Five Best Monday Columns

The FDA burden, cameras in the Supreme Court, and the right to kill Awlaki

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Albert Hunt on the polarizing primary "One of the few political pleasures for President Barack Obama's re-election team these days is watching the Republican primary fight," writes Albert Hunt in Bloomberg View. Republican presidential candidates must appeal to conservatives further to the right on issues from Medicare to immigration, threatening to alienate independent voters in a general election. "President Richard Nixon used to say that the key to U.S. politics was to appeal to the base in the primaries and move to the center in the general elections. That's difficult if the nomination contests swing too far," Hunt says. In debates, Rick Perry, seen as the "leading conservative," has been attacked for moderate positions on immigration, even while he leads conservative attacks on social security. Romney's greatest liability is "enacting a health-care plan when he was governor that most analysts say has improved care in Massachusetts." "Primary battles can be beneficial. Obama's standing and skills as the Democratic nominee last time were honed by his intense battle for the nomination against Hillary Clinton. An exceptionally tough and protracted battle, it never became ideologically toxic." Reagan was a better candidate in 1980 having defeated his primary rivals. But primary fights have "caricatured" a party beyond general electability as with Barry Goldwater or George McGovern, Hunt says. If Chris Christie gets into the race, he can expect to have his more moderate positions on guns and immigration attacked on the right, increasing the likelihood of another Goldwater-esque candidacy in the general election.

John Yoo on Awlaki and killing citizen-combatants A U.S. drone strike Friday killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni-American linked to the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas and the attempted bombing of a Northwest flight. It was a victory, writes John Yoo in The Wall Street Journal, yet "even as details of the operation leaked out, critics claimed that our government had 'assassinated' an American citizen without due process." The ACLU has represented Awlaki's father, arguing "the Constitution forbids the government from trying to kill an American citizen for allegedly joining the enemy." The U.N. has suggested drone strikes deny due process. Last December, a court threw out the ACLU claim, saying "Awlaki always had the option of returning home to prove his innocence." American officials have defined an assassination as "an act of murder for political purposes," something which Awlaki's killing was not. "American citizens who join the enemy do not enjoy a roving legal force-field that immunizes them from military reprisal." Abraham Lincoln knew early on that the government had the right to "treat its own citizens as enemies when they take up arms in rebellion. Supreme Court opinions have upheld Lincoln's principle." The shape of the war on terror, with a stateless enemy that recruits fighters from any country makes Lincoln's idea more important, and in 2001, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the idea that someone could be at once a citizen and an enemy combatant. The Obama administration should be certain a citizen is a member of al Qaeda, and it should emphasize capturing not killing enemies, but as they face a drawdown, "the U.S. may be left with no opportunities for capture, and precious few chances to kill."

James Surowiecki on Solyndra Solyndra, a solar-panel manufacturer and former "darling" of the Obama administration, has since declared bankruptcy and become the subject of Congressional hearings and FBI investigations. "Critics of the Administration are arguing that the whole idea of government support for green companies should be abandoned as a pure boondoggle." This is "an overreaction every bit as hysterical as the pro-Solyndra hype was," writes James Surowiecki in The New Yorker. Government intervention can lead to crony capitalism, but it can also fuel economic rise. Germany, for instance, has a successful solar industry subsidized by the government. "There are a few industries where it makes a lot of sense for the government to complement the market by subsidizing research and development. Renewable energy is one of them." Alternative energy often confers more social benefits on all than it does returns to immediate investors, so it is bound to be left unfunded by the private markets. "Energy markets are also dominated by entrenched, regulated companies, and that reduces the incentive for investment... This creates an opportunity for the government to add value by investing smartly." Some say Solyndra proves the government can't invest wisely, but Surowiecki says the vetting process is actually rigorous, and Solyndra is just an example where they made a single bad bet. "Failure is integral to the business of investing in new companies; many venture capitalists will tell you that, of the companies they fund, they expect a third, if not more, to fail." Plus, the government has involved itself in the energy industry since the 19th century. "The nuclear-power industry was effectively created by the government in the nineteen-fifties, and probably could not exist today without government guarantees."

Scott Gottlieb on the FDA burden The main Aortic valve that brings blood to the heart grows brittle with age, in some cases causing heart failure and death. "Fixing the problem in the United States requires open-heart surgery. In Europe, the problem can be repaired using a tiny catheter that introduces a replacement valve through an artery in the leg," writes Scott Gottlieb in The Wall Street Journal. The FDA is set to approve this replacement valve by 2012, four years after it arrived in Europe. The FDA constantly requires manufacturers to test medical devices on animals before advancing to long clinical trials. "In response, American device makers are moving their business overseas." Because many emerging markets passed "country of origin" rules, marketed devices must be manufactured in the country where they were approved. "So if they want to market their devices in these emerging markets, they need to make sure manufacturing facilities are also located in the European Union." Europe's process for approving new devices is less demanding, but some have argued it is just as "rigorous and effective." "Congressional Democrats and Republicans have expressed concerns that the FDA's regulatory slide could be harming innovation, job creation and patient care." There are solutions. The FDA could use human data from already approved devices in Europe. "Surely the scientific data generated by following European patients is more informative than what can be learned by placing a new device in an animal." More than 15,000 patients will have received the Aortic valve when it is approved in the U.S. "Tens of thousands of Americans unable to travel, and too sick to undergo open-heart surgery, have died during the intervening four years."

Kenneth Starr on cameras in the Supreme Court "Cameras in the courtroom of the United States Supreme Court are long overdue," writes Kenneth Starr in The New York Times. Citizens and school groups constantly line up outside the court for hours to see it in action. "Many who stand in these lines and endure all-night waits will be disappointed: space in the magnificent courtroom is very tight."  Most Americans will never even try to see it. " 'Equal justice under law' is the inscription on the face of the court building. It is time that we the people had equal access to the process by which that justice is meted out." Improved transparency would advance our nation's democratic goals of allowing the people to see how the government works. "Year after year, the court issues decisions that profoundly affect the nation," and opening up public viewing would only help the decline in civic literacy. "Justice Anthony M. Kennedy's fear is that televising the oral arguments would introduce 'the insidious temptation to think that one of my colleagues is trying to get a sound bite for the television.'" But sound recordings are already available. New forms of media from newspapers to radios have long been feared "for demagogic potential" before being accepted into the mainstream. "The idea that cameras would transform the court into 'Judge Judy' is ludicrous," Starr says. Thankfully, the "old guard" is losing the battle. The newest justice, Elena Kagan, recently said, "If everybody could see this, it would make people feel so good about this branch of government and how it's operating." "Just so," says Starr. "If the justices won't open the courtroom doors to cameras -- proxies for the public eye -- of their own accord, then Congress has the capacity and the duty to take action.

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