Amidst an increasingly unpredictable political season, tonight the Iowa caucuses will finally cast the first votes of the 2016 presidential campaign. It's an outsider vs. establishment war in both parties, as Republican leaders struggle to dislodge Donald Trump and Ted Cruz from the top while Hillary Clinton marshalls her endorsements and long résumé against the populist zeal of democratic socialist Bernie Sanders. The best guesses of FiveThirtyEight, BetFair, and Ann Selzer's gold-standard Des Moines Register poll all favor Trump and Clinton, but the race remains very close, and turnout in the demanding and complicated caucus events will be key. Vox provides a helpful video explainer on the process [previously]. Pass the time with FiveThirtyEight's 40-minute elections podcast, and keep an eye on the New York Times live blog of the caucuses for real-time updates once voting starts at 8:00 PM Eastern -- and don't forget to leave your two cents in the MeFi election prediction contest!
Donald Trump begins and ends each of his presidential campaign rallies with “The Music of the Night” from The Phantom of the Opera and “Memory” from Cats. [more inside]
On an American road trip, Stephen Marche enters the fray with Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in Iowa and gets a view of the campaign trail from the perspective of his whiteness. (SLGuardian)
Jon Bois (Breaking Madden [previously], The Tim Tebow CFL Chronicles [previously], Pretty Good) recounts the oral history of the successful 1996 presidential campaign of Ken Griffey, Jr. [more inside]
"Young women could now do more than read about feminist issues and discuss them in class; they could find communities of women on Twitter or Tumblr whose experiences they could relate to—or who could open up new vistas for them on what other women’s lives are like. They could participate in the creation of a new feminism—one that would be a far cry from Friedan’s. By 2011, the writer Flavia Dzodan was famously declaring on her blog: “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.” Her words became a rallying cry."
"In a closed-door meeting Thursday night, Yale University’s apologized to a large group of minority students for the school’s failure to make them feel safe on campus." [more inside]
This closes the door on one of the biggest potential challenges to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s second attempt at capturing the Democratic nomination. Back in August, Mr. Biden was already running for president in the invisible primary. Like most candidates who test the waters, he didn’t find enough support to justify entering the race.
Jimmy Carter watched a lot of movies when he was President -- more than 400, in fact, ranging from Midnight Cowboy (the first known X-rated movie screened at the White House) to The Bad News Bears. [more inside]
President Obama’s Letter to the Editor [New York Times]
For the cover story of our Aug. 2 issue, Jim Rutenberg wrote about efforts over the last 50 years to dismantle the protections in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 [previously], the landmark piece of legislation that cleared barriers between black voters and the ballot. The story surveyed a broad sweep of history and characters, from United States Chief Justice John Roberts to ordinary citizens like 94-year-old Rosanell Eaton, a plaintiff in the current North Carolina case arguing to repeal voting restrictions enacted in 2013. The magazine received an unusual volume of responses to this article, most notably from President Barack Obama.
Lawrence Lessig is (probably) running for President of the United States. But he only wants to be President long enough to pass the Citizen Equality Act, which includes publicly funded elections, an end to gerrymandering, online voter registration, and making election day a national holiday. After that, he'll resign. [more inside]
"They Don’t Give a Damn about Governing... Once allied with but now increasingly hostile to the Republican hierarchy, conservative media is shaping the party’s agenda in ways that are impeding Republicans’ ability to govern and to win presidential elections."
Real-estate mogul and reality-television star Donald Trump said Tuesday he will seek the Republican nomination for President of the United States. [New York Times]
The garrulous real estate developer whose name has adorned apartment buildings, hotels, Trump-brand neckties and Trump-brand steaks, announced on Tuesday his entry into the 2016 presidential race, brandishing his wealth and fame as chief qualifications in an improbable quest for the Republican nomination.[more inside]
As we approach the final 500 days to the 2016 US presidential election, and with a smorgasbord of POTUS wannabes, John Ellis Bush has revealed, through the medium of the Twitter, his campaign logo. A day before the bid of "Veto Corleone" is launched in Florida, and a day after Hillary Clinton formally launched her campaign through a rally and smalltown networking, Jeb is the betting favorite to be the Republican candidate, with strong showings for Marco Rubio and Scott Walker. He's also raised a bit of money; however, this hasn't been spent on a completely new logo (also here and here and here and possibly here). Parodies are also starting, as are enhancements. Despite this, Hillary remains the clear favorite to be the next POTUS, with George Clooney a 150/1 outsider at several bookmakers).
