Five Best Wednesday Columns
Michael Tomasky on Walker's win, Scot Lehigh on filibuster reform, Garrett Epps on the Prop. 8 ruling, Christopher Fettweis on the Afghan withdrawal, and Mark Bittman on the soda ban
Michael Tomasky in The Daily Beast on Walker's win and Obama Following Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's victory, Tomasky is most interested a media narrative that offers Walker's performance as a bad sign for Obama's reelection. "Folks, if ever there was a day in the history of Wisconsin polling that should have shown Romney within spitting distance of Obama--or even ahead, given the obviously massive pro-Walker turnout--it should have been yesterday, which was the biggest and most enthusiastic day for Republican politics in recent state history." It wasn't. Most exit polls gave Obama a comfortable margin of victory over Romney. "I don't know whether Obama wins Wisconsin by 10 or two, but he'll win it. This media drivel today is silly."
Scot Lehigh in The Boston Globe on filibuster reform and the Mass. Senate race Lehigh sees the Senate's filibuster rules as a primary obstacle to making Congress a functional legislative body, so he wonders which of the Massachusetts Senate candidates would do more to make the Senate work again. Elizabeth Warren, who consented to an interview, listed the reform measures she would support, regardless of which party controls the chamber. Through a spokesman, Scott Brown pointed to his record of occasionally breaking the fillibuster to vote with Democrats. "[T]here's little reason to think his leadership on the issue would extend beyond his periodic personal example," Lehigh concludes. "Warren vows that she would vote for filibuster reform. And that's why it's fair to say she'd play a more substantial and systemic role when it comes to fixing the broken Senate."
Garrett Epps in The American Prospect on the Prop. 8 ruling Yesterday a federal court of appeals declined to revisit their ruling that California's Prop. 8, banning same-sex marriage, was unconstitutional. The ruling pushes the case closer to the Supreme Court, and Epps writes that the milquetoast rebuttal offered by the dissenting judge reveals much about the tide of opinion. Justice O’Scannlain relied, rather oddly, on President Obama's recent comments on same-sex marriage in a bid for more debate on the issue. "[I]f, in May 2012, the best argument O'Scannlain can think of is 'President Obama said we can still argue about this,' he must feel the ground not just moving but liquefying under his feet."
Christopher Fettweis in The Los Angeles Times on the Afghan deadline's purpose Critics like John McCain have long argued that by offering a strict deadline for withdrawal from Afghanistan, we're merely giving our enemies an opening to wait for our exit. "The difference between the McCain and Obama positions lies in the interpretation of what the main objective is in Afghanistan: Is the United States trying to defeat the Taliban, or to establish a viable national government?" Fettweis argues that it's the latter, and without pressure to stand on his own, President Karzai has no incentive to take actions to allow the government to function. "The Obama administration is thus in an awkward position. It cannot fully explain the strategic logic of its policy without insulting its partners in an undiplomatic, counterproductive fashion."
Mark Bittman in The New York Times on Bloomberg's soda ban Bittman's defense of Mayor Bloomberg's proposed ban on huge servings of sugary drinks is founded on his definition of food as something that provides nutrition. Soda, he says, doesn't meet that criteria. "To (loosely) paraphrase Oliver Wendell Holmes, your right to harm yourself stops when I have to pay for it. And just as we all pay for the ravages of smoking, we all pay for the harmful effects of Coke, Snapple and Gatorade." The ban isn't the most effective option out there, but Bloomberg has been rebuffed in efforts to add a soda tax, Bittman writes. Sugary drinks, he says, have as much place among controlled substances as alcohol at sporting events. "Added sugar, as will be obvious when we look back in 20 or 50 years, is the tobacco of the 21st century"