On a day when the Republican nominee-in-waiting should have been doing a victory lap, things didn't quite go as planned.
Mitt Romney adopted a new defense of George W. Bush in Maryland on Wednesday. Getty Images
ARBUTUS, MARYLAND -- Mitt Romney said Wednesday that former President George W. Bush deserves credit for averting total economic collapse, not President Obama.
Romney delivered a passionate defense of the 2008 bank bailouts at a town hall here, aligning himself with the still-unpopular former president in the process.
"I keep hearing the president say that he's responsible for keeping America from going into a Great Depression," Romney said. "No, no, no. That was President George W. Bush and [then-Treasury Secretary] Hank Paulson."
Though Romney has previously spoken in support of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the full-throated defense, and the credit he gave to Bush, were surprising and seemed to open a new front in what's likely to be a major theme of the general election -- the relitigating of Bush's record in office. Democrats frequently point to Bush's policies as the source of the economy's continued tribulations, while Republicans say Obama hasn't done enough, or hasn't done the right things, to turn it around.
During the 2008 crash, Romney said, "President Bush and Hank Paulson said, 'We've got to do something to show we're not going to let the whole system go out of business.' I think they were right. I know some people disagree with me, but I think they were right to do that."
Though the bailout was seen as a necessary emergency measure at the time -- and was supported by a broad bipartisan consensus that included then-Senator Obama -- "bailouts" have since become a dirty word and one of the animating hatreds of the Tea Party.
Romney might have been inspired by his morning's interaction with another member of the Bush family. Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and powerful GOP force, endorsed Romney Wednesday morning, in a powerful signal that the Republican establishment is ready to anoint Romney as the nominee in the wake of his big win in Illinois on Tuesday.
Romney also addressed the press after his town hall to respond to the kerfuffle surrounding his adviser Eric Fehrnstrom's comment comparing the campaign to an Etch A Sketch toy.
It was a powerfully resonant image for those predisposed to see Romney as a man without principles. His opponents seized on the comment as proof that Romney's conservative primary positions were a mere put-on and would swiftly disappear in a general-election contest. A spokeswoman for Rick Santorum, Alice Stewart, even showed up at the town hall here, in a blue-collar town southwest of Baltimore, holding a toy Etch A Sketch.
The comment, Stewart told reporters outside the American Legion post where Romney's event was held, "acknowledged our worst fears" about Romney.
Romney, in a one-question news conference after the town hall concluded, said the comment was about campaign operations, not philosophy.
"Organizationally, a general-election campaign takes on a different profile," he said. "The issues I'm running on will be exactly the same. I've run as a conservative Republican. I was a conservative Republican governor. I'll be running as a conservative Republican nominee -- er, excuse me, at that point, hopefully, nominee for president. The policies and positions are the same."
On a day Romney ought to have been doing a victory lap, his status as the nominee all but assured, it's safe to say things didn't go as planned.
Even an attempt at a joke with a sympathetic questioner fell a little flat. The man said he was a businessman too, with the only difference being that Romney talks about having failed, and "I haven't failed yet."
"You will," Romney assured him. "It's the nature of the private sector."
The second reason is subtler, but perhaps equally significant. To pay for a permanent tax cut on corporations, the plan raises taxes on colleges and college students, which is part of a broader Republican war on higher education in the U.S. This is a big deal, because in the last half-century, the most important long-term driver of wage growth has arguably been college.
There’s a manifest need to lower corporate tax rates—but instead of building consensus, the GOP is pursuing a bill that’s likely to be rolled back even if it passes.
America badly needs corporate tax reform.
The United States pretends to tax corporations heavily. But those heavy tax rates are perforated by randomly generous rules such that many tax-efficient firms pay nothing at all, or even receive money back from the U.S. Treasury. The result is heavy unfairness between industries and firms, an unfairness that many economists believe systematically distorts investment decisions. U.S. productivity growth has been sluggish since the Great Recession—and had actually turned negative by the beginning of 2016.