Journalist Felix Salmon brings us up to speed on the increasingly strange and complicated saga of The Cooper Union School For The Advancement Of Science And Art, one of the last historically free schools in the US for Art, Architecture and Engineering, which may be brought down by shameless trustees, incompetent management, the State Attorney General, or pure greed. (Cooper Union charging tuition previously. Cooper Union students occupying the president's office previously)
Photographs of America’s most powerful men throwing the ceremonial first pitch gives some indication of why they got into politics. via NPR's Tumblr
Incumbent President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan today conceded defeat in last weekend's election, and called President-Elect Muhammadu Buhari to congratulate him. The election has generally appeared to be the fairest in Nigeria's history and mostly free of the bloodshed of Jonathan's 2011 defeat of Buhari; this transition will mark Nigeria's first transfer of power to an opposition party after an election. Buhari's presidency will be his second administration as leader of Nigeria after acting as the head of a military junta from 1983 to 1985. [more inside]
Jessica T. Matthews reviews Henry Kissinger's "World Order" and Bret Stephen's "America In Retreat":
Almost from the beginning of its history, America has struggled to find a balance in its foreign policy between narrowly promoting its own security and idealistically serving the interests of others; between, as we’ve tended to see it in shorthand, Teddy Roosevelt’s big stick and the ideals of Woodrow Wilson. Just as consistently, the US has gone through periods of embracing a leading international role for itself and times when Americans have done all they could to turn their backs on the rest of the world. Two new books now join this never-ending debate.[more inside]
President Barack Obama delivers a speech to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Bloody Sunday March in Selma, Alabama.
President of Eckerd college Donald Eastman III wrote a letter to the students about preventing sexual assault. His recommendation? Less alcohol and less casual sex. The college's student paper, The Current, responds in a civil, well spoken and cogent rebuttal.
How might President Obama's leadership style be rooted in his psychology? Psychoanalysts Nasir Ghaemi, Samuel Barondes, and Justin Frank venture opinions, and writer Robert Merry applies a framework from political psychology. (psychoanalyst Drew Westen, previously)
Joan Quigley has passed away on Tuesday at the age of 87. Brought on as an advisor in response to the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, she had been in contact with the First Lady up to three times a day via private lines set up for her at the White House and Camp David. The President is said to have asked his wife "What does Joan say?" habitually. Donald Regan, Chief of Staff in the Reagan White House, wrote that "Virtually every major move and decision the Reagans made during my time as White House chief of staff was cleared in advance with (Quigley)". She was an astrologer.
The United States Secret Service finds itself deep in turmoil, with Director Julia Pierson resigning this week after an increasingly alarming series of security failures and oversights in the agency's role protecting the President of the United States. Pierson had been widely criticized for scaling back security around the White House, during international summits, and a recent visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She startled supervisors with her view that the Secret Service needed "to be more like Disney World. We need to be more friendly, inviting." (multiple WaPo links) [more inside]
Countries like to give President Barack Obama gifts. The Washington Post catalogued and ranked them for us:
It's really a funny collection of presents, for which, were you asked To what sort of person was this gift given?, you'd likely have a wide variety of responses. Argentina gave Obama a silver dagger in a display box in 2012, perhaps confusing the president with their 13-year-old nephew. Britain gave the family a shawl and some kids clothes in 2009, playing the role of America's eccentric aunt.
Today is the 50th anniversary of the signing of the civil rights act, and to commemorate, the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library hosted in April a Civil Rights Summit, featuring dozens of civil rights luminaries as well as Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and President Barack Obama. [more inside]
I have lived many of the questions that have become central to our national discourse since 1998. How far should we allow the government into our bedrooms? How do we reconcile the right to privacy with the need to expose sexual indiscretion? How do we guard against an overzealous government demanding our private data and information? And, most important to me personally, how do we cope with the shame game as it’s played in the Internet Age? - Monica Lewinsky for Vanity Fair
The US is a little closer to a popular vote for president. Governor Cuomo added New York State to the National Popular Vote interstate compact. [more inside]
The William Jefferson Clinton Library has been releasing, in batches, thousands of pages of previously classified documents.
Tonight, President Barack Obama will deliver his 2014 State of the Union address. A stream will be available via the White House and from many other outlets. [more inside]
"The world is made of people: I get this. Our republic only works if we know our leaders are fallible humans. I disagree with the U.S. government about plenty. None of this kept me from experiencing immediate, full-on, feverish anxiety."
Flying on Air Force One the day Kennedy died: "In the small aft cabin, behind the bedroom, Sergeant Ayres is removing two rows of seats to make room for a casket. ... Johnson then asks [Robert] Kennedy where he should take the oath of office and what its exact words are. The questions are met with silence before Kennedy replies that he will find out and call back. He hangs up." Esquire [more inside]
In response to Senator Mitch McConnell and his assertion that in 2016, Hillary Clinton will be too old to run for POTUS, Jezebel presents 101 Things Older Than Hillary Clinton.
