What it will mean for the president to "finish what we've started" on the global stage
Barack Obama campaigned for reelection by asking Americans to give him another term so he could "finish what we started" in 2008. "We've come too far to turn back now," he said. "We've got too much work to do to implement health care. We've got too much work to do to create good jobs. We've got too many teachers that we've got to hire. We've got too many schools we've got to rebuild. We've got too many students who still need affordable higher education. There's more homegrown energy to generate. There're more troops that we've got to bring home .... That's why I'm running for president of the United States of America." Last night, he won that second term. Today, the work begins.
Not surprisingly, Obama's domestic agenda for the next four years doesn't look much different from his first-term agenda. The economy may now be slowly improving rather than worsening, and the unemployment rate has been dropping instead of rising, but economic issues will remain his most urgent concern. He recently told MSNBC that if reelected, his first priority will be to push for passage of a debt reduction plan to cut spending and raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans. He said he will have a "mandate" to take that balanced approach, and he sounded confident that Republicans in Congress will agree.
Immigration Reform Expected
Obama has also outlined economy-boosting initiatives aimed at increasing manufacturing and energy production, investing in infrastructure, and encouraging businesses to hire more workers. But there is also unfinished business from his first term that will need attention. His administration still has work to do to implement his banking reform plan, and much remains to be done on his 2010 landmark health-care reform legislation -- so-called "Obamacare" -- which is scheduled to take effect in 2014.
Many observers expect Obama to take up immigration reform. Days before the election, Obama told a reporter, "Should I win a second term, a big reason [will be] because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country -- the Latino community."
Judd Legum, the editor in chief of ThinkProgress, a liberal online political news site, says Obama is also likely to return to the issue of climate change, which went nowhere in his first term, largely because of concerns that regulation would worsen the already bad economy. "I do think the extreme weather we've been having in the United States -- particularly Hurricane Sandy, which just hit the East Coast -- is going to draw renewed attention to [climate change], and I think there's hope that Obama will take up some of these initiatives that were talked about," Legum says. "Maybe a cap-and-trade program to limit carbon emissions, or maybe something else."
The president's second-term foreign policy agenda also looks set to largely build on what he's already begun. There's the war in Afghanistan to wind down by 2014, the anticipation that tough sanctions on Iran will bear fruit, and the recent U.S. pivot, both militarily and economically, to the Asia-Pacific region. Republicans warned before the election that a second-term Obama, freed from the pressure of being reelected because of term limits, would be "unleashed" and emboldened to pursue his own agenda.
Christopher Preble, the vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the CATO Institute, says that's a wrong assumption. Second-term presidents care about their legacy, he says, and want to leave office as popular figures. And beyond that, there are always political repercussions for the president's political party. "If a president were to do something in foreign policy that was dramatically at odds with what the public wanted, they risk doing serious harm to [their] party, and I think they care about that," Preble says. "We actually saw that, to a certain extent, in the second Bush term, when President Bush tried to make some changes to foreign policy, but on the critical issue of Iraq - which, by 2005-2006, the public had turned decisively against -- his decision to expand the war, contrary to public sentiment, I think clearly hurt the Republican Party in 2006 and 2008."
On the big issues, Preble says he expects Obama to continue the same policies he has for the last four years. He points out that sanctions on Iran are working - they have crippled the country's banking sector, hobbled its oil industry, and sent its currency plummeting. "All of those things will take some time, but they appear to be having some effect, at least on the state of the Iranian economy," he says. "So I think he is likely to continue along that path for a while longer."
Mideast Not a Priority
Preble doesn't agree with the speculation in some quarters that a second-term Obama will feel freer to take a tough line with Israel and press the Jewish state for concessions on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. In fact, he doesn't see that issue as a priority for Obama. "Whenever the United States applies pressure to the Israeli government to, halts the expansion of settlements in the Palestinian Territories, it has failed," Preble says. "And so if he's likely to go down that road, I can't imagine that he's likely to succeed. I frankly would be surprised if he invests a lot of political capital there, considering all the other issues on the table."
On the issue of Syria, where a bloody war between the government and antiregime fighters drags on, Obama has taken a largely hands-off approach, except to help organize the disparate rebel factions and lead international calls for President Bashar al-Assad to step down. Preble says "barring some very dramatic change," considering U.S. public opinion against another U.S. military operation, Obama will stay the course.
Obama's much-heralded "reset" with Moscow at the start of his first term led to cooperation on issues including Iran and Afghanistan, but President Vladimir Putin is now in power and demonstrating what many see as open disdain for the United States. Preble said his sense is that Obama "hasn't really made a connection with President Putin," but he doesn't foresee major changes in U.S.-Russian relations, and in fact doesn't rule out Russian cooperation on Syria and even China.
