Rather than debate, the two presidential candidates get together in Texas to audition for a hilarious right-wing buddy movie
On Saturday night, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain met in Texas for a special, one-on-one "debate." But anyone who tuned in hoping for fireworks would have been disappointed. It might have been more accurate to call it a joint campaign appearance.
The debate seemed like an extremely promising idea when it was announced a few weeks ago. Gingrich and Cain are probably the two most entertaining candidates in the current Republican field -- the former speaker with his acerbic wit, the businessman with his thunderous exhortations. Both are running "non-traditional campaigns," which is a euphemism for not running much of a campaign at all. For both men, their blundering into the top ranks of recent polls seems to have spoiled an otherwise pleasant book tour.
How exciting it promised to be, then, to see these two together on stage, without those annoying other candidates interfering in a good show. Without Mitt Romney and Rick Perry's ongoing attempt to achieve mutually assured destruction; without that cranky Rick Santorum guy; without Ron Paul's diatribes and Jon Huntsman's sanctimony, and most definitely without Gary Johnson's dog poop jokes.
The only problem: Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain really like each other. And with friendly moderators -- a local Americans for Prosperity honcho and archconservative Iowa Rep. Steve King -- there was no one asking actual tough questions, pinning the pair down when they wandered off topic or didn't make sense, or seeking to draw out differences between the men in a way that might be helpful to voters trying to choose between the two.
Naturally, this suited Gingrich and Cain just fine.
Gingrich answered the first question, about Rep. Paul Ryan's budget proposal, by conveniently forgetting that he'd once called it "right-wing social engineering." "Paul Ryan came up with some very good ideas," he said, and wound up in a detailed discussion of Medicare fraud.
When it was Cain's turn, he said: "At this particular juncture I'm supposed to get a minute to disagree with something he's said. But I don't."
And so, when Cain finished his answer -- "I like the Ryan plan. I haven't found anything in it yet that I don't disagree with (sic)" -- the moderator announced he was making an "executive decision" to suspend the clock and let the candidates take as long as they liked with each question. With that, the thin pretense of debate was dropped.
Gingrich and Cain are both nominally from Georgia, and they have known each other since the debate over "Hillarycare" nearly two decades ago. In previous debates, their mutual admiration society prompted the creation of this delightful Photoshop imagining them melded into a "Newtman Caingrich."
As the discussion wore on Saturday, one actually could discern the difference, however. It wasn't on policy, where they couldn't find any real disagreement. But the contrast in style was obvious. In the unlikely event either of these men became president, Gingrich would be wonk-in-chief, while Cain would leave the details to others and serve mainly as a cheerleader.
Gingrich, as the forum wore on, began to monopolize the floor time, reliving past glories with explanations of the ideas behind welfare reform and taking credit for balancing the budget in the 1990s. He referenced academic books and think-tank studies, invoked history and delivered tart sound bites like "This president is about as candid and accurate as Bernie Madoff in what he tells the American people." He was obviously having a ball. If you didn't already know this whole thing was Newt's idea, you could have guessed.
Cain largely deferred to Gingrich, perhaps because he didn't seem to grasp all the technical details under discussion -- at one point, when asked whether he thought Medicare should be based on a "defined benefit" or a "premium support" model, he repeated, "Defined...", trailed off, rubbed his chin and concluded, "You go first, Newt." (Gingrich was happy to comply.) He mostly spoke in generalities and made sure to get in a plug for "9-9-9."
"We as a nation are not short on good ideas for how to fix Social Security, how to fix Medicare," Cain said at one point. "What we are short on is the ability to educate people on the solutions." The president, he said, must use "that particular bully pulpit" to be "communicator in chief."
There was no mention of the scandal Cain has been embroiled in for the past week as past accusations of sexual harassment against him have surfaced. But he seemed to allude to it at the end, when Gingrich asked him what had most surprised him about running for president.
"The nitpickiness of the media," he said. "I expected to have to work hard. I expected to have to study hard. But I did not realize the flyspecking nature of the media when you are running for president, especially when you start moving up in the polls."
