Five Best Wednesday Columns

Shirin Ebadi on women and the Arab Spring, Greg Smith on quitting Goldman Sachs, Peter Orzag on electing a new Congress, Michael Medved on beating Obama, and Maureen Dowd on Hillary Clinton.

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Shirin Ebadi in The Wall Street Journal on women and the Arab Spring Ebadi, winner of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, worries that the Arab Spring won't bring real democracy to the Middle East if it leaves the rights of women behind. "Since women make up half of the region's population, any democratic developments must improve the social and legal status of women in the Arab world ... But in Egypt, many political actors are talking about returning to Islamic law, which could result in a regression of rights for women and girls similar to what we experienced in Iran in 1979." Ebadi describes her life story, her demotion from respected judge to secretary after the Iranian revolution she once supported, and later, her exile. She argues for interpretations of Shariah and the Koran that accept women's equal rights. "I hope that in the Arab countries where people have risen against dictatorships and overthrown them, they will reflect and learn from what happened to us in Iran."

Greg Smith in The New York Times on why he's quitting Goldman Sachs In an op-ed that's already generating conversation and even parody, Greg Smith, an executive director at Goldman Sachs, quit his job in the pages of The New YorTimes. "I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it. To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money," he writes. He describes how the culture has changed in his 12 years there to prioritize profit over the client's interests, and he argues that if those habits keep up, clients will eventually stop trusting or using the firm. "Weed out the morally bankrupt people, no matter how much money they make for the firm. And get the culture right again," he preaches.

Peter Orzag in Bloomberg View on reforming business with moderates in Congress Orzag recounts a Harvard Business School conference where alumni and business leaders discussed how to support "high and rising living standards for Americans," and while he reports several good ideas that came out of the conversation, he sees one obstacle to better policy. "If business leaders want better economic policy, they need to first help elect more moderates to Congress." Orzag argues that polarization means fewer and weaker laws. He says the business community should look to more moderate districts to support electing more moderate legislators. "Business leaders interested in American productivity already have plenty of good ideas for increasing it. But the first thing they should do is get involved in good old-fashioned electoral politics to boost the number of moderates in Congress."

Michael Medved in USA Today on changing strategy to beat Obama Most Republicans would argue that even if the economy continues to improve, President Obama doesn't deserve reelection, "but they need to prepare to explain their answer if they want to maintain any hope of victory. Abundant signs of a slowly improving economy should force the president's opponents to make stronger arguments for his replacement than the tired, simplistic 'he made a mess' mantra that has already begun to sound dubious in the face of a brightening jobs picture," writes Medved. Instead, he argues, Republicans could focus on America's fear of larger government. Using polls, he shows how Republicans could make a case that Obama is expanding the federal government past a point voters would accept. "[A] campaign that assumes a sour public mood runs far greater risks than a hopeful, credible crusade pledging potent cutbacks in spending, deficits and federal power."

Maureen Dowd in The New York Times on Hillary Clinton's new fight The stories that have liberals declaring a Republican "war on women" have brought a new voice to the debate. "The attempt by Republican men to wrestle American women back into chastity belts has not only breathed life into President Obama, it has roused and riled Hillary. And that could turn out to be the most dangerous thing the wildly self-destructive G.O.P. leaders have done," writes Dowd, (who's often more critical of the Secretary of State.) Dowd recounts Clinton's recent, and rare, foray into domestic politics. She notes that some have called for Obama to replace Joe Biden with Clinton on the 2012 ticket. Dowd has doubts about that plan, but she does see this battle improving Clinton's prospects in 2016. "If women are so vulnerable, they may need one of their own. Is she inevitable?"

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