A footnote: Hillary Clinton’s prominence points up the remarkable shallowness of the Democratic bench. Whether or not she chooses to run, the supply of plausible alternatives is shockingly thin. The Republicans have an ample roster of men (and only men) who are readily imaginable as nominees, even if thinking about some of them as Presidents (step forward, Ted Cruz) requires thinking about the unthinkable. On the other side, there’s Joe Biden, our septuagenarian Vice-President. There’s Andrew Cuomo—another legacy case. After that, the list drops off rather sharply. Martin O’Malley, governor of Maryland? Sherrod Brown, senator from Ohio? Alec Baldwin? Who else? Anyone? The floor is open for nominations.
“We did fumble the ball,” President Obama said on Thursday, when he came out to talk about the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act. The day before, the Department of Health and Human Services had released the number of people who had actually enrolled in new plans: a hundred and six thousand, and only twenty-six thousand through the federal Web site, healthcare.gov. There are forty million uninsured people in America. And there are more reports of cancellation letters, citing Obamacare, than of ones from insurance companies welcoming families in. When the bill was debated, Obama had said, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” Now he had to walk back from part of Obamacare to make that true...CONTINUE READING >>
There are appealing versions of the scenario in which a cryptographer has an amateur interest in escapology, and re-enacts Harry Houdini’s tricks. Then there is the sad one. The partly decomposed body of a British G.C.H.Q. code-breaker, assigned to work with MI6, was found in a padlocked red duffel bag in the bathtub of his own apartment, in the Pimlico section of London, in the summer of 2010. The spy’s name was Gareth Williams, and he was said to be very good at math. His body was naked, curled up; it’s not clear how he died. On Wednesday, after an inquest, two more years of police investigation, and a tally of the spies who might need anonymity before they testified (forty of them), London’s Metropolitan Police said that they had an answer, or at least were done: it looked to them like an accident...CONTINUE READING >>
“I didn’t even have to go into the room to see who it was,” a man calling himself Morgan Jones told Lara Logan, of “60 Minutes,” on October 27th, remembering how he had glimpsed a body through the glass in a door. It was September 11, 2012, the night four American diplomats were killed in Benghazi.
JONES: I knew who it was immediately. LOGAN: Who was it? JONES: It was the Ambassador, dead. Yeah, shocking.
Logan looks shocked. And then, a few minutes later, when Jones—“a pseudonym he’s using for his own safety,” Logan says—reminisces about scaling a twelve-foot wall in a compound being overrun by members of Al Qaeda, she looks impressed. He encountered a terrorist, but, he says, “As I got closer, I just hit him with the butt of the rifle in the face.”...CONTINUE READING >>
On Wednesday, Pope Francis went into St. Peter’s Square, where a crowd had gathered, and saw a pilgrim who has certainly been met in his life with averted gazes, and worse. His skin was covered with hundreds, maybe thousands, of bulbous tumors that contorted his features. Francis embraced him, touched his face, and prayed with him. There is a picture of him kissing the man’s head, where there is no unmarked skin and tumors push through his thin hair. (This is the result of a disease called neurofibromatosis.) The image was electrifying, in a way that mercy can be. But it took on more significance as a stage in what many people are hoping is Francis’s own pilgrimage...CONTINUE READING >>
In the 1938 movie “Jezebel,” Julie Marsden, played by Bette Davis, comes out on the porch at her plantation, Halcyon. It is Louisiana, 1853, and she has told her slaves to come sing for her party. They are gathered, swaying, when she tells them that she wants a different, earthier song—“Let’s Raise a Ruckus Tonight!” As her aunt and her guest, Amy, a New Yorker, watch with stricken expressions, Julie leads the slaves in the chorus, and draws them to her until she is entwined with half a dozen black children. “Come on, sing…. Have the little Yankee join in. Gonna raise a ruckus tonight. We have such charming customs down here.” Amy turns and flees. The next morning, while the women are waiting to hear the outcome of a duel Julie provoked, Amy suddenly screams, “Are you savages, you Southerners?”
There is a scene, similar but transformed, in “12 Years a Slave,” the new movie directed by Steve McQueen and based on the memoirs of Solomon Northup, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. Edwin Epps, a planter, has dragged his slaves out of bed to make music and dance for him and his wife. They move like dancers in a dream, half ritual and half gloom. Northup, who plays the fiddle, might as well be Orpheus. Then Patsey, a young woman played by Lupita Nyong’o, raises and twirls her arm in a gesture whose vivacity could never be choreographed. The mistress of the plantation looks at how her husband is watching Patsey, and then reaches for a heavy crystal decanter, which, with abrupt violence, she throws at Patsey, knocking her to the ground.
Chris Christie came out a few minutes past ten on Tuesday night to acknowledge what he called his “big, big win.” He was reëlected governor of New Jersey with more than sixty per cent of the vote; he won among women, too. Christie credited his own authenticity (“When they walked into the voting both today, they didn’t have to say, ‘Hey, I wonder who this guy is’ ”) and the way that Hurricane Sandy had transformed him (“It’s no longer a job for me. It’s a mission … a sacred trust”). He said that he would go forward in “the spirit of Sandy.”...CONTINUE READING >>
What does it take to make tech companies, Dianne Feinstein, Germans, Indonesians, and John Kerry lose patience with the National Security Agency’s practices? Everyone unhappy with the N.S.A. is unhappy in his or her own way. (The Indonesians, for example, are angry because we helped the Australians spy on them.) As for those who are happy with it—there are too few in that pool to produce epiphanies...CONTINUE READING >>
“Healthcare is complicated, and it’s very personal. And it’s easy to scare folks,” Barack Obama said today, in Boston. He started with something more frustrating than frightening: healthcare.gov, the federal insurance-exchange Web site, still isn’t working properly—“and I am not happy about it. And neither are a lot of Americans who need health care.” If they could just get on the site, he said, they would see how good the Affordable Care Act was. He chose Boston for the opportunity to make jokes about the Red Sox’s beards, and also because Massachusetts was a model for why this program, his legacy, would work...CONTINUE READING >>
A taxi passes over the Brooklyn Bridge, on November 3, 2012. Photograph by John Moore/Getty.
A year ago, the story of New York was being told as a tale of two cities: the one that was still bright, in the wake of Hurricane—Superstorm—Sandy, and the one that had gone dark, as the harbor came into the town and electricity failed in Manhattan below, roughly, Thirty-fourth Street. It was, from the beginning, more complicated than that: the City of Sandy was, like the larger one, a disconnected archipelago stretching from the burnt-down houses of Breezy Point to the sodden basements in Red Hook; from streets swept bare on Staten Island, to beds filled with half-abandoned elderly residents in a Coney Island nursing home, to apartments reachable only by flight after flight of unlit stairs in housing projects on the Lower East Side. Then there were areas—brownstone Brooklyn, the Upper West Side—that, apart from some branches on the ground, looked untouched. The storm, in a sense, was ecumenical: in Tribeca, some of the most expensive apartments in the city were evacuated. And it, of course, reached far beyond the boroughs, doing some of its worst damage on the Jersey Shore. It was one city, one region, watching the sky and the water. But it would be blind not to see the divisions that it exposed. Some people had places to go—invisible roads out of the storm, and then back home, formed by connections and resources. Some didn’t...CONTINUE READING >>