5 Best Tuesday Columns

On the real lesson of WikiLeaks, how the U.S. can help in the Congo, and where the GOP will work with Democrats

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  • John Dickerson on the 'Emergency Presidency'  More than any president in memory, Barack Obama has been expected to respond to crises in real-time. The Slate columnist wonders if this is a mistake. After all, "life-hacking experts counsel us not to look at email first thing in the morning. That way we can focus on what's important." Sound advice, except that "the presidential inbox is overcrowded, misleading, and full of unwelcome surprises." There's no way to ignore the problems of the world, nor is there any way to predict them. "A great deal of the president's time is inevitably taken up by emergencies about to happen or emergencies thwarted"--and that's what the public wants: a president "immediately and deeply engaged in a public way in all kinds of flash controversies." The result, at least for Barack Obama, has been the perception he is not engaged, or spread too thin. In Dickerson's estimation, it's time for a reality check: "The president may still have to pretend that he can do everything, but in truth he has to make wise choices in a frantic world, because the president never gets to Inbox Zero."
  • Bret Stephens on the Left's Lesson from WikiLeaks  Whether the liberal outrage over the new WikiLeaks dump is genuine or politically motivated, it represents progress, says The Wall Street Journal columnist. Considering that the release of the Pentagon Papers (far more dangerous to America's interests, Stephens believes, than the State Department cables, which will be nothing but a "colossal headache for U.S. diplomats") was for years a "pillar of liberal self-regard," the furor over yesterday's leaks shows the left is "growing up on the topic of government secrecy and its connection to national security, international stability and, not least, human rights." Stephens wonders what other changes to the liberal worldview the cables could prompt.
  • Philip Stephens on the Cables' Message of American Decline  The unflattering descriptions of foreign leaders have attracted the most media attention, but the Financial Times columnist believes the most compelling parts of the new WikiLeaks dump are the State Department cables about specific policies. "Here," observes Stephens, "we see the hypocrisies of some of Washington's allies as well as the misjudgments of the US--nowhere more so than in the Middle East." In fact, he says, "the picture that emerges is of a world in which the sole superpower has a dog in every fight, but can expect precious little help from anyone else." He points to Israeli pressure on the U.S. regarding Iran but intransigence on Palestine. Then, when it comes to "paranoid" Afghan President Hamid Karzai, "Washington can only shrug its shoulders. It does not have any other options." It's clear to Stephens after reading the State Department cables "that American power is indeed waning. In a world of rising states, nuclear proliferation and international terrorism, Washington cannot be sure of getting its way."

  • John Boehner and Mitch McConnell on Bipartisan Efforts  "Today, Republican leaders renew our offer to work with anyone, from either party, who is ready to focus on the priorities of the American people," write the GOP leaders in The Washington Post, in a choose-your-own-adventure message to Democrats. In order to begin this work, however, "our friends across the aisle" need to stop clinging to the "liberal wish list" and start focusing on the needs of the middle class and small business owners. This Friday, funding for the government runs dry and taxpayers will "get hit with one of the largest tax hikes" in history. It's time to "do the right thing," they argue. "If President Obama and Democratic leaders put forward a plan during the lame-duck session to cut spending and stop the tax hikes on all Americans, they can count on a positive response from Republicans." If not, Republicans will work to "get the job done" in the next congressional session.
  • Ben Affleck on How the U.S. Can Help in the Congo  The actor and founder of the advocacy group the Eastern Congo Initiative takes to the pages of The Washington Post to entreat the U.S. to help secure the fragile peace in the war-torn Congo. "This isn't just altruism," writes Affleck. "The United States has security, economic and diplomatic interests in a peaceful and stable Congo." He then highlights a few recommendations for policymakers that will lead to "mutually beneficial improvement in the lives of the Congolese," including "effectively implement[ing]" the guidelines of the Dodd-Frank act (which requires reporting the origin of "conflict" minerals that arrive from the Congo) and the provision of  "technical assistance" to help ensure fair elections in 2011. If policymakers act on these, and other, recommendations, the U.S. can help "ensure that Congo never again experiences the violence and exploitation that defined much of its past two decades."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.