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HEMPSTEAD, N.Y.—Before this week’s first presidential debate, it was common for Donald Trump’s television surrogates to predict it would echo the sole 1980 encounter between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.
It turned out, to borrow from another famous debate moment, Donald Trump was no Ronald Reagan.
On the surface, the analogy appeared reasonable. Like Hillary Clinton today, Carter in 1980 bet most of his chips on personally disqualifying Reagan. Carter painted his opponent as unqualified, ill-informed, extreme, and dangerous—an aging entertainer who might trigger a nuclear war through ignorance and belligerence.
For months, enough voters feared Carter might be right to keep him close in the polls, despite enormous dissatisfaction with his job performance. But when Reagan in the debate presented himself as composed, reasonable, and genial (swatting away even accurate Carter recitations of his most outrageous earlier statements with a jaunty “There you go again”) the doubts softened, Carter’s support crumbled, and the Gipper rolled to a landslide.
Trump’s television chorus confidently predicted a repeat. Trump, they promised, would show himself as a man that Americans could easily envision representing them to the world, managing the military, and breaking gridlock in Congress. More than a few Democrats feared they might be right. The Clinton campaign had portrayed Trump so ominously that he might have discredited the picture if he had just made it through 90 minutes seeming polite and reasonable.
In the end, Democrats had nothing to fear. The Trump at Hofstra was, for better or worse, the vintage primary-edition version, not the restrained model he’s mostly displayed in recent weeks. Rather than pivoting to some “new Trump,” he spent 90 minutes reaffirming the qualities that have made him so polarizing—strong and iconoclastic to his supporters, volatile, mendacious, ill-informed and bigoted to his doubters. He projected strength (particularly when he prosecuted Clinton on trade) but was also rude, undisciplined, and frequently flailing on substance (see his self-contradicting answer on nuclear weapons). It’s difficult to imagine any voter who turned on the debate dubious that Trump was qualified to be president left the couch convinced that he was. As one top Republican strategist told me afterwards, “Trump is who we thought he was.”
That verdict seemed even more apt when Trump almost immediately escalated a new dispute with the former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, who Clinton had raised in the debate to accuse him of disrespecting women. Trump’s worst general-election moments have come when he has ignored the old political adage that candidates should never get in an argument with anyone who isn’t on the ballot: His polls have skidded most around his feud with the Muslim American Khan family and his attacks on the Indiana-born Hispanic judge Gonzalo Curiel. Heedless of that history, Trump responded with confrontation—not contrition—after Machado said he had belittled and humiliated her when she gained weight following her victory in the pageant.
The spectacle of a man possibly six weeks from election as commander in chief badgering a former beauty queen probably did little to reassure voters who worry that Trump might be too volatile and vindictive to trust with nuclear weapons. And the roughly three-fifths of Americans who have consistently told pollsters they consider Trump racially biased likely noticed that for the third time in months, he was disparaging an ordinary citizen whose ethnic heritage and facial complexion did not match his own.
These personal doubts largely explain why the Republican leadership class has fractured over Trump’s candidacy more than any other in modern times, even Barry Goldwater’s doomed race in 1964. Though rank-and-file Republican voters have mostly rallied around Trump, he continues to face unprecedented defections from Republican leaders and institutions. The Wall Street Journal for instance, recently reported that not a single CEO in the Fortune 100, an ordinarily Republican-leaning group, has donated money to him. John Warner, the former Republican chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, this week endorsed Clinton, joining dozens of former GOP national security leaders who have either rejected Trump or backed the Democrat. Former President George H.W. Bush hasn’t denied reports he’s voting for Clinton. And the Arizona Republic newspaper, which had never endorsed a Democrat in its 126-year history. this week joined such other staunchly Republican outlets as the Cincinnati Enquirer (which hadn’t endorsed a Democrat since 1916) and Dallas Morning News (not since 1940) in picking Clinton.
Some of that resistance flows from policy disputes, particularly Trump’s rejection of the historic internationalist GOP consensus on trade and foreign alliances. But this opposition springs primarily from skepticism about Trump’s personal fitness. In its editorial this week, the Arizona Republic concluded Trump suffers from “deep character flaws”; displays “a stunning lack of human decency, empathy and respect” and would threaten national security with “reckless” behavior and rhetoric. John Warner dismissed him more succinctly: “You don't pull up a quick text like National Security for Dummies .”
