5 Best Thursday Columns

On an opportunity in North Korea, the revival of George Bush, and etiquette advice for male bankers

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  • Jimmy Carter on an Opportunity In North Korea  The former president recently went to North Korea to help free an imprisoned American. His time there convinced him that North Korea is ready to "restart negotiations on a comprehensive peace treaty with the United States and South Korea and on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." Carter writes in today's New York Times that their willingness to speak with him and to negotiate with Bill Clinton last summer shows that North Korea is ready to reengage with its neighbors and the West. Carter believes "a settlement on the Korean Peninsula is crucial to peace and stability in Asia, and it is long overdue. These positive messages from North Korea should be pursued aggressively and without delay, with each step in the process carefully and thoroughly confirmed."
  • Daniel Henninger on the Coalition of Anti-Spending Voters  Riffing on James Carville's now-clichéd Clinton campaign slogan, The Wall Street Journal columnist declares, "It's the Spending, Stupid" as a way to explain the broad opposition to the Obama administration. Voters, he argues, are worried and, "the two $3 trillion-plus budgets passed on his watch or the trillion-dollar health-care entitlement" didn't give them much comfort. But even if the GOP takes Congress this November, their victory will be "meaningless" unless they actually "establish credibility" on spending. "Absent action, the political rage and cynicism on offer in 2012 could make this year's tea parties look like, well, a tea party," he observes.

  • Bryony Gordon on Women and Banking  There doesn't seem to be any place for women in the world of high finance, the Daily Telegraph columnist observes today. This perception was reinforced by the recent discovery of a Citibank card advising female employees not to "speak softly, offer limp handshakes, or smile. Don’t ask for permission, or try to play fair; never apologize, never explain." Is this some sort of "Mad Men" homage or a genuine attempt to advise women on getting ahead in banking? Either way, Gordon isn't having any of it. If anything, she says, a separate card for men is needed, one that advises "don’t put your feet on your desk. Your stripey socks are silly, and I don't want to see the hairs on your calves."

  • Richard Riordan and Alexander Rubalcava on 'How Pensions Can Get Out of the Red'  Pensions for local government officials are on track to consume "more than a quarter of the annual budget" and are currently underfunded by about one trillion dollars, note the former mayor of Los Angeles and the investment adviser in a New York Times op-ed. The "charade" can't last and soon debt-heavy local governments will default. The contributors call for a "federal program that combines stimulus with serious fund reform." This is how it could look: A city would appeal to the Dept. of Treasury for relief, "assure it can meet the debt service on its bonds, including placing a permanent cap on its pension liabilities," and finally, "the fund would have to move all new employees to 401(k) retirement plans."

  • Victor Davis Hanson on the Revival of George W. Bush  It seemed nearly unthinkable when the former president left office with the worst approval ratings since Nixon, but Bush's legacy is, apparently, bouncing back nicely, writes the National Review columnist. Recent polls find that in Ohio, voters would actually prefer to have Bush as president over Obama by a 50-42 margin. What happened? It's because, argues Hanson, Obama's "transgressions" make Bush's look like "traffic tickets": Obama has only escalated the War on Terror and accelerated the rising federal budget deficit. Also, the government's response to the gulf oil spill has been at least as bad as hurricane Katrina, says Hanson. He concludes: "America woke up from its 2008 trance and is concluding that Bush was never as bad, and Obama never as good, as advertised." That said, he thinks the over-the-top Bush-blaming represents the kind of politics we could use less of, overall, no matter whom it's directed at: "it makes sense before the general election to halt the endless blame-gaming, before what goes around comes around."

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