Five Best Wednesday Columns

Kathleen Parker on President Obama's comedy turn, Brian Beutler on last night's Florida election, Andrew C. Kuchins on Putin's Brezhnev moment, John L. Allen Jr. on Pope Francis' first year, Sebastian Payne on the future of the World Wide Web on its 25th birthday.

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Kathleen Parker at The Washington Post on President Barack Obama’s comedy turn. “I must need to smoke pot. How else to explain why I wasn’t getting President Obama’s interview on “Between Two Ferns,” the Web show hosted by Zach Galifianakis of “The Hangover” fame? The president, a.k.a. the leader of the free world, appeared on the show allegedly to pitch health care to the demographic worshiped by producers and presidents alike — Young People,” Parker writes. “What better time for the president to kick back and be a comic foil in service to the greater good of universal health care? Health care is important, of course, but, I repeat, he’s the leader of the free world, parts of which are under siege. How can we hope to be taken seriously when the world sees our president in such silly circumstances?”

Brian Beutler at Salon on lessons from last night’s Florida election. “The short version is that Republicans ran hard against Obamacare in this district and won. Dave Jolly beat Alex Sink 48.5-46.7. At an extremely simplistic level Jolly’s victory vindicates the anti-Obamacare campaign, because he ran against Obamacare and won. It’s also bad news for Democrats because though it doesn’t prove Obamacare’s a big liability (and it may in fact be one), it’s consistent with the idea,” Beutler writes. “Looking at this race in isolation, you have to disentangle a bunch of connected factors to suss out how much impact Obamacare had. Isolating an “Obamacare effect” is pretty complex, and anyone claiming today that the Obamacare effect was huge or obviously decisive is probably peddling snake oil. But still, I’m persuadable that such an effect exists.”

Andrew C. Kuchins at Politico on Putin’s Brezhnev moment. “Is Vladimir Putin having his Brezhnev moment? Putin’s gambit was much more impulsive than these detractors imagine. The decision to invade Crimea was taken very rashly on either Feb. 25 or 26 with the core Russian war counsel consisting of four people including Putin. It was a remarkably similar group who made the Soviet Union’s fateful decision to invade Afghanistan in 1979,” Kuchins writes. “No analogy is perfect, but my gut tells me that historians will regard Putin’s reckless decision to invade Crimea much like Brezhnev’s mistake in Afghanistan—as the beginning of the end. Putin has failed to build any powerful institution in his 14 years in power. His principal claim to legitimacy and popular support has been the impressive economic growth Russia has enjoyed during his tenure.”

John L. Allen Jr. at The Boston Globe on Pope Francis’ first year. “One year ago Thursday, a relatively obscure prelate from Argentina made his debut as the new leader of the world’s oldest Christian church, stepping out onto the fabled balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square and joking that his brother cardinals had gone to “the end of the earth” to find a pope. For an institution legendary for taking itself rather seriously, that flash of humor alone communicated that this wasn’t going to be your grandfather’s kind of pontiff,” Allen Jr. writes. “Symbolically, Francis, 77, has changed the narrative about Catholicism. Substantively, he has taken bold steps toward reform and reoriented the church toward the political and cultural center after years of a perceived drift toward ever more hardline stands.”

Sebastian Payne at The Spectator on what’s next for the World Wide Web on its 25th birthday. “At present, every web user has the same access to every service, every website at the same speed. But proposals for a multi-tiered system won’t go away; this report from BuzzFeed last year gives a good account of how the land currently lies. To combat this threat, Tim Berners-Lee has seized upon today’s anniversary, telling the Guardian that we need ‘an online Magna Carta’ – a ‘bill of rights’ to ensure that the open and free principles remain intact,” Payne writes. “Achieving this will not be easy. The lack of a central command structure has, undoubtedly, been the web’s greatest asset, meaning that no one can control its direction. But it also makes rallying the online community together very tricky — even for the man who is responsible for one of the twentieth century’s most important inventions.”

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