Five Best Tuesday Columns

John Cassidy on the debate, Joe Nocera on bank regulations, Bret Stephens on Europe, Michael Gerson on global warming, and David Brooks on campaigns.

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John Cassidy in The New Yorker on Monday's debate At last night's Republican debate in South Carolina, candidates once again tried to break ahead and lessen Mitt Romney's lead. "To the extent that the basic narrative of the race remained unchanged, [Romney] was the winner. But it was the victory of a man who had narrowly survived an attempted mugging," writes Cassidy. Neither Santorum nor Gingrich had a bad night, which is good news for Romney because conservatives will remain split between them. Cassidy recounts Romney's near disasters when answering attacks on Bain and his tax returns. He depicts Romney as increasingly poised when the debate turned to issues like taxes, social security, and immigration. Finally he ends depicting the head-scratching confusion of those who heard, correctly, Rick Perry suggest that Turkey is led by Islamic terrorists. "You couldn't make this stuff up. I'm telling you," he says.

Joe Nocera in The New York Times on simplifying bank regulations J.P. Morgan's chief, Jamie Dimon, complains that new banking regulations are so complex that they hurt more than they help. "Like most nonbankers, I've tended to roll my eyes at Dimon's continuous lamentations ... What has caught me up short recently is the emergence of a new critic of the banking regulations that have been pouring forth from Washington and Europe. Her name is Karen Petrou, and she is the managing partner of Federal Financial Analytics." He outlines Petrou's worries, culled through analysis of the new regulations, that the contradictions and complexity hamper the banks and even create opportunities for smart bankers to game the system. She's seen deals fall through because no players could understand the regulations involved, and that's not good for the economy as a whole. "Petrou offers a series of solutions, revolving around simpler regulations, a reliance on market discipline and transparency."

Bret Stephens in The Wall Street Journal on shipwrecks as Europe's metaphors Almost 100 years after the Titanic sank, a huge cruise liner shipwrecked off the Italian coast Friday night after which a botched evacuation left many missing or dead.  "As metaphors go, Friday night's tragic-ridiculous shipwreck ... is an apt one for a continent in which nine countries had their credit ratings downgraded earlier that same day. Even the biggest ship can founder in calm waters if the captain is negligent," writes Stephens. Reports that the crew told passengers nothing was wrong even as the ship listed heavily to starboard remind Stephens of the European Council's misdiagnosis of their own crises, blaming panicked investors, not systemic problems. Now, Stephens points to signs that Germany isn't healthy enough to support the rest of Europe, and leaders need to, but likely won't, face real solutions. "The question that needs to be asked of Europe's captains, political as well as maritime, is: What on earth are they thinking?"

Michael Gerson in The Washington Post on global warming as a culture war When conservative media heard Newt Gingrich's new book would feature a chapter by a climate scientist who believes in man-made global warming, he quickly denied it and had the chapter removed. "A theory about the role of carbon dioxide in climate patterns has joined abortion and gay marriage as a culture war controversy," writes Gerson. He notes Gingrich and Romney's more moderate positions just a few years ago to point to how things have shifted among the country's political Right. The reason for the shift is that climate science fits into larger debates over the role of government, making people see ulterior motives in the science of both sides. Thus have opponents and supporters of man-made global warming theories exaggerated and disputed the work of scientists. "But any rational approach requires some distance between science and ideology," he says. Burning fossil fuels, "is not a moral good — or the proper cause for a culture war."

David Brooks in The New York Times on observing the candidates The advent of web cameras and Twitter has made communication between politicians and the reporters covering their campaigns more closed off, so instead, Brooks says he spends time getting to know those who attend the campaign events. Recently, he found that Newt Gingrich's attacks on Bain Capital don't resonate with voters, and that the primaries are backward-looking as most voters want to "restore" an America with "stronger values." Brooks said he also gets to play "American Idol judge" by observing the candidates' many appearances. He says Romney comes off as awkward, but it's almost endearing because he's obviously trying so hard. As a test, he observed how candidates related to his 12-year-old son, at which Rick Perry performed best. "He took the time to tell my son how important it is to study hard and prepare for whatever you do. Dad really appreciated that one."

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