The 2014 Teddy Awards

In a dismal political year, these Americans went far beyond the call of duty

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again … who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly.”
—Teddy Roosevelt

This has been a terrible year for Barack Obama, a humiliation. Members of his own party, across the sorry South and West, fled from his shadow. He was hammered relentlessly by an egregious opposition. He made needless unforced errors in his public statements. His occasionally negligent foreign policy came back to haunt him, especially in the failed states of Iraq and Libya. But he deserves the lead Teddy—my annual award for political courage, named after Teddy Roosevelt, quoted above—because his policies remain moderate, sane and humane. And by and large, they’ve worked. His executive action on immigration was not just legal but also surpassingly moral—allowing the parents of American citizens to stay with their children. His response to the Ebola crisis, the decision to send American troops to save lives in the African hot zone, was a great example of what America should be doing abroad. His health care plan quietly brought coverage to millions. His stimulus plan, which prevented a depression, paid belated dividends as the economy began to soar. He continued the essential negotiations with the Iranians, which may bear fruit in the coming year. His stubborn sanity is hereby recognized.

The election campaign of 2014 was dismal, but there was one innovation that should be noted: politicians who campaigned by doing public-service projects. One was Michelle Nunn, a not very charismatic candidate who ran for U.S. Senate from Georgia and lost. Nunn, who has spent her life promoting public service, walked her walk on the campaign trail, spending hours cleaning parks and preparing meals for the elderly when she could have been dialing for dollars. Another was Seth Moulton, a former Marine captain and newly elected Congressman from Massachusetts—whose campaign featured teams laced with post-9/11 veterans doing community projects. Moulton’s altruism reflects the values of his military generation—more than 90% of whom say they want to continue their service at home. It seems a concept that should catch on: politicians who demonstrate their desire to serve … by actually serving in their communities.

Speaking of veterans, Paul Rieckhoff of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America has been an edgy, controversial figure in recent years, a creative critic of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The revelation of widespread corruption and incompetence in the VA, and the dismissal of Secretary Eric Shinseki, proved the value of Rieckhoff’s persistence. His willingness to take flak for his brothers and sisters in arms merits a Teddy.

The 2016 presidential campaign is on and, in its early days, has produced three Teddy-worthy mavericks. One is Elizabeth Warren, who may not run but will certainly influence the Democratic Party’s economic debate. She deserves a lifetime Teddy for her work against the depredations of the financial sector and her ability to explain complex problems in a manner comprehensible to average humans. Another is Jeb Bush, who has challenged his party on immigration and education. And Rand Paul provided a fresh neolibertarian challenge to his party on a variety of issues, especially foreign policy and prison reform.

Political memoirs rarely provide fodder for Teddys, but there were two courageous—and actually readable—efforts this year that deserve the nod. One was Duty, by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, which provided a fierce narrative of a public official who fought his own bureaucracy (and Congress) for the benefit of the troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. A second was Outpost, by former ambassador Christopher Hill, who is less well known than Gates, but a truly gifted, sometimes hilarious and, dare I say, undiplomatic writer about the frustrations and occasional successes of his work. A Teddy is also awarded to a great career diplomat who retired this year: Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, who spent decades of quiet service making the world a safer place, from his time as ambassador to Russia to his recent work on the Iran nuclear negotiations. We need many more like him.

Finally, a Teddy seems hardly sufficient recognition for those courageous journalists who lost their lives in pursuit of the story this year, especially those beheaded by ISIS. It is a reminder, though, that we, too, live in the arena.


Viva Cuba Libre

A woman walks under a Cuban flag on March 22, 2012 in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.
Spencer Platt—Getty Images A woman walks under a Cuban flag on March 22, 2012 in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.

This is an island crazy with energy, ready to join the rest of the world

Back in 1975, I traveled to Cuba with a group of American journalists led by the late Senator George McGovern. At noon one day, I sneaked into the main cathedral in Havana in search of dissidents. I found plenty, willing to talk about the depredations of the Castro regime. One man, who had been imprisoned by the regime, was particularly vehement when I asked him what the U.S. should do about Cuba: “Recognize us! Lift the embargo!” Castro would never be able to control the influence of American freedom and commerce on the Cuban people. He needed a satanic American enemy to maintain control. “Recognize us,” the man said, “and Fidel won’t last a year.”

I’ve never forgotten that conversation because it speaks to an essential truth in international affairs. “Non-recognition” is a relatively recent diplomatic ploy. It began in 1917, with the west’s refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Russian revolution. It has been attempted time after time–by the the United States against China and Cuba and Iran (and by Iran, vice versa, against us), and by the Arab states against Israel. And it has never worked. Non-recognition, at its heart, is a denial of reality.

Those who favor a continuation of our failed Cuba policy are a reflexive lot with a muddled argument. They’re the usual myopic tough guys–John McCain and Lindsey Graham immediately jumped on the President after his Cuba announcement today–who have no idea of the seductive power of the American way of life in the rest of the world. I can understand why the corroding Iranian regime would want to keep us out (a sign in Tehran: “When the Great Satan praises us, we shall mourn”). I’ve always thought: then let’s recognize the hell out of them. Let ’em mourn. Let the Revolutionary Guard try to fend off Kanye West and Star Wars. Good luck with that.

