In a debate filled with barbs, put-downs, interruptions, and insults, Donald Trump didn’t separate himself from the rest of the field by being more combative or more outrageous—although at moments, he was clearly trying. Trump, instead, set himself apart by delivering a ringing defense of the “New York values” that Senator Ted Cruz accused him of embodying. “New York is a great place,” he said. “It's got great people, it's got loving people, wonderful people. When the World Trade Center came down, I saw something that no place on Earth could have handled more beautifully, more humanely than New York.” His tone turned somber:
And the people in New York fought and fought and fought, and we saw more death, and even the smell of death—nobody understood it. And it was with us for months, the smell, the air. And we rebuilt downtown Manhattan, and everybody in the world watched and everybody in the world loved New York and loved New Yorkers.
It was Trump’s best moment of the campaign: a stirring tribute to a cosmopolitan city, and an invocation of national unity, beating back a crude attempt to divide Americans against each other.
What preceded it was less inspiring. Trump stood by his contention that Ted Cruz may not be a “native-born citizen,” and therefore may be ineligible for the presidency. Cruz hotly disputed that, and the weight of the scholarly consensus is firmly on his side. It was vintage Trump: blustering, insinuating, and flat-out fabricating. And it helped make the defense of New York that followed seem even more unusual.
That exchange also stood out because so much of the other drama on the stage Thursday night seemed so familiar. Ben Carson affably flubbed his foreign-policy questions; John Kasich emphasized his record in Ohio and tried to look more serious than his rivals; Jeb Bush delivered solid points in a style that robbed them of most of their impact; Chris Christie talked up his record as a prosecutor while brazenly denying other things he’s done; and Cruz sparred repeatedly with Marco Rubio.
With just a few weeks left before Iowa voters head to the caucuses, almost all of the candidates came to North Charleston, South Carolina, looking to shake things up. For the most part, that failed to happen.
But Ted Cruz, who’s clinging to a narrow lead in Iowa, didn’t just take hits from Trump. The fiercest attack of the night came from Rubio, who rattled off a detailed list of specific stands on which he accused the Texas senator of reversing himself, branding him a cynical opportunist, not a consistent conservative. “I appreciate your dumping your oppo-research folder on the debate stage,” Cruz smirked.
“No, it’s your record,” Rubio shot back.
The debate also featured a war over trade wars. Trump was pressed to defend past comments supportive of slapping retaliatory tariffs on Chinese imports. Instead of backing away from tariffs, he stressed the need for a firm response to the rising power. Economists across the country held their heads, and his rivals gleefully pounced. But as they took turns explaining the economic theory of why tariffs ultimately hurt consumers, Trump simply insisted that he’d be tough enough to make the Chinese crumble. By Friday, there will likely be dozens of columns explaining the downsides of tariffs; whether any of them will dissuade Trump supporters from believing that he alone has the resolve to right America’s trade deficit with China is another matter entirely.
It’s equally fair to wonder whether any of these performances will alter the trajectory of the race. Trump was closing in on Cruz in Iowa even before the debate, and riding high in the national polls. Marco Rubio turned in another superb performance on the stage, but his past skill as a debater has never brought him the surge of support that he needs to challenge the frontrunners. Ben Carson’s fading campaign will continue to fade. Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and John Kasich are still jockeying for establishment support.
One thing that was different on Thursday night was the audience, generously salted with members of the Republican National Committee, in town for their winter meeting. The presence of the literal Republican establishment didn’t restrain candidates from touting their outsider credentials. But it did reflect the tensions roiling the party, as parts of the crowd cheered loudly for Trump, as others booed.
But if RNC Chair Reince Preibus was worried, he didn’t let it show. “It’s clear we’ve got the most well-qualified and diverse field of candidates from any party in history,” he tweeted afterwards. The field may be yuuge, but the candidates are the best. The head of the Republican establishment adopting the argot of Trump seemed a perfect end to the night.