At the same time, the corporate share of the federal-tax burden has dwindled over the years and decades. More and more of the cost of government now falls upon the payroll tax, which weighs most heavily on low- and middle-income wage earners. These Americans are suffering stagnating incomes, very probably because of the poor productivity growth of the past half-decade.
The mass murderer, who died on Sunday at 83, turned one following into another.
“All of us are excited by what we most deplore,” Martin Amis wrote in theLondon Review of Books in 1980, reviewing Joan Didion’s The White Album. In the title piece in that collection, Didion’s second, the essayist recalls sitting in her sister-in-law’s swimming pool in Beverly Hills on August 9, 1969, when the phone rang. The friend on the line had heard that across town there had been a spate of murders at a house rented by the director Roman Polanski, on Cielo Drive. Early reports were frenzied, shocking, lurid, and incorrect. “I remember all of the day’s misinformation very clearly,” Didion writes, “and I also remember this, and wish I did not: I remember that no one was surprised.”
The killings orchestrated that summer by Charles Manson, who died on Sunday at the age of 83, after spending the past 48 years in prison, occupy a unique space in the American cultural psyche. All of the elements of the Tate–LaBianca murders, as they came to be known, seemed designed for maximum tabloid impact. There was the actor Sharon Tate, luminously beautiful and eight months pregnant, who was stabbed to death with four others at a rental home in Hollywood. There were the killers—young women,Manson acolytes corrupted by a sinister cult figure. There were the drugs, abundant both on the Manson Family ranch and at the house on Cielo Drive. There was the nebulous chatter about satanism and witchcraft and race wars ready to erupt. And, as Didion captured, there was a sense that something was rotten from the Hollywood Hills to Haight-Ashbury—that the Summer of Love had long since curdled into paranoia and depravity.
How did Andrew Anglin go from being an antiracist vegan to the alt-right’s most vicious troll and propagandist—and how might he be stopped?
On December 16, 2016, Tanya Gersh answered her phone and heard gunshots. Startled, she hung up. Gersh, a real-estate agent who lives in Whitefish, Montana, assumed it was a prank call. But the phone rang again. More gunshots. Again, she hung up. Another call. This time, she heard a man’s voice: “This is how we can keep the Holocaust alive,” he said. “We can bury you without touching you.”
When Gersh put down the phone, her hands were shaking. She was one of only about 100 Jews in Whitefish and the surrounding Flathead Valley, and she knew there were white nationalists and “sovereign citizens” in the area. But Gersh had lived in Whitefish for more than 20 years, since just after college, and had always considered the scenic ski town an idyllic place. She didn’t even have a key to her house—she’d never felt the need to lock her door. Now that sense of security was about to be shattered.
Audience fatigue has clearly set in for the once-bankable novelty of the franchise team-up.
When The Avengers opened in theaters in May 2012, it was a genuinely unusual offering for viewers—a film that both was and wasn’t a sequel, uniting the characters of various Marvel movies (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America) for a new story about them functioning as a team. The novelty was such that box-office sales far outstripped previous efforts: The Avengers opened to a stunning $207 million, far above the previous Marvel Studios record ($128 million for Iron Man 2).
Since then, that’s been the sales plan for any “cinematic universe,” the comic-book storytelling template that Marvel applied to its films and that other studios have since scrambled to copy: Invest in big blockbusters that introduce your stars, then spend even more on the movie that sees them all sharing the same screen. That’s why Warner Bros. invested a reported $300 million in Justice League, making it one of the most expensive films ever shot. Here, finally, fans could see all of DC’s famous superheroes—Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, plus new faces like The Flash and Aquaman—hanging out with one another.
From the moment that LiAngelo Ball—UCLA basketball player, son of LaVar, and brother of NBA rookie Lonzo—was arrested in China for shoplifting from a Louis Vuitton store in Hangzhou, a collision between LaVar Ball and Donald Trump, two of the most outrageous, larger-than-life, and controversial figures in the contemporary United States, neither of whom can ever just let anything go, seemed inevitable. Now it’s erupting just in time for Thanksgiving break, ensuring that neither sports nor politics is safe family-conversation material, and again showing how Trump conflates himself and the American state.
