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Jason Linkins   |   November 24, 2015    4:49 PM ET

So, that happened: Black Friday, once the day retailers celebrated finally being "in the black," has for a long while been known for something much worse -- an annual post-Thanksgiving retail Bacchanal of "doorbuster" mayhem and instant YouTube shaming in which big-box retailers throw caution and good sense to the wind and stoke a stampede of desperate shoppers to run rampant through their aisles. More recently, this awful tradition has bullied its way up the calendar, interrupting the quiet Thanksgiving holiday with its nonsense.

However, have things finally gone too far? A growing backlash, stoked by retailers like outdoor sporting goods emporium REI, has taken root in the popular consciousness. And as more customers recoil from the chaotic scenes and go online to shop, the economics of staying open on Thursday are starting to make less sense. On this week's podcast, we explore the possibility that Black Friday might finally be in retreat.

Meanwhile, it's becoming more and more clear that Donald Trump intends to make angry, racist lying the centerpiece of his campaign. Now, a group of Republicans have ordered the Code Red, forming one of those shady dark money organizations just to stop Trump. But what if Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus' worst fear is realized and Trump runs as a third-party candidate? 

It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without having a few fun guests around the table with us. This week, two of our favorites return. Here to talk about his biennial budgeting reform proposal is Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.). And giving us her best advice on getting along with everyone at your holiday meals is Daily Beast and New York Times contributor Ana Marie Cox, the host of The Brouhaha podcast.

"So, That Happened" hosts Jason Linkins, Zach Carter and Arthur Delaney are joined this week by HuffPost reporter Dave Jamieson.

This podcast was produced, edited and engineered by Adriana Usero and Peter James Callahan, with assistance from Christine Conetta.

To listen to this podcast later, download our show on iTunes. While you're there, please subscribe, rate and review our show. You can check out other HuffPost podcasts here.

Have a story you'd like to hear discussed on "So, That Happened"? Email us at your convenience:

Jason Linkins   |   November 23, 2015   12:11 PM ET

Evan Osnos' new profile of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is titled "The Opportunist," which makes it sound like a rough ride is in store for the young Republican presidential aspirant. And as it happens, the piece paints Rubio at times as a little green, and at times, a little grasping.

All the same, Rubio's camp is going to be pretty happy for having participated in the piece. By the time its first eight paragraphs conclude, Rubio has been humanized as colorfully as any campaign manager could possibly desire. All in all, it's a pretty good read.

But we have got to talk about the Drake shoutout, you guys. What the hell is this?

Rubio’s inclusiveness can invite caricature. He considers himself a Catholic, but he attends two churches — an evangelical Protestant service on Saturdays and a Roman Catholic Mass on Sundays. He used to proclaim his love of nineties-era hip-hop — particularly Tupac Shakur — but recently he has also taken to praising cross-genre artists, such as Drake and the Weeknd, who blend electronic dance music with hip-hop, rap, and R. & B. “It’s a twenty-first-century ability to take music and use it in a way that motivates people,” he said last month on CNN, mirroring his campaign rhetoric. “Some of it is blended with other sounds that are sampled from recordings that others have had in the past, and you see traditional artists being brought in and their voices used on an electronic soundtrack.

Leaving aside Rubio's ecclesiastical chameleon act, how on earth is it a caricature to have loved '90s-era hip-hop at one point and to have praised Drake and The Weeknd at another? There are literally thousands of people who have made this same journey in terms of music taste. One big reason is that first, there were a bunch of people who made '90s-era hip-hop back in this time we call "the '90s," and then a decade later, Drake and The Weeknd released some albums and a lot of people said, "Hey, this is good music too."

Is there anyone at the New Yorker with experience listening to contemporary music? Because it would have been useful to have someone to say, "Hey, let's not make something very typical in music fandom sound like a character indictment."

Of course, I did kind of laugh at Rubio's quote, which makes him sound a little aggressively normcore about listening to today's music. In his defense, however, I'll point out that he was talking to CNN -- the cable news equivalent of running with scissors -- and you have to explain everything to them like that. That's just fact.


Jason Linkins edits "Eat The Press" for The Huffington Post, and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast, "So, That Happened." Listen to the latest episode below:

Jason Linkins   |   November 19, 2015    3:33 PM ET

On this week's edition of "So, That Happened": Last week's terror attacks in Paris were horrific and senseless, but for the perpetrators -- the death-cultists of the self-described Islamic State -- they served a specific purpose: to eliminate the "gray zone of coexistence" between Muslims living in the West and their non-Muslim neighbors.

The refugees fleeing Syria make it more than crystal clear that the Islamic State is not creating any kind of haven for Islam. But if you want a more relatable face of the "gray zone of coexistence" -- a success story you've definitely heard of -- consider some of your favorite international pop stars. The terror group despises Muslims of all stripes who reject their bankrupt ideology and look to the West for hope. They're counting on us making the mistake of rejecting these Muslims.

Meanwhile, as our political leaders mull what is to be done in response to the Paris attacks, Congress is being asked to reconsider taking up responsibilities that they've long dodged -- passing the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that explicitly pertains to the battle against the Islamic State. Finally, while the world's been watching Paris, your Congresscritters have moved a law through the House of Representatives that would make it easier for auto dealers to practice racial discrimination in the issuance of car loans. And guess what? This passed with massive bipartisan support.

"So, That Happened" hosts Jason Linkins, Zach Carter and Arthur Delaney are joined this week by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), as well as HuffPost reporters Akbar Ahmed and Jessica Schulberg.

This podcast was produced, edited and engineered by Adriana Usero and Peter James Callahan, with assistance from Christine Conetta.

To listen to this podcast later, download our show on iTunes. While you're there, please subscribe, rate and review our show. You can check out other HuffPost podcasts here.

Have a story you'd like to hear discussed on "So, That Happened"? Email us at your convenience:

Jason Linkins   |   November 18, 2015    4:13 PM ET

Ken Vogel, who muckrakes the world of the idle-rich weirdos who run our political system like none other, returns Wednesday with the latest inside dope on the famous Brothers Koch, last seen in these pages describing how they'd been "dragged ... kicking and screaming" into politics only to become so terribly disillusioned about all the "character assassination" they found therein.

So what's going on with these pure-hearted sons of the soil who just want a polite political discourse to flourish in America? Oh, no big deal, they're just plowing all kinds of cash into a "secretive operation that conducts surveillance and intelligence gathering on its liberal opponents," you know, as one does. Per Vogel:

The competitive intelligence team has a staff of 25, including one former CIA analyst, and operates from one of the non-descript Koch network offices clustered near the Courthouse metro stop in suburban Arlington, Va. It has provided network officials with documents detailing confidential voter-mobilization plans by major Democrat-aligned groups. It also sends regular “intelligence briefing” emails tracking the canvassing, phone-banking and voter-registration efforts of labor unions, environmental groups and their allies, according to documents reviewed by POLITICO and interviews with a half-dozen sources with knowledge of the group.

The whole angry capoeira that these politically inclined idiot billionaires are combat-dancing with one another is actually pretty amusing. See, as Vogel tells it, there's this one group of uber-wealthy liberal donors called the Democracy Alliance, who aren't anywhere near the Koch brothers' level of wealth, but who unnerve the Koch brothers greatly. Consequently, these two organizations are basically perpetually engaged in a grand game of subterfuge and slap-and-tickle -- tracking each others' movements, fundraising in the dark market, meeting in secrecy, and every once in a while pilfering some intelligence that's been puzzlingly left lying around to be found.

