Trump’s Self-Inflicted Verdict

Pamela Paul

Jan. 30, 2024, 4:30 p.m. ET

Academic Freedom Is for Everyone

If you missed Stephen Carter’s essay for The New York Times Magazine last weekend, it’s worth finding it online. I’ve long been a fan of Carter’s work — I wrote about his 1991 book, “Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby,” last year — and his superb debut novel, “The Emperor of Ocean Park,” is set to be a TV series.

In print, Carter’s essay bore the headline “Why Free Speech Matters,” but this isn’t another piece bemoaning campus protests and cancellations. Instead, Carter asks a more fundamental question: What is a college education for?

“The classroom is, first and foremost, a place to train young minds toward a yearning for knowledge and a taste for argument — to be intellectually curious — even if what they wind up discovering challenges their most cherished convictions,” Carter writes. If students aren’t able to speak up and take risks without fear of censure or censorship, their education fails them.

“Impediments to free speech are impediments to free thought,” Carter explains. “That’s why academic freedom is so precious.” College, in other words, isn’t meant to affirm beliefs; it’s intended to push people to find out what they don’t know. That’s impossible without true academic freedom.

Carter’s words certainly resonate with me. With one of my three kids in college and another applying, I’ve been thinking about college’s purpose. Today, high school graduates are expected to be directed in their academic choices and career plans, even at liberal arts schools.

When I went to school in the ’90s, I chose classes according to my personal curiosities. My freshman year, I took surveys in European history and in English literature because I didn’t feel well informed on either, but also astronomy, anthropology, existentialism and studio art because they piqued my interest. It never once occurred to me what “use” they might be. Though I was on financial aid, I never saw my college education as a financial investment.

At a time when so many people view college as vocational training and judge it according to its return on investment — with the student somehow a product — Carter’s concerns may seem old fashioned. But most parents also want to raise thoughtful, engaged, curious human beings.

Our nation’s complex problems require critical and creative thinking. We would do well to think more about just what kind of education we want to provide.

Peter Coy

Jan. 30, 2024, 2:59 p.m. ET

Are You Sure Your Stuff Wasn’t Made in China?

Has the United States really reduced its dependence on imports from China? Or is it just buying stuff from China that’s being rerouted through other countries?

According to a report by a unit of Bank of America that came out on Monday, it depends on the country. If goods are coming from Vietnam, “the country must be rerouting Chinese products to the U.S.” to some extent, said the report by a team led by Antonio Gabriel, a global economist. However, in the case of Mexico, the report said, it’s unlikely that an “increase in Mexico’s exports to the U.S. is due to rerouting.”

The shift away from direct imports from China began under President Donald Trump and has continued under President Biden. But the U.S. economy won’t truly be decoupled from China if the nations it buys from are becoming more tightly coupled with it.

Under U.S. trade law, a country must “substantially transform” a product to be considered the country of origin. Rerouting can be a way to evade the high tariffs on Chinese goods by changing the country of origin. That would be illegal. But violations can be unintentional, and some cases fall into a gray area, Scott Lincicome, the vice president of general economics at the Cato Institute, told me. In a statement to me, BofA Securities, the bank unit, said it looked solely at the economic aspects of trade between jurisdictions, such as the effects on foreign direct investment, productivity, economic growth and currency exchange rates.

Vietnam has increased its exports to the United States by 13 percent of its gross domestic product since 2018, making it the nation with the biggest increase in market share of U.S. imports. At the same time, it increased its imports from China by about 7 percent of its gross domestic product, the report said, making it “hard to believe rerouting is not taking place.”

Mexico is also buying more from China, but more for its own consumption, the report said. What’s more, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement doesn’t allow goods from Mexico to qualify for exemptions from tariffs if they don’t have sufficient local content.

There’s a way to reduce rerouting that would be good for the United States, which is seeking to diversify its imports, and for its rising trading partners. Vietnam and Mexico — and other countries that have taken market share from China such as Taiwan, South Korea, India and Thailand — could do more of the manufacturing themselves. The more value those countries add, the more money they will earn. And the less the world will have to depend on China’s manufacturing might.



Patrick Healy

Jan. 30, 2024, 12:56 p.m. ET

Thank God for Madonna


Madonna in 2008.Credit…Kevin Mazur/WireImage

No one survives like Madonna survives.

The 65-year-old Queen of Pop reminded us of that on Monday night during her concert at Madison Square Garden, recalling how she spent 48 hours in a medically induced coma last June as she fought complications from a bacterial infection.

This legend, this icon, this all-time-favorite singer of mine, who had hip replacement surgery in 2020, had just spent 90 minutes singing, dancing, grinding, writhing, high-kicking and vamping in all her glory when she paused to make a point about what it means to have strength and stamina and survival instincts in this brutal world.

Holding a guitar in the center of a packed Garden, she said she wanted to serenade one of her caregivers who was in the audience, a woman named Marie who nursed her at home and rallied her spirits when she didn’t know if she’d recover.

“She took care of me like she was my mother,” Madonna said, her voice cracking. “Marie, I was waiting for you to come here so I could sing to you.”

“She slept in the room next to me. She helped me go to the bathroom. I could not walk. You people don’t understand — it is a miracle that I’m standing here right now.”

Madonna recalled that in moments of despair, she asked Marie if she was ever going to get better, if her legs would stop swelling, if she would ever move again.

“She would pat me on the head and look me in the eye, and say, ‘You’re a strong girl, you’re gonna make it,’” Madonna recalled.

And then Madonna strummed the chords of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and sang, “At first I was afraid, I was petrified / Kept thinking I could never live without you by my side.”

I’m glad that biopic of Madonna is in limbo so she can focus on this concert tour. The woman can only do so much. If I said a little prayer as I watched her dance around to “Like a Prayer,” thinking of that new hip of hers, I was also thrilled by her energy and endurance. She is and will always be a model for younger performers everywhere who complain they cannot deal with the world.

The world is hard. Life is hard. Thank God for the caregivers. Thank God for Madonna.

Binyamin Appelbaum

Jan. 30, 2024, 11:21 a.m. ET

It Shouldn’t Be a Crime to Disclose Tax Returns

Charles Littlejohn broke the law by leaking the tax returns of Donald Trump and other wealthy Americans, and on Monday he was sentenced to five years in prison for his crime.

But that shouldn’t be a crime.

Income tax records should be public records, available for every American to inspect. The idea makes many people uncomfortable, and that’s understandable. But paying taxes is not a private act. Property tax records are public, and there are clear benefits in making income tax records public, too.

As I wrote in a 2019 essay, perhaps the most important benefit is that sunlight makes it harder to avoid taxation. In Norway, where tax records have long been treated as public records, a newspaper started putting the information on its website in 2001. One study estimated that the publicity caused a 3.1 percent increase in the amount of income reported by self-employed Norwegians.

Transparency also makes tax policy tangible, informing public debate. The records Littlejohn stole reveal the astonishing variety of ways that wealthy Americans avoid taxes, providing a blueprint for reform.

And it’s not just about the wealthy. If tax data were publicly available, Lilly Ledbetter might have learned a lot sooner that she was making less than the male workers at her factory.

Littlejohn’s lawyers said in a court filing that he decided to leak Trump’s tax returns after reading my 2019 essay; he grasped the problem, but not the prescription.

When Congress first imposed an income tax between 1861 and 1872, the government published the names of taxpayers as well as their incomes and the amounts they paid. In 1924, following the enactment of the modern income tax, Congress again made income and tax payments public records, which one senator described as “the price of liberty.” Wealthy Americans hated the publicity and soon convinced Congress that tax returns should be treated as state secrets.

Littlejohn was wrong to break that law, but we should all be trying to change it.



Paul Krugman

Jan. 30, 2024, 10:50 a.m. ET

Trump’s Absurd Claim About the Stock Market

Whom the gods would destroy, they first make obsessed with the stock market.

There are three crucial rules about the relationship between stock prices and broader concerns: First, the stock market is not the economy. Second, the stock market is not the economy. Third, the stock market is not the economy.

But don’t tell Donald Trump, who treated a rising stock market during his presidency as proof of his economic prowess. And the fact that the market has been hitting new highs under President Biden is clearly driving Trump crazy, leading to outbursts like the one he posted on social media yesterday, claiming that investors are driving stock prices higher because they think Trump will win in November.

Taking credit for rising stock prices is silly even if you are the president; claiming credit when you aren’t is — can I say this? — demented. And it adds to what has always puzzled me most about the Trump phenomenon: Why don’t more voters see him as a ridiculous figure?

So why are stock prices rising? In general, trying to explain stock fluctuations is a mug’s game. But for what it’s worth, there has been a lot of economic news that should be good for stocks. Recession risks, and hence risks to profits, have faded. At the same time, plunging inflation has led to expectations of lower interest rates.

