Five Best Sunday Columns

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Sheryl Gay Stolberg on Why Female Politicians Avoid Sex Scandals. Following the latest sex scandal involving Anthony Weiner, Stolberg writes that male political sex scandals "would be easy to file this under the category of 'men behaving badly,' to dismiss it as a testosterone-induced, hard-wired connection between sex and power." Likewise, "some might conclude that busy working women don’t have time to cheat." But she argues that the underlying reason women avoid sex scandals is that there is a "substantial gender gap in the way women and men approach running for office." In short, "women run for office to do something, and men run for office to be somebody,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. As women "have different reasons for running, are more reluctant to do so," they "are acutely aware of the scrutiny they draw." Because they are under greater scrutiny,  "women politicians are punished more harshly than men for misbehavior." Overall, the result is not only that there are fewer female political sex scandals, but that, "despite great inroads made by women, politics is still overwhelmingly a man’s game."

Doyle McManus on the Ground Forces in Libya. "Back in March, when the bombing began, the leaders of France, Britain and the United States hoped Qaddafi's regime would shatter under the shock and awe of modern munitions," writes McManus. "None of that happened. Instead, France's Nicolas Sarkozy, Britain's David Cameron, President Obama and their allies are mired in a lengthening war of choice that none of them cared all that much about in the first place." But strangely, "the war hasn't become an overriding public concern in any of the countries in the effort." Even in Italy, where the war has given rise to refugee concerns, people are worried about the economy, an "endless series of soccer scandals," and whether Berlusconi is on his way out. "What this tells us is that Western countries can wage war for months without arousing much concern in their publics, as long as Western troops aren't on the ground and Western pilots aren't being killed or captured." However, in the long term, "there is likely to be a political cost, particularly for Sarkozy and Cameron," although "Obama may be less exposed." As Qaddafi holds his ground, what "if the only way to end it is with NATO boots on the ground?" Then the war may no longer look like such a good idea. "No matter how appealing the cause, military intervention is rarely as easy or as cheap as it looks."

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Maureen Dowd on Newt Gingrich, Model Husband. "At a moment when powerful men are self-destructing by betraying their wives, Gingrich is self-destructing by honoring his," Maureen Dowd notes, as "two dozen disgruntled aides" left Gingrich this week. "And it was all because he loved not wisely, but too well." Newt's wife, Callista, who Dowd tells us has a name "derived from Callisto — in Greek mythology, an Arcadian nymph who metamorphoses into a she-bear," was viewed as exactly that by Gingrich's staff. And her Greek references continue: "As everything crashed Icarus-style, Gingrich rationalized that he had needed to cruise the Aegean to 'get away and think.'” But despite Newt's checkered past with women, Dowd notes that "Funnily enough, none of his sexual transgressions — even when he was pushing Clinton’s impeachment while he himself was cheating with Callista, then a 20-something aide on the House Agriculture Committee — landed him in as much political trouble as being loyal to his wife. He thought his devotion to Callista would bring him political redemption. Instead, it has brought him political reduction. His campaign now boils down to the two of them."

Gareth Cook on Character vs. Education. According to Cook, success is widely understood to be "all about what kids know. Either children are learning to read, write, and do math, or they are not." But in truth, "There is a personal virtue that plays a large role in determining whether a child will lead a rewarding, prosperous life" -- and that virtue is "temperance," or, in modern terms, "self-control." The modern investigation into self-control began with the famous Stanford marshmallow study, where "children were placed alone in a room with a marshmallow and told that they could either eat the marshmallow, or wait and be given two marshmallows later." But the "big surprise came almost two decades later, when it was discovered that how well the children handled the preschool marshmallow challenge predicted how well they performed, for example, on the SAT. Self-control matters." Even more recently, studies have shown that "self-control is like a muscle. It is not just something that one is born with, but something that can be strengthened through regular exercise." Cook asks: "What will children need to thrive in this environment? Not catalogs of facts, but the discipline of mind to focus, persevere, and make good choices."

The Los Angeles Times on Obama's Environmental Weakness. "It's probably going too far to say that former president and onetime oilman George W. Bush was a better conservationist than President Obama. But they're not as far apart as most people think," writes the Los Angeles Times. Although Bush "treated federal lands like a private commodity," to his credit, he "set aside more ocean for federal protection than any president in history." But what has Obama done? He can't take credit for the wilderness protection omnibus bill, which happened before his time, even though he signed it. Moreover, "as an aggressive new majority of Republicans in the House takes steps to undo years of progress on conservation, Obama's response has been silent acquiescence." Of course, Obama "wants to be reelected in 2012, and he's trying to avoid battles over environmental protections that some perceive as harmful to economic growth. But... American voters support conservation, making it a political winner, not a loser. They'll back a president who stands up for preserving public lands for the public."

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