TIME 2016 Election

A Study in Contrasts for Rand Paul and Ted Cruz

U.S. Senator Cruz delivers remarks at Values Voter Summit in Washington
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) delivers his remarks at the morning plenary session of the Values Voter Summit in Washington on Sept. 26, 2014. Gary Cameron—Reuters

Two potential presidential candidates come to a conservative Christian cattle call

Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, two Tea Party senators in the hunt for the White House, find themselves in a nearly identical position these days. Both sons of celebrated conservative leaders, they regularly speak at the same events, criticize the same Democratic President with a similar message of back-to-basics constitutionalism, and poll nationally at about 10% among Republicans in the way-too-early 2016 polls.

But on Friday, as conservative Christians gathered in Washington for the Values Voter Summit, their differences were far more apparent than their similarities. Paul stood behind the podium in blue jeans, quoting the Founding Fathers and modern authors off a teleprompter, ever the iconoclastic intellect. Cruz roamed the stage in a boxy suit, preaching a passage from Psalms again and again in a call for spiritual rebirth.

Both cast the political crisis now facing the country as a crises of the spirit, but from there they began to diverge. While they both boasted of anti-abortion credentials, only Cruz raised the issues of gay marriage and Iran, building his nearly hour-long address around Psalm 30:5, “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.” The night, he said, was the current rule of a Harry Reid in the Senate and Barack Obama in the White House, and dawn would come in two stages, in this year’s midterm elections and in 2016, with twin Democratic defeats.

“How do we turn this country around? We offer a choice not an echo,” Cruz said, offering himself as a sort of condensed Republican, without the fluff of the others. “We defend the values that are American values. We stand for life. We stand for marriage. We stand for Israel.”

Paul was introduced to the stage with a different sort of branding. “He is on the edge, he has an edge and it gives him and edge,” went the sales pitch, and he did his best to cast himself as a non-conformist over the course of about 17 minutes. At multiple points, he noted that both political parties had failed to adhere to the proper path, which he described as faith in God and close adherence to the Constitution. “What America needs is not just another politician or promises,” he said. “What America really needs is a revival.”

It was a neat recasting of the revolution metaphor that has accompanied his—and his father Ron Paul’s—rapid political rises over the last decade. Unlike Cruz, who limited his foreign policy criticism to the President and the lack of effort to make Christian persecution a priority in diplomatic relations, Paul called for a shift in the way the nation approaches intervention, arguing that even detestable secular dictatorships in the Middle Sast were preferable to the chaos following their toppling. “It’s time to put a stop to this madness,” Paul said, “And take a good heard look at what our foreign policy has done.”

Paul has generally been more supportive than Cruz of efforts to negotiate a resolution to the nuclear stand-off with Iran, and chose not to raise the issue specifically before the Christian, Zionist audience. Cruz, by contrast, joked of U.S. diplomats “swilling chardonnay in New York City” with their Iranian counterparts.

Cruz spoke at length about his pastor father, Rafael, his journey to the United States from Cuba and his Christian faith. Paul made no mention of his father, who won delegates for both the 2008 and 2012 Republican National conventions.

Judging from the noise of the applause, at the Omni Shoreham ballroom, Cruz’s presentation was received with somewhat more enthusiasm, though both were rewarded at the end with standing ovations. But the two men had come to the room with different missions. For a Cruz campaign, Christian conservative support will have to be core pillar of support. For Paul, the focus in on assuaging Christian conservative doubts as he focuses on building out new parts of the electorate from more libertarian leaning Americans.

“Where the spirit of the lord is there is liberty,” Paul said in conclusion, quoting from Corinthians 3:17. Then he said the opposite was also true. “Where there is liberty, there is always space for God.”

The message: The conservative Christian community, long an anchor of the Republican Party, has nothing to fear from the new edgy candidate in their midst.

TIME justice

Eric Holder Will Leave a Legacy of Civil Rights Activism

Barack Obama, Eric Holder
President Barack Obama, accompanied by Attorney General Eric Holder, speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014, to announce Holder is resigning. Evan Vucci—AP

Holder used the bully pulpit to highlight racial injustices he saw around him

Attorney General Eric Holder showed in his second week in office that he planned to approach the job of top law enforcement officer differently.

