Five Best Tuesday Columns

Jonathan Chait on Obamacare and the individual market, Ramesh Ponnuru and Rich Lowry on conservatives' real problem, Eugene Robinson sees an out-of-control NSA, Conor Friedersdorf on Obama's role in NSA snooping, and Andrew Ross Sorkin on the slow return to deal-making. 

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Jonathan Chait at the Daily Intelligencer on Obamacare and the individual market. "President Obama repeatedly promised that people would not lose their existing coverage as a result of his health-care plan. This lay somewhere between an oversimplification and a falsehood, as millions of Americans are facing exactly that prospect right now as the individual-insurance market complies with the law’s new regulations," Chait writes. What the President really meant was that "those who already had insurance through their job or through Medicare would not be forced into the new health-care exchanges." Those who have catastrophic, skimpy coverage plans will probably not be able to keep them. Bottom line? "When it was originally contemplated, several years away from implementation, the process of imposing regulations on the individual-health-insurance market did not feel like taking people’s health insurance away from them. In the current moment, with cancellation notices going out and alternatives not yet available, it feels exactly like that." Julie Rovner, the health reporter at NPR, tweets, "hey ppl who just started covering ACA last month, READ THIS!" Kevin Glass, who manages the conservative TownHall, tweets, "I say in all honesty that it would have been fantastic to have these debates in 2010."

Ramesh Ponnuru and Rich Lowry at National Review on conservatives' real problem. "Prior to the government shutdown, the House Republican leadership offered a plan to force the Senate to hold a symbolic vote on defunding Obamacare before allowing it to move on to a so-called clean continuing resolution — one, that is, with no anti-Obamacare provisions," the two explain. Extreme conservatives obviously did not like this plan. The shutdown was an expression of "apocalyptic conservative politics" rather than the "necessary work" of trying to win voter support. Bottom line? "Effective political movements create the conditions for their own success. Conservatism has not done enough of that, but when it has prospered it has never been moved by despair. ... conservatives need to get to the work of persuading and electioneering — and drop the fantasy of a shortcut." Andrew Exum, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, tweeted that the column is "well worth your time."

Eugene Robinson at The Washington Post says the NSA is out of control. It "makes no sense that the NSA can decide on its own, with no adult supervision, to invade the privacy of even one leader of a sovereign state, let alone 35," Robinson writes, referring to recent reports that the agency spied on world leaders. He continues, "alienating key leaders — and broad public opinion — in friendly countries is a dumb, counterproductive way to fight terrorism. Following these revelations, are French, German and Spanish intelligence agencies likely to be more cooperative with their U.S. counterparts? Or less?" Robinson thinks the NSA's quest to "know everything" is backfiring. Glenn Greenwald tweeted out the column.

Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic on Obama's role in NSA snooping. Reports indicate that White House officials knew about the NSA's spying on world leaders, but it's not clear whether the President himself knew. For Obama, this is a lose-lose situation: "there's just no way he comes out of this with his reputation intact. Either he knew about the spying and is lying to us, raising the question of how truthful he's been in his other statements about surveillance, or else he was ignorant of spying that he really ought to have known about." Further, leaks about NSA activity have "opened a public rift between the spies and the civilians in charge of them; exposed U.S. officials with conflicting stories; prompted White House narratives in conflict with one another; and bemused a Senate intelligence committee leader. And that's just the fallout from a narrow controversy about spying on world leaders. The impression is of a surveillance state that's out of control." Republican Rep. Justin Amash recommends the post.

Andrew Ross Sorkin at The New York Times argues deal-making is not back. "Prognostications of a return to deal-making have turned out to be wrong, very wrong. So wrong, in fact, that merger activity, measured by dollar value, looks as if it is on track to be down 3.4 percent globally from last year," Sorkin explains. Some blame this on constant debt fights in Congress, but "that may only be part of it." He concludes, "Predicting, of course, is a dangerous game. Now that I’ve speculated that deal flow will continue to be slow, fate may have it that a spate of big mergers will be announced in the coming weeks. But there would have to be an awful lot of deals before Christmas to make up for the slowness." John Carney a CNBC recommends the post.

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