One should talk about the past and the other about the future.
For tonight's highly anticipated presidential debate, I decided to skip right to the end. Here are two closing statements for the candidates that basically reflect their best arguments. For Obama, that his first term was considerably more successful than people give him credit for; and for Romney, that the president has failed to offer a compelling new agenda for his second term.
OBAMA'S BEST CASE: SEE THAT RECOVERY? I BUILT THAT
The Boy Scouts of America have a simple rule. "Leave it better than you found it."
It's an easy promise to make. But recently, presidents have have a hard time keeping it. The previous guy in this job inherited a surplus and left us with the Great Recession.
When I entered office, the U.S. economy was in flames. My administration successfully put out the worst of the fire and we've been pouring as much water as we can for the last three years. I'd like to share credit with the Republicans, but you know what? They don't deserve any. The recovery you've felt in the last two years: We built that. The other party just stood around saying "no."
The stimulus I signed over Republican objections set a floor under the recession. The economy started growing just six months later. Unemployment insurance that I made a priority over Republican objections helped millions of families buy food and diapers. But not just that. It also stimulated the economy by putting government spending to efficient use in the hands of the neediest families who were most likely to spend. For the last year, Republicans in the House have fought to slash government spending in the face of a slow recovery. According to every macroeconomists I've consulted, these cuts would have slowed growth in the next quarters. I fought them. I prevented them. And because of that, the recovery is on track.
Today, there are more Americans employed in the private sector than on my first day in office. The S&P 500 is up nearly 70% since my first month. Corporate profits are at an all-time high. Some people ask: Are you better off than you were four years ago? Well, if "you" are part of this tremendous business recovery or if you are among the wealthiest Americans, there is no question. You are better off. And you are better off because we put out that fire.
But I'm a realist. I know the answer to that question -- are you better off? -- isn't as clear for everybody. It's not as clear cut for a single mom trying to send a kid to university when the cost of public college is rising faster than her paycheck, while state cuts push up tuition. It's not as clear for the millions of families where one parent can't find work or is fighting an illness without health care.
The Republicans have an answer to these problems. It's "cut and pray." Now, I'm a religious man, but we need a better answer than prayer, alone. That's why I'm fighting to preserve college assistance and affordable student loans. It's why I'm fighting to save unemployment insurance and programs for the low-income that would be decimated in Romney's budget. It's why I'm fighting to save a health care program that covers tens of millions of people by the end of the decade.
So, here's the deal I'm striking. Can I ask the folks who know they are better off than they were four years ago to help the folks who are still struggling? I know Americans. From the single-mother waitress to the million-dollar entrepreneur, they are not selfish. They're smart. They know a good deal when they see it. This is a good deal.
After four years, I've left the country better than when I found it. And I'm not ready to leave just yet! I've still got work to do. We all do. And, with your vote, with another four years, I promise to you that it will keep getting better.
ROMNEY'S BEST CASE: OBAMA HAS NO FUTURE
You can learn a lot about somebody by listening. And listening to the president tonight and for the last few months, I've learned something important. Have you noticed that he can't help but speak in the past tense? It's because, when it comes to the future, he's got nothing to say.
The president is fond of telling us how he put out the fire of the Great Recession, how he passed health care, how he fought Republicans. That's all fine. But we don't need a fire fighter in chief. We need a leader. And the president has failed the most important test of leadership: trust.
He said he would bring Washington together. He failed. He said he would keep unemployment under 8 percent. He failed. He said he would cut the deficit. He failed. Washington is more divided than ever, unemployment spent 43 months over 8 percent, and the deficit has topped $1 trillion each year of his administration. Now he's asking you for another four years ... even though he has practically no new ideas for a second term! My friends, the record is long enough. And it's no good.
My critics love to complain that I'm not specific enough. That I don't use enough numbers. Well, I've got a number for you today. It's 2030.
In the last two years, job creation has been so slow that we're not on pace to close the jobs gap until the year 2030. Folks, stop for a minute and think about that. It means that if you're 40 years old today, the pace of the so-called Obama Recovery won't get us back to normal until you are at least 60 years old. You know what you're getting with this president. It is the slow and steady creep of mediocrity, plain and simple. Economic growth and job growth in 2012 has been almost identical to 2011. That's the Obama economy. You've seen it. You know it. An if you're satisfied with it -- if you're alright with voting for 2030 -- then go ahead and vote for 2030.