“In things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards,” he said, in prepared remarks to Justice Department staff on Feb. 18, 2009. “Through its work and through its example this Department of Justice, as long as I am here, must—and will—lead the nation to the ‘new birth of freedom’ so long ago promised by our greatest President.”

The remarks earned a backlash from the West Wing staff around President Barack Obama, but Holder’s attitude never changed, nor did his determination to use his office to highlight the injustices that continued to exist under his tenure. “We’ve got to have the guts to say that these are issues that need to be fixed,” he told a group of black journalists during a meeting at the White House last year.

As news broke Thursday of Holder’s decision to retire after almost six years in the job as the first black leader of the Justice Department, civil rights activists were quick to praise him. “No attorney general has demonstrated a civil rights record that is similar to Eric Holder’s,” Al Sharpton, the head of the National Action Network, told reporters in Washington.

“Attorney General Holder never shied away from the issues that greatly affect us all,” Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of slain activist Medgar Evers, said in a statement.

Through his tenure, Holder often referred to the portrait of his predecessor Robert F. Kennedy, which hangs in his office, as a guiding light for him. Like Kennedy’s efforts to address civil rights issues in the 1960s, Holder’s department made criminal justice reform a priority, and has worked aggressively to continue to challenge limits on voting rights after the Supreme Court overturned parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Holder has also launched a number of high profile investigations of the conduct of local police departments in about 20 cities, often obtaining consent agreements that change police conduct.

In a major address to the American Bar Association in August of 2013, Holder did not just lay out a set of reforms to reduce prison terms and improve rehabilitation efforts, but he also challenged the country for what he saw as moral failures. “One deeply troubling report… indicates that in recent years black male offenders have received sentences nearly 20 percent longer than those imposed on white males convicted of similar crimes,” he said. “This isn’t just unacceptable—it is shameful. It’s unworthy of our great country, and our great legal tradition.”

Before speaking those words, he had given a draft of his remarks to Obama during a vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. In an interview with TIME earlier this year, Holder recalled Obama’s reaction. “It’s a gutsy speech,” the President told him, encouraging him to deliver the speech.

Holder also spoke multiple times about the discrimination he believed he had experienced as a black man. “I am the attorney general of the United States, but I am also a black man,” he said during a visit to a community meeting in Ferguson, Mo., this year, where he recounted his anger at being stopped by police while running down the street in Washington, D.C., and while driving on the New Jersey turnpike. “I remember how humiliating that was and how angry I was and the impact it had on me.”

Like many other efforts, he spoke these words not just as a cabinet secretary but as a social activist, urging the country to be better. “The same kid who got stopped on the New Jersey freeway is now the Attorney General of the United States,” he said in Ferguson. “This country is capable of change. But change doesn’t happen by itself.”

TIME Supreme Court

Justice Ginsburg Suggests Senate Republicans Are Keeping Her At Her Job

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg makes remarks during a forum at the Newseum to mark the 30th anniversary of the first female Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's first term on the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, April 11, 2012.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg makes remarks during a forum at the Newseum to mark the 30th anniversary of the first female Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's first term on the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, April 11, 2012. Mike Theiler—REUTERS

A revealing interview to a women's magazine shows how politics is impacting the court

Correction appended Wednesday, 9/24

The dysfunctions and passions of modern partisan politics is not supposed to influence the behavior of the nation’s highest court, but for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the circus taking place across U.S. Capitol Plaza seems to be having an impact.

This week, Elle magazine asked Ginsburg the question on everyone’s mind: Why not step down from the court now, with a Democratic President, to ensure another left-leaning replacement? Her answer was telling, for an 81-year-old justice who was confirmed to the Supreme Court in 1993 with only three Republican senators voting against her.

“Who do you think President Obama could appoint at this very day, given the boundaries that we have?” she said. “If I resign any time this year, he could not successfully appoint anyone I would like to see in the court. [The Senate Democrats] took off the filibuster for lower federal court appointments, but it remains for this court. So anybody who thinks that if I step down, Obama could appoint someone like me, they’re misguided.”

