Five Best Sunday Columns

On the Tea Party Utopia, Baldwin on Romney, and reporting sex scandals

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Nicholas D Kristof on Pakistan, the Tea Party Utopia. Nicholas Kristof offers Tea Party conservatives and Republicans an example of a nation that lives up to their ideals. "It has among the lowest tax burdens of any major country...This society embraces traditional religious values and a conservative sensibility. Nobody minds school prayer, same-sex marriage isn’t imaginable, and criminals are never coddled. The budget priority is a strong military, the nation’s most respected institution." What country is he talking about? Pakistan, according to Kristof. "Now obviously Sarah Palin and John Boehner don’t intend to turn Washington into Islamabad-on-the-Potomac. And they are right that long-term budget issues do need to be addressed. But when many Republicans insist on 'starving the beast' of government, cutting taxes, regulations and social services — slashing everything but the military — well, those are steps toward Pakistan." Kristof adds, somewhat sardonically, that "in fairness to Pakistan and Congo, wealthy people in such countries manage to live surprisingly comfortably." He warns, "in this season’s political debates, let’s remember that we’re arguing not only over debt ceilings and budgets, but about larger questions of our vision for our country."

Alec Baldwin on Mitt Romney. "[A]propos of my Twitter-izing about Mitt Romney and the GOP field of candidates, let me add this addendum. I did not write that Romney is a Ken doll," actor Alec Baldwin explains. "He is anything but. And the sooner Democratic political operatives agree on that, the better for Obama." Baldwin apparently likened Romney to a Ken doll because of his chiseled good looks. But Balwin notes, "comments about Sarah Palin's beauty were punted around in the political media, but it was a double-edged sword that cost as much as it benefited." But looks aside, Romney is someone for Democrats to be concerned about. "He is wealthy, so he can pay for his own helicopter to his kid's ballgame. He lacks any of the abjectly feral, political hit man quality of, say, Gingrich." But moreover, "Obama is still someone that many Americans have chosen to withhold their deepest feelings of admiration and affection for," says Baldwin. "Obama is lean of frame and square of jaw and loves his country, too. Obama and Romney even share some opinions on matters of urgent domestic policy. Yet, in some people's eyes, Obama lacks something."

Joanna Weiss on Defending Weiner's Twitter. Joanna Weiss writes that "Weiner’s Twitter feed, pre-#Weinergate, is actually something to be cherished. Weiner, after all, is one of the few politicians on the national stage who seems to understand Twitter at all. His feed, @RepWeiner, complete with photo from his Bar Mitzvah days, is Twitter at its best: an amusing, intermittently useful stream of snarky comments, links, and two-way conversation." On the other hand, most politicians’ Twitter feeds, by contrast, "read as precisely what they are: Some lowly staffer, posing as the boss and dutifully typing talking points. A sample from @MittRomney: 'I believe in America & look forward to sharing my vision with the country.' And from @TimPawlenty: 'Enjoyed talking to the morning anchors this morning about my campaign.'" Of course, showing your personality on Twitter has major pitfalls, Sure, the pitfalls are grand. "But if you tweet too cautiously, there’s little point at all. And even a Twitter gaffe... can be survived." We'll see if that is true in Weiner's case.

Doyle McManus on Voting by Religion. There has been a "structural change" in the way we vote according to religion, writes Doyle McManus. "Once, the key religious divides were among Protestants, Catholics and Jews; now they're between conservatives and liberals within every faith. On election day, conservative Protestants have more in common with conservative Catholics than with liberal Presbyterians." Of course, there is still a "god gap," in that the highly observant tend to vote Republican, whereas the less observant tend to vote Democrat. But a greater diversity among politicians reflects "more tolerance on the part of American voters, at least toward some sects." But there is one major exception to this, according to McManus: Mormons. "In public opinion polls, between one-quarter and one-third of voters say they'd be reluctant to support a Mormon for president. That's more than say they have qualms about a Jewish candidate. (In the same polls, Muslims fare even worse than Mormons, but not much worse.)" Why is this the case? "Most evangelicals don't believe Mormons are Christians... For many of those voters, a candidate they perceive as non-Christian appears to be a step too far." But, he writes optimistically, "the trend is toward ever greater openness. The arc of American history is long, but it bends toward tolerance."

Jack Shafer on Why We Don't Even Pretend to Be Above Sex Scandals. "If it were 1991 and not 2011, the Columbia Journalism Review, America's editorial pages," etc., would be "chastising the press for its coverage" of Anthony Weiner, hypothesizes Jack Shafer. A politician would have to "get arrested or do something completely loopy in public" before the press would become sensationalistic, and even then, "the press corps would almost always feign distaste as they tore through court files to collect as many sordid details as they could for publication." But that was because of publisher's fears they would "offend big advertisers" rather than newsroom ethics. "In 1991, the quality press and the three broadcast networks plus CNN still had a lock on editorial standards... But websites make this traditional news and information control impossible...Prestigious newspapers can and still do ignore these stories, but they do so at the risk of becoming irrelevant to their readers." The issue of sex scandals and sensationalism might be debated in a vacuum, but it's been settled for some time. "A newspaper can't stay relevant by ignoring what its readers know and are interested in, and newspapers desperately need to be more relevant."

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