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Must-Read Op-Eds for Tuesday, February 7, 2012

POISONED POLITICS OF KEYSTONE XLBY JOE NOCERANEW YORK TIMESI realize that President Obama rejected Keystone because, politically, he had no choice.  My guess

POISONED POLITICS OF KEYSTONE XLBY JOE NOCERANEW YORK TIMESI realize that President Obama rejected Keystone because, politically, he had no choice.  My guess is that, in his centrist heart of hearts, the president wanted to approve it.  But to give the go-ahead before the election was to risk losing the support of the environmentalists who make up an important part of his base. I also understand that the Republican decision to force Obama’s hand was a political stunt, allowing them to denounce his decision during the campaign. ... Surely, though, what the Keystone decision really represents is the way our poisoned politics damages the country. ... As it turns out, the environmental movement doesn’t just want to shut down Keystone. ... Thus, at least one country in North America understands where its national interests lie.  Too bad it’s not us. JAVA AND JUSTICEBY FRANK BRUNINEW YORK TIMESCorporate recognition of a rapidly changing world isn’t limited to the coasts or to companies widely considered progressive. While J.C. Penney, based in Plano, Tex., hasn’t waded into the same-sex marriage debate, it recently hired as a pitchwoman Ellen DeGeneres, an outspoken advocate of gay rights who is married to the actress Portia de Rossi. On Friday, in the face of pushback from (you guessed it) Christian conservatives, it reaffirmed its commitment to her. DeGeneres is also a pitchwoman for CoverGirl makeup. A growing number of politicians presumed to have sights on higher offices and elections down the road seem to read the trend lines and tea leaves the same way companies do.