But if you want to vote this year, if you want to vote for 2012, then I've got a plan. It will create jobs. It will simplify your taxes. It will grow the economy. You might disagree with it. You might think it goes too far here, and isn't ambitious enough there. That's okay. At least I've got a plan. And I'm committed to doing what this president isn't: Going to Washington and getting things done.
In a major upset, the Democratic candidate prevailed in the deeply conservative state.
In a major upset, Democrat Doug Jones won the Alabama Senate special election on Tuesday to fill the seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The last time Alabama sent a Democrat to the Senate was in 1992.
The Associated Press called the race for Jones just before 10:30 p.m. eastern.
Alabama is a deeply conservative state. But the race unexpectedly became competitive after Republican Roy Moore became embroiled in allegations of past sexual misconduct involving teenage girls. The result is a stunning victory for the Democratic Party, which found itself locked out of power in Washington after the 2016 presidential election.
Flipping a Senate seat narrows the already razor-thin Republican majority in the chamber, and will make it harder for Republicans to pass any significant legislation. It might even jeopardize the Republican tax overhaul effort currently underway in Congress. Democrats face an uphill battle to win back the Senate in 2018, but winning a seat in the Alabama race will make their fight that much easier. Jones will hold the seat until 2020.
There’s a fiction at the heart of the debate over entitlements: The carefully cultivated impression that beneficiaries are simply receiving back their “own” money.
One day in 1984, Kurt Vonnegut called.
I was ditching my law school classes to work on the presidential campaign of Walter Mondale, the Democratic candidate against Ronald Reagan, when one of those formerly-ubiquitous pink telephone messages was delivered to me saying that Vonnegut had called, asking to speak to one of Mondale’s speechwriters.
All sorts of people called to talk to the speechwriters with all sorts of whacky suggestions; this certainly had to be the most interesting. I stared at the 212 phone number on the pink slip, picked up a phone, and dialed.
A voice, so gravelly and deep that it seemed to lie at the outer edge of the human auditory range, rasped, “Hello.” I introduced myself. There was a short pause, as if Vonnegut were fixing his gaze on me from the other end of the line, then he spoke.
Russia's strongman president has many Americans convinced of his manipulative genius. He's really just a gambler who won big.
I. The Hack
The large, sunny room at Volgograd State University smelled like its contents: 45 college students, all but one of them male, hunched over keyboards, whispering and quietly clacking away among empty cans of Juicy energy drink. “It looks like they’re just picking at their screens, but the battle is intense,” Victor Minin said as we sat watching them.
Clustered in seven teams from universities across Russia, they were almost halfway into an eight-hour hacking competition, trying to solve forensic problems that ranged from identifying a computer virus’s origins to finding secret messages embedded in images. Minin was there to oversee the competition, called Capture the Flag, which had been put on by his organization, the Association of Chief Information Security Officers, or ARSIB in Russian. ARSIB runs Capture the Flag competitions at schools all over Russia, as well as massive, multiday hackathons in which one team defends its server as another team attacks it. In April, hundreds of young hackers participated in one of them.
The president attacked a senator who has emerged as a crusader against all manner of sexual misbehavior by political leaders.
Just after 8:00 on Tuesday morning, President Trump whipped out his phone and fired off this incendiary, insinuating tweet:
Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office ‘begging’ for campaign donations not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!
It’s hardly surprising that Trump is miffed at Gillibrand. On Monday, the gentlewoman from New York publicly called on the president to step down in light of the multiple accusations of harassment and assault swirling around him. Having long pressed for the military to address its sexual-assault problem, Gillibrand has emerged more recently as a crusader against all manner of sexual misbehavior by political leaders: She was the first Senate Democrat to call on her Minnesota colleague Al Franken to step down, and she contends that elected officials absolutely should be held to higher standards than regular folks.
A good marriage is no guarantee against infidelity.
“Most descriptions of troubled marriages don’t seem to fit my situation,” Priya insists. “Colin and I have a wonderful relationship. Great kids, no financial stresses, careers we love, great friends. He is a phenom at work, fucking handsome, attentive lover, fit, and generous to everyone, including my parents. My life is good.” Yet Priya is having an affair. “Not someone I would ever date—ever, ever, ever. He drives a truck and has tattoos. It’s so clichéd, it pains me to say it out loud. It could ruin everything I’ve built.”
