Diplomatic Riddle Solved: Neither Trumps nor Obamas to Attend Royal Wedding


The question of the Obamas versus the Trumps was always a difficult one. It was widely believed that the Obamas had the inside track, after Prince Harry and Mr. Obama forged a friendship while attending the Invictus Games in Toronto last year.

Photo

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, speaking with Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia at Buckingham Palace after her wedding to Britain’s Prince William at Westminster Abbey in London on April, 29, 2011.

Credit
Pool photo by Ian West

During the event, Prince Harry interviewed the former president for BBC Radio 4’s flagship program, “Today,” in Mr. Obama’s first international interview after leaving office.

Yet, British newspapers reported in December that the royal couple was under great diplomatic pressure to invite President Trump and the first lady, despite Ms. Markle being a vocal critic of Mr. Trump. Downing Street is eager to maintain good relations with the White House, with an eye to negotiating a bilateral trade agreement as quickly as possible after Britain leaves the European Union.

A Palace source, speaking on the condition of anonymity following protocol, said Prince Harry and Ms. Markle hoped to see the Obamas soon, but confirmed that they would not be attending the wedding.

The Palace source said that 600 guests would be invited to the wedding ceremony, based on the size of St. George’s Chapel, and said that it is not necessary for the royal couple to invite world leaders and politicians to their wedding because Prince Harry is not a direct heir to the throne.

He is fifth in line after his father, Prince Charles, his brother, Prince William, and his brother’s children.

Some world leaders may still be invited to the wedding based on their personal relationship with the royal couple and not in their official capacity, the Palace source added.

Prince Harry and Ms. Markle have also invited 1,200 members of the public to Windsor Castle to celebrate their marriage. On Monday they asked people to donate to charities instead of sending them wedding gifts.

“The couple have chosen charities which represent a range of issues that they are passionate about, including sport for social change, women’s empowerment, conservation, the environment, homelessness, HIV and the Armed Forces,” Kensington Palace said in a statement.

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The Interpreter: America’s Three Bad Options in Syria


“The utter irrelevance of Trump’s one-off bombing of a Syrian airfield hasn’t made the slightest dent in the myth that Obama bombing Syria in 2013 would have changed everything, has it,” Marc Lynch, a George Washington University professor of Middle East studies, wrote on Twitter.

Indeed, pressure is mounting for another set of such strikes, and it looks as if Mr. Trump may again carry them out.

What Americans may be confronting — whether they want to or not — is the reality that some problems can’t be fixed by the sort of low-cost, low-risk solutions to which they grew accustomed in the brief moment of American global hegemony after the Cold War. It feels impossible that something could be beyond easy American resolution, so the problem must be that the president lacks proper will or resolve to see that resolution through.

“For those who want a military response, the question is simple: can you tell me any practical response short of full-fledged invasion that could prevent this?” Emma Ashford, a Cato Institute analyst, asked on Twitter, referring to further chemical attacks.

To understand this, it helps to divide possible American responses into three categories, each of which comes up against hard problems that are structural to the Syrian war.

Photo

A Tomahawk missile being launched toward a Syrian airfield in April last year from the American guided-missile destroyer Porter.

Credit
Ford Williams/U.S. Navy

Option category #1 could be termed the sort of limited, punitive strikes that Mr. Obama was pressured to execute and that Mr. Trump saw through last year.

Such action is meant to impose a modest cost on Mr. Assad or to send a message that future chemical weapons use will not be tolerated. At the same time, it is meant to avoid any risk of changing the course of the war, which could lead in unanticipated directions — like embroiling the United States in a larger conflict, or collapsing the Syrian government, which could, in turn, spread chaos that would risk millions of lives.

But past efforts at these kind of strikes have failed for two reasons. First, they do not change Mr. Assad’s calculus because, to Mr. Assad, this war is a matter of personal and national survival. If he believes chemical weapons are necessary to his survival, he will abandon them only in the face of some threat to his survival greater than the benefit he thinks they offer him. That requires an existential threat, which the United States is unwilling to impose because of the risks.

Second, Mr. Assad’s Russian and Iranian allies can easily help him absorb the costs imposed by such strikes. If the United States bombs another Syrian runway, Russian contractors can simply pave Mr. Assad a new one. It’s not exactly a game-changer for him.

