Our Best Stuff From the Week Trump Won Iowa

Donald Trump, with sons Eric (left) and Donald Jr.(right), speaks at a watch party during the 2024 Iowa Republican caucuses in Des Moines, Iowa, on January 15, 2024. (Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

Hello and happy Sunday. I’m feeling a little nostalgic this weekend given what appears to be the impending demise of Sports Illustrated, with the announcement Friday that its entire staff is facing layoffs. And so I’m going to share the story of how I became a journalist. 

I loved to read when I was growing up: books, magazines, the local newspaper, backs of cereal boxes. And watching sports was a childhood ritual—Cleveland Indians’ games were always on in the background on warm summer evenings when we were bouncing in and out of the house, Browns games were a ritual on Sunday afternoons, and I remember coming home from morning swim practice and watching every second of the 1984 Summer Olympics.

And so the arrival every Thursday of the new issue of Sports Illustrated was cause for minor celebration. I’d flip immediately to the back of the magazine to read the Point After essay by Rick Reilly, who was brilliant and funny enough to make up for his occasional sappiness. Then I’d flip back to the front and read the Scorecard, and its regular features like “This Week’s Sign the Apocalypse Is Upon Us” and “Faces in the Crowd,” which highlighted the accomplishments of high school athletes, geezer marathon runners, and other everyday athletes. Only then did I read the rest of the magazine. 

I appreciated the coverage of big games (crazy as it is today, to think about reading a gamer four or five days after the game itself) and the trend stories and analysis. Sports Illustrated was good at the fun stuff—calling attention to emerging stars, celebrating the big wins—but also at the darker side of sports—NCAA scandals, Pete Rose’s gambling, the influence of steroids. The magazine covered college sports and the “big four”—the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL—but also horse racing and boxing and tennis and golf, and covered the heck out of the Olympics. It even put the Olympic swimming trials on the cover in 1984. (SI also pulled off the greatest April Fools’ Day prank of all time.) But what I really appreciated were the in-depth feature stories. And I wanted to write those feature stories. I wanted to be Frank Deford writing about Bear Bryant, or Curry Kirkpatrick writing about Bjorn Borg.

And so I went to college to study journalism (magazine journalism specifically), became sports editor of the school newspaper, graduated with honors, and started my climb the way a lot of us did back then: at a small-town newspaper, followed by a job at a small-city newspaper. Then I moved to Seattle and started poking around for what we then called dot-com jobs.

The internet has been a blessing and a curse for journalism in general, but also my career specifically. It’s presented incredible opportunities, but just as much instability and uncertainty. In my case, I got to cover a bunch of cool events as a sportswriter. But then the original dot-com bubble popped and I got laid off from Disney, where I’d been working on various ESPN-run sites. After a while, I ended up at Slate. (It’s funny: I didn’t know it then, but working in sports journalism as a woman was fantastic preparation for working in political media as a conservative.)

The downfall of Sports Illustrated is hardly unique. Long a property of Time-Life Inc., it’s been sold a few times and is now the property of Authentic, a company “which owns a host of clothing and lifestyle brands.” Authentic “licensed” the production of Sports Illustrated to another company, Arena, which is apparently now run by a guy who’s founded no publications or media empires but … 5-Hour Energy.

And SI’s demise is hardly the biggest concern in journalism today, though it represents the hazards of publications being owned by those with no media expertise. It might even hobble on in some form, even further diminished from its heyday, as Arena has vowed to continue publishing and Authentic could find another partner if that doesn’t work. The crisis facing local journalism is undeniably more important. The lack of trust between the public and the media is undeniably more damaging. But it still makes me sad. On that cheery note, thanks for reading. And here are some things you might have missed.

The Establishment Won

The circumstances were, in theory, ideal for an upset at the Iowa caucus. The field had been winnowed to three serious candidates. The alternatives to Donald Trump—Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis—had serious and influential conservative endorsers. And polling showed that both were more likely than Trump to beat Joe Biden. And we all know what happened. Trump won with a majority. But really, what happened? “This is what it looks like when the establishment wins,” Nick writes in Boiling Frogs. “… The hard fact is that practically all of the most powerful figures in the Republican Party now either support Trump earnestly, pretend to support him in the interest of keeping their jobs, or are all but completely irrelevant. Inasmuch as the term ‘establishment’ refers to a bloc of elites who set policy for a political movement and impose their will on its direction, he and his many toadies are the Republican establishment.”

