Five Best Tuesday Columns

George Packer on Chris Christie and Richard Nixon, Jonathan Chait on Christie's dead presidential campaign, Greg Sargent on Mitch McConnell, Bina Shah on Pakistani cinema, and Jonathan Cohn on who's buying Obamacare. 

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George Packer at The New Yorker on Chris Christie and Richard Nixon. "The trouble with Christie has to do with more than ordinary narcissism," Packer writes. While Bridgegate is state scandal, Packer is having flashbacks to 1972. "Some of the parallels are weirdly exact," he writes. "Whether or not he ordered the Watergate bugging, Richard Nixon ran a campaign of dirty tricks for two reasons: he wanted to run up the score going into his second term, and he was a supremely mean-spirited man." Even Christie's aides act like Nixon's: "In the e-mails that went public last week when the scandal broke, the tone of Christie’s aides and appointees displays the thuggery and overweening arrogance that were characteristic of Nixon’s men when the President was at the height of his popularity — utter contempt for opponents, not the slightest anxiety about getting caught."

Jonathan Chait at Daily Intelligencer on Christie's dead presidential campaign. "The apparently healthy Christie proto-campaign is teeming beneath the surface with deadly flaws, all of which are worsened by the bridge scandal. The latest evidence is CNN’s report that federal officials are investigating Christie’s potential misuse of relief funds for Superstorm Sandy," Chait writes. So "there are now two ongoing investigations into alleged abuses of power, each of which is potentially fatal." Chait thinks Christie is actually corrupt: "The high number of scandals surrounding Christie, and the pattern of gleefully using his power to punish his foes, suggests that at least some of the allegations against him are true. ... The deeper problem is simply that Christie appears to be genuinely corrupt on a scale that is rare for a modern top-tier presidential candidate." John Surico, a New York Times metro desk contributor, tweets, "The second threat to Christie's 2016 chances comes in the form of Sandy aid megalomania." MSNBC producer Jamil Smith responds, "I still agree with about Chris Christie's presidential hopes. Even more so, today."

Greg Sargent at The Washington Post on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell recently complained in a Politico op-ed that the Senate no longer passes legislation with bipartisan support. But "guess who has usefully confirmed for us that Republicans actively worked to deny Obama bipartisan support for his proposals for strategic reasons? Mitch McConnell, that’s who," Sargent writes. In 2010, McConnell stated unequivocally that the GOP strategy was to avoid bipartisan proposals. So "the complaint McConnell makes in his Politico op-ed is best understood as the goal of what had been his strategy all along. The whole GOP gamble of the Obama era was to do everything possible to deny Obama bipartisan support for anything, not just to make it harder to rack up accomplishments, but also to ideologically insulate Republicans from what they expected would be an epic, never-ending policy catastrophe," Sargent explains. Francis Wilkinson, a member of Bloomberg View's editorial board, tweets, "Mitch McConnell’s grand, ingenious strategy — or not." Working America writer Seth D. Michaels says McConnell is "like a swarm of locusts complaining that farmers cause famines."

Bina Shah at The New York Times on Pakistani cinema. "After years of economic doldrums and creative drought, Pakistani movies are pulling in crowds at home and garnering awards at international film festivals. It’s a miraculous restart for an industry that has seen more highs and lows than a three-hour Bollywood blockbuster," Shah, a novelist, writes. Over 20 films were released last year. One of the releases, Main Hoon Shahid Afridi (I Am Shahid Afridi) is "about a small-time cricket league in the northeastern city of Sialkot [and] sends a powerful message of religious tolerance," Shah explains. And so "Pakistani cinema’s new wave hints at a country on the cusp of a major shift. Each film is at once a window into a dynamic country going through difficult times, and a blueprint for how its people might find their way to better days ahead," she argues.

Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic on who's buying Obamacare. "According to a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 40 percent of the population that could enroll in Obamacare exchange plans are between the ages of 18 and 34. But, according to the government’s new data, only 24 percent of the people signing up for coverage are in that age range," Cohn explains. But young people tend to sign up later for insurance. Further, almost 80 percent of those enrolled will receive subsidies from the federal government. The "Congressional Budget Office predicted all along that the vast majority of people buying coverage through the marketplaces would be getting subsidies — which is a very long way of saying that, at least in this respect, Obamacare is unfolding in precisely the way most experts expected," Cohn writes. Greg Sargent responds, "This keeps getting ignored, but as says, as long as enrollment improves over time, the law will be fine."

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