Five Best Tuesday Columns

George Packer on the 1972 election, Leif Babin on publicizing the Navy SEALs, Jonathan Cohn on Romney's wealth, Andrew Stobo Sniderman and Mark Hanis on drones, and Dana Milbank on Newt Gingrich.

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George Packer in The New Yorker on the GOP's 1972 election in 2012 In 1972, Democrats reformed their system for choosing convention delegates; the new system of quotas for groups like youths, women, and racial minorities selected George McGovern as their nominee, and he lost by a huge margin in the general election. "This year is the Republicans' 1972—or it could be, if they get lucky. Not because they'll lose the presidency  -- they might well win -- but because they've reached the same stage of petrified theology, capture by their extremes, and self-isolation from their old majority," writes Packer. Republicans moved away from a system of winner-take-all primaries which means the nominating contest will be long and brutal. Republicans should hope Romney wins the nomination, but if he does and loses the election, Packer predicts it will only further deepen the GOP's move away from its old majority. "That's what happens when political parties are captured by a minority of fervent believers."

Leif Babin in The Wall Street Journal on over-publicizing the SEALs' feats A team of Navy SEALs rescued two hostages from Somalia on the night of the State of the Union, and as in the aftermath of the bin Laden raid, anonymous administration officials quickly leaked details of the operation. "Our special operators do not welcome this publicity. In fact, from conversations I've had in recent days, it's clear they are dismayed by it," writes Babin, a former SEAL. He describes the importance of secrecy to their missions, and notes the breakdown of confidentiality among administration officials and even former SEALs in the months since bin Laden's killing. He describes the arrest of those whom Pakistan accuses of leaking information for that raid as an example of the harm publicity brings.  "It is infuriating to see political gain put above the safety and security of our brave warriors and our long-term strategic goals," he writes. "Loose lips sink ships."

Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic on Romney's wealth and policies While promoting his administration's new program to make college affordable, the President highlighted his and his wife's struggle to pay back their own student loans. Cohn says Romney's allies will likely get angry at such implicit sniping at the Republican's wealth. "But Obama was actually making an argument about policy on Friday. Specifically, he was making the case for strong public programs..." Cohn writes. Obama highlights his family's use of these programs because his likely opponent's policies would likely eliminate them. Romney, too, uses his life story to prove that Americans can achieve their own success, and while Cohn says he should take pride in the money he earned, he shouldn't discount the financial help he got from his family to get the education that enabled that success. "He seems unaware of that fact and the possibility that others, born into less fortunate circumstances, might need some of the government programs he's promised to undermine."

Andrew Stobo Sniderman and Mark Hanis in The New York Times on using drones for human rights In addition to shooting missile in Pakistan, the U.S. uses drones to spy in Iraq. "It's time we used the revolution in military affairs to serve human rights advocacy," write Sniderman and Hanis of the Genocide Intervention Network. In Syria, Arab League monitors have fled violence, and while we can use grainy cell phone videos to document the government's firing on unarmed protesters, hihg resolution aeriel photos from drones would provide better evidence of atrocities, they write. Drones, they argue, are affordable and accessible to non-military groups, like human rights advocacy organizations. Their use in Syria would probably violate international law, but their duty to human rights, they say, would excuse the breach. "Even if humanitarian drones are not used in Syria, they should assume their place in the arsenal of human rights advocates ... If human rights organizations can spy on evil, they should." 

Dana Milbank in The Washington Post on Gingrich's Florida hijinks Sunday night at a Hyatt bar in Jacksonville, Newt Gingrich approached a table of reporters to announce that a new poll would put him within striking distance of Mitt Romney. "It's hard to know what the most pitiful part was: That a presidential candidate was whiling away the night at a hotel bar ...? That he felt the need to do his own spinning? That the survey he was spinning was a 'robo-poll' done by machines? Or that the pollster who did it used to work for Gingrich?" Other polls actually show Romney pulling way ahead, but that hasn't stopped Gingrich from deceptively citing older polls on the trail or making "religion-bating" references to accuse Romney of mistreating Jews and Catholics, or generally provoking the media, Milbank recounts. Gingrich "said there shouldn't be 'any doubt' that he will remain in the race after Florida. 'The establishment in both parties is terrified,' he boasted. Well, at least the Republicans are."

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