Must Read Op-Eds for Thursday, December 22, 2011

Updated
 
HUNTSMAN IS THE BEST CHOICE FOR GOP
CONCORD MONITOR
EDITORIAL

Huntsman, a consistent but never doctrinaire conservative, would present the greatest challenge to Obama. If elected, he would provide mature, informed and steady leadership. He has a track record as governor of bringing all sides together to create an economic climate that helped his state prosper. And he has experience garnered while serving four presidents, starting with Ronald Reagan. Combine the foreign policy experience of all the other candidates in the race and Huntsman would top it. He has played the game at its highest level, serving first as ambassador to Singapore, then as a trade representative on behalf of the United States at the United Nations and, at Obama’s request, as the United States’ ambassador to China. A NEW KIM. A NEW CHANCE?
BY NICOLAS KRISTOF
NEW YORK TIMES
American officials blame China for coddling North Korea, but at least Beijing has a strategy. It is to encourage the Kim regime to replicate the opening and reform policies that transformed China itself. These days, Chinese traders, cellphones, DVDs and CDs are already common in border areas of North Korea, doing more to undermine Kim rule than any policy of the United States. There are no good solutions. But let’s take advantage of the leadership transition to try a dose of outreach. If we can inch toward diplomatic relations, trade and people-to-people exchanges, we’re not rewarding a monstrous regime. We just might be digging its grave.

HOUSEBOUND FOR THE HOLIDAYS
BY GAIL COLLINS
NEW YORK TIMES
When the [payroll tax] bill made its way to an unwelcoming Senate, a miracle occurred. Angels sang, a star rose in the east and the Democrats and Republicans worked out a compromise. This was, admittedly, an old-fashioned Congressional compromise that resembled the offspring of a wart hog and vampire bat. But it kept the status quo going for another two months. Happiness reigned! Most of the Republican senators voted for the bill, and everybody started packing for vacation. Alas, the compromise flamed the fiercest rancor and resentment that exists on Capitol Hill — the hatred of the House for the Senate. Really, no matter who’s in charge in Washington, the House hates the Senate. The House hated the Senate when James Monroe was in it.

IRAQ’S LATEST BATTLE
EDITORIAL
NEW YORK TIMES
No one expected the dangers and tensions in Iraqi politics to vanish after the last American troop departed. But at least Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a member of the Shiite majority, might have made an effort to step up to the challenges of creating a future for Iraq based on democratic principles. Instead, he is showing a greater interest in reprisals against the Sunni minority than in encouraging inclusion. Mr. Maliki has created a dangerous political crisis by issuing an arrest warrant for Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a leading Sunni politician, accusing him of running a death squad. Mr. Hashimi has denied those charges and fled to the semiautonomous region of Kurdistan to avoid arrest. The timing of the arrest warrant — immediately after American troops withdrew from Iraq — is highly suspicious.

GINGRICH, THE ANTI-CONSERVATIVE
BY GEORGE WILL
WASHINGTON POST
Gingrich’s unsurprising descent into sinister radicalism — intimidation of courts — is redundant evidence that he is not merely the least conservative candidate, he is thoroughly anti-conservative. He disdains the central conservative virtue, prudence, and exemplifies progressivism’s defining attribute — impatience with impediments to the political branches’ wielding of untrammeled power. He exalts the will of the majority of the moment, at least as he, tribune of the vox populi, interprets it. Atop the Republican ticket, Gingrich would guarantee Barack Obama’s reelection, would probably doom Republicans’ hopes of capturing the Senate and might cost them control of the House. If so, Gingrich would at last have achieved something — wreckage, but something — proportional to his swollen sense of himself.

THE GOP’S IOWA CHAOS
BY E.J. DIONNE
WASHINGTON POST
Is Rick Santorum the next non-Romney to emerge from the pack? Could he conceivably win Iowa? … At the moment, anyone among the six major candidates has a reasonable chance of coming in first or second… Thus the tale of Iowa: a grass-roots Republican Party dominated by a right wing that cannot come together; Paul trying to build on a solid core; Gingrich desperate for unity on the right but under a relentless pummeling; Santorum hoping to be the last person standing; and Romney seeking only to survive Iowa in a strong enough position to profit later from dissension among his foes. For Republicans, it is a campaign in which faith may not be enough, even in the Iowa caucuses, and reason leads more to confusion, perhaps even chaos, than to clarity.

HOW QUICK TO THE EXITS IN AFGHANISTAN?
BY DAVID IGNATIUS
WASHINGTON POST
Gen. John Allen insists there is “no daylight” between him and President Obama about policy for continued troop withdrawals from Afghanistan next year. That may be technically true, but a political battle is brewing over the future pace of the U.S. military drawdown here. … [Gen. John] Allen, [commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan,] wants to accelerate transfer of responsibility to Afghan troops in some key regions — preferring to take these risks sooner, when the United States has more troops available for backup, rather than later. Allen’s adjustments involve the transition schedule: He shortened this process and front-loaded it. … [I]t will fall to Obama whether to endorse such a flexible, “strategy-based drawdown” or to opt for a faster timetable — with its political appeal for a war-weary America. My sense is that Obama should listen to his commander in the field — especially when he seems to be speeding up the process that would allow withdrawal of most U.S. troops by 2014.

NO TIME FOR CHRISTMAS
BY DANIEL HENNINGER
WALL STREET JOURNAL
People talk all the time now about time compression. Yesterday it was Dec. 1; the next day it’s Dec. 15. These days time doesn’t fly. It barely exists. In such a world, Christmas gets squished. We may be a few years away from when people just skip Christmas. Or phone the whole thing in. … Parents once spent each evening the week before Christmas reading holiday stories to their children… Not only is there no time for this, Twitter makes it unnecessary. Masterful tweets of the Christmas classics are surely coursing across rooftops to the inboxes of Android toys everywhere this year: “It was the night before Christmas. Then we got up. Then it was over. I love my presents.” Here’s the 140-character version of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol”: “Ebenezer Scrooge belonged to the 1%. Then ghosts occupied his head. Now he gives back on all religious holidays. God bless President Obama.”

OBAMA’S TRANSPARENCY
BY FRED BARNES
THE WEEKLY STANDARD
President Obama has a trait that Republicans should appreciate. He’s utterly transparent. His motives are anything but hidden. No matter what he says, it’s abundantly clear that he has one thing in mind these days: getting reelected.  Obama wasn’t so transparent when he first emerged as a prominent political figure with his speech at the 2004 Democratic national convention. In the 2008 campaign, he sought to transcend politics with his talk of hope and change and reforming the way Washington does business. Now he’s obsessed with politics—the politics of reelection—and not much else. Obama once fancied himself a uniter. For reelection purposes, he’s become a divider.  It’s true Obama isn’t the first president to tailor his policies to aid reelection. But no president since Richard Nixon has focused as single-mindedly and relentlessly on winning a second term as Obama.

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Must Read Op-Eds for Thursday, December 22, 2011

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