Priya is right. Few events in the life of a couple, except illness and death, carry such devastating force. For years, I have worked as a therapist with hundreds of couples who have been shattered by infidelity. And my conversations about affairs have not been confined within the cloistered walls of my therapy practice; they’ve happened on airplanes, at dinner parties, at conferences, at the nail salon, with colleagues, with the cable guy, and of course, on social media. From Pittsburgh to Buenos Aires, Delhi to Paris, I have been conducting an open-ended survey about infidelity.
Winning images and honorable mentions from the four categories: Wildlife, Landscapes, Aerials, and Underwater.
National Geographic has announced the winners of its annual photo competition, with the Grand Prize Winner Jayaprakash Joghee Bojan receiving a prize of $7,500 for his image of an orangutan in Borneo. National Geographic was once again kind enough to let us display the winning images and honorable mentions here from the four categories: Wildlife, Landscapes, Aerials, and Underwater.
Russian billionaire Yuri Milner says if the space rock 'Oumuamua is giving off radio signals, his team will be able to detect them—and they may get the results within days.
The email about “a most peculiar object” in the solar system arrived in Yuri Milner’s inbox last week.
Milner, the Russian billionaire behind Breakthrough Listen, a $100 million search for intelligent extraterrestrial life, had already heard about the peculiar object. ‘Oumuamua barreled into view in October, the first interstellar object seen in our solar system.
Astronomers around the world chased after the mysterious space rock with their telescopes, collecting as much data as they could as it sped away. Their observations revealed a truly unusual object with puzzling properties. Scientists have long predicted an interstellar visitor would someday coast into our corner of the universe, but not something like this.
Top picks from a year of personal stories, protest songs, and escapism
In a year when world events seemed to push pop culture aside—or else become pop culture itself—the albums that hit most deeply for me were about individuals, not issues. Many of the picks below are autobiographies of sorts, and even the more “political” records blend their songs of social crackups with ones of personal breakups. The other albums here offer much-needed escape, whether with guitar solos, rave immersion, or, in one case, a new word game: “raindrop / drop top.”
1. Kendrick Lamar, Damn
The title of Damn refers in part to a divine curse, which in turn ties in with the Black Hebrew Israelite theology the Compton rapper flirts with throughout his latest masterpiece. But Lamar raps about damnation as not only a spiritual state, but also an inheritance of history, of society, and of one’s own past. The dizzying “DNA”establishes the controlling metaphor: Each person is a double helix of information and attributes, containing War and Peace and war and peace. The album then makes clear he’s not interested in drawing cute contradictions, but in drawing out truth—or rather, truths next to truths next to truths.
H.R. McMaster previewed the administration’s new plan on Tuesday, which offers a striking contrast to the visions of other recent presidents.
The Trump administration unveils a National Security Strategy next week, but National-Security Adviser H.R. McMaster provided an advance glimpse of the plan on Tuesday.
A helpful way to understand where this still-new administration is leading is to compare McMaster’s bullet-pointed speech to the final Strategy documents released by two previous administrations, in 2015 and 2006, and note what is changing. McMaster spoke at a Washington conference hosted by Policy Exchange, a U.K. think tank that I chaired from 2014 until earlier this year. Granted, his short speech inevitably abridged the long-form document. Yet even allowing for that, the differences can be seen.
The Obama administration’s 2015 document addressed in some detail epidemics and climate change. The Bush administration committed the United States to supporting human dignity, opening societies, and supporting the building of democracy. The main lines of the Trump approach jettison these concerns. If McMaster fairly summarized the new approach, the United States will soon formally commit itself to a lonelier and less generous course.
Students don't seem to be getting much out of higher education.
I have been in school for more than 40 years. First preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, junior high, and high school. Then a bachelor’s degree at UC Berkeley, followed by a doctoral program at Princeton. The next step was what you could call my first “real” job—as an economics professor at George Mason University.
Thanks to tenure, I have a dream job for life. Personally, I have no reason to lash out at our system of higher education. Yet a lifetime of experience, plus a quarter century of reading and reflection, has convinced me that it is a big waste of time and money. When politicians vow to send more Americans to college, I can’t help gasping, “Why? You want us to waste even more?”