TIME politics

These Photos of Joe Biden Eating an Ice Cream Cone Show That His Eternal Summer Shall Not Fade

Oh, Mr. Vice President, thou art so lovely and so temperate

Well, it looks like whoever runs the Joe Biden Eats Ice Cream Tumblr has some updating to do.

During a visit to Portland to campaign with Sen. Jeff Merkley Wednesday, the veep stopped by the city’s beloved Salt & Straw ice cream parlor for a little treat. Or actually, from the looks of it, a rather large treat.

Biden ordered a scoop of “Chocolate Woodblock” and a scoop of “Double-Fold Vanilla” in a waffle cone. Of course, he also bought a cone for Merkley. And of course, he kept his aviators on the entire time.

Biden, Merkley
Vice President Joe Biden, right, and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley enjoy ice cream cones after a campaign rally in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014. Don Ryan—AP
Biden, Merkley
Vice President Joe Biden, right, pays for ice cream cones for himself and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley after a campaign rally in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014. Don Ryan—AP
Biden
Vice President Joe Biden enjoys an ice cream cone after a campaign rally for Oregon U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014. Don Ryan—AP
Biden, Lobkowizc
Vice President Joe Biden holds an ice cream cone as he poses for a photo with Hope Lobkowizc and her son, Owen, at an ice cream parlor after a campaign rally in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014. Don Ryan—AP
Biden, Merkley
Vice President Joe Biden gets ready to pay for an ice cream cone after a campaign rally for U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014. Don Ryan—AP

Somewhere, Leslie Knope is going weak in the knees.

TIME nation

A Troubled American Moment

As conspiracy theories abound, voters are uncertain about what to believe

“How do you feel about the federal government buying tons of ammunition for the post office in order to raise the price of ammo for gun owners?” was the first question I got at a town meeting in Shreveport, La. Kevin and Lois Martello, a dentist and speech therapist, respectively, had put together a group of 15 friends and neighbors to talk politics, and it was pretty intense from the start. I asked Lee Foshee, who had raised the post-office question, where he’d heard that. He told me he had several sources. One of them may have been the right-wing Breitbart website, I later learned, which has been tracking ammo sales to federal agencies. Breitbart didn’t mention the price-raising strategy, but Bill Kostelka, a certified public accountant, confirmed that he’d had to stand in line to buy .22-caliber rounds recently. (For the record: the U.S. Postal Inspection Service is armed and needs ammo from time to time.)

It’s hard to know what to believe,” said Lois Martello, the host, who seemed as nonplussed by the post-office-ammo conspiracy as I was. She and her husband were a bit more moderate than some of their friends. “Especially in the election season,” she continued, “when all the ads are on the air. But even on the news, it’s hard to tell what’s real.” I was tempted to defend my profession, but we seemed to be in a full-fledged American Moment, and I didn’t want to kill the buzz. Anyway, Kevin Martello, Lois’ husband, tried to take the conversation “in a different direction,” he said. “I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty concerned that the top 1% of the population controls 40% of the wealth in this country.”

There were a couple of head nods but not much commentary. There was more concern about government waste than about unseen wealth. Indeed, another chorus of consternation ensued, this time about food stamps. Waylon Bates, the principal of the local middle school, said he’d seen people “buying T-bone steaks and giant bottles of orange soda” with government scrip. Others said they’d seen the very same thing. And Foshee said he’d seen long lines at a combination liquor store and check-cashing place–a fine establishment, no doubt–on the day the Social Security disability checks came out each month.

I have heard the T-bone steak and orange-soda riff a number of times on road trips in recent years. It is always T-bone steaks. Sometimes it’s dog food too. Is it true? Maybe so; there are food-stamp abuses, no doubt. Or maybe it happened once, someone saw it, and the story spread, sprayed into the atmosphere by talk radio. It is now an urban (and rural) legend. The food-stamp stories mix with more purposeful fantasies spread by interest groups, like the National Rifle Association’s constant spew that the government wants to “take away” your guns rather than merely regulate their use. And then there are the immigrant stories: Kostelka heard about a carload of Mexicans stopped by the local police without driver’s licenses or proof of residency. “And they were given a fine and set free,” he said. True, no doubt, but incomplete: fewer would-be immigrants have been crossing the border in recent years, and the Obama Administration has been sending record numbers back home.

