Ross Douthat on Beck's Washington Revival Heading into this past weekend, The New York Times columnist was certain that Beck's influence was waning, especially as Republican figures step into the spotlight and prepare for a political resurgence. But, just as the Fox News host promised, his event on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial was apolitical, and it played as a cross between a pep rally for 'American values', a big-tent revival and a USO telethon. With endless nods to piety, prayer and patriotism, the rally gave observers enough material to "justify any interpretation of the event." Douthat explains: "A Beck admirer could spin 'Restoring Honor' as proof that left-wing fears about the Tea Partiers are overblown...But a suspicious liberal could retort that all the God-and-Christ talk and military tributes were proof enough that a sinister Christian nationalism lurked beneath the surface."
Steve Coll on the Urgency of Aiding Pakistan Commenting in The New Yorker, Coll details the tumultuous U.S.-Pakistani relationship and explains why it is imperative for America to ensure that the Muslim nation's disastrous floods do not irreversibly damage its economy. First, the U.S. needs to reverse its "Evil Empire" image by gradually reducing troops in Afghanistan and negotiating for political stability while keeping in mind Pakistan's interest. Then, the U.S. needs to pursue policies and trade agreements designed to "unleash" Pakistan's economy in the next decade, as this is a surer way to "reduce the threat of Taliban-inspired revolution than are military operations and drone strikes." And finally, Americans need to "unconditionally" come to the aid of the millions displaced by the flood, in order to help the country "reimagine" its future.
Charlie Brooker on the Right's Sloganeering Writing in The Guardian, Brooker marvels and despairs at the right's ability to reframe political discourse in America. Brooker contends that the "horrible brilliance" of the phrase "Ground Zero mosque" comes from its ability to "change the way you see things without actually altering anything in the physical realm." The left, Brooker argues, is less effective at offering up similar recalibrations of reality. They usually are content to "[fling] back tired old insults," far-removed from the "well-crafted buzzwords" of conservatives. This ability to stay on message, he argues, is responsible for the right's political ascendancy. "In today's 2,000 mph technological free-fall," Brooker writes, "he who coins the catchiest buzzword generally wins the debate by default."
Robert Barro on the Trouble With Unemployment Benefits In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, the Harvard economics professor questions the wisdom of President Obama extending unemployment-insurance benefits from 25 weeks to 99 weeks. By offering a "blanket extension of eligibility to nearly two years," Barro believes the United States has "shifted toward a welfare program that resembles those in many Western European countries." He's not against extending the benefits entirely. "In a recession," Barro concedes, "it is more likely that individual unemployment reflects weak economic conditions, rather than individual decisions to choose leisure over work." Past extensions of three months strike him as appropriate. But under the 99-week plan, Barro concludes, unemployment is staying high because of "reduced incentives" to look for a new job.
Anne Applebaum on Evaluating Success in Iraq The Washington Post columnist argues it's still too early to tell whether America's war in Iraq can be deemed a success or a failure. Applebaum is of two minds: while she "supported the invasion...[thinks] the surge was a success and [believes] that an Iraqi democracy could be a revolutionary force for good in the Middle East," she also believes that, in addition to the very real loss of American blood and treasure, the war has also had an adverse effect on America's "reputation for effectiveness...ability to organize a coalition...ability to influence the Middle East...ability to think like a global power...[and] ability to care for its wounded veterans." Applebaum figures that only time will tell if the gains were worth the costs.