Iran and Cuba have always been linked in my mind: they are the two countries in the world with the greatest mismatch between a government and its people. This is especially true in Cuba, where the people are brilliantly heterodox, fun-loving and creative–the wrong fodder for the grim discipline of Marxism, which has been a disaster there, as everywhere, a dry rot form of governance anxious to collapse.

I can understand the anger that still infects the oldest generation of Cuban-Americans–Marco Rubio’s parents and their friends, who were robbed and brutalized by the Castro regime. But their children and grandchildren are ready to reclaim their heritage, return to the island with an idea for a condo project or Juicy Couture franchise. This is an island crazy with energy, ready to join the rest of the world; the Castros have no future in such a place.

I’ll miss the atavistic charm of Havana, the ’50s cars kept beautifully alive, the gorgeous melodies of Cuban jazz–but nostalgia for a Museum of Communism should not prevent Cubans from finding their way to prosperity and eventually, one hopes, freedom.

So Congratulations, President Obama, on finally ending a foolish chapter in American diplomacy. Tonight, I’ll break out the rum and do a little Victor Cruz touchdown dance to the mambo beat of the Buena Vista Social Club.

TIME In the Arena

Burned Books in the Holy Land

Joe Klein is TIME's political columnist and author of six books, most recently Politics Lost. His weekly TIME column, "In the Arena," covers national and international affairs.

Jewish and Arab parents watch as Israel’s hopes for peace fade

The Vandals started the fire in the first-grade classroom with a pile of textbooks. But textbooks apparently don’t burn so well. The classroom was destroyed, and the one next to it damaged, but that was all. It was a Saturday evening. The janitor called the principal, Nadia Kinani, to report the fire, and she rushed to the school. She saw that it wasn’t only a fire. There was graffiti that turned her stomach. First she saw kahane was right, a reference to Meir Kahane, a deceased Jewish extremist leader. And then she saw no coexistence with Cancer. And death to Arabs. Kinani is an Arab, and her school is the rarest of things–a bilingual academy whose students are nearly 50% Jewish and 50% Arab, in the heart of Jerusalem. “My first thought was, Our dream is finished,” she told me three days after the fire. “No parents will want to send their children here anymore.”

The hand in hand school in Jerusalem–one of five such–opened in 1998, after several years of careful preparation. It was a moment of hope. The Oslo accords had been signed by Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin; peace was surely on the way. “I believed that if you want to solve any problem, the way to begin is through education,” says Hattam Mattar, an Israeli Arab who sent his daughters to the school. “Some of my friends said, ‘Your daughter will marry some Jew guy.’ But I figured my daughters could meet Jew guys on the bus. I thought that this school would give them a stronger sense of their own identity and who we are living with.”

The school is totally bilingual. There are two teachers per classroom. All holidays are celebrated–or at least noted and discussed, as in the case of Nakba Day, the Palestinian remembrance of those forcibly removed from the land during the 1948 war. In fact, everything–every riot and bombing and “protective” wall–is discussed by parents and children alike. There is no political consensus about one state or two states, just a feeling. “We are all here,” Kinani told me. “We have to figure out a way to live together.”

The school was built next to a railroad track and is close to the original 1948 border between Israel and Jordan. It was built in an Israeli neighborhood but is adjacent to an Arab area. “They say we live in a bubble, but it is more like a cauldron,” said Rebecca Bardach, the school’s director of resource development and strategy, as she led me to a terrace that overlooked a wadi. On the other side of the valley was the arena where the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team plays. The Beitar fans are notorious; one of their favorite chants is “Death to Arabs.”

There was a time–during most of Israeli history, in fact–when such sentiments were considered way out of the mainstream, unacceptable in polite society. But that is changing. There is rising tension in Jerusalem, with near daily acts of terrorism and humiliation by both sides. Last summer, three Israeli children were kidnapped and killed by Palestinians on the West Bank; some Jews responded by killing a Palestinian child. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted with emotional disgust to the vengeance killing, but his government has been promoting an entirely unnecessary, and quite possibly meaningless, law that would make Israel a Jewish state. And so you have a steady bloody dribble of horror in the streets. Palestinians murder four rabbis in a synagogue. Israeli thugs torch the Hand in Hand school.

Gradually, the Oslo dream of two states, Israel and Palestine, living peacefully side by side begins to seem unlikely. There are all sorts of sane arguments for a two-state solution. The West Bank occupation has smashed Israel’s moral compass, and Israel’s democracy will be destroyed as the West Bank Palestinian population increases and is refused the right to vote. But in the Promised Land, fantasies have always trumped reality. There is the fantasy now of a Greater Israel; there is the fantasy of no Israel at all. These views are held by minorities with the dead-eyed arrogance of majorities.

