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.
“Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage.”
Last Sunday the host of a popular news show asked me what it meant to lose my body. The host was broadcasting from Washington, D.C., and I was seated in a remote studio on the Far West Side of Manhattan. A satellite closed the miles between us, but no machinery could close the gap between her world and the world for which I had been summoned to speak. When the host asked me about my body, her face faded from the screen, and was replaced by a scroll of words, written by me earlier that week.
The host read these words for the audience, and when she finished she turned to the subject of my body, although she did not mention it specifically. But by now I am accustomed to intelligent people asking about the condition of my body without realizing the nature of their request. Specifically, the host wished to know why I felt that white America’s progress, or rather the progress of those Americans who believe that they are white, was built on looting and violence. Hearing this, I felt an old and indistinct sadness well up in me. The answer to this question is the record of the believers themselves. The answer is American history.
As the Vermont senator gains momentum, Claire McCaskill rushes to the frontrunner’s defense.
Obscured by the recent avalanche of momentous news is this intriguing development from the campaign trail: The Hillary Clinton campaign now considers Bernie Sanders threatening enough to attack. Fresh off news that Sanders is now virtually tied with Hillary in New Hampshire, Claire McCaskill went on Morning Joe on June 25 to declare that “the media is giving Bernie a pass … they’re not giving the same scrutiny to Bernie that they’re certainly giving to Hillary.”
The irony here is thick. In 2006, McCaskill said on Meet the Press that while Bill Clinton was a great president, “I don’t want my daughter near him.” Upon hearing the news, according to John Heilemann and Mark Halperin’s book Game Change, Hillary exclaimed, “Fuck her,” and cancelled a fundraiser for the Missouri senator. McCaskill later apologized to Bill Clinton, and was wooed intensely by Hillary during the 2008 primaries. But she infuriated the Clintons again by endorsing Barack Obama. In their book HRC, Aimee Parnes and Jonathan Allen write that, “‘Hate’ is too weak a word to describe the feelings that Hillary’s core loyalists still have for McCaskill.”
In the United States, when an unmarried man has a baby, his partner can give it up without his consent—unless he happens to know about an obscure system called the responsible father registry.
Christopher Emanuel first met his girlfriend in the fall of 2012, when they were both driving forklifts at a warehouse in Trenton, South Carolina. She was one of a handful of women on the job; she was white and he was black. She ignored him at first, and Emanuel saw it as a challenge. It took multiple attempts to get her phone number. He says he “wasn’t lonely, but everybody wants somebody. Nothing wrong with being friends.”
Emanuel, who is now 25, describes himself as a non-discriminatory flirt. He was popular in high school and a state track champion. According to the Aiken High School 2008 yearbook, he was voted “Most Attractive” and “Best Dressed.” Even his former English teacher Francesca Pataro describes him as a “ray of sunshine.” Emanuel says he’s “talked”—euphemistically speaking—with a lot of women: “Black, Puerto Rican, Egyptian, and Vietnamese.” But before he met this girlfriend, he says, he had never seriously dated a white girl.
In 1992, the neuroscientist Richard Davidson got a challenge from the Dalai Lama. By that point, he’d spent his career asking why people respond to, in his words, “life’s slings and arrows” in different ways. Why are some people more resilient than others in the face of tragedy? And is resilience something you can gain through practice?
The Dalai Lama had a different question for Davidson when he visited the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader at his residence in Dharamsala, India. “He said: ‘You’ve been using the tools of modern neuroscience to study depression, and anxiety, and fear. Why can’t you use those same tools to study kindness and compassion?’ … I did not have a very good answer. I said it was hard.”
New data shows that students whose parents make less money pursue more “useful” subjects, such as math or physics.
In 1780, John Adams wrote a letter to his wife, Abigail, in which he laid out his plans for what his children and grandchildren would devote their lives to. Having himself taken the time to master “Politicks and War,” two revolutionary necessities, Adams hoped his children would go into disciplines that promoted nation-building, such as “mathematicks,” “navigation,” and “commerce.” His plan was that in turn, those practical subjects would give his children’s children room “to study painting, poetry, musick, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelaine.”
Two-hundred and thirty-five years later, this progression—“from warriors to dilettantes,” in the words of the literary scholar Geoffrey Galt Harpham—plays out much as Adams hoped it would: Once financial concerns have been covered by their parents, children have more latitude to study less pragmatic things in school. Kim Weeden, a sociologist at Cornell, looked at National Center for Education Statistics data for me after I asked her about this phenomenon, and her analysis revealed that, yes, the amount of money a college student’s parents make does correlate with what that person studies. Kids from lower-income families tend toward “useful” majors, such as computer science, math, and physics. Those whose parents make more money flock to history, English, and performing arts.
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.
Most adults can’t remember much of what happened to them before age 3 or so. What happens to the memories formed in those earliest years?
My first memory is of the day my brother was born: November 14, 1991. I can remember my father driving my grandparents and me over to the hospital in Highland Park, Illinois, that night to see my newborn brother. I can remember being taken to my mother’s hospital room, and going to gaze upon my only sibling in his bedside cot. But mostly, I remember what was on the television. It was the final two minutes of a Thomas the Tank Engine episode. I can even remember the precise story: “Percy Takes the Plunge,” which feels appropriate, given that I too was about to recklessly throw myself into the adventure of being a big brother.
In sentimental moments, I’m tempted to say my brother’s birth is my first memory because it was the first thing in my life worth remembering. There could be a sliver of truth to that: Research into the formation and retention of our earliest memories suggests that people’s memories often begin with significant personal events, and the birth of a sibling is a textbook example. But it was also good timing. Most people’s first memories date to when they were about 3.5 years old, and that was my age, almost to the day, when my brother was born.
The singer’s violent revenge fantasy was intended to provoke outrage, and to get people to talk about her. It succeeds on both counts.
Of all the scandalized reactions to Rihanna’s music video for “Bitch Better Have My Money,” my favorite comes, as is not surprising for this sort of thing, from the Daily Mail. Labelling herself in the headline as a “concerned parent” (a term to transport one to the days of Tipper Gore’s crusade against lyrics if there ever was one), Sarah Vine opens her column by talking at length about how so very, very reluctant she was to watch Rihanna’s new clip. Then she basically goes frame-by-frame through the video, recounting her horror at what unfolds. “By the time it had finished, I wondered whether I ought not to report [Rihanna] to the police,” Vine writes. “Charges: pornography, incitement to violence, racial hatred.”
The outcome of Sunday's referendum was as much a rejection of an ongoing policy as it was disapproval of the Eurogroup's bailout proposals.
Greece is now in uncharted territory. The final tally of Sunday’s referendum had 61 percent of Greeks voting“no” and 39 percent “yes” on whether or not to approve the current bailout plan from Eurogroup leaders. The outcome was a victory for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who had strongly urged citizens to reject the deal—but now Greece must return to the negotiating table to discuss a new plan with its creditors.
On Monday, Greece’s finance minister Yanis Varoufakis quit, believing that negotiations might proceed more smoothly if he was absent. He will be succeeded by Euclid Tsakalotos, Greece’s deputy foreign minister who also served as the coordinator of the negotiations between Athens and its creditors. Varoufakis posted a statement on his blog that makes clear what Greece is looking for from its creditors: “It is, therefore, essential that the great capital bestowed upon our government by the splendid NO vote be invested immediately into a YES to a proper resolution—to an agreement that involves debt restructuring, less austerity, redistribution in favor of the needy, and real reforms.”