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THE REPUBLICAN CONVENTION

THE HUFFINGTON POST MAGAZINE

AUGUST 26, 2012

What Would A Romney Presidency Look Like?


08.26.12 #11 CONTENTS

Enter POINTERS: Akin Backlash, Deadly Cantaloupe, Rosie’s Heart Attack MOVING IMAGE DATA: The Ryan Factor Q&A: Jessica Valenti

Voices STEVEN STRAUSS: How Revolutionary is Social Media? UJWAL ARKALGUD: The Age of Belief-Based Consumption

THE ONETERMER? JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES (ROMNEY); BRYAN REGAN (CHAIRS)

BY JON WARD

PETER MANDEL: The Weird World of Google Doubles QUOTED

Exit TRAVEL: The OverIt Politico’s Guide to Ditching the DNC TRAVEL: The OverIt Politico’s Guide to Ditching the RNC APPROVAL: Oh, Behave! And Let Your Phone Help GREATEST PERSON: Dean Smith, Brothers On The Run

SMART START?

BY SAKI KNAFO

TFU FROM THE EDITOR: Of Back Rooms and Classrooms ON THE COVER: Illustration

The cover image of Mitt Romney is a collage of over 300 photographs. Swipe down for a closer look.

for Huffington by Tsevis.

MAIN PHOTO: CARL COURT/ AFP/GETTYIMAGES; ALL CREDITS TAP HERE.


PHOTO OR ILLUSTRATION CREDIT TK

PHOTO OR ILLUSTRATION CREDIT TK


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

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Of Back Rooms and Classrooms N THIS WEEK’S ISSUE of Huffington, just in time for the Republican convention in Tampa, Jon Ward chronicles Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate. Jon began reporting on the Romney campaign long before Romney took the stage to announce Paul Ryan in front of the battleship USS Wisconsin—an

ART STREIBER

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event, he writes, that included an “elaborately arranged secret meeting” and “was executed without a hiccup.” Here, through interviews with some of Romney’s top advisers—including Matt Rhoades, Romney’s 37-year-old campaign manager who posits that a Romney presidency might look something like the James K. Polk years—Jon  explores what Romney’s campaigning style might tell us about his governing style.

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

He also places Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan against the backdrop of America’s fiscal realities: the national debt is approaching $16 trillion; nearly 50 million Americans over 64 rely on Medicare for their health care, at a time when the baby boomer generation is just entering the program; and 10,000 Americans will enroll every day for the next 20 years. As the Republican National Convention presents Mitt Romney to the country, and the world, Jon captures the campaign’s bravado. As Rhoades, the campaign manager, puts it: “We’re going to win. And Mitt’s going to fix the mess.” Far from the back rooms where political decisions are made, Saki Knafo tells the story of a girl named Nawal, whose parents came to America from what is now South Sudan, and her teacher Ms. Sabrina. The setting is North Carolina, and Saki’s reporting takes us deep inside the debate over pre-kindergarten: a world of political battles, constant threats of bud-

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get cuts, and—often lost in the shuffle—the first critical educational and social experiences of a young child’s life. By putting flesh and blood on the research—including one study showing that more funding for pre-kindergarten has been linked to higherAs the than-average math Republican and reading scores— National Saki’s reporting puts Convention the spotlight on a critical period in a presents Mitt child’s life. “Until Romney to the recently,” he writes, country, Jon “the mind of the captures the young child was campaign’s as obscure as a bravado.” distant galaxy.” Jon’s story takes us inside the campaign of Mitt Romney, a man whose entire life seems to have been preparation for this moment; Saki’s takes us inside the world of little Nawal, taking her tentative steps into a world of someone else’s making.

ARIANNA


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GARY GERSHOFF/WIREIMAGE FOR V-DAY/GETTY IMAGES

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EVE ENSLER REACTS TO ‘LEGITIMATE RAPE’ REMARKS

POINTERS

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Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) set off waves of backlash with his remarks that women who suffer “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant—and Eve Ensler offered one of the most memorable reactions. “I am asking you and the GOP to get out of my body, out of my vagina, my womb, to get out of all of our bodies,” the playwright and activist, who is a rape survivor, wrote in a letter to Akin on The Huffington Post. She described his words as “a form of re-rape.”


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POINTERS

ROSIE O’DONNELL SUFFERS HEART ATTACK

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AP PHOTO/DAN STEINBERG (O’DONNEL);DAVID EULITT/KANSAS CITY STAR/MCT VIA GETTY IMAGES (YODER)

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Rosie O’Donnell had a heart attack last week, she revealed on her blog. After helping an “enormous woman” get out of her car, O’Donnell felt chest pains. She went to the cardiologist the next day. “My LAD was 99% blocked,” she wrote. “They call this type of heart attack the Widow Maker.”

ESPN HOST GOES RACIAL

Skip Bayless of ESPN made a startling claim on First Take on Monday, positing that white football fans are more likely to support a white player over a black one. “I’m going to throw it out there,” he said. “You also have the black-white dynamic and the majority of Redskins fans are white. And it’s just human nature, if you’re white to root for the white guy.” Bayless was arguing that Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, who is black, may face extra pressure from fellow rookie quarterback Kirk Cousins, who is white.

GOP CONGRESSMAN REGRETS NUDE SWIM

During a fact-finding trip to Israel last summer, Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) skinnydipped in the Sea of Galilee, according to a Politico report. A group of House Republicans along with their staffers and spouses were involved in the late-night swim, which was later probed by the FBI. “After dinner I followed some Members of Congress in a spontaneous and very brief dive into the sea and regrettably I jumped into the water without a swimsuit,” Yoder wrote in an apology statement.


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POINTERS

ANOTHER DEADLY OUTBREAK BLAMED ON CANTALOUPE

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If you’ve recently bought cantaloupes— especially if you know they were grown in Indiana—you may want to throw them away. Two people are dead and more than 150 are sick because of a salmonella outbreak linked to melons grown in the region, according to health officials. Last year, 30 people died from eating cantaloupe tainted with Listeria. Those deadly fruits were traced back to a Colorado farm.

STRAIGHT-A STUDENT CAN’T GET HER DIPLOMA

JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES (CANTELOPE)

An Oklahoma high school Valedictorian used the word “hell” in her graduation speech—and because of that, she still hasn’t received her diploma. Kaitlin Nootbaar told her classmates in her May speech that when people asked her about career plans, she’d say, “How the hell do I know? I’ve changed my mind so many times.” School officials say they will hold her diploma until she releases an apology.

THAT’S VIRAL RAGE AGAINST RYAN

A selection of the week’s most talked-about stories. HEADLINES TO VIEW FULL STORIES

‘THE LITTLE MERMAID’ GETS PLASTIC SURGERY

MEGADETH SINGER CLAIMS OBAMA STAGED AURORA AND SIKH TEMPLE SHOOTINGS

THIS GUY MAY HAVE THE WORLD’S MOST UNFORTUNATE NAME

‘TOP GUN’ DIRECTOR TONY SCOTT TAKES HIS OWN LIFE


DANIEL ACKER/BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES

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Scorched Earth As drought grips the Midwest, the U.S. continues to set grim weather records—with July hotter than any month previously observed. More than 1,000 counties in 26 states are being named natural-disaster areas, the biggest such declaration ever by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The result is devastating, and chilling. This cracked, dry ground is actually a pond in Crossville, Illinois.

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SCOTT OLSON/GETTY IMAGES

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Stalks of dead corn are hunched over in this field next to an ethanol plant in Palestine, Illinois.

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MIKE RANSDELL/KANSAS CITY STAR/MCT VIA GETTY IMAGES

Campers float in inner tubes on the Buffalo National River in Arkansas. The exposed sand and rock are a result of the drought that has dropped the river’s depths to just over two feet.


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Twelve-year-old Josh Pruitt holds a stunted ear of corn from a field designated as zero-yield in Vigo County, Indiana.

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AP PHOTO/SETH PERLMAN

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Farmer Steve Niedbalski chops down his droughtstricken corn for feed in Nashville, Illinois.

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VICTOR J. BLUE/BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES

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Terry Hayhurst feeds cattle ground corn feed on his farm in Terre Haute, Indiana.

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SCOTT OLSON/GETTY IMAGES

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A calf is auctioned off in Fairview, Illinois. Farmers are forced to cut back on cattle because the draught has caused shortages of feed, water and healthy pasture land.

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VICTOR J. BLUE/BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES

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A tractor fells corn in a field declared zero-yield in Vigo County, Indiana.

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TY WRIGHT/BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES

Corn production in the U.S., the world’s largest grower and exporter, will drop 13 percent to a six-year low.


DANIEL ACKER/BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES

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These boats are grounded on the dry bottom of a section of the Morse Reservoir in Cicero, Indiana.

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SCOTT OLSON/GETTY IMAGES

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Dry, brittle corn plants struggle to endure the heat on this farm stricken by drought near Fritchton, Indiana.

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DATA

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The Ryan Factor 100 %

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Paul Ryan is the only recent VP pick since Dan Quayle whose selection was initially rated more negatively than positively by Americans. Click on the bars below to see the outcome of the races.

PUBLIC REACTION TO VP PICKS

Unsure Excellent/Pretty Good Only Fair/Poor

80 %

60 %

TAP YEAR FOR ELECTION RESULTS

Poll data from 2000 to 2012 conducted by Gallup/USA Today. This year’s poll surveyed all adults, while past polls surveyed registered voters. Data from 1988 is from a poll of likely voters by Louis Harris and Associates.

1988

2000

2004

2008

ROMNEY—RYAN

OBAMA—BIDEN

McCAIN—PALIN

KERRY—EDWARDS

BUSH—CHENEY

GORE—LIEBERMAN

20 %

BUSH—QUAYLE

GERARDO MORA/GETTY IMAGES (RYAN)

40 %

2012


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Q&A

HUFFINGTON 08.26.12

Jessica Valenti Asks, Why Have Kids? Valenti’s new book explores questions of parenthood and happiness. PHOTOGRAPHS BY JARED LEEDS


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Q&A

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N WHY HAVE KIDS? A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness, feminist author Jessica Valenti poses a question that few people actually wrestle with before taking the plunge into parenthood. She spoke with Huffington about the apolitical mommy blogosphere, why motherhood shouldn’t be considered a job and why it’s ridiculous to expect children to bring us joy. - Lori Leibovich

Why did you write this book? When I signed on to do the book, I was six months pregnant. It was going to be a feminist polemic about how to be the best feminist mother. I had grand ideas about attachment parenting and breastfeeding and the over-medicalization of birth. Then I got preeclampsia in my 28th week. I went in for a normal doctor’s visit—they took my blood pressure and sent me to the hospital. Within days my liver started to fail. I got an emergency C-section and then my daughter was in the NICU for several months. I had an extremely medicalized birth, a far cry from what I had wanted. What I thought were feminist ideals about bonding with your kid became impossible for me to obtain. So the book turned out to be about that disconnect where the

reality doesn’t meet the ideal and the misery it’s causing parents. In your case, that disconnect was particularly acute because of the trauma surrounding your daughter’s birth. But you talk about how women who have “normal” births often feel the same way. Other people described the disconnect about not loving breast-

Valenti with Ann F. Lewis and Marissa Mayer at an Elle panel discussion in New York.


