October 3, 2012

At the University of Denver, students Zach Gonzales, left, and Dia Mohamed stand in for Mitt Romney and President Obama during a dress rehearsal for Wednesday's televised presidential debate — the first such clash between the two candidates with little more than a month left before Election Day.


  The Week Staff

4:06 a.m. ET

America has a $19 trillion national debt, but "finally, someone's taking action to reduce the debt," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show, and he didn't mean that in a good way. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "cost an estimated $4.8 trillion," comprising a good bit of that debt, he said, kicking off his "Werd" segment on the Pentagon's move to claw back millions in re-enlistment bonuses wrongly paid to California National Guard troops who then served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

After literally "losing" $9 billion in cash in one day in Iraq, the Pentagon is now demanding $100 million from these troops, and to add insult to injury, they're tacking on a 1 percent processing fee, Colbert said. "Congratulations, military, you've somehow made me feel good about my credit card company." Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Wednesday that the collections would be suspended, but he added that the Pentagon will "respect our important obligation to the taxpayer," and Colbert wasn't impressed. "Oh good, because what really upset taxpayers about Iraq was the part where we paid our soldiers what we promised," he said. "No WMDs? That's an honest mistake. A private doesn't fill out his paperwork? We will chase you to the gates of hell!"

Carter can't actually do much about this, Colbert said, because only Congress can change the relevant law. But Congress has known about this for two years and done nothing. "Come on, Congress, two years?" he said, winding up. "It should be easy to forget the troops' debt, because we have apparently forgotten the debt we owe them." Watch the Werd below. Peter Weber

3:26 a.m. ET
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Michael Precker won't judge you if you frequent "gentlemen's clubs" — "the S-word sounds too harsh," he wrote in The Dallas Morning News on Tuesday. Strip clubs, he said, are an "antidote" to and "comforting refuge in a politically correct world." Precker once did public relations for a Dallas strip club, and he still sees the appeal: "No matter how insensitive, boorish, or physically repulsive you may be, an attractive woman will smile at you, laugh at your jokes, bolster your ego."

But the behavior Donald Trump described on the Access Hollywood bus, and is accused of actually doing by at least 11 women, is "assault," plain and simple, Precker said. "As loyalists of the S-word scene will tell you, such ungentlemanly behavior might get you tossed into the alley." Trump has never made a secret that "his strip club attitude and his strip club actions had no boundaries," and "sadly, he's exactly right when he says that rich and famous people can say and do whatever they want to women, anytime, anywhere, and usually get away with it," Precker writes, but there's an opportunity here:

This hardly started with Trump, of course. Take your pick of rock stars and athletes, spoiled rich kids and old tycoons, politicians and people wielding power of any kind. Trump apologists will keep invoking Bill Clinton until they're hoarse (why don't they add John Kennedy more often?), and it's hard to argue the point. But no matter how many men have shared this philosophy, Trump is their poster boy. He's the one caught on tape. Will he take the fall for them all? That, to invoke a couple of his favorite adjectives, would be huge. And beautiful. Because repudiating Trump and Trump's behavior would go a long way to send this message: Do whatever you like inside the club, as long as all the parties involved are agreeable. But once you go through the doors and you're back outside, it's a whole different world. [The Dallas Morning News]

You can read Precker's entire op-ed at The Dallas Morning News. Peter Weber

2:56 a.m. ET

Wednesday was Hillary Clinton's 69th birthday, and she appeared to enjoy herself. Jimmy Kimmel found her tweeting out a birthday wishes to "this future president" a little strange and perhaps inappropriate, he said on Wednesday's Jimmy Kimmel Live, "but since it is Hillary's birthday, we wanted to do something fun to commemorate it, so this afternoon we went out on the street, we asked people who said they are Donald Trump supporters to say something nice to Hillary Clinton on her special day." Watch below to see how that went. Peter Weber

2:36 a.m. ET

With two weeks until Election Day, Donald Trump's main task is to "appeal to voters beyond his base," Seth Meyers said on Wednesday's Late Night, and on Monday, he got "a golden opportunity" when the Obama administration announced that ObamaCare premiums will rise by double digits next year. "You'd think some bad ObamaCare news might help him," Meyers said, "but the Trump campaign never misses the opportunity to miss an opportunity."

