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Must Read Op-Eds for Monday, December 12, 2011

POLITICS SHOULDN'T DENY A QUALIFIED LATINA BY ROBERT MENENDEZ MIAMI HERALD hen a man who intends to lead the country cannot marshal the loyalty of those he has

POLITICS SHOULDN'T DENY A QUALIFIED LATINA BY ROBERT MENENDEZ MIAMI HERALD [Ambassador Aponte's] Republican detractors originally cited a personal relationship with a Cuban national as evidence of her unsuitability for office. When facts and files didn’t corroborate these vicious allegations, they changed their tune to decry an editorial written by Ambassador Aponte on tolerance and non-violence during gay pride month as the basis for their opposition — an editorial that was ordered by the State Department and which mirrored a May 2010 decree by Salvadoran President Funes prohibiting discrimination by the government based on sexual orientation. The shifting basis of their opposition reveals the true motive for their opposition — partisan politics, driven by partisan interests that relish their ability to derail an Administration nominee without regard to the consequences for American foreign policy.

PROFESSOR VS. PROFESSORBY ROSS DOUTHATNEW YORK TIMESJust as Kerry’s candidacy represented an attempt to effectively out-patriot George W. Bush (“You have a war president? We have a war hero!”), [Newt Gingrich] has skillfully played to the Republican desire for a candidate who can finally outsmart and out-orate Obama. [But it] isn’t 2008 anymore, and conservatives don’t actually need to explode the fantasy of Obama’s eloquence and omnicompetence. The harsh reality of governing has already done that for them... Newt Gingrich might debate circles around Obama. He might implode spectacularly, making a hot mess of himself while the president keeps his famous cool. But either way, setting up a grand rhetorical showdown seems unlikely to supply a disillusioned country with what it’s looking for from Republicans in 2012.FIRE AND ICEBY MAUREEN DOWDNEW YORK TIMESA match between Gingrich and Obama would be fascinating... The Drama Queen versus No Drama Obama. The apocalyptic prophet versus the ambiguous president. One hot, one cold. One struggles to stop setting fires as the other struggles to get fiery. One who’s always veering out of control, one who’s too tightly controlled. One reining it in, one letting it rip... One channeling Ronald Reagan to seem more genial; the other channeling Harry Truman to have more spine. One pretending to be a populist when he can’t drag himself out of Tiffany’s; the other pretending to be a populist when he’d like to be at Davos with Jamie Dimon. Obama is a foul-weather populist and Gingrich is a fair-weather normal guy. Neither is a convincing populist for the 99 percent who crave one, but it would be fun to watch the Hand Grenade take on Cool Hand Luke.THE NEXT FIRST (AND ONLY) 100 DAYSBY THOMAS FRIEDMANNEW YORK TIMESI’ve been saying this for a while, but now it feels even more acute: America’s democracy has shrunken to “the only 100 days.” Since F.D.R., we’ve measured presidents by their “first 100 days.” But now it’s really “the only 100 days.” Presidents lately seem to have just those 100 days to lay down a transformational agenda and get it passed in their first year — before they have to tailor their politics to the midterm elections — and then, if, as often happens, their party loses the midterms they have to focus on the next presidential election. China has five-year plans. We have 100 days every four.THE GOOD NEWTBY BILL KELLERNEW YORK TIMESNowhere is our national ambivalence on [immigration] more grotesquely displayed than in the current Republican campaign. Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich each, in turn, tripped over the issue - Perry by letting illegals in Texas pay lower, in-state college tuition; Romney for failing to fire a lawn care service that employed undocumented workers; and Gingrich for saying that not every family lacking legal status should be put in a boxcar and shipped to Mexico. To make rhetorical amends for these errors of compassion, each candidate has tapped his inner demagogue. Perry went barnstorming with the Arizona bully famous for his primitive and crowd-pleasing immigrant roundups. Both Gingrich and Romney talk about fortifying the border as if we were under siege and use the word "amnesty" in the same tone of voice most people use for "Al Qaeda." ... There are plenty of reasons the thought of President Newt Gingrich makes me shudder. But on this hard, defining American issue, he's shown a combination of brains, heart and guts that puts the rest of his party to shame.DEPRESSION AND DEMOCRACYBY PAUL KRUGMANNEW YORK TIMESIt’s not clear what can be done about Hungary’s authoritarian slide. The U.S. State Department, to its credit, has been very much on the case, but this is essentially a European matter. The European Union missed the chance to head off the power grab at the start — in part because the new Constitution was rammed through while Hungary held the Union’s rotating presidency. It will be much harder to reverse the slide now. Yet Europe’s leaders had better try, or risk losing everything they stand for. And they also need to rethink their failing economic policies. If they don’t, there will be more backsliding on democracy — and the breakup of the euro may be the least of their worries.THE GOP'S DEATH WISHBY KATHLEEN PARKERWASHINGTON POSTYou don’t get more un-Romney than Gingrich. Imperfect and untidy, he’s the serial husband with whom anyone could feel comfortable sharing a beer. Or a keg. A sinner like the rest of us, he’s as familiar and comfortable as an old sofa. But no one other than Callista Gingrich thinks her husband can prevail in a general election. No. One. The consensus on Gingrich is so overwhelming that conventional wisdom has taken a holiday. That is, no one in Washington thinks he can win, and Washington is where Gingrich is known best. Instead of rallying to support him, former colleagues are going out of their way to politely say, “He can’t lead.” [W]hen a man who intends to lead the country cannot marshal the loyalty of those he has attempted to lead before, voters might pay heed. Then again, if Republicans want to make Democrats happy, Gingrich is their man.CHALLENGING THE KREMLINEDITORIALWALL STREET JOURNALMr. Putin's calculation has been that Russians are content to trade their political freedom for a rising standard of living. But Russians can also see that the elite have special privileges, that corruption is rampant, and that much capital is fleeing the country. It's possible that this month's election—and Mr. Putin's cynical attempt to grab another 12 years in power—have aroused the Russian public in a fundamental way. In any event, it's time for President Obama to drop the illusion of his "reset" with Mr. Putin and speak up for Russians who want more political freedom.