Enter feeding or being bored by their infants and feeling guilty about that. Being bored was a big one for me. My mom said, “You’re going to want to be around your baby all the time.” All I wanted to do was get back to work. But you’re not allowed to say that because that means you think your kid is dull. You write about the reasons you think parents are dissatisfied. What is it about this particular moment that’s making us miserable? In part it’s the expectation that kids should bring you joy. People used to have kids to raise good citizens, or so they could help out on the farm. Now it’s, “I want to fulfill my life.” It’s too much pressure to put on one person—and on yourself. In the book you write: “Mommy blogs organize to take down diaper ads but are largely silent on the lack of paid maternity leave. It’s surprising that the vast mommy blogosphere and Twitterverse hasn’t rallied around political causes that matter to parents— subsidized child care, quality public education, etc. We’ve accepted this idea that parenting is our problem. “It’s not the government’s problem how I afford child care, or how I work out maternity leave— this is my family’s problem.” When the Ann Romney-Hilary Rosen flap

Q&A

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happened, I tweeted something like, “Oh, I’m glad the Romneys think taking care of kids is a real job. I look forward to seeing how their platform reflects that.” There was an opportunity for parents to [mobilize], but there was just ... silence. You take issue with idea that motherhood is the “most important job in the world.” Why? Do I think motherhood is important? Do I love rais-

Who gives a shit if this woman wants to breastfeed her four-year-old? It’s really just a great distraction.” ing my daughter? Of course. But I don’t want it to be the most important thing I ever do. I also don’t want to tell my daughter that the most important thing she’ll ever do is have a child. Because then why do anything else? I can imagine someone who does consider motherhood the most important thing she does thinking you sound condescending. Motherhood is the most important relationship I’ll ever have. But when


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you position something as your job, well, that’s supposed to be compensated. I don’t want my kid to be my job. I want my kid to be my kid! We’ve been suckered into believing that motherhood is a career choice. You say that community is an antidote to parental dissatisfaction. But many of us work long hours, don’t live near our extended family and don’t know our neighbors. How can we get the “village”? A big piece of it is our expectation that the best thing for kids is to be with one or both parents. I don’t agree. I think it’s great for kids to be around other kids and

Q&A

have multiple caregivers. I think it makes parents happier when it’s a little bit spread out. But it’s going to take a lot for it to change. Like what? I wish I had the answer! The most frustrating thing about writing this book was not having the answers. But I don’t think we need to have all the answers as long as we’re having the conversation. It says a lot about our priorities when people find Time magazine’s breastfeeding cover story more outrageous than the fact that we don’t have paid maternity leave. Who gives a shit if this woman wants to breastfeed her four-year-old? It’s really just a great distraction.

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Valenti at her home in Boston.


Voices

STEVEN STRAUSS

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How Revolutionary Is Social Media? “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.” — Peter Thiel, Founders Fund

WE LIVE IN AN AGE of rapid change. Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter and many other innovators have changed how we work, communicate and live. But is this a new industrial revolution? Twenty-some years ago, a large bookstore might have had 100,000 books available. Today online retailers (e.g., Amazon) have millions of books to sell. Similarly, there were no smartphones two decades ago— just simple mobile phones and land lines. Social media then consisted of email and listservs; now we have Facebook and Twitter. A 1990s personal computer had only basic capabilities (word processing, spreadsheets, and a few others). Now an iMac has the power of an earlier generation’s supercomputer.

ILLUSTRATION BY ANDY MARTIN

Revolutionary? Well, it depends on what we mean by a revolutionary innovation. I propose that: An innovation is revolutionary if it so changes society that going back to the pre-innovation technology would be catastrophic. By this

Steven Strauss is an Advanced Leadership Fellow at Harvard University for 2012.


Voices standard, many of our most recent innovations are incremental, not revolutionary. Consider the automobile, that archetypal innovation of a few generations ago. If all motor vehicles vanish tomorrow, the result would be catastrophic. If all phones (land lines and mobiles) suddenly stop working—the result would be disastrous for communication. Now, let’s imagine that all social media disappears. Would the economy collapse? I don’t think so. Or, if every online store in America closed, would it be catastrophic? Probably not. Leaving aside these anecdotal examples, it’s noteworthy that there isn’t an obvious economic growth spike resulting from the Internet era. The San Francisco based venture capital firm Founders Fund believes that many recent innovations have been incremental, and not revolutionary. It attributes this incrementality to the VC community’s failure to support revolutionary technology companies. Critical as this view may be, it implies that incrementalism is a reversible choice. Founders Fund itself is dedicated to investing in revolutionary technologies. My hypothesis, however, is that

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we’re at the start of a new megatrend of diminishing marginal innovation. The low-hanging fruits of revolutionary technologies have already been picked. Consequently, we’ll need increasing effort to achieve changes that are only incremental and at most, transform a sector. If this megatrend is real, Now, consider these potenlet’s imagine tial consequences: that all First, for many social media entrepreneurs, indisappears. crementalism will be Would the their defining strategy. economy Stretching to develop collapse?” revolutionary products will be a losing proposition. Incrementalism isn’t unprofitable. LinkedIn, for example, hasn’t revolutionized society, but has been very lucrative. Second, diminishing marginal innovation applies at the economy level, not the sector level. We don’t have flying cars as routine transport, and it’s difficult to see this occurring. On the other hand, DNA technology is still in its infancy, and might have “running room.” We will continue to see sectors transformed (e.g., conventional retailing impacted by online retailing). But innovations in the remaining high growth


Voices sectors won’t be sufficient to drive revolutionary growth in the overall economy. (Consider that even in the 21st Century, an estimated one-tenth of all American jobs are connected to the car industry; it’s difficult to see social media having that kind of impact.) Third, by the end of the 21st Century, the world’s global multinationals will increasingly be headquartered in Asia. Since the late 1970s, the rest of the world has been catching up economically with the West. This trend will only accelerate, unless there’s new high-impact revolutionary technological innovation in the United States, or economic collapse/stagnation in China/India. (If country GDPs per capita converge to about the same level, country GDPs will then be driven by population. Consequently, China will have four times America’s GDP.) Fourth, as wage levels converge globally, wage differentials (as a driver of offshoring) will also decline. This is already happening, as the global management consultancy BCG has recently highlighted: By around 2015, we concluded—when higher U.S. worker productivity, supply chain and logistical advantages, and other factors

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are taken fully into account—it may start to be more economical to manufacture many goods in the U.S. An American manufacturing renaissance could result. Fifth, as the public increasingly understands that growth has slowed, and won’t soon increase, the focus of politics will be By on the zero-sum game around 2015, of dividing up what it may start already exists (it feels to be more like this political trend economical to has already started). manufacture And last, a future many goods of slow-growth inin the U.S.” cremental capitalism will favor corporate bureaucrats over visionary entrepreneurs. For most of human history, economic innovation and productivity growth have been low, as were productivity differences between countries. The last two or so centuries have been an exciting exception—but not the norm—for human history. I hope Founders Fund will be right and I’ll be wrong. So, let me close with the sage counsel of Yogi Berra: Prediction is very hard, especially about the future.


UJWAL ARKALGUD

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The Age of Belief-Based Consumption

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HE RECENT CHICK-FIL-A controversy has interestingly shed light on something I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while now: Belief-Based Consumption. ¶ People’s decision making is increasingly becoming belief-based, which is to say that people are increasingly choosing to do business with companies that share their values and beliefs. And in the process of doing so, audiences are bringing these brands into conversations with peer groups both online and off, making these brands an integral part of their (audience) identities. ¶ When value systems are involved, audiences are more than happy to spread a brand’s message into the marketplace (through their own personal networks). The series of events this past month that occurred as a result of the President and COO of ChickFil-A openly expressing his opposition to same-sex marriage illustrates exactly that. ¶ His comments had such an impact that it led to hundreds of thousands of supporters buying chicken from the restaurant chain on ILLUSTRATION BY ANDY MARTIN

Ujwal Arkalgud is a digital marketer and design anthropologist


Voices August 1 in order to express their support for the company’s values. It of course also led to protests from thousands of people who will likely never again consider eating at a Chick-Fil-A restaurant. While the Chick-Fil-A event is rather dramatic, it certainly isn’t the first time that a brand is choosing to sell based on its values. Lululemon, for example, made a business out of putting its beliefs and values front and center at every customer touchpoint (e.g. shopping bags with the phrase “friends are more important than money”)—selling to those who believed what they believed. Vans is another brand that sells its beliefs. The company is deeply engrained in skate and snowboard culture and spends a lot of its earnings furthering a set of values that skate/snowboarders relate to—the most recent example being its announcement to build a 14,000 square-foot skateboarding complex in California. A similar case can be made for Mountain Equipment Co-Op, a Canadian outdoor gear/clothing company that has a cult-like following amongst liberal/left-leaning outdoor recreational enthusiasts for its vocal cherishing of those values.

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Digital tools and access to information have made corporate culture important to audiences. These tools have allowed us to not just connect with niche groups of audiences who share values and beliefs with us, but have also helped us understand disparate groups and form opinions about them, and even build varying degrees of relationships with them. Essentially, we What we know who the allies are. are beginning And we know how and to witness is where to find them. a new reality It is this process of to the brandlooking beneath the audience surface, and past the relationship.” marketing message, that is increasingly powering communities online and driving websites like Reddit. Any organization that has looked to create self-sustaining communities online has already experienced the need for a level of transparency that was previously never required in business. In my opinion, what we are beginning to witness is a new reality to the brand-audience relationship. Culture will drive business, and will dictate how audiences relate to brands. It’s now up to the organizations to respond.


Voices

PETER MANDEL

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The Weird World of Google Doubles THE INTERNET IS, as far as I can tell, a nearly infinite universe of things I do not want to know. I can usually ignore the boasts, the shards of opinion, the superfluous stuff that swirls around on my laptop. But there’s one online fact that simply sticks in my craw: There are people out there who have been brazenly using my name. I still recall the night when, shaking at my keyboard, I uncovered search results for an international army of so-called Peter Mandels. Even Peter Mandelson, the British politician, refused to stop popping up when I typed in M-A-N-D-E-L.

ILLUSTRATION BY ANDY MARTIN

On a good day, I came up third or fourth in the Google Order of Mandels. But a naturopath based in Germany was perpetually first, taunting me from the very pinnacle of Peter Mandel-dom. I despised clicking on his website, where he’s touted as “a genius phenomenon who, someday, is going to have a place in history” and which went on about things I didn’t understand, like a Mandelinvented therapy known as “Esogetic Colorpuncture.” Was there a way, I wondered, for

Peter Mandel is the author of Jackhammer Sam and Zoo Ah-Choooo.


