Five Best Friday Columns

Harry Potter and the debt ceiling of doom

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Rick Perry and Nikki Haley Propose Long-Term Debt Solutions  Amid speculation he will run for president, Texas Governor Rick Perry joins with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to talk up states' fiscal responsibilities and urge the federal government to act responsibly as well. "Just like most businesses and families," the governors write in The Washington Post, "states have a limited amount of money on hand with which to build their balanced budgets, and when times are hard states have to prioritize, make sacrifices and figure out how to best provide essential services to residents... Unfortunately, the system in Washington makes it easier for elected officials to bury their heads in the sand, avoid responsibility and make the easiest choice of all: borrow more, plunge our nation deeper into debt and allow this generation to punt the tough decisions to our children and grandchildren." The governors go on to defend their support for a pledge to oppose a raise in the debt ceiling unless there is a reduction in spending, implementation of spending caps, and a Constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget.

Peggy Noonan on Obama's Upper Hand  "As this is written, the president seems to have the edge," Peggy Noonan writes of the debt ceiling debate in The Wall Street Journal. "The House is probably not enough to win a fight like this. In the words of a conservative strategist, Republicans have one bullet and the Democrats have three: the presidency, the Senate, and a mainstream media generally willing to accept the idea that the president is the moderate in the fight." But Obama will pay a price, Noonan warns, for his victory. His warning that social security checks and other entitlements will not be paid if the debt ceiling is not raised has only "agitated" Americans. "He will have scared America and shook it up, all for a political victory. That will not add to affection or regard for the president." She also adds, though, that "there are other reasons for American unease," and jumps to a slightly different topic: "everyone over 50 in America feels a certain cultural longing now ... In the Old America there were a lot of bad parents. There always are ... But in the old America you knew it wasn't so bad, because the culture could bring the kids up. Inadequate parents could sort of say, 'Go outside and play in the culture.'" You can't tell children that any more, "because the culture will leave them distorted and disturbed. And there isn't less bad parenting now than there used to be."

Karin Klein Seeks Lessons from the Leiby Kletzky Killing  "Each horrible event involving a child is examined for clues," writes Karin Klein in the Los Angeles Times, "for lessons that might keep our kids a little safer, at the same time that we yearn for them to have the kind of childhood we remember--roaming the neighborhood, cell-less and unsupervised, until dinnertime." Klein writes of the incremental steps by which she granted her own daughter the freedom to walk to the bus stop, to roam downtown with friends unsupervised, to swim at the beach, all while coaching her on the dangers involved. Parents are constantly "reminding ourselves that kids don't come with total-security warranties, yet knowing that no matter how careful we are, should something awful happen to them, there won't be another morning in our lives without pain and guilt."

Gordon England Advises the New Defense Secretary  New secretary of defense Leon E. Panetta will have to decide how to reduce the Pentagon's budget, and former Navy secretary and and deputy defense secretary Gordon England warns him not to simply cut equally across all areas. Instead, he should attempt to make deeper personnel cuts among the Pentagon's civilian bureaucracy than among the armed forces. "Budget decisions do have consequences, and making the right ones is crucial for our nation’s security," he writes in The New York Times. Washington can also sell more weapons to allies to raise money and distribute overhead costs of production and adjust the ratio of support staff to combat staff to place fewer burdens on over-deployed fighters. Finally, he writes, "the Pentagon should give the heads of the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force and combatant commanders more say in decisions over buying equipment, including weapons," to save time and money.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey on Christians and Harry Potter  Sarah Bailey says that opposition to the Harry Potter series among orthodox Christians has died down in part because of "an interest in the themes that unfolded." Writing in The Wall Street Journal, she says hard-line Christians once balked at the apparent celebration of witchcraft, but  warmed to the series when the seventh book's plot explored more overt religious parallels. Bailey points out a trend with children's fantasy series. "Before C.S. Lewis became well known as a Christian, he noted that most British reviewers missed the underlying theology in his science fiction 'Space' trilogy. Christian writer Madeleine L'Engle was criticized by some for the magic elements in 'A Wrinkle in Time.'" Rowling has acknowledged the influence of these authors and her intent to inject religious themes into her own work. She alienated some Christians anew with her admission that she considers her character Dumbledore to be gay, and other Christians remain opposed to the depiction of witchcraft. Still, Bailey quotes author Connie Neal to conclude, "Rather than being a means for corrupting the youth with witchcraft and the like, [Neal] says, 'The Harry Potter phenomenon was the greatest evangelistic opportunity that the church has missed.'"

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