5 Best Tuesday Columns

Today's Tom Sawyer, the "crafty" defense budget, and more

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  • Fred Kaplan on Robert Gates's 'Crafty' Budget  While he appreciates the Secretary of Defense's proposal to trim almost 100 billion dollars of Pentagon waste over the next five years, the Slate columnist nevertheless perceives that Gates may have a hard time convincing the public and executing these plans. In an effort to eliminate over 150 generals, consolidate Pentagon staffs and completely do away with the Joint Forces Command, Gates is precariously betting that the "Joint Chiefs of Staff might be willing to sacrifice their perks and prerogatives if it means they'll have enough money to buy another submarine, combat vehicle, or long-range bomber." America simply can't afford "unceasing" defense budget growth, but it can afford moderate growth.

  • Anne Applebaum on Tom Sawyer, Medicated  How would Tom Sawyer fare in the year 2010? Not well, in the opinion of the Washington Post's Anne Applebaum. For one thing, he'd almost certainly be on prescription drugs. "Tom is not merely ODD," she jokes. "He clearly has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as well, judging by his inability to concentrate in school." For Applebaum, rereading "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" is "weirdly reassuring" for a mother fretting about her sons. Tom's rough edges "get him the girl, win him the treasure and make him a hero." There's redemptive power, the columnist argues, in just letting boys be boys.

  • W. James Antle III on Hawks and Peace  Writing in The American Conservative, Antle details an emerging split on the right between traditional hawks and neoconservative true-believers. Although many conservatives are still hesitant to "question retroactively the justice of our Bush-era wars" there's a growing sense among non-neocons that Iraq and Afghanistan are "children who will never grow up." For the first time since 9/11, argues Antle, the "Old Right" is in a position to seize "conservative majority from the neocons and persuade them to say to hell with the wars that don’t serve America’s vital national interests."

  • Kennedy Odede on Slum Tourism  Odede, a Kenyan native, takes to the New York Times opinion page to condemn the practice of slum tourism. "Slum tourism turns poverty into entertainment," he writes, "something that can be momentarily experienced and then escaped from." The purported financial benefits of the industry hardly account for the humiliation it inflicts on citizens. "There is no dialogue established, no conversation begun," complains Odede. "Slum tourism is a one-way street: They get photos; we lose a piece of our dignity."

  • Jonah Goldberg on Birthrights and Constitutional Amendments  "Whenever conservatives propose a constitutional amendment, progressives suddenly rediscover the delicate gears of the constitution and the horrible dangers of 'tinkering' or 'tampering' with its precision craftsmanship," the columnist points out in the Los Angeles Times. The fact that both sides of the political aisle like to tinker with the constitution is patently obvious in the recent debates over birthright citizenship and gay marriage, and Goldberg is willing to entertain the idea of the Constitution as a "living document." Optimistically, he explains: "I trust the American people to change the Constitution when necessary (after lengthy debate) more than I trust five out of nine unelected justices with lifetime tenure, hiding behind closed doors and away from TV cameras."

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