Five Best Wednesday Columns

Iran may have weapons, tabloids may be vital, and Reagan may have supported Democrats

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Fred Fleitz on Iran's Weapons Program  Fred Fleitz, recently retired from a career at the CIA, DIA, State Department, and House Intelligence Committee staff, writes in The Wall Street Journal that the American intelligence community is ignoring Iran's nuclear ambitions. The amount of enriched uranium in the country and the design of new centrifuges indicate that Iran wants to make weapons, he says. Still, U.S. intelligence maintains that Iran halted its nuclear weapon program in 2003. Fleitz says this is because the community downplays controversy, fearing the release of provocative information in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion. Also, outside reviewers, whose names Fleitz says have been censored from the column, "tend to share the views of senior intelligence analysts, and they also want to maintain their intelligence contacts and high-level security clearances." As a result, Fleitz says, "Iran is on the brink of testing a nuclear weapon while our intelligence analysts continue to deny that an Iranian nuclear weapons program exists."

Ryan Linkof on the Importance of Tabloids  Ryan Linkof, an historian of tabloid photojournalism, writes that the House of Commons debated the indecent reporting tactics of tabloid journalists at length in the 1930s. "As recent events have shown," he says in The New York Times "the tabloids have not lost their grip on indecent reporting, especially when it comes to breaches of privacy. Yet this is, I think, for the better." Linkof condemns illegal reporting methods but defends "intrusive reporting" as a practice often separate, legal, and important. Most tabloid journalists, he claims, are "above the board" and they do a service by feeding "a popular desire to see behind the facade of public life. They rely on the appeal (a very human one) of seeing elements of our societies that are often shamefully hidden away from view." Tabloids often report on trivialities, but they also break important stories like the John Edwards scandal, and they break down barriers between the elite and the rest of us, he argues. "They play a fundamental role in democratic cultures, especially in societies characterized by the pull between the demands of a mass society and the persistence of social and economic inequality."

Milbank on Reagan and the Democrats  House Democratic caucus chairman John Larson played a recording of Ronald Reagan during yesterday's debt limit proceedings, reports Dana Milbank in The Washington Post. "'Congress consistently brings the government to the edge of default before facing its responsibility,' Reagan says in the clip. 'This brinkmanship threatens the holders of government bonds and those who rely on Social Security and veterans benefits. Interest rates would skyrocket, instability would occur in financial markets, and the federal deficit would soar. The United States has a special responsibility to itself and the world to meet its obligations.'" Indeed, Milbank continues, Tea Partiers seem increasingly at odds with the policies of a president whom they laud. Reagan raised the debt ceiling 18 times during his presidency, he raised taxes 11 times, and he kept government spending at a higher percent of GDP than the upper limit proposed by current Republicans. "Half a century after he left the party," Milbank concludes, "the Gipper is winning one for the Democrats."

Joseph Nye Debunks Some BRICS Myths  Joseph Nye argues against recent arguments that BRICS--an acronym for an organization comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa--demonstrates the eclipsing of American power on the world stage. "As a challenge to the United States, BRICS is unlikely to become a serious alliance or even a political organization of like-minded states," he writes in The Wall Street Journal. "More aptly, it should be seen as a locus for critics to occasionally tweak the tail feathers of the eagle." The countries within the group are too divirse, Nye argues. Russia, as a former superpower in decline rather than an emerging economic powerhouse, is mismatched with countries like Brazil and China. Economic and political differences mean they cannot always act as a power-bloc, as shown by their inability to back a common candidate for IMF director after the resignation of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. China has resisted efforts to allow India or Brazil into the U.N. Security Council, and Brazil and India dislike Chinese currency policy.  Furthermore, "the economic rise of China, India and Brazil is important, but for economic decisions it is their role in the G-20 that matters," he writes.

Ruth Marcus on Bachman and Submissive Wives  "I didn't want to write a column about Michele Bachmann," quips Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post, "but my husband told me to." Marcus is referencing Bachmann's admission that she became a tax lawyer, despite hating taxes, because Marcus Bachmann instructed her to and she believes in the Biblically instructed submission to one's husband. Bachmann, like female presidential candidates before her, evokes age-old questions about whether political observers can address her appearance or her intelligence without hinting at sexism. But Bachmann's evangelicalism raises newer questions, too, about how to respect her religious beliefs on a woman's role in the household. "One way to thread the theological needle is to argue that the Bible assigns leadership roles to men in the family and church but is silent on, and therefore leaves room for, women in politics," Marcus writes. "This seems like a stretch, especially since Bachmann has credited her husband with directing her professional life." Ultimately, Marcus says she isn't worried because she cannot picture Bachmann winning, but she still thinks Bachmann's popularity means we should ask her and her husband these questions directly.

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