5 Best Sunday Columns

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  • Peggy Noonan on Keeping Obama Grounded  The first half of Noonan's column for The Wall Street Journal offers a surprisingly sympathetic look at how presidents are forced to lose touch with the people who elected them. "Presidents always get to the point where they want to escape Washington, and their lives, and their jobs. But they never can. Because when you're president and you go to Indiana, you take the bubble with you," Noonan writes. "Once you're president, you're not going to be able to change the features on your famous face; you're not going to be able to escape security, grab a fishing rod, and go sit on the side of a river waiting for normal Americans to walk by." The rest of the column is a bit more inscrutable, and imagines John Wayne being groped by a TSA official. The Wire is not making this up.
  • Glenn Greenwald on Ginned-Up Terrorist Plots  In a provocative piece for Salon, Greenwald wonders how much we should trust the FBI's account of its own terrorist sting operation in Oregon that resulted in a teenager's arrest on Friday. "It may very well be that the FBI successfully and within legal limits arrested a dangerous criminal intent on carrying out a serious Terrorist plot that would have killed many innocent people," Greenwald writes. "But it may also just as easily be the case that the FBI -- as they've done many times in the past -- found some very young, impressionable, disaffected, hapless, aimless, inept loner; created a plot it then persuaded/manipulated/entrapped him to join, essentially turning him into a Terrorist; and then patted itself on the back once it arrested him for having thwarted a 'Terrorist plot' which, from start to finish, was entirely the FBI's own concoction."
  • Michael Kazin on Unions, Race Politics, and Indie Voters  "Institutions matter," declares Michael Kazin in a piece for The New Republic. "Of all the social groups essential to a winning Democratic coalition, white working-class people are the only ones who, for the most part, currently lack sturdy institutions that promote progressive ideas and policies. African Americans have their churches, the NAACP, and other groups, both formal and informal. Latinos have organizations, both secular and religious, that defend immigrant rights and push for greater power in the larger society and culture." After mourning the decline of the American labor union, Kazin adds that "white working-class men and women need new institutions that can speak to their discontents and offer compelling alternatives to the politics of anger and nostalgia ... It is vital to the future of progressivism—enabling its politics to convey clearly and passionately what a better country would look like and what it will take to get us there."
  • Neal Gabler on What Zuckerberg Hath Wrought  In a piece for the Los Angeles Times, Gabler springboards off Facebook guru Mark Zuckerberg's recent call for communication that is "seamless, informal, immediate, personal, simple, minimal and short." Gabler argues that we should be skeptical of Zuckerberg's vision, because "how we communicate largely defines what we communicate." History provides examples: "Print's uniformity, its immutability, its rigidity, its logic led to a number of social transformations, among which were the rise of rationalism and of the scientific method ... Television not only repelled ideas, it was inimical to them." By the same token, says Gabler, "the more we text and Twitter and 'friend,' abiding by the haiku-like demands of social networking, the less likely we are to have the habit of mind or the means of expressing ourselves in interesting and complex ways."
  • Frank Rich on Our Broken, Broken System  Round out your long holiday weekend with an unyieldingly grim piece from the New York Times columnist, who laments that "the big money that dominates our political system, regardless of who's in power... has inexorably institutionalized a caste system where everyone remains (at best) mired in economic stasis except the very wealthiest sliver." Rich goes on to note that "seemingly everyone is aggrieved about the hijacking of the political system by anonymous special interests. The most recent Times-CBS News poll found that an extraordinary 92 percent of Americans want full disclosure of campaign contributors — far many more than, say, believe in evolution. But they will not get their wish anytime soon."

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