With seven qualifiers in Thursday night's Fox News primetime debate — and a noticeably absent Donald Trump — analysts are divided on who the real "winner" of the night was. Generally, most agree that Sen. Ted Cruz had an awkward night after he grew snappy with the moderators for tough questions while Jeb Bush showed some badly overdue liveliness. Here is a look at what some experts had to say:
"Cruz had a fantastic ethanol answer, but he didn't shine tonight like he did last time. Bush was better. Rand Paul did extremely well." — Charles C. W. Cooke, writer for National Review
"Rand Paul was my surprise best of the night. He was crisp, sharp and to the point." — Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary for President George W. Bush
"Jeb Bush is like a Shakespeare protagonist wandering through a Charlie Sheen sitcom." — Glenn Thrush, chief political correspondent of Politico
"I think Rubio probably won tonight’s debate. Unintended consequence of Trump skipping the debate?" — Matt Lewis, senior contributor to The Daily Caller
"While Trump was across town being carried live by every other network, and while he, not the other GOP candidates, dominated social media, the rest of the Republican field desperately and hopelessly failed to catch up to him." — Brad Woodhouse, president of the liberal research group Correct the Record [The New York Times]
In our coverage of the debate, Peter Weber wrote that, "Donald Trump probably won Thursday night's Republican debate in Des Moines, Iowa, by simply not showing up.That's partly a testament to Fox News, which brought in a new trick — confronting candidates with video of them contradicting their current positions — to the debate, putting Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Ted Cruz (Texas) in a tough spot. Trump would almost certainly have been subject to the same treatment, and it probably wouldn't have been pretty."
Morning Joe's Joe Scarborough couldn't help but wonder Monday what's next for fired chief strategist Stephen Bannon, now that his tenure at the White House has ended. "If I'm Steve Bannon and I look at the landscape and I look at Fox News trying to figure out exactly what it's going to be after Roger Ailes, I team up and start a conservative populist network," Scarborough said. "I mean, the money there would be outrageous."
Mark Halperin pointed out that Breitbart News was "influential" prior to and during Bannon's tenure at the White House. Now that Bannon is back at Breitbart with White House experience under his belt, Halperin noted that Bannon has "the capacity ... to increase their influence." "And their influence in offices of House Republican members is bigger on many days than Fox News is," Halperin said of Breitbart.
Meanwhile, Scarborough was still thinking about that television network. "I would just be surprised if he and [Breitbart financial backers] the Mercers weren't trying to figure out a way to start a TV network that competes with Fox," Scarborough said.
Watch Scarborough imagine the possibilities below. Becca Stanek
The combination of President Trump's frequent travel, numerous properties, and large family is gobbling up the Secret Service's funds at an unprecedented rate. USA Today revealed Monday that roughly a third of America's Secret Service agents have "already hit the federally mandated caps for salary and overtime allowances that were meant to last the entire year," forcing Secret Service Director Randolph "Tex" Alles to turn to Congress for additional funding.
Alles is pushing to raise the salary and overtime cap for agents to ameliorate the situation. But even if that were to happen, 130 agents would still not be "fully compensated for hundreds of hours already amassed," USA Today reported.
With the rate of attrition already high and the demanding workload expected to continue, Democrats and Republicans are concerned. "We cannot expect the Secret Service to be able to recruit and keep the best of the best if they are not being paid for these increases [in overtime hours]," a spokeswoman for Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said.
With Stephen Bannon now out at the White House, a war is reportedly brewing between President Trump's former chief strategist and Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner. Vanity Fair's The Hive reported Sunday that after Bannon was fired Friday, he told a friend, "We're going to war." Kushner is reportedly his biggest enemy:
The chaotic, war-torn West Wing of the past six months will be prologue, but the coming struggles will be as personal as they are ideological, waged not with leaks but with slashing Breitbart banners. On Sunday, Breitbart took renewed aim at McMaster, with a headline claiming he advocated “Quran Kissing.” But most of all, there's a deep animosity between Bannon and Kushner, amplified by a lack of respect. Bannon finds Kushner's political instincts highly questionable. "He said Jared is a dope," one Bannon ally recalled. The two clashed fiercely on personnel decisions and policy debates, both domestic and international, many of which Bannon lost. [The Hive]
While Bannon was "tarred as a prime West Wing leaker" in recent weeks, his allies apparently suspect that Kushner has "cultivated a relationship with Matt Drudge, who frequently pushed anti-Bannon headlines" and also pushed Fox News chairman Rupert Murdoch to convince Trump to fire Bannon.
Back at Breitbart, Bannon has big plans for using the site to exact his revenge.
