5 Best Monday Columns

On the "shellacking" that hubris wrought, the U.S.-India divide, and Tyler Perry's Hollywood

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  • Hendrik Hertzberg on Americans' Electoral Dissonance  Following Democrats "historic" defeat last week in the midterm elections, The New Yorker columnist argues that the result shows political cognitive-dissonance. "Frightened by joblessness, 'the American people' [the "scaled-down" midterm electorate, that is] rewarded the party that not only opposed the stimulus but also blocked the extension of unemployment benefits," he writes. The Democrats' enduring problem is that their defense relied on "counterfactuals" (example: the government had to spend more money as individuals spent less) and ran up against "public ignorance" of the facts on middle-class tax cuts, TARP and health care reform. Hertzberg argues that it wasn't necessarily lack of communication on Obama's part that determined the fate of the midterms. "Compromise, timidity, and the ugliness of the legislative process—not all of it unavoidable—have exacted a steep toll," he concludes.
  • Rich Lowry on the Politics of Hubris  "Barack Obama is suffering from a case of hubris so far-reaching and debilitating, it will fascinate political epidemiologists for decades," contends The National Review editor. The president failed to understand that his mandate was merely a "tentative endorsement," so he rushed to "transform" America when there was little desire for sweeping legislation. Lowry likens Obama to an "ice fisherman romping around on what he thought was a lake frozen six inches thick when it was barely frozen at all." Although only 23 percent of the electorate blamed Obama for the state of the economy (fewer than those who blamed Wall Street bankers or George W. Bush), it is notable that just as Obama was taking office, already "public opinion was shifting to the right"--"conspicuously incongruous with the results of the 2008 elections," as Gallup observed at the time. "Adjusting to the discomfiting reality of a center-right electorate is his challenge now," notes Lowry. "It will require the humility first to realize how fundamentally he misread the American people, and then to adopt a more cautious and defensive style of politics."
  • Selig S. Harrison on the U.S-India Divide  The full potential of U.S.-India cooperation can't be realized "until Washington stops providing Islamabad with weaponry that can be used against India and takes a realistic view of the reasons for Indian-Pakistani tensions," argues The Los Angeles Times contributor. The U.S. has showered $13.5 billion in big-ticket military items like F-16 fighter jets and state-of-the-art missiles on Pakistan, ostensibly in the name of combating terrorism. But these arms only have the effect of strengthening Pakistan's air and naval capabilities against its long-time foe, India. While Islambad argues that its "'insecurity' in the face of Indian power explains why it aids the Taliban in Afghanistan," the real reason why it supports the Taliban is so Pakistan can "counter Indian influence in Afghanistan with its own surrogates."
  • Courtland Milloy on Hollywood and Race  Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls is attracting Oscar buzz, but The Washington Post columnist argues the film's portrayal of its black, male characters is unacceptably negative. In this way, it is of a piece with a number of 2010 films in which black males have either been ancillary supporting characters or stock villains. "Can anyone name a movie that came out recently starring a black man who wasn't a sociopath?" asks Milloy. "Someone who had a terrific screen presence, like a young Paul Robeson? And he portrayed a character who was complex and fully drawn? Did he respect black women, too?" Milloy argues it's time to bring such characters to the screen, particularly at a time when they are so underrepresented by modern Hollywood. "Spike Lee and Denzel Washington could team up for a sweeping historical drama - say, a black sharecropper's son, educated in a one-room schoolhouse built by slaves in Alabama, who grows up to become one of Wall Street's most powerful CEOs...with a cameo appearance by former Merrill Lynch chief executive Stanley O'Neal."
  • L. Gordon Crovitz on Net Neutrality  Last month, 95 candidates for Congress signed the Progressive Change Campaign Committee's pledge to support net neutrality. Last Tuesday, all 95 of those candidates lost. These results, The Wall Street Journal columnist observes, suggest the public is leery of the government jumping into the cyberspace fray."People fear government regulation of what has been a free and open Internet more than they fear what any other institution might do to the Web," Crovitz notes. A more effective use of resources would be finding ways encourage more competition amongst providers. As it stands now "monopolies and duopolies" control America's Internet access. "Indeed," writes Crovitz, "there is little discussion of net neutrality in Europe or Asia, where there is real competition among broadband providers."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.