Five Best Monday Columns

Stephen Tuck on Martin Luther King Jr., James Fallows on Jon Huntsman, James Carroll on Catholics and the culture war, Ricardo Caballero and Francesco Giavazzi on Italy, and Fred Hiatt on the weak Republican field.

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Stephen Tuck in The New York Times on King's legacy It's worth noting on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, that America's civil rights icon also garnered international attention, "and like many icons, his legacy was used for a range of purposes that moved far beyond, and even ran counter to, his famous dream," writes Tuck, an Oxford historian. Tuck describes how King's "I Have a Dream Speech" solidified his fame, especially in Britain, and how events like a Bristol bus boycott took cues from King's work. But he notes ways the message was re-appropriated by labor groups and Communists, or seen as a distant U.S.-specific problem in white majority countries like New Zealand. In modern America too, Tuck says, King is claimed by all political groups sometimes for opposite purposes. "As King calls on us today, everyone, it seems, can call on him."

James Fallows in The Atlantic on Huntsman in 2016 Jon Huntsman will announce Monday his decision to drop out of the presidential race and endorse Mitt Romney. "The question I've long wondered about ... is whether having run, and lost, in 2012 will make him better or worse positioned for the run I had always assumed he had in mind, in 2016," Fallows writes. Fallows recalls his skepticism at the rumors last year that Huntsman might run, pointing out many challenges to his candidacy that did end up making his campaign a non-starter. Fallows says Huntsman accrued some embarrassing moments, but none so serious that he can't make fun of them in his next campaign. Meanwhile, his habit of "taking the high road" and occasionally making critiques of Romney that stuck show signs he could be a good candidate someday. "So, sympathies to Team Huntsman on a race that was a long shot and that didn't work out, but which he managed with a lot of dignity."

Ricardo Caballero and Francesco Giavazzi in Bloomberg View on the Euro's decline Worries over a possible Italian default have brought the Euro down 13 percent against the dollar in seven months. "Yet depreciation may be the only remaining hope for the euro's survival, as long as it is carried out through swift and coherent policy support," write Caballero and Giavazzi, both economics professors. They argue that currency depreciation wouldn't overly impact most Euro-zone nations who trade primarily with other Euro countries. Italy, though, depends more heavily on exports to the U.S. and elsewhere, so the bump in trade that would come with a lowered Euro value could counter the decline in domestic demand of the current recession They note Italy should still make serious reforms and that depreciation should be careful and orderly, but they say it's one of the only ways for change to come quickly enough to stave off default. "It is up to policy makers to help markets understand that an orderly decline in the euro's value would be in everyone's interest."

Fred Hiatt in The Washington Post on the weak Republican field Except for Mitt Romney, most Republican candidates haven't made a case that they are plausible choices for the presidency. "Why is the Republican presidential field so weak?" asks Hiatt. He says the question wasn't fair early on but argues for ways each individual candidate has proven unqualified. He puts forward several theories: that serious candidates thought President Obama looked unbeatable in 2009, that the process of running has become too unpalatable, or that the challenges a new president faces are too daunting. But he uses Tim Pawlenty's failed campaign to argue, finally, that it is the Republican party's current discrediting of anyone willing to compromise that makes serious candidates turn away from the job. "[E]ven more dispositive is the conviction that reaching across the aisle is weak and treasonous. Until that conviction fades, politicians who want to get things done, and would know how to strike deals in the nation’s interest, may stay on the sidelines."

James Carroll in The Boston Globe on Santorum, Catholics and the culture wars A union of conservative Catholics with protestant Evangelicals shows the recent Catholic inclusion in the culture wars, but several moderate Catholics' endorsements of Mitt Romney "could possibly help the candidate overcome anti-Mormon prejudice of Christian fundamentalists [and] suggests how the landscape of bigotry has changed," writes Carroll. He notes Santorum's recent speech marking the occasion of JFK's speech to Protestant ministers in Houston in which JFK called "a truce" to the culture war. Carroll says Santorum's speech misinterprets JFK's attitudes toward religion in politics. Santorum is doing this because his candidacy's only hope is pegged to a mostly Protestant culture war, but it underlines the absence in today's discourse of moderate religious voices. "Culture war, like all wars, lays waste the thoughtful middle ground, which is good reason to call a truce again."

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