Five Best Thursday Columns

Gustin Reichbach on medical marijuana, George Will on subsidized college loans, Ezra Klein on American decline, Michael Tomasky on Romney and the Tea Party, and E.J. Dionne on Romney's praise for Clinton

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Gustin Reichbach in The New York Times on medical marijuana Reichbach, a judge on the New York State Supreme Court has lived three and a half years with pancreatic cancer, and he describes how his pain and nausea made him turn (illegally) to marijuana. "This is not a law-and-order issue; it is a medical and a human rights issue," he writes. "When palliative care is understood as a fundamental human and medical right, marijuana for medical use should be beyond controversy." The New York State legislature is considering a bill allowing for medical marijuana, and he urges them to pass it. "Given my position as a sitting judge still hearing cases, well-meaning friends question the wisdom of my coming out on this issue. But I recognize that fellow cancer sufferers may be unable, for a host of reasons, to give voice to our plight."

George Will in The Washington Post on the college loan debate Both Barack Obama and MItt Romney supported extending a lower rate on federally subsidized student loans, a measure that would cost the government $60 billion over a decade. George Will calls this an example of the "disastrous" bipartisanship that usually results in expanded entitlements. "[I]f Washington is feeling flush enough to spend another $60 billion on education in a decade, it could find more deserving people to subsidize than a privileged minority of college students who are acquiring credentials strongly correlated with higher-than-average future earnings." Most taxpayers aren't college graduates and suffer a much higher rate of unemployment, but they "will pay $6 billion a year to make it slightly easier for some fortunate students to acquire college degrees."

Ezra Klein in Bloomberg View on American decline's faulty definition Klein takes issue with those who point to America's growth rate, "respectable" but much lower than China's, as evidence of "American decline." "Consider a different scenario: Let’s say the U.S. is growing at 3 percent annually, and China’s growth slows to 4 percent. In that case, China won’t surpass the U.S. for decades, forestalling American 'decline.' Yet that’s a worse outcome for everybody. It means more impoverished Chinese and more impoverished Americans -- who will, incidentally, be competing with those low-wage Chinese workers who still can’t afford to buy American-made goods and services." The sun set on the British Empire, he notes, but people in the UK are still vastly better off using the technological inventions that have come out of their former colonies.

Michael Tomasky in The Daily Beast on Romney and the Tea Party As John Boehner revived the GOP's focus on deficits and debt, Mitt Romney made a big speech Tuesday taking up many of the same issues. For Boehner, who must appease his party to keep his spot as speaker, it makes sense, but Tomasky doesn't understand Romney's return to Tea Party issues. "Typically in presidential election years, the presidential nominee is given lots of free rein by others in the party to run whatever sort of campaign he needs to run to win. But the strange brew of Romney’s suspect right-wing credentials and the no-compromise posture of the Tea Party wing might make that a bit trickier this time around the track." That's bad news for Romney, who is handing Obama an opportunity to point out the faults with his competitor's tax proposals and depict him as in line with the hard-line wing of his party.

E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post on Mitt Romney's shifting opinions on Bill Clinton In a speech Wednesday, Romney criticized Obama for "discarding" the Clinton doctrine, an odd position for him to take given his history with Clinton. Dionne recalls  Romney's excuse for voting for Paul Tsongas in the 1992 Democratic primary; he called it a chance to vote for anyone who wasn't Bill Clinton. "Now, strictly speaking, I suppose that Romney can praise Clinton now while once having voted against him. Or he can claim that, while he prefers Clinton to Obama, he preferred Tsongas to Clinton. That so much of what Romney says requires such careful parsing suggests how little he feels bound by anything he has said in the past. For Romney, every day is a blank slate. Consistency, he seems to think, is the hobgoblin of losing campaigns," writes Dionne.

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