Meyers got to ObamaCare, after a detour of the day's juiciest political news, including the "Blacks for Trump" sign malfunction and Newt Gingrich telling Megyn Kelly she's "fascinated by sex." "Fascinated by sex?" Meyers said. "Even if she was a sex addict, I'm pretty sure Newt Gingrich is the cure."

The ObamaCare premium hikes are "bad news on the surface, but it's still in line with the projections made by the Congressional Budget Office," he noted. "Obviously, ObamaCare is a nuanced, complicated issue that requires sober analysis and discussion," added Meyers, who routinely distills nuanced, complicated issues down to 10-minute comedy-news segments. But Trump, of course, just said that ObamaCare is "killing us." "ObamaCare is killing us, China is killing us, political correctness is killing us," Meyer said. "God forbid President Trump ever has to deal with a slight dip in GDP — he'd probably tweet: 'It's a depression!!! Every man for himself!!! Eat your neighbors!!!'"

"The context is important here," Meyers said, returning to ObamaCare, noting that the premium increases will affect only the small percentage of people who get insurance from the individual market, and even then, the "vast majority" of them will get higher subsidies, leaving most ObamaCare users with options for plans less than $75 a month. But instead of trying to make political hay of the issue, Trump was out promoting his hotels and golf courses on Monday and Tuesday. Meyers had a theory about that, too: "As for ObamaCare, it's a huge improvement, but it also is imperfect. It has problems, and we need serious ideas for how to make it better, but the reason Republicans haven't proposed any real plans to fix or replace ObamaCare is because they don't have any. And the guy they nominated for president doesn't even seem to know what it is." Peter Weber

2:05 a.m. ET

Bats are some of the planet's most misunderstood mammals, and new live cams aim to shed light on these important creatures.

Just in time for Halloween, — the same people who brought us this summer's smash Bear Cam — are back with bats. They've teamed up with Michigan's Organization for Bat Conservation, which rehabilitates bats and educates the public on the importance of the animals. The Bat Cams will focus on the 40 bats living in the conservation's sanctuary, covering five different species, including vampire bats, fruit bats, and two Malayan Flying Foxes named Fred and Tom, who both have a six-foot wingspan.'s founder, Charles Annenberg Weingarten, said in a statement the cameras will "provide an intimate look at their lives," while using infrared technology to protect their nocturnal habitat.

Rob Mies, founder of The Organization for Bat Conservation, said in a statement that the Bat Cam comes at the perfect time because it will help the public connect with "amazing animals that are often vilified, and really they deserve our respect and appreciation. In recent years, millions of bats have been dying due to White-nose Syndrome, so now is a crucial time to get people involved." Get to know these fascinating animals in the streaming video below, or head over to, which will also feature live chats with scientists and experts. Catherine Garcia

1:32 a.m. ET

Donald Trump had some good polling news out of Florida and New Hampshire on Wednesday, and early Thursday morning, he got some less-good news from a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll of likely voters in the Lone Star State.

The poll, conducted Oct. 14-23, ending right before early voting began on Oct. 24, has Trump beating Clinton 45 percent to 42 percent, with Libertarian Gary Johnson at 7 percent and Green candidate Jill Stein at 2 percent. This is the second poll this month showing Trump up just 3 points over Clinton, and the second where the two are within the margin of error. Trump and Clinton are tied among female voters, and more Trump voters said they are voting against Clinton (53 percent) than actually want Trump to be president (47 percent); 66 percent of Clinton voters want her to be president, while 34 percent mostly don't want Trump to win.

"This is the trend that we've been seeing in polling for the last two weeks,” said Jim Henson, co-director of the UT/TT Poll, and Trump narrowly ahead is probably "where this race really stands." The margin of error for likely voters is ± 3.16 percentage points. According to FiveThirtyEight, Trump currently has an 84 percent shot of winning Texas. Peter Weber

1:15 a.m. ET

On Wednesday's Tonight Show, it was 1996, and Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon were two dorky tweens at Camp Winnipesaukee. Disregard the fact that it's almost Halloween and it doesn't make sense for Timberlake and Fallon — both donning braces and permed hair — to be at summer camp, and enjoy the perfect harmony that results from the pair singing Alanis Morissette's classic, "Ironic." Watch the video below — just try not to be too sad that it doesn't include Timberlake wearing his Halloween costume for the year: Blossom. Catherine Garcia

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