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The adolescent president

WASHINGTON — Recently, Barack Obama — a Demosthenes determined to elevate our politics from coarseness to elegance; a Pericles sent to ameliorate our rhetorical impoverishment — spoke at the University of Michigan. He came to that very friendly venue — in 2012, he received 67 percent of the vote in Ann Arbor’s county — after visiting a local sandwich shop, where a muse must have whispered in the presidential ear. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., had recently released his budget, so Obama expressed his disapproval by calling it, for the benefit of his academic audience, a “meanwich” and a “stinkburger.”

US, Japan must seal deal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership

The Trans-Pacific Partnership has been described as the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s attempt to “pivot” U.S. foreign policy toward Asia, and with good reason. A proposed trade liberalization agreement among 12 nations, the TPP would, in binding the United States more closely with a portion of the world, collectively account for 40 percent of global output. At the same time, it would ensure that this huge area, including giants such as Japan, Canada, Mexico and Australia, conducts business according to U.S.-style rules on tariffs, regulation and intellectual property. China would be left on the sidelines, along with its mercantilist model of international commerce — unless and until it modifies that approach. The net effect would be a better balance of power, money and ideas between the United States and its allies on the one hand and China on the other.

De Blasio, unbowed

NEW YORK — To say that Mayor Bill de Blasio is unbowed after some difficult moments in his first few months in office is not entirely true. The 6-foot-5 progressive bows regularly so he won’t overwhelm interlocutors who don’t meet NBA specs.

A mental health checkup

The country’s inadequate mental health system gets the most attention after instances of mass violence of the sort that the nation has seen repeatedly over the past few months. Not all who commit these sorts of atrocities are mentally ill, but many have been. After each, the national discussion quickly, but temporarily, turns toward the mental health services that may have failed to prevent another attack.

Got Putin, yet?

WASHINGTON — The new “agreement” between Russia, the U.S. and our allies is exactly what the former KGB agent ordered.

A contrary view on the Pulitzers

WASHINGTON — On Monday, my Washington Post colleagues celebrated winning the Pulitzer Prize for public service along with the Guardian newspaper for their reporting on Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency.

A tax break worth saving

With lawmakers showing little enthusiasm for an ambitious proposal by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., to overhaul the byzantine U.S. tax code, Congress has to decide what to do about dozens of temporary tax breaks that expired Dec. 31. Among them is an exemption for forgiven mortgage debt that’s an essential part of a broader federal effort to solve a nagging problem, namely the spate of defaults caused by the recession. Failing to renew it would cripple efforts by government and banks to mitigate the damage caused by the housing crisis.

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Wall Street’s flash point

In “The Financier,” his great novel of American capitalism, Theodore Dreiser describes the thinking of his hero, Frank Cowperwood, who exploited banks, the state and investors. It isn’t wise to steal outright, Cowperwood concludes; that would be wrong. But “there were so many situations wherein what one might do in the way of taking or profiting was open to discussion and doubt. Morality varied, in his mind at least, with conditions, if not climates.”

A counter for hysterics in Michigan

DETROIT — Robert Griffin, now 90, who rose to be second in the Republican U.S. Senate leadership, was defeated in 1978. Since then, only one Michigan Republican, Spencer Abraham in 1994, has been elected to the Senate and for only one term. Evidence that former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land might end this GOP drought is that Democrats are attacking her for opposing “preventive health care.”

Don’t blame NATO expansion for Russian aggression

Tom Friedman, New York Times columnist, wrote a good column this week, arguing that the United States and Europe need to take a long look at whether they are ready to make the sacrifices involved in saving Ukraine from Vladimir Putin and, if not, let the Ukrainians cut the best deal they can.

The Colbert Report

WASHINGTON — In selecting Stephen Colbert to replace David Letterman as host of the “Late Show,” CBS has waged war on America’s heartland — or so proclaims that Palm Beach font of heartland mirth, Rush Limbaugh.

Pennsylvania school stabbings: Why?

In the midst of shock and sorrow, there is bewilderment. The mass attack Wednesday morning at Franklin Regional High School near Pittsburgh — with 19 students and a security guard stabbed or slashed, including at least one critically — leaves a host of unanswered questions. While the shrieks and sobs still echo, all the questions boil down to one: Why?