5 Best Wednesday Columns

Glenn Beck's AA playbook, "America's longest war" and more

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  • William Kristol on Barack Obama's Presidential Address  Despite disagreeing with President Obama on the necessity of the Iraq war, conservative Weekly Standard columnist William Kristol was impressed with the president's speech to the nation last night. In discussing the end of combat operations in Iraq, Kristol found Obama to be "on the whole commendable, and even at times impressive." Hawks who criticize Obama indiscriminately are missing the point. "The President," he argues, "seemed to me to go about as far as an anti-Iraq war president could go in praising the war effort."

  • Kathleen Parker on Glenn Beck's 'Alcoholics Anonymous Playbook'   The themes of last Saturday's "Restoring Honor" rally, held by the ubiquitous Fox News host, have been thoroughly dissected by pundits, but The Washington Post columnist adds one last wrinkle to the discussion. The event, she contends, was one more step in "Beck's own personal journey of recovery." Think of the entire gathering as the Tea Party icon's personal, public twelve-step program. Many of his quotes reminded Parker of "language of the addict," which seems logical to her because "addiction has been a defining part of [Beck's] life, and recovery is a process inseparable from the Glenn Beck Program." That's because "helping others find their way" is typically a "part of the cure," and Beck has followed protocol by becoming a "national crusader for faith, hope and charity" (an "easy sell," she adds). Parker concludes by calling Beck "messianic," hoping that he "gets well soon."

  • Stephen Sestanovich on the 'Short War' in Afghanistan  As the U.S. doubles down on its strategy in Afghanistan, commentators increasingly refer to our engagement there as "America's Longest War." The point of this label, argues the former ambassador-at-large, is to cement the  comparison with Vietnam and portray the current war as an "unwinnable slog." But the "longest war" notion might be the wrong way of looking at the current situation, argues Sestanovich, who makes a broader point about both the wars being compared:

At the center of our "longest wars" ... there seems to be a short one that really counts. It begins when a president and his advisers decide that the effort expended to date has been completely inadequate. They believe they have to take something that feels like their best shot, and until they've done so, almost no one wants to pull out. But once they have, almost no one wants to stay in.
  • Martin Wolf on Being Too Cautious in Fearful Times  Arriving in office just as the economic collapse became a reality, Obama should have acted immediately and aggressively toward righting the sinking ship. Unfortunately, the stimulus package that he authorized was "unfocused" and "too little" and the president didn't act quickly enough, according to the Financial Times columnist. As a consequence of tentative actions in the face of a crisis not seen since the Great Depression, his administration "has lost credibility with the public and the chances of a renewed fiscal expansion have disappeared." And as Republicans appear to be returning to power, Wolf rues what could have been: "Those who were cautious when they should have been bold will pay a big price."

  • The New York Times on an All-Digital Oxford English Dictionary The New York Times editorial board is enthusiastic about the possibility of the Oxford English Dictionary (O.E.D.) going online-only. At $295 (compared to the print edition's $995), the digital O.E.D. appears to be a better deal. Plus, the digital version will have updates. But though praising the new OED's ability to deal with language as a "living organism," the editors sound a note of ambivalence at the end:

Even our spoken language is overwhelmingly historical in nature. That is the O.E.D.'s greatest value--as a guide to our spoken and written history. We like the convenience of looking up a word on the fly on the screen, and the gravitas of doing it, not on the fly, from one of the O.E.D.'s 20 volumes. Somehow, we can't help thinking that when the power goes out and the candles are lit, we may want that print edition.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.