Five Best Tuesday Columns

William McGurn on Rick Santorum, Ron Klain on gas prices, Richard Cohen on Saudi Arabia, Joe Nocera on governors and gay marriage, and Bret Stephens on the politics of memory.

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William McGurn in The Wall Street Journal on Santorum's double standard Though President Obama opposed gay marriage during the 2008 election, Rick Santorum's opposition to it receives much more attention. "President Obama, by contrast, gets a pass because everyone understands—nudge nudge, wink wink—that he's not telling the truth ... It's arguably the most glaring double standard in American life today." The media's attention has led some to argue Santorum should back away from social issues. McGurn says Santorum can't both because his candidacy is founded on his social convictions and because the media probably won't allow him to be defined otherwise. But Santorum, if he's to avoid being "drawn out" into theological debates, should be sure to argue for his positions not on the basis of his faith but because of their political impact. "He needs to keep his comments simple, clear, and focused on the political point he is hoping to make."

Ron Klain in Bloomberg View on combating higher gas prices Gas prices are on the rise and they present a political dilemma for a Democratic president running for reelection. Obama risks pushing middle class voters hurt by the high prices away unless he compromises the party's positions on the gas tax and conservation. "One idea might be a 'pocketbook protection' plan, which would work as follows: If the average price of gas exceeds $4 a gallon, an additional, automatic payroll tax cut of 1 percent would kick in." Klain details the recent price hikes and contrasts them with the savings from the payroll tax cut to show just how important the issue is to middle class voters. He says the pocketbook protection plan could be paid for with a temporary hike on corporate taxes culled from the higher prices. It would save people money without compromising Democratic positions on the gas tax. "By developing and announcing a plan now, the administration can avoid being unarmed," he says.

Richard Cohen in The Washington Post on freedom in Saudi Arabia Hamza Kashgari, a Saudi newspaper columnist, tweeted an imaginary conversation with the Prophet Muhammed and, after attempting to flee, he now sits in prison facing a possible death sentence. "Saudi Arabia has to choose what century it is in. It cannot both strive for the high-tech world of tomorrow and at the same time have medievalists dictate and limit the boundaries of freedom," writes Cohen. He describes his affection for the country, and details its recent attempts to turn its oil resources into a "knowledge-based economy." He also notes that when the country faces pressure, it is usually from other Muslim countries angry that it is not intolerant enough. "So keep your eye on Hamza Kashgari — in some ways the future of Saudi Arabia, in all ways merely a terrified human being."

Joe Nocera in The New York Times on Christie and Cuomo Last week, as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a gay marriage bill passed by the legislature, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced new, strict teacher evaluation standards. "Christie's veto was widely seen as a political maneuver ... Yet if Christie's presumed motivation for opposing same-sex marriage was political, why doesn't anyone ever seem to mention the political benefits reaped by Cuomo in New York for supporting it?" Nocera argues that Cuomo's agenda has paralleled Christie's in some ways. Both have taken on unions and cut their states' budgets. But Cuomo has done it with much less conflict, likely because he took such a strong position in favor of gay marriage that gave him a pass with liberals on other issues. "By 2016, it is not inconceivable that same-sex marriage will be a widely accepted part of American life. In which case ... Christie's veto ... may not look so politically astute after all."

Bret Stephens in The Wall Street Journal on remembering history in Europe Germany's next president will be Joachim Gauck, who gained fame there after reunification as overseer of the Stasi archives. "If there is one thing that goes without saying in modern German life, it's that historical amnesia is not an option," writes Stephens. He notes that even though some feared the divisions that would result from allowing Germans to see which of their friends and relatives informed on them to the Communist regime, Gauck forged ahead. He contrasts Germany's insistence on remembrance with Spain's preference for historical amnesia. A judge there, for instance, is under fire for attempting to prosecute the Franco regime's crimes. "The good news is that the path of memory and the path of forgetfulness have, so far, served both countries remarkably well. Maybe that's not surprising. In politics as in life, there's more than one way to reckon with the past."

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