Rick Perlstein on Betty Ford's Legacy Though the former first lady, who passed away Friday, was "never an elected official, industry titan or religious leader, few Americans changed people's lives so dramatically for the better," writes the author of Nixonland in today's New York Times. Though Ford struggled with addictions and was known for colorful comments to the media--for example about having sex with her husband "as often as possible"--Perlstein notes that these comments came as America began to shed its "shame-faced secrecy," and that "Betty Ford was that transformation's Joan of Arc," opening up about her mastectomy, for example, "at a time when respectable people only whispered the word 'cancer.'" As proof of her inspiring quality, Perlstein mentions the many books sent to the first lady with notes from the authors. The books included cancer memoirs, addiction memoirs, and "autobiographies bearing witness to struggles of every description ... She had taught them how not to feel ashamed."
Gideon Rachman on the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process Gideon Rachman disagrees with the recent movement of U.S. and European leaders toward calling for renewed peace talks between Israel and Palestine. "With the Middle East in turmoil," he writes in the Financial Times, "starting a new round of Israeli-Palestinian talks is completely pointless." The Arab Spring puts both sides on guard, he says. It makes Palestinians unwilling to open themselves up to criticism for "selling their own people" and instead focuses them on reconciling Fatah and Hamas. Israel, too, is in "a defensive crouch," as their regional security was once founded on a series of diplomatic relationships that have been disrupted by the revolutions across the Middle East. Instead of urging peace talks, Rachman says, U.S. and European leaders should wait for the dust to settle and meanwhile focus on taking a harder line against expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories and getting Hamas to recognize the state of Israel.