2016 Watch
May 19, 2014
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Appearing on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show today, Jim Webb hinted to guest host Susan Page that he might run for president: "I care a lot about where the country is, and we'll be sorting that out," he said.

In a world where perennial candidates flirt with running as a public relations strategy to stay relevant, we sometimes roll our eyes at such things. But Webb seems different. "If you look at how I ran for the Senate," he said, "I announced nine months to the day before the election — with no money and no campaign staff. It takes me a while to decide things. And I'm not going to say one way or the other."

Aside from being a former Democratic U.S. senator from Virginia, Webb was a highly decorated combat Marine in Vietnam, and later served as Secretary of the Navy.

So could it work? For a nation hungry for real leadership, Webb's image as a competent, no-nonsense leader might resonate. Tthe fact that Webb stepped away from the U.S. Senate on his own terms implies he's not just some politician. And his history of being a Democrat who can work with — and stylistically appeal to — Republicans would potentially be a plus in a general election.

In this regard, Webb would, in a sense, be able to run for Obama's third term while also (symbolically, at least) getting to run against Obama. And aside from Webb's leadership strengths, in a primary election this military tactician could potentially outflank Hillary Clinton from both the left and the right. He could tap into the anti-corporate, populist message that has elevated Elizabeth Warren, while simultaneously appealing to the "good ol' boy" red-state Democrats in places like Iowa.

Who knows if this will happen, but in a world where everyone gets to pretend they're running for president, this is perhaps the most interesting name floated in a long time. Matt K. Lewis

retail therapy
12:39 p.m. ET

Ah, Black Friday: the post-Thanksgiving feast day of digestion that is perhaps best known for turning American shoppers into monsters, as they abandon their visiting families to camp outside big box retailers and compete for the best holiday deals. While we all know the basics of the retail-frenzied occasion, many may be surprised to learn the long history of how the biggest shopping day of the year came into its name:

  • Since the early 1900s, the post-Thanksgiving weekend has signaled the beginning of the holiday shopping rush, with New York City retailers fully embracing the marketing opportunity in the '20s by releasing Christmas ads and staging events, including a little parade you may have heard of — Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade — which debuted in 1924.
  • In 1939, the holiday had already become so important to merchants that President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving a week earlier to extend the buying period.
  • By the '50s, factory managers began referring to the day as "Black Friday" due to the rampant failure of employees to show up for work.
  • Philadelphia's police officers during the '60s used the term to refer to the swaths of jaywalking shoppers who flooded the city's downtown.
  • While the term continued to grow in popularity to connote the shopping frenzy, it wasn't until the 80's that the name took on a positive connotation, as shop managers pointed out that the holiday rush put "black ink," signaling profits, rather than loss-signaling red ink, on their revenue reports for the first time all year.

There you have it, but with Black Friday's continued encroaching on its Thanksgiving precursor and increasingly violent reputation, perhaps the name will once again revert to its negative origins. Stephanie Talmadge

Only in America
12:16 p.m. ET

Two men were booted off a Southwest Airlines flight when a paranoid passenger overheard them speaking Arabic. The men were allowed onto the plane after being questioned by police, but were then forced by other passengers to open a small white box they were carrying — which was full of sweets. "So I shared my baklava with them," said one of the men. The Week Staff

police shootings
11:28 a.m. ET
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Demonstrators in Chicago protesting the fatal shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald by a white police officer have scheduled a Friday march in the city's best-known retail district to disrupt Black Friday shopping. The city released several dashcam videos earlier this week showing Officer Jason Van Dyke, who was charged Tuesday with murder, repeatedly shooting the teen. The videos, which oddly capture little audio, touched off two nights of mostly peaceful demonstrations calling for an independent investigation.

Following the charges filed against Van Dyke, Rev. Jesse Jackson held several meetings Wednesday with elected officials and community leaders to form a response to McDonald's killing, reports the Chicago Tribune. "The whole idea is that we need a massive demonstration," Jackson said in an interview. "And a massive quest for justice." Stephanie Talmadge

election 2016
11:23 a.m. ET
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Simply announcing a presidential candidacy, or even appearing in primetime presidential debates, offers no assurance that your name will appear on ballots come election day. All 50 states have their own ballot access laws, many of which are onerous even for major party candidates.

For the 2016 elections, presidential campaigns will spend $1 to $2 million each to get on the ballot nationwide. Then there's the man-hours required: While some states — like South Carolina, with its $40,000 fee — want money for ballot access, others — like Virginia, which necessitates 10,000 petition signatures allotted across congressional districts — require significant time investment from campaign staff and volunteers. (Virginia's rules kept all Republicans but Mitt Romney and Ron Paul off the ballot in 2012.)

Because of the monumental effort required, some major party candidates will not be on the ballot in all 50 states come primary season. Republicans Jim Gilmore and George Pataki already missed the filing deadline for Alabama, and all but the richest campaigns are unlikely to meet the requirements for every caucus and primary election. Bonnie Kristian

the war on drugs
10:50 a.m. ET

Ending or significantly reforming the war on drugs has long been cited as a primary way to lower America's record-setting incarceration rate. In recent years, however, the extent of the potential impact of decriminalizing drug use has been challenged, with one study finding that only one in five inmates in state and federal prisons is held on drug charges.

Now, new research from the Brookings Institute finds that measuring the proportion of drug offenders in a snapshot of inmate populations may be misleading. That's because drug sentences tend to be shorter than sentences for more serious crimes like homicide, so murderers wind up being overrepresented in studies which look at the static stock of prisons at a single moment, while drug users are underrepresented.

To better measure the effect of drug laws on incarceration, the Brookings study looks at the flow of inmates in and out of prison over time:


Measured this way, drug offenders actually make up the largest single category of prisoners, with one of three new admissions to prison stemming from drug charges. Bonnie Kristian

New traditions?
8:50 a.m. ET

On Thursday afternoon, the Obamas' Thanksgiving celebrations were interrupted when a man swaddled in the American flag jumped the White House fence around 2:45 p.m. while the family was inside. Officials say Joseph Caputo, who carried a binder in his mouth, was immediately apprehended, yet are unsure how the intruder made it past new "pencil point" spikes installed along the property's perimeter earlier this year as a defensive measure.

One witness, reports the Washington Post, who was visiting the White House Thursday said she saw Caputo remove his sweatshirt, wrap himself in the flag, and proclaim, "All right, let's do this," before hurdling himself over the first barricade. Stephanie Talmadge

global conflict
8:17 a.m. ET
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On Thursday, tensions between Russia and Turkey continued to escalate, threatening a total breach of the country's relations as Russian government officials prepare to cut economic ties and curb investment projects in Turkey, the New York Times reports. The proposed financial severance, which would include the shelving of a multibillion-dollar gas pipeline project, comes after Turkish officials refused to apologize for the downing of a Russian warplane on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, French President François Hollande visited Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow Thursday, continuing his campaign to rally an international response to ISIS. After their talks, Washington Post reports, Putin said, "We are ready to cooperate with the coalition which is led by the United States," but warned that acts like Turkey's could eliminate the chance for successful international collaboration. Stephanie Talmadge

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