The Pasty Little Putz addresses “The G.O.P.’s Immigration Delusion” and babbles that this time, the base is right to just say no to reform. “Mancuroc” from Rochester, NY sums it up thusly: “Well, at least this time Douthat shows his true colors. His pole star is not what might be best for his country but what would not to be worst for his party.” MoDo has a question in “The Gospel According to Paul: When it comes to fooling around with an intern in the Oval Office, is there a political statute of limitations? It gives her a chance to foam at the mouth about the Clintons. The Moustache of Wisdom, in “A Wonderful Country,” explains why the success of John Kerry’s peace mission is so important. Mr. Kristof tells us “Dylan Farrow’s Story” and says now that Hollywood has told the story of Woody Allen’s long career in film, Dylan Farrow, his adopted daughter, is ready to have her say. Mr. Bruni ponders “Maturity’s Victories” and says in Peyton Manning’s path to the Super Bowl, you see the sweet side of Father Time. Here’s The Putz:
The debate over immigration reform, rekindled last week by House Republican leaders, bears a superficial resemblance to last fall’s debate over the government shutdown.
Again, you have establishment Republicans transparently eager to cut a deal with the White House and a populist wing that doesn’t want to let them do it. Again, you have Republican business groups and donors wringing their hands over the intransigence of the base, while talk-radio hosts and right-wing bloggers warn against an imminent inside-the-Beltway sellout. Again, you have a bill that could pass the House tomorrow — but only if John Boehner was willing to live with having mostly Democrats voting for it.
Except there’s one big difference: This time, the populists are right.
They’re right about the policy, which remains a mess in every new compromise that’s floated — offering “solutions” that are unlikely to be permanent, enforcement provisions that probably won’t take effect, and favoring special interests, right and left, over the interests of the citizenry at large.
A reasonable compromise, for instance, would condition amnesty for illegal immigrants on substantial new enforcement measures, to ensure that this mass legalization would be the last. But the bills under discussion almost always offer some form of legal status before enforcement takes effect, which promises a replay of the Reagan-era amnesty’s failure to ever deliver the limits on future immigration that it promised.
A reasonable immigration compromise would also privilege high-skilled immigration over low-skilled immigration, given the unemployment crisis among low-skilled native workers and the larger social crisis that threatens to slow assimilation and upward mobility alike. But the House leadership seems to favor an approach that would create a permanent noncitizen class of low-wage workers and expand guest-worker programs — a recipe for looser labor markets, continued wage stagnation and fewer jobs for the existing unemployed.
So immigration policy is problematic on the merits — and then it’s politically problematic for Republicans as well. Immigration ranks 16th on the public’s list of priorities, according to the latest Pew numbers, so it’s difficult to see how making this the signature example of a new, solutions-oriented G.O.P. is going to help the party in the near term. Whereas it’s much easier to see how it helps the Democrats: if a bill passes, it will do so with heavy Democratic support, hand President Obama a policy victory at a time when he looks like a lame duck, and demoralize the right along the way.
Admittedly, a big push for immigration reform would not be as straightforwardly idiotic as shutting down the government without clear goals or plausible demands. But it would probably have some of the same political effects: it would divide the G.O.P., perplex the public, and let the White House reap immediate political benefits no matter how the push turned out.
So why are Republican leaders flirting with the idea? In part for principled reasons — libertarianism, pro-business sentiment and “compassionate conservative” impulses all align to make comprehensive reform seem like an obvious good to many figures in the party, and to obscure its downsides and its risks.
But it’s also hard for G.O.P. elites to let go of the idea that there’s a simple, one-fell-swoop solution to their electoral difficulties. The entire post-2012 immigration reform push was born out of this hope — that a single policy shift could deliver the Hispanic vote, save the party from its demographic crisis, and (perhaps most important) make other reforms and innovations unnecessary.
This conceit was always a fond delusion, not least because most Hispanics are not single-issue voters, and their leftward tilt has always been related to broader socioeconomic concerns. So with them, as with most Americans, the problem for Republicans in 2008 and 2012 was much bigger than the immigration issue: it was a platform designed for the challenges of 1980, and rhetoric that seemed to write off half the country as layabouts and moochers. And any solution for the party, in 2016 and beyond, would have to offer much more than the same old Reagan-era script with an amnesty stapled at the bottom.
