Five Best Tuesday Columns
Michael Gerson on teleprompters, Roger Cohen on #StopKONY, Jeffrey Goldberg on Netanyahu, Gideon Rachman on China's history, and Geoff Porter on Libya's flawed election law.
Michael Gerson in The Washington Post on Santorum and teleprompters This week, Rick Santorum said he thought presidential candidates should be banned from reading speeches from teleprompters, because it's less honest than speaking without the help of a speechwriter. Gerson says, "let me rise in defense of 'what's written on a piece of paper' and the people who help produce it." He argues that Santorum's method of speaking provides a rambling, uninspired message. Presidents from Washington to Lincoln had others edit their prose because leaders should measure and refine their words, rather than prize impulse and instinct. "A prospective president should care about rhetoric for deeper reasons: Because language and leadership are inseparable. Because history is not shaped or moved by mediocre words."
Roger Cohen in The New York Times on #StopKONY Last week, the advocacy group, Invisible Children, uploaded a 30 minute video about African warlord Joseph Kony that went viral with the help of celebrity tweeters like Justin Bieber. Cohen writes (in an imitation of Twitter shorthand) "But this just in: RT button and #hashtags apparently operating with 10-year delay. And esp this: the celebs of the California-based White Savior Industrial Complex are terrible reporters. I mean, rly." Cohen describes the threat Kony posed to Uganda as overblown by the film and largely a problem of the past. But he defends the filmmaker Jason Russell against criticism that he oversimplifies Africa's problems with an outsider's perspective. "He's put his boots on the ground and he's doing something." It's up to other (perhaps more deserving) causes to mobilize as effectively.
Jeffrey Goldberg in Bloomberg View on Netanyahu, the bluffing bad cop Many are advancing the theory, Goldberg reports, that Israel's PM Netanyahu has no intention to launch an air strike on Iran, but rather he's bluffing, and working as Obama's bad cop. "I remain fairly confident that Netanyahu means it when he says that Israel would strike Iran to prevent it from going nuclear, but this third option is an interesting one, mainly because the game -- a sustained Israeli bluff -- would seem to be working so well.," Goldberg says. He describes the theory's attractions, and notes that the sanctions Obama and Netanyahu have put together show promise of working. "I recognize, too, that believing Netanyahu never intends to attack Iran by himself is dangerous. But, if true, Netanyahu is proving himself to be an adept poker player."
Gideon Rachman in Financial Times on China's history As China looks more like a world superpower, it's helpful to understand how they view their own history to learn how they might treat others. "A more honest debate about the past will be an essential part of China's journey to a more open political system. A view of Chinese history that moves beyond a narrative of victimhood might also make China’s rise to global power smoother." He describes Chinese emphasis on Western aggressions of the 19th century, and their glossing over the crimes of Mao's years. Not only does China skew the emphasis in its own past, but Westerners remain fairly ignorant of it as well. "Once both sides have dealt with China's past, they might be better prepared for the world's future."
Geoff Porter in The New York Times on Libya's flawed election law Libyans were applauded for passing a new law setting the terms for the election of a free government, but that law doesn't allow members of the military to vote. Excluding soldiers from elections is an understandable and real concern for countries transitioning from dictatorship ... At the same time, what works in other countries may be counterproductive in Libya," argues Porter. Libya has to deal with several groups of very well armed militias, and so far, getting them to disarm has been a problem. Discouraging those militias from joining the military will only hamper those efforts, Porter says. "Why would militias, whose members can vote and thus express themselves as a powerful bloc, disband so their members can join the military, which is explicitly excluded from elections?"