None of which is to say that the market surge is fully justified by fundamentals. I worry in particular that we may be seeing a tech bubble resembling that of the late 1990s.

But one thing I think we can say for sure is that the market isn’t being driven by Trump’s polling.

David Firestone

Jan. 30, 2024, 5:02 a.m. ET

Why Biden Is Falling Behind on Judges


Credit…Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Senator Richard Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, is deeply proud that he got the Senate to confirm two federal district judges in Indiana and one in South Carolina last week, with the permission of four home-state Republicans. One judge, Cristal Brisco, will be the first Black judge and the first woman of color on the federal trial bench in northern Indiana, and the other, Jacquelyn Austin, will be the only Black woman serving as a federal district judge in South Carolina. Both are impressive achievements for the Biden administration.

But the need to negotiate with Republicans in the first place demonstrates the significant problem caused by the Democratic attachment to archaic rules in the Senate. Presidents should be able to appoint the judges they want, and if a majority of the Senate agrees, those nominees should get a gavel and a robe. Instead, Durbin is clinging to an old tradition that requires home-state senators to give their permission — known as a blue slip — before any judge can be considered.

It’s not only archaic, it’s undemocratic, as the editorial board has written, and it’s the reason Democrats are falling behind Donald Trump’s record of appointing judges. As my colleague Carl Hulse reported on Sunday, Democrats have confirmed only 171 of Biden’s nominees, making it unlikely they will catch up to Trump’s 234 confirmations. It’s all because Republicans have blocked or slow-walked Biden’s choices.

Durbin could single-handedly end the practice and stop requiring Republican blue slips, but he won’t because he’s afraid that would set a precedent for Senate Republicans to force through MAGA judges if they retake the Senate and Trump wins in November. That could happen, but here’s the reality everyone but Durbin seems to know: Trump and his allies aren’t going to honor that tradition, even if Democrats preserve it for now. If he wins, he and his movement will muscle through all the judges they want.

Which is why Biden and Durbin should start doing so now, while they still have the chance. Durbin says “it is better to get a moderate Republican today than a MAGA Republican tomorrow,” but the moment Trumpism gets another foothold in the White House and the Senate, those MAGA judges won’t be stopped by ancient courtesies.



David French

Jan. 29, 2024, 5:15 p.m. ET

Readers React: Southern Baptist Convention Scandal

My last column, about the sex abuse scandal in the Southern Baptist Convention, generated some tremendous feedback. I’m going to share a few short comments that triggered some additional thoughts.

First, a reader described his experience in MAGA country:

Visiting my hometown in the rural South, this reality is apparent. I can ask, “How can you support this, given x, y and z?” only to find that they’ve never heard about x and y and have heard only an upside-down version of z. You might as well be bringing them dispatches from some foreign land. There’s a whole landscape of information they have been carefully shielded from.

In my experience, this is absolutely correct. For me, it is simultaneously infuriating and reassuring. It’s infuriating to see the sheer extent of right-wing media gatekeeping that’s cultivating consumer ignorance.

Putting righteous blame on right-wing infotainment doesn’t relieve ordinary Republicans of their responsibilities, of course. But civic ignorance does at least reassure me that millions of Trump voters aren’t explicitly endorsing his character and actions.

This next comment is representative of many others. Given the staggering number of high-profile scandals in the church, should we shun organized religion?

Baptist sex scandals. Catholic sex scandals. All of this makes me more and more comfortable with the fact that I personally get my spiritual relief from walking in the woods on Sunday morning instead of going to church.

Years ago — before I understood the extent of church corruption and abuse — I’d immediately say, “No, please don’t give up on church. There are still more good churches than bad, and a good church can change your life.”

Now I still want people to find good church homes, but I think it’s the church’s responsibility to build institutions worth joining. Until repentance and reform become more apparent, I don’t feel comfortable scolding any person into a house of worship.

Finally, I liked this comment a great deal:

I’m an atheist, and I have no more soul than my believing husband. Some of my atheist acquaintances are eye roll inducing with their own proselytizing and refusal to accept a polite “god bless you” after a sneeze. While other atheists are like me and are more live and let live.

Too many people in this nation seem to think their beliefs make them righteous, not their actions. This is an ancient problem. How many atrocities have been justified in the name of rooting out heresy or ideological apostasy?

Over time, I’ve become much less interested in beliefs than I am in actions. No one is perfect, but we all know the difference between snarling fundamentalists (of any stripe) and those who demonstrate kindness and humility as a matter of course.

Jan. 29, 2024, 4:05 p.m. ET

Pelosi’s Foolishness on Gaza Protesters

Nancy Pelosi’s call for the F.B.I. to investigate whether pro-Palestinian protesters have links to Russian money was remarkably foolish. Her best move now would be to stop trying to explain and to acknowledge she was wrong.

The misstep came in an interview on CNN, when Pelosi, the former House speaker and still-eminent Democratic representative, declared that those calling for a cease-fire in Gaza were carrying Vladimir Putin’s “message,” and some, she thought, “are connected to Russia.” Asked whether she believed some demonstrators were Russian “plants,” she said whatever they were, she wanted to ask the F.B.I. to investigate their money.

Nobody has seriously suggested that Russia is behind the protests, and Pelosi presented no evidence. Her spokesperson subsequently referred to a social-media post by Ian Bremmer, a well-respected political scientist, to the effect that the Gaza war and related chaos benefit Putin.

I emailed Bremmer, and he expanded the thought in response: “The Middle East war took Putin’s Ukraine invasion off the headlines and made it a lower policy priority for the Americans. Not to mention he benefits from chaos in the region and higher oil prices. As global leaders go, Russia’s president is among those most interested in seeing the war continue.”

That’s a perfectly reasonable analysis, one I share. Of course Putin is happy with the chaos. But it’s quite a leap to suggest that he’s behind it or to smear the thousands of Americans who earnestly believe that the carnage in Gaza — where 26,000 people have been killed, most of the population displaced and vast areas devastated — should be stopped. Many Israelis are also demanding that their government try to negotiate a cease-fire to free the remaining Israeli hostages.

To conflate their sentiments with Russian meddling or the Ukraine war is not only uncalled-for and wrong, but also damaging to President Biden. Many of the protesters Pelosi tarnished are Democrats, and many Democrats are already unhappy with the administration’s stance on the war. This can only alienate them further.



Jan. 29, 2024, 2:20 p.m. ET

A Crucial Negotiation for the Safe Return of Hostages in Gaza


Credit…Marco Longari/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

There will be no prospect of peace in the Middle East until the hostages taken in the Oct. 7 terror attacks are returned home.

It is the first point that supporters of the Palestinians’ cause — including the Arab nations negotiating on their behalf — need to understand and to advocate, urgently. Until it is achieved, the children of Gaza will continue to be at risk of starvation and suffer malnutrition. Their homes will be bombed and families sundered.

It is the rare point today that the vast majority of Israelis agree on. No country would accept less, even in the face of worldwide condemnation of its military’s excesses in recent weeks.

It is the central point that the United States and Israel’s allies should keep in their sights if they want to bring stability to the Middle East and ease the suffering of civilians in Gaza. American service members have been killed and injured in the region. Global trade is being interrupted. The threat of a wider conflict looms.

All of these emergencies stem, in some way, from Hamas’s actions on Oct. 7, and the continuing pain felt by the loved ones of the hostages.

None of this can end until the hostages are back in Israel. That is what the negotiators who met on Sunday in Paris need to agree upon, what the world should be urging them to accomplish.

Freeing the hostages will not end the violence for good. It will not grant the Palestinians the path to statehood they deserve, or freedom from being governed by a terrorist group. It will not hold Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and his government accountable for their actions, before and since Oct. 7. It will not fully address the Israelis’ deep concern over their national security.

None of these goals, however, can begin to be achieved until every one of the more than 100 hostages now held in Gaza is home and safe.

Mara Gay

Jan. 29, 2024, 10:07 a.m. ET

Mara Gay

Editorial Board Member, reporting from Las Vegas

Kamala Harris, Sharper and Lively, Begins to Make Her Case

In Las Vegas this weekend, a group of cheery Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters gathered at a union hall to hear Vice President Kamala Harris make the case for re-electing her and President Biden. The crowd started quietly, but as I watched, Harris brought them to life, warning Nevada voters in explicit terms about the threat posed by Donald Trump.

“Understand what dictators do,” Harris told the crowd on Saturday. “Dictators jail journalists. Dictators suspend elections. Dictators take your rights!”

Four years after Harris’s own failed White House bid and a rocky early tenure as vice president, her campaigning skills have grown vastly sharper. She is sounding increasingly confident, laying out the stakes of the November election with an ease more evocative of Barack Obama than the prosecutor Harris used to be.

At age 59, which is 22 years younger than Biden, who is facing concerns about his age, her role in the 2024 election could prove significant.

“Do we believe in democracy?” she asked them.

“Yes!” the crowd shouted, growing louder.

