Five Best Wednesday Columns

On Obama and gay marriage, bringing Assad to the Hague and Chavez's health

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Dana Milbank on the Obama Administration's Hypocritical Stance on Gay Marriage In the face of New York's vote to legalize gay marriage, The Washington Post's Dana Milbank points out that the Obama administration actually opposes the institution. "At the core of Obama's stance is a logical inconsistency: He believes gay Americans should be fully equal under the law, but by opposing gay marriage he supports a system that denies same-sex couples some 1,300 federal rights and benefits that married couples receive," he writes. Milbank realizes that it would take more than the President's verbal support for gay marriage to become legal at the federal level, "but if Obama really believes, as he says, that a class of Americans is suffering unconstitutional discrimination, you'd think he would take a stand as a matter of principle." Hillary Clinton, for her part, also exhibits a contradictory stance, she has declared "gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights" but she doesn't support gay marriage. Milbank challenges the administration to heed its own words and recognize that supporting "gay rights" means supporting gay marriage as well.

Jeff Shesol on an Excess of Extrajudicial Activity Jeff Shesol observes that all nine Supreme Court justices have been "giving speeches, signing books, leading workshops, posing for pictures at charity functions" lately and asks, "is there something wrong with extrajudicial activity?" Shesol, a former speechwriter for Bill Clinton, acknowledges in today's New York Times that "surely there is nothing new or unnatural about justices holding political views and seeking the company of others who share them," but, for example, "there are few, if any, precedents for the involvement of Justices Thomas and Scalia with the fund-raising efforts of the Koch brothers." Justice Alito has associated himself with conservative magazine The American Spectator, just as "Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has taken part in the Aspen Institute seminars, which receive some financing from George Soros... [and] Justice Stephen Breyer has turned up at Renaissance Weekend, the conclave that the Clintons put on the map in the 1990s." The problem with these extrajudicial activities, Shesol explains, is that "the public's faith in the rule of law depends, to no small degree, on the idea that judges try, as best they can, to maintain a judicial temperament--that they keep a certain distance from public and even private events that appear, in the truest sense of the word, partisan, and that they maintain an open mind. Not a blank mind, devoid of a judicial philosophy, but an open mind — a certain receptiveness to reason, argument and fact."
The Los Angeles Times Editors on Holding Generic Drugs Accountable "How is it that the maker of a brand-name pharmaceutical has to provide information about potential side effects but the companies that produce identical drugs don't?" the Los Angeles Times editors ask, referring to the recent Supreme Court opinion that "the makers of generic drugs don't have to warn patients about newly discovered dangers." The editors argue, "If this is the price the public is expected to pay for cheaper drugs, it's far too high." Generic drugs are required "to carry the exact same warning labels as their brand-name equivalents... but what happens when a generic manufacturer discovers new problems with the same medication?" They suggest that "if the federal rules don't do enough to protect consumers, manufacturers--of medicine or anything else--have a moral responsibility to protect the public from being harmed by their products." The editors insist that "generics should not be known as buy-at-your-own-risk drugs."
Madeleine Albright and Marwan Muasher on Bringing Assad to the Hague Madeleine Albright and Marwan Muasher take to the Financial Times today to urge the "international community to take a stand against Syria's use of violence against its citizens." They praise the International Criminal Court's investigation of Muammar Qaddafi's potential crimes against humanity and demand the same be done for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. The former U.S. secretary of state and the former foreign minster of Jordan, respectively, explain that "sanctions and verbal condemnations have failed to halt the machinery of repression." They believe that "at present, the international criminal justice system is the best available way of confronting Syria." While they admit that "the international community cannot, nor should it, seek to dictate the fate of any country, we do, however, have a responsibility to support the observation of global norms in every country." They argue that "the more emphatic and consistent we are in laying down principles, the more likely it is that future humanitarian crises can be prevented."
Mark Falcoff on a Post-Chavez Veneuzela Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez's "critical condition" begs several questions that Mark Falcoff notes at the National Review. "How ill is Chavez really? Will he recover?" he asks. "But the bigger issue, of course, is what happens if Chavez dies?" Falcoff is dubious about the current reports about his medical treatment. "For dictators a health crisis is the worst possible thing that can happen, all the more so when the regime itself is a one-man show. Naturally enough Chavez's real condition, whatever it is, must remain a secret as long as possible," Falcoff writes, predicting that if Chavez does recover he will easily resume his usual course in Venezuela. But, if Chavez dies, Falcoff points out "there is simply no one in the regime who combines his audacity, his recklessness, his flair for showmanship, and his raw popular appeal to roughly 40 percent of Venezuelan society."  Chavez's death would leave a "deeply divided" Venezuela, resulting in, "in the best of cases" an "ungovernable" country, and "in the worst, it will collapse into civil war." He predicts, "The most likely immediate outcome is a kind of military dictatorship," and adds, "What its ideological coloration will be, what foreign and domestic-policy choices it makes, are beyond prediction. But Venezuelans have good reason to fear the future."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.