Five Best Thursday Columns

Dana Milbank on Newt's exit, George Will on his son's Down syndrome, Juliette Kayyem on Al Qaeda, Ezra Klein on Europe's crisis, and Meghan Daum on the Ugly Meter app

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Dana Milbank in The Washington Post on Gingrich's exit Newt Gingrich officially suspended his campaign for the presidency Wednesday in a rambling speech that touched on a range of topics from Todd Palin to the Civil War. The affair, which Milbank describes in his typically scathing detail, served as a great metaphor for the campaign. "[H]is rambling farewell was a reminder of why his candidacy, like his speakership, was destined to fail: Gingrich occasionally has brilliant ideas and strategies, but they are difficult to find amid the clutter of his mind and oratory, and that makes him seem unpredictable and unstable."

George Will in The Wasington Post on his son's Down syndrome Will's son Jon, who has Down syndrome, turns 40 on Thursday, and his father uses the occasion to reflect on his life so far. "In 1972, people with Down syndrome were still commonly called Mongoloids. Now they are called American citizens, about 400,000 of them, and their life expectancy is 60. Much has improved. There has, however, been moral regression as well." Will weaves his critique of pre-natal testing, abortion, and the "baby boomers' vast sense of entitlement" into an appreciation of Jon's life. "It is said we are all born brave, trusting and greedy, and remain greedy. People with Down syndrome must remain brave in order to navigate society's complexities. They have no choice but to ... depend on the kindness of strangers. Judging by Jon's experience, they almost always receive it."

Juliette Kayyem in The Boston Globe on the state of Al Qaeda Political discourse has focused this week on whether and how much Barack Obama should claim credit for killing Osama bin Laden, but it obscures the more important questions on the state of Al Qaeda today. "Fortunately, new soundings from Muslim nations reveal that the terrorist mastermind wasn't so special after all. He only had one life." A Pew poll that asks citizens of Muslim countries whether they like al Qaeda has shown the group's significant decline in support in recent years. "This is a pretty important strategic victory for the United States. It also shows why a week that began with memories of bin Laden ended with the president making a surprise visit to Afghanistan."

Ezra Klein in Bloomberg View on lessons from Europe Europe's fiscal crisis seems to offer both sides of the American political debate ammunition and evidence for their prescriptions on the economy. "So, who's right? Well, which entity do you think is more comparable to the U.S.? Greece? Europe? Neither? I come down somewhere between 'Europe' and 'neither,' but it's worth going through each contestant in turn." Klein argues against comparisons to Greece and Europe before suggesting that the U.K. is our best model. Their austerity reforms and subsequent double-dip recession should offer a cautionary lesson, he writes.

Meghan Daum in Los Angeles Times on the 'Ugly Meter' Howard Stern has helped an app called Ugly Meter, which analyzes your face to rank your appearance, skyrocket in popularity. The app doesn't work very well, and the creators don't seem to want it to, but Daum draws lessons from its existence anyway. "I suspect our need for public validation (and its corollary, public humiliation) is also the product of a culture whose obsession with image is matched only by its obsession with classifying and ranking things. In a sense, our whole world has become an Ugly Meter."

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