5 Best Thursday Columns

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  • Robert Dallek on Why We Love JFK  On the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's 1961 inaugural address, Robert Dallek at Salon asks what keeps the president, who served for only a thousand days and accomplished very little of his political agenda, so popular. Dallek suggests that people generally aren't familiar with the political accomplishments of the most revered presidents; rather, public heroes like Kennedy are worshiped for their ability to make Americans, particularly the middle class, "feel better about themselves." Kennedy's "promise to put a man on the moon," his "call to advance to a New Frontier, to ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country"--they may have been rhetorical flourishes, says Dallek, but they "fostered feelings of self-respect."

  • Dana Milbank on the American Press Standing Up to Hu Jintao  Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank gives a play-by-play of yesterday's press conference with Chinese President Hu Jintao, where two American reporters confronted the head of state with questions about his country's human rights record. He dodged the initial question from an AP reporter, claiming not to have heard the translation, but was forced to answer when someone from Bloomberg took the floor. "It was a good moment for American press," proclaims Milbank. "Feller and Nichols put the Chinese leader on the spot in a way that Obama, constrained by protocol, could not have done."

  • Jonathan Cohn on Why the Vote Against the Health Care Bill Matters  Rather than being a symbolic gesture, Cohn argues in The New Republic, Wednesday's vote was a snapshot of what's to come: "It sends a message about values. And so it's worth considering what values this generation of Republicans has decided to embrace." In this case, Cohn says the vote represents a willingness to employ baseless outrage over reason. He points out that "the most outrageous claims, like the notion of government-run 'death panels,' have zero basis in fact." Cohn also writes that those pushing for repeal have gotten away without ever wrestling with the core idea behind the legislation, "the fundamental moral logic behind the Affordable Care Act... that it's wrong to sit by and watch people give up their savings, or their lives, just because they happened to get sick."

  • David Harsanyi on Obama's Regulating Ways  In Reason, the Denver Post columnist slams the president's recent Wall Street Journal op-ed in which "he extolled the virtues of a free market system." Harsanyi says the "witty" piece amounted to no more than a sham. Rather than being a president on the side of unfettered markets, and despite signing an executive order designed "to root out regulations that conflict, that are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb," Harsanyi says the administration has done nothing but clamp down on free markets, with regulations that include carbon-emission limits, the Affordable Healthcare Act, and the FCC's stab at establishing net neutrality. "I can't recall a single federal program, piece of legislation, or proposal in the past two years that was initiated to ease the burden on consumers or businesses," he writes. "If you know of any, please send specifics to sorry@dowelooklikesuckers.com."

  • Bruce Laingen on Overcoming History With Iran  On the 30th anniversary of the end of the Iranian hostage crisis, Bruce Laingen, one of the prisoners, writes in The Baltimore Sun about the need for diplomatic relations between the United States and Iran. The 30 years since the fallout of what was once a productive relationship "mark the longest gap in relations with another country in the history of American diplomacy," writes Laingen. Here's the way to a thaw in relations, he says: The U.S. should understand that "a full end to enrichment is not going to happen, given Iranian national pride," but it should press for "Iran to agree to specified limits on [uranium] enrichment, accompanied by strict and full controls and inspections agreed with the IAEA." In return for limits on enrichment, the United States "must signal its readiness to assure Iran a 'seat at the table' in exchanges covering regional arrangements for multilateral security in the Persian Gulf area." It's going to take time to move beyond the "poisonous" legacy of the last 30 years, Laingen concludes, but the rhetoric of a relationship built on dialogue should be a major goal.

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