One of Clinton’s biggest gambles has been to focus far more on personally disqualifying Trump than on trying to critique his agenda or even to tout her own. She’ll need a more positive message to energize elements of the modern Democratic “coalition of the ascendant,” particularly Millennials and Latinos, who haven’t shown high interest in voting despite their distaste for Trump. But the bigger risk of Clinton’s approach was that Trump might discredit it with a reasonable and competent performance at the debates. In a campaign that still exposes her to many risks, that’s one thing Clinton hasn’t yet needed to fear.
A history of the first African American White House—and of what came next
In the waning days of President Barack Obama’s administration, he and his wife, Michelle, hosted a farewell party, the full import of which no one could then grasp. It was late October, Friday the 21st, and the president had spent many of the previous weeks, as he would spend the two subsequent weeks, campaigning for the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. Things were looking up. Polls in the crucial states of Virginia and Pennsylvania showed Clinton with solid advantages. The formidable GOP strongholds of Georgia and Texas were said to be under threat. The moment seemed to buoy Obama. He had been light on his feet in these last few weeks, cracking jokes at the expense of Republican opponents and laughing off hecklers. At a rally in Orlando on October 28, he greeted a student who would be introducing him by dancing toward her and then noting that the song playing over the loudspeakers—the Gap Band’s “Outstanding”—was older than she was.
Power couples are a rarity. Instead, many high-achieving women have husbands who do their own opting out.
This is the fifth story in a seven-part series looking at women’s ambitions in the years following college.
Gloria Steinem famously quipped that some women “are becoming the men we wanted to marry.” Forty years later, Sheryl Sandberg argued that the most important decision a woman makes about her career is whom to marry. But neither Sandberg nor Steinem have said much about what men’s careers look like in this scenario. Steinem did note in a 1984 commencement speech that she had “yet to hear a man ask for advice on how to combine marriage and a career.” And the implication in 2013’s Lean In is that women should strive for marriages like the one Sandberg had: two hard-driving careerists who found it acceptable to live in one city and commute to another on weekends, or who routinely returned to work after a brief family dinner interlude.
The main source of meaning in American life is a meritocratic competition that makes those who struggle feel inferior.
What is happening to America’s white working class?
The group’s important, and perhaps decisive. role in this year’s presidential election sparked a slew of commentary focused on, on the one hand, its nativism, racism, and sexism. and, on the other, its various economic woes . While there are no simple explanations for the desperation and anger visible in many predominantly white working-class communities, perhaps the most astute and original diagnosis came from the rabbi and activist Michael Lerner, who, in assessing Donald Trump’s victory, looked from a broader vantage point than most. Underneath the populist ire, he wrote. was a suffering “rooted in the hidden injuries of class and in the spiritual crisis that the global competitive marketplace generates.”
One man’s mission to make college admissions sane (and fair) again
One day in the summer of 2015, I sat in a small conference room in Tribeca, watching the reality show Dance Moms with Richard Weissbourd, a renowned Harvard psychologist. Weissbourd and I picked the show on the recommendation of a friend of his who works in children’s television and said it was popular with the youth.
It was an episode called “Cheerleader Blues,” in which a group of preteen dancers from Pittsburgh prepares for a competition under the watchful gaze of their mothers and the acerbic tutelage of their instructor, Abby Lee Miller. At the start of the episode, Miller ranks the girls based on their talent— pleasing no one, of course, except for the mother of the pyramidion. The others exclaim, wide-eyed, things like, “I am shocked where Brooke was placed!" and "You mean to tell me Chloe is above her?!”
Images of Aleppo as it looked prior to 2011, and, in some cases, how those same sites appear today, after nearly six years of war
Syria’s civil war began in march of 2011 and soon spread to Aleppo, Syria's largest city, turning it into a battlefield, driving millions out, killing thousands, and drastically changing the urban landscape. Recent advances by the Syrian government forces against rebels who held large parts of the city led to a ceasefire last week and the evacuation of fighters and civilians. Gathered here are images of Aleppo as it looked prior to 2011, and, in some cases, how those same sites appear today, after nearly six years of war.
