Five Best Friday Columns
Charles Krauthammer on Republican front-runners, Jeffrey Fisher on the sixth Amendment, Alfonso Aguilar on immigration, David Brooks on the German ethos, and Jonathan Alter on Marco Rubio.
Charles Krauthammer in National Review on Romney and Gingrich With Newt Gingrich likely to remain the most plausible rival to Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination, voters face a choice between two problematic candidates. "One is a man of center-right temperament who has of late adopted a conservative agenda. The other, more conservative by nature, is possessed of an unbounded need for grand display that has already led him to unconservative places even he is at a loss to explain." Though Gingrich, like Romney, has held non-conservative positions, voters find him more authentic because he engineered the Republican House takeover in 1994, while Romney has no base conservative record from which to deviate. Meanwhile, though the base forgives Gingrich for his baggage, independents will give him an electability problem. "This is a weak Republican field with two significantly flawed frontrunners contesting an immensely important election ... Who is more likely to prevent that second term? And who, if elected, is less likely to unpleasantly surprise?"
Jeffrey Fisher in The New York Times on forensic analysts testifying in court Next week the Supreme Court will again consider whether the sixth Amendment, which gives a defendant the right to "be confronted with witnesses against him," requires forensic analysts to appear in trials. "The court has defined a 'witness against' a defendant as a person who provides information to law enforcement to aid a criminal investigation. That is exactly what forensic analysts do," writes Fisher, a Stanford law professor. He argues that this would be good policy because forensic analysis is subject to real error. The court has split on the question before, with the state arguing that taking up lab analysts' time would overly burden a state's resources. But Fisher argues that a state won't stop looking for and using DNA evidence to accurately prosecute people guilty of crimes just because their resources are stretched. "It unquestionably costs money to deliver the fundamental demands of justice. But ... the price of failing to enforce basic procedural rights is, in the long run, much higher."
Alfonso Aguilar in The Wall Street Journal on conservatives and immigration Both Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry have been criticized for taking non-conservative positions on immigration. "Is restrictionism—the philosophy that proposes that government severely restrict the entry of immigrant workers our economy clearly needs—really the conservative position?" Aguilar argues it isn't, and historically it's been put forward by the left, including union leaders, while conservatives like Reagan pointed out that immigrants probably weren't taking American jobs but doing work we didn't want. Conservatives have supported temporary worker programs, and Gingrich referenced one such program recently. Aguilar suggests most Republicans don't agree with restrictionism but have been bullied into silence for fear of sounding "soft on immigration." "Both [Gingrich and Perry] have unquestionable conservative credentials ... And because they are free-market Reagan conservatives, they believe that immigration, as George W. Bush used to say, makes us more, not less American."
David Brooks in The New York Times on Germany's undermined spirit of enterprise Americans and Germans prosper because of a national mentality that rewards effort. "This ethos is not an immutable genetic property ... It's a precious social construct, which can be undermined and degraded. Right now, this ethos is being undermined from all directions," Brooks writes. He cites lobbyists and stock traders as examples of people who subvert this hard work mentality. People in Germany are being criticized for resisting bailouts to countries that did not, as they have, work hard, save, and spend responsibly. Germany has benefited greatly from the euro zone, the southern European spending bubble, and German banks have been partly responsible for the collapse. But the country's regular citizens deserve sympathy. And those criticizing them seem not to care about the "effort-reward formula." "The real lesson from financial crises is that, at the pit of the crisis, you do what you have to do ... But, at the same time, you lock in policies that reinforce the fundamental link between effort and reward."
Jonathan Alter in Bloomberg View on Marco Rubio For months, we've assumed Marco Rubio will get the nod for the Republican vice presidential nomination, because he's young, smart, and could chip at Obama's lead among Hispanic voters. "But in truth, Rubio is not the ideal vice-presidential candidate to solve Republicans' trouble with Hispanics," Alter writes. There's no evidence that a Cuban-American who opposes even the DREAM Act ... will bring other Hispanics out to vote or get them to switch parties." The controversy around when Rubio's family immigrated from Cuba is important because if they were economic refugees, not political ones as he's claimed, he'll look inauthentic to many Hispanics for his lack of support for those seeking economic opportunity today. And his overreaction to the Spanish-language channel Univision, which ran a tabloidy report on his brother-in-law, threatens to alienate him from Hispanics who like the channel's pro-immigration reform host, Jorge Ramos. "None of this is likely to dissuade the eventual Republican nominee from picking Rubio if he thinks it will help him win the White House. But will it?"