The Kochs are of the mind that their operation got outfoxed in the last presidential election, so this time out, they're looking the escalate their monetary advantage by building out their intelligence-gathering operation. And the guy they've picked to run their "competitive intelligence" team is a man named Mike Roman, a true artist working in the paranoid style in American politics who has "worked to keep himself and his activity low-profile even within the discreet Koch operation." According to Vogel's sources, this team nurtures its neuroses to the extent that even "when people were summoned to meetings" at their offices, they typically "had trouble finding the suite."

“They told people that’s the way they liked it,” the official recalled. “They act all cloak and dagger – like the CIA. There was a joke about how hardly anyone ever met Mike Roman. It was like, if you wanted to find him, he’d be in a trench coat on the National Mall,” said the former official.

Sounds pretty efficient!

If you're wondering where you may have heard the name Mike Roman before, you might remember him as the guy who created the "Election Journal" website, which purported to hunt down the many instances of voter fraud that keep not happening, but mainly contributed only one thing to American life -- the enduring conspiracy theory of the nightstick-wielding "New Black Panthers" that were spotted outside a Philadelphia polling place supposedly intimidating voters. No actual voters came forward to testify to being intimidated, but maybe that just goes to show how effective those nightsticks really were! At any rate, Roman really, really, really doesn't like the New Black Panthers.

And as Vogel reports, he's apparently "scared to death of moles" as well. So much so that his group sees them everywhere:

One former network executive remembers an email containing a photo of a man identified as an operative with the environmental group Greenpeace who allegedly had been spotted taking his own photos outside the network’s cluster of offices in the Courthouse neighborhood of Arlington.

Connor Gibson, a Greenpeace researcher who focuses on the Koch network, said he visits its component groups’ offices once a year to pick up their tax filings, and he speculated he could have been the operative photographed by the competitive intelligence unit. While he said he’s never sought to conceal his identity during such visits, he added “If the Kochs consider me an opponent, I’m flattered.”

Of course, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you. This crack squad did manage to ferret out an "IT contractor" who'd been posting anonymous accounts to Reddit about how he "worked for the Koch brothers but despised their stances." And that's the incredibly true story about how the Kochs stopped some Reddit thread from permanently tipping the balance of political power to the Democracy Alliance!

To be honest, one of the more amusing things about this clash of gilded elites is that there is absolutely nothing at stake -- at least for all the ridiculous plutocrats involved, anyway. These people all live easy, carefree lives of luxury and there is no plausible electoral outcome in this or any election that will ever alter their upward trajectory to greater and greater levels of comfort and extravagance. All of this miserable paranoia and high anxiety is happening in the clouds, a million miles above the real world, in a clash between rival members of America's perma-fortunate class, locked in a death struggle over what amounts to marginal scraps of wealth. Theirs is a battle that will have no losers, just winners with varying levels of wounded pride.

The bad news is that our dumb, corrupt political system shows no sign of changing for the better anytime soon. The good news is that if you want to mess with the Koch brothers, just come to Arlington's Courthouse neighborhood dressed up like a member of the New Black Panthers!

The Koch Intelligence Agency [Politico]


Jason Linkins edits "Eat The Press" for The Huffington Post, and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast, "So, That Happened." Listen to the latest episode below:

Jason Linkins   |   November 12, 2015    4:48 PM ET

At this week's Republican primary debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Neil Cavuto went there with his first question:

Candidates, as we gather tonight in this very august theater, just outside and across the country, picketers are gathering as well. They’re demanding an immediate hike in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Just a few hours ago, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed doing the same for all state workers, the first governor to do so.

For the "Fight for $15" movement, it was a big moment -- their ongoing activism had landed them, if not on the debate stage, then in the primetime spotlight, with Cavuto bringing the issue of working-class economics to the fore before the evening's opening pomp had fully burnt off and pressing the candidates on whether they were "sympathetic to the protesters' cause." 

As it turned out, this assemblage was not amenable to the idea of raising the minimum wage, preferring instead to enunciate their common fears over the potential for job losses. This is not an unreasonable premise, economically speaking, but because the GOP candidates were so uniform in their responses, a wider discussion on the trade-offs between wage increases and employment never took off.

But during Saturday's Democratic debate, that could be a different story. On this week's "So That Happened," reporters Arthur Delaney and Jessica Schulberg help discuss this hot-button issue ahead of the Democratic candidates' second meeting. (Discussion begins at 45:18 in the recording below.)

As you might expect, the remaining Democratic candidates -- former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) -- all favor an increase in the minimum wage. But as to the extent to which they'd provide a boost in take-home pay, there is just enough divergence to make the discussion more interesting, and the stakes much higher.

The Fight For $15 activists know that Sanders is fully in their corner: He took to the streets with them this past week, and perhaps more importantly has put his name to a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

O'Malley, too, has come out in favor of a $15 minimum, touting his successful effort as the governor of Maryland to raise the state minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.

It will fall then to Clinton to wade into the weeds and explain why her backing of a $12 minimum wage is what's best. In a way, Clinton has already begun erecting the conceptual framework for her argument, having announced herself as a "progressive who likes to get things done" -- contrasting Sanders' revolutionary zeal with her own skill at working within institutions and knowing where the limits are. Her case: The "more ambitious proposal of $15 wouldn't be realistic on Capitol Hill."

The irony, of course, is that successfully making this argument might take considerably more ambition and effort than just enunciating support for the protest movement.

The minimum wage is just one key issue for Democrats that has bloomed with new salience in the days ahead of the debate. This week, the Senate once again threw barriers in the way of closing the Guantanamo Bay internment camp -- one of President Barack Obama's oldest unfulfilled campaign promises. This means there's a good chance that the three Democrats on the stage Saturday night might have this problem passed on to them.

This podcast was produced, edited and engineered by Adriana Usero and Peter James Callahan, with assistance from Christine Conetta.

To listen to this podcast later, download our show on iTunes. While you're there, please subscribe, rate and review our show. You can check out other HuffPost podcasts here.

Have a story you'd like to hear discussed on "So, That Happened"? Email us at your convenience:

Jason Linkins   |   November 12, 2015    3:40 PM ET

So, that happened. Students at the University of Missouri, angry about the school's indifference to numerous instances of flamboyant racial hate, this week forced the resignation of the anthropomorphic shrug emoticon that had managed to become the university's president. But now, it's time to shape the school's future.

It's a role into which the students who wrought change will need to grow. But this is a teachable moment for the outside world as well, as many people would do well to understand the particular perils of their campus and the media environment that students have had to surmount in the past weeks. As Tressie McMillam Cottom writes, these "students are still very much in danger for doing something important."  


Meanwhile, the GOP candidates met in Milwaukee for their fourth debate and, well, it didn't end in tears and angry remonstrations like the last debate -- but was there anyone who clearly excelled? And with the Democrats meeting on Saturday to debate, hot-button issues are emerging in timely fashion. Who will have the best answer on Congress' reluctance to close Guantanamo Bay? Who will make the best case on raising the minimum wage? 

