Must-Read Op-Eds for Monday, February 13, 2012

Updated
 

WE NEED A SECOND PARTY
BY THOMAS FRIEDMAN
NEW YORK TIMES

The [Republican] party has let itself become the captive of conflicting ideological bases: anti-abortion advocates, anti-immigration activists, social conservatives worried about the sanctity of marriage, libertarians who want to shrink government, and anti-tax advocates who want to drown government in a bathtub. Sorry, but you can’t address the great challenges America faces today with that incoherent mix of hardened positions. I’ve argued that maybe we need a third party to break open our political system. But that’s a long shot. What we definitely and urgently need is a second party — a coherent Republican opposition that is offering constructive conservative proposals on the key issues and is ready for strategic compromises to advance its interests and those of the country… Until the G.O.P. stops being radical and returns to being conservative, it won’t provide what the country needs most now — competition — competition with Democrats on the issues that will determine whether we thrive in the 21st century… The country is starved for a grown-up debate.

SEVERE CONSERVATIVE SYNDROME
BY PAUL KRUGMAN
NEW YORK TIMES

How did American conservatism end up so detached from, indeed at odds with, facts and rationality?… My short answer is that the long-running con game of economic conservatives and the wealthy supporters they serve finally went bad. For decades the G.O.P. has won elections by appealing to social and racial divisions, only to turn after each victory to deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy. … Over time, however, this strategy created a base that really believed in all the hokum — and now the party elite has lost control. The point is that today’s dismal G.O.P. field — is there anyone who doesn’t consider it dismal? — is no accident. Economic conservatives played a cynical game, and now they’re facing the blowback, a party that suffers from “severe” conservatism in the worst way. And the malady may take many years to cure.

THE FRONT-RUNNER’S MISSING MAGIC
BY FRANK BRUNI
NEW YORK TIMES

It’s fascinating: by most estimations, Romney’s term as the governor of Massachusetts was laudable, but he doesn’t invoke it as often or effusively as he might, because it doesn’t exactly bolster his outsider claim and it draws attention to a somewhat centrist record… His service to the Mormon church suggests a humanity and humility that might well impress voters, but he has mostly avoided that topic, too, because he’s by nature emotionally reticent and because some Americans still look askance at Mormonism… So with a houseful of potential assets, he has been pinned in the foyer, hesitant to access some of the better-furnished rooms. And that constricted biography joins a vague agenda to produce … an unspecific protest vote. An anti-Obama blur.

CONTRACEPTION AND THE COST OF CULTURE WARS
BY E.J. DIONNE JR.
WASHINGTON POST

One…thing about culture wars: One side typically has absolutely no understanding of what the other is trying to say. That is why the battle over whether religious institutions should be required to cover contraception under the new health-care law was so painful — and why it was so hard to comprehend why President Obama, who has been a critic of culture wars for so long, did not try to defuse this explosive question from the beginning. It’s also why he was right, finally, to reach a compromise that respected the legitimate concerns of each side. He should have done this at the outset, but far better late than never.

MITT ROMNEY AND THE POWER OF LOSING
BY KATHLEEN PARKER
WASHINGTON POST

We’ve seen it again and again in concession and farewell speeches. Al Gore was never more splendid than when he conceded to George W. Bush in 2000. The pain and humility of that moment were palpable, and even Gore’s critics couldn’t help but be struck by the power of his grace. Where had that man been? Ditto John Kerry. And, now, ditto Romney. The moral of the story isn’t that one must lose to win, but that one try to harness the spoils of loss for the road to victory. Those spoils are humility, grace and the freedom to be one’s true self. In real life, Romney cares about the very poor and spent his missionary years trying to help the less fortunate. To those who know him, he is kind, generous and humble. If Romney could summon the man he is in his quiet time, unhaunted by the cliches of political wizardry, Americans might find that they like him after all.

MEMO TO MITT: THE SAFETY NET NEEDS FIXING
BY ALAN S. BLINDER
WALL STREET JOURNAL

Here’s a suggested compromise: Don’t pay for it at all, at least not now. Raising other taxes or cutting other benefits would negate much of the stimulative impact of the payroll tax cut and the unemployment benefits. In the long run, however, we can and should pay for these deficit increasers many times over. … If Congress fails to maintain this assistance, about 1.3 jobless people will lose their benefits at the end of this month. … Eventually, the U.S. job market will return to normal, and unemployment benefits will drop back to the standard 26 weeks. Eventually, a lot of things will happen. … As I said, extending both the payroll tax cut and the long-term unemployment benefits should be no-brainers under current circumstances. Apparently, that may not be enough for passage through today’s Congress.

IMMACULATE CONTRACEPTION
EDITORIAL
WALL STREET JOURNAL

Here’s a conundrum: The White House wants to impose its birth-control ideology on all Americans, including those for whom sponsoring or subsidizing such services violates their moral conscience. The White House also wants to avoid a political backlash from this blow to religious freedom. These goals are irreconcilable. So you almost have to admire the absurdity of the new plan President Obama floated yesterday: The government will now write a rule that says the best things in life are “free,” including contraception. Thus a political mandate will be compounded by an uneconomic one—in other words, behold the soul of ObamaCare.

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Must-Read Op-Eds for Monday, February 13, 2012

Updated