Voices me to regain the pride I had lost: the joy of knowing I was unique? There was. I’d track down the other Peter Mandels and see whether we could hammer out some sort of compromise—say, dismantling their Web pages or, if they preferred, beginning the process of changing their name. Sleuthing out the phone numbers of a half-dozen or so Peter Mandels was easy; getting my calls returned wasn’t. After weeks of dialing, I finally got an actual Peter Mandel on the line, one who owns a California radonmitigation company. “Hello,” I began, clearing my throat. “I am concerned about the dilution of the Peter Mandel name.” There was a sound that was either a cough or a snort. Hadn’t he Googled himself? Wasn’t he aware of all the other Peter Mandels? “I’m aware,” he said. Didn’t we make him jealous? Angry? Another snort-cough. “The way I come up on Google or you come up on Google is fine,” he explained. “My clients come to me, since I handle some very hazardous materials.” I next reached a New Jersey

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gynecologist. An occasional autoGoogler, Dr. Mandel knew perfectly well that he was sharing search engine space with us and was fine with it. “How would you feel,” I asked, “if you disappeared from Google results? Maybe took a break from that?” There was a moment of silence. “I would not be happy about it,”

Was there a way, I wondered, for me to regain the pride I had lost: the joy of knowing I was unique?” he replied. This was the point where I should have offered Dr. Mandel a payment. Or made a tearful plea. But I realized I couldn’t do it and actually didn’t need to. I mean, sure, there was the radon Peter Mandel, the gynecologist, the German guy—but I’m the only writer of children’s books in the bunch. And what do you think those pretenders know about sneezing leopards? Jackhammer-cracks in city sidewalks? Burger-loving dogs? You can Google it, but I’d bet nothing. Maybe, just possibly, I am special, after all.


Voices

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“Tebow found Jesus.... then he overthrew him by 20 yards.” –HuffPost commenter phxwsopchamp

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: ROB TRINGALI/SPORTSCHROME/GETTY IMAGES; NBC VIA GETTY IMAGES; DANIEL ACKER/BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES

on Tebow’s “Sexy Jesus” GQ spread

“She didn’t sing, she didn’t dance, she just went out and competed with the men on their turf. And did it brilliantly.”

–Joan Rivers

remembering Phyllis Diller on CBS This Morning

“The fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy. The truth is, rape has many victims.

–Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.)

in an ad apologizing for “legitimate rape” comments

“Thank God the U.S. has strict regulations for chocolate syrups. Banks and Wall Street, not so much.”

–HuffPost commenter humansareinsane

on the FDA warning Hershey’s over chocolate syrup labeling


CLCOKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: MICHAELA FEUEREISLOVA/ISIFA/GETTY IMAGES; AP PHOTO/LOS ANGELES TIMES, BRIAN VAN DER BRUG; SIMON EDWARDS/FUTURE PUBLISHING VIA GETTY IMAGES; RON GALELLA/WIREIMAGE/GETTY IMAGES

Voices

QUOTED

HUFFINGTON 08.26.12

“I understand there is a special mohawk guy working on the mission.  I thought about getting a mohawk myself but my team keeps on discouraging me.”

And that’s the scary thing for me, it’s how money is changing, very obviously, the landscape of what it means to have an election in this country. I think money has always done that, but not as blatantly and freely as it can now that it’s legal. –Susan Sarandon

to The Huffington Post

“31 years since Reagan. I’m still waiting to get trickled on.”

–HuffPost commenter Mr_Crabs

–President Obama

on a phone call to congratulate the NASA team on the rover Curiosity’s touchdown

“An alternate plan:  You could just keep using your perfectly good phone, and not jump every time Apple decides to ring a new bell.”

–HuffPost commenter Guardian_Weasel

on advice to sell old iPhones before the iPhone 5 comes out


BRYAN REGAN

08.26.12 #11

FEATURES THE ONETERMER? SMART START?


THE REPUBLICAN CONVENTION

HUFFINGTON 08.26.12


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BY JON WARD ILLUSTRATION BY JEFFREY DECOSTER

MATT RHOADES IS guarded and intense, and more press-averse than many senior campaign strategists. And when I met him in mid-July, in a bohemian coffee shop in Boston’s North End, the 37-year-old manager of Mitt Romney’s campaign was hesitant to speculate about what the Republican candidate would do as president, and how.

THE REPUBLICAN CONVENTION

THE ONETERMER? THINKING BOLD THOUGHTS WITH TEAM ROMNEY


THE REPUBLICAN CONVENTION HUFFINGTON 08.26.12

ERIC THAYER/THE NEW YORK TIMES/REDUX

Romney speaks at a campaign event at a coal mine operated by American Energy Corporation in Ohio.

At the time, so many months away from Election Day, Rhoades was focused on the task at hand. The Romney campaign was launching its attack on President Barack Obama for his “you didn’t build that” remark to the business community. At the time, most political observers expected Romney to pick Ohio Sen. Rob Portman or former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty as his running mate. Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s name was barely being mentioned as a potential vice presidential nominee. But when I asked Rhoades in July how Romney would govern if elected, and what Romney might do with the budget and entitlement reform plans Ryan had already out-

ICON BY MICHAEL MYERS

lined, Rhoades’ eyes lit up. He gave me a name: James Polk. Don’t yawn. There’s a history lesson in that name. Rhoades and the rest of the members of Romney’s inner circle think a Romney presidency could look much like the White House tenure of the 11th U.S. president. Polk, who served from 1845 to 1849, presided over the expansion of the U.S. into a coast-to-coast nation, annexing Texas and winning the Mexican-American war for territories that also included New Mexico and California. He reduced trade barriers and strengthened the Treasury system. And he was a one-term president. Polk is an allegory for Rhoades: He did great things, and then exited the scene, and few remember him. That, Rhoades suggested,


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AP PHOTO/JOSH REYNOLDS

Mitt Romeny’s campaign manager Matt Rhoades at the campaign’s Boston headquarters.

could be Romney’s legacy as well. The idea of a one-term presidency became something of a theme in my conversations with Romney advisers in July. They embraced it, even if it appeared at times to be with the kind of forced enthusiasm one might have to muster up for a polar bear swim in the dead of winter. But there was also genuine exuberance, a preview of the inspired sense among many—after Romney picked Ryan as his running mate—that their campaign was about something significant. Multiple senior Romney advisers assured me that they had had conversations with the candidate in which he conveyed a depth of

conviction about the need to try to enact something like Ryan’s controversial budget and entitlement reforms. Romney, they said, was willing to count the cost politically in order to achieve it. “I think he is looking to get in there and fix some things and get out. I don’t think he cares,” one senior Romney adviser, who was not authorized to speak on the record, told me at the time. There are certainly things to be fixed. Nearly 50 million Americans over the age of 64—15 percent of the total U.S. population—rely on Medicare to pay for the majority of their health care. By 2030, enrollment is projected to go up to 80 million. The baby boomer population has just begun to enter the program, and because of


Romney’s proposal, borrowing heavily from the blueprint Ryan has sketched out in Congress over the past few years, is to introduce optional private-sector plans alongside traditional Medicare. He hopes that competition between the plans on government-run exchanges brings down the amount that the government pays out, extending the solvency of the program and decreasing the amount it contributes to the annual deficit and national debt. The changes would not affect anyone in the program currently or anyone 55 or older who will enter it in the next decade. “Everybody knows this is politically risky territory. Republicans have their battle scars on entitlement reform,” Ryan said in February at the Conservative Political Action Conference, referring to former President George W.

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“I THINK HE IS LOOKING TO GET IN THERE AND FIX SOME THINGS AND GET OUT. I DON’T THINK HE CARES.”

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this, beginning this year, roughly 10,000 Americans are expected to join the program every day for the next 20 years. The annual number of new enrollees during this period will almost triple from the 1995-2009 period, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Health care costs continue to spiral upward, making Medicare the biggest driver of the national debt over the long term. If left unchanged, Medicare (along with Medicaid and Social Security) will eventually crowd out most other forms of federal spending, reducing—along with interest on the national debt—the funds available for other vital government programs. And Medicare will no longer be able to pay all its benefits by 2024, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees the program. Meanwhile, the national debt is nearing $16 trillion. Economists worry it is at or near a level that costs the economy a full percentage point of growth a year. And there is also increasing worry about a debt crisis, where the bond market loses faith in the U.S. government’s ability to pay back bonds, and the cost of borrowing for the government, and then for the U.S. consumer, goes through the roof.


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PHOTO BY ALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES

Bush’s ill-fated attempt to introduce private accounts into Social Security in 2005. That initiative went down in flames. But Ryan and others have argued that times are different now. The 2008 fiscal crisis brought home to many Americans that the government, like any regular household, can’t continually spend money it doesn’t have without repercussions. Medicare reform is the clearest signal the U.S. government can send to the world that it is serious about getting its fiscal house in order, the argument goes. So reform may not be the political liability it has been in the past. “Some argue that we should

downplay bold agendas and simply wage a campaign focused solely on the president and his party. I firmly disagree,” Ryan said at CPAC. “Boldness and clarity offer the greatest opportunity to create a winning coalition. We will not only win the next election— we have a unique opportunity to sweep and remake the political landscape.” “We want this debate, we need this debate and we are going to win this debate on Medicare,” he said during a campaign stop on Monday. Still, even some of the strongest Republican proponents of spending discipline and Medicare reform think Romney might suffer great political damage if he were to pass the entire Ryan agenda. “If he did what was actually necessary to fix the country, prob-

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Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) speaks during a news conference to unveil a $9 trillion deficit reduction plan in July 2011.


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who requested anonymity in order to speak frankly, warned against viewing the governor too narrowly. “You assume that his basic persona is cautious. My take on it is goal-oriented,” the Romney associate said. “I don’t think you become a wealthy, successful man without being goal-oriented.” Romney would not govern timidly, he said. “If you look at about every presidency going back to Lyndon Johnson, caution has not been a very good recipe for getting things done,” the Romney associate said. Indeed, Johnson’s approach in the White House is in many ways characteristic of presidents —from Lincoln, to Roosevelt, to Reagan—who have tried to make significant policy changes. Robert Caro, in his new biography of Johnson, points out that the president’s advisers tried to steer him away from pushing for the Civil Rights Act, arguing that it was a lost cause that would only antagonize the southern lawmakers who held the reins of power in Congress and hurt his presidency. “Well, what the hell’s the presidency for?” Johnson replied, according to Caro. Mitt Romney may be having his LBJ Moment. By picking Ryan and putting himself and his own ideas under the microscope, Romney sent a loud message about how he would

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ably he would be [a one-term president],” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who collaborated with Ryan on a Medicare reform proposal and is one of the leading advocates of dramatic action to reduce the debt, told me. “What is wrong with that?” Coburn said. “Is it about Mitt Romney or is it about our country? What is wrong with having a one-term president that actually does what is necessary to fix the country?” By picking Ryan to be his running mate, Romney transformed himself in the eyes of many from a timid, calculating, flip-flopping, hollow “Massachusetts liberal” —to use the words of primary foe Newt Gingrich—into a bold, courageous, clear-eyed leader. Maybe even a conservative. Romney’s choice of Ryan doesn’t appear to stem from some ideological desire to strike a blow for conservatism simply for ideology’s sake, however. There is nothing in Romney’s history or personality to suggest that he would randomly become a bombthrower. Yet here you have it: a level of risk-taking that doesn’t comport with the traditional view of the 65-year-old former Massachusetts governor. One person close to Romney, and familiar with his thinking,


THE VEEPSTAKES

SAUL LOEB/AFP/GETTYIMAGES

Romney announces Paul Ryan as his running mate during a campaign rally at the Nauticus Museum in Norfolk, Virginia.