Then it was Cain's turn to ask Gingrich a question. And Cain showed where his true talents lie: he may not be able to tell you the ins and outs of the Social Security trust fund, but he knows how to bring down the house.
"Mr. Speaker, if you were the vice president of the United States, what would you want the president to assign you to do first?" he said.
Gingrich cracked up, guffawing and wiping his eyes. "Well," he said, "having studied my good friend Dick Cheney, I would not go hunting."
The second episode of the new season was a slow burner with a dramatic twist.
Let’s start at the beginning, with Frank in bed with his wife, Jordan, discussing water stains on the ceiling and childhood entombments. I don’t know about you guys, but I found this whole bit slack and familiar. Maybe there was a two-minute scene in there, but five? Maybe a more charismatic actor could have pulled off that lengthy monologue. But Vince Vaughn is no Robert Shaw, and his childhood basement is no U.S.S. Indianapolis.
The social network learns more about its users than they might realize.
Facebook, you may have noticed, turned into a rainbow-drenched spectacle following the Supreme Court’s decision Friday that same-sex marriage is a Constitutional right.
By overlaying their profile photos with a rainbow filter, Facebook users began celebrating in a way we haven't seen since March 2013, when 3 million peoplechanged their profile images to a red equals sign—the logo of the Human Rights Campaign—as a way to support marriage equality. This time, Facebook provided a simple way to turn profile photos rainbow-colored. More than 1 million people changed their profile in the first few hours, according to the Facebook spokesperson William Nevius, and the number continues to grow.
“This is probably a Facebook experiment!” joked the MIT network scientist Cesar Hidalgo on Facebook yesterday. “This is one Facebook study I want to be included in!” wrote Stacy Blasiola, a communications Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois, when she changed her profile.
Over the last two weeks, Republican presidential candidates have repeatedly missed opportunities to demonstrate that they care about communities outside of their traditional base.
After Mitt Romney’s defeat in 2012, the Republican National Committee published an “autopsy.” “When it comes to social issues,” the autopsy declared, “the Party must in fact and deed be inclusive and welcoming. If we are not, we will limit our ability to attract young people.” The autopsy also added that, “we need to go to communities where Republicans do not normally go to listen and make our case. We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too.”
The last two weeks, more than any since Romney’s defeat, illustrate how miserably the GOP has failed.
Start with June 17, when Dylann Roof, a young white man enamored of the Confederate flag, murdered nine African Americans in church. Within three days, Romney had called for the Confederate flag’s removal from South Carolina’s capitol. Four days later, the state’s Republican governor and senators called for its removal too. But during that entire week—even as it became obvious that the politics of the flag were shifting—not a single GOP presidential candidate forthrightly called for it to be taken down. Instead, they mostly called it a state decision, a transparent dodge politicians deploy when they don’t want to make a difficult call.
The historian and Knesset member Michael Oren accuses the president of distancing the U.S. from Israel, and calls out left-wing Jews and Israel’s Jewish critics in the American press.
In a recent post, I suggested that the intervention of two men, the former U.S. national security advisor Tom Donilon and the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, might help improve the dysfunctional relationship between the Obama administration and the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
At the time I wrote this, both men had reputations as people who were concerned about preserving the extraordinarily complicated, and extraordinarily close, U.S.-Israel relationship, and both had spent a good deal of time calming the waters between Obama and Netanyahu. Today, Donilon maintains that reputation. As for Oren …
Put it this way: If Goldblog readers would allow me to withdraw the suggestion, I’d be much obliged. Oren has created a new role for himself: acid critic of the Obama administration and of left-leaning American Jews (especially in the press and in the White House) who, he believes, are trading on their Jewishness when they criticize Israel. Oren’s critique, at its heart, is simple: Obama, in part because he wanted to reconcile the U.S. with the “Muslim world” (a very large, ill-defined, and politically complicated concept, in Oren’s mind), decided to distance the United States from Israel; to surprise Israel by altering U.S. Middle East policy without prior notice; and to negotiate with Israel’s most potent enemy without alerting Israeli leaders.