"So, That Happened" hosts Jason Linkins, Zach Carter and Arthur Delaney are joined this week by Jamelle Bouie, Slate's chief political correspondent, as well as HuffPost reporters Marina Fang, Jessica Schulberg and Lauren Weber.

This podcast was produced, edited and engineered by Adriana Usero and Peter James Callahan, with assistance from Christine Conetta.

To listen to this podcast later, download our show on iTunes. While you're there, please subscribe, rate and review our show. You can check out other HuffPost podcasts here.

Have a story you'd like to hear discussed on "So, That Happened"? Email us at your convenience:

Jason Linkins   |   November 10, 2015    2:25 PM ET

As we've noted before, Ben Carson's turn as the GOP frontrunner has led the media to shine a spotlight on some of his quirkier viewpoints and tall tales from his biography.

But most recently, the abundance of this sort of coverage has inspired something of a backlash, fueled in part by Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, who complained on "Meet The Press" this weekend that the focus should be on Carson's proposals as a candidate. "I know it's a crazy idea," said Sanders, "but maybe we focus on the issues impacting the American people and what candidates are saying, rather than just spending so much time exploring their lives of 30 or 40 years ago.”

Many in the media share Sanders' viewpoint. As my colleague, Igor Bobic, wrote just yesterday, "What has gotten a little lost in the hoopla over whether [Carson] misrepresented certain details of his biography -- for instance, claims that he was offered a place at West Point and that he stabbed someone in his youth -- is what he would actually do as president."

But, as Bobic says, "The problem with moving on and focusing on his policy platform, which Carson urged on Sunday, is that he barely has one."

He's not alone in noting this. Amy Walter, national editor of The Cook Political Report, tweeted:

I understand where this is coming from, but I'd like to offer a counterpoint: To learn what Carson would actually do as president, we should pay more attention to his odd beliefs and biographical exaggerations. Why? Because it's clear that what Carson is promising to do is take America on a series of wild and zany adventures, and turn our lives into a phantasmagoric roller coaster ride of adrenaline-pumping action and experiences that would stagger the imaginations of our nation's founders.

This is the beauty that I see in Ben Carson, and I want everyone to be able to see it! With Ben Carson as a presidential candidate, we are at a crossroads. One path leads to the enunciation of boring policy plans, the rigamarole of delegate-collecting and nomination-winning and convention-having, and then the anti-climax of an election in which voters choose someone who'll either fail to deliver on promises or restrict their promises to a pitifully mediocre array of offerings. Then, we'll just go on, feeling hollow inside and waiting for the sweet relief of death's embrace.

Or. OR! Ben Carson will be elected, and we will set off on a fantastic thrill ride beyond the senses, limited only by our dreams and desires, each new day dawning into a magical kaleidoscope of mind-bending possibilities. 

As a candidate, Ben Carson is just on another level entirely. It's high time we start judging the rest of the field by the standards he sets, instead of insisting that Carson dial back everything that makes him so incredible so that he more closely resembles the more earthbound GOP candidates for president.

To listen to the way the media covers Carson, you'd think that he's alone in being a "lunatic" or saying things that have "no basis in fact." But look at Marco Rubio's tax plan! It is pure and unadulterated Willy Wonka nonsense. And yet, as horsecrap as Rubio's numbers are, what's really lacking is his vision. Rubio might promise "revenues" and "growth," but what part of Rubio's tax plan gets a scholarship to West Point? What part of Rubio's tax plan stops a bear attack? 

Nice tax plan, Rubio, but riddle me this, boy genius: If your tax plan is so great, how come I can't store any grain in it?

Gotcha, Marco. Check and mate.

Jeb Bush, meanwhile, says that he'd go back in time to kill baby Hitler:

“It could have a dangerous effect on everything else, but I’d do it -- I mean, Hitler,” Bush said with a shrug.

Leave it to low-energy Jeb to suck all of the enjoyment and excitement out of the precious gift that is the opportunity to travel back in time to murder a baby. Where did all the white-knuckle thrills in your life go to die, Jeb? Did you murder them, with your boringness?

You put this question to Ben Carson, and you can bet your bottom dollar that he'll come up with a plan that's exciting, challenging and completely unexpected. Going back in time to kill baby Hitler? That's for normal candidates. An extraordinary man like Ben Carson wouldn't merely go back in time to kill Hitler -- he'd go back in time to convert Hitler to Seventh-day Adventism and make him walk a righteous path. Carson would be the metaphoric belt buckle preventing Hitler from stabbing the Jewish people of Europe by turning Hitler's violence aside and making him run to the bathroom of his soul, to read a magical issue of Psychology Today and seek the wisdom necessary to become a better human being. (And then, with the help of time-traveling Michele Bachmann, they'd convert the Jewish people of Europe to Christianity, too.)

Look. It's true that Ben Carson doesn't have much in the way of conventional policy propositions. After the last debate, he was lampooned for not knowing the rate at which his own tax plan would tax people. But this is actually one of the things that makes Carson a strong candidate: his total disinterest in mere "plans" and "policies." There's a lot more to life than what can be slowly ground through the House Appropriations Committee. What I'd say to everyone who harps on Carson's lack of policy acumen as a reason to treat him as if he's not ready for primetime is: You are not looking at the Big Picture.

Because if you look at the Big Picture, you know what you would see? You would see Jesus, up in the corner, offering his smiling approval of Ben Carson. What other candidate can claim to have this kind of backing? This is a painting bombing from the Son of God Himself! But the so-called "mainstream media" wants you to believe that earning the endorsement of Sen. Cory Gardner is a big deal.

Don't you want to feel inspired again? This election is about your life. When the picture of your life is painted and mounted on a wall in your home, do you really want to see Cory Gardner in the background?

Come on, now.

The rest of the GOP field treats American exceptionalism as if it's some tatty museum exhibit -- some antiquity for academics to enclose in a glass box and leave inside some dusty, wood-paneled room, occasionally visited by wisdom-seekers who part from the experience feeling more diminished for having done so. Ben Carson is the only candidate who is loudly advocating for us to push beyond these self-imposed limits and start wielding the concept of American exceptionalism in the way that only a man who literally believes man and dinosaurs walked the earth together can.

Even Donald Trump, for all his big talk and gold leaf, can't compete with Carson in this regard. Trump wants to build a wall and get Mexico to pay for it? Carson would get Mexico to build it. And it would be armed with lasers, garlanded with wise and kindly dragons and inscribed with words of such surpassing wisdom that anyone who travels to the wall wouldn't need to cross the border of a nation to find opportunity waiting -- they'd instead come away armed with the knowledge necessary to cross the most important border of all: the border to personal greatness.

Who, then, would truly "make America great again?" The answer seems clear to me. But if we foolishly demand a pivot to Carson's "policies," we run the risk of missing the real promise of his candidacy -- the opportunity for this entire country to undertake a series of improbable and implausible thrill rides that push us beyond the boundaries of our mortal bodies and into the great wide yawning universe of experiences beyond perception.

This is the Dream Archipelago from which Carson has come into our lives, and to which he promises to take us. We need only to open our minds to him, and allow him to leave a sponge inside our minds.

A sponge soaked in LSD.