I'll be curious to see how GOP voters react to Ted Cruz's performance. Even though the constitutional law is on his side, I thought his assertion that even Trump wouldn't be eligible for the president came off as too-clever-by-half. Trump's shutdown of the Texas senator on the "New York values" quip might've been his strongest punch yet in the debates. And Cruz also didn't respond very strongly to the 95 theses that Rubio nailed to his door—replying that only half of them were false. Will all this cut into Cruz's lead in Iowa? We'll find out soon.
As I saw it, the three leading candidates—Trump, Cruz, and Rubio—all had their moments during a debate that stretched nearly 2 and a half hours. Cruz excelled in the first half and 'won' his fight with Trump over his eligibility. Trump had a good moment invoking 9/11 to defend his "New York values" against Cruz's attack. And toward the end of the night, Rubio unleashed a well-executed attack on Cruz's flip-flopping over immigration. That said, it's unclear that any of those moments will change the dynamic of the race. Bush, Carson, Kasich, and Christie didn't make much of an impression, and they were lagging in most polls as it is. Nor was there much of a substantive debate over policy, unlike some of the previous Republican debates.
My closing thoughts will be brief tonight, because I have no idea how Republican voters will respond to that display. But I will say this: Ben Carson just isn’t going to win. There’s no chance. And even beyond him this field needs to be winnowed.
Trump: "I stood yesterday with 75 construction workers. They're tough they're strong they're great people." They had tears running down their faces because of the humiliation by Iran. "It was a terrible sight, a terrible sight. ... If I'm president there won't be stupid deals anymore. We will win on everything we do."
Cruz: Benghazi, betrayal, a commander-in-chief who won't say radical Islamic terrorism. "I want to speak to all of those maddened by political correctness. ... this will end." If I'm elected, soldiers and policemen, I will have your back.
Rubio: Our rights come from God. Free enterprise. Individual liberty. The American miracle. But this country is changing. We're being left behind and left out because we elected a president who wants to change America and make it more like the rest of the world. "That's why 2016 is the turning point in our history."
Chris Christie says he loves this country. If not for the flag lapel pin on his suit I wouldn’t be sure if he was telling the truth. But with that piece of political flare proudly displayed on his very clothing who can doubt him?
Christie: Obama lives in a fantasyland. This country is not respected. Taxpayers are being pushed backwards, and the president doesn't understand. "We need a fighter for this country again … fighting for justice and to protect people from crime and terrorism ... someone who will fight Hillary Clinton."
Bush: "Who can you count on to keep you safer, stronger, and freer?" I got results in Florida. I have a plan. I am a candidate of substance. "I ask for your support to build together a safer and stronger America."
We’re one corporate deal away from debate questions like, “According to data from McDonald’s, home of the McFlurry, American families have less to spend on discretionary items, like golden French fries or savory McRibs, than they have in a generation…"
"The entire system of legal immigration must now be re-examined," says Rubio, who's still trying to shake off the ghost his 2013 immigration proposal, which was widely unpopular with conservatives and has provided some good fodder for his opponents this cycle.
John Kasich now channeling South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who is in the audience tonight. Haley called for unity in her GOP response to the State of the Union, saying: "When the sound is quieter, you can actually hear what someone else is saying. And that can make a world of difference." Kasich echoes that with his own call for unity: "As president of the United States, it's all about communication, folks, it's all about getting people to listen to one another's problems. When you do that you will be amazed at how much progress you can make, and how much healing we can have."
Rubio tries to explain his shift away from the 2013 Senate Gang of Eight bill by saying that immigration is now a security issue, not a jobs issue. But it ignores the fact that after 9/11, and even before that, security was a big part of the concern about liberal immigration policy.
True to form, the Republican candidates lose all skepticism of government employees as soon as they’re given a badge and a gun, whereupon they become the salt of the earth, bereft of bad actors, and deserving of the benefit of every doubt. But transfer one of those police officers to the IRS…
"This is a guy who just believes that law enforcement are the bad guys," Christie says of the president, before launching into an attack on so-called sanctuary cities. "This president allows lawlessness throughout this country."