Fortunately for the Republican future, we’re finally beginning to see the right’s politicians reckon with this reality, and throw themselves into the real work of reform. Indeed, this is happening more quickly than I once expected: in just the last week alone, recent Republican forays on tax reform, poverty and prisons have been joined by a plausible health care alternative and baby steps toward a proposal to help the long-term uninsured.
But that, too, is part of what makes the leadership’s immigration fixation so perverse. For the first time since the Bush presidency, high-profile Republicans are showing an interest in policy ideas that are fresh, politically savvy and well suited to the current economic malaise. Which makes it exactly the wrong time for the party to throw itself into a furious debate over an idea that is none of the above.
Next up we have MoDo, being Rand Paul’s stenographer:
So how do you make Monica haunt Hillary’s dreams?
That’s what Republicans have been gnawing on, and that’s what not-so-bland Rand Paul was cagey enough to figure out.
Fresh from taunting rival Chris Christie as “the king of bacon,” and declaring their feud “water under the bridge,” Paul turned his slingshot at a bigger target, the Big Dog himself, the gallivanting global statesman who is more popular than he has ever been, the master politician who has had to sell President Obama to America only a few years after he so vituperatively tried to turn off America on the whippersnapper and usurper.
With the passage of time and a cascade of fawning magazine covers, Bill Clinton’s image has evolved, leaving the repellent sexual scandals a pentimento in a new, more magnetic portrait.
The 51-year-old Kentucky ophthalmologist-turned-senator has only been in Congress for three years. But Paul took dead aim at the former president, arguing that Bill’s legacy is brutified by Monica, when Bill wants his legacy to be ratified by Hillary.
Unruffled by the kerfuffle, Paul reiterated to me that he disdains the Democratic “hypocrisy within the party that wants to blame Republicans for somehow not liking women, that somehow we’re this party that has some kind of war going on, and they have as a leader and one of the most prominent fund-raising people in their party still to this very day, a person who seems in some ways to have his own private war on women.”
Paul aimed an asteroid at Planet Hillary on “Meet the Press” last Sunday.
David Gregory asked Paul about the comment of his wife, Kelley, in a Jason Horowitz profile of the senator in Vogue, that Bill Clinton should not be First Spouse, given his “predatory” behavior with Monica Lewinsky.
Paul backed up his wife, telling Gregory that there “is no excuse” for preying on a young intern and that it should affect history’s view of the ex-president. While he said it was “not Hillary’s fault,” he added that with the Clintons, “sometimes it’s hard to separate one from the other.”
On Fox News, after the State of the Union, Paul injected the word “violence” into the political bloodstream, noting that the Democratic “standard-bearer seems to be a guy that was committing the workplace kind of violence that we should all be opposed to.”
Senator Claire McCaskill told Andrea Mitchell that she found Paul’s comments “infuriating,” and that he was just “grasping,” trying to show he could be tough in a bid to win the presidential nomination.
But back when McCaskill, now on Team Clinton, was trying to crush Team Clinton and get Barack Obama elected, she said this about Bill: “He’s been a great leader, but I don’t want my daughter near him.”
Paul brought that up with me, suggesting that if McCaskill were being honest and not partisan, she would still be worried about having her daughter around Bill and that maybe there’s a double standard for the famous.
“In my small town, we would disassociate, we would in some ways socially shun somebody that had an inappropriate affair with someone’s daughter or with a babysitter or something like that,” he said, adding: “There’s no reason why we should give up on having some sort of belief in social standards” and on what’s “appropriate, inappropriate, right, wrong.”
Asked about McCaskill’s assertion that he doesn’t “get” that women want birth control, Paul replied “I’ve never met a Republican who was against birth control or who thought that somehow we would try to prevent women from having birth control.”
