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Must-Read Op-Eds for Tuesday, February 28, 2012

IT'S A COLLEGE, NOT A CLOISTERBY FRANK BRUNINEW YORK TIMESIs it really good policy for Santorum to fill young adults with suspicions about higher learning, whic

IT'S A COLLEGE, NOT A CLOISTERBY FRANK BRUNINEW YORK TIMESIs it really good policy for Santorum to fill young adults with suspicions about higher learning, which rightly exists to challenge - in a healthy sense - what parents and maybe pastors have poured into them? If their beliefs survive that, then those beliefs can be seen as genuinely earned and are probably all the stronger for it. Santorum's did. He went not only to college but also to two graduate schools, getting an M.B.A. from one and a law degree from the other. But to listen to him talk about universities is to get the sense that he doesn't trust others to emerge from such an obstacle course of unsavory influences as uncorrupted as he did. For safety's sake, he'll bless a little ignorance.THE POSSUM REPUBLICANSBY DAVID BROOKSNEW YORK TIMESAll across the nation, there are mainstream Republicans lamenting how the party has grown more and more insular, more and more rigid. This year, they have an excellent chance to defeat President Obama, yet the wingers have trashed the party’s reputation by swinging from one embarrassing and unelectable option to the next: Bachmann, Trump, Cain, Perry, Gingrich, Santorum. But where have these party leaders been over the past five years, when all the forces that distort the G.O.P. were metastasizing?... Without real opposition, the wingers go from strength to strength. Under their influence, we’ve had a primary campaign that isn’t really an argument about issues. It’s a series of heresy trials in which each of the candidates accuse the others of tribal impurity.

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HOW TO FRACK RESPONSIBLYBY JOE NOCERANEW YORK TIMESThere is no denying the huge difference it can make to the environment to reduce methane gas leaks. Nor is this some kind of impossible dream. “There are cost-effective ways to reduce methane leaks,” says Michael Levi, an energy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. In fact, a number of the better producers, like Shell, are already employing technology to minimize leaks and taking other steps to drill for natural gas in a responsible fashion. Nor is there much doubt that the outcry by environmentalists over fracking helped awaken the industry to the problems.SANTORUM SHOWS HE'S THE WRONG MAN TO BE PRESIDENTEDITORIAL WASHINGTON POSTIf all he wanted to do was talk, we would say, Have at it — no matter how misguided we think he is on birth control and many other matters. But does Mr. Santorum really understand the difference between talking about a policy and imposing his views? When he so misreads Mr. Kennedy, when he perceives a war that does not exist, he shows a lack of appreciation for the First Amendment. When he accuses President Obama of harboring a “phony theology” — “Not a theology based on Bible. A different theology” — it seems he does not understand the line between policy and religion... That Mr. Santorum believes he has the standing to declaim on the rightness of Mr. Obama’s faith, and whether it is sufficiently Bible-based, is in itself disqualifying.RICK SANTORUM'S RHETORIC GOES TO THE EXTREMEBY EUGENE ROBINSONWASHINGTON POSTFor all his supposed authenticity, Rick Santorum is not what he seems. Beneath that sweater vest beats the heart of a calculating and increasingly desperate politician who has gone beyond pandering all the way to shameless demagoguery. That’s the charitable view. The uncharitable take on Santorum’s incendiary rhetoric is that he actually believes this stuff. Either way, it’s time for Republican voters to end his little electoral adventure and send him back to the cosseted life of a Washington influence-peddler. ... Progressives have an obvious interest in seeing the Republican Party choose a weak nominee, but they shouldn’t hope for Santorum. He would be the most extreme candidate since Barry Goldwater — and probably would suffer the same fate. THE RACE TO DEFINE RICK SANTORUMBY KIMBERLEY STRASSELWALL STREET JOURNALThe Michigan primary, and possibly the Republican presidential nomination, may come down to this one question: Who is Rick Santorum? Is he, as the former Pennsylvania senator avers, a consistent "full-spectrum" conservative, a pioneer on tough policy, and the only candidate who can provide a clear contrast with Barack Obama? Or is he, as his opponent Mitt Romney argues, little more than a Bush-era big-spender, a political insider?... Mr. Santorum can't outrun his votes, and his big-picture strategy is arguably his best means of moving beyond them. That's why Michigan matters. ... Yet a Santorum victory here would prove he could weather the attacks and give him the crucial opening to continue making his broader case. A defeat risks further deflating his surge, once again leaving Mr. Romney to divide and conquer.WILL BUSINESS BOOST SCHOOL REFORM?EDITORIALWALL STREET JOURNALMichelle Rhee frequently reminds people that "charter schools are public schools." Ms. Rhee is now CEO of Students First, a nonprofit working to improve education by helping politicians across the nation increase teacher accountability and school choice. Her group gets major funding from business leaders. This investment signals that some members of the business community are willing to wade into the political arena and support challenges to the power of teachers unions. But more needs to be done at the local and state level. It's time for the business community to shake its fear of being branded anti-union and get into this fight.A REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK...BY JOE SCARBOROUGHPOLITICOWhoever wins the 2012 election will be faced with the same reality when they are sworn in the following January. But the question for historians is whether this global economic crisis will be solved by President Obama's trillion dollar deficits or by Prime Minister Cameron's austere approach. My money is on Cameron. But at this point in the crisis, politicians on both sides of the political divide -- and on both sides of the Atlantic -- are whistling past graveyards. As the famous Hollywood saying goes, "Nobody knows nothing."