TIME 2016 Election

Ted Cruz Becomes First Major Candidate to Jump Into 2016 Race

In this March 10, 2015, photo, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, appears in Washington
Pablo Martinez Monsivais—AP Senator Ted Cruz appears in Washington on March 10, 2015

"I am running for President and I hope to earn your support," Cruz announced on Twitter

(WASHINGTON) — Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz has become the first major candidate for president, kicking off what’s expected to be a rush over the next few weeks of more than a dozen White House hopefuls into the 2016 campaign.

“I am running for president and I hope to earn your support,” the tea party favorite said in a Twitter message posted just after midnight on Monday.

Cruz will formally launch his bid during a morning speech at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, choosing to begin his campaign at the Christian college founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell rather than his home state of Texas or the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire. It’s a fitting setting for Cruz, a 44-year-old tea party darling whose entry into the 2016 campaign drew cheers Sunday among fellow conservatives.

Amy Kremer, the former head of the Tea Party Express, said that the Republican pool of candidates “will take a quantum leap forward” with Cruz’s announcement, adding that it “will excite the base in a way we haven’t seen in years.”

Elected for the first time just three years ago, when he defeated an establishment figure in Texas politics with decades of experience in office, Cruz has hinted openly for more than a year that he wants to move down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Senate and into the White House.

In an online video promoted on his Twitter account, Cruz offered a preview of his campaign’s message.

“It’s a time for truth, a time to rise to the challenge, just as Americans have always done. I believe in America and her people, and I believe we can stand up and restore our promise,” Cruz said as images of farm fields, city skylines and American landmarks and symbols played in the background. “It’s going to take a new generation of courageous conservatives to help make America great again, and I’m ready to stand with you to lead the fight.”

While Cruz is the first Republican to declare his candidacy, he is all but certain to be followed by several big names in the GOP, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and two Senate colleagues, Kentucky’s Rand Paul and Florida’s Marco Rubio.

The Houston Chronicle first reported details about Cruz’s campaign launch. His move puts him into pole position among those whose strategy to win the nomination counts on courting the party’s most conservative voters, who hold an outsized influence in the Republican nominating process.

“Cruz is going to make it tough for all of the candidates who are fighting to emerge as the champion of the anti-establishment wing of the party,” said GOP strategist Kevin Madden. “That is starting to look like quite a scrum where lots of candidates will be throwing some sharp elbows.”

Following his election to the Senate in 2012, the former Texas solicitor general quickly established himself as an uncompromising conservative willing to take on Democrats and Republicans alike. He won praise from tea party activists in 2013 for leading the GOP’s push to partially shut the federal government during an unsuccessful bid to block money for President Barack Obama’s health care law.

In December, Cruz defied party leaders to force a vote on opposing Obama’s executive actions on immigration. The strategy failed, and led several of his Republican colleagues to call Cruz out. “You should have an end goal in sight if you’re going to do these types of things and I don’t see an end goal other than irritating a lot of people,” said Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch.

Such admonitions mean little to Cruz, who wins over crowds of like-minded conservative voters with his broadsides against Obama, Congress and the federal government. One of the nation’s top college debaters while a student at Princeton University, Cruz continues to be a leading voice for the health law’s repeal, and promises to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and scrap the Department of Education if elected president.

Last weekend in New Hampshire, one voter gave Cruz a blank check and told him to write it for whatever amount he needed.

“He’s awfully good at making promises that he knows the GOP can’t keep and pushing for unachievable goals, but he seems very popular with right wing,” said veteran Republican strategist John Feehery. “Cruz is a lot smarter than the typical darling of the right, and that makes him more dangerous to guys like Scott Walker and Rand Paul.”

The son of an American mother and Cuban-born father, Cruz would be the nation’s first Hispanic president. While in New Hampshire this month, Cruz told voters his daughter, Caroline, had given him permission to join the presidential race in the hopes that the family puppy would get to play on the White House lawn instead of near their Houston high-rise condo.

“If you win, that means Snowflake will finally get a backyard to pee in,” Cruz said his daughter told him.

To get there, Cruz knows he needs to reach out beyond his base. He is set to release a book this summer that he said would reflect themes of his White House campaign, and said in a recent Associated Press interview he will use it to counter the “caricatures” of the right as “stupid,” ”evil” or “crazy.”

“The image created in the mainstream media does not comply with the facts,” he said.

