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Must-Read Op-Eds for Friday, March 16, 2012

THE CAGEY PHASEBY DAVID BROOKSNEW YORK TIMESObama has talked vaguely about tax reform.

THE CAGEY PHASEBY DAVID BROOKSNEW YORK TIMESObama has talked vaguely about tax reform. He has acknowledged the need for entitlement reform and major deficit reduction. But he has never thrown himself All In. He has never displayed an inner passion, a sense that these projects are his life mission, or a willingness to bear the pain that taking on these challenges necessarily entails. It will be interesting, over the course of this campaign, to see what’s underneath the cageyness. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, arouses Obama’s passion to go All In.

NATURAL BORN DRILLERSBY PAUL KRUGMANNEW YORK TIMESEmployment in oil and gas extraction has risen more than 50 percent since the middle of the last decade, but that amounts to only 70,000 jobs, around one-twentieth of 1 percent of total U.S. employment. So the idea that drill, baby, drill can cure our jobs deficit is basically a joke. Why, then, are Republicans pretending otherwise? Part of the answer is that the party is rewarding its benefactors: the oil and gas industry doesn’t create many jobs, but it does spend a lot of money on lobbying and campaign contributions. The rest of the answer is simply the fact that conservatives have no other job-creation ideas to offer. And intellectual bankruptcy, I’m sorry to say, is a problem that no amount of drilling and fracking can solve.

SANTORUM NEEDS GINGRICH IN THE RACEBY EUGENE ROBINSONWASHINGTON POSTGingrich voters who put less emphasis on social issues might well turn to Romney instead. Given the Romney campaign’s deep pockets, Santorum would face a blistering barrage of negative ads in every state. Legitimate questions about Santorum’s electability would be raised nonstop. The Romney campaign is built for this kind of multi-theater battle. Santorum’s comparatively underfunded campaign is not. The most favorable field of battle for the anti-Romney insurgency would be a contested convention — and the most plausible way of getting there is for Gingrich to stay in the race and help keep Romney’s delegate count short of 1,144.OBAMA'S OIL FLIMFLAMBY CHARLES KRAUTHAMMERWASHINGTON POSTWho do they think they’re fooling? An oil crisis looms, prices are spiking — and our president is extolling algae. After Solyndra, Keystone and promises of seaweed in their gas tanks, Americans sense a president so ideologically antipathetic to fossil fuels — which we possess in staggering abundance — that he is utterly unserious about the real world of oil in which the rest of us live. High gasoline prices are a major political problem for Obama. They are not just a pain at the pump, however. They are a constant reminder of three years of a rigid, fatuous, fantasy-driven energy policy that has rendered us scandalously dependent and excessively vulnerable.THE PENTAGON'S COLD FEET ON SYRIABY MAX BOOTWASHINGTON POSTIf we stand on the sidelines, worst-case scenarios — such as Syrian chemical weapons falling into the wrong hands or groups such as al-Qaeda developing havens — are more likely to result because of the Assad regime’s inability to control its own territory. The need for a coalition is real, but plenty of international opposition has been raised to the Assad regime. Notwithstanding the lack of a U.N. resolution — blocked by Russia and China — Washington could assemble a coalition of the willing as President Bill Clinton did for Kosovo. But that will happen only if the Obama administration decides that action is called for and does not allow itself to be paralyzed by the Pentagon’s reluctance to intervene.AMERICA'S REAL WAR ON WOMENBY PEGGY NOONANWALL STREET JOURNALIn this war, leaders who are women are publicly demeaned and diminished based on the fact that they are women. They are the object of sexual slurs, and insulted in sexual terms. The words used are vulgar, and are meant to tear down and embarrass. ... All this has devolved into a political argument about who's worse, the right or the left. I don't think that's the most important question, but since it's on the table the answer is the left. ... Some left-wing men think they can talk like this because they're on the correct side on social issues such as abortion. Their attitude: "I backed you on the abortions you want so much, I opposed a ban on partial birth. Hell, I'll let you kill kids at any point until they're 15, I'm cool. And that means I can call women in public life t - - - s, right? Because, you know, I think of them that way.HOW MUCH IS APPLE WORTH?BY ANDY KESSLERWALL STREET JOURNALApple's devices and software are a platform for others to make money. ... One thing I've learned from my bruising time on Wall Street is to never get in the way of a freight train. Stocks with momentum keep momentum as mutual funds and index funds load up. They never seem expensive—until at some point the fundamentals subtly shift for the worse. Momentum works in both directions. Pull up the charts for General Motors, Xerox or Kodak on your iPhone.