Five Best Thursday Columns

Gail Collins on the G.S.A. conference scandal, Joshua Green on un-cutting the deficit, Karl Rove on Santorum's odds, Dana Milbank on Romney and the press, Andrea Louise Campbell on insuring pre-existing conditions.

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Gail Collins in The New York Times on the G.S.A. conference scandal Collins turns her attention to the recent revelations that the General Services Administration spent $822,751 on a 2010 team-building conference. "My immediate reaction was that people planning a conference that involves the use of taxpayer money should try to avoid staging it in a venue that includes the words 'resort' or 'spa' or 'casino,' let alone all three," Collins writes. She details the conference's excesses, taking asides to point out that the GSA had its share of scandals during the Bush years, too. "If the G.S.A. party animals had done their team-building in a federal office, I’ll bet there would have been a lot fewer shrimp and commemorative coins. They should have been able to find a spot, what with being the people whose job is managing government buildings."

Joshua Green in The Boston Globe on un-cutting the budget cuts Political coverage of late has focused on the face-off between Democrats and Republicans over Rep. Paul Ryan's proposed budget. "Ryan’s budget, while indeed proposing steep cuts, also seeks to undo other cuts already signed into law, and thereby serves to illustrate why, for all its endless talk, Congress has such a hard time actually cutting spending." Green outlines the agreed-upon spending cuts from last summer's debt ceiling fight. He focuses on the $500 billion in cuts to the defense budget that will soon trigger automatically. Ryan and Republicans have tried to revisit that vote and undo the cuts, all preferably without raising taxes. "This is just the sort of behavior that feeds the deepening cynicism about government and the doubts about our ability to thrive and compete," Green writes.

Karl Rove in The Wall Street Journal on Santorum's dim chances After Mitt Romney won 86 delegates to Rick Santorum's six in Tuesday's primary contests, Rove is nearly ready to call the primary race. "Mr. Santorum has what amounts to a five-part strategy to achieve victory ...This strategy won't work." Rove outlines all five parts and systematically demonstrates why they are implausible or outright impossible. Santorum says he's likely to perform better in Evangelical-heavy contests in May, but Rove notes that Romney is gaining on him with this group, and Romney's April wins will probably rally voters by May. Santorum "says it would be 'energizing' for the GOP to have a floor-fight at its August 27-30 convention. That's the argument of a desperate candidate. More and more Republicans think such a bloodletting would severely set back the cause of defeating Barack Obama."

Dana Milbank in The Washington Post on Romney's distant press-relations Both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama spoke to the American Society of News Editors this week, and their different approaches to the press were on display. "[T]he Republican presidential front-runner would not allow photographers to get closer than 150 feet while he spoke ... The juxtaposition — up-close Obama and stand-back Romney — was an apt beginning to the presidential campaign." Milbank characterizes Romney's performance as more up-tight than Obama's. During the Q&A, he managed to bring most answers around to his talking points about America's business climate, or his critiques of the President. "The candidate is clearly aware of his style deficit, because he closed with a wish for November that 'our choice will not be one of party or personality.'"

Andrea Louise Campbell in The New York Times on covering pre-existing conditions Expressing skepticism about the health care law's individual mandate that would require the young to buy insurance, Justice Antonin Scalia said during oral arguments that young people could simply buy their insurance as soon as they felt they were at risk of incurring high medical bills. "May the justices please meet my sister-in-law," writes Campbell, an MIT professor of social policy. She describes her sister's financial situation when, while seven months pregnant, she was disabled in a car accident. She outlines the various safety nets in place, and the ways they keep her sister from obtaining proper insurance or putting away saving. The situation under the new health law would help her obtain affordable health insurance even with her pre-existing condition. Currently, her sister depends on the generosity of those in the community who are helping them raise money. "This is social policy in the richest nation in the history of the world."

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