Five Best Thursday Columns

Jeffrey Rosen on Robert Bork's legacy, Ezra Klein on what would make a good fiscal cliff deal, Adam Gopnik on gun control, Andres Oppenheimer on Latin America and the Senate, and Timothy Garton Ash on Britain and the EU.

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Jeffrey Rosen in The New Republic on Robert Bork American history's most controversial Supreme Court justice nominee died yesterday, and many are conflicted about how to remember Robert Bork. Jeffrey Rosen remembers him as the guy his boss wanted to prevent from being seated on the bench. Rosen interned for then-Senator Joe Biden in the summer of 1987, and he was pleased when Bork's nomination was defeated. But he worries about the precedent the confirmation hearing set. "The Borking of Bork was the beginning of the polarization of the confirmation process that has turned our courts into partisan war zones, resulting in more ideologically divided opinions and less intellectually adventurous nominees on the left and the right," writes Rosen.

Ezra Klein in Bloomberg View on determining the quality of a fiscal cliff deal When—or if—a fiscal cliff deal emerges, how will we know whether it's a good one or not? Ezra Klein says we shouldn't get our hopes up, but we can expect one of three types of deal: small, medium, and grand. "Viewed from one angle, the tentative Obama/Boehner deal is surely small-ball. It includes about $1 trillion in tax revenue and $1 trillion in spending cuts, for a total of about $2 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years. That’s not nothing, but it’s on the small side of the various fiscal plans circulating Washington," Klein writes. But throw in 2011's Budget Control Act and potential savings from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we might actually be making headway on deficit reduction, Klein argues.

Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker on gun control The number of American children who died from gunshots reached 5,740 in a recent two-year period, and Adam Gopnik has no idea why we aren't taking demonstrably effective steps to stop that. "The overwhelming majority of those children would have been saved with effective gun control," he writes. "We know that this is so, because, in societies that have effective gun control, children rarely, rarely, rarely die of gunshots. Let’s worry tomorrow about the problem of Evil. Let’s worry more about making sure that when the Problem of Evil appears in a first-grade classroom, it is armed with a penknife."

Andres Oppenheimer in The Miami Herald on Obama's pivot toward Latin America If John Kerry is confirmed as Secretary of State, the U.S. may start to pay more attention to Latin America, argues Andres Oppenheimer. That's because Kerry's vacant seat as chairman of the U.S. Senate Relations Committee would likely be filled by Senator Bob Menendez, a Cuban-American with expertise on the region. And Rep. Eliot Engel seems primed to become a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "The likely promotion of Menendez and Engel to top congressional jobs, as well as the growing political weight of Latinos in the United States following the crucial Hispanic support for Obama in the Nov. 6 elections, may push the president to pay more attention to Latin America over the next four years," writes Oppenheimer, who thinks immigration reform, drug war policies, and trade ties could all be affected by the shift.

Timothy Garton Ash in The Guardian on Britain's place in the EU The U.K.'s continued membership in the European Union is in doubt, with nationalist voices calling for Britain to break from Europe—and they're growing louder. Timothy Garton Ash isn't afraid of that debate, because he believes U.K. citizens will ultimately stick with Europe. "Unlike many of my pro-European friends, I think we will win," he writes. "I do not believe the brains of the British people have been so addled by the Sun and Daily Mail that they will, confronted with the facts about what it is really like to be Norway (without the oil) or Switzerland, decide that exit—Brexit or Brixit—is the best option for this country."

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