Five Best Monday Columns

Eleanor Clift on State of the Union stakes, Andrew Brown on the pope's resignation, Marc Thiessen on Jack Lew's offshore investments, Connie Rice on the LAPD's culture, and Fouad Ajami on drones.

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Eleanor Clift in The Daily Beast on State of the Union stakes President Obama's first State of the Union of his second term arrives tomorrow night, and the potential for highlighting partisan schisms on issues like sequestration, gun violence, and immigration reform is high. But Eleanor Clift writes that the President should maintain the same optimistic, bipartisan tone as he did early in his first term. Not for the sake of phony politeness, but because some very real programs stand to suffer if Washington gets any more belligerent. "If the sequester goes into effect, the recovery would be derailed, a million jobs lost in the defense industry, children tossed off the Head Start rolls, medical research into cancer and Alzheimer’s imperiled, a litany of ills that Obama will cite on Tuesday evening," she writes. "Republicans won’t respond well if he demonizes them as heartless and uncaring about anybody but the rich, and they’ll be listening to see if he talks seriously about slowing the growth of entitlements, Medicare and Medicaid, and putting social security on a sounder footing."

Andrew Brown in The Guardian on the pope's resignation Speculations abound as to why Benedict XVI suddenly announced he was stepping down from the papacy, with many wondering if sex abuse scandals or the pope's past have anything to do with it. Andrew Brown argues that the move may have much more to do with Benedict's opinions on how his predecessor reformed the position. "In Benedict's resignation statement can be seen an implied rebuke to [Pope John Paul II], who argued that clinging to life and power for as long as possible was itself a form of witness to Christ's suffering," Brown notes. "Nothing is known in detail of the 85-year-old pontiff's health that would force his resignation."

Marc Thiessen in The Washington Post on Jack Lew's offshore investments One of the most resonant messages President Obama issued about Mitt Romney during the presidential campaign had to do with his offshore investments. "The average person doesn’t have access to Cayman Island accounts," Obama said of Romney in a 60 Minutes interview. Marc Thiessen wonders why Obama doesn't apply the same scrutiny to his nominee for Treasury Secretary. "By Obama’s own standard, shouldn’t [Jack] Lew be considered unfit for office as well?" Thiessen asks. "Obama specifically called the investment Lew held the world’s biggest 'tax scam.' Should the man responsible for U.S. tax policy be someone the president says was involved in a 'tax scam'?" It's not Lew's tax haven that Thiessen takes issue with — it's what he perceives as Obama's double-standard on the matter. "Investing in the Cayman Islands does not make Lew unfit to be Treasury secretary. But it does make him unfit to be Obama’s Treasury secretary."

Connie Rice in the Los Angeles Times on the LAPD's culture The Los Angeles Police Department has a few problems on their hands. Of course, they have to catch rogue officer and multiple homicide suspect Christopher Dorner. But once that chase comes to an end, they'll also have to reexamine the culture that apparently helped foster a loose cannon like Dorner, argues Connie Rice. "I am talking about the department's former tradition of systematically mistreating black officers," she writes, admitting that the department has come a long way since the days of Rodney King — but still has work to do. "For more than 20 years I have represented dozens of black LAPD officers, interviewed hundreds of officers of all races, and know the history of the old LAPD's — the Blue Grip's — deep-seated hostility to black officers ... The good guys are now in charge of LAPD culture; it is a huge change and the right beginning to real police reform."

Fouad Ajami in Bloomberg View on drones Taking a pragmatic view of the rise of drone warfare, Fouad Ajami understands why the U.S. is leaning more heavily on this technology than ever before — but he still sees many contradictions. "Targeted killing was the response of a great military power to the frustrations of this 'asymmetrical' war," Ajami writes. "There remains the discrepancy between an extensive campaign of drones and a passive foreign policy that maintains — the president’s very words — that an era of war is ending. Forgive those Syrians left at the mercy of their dictator’s cruel war: It is hard to explain to them why those drones don’t somehow find their way to Bashar al-Assad’s bunker. We do anti- terrorism. Wars of rescue are not an American specialty nowadays."

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