In 1784, the doctor Benjamin Rush described alcohol as a threat to morality—and a danger to the nascent republic.
Go ahead, have a small beer; it will bring “Serenity of Mind, Reputation, Long Life, & Happiness.” Even a strong beer would be fine, for that brings “Cheerfulness, Strength, and Nourishment,” as long as it’s only sipped at meals. So declared Benjamin Rush, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the early republic’s most prominent physician. In his loquaciously named pamphlet, An Inquiry Into the Effects of Ardent Spirits on the Human Mind and Body, first published in 1784, Rush describes the “usual” downward spiral of drink. What starts as water and wine quickly turns into punches and toddies and cordials, ending with a hopeless vortex of gin, brandy, and rum, “day and night.”* In the pits of intemperance, one can expect such vices as “Idleness, Gaming, peevishness, quarrelling, Fighting, Horse-Racing, Lying and Swearing, Stealing and Swindling, Perjury, Burglary, [and] Murder,” with punishments including “Black eyes and Bags,” “State prison for Life,” or, worst of all, “Gallows.”**
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.
For centuries, experts have predicted that machines would make workers obsolete. That moment may finally be arriving. Could that be a good thing?
1. Youngstown, U.S.A.
The end of work is still just a futuristic concept for most of the United States, but it is something like a moment in history for Youngstown, Ohio, one its residents can cite with precision: September 19, 1977.
For much of the 20th century, Youngstown’s steel mills delivered such great prosperity that the city was a model of the American dream, boasting a median income and a homeownership rate that were among the nation’s highest. But as manufacturing shifted abroad after World War II, Youngstown steel suffered, and on that gray September afternoon in 1977, Youngstown Sheet and Tube announced the shuttering of its Campbell Works mill. Within five years, the city lost 50,000 jobs and $1.3 billion in manufacturing wages. The effect was so severe that a term was coined to describe the fallout: regional depression.
The meaning of the Confederate flag is best discerned in the words of those who bore it.
This afternoon, in announcing her support for removing the Confederate flag from the capitol grounds, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley asserted that killer Dylann Roof had “a sick and twisted view of the flag” which did not reflect “the people in our state who respect and in many ways revere it.” If the governor meant that very few of the flag’s supporters believe in mass murder, she is surely right. But on the question of whose view of the Confederate Flag is more twisted, she is almost certainly wrong.
Roof’s belief that black life had no purpose beyond subjugation is “sick and twisted” in the exact same manner as the beliefs of those who created the Confederate flag were “sick and twisted.” The Confederate flag is directly tied to the Confederate cause, and the Confederate cause was white supremacy. This claim is not the result of revisionism. It does not require reading between the lines. It is the plain meaning of the words of those who bore the Confederate flag across history. These words must never be forgotten. Over the next few months the word “heritage” will be repeatedly invoked. It would be derelict to not examine the exact contents of that heritage.
The president delivers his single most accomplished rhetorical performance, and it’s one you should watch rather than read.
I think Barack Obama’s eulogy yesterday for parishioners of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston was his most fully successful performance as an orator. It was also one that could have come only at this point in his public career—and not, for instance, when he was an intriguing figure first coming to national notice, as he was during his celebrated debut speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston 11 years ago; or when he was a candidate fighting for political survival, as he was when he gave his “Race in America” speech in Philadelphia early in 2008.
I’ll explain why I say so, but first a word about the odd circumstances in which I’ve heard and learned about the speech.
In any case, people have probably heard the phrase in reference to something gone awry at work or in life. In either setting, when the shit does hit the fan, people will tend to look to the most competent person in the room to take over.
And too bad for that person. A new paper by a team of researchers from Duke University, University of Georgia, and University of Colorado looks at not only how extremely competent people are treated by their co-workers and peers, but how those people feel when, at crucial moments, everyone turns to them. They find that responsible employees are not terribly pleased about this dynamic either.