“Are we ready to fight for it?”


The vice president has visited the state twice this month, looking to shore up support in a state crucial to a Biden victory in November but where attachment to party can be fickle and interest in politics in general even weaker.

At the event this weekend, Curtis Williams, 64, said he planned to vote for Biden, even though, like a plurality of voters in Nevada, he is unaffiliated with a party. “I’m kind of commitment-phobic,” Williams joked.

Other voters were still undecided. “I’m coming to learn more,” Yamilah Nguyen, 27, told me. Nguyen, an entrepreneur, didn’t vote in the 2020 presidential election, but plans to this year, largely over concerns about access to abortion. “I believe it should be an option,” she said.

At the Democratic event, Nevadans of different backgrounds mingled politely: union members and conservationists, retirees and students, Hispanic Americans and Black Americans, Asian Americans and white Americans.

As those in attendance swayed to the live music, Trump held a rally across town repeating a campaign promise to prosecute Biden, the man who is again his biggest political enemy.

Whether Trump succeeds may depend on Democrats awakening from their weary slumber.



Patrick Healy

Jan. 29, 2024, 5:01 a.m. ET

Can Biden Be Believed About the Border?


Credit…Mark Peterson for The New York Times

Every Monday morning on The Point, we’ll kick off the week with a tip sheet on the latest in the presidential campaign.

  • President Biden’s chances at re-election will come down to immigration/the border, the economy and abortion, with abortion being a wild card in swing states that might get him over the finish line. Americans’ feelings about Donald Trump will also be a factor, but most Americans already know how they feel about Trump.

  • In the coming weeks, I’ll look closely at those three issues and how Biden and Trump handle them. But immigration is in the spotlight this week, with the ongoing standoff at the border and with Biden and senators trying to broker an immigration and border deal and Trump trying to derail it in the Republican-controlled House.

  • Whether or not a deal happens, can Biden be believed when he talks tough about the border? What actions will he take to show that he understands why so many people — Republicans, independents, Democrats — believe illegal crossings at the border are unacceptable?

  • In a statement on Friday night, he twice described the border as a “crisis” — a word you hear most often from voters and Republicans — and said he would shut down the border if Congress gave him the authority.

  • But many voters want to see Biden act now, using powers he already has to slow or stop the release of migrants into the country. Mark Penn, who was a pollster and adviser for President Bill Clinton and has been critical of Biden on the border, told me: “Immigration has for the first time ever become the No. 1 issue, even ahead of the economy. So glad to see the president moving on it. He has to move to take the issue off the table, and clearly he now recognizes that.”

  • On another front, House Republicans are trying to impeach the homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas. If Biden thinks the border is a “crisis,” let’s watch and see what-if-any actions the president takes to hold Mayorkas accountable for the crisis.

  • I’ll give the final word to David Axelrod, who was a senior adviser to President Barack Obama and has been a constructive critic of Biden. “The impression of passivity on the border issue, deserved or not, is a big political problem for the president,” Axelrod told me. “Here he is shifting to offense, taking a position that is easy to understand and exposing Trump and his followers for wanting to prolong and exploit the crisis rather than help address it.”

    Whether Biden delivers results will help determine his re-election prospects.

Anna Marks

Jan. 26, 2024, 7:35 p.m. ET

Trump’s Self-Inflicted Verdict

The $83.3 million judgment that Donald Trump was ordered to pay to the writer E. Jean Carroll on Friday evening was entirely avoidable. All he had to do, after earlier being found liable for sexual abuse and defamation, was just … keep his mouth shut.

Instead, he continued to defame her, and he was ordered to pay for it. You might have hoped that after today — finally! — Trump would have had reason to learn that his actions have consequences. Perhaps he would choose to return to Mar-a-Lago in sweet court-mandated silence. But his delusions of impunity are too strong.

Mere moments after the verdict from a federal jury in New York, Trump’s Truth Social account declared the judgment “Absolutely ridiculous!” and cast the entire trial as a “Biden Directed Witch Hunt focused on me and the Republican Party.”

It was Trump’s response that was absolutely ridiculous. He was the one who chose to sexually abuse Carroll. He was the one who chose to attack Carroll in news conferences and on the campaign trail after he was found guilty. He was the one who chose to post repeatedly about the case on social media, fomenting his followers’ outrage. In this case, if Trump is the target of the “witch hunt” he claims to be, then he built his own pyre.

His false accusation that the ruling was motivated by partisan politics demonstrates his deep concern about the four other cases looming against him in federal and state courts. But it also reveals, better than any crime the former president is accused of committing, the vacuousness of his character.

A man who takes no responsibility for his actions will dodge and deflect when he is found wanting. A man who takes no responsibility for his actions will not hew to higher powers designed to hold him accountable.

Fortunately, the law was not designed to service Trump’s fragile ego. Voters should remember that they don’t have to do so, either.



Farah Stockman

Jan. 26, 2024, 6:00 p.m. ET

Biden’s Embrace of Netanyahu’s War Comes at a Cost in Michigan

The Biden campaign has become so unwelcome in the Arab American community in southeastern Michigan that a meeting scheduled for Friday afternoon with Arab American leaders was hastily canceled after news of it sparked a public backlash.

“The Biden campaign is not just unwelcome in the metro Detroit area but is, quite frankly, radioactive,” said Abbas Alawieh, a senior Democratic strategist who served as a senior staff member for Representatives Andy Levin and Cori Bush.

Alawieh told me he had been invited to take part in the meeting and had planned to attend to convey the outrage of the Arab American community over Biden’s “bear hug” of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his campaign in Gaza. But within minutes of news of the meeting being posted on the hyperlocal news site @Dearborn on Instagram, the comments from the public were so scathing that the meeting was canceled, he said.

“I hope it wakes some folks up,” he said. “This isn’t the type of thing where they can send a few campaign staffers and do some cleanup that shores up some votes. This is the kind of thing that only changes with a change in policy and the president coming out in support of a cease-fire.”

Dearborn’s mayor, Abdullah Hammoud; a Wayne County commissioner, Sam Beydoun; and two Democratic state representatives, Alabas Farhat and Abraham Aiyash, were among those invited to meet Biden’s campaign manager, Julie Chávez Rodriguez, according to The Detroit News.

Alawieh called himself a survivor of both the Jan. 6 insurrection — he was at the Capitol that day — and the 2006 Lebanon war.

“Until he calls for a cease-fire, it feels like that the message that this community is sending to his campaign is ‘Do not show your face here,’” he told me.

But Biden can’t ignore Michigan; it’s a swing state he needs in order to be re-elected, and his poll numbers are not good here. There are roughly 300,000 voters here who identify as Arab American, and he won the state by 154,000 votes in 2020. He has to change course on Gaza not just because it is the right thing to do but also because it is vital to help him stay in office.

A correction was made on 

Jan. 27, 2024

An earlier version of this article misstated Abbas Alawieh’s position in the office of Representative Andy Levin. Mr. Alawieh was a policy adviser, not the chief of staff.

How we handle corrections

Jan. 26, 2024, 4:30 p.m. ET

This Sunday, Root for America’s Team


Jared Goff, quarterback for the Detroit Lions.Credit…Duane Burleson/Associated Press

For my entire life, my hometown Detroit Lions have been lackluster at best, and a laughingstock at worst. Zero playoff wins. Zero division championships. One 0-16 season, in 2008. (At least it was memorable.)

This year, things are gloriously different. The Lions not only clinched the N.F.C. North for the first time in 30 years, but also have won back-to-back playoff games. And when they take the field in Santa Clara, Calif., this Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers will be the only thing standing between them and the Super Bowl.

This season was a great American comeback story about a team that triumphed despite being written off for decades — just like its city and its fans.

When Dan Campbell, the head coach, was hired in 2021, he knew what the team he wanted to build would mean to this city. “They’re gonna be something this city’s proud of,” he said at his inaugural news conference, “because they’re gonna take on the identity of this city.”

And boy, did they.

Look no further than quarterback Jared Goff, a former No. 1 pick by the Los Angeles Rams who — just two years after taking them to a Super Bowl — was written off by his team and shipped off to Detroit. Now he’s playing the best football of his life, ranking in the top five this season in both passing yards and touchdowns.

Look no further than Amon-Ra St. Brown, the third-year wide receiver, who often recites, Arya Stark-style, a memorized list of the 16 wideouts drafted before him. St. Brown, the 112th pick in 2021, was named First-Team All-Pro this year, an honor bestowed on just three other wide receivers leaguewide.

Look no further than Aidan Hutchinson, the hometown kid who watched his team lose over and over, and now, after three years at the University of Michigan, has led the Lions in sacks in his first two years as a professional defensive end.

