Five Best Monday Columns

Jonathan Chait explains how Larry Summers paid for Obama's sins, Jeffrey Goldberg argues the Syrian people lose with the new Syria agreement, James Surowiecki doesn't think Bill de Blasio can do much about inequality, Jackson Diehl claims Obama's foreign policy is "rudderless," and Alyssa Katz wants safer sidewalks for pedestrians. 

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Jonathan Chait at New York explains how Larry Summers paid for President Obama's sins. In the wake of news that former Treasury Secretary Summers removed his name from consideration for Fed chair, Chait insists that "liberals stopped Summers." A core group of Democrats stopped the nomination for two good reasons that had more to do with Obama than Summers: Obama's records on nominating women and on financial regulation aren't great. The Fed chair nomination, Chait argues, is a rare opportunity for Dems to disagree with the President without giving up the nomination to a Republican. Elmira Bayrasli, a World Policy Institute fellow, recommended the piece. Matt Yglesias, the economics writer at Slate, agreed with Chait's line that a "Summers's candidacy is a rare opportunity for liberals to stymie Obama without committing political suicide."

Jeffrey Goldberg at Bloomberg View on how Bashar al Assad's victory in the Syria deal. Since Russia and the U.S. have agreed to work together to rid Syria of its chemical weapons, Goldberg argues that this plan keeps Assad in power and allows him to keep murdering civilians with impunity (just not with sarin gas). President Obama scores a marginal victory for forcing Assad to admit he has chemical weapons and for not launching military strikes against the already war-torn country. The losers in this equation, Golberg says, are the Syrian people, who will continue to live under Assad's regime. Sen. John McCain, who was a proponent of military strikes against Syria, calls the column a "must-read." Nahlah Ayed, who reports on the Middle East for the CBC, calls it an "interesting take."

James Surowiecki at The New Yorker questions whether Bill de Blasio can actually do anything about income inequality in New York City. Surowiecki writes plainly, "decrying inequality on the campaign trail is one thing. Actually doing something about it is infinitely harder." De Blasio will need to widen the middle class to really combat inequality, but middle class jobs have yet to come back since the Great Recession. De Blasio could encourage housing development to lower rents, but Surowiecki thinks that's "politically hopeless" since supporting developers is usually seen as anti-middle class. Bottom line: de Blasio's reign would be different in "tone" than Bloomberg's, but the economy will stay the same. Dorian Warren, a CNN contributor and associate professor at Columbia who focuses on American politics and inequality, tweets in response to Surowiecki, "Hey rich New Yorkers — calm down!"

Jackson Diehl at The Washington Post claims President Obama's foreign policy is "rudderless." Diehl, the deputy editorial page editor at the Post, argues that between crises in Egypt and Syria, Obama has only been rushing from "fire to fire" without making any decisive action. Diehl writes Obama has shown a "refusal to accept that an American president must take on the history that erupts on his watch" and cites an instance in which Obama said he'd rather be talking about American early childhood education "amid the Syria debate." Frida Ghitis, who writes about world affairs for CNN, notes Diehl's suggestion that Egypt is forming a "quasi-fascist state" under Obama's watch.

Alyssa Katz at the New York Daily News pushes for a "safer city for all pedestrians." Katz, editor of The New York World, was hit by a car that jumped the curb in New York City while she was pregnant. She cites this frightening statistic: "In July 2013 alone, 855 pedestrians . . . were injured by vehicles in New York City — more than were shot by guns. Twelve were killed." She hopes that candidates for NYC office will become advocates for safer sidewalks. Dana Rubinstein, a politics reporter for Capital New York, points out one of the more gripping lines in the piece: "I lay on the sidewalk, my giant belly in the air."

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