Fuzzier arguments for limited strikes — that they will communicate American resolve and toughness — play well in domestic politics, but there is little concrete evidence that such messages make much difference to adversaries.

Option category #2 might describe the policies that Mr. Obama favored: actions that make the war costlier for Mr. Assad — arming anti-government rebels, for instance — so as to pressure the Syrian leader into complying with American demands.

Mr. Obama supplied rebels with anti-tank TOW missiles, which they used to great effect, pushing back government forces with the weapons they called “Assad tamers.”

The problem with this strategy is that Mr. Assad’s Russian and Iranian allies are able to escalate in turn, matching and exceeding any American bid. The Americans send guns; the Iranians send a combat brigade. The Americans send missiles; the Russians install an artillery unit. Russia and Iran can simply do more, giving them control over what military planners call “the escalation ladder.”

Some analysts argue that the “Assad tamers” were so successful that they prompted Russia’s 2015 intervention in Syria. In that sense, Mr. Obama’s approach not only failed, it backfired terribly. The result was a bloodier war with more Syrian suffering but little change in Mr. Assad’s calculus. Further such escalations would risk the same.

Option category #3 would be attacks that go beyond what the Russians and Iranians can match, which is likely to mean either a full intervention or strikes that existentially threaten the Syrian government.

These strikes would only be enough to work if they deliberately create one of two risks that the United States has strained to avoid. The first risk is that of collapsing the Syrian government, which would exacerbate Syrian suffering by throwing millions more lives into chaos and most likely prolong the war. The second risk is of a direct military confrontation with Russia, a nuclear-armed power with the ability to escalate hostilities rapidly in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, putting millions of non-Syrians at risk.

“Bottom line: Assad’s actions are abhorrent, but there is no practical military option here unless you are willing to effectively collapse the Syrian state and re-escalate the civil war,” Ms. Ashford wrote.

Mr. Trump, she predicted, would launch another set of punitive strikes that would “change nothing” but win domestic approval.

But why does such support still exist for a policy that has already demonstrably failed?

Research by Sarah Kreps and Sarah Maxey, political scientists at Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania, found that Americans feel a moral obligation to help humanitarian victims — and to provide that help in the form of military action. This can lead Americans to support seemingly incongruous policies like saving war refugees by dropping bombs.

But it’s not just voters. Within Washington, an odd revisionism has arisen around Mr. Trump’s previous set of strikes, meant to explain why they produced little tangible benefit. They only appeared to fail because the United States, it is said, did not properly capitalize on the “leverage” the strikes had provided.

There is an alternate hypothesis: The reason that limited strikes rarely seem to translate into “leverage” is because they do not produce “leverage,” a fuzzy term with no fixed meaning.

This is where we think this debate starts to reveal more about the United States, and particularly Washington’s foreign policy community, than about the Syrian war.

The cult of “limited strikes” is so powerful in Washington that, even when they do occur, it’s said they were never properly capitalized on. There is always the shimmering hope, just over the next hill, that bombing a runway will make all of Washington’s dreams come true.

It sometimes seems as if the United States will be bombing empty runways until the end of time, dead certain that it’s a way to get everything Americans want at no real cost or risk, and that all the past failures only prove that the next time it’ll work for sure.

Continue reading the main story

The Interpreter: America’s Three Bad Options in Syria


“The utter irrelevance of Trump’s one-off bombing of a Syrian airfield hasn’t made the slightest dent in the myth that Obama bombing Syria in 2013 would have changed everything, has it,” Marc Lynch, a George Washington University professor of Middle East studies, wrote on Twitter.

Indeed, pressure is mounting for another set of such strikes, and it looks as if Mr. Trump may again carry them out.

What Americans may be confronting — whether they want to or not — is the reality that some problems can’t be fixed by the sort of low-cost, low-risk solutions to which they grew accustomed in the brief moment of American global hegemony after the Cold War. It feels impossible that something could be beyond easy American resolution, so the problem must be that the president lacks proper will or resolve to see that resolution through.

“For those who want a military response, the question is simple: can you tell me any practical response short of full-fledged invasion that could prevent this?” Emma Ashford, a Cato Institute analyst, asked on Twitter, referring to further chemical attacks.