Democrats are swimming against the prevailing cynicism as they attempt to retain the Senate this year. Across the South, their candidates are placing a heavy bet on women’s issues, especially equal pay, and education. In some places, like North Carolina, where a traditional emphasis on education spending has been violated by the Republican state legislature, they have a chance to win. In Louisiana, where Senator Mary Landrieu is facing a virtual candidate named Bill Cassidy–local reporters claim they can’t find the guy, and I couldn’t either–the incumbent is facing a real hurdle. The hurdle is Barack Obama, about whom the crazy rumors are–still!–thick, and the ads are constant: each of the incumbent Democratic Senators running in the Southern states I visited has voted with the President more than 90% of the time. That is one thing every voter who enters the polls will know next month.

There is also an undercurrent of fear–about ISIS and Ebola–that does not help the Democrats. Most of the people I talked with don’t think this federal government is competent to handle anything. And there is an undercurrent of exhaustion, especially among Democrats who have talked themselves silly trying to dispel the rumor fog that has engulfed political discourse. These are stories that stick in the mind and rot the body politic. They are a dominant political currency, and not just in the South.

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

TIME politics

Watch Sarah Silverman’s Risqué Equal-Pay Ad

Sarah Silverman in Equal Payback Project video Equal Payback Project

This video is not safe for work

Sarah Silverman wants to fix the wage gap and pay back every woman for the money she has lost simply because of the genitalia she happens to have. But until that happens, she figures it’s easier to just get a penis.

In a new ad for the Equal Payback Project, Silverman says women are paid only 78 cents to ever dollar a man earns. She has set the impossible goal of raising $30 trillion to make up that gap. The money she and the Equal Payback Project do raise on Tilt, a crowd-funding platform, will go to the nonprofit the National Women’s Law Center to fight for equal pay legislation. See the ad below.

The ad comes shortly before the midterm elections, in which Democrats have sought to make pay equity a key issue.

TIME politics

The Wedding That Changed American History

Kennedy Wedding
Joseph P Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, on their wedding day in 1914 Getty Images

Rose Fitzgerald's father had doubts about Joseph Kennedy, but it's a good thing she didn't listen

Exactly 100 years ago, on Oct. 7, 1914, John F. “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, having just finished his term as mayor of Boston, walked his daughter Rose down the aisle to marry a guy he had doubts about. Sure, the bridegroom was then the youngest bank president in America, but Rose hadn’t dated around enough.

It’s a good thing she didn’t share her father’s doubts. The man waiting at the altar was Joseph Kennedy, and their wedding probably influenced the course of American history more than any before or since, thanks to the fruit of their union. Of their nine children, three became United States senators: Edward, known as Ted; Robert, who also became U.S. attorney general; and Jack — John F. Kennedy — who became a president of no small consequence.

The other children round out the epic American story. The oldest, Joe Jr., died a hero’s death in World War II. Kathleen married the heir to a Duke but lost him in the war less than a month after losing her big brother. Kathleen died at 28 in a plane crash in France. Patricia married a Hollywood leading man, and Jean married a shrewd businessman who became a trusted financial and campaign adviser to the family. Rosemary was intellectually disabled, which led sister Eunice to pursue a lifelong calling that effectively redefined popular understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities through such programs as the Special Olympics.

Joe and Rose were not a perfect couple by most standards. He was unfaithful, for years carrying on with film star Gloria Swanson. As parents, though, they did something indisputably right.

Of course, their children had the best education then available, from boarding schools to colleges like Harvard, Stanford and Princeton. Joe famously led spirited dinner-table discussions of public affairs and drove them to fierce competitiveness in sport. With Rose’s Catholic faith as moral compass and Joe’s money as enabler, the children followed lives dedicated to public service.

And then there was sailing.

When he was president, JFK said privately that the family’s reputation for competitiveness, and his father’s insistence on winning at everything, was often overstated — except in that one arena. Most of the children were obsessive about sailing and winning races. Their parents bought them mostly small boats at first. When they became a family of ten, they named one of them Tenovus. With the birth of the youngest, Ted, the family named another boat, Onemore. In 1932, Joe and Rose bought their children a 25-ft. boat that Jack named Victura. The 15-year-old, a mediocre student of Latin, chose a word that meant “about to conquer.”

