E.J. Dionne on Obama's Occasional Backbone  The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne applauds Barack Obama's assertion in defending US action in Libya, and wonders why the President is so entirely absent in the budget fight raging at home. Dionne points out that Obama will allow Congressional Democrats to use his administration's evaluation of the potential harm of Republican cuts, but not allow them to attribute the information to the White House. "He talks periodically about his priorities, but he hasn't put any muscle behind those who are actually trying to defend them in the brawl that's raging at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue."

Warren Getler on Protecting Against Cyber War  Warren Getler looks at given recent cyber attacks on the global financial industry and points out that virtually no one is working to prevent banks and stock exchanges from coming under attack. "The U.S., working with EU and NATO countries, must do all it can to provide and receive real-time intelligence about the financial sector in periods of heightened geopolitical tensions, privacy issues not withstanding," he argues in The Wall Street Journal. "It's crucial for practitioners to come up with a plan, perhaps as members of a White House Cyber Council, that will enable the financial network to survive what surely one day will materialize as the silent shot heard 'round the world."

Neal Gabler on Our Perfect Society  Neal Gabler argues in The Boston Globe today that the American Dream has moved beyond the idea that anyone should be able to achieve success to the expectation that everyone achieve perfection. Gabler points out that 1960s Americans were "the first generation to live within its illusion," and by the 1980s "success was redefined from personal satisfaction to public vindication"--a sense of competition with the rest of America that has only become more intense. "In a world in which perfection is expected, you must be perfect. Otherwise you are second rate." Right now, it's commonly assumed that "the birthright of a 4-year-old girl in New York is to be a rich, beautiful, brilliant, powerful, Ivy League-educated Mistress of the Universe who will live not just the good life but the perfect one. That's the new American Dream."

Marie Myung-Ok Lee on the Value of a Good Teacher  Now a professional writer, Lee recently received a letter from the first teacher who encouraged her dream. This English teacher, and the one who followed, saw her talent as a lonely, scribbling student and bravely threw off the normal curriculum to get Lee engaged in reading and writing. But the teacher that first put Lee on the right path only got four years at Lee's Hibbing High School: she was laid off due to budget cuts. "If we want to understand how much teachers are worth, we should remember how much we were formed by our own schooldays," Lee writes. "Good teaching helps make productive and fully realized adults--a result that won't show up in each semester's test scores and statistics."

Bobby Valentine on Taking Tobacco Out of Baseball  On Major League Baseball's opening day, Bobby Valentine, former New York Mets manager and ESPN analyst, addresses the issue of smokeless tobacco use by professional baseball players, listing several players and coaches who have suffered ill health and cancer as the result of years of chewing. Acknowledging that he chewed as well, Valentine argues in The New York Times that Major League players have a profound influence on young atheletes--who imitate them--and should not be allowed to chew tobacco during games. "They are public figures and need to recognize the added responsibility that the limelight brings," he writes. "And they would still be free to use tobacco on their own time, just not while playing baseball."