Jason Linkins edits "Eat The Press" for The Huffington Post, and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast, "So, That Happened." Listen to the latest episode below:

Jason Linkins   |   November 6, 2015    4:45 PM ET

You can be forgiven if, up until now, you've not been paying much attention to the race to replace outgoing Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, which has now come down to a matchup pitting longtime Republican Sen. David Vitter (La.) against state Rep. John Bel Edwards, the Democrat who serves Louisiana's 72nd District.

Perhaps the most noteworthy occurrence is that Jindal's lieutenant governor, Jay Dardenne, crossed party lines to endorse Edwards -- a move that's caused no small amount of consternation among Dardenne's fellow Republicans. 

But forget all that, because this nonsense is about to get even more real with the release of this new Edwards ad, which very quickly and very unsparingly highlights what one might say is the key contrast between Edwards' and Vitter's careers.

It is, as the headline attached to the top of this article puts it, not subtle. Not at all. It "goes there." It is "hot fire." It "escalates quickly."

Yeah, yeah, you guessed it, it's about David Vitter paying prostitutes. 

Louisiana, you guys!


Jason Linkins edits "Eat The Press" for The Huffington Post, and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast, "So That Happened." Listen to the latest episode below:

Jason Linkins   |   November 6, 2015    1:20 PM ET

Ben Carson has been having a rough time since he ascended to front-runner status in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. As the brighter lights of scrutiny that accompany a candidate's rise to prominence have shone on the retired neurosurgeon, long shadows have been cast over his personal story and his past statements. Now, a key moment of Carson's acclaimed memoir, Gifted Hands, has come under fire.

At issue is Carson's narration of a 1969 meeting with Gen. William Westmoreland, who was then chief of staff of the U.S. Army. As Gifted Hands relates, Carson was introduced to Westmoreland following a Memorial Day parade, subsequently invited to dinner, and at some undetermined point after that dinner, "offered a full scholarship to West Point."

A key point worth noting: One does not obtain a "full scholarship" to West Point -- all U.S. Military Academy cadets have their tuition funded in full by the Army, and in exchange, those cadets are obligated to serve in active duty upon graduation.

Politico's Kyle Cheney looked into the matter and discovered that West Point had "no record of Carson applying, much less being extended admission." According to an academy spokeswoman, "West Point has no records that indicate Carson even began the application process."

As Cheney goes on to report:

When presented with this evidence, Carson’s campaign conceded the story was false.


“Dr. Carson was the top ROTC student in the City of Detroit,” campaign manager Barry Bennett wrote in an email to POLITICO. “In that role he was invited to meet General Westmoreland. He believes it was at a banquet. He can’t remember with specificity their brief conversation but it centered around Dr. Carson’s performance as ROTC City Executive Officer.”


“He was introduced to folks from West Point by his ROTC Supervisors,” Bennett went on. “They told him they could help him get an appointment based on his grades and performance in ROTC. He considered it but in the end did not seek admission.”

Cheney's article leaves the impression that Carson's campaign meekly admitted to the fabrication. Elsewhere, however, the campaign is loudly protesting the piece. In a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation, campaign spokesman Doug Watts says the campaign "never admitted to anything" and that Cheney's article was "an outright lie."

Carson's central counter-claim is that he was given encouragement to attend West Point, but opted to not do so. And if the words "offered a full scholarship" didn't appear in his memoir, there wouldn't be a story at all. It's the repetition of a "scholarship" that was "offered" that muddies the waters for him.

On this point, Carson does have defenders in the media: 

The story breaks after a week in which other odd statements and fabrications from Carson have dominated the news. During the most recent GOP primary debate, Carson responded to an inquiry about his involvement with Mannatech -- a shady purveyor of quack nutritional supplements -- by saying, "I didn't have any involvement ... that's total propaganda." Subsequent reporting revealed that Carson was actually a heavily involved endorser of Mannatech's wares, appearing in several promotional videos.

In the days since, Carson has been dogged by several controversies of his own creation. In an interview with the Miami Herald on Wednesday, Carson appeared to be unfamiliar with essential aspects of the policy that allows Cubans to come to the United States. A day later, BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski and Nathan McDermott surfaced an old video in which Carson claims that the Egyptian pyramids were built for the purpose of storing grain -- a contention that's at odds with fact. Carson's veracity has also been questioned over claims that he tried to stab a high school classmate, making this the first time in recent memory that a presidential candidate has fought to retain credit for having a violent past.

Throughout it all, Carson has not been behaving like a traditional candidate. Rather than actively campaigning, the neurosurgeon has been roaming far afield, promoting his new book, A More Perfect Union.

It is possible that fostering book sales, not winning primary delegates, is -- and has been -- Carson's priority.

UPDATE, 6:09pm: And the result of today's back and forth between the Carson campaign and Politico has resulted in...Politico stealthily editing the original story to a more watered-down version that basically absolves Carson of the original "fabrication" charge.

So in the matter of Carson v. Politico, points go to the candidate.

Jason Linkins edits "Eat The Press" for The Huffington Post, and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast, "So That Happened." Listen to the latest episode below:

Jason Linkins   |   November 5, 2015    5:54 PM ET

If you cast your mind back to June of this year, you might remember how it came to pass that the National Broadcasting Company parted ways with the star of their "The Apprentice" reality show, Donald Trump. At the time, Trump was just wading out into the waters of his ersatz presidential campaign, propelling himself with controversial comments about immigrants that immediately secured him some modicum of affection with the GOP's nativist base and scorn from just about everyone else. All of which caused NBC to melodramatically declare themselves to be out of the Trump business.

Only: not exactly. For all the talk of "ties" that had been "cut," it was clear that not everyone under the Peacock's banner got the memo, as Trump continued to enjoy playing to NBC audiences from morning until late at night. And this week, Trump will once again return to NBC, taking a star turn as the guest host of the network's most durable franchise, "Saturday Night Live."

This week, the "So That Happened" podcast interviewed Julio Ricardo Varela, the digital media director of NPR's Latino USA and founder of, about the burgeoning protest of "Saturday Night Live" from the Latino community, and about Varela's recent column about it in The Guardian. (Segment begins below, at 40:20.)

It's a controversy not without substance, considering the fact that a planned primary debate on NBC's sister Spanish-language network Telemundo was a casualty of the complaints and in-fighting that arose after the GOP candidates failed to receive what they considered to be a fair hearing at October's CNBC debate. It wouldn't be unreasonable for Telemundo to wonder why its nominal corporate cousin, "Saturday Night Live," would choose this moment to honor one of the figures at the center of this fight instead of showing some solidarity.

This dispute is also something of a piece with a larger cultural debate that has engulfed comedy in general. As political comedy has grown in prominence, alongside the Internet's tendency to applaud stand-ups and sketch artists for their particularly cutting takes on social issues, what's been glossed over is that a comedian's first priority is often, simply, to be funny -- and not necessarily to spark important social change.

But while the antipathy the Latino community feels for Donald Trump and "Saturday Night Live" is real, the protests that have been launched against The Donald's hosting gig are less about shutting down Lorne Michaels' laugh factory, and more about ... well, just stealing some of Trump's shine and putting it to good use for the Latino community. As Varela writes:

With all the talk that Trump’s numbers would decrease, he is not going away anytime soon, as polls from Iowa, New Hampshire and Florida indicate. If the push to disinvite Trump from SNL is unifying Latino organizations around a common cause and – more importantly – is causing Latino voters to be more active in the political process, then the campaign is doing its job. Latino voters have some of the worst voter turnout numbers in the United States.