Almost immediately, on the night of the fire, the parents went to the Hand in Hand school. At first, Kinani’s fears seemed justified. A parent told her she was withdrawing her child. But there was a discussion in the library that night, a classic Hand in Hand discussion, with Arab and Jewish parents sharing their anger and fears. The parent changed her mind. “There is no place else I would want my child to be,” she said. A student at the meeting asked if there would be school on Monday. “Yes,” Kinani responded, “and there will be homework.” And on Monday, the students responded with graffiti of their own. We are not enemies, said one sign. And another: We continue together without hatred and without fear.

TO READ JOE’S BLOG POSTS, GO TO time.com/swampland

This appears in the December 15, 2014 issue of TIME.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.


Facts and Ferguson

An undated evidence photograph made available by the St. Louis County prosecutors office on Nov. 25, 2014 shows Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson's vehicle at the scene of the confrontation.
St. Louis County Officer Darren Wilson's vehicle is shown at the scene of the confrontation in this undated evidence photograph made available by the St. Louis County prosecutors office

There will be two conversations about this shooting and its investigation. One will be public. The other will be private

It has come down to this in the Ferguson shooting of Michael Brown: none of the evidence produced a clear enough picture of inappropriate behavior by Officer Darren Wilson. Indeed, the preponderance of forensic and eyewitness testimony suggests that Wilson was acting in self-defense against a violent perpetrator. But the eyewitness testimony is muddled, even among the local residents who supported Wilson’s version of the story. It is amazing how fast violence happens, how hard it is to remember events accurately. And so the grand jury couldn’t say–wasn’t asked to say–what actually happened on August 9 in Ferguson.

VOTE: Should the Ferguson Protestors Be TIME’s Person of the Year?

It is probable that a public jury trial would have a tough time establishing Wilson’s guilt or innocence beyond a reasonable doubt. The question is, do Michael Brown’s parents–and the rest of us–deserve to have the facts laid out, the case against Wilson argued in a court of law? Undoubtedly, there will be such a case–a federal case or a civil case, brought by the parents. But a grand jury indictment, even on a lesser charge like manslaughter, would have lent appropriate seriousness to a contested, foggy situation. It would have indicated, at the very least, that the evidence wasn’t dispositive and the situation required further public attention.

Several things are absolutely clear, though. The authorities in Missouri, from Ferguson to St. Louis County to the governor’s office, have bungled this case from the start. That Michael Brown’s body was allowed to lie in the street for four hours is inexcusable. That crucial evidence–Wilson’s gun–was not dusted for prints is mystifying and incompetent. And then there was the Monday spectacle of a verdict reached, but not announced until after dark. Sheer idiocy.

But there can no longer be a question that the initial accounts of the case were fraudulent. Michael Brown was not a gentle giant. He was not shot in the back. There was a scuffle of some sort between Brown and Wilson, perhaps with Brown trying to gain control of the police officer’s gun. There was, apparently, at least one shot fired at close range. Brown ran away, then turned and charged the officer.

Again, as I wrote a few weeks ago, Wilson’s actions may have been justifiable under the law in Missouri, but he is not entirely exonerated: the death would have been preventable if he had been better trained. Still, you can’t indict Wilson for not abiding by training he didn’t receive. And you can’t elide the facts of the case. Wilson clearly panicked. He thought his life was in danger. He killed a young man. He should have to defend these actions publicly, under the fierce pressure of cross-examination.

There will now be still more calls for a discussion about race in America. But that conversation can not simply be about white guilt or prejudice. The latter certainly does exist; it exists overwhelmingly, disgracefully. But the assumptions that lead police, and bodega owners, to racial profiling are real–and those must be discussed, too. Liberals have avoided this conversation for 50 years, since crime rates exploded in the 1960s. And by doing so, they have done a real disservice to the disproportionate number of crime victims who are African-Americans, urban and poor. Poverty is no excuse for criminality. People who commit crimes are perpetrators, not victims. Indeed, blaming poverty for criminality is an insult to the vast majority of poor blacks who play by the rules–graduate from high school or college, find a job, are responsible parents–and have improved their lives as a result. As the President said, you can’t gainsay the fact that there has been enormous progress over the past 40 years…with more to come, as a new generation of polychromatic, unprejudiced young people take charge.

Back in the 1980s, my wife and I lived in a mostly-black neighborhood in New York. Our neighbors were placed in an impossible position: they were infuriated that many of the police who patrolled (or, more often, failed to patrol) our streets treated them as if they were criminals, but they also were terrified of, and infuriated by, the criminals who made it a life-threatening challenge to go down to the corner for a quart of milk. We had some real conversations in those days–about crime, about the double-edged sword of affirmative action, about the hilariously stupid racial assumptions they encountered in the city. Some of our neighbors were public employees; others weren’t and were pissed off about the level of service they were receiving. There were intense conversations about whether it was “racist” to fire incompetents on the public payroll. I miss those conversations. They required a certain amount of candor and subtlety. They would have been impossible for ideologues, because the reality on our block defied any ideology. And they probably would have been impossible in public, since it was very hard for our neighbors to criticize young black men who had grown up in anger-infusing chaos.