Jack and his big brother Joe later teamed up on the Harvard sailing team to win a major intercollegiate regatta. Not long after, they both went into the Navy, where Joe Jr. died and Jack narrowly survived a sinking of the boat under his command. Fifty years later, Ted said it was Jack’s experience on Victura that saved his life and most of his crew. Jack sailed Victura on Nantucket Sound through his presidency. Bobby and Ethel loved sailing it so much that a painting of the two of them sailing Victura hangs to this very day on the dining room wall of Ethel’s home at Hyannis Port. The painting was one of three of that boat, commissioned in 1963 by Kennedy sisters as Christmas presents for their three brothers. Jack did not live to receive his.

When Ted died in 2009, among the many eulogists were four who all told stories of sailing with Ted on Victura. By then 77 years had passed since Joe and Rose bought it. All the children of Joe and Rose, and the Kennedys who came after, told and still tell stories of sailing together. But the sailing was nothing, really, compared to the other things they did.

Before Jack died, he and his brothers loved talking about the space program that got us to the moon. Astronauts were sailing a “new ocean,” said Jack. Eunice campaigned tirelessly for her brothers and successfully made the capabilities of people with disabilities a cause all the family embraced, to this day. Now, together, they work on environmental causes, human rights and children’s interests.

To this day, the grandchildren and great grandchildren of Joe and Rose continue to pursue public service and, yes, sailing. They race boats identical to Victura, even taking them the 30 miles between Nantucket and the very same moorings their grandparents used all those years ago.

James W. Graham is the author of, Victura: the Kennedys, a Sailboat, and the Sea.

Read a 1960 profile of the Kennedy family, here in TIME’s archives: Pride of the Clan

TIME Senate

Ted Cruz: We Must Amend U.S. Constitution to Defend Marriage

Conservatives Gather For Voter Values Summit
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at the 2014 Values Voter Summit, Sept. 26, 2014 in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

The Texas senator called the Supreme Court's rejection of appeals to uphold same-sex marriage bans in five states "judicial activism at its worst"

Senator Ted Cruz (R—Tex.) announced Monday that he will introduce a constitutional amendment barring the federal government and the courts from overturning state marriage laws.

The announcement follows the Supreme Court’s decision Monday to reject the appeals requests of five states seeking to outlaw same-sex marriages, permitting gay unions to go ahead in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.

“By refusing to rule if the States can define marriage, the Supreme Court is abdicating its duty to uphold the Constitution,” Cruz said in a statement. “The fact that the Supreme Court Justices, without providing any explanation whatsoever, have permitted lower courts to strike down so many state marriage laws is astonishing.”

Cruz described the court’s denial of appeals, which paves the away for an expansion of legalized same-sex marriage to as many as 30 states, as “judicial activism at its worst” and “a broad interpretation of the 14th Amendment” guaranteeing equal protection under the law, with “far-reaching consequences.”

The Texas Republican isn’t the first to propose amending the constitution over same-sex marriage. In 2013, following the Supreme Court’s striking down of the Defense of Marriage Act, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R.-Kan.) introduced legislation for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (formerly R-Va.) proposed a similar amendment back in 2006.

TIME politics

Hear Cornel West on Obama: ‘A Drone Presidency’

The activist on why he couldn't vote for Barack Obama in 2012

In an interview with Time for 10 Questions, Cornel West says he didn’t even vote in 2012. “I couldn’t vote for a war criminal,” he said, calling President Obama’s administration “a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency, a national surveillance presidency, that violates rights and liberties.”

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 Video Games

How Assassin’s Creed Unity Navigates the French Revolution’s Politics

Assassin's Creed Unity's creative director explains how the game engages with the French Revolution's controversial, often lopsided-looking political ramifications.

“[Just] as the French revolution … understood itself through antiquity, I think our time can be understood through the French revolution,” said Scottish poet Ian Hamilton Finlay, in a December 2001 Jacket interview.

Indeed, the French Revolution is one of these ever-topical historical periods brimming with controversies and lessons. It resonates across the political spectrum, and artists have explored it in countless books, movies, paintings, musicals, musical works, plays and more.

You can add games to that lineup on November 11, when Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Unity rolls out the most elaborate interactive simulation of the tumultuous time yet conceived.

It’s not a political game in the sense others that grapple with events like the Israeli-Palestinian crisis or food imports in the U.S. head-on are sometimes described. But the label or category “political game” can be misleading. It suggests there’s such a thing as a nonpolitical game. That’s a misnomer. Even a game as inocuous as Pac-Man can have political implications, and positioning a book or film or video game as apolitical, say for commercial purposes, to avoid alienating potential buyers, is as political a maneuver as any other.

