Over the last three months, the GOP's Iowa front-runner has become an incredible, shrinking presence on the campaign trail. Sure, he's still touring the country, introducing himself to voters, telling them how unafraid he was to stand up to the unions and liberal protesters he battled in Wisconsin, but he's also ducking out of uncontrolled situations, skipping questions from the press, and spending more time on small or private events, usually packed with friendly crowds. Last week, when he traveled to Israel — usually an occasion to invite reporters or hold a press conference — Walker held no press events. The same was true last month when he went to Europe. He skipped the press on a recent tour of the Mexico border, at a campaign stop in South Carolina, and even at a local chamber of commerce event in his home state of Wisconsin.
In the Harper’s cover story on the Obama presidency, “What Went Wrong,” David Bromwich recapitulates mostly familiar grounds of left-wing disenchantment with the administration. (It is not available online for non-subscribers because Harper’s hates the internet.) Bromwich, though, arrives on creative new ground when he gets around to denouncing Obama’s policy toward Russia, which involves such crimes as “the defamation of Vladimir Putin”:
The recent spate of protests against police brutality have changed the way the left thinks about rioting. The old liberal idea, which distinguished between peaceful protests (good) and rioting (bad), has given way to a more radical analysis. “Riots work,” insists George Ciccariello-Maher in Salon. “But despite the obviousness of the point, an entire chorus of media, police, and self-appointed community leaders continue to try to convince us otherwise, hammering into our heads a narrative of a nonviolence that has never worked on its own, based on a mythical understanding of the Civil Rights Movement.” Vox’s German Lopez, while acknowledging the downside of random violence, argues, “Riots can lead to real, substantial change.” In Rolling Stone, Jesse Myerson asserts, “the historical pedigree of property destruction as a tactic of resistance is long and frequently effective.” Darlena Cunha, writing in Time, asks, “Is rioting so wrong?” and proceeds to answer her own question in the negative.
Most weeks, New York Magazine writer-at-large Frank Rich speaks with contributor Alex Carp about the biggest stories in politics and culture. This week, the magazine asked him about the GOP's struggle with the legacy of the Iraq War, George Stephanopoulos' Clinton Foundation donation, and the finales of Mad Men and The Late Show With David Letterman.
Right behind Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio became the second Republican hopeful to run into the latest GOP litmus test: being asked if it was a mistake to invade Iraq. (Scott Walker and Rand Paul have so far been able, just barely, to avoid the question directly.) What's the right answer here?
The reason Republican presidential candidates can’t come up with a “right answer” on Iraq is that there is no right answer that can satisfy both of their contradictory constituencies: (1) the voters they need to reach in the general election and (2) their party’s powerful neocon foreign-policy dead-enders, from Dick Cheney to Bill Kristol, who have not retreated one iota from their view that the Iraq War was the right thing to do, for the right reasons, and that anyone who says otherwise is soft on terrorism. Voters, by contrast, know full well that we blundered into Iraq for specious reasons, vaporizing thousands of American lives and some half million Iraqi lives (not to mention at least $2 trillion) with the end result of making America less safe and delivering Iraq into the clutches of both a new generation of radical Islamic terrorists and Iran. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll last October found that a record high 66 percent of American adults thought the war wasn’t worth it. More record highs are sure to come. Even as Rubio was trying to stutter his way out of the Iraq-answer quagmire, Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, was falling to ISIS. This was only days after a 19-year-old college student reminded Jeb Bush that ISIS itself was a byproduct of his brother’s invasion of Iraq and the mismanaged occupation that followed.
Last summer, two Republican-appointed federal judges ruled, against the furious dissent of the Democratic appointee, in favor of what had theretofore been viewed as an outlandish lawsuit designed to blow up Obamacare. The unexpected progress of the lawsuit, hatched by anti-Obamacare activists at a right-wing think tank, filled conservatives with sudden Schadenfreude. They had lost every previous opportunity to finish off universal health care: a 2009 vote in the House, a 2009 vote in the Senate, another 2010 House vote, and, in 2012, both a lawsuit and a presidential election. Now they had yet another chance to drive a stake through the hated centerpiece of Barack Obama’s domestic legacy.
