Five Best Wednesday Columns

Jonathan Chait on Romney's win, Robert Kelley on Iran's weapons, Dana Milbank on reporters' secrets, Jonathan Hansen on Guantánamo, and Major Garrett on Ron Paul

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Jonathan Chait in New York magazine on Romney's win Last night's New Hampshire primary results gave Mitt Romney a predictable win and gave second place to Ron Paul. "Lord, it won't be long now ... There may be a chance for a single non-Romney to emerge, but almost assuredly it will be far too late," writes Chait. He notes that the strategy for defeating Romney has long been to find a candidate to unite conservatives against him, but now Gingrich's attack on Romney's record at Bain, arguing that "essentially, it is morally wrong to fire economically unproductive workers ... is a premise more radically left-wing than anything proposed by either party in decades." Santorum, by not participating in the attacks, is the only one that can benefit from any damage they do to Romney, but Chait argues that Santorum's late start on organization and fundraising means it's probably too late for him to capitalize. "Conservatives came out of 2008 haunted by their failure to coalesce around a single candidate ... They are living their nightmare again," Chait says.

Robert Kelley in Bloomberg View on Iran's weapons The U.S. is beginning to take as given that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, and it is bringing both countries closer to war. "Given the high stakes, it's valuable to take another look at the main source of the tension," writes Kelley, a former IAEA director who says he regrets the lead-up to the Iraq war. He focuses on the conclusion that Iran halted a weapons program in 2003, saying that any new evidence must ignore signs of a program from before then and focus only on whether Iran has restarted its efforts. He analyzes documents currently used to prove the nuclear ambitions, and gives evidence that many of them are forged, misinterpreted, or provide evidence only of pre-2004 ambitions. He's careful to say that we have reason to suspect Iran of rekindling nuclear ambitions, but we should proceed with caution when weighing our conclusions. "We should not again be held hostage to forgeries and the spinning of data to make the worst case. If Iran is developing nuclear weapons, let it be proved through the analysis of current, solid information."

Dana Milbank in The Washington Post on the New Hampshire non-story This week, the Post's op-ed editor joined Milbank on the trail in New Hampshire, exposing campaign journalists' decidedly non-tawdry secrets. "Once Romney won in Iowa, the question was not whether he would win here but by how much ...The result was that traveling mobs of journalists routinely outnumbered the 'real people,'" he writes. Milbank sets several funny scenes involving droves of journalists and campaign performances for tiny crowds of New Hampshire voters. Newt Gingrich, for instance, tried to reach Hispanic voters at a Mexican restaurant, but found mostly reporters and a few protesters. "That's just what we were afraid to tell our editors: The New Hampshire primary just wasn't much of a story."

Jonathan Hansen in The New York Times on returning Guantánamo to the Cubans Americans constantly debate whether to close the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, leaving aside the debate over whether we should even posses the territory. "It is past time to return this imperialist enclave to Cuba," writes Hansen, a Harvard lecturer. He describes the history of our annexation, linking it to other infringements on the newly liberated Cubans in the beginning of the 20th century. To describe the injustice, he says it would be as if the French had refused to leave after helping us win the American revolution. Returning Guantánamo to the Cubans would be a step toward repairing relations with them. "If President Obama were to acknowledge this history and initiate the process of returning Guantánamo to Cuba, he could begin to put the mistakes of the last 10 years behind us, not to mention fulfill a campaign pledge."

Major Garrett in National Journal on Ron Paul's clout Ron Paul's second place finish in New Hampshire should be seen as evidence that Mitt Romney will need to cater to him more as the primary season winds on. " It's important to Romney that he discourage Paul from running as a third party candidate. If he does that, it's important Romney then persuade Paul to become at least a semi-enthusiastic proponent of his campaign," writes Garrett. He uses voting and poll statistics to show that Paul has greatly increased enthusiasm for his campaign and his movement, and shows how Paul's talk about monetary policy has already reframed parts of the debate. While Romney and he will never agree on foreign policy, Romney would be wise to co-opt some of Paul's ideas to attract some of that enthusiasm his way and to prevent Paul from continuing to resist him with a third-party run. "Paul's achievements in Iowa and New Hampshire give him clout to make demands ... demands that don't have to be met entirely but can by no means be ignored," says Garrett.

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