And finally, on China: Obama talked tough during the campaign about Beijing's trade policies - calling them unfair and even illegal - and vowed to take action. He has already overseen Defense Department changes that will increase the U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific region and serve as a counterweight to China's military ambitions in that part of the world. Preble says in the wider Asia-Pacific region, he expects Obama to strengthen U.S. ties with traditional allies like Japan, South Korea, and Australia, but also to reach out to countries that have shown interest in closer U.S. ties, like Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
For decades the Man of Steel has failed to find his groove, thanks to a continual misunderstanding of his strengths.
Superman should be invincible. Since his car-smashing debut in 1938, he’s starred in at least one regular monthly comic, three blockbuster films, and four television shows. His crest is recognized across the globe, his supporting cast is legendary, and anybody even vaguely familiar with comics can recount the broad strokes of his origin. (The writer Grant Morrison accomplished it in eight words: “Doomed Planet. Desperate Scientists. Last Hope. Kindly Couple.”) He’s the first of the superheroes, a genre that’s grown into a modern mass-media juggernaut.
And yet, for a character who gains his power from the light of the sun, Superman is curiously eclipsed by other heroes. According to numbers provided by Diamond Distributors, the long-running Superman comic sold only 55,000 copies a month in 2015, down from around 70,000 in 2010—a mediocre showing even for the famously anemic comic-book market. That’s significantly less than his colleague Batman, who last year moved issues at a comparatively brisk 150,000 a month. Mass media hasn’t been much kinder: The longest-running Superman television show, 2001’s Smallville, kept him out of his iconic suit for a decade. Superman Returns recouped its budget at the box office, but proved mostly forgettable.2013’s Man of Steel drew sharp criticism from critics and audiences alike for its bleak tone and rampaging finale. Trailers for the sequel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, have shifted the focus (and top billing) to the Dark Knight. Worst of all, conventional wisdom puts the blame on Superman himself. He’s boring, people say; he’s unrelatable, nothing like the Marvel characters dominating the sales charts and the box office. More than anything, he seems embarrassing. Look at him. Truth? Justice? He wears his underwear on the outside.
The Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers, but neither Peyton Manning nor Cam Newton seemed able to prove their worth.
Now more than ever, the NFL is all about the quarterbacks. The buildup to Super Bowl 50 proved no exception: In the two weeks prior to Sunday night’s game in Santa Clara, the national conversation largely centered on the signal-callers, whose styles of play and off-field personas were pored over in every manner imaginable by an army of reporters and analysts. The game’s two possible outcomes were pre-cast as career-defining triumphs for the passers. If the Denver Broncos won, it would be a rousing sendoff for the potentially retiring all-time great Peyton Manning. If the Carolina Panthers won, it would be a coronation for Cam Newton, this season’s Most Valuable Player.
The Broncos beat the Panthers, 24-10, but the game featured none of the displays of virtuosity fans of Manning or Newton might have hoped for. It was a plodding, mistake-riddled affair, all stuffed runs and stalled drives. Maybe the most miraculous thing about the game was that it ended at all; it seemed for a time that it might simply give out somewhere along the way, leaving the Denver and Carolina players to wander around Levi’s Stadium until the resumption of football next fall.
Immediately, the pings from fellow journalists (and media-adjacent folk) came pouring in, all saying something along the lines of, “Can you actually let me know what you find out? I’m addicted to that stuff.”
They mean “addicted” in the jokey, dark-chocolate-and-Netflix-streaming way, but the habit can border on pathological. For me, rock bottom was a recent, obscenely long workday during which an entire 12-pack of coconut La Croix somehow made it down my throat, can by shining can.
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
The charismatic senator’s candidacy was flying high—until he hit turbulence at Saturday’s debate. Will it stall his surge?
MANCHESTER, New Hampshire—Until Saturday’s debate, it was clear that this was Marco Rubio’s moment.
The moment he had waited for, planned for, anticipated for months, for years: It was happening. He had surged into a strong third-place finish in Iowa, outpacing the polls and nearly passing second-place Donald Trump. He’d ridden into New Hampshire on a full head of steam, drawing bigger and bigger crowds at every stop, ticking steadily up into second in most polls, behind the still-dominant Trump. The other candidates were training their fire on him, hoping to stop the golden boy in his tracks.
And then, in the debate, he faced the test he knew was imminent. They came right at him. First it was the moderator, David Muir of ABC News, leveling the accusation put forth by his rivals: that Rubio was merely a good talker with nothing to show for it, just like another eloquent, inexperienced young senator, Barack Obama.