Here we go again: “I still haven’t had an abortion,” the writer/actor/advocate said recently, “but I wish I had.”
On Tuesday, news outlets from New York magazine to Fox News to Man Repeller to Pop Sugar found some celebrity news to share: Lena Dunham, during the latest episode of her podcast Women of the Hour . had made a comment about abortion that was … not in good taste. The episode, “Choice,” was meant to highlight the idea that, as Dunham put it in her introduction to the episode. “it’s your body, and you choose the best look for it at every stage of your life.” But Dunham, introducing one of the women who would share her story in the episode, started with a confession: She was a little bit of a hypocrite, she suggested. Telling the story of a visit to a Planned Parenthood in Texas, she recalled how she had wanted to make clear to the people there that “as much as I was going out and fighting for other women’s options, I myself had never had an abortion.”
Decoding some of the clues and mysteries in Netflix’s mind-boggling new series
This article contains spoilers through all eight episodes of The OA.
The OA. which was released in its entirety on Netflix this month, is one of the more divisive shows the streaming service has debuted in its history, with critics calling it “a strange, haunting mess ,” “beautiful bullshit ,” and “a two-hour movie with a seven-hour-plus run time .” For the record, I loved it, though I can understand what might put many viewers off. The very qualities that mark the series as distinctive and ambitious—its labyrinthine plot, its mutating style, its interpretive dance moves —are the ones that also make it potentially infuriating. The finale, which saw the protagonist Prairie’s visions finally manifested in the real world even as it also seemed to reveal her as a fraud, could be either maddeningly ambiguous or offensively clumsy, depending on your worldview.
The second in a series of interviews between Ta-Nehisi Coates and the president
In “My President Was Black ,” The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates examined Barack Obama’s tenure in office, and his legacy. The story was built, in part, around a series of conversations he had with the president. This is a transcript of the second of those three encounters, which took place on October 19, 2016. Valerie Jarrett, the senior adviser to the president, was also present. You can find the other interviews, as well as responses to the story and to these conversations, here .
Ta-Nehisi Coates: I’ve talked to Marty [Nesbitt], I talked to Mama Kaye [Wilson], I talked to Eric Holder, so I’ve been making the rounds. I’ve got all the goods.
Coates: I’ve got all the goods. Talked to [David] Axelrod, talked to [David] Plouffe.
Who can use a pocket, and what it can carry, has historically depended on the person doing the pocketing. An Object Lesson .
“He was trying to get out his ID and his wallet out of his pocket,” Diamond Reynolds explains in a Facebook Live video taken just minutes after her boyfriend, Philando Castile, was shot by police during a traffic stop. Castile had reached for his pockets, where he also had a gun that he was licensed to carry.
“He keeps his wallet in his pocket,” Reynolds tells us.
After shooting Castile, the officers insist that Reynolds “keep [her] hands where they are. … Keep ’em up, keep ’em up!” Her phone is thrown down. With her arms raised in the air, Reynolds asks: “Could you please get my phone for me?” Her 4-year-old daughter says to the officer, “I want to get my mommy’s purse.”
After exploring a virtual world, some people can’t shake the sense that the actual world isn’t real, either.
When Tobias van Schneider slips on a virtual reality headset to play Google’s Tilt Brush. he becomes a god. His fingertips become a fiery paintbrush in the sky. A flick of the wrist rotates the clouds. He can jump effortlessly from one world that he created to another.
When the headset comes off, though, it’s back to a dreary reality. And lately van Schneider has been noticing some unsettling lingering effects. “What stays is a strange feeling of sadness and disappointment when participating in the real world, usually on the same day,” he wrote on the blogging platform Medium last month. “The sky seems less colorful and it just feels like I’m missing the ‘magic’ (for the lack of a better word). … I feel deeply disturbed and often end up just sitting there, staring at a wall.”
In a short animation, Barack Obama speaks with Ta-Nehisi Coates about his road to the White House.
A short film on the popular American sport, and why it deserves a better reputation
In its past, a town in North Carolina has been known for concealing attacks and indignities against black people in the community.