The former House speaker and newly minted GOP front-runner had a strong debate night Tuesday -- but might have damaged his candidacy with immigration comments
Tuesday night's CNN national-security debate in Washington was a meaty affair featuring candidates actually making arguments to defend differing positions -- imagine that. The forum proved a double-edged sword for Newt Gingrich, the newly anointed front-runner of the moment: As he usually has in debates, he turned in a strong performance. But he also found himself defending a position on immigration that's at odds with the Republican base -- and that could come back to haunt him politically.
A few takeaways from the pre-Thanksgiving face-off:
1. A "heartless" moment for Gingrich? The former House speaker found himself mounting a forceful argument for comprehensive immigration reform, including legalization for some illegal immigrants, particularly those brought to the U.S. as children. When Texas Gov. Rick Perry defended that same position in an earlier debate -- saying to those who would punish such children, "I don't think you have a heart" -- it went over like a lead zeppelin with conservatives, many of whom haven't given him a second look ever since. Gingrich took a perilously similar line: "I don't see how the party that says it's the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration family which destroys families that have been here a quarter century. And I'm prepared to take the heat for saying, let's be humane in enforcing the law, without giving them citizenship, but by finding a way to create legality so that they are not separated from their families."
As Michele Bachmann gingerly pointed out, that's a position many on the right consider tantamount to amnesty. Perry jumped on board with Gingrich's stance, while Mitt Romney disagreed, saying what's needed is "turning off the magnets of amnesty." Gingrich has a history of moderation on immigration and outreach to Hispanic voters -- he voted for Reagan's amnesty bill in the 1980s -- a legacy that could serve him well in a general election, but is likely to become an obstacle to getting to the general election first. As Republican primary voters give Gingrich a closer look, his willingness to stake our unpopular positions, then defend them with his usual indignant certitude, could be a problem.
2. Nonetheless, a good night for Newt. Judging from the polls, a lot of Republican voters tuned into the debate looking to pin their hopes on the surging Gingrich, and he gave them a lot to like, with snappy comebacks and ferocious defenses of tough security positions. At the very beginning of the debate, he argued in favor of the Patriot Act against Ron Paul's civil libertarianism: "I don't want a law that says after we lose a major American city, we're sure going to come and find you," he said. "I want a law that says, you try to take out an American city, we're going to stop you." Gingrich's facility for argument was on ample display, and he even skipped the media-bashing that's such a tried and true weapon in his debate arsenal.
It wasn't all smooth sailing: Gingrich jumped into a dispute about Afghanistan troop levels only to ignore the question and wander off topic, saying, "I'm a little confused about what exactly we're currently debating." And his overall performance could well end up overshadowed by his immigration heresy. Before the debate had even ended, Bachmann's campaign was out with an email headlined, "Newt Gingrich's Open Door to Illegal Immigrant Amnesty" -- surely not the last where that came from.
3. The Huntsman-Paul axis. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman found himself on the same side as Texas Rep. Ron Paul on a number of issues, from civil liberties (they are for them) to keeping lots of troops in Afghanistan (they are against that). On the former, Paul responded to Gingrich by saying, "This is like saying that we need a policeman in every house, a camera in every house because we want to prevent child-beating and wife-beating. You can prevent crimes by becoming a police state." On Afghanistan, Huntsman had a spirited exchange with Romney, who said commanders on the ground should dictate troop levels: "At the end of the day, the president of the United States is commander-in-chief. Commander in chief. Of course you're going to listen to the generals. But I also remember when people listened to the generals in 1967, and we had a certain course of action in South Asia that didn't serve our interests very well." Huntsman and Paul similarly echoed each other on cutting defense spending.
Huntsman had a good debate, showing off his foreign-affairs expertise, turning repeatedly to the economy as a national security issue and getting a lot of airtime. But in a party where Paul is clearly an outlier, Huntsman's alignment with the Texan might not be a winner.
