Five Best Tuesday Columns

Heidi Moore on Apple's tax holiday wish, Elizabeth Drew on Obama's Nixon moment, Ramesh Ponnuru on the GOP's scandal strategy, Rosie DiManno on Rob Ford's alleged drug habit, Amy Davidson on Star Trek's drone message.

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Heidi Moore at The Guardian on Apple's tax holiday wish Heidi Moore explores Apple CEO Tim Cook's efforts to secure a tax holiday, under which his company would repatriate billions of dollars to the United States. She's skeptical that such an arrangement would benefit the country: "Companies could spread the wealth, either giving it to stockholders or pumping it into the economy — wouldn't that be a nice change from what we hear about the unevenness of the economy, and companies hoarding cash while households struggle? Unfortunately, it's more like wealth redistribution for corporate dummies. History shows us that these promises are not to be trusted." Tim Fernholz at Quartz highlighted one built-in deception a recent Congressional inquiry turned up: "Apple’s actual US tax rate is only 20.1%, much lower than the 24% to 32% it said it was paying. Absent this congressional investigation, we wouldn’t know the difference." Business Insider editor Henry Blodget, meanwhile, argues for a clearer tax code: "The United States (and, ideally, other world governments) have to get together to simplify corporate tax policies. Or else this highly sophisticated tax-dodging will continue to become a bigger and bigger source of corporate profitability."

Elizabeth Drew at The New York Review of Books on Obama's Nixon moment Is Obama our next Nixon? Elizabeth Drew tamps down on the outrage by investigating the arrangements of power that occasioned the Watergate scandal. "Contrary to the myths that have been built around it, or the use that later politicians want to make of it, Watergate wasn’t about the mistakes of a bureaucracy, it wasn’t a cops and robbers story, or about courageous journalism," she writes. "It was about a pattern of acts by a president that threatened the constitution, the law, and the Bill of Rights. Nothing happening now comes close to that." Alex Pareene at Salon adds, "The IRS just doesn't know how to interpret and police a horrifically vague statute. That view of events is obviously less fun than spending the entire summer screaming 'Watergate.'" But Carl Cannon at RealClearPolitics argues that certain parallels persist. "Richard Nixon thought liberals were out to get him," he observes. "Guess what? Many of them were. Likewise, Barack Obama thinks the Republicans want him to fail in office. Many of them do. But it’s a poor excuse for bad behavior."

Ramesh Ponnuru at Bloomberg View on the GOP's scandal strategy Ramesh Ponnuru navigates the array of choices facing Republicans who wish to capitalize on the recent thunderstorm of D.C. scandals. Ponnuru advises his wing to resist: "The biggest danger for Republicans in giving themselves over to scandal mania is one that the conventional retelling of the Clinton impeachment neglects," he begins. "Republicans didn’t lose seats simply because they overreached on Clinton’s perjury. ...  They were counting on the scandal to motivate conservatives to vote while demoralizing liberals. So they didn’t try to devise a popular agenda, or to make their existing positions less unpopular. That’s what cost them." Writing at The Wall Street Journal, James Taranto suggests focusing on political movements, not figures of authority: "If Obama is no savior, neither is he the devil. He is but a man who, through a combination of ambition, talent, character and luck, became the central figure in the left's crisis of authority."

Rosie DiManno at the Toronto Star on Rob Ford's alleged drug habit Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno urges her employer acquire an video that allegedly portrays Toronto mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine. "Trafficking with traffickers is distasteful and unethical but, in these specific circumstancesnot illegal, not immoral and definitely justifiable," she writes. "For heaven’s sake, police pay snitches for information. Crime Stoppers offers cash rewards for tips leading to an arrest. Chequebook journalism may be dicey — mainstream media look down their noses at whores for news — but there are times, rare instances, where the end justifies the means." PolicyMic's Sam Brounstein disagrees. The video, he argues, has no real value if we already know what it shows: "Ford is a larger personality on and off camera, and on and off the pipe. However, given the fact that we already know the finer details the constitute the 'dirt' in this crack video, isn’t the point of watching actually moot?" But Toronto resident Jonathan Goldsbee, writing at the National Post, says the video's unearthing is paramount: "The thought that — in the absence of hard, publicly-viewable evidence — Ford might try to deny and move on from this allegation, as he has so many others, is upsetting to the point of being enraging."

Amy Davidson at The New Yorker on Star Trek's drone message In Star Trek: Into Darkness, Amy Davidson is drawn to the film's portrayal of government secrecy, and the perils of power when consolidated in one individual. Davidson highlights the timing: "President Obama is due to give a big speech on Thursday about counterterrorism, drones, detainees, and everything he’s trying to do in that space. For a President who has been accused of being Spock-like, his approach to national security and the law has been far too Kirk-like: driven by a belief that his good will alone, his character, compensates for legal limbos like Guantánamo and discredits the anger, here and abroad, about drones. He remembers who he is, and thinks that that should be enough. He’s wrong; what we need to remember is what America is, and ought to be." Slate's Forrest Wickman was skeptical that a movie could adequately impart fresh wisdom, though. "I for one would prefer less exploitation of our memories of 9/11. But, since they went there, they could have done a lot worse. The film’s message may not be new, or surprising, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a worthy one."

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