The implication of this is that she must wait for cooler heads and the 2016 election, when either Republicans might move to the middle or Democrats could win a larger majority in the upper chamber. It was also remarkably frank admission of something Supreme Court justices often try to avoid doing publically: Connecting the whims of Democracy to the wisdom of their collective deliberations.

Under the constitution, the political process officially has an impact on the court at two points: When the Senate confirms justices for the court in the first place, and when Justices decide to leave the court at the end of their career. In 1929, shortly after the stock market crash, Chief Justice William Howard Taft declared in a letter to his brother, “I must stay on the court in order to prevent the Bolsheviki from getting control.” Chief Justice Warren Burger famously sped his retirement out of fear that Republicans would lose control of the Senate in 1986. Justice Harry Blackmun famously scribbled notes to himself the day after President Clinton was elected in 1992, debating when he should now retire.

In recent years, Chief Justice John Roberts, a Republican appointee, has made a point of trying to build unity in the court amid the growing national division outside the building’s walls. In the last term, 60% of the cases were decided unanimously, the highest percentage in decades. But on the biggest issues, from union dues to Obamacare to religious freedom, divisions are still deep and wide.

From Ginsburg’s view, the recent rightward drift of the court will end, if not reverse itself, with time. On the question of abortion, she told Elle, the court has gotten “about as conservative as it will get.” But when asked about the pendulum swinging left again on the larger issues of women’s rights, she pointed to the same body that she suggests is keeping her in the job. “I think it will,” she said, “when we have a more functioning Congress.”

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly described the group Ginsberg said took off the filibuster for lower federal court appointments. They are the Senate Democrats.

TIME White House

A President in Prime-Time Command After 2 Years of Frustration

As with past painful conflicts, there is no end date, and no clear metric on which to declare victory

The central message of Wednesday night’s prime-time reveal of a new U.S. war in the Middle East came a few minutes in. President Barack Obama squared to the camera, slowed his delivery and filled each syllable with all the gravity he had. “I know many Americans are concerned about these threats,” he said, pausing briefly between sentences. “Tonight, I want you to know that the United States of America is meeting them with strength and resolve.”

That was the takeaway, the thing he wanted his country to remember after the 15-minute interruption of the America’s Got Talent ended: I got this. Americans may be getting their throats cut in distant deserts. Iraq may again be falling into tribal chaos. Islamist extremism may be rearing its head under a new black flag. But the situation is under control.

If he delivered the sentiment with remarkable presence of mind, it may only be because he hasn’t had many other opportunities over the past two years. Wars are presidential acts in the American system, whatever Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution says. He chooses the bombs to drop, and where they hit. He makes the phone calls to get other countries on board. He reviews the intelligence on the homeland threat each day, weighing the risks of spilled blood at home and abroad.

War is also one of the last things of import he has control over in his second term. Just a few days earlier, he found himself in another room of the White House trying to explain to NBC’s Chuck Todd why Americans should care if Democrats keep the Senate in November, given all the evident powerlessness of anyone to do anything in Washington. The best he could come up with was that Democrats would have a better rhetorical position. “Having a Democratic Senate … means that we are debating the right things for the country,” he managed.

In other words, the status quo, a situation so untenable that his communications shop made his escape from it a selling point. “The bear is loose,” White House aides would tweet, when he walked down the street, bought ice cream or a hamburger on some Midwestern Main Street. The Oval Office, in other words, is a cage. His attempts to deal with gun violence had fallen flat after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. His bipartisan dinners to craft tax reform and deficit reduction had been cleared away. His signature legislative achievement had almost come crashing down with a website. Even his bold plan to take unilateral action this summer on the immigration crisis got waylaid by polls showing voters on the brink of outrage.

But this problem in Iraq and Syria, a few thousand jihadists belonging to a group with a name that no one can agree on — that was something he could handle. “Tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat,” he said.

