5 Best Tuesday Columns

On Obama's best speech, fighting bullies with babies, and the absurdity of Olbermann's suspension

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  • David Bornstein on Fighting Bullying with Babies  As bullying has become a national concern (the federal government has even rolled out a "Bullying Prevention Summit"), The New York Times contributor argues for a better way to prevent bullying than just punishment. He highlights a program called Roots of Empathy which brings mothers and babies into classrooms. "During the baby visits, the children sit around the baby and mother (sometimes it's a father) ... and they try to understand the baby's feelings," explains Bornstein. The baby acts as a "heart-softening magnet" and has been shown to raise empathy among these youth, who also come to understand what parenting entails. Research finds the program has decreased the "proactive aggression" that is commonly found among potential bullies.
  • Michael Kinsley on the 'Absurdity' of Suspending Olbermann  MSNBC acted with "lightning speed" to get ahead of the story and dump Keith Olbermann after revelations that he donated to political campaigns. Of course, according to the Politico columnist, this turned out to be "absurd in so many ways that it's hard to keep track." The network hired Olbermann to be a liberal anchor, paying him to "flaunt his biases," but then it suspended him for doing the same thing. The argument that the host is an "anchor" and therefore different from other humans is similarly "silly," he writes. "MSNBC has finally found its niche as a liberal equivalent of Fox--only more honest," Kinsley figures. "But not honest enough, apparently, if they think they’re fooling anybody by forbidding Keith Olbermann to make a few small campaign contributions."
  • Bret Stephens on 'Obama's Best Speech'  President Obama's speech yesterday in India was hands-down his best address since taking office, writes the generally critical Wall Street Journal columnist. By voicing unwavering American support for states that stand up to terror, touting free trade, and economic innovation measure, Obama has at last "alighted on a formula that can work for the U.S. while saving his presidency in the bargain." For a "president who used to routinely inveigh against Bangalore for stealing jobs from Buffalo" it was a stunning and welcome reversal. Stephens doesn't quite know what to make of it, but he likes what he hears. "Maybe it's pure double-speak, or maybe the president has emerged from his midterm shellacking with a new religion. India tends to have that effect on strangers: The sensible among them have been known to lose their minds, but the senseless often find their grip."
  • Roger Cohen on War with Iran  Could the recent tough talk from the likes of Sen. Lindsey Graham and other Congressional Republicans be enough to goad President Obama into attacking Iran? The New York Times columnist hopes not. Cohen recalls a young soldier he saw sitting in a Tampa hotel lobby. "Terrible burns disfigured his arms and face. The right side of his head was concave, as if depressed by a savage blow. ... Every so often," remarks Cohen, "America's wounds are rendered raw; the faraway wars come home." It's been argued an attack on Iran would push the U.S. economy to new heights, he observes. If so, it would be "the stimulus package from hell."
  • David Brooks on 'the Crossroads Nation'  As long as America remains a creative melting pot, the country's future will be bright, says The New York Times columnist. The country is already "well situated to be the center of global networks" crucial in the twenty-first century, he argues: "There are already people there with connections all over the world." This fluidity ensures a constant influx of new ideas and innovations. The key is making sure America remains a hub of innovation, a "crossroads nation" where "talented people get together, when idea systems and mentalities merge." What we need to do "thicken connections" is this:
Finance research to attract scientists; improve infrastructure to ease travel; fix immigration to funnel talent; reform taxes to attract superstars; make study abroad a rite of passage for college students; take advantage of the millions of veterans who have served overseas.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.