Five Best Friday Columns

Peggy Noonan on the new Pope, Rob Portman on marriage equality, Charles C.W. Cooke on Al Gore's evangelism, Ana Marie Cox on the GOP's youth movement, and Jonathan Alter on the man who filmed Romney's "47%" comments.

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Peggy Noonan at The Wall Street Journal on the new Pope "Everything about Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio's election was a surprise," writes Peggy Noonan. "His age, the name he took, his mien as he was presented to the world. He was plainly dressed, a simple white cassock, no regalia, no finery." Does such a (relative) lack of pomp and circumstance signal change for the Church? After weighing "his embrace of the church's doctrines and his characterological tenderness toward the poor," Noonan sees Bergoglio — now Pope Francis — as uniquely situated to address a religious hierarchy in crisis. "Pope Francis already seems, in small ways rich in symbolism, to be moving the Vatican away from arrogance."

Rob Portman in The Columbus Dispatch on marriage equality Republican Ohio Senator Rob Portman, who made headlines last year for appearing on several shortlists for Mitt Romney's running mate, comes out in favor of gay marriage: "If two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other ... the government shouldn’t deny them the opportunity to get married," he writes. It's a stunning reversal; in years past he voted for a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage. His son, he says, convinced him otherwise: "Knowing that my son is gay prompted me to consider the issue from another perspective: that of a dad who wants all three of his kids to lead happy, meaningful lives with the people they love."

Charles C.W. Cooke at the National Review on Al Gore's evangelism To Charles C.W. Cooke, Al Gore's frequent declaration that the Internet will save us — along with our government and our cities — requires more skepticism that it usually receives. Observing the former presidential candidate shop his wares at South by Southwest, Cooke wonders: "Will the Information Age really lead to an Informed Age? In truth, most pertinent political information is already online, but, rather than having flung open the doors of the Library of Alexandria to a grateful populace, the primary consequence has been a rise in cheap sensationalism." But Cooke reserves most of his skepticism for the messenger — Gore himself — who remains "easily mockable ... [and] unaccustomed to being challenged."

Ana Marie Cox in The Guardian on the GOP's youth movement The opening day of CPAC bore a noticeable theme: a movement needs young leaders to survive. In her consideration of Marco Rubio and Rand Paul's performance on Thursday morning, Ana Marie Cox finds little to celebrate, though. The young (and soft-spoken) Rubio, she writes, "has become a rising star partly because he does not threaten to dislodge any of the dwindling 'red giants' already lodged in the Republican firmament." Paul, on the other hand — a decade Rubio's senior — is at least aware of where the party is going, if it is going anywhere: "[Rand] smartly positioned himself as a grown-up who understands that the next generation of voters mostly likely are."

Jonathan Alter at Bloomberg View on the 47-percent filmmaker Now that we know the identity of Scott Prouty, the bar-tender who captured presidential candidate Mitt Romney's infamous "47 pecent" comments, we have to decide where he falls in history. Jonathan Alter hesitates to declare anything certain, however: "We'll never know for sure whether the president would have been re-elected without the footage, which crystallized perceptions of Romney as callous and unconcerned about almost half of the people he sought to lead." But he acknowledges that Prouty's story is crucial to understanding the "makers-vs-takers" theme that pervaded the 2012 race. "He's a humble guy and isn’t looking to cash in. He now takes his rightful place as an important footnote in U.S. history," Alter concludes.

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