Five Best Monday Columns

Jeffrey Toobin on the Supreme Court, William Kristol on the Republican campagin, John Sununu on picking VPs, Albert Hunt on New Orleans, and Juliette Kayyem on the Jet Blue captain.

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Jeffrey Toobin in The New Yorker on the Supreme Court's restraint During oral arguments over the Affordable Care Act, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy asserted that the government had a "heavy burden of justification" for the individual mandate. Toobin writes, "Justice Kennedy had it backward. The 'heavy burden' is not on the defenders of the law but on its challengers. Acts of Congress, like the health-care law, are presumed to be constitutional, and it is—or should be—a grave and unusual step for unelected, unaccountable, life-tenured judges to overrule the work of the democratically elected branches of government." The precedent for deferring to Congress on interpretations of the Commerce Clause came about during the New Deal, Toobin writes, and since then, the court has very rarely overruled legislators. "The awesome, and final, powers of the Justices are best exercised sparingly and with restraint."

William Kristol in The Weekly Standard on challenging an incumbent Conventional wisdom holds that elections are referendums on the incumbent, and if voters reject President Obama, Republicans will, coincidentally, win the White House. "This conventional wisdom was right, up to a point. The trouble is, we’re just now passing that point," writes Kristol. Obama's approval rating climbs, and a Republican campaign focused on "sniping" won't inspire voters who tend to give incumbents their second terms. "What’s the alternative? A forward-looking campaign, more like Reagan’s in 1980 and Clinton’s in 1992. Reagan and Clinton didn’t simply depend on unhappiness with the incumbent. They elaborated a different, and they claimed better, path ahead for the country."

John Sununu in The Boston Globe on picking vice presidents Mitt Romney's performance in upcoming primary states should solidify the sense that he will clinch the nomination by late May, and pundits will then turn their attention to guessing the vice presidential pick. "For all of the discussion about playing to key states, adding foreign policy experience, or balancing a ticket's ideology, the stark truth is that none of it really matters. In the end, there is only one imperative [when picking]: don’t blow it," writes Sununu, a Romney campaign surrogate. More important than a vetting a candidate's personal history is a consideration of the candidate's character. With so many unknowns, it's often best to avoid the untried, inexperienced pick and go with a candidate the voters already know. "The winning choice is the dull choice — a running mate the public already knows, warts and all. Mondale, Bush, Gore, Cheney, Biden ... they all won."
Albert Hunt in Bloomberg View on murder in New Orleans By almost every measure, New Orleans has turned itself around in the years since Hurricane Katrina, yet it has the highest murder rate of any American city. There is no simple explanation for this blight ... And this isn't just an after-effect of Katrina; it has been the case for more than three decades," writes Hunt. He lists likely factors including a corrupt police force and easy access to handguns. Most of the murders involve only young black males. The solution lies with reforming the police department and Mayor Landrieu's continued commitment to the cause. "The police superintendant says it usually takes five to seven years to reform a department; in New Orleans, he says it’ll be more like seven to 10."

Juliette Kayyem in The Boston Globe on the Jet Blue captain Jet Blue Captain Clayton Osborn's mental breakdown on a flight to Las Vegas is likely to spawn hearings and oversight on mental screening of flight crews. "Not every drama or near tragedy is a teachable moment. At the risk of sounding too mellow about the whole incident, we should just sit back, admit stuff happens, and recognize that there was a backup plan: the copilot," writes Kayyem. She describes the incident and the successful effort of the co-pilot to kick Osborn from the cockpit once it became clear he needed to be restrained. The sparseness of incidents like this one should prove that back-up systems, like a good co-pilot, are enough to address the threat of an incapacitated captain. "The best security measures are not ones focused on a particular threat, but adaptable to any potential problems."

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