Five Best Friday Columns

Britain's "Big Society," the green card lottery, and the week of DSK, Arnold, and Newt

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David Brooks on David Cameron's 'Big Society'  In his column today, David Brooks looks across the pond to the British conservative party's attempts at a paradigm shift. David Cameron has unveiled a series of policies under a program called "Big Society," that seek to strengthen civic engagement and community bonds by shifting power away from the very centralized federal government in Britain to local governments. Twelve more cities will get their own mayors, police will have to increasingly answer to the public, and local governments will get a larger share of federal money. While acknowledging that some critique Big Society "as the gentle mask to cover savage spending cuts," Brooks is quite fond of the idea overall. "By decentralizing power, and inciting local energies, Cameron's reforms are fostering the sorts of environments where human capital grows," he writes. "No other government is trying so hard to tie public policy to the latest research into how we learn and grow."

Jurek Martin on Newt Gingrich's Antics  Jurek Martin thinks Newt Gingrich is "bonkers." He writes at the Financial Times: "Being smart means controlling the mind and the mouth, and he has done neither, not now nor ever in his political career." Martin clarifies that this assessment is not based on "any of the wild and contradictory utterances of the recent past" nor "his complicated marital life." Rather it is based on Gringrich's behavior during the years Martin covered him as speaker of the House. He cites a Gingrich tantrum about being seated "at the rear of Air Force one on the way back from the funeral of the assassinated Yitzhak Rabin in Israel in 1995"; his assertion that he had single-handedly balanced the budget; and his nerve in conducting "his own extra-marital affair while seeking to impeach the president for his." Martin says this "merely compounded the sense that some screws had come loose."

Yascha Mounk on the Green Card Lottery  Imagine if you won the lottery, and then were told that you had to give your winning ticket up. That's precisely what happened Harvard grad student Yascha Mounk when the State Department rescinded the green card it awarded her due to a programming error that disproportionally awarded cards to those who had entered the lottery on specific days. Yet Mounk says he will not be joining the class-action lawsuit filed against the State Department filed by other people like him. "I recognize that the beauty of the green card lottery lies in its very randomness, in the fact that no one gets a leg up over anyone else for any reason," he writes in the New York Times. Furthermore, he opposes the bill proposed by Rep. Darrell Issa that seeks to abolish the lottery. "The green card lottery is a shrewd way for the United States to honor a history of open immigration that lasted until the late 19th century," he writes, and maybe more importantly "in its limited way, [it] helps America to remain a land of equal opportunity."

Peggy Noonan on Why We Shouldn't Be Surprised by Newt, Arnold and DSK  Aaron Sorkin reads Peggy Noonan, and maybe you should too, at least today: in her column on Newt Gingrich, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Noonan argues that we probably shouldn't be surprised by their most recent disasters. Everyone knew that Newt was "combustible," that DSK had a "woman problem" and that Arnold has been plagued in the past by bad behavior and a trail of rumors, Noonan says. That's not to say the acts of these men's actions, particularly those of DSK and Schwarzenegger, were not outrageous. Noonan finds plenty to be indignant about, particularly France's overwhelmingly sympathetic reaction to DSK's arrest. But here's her point: "we wouldn't be so surprised if we paid more attention to what we know, and built our expectations from there."

David Ignatius on Putting Actions Behind the White House's Words  Obama's speech was good yesterday, David Ignatius says at the Washington Post, but the real test will be in his actions. "Each thread of his 'dignity' agenda for the Middle East requires something that has been in short supply at this White House: a systematic ability to implement foreign policy strategy through committed, emphatic follow-up actions," he says, arguing that rhetoric has to be balanced with action. "Where are the people who can crack heads, diplomatically, to make all this work?" He's critical of Hillary Clinton and the State Department, but recommends national security adviser Tom Donilon, new deputy secretary of state Bill Burns, and Sen. John Kerry, as having some potential for diplomatic wrangling. The president speaks about America's tasks in the Middle East with "right balance of principle and pragmatism," Ignatius says. "Now, just do it."

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