5 Best Sunday Columns

Obama's career-defining test, what gold bugs get right, more

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  • Peter Baker: Health Care Will Define Obama  The New York Times' Baker predicts that however the health care battle plays out will come to define the Obama presidency and how it perform.
Washington is already debating how pivotal the vote will be to his presidency. Mr. Obama has devoted vast energy and political capital over the last 14 months to get to this point, the presidential equivalent of an all-in bet on the poker table. Should he fail to push his plan through a Congress with strong Democratic majorities, it would certainly damage his credibility as a leader for months, and maybe years. Already the fight has scarred Washington, leaving behind a polarized and angry political elite and questions about whether the system is broken.
  • Michael Kinsley: What Gold Bugs Get Right  The Atlantic's Kinsley is no Glenn Beck-watching conspiracy theorist. Yet he says conservative warnings about the dangers of currency inflation run amok may have a point. He acknowledges economists who say inflation won't be an immediate problem, but takes a broader view.

Maybe I’m like those generals who are always fighting the last war, but I am not reassured. I worry that when and if the recession is well and truly over, there is a serious danger of another round of vicious inflation. (If the recession is not over, or gets worse, we’ll have other problems.) This time, inflation will be a lot harder to stop before it turns into hyperinflation. Whether Obama navigates these shoals successfully will be a big factor in his historic reputation. And journalists will be kicking themselves (and other people will be kicking journalists) for missing a disaster story on the level of Hurricane Katrina, if not 9/11 itself. In short, I can’t help feeling that the gold bugs are right. No, I’m not stashing gold bars under my bed. But that’s only because I lack the courage of my convictions.

  • Fareed Zakaria: Obama's Pakistan Success  Newsweek's Zakaria praises President Obama's South Asia strategy. Though Zakaria had earlier warned against angering India by focusing too much attention on developing U.S.-Pakistani ties, he now says Obama was right to focus on Pakistan and has come away with much to show for it.

Such success will endure only if the Obama administration keeps at it. There are some who believe that Pakistan has changed its basic strategy and now understands that it should cut its ties to these groups altogether. Strangely this naive view is held by the U.S. military, whose top brass have spent so many hours with their counterparts in Islamabad that they've gone native. It's up to Obama and his team to remind the generals that pressing Pakistan is a lot like running on a treadmill. If you stop, you move backward, and, most likely, you fall down.

There aren't many free lunches left in Washington. But from a policy, if not a political, standpoint, tax reform is one of them. Economists of all stripes agree that the tax code has become so complex and inefficient that we're raising less money than we could with a simpler tax code that offered lower rates. Think about that: We could cut taxes for most Americans while keeping revenue steady.
  • David Sanger: Comparing Iran to China  The New York Times' Sanger looks at U.S. debate in the 1960s over what to do about a nuclear China. He explores how this could be relevant to today's discussion on whether to confront or contain a nuclear Iran.
For a few months in the mid-1960s President Johnson and his aides secretly weighed bombing China’s nuclear sites — perhaps seeking Soviet help — rather than let Mao get the bomb. Then the costs of starting another war in Asia sank in and they decided to try containment — living with a threatening regime while deterring its most dangerous moves. It worked. Nearly five decades later, more Americans wake up worried about our trillion-dollar debt to China than about China’s arsenal.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.