By focusing on a television show with failing grades when it comes to Latinos, calling out a network that has backtracked on its promises to Latinos and also never forgetting Trump’s anti-Mexican comments, there’s a greater possibility that in 2016 those lower voter turnout numbers will increase significantly.

What can I say? All's fair in politics and improv comedy.


This podcast was produced and edited by Adriana Usero and Peter James Callahan, engineered by Brad Shannon, with assistance from Christine Conetta.

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Jason Linkins   |   November 3, 2015    2:06 AM ET

Whoever has been making it a habit to watch Bloomberg Politics' "With All Due Respect" -- the vlog that Michael Bloomberg pays Mark Halperin and John Heilemann lots of money to produce, because it's really, really, really part of Bloomberg Politics' strategy and not at all a huge mistake -- sure got a treat this week, as the show is now new and "improved." 

I mean, in the first place, it's a lot longer now. And that means there are more minutes to fill with such political wisdom as Halperin's observation that "[Marco Rubio] is on everybody's list as a possible nominee." Which is totally true, by the way! Rubio, in running for the nomination, has really etched his name on everyone's list of people running for the nomination, much in the same way that the Jacksonville Jaguars are "on everyone's list as a team that will play professional football for at least sixteen weeks this year."

It's trenchant stuff, but it hardly ends there. See, "With All Due Respect" landed their biggest guest yet for this important week of the show's existence: Donald Trump, a guy who helped reopen the Wollman Ice Rink in New York's Central Park.

He is also running for the Republican nomination, which means that Halperin and Heilemann got to ask Trump the sort of very important questions that you'd want well-paid political reporters to put to a real live presidential aspirant.

Here is a long list of the questions these two men -- each of whom receives over $1 million in pay from Michael Bloomberg --  asked Trump, given this opportunity:


  • "[The Wollman Ice Rink] is a great New York institution. So is "Saturday Night Live" -- you are doing it next week. Nervous? Excited? How are you feeling about it?"

  • "So this rink was once the largest ice rink in the world, now there's a lot of rinks bigger than this obviously, this was back in the '50s when it was built."

  • "Do you skate yourself?" 

  • "What do you do for exercise if it's not ice skating?"

  • "Seriously?! No exercise?!"

  • "Here is a question that I've been wanting to ask you for a while: We almost never get to see you eat, What do you like to eat? What's Donald Trump's favorite stuff?"

  • "What do they have in [the ice skating rink pavilion to eat]?"

  • "You need to do some more exercising!"

  • "Are you like, a normal eater, like three meals a day?"

  • "What's the food you like that you know you shouldn't eat but you just can't resist?"

  • "How many pieces of bacon would you eat normally, in one sitting?"

  • "New York City's baseball team, the New York Mets, lost the World Series to the Kansas City Royals. Is that because the Royals are great, or because the Mets kind of blew it?"

  • "You've got a son, you've got grandkids, what do you do to make them laugh?"

  • [Referring to things you might do to make a child laugh.] "No funny faces?"

  • "This rink ... you were talking in extraordinary detail about how the ice gets made, the freon versus this and that, have you ever driven the Zamboni?"

  • "Really?! What was that like?"

  • "What are the things you've achieved since your father passed away that you think he'd be proud of?"

  • "What do you think [your dad would] think about you running for president?"

  • "Was [your dad] political?"

Wow. I just want to point out that "What do you like to eat?" is a question that Halperin has "been wanting to ask" Trump "for a while!" Also, these two reporters are really pretty excited about talking about how ice gets made, especially when you consider that most people do it by freezing water.

In fact, Halperin and Heilemann are both really fascinated by the ice rink, so the show ends up taking a deep dive into Trump's role in successfully getting the Wollman Ice Rink back up and running. But does all this talk about ice rinks have a payoff? Oh yes, my friends, oh yes. 

HALPERIN: People who say Trump's got no experience, he can't possibly be president, because that's not what the president's about, [this ice rink] was a government problem, the city couldn't get this thing built, so what are examples of things now that that aren't getting done that you think you could bring the same skills to if you were president, just the way you got this thing done?

TRUMP: I'll give you one example, wars. Wars aren't getting done. It's the same thing. You look at ISIS...

Right. It's the same thing. As an ice rink. O-kay!

Hey, just so we're clear:

HALPERIN: Your critics would say you've just compared building an ice skating rink to stopping wars, and that that is the same thing.

TRUMP: It's all the same.

Sure. Perfect. It's totally the same. As Trump says, it's all about efficiency. And then he starts talking about "General Oriano," who is "leaving," but not before pointing out that the U.S. military is "the least prepared we've ever been."

Ordinarily I'd point out that it's General Odierno, that he left a few months ago (to JP Morgan, naturally), and that he said that "the service is in danger of becoming too small for an increasingly dangerous world" because of deep budget cuts, but I guess that wouldn't be efficient. At any rate, Halperin and Heilemann don't know enough to challenge these contentions (like Odierno's name), and the moment slips by anyway. But who cares? The point is, displacing ISIS is really just as easy as restoring an ice rink, that's just science.

Halperin and Heilemann make a few more attempts to mine this opportunity for substance. For example, Trump is asked about Marco Rubio, who's generally held by the political media to be the GOP's "establishment" hope, and thus an important rival to Trump. As you might expect, Trump writes Rubio off as "highly overrated," an "overrated person," a "lightweight" who is "nowhere in the polls," and "totally driven by what the public thinks."

Trump also explains that he would have done a much better job attacking Rubio for missed Senate votes than Jeb Bush did during the last debate. As you might expect, the obvious question -- "Well then why didn't you?" -- manages to elude Halperin and Heilemann.

There is also a section of the interview where Heilemann asks Trump about corporate tax inversions, and the most amusing part of this interlude was how concerned Heilemann was that Trump might be angry at the gigantic American corporations who dodge taxes overseas. Rest assured, Trump is not, but Heilemann was so worried about the feelings of these corporations that he wouldn't let go of his concerns easily.

"When you say it's a serious problem, what you're saying is, the law is the problem, not the company's behavior?" Heilemann asked Trump.

Heilemann really just wanted to be sure, so he offered a follow-up: "It's not bad what Pfizer is doing?"

That led to a lengthy disquisition in which Trump never says a disparaging word about Pfizer. But Heilemann, dogged pursuer of the truth on behalf of a major pharmaceutical company, circles back, just to make sure: "So you're not criticizing Pfizer at all?"

Nope, Trump sure isn't! 

Of all the disparaging things Donald Trump has said about his fellow Americans, the other contenders in the race, and Halperin and Heilemann's colleagues in the media, it's Pfizer that Heilemann bends over backwards to ensure isn't the target of Trump's needless unkindness.

At least someone's earning that paycheck! Halperin's contribution to this section on corporate tax inversions is to silently nod his head 53 times.