Nikki Haley Poised to Capitalize on New Hampshire’s Open Primary

Given the results out of Iowa, and even with an endorsement from New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, Nikki Haley could use some help if she wants to win the Granite State primary on Tuesday. Could that help come from independent voters and Democrats? Mike explores that question in a report from Manchester. He explains the rules of New Hampshire primaries that allow for independent voters to participate, and talks to a few of those voters. “Important to her coalition are voters like Rick and Donna Wright of Whitefield, who came to Haley’s rally at the historic Mt. Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods on Tuesday,” he writes. “The couple are not registered with either party, and while Rick told The Dispatch he leans conservative, both he and Donna have voted in both Democratic and Republican primaries in the past. This time, they say they’re both voting for Haley.”  The Dispatch Politics team also reported from a Haley event in New Hampshire on Tuesday, where she told the crowd of Trump that, “Rightly or wrongly, chaos follows him.” 

It’s Time to Put Social Security, Medicare, and Taxes on the Table

Jokes abound about journalists being bad at math, and they are funny because they are true. But do you know who else is bad at math? Republicans. And that’s not a joke. The latest round of budget talks–-Congress passed yet another stopgap funding measure Thursday night—has Republicans calling to stop wasteful spending, but their proposals do little to address our debt crisis. And Brian Riedl, an economist with the Manhattan Institute, has had enough. He calls on Republicans to get serious about the real causes of our debt: Social Security, Medicare, and … tax policy. He notes that we face “$119 trillion in budget deficits over the next 30 years—$116 trillion of which is attributable to Social Security and Medicare shortfalls.”

Why Iraq Is Calling for the Withdrawal of U.S. Forces

That Iraqi Prime Minister Shia’ Al Sudani is calling for the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Iraq isn’t the biggest headline out of the Middle East: The U.S. has continued to target the Houthis for their attacks on ships in the Red Sea and fighting continues in Gaza. But it’s an important story—and a complex one, as Douglas Ollivant reveals in this analysis. Ollivant not only served in Iraq but later advised Presidents Bush and Obama on Iraq policy. He knows the country, and he explains that both the U.S. and Iraq have hidden agendas that have made our ongoing presence practical. But U.S. support for Israel has prompted attacks on our bases and even our embassy from Iranian-backed militias, and that is causing a few headaches for the Iraqi government. Ollivant writes: “Absent a change in the Gaza situation—which seems unlikely in the immediate future—a rapid negotiation that begins the withdrawal of the U.S. presence may be the least painful for both parties. The rift in diplomatic relations over the withdrawal would be minor compared with a crisis caused by—God forbid—U.S. casualties in a future attack and the type of military response that would follow.”

And here’s the best of the rest:

  • It’s bad enough we’re likely going to do a direct rerun of the 2020 election between Joe Biden and Donald Trump this falls. What’s worse, Jonah laments in the Wednesday G-File, is that the election is also going to look a lot like 2016.
  • The U.S. surrender to the Taliban in 2021 was awful, as this piece from Michael Rubin reminds us. President Biden blamed the Afghan military and Donald Trump, but the truth is that Biden relied on the same adviser—Zalmay Khalilzad—that Trump (and George W. Bush) relied on. One of the legacies of the withdrawal is that we still provide humanitarian aid to the country, and Rubin notes how that is still—dangerously—propping up the Taliban.
  • A couple weeks ago, we published a piece by Emily Zanotti arguing against surrogacy, in response to Pope Francis’ call for a ban on the practice. This week, Elizabeth Nolan Brown wrote a passionate defense, making the case that surrogacy is good for women and families—and society as a whole.
  • Will the economy play a role in the 2024 election? Of course. Should it? Probably not. In Wanderland, Kevin writes that “the president-as-rainmaker, the guy who is responsible for the economy [is] a belief founded on very little other than pure superstition rooted in ancient magical beliefs about national/tribal leaders as intercessors between men and the gods.”
  • And the pods: Tune in to the Dispatch Podcast roundtable to get your New Hampshire primary fix. On Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah discuss a few cases, notably the Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo oral arguments at the Supreme Court that challenge the Chevron doctrine on the authority of federal agencies, and a 5th Circuit ruling on a Texas law that requires book venders to issue sexual-content ratings for library books. Stirewalt steals the host chair from Jonah on The Remnant, and he talks to Christine Rosen of Commentary and AEI about New Hampshire, Donald Trump, and whom the former president might pick for his running mate.
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