Five Best Thursday Columns

George Will on Newt Gingrich, Joshua Green on the payroll tax, Nicholas Kristof on North Korea, Dana Milbank on John Boehner, and Daniel Henninger on Christmas.

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George Will in The Washington Post on Gingrich the anti-conservative Newt Gingrich has lately advocated dismantling some of the power held by the judicial branch, suggesting, for instance, that we abolish the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. "What primarily stands between us and misrule, however, is the Constitution, buttressed by an independent judiciary," Will writes. "Gingrich's campaign against courts repudiates contemporary conservatism's core commitment to limited government." Will shows cases where the courts have overruled majority opinion in keeping with principles of limited government to defuse Gingrich's illogical preference for the opinion of the majority. Gingrich cites other presidents who fought with the judiciary, but Will argues that these traditions show an overreach of power, not an example to be followed. "Gingrich's unsurprising descent into sinister radicalism — intimidation of courts — is redundant evidence that he is not merely the least conservative candidate, he is thoroughly anti-conservative."

Joshua Green in The Boston Globe on the payroll fight Though the Iowa caucuses should be drawing the nation's attention, we're focused instead on the payroll tax dispute in Congress, where House Republicans have rejected the Senate compromise that would extend the tax cut for two months. "[T]his latest episode is more damaging than earlier revolts ... because it threatens to make Republicans culpable for raising taxes," Green writes. "In fact, there's evidence to suggest that not only is it taking a toll on congressional Republicans, and could harm the party's presidential hopefuls, but it's also helping President Obama."This revolt is different because it has split the Republican party and unified the Democrats. Green shows polling that indicates that Obama's support for the middle class tax cut is bumping his approval numbers, while it puts Republican presidential candidates in an awkward position. "The danger for Romney, Gingrich, and the other contenders is that they'll come to be seen as captive to the Tea Party, whose popularity has plummeted."

Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times on North Korea When Kristof visited North Korea in 1989, he was shocked with just how totalitarian the regime's rule was, and with how completely the people accepted it. "What do we make of this country? For Americans, a starting point should be to recognize some failures of American policy." He tells extreme anecdotes culled from his travels and his reading to argue that we shouldn't assume the regime's end is near, and that most citizens do not hate the regime. He compares the way China's slow infiltration of the country does more to undermine it than our defiant isolation, and argues that engagement is the better tactic. "If we can inch toward diplomatic relations, trade and people-to-people exchanges, we're not rewarding a monstrous regime. We just might be digging its grave."

Dana Milbank in The Washington Post on Boehner's press stunt On Wednesday, John Boehner allowed the press to witness him and other House colleagues in a conference room arguing their case for resisting the Senate's version of a payroll tax extension. "'We're here. We're ready to go to work,' Boehner announced. But the only thing he was working on, it turned out, was damage control." Milbank describes the scene, in which Boehner simply answered the media's questions with that same refrain. Meanwhile, he describes the Democrats' more effective press stunt, in which they remained on the House floor demanding the Senate's bill be passed even as the lights turned out and the cameras turned off. And finally, he describes the "conferees," "the people Boehner wants to negotiate a new tax deal with Democrats," but notes that all of them tend to publicly agree with Boehner and the Republicans. "None of these credentials, however, avoided the conclusion that the House Republicans had screwed up badly and now stand to take the blame if payroll taxes rise."

Daniel Henninger in The Wall Street Journal on speeding through the holiday There's a Chicago condominium complex fighting over whether to display crèches and menorahs this Christmas. "I'm just glad someone has enough free time to fight over Christmas. For many others, finding time to celebrate Christmas has become one more item on the never-ending to-do list," Henninger writes. He likens the press for time to prepare for the holiday to the general speeding up and crunching of time that has been the result of e-mail and other technology. Now he points to signs that we're taking shortcuts on celebrating: warehouse seasonal workers who wrap presents for us, Yule log apps for our iPads, and Christmas dance remix playlists on iTunes. Humorously, he reduces several Christmas stories into 140 character Tweets. ("It was the night before Christmas. Then we got up. Then it was over. I love my presents.") "Or you could just say no," he advises. "Merrily, tweet this: The best to you and yours."

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