Jason Linkins edits "Eat The Press" for The Huffington Post, and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast, "So That Happened." Listen to the latest episode below:


Jason Linkins   |   November 2, 2015    5:05 PM ET

Florida's Sen. Marco Rubio is generally regarded as one of the GOP presidential candidates faring the best at this stage in the primary process. Despite the fact that he currently sits in third place, more than 20 points off the front-runner's pace, and despite the fact that his current 8.5 percent showing is below his double-digit peak in May, Rubio is generally held in high regard. Why? Because it's widely suspected that the two outsider candidates who hold the top two spots -- Donald Trump and Ben Carson -- will eventually burn out or fade away, and Rubio will then rise to the top as the most successful of the "establishment" candidates.

None of that is necessarily something you'll agree with, but it does form the premise of why Rubio enjoys a bit of favor in the media at the end of a month in which he actually lost ground in the polls and gave a poor showing in terms of fundraising. Yes, this supposed Rubio boomlet is almost entirely synthetic, but you'll want to keep this in mind when I tell you that over the weekend, Rubio accomplished something that was deemed to be significant and, indeed, as they say, "game-changing."

Did his poll numbers shift, signifying a massive change in public favor toward him? Did he unveil an innovative policy idea that got all the wonks agog and impressed? Did he effectively counter one of his opponents in a convincing way? No. Rubio had a good weekend, but not for any of the traditional reasons you would associate with a successful campaign on the upswing. Rather, he is winning where it counts: in the ghastly, money-soaked grotesquerie that has replaced our democracy. The New York Times had the big story:

One of the wealthiest and most influential Republican donors in the country is throwing his support to Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a decision that could swing millions of dollars in contributions behind Mr. Rubio at a critical point in the Republican nominating battle.

The decision by the donor, Paul Singer, a billionaire New York investor, is a signal victory for Mr. Rubio in his battle with his rival Jeb Bush for the affections of major Republican patrons and the party’s business wing.

Right, lest you had forgotten that America has fallen into a situation where now the basic matters of state and policy are wholly decided upon by a group of billionaire weirdos, at whose feet our contenders for ersatz "leader of the free world" must stoop, tongues moistened, the Grey Lady has a pretty timely reminder.

And whether the paper intended it or not, its rendering of this pseudo-event very pointedly depicts average American taxpaying voters in their current outcast state by reminding you over and over again that to Marco Rubio, you're nothing without a large amount of money to spare for campaign turd-polish. I am trying to imagine any of the effusive language used by the Times to describe Rubio's courtship of a billionaire  being deployed to describe the winning over of actual voters.

Can you imagine, for instance, Rubio campaign spokesman Alex Conant saying this about successfully persuading any mere pensioner, or middle-class wage-earner: “We know we have a lot of work to do before Marco wins the nomination, but clearly this moves us in the right direction.” Surely not.

Can you imagine The New York Times thinking it worthy of a story to learn that a dedicated Rubio supporter had signed up a few dozen close friends to support the senator's presidential campaign? Of course not. But Singer, we learned, has sent a letter to "dozens of other donors," and the Times seems to see the obtaining of said letter a major journalistic coup.

At some point during the election cycle, the media will attempt to assay the larger sentiment of voters. They will note that normal people are a wash of passions and self-interests and odd angles and seeming contradictions. As is the quadrennial tradition, voters will be called stupid, or mercurial, or worse. It will be noted that voters often seem to vote against their own interests. The extent to which voters can often be judged to be misinformed will serve as a searing indictment against you, and not against the media, whose job it is/was to keep you informed.

Now, let's watch how The New York Times describes Singer:

Mr. Singer, who gave more money to Republican candidates and causes last year than any donor in the country, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, is courted by Republicans both for the depth of his own pockets and for his wide network of other conservative givers. He is known for his caution and careful vetting of candidates and, while passionately pro-Israel and a supporter of same-sex marriage, he is generally viewed as a donor who does not believe in litmus tests.

Singer is, in this regard, a lot like Sheldon Adelson -- he's an exclusively Republican donor who supports many things Republicans don't. If he were just an ordinary human who possessed these contradictions, he'd be called "stupid." As a billionaire, however, he's simply a great man who doesn't believe in litmus tests. (This despite having a very clear litmus test called "being pro-Israel!")

Why does Singer favor Rubio in particular? Well, aside from passing his "pro-Israel" litmus test, it's not really clear. Singer has a pocketful of vague praise for young Marco, including the following:

  • Singer believes Rubio can "navigate the complex primary process."

  • Also, Rubio can "be in a position to defeat Hillary Clinton." 

  • Singer is convinced that Rubio is "accustomed to thinking about American foreign policy as a responsible policy maker."

  • Not to mention that he thinks Rubio "is ready to be an informed and assertive decision-maker.”

I'm not sure what most of those phrases even mean. But here's a word that never comes up: "immigration." You know, the key issue on which Rubio's spent the lion's share of his Senate career working. The thing he's best known for, in the knotty world of policy, where people not wealthy enough to spend their days and nights in the clouds live. If Singer's at all interested in the matter that animated Rubio's existence for many years, he gives no indication.

There's something about Singer's analysis of Rubio that reminds me of that kid in class who didn't read the book, but had to present an oral book report to the class. It's a welter of B.S. and vague 11-words-where-six-will-do bromides that loosely fit the mask of thoughtfulness upon the speaker. But if Singer's outpaced the average voter in terms of the amount of time and effort he's spent thinking about his decision, it never shows up in this Times article.

In fact, it's entirely possible that Singer doesn't know Rubio that well at all, if the best he can do is describe the Florida senator is to say that he's now "ready" to be a "decision-maker" who is "accustomed to thinking about American foreign policy as a responsible policy maker." (As opposed to what? A sea lion? A mop bucket? A pair of soiled gabardines?)

As a voter, you should know that, according to the Times, the "battle for Mr. Singer’s support -- which included months of behind-the-scenes lobbying by aides and appearances by candidates over the last year at dinners and breakfasts convened by Mr. Singer -- underscores the growing clout of big donors in presidential elections, particularly this year, when 'super PACs,' and the wealthy donors who finance them, have moved to the center of the race."

This is just another way of saying that there really is no "battle" for your vote. Billionaires get months of begging and pleading and the whole attention of candidates and campaigns. You will be the target of a P.R. campaign funded by their boodle.

The foundational defense of our current campaign finance system, from the shady grifters who support the Supreme Court's democracy-crippling Citizens United decision, is that money is free speech, and to interfere with the flow of money into our political system is unconstitutional in the purest sense of the word: a violation of the esteemed and beloved First Amendment. It was a pretty, if vacuous, idea. But the alarmists have proven to be correct: The system we have now sells off the space for political speech to the highest bidder, of which you are not one.

This is a very enlightening piece, then, by The New York Times, because it details at great length just how much esteem and clout and importance most of you have lost, and to whom you've lost it: a bunch of outlandish plutocrats whose vague political platitudes and airheaded grasp on the real world nevertheless doesn't count against them by those who write the great Summing-Up of our time. You'd probably be pilloried in some quarters for thinking that America is no longer a great nation because of this arrangement, but you'd be correct.

Also on HuffPost:

Jason Linkins   |   October 29, 2015    6:06 PM ET

Something has gone wrong with Jeb Bush. You've seen it: The uncertain posture. The way he seems to want to just die in this Vine where he is made, by off-screen tormentors, to don a hoodie. And the look in his eyes! An uncanny combination of longing, fear and resignation -- it's the look you imagine Oedipus had when he realized that Tiresias was right and that he'd screwed the pooch (a pooch that was his mom). Only Oedipus, he got to rip out those jellies and just get on with it. Bush's downcast visage is now permanently locked in place as each dreary day passes, seemingly without end.