Thenew Daily Show host, Trevor Noah, is smooth and charming, but he hasn’t found his edge.
It’s a psychic law of the American workplace: By the time you give your notice, you’ve already left. You’ve checked out, and for the days or weeks that remain, a kind of placeholder-you, a you-cipher, will be doing your job. It’s a law that applies equally to dog walkers, accountants, and spoof TV anchormen. Jon Stewart announced that he was quitting The Daily Show in February 2015, but he stuck around until early August, and those last months had a restless, frazzled, long-lingering feel. A smell of ashes was in the air. The host himself suddenly looked quite old: beaky, pique-y, hollow-cheeky. For 16 years he had shaken his bells, jumped and jangled in his little host’s chair, the only man on TV who could caper while sitting behind a desk. Flash back to his first episode as the Daily Show host, succeeding Craig Kilborn: January 11, 1999, Stewart with floppy, luscious black hair, twitching in a new suit (“I feel like this is my bar mitzvah … I have a rash like you wouldn’t believe.”) while he interviews Michael J. Fox.
Hillary Clinton’s realistic attitude is the only thing that can effect change in today’s political climate.
Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz have something in common. Both have an electoral strategy predicated on the ability of a purist candidate to revolutionize the electorate—bringing droves of chronic non-voters to the polls because at last they have a choice, not an echo—and along the way transforming the political system. Sanders can point to his large crowds and impressive, even astonishing, success at tapping into a small-donor base that exceeds, in breadth and depth, the remarkable one built in 2008 by Barack Obama. Cruz points to his extraordinarily sophisticated voter-identification operation, one that certainly seemed to do the trick in Iowa.
But is there any real evidence that there is a hidden “sleeper cell” of potential voters who are waiting for the signal to emerge and transform the electorate? No. Small-donor contributions are meaningful and a sign of underlying enthusiasm among a slice of the electorate, but they represent a tiny sliver even of that slice; Ron Paul’s success at fundraising (and his big crowds at rallies) misled many analysts into believing that he would make a strong showing in Republican primaries when he ran for president. He flopped.
Will the Democratic Party nominate a candidate who hasn’t been a member of their party, and who has long denounced it?
When a party chooses its presidential candidate, it also chooses its party leader in the election. This year the Democrats face an unusual situation. Bernie Sanders isn’t just an outsider to the party establishment; he’s not even been a member of the party, and has long excoriated it in unsparing language. Although the media haven’t much focused on this history, the early signs suggest it could become a problem for Sanders in getting the nomination—and a problem for the party if he does get it.
According to the entrance polls at the Iowa caucuses, there was a 30-percentage-point split between self-identified Democrats and independents in their support for Sanders. Hillary Clinton won 56 percent of self-identified Democrats but only 26 percent of independents, while Sanders won only 39 percent of Democrats but 69 percent of independents.
How a Mexican gangster turned a cartel into a cult
Nazario Moreno Gonzalez—also known as El Chayo, or El Mas Loco, the Maddest One—first died in December 2010. Mexican federal police claimed they killed Nazario, one of Mexico’s most brutal criminal warlords, during a ferocious battle involving 2,000 federal officers and about 500 gangsters. But his henchmen carried his corpse away.
A grave appeared with his name on it. (Apparently, police didn’t want to dig it up and check.) The president at the time, Felipe Calderon, trumpeted the crime lord’s demise as a grand victory in his war on the drug cartels. But after Nazario’s supposed death, his followers began venerating him like a saint, and statuettes and shrines appeared. Even more bizarrely, people reported seeing his ghost wandering around his home state of Michoacan dressed all in white. Under the leadership of this phantom saint, Nazario’s criminal organization, which took the name Knights Templar after the legendary warrior monks of the Middle Ages, became more powerful than ever.
What happened when 11 exiles armed themselves for a violent night in the Gambia
In the dark hours of the morning on December 30, 2014, eight men gathered in a graveyard a mile down the road from the official residence of Yahya Jammeh, the president of the Gambia. The State House overlooks the Atlantic Ocean from the capital city of Banjul, on an island at the mouth of the Gambia River. It was built in the 1820s and served as the governor’s mansion through the end of British colonialism, in 1965. Trees and high walls separate the house from the road, obscuring any light inside.
The men were dressed in boots and dark pants, and as two of them stood guard, the rest donned Kevlar helmets and leather gloves, strapped on body armor and CamelBaks, and loaded their guns. Their plan was to storm the presidential compound, win over the military, and install their own civilian leader. They hoped to gain control of the country by New Year’s Day.