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Must-Read Op-Eds for Thursday, February 16, 2012

A RARE DEALEDITORIALNEW YORK TIMESDemocrats successfully blocked Republican demands to impose uncalled-for conditions on applicants for jobless benefits, includ

A RARE DEALEDITORIALNEW YORK TIMESDemocrats successfully blocked Republican demands to impose uncalled-for conditions on applicants for jobless benefits, including drug testing and requiring them to be high school graduates or working toward an equivalency degree. … A vote in both chambers is scheduled before the upcoming recess, and already some of the most conservative Republicans are grumbling about it. But, for now, this is a refreshing change. Republican leaders deserve credit for agreeing to the deal, as do Democratic leaders for insisting on doing the right thing for the economy.CONGRESS HAS NO DATE FOR THE PROMBY GAIL COLLINSNEW YORK TIMESThe latest Gallup poll gave Congress a 10 percent approval rating. As Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado keeps pointing out, that’s lower than BP during the oil spill, Nixon during Watergate or banks during the banking crisis. ... This is actually sort of a tradition. No matter who is in power in Washington, Congress has always shown a remarkable ability to band together and pass tax cuts that are not paid for. It’s like naming post offices, only somewhat more expensive. ... Still, the good news is that the basic idea of prohibiting members of Congress from using the information they acquire in the course of their public duties to engage in insider trading did pass both chambers by enormous majorities. Yippee.

THE NEW HAVEN EXPERIMENTBY NICHOLAS KRISTOFNEW YORK TIMESIt’ll take years to verify that students themselves are benefiting, but it’s striking that teachers and administrators alike seem happy with the new system. They even say nice things about each other. In many tough school districts, teachers are demoralized and wilted; that feels less true in New Haven. The New Haven model still doesn’t go as far as I would like, but it does represent enormous progress. And it’s a glimpse of a world in which “school reform” is an agenda and not just a term that sets off a brawl. If the American Federation of Teachers continues down this path, I’ll revisit my criticisms of teachers’ unions. Maybe even give them a hug for daring to become part of the solution.ROMNEY'S BIG PROBLEMBY E.J. DIONNEWASHINGTON POSTThe worst part for Romney is that the best case against Santorum on the matter of electability involves the former Pennsylvania senator’s positions on social issues, which are well to the right of the center. Yet if he goes after Santorum as too socially conservative to win in the fall, Romney risks casting himself as to Santorum’s left on social and moral questions. ... Romney needs to figure out an entirely new case for himself. Unrelenting attacks on the latest interloper to challenge his “inevitability” may become less effective because Romney has already gone there so often. Romney has to hope that Team Obama starts unloading on Santorum. The former front-runner may not be able to win this thing by himself.OBJECTIONS OF CONSCIENCE? OR OF POLITICS?BY DANA MILBANKWASHINGTON POSTThe continuing contretemps concerning contraception offers a reminder that in Washington, the usual laws of physics don’t apply. For some actions, there is a completely disproportionate reaction. ... But the solution the lawmakers proposed was a bit too convenient. They called for the passage of a bill that was introduced last year, so by definition it wasn’t a response to the birth-control rule. As they described it, the legislation would exempt from the health-care law any person who wishes to claim any moral or conscientious objection. In other words, it would be a back-door way to repeal Obamacare.HOW I'LL RESPOND TO CHINA'S RISING POWERBY MITT ROMNEYWALL STREET JOURNALI will never flinch from ensuring that our country is secure. And security in the Pacific means a world in which our economic and military power is second to none. It also means a world in which American values—the values of liberty and opportunity—continue to prevail over those of oppression and authoritarianism. The sum total of my approach will ensure that this is an American, not a Chinese century. We have much to gain from close relations with a China that is prosperous and free. But we should not fail to recognize that a China that is a prosperous tyranny will increasingly pose problems for us, for its neighbors, and for the entire world.WHAT WOULD CLINT EASTWOOD DO?BY DANIEL HENNINGERWALL STREET JOURNALIn terms of the nation's animating ethos, these two American icons could not be further apart. Clint Eastwood was talking about an America heading back up—"roaring" forward in the unpredictable, astonishing way it has since at least the days of the Wild West. The Obama budget is about an America whose path will be guided by the government far into the future. ... Before this presidency, the national attitude was indeed caught in the snarling, disgusted, refuse-to-lose tone of Clint Eastwood's voice in that commercial. The new national attitude on offer is caught in the Obama voice: resentful, moody, looking for someone else to blame and then punish. An American wealth tax will make us wimpy and whiny. That won't be halftime. It will be the final whistle.GOING AFTER RICKBY BILL KRISTOLWEEKLY STANDARDAmerica is going bankrupt, Iran is going nuclear, the Obama administration is going after religious liberty. And Mitt Romney is going after Rick Santorum. Which is fine (sort of). ... But does his super PAC ... have to go after Santorum in so juvenile a way? Santorum voted to raise the debt limit! (Along with virtually every other Republican when the GOP controlled the Senate—and does Romney think they shouldn't have raised the debt limit?) ... The Obama administration clearly thinks the American people are really stupid—and it doesn't do a very good job of hiding its contempt. It would be nice if the Republican nominee could contrast his respect for the American people with the Obama administration's contempt.