5 Best Wednesday Columns

Ruth Marcus on the unhinged right, David Wise on the spy who came out to the suburbs and more

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  • Steven Pearlstein on Normalizing U.S.-China Economic Relations Getting the economic relationship between the two giants back on track is the key to righting the global economy, writes Pearlstein. The Washington Post columnist argues that it's time to put aside ideological quarrels and rebuild our economic and diplomatic ties, although persuading the Chinese to engage will only come with some economic realpolitik:
Up to now, a succession of administrations has argued against directly challenging China over its mercantilist policies, figuring it would be more effective in the long run to let the economic relationship grow deeper and give the Chinese the time and respect their culture demands to make the inevitable transition to democratic capitalism. What we have discovered, however, is that the Chinese don't view the transition as inevitable and that, in any case, they really aren't much interested in relationships. If anything, they've proven to be relentlessly transactional. And their view of business and economics remains so thoroughly mercantilist that they not only can't imagine any other way, but assume that everyone else thinks the way they do. To try to convince them otherwise is folly.
  • Holman Jenkins on Stimulus, Debt, and the U.S. Economy "Now," writes the Wall Street Journal's Jenkins, "we come to the binary debate between the pain caucus and the free-lunchism of those who believe governments have great scope left to borrow and borrow, stimulate and stimulate. Both are lousy alternatives. Neither is sustainable; both work against the essential goal here, to restore confidence to private sector investors and employers." He says that, as regards both U.S. and European policy, "the best possible solution is real reform that improves incentives and inspires confidence--worlds different from today's sterile debate about whether a conspicuous short-term deficit encourages or inhibits recovery." Skip the fight over deficit spending and "[pledge] flatter tax systems," he suggests--admit that federal retirement benefits aren't worth much at this point anyway, and raise the retirement age.
  • Ruth Marcus on the Unhinged Right While most Americans gawked with amazement at Rick Barber's recent campaign ad, "Slavery," Ruth Marcus senses something more sinister lurking beneath the surface. Incensed by the casual (if visually offensive) association of taxes with the Holocaust, the Washington Post columnist rips into Barber and the right. She views Barber as "emblematic of the dangerous take-back-our-country rhetoric that is spread on the conservative airwaves and fueling the Tea Partyers. Barber may be on the outer edges of this movement, but he is not alone there, and he is a predictable outgrowth of it." 
  • Jonah Goldberg on the Un-Borkable Elena Kagan The National Review columnist isn't all that impressed with the Kagan hearings thus far, as he writes today. Why? Because, for all of her applauding of the 1987 Robert Bork hearings, in which Bork "was the last Supreme Court nominee to give serious answers to serious questions," she has done nothing to show her own "Borkian" side. He says, "it doesn’t look like Kagan will be following the Kagan standard. On Tuesday morning, she distanced herself as best she could from those views. And when asked by Sen. Jeff Sessions whether she is a 'legal progressive' — something pretty much all objective observers and her own friends and former colleagues know her to be — the brilliant and scholarly Kagan claimed to have no idea what the term even means."
  • David Wise on the Spy Who Came Out to the Suburbs  "The Cold War is back?" asks the New York Times contributor in an op-ed today. Actually, he answers himself, "For the intelligence agencies on both sides — the F.B.I. and the K.G.B.’s successor, the S.V.R. — it never ended." Commenting on the news of recent arrest of a Russian spy ring, Wise notes that both the ring and the F.B.I. investigation around it were expensive investments that have a limited return. He says, "all of this was an expensive business for the Russians, who had to train and support their operatives here, and for the F.B.I., which spent years trailing them. To what avail?... The bureau, like the S.V.R., ends up with little to show for its decade of hard work."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.