Christie adds a new twist to the Ferguson effect by attributing a purported national rise in crime not to Black Lives Matter protesters, but to Obama's two attorneys general and the Obama administration overall.
Here’s a line from the Lincoln-Douglas debates that one of the candidates can draw on this evening: "MY FELLOW-CITIZENS: When a man hears himself somewhat misrepresented, it provokes him-at least, I find it so with myself; but when misrepresentation becomes very gross and palpable, it is more apt to amuse him.” If Jeb Bush said that I think I would find him a lot less affected.
“We have seniors out there who are scared to death, because…” Chris Christie begins, but fails to complete the sentence correctly–– “…because they are spending too much time watching alarmist cable news."
"It's not the evil rich people, it's the evil government," Carson says, in an effort to draw a contrast between the worldview of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton and his own. It's an interesting way to sum up the left-right split this primary season.
Chris Christie endorsed corporate tax repatriation—bringing back money from overseas in exchange for a one-time tax break—as a way to pay for infrastructure, which is an idea that's gained some traction in Congress. The problem, according to infrastructure advocates, is that it isn't a longterm solution but a one-time fix.
Attacking the president's executive actions has been a favorite line of criticism from Republican candidate's tonight. Marco Rubio says he would go after the Environmental Protection Agency, except in his telling EPA really stands for "Employment Prevention Agency." The candidates aren't talking about climate change during this debate, but Rubio's promise to take down EPA is a veiled threat against the president's climate agenda, given that most of what the administration has achieved so far in curbing greenhouse gas emissions has come as a result of EPA regulations.
There was a trade war over trade wars on stage just now. Trump understands trade, but he also understands audiences—and he’s unrelenting in his attacks on China, and the need to take a harder line. Other candidates—Kasich, Rubio, Bush, Cruz—try hard to deliver textbook explanations of the dangers of tariffs. But for Trump, this is all about showing toughness toward a rising China. And he seems to carry a large chunk of the crowd with him.
It seems like what Donald Trump wants, more than anything else, is to negotiate with China and other foreign nations. If offered a hypothetical “Negotiator-in-Chief” job I wonder if he’d gladly drop out of the presidential race and do that, provided that he was allowed to record, edit, and televise the sessions on NBC at his discretion.
The candidates are asked where they stand on admitting Syrian refugees to the U.S. Kasich says he would pause the program, and Christie stands by his comments that the U.S. should not take any Syrian refugees. The U.S. is expected to take in 10,000 refugees, far less than Canada and some European nations.
Ted Cruz reiterates his proposal to revoke the citizenship of Americans who travel overseas to fight ISIS, which runs counter to past Supreme Court rulings that bar Congress from involuntarily denaturalizing American citizens.
Ted Cruz declares that President Obama "acts as an apologist for radical Islamic terrorism.” I’m not sure that “pants on fire” is strong enough to convey the brazenness of the lie. Can we add a new category? Brooks Brothers on barbecue? Necktie on Napalm?
"We have to find out what's going on," Trump says when asked about his calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. He likes to repeat that line when asked about foreign policy and the threat of terrorism. It's such a vague promise, yet so far it has resonated with an electorate gripped by fear over the possibility of more terrorist attacks.
I wondered whether police killings would come up in tonight’s debate, which is being held in North Charleston, where the officer who shot and killed Walter Scott faces murder charges. Trump just declared, “The police are the most mistreated people in this country.” I suppose that counts.
Jeb Bush points out that Donald Trump’s ban on Muslims coming to the United States would weaken our hand with allies and prevent fighters helping us with ISIS from coming here. I’m surprised no one has instead talked about the Muslim translators who helped American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and are in danger of being killed for helping us if not allowed to claim political asylum here.
Jeb Bush calls Trump’s comments unhinged, and draws applause from the crowd, too. This crowd may tip toward the establishment, but there are enough Trump supporters tonight for its divided responses to mirror the party’s broader splits.
