Andrew Romano

Stories by Andrew Romano

  • The 1,440-Minute Cycle

    Is there a dirtier phrase in politics than "the media"? Some days it's hard to see why you hate us—"you" being liberals, conservatives, candidates and all other carbon-based life forms. There's as much good journalism getting done now as, say, 40 years ago. But other days, I get it. Take Nov. 20, 2007. At 9 a.m., Barack Obama launched a comprehensive education plan at a Manchester, N.H., high school; an hour later he told students that he "got into drinking," "experimented with drugs" and "wasted a lot of time" as a teenager. Obama had already written about his wayward youth. But the press perked up. "That's going to be the story of the day," said one reporter. By noon, OBAMA ON PAST SUBSTANCE ABUSE was atop the Drudge Report. Education, to say the least, was not.This is the first presidential election to move at the speed of the Internet. After years of dismissing bloggers as peanut galleryists in pajamas, every major media outlet is requiring reporters to provide a daily play-by...
  • Bracing For the Gender Neutral Test

    For Hillary Clinton, a funny thing has happened on the way to the Democratic nomination: one of her biggest potential handicaps—her gender—has become her biggest strength. Seeking to "smash" what she calls "the highest glass ceiling," Clinton has secured a 20-point national lead among Democrats almost solely on the basis of her support among women, who favored her by 42 points over Barack Obama in the October ABC/Washington Post survey.But does Clinton's early advantage mean we're past gender when picking presidents? Not so fast, say experts. The Democratic primary is one thing—Dems are typically more comfortable than Republicans when it comes to voting for women. But the general election is a much different test. (Assuming Clinton gets that far: the latest ABC/Washington Post poll shows Obama ahead in Iowa, and tied among women there.) "The idea that gender won't matter in the general election is just insane," says unaffiliated Democratic pollster Mark Blumenthal. "Gender brings...
  • Al Gore's Nobel Patrol

    A vigilant fan of the former veep keeps watch as the Nobel Committee announces its peace prize.
  • Can the Youth Vote Save Obama?

    With the Hillary juggernaut growing in strength every day, Barack Obama is hoping Iowa's youth can help keep him in the game.
  • How Obama Rolls

    Barack Obama, meet Adriana Lima. Adriana, Barack. Barack, Adriana. ...
  • Gee, These Newfangled Webcast Thingies Are a Lot Like the Old-Fashioned TV Debates, Only a Little Duller

    John Edwards may have put old-fashioned populism at the heart of his message, but, of all the 2008 candidates for president, he's probably proven himself the most comfortable with the new-fangled medium of online campaigning. He typically leads left-wing blog straw polls and has even built an in-house online community--complete with social network, user blogs and heated message board debates--that's largely modeled on DailyKos, the massive progressive hub. Thursday afternoon he further burnished his Netroots credentials by becoming the first presidential candidate to participate in an MTV/Myspace dialogue--a sort of live "town hall" Webcast that allowed online viewers (plus an audience of University of New Hampshire students) to ask questions in real time and then vote on Edwards's answers. ...
  • Annals of Fundraising: As it Turns Out, You Can't, in Fact, Take the Wonk out of a Clinton

    What a tease. Last night, Hillary Clinton spent the first hour of her New York fundraiser running through her usual talking points before revealing that she had a surprise for the 1,200 assembled supporters, who surely paid at least $50 a head for more than the usual litany. "I have a great privilege," she said, smiling and slipping into the mode of girlish flirtation that she deploys occasionally on the trail, most famously in March when she thanked a firefighters' convention for their warm welcome and then—raising an eyebrow—said, "and thanks for last night, too." Her surprise guest, Clinton continued, is "someone whom I'm incredibly fond of, who I admire enormously, who is a man of great distinction and honor who has served our country well for so many years..." Here, people nudged their neighbors and, mouthing the word "Bill," began to applaud. "...Whom I'm very proud has endorsed me for president..."—big laughs,...
  • Not in the Mood to Mash

    Last Wednesday, September 12, Yahoo! News, the Huffington Post and Slate magazine co-sponsored the "first-ever online-only presidential mash-up" marking the dawn of a new era in the American political process. Or, you know, not. The plan was actually kind of cool: Yahoo! would give citizen editors (you, me, the odd, nervous fellow next door) access to raw footage of the eight Democratic presidential candidates separately answering debate questions on Iraq, health care and education and then allow them to splice, dice, overdub, caption and spread their new Frankenvideos as they saw fit. The interviews taped Wednesday and, after a brief delay--Yahoo! initially prevented users from doing anything but arranging the clips, playlist-style, by candidate or topic--they went live the next day on Jumpcut, Yahoo's video editing site, with Arianna Huffington offering to highlight the best submissions on the Huffington Post’s homepage. (Co-sponsor Slate, like Newsweek, is owned by...
  • Clairvoyant Romney Drops the 'E-Bomb'

    Mitt Romney is nothing if not efficient. Shortly after 10:00 this morning, the former Massachusetts governor (and suspected human lifeform) strode down a Manhattan sidewalk, passed three dutifully arranged Ford F-350 New York Fire Department ambulances and parked himself in front of St. Vincent's Hospital--and an awaiting phalanx of reporters and television cameras. (Directly across the street stood a sex-toy shop called Fantasy World--conveniently off-camera, considering it's not really Romney's bag).  The purpose of his visit to the heart of Hillaryland: to trash Mrs. Clinton's new proposal for universal health care, which he called "Hillarycare 2.0" and claimed would have "no more success than Hillarycare 1.0." The reason we cite this as evidence of Romney's efficiency: it happened about an hour before Clinton, in Des Moines, Iowa for the day, even announced the details of her plan. How's that for visionary leadership?...
  • Quiz: Hats in the Ring

    So far this year, at least eight presidential hopefuls—Sam Brownback, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson, Mitt Romney, Tom Tancredo and Duncan Hunter—have leapt into the race to replace George W. Bush at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2009. That's on top of more than a dozen others—including John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Joe Biden, Tom Vilsack and John Edwards—who formed exploratory committees or formally launched bids last year. How soon is Election Day again? Oh, right—22 months away. Candidates weren't always such early birds; in fact, until the 1950s, they rarely campaigned before the nominating conventions (in 1932, FDR became the first nominee to actually address the convention; Andrew Jackson barely left the Hermitage, his home in Tennessee, for the whole of his 1828 presidential run). But alas, those days are gone. With nearly two years of stumping and spin ahead, here are 10 questions to test your knowledge of how presidential hopefuls past and present...
  • Sadly, 'Devoted Wife and Mother' Doesn't Have Quite the Same Ring

    Jenna, light of my life, fire of my... Oh, wait. Sorry. Didn't see you there. Crying? Who? Me? What makes you think that? Oh, right--the salted tears streaming down my face and falling to the floor beneath my desk, where I lie in the fetal position, silent and still. Those. I guess you've got a point there. For the First Family, this has been a joyous day: 25-year-old daughter Jenna Welch Bush--the blonde one--is now engaged to Henry Hager, 29, son of the Honorable and Mrs. John H. Hager of Richmond, Virginia. But for us members of the American media, today has been as dark as each shot of Jagermeister that Jenna "Hager" will never do. "Devoted wife and mother" doesn't have quite the same ring, sadly, as "brash, boozy, barely legal twin." Nothing gold can stay....
  • Howard Dean's Web Experts Help 2008 Dems

    Joe Rospars, a Howard Dean Web strategist, was at Vermont HQ when he got the bad news. The calls came from co-workers who'd flown out to Iowa, a week before the 2004 caucuses, to help. Sure, they said, Dean's Net team lured 8,000 supporters to the Hawkeye State. But once those volunteers descended, things got painfully low-tech. They highlighted voter lists, cut them into pieces and glued like-colored strips on new sheets of paper. Using these scraps to walk the precincts, they wound up knocking on the same doors over and over. Iowans were irritated—and so was Rospars.Three years later, Rospars has emerged as one of a core group of Dean Internet staffers using the lessons of '04 to help '08 contenders do better. The hope: that smart Web 2.0 tools, stronger candidates and a more-wired electorate will enable their new clients to succeed where Dean failed—in winning the White House. As Barack Obama's new-media director, Rospars is one of three Dean alums involved in the senator's...
  • Many Easy Pieces