It is sad, but inevitable, that there will be two conversations about Ferguson. One will be public, one will be private. The public conversation will be dominated by rant, oversimplification and guilt-mongering. The private conversation will be unspeakable in segments of the white, Asian and Latino communities. If my experience in the 1980s is any guide, the conversations in the black community will be more reasonable, marked by anger, pain, embarrassment and the difficulties of dealing with kids like Michael Brown. It’s a national tragedy that we can’t seem to have that conversation in public, that political correctness stands directly athwart honesty in this republic of free speech.

Should the Ferguson Protestors Be TIME’s Person of the Year? Vote Below for #TIMEPOY

TIME 2016 Election

Jim Webb is Running

Meet the Press - Season 67
William B. Plowman—NBC/Getty Images Former Sen. Jim Webb, left, and moderator Chuck Todd, right, appear on Meet the Press in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014.

He's a long shot, but could give Hillary heartburn

With all the impact of a sparrow’s feather landing in the forest, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb announced the formation of a 2016 presidential exploratory committee last night. He did it in a video and letter sent to supporters. He thus becomes the first official challenger to Hillary Clinton, who has not yet gone exploratory, on the Democratic side.

Webb is interesting. He is not your standard-issue politician. He is a decorated former Marine, perhaps the best war novelist of the Vietnam generation, Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan. His one term in the Senate was protean, with Webb focusing on issues as diverse as the reestablishment of relations with Burma, and prison reform, and the new GI bill for Iraq-Afghanistan veterans.

He will be a refreshing presence on the campaign trail. He doesn’t talk like a politician. He can be blunt and combative. He has taken strong populist economic stands and was a strong opponent of the war in Iraq. In fact, Webb goes in strong whenever he takes a stand. He’ll certainly be fun to watch during debates (he was a boxer at Annapolis).

You’d have to call him a longshot, of course. But I suspect he’ll be one of those long shots who have the power to shape a campaign with new ideas and sharp arguments. He will certainly cause Clinton some populist agita, should she run.

TIME celebrities

Remembering Mike Nichols: ‘He Was Relentlessly Gracious, Clever and Generous’

The author of the book that inspired one of Nichols' most memorable films remembers the director, who died Nov. 20

When Mike Nichols bought the film rights to my novel Primary Colors, he said that what he liked most about the story was “there are no villains in it.” That was the way I saw it, too — a satiric look at a larger than life politician in the midst of the 1992 presidential campaign. Mike didn’t know that I had written it — I was still anonymous — and I’d never met him, but I felt safe. He wouldn’t turn the satire into burlesque. He would treat the characters with respect.

The project turned out to be something of a disappointment for him. A good part of the book’s sexiness was wrapped in the mystery of the author’s identity, and when I was outed, the mystery was solved. But Mike gave it all the charm and intelligence he could muster, which was limitless. One day on the set, he and Emma Thompson — another class act — started talking about how various stage actors apply their talents to the art of the bow. Within minutes, they were demonstrating. They took turns, hilariously, tiptoeing and dashing onto the stage, bold and shy, tearful and arrogant and brilliant. You love me? I’m so flattered. Amazed. Shocked. Well, of course, you love me. You damn well better love me, after what I just did for you. (I’m touched that you love me, anyway.)

Mike’s world was like that. The observations were always acute, the intelligence was there to delight, not to dominate. He was relentlessly gracious, clever and generous. There was no pretense or edge to him. We took several long plane trips together, with our wives. He was incredibly generous, bringing us along for the ride when Primary Colors was chosen to open the Cannes Film Festival. The conversation was as good as it gets, not just showbiz stories, but serious ramblings about books and theater and psychology, and the inherent awkwardness of journalism. And wordplay, sly and delectable, always. There was a benign magic to his presence; even when the plane landed, our feet hardly touched the ground.


Tackling Immigration Alone

Joe Klein is TIME's political columnist and author of six books, most recently Politics Lost. His weekly TIME column, "In the Arena," covers national and international affairs.

The President has good reason to bypass Congress. But he’ll pay a price

Can the president of the United States, wielding a magic pen, simply exempt approximately 5 million illegal immigrants from the threat of deportation? You bet he can. He has the power to set law-enforcement priorities. In 2012, Barack Obama ordered that children brought across the border by their parents and raised in the U.S.–the so-called Dream Generation–should not be targeted for deportation. He can expand that ruling to their parents and others. Both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush took similar actions on a smaller scale. The question is, why on earth would the President want to do it now, after the disastrous election of 2014? Newly minted Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said it would be like “waving a red flag in front of a bull,” which may have been more artful than literal. McConnell also said that he wouldn’t shut down the government (nor will the Republican leadership move toward impeachment). The President may have simply calculated that signing his executive actions would be more like waving a tissue in front of a goat.