When Donald Trump takes a long, detailed question, and answers with a flat, “No,” it draws cheers every time. In this case, he’s asked whether he wants to reverse his proposal for banning Muslims from entering the United States. There have been boos from this crowd tonight, but it’s hushed as he refuses to back away from bigotry, and cheers when he’s finished.
The moderator just presumed that the right thing to do is removing Assad from power––but Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and perhaps others on that stage disagree, and believe the U.S. should focus on fighting ISIS in cooperation with Russia.
A clever question, praising Lindsey Graham in front of a hometown crowd, and then inviting Ben Carson to disagree with his plan to send 20,000 troops to fight ISIS. But it produces the usual results, with Carson offering a rambling string of vague generalizations in lieu of foreign-policy specifics.
Donald Trump’s defense of New York values may be the most skillful invocation of 9/11 on a Republican debate stage, which is saying something, since there’s nothing GOP primary candidates like to invoke more.
Trump, pressed to defend New York, falls back on 9/11. Usually, when the attacks are invoked in these debates, it’s a cheap trick. But tonight, it’s Trump’s finest moment. He reminds the audience of a moment when all Americans felt a deep solidarity with the people of his city.
Cruz is asked what he means when he accuses Trump of holding New York values. “I think most people know exactly what New York values are,” says Cruz. It’s a remarkable spectacle—a candidate for president implying that being a citizen of its largest city is somehow un-American.
Marco Rubio suggests that more people are going out and buying guns under the Obama presidency because they're afraid that the president wants to take guns away. He's not wrong. When Americans fear the government may be on the verge of confiscating guns, they rush to buy more. The latest example of that came earlier this month. Gun sales rose dramatically after the president announced executive actions aimed at expanding background checks.
The stress on the vital importance of mental-health care is a welcome development; Trump is absolutely right that states have shifted resources away from treatment in the past several decades. But better mental-health care is unlikely to curb gun violence, because very little of it is committed by the mentally ill. There’s a basic disconnect between these answers and the data.
Carson gets asked whether he thinks Hillary Clinton is an enabler of sexual misconduct because of husband Bill. He pivots to rhetorical questions about how mad everyone in the country is. "Here's the real issue: is this America anymore? Do we still have standards? Do we still have values and principles? ... We need to start once again recognizing that there is such a thing as right and wrong."
Christie claims he never supported Sotomayor or wrote a check to Planned Parenthood. Both of those claims are pretty easily debunked. But he talked about donating to Planned Parenthood in 1994; and here he is supporting Sotomayor's nomination.
And just like that, a question on Bernie Sanders. Kasich says that if Sanders is the Democratic nominee, Republicans will "win every state." But polls show that Sanders actually outperforms Clinton and is defeating Republican candidates handily.
Rubio goes after Christie for his since-vanished support for Common Core and some donations he made to Planned Parenthood. Christie shoots back. "Two years ago, he called me a conservative reformer that New Jersey needed," Christie says of Cruz. "That was before he was running against me.”
I’m not a fan of these last three questions. There’s no need to adjudicate the birther nonsense on the debate stage. And who cares if Nikki Haley appeared to take sides in a State of the Union response, or whether Donald Trump is angry? Who cares if Chris Christie is saying Marco Rubio is slimy? These are all issues that can be dealt with in the course of everyday campaigning. If Fox Business moderators are going to inject conflict into the debate, it should be in service of forcing the candidates to articulate important differences that they wouldn’t otherwise address, or that are particularly important for the American people to hear about more.
The audience here in Charleston is pretty rough on Trump, booing and jeering him. That might be because of the fact that many debate attendees are Republican National Committee members here for the winter meeting that's being held concurrently.
The camera pans to South Carolina governor Nikki Haley as Trump is asked to respond to her GOP response to the State of the Union, which called on the public not to give in to angry and divisive rhetoric. Trump seems unwilling to go in for an attack. "First of all Nikki said I'm a friend of hers," Trump starts. "We're friends, that's good." He continues on to say he's "very angry" because "our country is being run horribly.”
