Five Best Thursday Columns

Alex Pareene on the end of the politics of "scaring white people," Glenn Kessler on the White House's blame of insurance companies for dropping plans, Kevin Roose on Twitter's need to go "mass," Ruy Teixeira thinks Virginia's turning blue, and Jeffrey Goldberg on who poisoned Yasser Arafat. 

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Alex Pareene at Salon hails the end of the politics of "scaring white people." "Republican mayoral nominee Joe Lhota’s general election campaign theme was, basically, that a vote for [Mayor-elect Bill] de Blasio is a vote for race riots," Pareene writes. Lhota insisted that "de Blasio will return New York to 'the bad old days' of high crime. De Blasio will do this, apparently, by firing commissioner Ray Kelly and limiting stop-and-frisk, an NYPD policy that is little more than institutionalized minority-harassment." Lhota was not the first to campaign this way: "Rudy Giuliani, naturally, was the master of scaring white people. Bloomberg never quite campaigned like a Giuliani — or even a Koch — but he was still the beneficiary of Giuliani tactics," Pareene argues. What if police commissioner Ray Kelly had run? "It’s easy to imagine that Kelly would’ve run a very Giuliani-esque campaign, with a heavy dose of terrorism, but New York may finally have revealed the limitations, and the expiration date, of that strategy." Political strategist Donna Brazile, who appears on CNN and ABC News, isn't sure the politics of scaring white people is finished: "Well, I guess? But what do you think?"

Glenn Kessler at The Washington Post on the White House's effort to blame insurance companies for dropping plans. "In defending President Obama’s now-discredited pledge that 'if you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep it,' the White House has repeatedly tried to blame insurance companies," Kessler explains. The HHS placed tight regulations on "grandfathered plans" — those obtained before the law was signed on March 23, 2010. Because insurance plans typically only last one year, less than 5 percent of people have held on to their individual plans since the law was enacted. "That means about 95 percent of people now getting cancellation notices likely purchased their plan after the effective date of the law," Kessler explains. "During the drafting of the health-care law, insurance companies had wanted to extend the effective date for grandfathered plans until Dec. 31, 2013, which would have meant that few at this moment would be complaining that they had lost a plan they liked. Of course, that would have also meant fewer potential customers for the Obamacare exchanges in the first year." Kessler concludes, "the administration’s effort to pin the blame on insurance companies is a classic case of misdirection. Between 75 and 95 percent of the problem stems from the effective date, but the White House chooses to keep the focus elsewhere." Roll Call reporter Steven Dennis tweets, "Still raining Pinocchios."

Kevin Roose at Daily Intelligencer on Twitter's need to go "mass." It's Twitter IPO day, but "you [probably] did not get this news from Twitter," Roose writes. "That's because, although Twitter is generally put in the pantheon of the world's great social networks, it's still a fairly niche service." Only 100 million people use Twitter (compared to 728 million Facebook users). "When Twitter was private, that didn't matter much," Roose argues. "Having Justin Bieber on Twitter was much better for the company's prospects than having a hundred thousand middle-aged Wisconsinites. But now, in order to grow as a public company, it needs to become essential for those ordinary people, too. Twitter still needs Miley Cyrus, but now, it needs moms, too." Twitter is still an in-crowd thing: "People sign up for Twitter, thinking it will help them sort through current events or keep track of celebrities, then see a stream of acronyms, hard-to-parse hashtags, and in-jokes floating past them, and go right back to Facebook, which is easier to understand and use." Immigration activist Jose Antonia Vargas tweets, "@Twitter needs your mom."

Ruy Teixeira at The New Republic thinks Virginia's turning blue. "With Terry McAuliffe’s gubernatorial victory over Ken Cuccinelli, Democrats have now won six of Virginia’s seven high-profile, statewide races since 2005," Teixeira, a longtime political scientist, explains. Why did McAuliffe win? "It was the increase in the minority vote that put him over the top," Teixera argues. "Geographical patterns also suggest how new, potentially durable voting patterns benefit Democratic candidates, even fairly weak ones like McAuliffe and even in non-presidential years." For example, McAuliffe won the same Virginia suburbs that President Obama did in 2012. Teixeira concludes, "A few years down the road, this election is likely to be remembered not for any of these [Obamacare] debates, but rather for marking another step along Virginia’s transition from red to purple to blue." Matt Yglesias, the economics writer at Slate, tweets this line from the piece: "This 'blue state' agenda, if you will, did not scare VA voters away but rather carried [McAuliffe] to victory."

Jeffrey Goldberg at Bloomberg View on who poisoned Yasser Arafat. "Word comes now that an examination of the remains of Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader who died in 2004, has found 'unexpected high activity' of polonium," Goldberg explains. "Speculation about a culprit has naturally centered on Israel." And while Israelis are worried about these accusations, "the Israeli government should remember that it was the official policy of several past Israeli leaders to try to kill Arafat, who was the head of a terrorist organization that had murdered many Israeli civilians." Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, specifically, told Goldberg that he tried to have Arafat killed many times. "I’m still trying to figure out exactly why Sharon — who was, of course, prime minister when Arafat died — would have wanted the Palestinian leader dead at the particular moment he died," Goldberg explains. "But it should not be treated as news that Sharon wanted Arafat dead, or that he tried, at different points, to kill him."  Ali Gharib, who covers Middle East issues for The Daily Beast, tweets, "How crazy're these anti-Semites who blame Israel for something Israel tried to do for decades?"

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