Five Best Wednesday Columns

Ben Smith on the legacy of Michael Hastings, Fergus Cullen on America's reliance on the sports-star immigration dilemma, Hadley Freeman on the domestic disturbance of Nigella Lawson, Margaret Carlson on Hillary Clinton's 2016 strategy, and Deena Shanker on the feminism of country music.

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Ben Smith at BuzzFeed on the legacy of Michael Hastings The late journalist Michael Hastings, unlike so many other political reporters, refused to align himself with power, writes his former editor Ben Smith: "He wrote with the sort of commitment of the generation of reporters shaped by the government’s lies about Vietnam, not by the triumphalism of the 1990s or the reflexive patriotism of the years after 9/11. He was surer than most of us that power is, presumptively, not to be trusted." Tim Dickinson at Rolling Stone highlights Hastings' signal reportage, "The Runaway General," after which Stanley McChrystal resigned in 2010: "Hastings' hallmark as reporter was his refusal to cozy up to power. While other embedded reporters were charmed by McChrystal's bad-boy bravado and might have excused his insubordination as a joke, Hastings was determined to expose the recklessness of a man leading what Hastings believed to be a reckless war." David Weigel at Slate, meanwhile, considers the loss to journalism: "You're supposed to afflict the comfortable. You're supposed to make them hate you, fear hearing from you, and tell you things they know they shouldn't. I'm worried about all the unaccountable S.O.B.s who'll never have to worry about Michael Hastings reporting on them."

Fergus Cullen in The Wall Street Journal on the sports-star immigration dilemma After surveying the staggering degree to which America's professional sports teams rely on athletes from abroad, Fergus Cullen wonders why we make it so much more difficult for luminaries in other fields — medicine, science, engineering — to come to the United States. "The U.S. immigration system makes it easy for sports stars to work in America, but the system makes it hard for star scientists, would-be entrepreneurs and others to show their stuff here," he writes, imagining the difficulty of applying immigration rules to athletes. "Sports fans wouldn't tolerate such a system because it would result in inferior teams. ... Congress should apply the same principle to immigration that is so readily accepted in sports: Encourage the best talent in the world to come to America." Kelly James Clark at The Huffington Post adds: "Some immigration officials treat top foreign-born scientists as though they might be terrorists, and with an unfortunate result: the US is now losing top scientists to other countries and may, as a consequence, lose its kick ass scientific edge."

Hadley Freeman at The Guardian on the domestic disturbance of Nigella Lawson Dissecting the revelation that British chef and television hostess Nigella Lawson was choked in public by her  husband, Hadley Freeman provides a wider view: "It's hard to think of a sadder and more brutal undoing of such a high-profile image than what has happened to Lawson," she writes. "In the past few days, she has gone from domestic goddess to the face of domestic violence ... Part of what makes the photographs of the incident so shocking, in which Saatchi's hands are alternately around her throat and tweaking her nose, is that they look like a bitter public inversion of the idyllic private world portrayed by her programmes." Anna Maxted at The Daily Telegraph considers the class implications: "It's curious, isn't it, that we're so surprised that domestic violence can apparently affect a woman like her. Our shock gets to the shameful nub of it: that really, we don't believe cultured, middle-class men are violent to their partners, or that successful, confident, fabulous women suffer it."

Margaret Carlson at Bloomberg View on Hillary Clinton's 2016 strategy In order to lay the groundwork for a formidable presidential run, argues Margaret Carlson, Hillary Clinton needs to distance herself from her husband: "Clearly, before returning to prime time, Hillary Clinton needs not only to manage expectations but also to show she can manage her husband, a manipulation that makes dealing with Vladimir Putin look easy by comparison." Regarding Clinton's husband, Carlson continues: "He will always loom. What didn’t drive them apart made their marriage stronger. But one thing he hasn’t learned is how to stand by his woman without standing in her way, blocking our view." Josh Kraushaar at National Journal, however, considers the impact Clinton's run would have on other political aspirants: "Clinton's potential candidacy ... freezes out the next generation of female leaders, who might otherwise be interested in running. With most Democratic women's groups expected to be fully behind a Clinton candidacy, there would be little room for an alternative to maneuver."

Deena Shanker at Salon on the feminism of country music Deena Shanker explores the hopes for a feminist pop-country star, as demonstrated in the massive popular parody Twitter account FeministTaylorSwift. "Taylor Swift might not want to be a feminist, but that hasn’t stopped the rest of us from wishing that she were," says Shanker, who argues that "losing the slut-shaming, gender-stereotyping, waiting-around-for-Mr.-Right motifs would not only help Swift break out of the domain of fleetingly faddish pop music, it would also allow her to join the ranks of other bold, outspoken feminist country music stars from the legendary Queen of Country Music Kitty Wells to the iconic Reba McEntire to another rising pop-country crossover star, Miranda Lambert."  Alexandra Petri at The Washington Post portrays the odd conundrum facing the star: "Taylor Swift makes a point of not being a feminist ... yet she’s simultaneously a wildly successful, intelligent and ambitious pop icon to thousands, not really the passive princess standing at the top of a tower that her songs seem to imply."

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