Five Best Friday Columns

Jamelle Bouie on the GOP's search for scandal, Peggy Noonan on where the White House went wrong on Benghazi, Gary Younge on Charles Ramsey's heroism, Luke O'Neil on the problem with satire, and Megan McArdle on Elizabeth Warren's student loan proposal.

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Jamelle Bouie at The American Prospect on the GOP's search for scandal Jamelle Bouie re-assesses the conservative Benghazi obsession — conspiracies from the fringe, scandals from Congress — as an attempt by the Republican Party to find skeletons that aren't really in the White House closet. "The Obama administration hasn't been perfect, and it's disappointed liberals on a wide variety of issues, ranging from national security to the environment. But in its four years, and to its credit, the Obama White House has been remarkably scandal-free," Bouie writes. "But rather than reevaluate their belief in the administration’s corruption, conservatives have opted—instead—to obsess over anything that could prove wrongdoing on the part of Obama or his officials." Bouie wonders why this continues. "Aren't there responsible Republicans who see this behavior as damaging to the party’s brand? Absolutely, they just have little influence over actual GOP politicians and the voters they represent.  ... Satisfying conservative demand for Democratic scandals is lucrative business, and it will continue for as long as Barack Obama—or any Democrat—is president." At New York, Frank Rich expands on Bouie's theory: "[Republicans] believed that Benghazi was figuratively as well as literally the 9/11 of 2012, and that its fallout would usher Romney into the presidency. In fact, it barely registered as a concern in any polls."

Peggy Noonan at The Wall Street Journal on where White House went wrong on Benghazi Reacting to the Wednesday's hearings about the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, Peggy Noonan considers where Obama's White House fell short in its response, which inititally painted the attacks as spontaneous rather than deliberately planned. "The Obama White House didn't want any story that might harm, get in the way of or lessen the extent of the president's coming victory. The White House probably anticipated that Mitt Romney would soon attempt to make points with Benghazi. And indeed he did pounce, too quickly, the very next morning, giving a statement that was at once aggressive and forgettable, as was his wont," she writes. "The president's Republican challenger was looking for gain and didn't find it. But here's the thing. More is expected from the president than mere politics. That's why we tend to re-elect them. A sitting president is supposed to be bigger, weightier, more serious than his rival." Meanwhile at The Washington Post Melinda Henneberger focuses on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's role in the administration's response: "I could actually see this helping Clinton politically if her critics, who in the past have overplayed their hand, don’t get a grip. But there is clear political danger here for her, too, which this week’s testimony suggests was evident to Team Hillary from Day One."

Gary Younge at The Guardian on Charles Ramsey's heroism "Either by chance or chutzpah — and often both — a character makes it in front of the camera who is either engaging or emblematic — and often both," writes Gary Younge. "Charles Ramsey, who became an internet sensation after he rescued Amanda Berry and her daughter from a house in Ohio, is one such rare, penetrating voice." Young explains the dynamic at play, which took another turn from sensation to sensationalist to something else when a criminal record surfaced: "Working-class African Americans are generally wheeled on as exemplars of collective dysfunction. So when Ramsey emerges as heroic, humane, empathetic, funny, compelling, generous and smart, there is a moment of cognitive dissonance on a grand scale. Here is a man with a criminal past and a crime-fighting present. In his profanity, loquaciousness and animation he conforms to stereotype. ... In his empathy, intelligence and selflessness he contradicts the stereotype." (As Ramsey himself put it to TMZ, "If I had so much hatred for women, I would have minded my own business this week and walked away instead of risking my life to save someone else.") Younge's colleague Eris Zion Venia Dyson, in a letter to Ramsey, adds, "Words can't express what you have done for the families that finally have answers. ... There's not much we can do for the cowards who don't see that you did what the Cleveland Police Department and the FBI could not do for an entire decade."

Luke O'Neil at The New Republic on the problem with satire Why do people continue to fall for fake news sites like The Daily Currant? "It's not only because we think these things are true; it's also because we want to believe that they are true. It's why conservatives go to Fox News, liberals to MSNBC, and libertarians spoon with a copy of Atlas Shrugged in bed at night. In the case of Jim Porter, the NRA president, it fits squarely into a pre-existing belief that the Evil Right from the South would actually be looking forward to a time when slavery was legal again," referring to a viral satirical piece about Porter. "Satire is at its best when it takes a lie and makes it seem true, not when it takes a truth and twists it into a lie." Over at Salon, Daniel D'Addario questions The Onion in particular, over a recent piece about Chris Brown and Rihanna: "When it comes to what’s funny or not funny, one’s mileage may, as the saying goes, vary. What you find hilarious, someone else might find horribly unfunny or gratuitously mean. But while any one of [these] Onion jokes might not be cause for concern, taken together they suggest an organization whose masterful light touch is slowly eroding into bile."

Megan McArdle at The Daily Beast on Elizabeth Warren's student loan proposal Does Elizabeth Warren truly consider drastically reducing student loan interest rates a politically viable option? Megan McArdle doesn't think so: "Banks get a very low rate because they're borrowing for very short periods of time — often overnight, always less than a year. ... Students, on the other hand, are borrowing for a decade, and the only thing they're putting up as a guarantee is their character.  How good a collateral is their character?" McArdle continues: "This isn't really a serious proposal, in the sense that it has any chance of getting passed. Elizabeth Warren is a very smart woman who knows how the financial system works; she's very well aware of why student loans are expensive relative to the Fed's discount window. ... But passing this bill probably isn't the point.  Rather, it's a populist values statement: we like students, we don't like banks. As such, it's probably going to be quite effective. But only among people who don't know much about the banking system." Time's Kayla Webley assents: "Advocating against charging students nine times what banks pay is likely to win Warren some popular support, but that doesn’t mean the proposal is likely to make it through Congress."

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