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It seemed unthinkable that Romney would pick Ryan. Romney’s career in the private sector and in government had largely been marked by attempts to avoid risk. Romney told Bill Bain in 1983 that he would not take the assignment of starting Bain Capital without a guarantee that if it failed he could return to

his previous job at Bain & Company. He even required that Bain promise, in the event of failure, to “craft a cover story saying that Romney’s return to Bain & Company was needed because of his value as a consultant,” according to the book The Real Romney by Boston Globe reporters Michael Kranish and Scott Helman. Bain told Kranish and Helman that Romney’s conditions for taking the job at Bain Capital assured that there would be “no professional or financial risk.” Once Romney launched Bain Capital, he focused the private equity group’s investments on “mundane corners of the econo-

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govern if elected. In fact, he left no doubt: Entitlement reform would be front and center. Give me a mandate to fix this, Romney communicated with his choice, or reject me before I get into office.


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“When he makes jokes about being unemployed or a waitress pinching him on the butt, it does snap your head back, and you say, ‘What’s he talking about?’” Axelrod said at the time. Romney’s greatest troubles have been with the base of his own party, which has viewed him with suspicion. Romney’s fragile relationship with the conservative grassroots put his candidacy in peril in February, when former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), whose deeply conservative views on social issues made him popular with the base, won three contests on Feb. 7—Missouri, Colorado and Minnesota—and was on the verge of winning the Michigan primary on Feb. 28. If Santorum had won Michigan, all bets would have been off. Despite his penchant for putting his foot in his mouth, Santorum was gathering serious momentum among the GOP party faithful. Romney narrowly defeated him in Michigan, however, and held off a few more challenges from him in the subsequent weeks, until Santorum finally dropped out in early April. Santorum, who took some of the hardest swings at Romney, represented the views of a large swath of the conservative electorate. In late March, he called Romney “the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama.” He was talking narrowly

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my: makers of wheel rims, photo albums, and handbags,” rather than jumping into the burgeoning 1980s world of tech and computers, Kranish and Helman wrote. As a politician in Massachusetts, Romney waffled back and forth between a pro-choice and pro-life position when running for the U.S. Senate in 1994 and then as the state’s governor nearly a decade later. That was the most visible and egregious example of flip-flopping, but saying one thing and then reversing himself has become a pattern for Romney during his political career. He even told a reporter in 2007 that his favorite book was Huckleberry Finn (an odd answer for a then-60-year-old man), contradicting an earlier assertion to Fox News that his favorite book was Battlefield Earth, the science fiction novel by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. Romney’s track record has led many to question whether Romney believes in anything. He has been labeled a cipher, phony, weird, awkward, cowardly. “Presidential campaigns are like MRIs of the soul,” Obama adviser David Axelrod said in a famous Politico story one year ago that said the Obama strategy, in lieu of a positive campaign, would aim to destroy Romney.


“LEADERS ARE SUPPOSED TO FIX PROBLEMS.”

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Romney wrote. “If we did, I’m convinced that we would do whatever it takes to set things right.” But up until the moment that Romney appeared the morning of Aug. 11 with Ryan on a stage in Norfolk, Va., in front of the USS Wisconsin—a World War II-era battleship—he had not talked much about debt or deficits or Medicare in the 2012 campaign. Instead he had focused singlemindedly on jobs, the economy, and Obama’s record on both. There was little expectation that he would change course with the selection of his running mate. For good reason. Polls have consistently shown jobs and the economy, by an order of magnitude, to be the top concern for voters. While the deficit has often been in the top three, debt, the deficit’s monstrously ugly stepchild, has been farther down the list. Reforming Medicare is something that has not been popular even with many in the Tea Party. A survey of grassroots conservatives

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about Romney’s ability to run against Obama on the basis of his health care law, but for many conservatives, the qualification was not necessary. “Conservatives don’t trust Mr. Romney in part because he gives them little reason to do so,” wrote the Wall Street Journal editorial board in mid-February, at the height of Santorum’s rise. “What Mr. Romney needs is to make a better, positive case for his candidacy beyond his business resume.” Romney had made promises before that he intended to address entitlement reform. “I believe we can save Social Security and Medicare with a few commonsense reforms, and—unlike President Obama—I’m not afraid to put them on the table,” Romney said in February at CPAC. In his 2010 book, No Apologies: The Case For American Greatness, Romney devoted an entire chapter to entitlement reform. The chapter was titled “The Worst Generation,” and Romney wrote that the baby boomer crowd could earn that title if they did not solve the debt and entitlement crisis. “The problem is so deep-seated that relatively few of us in the postwar ‘boomer’ generation even understand at a basic level how we are compromising future generations,”


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grich advised waiting until after the election, and then launching “an online communication with the American people in which he walks them methodically through the scale of the challenges and the range of the choices.” “The difference is, the morning you wake up and say, ‘OK, I gotta live with this guy for four years,’ he has all of the cultural power of the presidency at that point,” Gingrich said. “And therefore he can have conversations and achieve things you can’t do before the [election].” “I mean from now until the election he’s gotta win. It’s a very narrow-focused problem,” Gingrich told me. “I disagree with that totally,” said Coburn, who has long been a Gingrich antagonist. “Because if that’s the calculus you make you don’t get a mandate to fix it.” “What needs to be heard in the campaign rhetoric is, ‘Here’s the real problem, let’s have the real debates over the possible solutions. But let’s quit denying the problems,’” Coburn said. Choosing Ryan as a running mate settled that argument. Romney made it clear that he doesn’t see a campaign centered around entitlement reform as political suicide. At the same time, he’s also opened himself up to Democratic attacks and, assuredly, a flotilla of attack ads.

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by the Washington-based group FreedomWorks in the fall of 2011 found tepid support for overhauling Medicare and Social Security.  As Romney pollster Neil Newhouse put it in a November 2011 briefing with reporters to discuss the findings of focus groups with women: “I can guarantee, the word entitlements didn’t come up in any of the focus groups we did. You know what, I don’t think the words Social Security and Medicare came up. It really was not an issue.” So it was to my surprise that in July, Romney’s top advisers were split between those who thought Romney should play it safe and stick to a bland economy-andjobs message during the Republican National Convention and into the fall, and those who thought the presumptive Republican nominee should go on offense on the issue of entitlement reform and Medicare. This debate was also raging outside the Romney campaign, among conservatives. Some said it was unthinkable that Romney would campaign on entitlement reform. “It’s impossible,” Gingrich told me when I asked him in late July whether Romney should talk about the Ryan plan. Gin-


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AP PHOTO/DOMINO’S PIZZA, SCOTT GRIES

FINGER POINTING

A few reasons fed the belief among Romney loyalists that their man could run with something that even some in his own campaign said was a Democratic issue, not a Republican one. First, Ryan last year discarded the most radical elements of his original budget plan and partnered with a Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, to come up with a compromise, lending a vital bipartisan flavor to his proposal. Second, while Romney once said he would have signed Ryan’s

first plan into law, he has otherwise kept from fully embracing it, insisting over and over that he has his own plan that differs from Ryan’s in some details. That gave him some space to say that he would not include the $716 billion in cuts from Medicare that were part of Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act, which Ryan also included in his budget. Finally, Obama has yet to offer specifics about reducing long-term debt and reforming entitlements. Obama was hurt politically by his rejection of the Bowles-Simpson commission’s recommendations, which made him look like he was opposed to any effort to reduce the deficit and the debt, even though

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Romney as managing director of Bain Capital in 1998, pictured with chairman of Domino’s Pizza Thomas Monaghan.


2080, Geithner remarked sarcastically, “Nice chart.” Ryan chastised Geithner, with a full room of lawmakers, staff and spectators looking on, as well as a C-SPAN audience: “Leaders are supposed to fix problems,” the 42-year-old Ryan told the 51-year-old Treasury secretary. Geithner lashed out: “We’re not coming before you to say we have a definitive solution to our long-term problem. What we do know is we don’t like yours,” he said, irritated. Asked about this comment by CNBC’s Larry Kudlow in July, Geithner was defensive: “Let me say, I said we don’t have a plan for the next century. OK? We don’t have a plan to solve the problem for the next century. But we have an excellent plan for the next 10 years, the next 25 years.”   Yuval Levin, a former White House policy adviser to President George W. Bush, has made the clearest case for why Romney’s

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“THEY WANT TO TURN MEDICARE INTO A VOUCHER PROGRAM.”

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he eventually tried to reach a grand bargain with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). That deal fell apart, leading to lots of fingerpointing and recriminations. As for Medicare’s long-term costs, Obama and his supporters have argued that Obamacare is sufficient to bring down health care costs. Other supporters, however, such as former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles—whose name has been mentioned as a potential Treasury secretary in a second Obama term—have said Obamacare does not do enough to bring down health care costs. The president also hasn’t done what Ryan did: present a plan specifically aimed at curbing the debt over the next few decades. In fact, the Obama administration has shown a level of derision for Ryan’s plan. A comment by the Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, is sure to appear in a Romney campaign ad in the not-too-distant future. On Feb. 16, Geithner appeared before the House Budget Committee. In the committee chairman’s seat sat Ryan. The two engaged in a tense exchange over the country’s long-term debt load. As Ryan showed a chart illustrating the debt burden into the year


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second-ranking Senate Democrat, told me in an interview in late July, before Ryan was on anybody’s radar as a serious potential running mate for Romney. “I feel that way and virtually every Democrat shares that feeling.” “Then came Ryan-Wyden, an attempt to moderate it and to try to find a way to save money in Medicare and not destroy it. So we’re working on that possibility,” Durbin said, adding that he was working on his own plan with former White House health care adviser Zeke Emanuel, brother to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former White House chief of staff. So while Romney’s choice of Ryan was undoubtedly a political gamble, he likely studied it and concluded that it wasn’t as risky as it appeared. “I would argue that the entirety of the political risk on this issue is borne by President Obama,” wrote Romney’s top policy adviser, Lanhee Chen, in an e-mail to me. It was a biased and overly simplistic statement by Chen, but it was also the kind of thing no Republican could have imagined saying in previous presidential elections.

