Five Best Wednesday Columns

Chen Guangcheng on China's lawless government, Joshua Green on birtherism's origins, Ruth Marcus on Romney's parents, Ron Adner on electric cars, and Emma Keller on Michelle Obama's new book.

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Chen Guangcheng in The New York Times on China's lawless government Chen Guangcheng, the Chinese dissident whose escape to the American embassy caused an international incident, is newly arrived to the U.S. and takes to the Times to launch a critique of his government's justice system. "China does not lack laws, but the rule of law. As a result, those who handled my case were able to openly flout the nation's laws in many ways for many years," he writes, detailing that history and expressing worry for those who helped him and may face repercussions. (A Chinese version can be found here.)

Joshua Green in The Boston Globe on the birther's origins Thanks to Donald Trump, the idea that Obama wasn't born in America is back in the news. "Many dismiss it as a loopy, far-right conspiracy theory, the province of a few wild-eyed zealots and racists whom the media cannot resist. But on every level it's a much broader phenomenon. At its root, birtherism is the extreme manifestation of the belief that Obama is, by virtue of his race, name, and background, something other than fully American." This has been a political weakness that even the Clinton campaign sought to exploit in 2008, Green reminds us, proving that it's a bipartisan instinct.

Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post on Romney's parents Two recent magazine profiles excavate Mitt Romney's relationship with his parents, whose political losses formed the newly crowned Republican nominee's own thinking. Marcus writes about the lessons we draw from both. "What is striking about the comparison of Romney father and son is the difference not only in outlook but also in personality. George Romney's virtue, and perhaps his downfall, was his bullheaded willfulness." Meanwhile, Mitt took on the more cautious tempermant of his mother. "Except that Lenore Romney took positions that were not necessarily politically convenient in a primary campaign against a more conservative opponent," Marcus writes.

Ron Adner in The Wall Street Journal on electric cars Adner contrasts the awards showered on electrical cars with the lackluster sales. "For the electric car to be anything more than a plaything for rich environmentalists—and have any impact on energy security or the environment—it has to succeed in the mass market," Adner writes. Manufacturers must address battery depletion and power grid management, he writes, before the cars will stand a chance of taking off.

Emma Keller in The Guardian on Michelle Obama's gardening book Keller got her hands on an early copy of Michelle Obama's new book on the White House garden, and she's not impressed. Chief among her complaint is that Obama's commitment to the issue she's taken on, depicted here with glossy images of the clean-nailed author, seems disingenuous. "It's easy to be cynical about this whole gardening/publishing/first lady campaign enterprise. What makes it harder to swallow, however, is Obama's obvious iffiness about it all. It's so transparent that it was parodied in last week's episode of Veep," Keller writes. "With all that experience, we might have hoped for something a little grittier on the subject of health from a 21st-century first lady than this slick package."

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