TIME Environment

Britain’s Prince Charles Urges Action to Clean Up the World’s Oceans 

Britain's Prince Charles greets participants in a conference about the rule of law in the 21st century as he visits the National Archives in Washington
Jonathan Ernst—Reuters Prince Charles, center, greets participants in a conference about the rule of law in the 21st century titled "The Magna Carta of the Future" as he visits the National Archives in Washington, D.C., on March 18, 2015

The future monarch called ocean waste "one issue that we absolutely cannot ignore"

The U.K.’s Prince of Wales made an ardent speech on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., urging world governments to tackle the growing problem of oceanic pollution.

Prince Charles told the government officials, corporate executives and nonprofit leaders present that he was “horrified” to learn that up to 8 million tons of plastic enter the world’s seas each year.

“One issue that we absolutely cannot ignore is that of the increasing quantity of plastic waste in the marine environment,” he said on the first day of his 20th official visit to the U.S., reports Agence France-Presse.

The 66-year-old heir to the British throne then described a harrowing image of seabirds being killed after mistaking plastic for food.

Accompanied by his wife Camilla, he also paid a visit to the Lincoln Memorial and Martin Luther King Memorial.

On Thursday, the Prince will meet with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in the Oval Office to discuss climate change, youth opportunities and other world affairs.

TIME Crime

Letter Sent to White House Tests Tentatively Positive for Cyanide

The envelope has tentatively tested positive for cyanide

(WASHINGTON) — An envelope addressed to the White House has tentatively tested positive for cyanide after two rounds of analysis, the Secret Service said Tuesday. Additional testing will be necessary to confirm the finding.

The letter was received Monday at a facility that screens mail for the White House and is located away from the grounds of the executive mansion and its surrounding buildings in the heart of downtown Washington.

Initial biological testing came back negative, said agency spokesman Robert Hoback.

Additional testing conducted Tuesday returned a “presumptive positive” for cyanide.

The sample has been taken to another facility for further testing.

The Secret Service, which is responsible for the safety and security of President Barack Obama and his immediate family, said its investigation into the letter was continuing and it will have no additional comment on the matter.

Suspicious letters often are sent to some of the country’s leading politicians, including the president. Some test positive for hazardous substances while others include threats of death or other physical harm.

In June 2013, a West Virginia man was indicted on charges of threatening to kill Obama and his family in a letter that included profanity and racial slurs. A federal judge later dismissed the charges after forensic handwriting analysis conducted by the Secret Service showed that 20-year-old Ryan Kirker, of McMechen, West Virginia, didn’t write the letter.

Two months earlier, letters sent to Obama, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Mississippi judge Sadie Holland tested positive for the poison ricin. The letters addressed to the president and to the senator were intercepted before delivery, but one letter reached Holland. She was unharmed.

James Everett Dutschke of Tupelo, Mississippi, pleaded guilty in January 2014 to sending the letters and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

The Intercept website, which first reported on Monday’s letter to the White House, said it bore the return address of a man who has sent multiple packages to the executive mansion since 1995, including one that was covered in urine and feces and another that contained miniature bottles of alcohol.

TIME Washington

Washington Loosens Up for a Night of Jokes

The Gridiron Club dinner mixes politics and comedy

The powerful elite of Washington, D.C., was set to gather Saturday evening for a night of comedy and revelry at the annual Gridiron Club and Foundation dinner.

President Obama was making his third appearance at the dinner at Renaissance Washington Hotel, with more than 650 officials, lawmakers and journalists also in attendance, according to the Gridiron Club, and more than 100-year-old journalistic group.

“Having been here before, President Obama realizes that the Gridiron requires you to roll with the punches… loosen up,” Gridiron Club President Clarence Page joked in prepared remarks. “Luckily, I hear he just got a great shoulder massage from Joe Biden.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a 2016 GOP presidential hopeful who has bemoaned media coverage of the race, was also attending.

“We had to make some concessions to get Gov. Scott Walker to appear,” Page said. “His people asked us to avoid gotcha questions—meaning no questions that end with a question mark.”

TIME Israel

5 Facts That Explain U.S.-Israel Relations

Israeli PM Netanyahu Addresses Joint Meeting Of Congress
Win McNamee—Getty Images Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of the United States Congress in the House chamber at the U.S. Capitol on March 3, 2015 in Washington, DC.

The numbers behind Netanyahu's speech

Bibi Netanyahu delivered his controversial speech to Congress during crunch time for Israeli elections—and amidst turbulence in U.S.-Israel relations. Here are 5 stats that reveal the politics behind the speech and the state of play between Israel and the U.S.

1. Who tuned in?

Even though more than 50 congressional Democrats boycotted Netanyahu’s speech, it seems that just about everyone else was knocking down the doors. John Boehner’s office received requests for 10 times the number of available seats in the gallery. In Israel, the speech hit Israeli networks during primetime… but on a five-minute delay. That was because an election watchdog ruled that any content viewed as electioneering on behalf of the Prime Minister needed to be edited out.