Democrats, who were more upset that Hillary Clinton admitted she hadn’t driven a car since 1996 and seemed way out of touch, brushed off Paul with a Clintonian dismissal: That’s old. The chorus was unanimous: Bill Clinton is a Lothario? Really? The Republicans will never regain the White House if they’re going to fight the wars of the ’90s.
Every time Republicans overreached and thought they had killed Clinton Inc., he bounced back and they took a whack. As Bill told Ken Gormley, the author of “The Death of American Virtue,” “I felt they were Wile E. Coyote in the pack, and I was the Road Runner.”
Even the conservative Dorothy Rabinowitz in The Wall Street Journal took Paul to task, noting that while the former president’s choice to accept Monica’s advances was “an outrage and a national embarrassment,” it was not “a boss preying on an innocent.”
Privately, veterans of Hillaryworld admired Paul’s savvy appeal to the base. As one noted dryly, “When you’re playing with the hard-core base, there’s no statute of limitations on crazy fooling around with an intern in the Oval Office.”
I agree that Paul’s aim was true. He distracted from the Republicans’ abysmal war on women by pointing at an abysmal moment in feminist history, when feminists betrayed their principles to defend a president who had behaved in a regressive way with women because he had progressive policies on women.
Instead of owning up, Bill Clinton forced his humiliated wife, a feminist icon, and women in his cabinet — Madeleine Albright and Donna Shalala — into the dreadful position of defending him when he was lying about his conduct.
Seven years after the feminists tried to bring down a Supreme Court nominee for sexual harassment — but really for his conservative stances — they went into contortions to defend Clinton. Gloria Steinem wrote a Times Op-Ed titled “Why Feminists Support Clinton” that somehow boiled down to “yes means yes.”
Paul told me that he thinks that Hillary is “as much a victim as anybody” in the Monica affair. It is true that Hillary was a victim — a sympathetic role that won her support and a glamorous Vogue cover and laid the foundation for her Senate run. Hillary’s popularity rises whenever she is brushed back by men, whether it’s her own husband or Rick Lazio in the Senate debate or Barack Obama in his “You’re likable enough, Hillary” debate faux pas.
Asked if he could be helping Hillary by shaming her, Paul chuckled and said, “This isn’t something we considered to be a strategy or something.”
It certainly helps him, showing he can take on the Clintons and giving him culture war cred to balance out his libertarian positions.
It is not so simple to cast Hillary as a victim; she was also part of the damage-control team to vouch for her husband and undermine his mistress. White House aides and other Democrats spread the word that Monica was a troubled young woman with stalker tendencies. Sidney Blumenthal, a senior White House adviser, later testified that Hillary told him that “she was distressed that the president was being attacked, in her view, for political motives, for his ministry of a troubled person.”
Monica had to be sacrificed for the greater good of the Clintons and feminist ambitions. Hillary was furious at Bill — stories were leaked that he was sleeping on the couch — but she also had to protect her political investment. If he collapsed, she was done. And she was going up — to the Senate and eventually the Oval Office.
Next up we have The Moustache of Wisdom, writing from Tel Aviv:
One of the most popular shows on Israeli TV is called “Eretz Nehederet” or “A Wonderful Country.” It’s a comedy show that lives to make fun of Israeli politicians and the absurdities of life here. It recently opened its 2014 season with a cartoon graphic of a beautiful, multicolored, flower-filled garden with a butterfly fluttering across the screen. Then, suddenly, a concrete wall rises up all around the garden, which was an image the producers used last year. But this season not only does the wall emerge but a glass dome rises out of the wall and seals off this Garden of Eden from above as well.
This scene is noteworthy for a couple of reasons: I’ve long believed that the Israeli-Arab conflict is to the wider global war of civilizations what Off Broadway is to Broadway. It is the small laboratory where trends get tested out first, or are perfected, and then go global — from airline hijacking to suicide bombing to the attempt, through force and rebuilding, to create a negotiating partner out of a traditional foe (Israel in Lebanon 1982 and with the Palestinians in the Oslo process; America in Iraq and Afghanistan).