You noticed this a while back, and you don't quite remember when. You remember Donald Trump taking credit for being the first to notice it and term it "low energy," but really, you were there first. You saw it right away. And you saw it at this week's debate in Colorado, where Jeb's tendency toward diffident, enervated public performance was once again on display. Only this time, it really cost him. On an occasion where it was generally deemed a necessity for Bush to rise up and smack Marco Rubio -- the whelp mentee-turned-master tormentor -- back down into his place, things didn't go as planned.

The next morning, Bush was out in New Hampshire, smiling wanly and making the best of it under a somewhat unfortunately worded banner that read, "Jeb Can Fix It." But can he really, if he doesn't know what's broken? Because it seems that the former Florida governor isn't merely lacking in policy acumen or pointed argument. Rather, it's like he's been disconnected from his font of courage and conviction. It's like his mojo itself has been lost.

But what if it's not lost? What if Jeb's warrior essence in fact came to the erstwhile governor by magic, through a powerful weapon, handed down through the ages, known as the "Sword of Chang"? And what if Jeb -- thoughtful, sensitive Jeb -- foolishly, impulsively gave it away?

If memory serves, my first encounter with the Sword of Chang came in the form of this Marin Cogan piece in The New Republic, in which Cogan -- perhaps significantly! -- suggested that Rubio would be the one to "end Jeb Bush's electoral career." 

When Rubio was named speaker of the Florida House, Bush presented him with the “sword of Chang” -- a reappropriation of former President George H. W. Bush’s teasing tennis-court threat to “unleash Chiang” Kai-shek, the Chinese dictator. Chang, Bush told Rubio, “is a mystical warrior. Chang is somebody who believes in conservative principles, believes in entrepreneurial capitalism, believes in moral values that underpin a free society.” Rubio adored the sword and kept it on the wall in the speaker’s office.

From what I gather, this moment gained wider attention when Rubio discussed it in a 2012 interview with Andrew Goldman in The New York Times

After you became the first Cuban-American speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, in 2006, your mentor, Jeb Bush, presented you with a sword. What was that about?


Chang is a mythical conservative warrior. From time to time, if there’s a big issue going on, you’d see Jeb say, “I’m going to unleash Chang.” He gave me the sword of Chang.


From which mythology does this conservative warrior hail?


I think it’s a Jeb Bush creation.

This also caught the attention of Dave Weigel, then at Slate, who helpfully reproduced the original reporting of The Gainesville Sun, in which Bush expounded further on the sword's legendary properties:

''Chang is a mystical warrior. Chang is somebody who believes in conservative principles, believes in entrepreneurial capitalism, believes in moral values that underpin a free society.


''I rely on Chang with great regularity in my public life. He has been by my side and sometimes I let him down. But Chang, this mystical warrior, has never let me down.''


Bush then unsheathed a golden sword and gave it to Rubio as a gift.

''I'm going to bestow to you the sword of a great conservative warrior,'' he said, as the crowd roared.

As you may already suspect, Jeb's version of "history" here is part apocrypha, part political street-talk. The historical truth behind this bespoke bit of lore has been exhaustively explicated by The New Republic's Tim Noah and Gawker's Jay Hathaway, from whom you might enjoy a video of the Sword of Chang's passing from Jeb to young Marco. Definitely follow those links for the edification, but for now, I'd like to focus on three significant things.

Bush surrendered the sword to Rubio at what was clearly a happier moment in both men's lives and a bright time for their personal relationship. Bush had no reason at the time to think that handing over this powerful weapon would come back to haunt him -- he couldn't have imagined that Rubio's political ambitions might one day overlap with his own. But in hindsight, it's clear that any generosity Bush showed Rubio was misplaced. Sword or no, they were always on something of a collision course. And let's face it, mentor and mentee, torn apart by ambition -- that's the stuff of legend, right there. There's something almost Lear-like in Bush's naive, giving nature, and something downright Greek about how that fatal flaw in his character could ultimately be his undoing.

The second thing worth noting here is one particular phrase that keeps popping up, again and again: "Unleash Chang." Whenever a Bush family member is in a jam, just unleash Chang. When the forces of conservatism are facing their darkest hour, unleash that Chang. Chang is meant to be unleashed, unsheathed, hefted and wielded, and finally plunged into an enemy's body in a series of thrusts. Lots and lots of thrusts.

Look, do I need to spell this out for you? Handing the sword of Chang over to Rubio deprived Jeb of all this phallic, pelvic action. Rhymes with "tree-masculated," in other words. You guys, come on, I didn't want this to turn into a Camille Paglia column. 

Finally, and most importantly -- the sword of Chang and its accompanying legend are not really Jeb Bush's creation. As Hathaway points out, "unleash Chang" was a phrase that Jeb's father deployed frequently, mostly during tennis. (Northeastern Republicans, am I right?) Most of the sleuths of Bush family history who've explored this matter assume that Jeb took one of his old man's sayings (or a saying that H.W. pulled from Mad magazine) and grafted it onto a cheap sword.

But what if that's not true? What if the sword of Chang really is an important Bush family artifact? What if, in fact, it's a token of great importance to their bloodline? We know that George H.W. Bush has been close to unrestrained in his anger about what he's seen, thus far, from the 2016 race. A recent New York Times story suggests that the elder Bush is especially incensed at the race's extremes, the involvement of Donald Trump and the GOP's general "embrace" of "outsiders."

However, there's another concern floating in the background. Per the Times:

More is at stake in this race than Jeb Bush’s political career, friends of the family say. The Bush name has been prominent in national politics for three decades, and a rejection of the younger son by the electorate, especially in the primary, could be deeply wounding to a family proud of its role in American history.

Could it be that Jeb's father is angry and concerned about what's been squandered here? A family legacy is at stake, and Jeb seems unable to summon its renown to fight off his antagonists. This is where unleashing Chang would obviously come in handy. The power of that sword is evidently great enough to have backstopped the Bush family's vaunted ambitions for generations. It is, perhaps, the great fiery quill with which they wrote their hearts' desires on the world.

And if you listen to the contemporary critique of Jeb's meek campaign, it becomes clear that there really is a heart missing. Writing at The Atlantic on Thursday, David Frum assayed Bush as someone who lacks spontaneous wit and pugilistic desire, someone for whom the slightest setback quickly turns into a full-scale Jenga collapse of cascading discouragement and self-pity.

Even worse, Jeb's proven himself to have all the tactical acumen of a stillborn possum. Not only did he fail, as Frum points out, to plan for Rubio's obvious response to criticism that he'd missed many votes as Florida's senator -- he foolishly telegraphed the attack ahead of time. And -- and! -- he did it through a vastly silly troll Twitter account, @IsMarcoWorking, that comes across as no less hip or Web-savvy than when brands say "bae." As if this problem needed further compounding, the people running this account only managed to squeeze off two tweets in the hours before the debate. What was the plan, here? Mock Rubio's work ethic by demonstrating it yourselves?

For some time now, Jeb's been lobbing this weird insult at Marco Rubio, calling him a Republican Obama. I get it, sort of. He's trying to paint Rubio as young, inexperienced and prone to mistakes. But as Brian Beutler points out, the barb also invites one to consider Rubio as "young, charismatic, ethnic, and insurgent." "That's why," Beutler writes, "the comparison to Obama helps [Rubio] with conservatives as much as it stings."