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Medicare plan would stand up under criticism. The Romney plan, Levin wrote in National Review, would essentially introduce a governmentrun exchange where private plans compete with the existing Medicare program, and beneficiaries are guaranteed at least their current level of benefits, with hopes that competition brings costs down for the government. Most important, Levin pointed out, this plan was no longer a voucher plan—the key criticism of Ryan’s original Medicare proposal. The new plan was a premium support model that would guarantee that benefits delivered to seniors would maintain their value. The only question, Levin wrote, is whether the privatesector competition would reduce health care costs or not. “Either way, Medicare beneficiaries will have the same comprehensive, guaranteed insurance coverage they have now,” Levin wrote. Even top Democrats, like Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), referred to the Ryan-Wyden plan as a reasonable proposal, at least in the days before Ryan was on the Republican ticket. Ryan’s original plan “spelled the end of Medicare,” Durbin, the


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JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES

THE BAIN WAY

When Beth Myers, the top Romney adviser tasked with overseeing the VP search, briefed reporters on the process after Ryan was announced, it was clear that Romney had made the biggest decision of his campaign the way he has always approached high-stakes moments. Kranish and Helman, in The Real Romney, summed up the strategic mindset that came to define Romney during his days in private equity at Bain Capital: “The Bain way, as it became known, was intensely analytical and data-driven.” At a conference in Washington in 2007, Romney explained his

approach to making decisions as having two stages. The first step was to “wallow in the data.” The second was to have a vigorous debate on the right path forward. Romney’s search for a vice presidential candidate was a case study of “the Bain way,” a clinic in organization and planning. Myers was assigned to the task in April, as Romney was wrapping up his final skirmishes with an exhausted and defeated Santorum. By May 1, Romney and Myers had a short list, and for two months, they went over “preliminary reports” on the candidates and spoke with each of them. On July 2, Romney had “completed folders” on each person on the short list. Romney kicked the decision around with at least nine top advisers. “Everyone was very candid with Mitt. They offered their perspec-

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Romney and senior advisor Beth Myers aboard his campaign plane before departure.


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Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) holds up a copy of Congressional Budget Office’s “The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2011 to 2021.”

ALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES

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tive,” Myers said. “He also talked to a lot of people outside that group informally. A lot of people.” She repeated it again for emphasis: “He talked to a lot of people.” Romney had made up his mind by Aug. 1. He offered Ryan the job on Aug. 5, in an elaborately arranged secret meeting, and announced his pick on Aug. 11. Even the rollout was executed without a hiccup. Yet there was also some evidence that Romney’s choice of Ryan was shaped by shifting political fortunes. By August, it appeared that playing it safe wasn’t working. Romney was slipping in the polls, his personal approval and popularity sinking under the

weight of the Obama campaign’s brutal attacks on his character and personality. Running only against Obama wasn’t cutting it. The day before Romney announced Ryan as his running mate, the Romney campaign gathered reporters in a windowless second-floor conference room in its Boston headquarters and insisted that the polls meant little. “Guys it’s the middle of summer. It’s the doldrums,” said a senior Romney campaign official, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified. “If there was movement you would see it in Rasmussen and you would see it in Gallup. And we’re not seeing it,” the official said, walking reporters through a PowerPoint briefing that focused on how the Obama campaign had outspent


Even if the policy picture looked better for Romney than many would assume, the question still remains: Can he make a campaign about Medicare work politically? Romney, speaking to supporters at an Aug. 16 fundraiser in Greenville, S.C., acknowledged that “Usually Republicans are talking about a lot of other things” besides Medicare. But, he said, “the president’s plan does something people normally don’t associate with

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BRING IT

Democrats and that is he cuts Medicare. … So we’re going to be going around the country talking about Medicare.” After Romney picked Ryan, it didn’t take long for him to make clear that he would not wait for Democrats to attack him on Medicare. When the presumptive nominee and his running mate sat down with CBS News’ Bob Schieffer for their first joint interview, Romney himself went after the roughly $700 billion in cuts to Medicare that were part of the Affordable Care Act that Congress passed and Obama signed in the spring of 2010. “There’s only one president that I know of in history that robbed Medicare, $716 billion to pay for a new risky program of his own that we call Obamacare,” Romney told Schieffer. “What Paul Ryan and I have talked about is saving Medicare, is providing people greater choice in Medicare, making sure it’s there for current seniors. No changes, by the way, for current seniors, or those nearing retirement,” Romney said. “But looking for young people down the road and saying, ‘We’re going to give you a bigger choice.’ In America, the nature of this country has been giving people more freedom, more choices.

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the Romney campaign on TV advertising since April in key battleground states and cities. In retrospect, the briefing looked like an attempt by the Romney campaign to tamp down any speculation that they were panicking as they prepared to announce Ryan for VP. “Clearly Romney’s team feels that they had to do something. They must feel like they are losing ground. They’re clearly seeing something that I’m not privy to, but it’s enough to scare them to do this,” said a Republican operative with a long history at the Republican National Committee, who did not want to be identified. “If anyone says they’re not, they’re full of shit. Something’s there.”


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respond to Romney’s attacks on Medicare. His first public comments on Ryan stayed focused on budget and tax policy, and the impact on the middle class. But four days after the Ryan announcement, on Tuesday, August 14, Obama engaged on Medicare in an appearance in Dubuque, Iowa. “They are just throwing everything at the wall to see if it sticks,” Obama said. “Here’s what you need to know: I have strengthened Medicare.” The president said he had saved seniors millions of dollars on prescription drugs, a reference to closing the donut hole in Medicare Part D, and he said his cuts “will save Medicare money by getting rid of wasteful spending in the health care system—reforms that will not touch your Medicare benefits—not by a dime.” “Now, Mr. Romney and his running mate have a very different plan. They want to turn Medicare into a voucher program,” Obama said, referring to Ryan’s first plan— not the Wyden-Ryan plan that Romney had endorsed—to argue it would increase costs for seniors. Hari Sevugan, a former Obama campaign and DNC official now working for education reformer Michelle Rhee’s group StudentsFirst, said Romney’s gambit was

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That’s how we make Medicare work down the road.” On Tuesday, three days after announcing Ryan as their VP candidate, the Romney campaign put out a succinct 30-second TV ad slamming Obama as an enemy of Medicare. “You paid into Medicare for years,” the narrator says. “Every paycheck. Now when you need it, Obama has cut $716 billion from Medicare. Why? To pay for Obamacare.” “So now the money you paid for your guaranteed health care is going to a massive new government program that’s not for you,” the ad concludes. “The Romney-Ryan plan protects Medicare benefits for today’s seniors and strengthens the plan for the next generation.” Democrats’ heads exploded. “Bring it,” a Democratic strategist close to the White House, who spoke about the administration’s frame of mind on the condition they not be named, told me. “I can imagine the conversation within the Romney campaign where they convince themselves that going on the offense on this issue that’s perceived as a big vulnerability is super smart.” “But it’s not [smart],” the Democrat crowed. “It is just what they feared, a huge target on their backs.” Obama did not immediately


NIKKI KAHN/THE WASHINGTON POST VIA GETTY IMAGES

“WE’RE GOING TO WIN”

If Romney were to win the election, leading Democrats scoffed at the idea that he would ever be able to push Ryan-type reforms through Congress, particularly regarding Medicare. “There’s no way that that will ever happen,” former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell told me.

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Registered Republican Ross Murty serves up supper in Davenport, Iowa.

their own terms rather than fighting it out on Democratic ground of protecting against cuts,” Sevugan said. “Talk about Medicare in the context of broader fiscal soundness and deficits, and the courage to do something about entitlements.”

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not likely to work politically. “Voters buy what they are already pre-disposed to believe,” Sevugan wrote in an e-mail. “Folks don’t think Democrats generally, and Obama—who has staked his presidency on expanding health care—specifically are the villains in the Medicare story. Unfortunately for Romney and Ryan that distinction belongs to them.” Sevugan noted that Romney’s offensive against Obama was an attempt to use Democratic strategy against a Democrat. “I think they’d be better off trying to define the issue on


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And yet, and yet...elections change things. If Romney does win after having put his plan on the table this fall, that might create a mandate for reform that would give Democrats cover to support a compromise proposal, like the one Wyden sketched out with Ryan in December 2011. Durbin acknowledged that something has to be done, but expressed pessimism about whether the small bipartisan group of senators currently working on a deficit reduction package will be able to reach an agreement on Medicare. “We have the different options out, and I don’t know how far we can go in choosing one. We can choose, perhaps, a goal in savings, but if we have to drill down into particulars on Medicare reform, it may be beyond any group of eight senators to get that done. You need a much larger conversation,” Durbin said. After Ryan was announced, I e-mailed Rhoades to get a sense of how risky Romney thought his pick had been. The campaign manager, caught up in the day-today combat of the race, was not interested in nuance. “We’re going to win,” he wrote back. “And Mitt’s going to fix the mess.”

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“Even if Republicans control the Senate, and the House and the presidency, no Democratic senator could allow that to happen. It would be filibustered to death. That’s just a non-starter. And it’s a non-starter for a good reason: It won’t work.” Durbin agreed. “It takes time. You’ve got to put in place skilled and weathered veterans of the process who understand the budget, number one, and the politics of Capitol Hill, number two,” Durbin said. “And he is assembling a team, he would be, and it’s unlikely he could achieve that level of mastery in a short time.” Romney himself has indicated he is not interested in trying to force reforms that don’t have bipartisan support. “Where there are opportunities for people of reasonable minds to come together and find common ground, that’s the kind of legislation I like,” Romney told CNBC’s Larry Kudlow in July. “The idea of one party jamming through something over the objection of the other tends to divide the nation, not make us a more safe and prosperous place. So if there’s common ground, why I’m always willing to have that kind of a conversation,” Romney said.


Children in North Carolina enjoy preschools funded by the state, such as this school in Raleigh.


Will Preschool Budget Cuts Damage a Generation Three days before the end of preschool, Ms.

Sabrena and the children sit around the table playing Bingo on boards the size of placemats. Nawal only needs one more tile to win. Tiny and delicate, with dark, serious eyes, she has quietly assembled a dangerous arsenal. Ms. Sabrena notices and raises an eyebrow. “You have to watch out for the quiet ones,” she says. But a few moments later, when Nawal’s number comes up, Nawal won’t say the one word her teacher wants to hear. Ms. Sabrena encourages her: “What do you say?” Nawal places her tile on the board, looks straight ahead and says nothing. Ms. Sabrena—Sabrena Robinson to those over three feet tall—works at a childcare center in Raleigh, North Carolina, a state with one of the most acclaimed child care systems in the country. From the outside, the center looks like nothing special:

BY SAKI KNAFO PHOTOGRAPHS BY BRYAN REGAN


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SMART START?

a low, cinder-block building with a big backyard. What’s unusual is Ms. Sabrena’s classroom. Of the 100 or so children enrolled at the school, eighteen of them—those in Ms. Sabrena’s care—are part of something called North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten, a free state program designed to ensure that every child in the state is ready for kindergarten by the age of five.   In recent years, a number of studies have shown that preKindergarten programs can help low-income children succeed in later grades and eventually get good jobs. Many researchers feel

that investing in pre-K is the best and most cost-effective way to lift children out of poverty and to build up the economy. As one child care advocate in North Carolina put it, “There are only 2,000 days between the time a baby is born and the time she shows up for kindergarten and her experiences in this time will determine how her brain is wired.”   Education experts all around the country have cited North Carolina’s system as one of the best examples of what states can do to ensure a bright future for children deemed “at risk” of struggling in school. The state funds not just one but two related programs. While the first, North Carolina Pre-Kinder-

Sabrena Robinson is a preschool teacher in North Carolina, a state with one of the best child care systems in the country.