It is not impossible that Obama is playing some hard-nosed politics here, even if his primary motivation is soft-nosed and idealistic. It is simple humanitarian justice not to separate families by deporting the parents of the Dream Generation. If John Boehner had brought last year’s bipartisan Senate immigration bill to a vote in the House, the situation might have been happily resolved. “But it’s like waiting for a bus that never comes,” says David Axelrod, a former Obama aide. The Republican definition of immigration reform is unacceptable to most Democrats. It consists of more money for border security and a fast track for skilled foreigners who want to immigrate; it does not include a path to legality for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already here. Obama no doubt calculated that negotiations with the GOP on this issue were futile. On top of that, the President may not be too pleased with the members of his inner circle who told him to delay his executive actions last summer for “political” reasons, as he so awkwardly put it–that is, to save some Democratic Senate candidates who ultimately could not be saved. This President does not like to come off as tawdry or political. A quick executive move now is a way to rectify the games he’s played with Latinos.

But it also may be effective politics. In the long term, every time the Republicans start screaming and stomping about illegal Mexicans, it cements the Latino relationship with the Democratic Party, a demographic boon. There will certainly be a lot of screaming when Obama goes ahead with his plan–and then we will celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, a traditionally fallow political period, and the immigration issue will be ancient history by the time McConnell convenes his Republican-majority Senate in January. Hence, another calculation: Despite the immigration order, the Republicans will still want to do business with the President. They will want to demonstrate that gridlock was all Harry Reid’s fault. The Republican Senators up for re-election in 2016 will need some bacon to bring home. There are trade bills that Republicans will certainly want to pass, and infrastructure bills, and perhaps even some tax reform. Obama will share the credit for those middling triumphs, and he’ll seem tough besides, having blasted through the “red flag” and gotten stuff done.

But there will be consequences. By moving ahead with the immigration plan, Obama sacrifices any leeway he might have had with Republicans on a range of more difficult issues. He was going to have a tough time selling an Iran nuclear deal–if there is such a deal–to Congress, but it could become impossible now. There will be all sorts of Obamacare challenges, some of which might have been avoided if the President had not pierced the illusion of comity. Democrats will argue that Obama was played for a sucker every time he anticipated the possibility of Republican compromise, and there is a lot to that. But that may well have been the last war. The coming legislative battles could be more subtle and pliable.

“He may be trying to goad us into doing something stupid” like shutting down the government or moving toward impeachment, says Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander. “But that’s not going to happen.” Indeed, Republicans have been talking in more surgical fiscal terms–defunding specific programs, like those that would implement the executive actions, rather than a wholesale shutdown. Worse, Obama’s immigration actions, noble as they might be, fly in the face of the national mood. At a moment when the public desperately wants some sort of reconciliation, he is sticking a finger in McConnell’s eye. After playing the reasonable grownup for the first six years of his presidency, he is giving up the high ground.

TO READ JOE’S BLOG POSTS, GO TO time.com/swampland

This appears in the December 01, 2014 issue of TIME.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME politics

Corps Values

Joe Klein is TIME's political columnist and author of six books, most recently Politics Lost. His weekly TIME column, "In the Arena," covers national and international affairs.

To avoid another Ferguson, we should be taking a lesson on police training from the SEALs

“Violence will not be tolerated,” said Missouri’s hapless governor Jay Nixon in the days before the grand jury announced its judgment in the Ferguson police-shooting case. He seemed to be indicating that officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for killing the unarmed Michael Brown on Aug. 9. If so, there is likely to be a public explosion of outrage. Of course, if Wilson is cleared, there will have to be compelling evidence that his extreme action was justified. But justifiable homicide does not equal unpreventable homicide. This killing didn’t need to happen.

“Of course it didn’t,” says Lew Hicks, a former Navy SEAL who has taught arrest-and-control methods to an estimated 20,000 police trainees across the country. Hicks was reluctant to talk about which specific techniques he would have used, because he wasn’t there. “I do teach weapon retainment, but that’s not the point. It’s how you carry yourself in the community you serve. You have to project calm and confidence,” he told me. “You have to be trained physically, mentally and even spiritually to make moral decisions instinctively, spur of the moment.” Wilson had placed himself on the defensive from the start. By all accounts, he was sitting in his car, talking to Brown through his open window. He needed to get out of the car and subtly establish his authority. Things like tone of voice, body language and facial expression can make all the difference.

I first met Lew Hicks 13 years ago, when he was part of the most rigorous and creative police-training program ever attempted in the U.S. It was called the Police Corps, and it was founded by Adam Walinsky, a crusty and contentious former Marine and aide to Robert F. Kennedy. After the Detroit riots in 1967–43 civilians were killed and hundreds injured–Walinsky spent the next 20 years studying police practices, from the pavement up. His original thought was to create an elite program that would lure graduates from top colleges to do four years of service in return for scholarship money and a fast track to graduate school. In the end, the recruits mostly came from state colleges, and they were kids who wanted to become cops anyway. Bill Clinton was the first board chairman of the Police Corps, and his Administration funded the program in 1995.

