Five Best Wednesday Columns

Margaret Carlson on Rob Portman, Tom Frost on big banks, Ruth Marcus on John Edwards, Holman W. Jenkins Jr. on Facebook's IPO, and George Packer on Biden and LBJ

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Margaret Carlson in Bloomberg View on 'Boring White Guy' Rob Portman Politico reported this week that Mitt Romney is looking for an "incredibly boring white guy" to serve as his vice president, and having met Ohio Senator Rob Portman, Carlson says he's the perfect fit. "Portman could well be president. But in the natural order of all things BWG, [that's 'Boring White Guy'] he was born to be vice president first. And Portman, like all BWGs considered for the No. 2 spot, is now letting it be known -- in a careful, orderly fashion, of course -- that he may not be as B as some other WGs." Carlson lists his qualifications, describes him as a steady compliment to Romney, and declares that he's, in fact, pretty exciting for a BWG. "He once smuggled a kayak into China to run the Yangtze River!"

Tom Frost in The Wall Street Journal on the trouble with big banks Tom Frost describes the principles that his great uncle taught him while CEO of a small bank in Texas. "I was impressed that making money was not high on his list of priorities, but he implied that profits would come if we observed sound banking principles. When we look at banking in the United States today, Uncle Joe's values seem so long ago and far away. The industry is now dominated by a few large banks." Frost describes our safety valves for preventing bank failures, but worries about the moral hazard we create by saving them, and allowing the riskier side of their banking to endanger the more stable practices. "There's little evidence those institutions will share the concerns and dedication of my Uncle Joe—and many like-minded bankers in his time and since. If we truly separate the cultures of commercial and investment banking, the clients of both will prosper."

Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post on the irony of John Edwards' trial Marcus is in the camp that sees the John Edwards trial for campaign finance law violations as overreach. "The irony — tragedy? — of this misapplication of government resources is heightened by an unsettling coincidence: As Edwards faces prison for taking outsize campaign contributions, such mega-donations have become the central feature of the 2012 presidential campaign." Thanks to the rise of independently operated Super-PACs, Newt Gingrich can publicly thank his mega-donor in a concession speech even as Edwards faces prison for taking millions to cover up his affair. "It's hard to imagine a more vivid illustration of the potentially corrupting influence of these mega-donors."

Holman W. Jenkins Jr. in The Wall Street Journal on Facebook's revenue When Facebook goes public, Jenkins writes, the market won't evaluate it on the hopes that its current ad business can be scaled up, but on whatever its real, existing revenue options are. Facebook needs to find those options quickly. "The bold approach would be to buy a bunch of media properties as an outlet for the targeted ads that the Facebook engine makes possible. Allayed would be the fear that Facebook, eventually desperate for profits, might pollute its own user pages with ads, driving its customers back to MySpace." But whatever way they decide to generate profits, they'll have to do it soon. Zuckerberg clearly isn't anxious to answer to shareholders, but "[h]is reputation, the morale of his staff, the confidence and trust of Facebook's users will depend partly on how the stock is doing."

George Packer in The New Yorker on Biden and LBJ Packer sees a neat coincidence in the arrival of Robert Caro's latest volume on the life of Lyndon Johnson just as Vice President Joe Biden led Barack Obama on his support for gay marriage. "Obama arrived at his position in very much the way that John F. Kennedy decided to put the force of the White House behind civil rights: slowly, reluctantly, and with a big assist from his overlooked, often ridiculed Vice-President." Packer details the way Johnson beat Kennedy to the moral argument for civil rights and coached his president through the Senate process. The parallels aren't perfect, as in Johnson's case, same sex marriage "is the issue that forces today's politicians to take a clear and politically difficult moral stand. It's an issue for politicians whose egos are not under tight rational control—who are, come heaven or hell, passionate."

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