It was a good moment for his presidency. But it was also the easy part. Polls show Americans favor intervention by about the same margin that they opposed bombing Syria last year. Chances are good the U.S. will win the military fight, and the spooks seem optimistic at the moment about preventing another homeland attack in retribution. But there will also be a cost.

Another goal of his second term was to wind down the eternal conflict his predecessor called the “war on terror.” Now that won’t happen anytime soon. The war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, which Obama described as neither Islamic nor a state, will be a long one. As with past painful conflicts, there is no end date, and no clear metric on which to declare victory. He said he will “degrade and ultimately destroy” the threat. But the destroy part could very well come years after he leaves office.

For now, however, everything is under control. The nation that can’t agree on anything is taking definitive action. “As Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead,” Obama said Wednesday night.

The same can be said for the President who leads us.

TIME Foreign Policy

Obama Offers Muddled Message to Europe in Face of Crises

Barack Obama Estonia Europe
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at Nordea Concert Hall in Tallinn, Estonia on Sept. 3, 2014. Charles Dharapak—AP

Several questions remained about how he intends to deal with the multiple foreign policy crises facing his administration

President Barack Obama traveled to Estonia on Wednesday to set the world straight on his intentions. In a speech at the wood-paneled Nordea Concert Hall in Tallinn, he spoke of “steadfast support,” “solemn duty,” “crystal clear” treaties and “concrete commitments.”

“NATO must send an unmistakable message in support of Ukraine,” Obama said. “Ukraine needs more than words.”

The rhetoric hit its marks. The message, however, was muddled.

As he finished his speaking engagements, several questions remained about how he intends to deal with the multiple foreign policy crises facing his administration. He again condemned Russian incursions into Ukraine, and promised new U.S. and European help to train, modernize and strengthen the Ukrainian military. But his “unmistakable message” of support stopped short of defining or ruling out any additional U.S. military role should Russian aggression continue.

While he pointedly promised to defend those countries in the region who are signatories to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Obama offered no similar assurances to Ukraine, even as he highlighted that country’s voluntary contributions to NATO military efforts. Instead, Obama asked for a focus on a peace process that seems, for the moment, elusive.

“Since ultimately there’s no military solution to this crisis, we will continue to support [Ukrainian] President [Petro] Poroshenko’s efforts to achieve peace because, like all independent nations, Ukraine must be free to decide its own destiny,” he said, minutes after the Kremlin denied reports it had reached a ceasefire with Ukraine. As NATO leaders gather to consider imposing additional economic sanctions on Russia, Obama hailed the success of the U.S.-led sanctions regime, which has hurt the Russian economy but without stopping additional Russian military aggression in Ukraine.

This was not the only issue on which he left gray areas. During a news conference earlier in the day, he offered several differing, if not contradictory, descriptions of U.S. goals for handling the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

While highlighting ongoing efforts to build an international coalition to take on the group and promising congressional consultation, he offered no indication of his still developing strategy to take on the group.

“The bottom line is this,” he said at the start of a press conference. “Our objective is clear and that is to degrade and destroy [ISIS] so it is no longer a threat not just to Iraq but also the region and to the United States.”

But minutes later, he seemed to recast the goal more locally.

“Our objective is to make sure they aren’t an ongoing threat to the region,” he said. “As we’ve seen with al-Qaeda, there are always going to be remnants that can cause havoc of any of these networks, in part because of the nature of terrorist activities. You get a few individuals, and they may be able to carry out a terrorist act.”

Then, in a third formulation, he said he hoped to “shrink [ISIS's] sphere of influence, its effectiveness, its military capability to the point where it is a manageable problem.”

In place of answers on these most knotty challenges, Obama repeated the idealistic formulations of human progress that have long been his trademark on the international stage.

“The currents of history ebb and flow. But over time, they flow toward freedom,” he said. “Freedom will win, not because it’s inevitable, not because it is ordained, but because these basic human yearnings for dignity and justice and democracy do not go away.”

