Five Best Friday Columns

Free trade, religious freedom, and the possibility of Vice President Clinton.

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Sen. Joe Lieberman on Mormonism and religious tolerance Writing in The Washington Post, Sen. Joe Lieberman says he has watched recent talk about Mitt Romney's Mormonism through "two prisms." First, he considers the founders' intentions regarding religion. Second, he remembers his own experience as the first Jewish person on a major party's national ticket. America's founders included protections for those who didn't share their Christian faith. Thus, he says, Americans today have a respect for religions other than their own and a set of shared values, "what President Abraham Lincoln called America's 'political religion.'" As the vice presidential candidate in the 2000 campaign, Lieberman says he experienced first hand "the American people's generosity of spirit, fairness and acceptance of religious diversity." "A veteran Secret Service agent who had worked several national campaigns told me he had never heard so many people say 'God bless you' to a candidate," he writes. The Gore-Lieberman ticket ended up with a greater share of the popular vote than Bush-Cheney, "proof that our ticket was judged on our qualifications and policies, not on the basis of my religion." Now, with a Mormon candidate leading the GOP nomination, our commitment to religious freedom "will be tested." "I hope and believe that Americans of all faiths-- and of no faith -- will not base their votes on the fact that Romney's Mormon faith seems 'different.'" Based on his own experience, he believes they won't.

Bruce and Stephen Vladeck on the Supreme Court's Medicaid decision The Supreme Court will soon decide on the Constitutionality of the individual mandate in the health care reform law. But last week, the Court heard oral arguments on a case "that could, indirectly, have a far greater impact on whether the act can meet the goal of expanding health care access by broadening eligibility for Medicaid, by 2014, to 15 million people," write Bruce and Stephen Vladeck in The New York Times. Medicaid includes an equal access mandate, which requires that states reimburse Medicaid providers at rates competitive enough to ensure enough supply of providers. In 2008, California tried to cut certain reimbursements by 10 percent. Medicaid beneficiaries and providers sued the state and won their case. The Supreme Court won't judge the merit of their case but "whether private parties, be they Medicaid beneficiaries or providers, may even bring such suits in the first place." If private parties can't enforce equal access, the Obama administration and California argue that the Department of Health and Human Services will. "What they fail to acknowledge, however, is that the department utterly lacks the financial, legal, logistical and political wherewithal to enforce the provision." The department is underresourced, underfunded, and not sufficiently granted authority to enforce equal access in the states. If the Court rules in favor of California, other states could soon enact similar cuts to Medicaid, pushing providers away.

Jonathan Alter on a Clinton vice presidency When politicians give a definitive "no," reporters "understand that if the circumstances are right, the answer can always change," writes Jonathan Alter in Bloomberg View. So when Hillary Clinton denies any possibility that she will replace Joe Biden as the vice presidential nominee, reporters don't stop speculating about "a Great Switcheroo," Alter says. Bob Woodward first suggested it was possible in late 2010, and Alter has increasingly moved from thinking it "outlandish" to "not impossible." As politicians, Biden, Obama, and Clinton all get along, and they "are genetically disposed to do 'what it takes.'" Facing the possibility of Republicans in charge of the entire government, that might include something drastic. Having Clinton on the ticket could allow Obama to say he will use both Hillary and Bill's expertise to restore the economy of the 1990s. "Biden would reluctantly agree because his consolation prize is a job he can truthfully argue he has coveted for 20 years," Alter says. Clinton could help him with blue-collar voters in Pennsylvania, and she could potentially help him maintain the Democrats' "gender gap" among women voters. "In a larger sense, the move would lend excitement to what will inevitably be a sour and dispiriting campaign." Alter says this decision won't be made until next summer, but until then, "don't let anyone tell you it's out of the question."

Peter Robinson on Republican fixation with the immigration issue While illegal immigration "has fallen to 300,000 in 2009 from 850,000 in 2000," and some say net traffic may even be zero, it remains a hot topic among Republican presidential candidates. Gov. Rick Perry has had to defend his decision to charge undocumented aliens the same in-state tuition as citizens, as the rest of the candidates attack him from the right. "If illegal immigration is down, why do Republicans still care so much about it? Permit a Californian to attempt an answer," writes former Reagan speechwriter Peter Robinson in The Wall Street Journal. California's illegal population has more than doubled since the 1980s, affecting "every aspect of life." Large proportions of school children claim English as their second language, and in some communities, it is difficult to tell which side of the border one is on. "The economic benefits California has derived from immigration, including illegal immigration, have proven enormous," Robinson says. And rising living standards in Mexico mean immigration may continue to slow in future years "while Californians come to accept—or at least become resigned to—those who remain," eventually giving them citizenship. But even if the problem resolves logistically, we remain with the fact that the federal government allowed millions to violate the law, raising "fundamental questions about our constitutional order." The candidates need to show they "have given the matter some thought." Rick Perry should defend that there is no contradiction in dealing with the realities of immigration within his state even while calling for the federal government to enforce the law. In 1986, Reagan supported giving amnesty to three million undocumented immigrants only because he thought the rest of his law would stop future illegal immigration. "Future generations . . . will be thankful," the president said, but instead "they are angry," Robinson writes, and Reagan would be too "recognizing the failure of the federal government to 'regain control of our borders' as a profound breach of faith."

Mitt Romney on China and free trade "Free trade has the demonstrated ability to make the people of both trading nations more prosperous," writes Mitt Romney in The Washington Post. "But for free enterprise and free trade to work their magic, laws and rules that guide the participants are essential to prevent distortions and abuses." China, he says, is cheating. It "enables theft of intellectual property... favors and subsidizes domestic producers over foreign competitors; and manipulates its currency to artificially reduce the price of its goods and services abroad." Some say our consumers benefit from the low priced goods coming in from China, but those prices help eliminate competing businesses "with serious long-term consequences. And in this case, the businesses killed are often our own." "Doing something about China's cheating makes some people nervous. Not doing something makes me nervous," Romney says. China has a $273 billion trade surplus, so Romney says its unlikely they'd start a trade war if we were to enforce the rules. "Consider, too, that cheating is contagious." Romney says that on the first day of his presidency, he would "designate" China a currency manipulator. "More important, I will take a holistic approach to addressing all of China's abuses. That includes unilateral actions such as increased enforcement of U.S. trade laws..." Romney says free trade is a powerful force "for peace and prosperity," and that's why we need to defend it.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.