(Huffington Post, New York Times, New York Times, The Telegraph)

2. The Iran threat

With all the applause in Congress for Netanyahu’s hardline stance against Iran, the American public’s actual stance might seem surprising. According to a recent poll, only 9% of Americans view Iran as “the United States’ greatest enemy today.” Three years ago, roughly a third of Americans did. (And you can’t just chalk up the difference to a more bellicose Russia: Iran fell from first place to fourth place). Over 60% of Americans support an agreement with Iran “that would include a limited enrichment capacity”—something Netanyahu pushed back against in his speech. There is a stark difference between Israeli and American opinion on Iran. In a 2013 survey, 75% of Israelis had “a very unfavorable view of Iran,” compared to just 42% of Americans. 85% of Israelis and 54% of Americans said “Iran’s nuclear program is a major threat.”

(Vox, Program for Public Consultation, New York Times, Huffington Post, Pew Research, The Atlantic)

3. A tale of two approval ratings

In Israel, public support for Prime Minister Netanyahu has decreased; his Likud party is in a tight race against the opposition party. But even if his support is waning at home, Netanyahu’s approval in the United States has grown. Almost twice as many Americans view Netanyahu favorably as unfavorably (45% v. 25%), a gain of 10 points since 2012.

(Haaretz, Gallup, i24 news)

4. Arab-Israeli Politics

Although Arabs make up about a fifth of Israel’s population, many Arabs do not vote. (In 2013, only 56% voted compared to a Jewish turnout of 70%). But Arabs are gaining ground in Israeli electoral politics. Recently three small Arab parties united to create the “Joint List.” The new party includes Muslim, Christian, Druze and Jewish Communist candidates. Recent polls indicate the new party could win 14 Knesset seats in the upcoming election. 78% of the Arab public was “very satisfied or moderately satisfied” with the creation of the new Arab bloc, while 19% of the Jewish public shared those feelings.

(The Economist, Daily Mail, Haaretz)

5. Emigration

In February, Netanyahu dubbed himself a “representative to the entire Jewish people”—and encouraged Jews to leave Europe for Israel. Immigration to Israel is on the rise. In 2014, Jews came to Israel in higher numbers than we’ve seen in a decade. But totaling just 26,500, last year’s Jewish immigration to Israel only accounted for 0.3% of the total diaspora. About half of all Jews live outside Israel. In a recent poll, 45% of Israeli Jewish respondents said Jews in America are safer than those in Israel—compared to just 28% who said the opposite.

(Haaretz, The Economist, The Telegraph, Israel Democracy Institute)

TIME cities

Know Right Now: Washington, D.C. Legalizes Pot

Four other states have already legalized recreational marijuana

Recreational marijuana use and adult possession (up to two ounces) became legal in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, but there’s still no way to legally buy the drug. Watch today’s Know Right Now to find out more.

TIME politics

The Conservative Case for Legalizing Marijuana

William F. Jr. Buckley
Truman Moore—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty William F. Buckley Jr., riding in airplane en route to Washington DC, in 1965

American conservatives haven't always opposed legalizing pot

The United States’ latest skirmish in the battle over marijuana laws is still ongoing and, for lawmakers, it hits close to home. On Thursday, possession of a limited amount of the drug became legal for adult residents of Washington, D.C. — but, thanks to the intervention of a group of Congressmen, there’s still no way to legally buy it or sell it there, which may lead to the development of a “free weed economy.”

The legislative action taken to stop the District from developing a monetary economy for pot has broken down along party lines, with Republican lawmakers against the change in stance toward the drug and Democrats urging the city to go ahead.

It may seem like a natural thing for conservatives to be, well, conservative about changing drug laws — polls have shown that Republicans are much less likely than Democrats to support legalization —but that wasn’t always the case. In fact, there was a time during the 1970s when the nation’s leading conservative voices spoke out on behalf of legalizing marijuana, for many of the same reasons that advocates of legalization cite today.

At that time, in late 1972, a large study from the nonpartisan Consumers Union had just come out, urging legalization, as well as government-supported treatment for addictions to other substances. The report found that it was too late for law enforcement to keep pot from becoming part of American culture — and, surprisingly, its authors weren’t the only ones to think so, as TIME reported that December:

…American conservatives may have arched their eyebrows well above the hairline when they glimpsed the latest issue of William F. Buckley Jr.’s staunchly nonpermissive National Review. There on the cover was the headline: THE TIME HAS COME: ABOLISH THE POT LAWS. Inside, Richard C. Cowan, a charter member of the conservative Young Americans for Freedom, sets forth his arguments that the criminal penalties for marijuana possession and use should be stricken from the books. Cowan contends that pot is comparatively harmless, demonstrably ubiquitous and that the laws against it only alienate the young and breed disrespect for American justice.