On Monday, from 10:16 a.m. in Oregon to 2:48 p.m. in South Carolina, a total solar eclipse will move in a 67-mile-wide swath across parts of 14 states, with the rest of the continental United States witnessing only a partial eclipse. The "totality" — when the moon completely covers the sun — will last only about 2-3 minutes in each location, and it is very important that people don't look directly at the sun during any part of the eclipse without special solar-filter glasses, as staring at an eclipse can lead to permanent eye damage. (Also, make sure the glasses aren't fake.) You can read more about eclipse-watching here, and in case you don't have Bonnie Tyler tickets or plans to watch the eclipse from one of the prime viewing spots, USA Today has a handy interactive map for how much your area will see and when. Peter Weber
Jared Kushner's real estate firm has sought the arrest of more than 100 ex-tenants over unpaid debts
Since the real estate company owned by President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, started doing business in Maryland in 2013, it has been the state's most aggressive practitioner of a controversial debt-collection method called body attachment, where a landlord gets a judge to order the arrest of former tenants who fail to appear in court for allegations of unpaid rent, fines, and fees, The Baltimore Sun reports, citing court records. In all, 20 former tenants have been detained, and a dozen have filed for personal bankruptcy protection to avoid arrest.
Kushner Cos. owns 17 apartment complexes with nearly 9,000 units in Maryland, mostly in the Baltimore area, and pays other firms to manage them. The company earns at least $30 million in profit a year off $90 million in revenue from the properties, The Baltimore Sun reports, and the Kushner-controlled entities have managed to collect $1 million out of the $5.4 million in judge-approved judgments against 1,250 tenants since 2013, averaging $4,400 per judgment including original debt, court costs, lawyer fees, and interest.
Kushner Cos. "follows guidelines consistent with industry standards" and state law, and its management partner, Westminster Management, "only takes legal action against a tenant when absolutely necessary," company CFO Jennifer McLean said in a statement. And real estate interests say that body attachments — for former tenants who miss two court appointments — can be the only way to make delinquent tenants pay up. At least some tenants say they were never notified of the court dates, or dispute the money owed.
Not all collection agencies use body attachments, in part because "they don't want to risk the public relations issue," Amy Hennen at the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service tells the Sun. Garnishing wages, which can be ruinous for poor people barely scraping by, is "harsh" enough, she said. "But certainly the body attachment is probably the worst, because we're talking about what is effectively a debtors' prison, which is something out of Charles Dickens." You can read more at The Baltimore Sun. Peter Weber
John Oliver began Sunday's Last Week Tonight with a sometimes NSFW farewell to Stephen Bannon, the White House chief strategist shown the door on Friday. Oliver's audience cheered when he showed a photo of President Trump's core team, whittled down from six people to just two. Trump "is surrounded by four white nothings and Mike Pence — so, let's make that five white nothings," he said. "But the truly depressing thing about Bannon's departure is just how utterly unsatisfying it actually is. Because yes, one panderer to white nationalists has left the White House. The problem is, the one he was working for is still very much there."
Oliver ended up at the same conclusion when he took a look at Trump's very bad week, especially his perceived legitimizing of white supremacists at a news conference on Tuesday. Lots of people condemned Trump from unusual corners, he said, though Trump still had his tearful defenders on Fox News, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) shot down rumors that he was very disappointed with Trump, and House Speaker Paul Ryan condemned white supremacists without mentioning Trump by name.
"You can mention him," Oliver said. "He is not Voldemort, he's just a terrifying entity who viciously attacks his enemies and judges people based on their birthright — you know what? I do hear it now. I hear it now." The fact is, fewer than 20 percent of the 292 Republicans in Congress "could be bothered to unequivocally condemn Trump by name," he said, and that's a problem because Trump is "a key part of the problem."
"So look, although this week has repeatedly been called a turning point, much as though I would love to believe that, I really don't see it," Oliver concluded. "We're not so much turning anymore as spinning. We are basically on a carousel that will not stop, we've vomited so much there's nothing left to throw up, and there's just no way to get off because an unstable, race-baiting carney is operating the controls." Nothing will change until one last person leaves the West Wing, he added, and Trump isn't going anywhere. There is some NSFW language. Watch below. Peter Weber
John Oliver has some good reasons you should be frightened, frustrated at America's nuclear waste problem
Nuclear waste "is a serious health hazard, and America has a lot of it," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "And you may live closer to nuclear waste than you think." For decades, America has known it needs a safe place to store this nuclear waste — one expert in 1990 compared America's nuclear situation to a house built without a toilet — and that was Oliver's focus on Sunday: "Why do we not have a nuclear toilet?"
On one level, this is easy to understand, he said, because in World War II the U.S. rushed to create atomic weapons to defeat the Nazis, "who — fun fact — pretty much all Americans agreed were bad at the time." He ran through some of the bad-to-horrifying solutions America came up with in early days of nuclear waste, and noted how some of the improperly stored waste has sickened people and created radioactive alligators, among other problems. Luckily, the U.S. government and scientific community came up with a solution 60 years ago. Unfortunately, the envisioned facility for the worst waste still hasn't been built.
For more on why America hasn't buried its nuclear waste yet, how much we're spending on the Hanford site in Washington State, and how little things have changed in 40 years, plus a running gag about a terrifying American Girl doll, watch below. (Yes, there is NSFW language throughout.) Peter Weber