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Five Best Wednesday Columns

Amy Davidson on North Carolina's ban, Jonathan Chait on Dick Lugar's defeat, Derrick Jackson on the obesity crisis, David Ignatius on threats to airplanes, and Adam Kirsch on Obama's literary criticism.

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Amy Davidson in The New Yorker on Obama, gay marriage, and North Carolina There were fierce attempts to explain the harmful effects and unintended consequences of Amendment 1, North Carolina's constitutional ban on gay marriage and civil unions, but Tuesday night voters overwhelmingly approved the measure. Obama opposed it, but Davidson wonders why the White House spent its week emphasizing the president's "evolving" position on marriage. She takes issue with the assumption that he can stand by and allow public opinion to keep moving on its own. "There are families whose lives will now get worse. They, and we, have arrived at a moment when politicians—including the President—need to say what they believe, what risks they are willing to take, and what, in the end, is worth fighting for."

Jonathan Chait in New York on Dick Lugar's defeat Sen. Dick Lugar lost the Republican primary to Tea Party-backed Richard Mourdock, in part because GOP voters didn't like his occasional breaks from his party. "It's possible that nothing important will come of the Lugar-Mourdock primary. But it is just as easy to see in it the frightening outlines of a future systemic crisis," writes Chait. Indiana's voters were perfectly within their right to elect someone they felt would adhere to party orthodoxy. But Chait focuses on Lugar's tradition-minding votes in favor of Obama's court nominees, contrasting it with Republican blocking of several other Obama appointees. "[I]f Republican senators attribute Lugar's defeat even in part to those votes for Kagan and Sotomayor ... will it become commonplace for the Court to have several vacancies owing to gridlock, for the whole legitimacy of the institution to collapse?

Derrick Jackson in The Boston Globe on the obesity crisis News that  the CDC predicts 42 percent of Americans will be obese by 2030 has renewed attention on the crisis. "The war on smoking can help guide the nation's fight against obesity. Trash food can be the cigarette. Obesity can be lung cancer," Jackson writes. As with the fight on smoking, we need a big public campaign and tough examination of the way junk food is marketed to kids, he argues, but already we've seen signs that food lobbies can convince government to punt on the issue. "The question now is whether the White House, Congress, and the nation will fight this assault on our children."

David Ignatius in The Washington Post on threats to commercial airplanes The initial (now confusing) news that the CIA had foiled another potential underwear bomb plot on a commercial airline brings attention to the ways our security agencies predict and prevent attacks. "[A]lmost by definition, the attack that gets you is the one you didn't see coming," writes Ignatius. "For the past few months, I've been hearing private warnings about another threat to commercial planes — namely, the spread of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles from Libya after the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi's regime." Ignatius has former-CIA sources that say they've warned agencies that these missiles are largely missing or reportedly in the hands of Al Qaeda sympathizers who could use them to take down planes. Only slowly have they seen a response from the government. "I wonder why nobody was listening when the former CIA officers began ringing the alarm bell."

Adam Kirsch in The New York Times on Obama's poetic politics The recent Vanity Fair story on the president and his ex-girlfriend featured a young Obama's musings on the reactionary conservatism of T.S. Eliot. They were mocked as a little pompous and a lot "classic undergraduatese." But if we look past that, they give great insight into the President. "Mr. Obama’s ability to recognize the poetic truth of Eliot’s conservatism, while still embracing the practical truth of liberalism, is what makes his letter not just a curiosity but also a hint at the complexity of his mature politics." None of that complexity of character necessarily makes him better at governing. "What remains certain is that Mr. Obama has it in him to produce the best post-presidential memoir ever."

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