Five Best Tuesday Columns
Jeffrey Toobin on Obama's gay marriage stance, David A. Bell on France's domestic malaise, Matthew Yglesias on dueling hedge-fund managers, Dana Milbank on Obama's new bad-cop routine, and Mark Frazier on an aging China.
Jeffrey Toobin in The New Yorker on Obama's gay marriage stance As President Obama continues warming up to the idea of same-sex marriage (last month he urged the state of Illinois to legalize it), Jeffrey Toobin wonders how much of the issue we'll be seeing on the national stage. The Supreme Court's upcoming hearings on cases which question the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act should present an opportunity to talk seriously about gay marriage. "Since 2011, the Obama Administration has been on record as considering DOMA unconstitutional; it will not defend the law before the Justices," he writes. But even with growing public support for gay marriage, the President and the Supreme Court are proceeding cautiously, Toobin finds. "Maybe the President does not want to lead—and maybe the Supreme Court doesn’t want to, either—but the destination of the country on gay rights is clearer every day."
David A. Bell in The New Republic on France's domestic malaise Much has been written on the factors in France's decision to intervene in Mali, with focus on the brutality perpetrated by Islamist rebels there. But the situation on the ground in France might have just as much influence on President Hollande's push into Mali, argues David A. Bell. "Far from expressing a confident sense of mission, the French public has recently been more inclined to a sense of decline, malaise, paralysis and crisis," Bell writes. And thanks to a stalled economy, tax revolts amongst the rich, and growing political divisiveness, this sense of ennui "is at least partially justified," Bell argues. Perhaps this entrance into Mali is just the shot in the arm the country needs.
Matthew Yglesias in Slate on dueling hedge-fund managers When we imagine hedge fund managers fighting, we usually don't picture them squabbling over nutritional supplements. But that's exactly what's going down between Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management and Daniel Loeb of Third Point Capital. Summing up the spat, Matthew Yglesias writes, "Ackman ... says it’s an illegal pyramid scheme that should be shut down by regulators, thus cratering its stock and making him a nice pile of money ... [Loeb's] claim is simply that Ackman is mistaken, and that his short-selling and propaganda campaign artificially depressed the price of Herbalife stock." At stake in this brawl is the system by which bankers scrutinizes themselves, Yglesias says: "For those of us who are just spectators, it’s a case—an all-too-rare case—of the financial system acting in a real way to test and probe the actual economy ... If the company survives, it’ll be by withstanding scrutiny rather than flying under the radar—exactly the way it should be."
Dana Milbank in The Washington Post on Obama's new bad-cop routine President Obama described himself as "a pretty friendly guy" at yesterday's press conference. But someone only points out their friendliness when they're getting ready to put on their mean face, Dana Milbank notes. "Arguably, Obama’s no-more-Mr.-Nice-Guy approach is good politics," Milbanks writes. "Yet the performance was also a reminder of why Obama isn’t noted for his interpersonal warmth — a topic Jackie Calmes of the New York Times asked him to address when she mentioned the criticism that he and his staff are insular and that he doesn’t socialize. It’s tempting to wonder whether Obama could achieve more if he could establish personal connections with Republicans on Capitol Hill. But Obama disparaged the notion behind Calmes’s question — that a better bedside manner could help his agenda."
Mark Frazier in The Diplomat on an aging China One of the world's youngest economic powerhouses isn't so young when you look at its population. Demographic trends are catching up with China, and as its citizens get older, officials will have to come up with ways to deal with "graying." Mark Frazier writes, "As China's population ages, scholars and officials are seriously considering proposals to phase out the one-child policy that is beginning to curb the flow of new workers into the economy, as well as raise retirement ages (currently 60 for men, 5 or 10 years earlier for women). But such adjustments are just as politically difficult in China as in in Western democracies because, as it turns out, not wanting to work longer is a widely held preference."