4. Romney: still untouched. It wasn't a standout night for the former Massachusetts governor, who made his usual points in his usual matter-of-fact way. He seemed surprised when Huntsman had a good comeback to his commanders-on-the-ground line, and faded to the background for many of the debate's more substantive exchanges. Romney came alive at the end with a good argument against Perry's proposal for a no-fly zone over Syria, saying, "They have 5,000 tanks in Syria. A no-fly zone wouldn't be the right military action -- maybe a no-drive zone. This is a nation which is not bombing its people."
But it was a good night for Romney in the sense that the other candidates, as they so often have in the past, again refrained from taking him on. This time it was Perry who notably took a pass: "Here we go again, Mitt. You and I standing by each other again and you used the words about the magnets," Perry began in response to Romney's argument about immigration amnesty. But the expected segue into Perry's previously deployed attack line, about the illegal immigrants once hired to work on Romney's property, never came.
5. Herman Cain: still flailing. The businessman continues to prove his inability to get through the most basic exchange about foreign policy. He said he would orient the Transportation Security Administration toward "targeted identification," but then couldn't define what that meant. Asked if he would support an Israeli attack on Iran, he fell back on his usual strategy of a heavily qualified, lean-on-advisers answer that frequently and perplexingly mentioned the "mountainous terrain" in Iran, as if that topographical factoid were enough to make him knowledgeable. And to add to the confusion, he called Wolf Blitzer "Blitz."
6. Bachmann, Perry, Santorum: running out of time to make a splash. Bachmann had another good debate -- the congresswoman, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, is well versed in foreign policy, confounding those who would dismiss her as a lightweight. She called Perry "highly naive" for wanting to cut off aid to Pakistan, which she termed "too nuclear to fail," and made a fluent defense of realism in the face of ideological glibness. And Bachmann cautiously but successfully drew Gingrich into the immigration dialogue that could prove the night's most significant exchange politically. Perry, for his part, didn't fall on his face and had a good command of detail. Santorum, as usual, knew his stuff and wanted to make sure you noticed (though he also said, "Africa was a country on the brink").
But all three candidates, who are now the field's bottom-feeders, need a breakout moment at this point to reignite -- or, in Santorum's case, ignite for the first time -- their prospects among Republican primary voters. And the bottom line was, none of them got it.
Black poverty is fundamentally distinct from white poverty—and so cannot be addressed without grappling with racism.
There have been a number of useful entries in the weeks since Senator Bernie Sanders declared himself against reparations. Perhaps the most clarifying comes from Cedric Johnson in a piece entitled, “An Open Letter To Ta-Nehisi Coates And The Liberals Who Love Him.” Johnson’s essay offers those of us interested in the problem of white supremacy and the question of economic class the chance to tease out how, and where, these two problems intersect. In Johnson’s rendition, racism, in and of itself, holds limited explanatory power when looking at the socio-economic problems which beset African Americans. “We continue to reach for old modes of analysis in the face of a changed world,” writes Johnson. “One where blackness is still derogated but anti-black racism is not the principal determinant of material conditions and economic mobility for many African Americans.”
As Coldplay blandly strained for the universal, she and Bruno Mars pulled off something more specific and more daring.
What a perfect Beyoncésong name: “Formation.” All great pop involves people acting in formation. So does all great change. And while fans scream that Beyoncé’s a “queen” and “goddess,” her core appeal really is as a drill sergeant. With Beyoncé in command, greatness is scalable, achievable, for the collective. Everyone waves their hands to the same beat. Everyone walks around like they have hot sauce in their bag.
But in pop and in politics, “everyone” is a loaded term. Stars as ubiquitous as Beyoncé have haters, the “albino alligators” who “Formation” informs us she twirls upon. And in a more general historical sense, “everyone” can be a dangerous illusion that elevates one point of view as universal while minimizing others. Beyoncé gets all of this, it seems. As a pop star, she surely wants to have as broad a reach as possible. But as an artist, she has a specific message, born of a specific experience, meaningful to specific people. Rather than pretend otherwise, she’s going to make art about the tension implied by this dynamic. She’s going to show up to Super Bowl with a phalanx of women dressed as Black Panthers.
Most people in the U.S. believe their country is going to hell. But they’re wrong. What a three-year journey by single-engine plane reveals about reinvention and renewal.