TIME nation

Obama Goes to War (With Congress)

The President began bombing ISIS on his own, but only Congress can start a war

Earlier this summer, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine found himself in the Grand Foyer of the White House playing the foreign policy–hypothetical game with President Obama. Over drinks with some Senate Democrats, the President mentioned Kaine’s article that day in the Washington Post demanding a congressional vote to authorize any new military action against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), the armed extremist group overtaking large chunks of Iraq.

The Law Professor in Chief, who campaigned for office promising to rein in executive power, proposed some scenarios. “He’d say, ‘Here’s the situation. Do you think I have executive authority to act?'” Among the possibilities Kaine recalls: What if there is an imminent threat to a U.S. embassy? “We generally agreed on most of them,” says Kaine. But not all.

Two months later, those debates are no longer hypothetical. Since Aug. 8, Obama has unilaterally ordered more than 100 bombing runs on ISIS targets in northern Iraq, citing his authority under Article II of the Constitution to protect U.S. lives and offer humanitarian aid. Hundreds of military advisers have been dispatched to Iraq, along with shipments of lethal equipment to proxy forces in the region. Through it all, the White House has maintained that Obama has no plans to seek permission from Congress, which returns from recess on Sept. 8.

The Constitution gives the President the power to defend the country as Commander in Chief, but it delegates the power to declare war to Congress. Kaine is one of several Senators who believe Obama has stretched his powers about as far as they can go. “I am worried about the consequences of Congress basically saying the President can decide unilaterally which organizations to launch air strikes against,” says Kaine.

The Obama Administration, meanwhile, has been signaling that the conflict with ISIS is likely to expand before it contracts. U.S. officials worry about what they believe are hundreds of ISIS fighters with Western passports who could attack Europe or the U.S. if they return to their homelands. General Martin Dempsey, who chairs the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that defeating ISIS will require action by U.S. or other forces on both sides of the Iraq-Syria border. Days later, Pentagon sources leaked news of new U.S. surveillance flights over Syria to better map out ISIS positions, a possible prerequisite to expanded bombing efforts. “Rooting out a cancer like [ISIS] won’t be easy and it won’t be quick,” Obama said on Aug. 26. Though the White House insists no decisions have been made for an expanded campaign against ISIS, no one denies that preparations are under way.

The ironies of the situation are striking. A President who helped build his national profile by opposing the war in Iraq now must decide whether to force a vote on a similar military adventure just weeks before midterm elections. But the commander who deferred to Congress rather than launch air strikes on Syria last year may not be able to attract the votes on Capitol Hill that he has in the past claimed to need. “I believe our democracy is stronger when the President acts with the support of Congress,” Obama said one year ago. “And I believe America acts more effectively abroad when we stand together.”

There are plenty of reasons for the White House to avoid a bitter debate over a new war in the Middle East. Obama’s attempts to get approval from Congress for the last round of Syria strikes failed to muster the required votes, and it divided his own party, upsetting many on the left. He has also spent some of his second term celebrating what he described as the coming end to the war on terror, a goal that seems increasingly distant. Congressional leadership on both sides is skittish about a vote. “Neither he nor the Congress wants to have this dance now,” says Jack Goldsmith, who led the Office of Legal Counsel for President George W. Bush. “That’s really what is going on.”

In the meantime, the White House has been searching for a legal justification for a protracted military campaign that doesn’t involve going to Congress. A 2002 congressional authorization to use force in Iraq remains on the books, but the White House announced in July that the document “is no longer used” and should be repealed. That leaves the 2001 congressional authorization to pursue those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, which a White House spokesperson says the Administration is “currently reviewing” to see if it applies to ISIS.

But Obama allies like Kaine, who otherwise supports Obama’s ISIS campaign, say that document clearly doesn’t cover ISIS, which did not exist in 2001. Far from being a partner of al-Qaeda, ISIS has emerged as a rival in the region. And in 2001, Congress rejected a White House request for broader authorization to allow military force against threats unconnected to al-Qaeda.

A third option–perhaps the most likely outcome–is for Obama to declare that his constitutional powers allow him to continue the conflict without Congress. A Vietnam-era law requires the President to seek congressional authorization for hostilities within 60 days of their launch, or begin military drawdowns; that deadline would expire after Oct. 7. But Obama never sought such authorization for the bombing campaign that toppled Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Instead, his lawyers argued that the limited nature of U.S. support for air strikes on Libya did not amount to “hostilities” under the law.

