Five Best Wednesday Columns

Karen Tumulty on Mark Sanford's comeback, Aisha Harris on the reaction to Charles Ramsey, Jill Lawrence on Terry McAuliffe's trouble with women, Maureen Dowd on sexual assault in the military, and Brentin Mock on how the Sierra Club embraced immigration reform.

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Karen Tumulty at The Washington Post on Mark Sanford's comeback How did Mark Sanford convince South Carolina to re-elect him? "Sanford's bid for a comeback strained the electorate's capacity for forgiveness. But in some ways, he may have benefited from the generally low regard in which the public seems to hold politicians," writes Karen Tumulty. " ... Sanford's win was a triumph of ideology over the ickiness of very public personal failure." His opponent, meanwhile, suffered from an aloof campaign: "Colbert Busch, the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert, [ran] a campaign in the cautious style of an incumbent — surrounded by handlers, holding comparatively few public events, agreeing to only one debate and offering few specifics on issues." Slade Sohmer at HyperVocal considers the would-be parallel between Sanford and Anthony Weiner, another recently-disgraced politician: "Is one better? Is one worse? That's entirely up to you. It all depends on what you think about Democrats versus Republicans, what constitutes fidelity and hypocrisy, how much you value physical contact vis-a-vis cheating, and whether you believe in comeuppance for raging egomaniacs." The Atlantic Wire's Elspeth Reeve, drawing on data from Nate Silver at The New York Times that suggests this election means more about South Carolina's party breakdown than sex and the national landscape, says otherwise: "If Weiner wants to win in New York City, he needs to run against a right-winger, no matter how well he thinks his own public-apology tour is going."

Aisha Harris at Slate on the reaction to Charles Ramsey "Charles Ramsey, the man who helped rescue three Cleveland women presumed dead after going missing a decade ago, has become an instant Internet meme," writes Aisha Harris, who excavates the dynamic underlying Ramsey's instant fame, and the instant questions surrounding it. "It's difficult to watch these videos and not sense that their popularity has something to do with a persistent, if unconscious, desire to see black people perform." In one video, Harris argues, "[Ramsey puts] the issue of race front and center himself. Describing the rescue of Amanda Berry and her fellow captives, he says, 'I knew something was wrong when a little pretty white girl ran into a black man's arms. Something is wrong here. Dead giveaway!' ... Those who are simply having fun with the footage of Ramsey might pause for a second to actually listen to the man. He clearly knows a thing or two about the way racism prevents us from seeing each other as people." Meanwhile, at The Raw Story, Amanda Marcotte praises Ramsey's uncommon attention to domestic violence: "Charles Ramsey did not look the other way. He believed what he was seeing was domestic violence ... He could have put his head down and said it wasn't his business, but he didn't. ... Because of him, these women are safe."

Jill Lawrence at National Journal on Terry McAuliffe's trouble with women "Could a Democrat lose women to an antiabortion crusader in a purple state?" asks Jill Lawrence, who weighs gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe's well-documented attitudes toward women — including his own wife. "McAuliffe has drawn a portrait of his marriage that is going to be hard to dispel. He is in the spotlight right now for ditching his wife Dorothy while she was in labor, to dash to a party for a Washington Post reporter. ... The more problematic anecdote to me is one that involves the birth of another baby, in this case a newborn son whom McAuliffe left in the car with Dorothy on the way home from the hospital while he spent 15 minutes at a fundraiser. She was in tears, he writes. How the heck does he think women would react to that?" But David Freedlander at The Daily Beast isn't so sure these anecdotes, relayed in McAuliffe's memoir, will truly alter the race: "While the McAuliffe excerpts have been churned over in the blogosphere ... they do not seem to be penetrating the campaign in Virginia. The Daily Beast couldn’t find a single mention of them in any of the Commonwealth’s major newspapers, and McAuliffe campaign hasn’t yet felt the need to trot out the candidate’s wife to vouch for his bedside manner."

Maureen Dowd at The New York Times on sexual assault in the military Maureen Dowd addresses the recent arrest of an Air Force officer for sexual battery — the same officer who oversaw that military branch's sexual assault prevention efforts. "There was a fox-in-the-henhouse echo of Clarence Thomas, who Anita Hill said sexually harassed her when he was the nation’s top enforcer of laws against workplace sexual harassment. ... It has been a bad week for the hidebound defenders of a hopelessly antiquated military justice system that views prosecution decisions in all cases, including rape and sexual assault, as the private preserve of commanders rather than lawyers." Dowd points to a report by Spencer Ackerman at Wired's Danger Room on a brochure advising victims of rape to "submit": "While the brochure also explains that sexual assault is not always committed by people who 'don’t look like a rapist' — attackers 'tend to have hyper-masculine attitudes,' it advises — it does not offer instruction to servicemembers on not committing sexual assault. Prevention is treated as the responsibility of potential victims."

Brentin Mock at Colorlines on how the Sierra Club embraced immigration reform Brentin Mock investigates the history of the Sierra Club, the environmental group founded in 1892, and its shifting attitudes toward immigration. "The arc of Sierra Club's evolution starts with a dubious if not hostile perspective on immigration that the Club carried in the 1960s. The theory was that immigration drives unsustainable population growth, which then drains resources and harms the environment. That perspective shifted to a hard line against immigration in the 1980s, then to a neutral position in the '90s, before finally coming around in the 21st century to advocating on behalf of immigrants." (At the same time, the Club has come around to hydraulic fracturing too, according to Nicholas Sakelaris at the Dallas Business Journal.) In any case, the immigration debate isn't likely to get any less heated soon. As Dylan Matthews at The Washington Post points out, the Heritage Foundation's controversial immigration study was co-authored by a firm believer in "deep-set differentials in intelligence between races."

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