Training was the heart of the Corps. It was full-time residential, a form of boot camp. It was far more physical than routine training–the graduates were superfit–but the mental conditioning was rigorous as well. Indeed, it very much resembled the training the military provides for special operators like SEALs and Green Berets. It was situational: actors and retired cops were hired to play miscreants, and recruits were judged on how well they responded to spur-of-the-moment situations. Even the firing range was situational: it was paintball, and you could easily be “shot” if you made the wrong call. There was required reading about urban poverty, police work and leadership. Recruits were required to mentor troubled boys and girls. And Hicks taught them how to be: how to use their hands, how to present themselves, how to protect themselves. “I can pick out the Police Corps graduates on the street just by the way they stand,” said Baltimore police chief Ed Norris, who was one of the first to embrace the Corps. In the end, Walinsky produced more than 1,000 of the best-trained police officers in the country, and many are still on the job.

The Police Corps was tiny and expensive. There was all sorts of opposition to it. Liberals preferred that the money be spent on antipoverty programs. Conservatives liked the idea but preferred that the money not be spent at all. It was killed by George W. Bush, at which point federal spending on police programs went entirely in the wrong direction by providing local cops with militarized up-armored vehicles, cammies, Kevlar, sniper rifles. This, at a moment when the military, especially the Army, was moving toward retraining its troops in a way that resembled the Police Corps. “We want them to be able to make moral decisions under pressure on the basis of incomplete information,” General David Petraeus once told me, using almost the same words as Hicks.

The public conversation since the death of Michael Brown has largely been a waste of time. Remonstrating about race is important, but wouldn’t it be more useful to talk about training–not just for police officers, but teachers too? Good training costs money, but we need to have a conversation about how we currently spend money. These are the people, after all, who shape our lives and sometimes, tragically, our deaths.

TO READ JOE’S BLOG POSTS, GO TO time.com/swampland

This appears in the November 24, 2014 issue of TIME.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME politics

Is This Hillary Clinton’s Moment?

Joe Klein is TIME's political columnist and author of six books, most recently Politics Lost. His weekly TIME column, "In the Arena," covers national and international affairs.

To win in 2016, she will need to appear fresh, aggressive and optimistic

On the Sunday before the 2014 election, a vision–perhaps a fantasy–of the future of the Democratic Party was on display at a get-out-the-vote rally in Nashua, N.H. The first speaker was Ray Buckley, chairman of the state party. Every other speaker, and there were lots, was a woman. There were two female candidates for state senate from the Nashua area. There was one of New Hampshire’s two (out of two) female members of Congress. There was Maggie Hassan, the incumbent governor. There was Jeanne Shaheen, a former governor locked in a tight race for another term in the U.S. Senate. Hillary Clinton was there too–at the last rally of 45 campaign stops she made for Democratic candidates during the 2014 campaign.

New Hampshire has always been a magic place for the Clintons. In 1992, Bill Clinton’s second-place finish gave him new life amid the Gennifer Flowers and draft-evasion scandals. In 2008, crushed by Barack Obama in Iowa, Hillary Clinton almost shed a frustrated tear on the day before the primary, then won, narrowly, keeping her candidacy alive. “You lifted me up, gave me my voice back,” she told the Nashua crowd. “You taught me so much about grit and determination.” A big “Ready for Hillary” truck was in the parking lot. It seemed the 2016 campaign had begun.

A few days later, 4 out of 5 of the female candidates onstage in Nashua won re-election, but it was an empty victory, since Democrats were crushed across the country. No doubt, the Republican sweep can be attributed to the unloved Obama, and to the fact that Presidents usually fare badly in their sixth-year election, and to the states in play, which favored the Republicans. But the Democratic candidates were weak and inept; they seemed defensive, reflexive, played out. They pretty much limited themselves to women’s issues, and those were clearly not enough to convince a frightened and frustrated country.

I watched Clinton speak three times during the campaign, and she limited herself to women’s issues too, but she did it cleverly. The emphasis was on economics rather than reproductive rights. She was especially good on the economic impact of pay equity: working women would have more money to spend, and they would spend it on consumer goods, which would create jobs–the opposite of trickle-down economics. She told specific personal stories about her difficulties as a working mom. She spoke slowly, softly, far more confidently than she had in past campaigns. There was a two-tiered rationale for her message: she was spot-on the Democrats’ national pitch, a good soldier selling the blue brand, but the emphasis on women’s rights also redressed a failing from her 2008 campaign. She had run on “experience” then and downplayed the fact that she was a piece of history: the first plausible woman to run for President. She doesn’t have to worry about experience now; everyone knows she has it. The question is, how does she play to her strengths as a woman if she chooses to run? (And I assume she will.) And how does she convince voters that she’s not the same old, same old?

The 2014 exit polls indicated that both political parties are roundly disdained. The Republicans earned their enmity because of their angry, intransigent extremism, but they may be emerging from the swamp. Their candidates this year were more moderate (though they still pandered shamelessly to the party’s paranoid base). Even Mitch McConnell was making postelection noises about getting stuff done in Washington. This raises a potential problem for Democrats. It could put a crimp in one of their strongest arguments: We’re not Republicans.

