Five Best Thursday Columns

Michael Crowley on the war on terror, Sam Youngman on Washington media, Kevin Roose on the Fed's taper, Michael Tomasky says Obama political obituaries are premature, and Ishmael Reed on Obama and "the Cool." 

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Michael Crowley at Time on NSA reform and the war on terror. "If the NSA’s wings are clipped, it will be another step in America’s steady march away from its post-2001 wartime footing, one that has accelerated dramatically, if quietly, in Obama’s second term," Crowley argues. This week's presidential panel on NSA reform suggests that Obama is pulling back on the war on terror. "Without much fanfare, his renewed push to close the Guantánamo Bay prison camp has gained momentum. The pace of drone strikes has plunged, and the U.S. appears to be trying harder to capture and try terrorists rather than simply kill them. American combat troops will finally leave Afghanistan in 12 months. And despite growing al-Qaeda activity in Syria and Iraq, Obama refuses to intervene in either place," Crowley writes. The Washington Post's political writer Greg Sargent tweets, "Very good piece on larger political context pushing Obama towards NSA reform."

Sam Youngman at Politico on Washington media. "If you’ve managed to carve out a place for yourself in the shark tank that is the Washington media, you probably see yourself as pretty tough — sign No. 1 that you live and work in a town that long ago broke away from reality," Youngman, a reporter for Lexington, Kentucky's Herald-Leader, writes. Youngman spent 10 years in Washington, making it to the White House beat and attending "Washington cool" social events. "Much of my time in Washington was one hell of a party, an endless and decadent blowout bash more suited to VH1’s Behind the Music than working in the nation’s capital." His advice to other reporters? "Get out of Washington. It’s messing you up more than you know." Jim Acosta, the senior White House correspondent at CNN, tweets, "Sam's takedown of this town is epic." Matt Pierce, a national reporter for Los Angeles Times, tweets, "I'm sorry, but if you're writing your D.C. hit piece for Politico, you never really left D.C."

Kevin Roose at Daily Intelligencer on the Fed's taper. "It's been widely expected that, at some point this winter, Ben Bernanke and the rest of the Federal Reserve's monetary policy wizards would decide to slowly lower the dosage of morphine that the struggling economy was receiving, in the form of tens of billions of dollars of bonds the Fed has been purchasing every month for several years. ... The time for tapering is now," Roose explains. Fed chair Ben Bernanke has basically given orders to his successor, Janet Yellen, by announcing the taper now. "As of today, Yellen has no real choice about what to do with her first year at the top of the Fed," Roose argues. New York Times economics reporter Nelson Schwartz tweets, "Outstanding — I think you should write some verses to honor [Bernanke]!"

Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast says Obama political obituaries are premature. "I can read numbers, and I know what’s happened over the past year," Tomasky writes. "Obama has lost support among core Democratic groups such as women and Latinos, and one suspects that the failure — not his failure; the failure, a distinction not enough people are evidently making — to pass immigration reform was disillusioning for these cohorts. And obviously the fiasco is the governing reality here." But he can rebound, Tomasky argues. "Health care? Come on. You’re joking. That was a bad first inning. Granted, a really, really bad first inning, but a first inning all the same. There is a lot of ball yet to be played."

Ishmael Reed at The New York Times says Obama embodies "the Cool." "Democrats have more of an affinity for jazz than Republicans. Even Jimmy Carter, not everybody’s idea of a hipster, invited Dizzy Gillespie to the White House. But among the Democrats, President Obama is the one who comes closest to the style of bebop called 'the Cool,'" Reed, the poet laureate of San Francisco, writes. "For a while in the mid-20th century, the Cool was everywhere. As youngsters in the ’50s, my friends and I talked cool, walked cool and dressed cool." He explains, "One hallmark of a cool musician … is an intensity and focus that lurks underneath the detached exterior." Obama, in Reed's eyes, has that. The Atlantic's politics editor and resident jazz aficionado David Graham tweets, "OK, so is it cool jazz or is it bebop? I've already got some issues with this column."

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