It has been thrilling to watch the excitement the Lions have brought to Detroit — a storied city experiencing its own, long-awaited resurgence. Fans broke decibel records at Ford Field. General Motors altered its shifts so that employees could watch the game. Delta Air Lines swapped in a larger plane so that more fans could get out west to see the game in person. It’s what this gritty city and its fans deserve.

Mark Cannizzaro, a sports columnist at The New York Post, put it perfectly on Sunday when he dubbed the Lions the “real ‘America’s Team.’” He’s exactly right. And it’s something Lions fans have known all season long.



Jesse Wegman

Jan. 26, 2024, 2:30 p.m. ET

Kennedy’s Plot to Be an Electoral Extortionist

A few months ago, I wrote about the profound danger of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s quixotic presidential campaign. Kennedy (like Cornel West and the shady, “centrist” No Labels party) knows he can’t win the election outright, so his only available path is an arcane constitutional provision that hasn’t been triggered in 200 years: the so-called contingent election.

Now Kennedy is making it explicit that he intends to be an electoral extortionist. During a speech in Tuscaloosa, Ala., this week, he mused about the prospect of preventing both Biden and Trump from securing a majority of electors. “It seems clear that they’re going to have to go with a compromise candidate, and I feel like I’m in the best position to be that compromise candidate,” he said.

The provision that he is exploiting, which appears in the 12th Amendment, says that if no candidate wins a majority of electors (that’s 270 today), the election gets thrown to the House of Representatives, where each state gets a single vote, no matter its size. Whichever candidate wins a majority of states becomes president. Because of happenstance and gerrymandering, Republicans control that majority. Forget one person, one vote; this is one state, one vote. It’s mind-bendingly unfair.

Alabama was a fitting locale for Kennedy’s speech, since the last person to try to pull such a stunt was George Wallace, the state’s arch-segregationist governor, in 1968. But even Wallace understood that in that scenario he’d play kingmaker, not king himself. Now Kennedy wants you to believe he would defend democracy by being anointed president with, what, 15 or 20 percent of the popular vote? Regardless, it would never work. There is no world in which Republican-dominated state delegations don’t cast their vote for Trump.

For someone named Kennedy, this guy is remarkably ignorant about politics and government. In explaining the contingent election process, he said, “Under the 26th Amendment, they have to stay in Congress and vote on nothing else until they make a decision.” Wrong: The 26th guarantees the right to vote to everyone 18 and older. He meant the 12th Amendment. I’d laugh, but right now, Kennedy’s constitutional illiteracy is the least of my concerns.

Nicholas Kristof

Jan. 26, 2024, 11:45 a.m. ET

A Ruling for the Starving Children of Gaza

The International Court of Justice ruling on Israel and Gaza today won’t please those who wanted a decisive ruling for or against a cease-fire. But its provisional ruling that Israel must allow more aid into Gaza could save lives — if the Biden administration insists that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu obey it.

I’ve covered many conflicts — in Congo, Sudan, the Central African Republic and elsewhere — in which most of the deaths do come not from bullets but from hunger and disease that follow displacement. That’s likewise a risk in Gaza, unless Israel permits more trucks carrying aid to enter the territory and then allows access for aid workers to distribute the food.

More than 90 percent of Gazans said they regularly went without food for an entire day, according to the United Nations, which added that half of Gazans are at risk of starvation. Some 570,000 Gazans may already be in famine conditions. Human Rights Watch said that constitutes a war crime by Israel.

I’ve been in touch with a scholar in Gaza — a secular man with no sympathy for Hamas — who has been trying to keep his starving children alive by feeding them leaves.

Children are most vulnerable to famine, and even those who survive often suffer lifelong cognitive deficits. It would be unconscionable for the world to permit a famine in Gaza when it is so easy to remedy.

Israel suffered a horrific attack on Oct. 7 by Hamas and endured unimaginable atrocities, and Hamas’s pattern of hiding among civilians makes a war in Gaza difficult to prosecute. But that cannot justify the mass starvation of children in Gaza. Netanyahu seems to think that his legacy will be crushing Hamas; instead, it may be crimes against humanity.

The United States and the Biden administration bear responsibility as well. It is our bombs that have destroyed neighborhoods and displaced families. After previously giving Israel a blank check, Biden has been pushing Netanyahu to allow more aid into Gaza. But he obviously needs to push much, much harder.

The court ruling should be a wake-up call for Washington: Every ounce of pressure must be brought on Netanyahu to permit more aid and avert starvation. That’s now a matter of international law, but more simply, it’s a matter of basic humanity.



Michelle Goldberg

Jan. 26, 2024, 10:15 a.m. ET

The Political Power of Abortion Rights in Poland

Warsaw in January might be a weird place to go to escape creeping despair, but these days you have to search out good news wherever you can find it. I came here to find out how Poland’s new government, which recently dislodged the authoritarian Law and Justice party, thanks to record-smashing voter turnout, is going about trying to rebuild democracy after eight years of illiberalism.

In my interviews, I’ve been struck by what a powerful role abortion played in bringing down the old regime. Zuzanna Rudzinska-Bluszcz, the deputy minister of justice, told me that the election was about “security and abortion.”

Poland has had a far-reaching abortion ban for a long time, but until 2020, the law included an exception for severe and irreversible fetal defects. The Law and Justice party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, sought to change that, saying in 2016 that the party would “strive to ensure that even very difficult pregnancies, when the child is condemned to death, is severely deformed, will end in birth, so that the child can be christened, buried, given a name.”

At one point, a spokeswoman for the Justice Ministry said that women forced to give birth to nonviable fetuses would be provided with a private room “to have a cry.”

An abortion ban instituted in 2020 by his party-controlled constitutional tribunal set off the largest protests since the fall of communism and brought countless young women into the political process. “That mobilized the very young generation that’s very politicized today,” Klementyna Suchanow, a feminist activist, told me.

A legacy of the former government’s abortion ban has been to create overwhelming public support for legalization: In one 2022 poll, 70 percent backed it. In the most recent election, voter turnout was, astonishingly, higher among those under 29 than among those over 60. It’s not just in America, it turns out, that abortion rights win elections.

There are still lots of roadblocks to reform, but even without a new law, things are changing in Poland. This week the new government moved to make the morning-after pill available without a prescription.

“Contraceptives are important from the point of view of sexual health and women’s rights,” Justice Minister Adam Bodnar told me. “So we try to make not only symbolic decisions but also try to think about some solutions that would repair the situation regarding access to abortion.”

Paul Krugman

Jan. 26, 2024, 10:36 a.m. ET

Republicans’ Own Private Dystopia

Yesterday we got a really good report on growth. Today a really good report on inflation, with the Fed’s preferred measure right at its 2 percent target over the past six months.

But Republicans are still partying like it’s 2022. Donald Trump says that low unemployment is fake, because of course he does. On Wednesday Nikki Haley declared that “we’ve got an economy in shambles and an inflation that’s run out of control.”

And Republican voters apparently believe them. Here’s the YouGov state of the economy tracker, for self-identified Republicans:





Jesse Wegman

Jan. 26, 2024, 5:01 a.m. ET

A Judge Figured Out How to Shut Up Trump


Credit…Sarah Yenesel/EPA, via Shutterstock

Anyone who has seen “My Cousin Vinny” knows that trial judges do not appreciate being messed with. But Vinny Gambini, the inexperienced personal injury lawyer in the 1992 movie who constantly tested the judge’s patience with sarcastic asides, was not the former and perhaps future president of the United States.

Donald Trump is, and so his childish outbursts, frequent insults and general misbehavior in court pose a dilemma for the many judges handling his assorted civil and criminal trials. Some have given Trump far more leeway than they would give other defendants, proving that the former president is right — there is a two-tiered system of justice in America.

On Thursday, in federal trial court in Manhattan, Judge Lewis Kaplan took a much harder line, and it appears to have worked, at least for now. The trial involves only one issue: The amount of damages Trump must pay the writer E. Jean Carroll. Trump was earlier found liable for sexually assaulting Carroll in a department-store changing room in the 1990s, and then of defaming her by accusing her of lying about it. Carroll has already won a $5 million judgment against Trump, and has sued him again over his repeated defamations of her.

In advance of Trump’s taking the stand on Thursday afternoon, Judge Kaplan repeatedly warned his lawyer, Alina Habba, to stick to the topic at hand, which was the amount of the damages. Trump was not to say a word about his view of the truth of the accusation. When Trump did so anyway (“She said something I considered a false accusation.”), the judge immediately struck the statement from the record. In all, the former president testified for less than five minutes.

This may be the only way to handle someone who behaves more like an oppositional 4-year-old than a former president. Judge Kaplan deserves credit for setting the bar; one can hope that the other judges will follow his lead.

As the movie judge admonished Vinny Gambini back in 1992, “Don’t think being from New York you’re gonna get special treatment.”

