There is an overt ridiculousness about North Korea that, by making it the subject of kitsch, has shielded the regime from the full brunt of its deserved moral opprobrium. The North Korean regime is not only the source of inadvertently comic propaganda but also ghastly torture. And so the revelation that the regime was employing terrorist threats to stop a James Franco–Seth Rogen movie was initially greeted as a hilarious joke — which, in a sense, it is — before a colder reality has slowly settled in: A totalitarian regime has just successfully exerted control over American media. Another studio has immediately canceled a North Korea–themed project. Others will follow. American film is now being effectively vetted by Pyongyang.
President Obama waited until a day after the conclusion of the 113th Congress to announce efforts to normalize relations with Cuba, but unsurprisingly the biggest shift in relations between the two countries in five decades drew passionate responses from lawmakers now dispersed around the country. While most noted that they're happy to see American Alan Gross released after five years in Cuban captivity, many went on to lambast the president in especially harsh terms for the historic move. "The president’s decision to reward the Castro regime and begin the path toward the normalization of relations with Cuba is inexplicable," said Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who is Cuban-American. "Appeasing the Castro brothers will only cause other tyrants from Caracas to Tehran to Pyongyang to see that they can take advantage of President Obama’s naiveté during his final two years in office."
Three decades ago, right-wing French intellectual Jean-François Revel published a call to arms entitled How Democracies Perish, which quickly became a key text of the neoconservative movement and an ideological blueprint for the Reagan administration. Revel argued that the Soviet Union’s brutality and immunity from internal criticism gave it an inherent advantage over the democratic West — the United States and Europe were too liberal, too open, too humane, too soft to defeat the resolute men of the Iron Curtain.
Be sure to give Ted Cruz a sarcastic thank-you, because the U.S. has a surgeon general for the first time since July 2013 owing to his attempt to block the president's immigration order. The Texas senator's maneuvering helped Democrats advance many of Obama's executive-branch nominees over the weekend, including that of Dr. Vivek Murthy for surgeon general. On Monday night, he was confirmed in the Senate by a vote of 51 to 43, despite unlikely opposition from the National Rifle Association.
With the midterm election behind us, soon politicians will begin declaring their intention to run for the presidency in 2016, and we can drop any pretense of caring about what our current elected officials are up to. (Update: Cue Jeb Bush, who just announced he'll "actively explore" a 2016 run.) However, unless you and your spouse have a weird game that involves memorizing the names of bland white guys who used to be governor, you probably won't know who a lot of these people are. That's why we at Daily Intelligencer have compiled this list of every credible candidate believed to be mulling a 2016 run (sorry, Vermin Supreme). Study this list, because one of these people will be elected president in 2016. (Unless we witness the meteoric rise of some charismatic Washington newcomer with a crazy name, but what are the chances of that happening?)
At first glance, there are a few obvious signs that Elizabeth Warren and Ted Cruz are not the same person. For starters, she is a woman, and he is a man. Also, their politics are almost diametrically opposed. And despite questions about her heritage, as far as we know Elizabeth Warren is and always has been 100 percent American. So why were there a flurry of articles written over the weekend debating whether or not the senators are one and the same? Because both led their party's opposition to the $1.1 trillion spending bill backed by the White House, once again bringing the government uncomfortably close to a government shutdown.
Fresh off his latest failed stunt, Ted Cruz is gearing up his presidential campaign. National Review’s Eliana Johnson has a fascinating account of Cruz’s pitch for how nominating him would not backfire in the same terrible way everything else associated with Cruz has, but would instead lead the Republican Party to glorious triumph.
Cruz has plans to appeal to millennials (“on social media, Cruz is the most talked-about presidential candidate on the right”) and women (advisers “cite his speeches about the influence of the important women in his life, his support for Democratic senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s bill that would have removed sexual-assault cases from the military chain of command, and his attempts when he was a college student to confront the problem of date rape”). The most hopeful element of Cruz’s 2016 coalition is his plan to win over the Jews:
Dick Cheney has spent years insisting that the United States government does not torture people. Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report falsifying this claim in exhaustive detail, rendering his denial as implausible as believing that, oh, the release of heat-trapping gasses into the atmosphere does not cause the atmosphere to trap more heat. But it is possible to deny anything, and conservative-movement dogma has forced its adherents to deny a great many things.
On Sunday, Cheney appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press, where a well-informed Chuck Todd pressed him repeatedly with details from the report. Cheney’s answer furnished what will surely become the template for his party’s new torture denial. The argument incorporates six basic elements.
Dick Cheney was at his absolute Cheney-ist on Sunday, brushing off Chuck Todd's questions about innocent people tortured by the CIA. In an appearance on Meet the Press, the former vice-president once again called the Senate's torture report "a crock." "Go read what the directors of the agency said about the report," he said. "They were extremely critical of it, as were the Republicans who served on the committee. It's a flawed report." But, despite claiming that the report was inaccurate, Cheney had no problem defending the "enhanced interrogation" techniques it described. "It worked. It absolutely did work," he insisted.
Deep behind a tangle of denial and rebranding initiatives, a GOP resuscitation plan emerges.By Frank Rich
When Mark Sanford decided to run for office again, he asked his ex-wife, Jenny, for her blessing. Whether he has her vote is another matter.By Jason Zengerle
Jon Favreau’s most enduring riffs.
Wonkblog Jan. 21, 2013
For all the sound and fury, Washington’s actually making real progress on debt.By Ezra Klein
Mother Jones Jan. 15, 2013
Our debt dysfunction began with the Constitution, funded Manifest Destiny, and makes the trillion dollar coin look tame.By Tim Murphy
Salon Jan. 15, 2012
Harry Reid and other pro-gun Democrats leave Obama in need of unlikely allies.By Steve Kornacki
New York Magazine / Nov. 5, 2010
After November's glitch, Boehner, McConnell and Congress strike familiar poses.By John Heilemann
New York Magazine / Jan. 25, 2009
Obama drew progressive ire from day one.By John Heilemann
New York Magazine / Nov. 30, 2008
How one undocumented family lives in our sanctuary city.By Jeff Coplon