Five Best Friday Columns

Paul Krugman on Reagan, Robert Satloff on Syria, Peggy Noonan on Obama, Jonathan Chait on Romney's money, and John Yoo on drone strikes. 

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Paul Krugman in The New York Times on Reagan's Keynesianism. The Princeton economist says the U.S. economy would be headed for a recovery if only Obama embraced the same sort of tax-and-spend Keynesianism that Reagan did. How's that for counterintuitive? "Why was government spending much stronger under Reagan than in the current slump? 'Weaponized Keynesianism' — Reagan’s big military buildup — played some role. But the big difference was real per capita spending at the state and local level, which continued to rise under Reagan but has fallen significantly this time around." As he explains: "States and local governments used to benefit from revenue-sharing — automatic aid from the federal government, a program that Reagan eventually killed but only after the slump was past."

Robert Satloff, in The New Republic, on Syria. The magazine's contributor says a civil war in Syria would be a disaster for U.S. national security. "If Syria descends into the chaos of all-out civil war, it’s not only Syrians who will lose out, as Annan suggests. Very clear American interests are also at stake," he writes. The nightmare scenarios he foresees include the loss of Syria's substantial chemical and biological weapons stockpiles, cross-border clashes with Turkey and even thousands of jihadists descending on Syria "to fight the apostate Alawite regime, transforming this large Eastern Mediterranean country into the global nexus of violent Islamist terrorists." In short, Satloff says if intervention is necessary to stop a civil war, the military should begin drawing up a game plan.

Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal on Obama's re-election campaign. The conservative columnist thinks the president's campaigning is turning his administration into a house of cards. "President Obama's problem now isn't what Wisconsin did, it's how he looks each day—careening around, always in flight, a superfluous figure. No one even looks to him for leadership now," she writes. "He doesn't go to Wisconsin, where the fight is. He goes to Sarah Jessica Parker's place, where the money is. There is, now, a house-of-cards feel about this administration."

Jonathan Chait in New York on the Mitt Romney's money game. The liberal blogger worries that Romney may be able to spend Obama dry with a strategic spending strategy. "One of the things a party can do with a financial advantage like this is force the other party to spend money it doesn't want to spend," he writes. "Obama doesn't need to match Romney's spending to win Michigan, but if he gets outspent, say, 10 million to nothing, he could lose the state. Republicans have the money to dump into safe Democratic states and force Obama to defend them. If it works in Michigan, it could work in other blue states, too."

John Yoo in The Wall Street Journal on drone strikes. It turns out, the lawyer who helped legitimize President Bush's "enhanced interrogation" tactics (aka, torture) isn't a fan of President Obama's war on terror. It's not so much an ethical argument, like the one former CIA official Jose Rodrigeuez made on 60 Minutesbut rather a strategic argument that the U.S. should be given a chance to interrogate the terrorists instead of just pulverizing them with hellfire missiles. "The U.S. must have access to timely, actionable intelligence gleaned from captured terrorists," he writes. "The interrogation of terrorist leaders not only led the CIA to bin Laden's doorstep. It helped produce the success of the last decade: not a single follow-up al Qaeda attack in the U.S. Exclusive reliance on drones and a no-capture policy spend down the investments in intelligence that made this hiatus possible, without replenishing the interrogation-gained information needed to predict future threats."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.