Five Best Wednesday Columns

Ronald Kessler on Secret Service scandals, Jeff Jacoby on Warren's and Brown's tax returns, Dorothy Rabinowitz on the Romney campaign, Joe Klein on insurance exchanges, and Pamela Samuelson on digitizing books

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Ronald Kessler in The Washington Post on other Secret Service scandals Kessler, the former Post reporter who broke the Secret Service's prostitution scandal, says the affair speaks to much greater problems within the agency, specifically, "a lax management culture that condones cutting corners, directly endangering the life of the president." He reports several nearly unbelievable incidents. In one, Kessler says, management removed an agent from Mary Cheney's detail at her request, though the agent had followed rules. On other occasions, the agency has stopped screening event guests under pressure from aides. "The Secret Service has been derelict in its duty to the American people and its own brave agents. It should not take another tragedy to bring about reform."

Jeff Jacoby in The Boston Globe on Warren and Brown's tax returns Both Massachusetts Senate candidates Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown released their tax returns this week, revealing that each has done very well over the years. "Yet rather than make the most of their success — and the intelligence, talent, and merit it implies — both preferred to play up the modesty of their past." The returns call into question their political stances. Warren preaches a social contract, but she's opted out of paying an optional higher tax rate Massachusetts offers. Brown, meanwhile, champions the private sector but gives far less of his income to charity than the average person of less means. "For Warren and Brown — for most of us — it's easier to criticize other people's standards than to faithfully measure up to our own."

Dorothy Rabinowitz in The Wall Street Journal on a serious Romney campaign Rabinowitz cautions Mitt Romney against running his campaign as a response to the latest polling numbers, pointing to their response to Democratic allegations of a "war on women." Romney's been overly cautious and only by launching a critical campaign will he stand a chance of beating President Obama. "The Republican nominee to be may not find it easy to drop the habits and training of his primary campaign—the most cautious, heavily managed, no-unplanned-moment-allowed quest for the nomination in memory. He'll have to do it, nevertheless—perhaps by recognizing that he won not because of that caution but in spite of it."

Joe Klein in Time on insurance exchanges Republicans now oppose the idea of health insurance exchanges, by which uninsured people could band together to negotiate plans with more market power. "It was a classic Republican idea. It employed market discipline to control prices. And it is yet another indication of how far off the deep end the GOP has gone that Republicans are now opposing its implementation." They oppose it, he argues, chiefly because it's featured in President Obama's national law. The strategy speaks to a fault both parties have exhibited, in which they put aside any compromises on policy they perceive might be credited to their opponents. "One wonders when some actual conservatives, as opposed to the right-wing radicals who dominate the discourse, will stand up and call out these fools."

Pamela Samuelson in The Los Angeles Times on digitizing books Google Books has long tried to digitize sections of so-called "orphan books," works that haven't passed into public domain but are no longer in print. Copyright laws and difficult negotiations with authors have impeded the effort, and their success looks more and more unlikely. "But the dream of a universal digital library lives on. Now a coalition of libraries and archives has come together to create a Digital Public Library of America to fulfill the original vision of a digital library for all." Samuelson says that an effort led by an entity not seeking profit could bring success, and that success would provide great opportunity for researchers to unite a lot of knowledge in one place.

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