Jan. 25, 2024, 4:43 p.m. ET

You’re Not Required to Love Girlypop Feminism

Two of the last year’s most prominent cultural forces — “Barbie” and Taylor Swift’s music and tour — capture the public’s latest fascination with glitter-pop expressions of femininity and female camaraderie. It’s no surprise that when Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie didn’t receive every possible Oscar nomination for the film, social media lit up with charges of sexism (ignoring the movie’s eight other nominations — including one for Gerwig herself — and other female nominees). Similar, if not more targeted, outrage has long emerged when Swift has received reviews that fall short of glowing, unadulterated praise.

The demand for near-universal acclaim for billion-dollar, female-led cultural works hints at a troubling strand of online discourse — the idea that by uncritically liking a piece of pop culture, someone advances the feminist cause. Has there always been such pressure to praise female pop phenomena as expressions of “feminism”?

It’s almost a cliché to say that aesthetes have long seen anything teenage girls love as vapid and lowbrow until men embrace it. Counterculture defines itself against mass-market pop sensations. When hipsters ruled in the 2000s and early 2010s, listening to an unknown, underground band was a sign of sophistication.

Now, the pendulum has swung. On one level, this is heartening. Women should insist that their heroes, mass market and all, are respected. But when fans demand all women always speak highly of the most obvious female icons, they harden a narrow, and perhaps regressive, definition of what it means to be a woman: a young, hyperfeminine person interested in all the things girls are supposed to like.

This sort of pop feminism echoes through the “girlies” trend online, where women revel in youthful, cutesy femininity: making “girl dinners,” doing “girl math,” being “girls’ girls.” It’s a trend that, for all its celebration of women, spends lots of time enforcing a fixed view of what it means to be a girl based on some infantilizing stereotypes. And, as is the case with those who uphold Swift and “Barbie” as the pinnacle of feminism, the girlies often question other women’s divergence from the white, wealthy, feminine norm.

Products for mass consumption can’t be where feminism starts and ends. “Barbie” and Swift do not capture every expression of womanhood, especially those that exist outside stereotypical expressions of wealth and beauty.

It’s great for girlies to band together, but we don’t all have to be Stereotypical Barbie.



Katherine Miller

Jan. 25, 2024, 3:00 p.m. ET

Katherine Miller

Opinion Writer and Editor, reporting from North Charleston, S.C.

Haley’s Crowds Won’t Let Her Withdraw

The crowd that greeted Nikki Haley on Wednesday night in North Charleston at the Embassy Suites by the airport was so amped, I’m pretty sure she could have walked out and said, “I’m staying in! Trump will have to make me go!” and they would have just cheered, and then everyone could have gone home.

There was one touch of that, toward the end, when she said, “You know, the political elites in this state and around the country have said that we just need to let Donald Trump have this.”

And in my recording, you can hear a drawn-out “Noooo,” “No way!” “No!” a boo, and something muffled that sounds like it begins or ends with “please.”

That’s the homecoming crowd that comes out to greet the candidate, of course, not some electoral judgment about South Carolina. What Haley says she will embark on — staying in, even as it looks brutal out there for her polling-wise — could be fairly grim.

In a certain way, the Iowa and New Hampshire results and Haley’s campaign reflect, more than anything, a chunk of the electorate’s unhappiness. And between these things, you could imagine a supportive crowd and a down-to-the-last speech, sort of in tune with the knowledge of upcoming pain.

But Night 1 of this wasn’t a very sorrowful thing: She primarily gave the campaign speech she gives, with some slight added bits on Trump (that he spent time talking about her Tuesday night, not the country; that he blamed her for security on Jan. 6, 2021) and South Carolina under her governorship (union busting, the growth of car manufacturing).

And the crowd clearly wanted at least one more night: They were selling Nikki hats in Clemson colors and handing out lots of “Women for Nikki” signs; some people had brought handmade signs and cowbells.

Jan. 25, 2024, 1:30 p.m. ET

Cruel and Experimental Death in Alabama

Update, 9:42 p.m., Jan. 25, 2024: Kenneth Smith was executed Thursday evening by nitrogen hypoxia, Gov. Kay Ivey said. According to the news website, “witnesses saw Smith struggle as the gas began flowing, with between two and four minutes of writhing and thrashing, and around five minutes of heavy breathing.”

At about 6 p.m. Central time on Thursday, a 58-year-old man named Kenneth Smith is scheduled to be strapped to a gurney at a state prison in Atmore, Ala. He will then have a mask strapped to his head, which will be filled with nitrogen. If all goes according to the protocol concocted by Alabama state officials, Mr. Smith will lose consciousness in a matter of seconds and die soon thereafter.


Executions are brutal no matter how carried out. Most countries have banned them, and those that still impose the death penalty are rarely those that should be emulated. Among other arguments against them, death sentences are imposed arbitrarily and marred by racial discrimination.

The barbarity of Smith’s impending ordeal, however, extends beyond these arguments. The method of killing him, known as nitrogen hypoxia, has never been used in executions before. So by definition the attempt to kill him will be experimental, and all sorts of horrible things could happen: He could vomit into his mask, or an ill-fitting mask could prolong the suffering. The history of botched executions suggests that the likelihood of something going terribly wrong is high.

Smith himself is part of that history. In November 2022, the first effort to execute him, by lethal injection, was abandoned when the execution team failed to attach intravenous lines in the allotted time.

Facing execution twice would seem to be a clear-cut case of both cruel and unusual punishment and double jeopardy. Smith, according to his lawyer, is terrified that he will be subjected to torture; as for double jeopardy, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in a similar instance seven years ago that it did not apply because the poison never entered the condemned man’s veins.

Having killed a woman in 1988, Smith clearly deserves stern punishment. But barbarity should not be a response to barbarity. Allowing the state to take a man’s life is in itself perverse; allowing years to pass before the sentence is carried out is bizarre; but botching an execution and then using the same condemned man as a guinea pig for a different way to kill him is certainly cruel, unusual and utterly shocking.



Peter Coy

Jan. 25, 2024, 12:20 p.m. ET

Too Bad Biden Won’t Have This Economy in November

The U.S. economy finished 2023 surprisingly strong. Unfortunately for President Biden, it’s likely to slow down between now and the election in November.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis said today that gross domestic product adjusted for inflation grew at an annual rate of 3.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2023. That was well above the median forecast of around 2 percent.

Don’t count on momentum to sustain the expansion. Freight trains slow down gradually, but economies tend to fall off a cliff with little warning. The deep recession of 2007-09 was preceded by an economic growth rate of 2.3 percent in the third quarter of 2007. The economy even managed to grow 2.5 percent in the fourth quarter, even though the recession began in December.

There are lots of reasons to expect that this is as good as it gets for economic growth for the next few quarters. This week I listened to some top economists prognosticate on the outlook in an online session hosted by the American Enterprise Institute. This was before the latest G.D.P. data came out, of course.

Desmond Lachman, a senior fellow at the institute, said red flags for the economy include geopolitics, a U.S. commercial real estate bust, other countries’ economic weakness and the delayed effect of a big contraction in the U.S. money supply.

“This combination of risks is so large that I find it difficult to say everything is going to go right,” he said.

Nathan Sheets, the global chief economist at Citigroup, said the bank is forecasting a mild recession for the United States this year, although he called that a “finely balanced call.”

Julia Coronado, the president of MacroPolicy Perspectives, a forecasting firm, said the employment growth that has sustained consumer spending is highly concentrated in just three sectors of the economy: leisure and hospitality, state and local government, and education and health services. She said that “we constantly underestimate the resilience” of the U.S. economy.

Most optimistic was Jason Furman, a Harvard economist who worked in the Obama administration. “You can always find reasons to worry,” he said, but “the world is safer now than it was a year ago.”

Furman is right that recessions are hard to predict. Still, even if there isn’t one, I have a feeling that come November, President Biden will be wishing he had the economy of late 2023, not the economy of late 2024.

Paul Krugman

Jan. 25, 2024, 11:38 a.m. ET

Today’s Really Good Economic News

The U.S. economy is still growing fast, surpassing almost everyone’s expectations. Inflation is right at the Fed’s target. Let me explain why this is bad for President Biden.

OK, actually, no. Biden couldn’t have asked for better numbers.

Politics aside, these numbers help us make sense of the inflation that dogged America for a couple of years but plunged in 2023.

Here’s a wonkish chart, comparing the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation, the core personal consumption expenditures deflator (hey, don’t blame me), with a measure of labor market slack — the difference between the unemployment rate and the Congressional Budget Office estimate of normal, or “noncyclical,” unemployment. As you can see, before Covid there was a weak and noisy but still real relationship between the two: more slack, lower inflation.


Credit…Bureau of Economic Analysis; Congressional Budget Office

Then inflation really took off. Many Biden critics, including some Democrats, blamed the big spending of Biden’s first year. But there was always a puzzle: Deficit spending is supposed to cause inflation by causing economic overheating, yet this should have been reflected in ultra-low unemployment, which didn’t happen. What happened instead was a period in which inflation was much higher than you would have expected, given unemployment.

