Five Best Wednesday Columns

Debra Saunders on the White House press corps, Maureen Dowd on President Standoffish, Simon Jenkins on EU membership, Karin Klein on the right to die, and Mark Mills on California's fracking goldmine.

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Debra Saunders in the San Francisco Chronicle on the White House press corps Presidential press conferences are a strange ritual. The answers given from the podium are often long-winded, non-committal, and not very helpful for understanding the issue. So why does the White House press corps keep asking such lame questions, knowing full well that President Obama could only reply with lame answers? That's what Debra Saunders wondered while watching Monday's press conference. "There's a law of verbal physics: The longer the question, the less likely it is to be answered," she writes. "Yet, White House reporters rehearse these paragraph-length sentences, adding context the president doesn't need and clauses that bury the lead. Many such questions are so complex that the questioner cannot reasonably expect an answer."

Maureen Dowd in The New York Times on President Standoffish Then again, President Obama shares blame for these dreadfully boring press conferences too, argues Maureen Dowd. Back in 2008, Obama had the capacity to inspire voters and instill hope in the general population. Now he has to remind people that he's "a pretty friendly guy" who enjoys "a good party." On the day of Obama's first inauguration, Dowd remembers, "The nation’s capital was suffused with passion and wonder and dreams ... Now the thrill is dimmed, with a series of grinding, petty fights ahead." And looking back on Obama's messaging track record, she writes, "Obama underwhelmed on traits everyone thought he’d excel at: negotiating, selling, charming, scaring, bully-pulpiting, mobilizing, dealing with Capitol Hill and, especially, communicating. It’s taken the White House four years to develop a coherent message: Pay your bills."

Simon Jenkins in The Guardian on potential EU departures Simon Jenkins is getting sick of Britons who keep waffling about whether or not to continue their membership in the European Union. "They stumble on through a storm of cliches, about sleep-walking, club members, departure lounges and minutes to midnight. The brain softens. The public screams, then it yawns," he writes. Certainly some restructuring is in order, he argues. But here's what should guide the conversation: "Since, whatever happens, Britain must emerge from this transition newly linked to the rest of Europe, what opt-outs are won and what are not may prove a matter of nuance. The need to stem European fascism or communism through political union is no longer necessary or realistic. The issue is economics and the ending of impediments to trade."

Karin Klein in the Los Angeles Times on the right to die Two middle-aged twins recently opted to end their lives in Belgium, where the "right to die" is granted liberally to anyone who is "suffering." The brothers were deaf and going blind. They had lived together all their lives, and couldn't stand the idea of being separated or moved into an assisted living facility. Karin Klein supports euthanasia rights for the terminally ill, but isn't sure that these two should've been granted the option of ending their lives. "I’m a shocked observer of the agreement of a government and doctor that these brothers’ plight, as sad as it was, represented the sort of suffering that called for that right to be exercised," Klein writes. Whether or not Belgium's laws are morally justifiable, Klein argues that this case will present thorny questions to countries considering the adoption of right-to-die laws.

Mark Mills in The Wall Street Journal on California's shale goldmine A second Gold Rush isn't likely to happen in California any time soon, but a great Fracking Push might be in the financially troubled state's future. Mark Mills argues that tapping into the states shale reserves could help give the economy a much-needed shot in the arm. "But California has Saudi Arabia-scale oil resources, notably in its largely untapped Monterey shale field, which stretches northeast for more than 200 miles from Bakersfield in central California," Mills writes. "The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that the Monterey shale field alone holds 15.4 billion barrels of oil, rivaling America's total conventional reserves." Of course, California remains a bastion for environmentalists—expect them to speak up against pursuing this windfall.

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