In the end, the greatest risk for Obama in avoiding Congress may be to his legacy. No court is likely to force him to stop military action, and Congress is unlikely to unite around a demand for a vote. But Obama has repeatedly promised the American people a more democratic approach to warfare. As so often happens in the Oval Office, the President must now decide whether to pay a political price to uphold his public vows.

–WITH REPORTING BY JAY NEWTON-SMALL AND ZEKE MILLER/WASHINGTON

TIME foreign affairs

Congo’s Presidential Entourage Investigated for Beating Protesters in U.S.

The incident was allegedly captured on video and posted on YouTube

The U.S. State Department has taken steps to seek the prosecution of a members of the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s entourage, who were allegedly captured on video Thursday beating a protester in the streets of Washington, D.C.

A video posted on YouTube shows a man in a dark suit kicking the head of a protester as he lays on the ground near a member of D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department, who appeared to be trying to defuse the situation.

“We are still gathering details on the incident, but are very troubled by reports that protestors were attacked by members of the President’s entourage,” the State Department said in a statement Thursday. “We take the right to freedom of expression very seriously, and violence against peaceful protestors is totally unacceptable.”

The statement went on to commend the efforts of D.C. police for coming to the aide of the protesters. “We have communicated our concern to the delegation from the Democratic Republic of Congo in the strongest possible terms,” the State Department statement continued. “We have requested a waiver of immunity to permit those involved to face prosecution. If it is not granted, we will ask that they leave the United States immediately.”

A spokesman for D.C.’ Metropolitan Police declined to comment, and a spokesman for the U.S. Secret Service said the investigation would be handled by the State Department.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo President Joseph Kabila is visiting Washington, D.C., for an African leader summit at the invitation of President Obama. According to a 2013 State Department human rights report, Kabila was elected in 2011 in an election international observer missions said “lacked credibility.”

“[Non-governmental organizations], including Human Rights Watch, reported security forces killed or arbitrarily detained dozens of citizens prior to the voting,” the report reads. The human rights condition in the country has remained poor since then, despite the appointment by Kabila of a human rights commission.
“Elements of the [state security forces] continued to harass, beat, intimidate, and arbitrarily arrest and detain domestic human rights advocates and domestic NGO workers, particularly when the NGOs reported on or supported victims of abuses by the SSF or reported on the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the East,” the report reads.

 

TIME 2016 Election

Why Rand Paul Is Attacking Hillary Clinton

Conservative Political Action Conference
Rand Paul at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland on March 7, 2014 Mark Peterson—Redux

Meet the GOP's top Hillary attack dog

Some politicians attack in prose. Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul can do it in poetry—with color, precision and language that’s hard to forget.

Over the last week, he didn’t just blame Hillary Clinton for the current state of Libya, he said she created a “Jihadist wonderland” there. He didn’t just knock her for not fortifying the Benghazi embassy, he said she treated the place “as if it were Paris.”

“While she was turning down request for security, she spent $650,000 on Facebook ads, trying to get more friends for the State Department,” he said. “They spent $700,000 on landscaping at the Brussels embassy. They spent $5 million on crystal glassware for the embassies around the world.”

On Friday, he asked the crowd for a moment of silence, to pray for Clinton’s bank account. “Somebody must have been praying for her, because she’s now worth $100, $200 million,” he followed, deadpan. “I tell you, it was really tough giving those speeches.” Then on Tuesday, at an event for a fellow ophthalmologist running for Congress in Iowa City, offered his crowning rhetorical turn. “Hillary’s war in Libya, Hillary’s war in Syria,” he said. “None of this was ever approved by Congress.”

Of course, all of these attacks were unfair, as political attacks tend to be. Hillary did not choose to bomb Libya, though she supported the policy, and she has broken from President Barack Obama on the strategy in Syria. There is no evidence the question of additional security for the Benghazi embassy ever rose to her desk at the State Department, her net worth includes her husband’s substantial earnings, and no one serious has ever suggested an actual connection between Belgian landscaping budgets and American security.