So it is useful to ask: What’s playing Off Broadway now? What do you see? You see Israel, as in the “Eretz Nehederet” skit, literally trying to wall itself off from the multiplying threats around it and contending with all the ethical dilemmas that entails. And you see a wider region that is no longer divided along pro-U.S. and pro-Soviet lines, socialist or capitalist, secular or religious. You see instead a region increasingly divided between “the world of order” and “the world of disorder.”
What Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kurdistan, Turkey, the Gulf states and even to a lesser degree the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank all have in common is that they are islands of order, where at least there is someone to answer the phone, it doesn’t come off the wall when they do and there is a minimum of human security.
That is less and less true today in Syria, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq, not to mention nearby Somalia, Eritrea and northern and southern Sudan.
Guess how many African migrants, mostly from South Sudan, Eritrea and Uganda, have entered Israel in recent years and are here illegally: 54,000! Stroll around the Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv, where many have found shelter, and you’ll see African men on cellphones on every street. They sailed, walked or drove to Israel’s borders and either slipped in on their own or were smuggled in by Bedouins across Egypt’s Sinai Desert. That’s why the latest fence Israel has built is along the Israel-Sinai frontier. The Sinai is so out of control that last week Islamist militants shot down an Egyptian military helicopter there with a surface-to-air missile believed to have been smuggled in from Libya after Muammar el-Qaddafi’s arsenals were broken into during his overthrow.
I chatted with a Christian Eritrean — “Mark,” age 26 — who opened a makeshift clothing and Internet shop near the bus station. Sitting under a Bob Marley poster, he told me that he had fled from Eritrea’s brutal government to Ethiopia, then to Sudan, then to Libya, tried to sail to Italy but got turned back and eventually walked to Israel. He’s now living here illegally with his father, he said, because Israel has the “most security.”
I wonder if the torrid pace of technological change, the rising education demands for running a successful economy, the superempowerment of individuals to organize as militants or come together against corrupt governments and environmental and population stresses aren’t putting unbearable pressure on fragile states — particularly multisectarian and multitribal ones — and literally blowing them apart. And there is no Soviet Union or America to hold them together as in the Cold War.
The PowerPoint maps that Israeli military briefers use for Sinai, Gaza, Lebanon and Syria today consist of multicolored circles, and inside each are clusters of different armed groups. Israel is like a Petri dish of the new world, with nonstate actors, armed with rockets, dressed as civilians and nested among civilians on four out of its five borders: Sinai, Gaza, Lebanon and Syria.
I understand why all this makes even some moderate Israeli military leaders more wary about any West Bank withdrawal. But the status quo is not neutral. Israel needs to do all it can to avoid turning itself into a kind of forced binational state — with a hostile minority in its belly — by permanently holding onto the West Bank and its 2.5 million Palestinians. That’s exactly the kind of states blowing up in the world of disorder. And it’s why the success of John Kerry’s peace mission is so important for Israelis, and Palestinians.
You don’t want to be in these wars. This is not your grandfather’s battlefield. When the enemy is nested in homes and apartments and no one wears a uniform but everyone has a cellphone camera, you have a real strategic and moral challenge — as the U.S. has discovered with its own drone wars. It’s hard to defeat this enemy without killing a lot of civilians. It’s no accident that every Israeli brigade now has a legal adviser.
This is what’s playing Off Broadway. Take note. It may be coming to a theater near you.
And now we get to Mr. Kristof:
When Woody Allen received a Golden Globe award for lifetime achievement a few weeks ago, there was a lively debate about whether it was appropriate to honor a man who is an artistic giant but also was accused years ago of child molestation.
Allen’s defenders correctly note that he denies the allegations, has never been convicted and should be presumed innocent. People weighed in on all sides, but one person who hasn’t been heard out is Dylan Farrow, 28, the writer and artist whom Allen was accused of molesting.
Dylan, Allen’s adopted daughter who is now married and living in Florida under a different name, tells me that she has been traumatized for more than two decades by what took place; last year, she was belatedly diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. She says that when she heard of the Golden Globe award being given to Allen she curled up in a ball on her bed, crying hysterically.
With everyone else commenting, she decided to weigh in as well. (Full disclosure: I am a friend of her mother, Mia, and brother Ronan, and that’s how Dylan got in touch with me.) She has written a letter that I’m posting in full on my blog, nytimes.com/ontheground. I reached out to Allen several days ago, and he declined to comment on the record.