FLOOD THE ZONEBY DAVID BROOKSNEW YORK TIMESTechnocratic institutions have an unstated theory of how change happens. It’s the theory President Obama sketched out at the beginning and end of his State of the Union address: Society works best when it is like a military unit — when everybody works together in pursuit of a mission, pulling together as one. But a realistic antipoverty program works in the opposite way. It’s not like a military unit. It’s like a rain forest, with a complex array of organisms pursuing diverse missions in diverse ways while intertwining and adapting to each other. I wish President Obama would escape from the technocratic rationalism that sometimes infects his administration. I wish he’d go back to his community-organizer roots. ... I think if that Barack Obama possessed the power he has today, he’d want to flood the zone with as much rich diversity as possible. AMERICA’S RED LINES IN THE SAND ON IRANBY RICHARD COHENWASHINGTON POSTThe real danger for Israel and the Middle East in general is not an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel… Instead, the danger is that Israel will lose its nuclear monopoly, and Iran can loose Hezbollah from the north and Hamas from the south on Israel. A nuclear Iran would probably mean a nuclear Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia as well. An increasingly unstable Middle East would become even more so. ... The ultimate remedy is Iranian regime change. This is not as improbable as it sounds. The Tehran regime is hardly popular and will become even less so as economic sanctions bite even harder. In the meantime, Obama must ensure that Iran perceives no daylight between the United States and Israel, and no chance that Washington will become naive about Iran’s intentions. This looming crisis is not only about Israel. It’s about America, too. There are more red lines coming.THE FRONT-RUNNER WHO LEAVES THE GOP COLD BY EUGENE ROBINSON WASHINGTON POSTIf the bruised, battered, underfunded Gingrich campaign can survive long enough — and if Gingrich can rediscover the in-your-face mojo that gave him such a lift in the South Carolina debates — he could potentially beat Romney in Georgia and Tennessee on Super Tuesday, March 6, and in Alabama and Mississippi a week later. At that point, if I were a GOP pooh-bah, I’d have to worry about going into the November elections with a candidate at the top of the ticket who had received so little love from the party’s most loyal supporters. Maybe the Gingrich insurgency will prove to be nothing more than a sad, divisive ego trip. Maybe Romney will show that he can win — or at least compete — in the South. Realistically, chances are that his superior resources, organization and discipline will prevail in the end. Then what? Well, if you believe the polls, Romney probably loses to President Obama in the fall.THE POOR PAY THE PRICE FOR OBAMA'S POLICY BY MICHAEL GERSON WASHINGTON POST[T]he main harm Barack Obama has done is not to institutions. It is to the people they serve. If federal policies make it impossible for religious nonprofits and hospitals to work in conjunction with federal, state and local agencies in providing social services, millions of poor and vulnerable Americans — Catholic and non-Catholic, religious and nonreligious — would suffer. The task of building alternatives would cost hundreds of billions of dollars — and then lack the distinctive human touch provided by religious groups. All because Obama seems determined to establish secularism as a state religion. There is, however, an easy solution to the problem: The president could respect the rights and views of those who disagree with him. The relevant portion of the Bill of Rights is easy to find, because it comes first.ROMNEY'S LIBERAL MESSAGE ON POVERTYBY MARC THEISSENWASHINGTON POSTSo Romney is fine with an entire class of Americans being permanently on food stamps, Medicaid, housing vouchers and other government welfare programs? His solution for our fellow citizens trapped in poverty and dependency is to find holes in the safety net and repair them? That is not conservatism. That is liberalism. ... Romney should be talking about ways to create jobs for the poor, not kill them. Instead of reflexively embracing liberal ideas like raising the minimum wage, he needs to get some tutorials on the creative conservative thinking that has been done over the last half-century in the fight against poverty. He needs to lay out a vision for an America where every one of our citizens — no matter what their station in life — has a chance for a better future. That was Ronald Reagan’s parting message for the GOP in 1992. It should be Romney’s message to the country in 2012.THE SWEET METEOR OF DEATH 2012BY ERICK ERICKSONRED STATEAs for Romney, he does not excite me and has largely run his campaign making sure conservatives know he can get the nomination without them. That’s all well and good, but he certainly should not expect me or other conservatives to do anything for him in the general election other than, hopefully it won’t just be me, showing up to vote for him. That’s about all I plan to do for the man. I’ll support the Republican nominee for President. I’ll defend him from meritless attacks and I will oppose Barack Obama. Any one of our candidates is better than Barack Obama. But God help us if any one of them is the nominee. Until we reach the magic number 1144, which is the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination, I hold out hope that someone or some meteor saves us from ourselves.AGAIN, WHY NOT SANTORUM?BY QUIN HILLYERNATIONAL REVIEW[Rick Santorum] could unify the Right, whereas the viciously bitter fights between Romney and Gingrich make it very clear that large numbers of Republican activists feel too passionately against one of the other two to lend any real assistance if their disfavored candidate gets the nomination. All of which is to say that Santorum’s potential for electoral strength is good, while his risk of disaster is rather low. Right now the only thing keeping him from being a clear winner is the failure of even more Reaganite leaders — all of whom know him to be a dependable, full-spectrum conservative — to stand up for him in the same way that he has stood up for conservative principles for so long. With Malkin, Angle, Limbaugh, and Bob Schaffer now coming on board, that odd reluctance might be coming to an end. If it does, watch Rick Santorum surge again.IS RICK SANTORUM STILL A FACTOR IN THE GOP RACE?BY MOLLY BALLTHE ATLANTICIt's unlikely but not altogether implausible, in this yo-yoing, momentum-driven campaign, that a couple of freak Santorum wins could suddenly turn the conversation in his direction and elevate him to further success. On the other hand, while Santorum may be enjoying being important enough to attack now, that "attack machine" proved awfully effective when Romney deployed it against Gingrich. It is Gingrich who seems like the real loser here. Not long ago, he was calling on Santorum to drop out for the good of the conservative movement, so that Gingrich could be the standard-bearer of the Anybody But Romney movement, such as it is. Now, Gingrich is not even Romney's primary target.