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garten, only enrolls four-year-olds, a second, Smart Start, offers a variety of services for children ranging in age from birth to five. No other state has gone further in investing in young children, so last year, when legislators in the state slashed the budget for both programs by millions of dollars and made several other policy changes that would have prevented thousands of low-income 4-year-olds from getting a free education, the news upset teachers and child care advocates well beyond the borders of North Carolina. In 2010, for the first time in a century, Republicans had come to power in the state legislature, and like many other lawmakers around the country, they had responded to the recession by pulling money out of programs for the poor. Thousands of lowincome kids who would have otherwise started preschool in September were put on a waitlist. Political turmoil ensued. Six months after the cuts were made, the governor, a Democrat and a former teacher, came up with enough money to take most of the kids off the wait list, but by then

Studies find that children who receive Pre-Kindergarten services go on to get better grades and make more money than those who don’t, and that they’re happier, more confident, and have fewer psychological problems later on. only half a year remained until the start of kindergarten. Ms. Sabrena wasn’t sure that would be enough time for Nawal. Nawal was Ms. Sabrena’s most challenging case*, and Ms. Sabrena had a few theories as to why. The child didn’t speak English at home (her parents came from what is now North Sudan) and, as far as Ms. Sabrena could tell, she’d spent little time around other children before starting the pre-K program. (The terms pre-K and preschool are often used interchangeably, but educators tend to reserve “preK” for those programs specifically geared toward preparing four-year-

* The names of some students and parents have been changed at the parents’ request.


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olds for kindergarten.) Nawal’s parents were strangers to the country and they didn’t seem to have many friends here. Even if they could afford swimming classes or ballet or karate, Ms. Sabrena wasn’t sure they’d know where to look. In some ways Nawal’s situation wasn’t so different from that of her classmates. Most of the children in the state program come from poor families, and many of the kids in Ms. Sabrena’s class

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tested their teacher’s capacity for maintaining a calm demeanor. One of the girls would barely eat anything all day; the way she pushed her food around on the plate reminded Ms. Sabrena of an anorexic teenager. Another girl had to meet with a speech therapist because she couldn’t pronounce simple words. Even so, Nawal stood out. As far as Ms. Sabrena was concerned, none of her classmates were more “at risk” than her. Sometimes Ms. Sabrena wondered whether Nawal suffered from selective mutism, an extreme social phobia characterized

Preschool children enjoy recess in Raleigh, North Carolina.


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by an inability to speak in certain settings. For the first month of school, she didn’t talk at all. When the other kids filled buckets in the sandbox or made makebelieve cakes in the make-believe kitchen, she’d stand against the wall with her hands balled by her side, staring into the distance. After some time in the classroom, she’d slowly started “coming out,” as Ms. Sabrena put it. She began sitting on the rug during circle time, joined the other girls at the make-believe stove, rode a tricycle in circles around the playground. By the end of three months, she was even talking a little. She talked quietly, never more than a word or two at a time, and only when someone talked to her first, and rarely to grownups. But she talked. Recalling this discovery, Ms. Sabrena raised her hands to the heavens and did an impression of a choir singer praising the Lord. As Nawal had settled into the classroom routine, Ms. Sabrena began taking videos of her on her phone. She intended to give them to Nawal’s mom to give to Nawal’s kindergarten teacher so that the teacher wouldn’t make the mistake of putting her in a special ed class. Ms. Sabrena didn’t think she

“There are only 2,000 days between the time a baby is born and the time she shows up for kindergarten and her experiences in this time will determine how her brain is wired.” needed special classes. All Nawal needed, she felt, was a little more time. But now the end of the program was only three days away. “Nawal,” said Ms. Sabrena, “will you call the numbers?” The ever enthusiastic Bryan came to the rescue: “I will call the numbers Ms. Sabrena!” “Hold on,” said Ms. Sabrena. “I was asking Nawal. Nawal?” A GROWING NUMBER of education experts believe that there’s no better way to improve the prospects of “disadvantaged” children than by sending them to preschool. Studies find that children who receive intensive pre-Kindergarten services go on to get better grades and make more money than those who don’t, and turn out happier and more confident and have fewer psychological


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HUFFINGTON Happy Face 08.26.12 Preschool is part of the state sponsored North Carolina PreKindergarten program.


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problems later in life. This idea has become commonplace in the world of educational studies, but that wasn’t always the case. Until recently, the mind of the young child was as obscure as a distant galaxy. People who believed in the importance of preschool had little hard evidence to back up their convictions. The field is still a “frontier,” as one advocate put it, but advances in brain science and data collection have made it possible to venture far deeper into this frontier than ever before. Some scientists now test the brains of young children for cortisol, a hormone associated with stress that is believed to interfere with normal brain development. Others slow down videos of infants to the point that every little eyelid flutter, every twitch of the lip can be coded and interpreted. As a result of these advances and discoveries, and of the advocacy groups that promote them, many states around the country have taken it upon themselves to provide preschool services for free. To gain the political support they need, the architects of these programs have argued that preschool helps not only poor people, but people in general. They cite the work of the economist James Heckman, invariably

mentioning his Nobel Prize before noting that, according to his recent research, every $1 invested in preschool turns into $7 to $9 when the program’s graduates complete their education and start contributing to the economy. Advocates also point out that many state programs actually improve the quality of private childcare by requiring hybrid centers like Ms. Sabrena’s to meet a set of statewide standards in all of their classrooms, public and private. And they make the case that every kid in a public-school class benefits when the teacher doesn’t have to spend hours dealing with complex cases like Nawal’s. Last spring, Steve Barnett, the head of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, released a report

Kate Gallagher is the director of the preschool at Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute.


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touting the growth of state-funded pre-K as “education’s biggest success story” of the last decade. “Enrollment has grown dramatically and, in a number of states, so has quality,” he wrote. “But after years of steady progress, our data show that many states’ commitments to their youngest citizens are now slipping.” Of the 39 states with some form of public pre-K program, about half have cut spending since the start of the recession. Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, and Ohio now enroll a smaller percentage of fouryear-olds than they did a year ago, and Arizona has scrapped its pre-K program altogether. In many states, legislators are fighting over money. At the center of the controversy is the question of whether preschools make a crucial difference for children. So it’s no accident that one of the fiercest debates is playing out in North Carolina, where all three of the state’s big research universities—Duke, University of North Carolina and North Carolina State—have contributed some of the strongest available evidence showing it does. The most influential study comes from a place called the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, a branch of

A growing number of education scholars and scientists believe that there’s no better, more cost-effective way to improve the prospects of “disadvantaged” children like Nawal than preschool. UNC just 20 minutes down the road from where Nawal goes to school. Along with investigating the effects of early childhood education, the scholars run a preschool of their own and conduct evaluations of other schools and programs. The North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten program earned the highest rating. One afternoon this summer, Kate Gallagher, the director of the preschool, strolled through an empty classroom while the children played outside. She pointed out the shag carpet and a pile of pillows.  “To get our top rating, every classroom has to have a soft corner,” she said. She gestured toward the shelves of blocks and flashed a conspiratorial grin. As it turns out, some preschools have removed blocks from their classrooms in an attempt to


Latesha Foushee is a former student and current teacher at the Frank Porter Graham Institute.


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get kids ready for the standardized tests that they’re now required to take every year starting in the third grade. Gallagher said she was interested in developing architects and engineers, not just test-takers.  “The block center has to be big enough, has to have enough cool stuff in it and”—she narrowed her eyes like Clint Eastwood—“it won’t be interfered with.” Outside in the courtyard, children were swarming over rubber mats. Some were drawing on the ground with chalk, some were

steering ships through a tub of water. A boy ran by with a bucket on his head. “Things you’ll notice in high-quality programs: not a lot of kids are just wandering around,” Gallagher said. Like much of the current scholarship on early childhood education, Gallagher’s ideas of what constitutes a high quality program are rooted in something called the Carolina Abecedarian Project, an experiment that began at the Frank Porter Graham Institute back in 1972, some decades before Gallagher began working there. The program’s “abecedarians” (children learning their ABC’s) came from

N.C. governor Bev Perdue tried in vain to raise sales taxes. Many believe raising taxes will help benefit programs like PreKindergarten.


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poor families and received a full day of care every weekday from infancy to the age of five. Their education consisted of “games” (blocks figured prominently) and emphasized the development of strong relationships between children and teachers. Reading and numbers were considered essential, but not to the exclusion of listening and playing and sharing. Researchers interviewed and tested the children every few years, comparing them with a control group, and found them more likely to graduate from high school and college, more likely to work consistently throughout their lives, and less likely to use public assistance. This year, the oldest of these children turned forty. One of the beneficiaries of this experiment was Latesha Foushee, a woman who had such fond memories of her time at the Institute that she pursued a career in early childhood education and eventually got a job there. As Gallagher expounded on the blur of activity in the courtyard, Foushee stood over the tub, watching a small boy navigate a pirate ship through an ocean visible only to him. When Foushee was growing up in Raleigh, she said, she had two best friends. They were all from

poor families, but of the three, only Foushee lucked out and was accepted into the Institute. One friend now drives a forklift for the Keebler plant where she’s worked since dropping out of high school, and the other recently posted something on Facebook about gastric surgery. “She was extremely obese,” Foushee said. “She must have been 500 pounds.” Foushee graduated from high school on time, received her childcare certification from a community college, and spent her 20s working as a preschool teacher and leading a youth group at her church. She got a job at Frank Porter Graham in her 30s, and she’s now finishing her associate’s degree while raising two kids of her own. She’s also in the process of adopting a 15-year-old neighbor whose grandmother died recently. Even a critic of the Institute— and there are many—would agree with the basic point of Foushee’s story: preschool can help children overcome great obstacles. When conservatives in North Carolina want to justify cutting the preschool budget, they refer to the work of scholars like Eric Hanushek, at Stanford University, and Chester E. Finn Jr., formerly of the Reagan administration and now of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Ohio. Finn argues that public pre-


Bryan, a student in Ms. Sabrena’s class, poses for a picture.


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school should be restricted to kids who most need it and can’t otherwise afford it, and Hanushek believes that North Carolina’s system could cut down on expenses. But neither contend that children don’t need preschool. Instead they ask: How much do they need? And how much should it cost? At Frank Porter Graham, the answer to both of those questions is “A lot.” For Foushee and the other participants in the study, the time spent in class was just part of a very large package. The program’s staff “provided transportation, they provided diapers, they provided wipes, they provided food and milk,” Foushee recalled. On their birthdays, the children were made to accompany a teacher on the long and frightening journey up a flight of stairs to the health clinic, where a nurse doled out vaccination shots. “I used to hate my birthdays,” Foushee said. But she never got measles or hepatitis.   Some critics feel that the Frank Porter Graham preschool is simply too expensive to replicate on a mass scale. Hanushek, the Stanford scholar, argues that “some of the evidence about the importance of pre-K comes in extraordinary instances and extraordinarily ex-

“Some of the evidence about the importance of Pre-K comes in extraordinary instances and extraordinarily expensive circumstances.” pensive circumstances.” He questions North Carolina’s practice of hiring one teacher for every nine four-year-olds. By employing fewer teachers, he says, preschools could afford to pay more and attract the best people to the job. In North Carolina, the state pays pre-K teachers less than $30,000 a year, which is actually several thousands dollars more than a teacher could expect to make in a classroom funded by federal subsidies. Still, it’s a lot less than what a qualified teacher could earn at a private preschool or in a classroom for older kids. In Ms. Sabrena’s class, where there are eighteen children and two adults (Ms. Sabrena’s stepfather is the assistant teacher), each child costs the state about $8,000 a year. At the Duke School, a top private school in the Raleigh Durham area, the sliding-scale fee for pre-Kindergarten tuition ranges from $2,850 to nearly $15,000. And while Ms.


