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Must-Read Op-Eds for Monday February 6, 2012

A BATTLE THE PRESIDENT CAN'T WINBY PEGGY NOONANWALL STREET JOURNAL... President Obama just may have lost the election.

A BATTLE THE PRESIDENT CAN'T WINBY PEGGY NOONANWALL STREET JOURNAL... President Obama just may have lost the election. The president signed off on a Health and Human Services ruling that says that under ObamaCare, Catholic institutions-including charities, hospitals and schools-will be required by law, for the first time ever, to provide and pay for insurance coverage that includes contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization procedures. If they do not, they will face ruinous fines in the millions of dollars. Or they can always go out of business. In other words, the Catholic Church was told this week that its institutions can't be Catholic anymore...  Mr. Obama carried the Catholic vote [in 2008]... They helped him win. They won't this year. And guess where a lot of Catholics live? In the battleground states... There was nothing for the president to gain, except, perhaps, the pleasure of making a great church bow to him. Enjoy it while you can. You have awakened a sleeping giant.

ROMNEY, THE RICH AND THE RESTBY CHARLES BLOWNEW YORK TIMESNo one should be surprised that the Tin Man has a tin ear. After all, Mitt Romney is the same multimillionaire who joked that he was "unemployed" while he was "earning" more in one day than most Americans earn in a year and paying a lower rate on those earnings than most Americans do. This is the same man who bragged last month that he liked to fire people at a time when nearly 13 million people are out of work and who accepted the endorsement this week of Donald Trump, who has made "You're Fired!" his television catchphrase... And who could forget his remark that "corporations are people." Classic... Romney is not only cold and clumsy, he's disastrously out of touch, and when talking about real people, out of sorts. If only he had a heart, and if only that heart was connected to his brain.

MITT'S MUFFLED SOULBY FRANK BRUNINEW YORK TIMESThe news media's caution about focusing on Romney's religion mirrors his own reticence, which, as Frank Rich pointed out in New York magazine last week, may be a big reason he can't connect with voters in a visceral, intimate way. He's editing out the core of his identity. He's muffling his soul... He has released tax returns, putting his Swiss accounts in the foreground. But he still cloaks his church duties, consigning his French proselytizing to the background. Is it the right political calculation? I'm not sure. But I know it makes for a woefully incomplete portrait, denying voters something that they deserve - and that might well cut his way.STEAL THIS COLUMNBY BILL KELLERNEW YORK TIMESBy establishing a marketable right to the use of one’s expression, copyright supplies the economic incentive to create and disseminate ideas.” Content-makers would be crazy to let the Internet be stunted as a force for invention, mobilization and shared wisdom. It’s the sea we all swim in. At the same time, online companies would be crazy to let piracy kill off the commerce that supplies quality material upon which even free sites like Wikipedia depend.THINGS ARE NOT O.K.BY PAUL KRUGMANNEW YORK TIMESEvery time we get a bit of good news, the purge-and-liquidate types pop up, saying that it’s time to stop focusing on job creation. Sure enough, no sooner were the new [unemployment] numbers out than ... the president of the St. Louis Fed, declared that the new numbers make further Fed action to promote growth unnecessary. And the sad truth is that the good jobs numbers have definitely made it less likely that the Fed will take the expansionary action it should. So here’s what needs to be said about the latest numbers: yes, we’re doing a bit better, but no, things are not O.K. — not remotely O.K. This is still a terrible economy, and policy makers should be doing much more than they are to make it better.MITT ROMNEY, THE STEALTH TEA PARTY CANDIDATEBY THEDA SKOCPOLWASHINGTON POSTResearch shows that presidents strive to carry out the promises they make during campaigns. If Romney defeats Obama, he could take office backed by a Republican-led House and Senate, which would quickly send radical-right bills to his desk. A President Romney would sign them all... Whatever his deep-down beliefs, he would be determined to overcome any lingering conservative skepticism. In Romney, the tea party has found the ultimate prize: a candidate loyal to the movement's agenda, but able to fool enough pundits and moderate voters to win the White House at a time when the tea party has lost broad appeal. Pushing the Republican Party to the hard right and denying Obama a second term have always been top tea party goals. In Romney, the movement has just the man it needs.WORLD ECONOMY'S UNCHARTED TERRITORYBY ROBERT SAMUELSONWASHINGTON POSTForeign faith in the United States ultimately rests on a belief in America’s political stability and economic vitality. Could huge federal budget deficits shake that faith? “The European crisis has shielded us from our follies,” Bergsten says. Worried investors have channeled funds from European securities into American bonds, reducing U.S. interest rates and making borrowing easier to cover $1 trillion annual deficits. There’s no telling what comes next. We are, after all, in another country.PRESIDENTIAL FATHERS AND SONSBY MICHAEL MEDVEDWALL STREET JOURNALObama's challenge in 2012 involves the uncomfortable incongruity of an incumbent president leading a Peasant Rebellion against the powers-that-be. ... Nevertheless, the president seems determined to play out his role as born outsider: insistently blaming Republicans (who have controlled a single house of Congress for barely a year) for all dysfunctional government of the last three years. An Obama-Romney contest might offer an incumbent president attempting to employ his innate outsider's perspective to obscure the brute fact of his incumbency, while Mr. Romney must mount an underdog, insurgent campaign that reshapes his cautious ... temperament. The outcome may well turn on which of the rivals most deftly adjusts to playing an uncomfortable but unavoidable role.THE FED VOTES NO CONFIENCEBY CHARLES SCHWABWALL STREET JOURNALOur objective is now to let the system work on its own. It is now healthy enough to do just that. We hope today's announcement does two things immediately: first, that it highlights our confidence—supported by the data—that the U.S. economy is out of its emergency state and in the process of mending, and second, that it reflects our belief that the Federal Reserve's role in economic policy is limited." There is a saying in finance: "Don't fight the Fed." It's now time for the Fed to step out of the fight. It did its job. Let's allow the free-market system to do its job. Doing so will restore business confidence and spur much needed new investment.