Five Best Thursday Columns
Gary Schmitt on how the West is losing Ukraine, David Thomson on Wes Anderson at his worst, Charles M. Blow on how conservatives have the wrong idea, Jack Lew on poverty, David Weigel on a Russia Today anchor's on-air resignation.
Gary Schmitt at the Los Angeles Times on how the West is losing Ukraine. “There are heated debates here and abroad about what exact policies should be put in place in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to violate Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity by sending Russian troops to Crimea. In short, why wouldn't Putin think slicing off part of Ukraine was a relatively cost-free exercise?” Schmitt writes. “There will be no peace for Ukraine until and unless Putin sees the cost for his behavior as being greater than the rewards, and there will be no permanent stability in Eastern Europe absent NATO expansion. And neither of those can occur until the U.S. puts aside the idea that the Russian government is just like any other government and accepts the fact that, in the absence of a strong American military presence, its competitors and adversaries will fill that vacuum.”
David Thomson at The New Republic on Wes Anderson at his worst. “Not the least distressing thing about Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel is its end title claiming to be inspired by the life and work of Stefan Zweig. So why is the name Zweig so startling at the end of The Grand Budapest Hotel? To put it simply, because this film is the work of a talented and vacant young director whose 'brilliance' (I’m sure the word will be used) should not conceal his indifference to the depth of experience that preoccupied Zweig,” Thomson writes. “Anderson is crazy about rigid or fanatical compositions in which a directly faced portal yields to enclosed space beyond. The result is close to a lot of Woody Allen’s work, with actors wheeled in and out as celebrities, not parts of an organic fiction.”
Charles M. Blow at The New York Times on how conservatives have the wrong idea. “Republicans may have bet too heavily on the wrong issue going into the midterm elections. When the health care law’s website wasn’t working, the law itself was at its most unpopular and its most newsworthy, and the president’s poll numbers were cratering, many Republicans made the calculation that they could ride the wave of woe to an overwhelming electoral victory in November. But betting on stasis is stupid. Things change,” Blow writes. “Conservatives are painting a picture of a president who is domestically dictatorial but internationally anemic, but that is schizophrenic and strains credulity. They seem to be grasping at straws now that their best cudgel is splintering.”
Jack Lew at Politico on a proven way to fight poverty. "One of the principles that has always bound America together is the fundamental belief that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can get ahead. It was this principle that helped build the largest, most vibrant middle class the world has ever known. But economic trends over recent decades have undermined this basic bargain and eroded economic security for many Americans," Lew, Obama's treasury secretary, writes. "A key part of the president’s plan to strengthen opportunity and grow the middle class is an expansion of a provision in the Tax Code known as the Earned Income Tax Credit. This tax credit — along with a strong minimum wage — has the power to raise living standards and lift millions of working Americans out of poverty."
David Weigel at Slate on another Russia Today anchor controversy. “Yesterday RT reporter Liz Wahl ended her broadcast by condemning the invasion and announcing her resignation, effective then and there. Shortly after Wahl did this, as the video was getting around, I talked to former RT host Adam Kokesh. In 2011 the libertarian anti-war veteran and activist had hosted a series called Adam vs. the Man. It didn't last long,” Weigel writes. "'I've seen some of the horrendously biased coverage that's come out recently on RT,' Kokesh told me over the phone. 'When a news organization's becomes so that it challenges its credibility, people don't want to associate with it. I think that's what happened here. Their credibility is destroyed, and people who want to preserve their credibility will dissociate with them.'”