There are two even larger, perhaps existential problems for the Dems. They are the party of government, and people don’t like government. They don’t think it works. The botched rollout of Obamacare is far more persuasive to many people than its ensuing successes. Additionally, Democrats have allowed themselves to be lulled by demographics. They are strong among growing blocs: women, young people, minorities. Consequently, they have come to seem a party of identities rather than issues. They don’t speak to a larger, unifying sense of America; they speak to women and try to get out the vote among blacks, Latinos and students. They have come to seem opportunistic rather than optimistic.

The Obama Presidency is crippled, not dead. There will be opportunities for compromise and even triumph. But the Democrats are now Hillary Clinton’s party. She will be challenged for the nomination, and she will have to adjust to new political realities. She will also have to figure out a way to seem fresh, aggressive and optimistic–the precise opposite of the candidates the Democrats put forward in 2014.

TO READ JOE’S BLOG POSTS, GO TO time.com/swampland

This appears in the November 17, 2014 issue of TIME.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.


5 Things to Watch for in the Midterm Elections

Will Mitch McConnell’s Republicans gain control of the Senate?

Walter V. Robinson of the Boston Globe is an old-time investigative reporter. He was at the heart of the Globe’s historic coverage of the Roman Catholic pedophile scandal. He also likes to check out the résumés of military veterans running for political office; more than a few have had the mysterious habit of trying to pad their combat records. So Seth Moulton, a former Marine captain running for Congress in Boston’s northern suburbs, seemed a natural target for Robinson’s inquiries.

What Robinson found was shocking. Moulton had received two medals for bravery under fire that he’d never mentioned publicly. He hadn’t even told his parents. He asked the Globe not to describe him as a hero. “Look,” he said, “we served our country, and we served the guys next to us. And it’s not something to brag about.”

Moulton’s taut New England sense of honor is notable in a time of Styrofoam braggadocio. He stands in contrast to Greg Orman, an independent running for Senate in Kansas, who refuses to tell voters whether he’d caucus as a Republican or a Democrat–no small thing, since his first vote may determine which party controls the Senate. This has been a craven, silly campaign on all sides. It has been a boom year for incompetent candidates, accompanied by the long-term decline of those with anything interesting to say. The advertising was, as always, atrocious, but it seemed more influential than ever because of the prevailing vacuity. Important issues were raised, but there was precious little actual discussion of them. Republicans wanted to talk about the perils of illegal immigration, but Democrats, by and large, refused to make the strong moral and practical argument in favor of reform–an argument embodied in a bipartisan bill that passed the Senate with significant Republican support. And when Democrats raised the no-brainer issue of equal pay for equal work, the Republicans simply refused to engage.

On a recent trip through the South, I asked several dozen politicians of both parties to name the one big thing they wanted to accomplish in Washington. They fled specificity for the safer precincts of banality–“balance the budget” for Republicans, “work across the aisle” for Democrats. No one had the courage to cite a specific idea: Here are six anachronistic weapons systems I’d like to cut; or, We should exempt small banks from the onerous Dodd-Frank regulations. They had been schooled well. You don’t want to take a specific stand on anything you don’t have to. People might not like your position. Popular democracy always bumbles toward the trivial, but the dullness of this year’s campaign has been paralytic.

And yet there are important matters at stake on Nov. 4–not least of which is whether Mitch McConnell’s Republicans will gain control of the Senate. A week out, it was still an open question. But even if the Republicans stumble, the results could yield some hints about the immediate future of American politics. Here’s what I’ll be looking at:

1. Democrats And Women

Chris Matthews once called the Democrats the “mommy” party. They were the meta-mommy party in this campaign. The heart of the matter was four female Democrats in hot Southern Senate races: Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky, Michelle Nunn in Georgia and the incumbents Kay Hagan in North Carolina and Mary Landrieu in Louisiana. Each emphasized women’s issues–equal pay, parental leave, abortion rights–in the hope of luring undecided, independent women to the fold. This has been page 1 in the Democratic playbook for at least 40 years. (Page 2 is scaring people about the loss of old-age entitlements.) It has been effective and still may be–but it has never before carried the electoral burden that it does this year. The alleged toxicity of Barack Obama has made it unsafe for Democrats to discuss much else.

The party was boosted by the failed Bush wars in 2006, 2008 and 2012, but Democrats have been boggled by what to say about ISIS in 2014. They’ve had no significant new ideas, foreign or domestic, on offer. And they’ve been too afraid to tout Obama’s complicated successes–the stimulus package that prevented a depression, the health care plan that may actually be working, and relative order at the border (a result of many years of security enhancements and a diminished flow of illegals during recent rough economic times). The argument on women’s economic issues is strong. It remains to be seen whether baby boomers who boast remarkable three-month, 3-D sonograms of their grandchildren will be quite so militant about abortion rights in the future. The fate of women’s issues, in the South and elsewhere, will have an impact on whether the party has to start rethinking its message going forward. It may not be able to count on Republicans’ continuing their boorish ways. Unless, of course, the conservatives win and overread the results this year.