But what matters at the moment is not accuracy, but political calculation and execution. And Paul is quickly establishing himself as the Republican Party’s preeminent basher of Hillary Clinton, a title that could bring him rewards over the coming months as the 2016 presidential race heats up.

The strategy plays to two of Paul’s natural advantages in the current Republican field. He is not a sitting Governor, and therefore far more free to dip his tongue in the partisan mud. He is also running for President—albeit without an official campaign—on the idea that he can best distinguish himself from Clinton on key matters of foreign policy that are likely to resonate with independent and young voters. “There are definitely areas where Clinton has vulnerabilities that Rand is uniquely situated to attack,” said Tim Miller, who spends his days attacking Hillary Clinton for America Rising, an opposition research group.

Other would-be Clinton challengers have, of course, tried to get on the Hillary-bashing bandwagon, but with lesser results. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio made an early splash by calling Clinton a “20th century candidate,” but most of his attacks have sounded more like Senate speeches than a sonnet. “If she’s going to run on her record as Secretary of State, she’s also going to have to answer for its massive failures,” he says. Texas Sen. Tex Cruz, meanwhile, remains more likely to focus his fire on Obama, or their joint efforts, than Hillary alone. “Internationally, the Obama-Clinton foreign policy is a disaster,” he says.

Paul’s focus on Clinton clearly looks like a strategy to elevate himself early in the Republican field. Soon Republicans nationwide will pivot to focus on what may the central question of the Republican primary: Who can actually take on Hillary Clinton and win? As far back as February, Paul was already working on these credentials. He started by calling former President Bill Clinton a “sexual predator” in interviews. His point was that Democrats should be called to account for Clinton’s personal life if they wanted to claim to be champions of women.

Those jabs were widely condemned as political malpractice, a misfire aimed at a popular former President for failures that were long ago digested by the public. “I’m not sure he has a strategy,” Karl Rove jabbed on Fox News. “Frankly, Rand Paul spending a lot of time talking about the mistakes of Bill Clinton does not look like a big agenda for the future of the country.”

Paul never really let up. For weeks in February, he found himself in headlines pitted against the presumptive Democratic nominee.

In a crowded field, he was in pole position—where he remains to this day.

TIME Infectious Disease

Meet the Bots That Knew Ebola Was Coming

Medical staff working with Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) prepare to bring food to patients kept in an isolation area at the MSF Ebola treatment centre in Kailahun, Sierra Leone on July 20, 2014.
Medical staff working with Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) prepare to bring food to patients kept in an isolation area at the MSF Ebola treatment centre in Kailahun, Sierra Leone on July 20, 2014. Reuters

Online technology has improved the ability to detect and track outbreaks

A computer program run by epidemiologists in Boston had already alerted key agencies of the U.S. government about West Africa’s Ebola outbreak four days before the World Health Organization first announced it, one of the doctors told TIME Tuesday.

The computer’s advantage was its access to non-official online channels, in this case a March 19 news report in the Kenyan publication, the Standard News, which quoted a Guinean health official describing 23 recent deaths due to hemorrhagic fever in a region where bushmeat is regularly consumed. “These are new views on what is happening,” John Brownstein, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and the founder of Healthmap.org, a group that scours social media and online news sources for early signs of disease outbreaks, told TIME.

The rise in technology and global travel has created new hardships for the world’s infectious disease fighters. Pathogens can now travel around the world as fast as a airplane and global trade is booming. But there is a good-news corollary to this increased threat: The ability to detect diseases quickly has increased as well, by mining Internet usage, social media and news reporting for real-time signals of disease threats.

Google search terms for words like flu and diarrhea can indicate spikes in infection, birthing the company’s Google Flu Trends project with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has demonstrated an ability to predict spikes in flu cases before official data.

