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Must Read Op-Eds for Wednesday, January 25, 2012

THE STATE OF THE UNION IN 2012EDITORIALNEW YORK TIMESMr. Obama has become steadily more assertive, but he will have to push even harder.

THE STATE OF THE UNION IN 2012EDITORIALNEW YORK TIMESMr. Obama has become steadily more assertive, but he will have to push even harder. The State of the Union was a chance to do that and he did not squander it. ... Over the last year, Americans have become more aware of the deep inequities in the economy and of the government's responsibility to act. Mr. Obama deserves some of the credit for that, but it has a lot more to do with the unrelenting tough times and the efforts of Occupy Wall Street and other protests. What Americans want now is strong political leadership.

THE STATE OF HIS POLICIES EDITORIAL WALL STREET JOURNAL Normally a President at the start of his fourth year would be running on his record, accentuating the legislation he's passed. Mr. Obama can't do that with any specificity because the economic recovery has been so weak and the legislation he has passed is so unpopular. So last night he took credit for the shale gas revolution he had nothing to do with and proposed new policies to "spread the wealth around," as he famously told Joe the Plumber in 2008 before he took the words back. We thought he meant it then, and now he's admitting it.

STATE OF THE UNION SPEECH IS FULL OF SOARING RHETORIC BUT SKIPS OVER SOME MAJOR CHALLENGESEDITORIALWASHINGTON POSTOnce again Mr. Obama slighted the threat that the federal deficit poses to the growth he said he wants. As with last year’s State of the Union speech, when he relegated the debt to a near-aside late in the speech, Mr. Obama did not go beyond a rhetorical nod to the issue. Indeed, in arguing for increased investment in U.S. infrastructure — a worthy idea — Mr. Obama gave up on the traditional approach of paying with an increase in the gasoline tax or similar user fees. Instead, he relied on the dodge of “paying for” those costs by using some of the savings from winding down operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The administration is right to be frustrated by congressional unwillingness to consider real pay-fors, but wrong to respond with a measure that would just make the deficit worse.

MITT, IS THIS WIT?BY MAUREEN DOWDNEW YORK TIMESNo matter what Romney is talking about in a debate, such as the inane suggestion that illegal aliens engage in “self-deportation,” he always looks like he’s really thinking: “Holy cow, it’s mine! GIVE IT TO ME!!” But the most annoying thing about him may be that he’s a prankster. If wit is the most sophisticated form of humor, pranks are the most juvenile. ... But at least in college, W. had the excuse of being hammered. Mitt was a prankster in school and stone sober.AVERAGE IS OVERBY THOMAS FRIEDMANNEW YORK TIMESThere will always be change — new jobs, new products, new services. But the one thing we know for sure is that with each advance in globalization and the I.T. revolution, the best jobs will require workers to have more and better education to make themselves above average. ... In a world where average is officially over, there are many things we need to do to buttress employment, but nothing would be more important than passing some kind of G.I. Bill for the 21st century that ensures that every American has access to post-high school education.GINGRICH IS OBAMA'S BEST SURROGATEBY DANA MILBANKWASHINGTON POSTGingrich has long regarded himself as a “transformational figure” in world history, and now he’s about to prove it: For the second time in his career, he is about to reelect a Democratic president. ... Now, just two years after Republicans swept to power in the House, Gingrich is again providing a Democratic president with an unexpected path to victory. To press his Gingrich-given advantage Obama made plans to highlight the “Buffett Rule” and invited to the speech Warren Buffett’s secretary, who supposedly pays a higher tax rate than Buffett does... But it was hardly necessary for Obama to make the case. Gingrich had already turned the Republican candidates into a club of coddled millionaires.GINGRICH IN WONDERLANDBY KATHLEEN PARKERWASHINGTON POSTWhen it comes to Newt Gingrich’s post-speaker activities on the Hill, it all depends on what your definition of “lobbying” is... Gingrich has insisted that throughout these dealings he was merely acting as a private concerned citizen, chatting up his colleagues about issues of mutual interest. This may well be the case, even within the legal definition of lobbying, but most people don’t get paid millions to shoot the bull over massively lucrative legislative initiatives. For Gingrich in Wonderland, as Humpty Dumpty explained to Alice, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”HOUR OF NEWTEDITORIALNATIONAL REVIEWAmid all the tumult of the last 18 years there has been this constant: Gingrich has never been popular. ... [His] backers say that he is inspiring. What he mostly seems to inspire is opposition. It should go without saying that Gingrich also offers more material than the other candidates for Democrats to drive his numbers in the wrong direction. Any Republican nominee will draw criticism for being too biased toward the rich. Not every Republican nominee will be attacked for cruelty in his personal life. None of these candidates can be guaranteed to beat Obama (or run a successful White House), and under the right circumstances any of them could. For Republicans to choose Gingrich, though, would be a gamble, with everything from the Supreme Court to Obamacare to our nation’s alliances riding on the outcome.DRAFT JEB BUSHBY ARTUR DAVISNATIONAL REVIEWThe fact is that Jeb Bush bent Florida, a famously interest-group-ridden state, in a rightward direction; that’s an accomplishment Romney can’t begin to claim vis-à-vis Massachusetts. Bush is not just an authentic movement conservative, but a groundbreaker on an array of issues that drive votes... . While his record has blemishes that Democrats would exploit ... this Bush is an adept, articulate campaigner who is unlikely to be tied in knots defending his history. ... Jeb Bush should measure his reluctance against the risks looming for his party and, potentially, his country. The fact is that his party could be staring at an unavoidable disaster unless, in the interests of saving it, its best candidate comes out of retirement.WE'RE FIGHTING OVER TWO GUYS AND NEITHER THINKS THE OTHER CAN WINBY ERICK ERICKSONRED STATEI am a firm believer that primaries make stronger candidates. But at some point you just have to stand back, take a sip of bourbon, and sigh “Damn” under your breath as you behold the carnage being wrought within the Republican Party. The fight has gotten so bitter and acrimonious with only three states chosen because neither side thinks the other side can win. ... Mitt Romney will find it very hard to beat Barack Obama because of what Barack Obama will do to him. Newt Gingrich will find it very hard to beat Barack Obama because of what Newt Gingrich will do to himself. That’s the simple truth. Both men will have amazingly difficult times beating Barack Obama. ... The deadly consequence is a cage match between the base and the establishment both of whom are backing two deeply, deeply flawed candidates with the odds heavily against them in a general election.