Five Best Monday Columns
Peter Beinart on Chuck Hagel, Doyle McManus on John Boehner, Chris Cillizza on Washington's bargaining problem, Kostas Vaxevanis on Greek oligarchs, and Mark Buchanan on inequality and crime.
Peter Beinart in The Daily Beast on Chuck Hagel After President Obama nominates Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense this afternoon, the confirmation hearings are likely to dig up a history most Republican senators would rather not reflect on heading into new international crises, argues Peter Beinart. "At the heart of the opposition to Hagel is the fear that he will do what Republicans have thus far largely prevented: bring America’s experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan into the Iran debate," he writes. "What the Republican foreign policy establishment fears is that with Hagel as secretary of defense, it will be impossible for Barack Obama to minimize the dangers of war with Iran, as George W. Bush minimized the dangers of war with Iraq."
Doyle McManus in the Los Angeles Times on John Boehner The possibility of a Republican coup in the House of Representatives has dissipated, and John Boehner will remain Speaker of the House. But should he really consider that a victory? Doyle McManus argues that upcoming fights like the looming debt ceiling vote put Boehner in an unenviable position. "It's no wonder that by Thursday, when Boehner was narrowly reelected as speaker over protest votes from disgruntled conservatives, the sour joke in the Capitol was that his caucus was punishing him for his failings by letting him keep his job," McManus writes. "Boehner has the job he always wanted. But it came without a guarantee that he's going to enjoy it much."
Chris Cillizza in The Washington Post on Washington's inability to bargain It's unlikely Boehner will be able to convince lawmakers to reach amicable agreements on tough looming issues, and Chris Cillizza isn't sure anybody else could, given his position. "What if a 'grand bargain'—or any sort of large legislative measure requiring significant bipartisan compromise—simply isn’t possible anymore?" Cillizza asks, citing Republican party line mentality, polarization, and GOP leadership problems as some of the reasons why Washington can't agree on anything anymore. "It may be time to accept that the idea of Washington doing big things in a bipartisan way is a thing of the past—perhaps never to be recovered."
Kostas Vaxevanis in The New York Times on Greek oligarchs Kostas Vaxevanis got himself arrested when he published a list of Greece's tax-evading "entrepreneurs" in the magazine he edits. He had hoped to expose the "tiny elite of business people who live off the Greek state" by "brib[ing] politicians to get fat government contracts, usually at inflated prices." He was acquitted on charges on privacy violation, but worries that the Greek oligarchs responsible for the country's continuing economic decline are still evading scrutiny. "Half of young Greeks are unemployed. The economy is shrinking at an annual rate of 6.9 percent. People are scrounging for food ... Journalists need to resist manipulation and rediscover their journalistic duties. And the government should revive Greece’s ancient democratic heritage — instead of killing the messenger."
Mark Buchanan in Bloomberg View on inequality and crime How does a theoretical physicist explain social ills like crime? After reviewing different academic arguments and available evidence, Buchanan has concluded that economic inequality is the real culprit. He argues that while inequality is unavoidable, it can be incredibly detrimental to public safety when taken to extremes. "It’s probably no accident that the U.S., ranked among the most unequal nations, also has the largest fraction of its population in prison," Buchanan writes, arguing for what sounds a whole lot like income redistribution through the tax code. "The socially destructive consequences of inequality will become increasingly obvious unless we reduce it—through the tax system (as the U.S. did through much of the 20th century, before the last few decades), or through measures aimed at making pretax incomes more equal."