Five Best Thursday Columns
Tom McGeveran on the editorship of Jill Abramson, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry on the politics of teaching children, Benjamin Todd Jealous on how Republicans can persuade black voters, Ezra Klein on the inevitable GOP embrace of Obamacare, and Noreene Malone on the word "bro."
Tom McGeveran at Capital on the editorship of Jill Abramson Tom McGeveran takes stock of Politico's controversial examination of New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson: "Why, 18 months into her editorship, does the Politico story appear just now? For what it's worth, I have probably heard at least a dozen people at the Times complain about Abramson's bedside manner since she was promoted to executive editor. But something has happened recently which Abramson herself has acknowledged: The cost-savings at the Times, achieved in a recent round of buyouts, included one strategy that was doubtless correct but which had real consequences for the paper." McGeveran batted down the idea that the article, or Politico reporter Dylan Byers himself, is sexist: "Dictatorial editors of all stripes are written about rather routinely, male and female. ... A few copyedits here or there would have absolved Byers of most of these criticisms and left them on the doorstep of his anonymous sources instead. ... The article, though poorly edited, isn't the real problem. Instead we have a real cultural artifact here: The question of whether expectations of women leaders are different from those of men." McGeveran pointed to The Guardian's Emily Bell, who argues that Politico ignored journalism's legacy of sexism. "If one redacts 'Jill' from Politico's piece and replaces it with 'Jack', the absurdity and sexism becomes all the more obvious," Bell writes, adding, "Fewer women will want to even try if the expectations of them in power are so completely different from men in the same jobs and the public judgment so arbitrary and misogynistic." In response, Byers addressed each avenue of Bell's piece, and ends by quoting an unnamed reader: "The idea that a woman should be able to reach the highest levels and then, because of her gender, be completely immune to criticism when she fails sets the worst kind of precedent for women."
Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry at Forbes on the politics of teaching children To whom, exactly, do children belong? After contemplating a recent MSNBC ad, in which host Melissa Harris-Perry argues that "we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents ... and recognize that kids belong to whole communities," Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry tries to articulate the widespread negative reaction to it. "What [Harris-Perry] said is — to make a charitable restatement — that a significant problem with American contemporary culture is that it sees the responsibility (and therefore choices) of educating children as falling primarily to families, and that this is a problem, and that the correct view is that children [primarily] 'belong' to communities." He continues: "Is Ms Harris-Perry unaware that families are seeking political asylum in the US for wanting to homeschool their children in their home countries where it is illegal? ... Is she unaware of the many historical instances of governments using schools as tools of domination and ideological indoctrination? .... Melissa Harris-Perry said something that has a whiff of the totalitarian, and then doubled down on it, and then dismissed as insanity any detection of any whiff." Geoffrey Reiter at Patheos was more charitable: "Melissa Harris-Perry chose her words poorly. But ... people do not always choose the best words to communicate their ideas. ... Harris-Perry is simply not advocating the removal of children from their homes, nor is she making some claim that the state owns children or has an authority equal to individual parents. She is contending that families in communities ought to have the best interests of all the children around them at heart."
Benjamin Todd Jealous at CNN on how Republicans can persuade black voters After Kentucky Senator Rand Paul's appearance this month at the historically black Howard University, NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous argues that, while Paul faltered, he provided an example to his Republican peers. "Republicans will not win black votes by paying lip service to party history while attacking social programs and voting rights. But they can make inroads by showing a commitment to civil rights, something Paul managed to do briefly in his remarks," Jealous writes, referring to Paul's statement at Howard that "we should not have drug laws or a court system that disproportionately punishes the black community." Focusing on Mass incarceration, Jealous says, could bring black voters to the GOP. "Many Democrats shy away from talking about criminal justice reform, for fear of being labeled 'soft on crime.' According to the NAACP's election survey, 42% of African American voters believe the Democratic Party is failing them on criminal justice. The GOP has a chance to fill the leadership vacuum and demonstrate their civil rights bona fides." Emily Ekins at Reason praised the column, saying, "If one is not just concerned with winning votes but cares about people and cares about the ideas that improve people's lives, then it makes perfect sense to take on these issues with a moral imperative."
Ezra Klein at Bloomberg View on the inevitable GOP embrace of Obamacare Comparing the famously disastrous implementation of Medicare Part D to the early stages of the Affordable Care Act's implementation, Ezra Klein contends: "There are lessons here about the difficulty of implementing large programs, the dangers of extrapolating from a program’s first months to gauge its long-term success and what it means to be a loyal opposition. The Republican Party isn’t learning them." After listing the many tactics Republicans have used to impede the bill, Klein prognosticates: "By the 2016 presidential election, it's likely to be a law that Democrats brag about and Republicans scamper to get behind. And the final act of this depressing little political play will be Republicans embracing this policy that they did everything to destroy, and trying to build on it." Over at The Washington Post, Klein rebutted a report at Politico that says Congress — staffers and politicians — were seeking an exemption from Obamacare. (It quotes North Carolina Senator Richard Burr: "I think if [Obamacare] is going to be a disaster — which I think it's going to be — we ought to enjoy it together with our constituents.") "This isn't ... an effort to flee Obamacare," Klein explains. "It's an effort to fix a drafting error that prevents the federal government from paying into insurance exchanges on behalf of congressional staffers who got caught up in a political controversy."
Noreene Malone at The New Republic on the word "bro" "Last week, when the FBI released wanted pictures of Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev, almost immediately, they were dubbed 'bros' for their backwards baseball caps and their apparently Caucasian features," begins Noreene Malone, who documents how this term was applied to the pair of alleged Boston bombers: "In dubbing Dzhokar a 'bro,' no one meant that he appeared menacing—rather, the opposite. He appeared perfectly assimilated into American culture. He exhibited a flagrantly American maleness, one that it exists in a consequence-free, pleasure-focused realm in early adulthood." But the Tsarnaevs revealed the emptiness of the term: "It's easy to underestimate a supposed bro’s intelligence and depth, just as it’s also easy to underestimate his malevolence. Maybe it’s time to retire a signifier when it becomes more empty than the things it supposedly dismisses." Anxiety about the term can be found elsewhere, too. Writing at Feministing, Alexandra Brodsky questions the nascent "Bro-Choice" campaign, which seeks to educate men about reproductive rights issues. "This well-meaning strategy assumes a clear gender binary–in which male- and female-identified activists need separate little cubbies to feel adequately differentiated–that reinforces the same essentialism that underpins rape culture and reproductive injustice."