Five Best Saturday Columns
On David Cameron's 'Katrina' moment, and why Obama is still the same
Clay Risen on David Cameron's Katrina Moment. "A week that began as what many called Prime Minister David Cameron’s “Katrina Moment” ended as, well, what?" asks Clay Risen. "When the unrest began on Saturday, Mr. Cameron was on vacation in Tuscany... Even worse, Mr. Cameron’s first reaction was to try and manage things from afar." In the meantime, "Kenneth Livingstone, the left-leaning former mayor of London, wasted no time, releasing a statement on Sunday that blamed the riots on recent austerity measures by the Cameron government." But though British society is not wholly blaming the London riots on the the political, social, and economic situation, "both sides seemed to agree on one thing: that the riots set the stage for a debate about British society and where it was headed, something that neither Mr. Cameron nor his Labor predecessors had been able to accomplish." There is anger over Cameron's decision to cut police spending at this time. The interesting thing though, is not that the riots have caused a rise in left-wing thought: rather, "the problem for Mr. Cameron is that while the public anger clearly leans right, it’s not leaning toward his particular brand of small-government conservatism." So where is policy heading after the riots? "It sounded then like an Anglicized version of George W. Bush’s 'compassionate conservatism,' and perhaps it was. Whether it would work is one question; whether Mr. Cameron has the guts, or even the inclination, to try it is another."
Justin Elliot on Romney's 'Corporations are People' Comment. "In an instant-classic flub at the Iowa State Fair this week, Mitt Romney proclaimed, 'corporations are people, my friend'," Elliot begins -- only to say that perhaps Romney was not so wrong after all. For one, "Romney, of course, was speaking in the context of tax policy, making the point that to raise taxes on corporations is to raise taxes on the owners -- people -- of that corporation." But moreover, "his statement unintentionally hit at another, underexamined fact of American life: Corporations are people. That's at least in the opinion of the Supreme Court when it comes to certain legal issues. This is the doctrine known as "corporate personhood" that came into play in the Citizens United case in 2010 that gutted some important corporate campaign finance restrictions." Elliot speaks to an attorney who goes into the details, concluding that Romney is "correct in the sense that the U.S. Supreme Court has said that corporations are persons with inherent constitutional rights. Of course, he's wrong just as the court is wrong."
Norman Podhoretz on Why Obama Hasn't Changed. Last week, an editorial in the New York Times gained much attention for attempting to explain how Obama had changed for liberals, or what he had lost. This week at the Wall Street Journal, however, Norman Podhoretz disagrees. "We villainous conservatives do not see Mr. Obama as conciliatory or as 'a president who either does not know what he believes or is willing to take whatever position he thinks will lead to his re-election.' On the contrary, we see him as a president who knows all too well what he believes," he writes. According to him, Obama is has not made as "opportunistic appeal to the center," but rather his action continue along the exact same "unshakable strategic objective" which he had all along, "which is to turn this country into a European-style social democracy while diminishing the leading role it has played in the world since the end of World War II." If anything, in Pohoretz's view, Obama's success despite his ideology may be a product of reverse discrimination: "To be sure, no white candidate who had close associations with an outspoken hater of America like Jeremiah Wright and an unrepentant terrorist like Bill Ayers would have lasted a single day. But because Mr. Obama was black, and therefore entitled in the eyes of liberaldom to have hung out with protesters against various American injustices, even if they were a bit extreme, he was given a pass."
Charles M Blow on What He Really Thinks About Michele Bachmann. "I must confess that every time Representative Michele Bachmann uttered the phrase 'as president of the United States' during Thursday’s Republican presidential debate I blacked out a little bit, so I’m sure that I missed some things," writes Charles M. Blow candidly, who appears to be unraveling slightly as the Tea Party continues to think it handled the debt ceiling debate and protestation against raising taxes well. "That moment should tell every voter in America everything about this current crop of Know-Nothings — no person who would take such a stance is fit to be president of the United States or any developed country." To that he adds: "And it is truly telling that the word 'bipartisan' was only used twice, once each by Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, whose campaigns evoke the phrase 'dead men walking.'" Huntsman tried to take a more middle ground as well, saying he stood up for the Boehner deal, but "he’s getting about as much traction as a tire stuck in the mud on a Mississippi dirt road." But things are turning around, according to Blow: "Luckily for the rest of us, a rash of recent polling suggests that more Americans, at least for the moment, seem to be coming around to seeing the Tea Party for what it is — not mechanics come to fix the machine, but the proverbial monkeys willing to throw a wrench into it... the percent of people who considered themselves part of the Tea Party dropped to 18 percent from 26 percent and the percentage who said that the Tea Party had too much influence over the Republican Party increased by more than half, crossing 40 percent for the first time."
Richard Hall on Why We Need to Ask Questions on the UK Riots. "The callousness displayed by many of those involved, and the sheer scale of the disturbances, has understandably caused a great deal of anger," Richard Hall writes on the London riots. "As a result, many people have chosen to reject any debate over why these riots are taking place at all. The impression appears to be that the crimes committed were so great and so senseless that to try and understand them is to condone them." Why is this the case: "By this logic, the crimes committed over the past few days are distinct from any other crime, and deserve special treatment. The same people would probably not object to trying to understand the cause of many other, perhaps more severe crimes. But they seem to have decided that these particular crimes, committed en masse across Britain, are not worthy of further thought. It is an appealing position to take, primarily because it requires little effort." But while it is easy to "ignore the voices of those who work with the communities affected by rioting," or to ignore the voices of the young people in those communities, at the same time "it should not be so difficult to understand that listening to those who live and work in the communities affected by the riots is not the same as condoning the actions of the rioters. Quite the opposite, it is necessary to prevent the same thing from happening again. "