Five Best Friday Columns

Michael Barbaro on Christie's apology, Benjamin Wallace-Wells on Christie's narcissism, Conor Friedersdorf makes an NSA-style defense of Chris Christie, Jia Tolentino on the late Amiri Baraka, and Amanda Marcotte on religious fundamentalism. 

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Michael Barbaro at The New York Times on Christie's apology. "By the end of an extraordinary and exhaustive 107-minute news conference, Chris Christie had transformed himself from a belligerent chief executive, famed for ridiculing his detractors, into a deeply wronged father figure, shaking his head, whispering his words and verging on tears. The bravado had vanished. The certitude was gone," Barbaro argues. "He said 'sorry' the Christie way: excessively, vaingloriously, in large, vivid and personal terms." Basically, the press conference was a "cathartic public therapy session that was at once confessional and clinically detailed." Azi Paybarah, a reporter at Capital New York, recommends the piece. 

Benjamin Wallace-Wells at Daily Intelligencer on Christie's "narcissistic drama." "'What does it make me ask about me?' the governor of New Jersey said about halfway through his press conference ... this question seemed to contain its essence, and in some way the essence of Chris Christie too," Wallace-Wells writes. "In this episode, in Christie's mouth, politics really was theater, in which plot exists only to test the protagonist's character, in which all the essential action is inward," he argues. Most importantly, "the psychological drama of the George Washington Bridge lane closures does not lie in the betrayal of the governor by those very close to him. It lies in what those very close to him thought the governor might approve of, enjoy, in the callousness they displayed when they were mimicking him." Fusion TV Host León Krause recommends the post.

Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic presents an NSA-style defense of Chris Christie.  "Does the Christie Administration really owe an apology to everyone in Fort Lee? A crisis communications strategy shaped by the NSA would suggest otherwise," Friedersdorf writes. He suggests these talking points: "Going after a political rival is wrong, to be sure, but it's important to put this event in context. There are almost 9 million people in New Jersey, and only one was targeted for retribution, an impressively tiny error rate lower than 0.001 percent." Christie could also point out that the Fort Lee children affect by the bridge closures "were one hop away from Mayor Sokolich, and thus part of the one instance of non-compliance." Most importantly, "the bridge closure was vital to national security because [redacted]." Friedersdorf explains, "To some readers, these talking points may seem absurd or deliberately misleading, but there isn't any denying that, so far, they're working okay for the NSA." Glenn Greenwald tweets, "A perfectly-executed Defense of Chris Christie, Courtesy of the NSA." Timothy B. Lee, the editor of The Washington Post's tech blog, quotes this talking point: "Did a Christie staffer delay thousands of people? Not wittingly."

Jia Tolentino at The Hairpin on the late Amiri Baraka. The poet died on Thursday at age 79. "Huge parts of American politics and poetry can't be imagined without Baraka's blazing, mercurial, punch-in-the-throat animus," Tolentino, a graduate student and instructor at the University of Michigan, writes. For example, "this summer I thought about him every time I saw audiences scream certain lines of Kendrick Lamar." She continues, "I've only got what I told my kids yesterday on the first class I taught of the semester — that poetry is such a pure use of language that the best of it feels pre-verbal, a flash not even in the heart but in the nervous system. Baraka's always been especially that way to me." Reuters arts and entertainment writer Andrea Burzynski tweets, "RIP, Amiri Baraka."

Amanda Marcotte at Salon on religious fundamentalism. "The design for the Satanist statue proposed for the lawn of the Oklahoma state capitol is a delight: Baphomet, a goat-headed pagan idol, sits gracefully on a chair, gazing beatifically forward while holding two fingers aloft. Two children, a boy and a girl, stand on either side of him, looking worshipfully upon the goatly representation of the occult," Marcotte explains. But "hilarious as the statue is, it was designed to make a serious point. Christian fundamentalists in Oklahoma managed to get a Ten Commandments monument placed on capitol grounds in 2012," she writes. Of course, Christians on the right are speaking out against it, insisting that Satanism doesn't represent Oklahoma's values. "Satanists," however, "will be the first to tell you they don’t really think Satan is real, and instead just rally around the character to make a political point about the arbitrary nature of religion." Harvard researcher Jeffrey Schnapp tweets, "Baphomet conquers Oklahoma."

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