When news broke late last year of a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, most people in the rest of the country, and even the state, probably had to search a map to figure out where the city was. I knew exactly, having grown up in the next-door town of Redlands (where the two killers lived) and having, by chance, spent a long period earlier in the year meeting and interviewing people in the unglamorous “Inland Empire” of Southern California as part of an ongoing project of reporting across America.
Some of what my wife, Deb, and I heard in San Bernardino before the shootings closely matched the picture that the nonstop news coverage presented afterward: San Bernardino as a poor, troubled town that sadly managed to combine nearly every destructive economic, political, and social trend of the country as a whole. San Bernardino went into bankruptcy in 2012 and was only beginning to emerge at the time of the shootings. Crime is high, household income is low, the downtown is nearly abandoned in the daytime and dangerous at night, and unemployment and welfare rates are persistently the worst in the state.
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.
Humbled by his struggling presidential campaign, can the once-mighty New Jersey governor vault back into contention after Saturday’s debate?
SALEM, New Hampshire—Chris Christie was accustomed to being a big man: a man of stature, a man of power, a man who demands and gets his way.
But recently, the big man (this is a description of his personality, not his size) was seeming awfully small.
On Friday evening here, the governor of New Jersey was desperately trying to talk some sense into the people of New Hampshire, a couple hundred of whom had come out to see him on a snowy night. The night before, Christie’s rival Marco Rubio had played the same venue, filling a larger room of the elementary school beyond its capacity. Christie was begging the crowd not to pile on the bandwagon of the apparent winner, but instead, to show some courage.
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.
The number of American teens who excel at advanced math has surged. Why?
On a sultry evening last July, a tall, soft-spoken 17-year-old named David Stoner and nearly 600 other math whizzes from all over the world sat huddled in small groups around wicker bistro tables, talking in low voices and obsessively refreshing the browsers on their laptops. The air in the cavernous lobby of the Lotus Hotel Pang Suan Kaew in Chiang Mai, Thailand, was humid, recalls Stoner, whose light South Carolina accent warms his carefully chosen words. The tension in the room made it seem especially heavy, like the atmosphere at a high-stakes poker tournament.
Stoner and five teammates were representing the United States in the 56th International Mathematical Olympiad. They figured they’d done pretty well over the two days of competition. God knows, they’d trained hard. Stoner, like his teammates, had endured a grueling regime for more than a year—practicing tricky problems over breakfast before school and taking on more problems late into the evening after he completed the homework for his college-level math classes. Sometimes, he sketched out proofs on the large dry-erase board his dad had installed in his bedroom. Most nights, he put himself to sleep reading books like New Problems in Euclidean Geometry and An Introduction to Diophantine Equations.
In Homs, Syria, where entire city blocks have been reduced to rubble by years of civil war, a Syrian wedding photographer thought of using the destruction of the city as a backdrop for pictures of newlywed couples “to show that life is stronger than death.”
In Homs, Syria, where entire city blocks have been reduced to rubble by years of civil war, a Syrian wedding photographer thought of using the destruction of the city as a backdrop for pictures of newlywed couples “to show that life is stronger than death,” according to AFP photographer Joseph Eid. Here, Nada Merhi, 18, and her husband, Syrian army soldier Hassan Youssef, 27, pose for a series of wedding pictures amid heavily damaged buildings in Homs on February 5, 2016.
Tracking them down is a globe-trotting adventure that rivals any jungle expedition.
In the darkness of the Akeley Hall of Mammals, swarms of kids gawk at beautifully staged dioramas of Africa’s wildlife. The stuffed safari, nestled in the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York, includes taxidermied leopards stalking a bush pig, preserved ostriches strutting in front of warthogs, and long-dead baboons cautiously considering a viper. In one corner, in a display marked “Upper Nile Region,” a lone hippo grazes next to a herd of lechwe, roan antelope, and a comically stern shoebill stork.
“This is my favorite one,” says Evon Hekkala, pointing to the display. “There’s a taxidermied crocodile tucked away down there.”
It takes a while to spot it and I have to crane my head to do so, but yes, there it is—a large crocodile, in the back, mouth agape, next to the hippo. It’s mostly hidden from view, and until recently, it was hidden from science, too.