Is Cruz eligible to be president? Earlier today, we published a detailed legal memorandum written by Bryan Garner, editor in chief of Black's Law Review, and a distinguished research professor of law at Southern Methodist University. It’s the most thorough exploration of the legal questions I’ve seen—and tries to put the matter to rest once and for all. You can read it for yourself.
Donald Trump was a birther in the original sense—that is, he professed that he doubted President Obama’s gift certificate. The GOP electorate has made him the frontrunner anyway. So it’s interesting to see Trump get booed in this debate for raising the issue with respect to Ted Cruz. The most ingenious part of Ted Cruz’s response was to highlight that he believes missionaries born abroad would be eligible to be president of the United States. The most fascinating part of the exchange is watching Trump deal with being booed during his response.
This is really the first time we've seen Trump and Cruz spar on a primary debate stage. During the last debate, the candidate's relationship seemed to have started to fray and there was plenty of speculation that there might be a fight, but that fizzled. Now, however, the two candidates seem ready to really go after each other.
Cruz notes that some who’ve weighed in have gone so far as to suggest that both parents of a candidate would need to be born on American soil; Trump’s mother was born in Scotland. “On the issue of citizenship, Donald, I’m not going to use your mother’s birth against you. You’re an American, as is everyone else on this stage.”
Cruz gets asked about his undisclosed $750,000 loan from Goldman Sachs used to finance his election to the Senate. “Thank you for passing on that hit-piece on the front page of The New York Times,” he says. This has been a favorite tactic of Cruz’s, pivoting from the specifics of any charge he faces to attack the establishment. “Yes, I made a paperwork error, disclosing it on one piece of paper instead of the other,” he says. That’s not going to cut it. Elections experts have called it a clear violation of the rules, of the sort that’s generally sanctioned.
When Ben Carson got a question on foreign policy, he went off on a bit of a tangent. He rattled off a laundry list of threats that seems designed to show that the candidate has studied up. Hard to imagine, however, that Carson didn't lose the audience when he said that "we have enemies who are obtaining nuclear weapons that they can explode in our exo-atmosphere."
Ted Cruz has just become the first presidential candidate to highlight the fact that his critics compare him to a demonic spirit––this by way of the now familiar “the media is awful” sidestep, where GOP candidates turn any attack on them into a referendum on the media. This invariably draws applause from folks in the room at debates. I wonder how it plays with the folks at home.
Jeb Bush says that America should not be the world’s policemen. But in most every instance of controversy over whether the U.S. should deploy troops to police the behavior of other nations he favors military intervention. He doesn’t merely want the U.S. to be the world’s policeman. He wants it to be stop-and-frisk policing.
Jeb Bush goes for the jugular, attacking Hillary Clinton who he says "would be a national security mess,” adding that if she’s elected, “She might be going back and forth between the White House and the Courthouse”.
Chris Christie says that in his administration, “tin-pot mullahs” would know better than to seize American craft. In 2001, early in the administration of George W. Bush, China held 24 American airmen for 11 days, until Bush apologized. Compared to that, the prompt return of the unharmed sailors looks less like a humiliation than a triumph.
Chris Christie says that if he is the Republican nominee, Hillary Clinton won't get "within 10 miles of the White House." Fact check: Clinton owns a home in northwest D.C. which is definitely within 10 miles of the White House, so that will be a tough promise to keep.
Ted Cruz implies that if Americans are captured during his tenure, he would go to war rather than allow them to be photographed on their knees. Beyond a needless war, the result would likely be the deaths of the hypothetical prisoners. No president in history has ever behaved in the way Cruz suggests, because it is bellicose nonsense.
Politico had an interesting interview with Ted Cruz about his debate strategy, in which he admitted that he deliberately does not answer the moderator's question right away so that he can ultimately have more speaking time. He demonstrated that right off the bat, answering a question on the economy by talking about Iran's detaining of 10 U.S. Navy sailors.
