNC raise $125 million for reelection bid in third quarter

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(CNN)President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee raised $125 million during the July-to-September fundraising quarter as Trump faces a fast-moving impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives and what will be a costly reelection fight in 2020.

“President Trump has built a juggernaut of a campaign, raising record amounts of money at a record pace,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement.
Ronna McDaniel, the RNC’s chairwoman, said attacks from Democrats have spurred the President’s supporters to open their wallets.
    “We are investing millions on the airwaves and on the ground to hold House Democrats accountable, highlight their obstruction, and take back the House and reelect President Trump in 2020,” she said.
    The haul by Team Trump exceeds the $105 million that Trump and the national party raised through their joint efforts during the second quarter of the year. Trump’s campaign has already announced plans to deploy big sums to mount a defense of the President, running Facebook and television ads that focus on impeachment.
    Some of the Democrats hoping to challenge Trump next year are raising substantial sums, too.
    On Tuesday, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders reported collecting $25.3 million during the third quarter — the largest three-month haul posted so far by any of the 2020 Democratic presidential contenders and a sign of Sanders’ enduring strength with small-dollar contributors.
      South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg raised $19 million, his campaign announced Tuesday. Several other leading candidates — including the frontrunners in recent polling, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President joe Biden — had not disclosed their third quarter totals as of Tuesday evening.
      All candidates must report the details of their fundraising and spending to the Federal Election Commission by October 15.

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      Beto O’Rourke is back in the mix. Will voters give him another look?

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      (CNN)Beto O’Rourke is fighting with Pete Buttigieg. He’s angering Democrats in Washington. He’s cussing, and being warned about his language. He’s being called “dummy Beto” by President Donald Trump.

      After five months of struggling to find his place in the crowded Democratic field, a campaign reboot following the early August shooting that left 22 dead in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, has moved O’Rourke into a position where he appears more comfortable than he was in the first five months of the race: An outsider attempting to lead a movement.
      His message, in campaign stops, emails to supporters and social media posts, has shifted in a way that shows his campaign has found an animating cause. His language has changed, with O’Rourke — an at-times profane campaigner in Texas who early in the race promised he’d stop dropping f-bombs — now back to cursing regularly, a decision being heard by supporters as plainly communicating the urgency of the issue and by critics as an attention-grabbing gimmick.
        So has his travel schedule: O’Rourke is setting aside the traditional path through the early voting states in favor of a new emphasis on those that vote on Super Tuesday. He’s campaigning with down-ballot candidates, visiting downtrodden Democratic Party organizations and stopping in cities and towns facing tumult.
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        It’s tough to tell whether Democratic voters are giving O’Rourke a fresh look in light of his new approach: A recent CNN poll found him with 5% support, which his backers hoped was a sign O’Rourke was beginning to climb out of the low single digits. But an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll this week showed him with just 1% support. Given the margin of error, it’s possible O’Rourke hasn’t moved much at all.

        Battling with Buttigieg

        O’Rourke has drawn headlines since Democrats’ third primary debate in Houston last week — the one his aides said he prepared for the least, with zero sessions behind a podium and the one day that had been devoted to readying him for the showdown scrapped in favor of a last-minute trip to Midland, Texas, after a shooting there.
        Days before the debate, the Democratic National Committee passed on a warning to campaigns that ABC would be broadcasting the debate with no delay — which meant no chance to bleep out curse words. The warning didn’t name O’Rourke directly, but there was little doubt why it had been issued.
        On stage, O’Rourke delivered one of the night’s most memorable moments when he advocated for mandatory buy-backs of assault-style rifles, telling a cheering audience: “Hell yes, we are going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We are not going to allow it to be used against fellow Americans anymore.”
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        The comment led to criticism from Republicans and Democrats — and it gave O’Rourke an opportunity to brawl with the foe his supporters have been angry at since he mocked O’Rourke’s habit of “standing on things” in New Hampshire in early April: Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
        The blowback began the morning after the debate, when Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, a Joe Biden supporter, said O’Rourke had given Republicans an opening to characterize Democrats as gun-grabbers, endangering a push for other reforms.
        Coons’ prediction proved accurate on Wednesday, when Trump did just what he’d warned of, tweeting: “Dummy Beto made it much harder to make a deal. Convinced many that Dems just want to take your guns away. Will continue forward!”
        The fallout with more potential to affect the 2020 Democratic race, though, came when Buttigieg was asked on CNN on Sunday whether Coons was right that O’Rourke’s push for mandatory buy-backs was playing into the GOP’s hands.
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        As Buttigieg built establishment support and fundraising might, O’Rourke’s camp has seethed. His aides and backers note Buttigieg’s private flights and point out that O’Rourke often drives himself around the campaign trail (and recently took the Bolt Bus from New York to Boston). They see — and want voters to see — a clash that’s geographical, with Buttigieg representing the industrial Midwest where Democratic support has slipped and O’Rourke from the Sun Belt, a more diverse region where the party is gaining strength.
        Even as O’Rourke supporters relish the fight with Buttigieg, the bigger picture of the race shows the steep hill O’Rourke must climb. Buttigieg a week ago released his first television advertisement in Iowa — a luxury O’Rourke likely cannot afford, since Buttigieg raised $25 million in 2019’s second quarter to O’Rourke’s $3.6 million.
        O’Rourke’s campaign sees evidence this new approach is working. Aides said the three days following the debate were O’Rourke’s best fundraising days since April, the month after he launched his presidential bid.