The quip also forces a focus on Bush himself: not young, not insurgent, lacking in vigor. And yet he keeps repeating it!

After the most recent debate, Bush's team hit the streets, aiming to summon a bit of pluck. As the Los Angeles Times reported, Bush touted himself in a post-debate appearance as a "doer" and not a "talker." His surrogates, meanwhile, complained of the race's "reality-show environment" not "play[ing] to his strengths," and did their best to remind reporters that "there are no presidents of the United States that are president because of how they did in an October debate the year before the election." One of Jeb's father's confidants put it like this:

“It’s too early to suggest it’s over,” said Ed Rogers, a veteran Republican strategist who experienced that campaign and went on to serve in the elder Bush's White House.


“A lot of what matters lies in front of us, not behind us,” Rogers said.

Indeed, what lies in front of Jeb Bush is a destiny, a hero's journey, a mission: He must reclaim the Sword of Chang by wresting it from his former apprentice's hands.

Maybe this is what all that money was for -- all those donors, all those millions collected by Bush's "Right To Rise" super PAC. Maybe it was all to fund a daunting quest and an impossible task. I mean, I kind of hope so, because all that cash is sure not showing up on the stump, so it better have been amassed for the purpose of unleashing Chang... from Marco Rubio's possession, that is.

Look -- a magic sword, a classic Joseph Campbell monomyth, the melodramatic tensions between teacher and scion -- I know this seems fanciful. I know it sounds ridiculous. But when you consider how hollowed-out Jeb Bush looks right now, after a lifetime of accomplishment, and how adrift he's been on the trail, failing to connect words and actions and strategy, his having relinquished the Sword of Chang all those years ago is the only plausible explanation.

Because, face it: If Bush's poor performance has nothing to do with the Sword of Chang, then the only possibility is that he's a mediocre, weak-livered candidate who's constantly being set up for failure by a staff of staggering incompetents and... OH HEY, WAIT -- wow, now that I'm typing those words I have to say that makes a lot more sense.

Yeah. Wow. Let's just forget I ever mentioned the Sword of Chang, OK? Sorry.



Jason Linkins edits "Eat The Press" for The Huffington Post, and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast, "So That Happened." Listen to the latest episode below:

Jason Linkins   |   October 28, 2015    6:20 PM ET

Tonight on teevee
We bail out some losers

Why do this, at all.
It's a bafflement indeed.
Alas, here we are.

George Pataki here.
Also we've Rick Santorum.
And Bobby Jindal.

Who is the fourth one?
Guess. Come on! Take a wild guess.
Lindsey Graham! That's right.

Your hosts tonight though?
We got Carl Quintanilla.
Also Becky Quick.

Plus there's John Harwood.
And assorted other folks
From CNBC.

Harwood touts those who
Run as outsiders so, guys
What about it? Answer this.

Bobby Jindal says
Let us shrink the government.
Santorum agrees.

Pataki, well, huh?
Walking both sides of the street
In and out, okay.

Lindsay Graham next.
Wants to talk about the VA.
And about Clinton.

Tomorrow, it seems
Never seems to happen, guys
Says rueful Jindal

Then Jindal belches
More about socialism
Europe? So, so bad.

"Hey! 9/11!"
"9/11! Nine-one-one!"
Lindsay's old refrain.

"We need a flat tax,"
Says Rick Santorum, who adds
He is way pro-growth.

George Pataki next
Says Obama holds our troops.
In hugs? No: hostage!

"Nonsense on a stick."
Says Harwood for some reason.
Sounds quite delicious.

Here, I must admit,
My attention? It trailed off.

It is a sad joke
That these men fruitlessly stay,
In a race that's lost.

Is this even good
For CNBC's ratings?
Likely a low bar!


Cramer wants to know right now:
Can we cyberbomb?

Cramer says to Graham:
"You are a hawk," and lo, look!
Graham grows two large wings!

Literally a hawk!
Graham is a noble raptor,
Soaring o'er the stage.

Harwood, more earthbound
Brings up corporate taxes
Snore snore snooze, ennui!

Jindal has a plan.
T'will never be enacted.
Not ever, never.

What I think right now?
This here moderating crew?
Getting some practice.

Except for Cramer!
He's turning men into hawks!
And hawks: into men.

Carl Quintanilla
Asks Graham about climate change.
"SKREEEE!" says the hawk, Graham.

"Squawk, squawk," says hawk-Graham
Cool, 'cause CNBC has
A show called Squawk Box

"RAAAAAAAAH RAAAAAH," angry hawk-Graham
Rants us to the commercial.
You can catch your breath!

And now I worry
How long is this thing, my God?
How long is this thing.

I asked on Twitter
Hey guys, how long is this thing?
"Too," came the reply.

There is some yelling,
To which Pataki objects.
He wants time to talk.

But not that much time!
Becky Quick quickly ends it.
Sparing he and us.

On what path are we?
Jindal: "Toward socialism."
Right, right, got it, bro.

Harwood asks Lindsey:
"Corporations overseas?
Yea, nay, what have you?"

Lindsey is a hawk!
Did Harwood forget Cramer?
Forget those magicks?

Hey, Rick Santelli!
Good thing, good thing. Welcome, dude.
Needed some more smarm.

First say Santelli.
Then say Pataki. Out loud.
Repeat and repeat.

Good news everyone:
Santorum on Ex-Im Bank!
We can all die now.

Beer merger question!
Asked to ... Rick Santorum, eh!
He is not concerned.

To be honest, Rick.
You're being Panglossian
About small brewers here.

I would recommend:
Listen to my podcast, Rick.
We cover this.

An observation.
Given enough time to watch,
Bobby and Rick blur.

Both men have a trait.
When they speak, it sounds like sobs.
Sobs and racking breaths.

George Pataki though.
He is having an effect
(Called "Dunning-Kruger").

Santorum invokes the man
Bedeviling them.

Maybe I'm crazy?
Did Jindal just brag about
Closing hospitals?

Lindsay, who's a hawk,
He has mellowed out somewhat.
Showing softer side.

Yes, by which I mean:
A "side" that doesn't mention
9/11, guys.

Tony Fratto says,
Graham might get a bump from this.
I mean, sure, I guess.

The thing is, Tony,
This is what's been said each time
These debates occur.

So far Carly's win
Has not been replicated.
By the rest of them.

But okay, Lindsey.
If anyone deserves this.
He can punch out Trump!

It's the lightning round!
Jindal likes the Super Bowl.
And softball questions.

Finally, mercy.
It's time for closing statements.
Thirty seconds each

"America is great."
Says Lindsey Graham: the hawk-man
Destiny's raptor.

Pataki meanwhile:
Wants you all to know tonight.
He is not cray-cray.

Santorum speaks next.
Manufacturing's his schtick
Since 2012.

Finally, Jindal.
"This is our hour," he's convinced.
Socialism, boo!

And so it's over.
And the losers will depart.
Sing them all to sleep.


For the latest updates on tonight's debate, visit our liveblog.

Jason Linkins edits "Eat The Press" for The Huffington Post, and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast, "So That Happened." Listen to the latest episode below: