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The U.S. Men Got It Done—and Gave Everyone Watching a Heart Attack

One thing we can say with certainty: The United States men’s national team didn’t take the easy road to the knockout rounds of the 2022 World Cup.

Needing a win against Iran to advance, up one goal in the game’s final minutes, the USMNT had its backs against the wall. Traffic was one way; all the U.S. could do in its deep defensive bunker was throw up some speed traps and detours. With Iran needing just one goal, it felt like much of America was bracing itself for its karmic payback from the 2010 World Cup. The nation of Landon Donovan was on the brink of getting Landon Donovan’d right out of the tournament.

To get to this theater of drama and dread, the U.S. first needed another hero moment, one that arrived a little earlier this time. Christian Pulisic’s decision-making is occasionally bewildering, and his set-piece delivery was once again poor, but you give him a free step into an open lane on the far side of the goal and he can punish you, just as he did against Mexico in World Cup qualifying.

His goal Tuesday was the best the U.S. has scored in some time. (The lack of recent options helps, but only a little. It was pretty good!) Iran had made clear in the opening 30 minutes where they wanted to engage the U.S. on the field, and Weston McKennie found time in a spot just outside that range to deliver a perfect floated ball to a streaking Sergiño Dest. Dest cushioned a header back across the middle, and Pulisic crashed it into the goal before crashing himself into Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand.

The collision would knock Pulisic out of the game after halftime, and would eventually send him to the hospital with what news reports were still calling “an abdominal injury,” which is as good a euphemism as any for what sure looked like a painful blow to the testicles. The needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few.

But his heroic sacrifice was nearly a Pyrrhic victory. After dominating throughout the first half, holding Iran to zero shots and countless cheap turnovers, the U.S. let Iran back into the game after the break, its third straight second period in which it couldn’t maintain its intensity. This time, it seemed to badly miss one of Pulisic’s worst habits: his tendency to put his foot on the ball and wait to see what the defense gives him. When the U.S. needs a goal, this can be a sequence killer; when it needs to catch its breath midway through the second half, it can be a lifesaver. His replacement Brenden Aaronson—who pinballs around the field like a Battlebot let loose in the arena—couldn’t provide this.

Aaronson has a valuable skillset for this team, but this wasn’t the game to showcase it. The U.S. had a few too many Chaos Muppets on the pitch—Aaronson and McKennie, who wasn’t great until he played that perfect hockey assist, most prominent among them—players who want the game to be open, who want to be blowing up opposing plays and charging forward the other way but can be careless, occasionally. As Iran started to wrest control away, what the Americans needed was someone to come in and provide Order—to pull the game’s pace back from 100 miles per hour both ways. Pulisic, by virtue of the respect that defenses have to show him, can do that for you in a way that Aaronson could not. Gio Reyna, as many, many fans on Twitter pointed out, could too, but Berhalter didn’t bring him off the bench, raising questions about whether there’s any chance Reyna will get to play significant minutes in this World Cup, especially if Pulisic’s injury limits him.

Instead, Berhalter opted for instituting additional structure the old-fashioned way: by retreating into a defensive crouch. He sent additional defenders on and had his team bunker in a 5-4-1 formation, ceding any hope of adding to the lead in the hopes of keeping Iran out of the American box. You could read it as a surrender, or an admission that the U.S. simply did not have the legs and the skill to regain the upper hand in this game. It was excruciating to watch. The official USMNT Twitter account had to remind people to continue to breathe. Hearts were done no favors. Blood pressures surged. Mom’s spaghetti threatened to spill onto sweaters from sea to shining sea.

But it worked. The U.S. held out against both Iran’s actual chances and their attempts to win cheap penalties. Walker Zimmerman, brought on late as a reinforcement, was excellent. Tim Ream continued his stellar defensive play, even when paired with relative newbie Cameron Carter-Vickers. Tyler Adams has exhausted the possibilities of prose superlatives; write him a ballad, hang a painting of him in the National Portrait Gallery, put him on the $50 bill—none of it would be excessive at this point.

In the room where I watched the game, there was a guttural, window-shaking exhalation upon the final whistle. (I was the only person in the room.) It was the equal—but crucially not opposite!—reaction to the jumping up and down and screaming of the goal against Algeria in 2010. Landon Donovan stands alone.

With the win, the U.S. advances to face Group A winners the Netherlands in the Round of 16 on Saturday. That game, one imagines, will look more like the England one than the games against Wales and Iran: more of an open battle in midfield, more seizing the opportunity and trying to capitalize quickly. It will be a game, in other words, well-suited to the American Chaos Muppets. Hopefully they can blow this one wide open and save us all the stress.

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Trump Has Been Pushed Back to the White Supremacist Fringe Again. But Is That a Problem for Him?

Donald Trump is having a throwback Is Donald Trump a White Supremacist? news cycle because he ate dinner with Ye (the former Kanye West) and a white supremacist named Nick Fuentes. Let’s discuss.

Who is Nick Fuentes?

Nick Fuentes is a 24-year-old far-right livestreamer and social-media persona—

Hang on—24 years old?

Yes, he is the Doogie Howser of loving Hitler.

Does he really love Hitler?

Fuentes is the kind of “alt-right” online figure whose claims are often presented as edgy quasi-jokes, but yes, he has, for example, compared himself favorably to Hitler in explaining that he maintains celibacy in order to more fully pursue “total Aryan victory.” He disavows the term “white supremacist,” but if the term can’t be used to describe him it has no meaning: Among many other things, he’s used the N-word on a video stream, made crude comments about the children of interracial marriages, asserted that Black people have intrinsically poor “impulse control,” and said that Jews have “bastardized” and subverted the United States. (“I don’t see them as part of Western civilization,” he has said.) In October he recorded a stream on which he threatened to “piss” on the Talmud. He is a hard-line white supremacist who regularly engages in the most extreme kinds of hate speech.

Celibacy?

According to Fuentes, “having sex itself is gay” and there is nothing “gayer” than being affectionate with women.

Is that true???

That question is beyond the scope of this article.

OK, back to antisemitism. Is that where Ye/Kanye West comes in?

Yes. Ye has been in Trump’s political orbit since a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower. At the time, Ye’s pursuit of the relationship and occasional adoption of MAGA imagery was part of his broader self-presentation as a provocative free thinker and society-challenging artist. But in recent months he’s begun associating much more exclusively with far-right figures like Fuentes while fixating, in his public statements, on his belief that Jews as a whole are, shall we say, engaged in coordinated acts of sabotage against others.

The former West has also made other paranoid and grandiose statements which indicate he may be experiencing a mental health crisis. In footage that was cut from a Tucker Carlson interview on Fox News but obtained by Vice, he claimed that a child was recently paid to infiltrate his home.

Ye recently announced he will be running for president (again) in 2024 with the help of Milo Yiannopoulos, a proto-Fuentes alt-right figure who mostly dropped out of public sight in 2017 after a video began circulating of an interview recorded a year earlier in which he’d suggested that adult men should be permitted to have sex with minors as young as 13. (NBC News reports that Fuentes is also “advising” Ye’s campaign. According to comments Ye made Monday night on another right-wing livestream, Yiannopoulos brought Fuentes on to the project.)

Before that, Yiannopoulos had been removed from Twitter for participating in the harassment of Black actress Leslie Jones, who was targeted on social media because of her role in an all-female sequel to Ghostbusters that right-wing personalities had latched onto.

Trump himself, as it happens, posted a video in May 2016 in which he criticized the female Ghostbusters. He also conducted a campaign Q&A with a Reddit channel called The_Donald on which users, of which Yiannopoulos was the most prominent, frequently used slurs and posted other explicitly racist material. And, as president, he made vague threats to punish the University of California when a Yiannopoulos engagement at its Berkeley campus was canceled.

Tremendous stuff, all around. Anyway—dinner?

Yes. According to various reports, Ye traveled to Trump’s resort home in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, to have dinner on Nov. 22 and brought Fuentes with him. At the dinner, Ye apparently asked Trump to be his running mate in 2024 while Fuentes flattered the former president by encouraging him to speak impulsively and off-the-cuff whenever possible instead of using a teleprompter (like Trump did at his presidential campaign announcement speech earlier in the month).

Is it gay to use a teleprompter?

It’s a question Nick Fuentes would probably have loved to ask Hitler.

Did Trump know Fuentes was coming?

Allegedly not, according to multiple statements that Trump has released in which he also said he didn’t know anything about Fuentes before the dinner. The statements characteristically avoid endorsing Fuentes or his beliefs without criticizing them directly or taking any responsibility for Fuentes having been present. Trump continues to wish to be perceived as both the country’s most powerful alpha man and a helpless bystander who has no control over, for example, whether he learns basic details about someone who is sitting at a private table with him for a reported two hours at a resort he owns.

Is it plausible to believe that Trump didn’t know anything about Fuentes?

Fuentes is a right-wing internet extremist, and Trump spends a great deal of time consuming right-wing internet extremism. Fuentes also hosts an annual conference at which Republican members of Congress Paul Gosar and Marjorie Taylor Greene have spoken, which in both cases led to national controversies that were well-covered on cable news, another form of media the ex-president is known to enjoy.

On the other hand, available accounts of the dinner portray Trump as mostly being interested in talking to Fuentes about the subject of Donald Trump, rather than asking questions about, uh, Fuentes’s own background and interests and feelings and dreams, as one would customarily do, to be polite. So maybe he was not in fact distinctly conscious of who was at the table with him.

What happened then?

Not a whole lot, initially. But in recent days, several otherwise right-wing Jewish political figures have criticized Trump for meeting with Fuentes, as have some Republican members of Congress. Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy said Ye and Fuentes’ beliefs are “immoral” and “should not be entertained,” and that Trump is encouraging racism and antisemitism merely by meeting with them. (A fair point, and one which Cassidy has at least a little credibility to make after having voted to convict Trump of inciting insurrection after his second impeachment.) Florida Sen. Marco Rubio told reporters that Fuentes is an ass clown.

Ass clown?

Those were the Florida senator’s words.

And what will happen next?

It depends on public opinion polling of Republican primary voters.

As Semafor’s Benjy Sarlin noted, Trump was involved in these kinds of stories frequently during his campaign and in the early days of his presidency—you can read about some of them here. From David Duke’s endorsement of his campaign to his comments about the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, each played out in largely the same fashion.

Trump would meet with—or retweet or compliment or refuse to “denounce”—a white supremacist or antisemite who’d gotten excited about the racist tinges, overtones, and outright explicit messaging of Trump’s campaign or presidency; the press would push him on it and ask other Republicans about it; some number of them would say they could no longer support Trump, or “deplored” what he had done, or whatever; his approval rating or polls would suffer, but only a small amount, only for a short period, and not at all among Republicans.

The last clause in that sentence is the important one. Once other Republican politicians determined that their voters had a largely inelastic view of Trump, loyalty to and support for him became the party’s most important currency. Every Republican senator except Mitt Romney voted to acquit him after his first impeachment trial, for instance. Jan. 6 briefly upended the laws of Republican gravity, but once a few weeks had passed, almost all of the most powerful figures in the party, like House and Senate minority leaders Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell, settled back into an essentially deferential position.

Now, though, the poor record of the most strongly Trump-affiliated candidates in the 2022 midterms and the concomitant presidential buzz around Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has made Trump as weak and isolated as he’s been in since the Capitol riot. Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, typically one of the most recklessly pro-MAGA members of Congress, canceled plans to fly from D.C. to West Palm Beach for Trump’s campaign announcement because of purportedly flight-related issues that did not seem to affect other flights. Former New Jersey governor and human weather vane Chris Christie, who has gotten on and off the Trump bandwagon more times than any other person alive, is criticizing him in the press and at party gatherings.

But?

But the entire problem here, if there can be said to only be one, is that absence of credentialed Republicans from Trump’s Florida resort and country club is not going to stop him from seeking attention and adulation wherever he may find it—and may not keep voters from supporting him. Who knows? It could persuade voters to support him! We won’t belabor the point here, but from a strategic perspective Trump may well be pleased that at this late date he can still create national news stories in which he is criticized by the “establishment.” For him, being at the bottom of the barrel isn’t embarrassing—it’s where he’s always done some of his “best” work.

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Why the U.K. Melted Down About Its Former COVID Boss Eating Assorted Animal Genitals on Television

A quick brief on Matt Hancock. Hancock was the U.K. government’s health secretary during the pandemic, renowned for handing out cushy contracts for things like PPE to friends of the conservative Tory party, pushing policies linked to tens of thousands of deaths, and generally appearing to be a total shit-eating creep on television.

But that doesn’t cover his notoriety. Hancock cemented his place in history in the summer of 2021, when CCTV footage was leaked showing him enjoying a passionate extramarital make-out session with one of his aides, a video that proved he broke his own social-distancing guidelines and prompted people in the U.K. to wonder whether it was possible to die of cringe. He has the energy of a dorky uncle that you wonder if it’s bad form to swap the place settings at a wedding for, so you don’t have to sit next to him hearing about how his foray into classic car collecting has given him a new lease of life after his divorce. Someone whose desperate need to be liked radiates off him like heat off tarmac despite looking like he would be cold and clammy to the touch.

And now, a little more than a year later, people in the U.K. got to watch this man—one of the most widely loathed of our countrymen—eat the genitals of exotic animals, get covered in barbecue sauce, and crawl through pits of live snakes and spiders.

I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! is a reality show that had a short-lived U.S. version in the mid-2000s, but here in the U.K., the program has been going strong for the past 20 years. It’s hosted by two of our foremost TV personalities, Ant and Dec, a lovable pair of guys from Newcastle whose bond is so strong that they lived next door to each other for over two decades. Each year, about a dozen B-to-C-list celebrities are chosen to live in the Australian jungle together, undertaking notoriously stomach-turning tasks in order to win privileges, and hoping eventually to be crowned King or Queen of the Jungle via public vote.

Hancock was a sitting MP whose announcement that he was going to abandon his duties in order to appear on reality TV on the other side of the world prompted his expulsion from the Tory party and dismay from the general public. Yes, there is a certain amount of schadenfreude to be had watching this man, who oversaw health policy that resulted in thousands of needless deaths in the U.K., chomp his way through a camel’s anus. But it is all so, so undignified. The sordid situation, and the national uproar that followed, came to an appropriately stupid end on Monday night, as Hancock came in third in the show’s finale, behind a former footballer and a soap-opera actor. He won’t be anyone’s king.

Why did he do this? Why do politicians degrade themselves in this manner again and again? A friend said to me recently that in the U.K., politics is the lowest form of show business, which sounds right. There is a bizarre pipeline from somewhat-disgraced member of Parliament to reality television show star here, a pipeline that for the most part seems to work the other way around in America. Perhaps the most famous example is George Galloway, the sometime Labour MP who turned the stomachs of an entire nation when he pretended to be a cat and “lapped milk” out of the hands of an actress on Celebrity Big Brother in 2003, a clip of which is widely available but I can’t in good conscience recommend that you watch.

Hancock’s justification for being on the show was that he wanted people to “get to know the real” him. Also, to promote his dyslexia-awareness campaign, which it took him weeks to even mention once on the show. But what isn’t clear is why anybody should care who the “real” him is. Why do politicians seem to think that their personality is relevant beyond their ability, distinctly lacking in Hancock’s case, to do their jobs? Why is there no division between a life in the spotlight as a public servant and an entertainment entity?

More than anything, his appearance on the program demonstrates a queasy slippage between the role of public official and celebrity. Many politicians view politics not as a means by which they can improve the lives of the people they represent, but as a stepping stone on the path to personal fame. And for as long as politicians court this kind of attention—Hancock performed far better than expected on the show, and placed disconcertingly high in the public vote—we will see them debasing themselves on television. Because as much as we all hated this attempt at reputational laundering, millions tuned in night after night. And ultimately, it’s the ratings that matter.