Assassin’s Creed III tried to square this circle by relegating its political commentary–some of it witheringly critical of American historical revisionism–to optional encyclopedia entries. The trenchant stuff was there, but mostly happened offstage.

Where does Unity sit on that spectrum? Does it dig into the French Revolution’s political ramifications directly, or circle the periphery? I put the question to Unity director Alexandre Amancio late last week. Here’s what he told me.

We’ve already seen the series’ ethical framework shaken in recent games, with storylines that question both the Assassins and Templars’ motives. Is Assassin’s Creed Unity a continuation of that degree-by-degrees shift, or a more radical rethink?

I think Assassin’s Creed Unity takes things even further than we’ve seen to date. I think the French Revolution is the perfect setting for that ambiguity, because if you look at the French Revolution itself, the idea behind it is obviously that this is one of the first populist movements, when the people revolted against this old-school autocratic society. But the way the French Revolution proceeded, up to the Reign of Terror, you can definitely see how something that starts off as a genuinely positive idea can turn into a bloodbath and chaos.

Ubisoft

You’ve described protagonist Arno’s story as a redemption quest. Redemption from what?

At the beginning of the game, Arno’s adopted father dies, and the father happens to be the Grandmaster of the Templars in France. And because of certain details surrounding this death, Arno feels somewhat responsible.

So joining the Assassins is a means to an end for Arno. By joining the Assassins, he feels he has a better chance at redeeming himself for this mistake. That may sound counterintuitive, because if you want to avenge the death of a Templar, you wouldn’t join their enemies.

The thing is, and this goes along with your question about moral ambiguity, that the Templar Grandmaster is murdered because of a plot within his own order. There’s an extremist movement that causes a shift in leadership, so it’s sort of a coup. And part of trying to figure out who was responsible for the death ties into finding out who actually murdered the Grandmaster and why the Templars are shifting ideologies, but it’s also mixed in with the French Revolution and who’s pulling the strings behind both things.

This is how we tie Arno’s redemption quest in with the Revolution. A lot of the elements we see in the French Revolution we try to echo and mirror through metaphor. It’s the idea of extremism and how if you take two separate political entities and you take them to extremes, they wind up looping back and becoming the same thing.

You see this especially at the beginning of the story, where the Assassins and Templars are getting a little closer, because they’re figuring that the state of France is hitting such a critical point that it might explode. So by maybe moving toward detente and working together, maybe they can prevent the situation from deteriorating into a bloodbath. But what you see is that there’s elements on both sides who’d rather see society crumble, and so the game is sort of a study of that.

Speaking of the factions, if we’re thinking on the grand scale of human history, specific political ideologies tend to be short-lived. Creative license aside, isn’t it stretching the bounds of plausibility to portray the corruption-obsessed Assassins and control-obsessed Templars as these ideologically cohesive movements for millennia?

The more you play on these high-level universal truths and the more you tie them to different areas of the narrative, whether it’s the character’s personal story or history itself, or the events, the more I think they start to permeate the whole experience. I think that’s how you build a deeper and more satisfying experience, where it’s not just surface and touches every part of the fabric of the narrative.

The Assassins certainly go through that. I think that’s reflected through Arno. Arno’s character arc is a reflection of the Assassins’ progression, from the beginning of the revolution to afterward, and how he understands the truths that were told to him at the beginning.

Any time you read scripture, you’re always responsible for interpreting it in a certain way. So the same text that you read before and after a traumatic event might have a totally different meaning. Y0u might realize that something you thought was an absolute truth at one point in your life, after certain trials and tribulations, you look at that same phrasing and you see in reality that it meant something completely different.

This is Arno’s character arc. It’s about the meaning of what it is to be an Assassin, and what the tenets of the Assassins truly mean. The reason we did this is that it’s a renewal for the series and a new beginning for the brand. It felt like this study of what it means to be an Assassin was very important for new players as well as those who’ve been playing the story for a long time.

Ubisoft

Now if you look at the Templars, you have a similar thing going on, but with a different take altogether. The idea is that if you look back at the historical Templars in the Middle Ages, there was a great betrayal, a purge of the Templar order executed by Philip the Fair [Philip the IV, king of France in the late 13th century] and the Pope [Clement V]. This was the historical end of the Templars. And if you look at what Jacques de Molay [the last official Grandmaster of the historical Templars] was actually doing, he was already shifting the world toward something else. He thought that autocratic control was not the way to go, because people are always going to rebel against control and seek freedom. Even if the Templars believed people needed to be controlled, he understood you will never be able to change human nature.