But here’s the thing: At this point, we’re right back on the historical relationship.

The obvious story here is that we went through an episode of high inflation because of lingering but ultimately transitory supply disruptions caused by Covid, and that we’re back on track because the economy finally adjusted. Indeed, it takes real intellectual gymnastics not to tell that story.

So on inflation, it wasn’t Biden, it was the virus. And it’s over.



David Firestone

Jan. 25, 2024, 5:01 a.m. ET

Biden Needs to Lose It With Netanyahu


Credit…Pool photo by Ohad Zwigenberg

For how long will President Biden let Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drive a U.S.-made howitzer right over him?

Ever since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that led to the Gaza war, Biden has been Israel’s strongest ally in the West. He advocated sending Israel whatever military force it needed. He stood by the right-wing Netanyahu government even as the Israeli bombardment of Gaza killed more than 25,000 Palestinians, a stance that has come at an enormous political cost, particularly among the young Democrats Biden will need in November. Last month, the U.S. was the sole veto in a 13-to-1 U.N. Security Council Resolution calling for a humanitarian cease-fire.

And what has Biden received in return? Senator Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, put it bluntly to Axios recently: “At every juncture, Netanyahu has given Biden the finger,” he said. “They are pleading with the Netanyahu coalition, but getting slapped in the face over and over again.”

The White House has demanded a reduction in the suffering of civilians in Gaza and an increase in humanitarian aid. It hasn’t happened. It wants planning to begin for the Palestinian Authority to have a role in governing a future Gaza. Netanyahu said no. And most of all, Biden wants Israel to start moving toward a two-state solution, creating a disarmed, self-governing Palestinian state that represents the best hope of a secure future for both sides.

Biden pressed Netanyahu on this issue just last week in a telephone call. Almost immediately, there was the sound of another face slap. The prime minister said the next day that he “will not compromise on full Israeli security control of the entire area west of the Jordan River — and that is irreconcilable with a Palestinian state.” That phrase is no less offensive than the Palestinian cry of “From the river to the sea.”

Biden has many ways to respond to this effrontery to longstanding U.S. policy. He could remind Israel that military and financial support are at stake, as well as support in international forums. His aides say he is close to losing his patience, but that isn’t enough.

He needs to actually lose it.

Farah Stockman

Jan. 24, 2024, 5:05 p.m. ET

Biden Needed That U.A.W. Endorsement

At long last, the United Automobile Workers union on Wednesday endorsed President Biden, who made history last fall when he joined striking autoworkers on the picket line.

Although the endorsement was not unexpected — Biden is widely considered the most pro-union president in generations — it does represent an important victory for the president at a time when some activists within the union argued that politicians who do not back calls for a cease-fire in Gaza should not be endorsed. Some union members were also concerned last year about the strength of Biden’s commitment to making sure that factories making electric vehicle components were unionized.

The U.A.W. is surging with new energy thanks to a victorious reform movement from the rank and file that swept Shawn Fain, a militant electrician, into the presidency on the promise that he would carry out the demands of regular members.

Some of the new strength and energy comes from graduate students, who make up about 100,000 of the roughly 400,000 members of the U.A.W. (They work in academia and have nothing to do with making cars.) Many of them have been active in demanding that the union stand in solidarity with Palestinian labor unions.

The union put out a statement in support for a cease-fire in December, and Fain spoke of the need for justice for Palestinians in an address on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

But in the end, Biden’s delivery of benefits to workers — such as his appointment of the most worker-friendly National Labor Relations Board in our lifetime — carried the day. That’s good news for Democrats in Michigan, where recent polls have consistently shown Biden trailing Donald Trump in the crucial swing state.



Jessica Grose

Jan. 24, 2024, 2:54 p.m. ET

Cults, Conspiracies and … TV Shows? Oh, My!

In December, I watched cult documentaries (cults are a long-term niche interest of mine; I even wrote a novel about one). The best was HBO’s disturbing “Love Has Won: The Cult of Mother God,” in which the cult’s leader, Amy Carlson, slowly turns an alarming shade of blue-gray because she ingested a great deal of colloidal silver to “cure” her many physical maladies. I also watched one of two recent documentaries about a cult called The Twin Flames Universe. (I saw “Escaping Twin Flames,” on Netflix.)

This follows a glut of cult documentaries that have appeared on my screen in recent years: Netflix’s “Wild Wild Country” from 2018, Max’s “Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults” from 2020 and several documentaries about NXIVM. This avalanche of fringe made me wonder: Are there actually more cults in operation now, or do we just get documentaries (or podcasts) about all of them?

Because what constitutes a cult in the first place is so disputed, this question may be unanswerable. But we do have some information on conspiracy theories, which are cult-adjacent (for example, Mother God incorporated some QAnon into her dogma). They don’t seem to have more adherents in recent years.

In 2022, Joseph Uscinski, a professor of political science at the University of Miami, and his co-authors studied conspiracy theories, including QAnon, Covid conspiracies and older conspiracies around John F. Kennedy’s death or the moon landing. “Across all studies, we fail to observe compelling evidence that either specific conspiracy theory beliefs or general forms of conspiracism have increased,” they wrote in their paper, published in 2022.

It’s always good to be reminded that while the amount of bad information and harebrained ideas on the internet is infinite, most people don’t believe everything they read or see. But what draws people — including me — to this genre of entertainment in the first place?

There is certainly a prurient, rubbernecking factor to the way we gawk at the most outlandish belief systems. But there is also a desire to understand the psychology of those who fall for charismatic gurus and the way leaders create messages that appeal to people who feel abandoned by the mainstream.

By understanding them better, perhaps we can avoid the same fate.

Lydia Polgreen

Jan. 24, 2024, 1:22 p.m. ET

A Glorious Year for Queer Cinema

In some ways, the Oscar nominations announced yesterday were a high-water mark for queer representation. Two fantastic out, queer actors were nominated for best acting awards for playing queer characters: Colman Domingo for his starring role in “Rustin,” portraying the gay civil rights legend Bayard Rustin, and Jodie Foster, who co-starred in a biopic about the legendary lesbian swimmer Diana Nyad.

I must confess that in a year in which I returned to the cinema with a vengeance, I have seen neither film. Domingo is a favorite — I adored his unhinged performance as a violent pimp in “Zola,” a delight from Janicza Bravo a couple of years ago. And who doesn’t love watching Jodie Foster’s late-middle-age renaissance on the big and small screen? I’ll probably get around to both movies during a future bout of Covid.

Their nominations are merely a hint of the range and richness of queer film in 2023, which featured a feast of raunchy, tender, absurd and heartbreaking stories about queer life. There was Ira Sachs’s gorgeous “Passages,” about a gay man who unexpectedly falls for a woman, which featured some iconic sweaters and one of the most frank sex scenes between gay men I’ve ever seen on the big screen.

I was amused and appalled (in a good way) by “Dicks: The Musical,” a debauched romp featuring Bowen Yang as Gay God, Meghan Thee Stallion as a merciless corporate boss and a pair of twins who were separated at birth. Yes, there is incest. Yes, it is over the top. Yes, it is extremely funny, even if it doesn’t always land the joke.

And I’m not sure I’ll ever stop thinking about “All of Us Strangers,” a gorgeous heartbreaker featuring luminous performances by an incredible cast. If you are in need of a messy, soul-shaking weeping session, this movie is for you.

But the movie that truly stole my heart last year, pointing the way forward to revolutionary queer cinema, was “Bottoms.” It tells the story of two queer high school outcasts and their desperate attempts to seduce the school’s hottest cheerleaders. In pursuit of this goal they start a fight club, and madcap hilarity ensues.

The point is that they are outcasts not because they are queer but because they are … just garden-variety losers. Now that’s what I call diversity and inclusion.



Peter Coy

Jan. 24, 2024, 12:34 p.m. ET

The Poor Are Feeling the Recession Vibes

The stock market is setting records, consumer sentiment has shot up and the unemployment rate remains not far above a half-century low. The “vibecession” is being declared at or near an end.

But the U.S. economy isn’t as strong as it seems. One way to tell that is to look at lower-income Americans, who have the thinnest financial safety cushions and are the first to feel when the economy weakens.

I reproduced the following charts from a report last week by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York titled “The State of Low-Income America: Credit Access & Housing.”


Credit…Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Equifax


Credit…Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Equifax

Early delinquencies are debts that are at least a month but less than two months past due. As the charts show, the rates of transition into early delinquency on auto loans and credit cards fell when the federal government gave out pandemic-assistance aid, but they rebounded by last year’s third quarter.

“Now that the crisis phase of the pandemic has subsided, low-income households are facing new economic realities: Fiscal and debt relief helped to shore up household finances, but inflation continues to eat into purchasing power,” the New York Fed report says. More than half of low-income households are renters, it says, and rents have risen sharply because of a national housing shortage.

