Five Best Tuesday Columns

Obama's pace in Libya, debate over Keynes, and an island nation in trouble

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Max Boot says the U.S. is too slow on Libya The United States' delayed recognition of the rebel government in Libya is indicative of a general "'lead from behind' doctrine," writes Max Boot in The Wall Street Journal. The president committed to military action only after weeks of rebel lobbying. "With the president of the U.S. having called for Gadhafi's ouster, our failure to deliver is making us look ineffectual," Boot argues. "It discourages democrats across the Middle East and encourages tyrants." The United States should step up its war effort to conclude the operation more swiftly, he says, and then, taking lessons from Afghanistan and Iraq, remain invested in preventing an insurgency from developing in the absence of a dictator.

Dana Milbank on the confirmation of a gay man to the federal bench The confirmation of Paul Oetken, the first openly gay man to serve on the federal bench, was "remarkable," notes Dana Milbank in The Washington Post, because it was so uncontroversial. "When the lopsided vote tally of 80-13 was read out, there was no cheer or reaction of any kind," Milbank says. "Senators continued their conversations as if nothing unusual had happened." A lesbian was appointed to the bench in 1994, Milbank notes, but her sexual orientation was not mentioned during her confirmation. Oetken is more outspoken about his own sexual orientation in his legal work. Some senators mentioned it in their remarks, but others spoke of his credentials without mention of the topic. Socially conservative senators like Tom Coburn, Milbank points out, also voted for him. "It would be premature to believe that Oetken’s easy confirmation heralds some new post-sexual era in American politics," Milbank warns. "But it was a signal moment nonetheless. The nominee's sexual orientation was deemed unimportant -- or at least less important than his moderate politics and his pro-business record."

Ezra Klein on Keynesian Policy "When you hear 'Keynesian' today, it’s usually with 'Obamacare' and 'socialists,'" writes Ezra Klein in The Washington Post. "It's Republican shorthand not only for the economic theory that governed the Obama administration's response to the crisis, but also for the general Democratic outlook. And it’s not a compliment." Disagreement among legislators on the meaning of economist John Maynard Keynes' theories on government spending during economic downturns is "making it harder to recover from this crisis," he writes. Klein notes that Keynesian ideas can seem counter intuitive, and quotes Larry Summers saying, "The central irony of financial crises is that they're caused by too much borrowing, too much confidence and too much spending, and they're solved by more confidence, more borrowing and more spending." In practice, moving large amounts of money into the economy is difficult, and the government should better prepare by saving during economic expansions and keeping federal projects "'shovel ready' so that federal money could be used effectively and quickly when times turn bad." The Democrats, Klein writes, have not sufficiently defended the once-orthodox policy of Keynes, and the renewed debate over his prescriptions for the economy is, he suggests, "one of the worst legacies to come out of the recession."

Marcus Stephen wants the U.N. to take action on climate change Marcus Stephen, the president of Nauru, a small Pacific island nation, will ask the U.N. Security Council  to "recognize climate change as a threat to international peace and security." His island economy and environment were destroyed by phosphate mining industry and rising tides are eroding his small coastline, he writes in The New York Times. "Climate change also threatens the very existence of many countries in the Pacific, where the sea level is projected to rise three feet or more by the end of the century," he writes. Stephen will appear before the U.N. and ask it to appoint a representative on climate change. "We are simply asking the international community to plan for the biggest environmental and humanitarian challenge of our time," he writes. "I forgive you if you have never heard of Nauru — but you will not forgive yourselves if you ignore our story."

Bruce Bartlett on Obama's potential powers Defaulting on our debt to foreign creditors would have such enormous foreign policy implications that a looming default might empower President Obama to take unilateral action, writes Bruce Bartlett, a former Reagan and Bush Sr. adviser in The New York Times. Foreigners own almost half of our total debt, he writes. The Chinese invest in U.S. Treasury bonds because they are risk averse and accept a lower rate of return in exchange for total certainty that their loans will be repaid. The government already sees protecting the supply of oil as an issue of national defense and, "It would be myopic in the extreme to view the flow of oil to the United States as a legitimate national security issue but to view the flow of foreign capital into Treasury securities as a matter of no particular concern," Bartlett argues. Legal scholars argue over whether this threat gives Obama certain otherwise illegal powers "such as impounding funds in order to prioritize debt payments." Perhaps "Congressional irresponsibility," Cohen concludes, will force Obama to "push[] the limit of what the Constitution permit[s]."

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