To understand this, it helps to divide possible American responses into three categories, each of which comes up against hard problems that are structural to the Syrian war.

Photo

A Tomahawk missile being launched toward a Syrian airfield in April last year from the American guided-missile destroyer Porter.

Credit
Ford Williams/U.S. Navy

Option category #1 could be termed the sort of limited, punitive strikes that Mr. Obama was pressured to execute and that Mr. Trump saw through last year.

Such action is meant to impose a modest cost on Mr. Assad or to send a message that future chemical weapons use will not be tolerated. At the same time, it is meant to avoid any risk of changing the course of the war, which could lead in unanticipated directions — like embroiling the United States in a larger conflict, or collapsing the Syrian government, which could, in turn, spread chaos that would risk millions of lives.

But past efforts at these kind of strikes have failed for two reasons. First, they do not change Mr. Assad’s calculus because, to Mr. Assad, this war is a matter of personal and national survival. If he believes chemical weapons are necessary to his survival, he will abandon them only in the face of some threat to his survival greater than the benefit he thinks they offer him. That requires an existential threat, which the United States is unwilling to impose because of the risks.

Second, Mr. Assad’s Russian and Iranian allies can easily help him absorb the costs imposed by such strikes. If the United States bombs another Syrian runway, Russian contractors can simply pave Mr. Assad a new one. It’s not exactly a game-changer for him.

Fuzzier arguments for limited strikes — that they will communicate American resolve and toughness — play well in domestic politics, but there is little concrete evidence that such messages make much difference to adversaries.

Option category #2 might describe the policies that Mr. Obama favored: actions that make the war costlier for Mr. Assad — arming anti-government rebels, for instance — so as to pressure the Syrian leader into complying with American demands.

Mr. Obama supplied rebels with anti-tank TOW missiles, which they used to great effect, pushing back government forces with the weapons they called “Assad tamers.”

The problem with this strategy is that Mr. Assad’s Russian and Iranian allies are able to escalate in turn, matching and exceeding any American bid. The Americans send guns; the Iranians send a combat brigade. The Americans send missiles; the Russians install an artillery unit. Russia and Iran can simply do more, giving them control over what military planners call “the escalation ladder.”

Some analysts argue that the “Assad tamers” were so successful that they prompted Russia’s 2015 intervention in Syria. In that sense, Mr. Obama’s approach not only failed, it backfired terribly. The result was a bloodier war with more Syrian suffering but little change in Mr. Assad’s calculus. Further such escalations would risk the same.

Option category #3 would be attacks that go beyond what the Russians and Iranians can match, which is likely to mean either a full intervention or strikes that existentially threaten the Syrian government.

These strikes would only be enough to work if they deliberately create one of two risks that the United States has strained to avoid. The first risk is that of collapsing the Syrian government, which would exacerbate Syrian suffering by throwing millions more lives into chaos and most likely prolong the war. The second risk is of a direct military confrontation with Russia, a nuclear-armed power with the ability to escalate hostilities rapidly in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, putting millions of non-Syrians at risk.

“Bottom line: Assad’s actions are abhorrent, but there is no practical military option here unless you are willing to effectively collapse the Syrian state and re-escalate the civil war,” Ms. Ashford wrote.

Mr. Trump, she predicted, would launch another set of punitive strikes that would “change nothing” but win domestic approval.

But why does such support still exist for a policy that has already demonstrably failed?

Research by Sarah Kreps and Sarah Maxey, political scientists at Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania, found that Americans feel a moral obligation to help humanitarian victims — and to provide that help in the form of military action. This can lead Americans to support seemingly incongruous policies like saving war refugees by dropping bombs.

But it’s not just voters. Within Washington, an odd revisionism has arisen around Mr. Trump’s previous set of strikes, meant to explain why they produced little tangible benefit. They only appeared to fail because the United States, it is said, did not properly capitalize on the “leverage” the strikes had provided.

There is an alternate hypothesis: The reason that limited strikes rarely seem to translate into “leverage” is because they do not produce “leverage,” a fuzzy term with no fixed meaning.

This is where we think this debate starts to reveal more about the United States, and particularly Washington’s foreign policy community, than about the Syrian war.

The cult of “limited strikes” is so powerful in Washington that, even when they do occur, it’s said they were never properly capitalized on. There is always the shimmering hope, just over the next hill, that bombing a runway will make all of Washington’s dreams come true.

