Five Best Thursday Columns

On migrants, the next GOP candidate, and American justice

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Hans Lucht on African Immigrants as Pawns Between Libya and Europe  Hans Lucht spotlights Europe's long-held agreement with Muammar Qaddafi "to control the flow of African migrants...across the Mediterranean" in exchange for money. Cash from individual countries, such as Italy, he explains at The New York Times, has been used to fund corrupt Libyan detention camps. The European Union itself "offered the Qaddafi regime $70 million to stem the flow of illegal migrants." But, now that NATO is supporting Libyan rebels, "armed Qaddafi loyalists are forcing migrants onto the high seas to protest. African and Asian migrants are the pawns in this brutal geopolitical face-off." Thousands of Africans have died attempting to get to Europe and, now, they are actually being forced to make the dangerous journey. The deals struck with Qaddafi "show how close to betraying European ideals some leaders are willing to go," argues Lucht. He insists that "in the long run, Europe should learn from the situation in Libya that paying dictators to make 'problems' disappear is not only morally bankrupt but also short-sighted."

Daniel Henninger on a Durable GOP Candidate  "What if the last GOP candidate left standing is . . . no one," asks Daniel Henninger at The Wall Street Journal. "The danger of a presidential campaign 'heating up' in May 2011, 18 months before the election, is that any Republican candidate will be driven into the ground by the always-on-everywhere nature of modern politics." Obama's web-focused campaign is already outdated 3 years later as social media is "all vastly more and more powerful," and social media consumers who engage in what Henninger calls "binge politicking," are able to decide a nominee's fate a year and a half before the actual election. What Republicans need is a "candidate committed to running this gauntlet," he argues. "But if Republicans believe his election is an historic referendum on the politics of Barack Obama, they ought to consider the ancient merits of not letting the perfect become the enemy of the good."

Alan Blinder on the Dangers of Defaulting on Our Debt  The U.S. government has officially hit the debt ceiling, "the legal limit on how much it is allowed to borrow." Alan Blinder argues at The Wall Street Journal that, while "this should not be happening in the first place" we don't need to worry just yet. Still, no one knows exactly what will happen, much less how to fix it. "At some point, Mr. Geithner could wind up brooding over horrible questions like these: Do we stop issuing checks for Social Security benefits, or for soldiers' pay, or for interest payments to the Chinese government? Such agonizing choices are what make default imaginable." Blinder predicts, though, that this is unlikely given that simply the threat of Greece defaulting "rattled financial markets" last year, "and that was just little Greece...An actual default by the mightiest nation on Earth would be immeasurably more unsettling." Such action would kill the dollar and recreate the recession. "Threatening to default should not be a partisan issue," Blinder urges. "In view of all the hazards it entails, one wonders why any responsible person would even flirt with the idea."

Joshua Green on the Paul Ryan Effect  Paul Ryan "has become a GOP rock star," observes Joshua Green at The Boston Globe and The Atlantic. Green thinks Ryan's decision to forgo running to represent Wisconsin in the Senate next year was strategically smart for him because, from where he sits now in the House of Representatives, "Ryan is having a bigger impact than just about anyone in Congress--so big, in fact, that it extends to the Republican presidential field." While his budget was easily passed by House Republicans eager to find a no-risk way to please their Tea Partying peers, "Ryan poses a problem" for presidential hopefuls, as "none commands much support." As such, these candidates "are essentially bystanders and Republican politics are being driven by governors and congressmen." Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have already felt the backlash of supporting individual health care mandates, a key no-no of Ryan's budget. Gingrich's walking back on his labeling Ryan's proposed privatization of Medicare "radical" will make it even harder for Republicans to compromise.

Margaret Wente on the Difference Between American and French Society  The disparity between what is shocking to Americans and what is shocking to the French in terms of Dominque Strauss-Kahn's sex crime scandal illustrates the key difference between the two countries' judicial systems. "The American system is infinitely more fair," asserts Margaret Wente at the Canadian Globe and Mail. "In France, it's unimaginable that an immigrant hotel maid of no status could lodge an assault complaint against an ultra-alpha male and be taken seriously." Drawing attention to Strauss-Kahn's questionable sexual past, "would have been considered in grotesque bad taste (and possibly illegal)." American's prosecution of high-powered men such as Bill Clinton and Roman Polanski are considered criminal by the French, who "have long despised Americans as unsophisticated prudes in matters sexual." But the frequency with which powerful men feel entitled to act inappropriately at will "has become a serious liability for any man in public life," and that is a good thing. Europe's disagreement with this notion, "suggests that they are out of touch." Wente declares that "I prefer North America, where we expect the values of our rulers to more or less reflect our own. And when they don't, we are appalled."

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