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Must Read Op-Eds for Tuesday, December 20, 2011

THE GINGRICH GESTALTBY MARK STEYNNATIONAL REVIEWWhat exactly is so conservative about the Newt Gestalt?

THE GINGRICH GESTALTBY MARK STEYNNATIONAL REVIEWWhat exactly is so conservative about the Newt Gestalt? When Romney dared him to return his Freddie Mac windfall, Gingrich responded by demanding that Mitt “give back all of the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain.” That’s a cute line if you’re a 32-year-old Transgender and Colonialism major trying to warm up the drum circle at Occupy Wall Street, but it’s very odd coming from the supposedly more-conservative candidate on the final stretch of a Republican primary. ... At Freddie Mac, Newt was peddling influence to a quasi-governmental entity. At Bain Capital, Mitt Romney was risking private equity in private business enterprise. What sort of “conservative” would conflate the two?

THE FOG OF WAR CONTINUES OVER IRAQBY JOE SCARBOROUGHPOLITICOBush may have been eager to march American troops into Baghdad, but he was far from alone. Democrats like Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John Kerry and John Edwards had been itching to overthrow Saddam Hussein since the time Bush was spending his afternoons in the Texas governor’s mansion using his office computer to play video golf and fine tune his fantasy baseball teams. ... The Iraq war framed a disastrous decade for U.S. foreign policy. President Obama should be praised for bringing it to a close. But as we move forward into even more uncertain times, Americans should always remember that the Iraq war was not the product of one man or one party, but of a political system that continues to betray the very citizens it is supposed to protect and serve.

HERE COME THE HELPMATESBY FRANK BRUNINEW YORK TIMESAnn Romney has been…introduced as a flesh-and-blood retort to the notion that her husband is a fickle political operator. You want constancy? They’ve been married since the Mesozoic era. And while he has been both for and against abortion rights, gun control and much else, he has been pro-Ann all the while. No flip or flop there. … [T]here’s a limit to how character-revealing a person’s choice of a mate is, especially if that choice was made decades earlier, at a young age. For what it’s worth, Elizabeth Edwards was a trim knockout when John proposed. A candidate’s record is definite. A candidate’s romantic life yields to less reliable interpretation, and is put forward with even more sugarcoating. AN INCONVENIENT TRUTHBY JOE NOCERANEW YORK TIMESThere is so much about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that we should be angry about. ... Yet these real sins have been largely overlooked in favor of imagined ones...namely, that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were ground zero for the entire crisis, leading the private sector off the cliff with their affordable housing mandates and massive subprime holdings. The truth is the opposite: Fannie and Freddie got into subprime mortgages, with great trepidation, only in 2005 and 2006, and only because they were losing so much market share to Wall Street. ... In unveiling the [S.E.C.] lawsuit on Friday, Robert Khuzami, the agency’s enforcement chief, said that the S.E.C.’s action showed that “all individuals, regardless of their rank or position, will be held accountable.” Not really. What it shows is how desperate the S.E.C. has become to bring a crowd-pleasing case. WHICH CANDIDATE SHOULD ANSWER THAT 3 A.M. PHONE CALL?BY EUGENE ROBINSONWASHINGTON POSTRomney is eager to show that he would somehow be tougher than Obama in foreign policy — a high bar, given Obama’s record of killing Osama bin Laden and helping orchestrate the demise of Moammar Gaddafi. It’s possible that Romney understands what his responsibility would be if he faced a similar circumstance as president. But if you take his words seriously, the former Massachusetts governor sounds like a dangerous hothead. That’s nothing compared to Gingrich, whose past statements about North Korea have been shot from the hip. ... During the 2008 campaign, Hillary Clinton famously asked whether Obama was ready for the 3 a.m. phone call about a foreign crisis. Kim’s death reminds us that it’s always 3 a.m. somewhere in the world.VACLAV HAVEL, THE PRINCIPLED PRESIDENTBY MADELEINE ALBRIGHTWASHINGTON POSTWith Havel, the message mattered but it was words themselves that penetrated the heart. He belongs among the handful of modern political leaders who could write with originality, psychological insight, power and flair. ... As for ideals about governance, he concluded that “We may approach democracy as we would a horizon, and do so in ways that may be better or worse, but it can never be fully attained.” Summing up, he declared himself neither an optimist (“because I am not sure everything ends well,”) nor a pessimist (“because I am not sure everything ends badly”) but, instead, “a realist who carries hope, and hope is the belief that freedom and justice have meaning . . . and that liberty is always worth the trouble.”VACLAV HAVEL, THE DISSIDENT WHO CAME OUT OF THE SHADOWSBY ANNE APPLEBAUMWASHINGTON POSTHavel... practiced what he preached. But unlike many others, he did so not only before the fall of communism but also afterward. ... Havel was different, in the end, from so many of his generation. Obsessed for so long with the tactics of destruction, few of them understood the importance of reconstruction. In fact, victory was not just toppling the old regime, victory was creating the institutions and symbols that would replace it. Because he was far-thinking enough to understand this, he will be mourned deeply and long remembered, across central Europe and beyond.THE WORLD'S MOST REPRESSIVE STATEBY MELANIE KIRKPATRICKWALL STREET JOURNALIt looks like Kim Jong Eun can be counted on to do everything he can to perpetuate his father's tyrannical regime... In dealing with the new dictator of North Korea, however, the Western democracies would do well to reconsider the policies that failed to move the now-dead dictator. In this, they should heed the advice of the late Vaclav Havel, the Czech playwright and democrat. In the last decade of his life, Havel took up the cause of the North Korean people and urged the world's democracies to make respect for human rights an integral part of any discussions with Pyongyang. He wrote in 2004: "Decisiveness, perseverance and negotiations from a position of strength are the only things that Kim Jong Il and those like him understand." These qualities, absent from the West's dealings with Kim Jong Il, deserve to be paramount in its dealings with his heir.