Five Best Wednesday Columns

On Mahler, Gingrich and Obama's message to the Arab World

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Peter Davis on Gustav Mahler's New York Legacy  In honor of the 100 year anniversary of Gustav Mahler's death, Peter Davis reflects on the musician's brief but influential tenure in New York. His impact on the Met and the Philharmonic, was lasting, demonstrated by the fact that current Philharmonic musicians still feel "an extra sense of commitment when they play a Mahler symphony today, simply because the composer had once lived and worked with their predecessors," he explains at The New York Times. "It was Mahler's freshly imagined interpretive style of orchestral performance, its special qualities of instrumental blend, dynamic nuance and rhythmic plasticity that both inspired the musicians of the Philharmonic and mesmerized New York audiences all those years ago."

Holman Jenkins on Ousted Tech CEOs  "Fired CEOs are seldom the idiots in retrospect they appeared to be at the time," writes Wall Street Journal Columnist Holman Jenkins, comparing CEOs such as GM's Bob Stempel who was fired in the 1990s, with the CEOs of Microsoft, Yahoo and Cisco who are currently being investigated. None of these men are idiots, Jenkins argues. Rather, their companies "have come, or may have come, to that point where an outsider is required to do what an insider realistically can't be expected to do, namely take a meat axe to departments and colleagues with whom he has shared a life." Microsoft, he writes, is "perhaps the stickiest case of all" because the changes it really needs will not be made without Bill Gates' authority and "his mind is obviously elsewhere these days, on his philanthropic ventures, and probably will remain so unless the company's drift produces a serious crisis for its stock price."

Alex Castellanos on Why Democrats Would Love Newt Gingrich  Alex Castellanos thinks the "seductive" Newt Gingrich who, though "good with ideas, is less so with that other thing you find often in politics: people," is the only type of Republican candidate Barack Obama can beat in 2012. The Republican political consultant explains at the Daily Caller today that Obama's 2008 win was based on a collective hatred of Bush more than a belief in his superiority over McCain. "This time, David Plouffe and Axelrod will have to create a George Bush. They will have to run the most negative campaign in modern history," he suggests. "So, somewhere in their political lair tonight, Axelrod and Plouffe are lighting candles, praying for the success of Newt." Castellanos warns bluntly that Gingrich, "the old, uncaring the devil in a red dress, a temptress who would lead Republicans to ruin."

Jonah Goldberg on the Potential Republican Candidates National Review's Jonah Goldberg insists that recent developments in the Republican presidential nominee field, such as Newt Gingrich's denunciation of Paul Ryan's health care bill, Mitt Romney's defense of his own individual mandate for health care, and Mitch Daniels' proposal to call a "truce" on social issues, are "fascinating given the perennial claims that the GOP base is too right-wing, extremist, and close-minded to tolerate such philosophical diversity." He insists, though, that this hardly signals the liberalization of the Republican party. "But it does hint that this year's primary season won't involve a replay of the dreadful 2008 debates in which the candidates auditioned to play the part of Ronald Reagan in the school play," he writes. "It also suggests that the front-runners--a group that includes former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty--might be ahead of the rank-and-file of the GOP."

Jacob Stokes and Kelsey Hartigan on Obama's Message to the Arab World  The National Security Network pair propose four key points that will make President Obama's upcoming speech on the future of American-Middle East relations historic. First, America must align its "interests in the region with its values [by] assisting those fighting for freedom and democracy" and insure stability, the key to a continued "steady flow of oil," by making sure that "the legitimate needs, desires and aspirations of people can be met." Second, he must acknowledge that "there are no cookie-cutter solutions or quick fixes. Each country and each situation is different." A "focus on the civilian tools of power," is the third important factor. They urge that this requires an emphasis on "diplomacy and development" as well as backing off from using military action. Finally, they insist that the president "should speak plainly about the challenges ahead and show that he's not pollyannaish about the risks still present in the region [and] explain how the Arab Spring is an opportunity for Arabs--with America's help--to rebuild their societies and begin to solve the problems that have vexed the region for so long."

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