Five Best Tuesday Columns
Katrina vanden Heuvel on administration leakers, Joe Nocera on Europe's crisis management, Ramesh Ponnuru on Wisconsin, Frank Bruni on the 2012 race, and Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers on the death penalty.
Katrina vanden Heuvel in The Washington Post on the misplaced anger at leakers Nation editor vanden Heuvel calls it bizarre that Congress would criticize the administration's leakers, not the administration itself, after news broke that President Obama personally selects targets for drone strikes. "The only people aided by these revelations are the American people who have an overriding right and need to know," she writes. "The problem isn't the leaks, it's the policy. It's the assertion of a presidential prerogative that the administration can target for death people it decides are terrorists — even American citizens -- anywhere in the world, at any time, on secret evidence with no review."
Joe Nocera in The New York Times on Europe's bad crisis management Nocera highlights a moment in the HBO film Too Big to Fail when future-IMF chief Christine Lagarde chastises the U.S. Treasury Secretary for letting Lehman Brothers fail and hurting not just America but Europe. "Oh, the irony!" Nocera writes. He says the U.S. eventually did the right thing by positioning themselves as a lender of last resort. Years later, Europe has no such actor, and a looming crisis could prove catastrophic not just for Europe but for America. "Don't be too surprised if President Obama calls Angela Merkel someday soon and asks: 'How could you let the euro fail? What on earth were you thinking?'"
Ramesh Ponnuru in Bloomberg View on Wisconsin misinterpretations Ponnuru argues against several points of conventional wisdom put forward by pundits in the aftermath of the Wisconsin recall election. Liberals, for instance, point to Gov. Scott Walker's huge spending advantage over his opponent as a reason for his victory. "President Barack Obama and his allies vastly outspent Senator John McCain and the Republicans in 2008, but that's not why Obama won: He raised a lot more money than McCain because he was more popular, and was considered likely to win," Ponnuru writes. On the right, those who think other Republican governors will follow Walker's lead are likely wrong too. But "It's still liberals who have most misinterpreted the recall campaign," he says.
Frank Bruni in The New York Times on the pessimistic 2012 race Bruni reports on Jeb Bush's appearance at a luncheon for journalists, contrasting the former governor's candor in describing our nation's gloomy outlook -- "We're in decline," he said -- with the statements of both presidential candidates. "I think that Bush opened a window into the most striking aspect of the 2012 presidential election: the degree to which pessimism has supplanted optimism in a country usually inclined toward the latter and predisposed toward politicians fluent in the language of uplift," Bruni writes. Romney should stop focusing on Obama's record and put forward a vision for his own. And Obama received rebuke for his negative campaign on Romney's record at Bain. "[A] certain measure of optimism isn't foolish. It sustains and rallies people. It charts the path toward solution."
Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers in Bloomberg View on the death penalty debate Stevenson and Wolfers highlight a report from the National Academy of Sciences, which concludes that our studies on the effectiveness of capital punishment don't actually help us answer the question of whether it deters crime. They describe why studies looking at the question yield results that give both sides in the politically charged debate ammunition for their claims. "Now that a widely respected authority has established the uncertainty about the deterrent effects of the death penalty, it's time for advocates on both sides to recognize that their beliefs are the product of faith, not data," they write.