The research is based on anonymized credit reports from Equifax. Those reports don’t have income data, so economists estimated borrowers’ incomes based on where they live.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia showed a similar pattern in a study released earlier this month based on reports submitted to regulators by the biggest U.S. banks. That report, which didn’t differentiate by income, said that 3.2 percent of credit card balances were 30 or more days past due in last year’s third quarter. That was up sharply from a low of 1.6 percent in 2021 and above the prepandemic level as well.

When you dig into the data, it turns out that a lot of Americans are feeling recession vibes.

A correction was made on 

Jan. 24, 2024

An earlier version of this article described a finding in a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia incorrectly. The study found that 3.2 percent of credit card balances were 30 or more days past due in last year’s third quarter, not 30 to 59 days past due.

How we handle corrections

Patrick Healy

Jan. 24, 2024, 5:02 a.m. ET

Patrick Healy

Deputy Opinion Editor, reporting from Manchester, N.H.

Trump Barely Won. Haley Can Still Make It a Race.


Credit…Mark Peterson for The New York Times

“This race is over!” Donald Trump’s campaign declared in an email at 8:17 p.m. Tuesday, shortly after winning the New Hampshire primary.

“This race is far from over,” Nikki Haley said around the same time, in remarks to supporters in Concord, N.H.

Who is right? And where does the fight for the Republican presidential nomination go from here? This much is clear: For the first time in this campaign, Haley now has a measure of control over the race, inasmuch as her decision to stay in or drop out will determine its trajectory. And the mere notion of Haley-in-pole-position sure seemed to get under Trump’s skin last night. He sounded angry at times during his victory speech in Nashua, repeatedly dismissing her as a loser, and calling her “delusional” on social media.

But this much is also clear: Haley doesn’t have a path to the nomination right now, at least not any traditional kind. Those who win both Iowa and New Hampshire historically go on to the nomination, and the primary calendar and delegate rules will get hard for her.

Instead, I can see Haley going this route if she stays in: Trying to attract as many moderates and independents as she can in the South Carolina primary Feb. 24 and then the Super Tuesday states on March 5, picking up more delegates, and letting the dice roll on Trump’s legal problems. (Supreme Court arguments are coming up in two weeks on whether he can appear on the ballot in Colorado, not to mention his other cases.)

It’s not a path, but a Plan B — an alternative for the party if the unexpected happens with Trump. And where does Trump go from here? Back to court, presumably, with the E. Jean Carroll trial still underway.

But his team would be wise to consider what my colleague David French pointed out last night on The Point: “New Hampshire tells us the G.O.P. is still Trump’s party, but it also tells us that Trump’s party is fractured, and fractured parties struggle to win the White House, especially when an incumbent is under fire.”

David’s right. Trump is running as a virtual incumbent, but so far he’s only winning 50-55 percent of the vote from his own party. Could there be a ceiling on Trump’s vote in the November general election, one that’s too low to win? That’s the question I’m leaving New Hampshire with.



David French

Jan. 23, 2024, 10:32 p.m. ET

A ‘Jarring Political Message’ for Trump?

When I watched the numbers roll in from New Hampshire on Tuesday night, I started to have flashbacks to a very different time. Here is the opening line of a Times story about the 1992 New Hampshire Republican primary:

“President Bush received a jarring political message in the New Hampshire primary today, scoring a less-than-impressive victory over Patrick J. Buchanan, the conservative commentator.” And what was the margin when the Times published those words? George H.W. Bush was beating Buchanan by 18 points, 58 percent to 40.

As I type these words, Donald Trump is beating Nikki Haley by a far lower margin. So is this result a “jarring political message” for Trump in much the same way that it was for Bush? While Trump isn’t the incumbent president, he is the incumbent nominee, and he’s running a version of a classic incumbent campaign. Yet he cleared only 51 percent of the vote in Iowa and, as of this writing, has 54 percent in New Hampshire.

It’s a number big enough to show that he has a strong grip on the G.O.P., but it’s also small enough to expose meaningful Republican discontent. Trump’s team will hype the result as a mandate and try to bully Haley out of the race, and she might leave.

It’s doubtful she’ll repeat Buchanan’s performance and stay in a hopeless race, contesting primary after primary, but if she does stay in the fight, one would expect she’ll earn a far higher percentage of total votes than Buchanan’s 23 percent, and that percentage was a harbinger of Bush’s general-election defeat.

New Hampshire tells us the G.O.P. is still Trump’s party, but it also tells us that Trump’s party is fractured, and fractured parties struggle to win the White House, especially when an incumbent is under fire. Just ask Gerald Ford in 1976, Jimmy Carter in 1980 and Bush in 1992. Each incumbent confronted a credible primary challenger, and each incumbent lost.

No, the analogy isn’t perfect, but the warning is still clear. Barring Supreme Court intervention, Trump is virtually certain to be the G.O.P. nominee, but he’s like a British battle cruiser in World War I: The imposing facade can conceal fatal vulnerabilities.

Trump is strong enough to win the G.O.P. primary contest, but his weaknesses are real, and each Haley voter has done the party the favor of demonstrating that Trump’s bluster outpaces his popularity. His victory comes with a warning sign: There is diminished demand for Donald Trump.

Jan. 23, 2024, 9:45 p.m. ET

Julie Ho

Opinion Editorial Assistant, reporting from Concord, N.H.

Muted Cheers at the Haley Party

The scant Nikki Haley backers at her postprimary party tonight were well aware they were surrounded by political tourists taking selfies and murmuring among themselves. Haley came in second, and it’s tough to generate a lot of cheers in those circumstances. But her supporters still managed to rev up some intermittent “Nikki, Nikki” chants as the numbers rolled in.

“I am hopeful, I think?” said 27-year-old Kate, who asked me not to use her last name and was perhaps the most ardent Haley supporter in the very loosely packed hotel ballroom in Concord, just minutes before The Associated Press called the race for Donald Trump. “It would be a sad state of affairs if she lost.”

But she did lose. Now if it comes down to a Trump versus Biden rematch, Kate said she plans to write in Haley’s name, unless Haley decides to endorse Trump. Though Kate’s expectations were muted by the time she arrived to await the results, she was resolute in her diagnosis of what ailed America and why she believed Haley was the right person to give the nation a fresh start.

“The country focuses too much on the social issues, on the left and the right, and not enough on the things that matter, like affordable housing and the economy,” Kate said. “Nikki can move the country to the center.”

She was standing at the front of the room with two friends, Sheena and Bri, who were also cautiously hopeful, staring anxiously at the big screen for the numbers to flip in Haley’s favor, which never happened.

In her speech, Haley promised that “we are just getting started.” Did they find her words invigorating after a second-place finish? The friends said it was satisfying just to hear Haley excited enough to keep going.

The few dozen or so supporters on the floor managed to sustain some mildly jubilant cheers around us. If 2024 turns out not to be Haley’s year, they will wait until 2028 to support her again.

“Obviously it would have been better if she won,” said Kate.



Patrick Healy

Jan. 23, 2024, 9:20 p.m. ET

Patrick Healy

Deputy Opinion Editor, reporting from Manchester, N.H.

10 ‘What if?’s That Could Have Made Haley’s Night

What if? Imagine this alternative unfolding of the Haley-Trump race, prompted by a tighter outcome in New Hampshire tonight than Donald Trump wanted.

What if Kim Reynolds had stayed neutral in the Iowa caucuses, as Iowa governors usually do, instead of endorsing Ron DeSantis in November, which provided some much needed validation for his sagging campaign?

What if Liz Cheney had barnstormed Iowa in December and January to make the case against Donald Trump as a threat to the values of conservative Americans — Midwesterners and Westerners alike — and perhaps even considered endorsing Nikki Haley, the one woman in the race?

What if Chris Christie had ended his G.O.P. nomination bid in December, rather than January, and thrown his lot in with Haley as the best-positioned Stop Trump candidate?

What if Haley had found her voice in Iowa in the closing weeks before the caucuses — as presidential candidates are often said to do there — and leaned harder into framing Trump as an agent of chaos and a figure of the past, not the future?

And speaking of finding her voice, what if Haley had not made gaffes about how New Hampshire “corrects” Iowa’s choice in the presidential race and about the causes of the Civil War without mentioning slavery — and had used the last Iowa debate to hit Trump more than DeSantis?

What if a Reynolds-less DeSantis had come in third in the Iowa caucuses behind Trump and Haley, rather than in second place, and dropped out the next day rather than waiting until two days before the New Hampshire primary?

What if Haley had sailed into New Hampshire last Tuesday and spent a full week in a two-person race against Trump, building on that momentum to make the case to Republicans, independents and Democrats that the New Hampshire primary was The Moment America Started Moving on From Trump?

What if her events popped with crowds and energy — not a far-fetched notion, given that New Hampshire is proving to be more competitive than some of the big-Trump-lead polls suggested?