It sometimes seems as if the United States will be bombing empty runways until the end of time, dead certain that it’s a way to get everything Americans want at no real cost or risk, and that all the past failures only prove that the next time it’ll work for sure.

Continue reading the main story

The Interpreter: America’s Three Bad Options in Syria


“The utter irrelevance of Trump’s one-off bombing of a Syrian airfield hasn’t made the slightest dent in the myth that Obama bombing Syria in 2013 would have changed everything, has it,” Marc Lynch, a George Washington University professor of Middle East studies, wrote on Twitter.

Indeed, pressure is mounting for another set of such strikes, and it looks as if Mr. Trump may again carry them out.

What Americans may be confronting — whether they want to or not — is the reality that some problems can’t be fixed by the sort of low-cost, low-risk solutions to which they grew accustomed in the brief moment of American global hegemony after the Cold War. It feels impossible that something could be beyond easy American resolution, so the problem must be that the president lacks proper will or resolve to see that resolution through.

“For those who want a military response, the question is simple: can you tell me any practical response short of full-fledged invasion that could prevent this?” Emma Ashford, a Cato Institute analyst, asked on Twitter, referring to further chemical attacks.

To understand this, it helps to divide possible American responses into three categories, each of which comes up against hard problems that are structural to the Syrian war.

Photo

A Tomahawk missile being launched toward a Syrian airfield in April last year from the American guided-missile destroyer Porter.

Credit
Ford Williams/U.S. Navy

Option category #1 could be termed the sort of limited, punitive strikes that Mr. Obama was pressured to execute and that Mr. Trump saw through last year.

Such action is meant to impose a modest cost on Mr. Assad or to send a message that future chemical weapons use will not be tolerated. At the same time, it is meant to avoid any risk of changing the course of the war, which could lead in unanticipated directions — like embroiling the United States in a larger conflict, or collapsing the Syrian government, which could, in turn, spread chaos that would risk millions of lives.

But past efforts at these kind of strikes have failed for two reasons. First, they do not change Mr. Assad’s calculus because, to Mr. Assad, this war is a matter of personal and national survival. If he believes chemical weapons are necessary to his survival, he will abandon them only in the face of some threat to his survival greater than the benefit he thinks they offer him. That requires an existential threat, which the United States is unwilling to impose because of the risks.

Second, Mr. Assad’s Russian and Iranian allies can easily help him absorb the costs imposed by such strikes. If the United States bombs another Syrian runway, Russian contractors can simply pave Mr. Assad a new one. It’s not exactly a game-changer for him.

Fuzzier arguments for limited strikes — that they will communicate American resolve and toughness — play well in domestic politics, but there is little concrete evidence that such messages make much difference to adversaries.

Option category #2 might describe the policies that Mr. Obama favored: actions that make the war costlier for Mr. Assad — arming anti-government rebels, for instance — so as to pressure the Syrian leader into complying with American demands.

Mr. Obama supplied rebels with anti-tank TOW missiles, which they used to great effect, pushing back government forces with the weapons they called “Assad tamers.”

The problem with this strategy is that Mr. Assad’s Russian and Iranian allies are able to escalate in turn, matching and exceeding any American bid. The Americans send guns; the Iranians send a combat brigade. The Americans send missiles; the Russians install an artillery unit. Russia and Iran can simply do more, giving them control over what military planners call “the escalation ladder.”

Some analysts argue that the “Assad tamers” were so successful that they prompted Russia’s 2015 intervention in Syria. In that sense, Mr. Obama’s approach not only failed, it backfired terribly. The result was a bloodier war with more Syrian suffering but little change in Mr. Assad’s calculus. Further such escalations would risk the same.

Option category #3 would be attacks that go beyond what the Russians and Iranians can match, which is likely to mean either a full intervention or strikes that existentially threaten the Syrian government.

These strikes would only be enough to work if they deliberately create one of two risks that the United States has strained to avoid. The first risk is that of collapsing the Syrian government, which would exacerbate Syrian suffering by throwing millions more lives into chaos and most likely prolong the war. The second risk is of a direct military confrontation with Russia, a nuclear-armed power with the ability to escalate hostilities rapidly in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, putting millions of non-Syrians at risk.