That he got away with what he did to me haunted me as I grew up. I was stricken with guilt that I had allowed him to be near other little girls. I was terrified of being touched by men. I developed an eating disorder. I began cutting myself.
That torment was made worse by Hollywood. All but a precious few (my heroes) turned a blind eye. Most found it easier to accept the ambiguity, to say, “who can say what happened,” to pretend that nothing was wrong. Actors praised him at awards shows. Networks put him on TV. Critics put him in magazines. Each time I saw my abuser’s face — on a poster, on a T-shirt, on television — I could only hide my panic until I found a place to be alone and fall apart.
A firestorm erupted in 1992 over allegations described as “inappropriate touching” — in fact, what Dylan recounts is far worse, a sexual assault. She was 7 years old.
There were charges and countercharges. A panel of psychiatrists sided with Allen, a judge more with Dylan and her mother. A Connecticut prosecutor said that there was enough evidence for a criminal case against Allen but that he was dropping criminal proceedings to spare Dylan.
Look, none of us can be certain what happened. The standard to send someone to prison is guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but shouldn’t the standard to honor someone be that they are unimpeachably, well, honorable?
Yet the Golden Globes sided with Allen, in effect accusing Dylan either of lying or of not mattering. That’s the message that celebrities in film, music and sports too often send to abuse victims.
“I know it’s ‘he said, she said,’ ” Dylan told me. “But, to me, it’s black and white, because I was there.”
I asked her why she’s speaking out now. She said she wants to set the record straight and give courage to victims: “I was thinking, if I don’t speak out, I’ll regret it on my death bed.”
These are extremely tough issues, and certainty isn’t available. But hundreds of thousands of boys and girls are abused each year, and they deserve support and sensitivity. When evidence is ambiguous, do we really need to leap to our feet and lionize an alleged molester?
But I want to leave you with a sense of Dylan’s resolve. She declares:
This time, I refuse to fall apart. For so long, Woody Allen’s acceptance silenced me. It felt like a personal rebuke, like the awards and accolades were a way to tell me to shut up and go away. But the survivors of sexual abuse who have reached out to me — to support me and to share their fears of coming forward, of being called a liar, of being told their memories aren’t their memories — have given me a reason to not be silent, if only so others know that they don’t have to be silent either.
Today, I consider myself lucky. I am happily married. I have the support of my amazing brothers and sisters. I have a mother who found within herself a well of fortitude that saved us from the chaos a predator brought into our home.
But others are still scared, vulnerable, and struggling for the courage to tell the truth. The message that Hollywood sends matters for them.
That’s something for all of us, even those who aren’t stars, to reflect on.
Last last up to bat we have Mr. Bruni:
Bear in mind that what you’re about to read comes from someone whose creaky knees protest any run longer than three miles, whose achy left shoulder just got its first cortisone shot and whose haircuts are more ceremonial than functional, given that nature is doing a barber’s work. I have a vested interest in coming up with an argument that older is somehow better.
But I also have the Super Bowl on my side, because what you’ll be watching on Sunday is more than the biggest football game of the year. It’s an affirmation of aging. It’s proof that a youthful stride matters less than a seasoned mind, and that what happens on the far side of our physical peaks isn’t a steady decline but a sequence of trade-offs. Our joints may not be as sturdy as they once were. We have plenty else that’s stronger than ever.
The Denver Broncos are favored (just slightly) over the Seattle Seahawks, and for one principal reason: Peyton Manning. He’s finishing up the best season of his career, maybe of any quarterback’s. For the 16 games leading up to the playoffs, he set National Football League records for passing yards and for touchdowns thrown. And he did this after four neck surgeries, following a period when nerve damage had wrecked his right arm. He did this at 37, which is the cusp of senescence in his merciless sport.
