Five Best Friday Columns

Michael Bloomberg on the NRA, Fareed Zakaria on Romney's foreign policy, Stephen Carter on NCAA sanctions, Nicholas Watt on Romney in Britain, and Stephen Marche on art and violence.

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Michael Bloomberg in Bloomberg View on breaking the NRA's influence Bloomberg proposes a strategy to curb the NRA's influence over national lawmakers. Conservative Senator Tom Coburn took on Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, another influential lobby, by making an issue of the ethanol subsidy, Bloomberg says. He forced fellow Republicans to choose between their blanket rule against raising taxes and their commitment to eliminating special interest loopholes. "The Coburn approach could be applied to guns. Elected officials who profess to be tough on crime but who also oppose tougher measures to stop illegal guns can't be in two places at once -- particularly when many law enforcement organizations support basic gun measures that simply don't exist today," he says. "[P]olitical environments change, especially when strong leaders build coalitions and carve new paths through seemingly settled territory."

Fareed Zakaria in Time on Mitt Romney's foreign policy pitch Zakaria systematically takes down Mitt Romney's central arguments against President Obama's foreign policy. "Romney's principal charge against Obama is that he has angered America's allies and emboldened its enemies," Zakaria says. Surveys show that Obama remains quite popular in Great Britain, Czech Republic, and even Poland, where conservatives say he's greatly disappointed the people. Meanwhile, his approval is lower in China and the Arab world, which pretty much flips the idea that he's "emboldened" rivals and "angered" allies. "Mitt Romney is a smart man who has had much professional success. But even Republican insiders have admitted to me that he has been strangely amateurish on foreign policy," Zakaria says.

Stephen L. Carter in Bloomberg View on NCAA sanctions Some have shown concern that the NCAA's harsh sanctions on Penn State's football program punish people who weren't responsible for Jerry Sandusky's crimes. "Whenever we hold an entity liable for the wrongdoing of some group under its control, a lot of people who fall under the entity's umbrella and have done no wrong are going to get hurt," he says. "Institutions are legal fictions. When we punish them, we often punish the people behind them. We always punish the people who rely on them." The bigger problem, he says, is in the inconsistent application of sanctions by the NCAA. When Penn State's punishment stands out for its severity, it does little to deter others who might break rules.

Nicholas Watt in The Guardian on Romney's bad day in Britain Obama's campaign, Watt says, couldn't possibly have imagined Mitt Romney offending Britain's prime minister, forgetting his host's name, or breaching protocol to reveal he'd met with the head of MI6. "To the undoubted joy of the White House, Romney stumbled on all those fronts in London on Thursday, the first day of his visit to three of the US's closest allies - Britain, Israel and Poland," Watt writes. He recounts Romney's missteps, saying the best Romney can hope for is "that his faux pas will be remembered as an amusing blip in the Anglo-American special relationship."

Stephen Marche in The New York Times on art and violence Marche, a Shakespeare scholar, says, happily, that the debates of the 90s on whether violence in music and games increases crime rates have ended. "A new cliché has taken hold, though, one that insists on an absolute separation between violent art and real violence," he says. "The truth is that real violence and violent art have always been connected." He describes the way art, and particularly Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, influenced the most famous of theatrical murders, that of Abraham Lincoln. "Christopher Nolan — the director of the Batman trilogy — is no more to blame for the Aurora rampage than Shakespeare was to blame for the assassination of Lincoln. But just because there’s no responsibility doesn’t mean there’s no connection."

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