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.
The kerfuffle over Kim Kardashian's drug-promoting Instagram selfie is nothing new: As long as the agency has existed, it's had to figure out how to regulate drug advertisements in new forms of communication technology.
Last month, celebrity-news and health-policy bloggers had a rare moment of overlap after the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning letter to the pharmaceutical company Duchesnay, which manufactures Diclegis, a prescription-only anti-nausea pill. At stake: a single selfie with pill bottle.
The image that attracted the censure of the FDA was an Instagram posted on July 20 by Kim Kardashian. The image featured her upper torso, right hand, and face, with a bottle of Diclegis prominently displayed in her grasp. “OMG,” the caption began:
Have you heard about this? As you guys know my #morningsickness has been pretty bad. I tried changing things about my lifestyle and my diet, but nothing helped, so I talked to my doctor. He prescribed my Diclegis, I felt better, and most importantly it’s been studied and there is no increased risk to the baby.
It happened gradually—and until the U.S. figures out how to treat the problem, it will only get worse.
It’s 2020, four years from now. The campaign is under way to succeed the president, who is retiring after a single wretched term. Voters are angrier than ever—at politicians, at compromisers, at the establishment. Congress and the White House seem incapable of working together on anything, even when their interests align. With lawmaking at a standstill, the president’s use of executive orders and regulatory discretion has reached a level that Congress views as dictatorial—not that Congress can do anything about it, except file lawsuits that the divided Supreme Court, its three vacancies unfilled, has been unable to resolve.
On Capitol Hill, Speaker Paul Ryan resigned after proving unable to pass a budget, or much else. The House burned through two more speakers and one “acting” speaker, a job invented following four speakerless months. The Senate, meanwhile, is tied in knots by wannabe presidents and aspiring talk-show hosts, who use the chamber as a social-media platform to build their brands by obstructing—well, everything. The Defense Department is among hundreds of agencies that have not been reauthorized, the government has shut down three times, and, yes, it finally happened: The United States briefly defaulted on the national debt, precipitating a market collapse and an economic downturn. No one wanted that outcome, but no one was able to prevent it.
American society increasingly mistakes intelligence for human worth.
As recently as the 1950s, possessing only middling intelligence was not likely to severely limit your life’s trajectory. IQ wasn’t a big factor in whom you married, where you lived, or what others thought of you. The qualifications for a good job, whether on an assembly line or behind a desk, mostly revolved around integrity, work ethic, and a knack for getting along—bosses didn’t routinely expect college degrees, much less ask to see SAT scores. As one account of the era put it, hiring decisions were “based on a candidate having a critical skill or two and on soft factors such as eagerness, appearance, family background, and physical characteristics.”
The 2010s, in contrast, are a terrible time to not be brainy. Those who consider themselves bright openly mock others for being less so. Even in this age of rampant concern over microaggressions and victimization, we maintain open season on the nonsmart. People who’d swerve off a cliff rather than use a pejorative for race, religion, physical appearance, or disability are all too happy to drop the s‑bomb: Indeed, degrading others for being “stupid” has become nearly automatic in all forms of disagreement.
The June 23 vote represents a huge popular rebellion against a future in which British people feel increasingly crowded within—and even crowded out of—their own country.
I said goodnight to a gloomy party of Leave-minded Londoners a few minutes after midnight. The paper ballots were still being counted by hand. Only the British overseas territory of Gibraltar had reported final results. Yet the assumption of a Remain victory filled the room—and depressed my hosts. One important journalist had received a detailed briefing earlier that evening of the results of the government’s exit polling: 57 percent for Remain.
The polling industry will be one victim of the Brexit vote. A few days before the vote, I met with a pollster who had departed from the cheap and dirty methods of his peers to perform a much more costly survey for a major financial firm. His results showed a comfortable margin for Remain. Ten days later, anyone who heeded his expensive advice suffered the biggest percentage losses since the 2008 financial crisis.
Demographic data shows that a Briton’s education level may be the strongest indication of how he or she voted.