    Following your dream isn't always child's play. Just ask Nathan Sawaya. Two years ago, Sawaya, then 31, found himself at the Seattle Boat Show. Having recently quit his $150,000 job as a Wall Street lawyer, he was now scrambling to build a 10-foot model of a speedboat—entirely out of Legos, and in only 10 days. His first thought: no problem. But after the second day, Sawaya recalls, "it hit me: I'm not going to pull this off." So he stopped sleeping, then showering, then eating. Eight 18-hour days later, he snapped the last brick (number 250,000 or so) into place. "I was a zombie," he says.Such is life for a freelance Lego artist. Since 1961, 178 of the best Lego bricklayers have won gigs as official designers and artisans at Lego workshops and theme parks around the world. There are roughly 40 of these "Master Builders" currently on staff, and for a time it looked as if Sawaya would join them. He won Lego's 2003-04 national Master Builder search by assembling, among other things, a...
  • Can Pols Be Your Online Friends?

    I made a strange new friend today on MySpace. Her name is Hillary Clinton. Frankly, we don't have a lot in common. For one thing, she's 59. I'm 24. My latest blog entry is about my band's new CD. Hers—originally posted on her other blog a month ago—goes on and on about how "the miracle of technology" allows her to "talk WITH you, not just at you." I list dozens of interests, including blues singer Bukka White, Jean-Luc Godard's "Masculin, féminin" and, um, refried beans (don't ask). She lists none. My gallery features photographs of me playing guitar, hiking in China, dancing at a party and wearing regrettably trendy sunglasses. Hillary's boasts three shots of her resting her chin on her knuckles, à la "The Thinker," and gazing into the distance. Two of them are actually the same image.Apparently, this is the future of presidential campaigning in America—at least until a better future comes along. On Monday, MySpace launched what it's calling the Impact Channel: a one-stop shop for...
  • Sports: America's Passion for Paintball

    Sgt. Cory Elder smiled as he surveyed the field of battle. There were soldiers everywhere—300 camouflaged combatants gripping machine guns and barking into walkie-talkies. There were smoke grenades. There were Humvees. There was even an airplane. But despite all the accoutrements, this was hardly Fallujah, and these troops—in Coram, N.Y., last Sunday to play a paintball game called Behind Enemy Lines—were only weekend warriors. For now, that is. Hoping to convert today's wanna-bes into tomorrow's cadets, Elder, an Army recruiter, had stocked an "Army of One" tent with key chains, coffee mugs, footballs, baseball caps, T shirts and customized dog tags. Soon, a bunch of teenage boys were grasping for the prizes—and giving recruiters their names, numbers and e-mails in return. "This is our target audience," says Elder. "It's a perfect match."Though paintball won't replace bonuses or benefits as a top recruiting tool anytime soon, the fast-growing sport has emerged in recent months as a...
  • Arcade Fire: The Biggest Little Band?

    Arcade Fire may be the biggest little band in the world. Big because they're a sprawling octet whose operatic 2004 debut, "Funeral"—a collection of rumbling, ramshackle anthems about death and redemption—scored pristine reviews, sold half a million copies and earned them spots on stage with David Bowie, David Byrne and U2. Yet little, too—the Canadian ensemble is, at heart, a close-knit family act (married couple Win Butler and Régine Chassagne write and sing the songs; Butler's brother Will serves as sideman) who've stuck with an indie label, busked after concerts and unveiled anticipated new tracks in one bandmember's high-school cafeteria. Sure, their recent five-night stands in New York, London and Montreal sold out in seconds. Which sounds pretty impressive—except that they booked the shows at a church, a Victorian music hall and a Ukrainian community center. Somewhere, Bono is baffled.Their sophomore effort, "Neon Bible," out this week, won't entirely clear up the confusion....
  • Now on Tap: Vintage Beer