Wondering where Rand Paul is? The Kentucky senator didn't qualify for tonight's primetime debate, and refused to take part in the less prestigious "happy hour" debate that wrapped earlier in the evening. Not surprisingly, the candidate will still try to make his voice heard. According to his campaign, Paul will be taking to Twitter when the debate starts to react to his rivals on the main stage.
Greetings from Charleston, where I just watched the undercard debate so you don't have to. It featured Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee—Rand Paul also qualified, but declared it beneath his dignity to participate. All three candidates had an edge of desperation as they struggled to insist they're relevant despite voters' clear lack of interest in what any of them is selling. Fiorina focused on contrasting herself with Hillary Clinton; Huckabee and Santorum both styled themselves as champions of working people. Santorum was even shoutier than usual, which is saying something. Without Lindsey Graham to crack jokes, the undercard was painfully short on entertainment value—the best line of the night was probably Santorum saying he'd take Paul's time. In short, if you missed it, you didn't miss much.
The last time the Republicans debated, nine candidates took the stage, Ben Carson was a leading contender, and George Pataki’s run for office seemed all but over. Now seven are left, Carson is an afterthought, and Pataki’s candidacy is finally over.
After a wild 12 months, the unpredictable 2016 presidential race has finally entered 2016, and it’s starting to settle down. Donald Trump sits atop the polls, with Ted Cruz a clear second. In Iowa, where voters will caucus on February 1, those roles are reversed—although Trump has lately been closing the gap. A host of establishment candidates are jostling for position behind them, waiting to shoot ahead if they stumble. Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Chris Christie are hoping to survive long enough to exploit any such opportunities.
As my colleague Russell Berman writes, one shift is that the long-simmering tensions between Trump and Cruz are finally out in the open. Trump has suggested that Cruz’s birth in Canada renders him ineligible to be president, while Cruz has attacked Trump’s “New York values,” which he declined to define other than to say that “they're not Iowa values and they're not New Hampshire values.” Whether that conflict will carry over to the debate stage, or whether they’d prefer to trade punches at a safe remove, remains to be seen.
Ben Carson’s once high-flying campaign is locked in a tailspin, from which it seems unlikely to emerge. The other four candidates are left to decide whether to set themselves apart by punching up at the frontrunners, by trying to take down each other, or by aiming to rise above the squabbling on stage.
The debate is being held in the Coliseum and Performing Arts Center in North Charleston, South Carolina. The city came to national attention last April, when Officer Michael Slager shot Walter Scott in the back as he fled, killing him. Slager, charged with murder, was released on bond last week. Ten miles away sits Emanuel A.M.E. Church. In June, Dylann Roof was welcomed to a prayer service there, sat for an hour, and then shot and killed nine. And on Tuesday night, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley used her rebuttal to the State of the Union address to remember what happened next:
We didn't turn against each other's race or religion. We turned toward God, and to the values that have long made our country the freest and greatest in the world.
The debate over the use of force by police, the question of gun violence, and the challenges of pluralism have not received much attention in the Republican debates to this point. But one reason the parties now have four early states—Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada—is to ensure that issues of regional and local salience make their presence felt on the campaign trail. That will be the case tonight, whether these questions take center stage, or become conspicuous by their absence.
Delegates in Cleveland answer a nightmare question: Would they take four more years of Barack Obama over a Hillary Clinton presidency?
CLEVELAND—It was a question no Republican here wanted to contemplate.
The query alone elicited winces, scoffs, and more than a couple threats of suicide. “I would choose to shoot myself,” one delegate from Texas replied. “You want cancer or a heart attack?” cracked another from North Carolina.
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have each been objects of near histrionic derision from Republicans for years (decades in Clinton’s case), but never more so than during the four days of the GOP’s national convention. Republicans onstage at Quicken Loans Arena and in the dozens of accompanying events have accused President Obama of literally destroying the country in his eight years in the White House. Speakers and delegates subjected Clinton to even harsher rhetoric, charging her with complicity in death and mayhem and then repeatedly chanting, “Lock her up!” from the convention floor.
