Five Best Friday Columns

The Atlantic

Daniel Larison in The American Conservative on Republicans holding up Hagel Senate Republicans filibustered Chuck Hagel's Secretary of Defense nomination yesterday, giving themselves ten more days to find a reason to block his confirmation. Democrats are upset about the stalling, of course, but so are many conservatives like Daniel Larison, who argues Hagel obstructionism has turned into a spectacle. "The impressive thing about the anti-Hagel effort is how politically tone-deaf it is," Larison writes. "It’s not just that their opposition is misguided, but they stand to gain nothing from it. No one outside of a small core of hard-liners sympathizes with what Senate Republicans are doing. While they may not be losing any votes over this, they are making sure that all of the moderates, independents, and realists that they have alienated over the last ten years will keep running away from them." 

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Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post on Ted Cruz The Senator most opposed to Hagel's confirmation seems to be Ted Cruz, a man who isn't making any friends on either side of the Washington partisan divide according to Ruth Marcus. "With his latest attack on Hagel, Cruz has gone too far," she writes. "Cruz has every right — indeed, he has an obligation — to question Hagel vigorously. He has a right to demand relevant information. He has a right to vote against Hagel; indeed Republicans are now filibustering the nomination. But he doesn’t have the right to smear Hagel, with no supporting evidence, with insinuations that the nominee received money from foreign governments or extremist groups."

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Geoffrey Till in The Diplomat on Asia's "arms race" Weapons stockpiling and military build-up in the Asia-Pacific region has caused much alarm in certain corners of the media, but Geoffrey Till wants us all to calm down about the likelihood of conflict breaking out in the East or South China seas. We're unlikely to see a repeat of WWI in Asia, Till argues. "There are some major differences between pre-war Europe and the situation now," he writes, citing how little of their budgets many Asian countries are actually spending on defense. Communication technology has also vastly improved, and foreign relations are much less hostile now than they were in the early 20th century. "Crucially, few national leaders, diplomats, or even sailors talk in arms race terms, and they certainly do not justify their efforts by the need to 'get ahead,'" Till writes. "On the contrary policymakers make every effort to avoid publically naming possible adversaries that they need to build against."

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Paula Dwyer in Bloomberg View on merger mania Everywhere Paula Dwyer looks, she sees businesses getting hitched. Warren Buffett's purchase of H.J. Heinz Co., American Airlines and US Airways Group Inc., Dell Inc. entering a multi-party buyout, Penguin and Random House — all of these deals are ending the "long drought" for mergers and acquisitions bankers and lawyers. "Companies are sitting on mountains of cash. With the U.S. economy recovering and Europe's debt crisis easing, executives are more confident that a multi-billion-dollar wager will pay off," Dwyer writes. "Interest rates are at rock bottom almost everywhere, so cash sitting on a corporate balance sheet earns very little interest. At the same time, the cost of borrowing to finance a takeover is very low."

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William Finnegan in The New Yorker on the GOP's immigration fix Almost everyone in Washington — from the left and the right — is on board with immigration reform, right? Sizing up the GOP's plan to tackle immigration policy, William Finnegan isn't so sure that a bipartisan consensus will carry meaningful reform into legislation. "We have been here before," he notes, pessimistically. "President George W. Bush had bipartisan support for comprehensive immigration reform in 2007, but neither party was able to keep its legislators in line." As much as Republicans promise to push for reform, Finnegan argues that their emphasis on "border security" and fear of offering "amnesty" may be incompatible with Democrats' goals. He writes, "With an opposition as fractured and fractious as the Republicans, success on something as complex and sensitive as comprehensive immigration reform is far from assured."

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