Marco Rubio won the first GOP presidential debate on Thursday night. He was confident, energetic, eloquent, knowledgeable, and figured out the way to handle Donald Trump. The importance of debates is vastly overrated, and it’s a long, long time before the first caucus in Iowa, but Rubio proved he belongs in the first tier of presidential contenders, and will be in this race for the long haul.
Will Joe Biden run for president? He’s expected to announce his decision later this month, after a family vacation, but the political class is already excited at the prospect. I’d enjoy a third Biden presidential bid—he’s far more watchable than Hillary Clinton—and I doubt I’m alone. He’s a great political actor, a ham. Imagine him winning the nomination and debating Republican frontrunner Donald Trump. The dueling hair would make it a spectacular encounter.
As he deliberates, though, Biden must be worrying about recent history. The last three presidential cycles all had contestants who announced their candidacy in the summer prior to the Iowa caucus. And all three failed. Biden would be in a similar situation.
Two decades ago, in the spring of 1996, Newsweek magazine described a group of voters it called the “radical middle.” Formerly known as the Silent Majority, then the Reagan Democrats, these voters had supported Ross Perot in 1992, and were hoping the Texas billionaire would run again. Voters in the radical middle, Newsweek wrote, “see the traditional political system itself as the country’s chief problem.”
The last week has provided a sad but worthwhile opportunity to assess the global elite, the heads of state and government, the bankers and journalists and celebrities, as they worked overtime to preserve a veneer of progress and stability. From Athens to Beijing, D.C. to Vienna, the desire has been to avoid tough decisions, to prolong deliberation, to pretend as though dangerous emerging trends do not exist. To take action, to provoke, to choose, to commit, to fight, to admit reality would be far too disruptive, would cost too much, and would endanger the social positions our best and brightest have worked so mightily to attain. Better for them to wait things out.
So she doesn’t know how to use a fax machine. Big whoop. If there is a “smoking gun” in the 3,000 pages of Hillary Clinton emails released by the State Department this week, it’s not in her technological ineptitude, or her calling her hairdresser “Santa,” or her continuing to encourage Sid Blumenthal to offer bad advice, or her fetish for ice tea, or her bizarre demand that John Podesta wear socks to bed. The most revealing dispatch, the one dripping with unintended irony and status detail and sanctimony dressed as social conscience, is the email Lynn Forester de Rothschild, centimillionaire, addressed to Clinton on the morning of August 26, 2009. It is 122 preening and obsequious words long.
Hillary Clinton is a woman without conviction, a woman who doesn’t know. She was first lady of a southern state, she sat on the board of directors of Wal-Mart from 1986 to 1992—but is there any record of her voicing opposition to Wal-Mart’s labor practices, of her opposing the sale of the Confederate battle flag? Until recently, has there been any moment in the decades following her appointment to that board, in the many years in which she has been egregiously prominent in public life, when she led on, was prominently identified with, the issue of the flag or racial matters in general?
By the summer of 2013, President Obama had convinced several key Israelis that he wasn’t bluffing about using force against the Iranian nuclear program. Then he failed to enforce his red line against Syrian dictator Bashar Assad—and the Israelis realized they’d been snookered. Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, recalls the shock inside his government. “Everyone went quiet,” he said in a recent interview. “An eerie quiet. Everyone understood that that was not an option, that we’re on our own.”
Picturesque: a large, celebratory crowd listens to inspiring oratory near the shore of Lake Champlain. The speaker is Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, announcing his candidacy for president of the United States. It’s a fiery, detailed, leftwing speech—about what you’d expect from this 73-year-old self-described democratic socialist and grandpa.
There it was—the classic Hillary charm. Close to a month had passed since the Democratic frontrunner answered questions from the press. So this week, when reporters were invited to gawk at the spectacle of Clinton sitting with “everyday Iowans,” Ed Henry of Fox wanted to know: Would the former secretary of state take a moment to respond to inquiries from non-stage-managed reporters?