Biology textbooks tell us that lichens are alliances between two organisms—a fungus and an alga. They are wrong.
In 1995, if you had told Toby Spribille that he’d eventually overthrow a scientific idea that’s been the stuff of textbooks for 150 years, he would have laughed at you. Back then, his life seemed constrained to a very different path. He was raised in a Montana trailer park, and home-schooled by what he now describes as a “fundamentalist cult.” At a young age, he fell in love with science, but had no way of feeding that love. He longed to break away from his roots and get a proper education.
At 19, he got a job at a local forestry service. Within a few years, he had earned enough to leave home. His meager savings and non-existent grades meant that no American university would take him, so Spribille looked to Europe.
It’s known as a modern-day hub of progressivism, but its past is one of exclusion.
PORTLAND, Ore.— Victor Pierce has worked on the assembly line of a Daimler Trucks North America plant here since 1994. But he says that in recent years he’s experienced things that seem straight out of another time. White co-workers have challenged him to fights, mounted “hangman’s nooses” around the factory, referred to him as “boy” on a daily basis, sabotaged his work station by hiding his tools, carved swastikas in the bathroom, and written the word “nigger” on walls in the factory, according to allegations filed in a complaint to the Multnomah County Circuit Court in February of 2015.
Pierce is one of six African Americans working in the Portland plant whom the lawyer Mark Morrell is representing in a series of lawsuits against Daimler Trucks North America. The cases have been combined and a trial is scheduled for January of 2017.
Taking over Stephen Colbert’s Late Show to blast Fox News, the former ‘Daily Show’ host was unapologetically partisan while also seeking to build bridges.
There are so many things that make this election season one without precedent. Why, then, has a faction of late-night punditworld responded with a reversion? Earlier this week, Stephen Colbert resurrected his satirical “Stephen Colbert” character, and then, last night, he invited the retired Jon Stewart to take over his Late Night desk for a classic 10-minute Daily Show rant. The biggest shock: The routines have felt vital and fresh, not mere nostalgia bait or retreads.
The reason for the throwback to golden-years Comedy Central fake news probably lies in politics itself. Stewart’s and Colbert’s original heydays were during the George W. Bush era; their entire personas are based not on indiscriminately satirizing the entire world’s absurdities but rather the particular absurdities of America’s right wing. Under Obama, that meant a certain amount of punching down. Donald Trump’s Republican National Convention, though, offered an even more unvarnished display of popular conservative thinking, attitudes, opinions, and bluster to hold America’s attention than, well, the last RNC. Colbert’s retitled program this week conveyed his glee at the prospect: “The 2016 Trumpublican Donational Conventrump Starring Donald Trump as the Republican Party* *May Contain Traces of Republican.” (His comparatively deflated DNC title: “The 2016 Democratic National Convincing, A Technically Historic Event: Death. Taxes. Hillary.”)
This week, the co-author of Donald Trump’s autobiography said in The New Yorker that if he were writing The Art of the Deal today, it would be a very different book with a very different title: The Sociopath.
To title a person’s life story with that label is a serious accusation, and one worth considering. The stakes are high. Tony Schwartz, the writer of the best-selling book, said that he “genuinely believe[s] that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes, there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.” In that light, Schwartz said he feels “deep remorse” at having “put lipstick on a pig.”
That seemed to me to be something of a contradiction to the charge of sociopathy, as pigs have been found to show signs of empathy. If you call a pig by name, it will come and play with you, reciprocating affection like a dog. So which is it, pig or sociopath?
Narcissism, disagreeableness, grandiosity—a psychologist investigates how Trump’s extraordinary personality might shape his possible presidency.