The attitude was a shift for Buckley, who in 1971 testified against loosening penalties but wrote in 1972 that he agreed with Cowan. “It seems, in fact, that Buckley has smoked grass himself—but only on his sailboat, outside the three-mile limit,” TIME noted. “His verdict: ‘To tell the truth, marijuana didn’t do a thing for me.'”

See the full story, here in the TIME Vault: Concerning Pot and Man at The National Review

TIME Illinois

Lawmaker Facing Expenses Questions Hires Lawyers, PR Experts

U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock Friday, Feb. 6, 2015 in Peoria, Ill.
Seth Perlman—AP U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock Friday, Feb. 6, 2015 in Peoria, Ill.

Schock is facing an ethics inquiry for his travel and entertainment expenses

(WASHINGTON) — Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock has hired top lawyers and public relations experts in the wake of recent questions surrounding his travel and entertainment expenses.

Schock, a rising Republican star already facing an ethics inquiry, had spent taxpayer and campaign funds on flights aboard private planes owned by some of his key donors, an Associated Press review found. There have also been other expensive charges, including for a massage company and music concerts.

By Tuesday, Schock brought on board Washington attorneys William McGinley and Donald McGahn, a former Federal Election Commission member. Schock also retained GOP communications experts Ron Bonjean and Brian Walsh, according to a person familiar with the changes who was not authorized to speak publicly. Politico first reported the hires Tuesday.

Schock’s expenses, detailed by the AP and other news organizations in recent weeks, highlight the relationships that lawmakers can have with donors who fund their political ambitions. It’s an unwelcome message for Schock, a congressman billed as a fresh face of the Republican party.

The AP’s review identified at least one dozen flights worth more than $40,000 on donors’ planes since mid-2011, tracking Schock’s reliance on the aircraft partly through the congressman’s penchant for uploading pictures and videos of himself to his Instagram account. The AP extracted location data associated with each image then correlated it with flight records showing airport stopovers and expenses later billed for air travel against Schock’s office and campaign records.

Asked to comment Monday, Schock said he travels frequently throughout his Peoria-area district “to stay connected with my constituents” and also travels to raise money for his campaign committee and congressional colleagues. Schock was in Washington Tuesday evening to cast votes on the House floor.

Schock said he takes compliance with congressional funding rules seriously and has begun a review of his office’s procedures “concerning this issue and others to determine whether they can be improved.”

The AP had been seeking comment from Schock’s office since mid-February to explain some of his expenses, but his office would not provide any details about them. The new hires may signal a shift that Schock could begin to respond to those questions publicly.

Schock’s high-flying lifestyle, combined with questions about expenses decorating his office in the style of the TV show “Downton Abbey,” add to awkward perceptions on top of allegations he illegally solicited donations in 2012. The Office of Congressional Ethics said in a 2013 report that there was reason to believe Schock violated House rules by soliciting campaign contributions during a 2012 primary.

Lawmakers can use office funds for private flights as long as payments cover their share of the costs. But most of the flights Schock covered with office funds occurred before the House changed its rules in January 2013. The earlier rules prohibited lawmakers from using those accounts to pay for flights on private aircraft, allowing payments only for federally licensed charter and commercial flights.

Schock also spent thousands more on tickets for concerts and car mileage reimbursements, and took his interns to a sold-out Katy Perry concert in Washington last June.

The AP’s review covered Schock’s travel and entertainment expenses in his taxpayer-funded House account, in his campaign committee and the “GOP Generation Y Fund,” a political action committee. Records show more than $1.5 million in contributions to the fund since he took office in 2009.

Schock’s reliance on donor-owned planes is the most recent example of lawmaker use of donors’ planes for transportation. After Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., took two 2010 flights on a private jet owned by a wealthy eye doctor and major donor, a 2013 ethics investigation prompted his $58,500 personal reimbursement to the donor for the flights. His office noted that Menendez did not use taxpayer funds to pay for the flights.

Records show Schock also requested more than $18,000 in mileage reimbursements since 2013, among the highest in Congress. His office has previously said it was reviewing those expenses.

TIME People

See Hillary Clinton’s Evolution in 20 Photos

From First Lady to Senator to Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton continues to conquer the public spotlight 

TIME weather

Washington Gridlocked Again… By a Snowstorm, Thankfully

It was a blanket of snow that shut down the federal government this time, not a feuding Congress

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