5 Best Tuesday Colunms

David Brooks on two theories of change, Dana Milbank on replacing Summers, and more

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  • Eugene Robinson on What Rand Paul Believes  The Washington Post columnist levels a wry takedown of Rand Paul, the Republican nominee for one of Kentucky's Senate seats. Does Paul believe in segregated neighborhoods, Robinson wonders? Does he think nothing could have been done to prevent the Gulf oil spill, or the mining tragedy in West Virginia? Does he believe the American, Mexican, and Canadian governments are in collusion to erase their national borders and turn the continent into one vast political entity? Paul's past comments suggest that he might. "From all evidence, Paul lives in Libertarian La-La Land," Robinson writes, "where a purist philosophy leads people to believe in the purest nonsense."
  • David Brooks on Two Theories Of Change  Reflecting on a college history course on the Enlightenment, David Brooks presents two philosophical conceptions of change and applies them to American politics. "Members of the French Enlightenment focused on the power of reason," writes Brooks. "Members of the British Enlightenment emphasized its limits." For the American polity, things are more complicated:

Today, if you look around American politics you see self-described conservative radicals who seek to sweep away 100 years of history and return government to its preindustrial role. You see self-confident Democratic technocrats who have tremendous faith in the power of government officials to use reason to control and reorganize complex systems. You see polemicists of the left and right practicing a highly abstract and ideological Jacobin style of politics. The children of the British Enlightenment are in retreat. Yet there is the stubborn fact of human nature. The Scots were right, and the French were wrong. And out of that truth grows a style of change, a style that emphasizes modesty, gradualism and balance.

  • Richard Cohen on the Right not to Fight in Vietnam R esponding to Richard Blumenthal's inaccurate description of his military service last week, the Washington Post columnist recounts his own experience in the New York National Guard during the Vietnam war and the "agonized grappling with a hideous moral dilemma" of those who opposed it. He says Blumenthal "has taken ample criticism and responded with a singular lack of grace. But his most appalling lie was to turn a complex truth of that era into a simple matter of shame.... I am not ashamed that I did not fight. I am not ashamed, either, that I did not want to fight. Neither do I denigrate those who did."
  • Dana Milbank on Replacing Summers   "Summer needs to take Explaining Econ 101," screams the headline of Milbank's column, criticizing Larry Summers's "dismissive judgment" of the current economic turmoil as a "fluctuation" in a speech to Johns Hopkins. "It was vintage Summers: smart, esoteric -- and utterly unhelpful," scoffs Milbank. "Maybe he's correct, in an academic sense, that this era will come to be known not as a period of economic misery and human suffering but as the time when the Group of 20 large economies came to replace the Group of Seven (G-8, actually). Still, is that the message the White House wants to be putting out now?"
  • John Bolton on Iran, North Korea, and Saber-Rattling Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Bolton, the former U.S. Representative to the UN, dovetails Iran's nuclear program with North Korea's recent acts of aggression, and indicts the UN for its failure to generate a meaningful response. "North Korea's nuclear-weapons capability undergirds its belief that it can commit acts of aggression with impunity and therefore shows unambiguously why we must stop Iran," Bolton writes. "It also shows that the Security Council is gridlocked and impotent. The risks are growing as our president cheers on a world in which unilateral American power is diminished."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.