So he was shifting the order toward something else, like a banking system, maybe something where people would control themselves if the system was built to reflect human nature. And if humans could regulate themselves, maybe it would be much easier to control things. But before he was able to undertake this, there was a betrayal and the Templars were purged.

What we’re seeing in Assassin’s Creed Unity, is somebody rising up, finding these old texts and realizing this guy was a prophet, that he was centuries ahead of his time, and this is what has to be done, and that the French Revolution might be the perfect setting to pull the strings and shift the world from something involving autocratic control to something more governed by desire and money and the economy.

How politically pointed can you afford to be in a game that’s part of a multibillions franchise, played by players of many political persuasions? How corporate-beholden are you to keep the political implications of this plot point or that one anodyne?

Very little, because that only becomes delicate when you want to take a strong position with a certain kind of view.

What we actually try to do, and I think this is just a personal belief that we have, is to avoid reducing history. You can’t start taking sides, because that makes it biased, and what we’re really trying to do is expose every slice of history in the most unbiased way possible.

It’s obviously incredibly difficult. History is always subjective, because it’s written by people, and no matter how objective you try to be, human nature makes it subjective. We try very hard to portray things as factually as possible. But for instance, we discovered that the French Revolution even today is controversial. Historians and specialists of the period don’t agree with everything and every event. We consulted with two historians on the project. We had a full-time historian on the project, but we worked specifically with two people known in French Revolution scholarship circles, and we had them review the entire script. And we noticed that even between them, there were things about which they didn’t agree. One of them thought that portraying a certain event in a negative way was positioning us in a Royalist category, for instance. You know, the September Massacres are called the massacres and not “the jubilation” for a reason, right? However well-intentioned the initial purpose was, the fact remains that it was a time of chaos.

So they weren’t always in agreement, but one thing the historians were in agreement about was that we portrayed the French Revolution in the game in a very objective way. They felt it was faithful to the gray area of this period. The very fact that our narrative is not about something that’s moralistic in the sense that we’re not forcing you to side with a certain camp expresses this. Our story is about individuals, about how these events take them down a road where they’ll learn things about themselves and their own views. We’re not trying to expose the evils of society and say these people were wrong, these people were right.

If anything, what we end up saying is that everybody was wrong. It’s a human thing. We believe in a certain truth or certain ideals, and then because we’re protective and convinced by these ideals, we fall into the trap of taking them to extremes. And the thing is, most often the truth’s somewhere in the middle. If anything, we’re trying to say people should try to keep a more open mind about the other side’s position on the political spectrum.

Ubisoft

You’ve also said that in Unity, unlike in Assassin’s Creed III where as Connor you were involved in or even instigating pivotal events in the American Revolution, that’s not what you’re up to as Arno. You’ve called Unity more a romance that happens to be framed by the Revolution. But romances are really, really tricky to pull off in any medium without botching the chemistry or coming off as oversentimental. I can’t think of a non-indie mainstream game that’s really done it.

You’re absolutely right. When you’re making a game about anything emotional, cinematics are your way of telling the narrative. The thing is, when you’re watching a cinematic in a game, you’re removed from the core of the experience, which is your input with the controller.

You mention indie games, and I think there are some that have succeeded in having you really experience emotion or feelings for NPCs when you’re playing the game by generating those things through interaction. The reason a shooter is visceral is because the movement and pressing of the button is exactly reflecting the emotion you’re trying to convey, say stress, adrenaline and so forth. Every time you’re able to provide input through the controller and directly reflect the emotion you’re trying to convey, it works. On the other hand, when you’re asking the player to be passive in watching interaction between characters on screen in a cinematic, of course the player’s going to feel removed, because games aren’t films.

What we tried to do is make the romance, as much as we could, happen during gameplay. Of course there are some cutscenes where a little bit of exposition takes place, but that’s inevitable. We really try as best we can to have the characters interact during gameplay. I think that’s how you get players to feel something in a video game.