2. Republicans And Purple States

Iowa and New Hampshire are mythic presidential-primary states; Colorado is a crucial, purple general-election state. All three have been trending toward the Democrats in recent campaigns. All three are senatorial toss-ups this year. In Iowa, the Republicans are boosted by an energetic candidate, Joni Ernst, facing a dreadful Democrat, Bruce Braley–who opened the campaign with a lawyerly slur against Chuck Grassley, the other U.S. Senator from Iowa. Grassley isn’t a lawyer–he’s well known and beloved as an Iowa farmer–and he’ll chair the Judiciary Committee if the Republicans win the Senate. This would be a big problem, Braley warned, as if lawyers weren’t considered more toxic than farmers by most Iowa voters. But there’s no excuse for the tight races that estimable Democrats Jeanne Shaheen and Mark Udall find themselves struggling through in New Hampshire and Colorado. Actually, there’s one excuse: Obama. He has been the Republicans’ one and only issue across the country, and it might well work. But what if it doesn’t? What if Obama–like women’s issues for the Democrats–is being overplayed?

This goes to the question of the Republicans’ strategy if they do win the Senate. Will they decide to make the Oval Office a veto factory by passing conservative wish-list bills, like repealing Obamacare, and sending them on to the White House? Or will they seek deals on immigration, infrastructure improvement and maybe even health care? Recent history suggests continued warfare. But that supposes that all of the American people despise the President as much as the Republican base does. The past six years have been a juvenile, name-calling fiesta for the likes of Rush Limbaugh, who prospers when Republicans are out of power. It is very tempting for the party to stay that course. I wouldn’t bet against it. But Republicans found in 1998 that compromising with a Democratic President could produce odd results, like balanced budgets and a Republican presidential victory in 2000.

3. Kansas Rejoins The Mainstream

The Senate race between the aforementioned independent, Greg Orman, and Republican stalwart Pat Roberts is curious. But the plight of the current governor, Sam Brownback, may be historic. Brownback has pitched his tent atop the quicksand of voodoo economics. The results are the same as when Ronald Reagan tried massive tax cuts in 1981: they have blown a giant hole in tax revenue. Unsustainable budget cuts–in education, in everything–have resulted. Brownback points out that the economy eventually revived under Reagan. True enough, but only after Reagan agreed to several huge tax increases and the tight-money magic of Paul Volcker’s Federal Reserve wrung inflation out of the system. Brownback’s Kansas disaster has caused the local Chamber of Commerce to rise up and support his Democratic opponent, Paul Davis, and this may have long-term consequences for Republicans.

The Chamber and other business groups have always opposed higher taxes and tighter regulations; their tacit support helped launch the Tea Party. But what if business groups, large and small, decide that fiscal responsibility is more important than tax cuts? Traditionally, business has also supported spending on education and infrastructure. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the high-tech community support immigration reform. What if the national business community follows the Kansas example and reshuffles its priorities? The Republican Party may well have to reshuffle its priorities too, and the myth of extreme supply-side economics might finally be put to rest.

4. The Quiet Jungle

Last spring I wrote about the new electoral possibilities in California, given its system of open primaries–also called jungle primaries. This allows the two top vote getters in the primary to compete in the general election, regardless of party. The aim was to rouse more centrist candidates. The mammoth 53-seat California congressional delegation has yielded only two same-party finals in 2014. In District 17, a moderate Democrat named Ro Khanna is challenging the traditional Democratic incumbent Mike Honda; in District 4, the Tea Party incumbent Tom McClintock is facing a more moderate Republican challenger, a West Point graduate named Art Moore. If the moderates win, it may encourage other centrists to try next time. But the incumbents seem to have a slight edge in both races.

5. The Omniscient Pollster

In 2012, Nate Silver of the FiveThirtyEight website correctly predicted the presidential results in every state. Consequently–and since the politicians aren’t having very many rallies anymore–the press has paid even more than its usual excessive attention to polling in the 2014 campaign. Very elaborate compilations by different sources have given the Republicans a monumental advantage in taking the Senate this year. But there’s a problem: the Republicans don’t have a monumental advantage in any of the key toss-up states. The polling has most of those races within the margin of error. And polling on down-ballot races is notoriously less accurate than it is on the presidential level. I won’t be surprised if the Republicans win the election, but it is possible they won’t.

It may be too much to ask that we journalists stop trying to do what we do worst–predicting the outcomes of races–and start doing what we should do best: hounding the candidates into specific answers on difficult questions. My sense this year has been that most politicians now assume that the vexing need to deal with journalists is pretty much over, unless they commit a mouth misdemeanor or something unseemly emerges about their past. They may be right. The media aren’t as powerful as they used to be. Budgets are tighter. There aren’t as many Walter Robinsons around to unearth the last thing that the public has come to expect: the shocking positive story.

This appears in the November 10, 2014 issue of TIME.

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