Certainly, other quarterbacks have flourished in their late 30s. In fact a few of them, including John Elway, were also Broncos, as Time magazine noted in a recent article titled “Peyton Manning’s Elder Power.” But what’s extraordinary about Manning — and what gives his golden season a resonance beyond the gridiron — is the way he’s flourished, his careful deployment of certain advantages to compensate for other disadvantages. It’s a tortoise-and-hare story, sort of, with a similar moral: Flashiness doesn’t automatically win the day. Neither does fleetness. But smarts, patience, plotting? These are paramount, and they’re less pronounced in youth than in the rickety, wobbly expanse beyond it.
Rickety, wobbly — yes, I’m thinking of Manning’s running style. While he was never much of a scrambler, he’s especially lead-footed these days. In the Time article, David Von Drehle wrote that Manning’s one short touchdown run this season “made him look like a man with a bum hip chasing a taxi in wingtips.” Von Drehle was being generous. Manning chased that taxi in Crocs.
All of his limbs have limitations they didn’t used to. Even as Sports Illustrated named him its athlete of 2013, the magazine observed that the “laser rocket arm” of his 20s was, at this point, “more like a cap gun.” Ouch. I watched every Broncos telecast — they’re my team, and I relish any reason to grow roots in the couch — and he threw a great many passes that floated and fizzled and swayed clumsily, like stoned egrets, toward the receivers they were meant for.
But they got there. And other passes, more of them, were real beauties, with both pinpoint accuracy and plenty of zip.
Besides, he has tools now that have nothing to do with brawn, tools forged in time served.
He has the kind of poise that maturity typically midwifes. He’s unflappable. When something goes wrong, be it his fault or a teammate’s, he’ll grimace only fleetingly, shrug just slightly and press on. Panic, he understands, is a waste of precious energy, a pivot into rushed, stupid mistakes. With a bit of age has come a better grip on the fact that a game, like a life, is long. Stay calm. Hang in. Wait for the inevitable break. Trust your training.
And gather information. The Manning of the moment is known less for his power, which is diminished, than for his skills as a tactician, which are the fruits of having survived so many different situations and studied so many possible scenarios. He can step to the line of scrimmage, quickly diagnose the defense’s vulnerabilities and instantly change the play that he was about to call, using a frenzy of code words and gesticulations that leave opponents scratching their heads, or rather helmets. Ten years ago, even five years ago, he was nowhere near as deft at this.
It’s no accident that we elect more older than younger people to the highest political offices, and it’s not simply because they’ve paid dues or been able to establish the necessary donor networks (though the latter, sadly, is indeed a factor). We understand that there’s a kind of judgment that comes only with an accretion of years, and we hope — often vainly — that it’s manifest in these leaders.
It’s no accident that Robert Redford, 77, just gave the performance of his career, in “All Is Lost,” and that Bruce Dern, also 77, did likewise, in “Nebraska.” The Oscar for Best Actor is likely to go to Matthew McConaughey, for “Dallas Buyers Club,” who’s doing work in his 40s — he’s now 44 — that he couldn’t have touched in his hunky 20s.
And it’s no accident that many of us, while remembering and sometimes yearning for the electricity of first loves and the metabolism of our salad days, don’t really want to turn back the clock. We know that for everything that’s been taken from us, something else has been given. We don’t move as nimbly as we did. But we manage our emotions with greater dexterity. Our energy may be diminished. Our use of it is more prudent. We’re short on flat-out exuberance. We’re long on perspective.
Back in college I took a psychology course that I recall absolutely nothing about, except for the professor’s favorite maxim. Life, he repeatedly said, is about learning to deal with loss. For decades afterward, as my mother died and relationships soured and I gave up on my grandest dreams, I trusted him on the profundity of this observation, which he could just as easily have worded another way: Aging stinks.
But he was wrong, or, at best, only half right. Life is about learning to look past what’s lost to what’s found in the process, and that’s Manning’s season in a nutshell. To watch him now isn’t merely to see new gifts on display, new tricks picked up. It’s to behold, in his eyes and smile, an amplified joy in the game he’s playing, an outsize gratitude for his part in it.
He’ll step onto the field at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., not just as one of the best quarterbacks in the history of football. He’ll step onto the field, with his thinning hair and awkward gait, as a poster boy for the march of time.