Britain has voted to leave the European Union. The news surprised many people, including the British, who have learned that while brushing off early statistical warnings is tempting, it doesn’t make it any easier when those warnings turn out to be right. Give yourselves a break, I say: Polls are fickle, anecdote is limited, and prevailing wisdom is sometimes impossible to shake. (Though these remorseful Brexit voters don’t have an excuse.)
There’s a silver lining for statistics, however. With the close of Britain’s referendum, political analysts now have a concrete dataset to examine: the actual vote totals in the United Kingdom. This data, when matched with regional demographic information from the U.K. Census, gives insight into who actually voted to leave or remain.
Patrick Griffin, his chief congressional affairs lobbyist, recalls the lead up to the bill’s passage in 1994—and the steep political price that followed.
For those who question whether anything will ever be done to curb the use of military grade weaponry for mass shootings in the United States, history provides some good news—and some bad. The good news is that there is, within the recent past, an example of a president—namely Bill Clinton—who successfully wielded the powers of the White House to institute a partial ban of assault weapons from the nation’s streets. The bad news, however, is that Clinton’s victory proved to be so costly to him and to his party that it stands as an enduring cautionary tale in Washington about the political dangers of taking on the issue of gun control.
In 1994, Clinton signed into law the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, placing restrictions on the number of military features a gun could have and banning large capacity magazines for consumer use. Given the potent dynamics of Second Amendment politics, it was a signal accomplishment. Yet the story behind the ban has been largely forgotten since it expired in 2004 and, in part, because the provision was embedded in the larger crime bill.
The U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union betrays a failure of empathy and imagination among its leaders. Will America’s political establishment fare any better?
If there is a regnant consensus among the men and women who steer the Western world, it is this: The globe is flattening. Borders are crumbling. Identities are fluid. Commerce and communications form the warp and woof, weaving nations into the tight fabric of a global economy. People are free to pursue opportunity, enriching their new homes culturally and economically. There may be painful dislocations along the way, but the benefits of globalization heavily outweigh its costs. And those who cannot see this, those who would resist it, those who would undo it—they are ignorant of their own interests, bigoted, xenophobic, and backward.
So entrenched is this consensus that, for decades, in most Western democracies, few mainstream political parties have thought to challenge it. They have left it to the politicians on the margins of the left and the right to give voice to such sentiments—and voicing such sentiments relegated politicians to the margins of political life.
Thoughts on the first episode of ESPN’s five-part documentary
Every fall Sunday, when I was a kid, half an hour before the pre-game shows and an hour before the games themselves, I would tune into the latest offering from NFL Films. This was the pre-pre-game show—an assembly of short films derived from the massive archive of professional football. Steve Sabol, whose father founded NFL Films, would preside. He’d offer and then throw it to Jon Facenda or Jefferson Kaye, who would narrate the career highlights of players likeGale Sayers, Earl Campbell, or Dick “Night Train” Lane.
“Highlights” understates what NFL films was actually doing. The shorts were drawn from some the most beautifully shot footage in all of sports. It wasn’t unheard of for NFL Films to go high concept—this piece on football and ballet, with cameos from Allen Ginsberg and George Will, may be the definitive example. Great football plays would be injected not with the normal hurrahs, but with poetry. When Facenda, for instance, wanted to introduce a spectacular touchdown run by Marcus Allen, he did so in the omniscient third person: “On came Marcus Allen—running with the night.”
How the Brexit vote activated some of the most politically destabilizing forces threatening the U.K.
Among the uncertainties unleashed by the Brexit referendum, which early Friday morning heralded the United Kingdom’s coming breakup with the European Union, was what happens to the “union” of the United Kingdom itself. Ahead of the vote, marquee campaign themes included, on the “leave” side, the question of the U.K.’s sovereignty within the European Union—specifically its ability to control migration—and, on the “remain” side, the economic benefits of belonging to the world’s largest trading bloc, as well as the potentially catastrophic consequences of withdrawing from it. Many of the key arguments on either side concerned the contours of the U.K.-EU relationship, and quite sensibly so. “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” was, after all, the precise question people were voting on.