And then, on Tuesday night, what if a surging Haley edged out Trump for the win?

What if all that had happened? What would happen on Wednesday?

Jan. 23, 2024, 4:00 p.m. ET

Fear and Loathing in Durham, N.H.


Biden supporters in Manchester, N.H.Credit…Mark Peterson for The New York Times

If voters here at Oyster River High School in liberal Durham, N.H., were excited to vote, it wasn’t because of the candidates on their ballots. Take Caroline Dishaw, a student at the nearby University of New Hampshire, who wrote in President Biden’s name.

“I think it’s terrible,” Dishaw, 20, told me when I asked about the likely rematch between the two circa-80 men. “The fact that they’re the best we can scrum up altogether doesn’t paint a good picture for the future of the country.”

Dishaw’s friend Ella DeCesare, 19, said she voted for Nikki Haley in part because she’s running against Donald Trump. How does she feel about Trump versus Biden? “Sad.”

Outside, a group of retirees waved signs urging voters to write in Biden’s name.

“I was a federal employee for 50 years,” said Brenda Murray, 84. She retired in 2019. Unlike many who said they’re voting for Biden because he is not Trump, Murray said the president has done a good job. She added that she loathed Trump for how he treated federal employees.

Sitting next to Murray was George Wilson, 86, a retired real estate agent and a Republican. He voted for Trump in 2016 but chose Haley this time, he said, since “she has a chance of beating Trump.”

Wilson said he could never vote for Biden, who’s too liberal for him. Why, then, was he holding a “Write-in Biden” sign? “I have a lot of friends that want me to do that, and what’s it hurting?”

I headed inside when my hands began to numb, and I spoke to high school seniors and university students. A few said they’re voting for Marianne Williamson. One said Dean Phillips.

Jennie Maher, 44, said that she was supporting Haley in the hope that things could get done without Trump’s drama. How does she view a Biden-Trump rematch? “It’s disappointing. Just two candidates that have kind of run their course.”

Amid the voters scurrying in and out, one stood to the side, holding up a sign urging voters to protest everyone. “I think the candidates that are currently running, especially Trump, Biden and Haley, are terrible candidates,” said Chase Poirier-McClain, 17. “I agree with them on pretty much nothing, and they’re all just running as alternatives to each other.” He’ll turn 18 before November, and I asked if he’ll vote at all.

“Most likely, I’ll end up voting for Biden,” he said. “Reluctantly.”



Maureen Dowd

Jan. 31, 2024, 5:03 a.m. ET

The Swan Is a Viper


Calista Flockhart as Lee Radziwill.Credit…Pari Dukovic/FX

I’ve trained my Netflix algorithm to search for shows about betrayal, revenge, murder and lives ruined.

So naturally I was intrigued by Ryan Murphy’s FX series starting Wednesday night, “Feud: Capote vs. the Swans.” It spins the saga of one of the greatest betrayals in literary history, when the famous writer of “In Cold Blood” coldly turned his gimlet eye on his best friends, the stylish women who were the gatekeepers of New York society.

Jon Robin Baitz, who co-wrote the show with Murphy, told me that the women “clung to each other so as not to go insane. How long can you go to a private fitting with Givenchy and not begin to feel like you’re drowning in Chantilly lace? And your men are fornicating power devils and betraying you from the moment they wake up to the moment they fall asleep every day? And you go with the flow and take comfort in the Van Cleef & Arpels apology they give you or the Pissarro that shows up on your bed.”

Murphy wanted to give viewers a double dose of nostalgia. “It shows us that last gasp of New York society, when women wore gloves and used finger bowls and went to four-hour lunches where they drank and smoked,” he said. “But we’re also examining another type of nostalgia for the female stars of the ’90s, who had to get through that gantlet of tremendous tabloid journalism at the time and whom we have missed and are so glad to have back.”

I wasn’t sure which swan to request an interview with for The Times’s Styles section. They were all fascinating veteran actresses: Naomi Watts, Diane Lane, Chloë Sevigny, Calista Flockhart and Molly Ringwald. (And then there are Demi Moore and Jessica Lange, who are swan adjacent.)

I chose Flockhart because she had been a big part of my life — from afar. I loved her hit shows, “Ally McBeal” and “Brothers and Sisters.” The latter was created by Baitz, and he said the holiday columns about my politically divided family had helped inspire it.

When I asked for the interview, Flockhart’s publicist called to say she wanted to make sure I knew that the 59-year-old actress’s character wasn’t the lead swan. (Watts plays Swan No. 1, that epitome of elegance Babe Paley, the wife of the longtime CBS chief Bill Paley. Flockhart plays Lee Radziwill.)

Very unusual to play down your role, I thought.

When I interview celebrities, I’m prepared for them to be glamorous creatures from another planet. But Flockhart seemed like someone you’d want to hang out with here on Earth.

“She’s not a Hollywood actor,” Baitz said. “She’s a strange salamander that lives in her own rainforest. She has a strangely rich, quiet inner life.”

Murphy was thrilled with all his swans and happy that Flockhart emerged from her private rainforest to be part of his show. The Master of Macabre gave her his highest compliment: She makes a very, very good viper.

Kathleen A. O’Brien

Jan. 31, 2024, 2:06 p.m. ET

Real Women Deserve Better Than the Met’s Mannequins


Credit…Dolly Faibyshev for The New York Times

I didn’t expect much during a recent visit to the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It currently has an exhibition called “Women Dressing Women” that features the work of over 70 women’s wear designers, dating back to around 1910.

The fashion world has never seemed to me a very healthy place. Magazines in the ’80s and ’90s featured models so thin that I could never hope to match them. By elevating such a narrow beauty standard, the fashion world contributed to the societal push to denigrate women who had the misfortune of taking up too much space.

That message had been internalized and passed down in my social circle. Laments over weight from my mother, aunts, coach, friends — even Oprah — made clear that carrying a few extra pounds was a horrible way to go through life. It took me years to develop the armor I needed to ignore this onslaught.

There are signs that things might be improving. In the mall, you’ll occasionally see a mannequin that looks closer to the size 16 that is now the average for American women. Commercials, dance groups and TV shows often include women with a variety of body types.

Still, I go into a high-fashion space with the proper disdain for what I will encounter. I found myself surprised when I read the introductory wall text at the Met, where the museum said it had acquired “clothing made for a variety of body types” for the exhibition. Would I actually be … OK with this high-fashion display?

I wasn’t. The exhibition featured a male mannequin, another based on a model with achondroplasia and one based on a model with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair, all of which were admirable. But typical rounder women’s bodies, so common in the world, were represented with exactly one slightly larger mannequin, out of over 70 featured. I stared at it in recognition, then observed the sea of very thin mannequins that surrounded it with a pang. The mannequins were up on pedestals, surrounded by another sea of real people, including many young women, eagerly taking it all in.

The Met might see a single larger mannequin as progress. Perhaps it is, in its way. But I would say its math is still way off.



David French

Jan. 23, 2024, 3:05 p.m. ET

What MAGA Really Looks Like

Earlier this month I wrote a piece arguing that the greatest threat of Trumpism isn’t found in his policies (as dangerous as many of them may be) but rather in his effect on his own supporters. “Eight years of bitter experience,” I wrote, “have taught us that supporting Trump degrades the character of his core supporters.” The longer I live in MAGA country (I’m in Tennessee), the more I see ordinary Americans adopting Trump’s nihilistic, conspiratorial rage.

Yesterday Michael Kruse, a senior staff writer at Politico, published a fascinating profile of a Trump supporter that illustrated exactly why I’m so alarmed. Kruse wrote about a retired Army officer named Ted Johnson. In the profile, Kruse writes that Johnson considered supporting Nikki Haley, but he’s back on the Trump train. Why?

He hopes Trump “breaks the system.” He actually wants Trump to pull the country apart, even though he believes Trump’s next term will be “a miserable four years for everybody.” He calls Jan. 6 “Patriots’ Day,” but he also says the Jan. 6 riot was “staged” by the Democratic Party and Nancy Pelosi.

This sentiment isn’t coming from an unemployed steelworker who is facing the collapse of his career. Instead, it’s coming from a retired Army officer who works from his comfortable New Hampshire home. Like so many MAGA people I know, he’s living a life of prosperity, liberty and autonomy that would be the envy of most of the world. Indeed, his open, unafraid musings about civil war are evidence of his enormous privilege. He lives in a country that protects even his right to argue for the demolition of the government.

This is the nature of the movement confronting America. The same people who’ve benefited immensely from American strength and liberty are now committed to breaking the very system that gave them so much.

But it’s not because they’re oppressed. No one could credibly call Ted Johnson oppressed. Instead, they’re motivated by a shocking degree of rage and spite. That’s the character of the movement, and that character — perhaps more than any proposed MAGA policy — places the United States at risk.

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