Five Best Monday Columns

Peter Funt on TV interviews, Bill Schneider on Rick Santorum, Noah Feldman on strip searches and the Supreme Court, James Surowiecki on medical tourism, and Robert Samuelson on Social Security

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Peter Funt in The Wall Street Journal on TV interviews "There are more live interviews on television than ever before, but the content is remarkably weak, due primarily to the personal agendas and sloppy efforts of interviewers," writes Funt. "This is regrettable, because interviews remain a distinctive feature of electronic journalism and, when done well, provide content that significantly supplements our understanding of issues and individuals." Funt cites recent examples where Lawrence O'Donnell, Sean Hannity, and Chris Matthews spoke nearly as much as their interviewees, often to give their own opinions. Back when interviewers pre-recorded their sessions, they could edit questions and answers, but the new trend toward live interviews reveals their flaws. "The best interviewers do their homework, put their own opinions aside, keep questions brief, and listen closely for possible follow-ups."

Bill Schneider in Politico on Santorum's continuing campaign As the Republican establishment increasingly acts like Mitt Romney has already won the nomination, Rick Santorum continues campaigning, saying he has never been the establishment choice. What keeps him going? "Santorum is a movement candidate ... Santorum claims to be carrying the flag for the conservative movement," writes Schneider. In recent primary contests, though, conservative voters have shown themselves increasingly willing to vote for Romney. Santorum argues Romney represents Ford, and he represents Reagan, more electable chiefly because he's more conservative. "But there is one thing he and other conservatives need to keep in mind: Reagan was not an easy candidate to elect in 1980."

Noah Feldman in Bloomberg View on the strip searches and privacy Last week, Justice Anthony Kennedy provided the fifth vote to uphold a jail's right to strip search even those arrested for misdemeanors without suspicion. "What principle, if any, explains Kennedy’s vote in the strip-search case? Kennedy-watchers know that he is deeply sympathetic to arguments based on human dignity," notes Feldman. He probably found no violation of dignity because everyone in prison is subject to the searches, which he concluded are necessary for prisons to operate. The larger reason, though, is that he's acknowledging a trend away from privacy in American society. We've grown willing to sign over our privacy with simple acts like signing up for Gmail. "Prison inmates, who have less control over their daily lives than anyone, are the most vulnerable to the sacrificing of privacy interests. But here they are really just guinea pigs for the rest of us."

James Surowiecki in The New Yorker on medical tourism Increasingly, hundreds of thousands of American travelers go abroad seeking lower costs for expensive health care procedures. "If more Americans sought care abroad, it wouldn't just save them money; it could also help control medical costs at home," writes Surowiecki. He outlines the many fears people have that keep medical tourism from taking off, but notes that rising standards abroad are changing the trend. "Free trade" in medical services, as with other markets like car manufacturing, could force America's health care system to become more efficient. "[T]he reality is that, unless we find some other way to rein in health-care costs, the logic of free trade in medicine is going to become harder to resist."
Robert J. Samuelson in The Washington Post on Social Security When Franklin Roosevelt implemented social security, he insisted on a "contributory pension," one where pensioners actually took out the money they'd put in, not the money being put in by the next generation. "In the 1940s and early 1950s, Congress gradually switched Social Security to a pay-as-you-go system ... What we have is a vast welfare program grafted onto the rhetoric and psychology of a contributory pension. The result is entitlement." Because people believe that they put in the money they want to receive, it's become difficult to approach the problem of expanding costs, the result of changing demographics. "By all rights, we should ask: Who among the elderly need benefits? How much? At what age? ... But entitlements are viewed as a higher-order moral claim, owed individuals based on past performance. So a huge part of government spending moves off-limits to intelligent discussion."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.