Five Best Wednesday Columns

Dana Milbank on Rick Santorum, Jonathan Fenby on Bo Xilai, Holman W. Jenkins Jr. on Facebook, Clarence Page on Mitt Romney, and Margaret Carlson on the GSA conference.

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Dana Milbank in The Washington Post on Santorum's disorganized last day Rick Santorum announced from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on Tuesday that he will end his presidential campaign. "Santorum's once-fiery presidential bid went out like a candle Tuesday here in his home state. His campaign, always a shoestring operation, lacked the finances and organization to keep pace with Romney for the Republican nomination. The campaign spent its final day in typical disarray," writes Milbank. He documents the campaign's organizational hiccups through the day, and the anger of supporters who showed up to non-existent events. Speaking from a makeshift event in a hotel, Santorum compared himself to Lincoln, who also once went to Gettysburg to address the nation. "Yes, Santorum, like Lincoln, spoke at Gettysburg. But it's a safe bet that the world will little note nor long remember Santorum's version."

Jonathan Fenby in The New York Times on Bo Xilai's dismissal The dismissal of a regional Communist party leader Bo Xilai and his wife's arrest have grabbed huge headlines in China as intra-party rifts become apparent. "But the Bo affair is, essentially, a sideshow, a distraction from the essential challenges facing China under its changing leadership," writes Fenby. He lists the many huge obstacles China faces, including demographic shifts, increasing unrest, and a lacking foreign policy. Bo's dismissal may unite the party leaders, but talk of reform is in the air and will soon be confronted, he argues. "How this process evolves will determine whether China finds a new future for itself or gets caught in the fallout of its own success."

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. in The Wall Street Journal on Facebook's Instagram buy Facebook announced this week that it would buy Instagram, the mobile photo-sharing app, for $1 billion, in a move revealing that they are still more focused on user experience. "But how to make money should be the key focus for a company expecting to go public in May," Jenkins writes. "Facebook needs to find a way to make its cornucopia of user data pay. The secret, we're convinced, is to turn that data into advertising pitches seen on platforms that are not Facebook." He suggests Facebook acquire media companies from ABC News to the New York Times, positioning itself as a supporter of institutions Americans value, but also using them as platforms for targeted advertising that builds on Facebook's data collection. "There is life in the business model yet. Cat owners would no longer have to watch dog-food commercials, and vice versa. To bring such a world into being is Mr. Zuckerberg's destiny, if he would seize it."

Clarence Page in the Chicago Tribune on Romney and empathy "Listening matters. As important as policy may be, voters tend to choose the candidate they think is 'on my side.' They want someone who connects with them, who conveys an understanding of their hopes and dreams," writes Page. He argues that Bill Clinton and George W. Bush excelled at projecting empathy, but it's an area where Mitt Romney could stand for improvement. Romney often steps on his own successes with misstatements about his wealth, and the penchant for talking like a CEO shows especially in his low approval ratings with women. "Romney often sounds like he could use what President George H.W. Bush used to call 'the vision thing.' ... It begins with a strong inner desire to repair the nation's divisions and revive our sense of shared values and common purpose. Women appreciate that. Men do too."

Margaret Carlson in Bloomberg View on the GSA conference The $800,000 conference hosted by a government agency in Las Vegas was filled with enough salacious and absurd details, from money spent on clowns to commemorative coins, that it grabbed the public's attention. "What’s truly outrageous, however, or at least depressing, is that in scandals like this, too often we get all the maddening details but none of the satisfying consequences," writes Carlson. In fact, she names several other conferences that spent similar amounts of taxpayer money, and she details Sen. Tom Coburn's long, often unsuccessful attempt, to document this spending and stop it. The reason public interest only arises when the details are interesting is that the bill makes up only a small part of the federal budget. "So nothing is done. How is nothing working for you?"

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