President Barack Obama will tonight give the first State of the Union address of his second term in office. The address will again focus strongly on the issues of jobs and the economy. The Republican response will be delivered by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and will focus on traditional Republican messages of lower taxes and spending. The bilingual Senator plans to give his remarks in both English and Spanish in an attempt to reach out to the Latino community which has proven difficult for Republican politicians to connect with. There will also be a Tea Party response delivered by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Senator Paul will call for reduced spending and debt and for the Republican party to be more welcoming of immigrants. Jill Stein of the Green Party will also give a response. [more inside]
In May 16, 1961, Park Chung-hee ended the Second Republic of South Korea by military coup. On December 18, 2012, his daughter, Park Geun-hye, became South Korea's president by democratic election under the Saenuri party against human rights lawyer Moon Jae-in, of the DUP. [more inside]
There's been a lot of talk in the US media about the "Fiscal Cliff" and the "Grand Bargain" What are they?
The "fiscal cliff" is a confluence of three legal changes taking effect Jan. 1: the expiration of a payroll-tax cut, the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts, and the advent of mandatory spending cuts known as "sequestration."Fiscal Cliff 101: 5 Basic Questions Answered. What's Happening: Fiscal Cliff Explained [more inside]
The poor in America: In need of help Some 15% of Americans (around 46.2m people) live below the poverty line, as Ms Hamilton does. You have to go back to the early 1960s—before Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programmes—to find a significantly higher rate. Many more, like Ms Dunham, have incomes above the poverty line but nevertheless cannot meet their families’ basic monthly needs, and there are signs that their number is growing. Once upon a time the fates of these people weighed heavily on American politicians. Ronald Reagan boasted about helping the poor by freeing them from having to pay federal income tax. Jack Kemp, Bob Dole’s running-mate in 1996, sought to spearhead a “new war on poverty.” George W. Bush called “deep, persistent poverty…unworthy of our nation’s promise”. No longer. Budgets are tight and the safety net is expensive. Mitt Romney famously said he was not “concerned about the very poor” because they have a safety net to take care of them. Mr Obama’s second-term plan mentioned poverty once, and on the trail he spoke gingerly of “those aspiring to the middle class”. “Poor” is a four-letter word.
US Presidential race got you stressed? Escape into the past with Retro Campaigns.
Looking Like Lincoln - photographer Greta Pratt shoots nineteen Lincoln impersonators, drawn from participants in The Association of Lincoln Presenters
President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney will have the final debate of the US Presidential race tonight. Yawning at the thought of a formulaic back and forth, while secretly hoping for a rap battle? Then look beneath the fold for examples of explicit lyrical parodies. [more inside]
The American Presidency Project is a comprehensive archive of more than 100,000 documents related to the study of the United States' Commander-in-Chief, including transcripts of debates, public papers, state of the union addresses, White House Press Briefings, party platforms and election returns, as well as audio and video recordings. [more inside]
It's D-Day: Governor Mitt Romney debates President Barack Obama in Denver, Colorado. Will we see an epic game-changer or an airless, pre-orchestrated zinger-swap? [more inside]
What makes a candidate Presidential? A series of articles on what qualities make a good American President by Slate's John Dickerson
Romney is perhaps best known for being a clown and a humanitarian, but long before his involvement in presidential politics, Romney was an LSD-fueled comedian. Here's a snippet. (No, not that Romney; the other one.) [more inside]
In 1992, Carole Simpson was the first woman and first minority to moderate a presidential debate. Twenty years later, as Candy Crowley is about to become only the 2nd woman to moderate, Carole Simpson writes a compelling look back on why it's taken 20 more years, and why both women have moderated "town hall" style debates, rather than asking the questions outright.
"Republicans stand the chance of controlling Congress for the rest of the decade if they don't screw it up."
"The Republicans’ dominance in races throughout the country in the 2010 elections eviscerated the Democrats’ farm teams in state after state." Former Bill Clinton political director Doug Sosnik offers an 8-page analysis of the U.S. election that discusses the likelihood of an Obama win, the chances of a complete Republican takeover of Congress, continued Republican dominance of governorships and state legislatures for the rest of the decade, and more. There's also a related slideshow. [more inside]
We recently discussed which candidates you might vote for in historical elections, but Josh Fruhlinger (of the Comics Curmudgeon [previously] and  [previously]) offers the chance to answer a somewhat different question: which Presidents should hook up? Hail to the Slash (NSFW text - and maybe logo - but hey, it's Sunday!) [more inside]