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Sabrena’s student-to-teacher ratio is considered very good, Duke’s is better. In a section of the website titled “Our Advantage” the school explains why it employs one teacher for just every eight four-year-olds: “Small class sizes allow teachers to form close relationships with students and families—and to tailor instruction to the needs and interests of the individual.” “ALAN?” “Here.” “Alana.” “Here.”

“Bryan?” “Here!” “Nawal?” Silence. “Nawal?” Nawal is sitting on the rug with her skinny legs folded, her back straight, her hands clasped in front of her belly. She’s looking at Ms. Sabrena with an expression that is neither angry nor friendly— Ms. Sabrena thinks of it as “stoic.” Her eyes are intelligent, observant. “Nawal. Can you give me a ‘here’ today?” Zanaya, a big, rambunctious fiveyear-old, presses the heels of her hands into the carpet so that her butt hovers above the floor. Bryan

Judge Howard Manning ruled that low-income children have the right to a sound education, prompting the state to funnel money into pre-K.


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rocks back and forth. Ms. Sabrena looks up from her list. “Maybe you can give me a ‘here’ tomorrow and make me so happy.” Tomorrow will be Nawal’s last chance to participate in the ritual of attendance-taking before startng kindergarten, and although this might seem like a small thing, Ms. Sabrena doesn’t think of it that way. Ms. Sabrena spends part of each day reading to the kids and teaching numbers and letters and days of the week, but she knows that to succeed in school, they’ll need to know how to do more than read and count. They’ll need to know how to play with other kids and how to follow directions, how to sit still and listen when someone else is talking (a particular challenge for the energetic Bryan). And they’ll need to be able to say “here” or “present” when the teacher calls their name. The North Carolina program, like the childcare center at the Frank Porter Graham Institute, aims to help kids grow in a wide variety of ways.  A lot of that development is supposed to take place in the playground or at the “activity centers,” discrete areas of the classroom where kids can curl up with a book or play board games or collaborate

on a tower of blocks. Four times a day, Ms. Sabrena gives the cue: “You can go to your centers now.” Today, after she takes attendance, Zanaya, Alan and Bryan head over to a table and open up the watercolor sets. Nawal and Jayla go to the “housekeeping center.” Nawal places a little doily in every cup in the muffin tray, as meticulous in her play as she is in her silence. Ms. Sabrena sits and watches, breaking her own silence every now and then to ask a provocative question. A query about a water color rainbow prompts a debate between three girls on whether black is a color. In many ways, Ms. Sabrena seems ideally suited for this job—she’s firm, patient and has a master’s degree in counseling from North Carolina Central University. She’s also up to the physical challenges of chasing four-year olds around a playground: a purple bruise on her arm attests to her weekends spent playing flag-football in cities around the south. And then there’s the fact that she’s literally had nearly a lifetime of experience. Her mother, Joyce Robinson, founded the center when Sabrena was a child, and Sabrena’s sister, stepfather and uncle all work there. Sabrena got her first job there when she was 16, and continued working there through college. But she doesn’t plan to stay much


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longer. After a stint in marketing and event-planning at Duke, she returned to the preschool business because it was “basically a way to spend more time with my son,” she said. She described it as a “sacrificial decision.” As Hanushek said, good teachers require more than experience and education. “We have to pay the best teachers a lot,” is how he put it. Ms. Sabrena, a single mother, earns the standard state salary of less than $30,000, pulling her and her son below the poverty line. If she

worked in one of the private classrooms at the center, she could, in theory, ask her mother for a raise, but child-care centers often operate on the thinnest of margins. “I have the skills, I have the education to make more money,” Ms. Sabrena said as the children settled on their cots during nap-time. “So why not go do it? This state does not seem to value education that much, unfortunately.” Across the classroom, Nawal lay flat on her stomach with her sneakers on, her sheet folded under her in an untouched square of linen. Ms. Sabrena opened her laptop and went online to look for jobs.

Ms. Sabrena and the rest of the staff of Happy Face Preschool.


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IS IT POSSIBLE to lower the costs of pre-K and still retain the qualities that make it so beneficial to low-income children?  In the kidfilled courtyard of the Frank Porter Graham Institute, Kate Gallagher offered a blunt reply: “No.”   Many advocates hope that the November elections might bring in more legislators willing to raise taxes on people in the upper income bracket. Last spring in Raleigh, Governor Bev Perdue attempted something along those lines when she proposed a sales-tax hike of threequarters of a cent. To no one’s surprise, the Republican legislature shot her down. Thom Thillis, the speaker of the house, called her plan “more of the same failed approach that led to the fiscal mess the Republican legislative majority inherited.” Recently, local politicians in both parties have accused each other of exploiting the debate for political gain. Democrats say that Republicans have tried to play on people’s fear of Big Government; Republicans say that Democrats have pandered to people’s affection for children without providing enough evidence that the system actually works. In an attempt to save it, some advocates have tried to tamp down the rhetoric, noting that one

Above: Former N.C. Gov. Jim Hunt talks about early education in 2007. Left: Attorney Robb Leandro is an advocate of early childcare education.

of the most outspoken supporters of North Carolina Pre-K is Robert Orr, a retired state Supreme Court justice and a Republican. They also point to Governor Jim Hunt, a popular Democratic governor who helped lay the foundations for the state’s investments in early childhood education back in the 90s and recently pushed to save the program by befriending Justin Burr, a Republican legislator 50 years his junior. Robb Leandro, a 33-year-old lawyer in Raleigh, has a unique per-


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“I’m a Republican and I’m a huge conservative. My parents view that if you work hard, the sweat of your efforts will pay off. But the second piece of that for me is, as a Republican, providing opportunity at the earliest age is one of the best things you can do to promote hard work.” spective on the controversy. When he was 14, he was picked as the lead plaintiff in Leandro vs. The State of North Carolina, a landmark case in the history of North Carolina law. Robb had grown up in a poor, rural county where the tax revenues were so low that the schools couldn’t afford science labs or decent sports uniforms. A team of activist lawyers made the case that the state had shunned its constitutional obligation to provide Robb and his classmates with an adequate education. A first baseman on his high school team, Robb was particularly concerned about the uniforms. “I thought it would be awesome, when we played another team in sports, to not look like the 70’s Astros,” he said. As it turned out, the case ended up being about much more than the injudicious use of polyester. In 1997, it went up to the state Su-

preme Court and was assigned to a judge named Howard Manning, who reviewed more than 600 pieces of evidence and listened to the testimony of over 40 witnesses, among them Dr. Ellen Peisner-Feinberg, a researcher at the Frank Porter Graham Institute. After 22 days, Manning ruled that North Carolina had indeed violated the state constitution by failing to provide at-risk children with an opportunity for a “sound and basic” education. The state appealed and the case went back to the Supreme Court, but Manning’s main ruling held. Starting in 2004, the state began funneling money into pre-K. Robb Leandro, meanwhile, went on to law school and landed a job at the firm that argued his case. Every few years he still gets calls from reporters asking his opinion on some education-related matter or another. There’ve been a lot of calls lately. Last August, Judge Manning ruled that the legislature’s changes to


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the program went against his earlier decision, and advocates now expect the case to head back to the state Supreme Court for appeal. Leandro is following the saga with little enthusiasm. “I’ll be frank  with you,” he said recently. “I’m a Republican and I’m a huge conservative. My parents view that if you work hard, the sweat of your efforts will pay off. But the second piece of that for me is, as a Republican, providing opportunity at the earliest age is one of the best things you can do to promote hard work.”

THE ARGUMENT AGAINST investing in expensive preschool services for children of the poor comes down to this: Is it worth it? Those who say that it might not be often explain their stance by calling upon a well-rehearsed idea of what it means to be an American. As Leandro put it, “If you work hard, the sweat of your efforts will pay off.” Certainly this is the case for many people. Nawal’s mother, Afel, hopes it will be the case for her daughter. Afel came from Sudan, where, twenty years ago, the literacy rate for the entire population was less than fifty percent, and where women rarely made it past high school. Defying the odds, Afel

The graduates of Happy Face preschool arrive for their ceremony.


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advanced beyond high school and college and ultimately graduated from medical school as a surgeon. She succeeded by the sweat of her efforts, and also because she was born with certain advantages. Her grandfather, she said, was an unusual man, “a dreamer.” He died when she was a child, but she had heard stories about him— about how he grew up in a poor village on the Nile and moved from there to a suburb of Khartoum, a place so new and quiet, she said, that if you stood in the middle of the neighborhood, you could hear the train on one side and the lion in the zoo on the other. Afel assumed her grandfather must have taken this bold step in the hope of providing his children with an education. If so, his efforts paid off. His son, Afel’s father, became a teacher, and taught elementary school, and then primary school and then a college for teachers. Her sisters all earned masters’ degrees, and her mother, who had left school after the fourth grade, resumed her formal education at the age of 30. Afel says she hoped to become a doctor in the United States, but things did not go according to plan following her arrival. She

couldn’t afford the books and fees required to get a license here, and her husband, a cab driver, grew depressed and distant. One day this summer he moved away. Ms. Sabrena said Nawal cried for days. Afel says Nawal still sometimes asks when her dad will be coming home from work. One day in August, Afel took a seat in Nawal’s classroom and waited for her daughter and the other children to come in from the hall. About 15 parents sat on either side of her. The children filed in. They wore caps and gowns. They sat down in a neat, quiet row, facing the parents. Ms. Sabrena addressed them. She said she hoped this would be the first of many graduations. Then the director, Ms. Sabrena’s mother, read a speech, which boiled down to a list of guidelines for future success: “Remember to use your ‘listening ears’,” “Always do your homework.” The children rose. Over the past few days, Ms. Sabrena had taught them to stand as a group and deliver a message on cue. Now she gave the signal, and the children cried out, in unison, “Thank you mom and dad, I love you.” Nawal said the words—all of them. Afel and the other parents watched and applauded. There were a lot of smiles, and a lot of cameras. Ms. Sabrena turned on the music, and the kids


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filed back out into the hall. On September 4th, Nawal will start kindergarten. A few months after that, the state’s Supreme Court justices are expected to rule on an appeal of the Leandro decision. What they decide could determine the fate of preschool not only in North Carolina but in every state where advocates and educators are looking to North Carolina for examples of how to educate young children. Even if the court allows the state to continue cutting back on the program, as some advocates fear, it’s not entirely clear what would be lost. A comprehensive study of the system would cost millions, so advocates have mostly relied on those studies of “extraordinary” preschools like the Frank Porter Graham center to make the point that preschool is important. As of August, however, they’ve also had another piece of evidence to point to. For the first time ever, according to the State Board of Education, North Carolina’s high school graduation rate climbed above 80 percent. Although it’s hard to pinpoint the precise reasons for this, many educators are quick to note that the 17-year-olds who donned caps and

The argument against making sure that 4-year-old children have quality childcare comes down to this: Is it worth it? gowns in the spring of 2012 were four-year-olds around the time that Governor Jim Hunt’s administration was laying the foundation for the current pre-K system. So who will put on a cap and gown in 2025? Will Nawal be among them? Afel thinks so. Sabrena does too, but she doesn’t think it will be easy. As Afel and Nawal walked down the hall to the front door, Ms. Sabrena took Afel aside and said something about “selective mutism.” She encouraged Afel to take Nawal to a doctor. Afel, the doctor, said she didn’t think that would be necessary. The two women looked at each other for a moment, and then Ms. Sabrena bent down to try one last time. “Nawal?” she said. Nawal didn’t look at her. As she walked away with her mother, Afel turned and made a promise. “When she opens up,” she said, “we will come back.”


