Five Best Thursday Columns

Charles M. Blow on Michele Bachmann's legacy, Joan Vennochi on Gabriel Gomez's political naiveté, Isaac Chotiner on the culture that created Chris Kyle, Jesselyn Radack on the politics of whistleblowing, and Irin Carmon on the gendered discussion of "work-life balance."

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Charles M. Blow in The New York Times on Michele Bachmann's legacy Along with several of his colleagues at the Times, Charles M. Blow addresses Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's decision not to seek re-election in 2014. "Bachmann had made a place for herself as one of the most divisive, inflammatory, and flat-out dishonorable members of Congress in recent history, and her strong association with the Tea Party (she was the founder of the Tea Party Caucus) has gone a long way toward shaping the group’s image for ill," he writes, before addressing her history of controversial (and frequently wrong) public statements. "There seemed to be nothing that she wouldn’t say — and that her supporters wouldn’t applaud her for saying — so long as it was mixed with nationalistic catchphrases like 'Constitution,' 'founders” and 'traditional,' and attacks on the president." The Daily Caller's Matthew K. Lewis blames Bachmann's limitless ambition: "Bachmann was in Congress for a cup of coffee before she began doing television and radio hits. Lots of them. This made sense, she was telegenic and didn’t pull many punches. But it was also too soon — too ambitious. ... She became a skyscraper without a solid foundation."

Joan Vennochi in The Boston Globe on Gabriel Gomez's political naiveté What kind of candidate is Gabriel Gomez, who has been hailed as the next Scott Brown? Joan Vennochi considers the Massachusetts Senate race, which ends on June 25, and the presence Gomez has staked out for himself: "Gomez is a political newcomer who has yet to master talking points or sound bites," she writes. "So it's possible the Republican candidate for US Senate didn’t plan to describe his Democratic rival as 'pond scum.' ... Still, it’s a curious strategy for a candidate who is trying to market himself as a different kind of politician. It plays right into Markey’s effort to paint Gomez as a petty and ultra-partisan Republican who will go to Washington and advance the national GOP agenda." Vennochi's Globe colleague Yvonne Abraham adds, "[Gomez's] career as a US Navy SEAL is central not only to his character, but to his campaign. It makes this political unknown instant­ly knowable. ... Sometimes, though, you have to wonder if there is anything beyond it, whether this politically blank slate of a candidate is, well, blank."

Isaac Chotiner at The New Republic on the culture that created Chris Kyle In praising Nicholas Schmidle's recent New Yorker story about murdered Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, Isaac Chotiner notes how Kyle's character and quirks — in particular, his deep hostility to Islam — indict the society into which Kyle was born. "The real importance of [Schmidle's] piece is the way it subtly reveals Chris Kyle’s thinking, and the way he was treated after his death," Chotiner says. "Steven Spielberg and Bradley Cooper aim to bring his story to the big screen. He is embraced by Sarah Palin and like-minded politicians. His book, where many of his views appear, gets good reviews. This is a man who expressed a desire to shoot people with Korans, and yet the critical focus of the piece is almost entirely on the way in which society has failed returning veterans." Slate's Jonah Weiner saw Schmidle's piece much differently: "The irony of the story is cruel and layered enough as is: A war hero destroyed not on the battlefield, but on the home-front, by another man who couldn’t put the battlefield behind him, either."

Jesselyn Radack at The Guardian on the politics of whistleblowing Jesselyn Radack measures the portrayal of Wikileaks, its founder Julian Assange, and alleged source Bradley Manning, in the documentary We Steal Secrets. She comes away shocked at the film's depiction of government whistleblowing: "Taking a page out of the government playbook, the film focuses on the person rather than the substance of his complaints. It attacks their credibility rather than answering their criticism. The film expends tremendous resources tarnishing those who broke the code of silence, which both Manning and Assange did in their own ways, on a massive and unprecedented scale with a massive megaphone called WikiLeaks." But at least one WikiLeaker says the film hews closely to reality. At The Daily Beast, former Assange associate James Ball writes: "Gibney's film—spoiler alert, if it’s possible to spoil a documentary—is perhaps the nearest you can come to living the WikiLeaks experience without having actually been there."

Irin Carmon at Salon on the gendered discussion of "work-life balance" "If you’ve spent any time reading about the radical but incomplete changes in family life in the United States in recent years, you could be forgiven for thinking they're a female problem," begins Irin Carmon, citing, in part, Richard Dorment's recent Esquire essay about the difficulties of fatherhood. " ... It's true that women’s lives have changed the most dramatically. But framing it as only the concern of half the population — incidentally, the half that collectively has far less political and economic power — is a recipe for very little change. ... The question is how to talk about them without turning it into an angry zero sum game or oppression Olympics." At Bloomberg Businessweek, meanwhile, Sheelah Kolhatkar interviews men who consider "work-life balance" an "overused" term. "Men might actually be better at handling women’s issues than women," Kolhatkar ventures. "They don’t believe in 'balance.' They believe in getting what they want, even if it's time to yell at their 5-year-olds from the sidelines of a soccer game on a Wednesday afternoon."

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