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Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie places his hand on his chest while speaking to a supporter after announcing he will no longer run for president at Searles School and Chapel in Windham, NH on January 10, 2024. (Photo by Danielle Parhizkaran/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

TGIF: This Means War

The pope comes out against surrogacy. Harvard dismisses its own extension school. Florida cuts the dictionary. Palestine activists object to your morning commute. Plus: Iraq!

Editor’s note: Something’s come over Nellie. TGIF this week is 4,000 words! She can’t stop herself.

Since we are benevolent, we’re making the first bit free, but if you’ve been on the fence about subscribing, now’s the time.

Welcome back. It’s the second week of 2024, and things are already getting weird.

→ Anyone talked to the defense secretary lately? Lloyd Austin, the leader of our military, was in an intensive care unit for three full days before anyone at the Pentagon told the president, according to Politico. Turns out Austin had complications from prostate cancer surgery (it’s the silent killer, we wish him well). I have a few questions about how it could remain secret for so many days: Does the president ever talk to the secretary of defense? Are the White House and the Pentagon ever on Zooms together? Who is in the Situation Room? 

We’d like to know, considering that Iran is waging a dozen proxy wars across the Middle East; American soldiers are being attacked in old favorites like Iraq; and Houthi terrorism means that some 95 percent of container ships going through the Mediterranean Sea have been rerouted. Just last night, America bombed Yemen’s Houthis, then sirens went off in the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. 

Call me crazy, but it just feels like Biden and Austin should talk once a week or so just to catch up. Also, readers, are we going to war and is Iraq something we talk about again? Is the winning ticket Hillary Clinton–George W. Bush 2024? Who’s with me?! No one. Alright. 

→ RFK Jr. instead? Okay, fine: Biden and Trump are neck-and-neck in being really widely disliked, per the latest Gallup polling. The only person Americans like right now is RFK Jr., and at this point I’ve been broken down long enough to say sure, why not. We’ve tried stranger things. Maybe he’s right and I should have just gotten chicken pox like a real man. And my Jewish family did seem less nervous about Covid. In terms of funny news items and odd White House visitors—ten bucks on a plant medicine shaman within the first 100 days—an RFK Jr. presidency would keep TGIF rich, and as such we cannot stand against the American people and their consistently irreverent taste here. 

→ And Nikki is rising: My man Chris Christie dropped out of the race this week as polls show Nikki Haley doing pretty well in New Hampshire. She’s the choice for 32 percent of likely New Hampshire voters, edging in on Trump, who remains in the lead with 39 percent of voters, according to a new CNN poll. Meanwhile, Trump is promoting a new birther argument on TruthSocial: that if Haley’s parents were not legal citizens at the time of her birth, then she is not qualified for the presidency, even though she was born in the United States. Oh, Trump. This tells me he feels threatened. Haley Hive, stingers up!

→ But how is President Trump this week? Well, at a rally, somehow the topic of magnets came up (I refuse to learn more). And here’s Trump: “All I know about magnets is this, give me a glass of water, let me drop it on the magnets, that’s the end of the magnets.” I don’t know how magnets work, and even I know that’s not how magnets work.

→ Border crisis becoming impossible to ignore: The border crisis—yes, the Texas–U.S. border—has become hard to ignore: border patrol agents took over 225,000 migrants into custody in the first 27 days of December. Americans are frustrated, with 63 percent now saying Biden should be tougher on the border, according to a new CBS poll. Only 7 percent of Americans say the border is “not much of a problem.” 

And now it’s the dead of winter, and America’s sanctuary cities are having to provide some of that sanctuary. So New York City turned a large public high school into a migrant shelter. To do this, they closed it to students and pivoted the kids to “remote” learning, which is fake, and they should stop pretending. 

Is this a fancy high school where kids from middle class or rich families go? Of course not. New York City shut down a school where the majority of the kids are on free lunch and turned it into a shelter. Dalton is safe, don’t worry! St Ann’s, keep on keeping on! Apropos of nothing, the great Alec MacGillis has a piece in ProPublica on how Covid school closures made school seem optional and created a culture of chronic absenteeism. 

In Chicago, parts of O’Hare were turned into a migrant shelter. As CBS described it: “After a long journey by bus from Texas, the commuter train ride into Chicago is probably the shortest trip for arriving migrants.” Yes, their long journey was from Texas. At this point it’s stolen valor: these folks hauled themselves across ganglands and over rivers, were tucked into truck beds, and survived the elements, and now they’re being treated like cousins who took the red eye in for the holidays. At the very least, give them some credit! 

Listen, obviously migrants—who were encouraged to come to America by politicians with motives ranging from humanitarian to strategic—should not suffer in the cold. Not for a second. My feeling is that now that everyone agrees there’s a crisis, now that the schools are evacuated and O’Hare is a shelter, maybe Biden could deign to address it? Isn’t Kamala Harris our border czar? When’s the last time these guys gave a real press conference? When’s the last time they publicly answered any hard questions at all? I know it’s elder abuse–adjacent to ask this, and I promise he can get cozy again right after, but one idea is President Biden could acknowledge the border crisis and come up with a plan.

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