Five Best Monday Columns

Antonio Villaraigosa on immigration reform, George Packer on Southern Republicans, Jennifer Welsh on France's intervention in Mali, Chris Cillizza on the Senate losing its lions, and Gary Younge on Obama's Iraq amnesia. 

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Antonio Villaraigosa in Politico on immigration reform Early signals suggest that President Obama will push for comprehensive immigration reform in his second term. If he needs any suggestions, Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa would be glad to bend his ear. "An immigration policy that allows us to grow together and not apart is the moral and economic imperative of our time," Villaraigosa writes, offering a six-point plan that he believes would not only make immigration policies more fair, but would also boost the nation's economy. "When the head of a household becomes a citizen, family income rises almost 14 percent on average. For the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. that would generate over $1.5 trillion in the next decade. And for the federal government that would mean $4.5 billion in new tax revenue over the next three years alone."

George Packer in The New Yorker on Southern Republicans The fiscal cliff vote briefly showed schisms forming in the Republican party, George Packer argues. But one GOP stronghold remains as united in opposition as ever: Southerners. "The South is becoming isolated again," Packer writes, worrying about the renewing split between Southerners and the rest of the country. "As its political power declines, the South might occupy a place like Scotland’s in the United Kingdom, as a cultural draw for the rest of the country, with a hint of the theme park ... An estrangement between the South and the rest of the country would bring out the worst in both—dangerous insularity in the first, smug self-deception in the second."

Jennifer Welsh in The Globe and Mail on France's intervention in Mali French leaders have long expressed reluctance toward intervening in African countries, worried about renewing its tangled colonial past. But last week France led a multilateral march into Mali, where it hopes to tamp down Islamist forces in Sahel. So what convinced them to interven? "In short, to the French, Mali threatens to become a new Afghanistan: a failed state and a haven for terrorists," writes Jennifer Welsh. "Events appear to have forced Mr. Hollande’s hand, but in launching this intervention, he is asking his armed forces, just returned from Afghanistan, to take a big gamble ... A French presence in Mali could internationalize the conflict among global jihadists, which could be exactly the outcome they seek."

Chris Cillizza in The Washington Post on the Senate losing its lions With West Virginia Democrat Jay Rockefeller set to retire, Chris Cillizza is starting to long for the era of celebrity Senators. Ted Kennedy, Robert Byrd, Ted Stevens, Arlen Specter, Olympia Snowe—all have left Congress since 2008. And the Senate is a much less boisterous, effective lawmaking body in their absence, Cillizza argues. "No one would dispute that the Senate is not filled with the sort of major figures that roamed its halls even a decade ago. The bigger question is why," he writes. "The intractability that has dominated Senate proceedings in recent years—and led to aggressive efforts to change filibuster rules—seems to be directly traceable to the fact that the Senate we once knew—and the men and women who populated it—are gone."

Gary Younge in The Guardian on Obama's Iraq amnesia While many voices are lauding Chuck Hagel and John Brennan as experienced choices to lead the Department of Defense and the CIA, Gary Younge is dismayed about what their nominations say about Obama's lessons from the war in Iraq. "For all the blood spilt and treasure spent in US military conflict, the carnage and chaos they inflict and the enemies they create, precious few of the lessons seem to trickle up to the political class," Younge writes. "Obama's most recent nominations suggest that, for all his rhetoric about turning a page in foreign policy, he cannot resist returning to the authors of its most discredited recent chapters to craft the next episode."

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