Five Best Tuesday Columns

Gideon Rachman on Romney's foreign policy, Lauren Collins on Jordyn Wieber's loss, Josh Barro on 'You didn't build that,' Joe Nocera on the Postal Service payments, and Michael Auslin on the South China Sea

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Gideon Rachman in Financial Times on Romney's foreign policy Rachman says Romney's trips to Poland and Israel genuinely take advantage of weaknesses in Obama's diplomacy there. "The trouble is that the implication of his argument is a promise to return to the Manichean world view of George Bush — in which nations are divided firmly into friends and enemies of the US and policy is set accordingly," he writes. "Obama's emphasis on diplomacy, even if it is difficult, is preferable to a foreign policy based on biffing 'bad guys.'" Romney's longer track record as a pragmatist indicates that he probably feels similarly, but statements made during campaigns are hard to unwind in office.

Lauren Collins in The New Yorker on Jordyn Wieber's loss Collins describes the experience of hearing about the drama over Jordyn Wieber's exclusion from the all-around gymnastics finals while actually in London, where the press didn't give it any attention. "Following the Olympics in a country other than the one of your birth—and formative Olympics-watching—is a disconcerting experience," she notes. Addressing the drama itself, Collins writes, "the uproar over Wieber's misfortune, even if it's the American way, seems wrong. Likeable and talented as Wieber is, her teammates Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas, this one night, at least, received higher scores."

Josh Barro in Bloomberg View on 'You didn't build that' Barro rounds up some opinions on why President Obama's "you didn't build that" speech resonates, and argues that the section that begins "I'm always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart," is the most "toxic." "Obviously, every successful outcome in life -- and every failed one -- arises from a combination of internal and external factors. But the president's tone when he said this, amused by the very idea of people taking credit for their achievements, was off-putting," Barro writes. He also criticizes New York's Jonathan Chait for the suggestion that the speech offends because of Obama's black cadences, saying it doesn't do justice to the validity of voters' worries.

Joe Nocera in The New York Times on the Postal Service crisis Nocera notes that Wednesday, the Postal Service's $5.5 billion payment to "prefund" retiree benefits will come due, and the Service will certainly not be able to make it. "On the one hand, there is no doubt that part of the reason the post office is struggling is that its world has changed mightily," he says. "On the other hand, that prefunding requirement is an absolute killer ... Not since the debt crisis has there been such an avoidable fiscal mess." He explains the evolution of the prefunding requirement, placing blame for its continued existence on an intransigent Congress. "[S]everal postal experts told me that at the rate things are going, it will be out of money sometime next year. Maybe then Congress will start taking seriously the crisis it created."

Michael Auslin in The Wall Street Journal on the South China Sea China unilaterally created a city government on a disputed island in the South China Sea, a region where several countries have competing claims for territory. "[T]he hardening of positions in the South China Sea is a problem for Washington, given its much-vaunted 'rebalancing' to Asia," Auslin writes. "The State Department has so far shown no inclination even to change its rhetoric in the face of China's actions, simply reiterating that a mutually cooperative diplomacy must solve what has now become even more of a machtpolitik challenge. Continuing such a stance, while China increases its troops in the South China Sea, will erode American credibility in Asia."

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