Five Best Monday Columns

Michael Tomasky on the Michigan primary, Mary Anastasia O'Grady on rethinking the drug war, William Cohan on Wall Street incentives, Juliette Kayyem on nucelar reductions, and Neal Ascherson on Scottish independence.

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Michael Tomasky in The Daily Beast on how the GOP lost Michigan Republicans have been fighting to win Tuesday's Michigan primary, but the policy positions they've taken, specifically their opposition to the auto bailout, make Barack Obama's victory in that state's general election almost guaranteed, writes Tomasky. "[T]he idea of letting one of the country's most important industries just wither and die? This, I remember thinking at the time, was the jump-the-shark moment." He argues it reflected a cynical resistance to all federal actions and to any of Obama's priorities. Their position meshed well with the nation's attitude at the time, but now their quotes -- especially Mitt Romney's in a famous New York Times op-ed -- sound off course. "If Romney wins tomorrow, he'll stand up there all smiles and talk again about his great love for Michigan... Don't be fooled. He lost Michigan this past week, and he richly deserved to."

Mary Anastasia O'Grady in The Wall Street Journal on rethinking the drug war Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina campaigned on ramping up the drug war, but in a break with traditional patterns, he now talks about legalization and pressuring the U.S. to rethink their drug policy. "Today's most vocal proponents of a change in regional drug policy are center-right governments. Their proposals are driven by observing 40 years of failure," writes O'Grady. For now, he wants to reroute cartels by protecting borders and forcing them into other routes, and he wants to increase urban police forces to maintain government control and reduce crime. Meanwhile, the U.S. "identifies the cartels and thugs in Latin America. But 'who in the U.S. is receiving and distributing the drugs,' he asks, and why don't we ever hear about them?"

William Cohan in Bloomberg View on incentives on Wall Street In a new book by Peter Ressler and Monika Mitchell, former Wall Street employees speak anonymously about the mortgage-backed security industry that fueled the 2008 crisis and their culpability in bringing it on. "What Ressler and Mitchell have elicited from these bankers and traders rings true to me. During my 17 years on Wall Street, no one ever got rewarded for questioning whether what we were all selling -- I was selling merger advice -- was right, wrong or indifferent," writes Cohan. He cites several of the interviews, where most sound the same theme that bosses didn't encourage them to consider the quality of the mortgage securities, only their short-term profits, and that if they dropped out, others would have taken their place. "What is painfully clear from Ressler and Mitchell’s transcripts is that the incentive system on Wall Street that rewards bankers and traders for the revenue they generate by constantly selling whatever comes across their desks, regardless of its quality, is terribly, terribly broken."

Juliette Kayyem in The Boston Globe on reducing the nuclear arsenal The White House might consider reducing our nuclear arsenal, and the leaked news has led to a familiar resistance. "Reductions in the kill-them-a thousand-times-over nuclear weapons program are not a sign of weakness or a reversion to a 1960s peace campaign. They are the consequence of reality. Size no longer matters," writes Kayyem. She methodically lays out the numbers of weapons in various nations' arsenals to note that we remain far ahead of others. She points to George Bush's reductions to suggest the issue is bipartisan among most sane thinkers. And she writes that the greatest threat posed by weapons -- their acquirement by rogue states or terrorists -- isn't effectively combated by a larger arsenal. Considering size is a simple and antiquated measure of American exceptionalism. "What makes us exceptional is our capacity to adapt to a world that has changed, not holding onto a world dynamic that ended long ago."

Neal Ascherson in The New York Times on Scottish independence In the past few weeks, officials in London have grown more concerned about calls in Scotland for a referendum on independence from Great Britain. "If 'Britain' is more than a word on a passport, why do most Scots now feel their primary identity is not British? ...  A fresh wind of new ideas is blowing from Scotland and tempting all the queen's subjects to reimagine their identities," writes Ascherson. The author traces the long history of Scotland's shifting understanding of its identity and its relationship with Great Britain. Scots saw the 18th century union as advantageous but not permanent, and since the British Empire's decline, they've grown more inclined to separate. Ascherson describes the complex politics that make English resistance strengthen Scottish independence movement and the various proposals for how much and by what means the two could divide. "Paradoxically, Scottish independence could turn out to be the best guarantee of a friendlier relationship between England and the ancient, obstinate little nation on its northern border," he writes.

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