Five Best Friday Columns
Peggy Noonan on the candidates' missteps, Noah Feldman on China's pseudo-censorship, Timothy Egan on presidents with business experience, Bob Edgar on ALEC's lobbying, and Maggie Severns on teaching non-English speaking children.
Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal on the candidates' missteps Now that Mitt Romney has clinched the Republican nomination and the general election race has officially begun, Noonan recaps the missteps both candidates have made in recent weeks. "The president opened his campaign with a full-fledged assault on his opponent. This is a bad sign in an incumbent! An incumbent should begin his campaign with a full-fledged assertion of the excellence of his administration," she writes. As for Romney: "Does he think keeping Trump close gains him some kind of right-wing street cred? My goodness, who does he think lives on that street?"
Noah Feldman in Bloomberg View on China's pseudo-censorship China's government unveiled new rules for censorship of its microblogging site Sina Weibo, and they allow people 80 strikes -- doled out for offenses like criticizing the government -- before one is banned. This allows China to monitor public opinion without letting it run amok. "China's leaders are trying to gain the advantages of free speech without paying its full price. First Amendment absolutists will probably raise their eyebrows at this," Feldman writes. "Yet there is an extraordinary precedent for China's censorship model: the history of free speech in England and the U.S. before the modern era." He documents that history and its purpose, but notes that, of course, he doesn't endorse it as a model going forward.
Timothy Egan in The New York Times on presidential business experience Mitt Romney suggested an amendment to the Constitution that would require three years of business experience as a prerequisite for the presidency. Critics quickly pointed out this would disqualify presidents from Ronald Reagan to Dwight Eisenhower from office. Egan has another issue: "In a scholarly ranking of great presidents, a 2009 survey conducted by C-Span, 6 of the 10 best leaders lacked sufficient business experience to be president by Romney's rumination." Meanwhile George W. Bush and Herbert Hoover received very low rankings, despite the business cred. In evaluating candidates, "We're looking for good judgment, broad life experience, flashes of wisdom. Still, for those who insist on making business the bottom line in who they pick, the past is indeed predictive."
Bob Edgar in The Wall Street Journal on ALEC's lobbying Edgar notes that while in Congress, he got to know many lobbyists, and remarked that most of them stringently followed rules. the American Legislative Exchange Council, most recently under fire for authoring Stand Your Ground laws like the one of note in the George Zimmerman case, is flouting those rules, Edgar says. "ALEC does not dispute that federal tax laws put strict limits on lobbying by (c)(3) groups; it simply insists it does not lobby. But we have made public and submitted to the IRS more than 4,000 pages of materials—mostly ALEC's own records—that document its lobbying." Given its activities, Edgar says it should be subject to the same taxes as other non-charitable organizations.
Maggie Severns in The Washington Post on teaching minority children In the wake of news that a majority of babies born in the U.S. are minorities, we need to reexamine how we educate children for whom English is a second language. "Some lessons are emerging from Illinois, where state leaders have decided to focus on the needs of English-language learners at a young age," writes Severns. "Training teachers who give immigrant children their first systematic exposure to English sounds like common sense — but in almost every state, there is no such push." She documents the case of one Illinois teacher taking night classes to learn how to approach non-English speaking pre-schoolers, and holds it up as an example to the rest of the nation.