Five Best Friday Columns

Walter Shapiro on Santorum's campaign, Jonathan Alter on Romney's liabilities, Khalil Gibran Muhammed on the specter of black-on-black violence, Charles Krauthammer on Obama's Supreme Court comments, and Michael Kinsley on bizarre lobbying campaigns.

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Walter Shapiro in The New Republic on Santorum's quixotic campaign We can only guess whether or when Rick Santorum will end his presidential campaign, but given Mitt Romney's increasingly solid grasp on the nomination, Shapiro doesn't bother waiting to to write his campaign obituary. "I hope it will be remembered what Santorum single-handedly accomplished during sweater-vest season. More than any presidential candidate since maybe Gary Hart in 1984, Santorum vindicated the quixotic dreamers who struggle on despite invisible poll ratings, tin-cup financing, and the dismissive wisecracks from political insiders," he writes. He revisits Santorum's antiquated campaign style, staying on the ground in Iowa and getting his message out with debates, not expensive ad campaigns. It's unlikely Santorum will get a VP nod or a decent shot at the 2016 campaign."But as long as there are primaries and caucuses, as long as voters rather than party insiders choose presidential nominees, Rick Santorum should be hailed as the patron saint of underdog candidates."

Jonathan Alter in Bloomberg View on Romney's real liabilities The media focuses on Mitt Romney's one-liner gaffes, usually related to his wealth. "Web ads about them may go viral, but they aren't likely to sway anyone who hasn’t already decided against Romney," writes Alter. "The bigger problem is what the soon-to-be Republican nominee has said on substance." Romney had to demonstrate his conservative credentials throughout the primary, but in many cases, he went further than he needed to. His history for flip-flopping boxes him into a lot of positions that won't play as well in the general election. On issues from immigration to Planned Parenthood funding, he took stands that probably didn't change the votes in any primaries, but will hurt him in the election. "Obviously, Romney needed to prove during the primaries that he was a stout conservative, but he went overboard," Alter says.

Khalil Gibran Muhammed in The New York Times on black-on-black violence When discussing the murder of Trayvon Martin, many commentators have wondered why we aren't more focused on the fact that most violence against blacks is committed by blacks. Muhammed dubs this: "playing the violence card." "It's true that black-on-black violence is an exceptionally grave problem. But this does not explain the allure of the violence card, which perpetuates the reassuring notion that violence against black people is not society's concern but rather a problem for black people to fix on their own," he writes. Historically, society approached white-on-white crime in communities of immigrants not by isolating or stigmatizing it, but by seeking reforms to lessen it. "In almost every way the opposite situation applied to black Americans. Instead of provoking a steady dose of compassionate progressivism, crime and violence in black communities fueled the racist belief that, as numerous contemporaries stated, blacks were their 'own worst enemies.'"

Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post on Obama's Supreme Court comments Conservatives have railed against Obama for his suggestion that the Supreme Court overturning his health care law would be "unprecedented" and counter to the wishes of a democratic majority. Here, Krauthammer summarizes the complaints with that argument. "[I]t would be unusual for the Supreme Court to overturn legislation so broad and sweeping. On the other hand, it is far more unusual to pass such a fundamentally transformative law on such a narrow, partisan basis." Krauthammer notes that it's not unprecedented for Congress to overturn legislation, and revisits the Congressional maneuvers that allowed the health care law to pass without a single vote from the opposing party. Obama's overstated argument might result from the way liberals were caught off guard by the arguments made by conservative Supreme Court justices that warn they may lose the case. "Democrats are reeling. Obama was so taken aback, he hasn't even drawn up contingency plans should his cherished reform be struck down."

Michael Kinsley in Bloomberg View on bizarre lobby campaigns Subway stops in D.C. have recently seen an ad campaign railing against those who want to eliminate a cherished American symbol, the dollar bill, and replace it with a $1 coin. Kinsley, who wasn't aware of such a movement, investigates. "We often deplore the deplorable influence of corporate money in Washington. But often the corporations that pay former high officials and other big shots to con politicians and the public are themselves being conned." In this case, lobbyist Frank Luntz is working for the paper company that supplies dollar bill materials, having them fund a campaign that touts poll results showing Americans overwhelmingly support the dollar bill, and that it stands for American values. "If I thought Americans were as gullible as Luntz apparently does, I would be very depressed. But I suspect these ridiculous poll results ... are more the result of Americans' willingness to express an opinion about anything, when asked by a pollster."

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