Now another thing we did is the fact that, because the nature of a romance story is the interaction between two characters, and usually the gameplay is about you stabbing people or sneaking around the world, it makes it very difficult to do romance as something other than a side element. But because we made Arno’s romantic interest, Elise, a Templar, because she is from a different faction than the player, all of a sudden that makes it more relevant. Even if their ultimate goal is the same, because she’s affiliated with the losing part of the Templars, the one that got purged, their methods might differ, and their motivations certainly differ.

I really like opposites, and I like exposing the opposites, because I think that it’s through showing the opposite of something that you can strengthen what you’re trying to convey. Elise is motivated by a desire for vengeance. Arno is motivated by a desire for redemption. These two things are very different, because one ultimately leads to your doom, while I think the other can lead to you actually being saved.

By making their objectives the same, but their motivations opposite, hopefully their interactions will create tension, and players will feel this impossible decision and the inevitability of the relationship as they move forward. Ultimately the romance part of this game is a Cornelian dilemma, where Arno is stuck in this impossible decision, where he ultimately has to choose between the values of the Creed and his love for this woman who happens to be on the opposite side of the spectrum.

TIME faith

Pope Francis’ Family Synod Forgoes Flash for Spiritual Depth

Pope Attends Holy Mass For The Opening Of The Extraordinary Synod On The Family
Pope Francis attends the Opening Mass of the Synod of Bishops in St. Peter's Basilica on Oct. 5, 2014 in Vatican City. Franco Origlia—Getty Images

It can be easy to fixate on the idea that the Extraordinary Synod on the Family beginning in Rome this week is purely about Catholic Church politics. The world clamors for the latest Catholic hubbub about divorce and remarriage policies, annulment reform, and which Cardinal holds which position on what agenda or controversial marital issue. But something more is happening as bishops gather for the first major doctrinal and pastoral summit of the Francis papacy; something quieter, deeper, and less immediately obvious: a spiritual renewal that Pope Francis hopes to foster between church leaders and their people.

This spiritual undercurrent, although quiet, has been powerfully present in the Holy Father’s actions this weekend. On Saturday evening, before the synod officially began and as a pink sun set behind St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis called the people to gather in the piazza to pray for the upcoming two-weeks of Synod conversations. A choir chanted a hymn as tens of thousands of people arrived, each silently, most with their families. When dusk fell and the moon had risen, each person lit a candle, and thousands of drops of light filled the square. Vieni Santo Spirito, vieni, or Come Holy Spirit, come, the people sang with the choir, over and over. “May the Wind of Pentecost blow upon the Synod’s work, on the Church, and on all of humanity,” Francis told to the crowd. “Undo the knots which prevent people from encountering one another, heal the wounds that bleed, rekindle hope.”

This prayer service was more testimony to the conviction that any real change in the Church must start with prayer—and a reminder of the people themselves. They, these people, these families, are the reason Francis called this Extraordinary Synod in the first place. It is only the third such special meeting a Pope has called since the Synod of the Bishops was created in 1965. The crowd was so vast that Francis himself most surely could not see the details—the children playing with their candles and dripping wax in patterns on the pavers, mothers comforting crying babies, a son helping a grandmother to a chair, the teenage couple taking selfies—but these are the people who experience the issues of family and marriage in ways clergy, who are celibate, rarely do. He was telling the people that they were foremost on his mind as the Synod began.

Francis was also reminding the bishops that the people were foremost on his mind. Most of the church leaders present Saturday evening had just arrived in Rome after having prepared for the Synod for a year, surveying their own congregations about modern family life for their peers’ review these coming weeks. Now, Francis stood before them and the first thing he did was to gather them to encounter the people and their sparks of light. Only when the service ended did he turn to greet the cardinals, one by one. The liturgical message about his priorities, and their priorities in turn, was hard to miss.

If the Holy Father’s Saturday prayer service was about the people, his Sunday mass turned to the bishops. Inside St. Peter’s Basilica, standing beneath Michelangelo’s dome and above St. Peter’s tomb, the Holy Father gave a pointed homily about the bishops’ role. The job of leaders, he preached, is to nurture the vineyard—a Biblical image for the people of God. “Synod Assemblies are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent,” he preached. “We are all sinners and can also be tempted to ‘take over’ the vineyard, because of that greed which is always present in us human beings. God’s dream always clashes with the hypocrisy of some of his servants. We can ‘thwart’ God’s dream if we fail to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit.”

His meaning was clear. This meeting is not a time for the bishops to each shine with their own debates, Francis was saying, but rather a time to focus on the people and what the people need. It is, as he put it, about developing “plans [that] will correspond to God’s dream: to form a holy people who are his own and produce the fruits of the kingdom of God.”

