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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.