Five Best Thursday Columns

Ben Adler on Obama's next gay rights issue, Mark Kantrowitz and Lynn O'Shaughnessy on the college loan debate, Joan Vennochi on Elizabeth Warren, Noah Feldman on Israel's new coalition, and Nicholas Kristof on poverty on Indian reservations.

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Ben Adler in Reuters on Obama's next gay rights issue President Obama made no real policy implications when he decided to publicly support gay marriage Wednesday, but "[t]here is a different issue on which Obama could achieve real, tangible results for gays and lesbians, and gain electoral advantage over Mitt Romney: employment discrimination." Adler suggests Obama push for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Adler makes the case that Obama's support would be a political winner. "If Obama gave a campaign speech in which he called on Congress to pass ENDA and demanded that Romney do the same, he would stick Romney between a rock and a hard place."

Mark Kantrowitz and Lynn O’Shaughnessy in The New York Times on the college loan debate Obama's public crusade to get Congress to extend a lower interest rate on federally subsidized Stafford student loans has brought the issue to the fore of political debate this month. "What's lost is how Congress, in numerous ways, has been hurting the most vulnerable college students and dithering on the crisis of college affordability. The Stafford debate is more rhetoric than substance." Kantrowitz and O'Shaughnessy lay out the math to show that the proposed extension would only save students $6 a month on loan repayments. Meanwhile, they point to Congress's lack of focus on its other college affordability measures.

Joan Vennochi in The Boston Globe on Elizabeth Warren Elizabeth Warren has had trouble effectively responding to the story that she listed herself as a Native American in a Harvard directory because she is 1/32nd Cherokee. Vennochi says it's this kind of "little thing" that can take down a campaign. "[A]ll the focus on Warren deflects attention from her rival’s vulnerabilities," she writes. Warren's begun regaining ground by attempting to move attention to Sen. Scott Brown's recent vote against extending the low interest rate on federal student loans. But the story revealed a lot about Warren and Harvard, Vennochi says. "At a certain point, when the law school was under pressure to promote diversity, she represented a three-fer: a great lawyer with a national profile, a woman, and a minority, at least by virtue of family lore."

Noah Feldman in Bloomberg View on Israel's new coalition Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling coalition recently expanded to include the centrist Kadima party, but not because of the prominent issues facing Israel like Iran and Palestinian negotiations. "The fundamental issue was the relationship between Israel's secular and ultra-Orthodox populations." A long-standing exemption from military service for Orthodox men was recently overturned, and Feldman describes how this puts into relief the country's tensions between the ultra-Orthodox and more secular populations, and how it affects the politics. "Israelis will still have to decide how religiously Jewish the Jewish state ought to be. That question matters as much to Israel's future as the problems of war and peace."

Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times on poverty and Indian reservations Kristof's column focuses on "The other 1 percent," reporting from an impoverished Indian reservation. "Poverty in the United States, including in the reservations, is so entrenched because it is often part of a toxic brew of alcohol or drug dependencies, dysfunctional families and educational failures. It self-replicates generation after generation." He records first hand anecdotes about the role alcohol and despair played in the lives of people he encountered. Kristof describes some factors that keep these reservations from improving. "My hunch is that these Indian reservations will have to shed people: They can’t generate enough jobs, and a community with perpetual joblessness will always be stunted."

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