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Charlotte

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APPROVAL

BIANCA BOSKER

Oh, Behave! And Let Your Phone Help MOST OF THE TIME, my phone makes me rude. I’ll break eye contact to send a text, leave conversations to snap a photo, or look down from dinner to check my email. Awful stuff. It’s about time my gadgets made me less of a jerk, not more of one. Presenting six apps that would make Emily Post proud.

CHART SOURCE: APPLE; DATA AS OF 08/22/12

NAMERICK ($0.99)

CLEAR

($2.99)

THANK YOU PEN

Never scramble for a name — or offend a “Mary” you called “Martha” — ­ again. This app makes you a namememorizing master, no herbs required.

Nothing says “jerk” like missing a birthday or forgetting the dry cleaning. This gorgeous app will actually make you eager to add things to your to-do list.

Be grateful: For $1.99, they’ll send a personalized card for you written in real pen. Glitchier than Apple’s Cards app, but cheaper and more charming, too.

PERFECT PHOTO

HABITS PRO

Stop being that late friend with this app that uses traffic info, your location and calendar events to tell you when to quit dawdling and get a move on.

No more tagging such unflattering photos of your friends. Perfect Photo puts an airbrush in your pocket for all your skin-smoothing, teethwhitening needs.

You should floss more. And when was the last time you told your mom you loved her? There’s no denying bad habits with this chart-rich app to get the goal-oriented in gear.

($0.99)

iTUNES TOP PAID UTILITIES 1

SEEDS — FOR MINECRAFT NahirC $0.99

2

WthrDial David Elgena $0.99

3

iDownloader Pro Apps2Be $1.99

4

MyCalendar Mobile K-Factor Media, LLC. $0.99

5

ALARM CLOCK PRO iHandy Inc. $0.99

(FREE)

GOTIME ($0.99)

HUFFINGTON 08.26.12

($0.99)

6

Birthday Calendar Davia $0.99

Scours friends on Facebook and your phone so you never forget another birthday.

7

BATTERY BOOST MAGIC Heavy Duty Apps $0.99

8

Ultimate Seeds for Minecraft Innovative Devs $0.99

9

AppZilla 3! Fossil Software $0.99

10

Living Earth HD Radiantlabs, LLC $0.99


Sometimes saying ‘thank you for your service’ to a guy just isn’t enough.”

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GREATEST PERSON OF THE WEEK

Dean Smith

Brothers On the Run

BY EMMA DIAB & JENNY WHALEN

DEAN SMITH RAN, each footfall punctuated by the jingle of metal.  For his first memorial marathon, he had asked the wife of his fallen friend and brother in arms, Tyler Swisher, if he could have the honor of wearing his dog tags as he ran. But this year, there was another set dangling from his neck that hadn’t been worn since they had been recovered. The tags were mangled and belonged to a man he had never met. Smith said he wore them PHOTOGRAPH BY MARVIN SHAOUNI

HUFFINGTON 08.26.12


CARRIE HILL PHOTOGRAPHY

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proudly—they were brothers, after all. The clinking followed him along the way, all one hundred miles. Smith’s run this past Memorial Day was the second his organization, Alwaysbrothers.org, had established for the benefit of the bereaved families of fellow marines who had died in combat. On May 26th, Smith, the president of Always Brothers, along with core members and the residents of various communities along the trail, ran one hundred miles for the families of the Lima Company, a re-

GREATEST PERSON OF THE WEEK

serve Marine battalion stationed in Columbus, OH, which lost 22 Marines and one Navy Corpsman KIA in Iraq in 2005. All the proceeds from the run went to the children the marines left behind, with the hopes of helping them pay for expenses such as school. “Everyone is thankful and everyone’s appreciative but sometimes just saying ‘thank you for your service’ to a guy just isn’t enough,” says Smith.

WHAT IS ALWAYS BROTHERS? Always Brothers began after Smith ran the 2010 Marine Corps marathon in Captain Tyler Swisher’s memory, in combat boots no

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Runners and supporters posing for a team photo at finish line of the Lima Company run.


CARRIE HILL PHOTOGRAPHY

Exit less. Swisher had been killed in action in Iraq in 2005, but in the early 90s, Swisher and Smith had both served at Camp David together. Smith did not discover that his friend, the cocky, “poster boy marine” had been killed until 2010. After coming back from that marathon and sitting in front of his computer, staring down his Facebook, he called on his marine brothers to help him with an idea. “We all talk smack to each other usually. But this was more of a like, ‘hey guys, this is what I just did.” He says. “Our idea for a reunion is going 100 miles,” he laughs quietly. Half of the men who participated in the first run had served with Smith but didn’t even know Tyler. Smith was the link between them, but he maintains that in the mindset of a marine, personally knowing a fellow brother or not at all is irrelevant. “The day after 9/11, how everyone was looking out for each other and nice to each other, that’s the feeling you get when you see the marine sticker on the back of someone’s car. That’s your brother,” says Smith. “Doesn’t matter if you know his name, you go up to him and shake his hand. That’s the feeling you get with a million

GREATEST PERSON OF THE WEEK

other marines, from World War II to present day.” Smith, a 39-year-old father of two who runs his own business, dove straight into the armed forces, knowing and anticipating what he was in for. “I wanted to do the hardest thing I could do, and I was the poor kid, college wasn’t exactly an option for me,” he says. “I wanted the biggest challenge.” So it seems pretty natural for the Macomb, Michigan resident, a steeled marine who can run for more than a solid day and claim to be ‘fat’ would want to take on 100 miles in 96 degree weather. “We’re a bunch of 40-year-old fat guys trying to run,” says Smith.

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Smith embraces Brian O’Neill, a founding member of Always Brothers, at the conclusion of the Lima run.


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CARRIE HILL PHOTOGRAPHY

Doesn’t matter if you know his name, you go up to him and shake his hand. That’s the feeling you get with a million other marines.”

GREATEST PERSON OF THE WEEK

HUFFINGTON 08.26.12


“It was just tough. ” The first run, dedicated to Swisher and his family, started at Camp David and followed back roads with an intimate cluster of runners. The run lasted 27 hours and ended at Arlington Cemetery, Tyler’s resting place. “That’s where it started and that’s where it was supposed to end,” says Smith. “But then the night after the run we decided to keep going.”

CARRIE HILL PHOTOGRAPHY

FUTURE DESTINATIONS It was clear as the group started off on the run for the Lima Company that Smith’s initiative was snowballing. “Ohio became the community’s way to thank the guys that died for them and the ones that are still

serving,” he says. “I’ll tell ya, the Swisher family did most of the heavy lifting for that Lima run. They said ‘we want to pay it forward.’” After raising $100,000 between both runs, the immediate future of Always Brothers consists of a run on Memorial Day 2013 in Seattle, this time to help fund research on both the physical and mental causes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the subsequent suicides relating to PTSD. After that, things get hazy. “We’re not real sure,” he says. “We’ve kind of defined ourselves as the kind of guys that come in, find a problem and raise money for it. I hate the term ‘raise awareness’, but sometimes seven years after these guys die it’s really easy to forget their names. Just to keep those guys alive, that’s really the point.”

Runners enter the 90th mile of the Lima Company run just after dawn.


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HUFFINGTON 08.26.12

AP PHOTO/DAMIAN DOVARGANES (GAS); AP PHOTO/MISHA JAPARIDZE (RUSSIA); AP PHOTO/GERALD HERBERT (TRUMP); AP PHOTO/MINNESOTA HOUSE (GAUTHIER); CATERS NEWS AGENCY (FORK)

Gas Prices Hit Late Summer Record

2

RUSSIA BANS MOSCOW GAY PRIDE PARADE FOR 100 YEARS

3

Donald Trump: Women “Don’t Get What Is Going On”

4

Minnesota Democrat Has Liaison With 17-Year-Old Boy

05

Man Has Plastic Fork Removed From His Stomach... TEN Years After Swallowing It


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TFU

MARIO PEREZ/ABC VIA GETTY IMAGES (LOST); BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/GETTY IMAGES (BAILEY); SHUTTERSTOCK (SCISSORS); AP PHOTO/JEFF ROBERSON (AKIN); AP PHOTO/RICHARD DREW (RIVERA)

Parents Trick Out Baby’s Nursery Like “Lost” TV Show

7

Ex-Navy SEAL Comes Out As Birther, Calls Obama Socialist “Red-Diaper Baby”

8

MONTANA BEAUTY SCHOOL EXPELS STUDENTS WHO WON’T TRIM PUBIC HAIR

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9

Politico Reporter Defends Rep. Todd Akin’s “Legitimate Rape” Comments

Geraldo Asks: Is “Lesbian Cabal” Taking Over The Department Of Homeland Security?


Editor-in-Chief:

Arianna Huffington Executive Editor: Timothy L. O’Brien Executive Features Editor: John Montorio Managing Editor: Katy Hall Senior Culture Editors: Gazelle Emami, Danny Shea Senior Politics Editor: Sasha Belenky Senior Voices Editor: Stuart Whatley Quoted Editor: MacGregor Thomson Viral Editor: Dean Praetorius Social Editor: Mia Aquino Editorial Assistant: Jenny Macksamie Editorial Intern: Emma Diab Creative Director: Josh Klenert Art Director: Andrea Nasca Photography Director: Anna Dickson Associate Photo Editor: Wendy George Designers: Eve Binder, Troy Dunham, Greg Grabowy, Gloria Pantell, Susana Soares Production Director: Peter K. Niceberg AOL Mobile SVP Mail & Mobile: David Temkin Mobile UX and Design Director: David Robinson Creative Director: Jeremy LaCroix Product Managers: Mimmie Huang, Luan Tran Developers: Scott Tury, Mike Levine, Carl Haines, Terence Worley, Sudheer Agrawal, Jacob Knobel, Eisuke Arai Tech Leadership: Umesh Rao QA: Scott Basham, Eileen Miller Sales: Mandar Shinde, Jami Lawrence AOL, Inc. Chairman & CEO:

Tim Armstrong

PHOTO OR ILLUSTRATION CREDIT TK


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