Five Best Saturday Columns

On far-right terrorism, James Murdoch's fall, and the debt ceiling as Sci-Fi

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Brian Cathcart on How James Murdoch Became News Corp.'s Liability. "Whatever happens to News Corp. now, it will surely happen without James Murdoch," writes Brian Cathcart, opining that the former heir apparent "has become a liability with little hope of survival." How did things so turn around for James Murdoch? According to Cathcart, it is due to the fact that James told members of Parliament this week that "when he approved a payment of £725,000," he was "not shown an email that suggested phone hacking was more widespread at the News of the World." But "remarkably," Colin Myler, 59, editor of News of the World and Tom Crone, legal manager, "publicly denied that." Writes Cathcart: "It is a significant moment, because it is the first public breaking of ranks among Murdoch executives to have occurred in the five years this scandal has been running. From here, the whole edifice of James’ defense threatens to crumble away, and it could do so in days." In the past, "they all used to tell the same story." But now, this dissent means "that James is now in the front line of his own defense and, when he tries to blame any of these others they are likely to bite back, telling their own stories and defending their own interests... There will be more of this kind of disagreement. The legal interests of Coulson and Brooks have now diverged dramatically from those of James." David Cameron on Friday called on James Murdoch "to return to Parliament, but that recall cannot happen now until the autumn. If James still has a position of importance inside News Corp. by that time, it will be a surprise."

Joe Nocera on the Exit of Elizabeth Warren. The Consumer Protection Bureau is "finally live," Joe Nocera notes, but "the person who hired most of that staff, created that management structure and laid out that agenda — indeed, the person most responsible for the bureau’s very existence — is departing. This coming week will be Elizabeth Warren’s last at the bureau. So accustomed are we to our nation’s poisoned politics that nobody even thinks this is strange." Nocera lays the blame with "Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama — whose descent from respected member of the Senate Banking Committee to partisan political hack has been truly stunning," and other Senate Republicans, who "vowed to block Warren from ever being able to run the agency she brought to life." To Nocera, this is unfounded: "What has long been striking to anyone following Warren’s travails these past 10 months — ever since the president asked her to set up the bureau — is the disparity between what she’s actually done versus the Republican demonization of her." Rather, he suggests that the real motivation behind her removal: "In fact, the only thing that’s transparent is the absurdity of this fig leaf. What the Republicans are trying to do is cripple the new consumer agency before it ever gets the chance to, you know, help consumers. Bankers are their constituency, not consumers."

Charles M. Blow on the How the Debt Ceiling Debate Resembles Science Fiction. "The current political environment and the debt-crisis debate remind me of the 1997 science-fiction film 'The Fifth Element,'" proposes Charles M. Blow.  "Stick with me. It’s complicated." Here goes: "In the film, the Great Evil, a giant ball of fire, hurtles toward Earth, intent on destroying it... a group of gentle aliens have a weapon that can stop it... [but] another group of aliens — simple-minded, warriors called Mangalores who work for an evil, wealthy industrialist — shoot down their ship." The debt ceiling is the giant ball of fire. According to Blow, "Grover Norquist’s Tea Party pledglings" are the Mangalores who have shot down the gentle aliens. "And now they can’t agree to a “grand bargain” because of their Faustian pact with big money" (the evil industrialist). But unlike in a movie, Blow hypothesizes, "there is no reason that we should be in this pickle... We shouldn’t have to wait till the last minute to see the light and prevent cataclysm."

Peggy Noonan on the Gang of Six vs. Obama. Amid the increasing frustration surrounding the debt deal, Peggy Noonan considers the plan proposed by the Gang of Six. "The primary good of the plan is that it represents the work of three serious liberals and three serious conservatives who together are moving in the right direction, not the wrong one," she writes. "The plan has already garnered a lot of opposition, much of it fair, but to quickly push it aside would be a real missed opportunity." Moreover, she suggests that "It is time for the president to get out of the way... his decision to become engaged has become a decision to dominate... He's trying to come across as the boss, the indispensable man, the leader. And, of course, the reasonable one."  As Noonan sees this, "it's not helping... When he speaks on the debt negotiations, he is not only extremely boring, with airy and bromidic language—really they are soul-killing, his talking points—but he never seems to be playing it straight." In terms of political position, she believes that, "The Gang of Six members themselves should have been given the stage to make their own announcement, and their own best case. The president, if he is seriously trying to avert a debt crisis, should stay in his office, meet with members, and work the phones, all with a new humility, which would be well received. It is odd how he patronizes those with more experience and depth in national affairs."

Ibrahim Hewitt on the the Norway Massacre's Non-Islamic Terrorist. Following yesterday's massacre in Norway, it was revealed that the perpetrator was a "blond, blue-eyed Norwegian" with "political traits towards the right, and anti-Muslim views," writes Ibrahim Hewitt. He adds that "not surprisingly, the man's intentions were neither linked to these 'traits,' nor to his postings on 'websites with Christian fundamentalist tendencies.' Any influence 'remains to be seen;' echoes of Oklahoma 1995." Moreover, he notes the use of the word "madman" to describe the suspect. "I suspect that that is what will happen with the Norwegian bomber/shooter; his right-wing links and Christian fundamentalist contacts will be dismissed as irrelevant. This, we will be told, was the work of a 'deranged' person 'acting independently.' Ergo, the only organized 'terror threats' to civilization are still 'Islamic-related' and the focus of anti-terror legislation and efforts must remain in the Muslim world and on Muslim communities in Europe and the USA." Apart from the hypocrisy here, Hewitt argues that if this happens, "we will be doing the world a great disservice." Far-right terrorism is happening through the world. "Neo-Nazi immigrants from Eastern Europe have even been active in Israel where the government, while deploring such far-right activity in its midst is actually edging ever more to the far-right on a daily basis. Ministers advocate the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in order to purify Israel as a 'Jewish state'; precious human rights for which the world has struggled are overridden in the name of 'state security'; criminals in uniform are allowed to get away, quite literally, with murder... We dismiss this 'madman' as a one-off 'not linked to any international terrorist organizations' at our peril. If nothing else, history has shown us that such ideologies are trans-national across and beyond the West, with catastrophic effects on the rest of the world."

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