The next two weeks will be telling. Francis is presiding over the world’s last truly medieval court, which can at times appear to revert to high school drama and power plays. But the spiritual moments that have shaped the Synod’s start are a concrete reminder that Francis the pastor is the one calling the shots. He’s the one walking the incense around the papal altar at mass, he’s the one celebrating Eucharist, and he’s the one determining where the ultimate emphasis is placed. He is the one in St. Peter’s seat. The bishops are there at his request. It’s the tone he sets that matters.

TIME politics

Latinos Are Stuck In an Abusive Relationship With Democrats

LA May Day Marches Celebrate Workers, Push For Immigration Reform
Marchers rally under the Chinatown Gateway before marching to the Metropolitan Detention Center during one a several May Day immigration-themed events on May 1, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. Demonstrators are calling for immigration reform and an end to deportations of undocumented residents. David McNew—Getty Images

Arturo Carmona is Executive Director of Presente Action and Presente.org, the nation’s largest online Latino organizing group.

If we don't take a stand and break up with the Party, we may never see Obama take action on immigration

It is clear that President Obama, and perhaps the Democrats more broadly–are starting to see Latinos as a political football to be tossed around when it suits their political needs.

For months, President Obama promised that he—and the rest of the nation—were done with Republican obstructionism on immigration reform. In June–President Obama told us—told the world—that by the end of the summer he would announce how he would use the power of his office to end the threat of deportation for more immigrant families.

In calling out Republican efforts to block reform, the President attempted to paint Democrats as Latinos’ only option for relief. He painted himself, and the Democrats, as our beacon of hope–all while four Senate Democrats plotted behind the scenes to undercut us for political gain.

Senators Kay Hagan, Mary Landrieu, Mark Pryor and Jeanne Shaheen joined the charge led by Tea Party Senator Ted Cruz to derail the only pathway that can provide relief for immigrant families–and President Obama caved to their political demands.

President Obama put the politics of their re-election before the lives of countless immigrant families currently under siege.

Frederick Douglass once said, “power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted.”

The President, and the Democrats, have been testing Latinos–they have been slowly increasing the injustices committed against our communities to see what our breaking point is. And they have finally found the point of resistance.

If we do not resist–we may never see the President take action to stop deportations, despite the fact that he has the power to do so. We also may never see relief for our communities, for it is clear that relief is not coming from Democrats of their own volition.

The President’s sheepish move put politics over the safety and well-being of immigrant families and communities—all but guaranteeing that many more families will be torn apart, and that thousands more of our undocumented friends, relatives, colleagues, classmates and neighbors will face the horrors of midnight ICE raids and mass deportations.

The Democratic Party is telling us that they no longer have the well-being of Latinos and other immigrant communities at heart–but will we listen?

The national Democratic political apparatus acts to appease us when they fear political cost because they understand that as Latinos become a larger portion of the American electorate, we are crucial to their political power.

But so long as Latinos identify with the Democratic Party when they treat us as political pawns instead of a key constituency they should be wooing, we should not expect better treatment.

To borrow an old, sexist, trope: Why should they buy the cow when they get the milk for free?

Power concedes nothing without a demand. This historical moment demands a new approach: a strategy for changing the nation’s terroristic immigration policy that recognizes that the Democratic Party is not our friend simply because so many members of the Republican Party have shown themselves, in no uncertain terms, to be our enemy.

Latino political power must begin and end with the independence of the Latino vote. It’s time to drop Democratic Party affiliations, and ask the Democrats to work for our votes.

We can’t afford to continue buying into the false choice presented to us by the two dominant parties. That’s why Presente Action has chosen to encourage Latino voters and our allies to turn out in force for the November elections but not vote for the Dirty Four Senators who betrayed our community so publicly and so shamefully: Kay Hagan, Mary Landrieu, Mark Pryor and Jeanne Shaheen.

Confronted with broken promises, if Democrats want our votes, they should damn well have to work for them.

Arturo Carmona is Executive Director of Presente Action and Presente.org, the nation’s largest online Latino organizing group.

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 Media

Let’s Give America’s Royal Baby a Time Out

Clinton Baby Chelsea Clinton Hillary Clinton Bill Clinton
Former President Bill Clinton, right, and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, second from right, wave to the media as Marc Mezvinsky and Chelsea Clinton pose for photographers with their newborn baby, Charlotte, after the family leaves Manhattan's Lenox Hill hospital in New York City on Sept. 29, 2014. William Regan—AP

Nick Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv.

