The Republican candidate has a tendency to make cringe-inducing gaffes right when things are going well for his campaign.
Mitt Romney's big economic speech in Detroit on Friday could hardly have gone more awry.
First, the venue, Ford Field, home of the Lions, seats 65,000, but Romney managed to draw just 1,200. That was too many for the first venue the campaign had picked, but in the cavernous stadium, the crowd -- despite the campaign's strenuous efforts to position it more favorably -- looked pathetically puny. As a metaphor for the lack of grassroots enthusiasm Romney attracts, the scene was irresistible.
As if that weren't bad enough, Romney then veered off script -- disastrously.
"I drive a Mustang and a Chevy pickup truck," he observed, meditating on the virtues of Detroit-made cars. "Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually."
Nothing wrong with loving American automobiles, but the casual reference to more than one luxury vehicle was beyond tone-deaf. The reaction, on social media and elsewhere, was an immediate eruption of schadenfreude from liberals and anti-Romney conservatives alike.
It was the latest in the ever-lengthening list of gaffes that have served to underscore the impression that Romney is perilously out of touch with regular folks, from "I like being able to fire people" to "I'm not concerned with the very poor."
In addition to his foot-in-mouth tendency, Romney also happens to have impeccably bad timing -- a real knack for stepping in it right when the campaign momentum had started to turn in his direction.
In this case, Romney's fortunes finally seemed again to be on an upswing, following his commanding performance in Wednesday's debate. And it was just starting to look like he might be able to coast to victory in Arizona and Michigan on Tuesday. Now, a fresh round of criticism of his awkwardness and wealth could give voters in those states pause.
The story was much the same with Romney's "very poor" line at the end of January. That comment came in an interview he gave the night he won the Florida primary. The next day's news should have been a Romney inevitability-fest. Instead, it was consumed with debate over whether he'd strike general-election voters as cartoonishly callous. A week later, Romney lost three state contests to Rick Santorum.
Romney's other chance to ride a wave of momentum came after his big win in New Hampshire. But he spent that week battling attacks over his record at Bain Capital, often awkwardly, and refusing to give a straight answer about when he'd release his tax returns. At the first debate in South Carolina, he said he just didn't know when they might come out, adding cryptically, "Time will tell." At the second, he called himself "someone who's lived in the real streets of America." At a time when Newt Gingrich was hitting it out of the park, Romney's fumbles didn't help his cause any.
It's bad enough, and widely acknowledged at this point, that Romney has a tendency to go off-script in cringe-inducing ways. But what's even worse is that he tends to do it at the worst possible time for his own ambitions.
In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education—and mental health.
Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense. Last December, Jeannie Suk wrote in an online article for The New Yorker about law students asking her fellow professors at Harvard not to teach rape law—or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in “that violates the law”) lest it cause students distress. In February, Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University, wrote an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education describing a new campus politics of sexual paranoia—and was then subjected to a long investigation after students who were offended by the article and by a tweet she’d sent filed Title IX complaints against her. In June, a professor protecting himself with a pseudonym wrote an essay for Vox describing how gingerly he now has to teach. “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me,” the headline said. A number of popular comedians, including Chris Rock, have stopped performing on college campuses (see Caitlin Flanagan’s article in this month’s issue). Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke.
As the vice president edges toward a presidential run, is he banking on further public disclosures to discredit the frontrunner?
As Joe Biden edges closer to a presidential run, there’s no shortage of theories as to what he’s up to. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton has built a commanding lead in the national polls, giving Biden little apparent space to gain traction. Perhaps he’s counting on the early-primary state of South Carolina to provide a critical boost. He might be banking on appearing as a stronger general-election candidate than any of his potential rivals in the primary race. Maybe after spending the past 42 years of his life running for elective office, he just can’t stop.
But there’s one intriguing theory that has so far garnered little attention: What if Biden knows something about Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton that the rest of us don’t?
A string of questionable police killings demonstrates the need to reevaluate laws that govern the use of lethal force.
On July 1, 2012, Milton Hall, a homeless man with a history of mental illness, stole a cup of coffee from a convenience store in Saginaw, Michigan. The store’s clerk called 911. When an officer arrived, Hall produced a knife with a three-inch blade and threatened her with it. She called for backup and seven other officers soon joined her, one of them with a police dog. They formed an arc around Hall and aimed their firearms—pistols and a rifle—at him. The standoff continued for several minutes, with the officers repeatedly asking Hall to put the knife down and Hall repeatedly refusing. Finally, Hall, still wielding his knife, began to walk toward the police dog and the K9 officer. After he had taken a few steps—three, by my count, as I watch video footage from a patrol car’s dashboard camera and available on YouTube—the officers shot Hall to death in a volley of 47 bullets.