Should you drink more coffee? Should you take melatonin? Can you train yourself to need less sleep? A physician’s guide to sleep in a stressful age.
During residency, Iworked hospital shifts that could last 36 hours, without sleep, often without breaks of more than a few minutes. Even writing this now, it sounds to me like I’m bragging or laying claim to some fortitude of character. I can’t think of another type of self-injury that might be similarly lauded, except maybe binge drinking. Technically the shifts were 30 hours, the mandatory limit imposed by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, but we stayed longer because people kept getting sick. Being a doctor is supposed to be about putting other people’s needs before your own. Our job was to power through.
The shifts usually felt shorter than they were, because they were so hectic. There was always a new patient in the emergency room who needed to be admitted, or a staff member on the eighth floor (which was full of late-stage terminally ill people) who needed me to fill out a death certificate. Sleep deprivation manifested as bouts of anger and despair mixed in with some euphoria, along with other sensations I’ve not had before or since. I remember once sitting with the family of a patient in critical condition, discussing an advance directive—the terms defining what the patient would want done were his heart to stop, which seemed likely to happen at any minute. Would he want to have chest compressions, electrical shocks, a breathing tube? In the middle of this, I had to look straight down at the chart in my lap, because I was laughing. This was the least funny scenario possible. I was experiencing a physical reaction unrelated to anything I knew to be happening in my mind. There is a type of seizure, called a gelastic seizure, during which the seizing person appears to be laughing—but I don’t think that was it. I think it was plain old delirium. It was mortifying, though no one seemed to notice.
New projects in the shells of former Sears warehouses reveal much about America’s urban history—and its future.
The collapse of retail has left empty department stores scattered across the American landscape. It’s been especially hard for Sears, the once mighty retailer. But while the shells of the chain’s big-box stores sit empty in suburban and exurban strip malls, a few relics of the company’s past are now thriving for the first time in decades.
In the 1920s, Sears built several “plants” across the country. These were unfathomably large warehouses and distribution centers with ground-floor stores, built when Sears was primarily a mail-order company. As urban areas suffered and depopulated in the middle of the 20th century, so did these massive buildings. But today, six of the seven remaining plants have been resurrected in the image of the contemporary city. The first wave of rehabilitations came in the late 1990s, when Boston’s plant was converted to the Landmark shopping center and offices, and Dallas’s plant became loft-style apartments. Seattle’s plant, like an imperial palace retooled for a conquering emperor, became the global headquarters for Starbucks.
Feminists saved the 42nd president of the United States in the 1990s. They were on the wrong side of history; is it finally time to make things right?
The most remarkable thing about the current tide of sexual assault and harassment accusations is not their number. If every woman in America started talking about the things that happen during the course of an ordinary female life, it would never end. Nor is it the power of the men involved: History instructs us that for countless men, the ability to possess women sexually is not a spoil of power; it’s the point of power. What’s remarkable is that these women are being believed.
Most of them don’t have police reports or witnesses or physical evidence. Many of them are recounting events that transpired years—sometimes decades—ago. In some cases, their accusations are validated by a vague, carefully couched quasi-admission of guilt; in others they are met with outright denial. It doesn’t matter. We believe them. Moreover, we have finally come to some kind of national consensus about the workplace; it naturally fosters a level of romance and flirtation, but the line between those impulses and the sexual predation of a boss is clear.
Berlin suddenly looks unstable—just like a lot of other places.
Angela Merkel is traditionally known as Germany’s “safe pair of hands,” but when government-coalition talks unexpectedly collapsed late Sunday night after just four weeks, her future as the country’s chancellor was suddenly in question.
It began just before midnight local time, when the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) party announced that it would no longer take part in coalition talks to form Germany’s next government. Though Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party and its Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) sister party won the largest share of votes during the country’s general election in September, they failed to win enough seats to govern on their own. Having ruled out forming a coalition with the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), the third-largest party, Merkel’s party entered into coalition talks with two smaller parties, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens, in hopes of forming a “Jamaica” coalition (called Jamaica because the parties’ colors of black, yellow, and green, respectively, correspond to those of the Jamaican flag).