    Forget 'born-on dates.' Vintage suds are becoming a popular pour at fine dining joints. But is any bottle of beer really worth $23? We swallowed hard and took the plunge.
  • Music: "And in the End ... "

    Sir George Martin, 80, ended his run as the Beatles' legendary producer with a CD of "reworked" tracks ("Love"). He e-mailed with Andrew Romano.I just realized what a great band they were. They were just kids when we did it in the '60s. I guess I fell in love with them all over again.I thought more about going too far when I worked on "Sgt. Pepper" than on "Love." One of the advantages of growing really old is you don't give a damn anymore.John once told me he would like to re-record everything. I said, "You can't mean it. What about Strawberry Fields?" He looked at me over his steel specs and said, "Oh, especially 'Strawberry Fields'!"John was certainly a very cool person. But there are plenty of cool people around now. Ravi Shankar for one, and Roger Federer for another. But not George Bush.No. I hate that epithet. There never was a fifth Beatle. I was just a guy who was lucky enough to sign them and enjoy working with them on some great music.Of course not.
  • Personals: Living Online

    Google "Andrew Romano." You'll find some impostors--like the Yonkers, N.Y., lawyer currently lodged in the top spot (damn him). But there's also a lot of me out there. You can snicker as I stare seductively at the camera in a college head shot. Gag as you listen to "Valentine's Day," a song I wrote for my girlfriend. Dig up my favorite films, my cell-phone number and the names of all my friends. Did I say "a lot"? I meant "way too much."Ah, Generation Internet. Weaned on self-esteem, kids my age (24) are eager to ex-press themselves. From grade school on, a steady stream of Web sites have catered to our self-obsession: first message boards, AIM and LiveJournal, then blogs, MySpace and You-Tube (plus Google to catalog it all). Early on, this was geek stuff. But in 2006, MySpace's unique visitors tripled to 80 million, and it became the most viewed site in the United States. Discretion ? LOL. We're sharing our entire lives--buddy lists, party photos, vital stats--online.The...
  • Can Gunfire Really be 'Contagious'?

    Five New York City police officers went to work last Friday having never fired their 16-shot semiautomatic pistols on patrol. But by early Saturday morning, they'd all pulled the trigger for the first time—shooting a total of 50 rounds at Sean Bell, an unarmed 23-year-old who allegedly hit an undercover officer and an unmarked police van with his car after leaving a Queens strip club. The barrage killed Bell and renewed a debate about whether police are more likely to use excessive force against unarmed—and predominantly black—men. (For many, Bell's death brought back memories of the infamous 1999 killing of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed West African immigrant who died in a flurry of 41 bullets after reaching for a wallet that police thought was a gun. City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the Bell incident "deeply disturbing," and the Rev. Al Sharpton said that it "amount[ed] to a firing squad." But defenders of law enforcement claim a combination of inexperience, fear, confusion and...
  • Betting the House (and Senate)

    What could Tom Patrick possibly have to do with the future of politics? He is 49 years old. He once won a national bridge tournament. He lives in Yekaterinburg, the fifth-largest city in Russia. To his west are the Ural Mountains; to his east is Siberia. His business card says “commodities trader,” but right now he is “between jobs.” Which means that the first thing he does each morning is fire up his 128K-modem and steer one of his five computers (three desktops, one laptop, one HP iPaq handheld) to the just-launched Washington Stock Exchange.For much of the rest of the day, Patrick, an avowed political junkie with undergraduate degrees in psychology and math and an MBA from the University of Chicago, will “trade” on the WSX (thewsx.com). He will buy shares of a stock called “George Allen (R) to Win VA Senate Seat.” He will sell “Barack Obama (D) Announces ’08 Campaign.” And when all is said and done—at 2 a.m. in Yekaterinburg, when the U.S. business day is ending—he will have...
  • Horror in the French Quarter