Health and flu-related Wikipedia article traffic has also been shown to correlate with disease outbreaks as they happen. In cases where official data is not always reliable, social media can also provide better indications of emerging threats. During the 2013 outbreak of H7N9 bird flu in China, a health worker forced hospital officials to admit a recent death from the disease by posting the hospital chart of a recent patient on Weibo, the Chinese social media site. Weibo reports also signaled to the world that nurses had developed fevers after interacting with the patient.

The new systems are by no means foolproof: U.S. social media has seen sharp spikes in discussions of ebola in recent weeks, for instance, but those do not indicate any evidence that the disease has jumped to the United States. “We tend to be very careful about the social media side of things,” Brownstein said. He also says there is still a significant human role in sorting through the digital news reports his group collects.

But that hasn’t stopped most major U.S. government agencies from subscribing to Healthmap.org’s daily email alerts, and online postings. Brownstein said the Department of Defense, the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control and the Department of Homeland Security all subscribe to the monitoring efforts.

Healthmap.org’s timeline of the geographic spread of Ebola, based on online news reports, can be found here.

TIME 2016 Election

Steve King Shows 2016 Risk of Campaign Trail Ambushes For GOP

Rep. Steve King speaks during the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition's Friends of the Family Banquet in Des Moines, Iowa, Nov. 9, 2013.
Rep. Steve King speaks during the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition's Friends of the Family Banquet in Des Moines, Iowa, Nov. 9, 2013. Justin Hayworth—AP

Candidate ambushes staged by immigration groups could hurt Republicans' 2016 chances

The August recess has begun, and so have the August recess ambushes. Republicans have a reason to worry.

On Monday, in Okoboji, Iowa, two undocumented youths confronted Iowa Rep. Steve King in a publicity stunt that charts a clear path to political pain for Republicans as the 2016 campaign season approaches. It is a quirk of the American system that to get elected President, candidates must meet with lots of regular people, along with full-time advocates posing as regular people, along the path to the White House. More often than not, these interactions are captured on video for eternity.

This process gives enormous opportunity and advantage to well-organized advocacy groups. In the 2008 election, a handful of groups from global warming advocates to anti-poverty crusaders fanned out across the early caucus and primary states to repeatedly ask the presidential candidates the same questions, effectively elevating their issue. Today, no group is doing this same thing as effectively as immigration reform activists, as the King video makes clear:

Notice Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, the likely 2016 Presidential candidate, in the background at the beginning. His aide wisely advises him to leave his sandwich behind and clear out of the screen — and it’s a good thing he does. King, whose role in the political debate over immigration is basically the opposite of a firefighter’s role at a fire, does not disappoint. In a matter of minutes, he briefly but violently grabs the young woman’s hand in a misfired effort to quiet her, he notes condescendingly “you are very good at English,” he doubles down on his comment that drug smugglers at the southern border have calves “like cantaloupes,” he repeatedly calls Mexico a “lawless country,” and he accuses the two young people, both well-educated activists without legal documentation, of having no respect for the law.

Whatever position Republicans end up taking on immigration reform in the coming years, this is all political dynamite for the party. In the 2012 election, Republican Mitt Romney won only about 27% of the Latino vote, a number that will almost certainly have to increase if a Republican is to win in 2016. A majority of those voters have family roots in Mexico, a functioning country with significant law enforcement struggles, but one that King dismisses as “lawless.”

On the eve of the 2012 election, Latino Decisions did a poll of likely Latino voters, who made up about 10% of the electorate. The results showed clearly that Romney faced an overwhelming problem in selling those voters: Only 14% of the voters in the poll said Romney cared about the Latino community, compared with 66% who said Barack Obama cared. A significant percentage of this bias against Romney was born of mistakes he had made during the primary that had less to do with policy than attitude. As Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus later said, “Using the word ‘self-deportation’—I mean, it’s a horrific comment to make.”

A poll taken after the 2012 election found that a strong majority of Americans—57% in total, including 60% of independents and 35% of Republicans—supported President Obama’s effort to give job permits to some undocumented immigrants who had been brought to country illegally as minors. This is the policy House Republicans voted last week to defund, with Steve King leading the charge. That makes him an easy target for activists. Ambushes like this are stunts. But in the system we have, they work. And this is just the beginning.

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