Five Best Thursday Columns
Joshua Green on Perry's ad, Karl Rove on Republican debates, Brian Greene on the Higgs particle, Ezra Klein on death panels, and David Ignatius on Iraq's prime minister.
Joshua Green in The Boston Globe on Perry's anti-gay backfire Most people have watched Rick Perry's bizarre campaign ad, released last week, that decries an America with gays in the military but without Christian prayer in school. "In the process of killing off his own campaign, Perry may have brought an end to the use of explicitly anti-gay rhetoric as a political tactic," Green writes. Green notes that the ad has been watched widely, but adds that the backlash it received shows it gained Perry the wrong kind of attention. He describes the rising numbers of Americans who sympathize with the LGBT agenda, and recalls campaigns as recent as 2004 when a Republican candidate could use anti-gay politics to their advantage. Now, he says Perry's similar tactic merely "reeks of desperation." "While evolving social mores have weakened such tactics, Perry's ad should hasten their demise by vividly illustrating the cost of invoking bigotry in the service of a campaign."
Karl Rove in The Wall Street Journal on the pros and cons of the debates When Karl Rove objected to Donald Trump as a debate moderator citing fears that Trump couldn't remain impartial, Trump subjected Rove to a string of insults. "[T]his kerfuffle obscures larger questions about the merits and shortcomings of this year's GOP debates," Rove writes. He lists the pros of the debate season for the candidates and the party, that they've brought an audience and some sympathy to Republican issues. But he wonders whether they are "too much of a good thing," noting that each debate takes days out of a candidate's schedule, it cedes the power of a campaign's message to the media (both moderators and commentators in the aftermath), and the format doesn't actually allow for debate. "For good or ill, this year's record-breaking mass of debates has made the contest the most unpredictable, rapidly shifting, and often downright inexplicable primary race I've ever witnessed."
Brian Greene in The New York Times on the Higgs particle Researchers this week have cautiously announced that they may have found experimental proof for the so called "Higgs particle" at a collider in Switzerland. "[E]ven the tentative announcement has rightly fueled much excitement. Finding the Higgs particle would complete an essential chapter in our quest to understand the basic constituents of the universe," explains Greene, a Columbia physicist. Greene tells the story of the developing belief first put forward in the '60s by a physicist named Peter Higgs that a particle existed that "suggested a rewriting of the very definition of nothingness, filling otherwise empty space with a substance capable of bestowing upon particles their mass." He describes the slow inclusion of this theory into the mainstream and the difficulties that have impeded proving it experimentally for decades. If proved, he says, "The legions of physicists, engineers and computer scientists, whose collective efforts created the Large Hadron Collider, will have revealed the deepest layer of reality our species has ever probed."
Ezra Klein in Bloomberg View on death panels After Sarah Palin popularized the term "death panels" in 2009, Congress put aside a provision in the health care reform that would reimburse physicians for providing end of life counseling to patients. "Let's not mince words: This is insane ... In a more rational political environment, we would go much further than the meek provision that Palin so expertly demagogued," Klein writes. Klein says all patients should have to consult with their doctors and write a living will to dictate their wishes before a medical crisis clouds judgement. He says evidence shows living wills aren't about denying people life-saving care or saving money (though he says money should be considered), but rather, they ease burdens on family members who otherwise have to guess what a patient wants in an emergency. "Eventually, life-or-death decisions need to be made. Without a living will, a panel -- perhaps made up of family members, perhaps not -- makes crucial decisions without the patient's input."
David Ignatius in The Washington Post on Iraq's Maliki Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's visit to Washington this week occasions reflection on his role in that country. America's war "brought a democracy, yes, but one shaped by the most basic and sometimes brutal facts of life — allegiance to tribe, sect, clandestine organization. Maliki is a figure of all these immutable forces," Ignatius writes. His past as a Dawa Party conspirator shows that in countries where a regime is overthrown without a built up underlying political culture, "backroom plotters" are likely to fill the void. Ignatius says he practices "politics of survival" that fuel Iraq's fracturing into sects and tribes without a unified loyalty. "If America and its friends aren't careful, this same process will repeat itself across the Arab world as the dictators are toppled and replaced by the underground men," he writes.