Five Best Wednesday Columns

Newton N. Minow on debates, Dana Milbank on zingers, Peter Orszag on progressive entitlements, Michael Kinsley on gaffes, and Josh Ozersky on meat supply.

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Newton N. Minow in The New York Times on the legacy of debates The former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission writes that presidential debates are the "one place in the modern campaign—perhaps the only place—where the voter is treated with respect." Unlike the "disappointing primary and caucus debates, where we saw moderators preening for the camera, demanding yes-or-no answers, asking candidates to raise their hands to respond to questions, and forcing candidates to shout to be heard," Minow hopes the single moderator format in the tonight's debate "will provide for focused, extended discussion."

Dana Milbank in The Washington Post on the Zinger candidate Hostess snack "Zingers" is all empty calories. The Romney campaign packed their candidate with one-liner zingers to prepare for the debate, showing that "Mitt Romney is giving [voters] the political equivalent of junk food. His has been the Zinger candidacy — all sugary platitudes, no protein."

Peter Orszag in Bloomberg View on how entitlements skew to the well-off "Since better-educated, higher-income Americans are living longer than everyone else and therefore collecting benefits longer, Medicare and Social Security are becoming less progressive on a lifetime basis," Orszag writes. "The formula used to set people’s annual Social Security benefits should be made more progressive to offset the increasing gap in life expectancy."

Michael Kinsley in Bloomberg View on gaffes A genuine gaffe happens when the person wishes he could take back what he said. "This raises the question: Why should we pay so much attention to things people say by accident?" Then there are gaffes that are based on the pol's actual views, like Todd Akin's rape comment, which was no slip of the tongue. But even when facts are used, they can be spinned into a gaffe. So "in Gaffeland, the less said the better."

Josh Ozersky in Time on the dwindling meat supply The bacon shortage may have been a hoax, but a crisis in the meat industry is real. With rising prices of ethanol and American's refusal to pay more for meat, producers are taking more shortcuts to try and get out of the business. "The way things are going, meat will be more expensive, more unhealthy, and scarcer as time goes on."

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