The drug modafinil was recently found to enhance cognition in healthy people. Should you take it to get a raise?
If you could take a pill that will make you better at your job, with few or no negative consequences, would you do it?
In a meta-analysis recently published in European Neuropsychopharmacology, researchers from the University of Oxford and Harvard Medical School concluded that a drug called modafinil, which is typically used to treat sleep disorders, is a cognitive enhancer. Essentially, it can help normal people think better.
Out of all cognitive processes, modafinil was found to improve decision-making and planning the most in the 24 studies the authors reviewed. Some of the studies also showed gains in flexible thinking, combining information, or coping with novelty. The drug didn’t seem to influence creativity either way.
In 1998, Toni Morrison wrote a comment for The New Yorker arguing that “white skin notwithstanding, this is our first black President. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime.” Last week the New York Times, implicitly cited Morrison’s piece, and claimed the author was giving Clinton “a compliment.” This interpretation of Morrison’s claim is as common as it is erroneous.
The popular interpretation of Morrison’s point (exhibited here) holds that, summoning all of her powers, the writer gazed into the very essence of Clinton, and found him sufficiently soulful. In fact, Morrison’s point had little to do with soul of any kind. She was not much concerned with Clinton’s knowledge of Ebonics, his style of handshake, nor whether he pledged Alpha or Q. Morrison was concerned with power.
The billionaire candidate’s skill at manipulating emotions may ultimately derail his candidacy.
Last week, two men in Boston allegedly beat a Hispanic homeless man. Afterward, one of the two brothers told the police, “Donald Trump was right, all of these illegals need to be deported.” Trump’s response? “I think that would be a shame,” he said, adding, “I will say, the people that are following me are very passionate. They love this country. They want this country to be great again. But they are very passionate. I will say that."
And that showed what Trump is really about. His politics depend on the strategic manipulation of what America’s Founding Fathers called “the passions”— emotions that, when stoked, cause us to literally lose our minds. And that’s perilous not only for the fragile state of U.S. politics today, but for Trump’s political legacy.
A new study finds an algorithmic word analysis is flawless at determining whether a person will have a psychotic episode.
Although the language of thinking is deliberate—let me think, I have to do some thinking—the actual experience of having thoughts is often passive. Ideas pop up like dandelions; thoughts occur suddenly and escape without warning. People swim in and out of pools of thought in a way that can feel, paradoxically, mindless.
Most of the time, people don’t actively track the way one thought flows into the next. But in psychiatry, much attention is paid to such intricacies of thinking. For instance, disorganized thought, evidenced by disjointed patterns in speech, is considered a hallmark characteristic of schizophrenia. Several studies of at-risk youths have found that doctors are able to guess with impressive accuracy—the best predictive models hover around 79 percent—whether a person will develop psychosis based on tracking that person’s speech patterns in interviews.
It is not too late to strengthen the Iran deal, a prominent critic says.
It appears likely, as of this writing, that Barack Obama will be victorious in his fight to implement the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by his secretary of state, John Kerry. Republicans in Congress don’t appear to have the votes necessary to void the agreement, and Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign to subvert Obama may be remembered as one of the more counterproductive and shortsighted acts of an Israeli prime minister since the rebirth of the Jewish state 67 years ago.
Things could change, of course, and the Iranian regime, which is populated in good part by extremists, fundamentalist theocrats, and supporters of terrorism, could do something monumentally stupid in the coming weeks that could force on-the-fence Democrats to side with their Republican adversaries (remember the Café Milano fiasco, anyone?). But, generally speaking, the Obama administration, and its European allies, seem to have a clearer path to implementation than they had at the beginning of the month.
In the United States and Israel, a heated debate about whether to accept the nuclear deal with Iran continues. In the rest of the world, Iran’s reintegration is already underway.
The survival of the Iran deal seems more likely by the day; for past assessments of what that might mean for the Middle East, the United States, and beyond, please see the items grouped here.
Two weeks ago, as part of a collection of notes from readers in Israel, I quoted Samuel J. Cohen, who is originally American but has lived and worked in Israel since the 1970s, on the possibility that “Obama and Netanyahu are both right.” That is: President Obama is right that ending Iran’s pariah status will overall be good for the United States, and Prime Minister Netanyahu is right that the same change may be overall bad for Israel, even if Iran never develops a nuclear weapon. Thus the interests of the two nations genuinely diverge.