In 2006, Donald Trump made plans to purchase the Menie Estate, near Aberdeen, Scotland, aiming to convert the dunes and grassland into a luxury golf resort. He and the estate’s owner, Tom Griffin, sat down to discuss the transaction at the Cock & Bull restaurant. Griffin recalls that Trump was a hard-nosed negotiator, reluctant to give in on even the tiniest details. But, as Michael D’Antonio writes in his recent biography of Trump, Never Enough, Griffin’s most vivid recollection of the evening pertains to the theatrics. It was as if the golden-haired guest sitting across the table were an actor playing a part on the London stage.
“It was Donald Trump playing Donald Trump,” Griffin observed. There was something unreal about it.
Fractured by internal conflict and foreign intervention for centuries, Afghanistan made several tentative steps toward modernization in the mid-20th century. In the 1950s and 1960s, some of the biggest strides were made toward a more liberal and westernized lifestyle, while trying to maintain a respect for more conservative factions. Though officially a neutral nation, Afghanistan was courted and influenced by the U.S. and Soviet Union during the Cold War, accepting Soviet machinery and weapons, and U.S. financial aid. This time was a brief, relatively peaceful era, when modern buildings were constructed in Kabul alongside older traditional mud structures, when burqas became optional for a time, and the country appeared to be on a path toward a more open, prosperous society. Progress was halted in the 1970s, as a series of bloody coups, invasions, and civil wars began, continuing to this day, reversing almost all of the steps toward modernization taken in the 50s and 60s. Keep in mind, when looking at these images, that the average life expectancy for Afghans born in 1960 was 31, so the vast majority of those pictured have likely passed on since.
One day in February 2009, a 13-year-old boy named Sasha Egger started thinking that people were coming to hurt his family. His mother, Helen, watched with mounting panic that evening as her previously healthy son forgot the rules to Uno, his favorite card game, while playing it. She began making frantic phone calls the next morning. By then, Sasha was shuffling aimlessly around the yard, shredding paper and stuffing it in his pockets. “He looked like an old person with dementia,” Helen later told me.
That afternoon, Sasha was admitted to the hospital, where he saw a series of specialists. One thought Sasha might have bipolar disorder and put him on antipsychotics, but the drugs didn’t help. Helen, a child psychiatrist at Duke University, knew that psychiatric conditions develop gradually. Sasha’s symptoms had appeared almost overnight, and some of them—including dilated pupils and slurred speech—suggested not mental illness but neurological dysfunction. When she and her husband, Daniel, raised these issues, though, one doctor seemed to think they were in denial.
Over its two-decade history, the British comedy has made an absurd comic spectacle out of the inevitability of women aging.
The 1990s were something of a golden decade for portrayals of women segueing angstily into middle age, Smirnoff bottle in one hand, self-help book in the other. In 1995, CBS premiered Cybill, a zingy sitcom starring Cybill Shepherd as a twice-divorced actress facing the twilight of her mediocre Hollywood career with the help of her best friend Maryann (Christine Baranski), a fabulously wealthy, comically drunken divorcee. In 1996, Helen Fielding published Bridget Jones’s Diary, the first-person account of a hapless, luckless 30-something who subsists on Chardonnay, Marlboro Lights, and cheese while pratfalling from one public shaming to another. But before either of those, all the way back in 1992, there was Absolutely Fabulous.
In his speech to the Republican National Convention, the presidential nominee revealed a deeply flawed political strategy.
Donald Trump’s supporters yearn for the country as it was and fear the country as it is. Tonight’s powerfully dystopian Trump nomination acceptance address will touch them at their deepest emotional core. It will ignite a passionate spasm of assent from those many, many Americans—mostly but not exclusively white, mostly but not exclusively less affluent and educated—who experience today as worse than yesterday, and anticipate a tomorrow worse than today.
Don’t think it won’t work. It will work. The speech will be viewed and viewed again, on cable news and social media. The travails and troubles of this dysfunctional convention will recede, even if their implications and consequences linger. Trump’s poll numbers will probably rise. Small-dollar donations will surely flow. Many wavering Republicans will come home—even if the home to which they now return has changed in ways that render it almost indistinguishable from the dwelling it used to be.