With the Republican presidential field bursting with as many as 18 prospective candidates and their first primary debate a mere three months away, the GOP is facing a serious stage-management crisis. Last week, the chair of the Republican National Committee's 2016 debate committee indicated that they were considering capping the number of candidates onstage to 12 or less, but after some outcry within the party the RNC subsequently tried to walk that back. In previous years, no more than ten candidates have been allowed to participate, though the criteria for inclusion varied from debate to debate. Most often, candidates have had to meet some kind of national polling threshold, but one of the big risks this year is that exclusions along those lines could highlight the GOP's demographic issues if non-white-male candidates like Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, or Bobby Jindal don't make the cut.
After fielding several questions about his opposition to gay marriage on Tuesday in Beaumont, Texas, Senator Ted Cruz complained that the media should be asking him about ISIS rather than "sex" — which is apparently how he views Americans in loving relationships being denied the right to marry. "Is there something about the left — and I am going to put the media in this category — that is obsessed with sex?" the 2016 candidate asked. "ISIS is executing homosexuals — you want to talk about gay rights? This week was a very bad week for gay rights because the expansion of ISIS, the expansion of radical, theocratic, Islamic zealots that crucify Christians, that behead children and that murder homosexuals — that ought to be concerning you far more than asking six questions all on the same topic.”
Now the Clintons' money issues are having a negative effect on everyone who's occupied the White House. On Tuesday the House Oversight panel advanced a bill that would limit the amount of taxpayer money former presidents receive for expenses like travel and office space (Secret Service protection would not be affected). Last year, $3.5 million in taxpayer money went to the four living ex-presidents, according to the AP, but under the proposed rules, former presidents would be cut off from federal funds if they make more than $600,000 a year (though they'd still receive a $200,000 annual pension).
Noticing That Fox News Has Lots of Blonde News Personalities Is Dehumanizing, Says Fox News PersonalityBy Jonathan Chait
The fine journalists at Fox News have developed a certain sensitivity about their news product. When Obama gave a completely accurate rendition of the network’s habit of describing poor people as lazy moochers, Fox News went ballistic. You’re not supposed to talk about Fox News’ coverage of poor people, it seems. Apparently another subject you’re not supposed to mention is the fact that Fox News has a lot of blonde female on-air personalities.
Fox News personality Kirsten Powers has written a column entitled “The Left’s war on Fox women.” I turn out to be a soldier in this war. In 2010, at The New Republic, I wrote a short item consisting, in its entirety, of the following image and text:
The Democratic primaries aren't expected to be one of the more exciting elements of the 2016 election, but the State Department had an idea to spice them up. The department has been sifting through about 55,000 pages of emails from Hillary Clinton's time as secretary of State, and according to The Wall Street Journal, on Monday the agency asked a federal judge to approve its plan to release the redacted records on January 15, 2016. That's just two weeks before the Iowa caucuses, the first hurdle in the nomination process.
Deep behind a tangle of denial and rebranding initiatives, a GOP resuscitation plan emerges.By Frank Rich
When Mark Sanford decided to run for office again, he asked his ex-wife, Jenny, for her blessing. Whether he has her vote is another matter.By Jason Zengerle
Jon Favreau’s most enduring riffs.
Wonkblog Jan. 21, 2013
For all the sound and fury, Washington’s actually making real progress on debt.By Ezra Klein
Mother Jones Jan. 15, 2013
Our debt dysfunction began with the Constitution, funded Manifest Destiny, and makes the trillion dollar coin look tame.By Tim Murphy
Salon Jan. 15, 2012
Harry Reid and other pro-gun Democrats leave Obama in need of unlikely allies.By Steve Kornacki
New York Magazine / Nov. 5, 2010
After November's glitch, Boehner, McConnell and Congress strike familiar poses.By John Heilemann
New York Magazine / Jan. 25, 2009
Obama drew progressive ire from day one.By John Heilemann
New York Magazine / Nov. 30, 2008
How one undocumented family lives in our sanctuary city.By Jeff Coplon