Five Best Wednesday Columns

On the Syrian president, government shutdown, and preventing gun violence

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David Lesch on the Syrian President's Opportunity  David Lesch, author of a book on Bashar al-Assad, offers his opinion of the Syrian president in The New York Times. Lesch writes that the current unrest in his country is actually presenting al-Asad with "an opportunity to take Syria in a new direction." The author spent a lot of time with Assad while writing his book and concluded that, despite undoubtedly authoritarian tactics, Assad "had good intentions," and isnt' the same kind of leader as Musammar Qaddafi. Lesch explains that the current crackdown on protesters could be the fault of the secret police, who have a lot of power. In addition to ending the emergency law, Assad "needs to make other tough choices, including setting presidential term limits and dismantling the police state," Lesch argues. "He can change the course of Syria by giving up that with which he has become so comfortable."

Marco Rubio on Refusing to Raise the Debt Ceiling  Florida Senator Marco Rubio makes clear in a Wall Street Journal op-ed today that he will vote against raising the debt-ceiling "unless it is the last one we ever authorize and is accompanied by a plan for fundamental tax reform, an overhaul of our regulatory structure, a cut to discretionary spending, a balanced-budget amendment, and reforms to save Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid." While plans are already in motion, and endorsed by the president, to lower tax rates, Rubio argues that preserving entitlement programs is the key to curbing U.S. debt. "Our generation's greatest challenge is an economy that isn't growing, alongside a national debt that is," he urges. "If we fail to confront this, our children will be the first Americans ever to inherit a country worse off than the one their parents were given."

The New York Times Editors Tear Into Tea Party Over Budget Stalemate  The New York Times Editors warn that a government shutdown is likely and if it occurs, the rigidity of House Republicans, Tea Party members in particular, over spending cuts--specifically to their least favorite programs such as Planned Parenthood or health care reform--is to blame. They argue that House Speaker John Boehner is aware of how poorly a government shutdown will reflect on his party, can't convince some conservatives of this. This, say the editors, "is the price he pays for riding to power on the backs of people who don't understand that government cannot be built out of ideological rigidity." It's that staunch ideology that impedes Republicans from compromising with Democrats, despite the many concessions Democrats have already made. "One way or the other, Tea Party lawmakers are about to learn a lesson in how government operates," they predict. "The only question is whether the public must suffer for their education."

Rami Khouri on the New Era of Arab-American Relations  In The Daily Star, an English-language Lebanese publication, Rami Khouri sees several developments this week as signs of "a new era in the Middle East." The UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia's involvements in Bahrain and Libya, Khouri suggests, "probably mark the birth of GCC countries trying to actually forge tangible foreign policies in which thy use their assets to back their principles," while "it is refreshing to see the United States using its diplomatic and military power in congruence with Arab states and international legitimacy." That said, the situation is frought with hypocrisy: "the citizens of those [Arab] countries have no direct input in the foreign policy carried out in their name," and there's the "glaring contradiction in the use of military power to simultaneously suppress or support Arab citizen uprisings depending on where they are occurring." His conclusion? We shouldn't get carried away with optimism, but "this week ... we may have glimpsed the first signs that change is possible."

Sarah Brady on Responsible Gun Regulations  On the 30th anniversary of the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan, Sarah Brady takes to the Washington Post's op-ed page to appeal for stricter gun legislation. Brady's husband, Reagan's press secretary, was shot in the head during the attack on the former president. She now chairs the anti-gun violence group that championed the law requiring background checks for every legal handgun sale, a law which, along with the now-expired assualt weapons ban, was backed by Ronald Reagan. Brady is dumbfounded by those "who worship Reagan's legacy" but oppose gun restrictions. "It's hard to beleive that any American would sully  his credibility by suggesting that a 32-round assualt clip has a legitimate use in our society," she writes. "Time and time again we have seen this weaponry used only to kill human beings in masses and mounds."

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