5 Best Friday Columns

On the British "coping" classes, sizing up a run for president, and the "axis of depression"

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  • Peggy Noonan on Mulling a Presidential Run  Turning her gaze from Capitol Hill to the "Thanksgiving couch" of a potential Republican presidential candidate, The Wall Street Journal columnist notes that all the most important decisions are happening right now. A potential candidate must gauge the mood of the family members (who would have to play the exhausting role of "the president's family"), corral a proper consultant (you'll be the first iPad candidate!), and size up the competition (Mitt Romney is "surely" running). "Every four years we say, 'This is a crucial election,' and every four years it's more or less true. But 2012 will seem truer than most," figures Noonan who later remarks "that at this moment, it looks like the next Republican nominee for president will probably be elected president." Still, Obama won the presidency by over 9.5 million votes, and he has a sizeable movement behind him that any GOP candidate must remember. She concludes: "good luck to those families having their meetings and deliberations on Thanksgiving weekend."
  • Roger Cohen on a Nifty Little Royal Wedding Stimulus   The New York Times columnist left Britain "three decades ago and recently returned to the surveillance state"--a gloomy, cash-strapped island with plenty of surveillance cameras, unemployment, and spending cuts and new plans for measuring national happiness. "Still," he observes, "nobody's bought out the monarchy yet and nobody's stopped Prince Charles putting his foot in his mouth. Continuity can seem like a consolation." He's referring, of course, to Prince Charles's comment on the engagement of his son and Kate Middleton: "they have been practicing long enough." The royal engagement, thinks Cohen, might be just what the doctor ordered--and it's also different from the last one. (Cohen writes of royal weddings "punctuating the moroseness at a 30-year interval.") Compared to the last, this couple is more convincingly in love, and the bride is from more humble origins. Though "theirs will be an austerity-conscious wedding, ostentatiously so," folks are excited and the economy expects a bump. There will be plenty of memorabilia sold. Writes Cohen:
Perhaps the monarchy is there precisely to make even convinced republicans wonder whether irrational symbolism on an outlandish scale, and an immutability scarcely less immense, doesn't satisfy some deep human need. ... Turn off those cameras, turn down the surveillance society, and turn up, please, for a great British show only Brits know how to produce.
  • Paul Krugman on the Axis of Depression  Germany, China, and the GOP are all worried about the America's deficit, trying to "bully the Federal Reserve into calling off its efforts to create jobs," writes The New York Times columnist. Krugman says the motives of all three are "highly suspect." The rationale when it comes to China and Germany is at least understandable--"both nations are accustomed to running huge trade surpluses." The Republican attacks on the Fed and chairman Ben Bernanke are harder for Krugman to fathom. Most of their objections "range from the odd to the incoherent." It leads Krugman to conclude the party, for purely political reasons, doesn't want to see QE2 succeed at all--unemployment will fuel Republican success. "In short," he writes, "their real fear is not that Fed actions will be harmful, it is that they might succeed."
  • David Brooks on the Newsbeast  For the Newsweek-Daily Beast merger to be a success, their new news source must tap into the aspirational quality that fueled media consumption in the 20th century, writes The New York Times columnist. Brooks says it wasn't that long ago that "poor families scratched together their dollars to buy an encyclopedia, to join the Book of the Month Club, to buy Will and Ariel Durant’s 'Civilization' series or the Robert Maynard Hutchins's Great Books." Knowledge wasn't automatically power, but it was something worth having. This "cultural aspiration" was encouraged by magazines like Time and Newsweek. Brooks blames the "self-esteem hurricane" for the fall of these publications. People were told they didn't need to be well-read to have character. Which might be true, but, as Brooks notes, people like reading. It's a fundamentally hopeful act. "There should be room for a general-interest magazine to reinvent the old middlebrow formula," concludes Brooks. And it might as well be Newsbeast.
  • Robert H. Scales and Paul van Riper on Fighting Fair  Reflecting on the heroism of Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, who received the Medal of Honor this week, Retired Major General Scales and Retired Lieutenant General von Riper lament the disproportionate danger infantry squads face; "Two of Giunta's buddies," write the pair, "died in what appeared to be, sadly, too fair a fight." The U.S. has the best weaponry and body armor in the world, and its soldiers are often not equipped with it. Unmanned aircraft can prevent ambushes for troops on the ground--why don't they? Ultimately, Scales and van Riper don't understand why Americans are still being asked to participate in small skirmishes at the squad level. It seems not only to negate America's tactical advantages, but also what worked for the country on the battlefield in the past. "For more than two-thirds of a century," they write, "this country preferred to crush its enemies by exploiting our superiority in the air and on the seas." The military leaders of the richest country on earth shouldn't be asking themselves if they could have "done more to help this small infantry unit spot the enemy ambush from the air and defeat them with overwhelming killing power. For Giunta's sake, please: No more fair fights."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.