Five Best Friday Columns

Charles Krauthammer on Ron Paul, Su Chi on Taiwan's future, Jonathan Alter on William Daley, Peggy Noonan on South Carolina, and Michael Kinsley on Romney's health care record.

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Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post on what Ron Paul has achieved The biggest story of the New Hampshire primary is Mitt Romney's huge win there, but the next biggest is Ron Paul's strong performance. "[A]fter a quarter-century in the wilderness, he's within reach of putting his cherished cause on the map. Libertarianism will have gone from the fringes — those hopeless, pathetic third-party runs — to a position of prominence in a major party," writes Krauthammer. He compares Paul to Jesse Jackson or Pat Buchanan, who demanded attention be paid to them and their causes at conventions. He argues Paul won't quit the race even if he does poorly in Florida or South Carolina but will continue to rack up delegates so that he can have leverage at the convention. "Paul is 76. He knows he'll never enter the promised land ... What Paul has already wrought is a signal achievement, the biggest story yet of this presidential campaign."

Su Chi in The New York Times on Taiwan's future Some realists fear democratic Taiwan's ability to declare independence, driving China and the U.S. toward war, or view the island as a bargaining piece with China. "But since 2008, when Taiwan began to stabilize its once volatile relations with China, it has become an even greater asset for the United States — and an inspiration for democratizing forces in mainland China," writes Su. He describes the increased integration of Taiwan's and China's economies since 2008, and he describes how Taiwan's democratic society has shifted from a threat to a model for China's leaders and people. As China increasingly confronts its citizens' desire to participate, it can learn from Taiwan's rocky example, seeing how Taiwan combats corruption and integrates Chinese traditions. "All of this will require innovative thinking and skillful management," Su writes.

Jonathan Alter in Bloomberg View on William Daley Obama announced his surprise when William Daley decided to resign as his chief of staff after only a year on the job. "[B]ut he shouldn't have been. The affable Chicago banker had already experienced Washington's classic death of a thousand cuts," writes Alter. He recounts the history of Daley's early calculated support for Obama in 2008, but his waning faith that Obama could win and his resulting absence from the original administration. Alter notes how this dynamic affected Daley from the start of his time in the White House, where he had little power over personel. More public failures contributed of course, like the debt ceiling deals and the interview he gave laying some blame for obstruction on Congressional Democrats. "Daley's tenure and retreat may best be remembered as the moment when Washington truly displaced Chicago as the most brutal political town in the country."

Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal on Romney in South Carolina South Carolinians are quick to portray their primary as decisive and undecided, part of their history of resistance. "No one knows what's going to happen, because South Carolina takes pride in being prickly ... All that said, if Mitt Romney wins here, he will win the nomination. And it's likely he will win here ... But it's a real question how much damage will be done to him along the way," Noonan writes. Romney's opposition remains divided after New Hampshire she notes, and Romney has the important endorsement of the state's governor. But Newt Gingrich has already taken his attack on Romney's time at Bain to South Carolina, and Noonan says Romney should take this time to refute the premise of the attacks by defending enterprise but also by specifically defending Bain. "The Obama campaign wanted to launch its Bain attack in the fall. Mr. Romney can face the attack now, head on, and begin not inoculating himself from the issue but exhausting it."

Michael Kinsley in Bloomberg View on Romney's health care answer In 2006, Governor Mitt Romney enthusiastically passed a universal health care law in Massachusetts, but now he campaigns vigorously against the Obamacare plan which was modeled after his own. "Oh, no, no, no: The two plans are very different. How so? Well, the Massachusetts plan is a state plan, whereas Obamacare is a federal plan ...This is about as far as the argument has gotten," writes Kinsley. Romney will likely win the nomination without having to take his non-sensical answer further than this, and Obama isn't likely to press him on it in the general election (since he supports Romney's plan.) But his answer leaves dozens of questions on the table, and Kinsley asks most of them, about what Romney believes and what he'll do to fix health care. Kinsley concludes, Romney "chose the wrong horse -- who could have guessed that an idea from the Heritage Foundation would become 'liberal' anathema in the Republican primaries? It's annoying, but it's more than that: It's disqualifying," writes Kinsley.

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