        A moment of doubt

        While O’Rourke has become a more critical player in the Democratic race in the seven weeks since the El Paso, Texas, shooting, there was a point in the immediate aftermath when he wasn’t sure he would remain a candidate at all.
        The day after a gunman who police say had posted online a racist screed warning of a “Hispanic invasion” killed 22 people in an El Paso Walmart, O’Rourke had a moment he worried might have ended his chances of winning the Democratic presidential nomination.
        He was on his way to his van after a vigil outside Las Americas, an immigration advocacy center in El Paso — already emotional and unable to find his wife, who had been there, too — when he found himself boxed in between two cars and a handful of reporters behind the building. One asked him whether there was anything Trump could do to make things better.
        “Members of the press, what the f—?” O’Rourke said, chastising reporters for failing to draw what he saw as obvious connections between the violence and Trump’s racist rhetoric and policies that target immigrants.
        Everyone there knew they had seen a significant moment. Two O’Rourke aides nervously approached this reporter, asking about what had happened. Soon afterward, on Twitter, O’Rourke’s comment went viral.
        O’Rourke, meanwhile, was on his way to another vigil. He looked at his wife and said, “Look, I f—ed up,” he told The Atlantic’s Edward-Isaac Dovere in a podcast interview this month.
        In the moment, O’Rourke said, it felt “like maybe this is over.”
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        “Nobody spoke in the van. I didn’t speak. I was pissed. I was pissed at myself, I was pissed at the world, I was pissed at that question. I was pissed that we were even having this conversation — like, how in the world could we be asking ourselves these questions as civilized, intelligent human beings, who report the news, make the news, you know, report on the policy, make the policy? Why are we even asking, is Donald Trump racist? Did he have something to do with this? Could he make this better?” O’Rourke said.
        “I think I was mostly mad at myself: Why have I not been able to figure this out? And why have I not been able to make these connections more clear? Why have we not been able to change this?”
        O’Rourke said he didn’t consciously work through what he might do other than run for president. Instead, he said, his thought after the shooting was, “What am I doing, at all?”
        Did he consider dropping out? What had happened in his hometown, he said, “just down in my bones or my essence, made me question myself. And so to some degree, yes.”
        There were also decisions to be made — such as whether O’Rourke would join the rest of the Democratic field and visit the Iowa State Fair, one of the rituals of the presidential campaign trail.
        “I was like, f— no, uh-uh,” he said. “I can’t pretend. I would be pretending.”
        “And to some degree, you’re performing when you’re running for office, right?” O’Rourke said. “You’re never fully, wholly, truly yourself, warts and all. You are on a stage and you’re projecting and you’re acting in a way that you want people to read and form their picture of you. No one can help that. … We’re all actors on that stage, and no one more so than perhaps someone running for president. But I couldn’t go do that.”
        His decision to skip Iowa forced O’Rourke and his aides to have bigger-picture conversations about where he would go and what kind of campaign he would run moving forward.
        At the same time, Trump’s administration had targeted undocumented workers in Mississippi in an immigration raid.
        Republican Party
        “The two seemed very connected to me in a very obvious way — this manner of terrorizing people and trying to terrify the country about immigrants and Hispanics and people who are really the most vulnerable and the most defenseless in America,” O’Rourke said. “And I said, I want to be there. I want to go there. And I want to go anywhere where people are being kept down or made to be afraid.”
        His return to the campaign trailnearly two weeks later started with a speech in El Paso in which O’Rourke for the first time called for mandatory buy-backs of assault-style rifles, and said he would take a new route — with fewer performative stops in the early states and more visits to vulnerable or forgotten places across the country.
        Since then, he has spent less time in the first four states to vote in the presidential primary process — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — and more in the Super Tuesday states.
        Texas
        Among those Super Tuesday state stops: O’Rourke has campaigned with down-ballot candidates in Virginia. He visited Skid Row in Los Angeles. He delivered a speech that drew a large online audience in front of Democrats in Arkansas. And he visited the Oklahoma City bombing memorial in Oklahoma.
        The changes suggest O’Rourke’s strategy is merely to survive the first month ofprimary season and then begin racking up delegates in March, with Super Tuesday including his home state of Texas. In May, he tapped Jeff Berman, a delegate strategy veteran of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns, as a senior adviser.
          The new approach to his schedule, the gun control advocacy and the more direct — and sometimes foul — language are all part of his reaction to the shooting that he told The Atlantic “just, at a really deep, fundamental level, made me wonder what I’m doing or what I’ve ever been doing or what we are doing.”
          “And all of the, you know, performance, the ritual, and the — you know, I don’t know, all the editing, that goes into speaking when you’re running for office,” he said, “just really evaporated or didn’t seem as important, or I didn’t even really know that I cared at that point.”

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