“Bottom line: Assad’s actions are abhorrent, but there is no practical military option here unless you are willing to effectively collapse the Syrian state and re-escalate the civil war,” Ms. Ashford wrote.

Mr. Trump, she predicted, would launch another set of punitive strikes that would “change nothing” but win domestic approval.

But why does such support still exist for a policy that has already demonstrably failed?

Research by Sarah Kreps and Sarah Maxey, political scientists at Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania, found that Americans feel a moral obligation to help humanitarian victims — and to provide that help in the form of military action. This can lead Americans to support seemingly incongruous policies like saving war refugees by dropping bombs.

But it’s not just voters. Within Washington, an odd revisionism has arisen around Mr. Trump’s previous set of strikes, meant to explain why they produced little tangible benefit. They only appeared to fail because the United States, it is said, did not properly capitalize on the “leverage” the strikes had provided.

There is an alternate hypothesis: The reason that limited strikes rarely seem to translate into “leverage” is because they do not produce “leverage,” a fuzzy term with no fixed meaning.

This is where we think this debate starts to reveal more about the United States, and particularly Washington’s foreign policy community, than about the Syrian war.

The cult of “limited strikes” is so powerful in Washington that, even when they do occur, it’s said they were never properly capitalized on. There is always the shimmering hope, just over the next hill, that bombing a runway will make all of Washington’s dreams come true.

It sometimes seems as if the United States will be bombing empty runways until the end of time, dead certain that it’s a way to get everything Americans want at no real cost or risk, and that all the past failures only prove that the next time it’ll work for sure.

Continue reading the main story

Bernie Sanders Courts Black Voters Anew. But an Obama Reference Stings.


So the senator from Vermont — a state where the largest city has but one black barbershop — has begun trying to make inroads across the South and beyond and the country with black voters, who are perhaps the most crucial pillar in a multicandidate Democratic primary.

Earlier this year, Mr. Sanders invited Representative Cedric Richmond of Louisiana to dinner at an Italian restaurant in Washington, telling Mr. Richmond, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, that he wanted to work more closely with the group. He recently convened a meeting in his office with two black economists who have researched issues of racial and class inequality. And later this month he is expected to join the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, a North Carolina-based black pastor who has risen to prominence as a social justice activist, for a joint event at Duke University.

Yet even as he moves to forge new relationships among African-American leaders and Democrats, Mr. Sanders is demonstrating why it may prove difficult for him to command broad support with a bloc of voters who usually do not rally to the more liberal candidates in Democratic primaries.

Appearing with Mr. Lumumba, the Jackson mayor, at the forum on economic justice, Mr. Sanders was asked how he would engage millennial voters and remake the Democratic Party.

He immediately won applause by declaring that the party’s business model had “failed” and then recalled, as he and many Democrats often do, that the party had lost about 1,000 state legislative seats in the last decade.

But Mr. Sanders also said that these setbacks happened on the watch of “a charismatic individual named Barack Obama,” whom Mr. Sanders also called “an extraordinary candidate, brilliant guy.”

Photo

The crowd that turned out to see Mr. Sanders on Wednesday night in Mississippi was more racially diverse than that at many of his 2016 campaign rallies.

Credit
Bryan Tarnowski for The New York Times

Few in the audience responded adversely, many of them having witnessed firsthand the decline of the state and local party. But the fact that his only mention of Mr. Obama was in reference to Democratic defeats, particularly during an event honoring Dr. King in a heavily black Deep South capital with a painful racial history, struck some critics as tone-deaf and even insensitive.

On Thursday, Mr. Sanders and his top aides responded angrily to the suggestion he had diminished Mr. Obama. The senator tweeted that “some have so degraded our discourse that my recognition of the historical significance of the Obama presidency is attacked.”

The episode was also a reminder of another hurdle in his way: the feud between many Sanders supporters and Democratic leaders and Hillary Clinton loyalists, which has been raging ever since he challenged Mrs. Clinton for the nomination. Mr. Sanders remains very much an insurgent in a party he still has not formally claimed as his own, a fact he made clear in a less remarked-upon part of the same answer: “The establishment,” he said, “doesn’t go quietly into the twilight.”