    The first crime scene was merely gruesome: Zackery Bowen, a 28-year old New Orleanian, lay bloodied and limp last Tuesday after leaping from the rooftop terrace of a posh French Quarter hotel. But the second was unfathomable. "I had to take my own life," read a note in the dead man's pocket, "to pay for the one I took." Bowen went on to write that he had "calmly" strangled his girlfriend, Adriane "Addie" Hall, twelve days earlier. But he hadn't stopped there. When the cops arrived at the couple's apartment, they found Hall's charred head in a pot on the stove, her partially seasoned limbs on turkey-roasting pans in the oven and carefully chopped carrots still piled on the kitchen counter.Even in a city that prizes its gory past--and currently shoulders one of the nation's highest murder rates--Hall's slaying will likely rank among the most savage on record. Why did Bowen snap? His confession, scrawled across eight pages of Hall's journal, doesn't harp on Hurricane Katrina. Police...
  • Facebook's 'News Feed'

    Facebook, the social-networking Web site, launched a "News Feed" feature in early September, but it quickly backfired. Designed as Google News for your circle of friends, the service automatically generates bulletins whenever a Facebook buddy updates his or her personal profile, registering each tiny tweak--Deona added "doughy breadd" [sic] to her interests (12:40 p.m.); Jeremy removed "muttering" from his favorite activities (11:41 a.m.)--on a list that scrolls down your home page. But many Facebookers didn't appreciate the innovation. Benjamin Parr, a Northwestern University junior, immediately formed a group called Students Against Facebook News Feed (Official Petition to Facebook), which asked members to boycott by refusing to update their profiles. More than 700,000 soon signed on. "News Feed is just too creepy, too stalkeresque, and a feature that has to go," he wrote. A few days later Facebook caved, modifying the service to allow members to limit what gets posted in the...
  • In Defense of Facebook

    You know those freakish siblings who are also the best of friends? Who talk regularly? Who hug on occasion? Who act like they "care" about each other? Well, my sister and I, not so much. Don't get me wrong. I love her and all—but this might be the first she's heard of it. Which is why when I logged on to Facebook.com late last night—like millions of bored teenagers and twentysomethings in bedrooms, dorm rooms and rented apartments everywhere—the words came as something of a surprise: "Laura Romano is in a relationship. 11:32pm." I'm 24. An older, warmer brother might have preferred to learn of his sister's budding romance in person. But I wouldn't have had it any other way.That's not a popular view right now among many of my fellow Facebook members—to say the least. Laura’s time-stamped announcement is part of a new feature called "News Feed" that automatically posts bulletins whenever a buddy updates his or her personal profile. Think of it as Google News for your circle of friends...
  • 'A' Stands For Arabic

    As a college senior, Dana Stroul had just decided to study Arabic--and Mom was, well, skeptical. "We had some heavy talks," says Stroul. But this was after 9/11, and it wasn't long before the lucrative offers came rolling in: "Once she saw the opportunities, she was relieved." These days Stroul, 25, is earning her stripes as a counterterrorism analyst at DFI Government Services in Washington.Once upon a time, studying Arabic would have placed a student squarely in the "What are you gonna do with that?" camp. But enrollment in U.S.-college Arabic courses grew 92 percent between 1998 and 2002--and, spurred by 9/11 and the Iraq war, has probably doubled since then, says Gerald Lampe, president of the American Association of Teachers of Arabic. Twenty years ago most students took Arabic to read its literature or to travel, but when asked today, a plurality list "better employment options," according to a new study by researchers at Georgetown and Michigan State.Many of those jobs, like...
  • Pass The Haggis

    At an age when most toddlers were singing along to Raffi, Zarya Rathe got hooked on Celtic music. She listened with her mom--a violinist--and played herself. So when the time came for college, Rathe applied to four schools in Scotland, ending up at the University of Edinburgh. "I wanted to do something different," she says. Except that when Rathe arrived in Gaelic 101, she was hardly alone. "It was all Americans."Rathe is one of a growing number of U.S. students heading to kilt country for college. The main attraction: a quartet of medieval universities--Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow and St. Andrews--known as the Scottish Ivies. Since 2000-01, American participation in study-abroad programs has increased by 20 percent; England and Canada still attract students looking to attend a foreign school. But U.S. enrollment in Scottish colleges is up 80 percent in the past decade; at Edinburgh, it's tripled since 2003, and more than a tenth of St. Andrews' students are American.Part of the...