Five Best Wednesday Columns

Jeffrey Goldberg remembers an Israeli Ayatollah, Jonathan Chait on Boehner's poor defense of his extortion scheme, Amy Davidson coins the term "default pirates," Zach Beauchamp argues racism caused the shutdown, and Daniel Gross on why it's remarkable that Janet Yellen is a Democrat. 

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Jeffrey Goldberg at Bloomberg View remembers an Israeli Ayatollah. Goldberg explains, "More than 700,000 people gathered in Jerusalem yesterday to mourn the death of a great sage, Ovadia Yosef, a former chief rabbi of Israel and the supreme guide of the Shas political party." But Yosef was a religious fundamentalist who Goldberg compares to Islamic extremists. Iran's Islamic fundamentalists. "I spend a lot of time in this space highlighting the corrosive anti-Semitism of such figures as Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Iranian leader, and Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the extremist Al Jazeera televangelist," he writes. "It's unpleasant but necessary to note that Israel, too, has its share of religious fanatics." For example, "in 2005, he argued that Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for the Gaza withdrawal and for the alleged godlessness of the black residents of New Orleans." Matthew Bell, a BBC correspondent who focuses on the Middle East, tweets, "This took some chutzpah to write." John Cook, the editor of Gawker editor who has argued with Goldberg about Israel before, writes, "good for Jeffrey Goldberg." But Ali Gharib, who covers Middle East issues for The Daily Beast, is less pleased: "How many Ayatollahs can @JeffreyGoldberg name? I'm guessing 2 or 3."

Jonathan Chait at Daily Intelligencer on Boehner's poor defense of his extortion scheme. At the Speaker of the House's press conference on Tuesday, Chait writes, "Boehner simply repeated his original, false formulation," instead of engaging "with Obama’s debunking. … the Speaker spoke for about five minutes, responded briefly to one question, and bolted out the door. Obama’s disquisition earlier today may have been long (over an hour) and professorial. But he was able to defend his position against questions, engage counterarguments, and marshal facts to support his position." Boehner didn't do any of those things. White House deputy press secretary Eric Shultz liked Chait's photo caption ("It's hypocritical that YOU accuse ME of hostage-taking when YOU'RE the one demanding I surrender by dropping the gun.")

Amy Davidson at The New Yorker crowns some Republicans in Congress "default pirates."  "What is remarkable, and depressing, about a default is that the metaphors about creditors calling and bills stacking up would be descriptions of unfolding events," Davidson writes. "The United States of America really would become just some guy—that guy you know who has problems with money." Everyone hopes that the GOP's love of Wall Street and big business will keep it from pushing default. But "an attitude that Obama described as 'let’s take default out for a spin and see how it rides' may be taking hold among the GOP’s nihilists." Joshua Green, a national correspondent at Bloomberg Businessweek, tweets, "I move that we drop 'debt-default truthers' + adopt Amy Davidson's evocative 'default pirates.'"

Zach Beauchamp at ThinkProgress argues racism caused the shutdown. Beauchamp begins by explaining, "a lot of people think the only way that racism 'causes' anything is when one person intentionally discriminates against another because of their color of their skin. But that’s wrong." He then traces the history of the Republican Party, starting with the New Deal and ending with the rise of the Tea Party. "The Southern conservative takeover of the Republican Party pushes out moderates," he argues, "cementing the party’s conservative spiral. This trend produces the Tea Party, whose leading contemporary avatar — Ted Cruz — engineers the 2013 shutdown and risk of catastrophic default." He concludes, "the basic cleavage between North and South, began by slavery, has set the fault lines of American politics again and again. This time, the crisis isn’t as severe as the civil war ... [but] today’s Republican radicalism, with all of its attendant terrifying brinksmanship, is the grandchild of the white South’s devastating defeats in the struggle over racial exclusion." Julian Sanchez, a libertarian writer at the Cato Institute, tweets, "This seems like a strain of the ordinary language semantics of 'caused,' but interesting piece all the same." Beauchamp responds, "Heh, yes, it's a bit of an expansive notion of causality."

Daniel Gross at The Daily Beast on why it's remarkable that Janet Yellen is a Democrat. President Obama is expected to nominate Yellen for Fed chair later on Wednesday, which, if she is confirmed, will make her the first woman to hold one of the most powerful positions in the global economy. But Gross explains, "the remarkable fact is this: for the first time in a generation, an actual Democrat will be in charge of monetary policy." Obama and former President Bill Clinton both reappointed the Republican nominees for the position: Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan, respectively. Perception of Yellen "is that she will be much more concerned with promoting full employment and somewhat less concerned with fighting inflation than her predecessor. Given where the economy is today—very little inflation, too little job growth—that is in fact the correct attitude." Al Jazeera correspondent Wab Kinew recommends the post.

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