Five Best Thursday Columns

Brigid Delaney on witnessing an execution, George Will on the role of unions in Detroit's bankruptcy, Charles Blow on the Republican right-ward shift, Isaac Chotiner asks you to ignore Huma Abedin, and Daniel Henninger on Obama's creeping authoritarianism.

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Brigid Delaney in The Guardian on witnessing an execution The hanging of Van Tuong Nguyen in Singapore for drug trafficking seven years ago left a permanent mark on Delaney, as it does for many who personally watch death sentences. "To get near the death penalty even as a reporter is to feel tainted in its aftermath, often for years later," she writes. Now, Delaney campaigns to end the "barbaric and raw" death penalty, along with a group of people who feel the same. "They didn’t know Nguyen, they had no stake in the matter — but the fact that people are still being executed was such a shock to some core sense of humanity that it politicised them," she argues. "Strong piece by @BrigidWD in @Cif_Australia on campaigning against the death penalty," writes author and The Guardian contributor Antony Loewenstein. "A fine piece of writing," tweets Erik Jensen of Schwartz Media.

George Will in The Washington Post on the role of unions in Detroit's bankruptcy The one-party, pro-union leadership of Detroit led to its bankruptcy, Will argues, and "does pose worrisome questions about the viability of democracy in jurisdictions where big government and its unionized employees collaborate in pillaging taxpayers. … Self-government has failed in what once was America’s fourth-­largest city and now is smaller than Charlotte." The Wall Street Journal writer David Feith advises to "see last three grafs especially," in which Will rejects the argument for a federal bailout of the city. But Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, blames the city's bankruptcy on "structural factors," and argues that the only reason Detroit won't be bailed out is because it doesn't have the lobby power or money to grease the federal decision-makers.

Charles Blow in The New York Times on right-ward shift for Republicans New Pew Research Center polls suggest that Republican voters would prefer the party compromise less and shift more to the right, a statistic that Blow can't understand. "Voices for moderation are maligned as agents of moral erosion. Giving a little feels like giving up," he writes. And if these hard-line conservatives were to win primaries, they could never acquire the moderate voters needed to win the presidency, he argues.  "Good column by Charles Blow today on the schizoid GOP voters," writes The Guardian contributor Suzanne Munshower.

Isaac Chotiner in The New Republic on the irrelevance of the political wife Can we please stop caring about the wives of our philandering leaders? Doing so is not only demeaning to the wife —Chotiner writes, "The underlying logic at work here is depressingly retrograde: The wife is an extension of her husband, not a person in her own right" — but it also has almost nothing to do with proper leadership. "No matter how often the connection between effective public service and family values is disproved, we insist on seeing one," he writes. Please, he argues, "Let’s try and get through the 2016 campaign cycle without focusing on spouses." Cathy Reisenwitz, a contributor to Reason, agrees "A zillion times yes." The New Republic editor Franklin Foer notes that Chotiner "is so damn sick of reading about Good Wives."

Daniel Henninger in The Wall Street Journal on Obama's creeping authoritarianism In his recent speeches, Obama has said he will use his own presidential authority if Congress blocks his preferred policies, and Henninger does not approve. "The U.S. has a system of checks and balances. Mr. Obama is rebalancing the system toward a national-leader model that is alien to the American tradition," he writes. Congress may be gridlocked, but it "is the one branch that represents the views of all Americans. It's gridlocked because voters are." MSNBC TV host Alex Wagner can't believe the argument being made: "'Obama's Creeping Authoritarianism (?!!?!?!)' Disbelieving punctuation mine." But conservative blogger William O'Connell sees this as a key Democratic weakness: "Incumbent Repubs running in 2014 who don't start denouncing Obama's power grab should be primaried," he writes.

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