Is there anything more distasteful than the obviously strategic use of babies by the rich and powerful to gild their images?

As the father of two, I can personally attest to the power of babies and toddlers to melt the coldest heart (mine) and coax a smile from the stoniest of faces (also mine). Well, my kids’ power, anyway. They were (and are) supernaturally, objectively, transcendently beautiful creatures. About yours, I couldn’t honestly say (though I kind of doubt it).

But really, is there anything more distasteful than the obviously strategic use of babies by the rich and powerful to gild their images—and the media’s feckless complicity in the spectacle? Whether it’s the British royal family constantly pushing the toddler Prince George toward the camera or breathless reports of Hillary Clinton’s newfound “grandmother glow,” can we just change its diaper, give it a pacifier, and put it to sleep already?

It’s easy to understand why Brits might take an interest in George and his parents. Not only will the 14-month-old one day rule over them, they’ve really got nothing better to do. Dr. Who is only on so many hours a day, after all. Watching the boy-king pad around on his hands and knees is a welcome diversion from contemplating a century-long slide from world domination, his father Prince William’s advancing baldness, and his grandfather Prince Charles’ continuing existence. And now that the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton has taken care not to flash the commoners anymore, watching George hold court at “low-key tea parties” is about as diverting as it’s going to get in old Blighty.

But why do Americans care about this kid (or, same thing, why does the press assume we care)? There’s nothing more genuinely antithetical to American values than the wealth, titles, and leisure of the British royal family. If memory serves, we even fought a war over it. Inherited privilege brings with it a empire-sized sense of entitlement, which is on brilliant display in William and Kate’s new legal action against photographers who they claim are “stalking” the very baby they trot out daily like an exotic monkey.

William and Kate, a royal spokesman explained to CNN, want their son to have “as normal a childhood as possible” and demand that the press not publish unauthorized shots of George. Please. If you want the kid to have anything approaching a normal childhood, put him up for adoption or have him work his way up from the royal stables (sort of like how the Duchess of Cornwall did). Even America’s raggedy version of royalty—that would be the Kardashians or maybe the Duggars—understand that unearned wealth comes at the cost of your privacy and control over your image.

Controlling your image, of course, is something that Hillary Clinton knows a thing or two about. The former first lady, senator, defense secretary, and presumptive 2016 presidential candidate is a master of adaptation and continued success. Indeed, it’s tempting to say at this point that her husband is slowly being revealed as a bit player in her personal and professional epic, rather than vice versa.

During Bill Clinton’s presidential years, Hillary Clinton readily morphed from a feminist icon who would serve as co-president to a long-suffering, stand-by-your-man, cookie-baking spouse and back again. As a senator from New York, she earned high praise for pragmatism, coalition building, and bipartisan binge-drinking. Despite a patently disastrous term as secretary of state (exemplified by the violent death of the American ambassador to Libya and the failure to “reset” relations with Russia), she’s nimbly laid all the blame for U.S. foreign policy in President Obama’s lap and has emerged as an unreconstructed war hawk at a moment when Americans are calling for blood again.

If Clinton has had one blind spot in her image, it’s that she’s often perceived as less than fully human. If Bill felt our pain, Hillary either kind of enjoyed it or couldn’t be bothered to deal with it. Now that daughter Chelsea—whose undistinguished professional life is reminiscent of British royalty—has produced baby Charlotte, that’s all changing.

Hillary is missing no opportunity to publicly play at grandmother, a role that can only soften and round out her image as the presidential campaign season swings into high gear. “I highly recommend it,” she told CBS News about becoming a grandparent. At a recent speech to a group of women real estate agents, a member of the audience told Clinton that she looked “beautiful.” To which Clinton responded, “I think it’s a grandmother’s glow.”

Or maybe it’s the fire of political ambition lighting up her cheeks. As far back as June, she was systematically linking her grandchild to world events, telling People, “I’m about to become a grandmother… I want to live in the moment. At the same time I am concerned about what I see happening in the country and in the world.”

OK, we get it. The kid is a prop in a political play. The baby doesn’t just soften you up, Mrs. Clinton, it softens us up, too. Which may actually be excellent public relations but is also deeply disturbing.

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.

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