Mr. Richmond, the Congressional Black Caucus leader, said he did not think Mr. Sanders had slighted Mr. Obama. The mistake Mr. Sanders made, according to Mr. Richmond, was that he did not go the next step and explain why Democrats incurred so many down-ticket defeats during the Obama years.

“The real question is why it happened and it’s no secret: Everybody underestimated the backlash that would come to the first African-American president,” he said.

As Mr. Sanders seeks to gain support from black voters, the Jackson forum was also notable for what the senator did not say to the audience, which skewed young and was almost evenly divided between blacks and whites.

While briefly noting that Dr. King had been a “major political inspiration” for him, Mr. Sanders said nothing about his history as a civil rights activist and his arrest demonstrating against segregation as a college student.

“That’s the No. 1 selling point,” said Teneia Sanders Eichelberger, who plays in a husband-wife band here and supported Mr. Sanders in 2016. “For me and for my grandmother, who’s 82, she loved that about him.”

But unless they already knew about Mr. Sanders’s connection to the movement, hundreds of would-be Democratic primary voters left the gathering none the wiser. (Mrs. Clinton won the 2016 Mississippi Democratic primary with nearly 83 percent of the vote; Mr. Sanders took 16.5 percent.)

Part of Mr. Sanders’s appeal is that he is not a typical, lip-biting politician, ever on the lookout to find a personal connection with any audience. But his relentless focus on the policy dimensions of social justice, which has been the animating cause of his life, can also deprive him of creating bonds that can be essential, especially in building a multiracial coalition.

“Yes, I’m a fairly private person and I don’t like to talk about every aspect of my life,” Mr. Sanders acknowledged in a dressing-room interview after the forum. “I think a lot of politicians do that in a way that is not appropriate.”

Photo

Bernie Sanders memorabilia was on sale outside the forum in Jackson, Miss., where the senator spoke on Wednesday night.

Credit
Bryan Tarnowski for The New York Times

Upon hearing the suggestion that recounting his own youthful activism would be compelling to an audience full of younger voters becoming activists in their own right, he all but rolled his eyes.

“Somebody might be interested in what I did 50 years ago, that’s fine,” Mr. Sanders said with an evident lack of enthusiasm. “Or what I did yesterday. But what people have got to start focusing on is not me. It’s how we transform America.”

Mr. Sanders’s reticence can frustrate even his closest supporters.

“If you’re talking to a black audience, you’ve got to say, ‘I was fighting for fair housing in the ’60s,’” said Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, a top Sanders surrogate in 2016, noting that he has “an interesting story to tell.”

Several of those at the forum Wednesday night said they liked what they heard. And as is typical for Mr. Sanders, who in 2016 did best among millennials, the younger black attendees were the most enthusiastic.

“To hear his voice and see what he stands for, it’s powerful,” said Cassandra Hogue, 26, who backed Mrs. Clinton two years ago as part of what she called “a legacy thing” for the Clintons but said she would be open to supporting Mr. Sanders in 2020.

Deterrian Jones, 19, made the two-hour-plus drive from the University of Mississippi to Jackson and clutched a handful of buttons he bought from vendors outside, one of which featured Mr. Sanders’s unmistakable visage and logo but with a new slogan: “Hindsight 2020.”

“He talks to millennials, unlike other politicians,” Mr. Jones said.

Yet Mr. Sanders could encounter trouble among black voters if he faces a black Democrat in the primary. “Black voters take special pride in being able to vote for viable African-American candidates,” said former congressman Mike Espy, who plans to run for the Senate.

And while few in attendance at the forum said it so directly, many alluded to Mr. Sanders’s age — he is 76 — and voiced a desire for new blood.

“It’s really time for change,” said Rachael Ighoavodha, 24, a recent Jackson State University graduate sporting a “Black Girl Magic” pin. “It’s time for something new.”

In the interview, Mr. Sanders repeatedly assailed what he called the media’s excessive focus on personality over substance. But when confronted with questions about his age, he replied with good-natured humor on a process question.

”What did you say?” he said, feigning hearing loss and gripping a reporter by the shoulder. “Get me my cane.” Yes, age is a fair question, he said. “But health is a factor,” Mr. Sanders quickly added, before turning to an aide and asking how many times the senator had missed work because he was ill.

The staffer could not recall a single instance.

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