Five Best Wednesday Columns
Adam Winkler on affirmative action, Dana Milbank on Rick Santorum's Nazi rhetoric, Amy Davidson on Koran burning, Austan Goolsbee on boosting exports, and Michael Warsaw on the contraception mandate.
Adam Winkler in The Daily Beast on affirmative action and the Supreme Court The Supreme Court announced Tuesday that it would hear Fisher vs. University of Texas, the case of a woman who says she was denied admission to UT because of affirmative action policies. "Although just nine years ago the justices held that public universities could use race as a factor in admissions, much has changed since then," writes Winkler. But "the only change that matters is the new personnel on the Supreme Court." Winkler explains the precedent set by the court in a 2003 ruling on affirmative action, but notes that the replacement of Sandra Day O'Connor with the more reliably conservative Samuel Alito -- as well as the recusal of Justice Elena Kagan -- makes it likely that the court will set a new precedent against affirmative action. Winkler says the new ruling won't benefit Fisher, the girl who first pursued the case, but it will harm racial minorities and white students who will encounter less diversity on their campuses.
Dana Milbank in The Washington Post on Santorum's Nazi comparisons Rick Santorum told supporters Sunday that this election paralleled the choice facing Americans who would appease Adolf Hitler in 1940. "The obvious implication — later denied by the candidate — was that Santorum is some modern-day Churchill and President Obama is der Fuhrer. It was outrageous and yet, for Santorum, routine," writes Milbank. He recounts several other instances when Santorum has made World War II references, and argues that comparing political opponents to Nazis, even obliquely, is "extreme" and a good way to stop reasoned argument in its tracks. "His frequent tendency to go from zero to Nazi over ordinary political disagreements is typical of the emotional appeal he has to conservative primary voters, but it also shows why he's outside the bounds major political parties have applied to their past presidential nominees."
Amy Davidson in The New Yorker on respecting Muslims at home and abroad This week news that NATO personnel had put Korans into a burning pile of trash led to an apology from NATO's commander in Afghanistan and to violent protests. "We keep saying that we are in Afghanistan to help. Burning a Koran isn't helping," writes Davidson. "What also does not help a soldier in Afghanistan, or an American anywhere, is the dialogue surrounding Islam in America now." She describes recent comments from Reverend Franklin Graham who wouldn't rule out the possibility that President Obama is a Muslim. She also points to recently unveiled NYPD surveillance programs that focused on out-of-state Muslim college students. Mayor Bloomberg dismissed the complaints from Yale's president, saying surveillance is necessary to protect freedom. "Pretending a mistake isn't a mistake doesn’t work here any more than it does in Afghanistan. General Allen realized that; it is strange that Mayor Bloomberg, so far, has failed to."
Austan Goolsbee in The Wall Street Journal on 'new exports' What do Jeremy Lin jerseys, a Lakers game attended by the Chinese president, and a Boeing factory visited by the U.S. president have in common? "Though seemingly unrelated, these three events together highlighted one of the more promising ways out of our economic doldrums: growing exports—with exports broadly defined to include things like entertainment royalties, tourism, travel and services," writes Goolsbee. Whereas the housing market led our last economic expansion, exports, and particularly the "New Exports" he defines as tourism, education, and royalties from abroad, among other things, should lead the current one. There are easy, non-confrontational ways to boost these exports, like reforming visa procedures to make it easier for Brazilians and others to visit and spend money. "These are exports that other countries want us to have and that we have missed by our own short-sightedness."
Michael Warsaw in The New York Times on Obama's contraception mandate Even after President Obama compromised with leaders of Catholic institutions to say insurance providers would foot the bill for contraception that the employers oppose purchasing themselves, Warsaw, the CEO of EWTN Global Catholic Network, explains his suit protesting the ruling. "First, EWTN self-insures, so we are the insurer. Second, even if we had an outside insurer, we would still be in the untenable position of facilitating access to drugs that go against our beliefs." He argues his company isn't imposing its values on its non-Catholic employees, who could choose to work for a secular organization or purchase their own contraception. The government's mandate threatens religious liberty and the financial future of Catholic businesses and non-profits, he says. "The mandate makes it impossible for us to live up to that core mission, giving us the choice of either compromising our beliefs or being crushed by fines."