Five Best Sunday Columns

Iran outlaws Valentine's Day, lawmakers are confused by the defense budget, and Republicans love Donald Trump

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Dana Milbank on How Donald Trump Reveals GOP Desperation. At CPAC, on of the most important Republican events of the year, Republicans cheered wildly when Donald Trump said he was considering a run for president in 2012. Trump declared "These are my people!" but are they? Last time he considered a candidacy, he was pro-choice, pro-campaign finance reform and pro-universial health care. He's been married three times and contributed to Democrats. Writing in The Washington Post, Milbank argues, "Trump's gambit is almost certainly a publicity stunt. What makes it interesting is how eager the conservatives were to embrace him, shifting the afternoon's schedule at the last minute when he agreed to appear. It speaks to the Republican Party's leadership vacuum: Only a party deeply dissatisfied with its current slate of candidates would swoon for this guy."

Melik Kaylan on Why Iran Banned Valentine's Day. Sometimes it seems like Iran's government thinks its job is to be a buzzkill: Last month it outlaws Valentine's Day and all the pink-and-red stuff that goes with it. The Wall Street Journal's Kaylan explains, "The Iranian state has pronounced against unauthorized mingling of the sexes, rap music, rock music, Western music, women playing in bands, too-bright nail polish, laughter in hospital corridors... The regime's posture turns the smallest garden-variety gestures into thrilling acts of subversion. Slipping a Valentine card to a girlfriend takes on the significance of samizdat. ... The mullahs have appointed themselves the enemy of fun; as a result, wherever fun herniates into view, it is a politicized irruption of defiance." No authority, Kaylan says, has ever won the war against fun.

Noah Feldman on How the Supreme Court Has Always Been Political. Antonin Scalia has taken heat for meeting with conservative lawmakers and donors, and the Tea Party activities of his wife. But Feldman explains in The New York Times that the justices have always dabbled in politicking. In fact, it was only during Watergate, when the justices had the power to take down a president, that they decided to act more politically aloof. "The disengagement from public life that followed has had real costs. Isolated justices make isolated decisions. It is difficult to imagine justices who drank regularly with presidents deciding that a lawsuit against a sitting executive could go forward while he was in office, or imagining that the suit would not take up much of the president’s time. Yet that is precisely what the court did by a 9-to-0 vote in the 1997 case of Clinton v. Jones. The court’s mistaken practical judgment opened the door to President Bill Clinton’s testimony about Monica Lewinsky and the resulting impeachment that preoccupied the government for more than two years as Osama bin Laden laid his plans."

George Will on How to Cut the Defense Budget. America spends a lot of money on the military: about as much as the rest of the world combined, six times more than No. 2 spender China. Since fiscal 2001, the military's baseline budget has shot up 80 percent, to $534 billion--but in reality, it spends even more than that. The GOP's support for a strong military "sometimes measured simply by the size of the Pentagon's budget," Will writes in the Washington Post, but new Tea Party members want to cut military spending. In recent hearings, GOP Rep. Randy Forbes exasperatedly groused it was impossible to find inefficiencies in the Defense Department budget because it doesn't comply with laws that require auditable financial statements. If Republicans want to cut the defense budget, Will writes, first they need to figure out what's in it.

Joanna Weiss on Why Planned Parenthood Is a Bad Target for Pro-Lifers. Lila Rose went undercover to try to catch Planned Parenthood employees covering up underage abortions. The results were sensational. But if Rose wants to stop abortions, Weiss writes in the Boston Globe, she picked the wrong target. "The group’s annual $79 million in Title X funds, now in the crosshairs of House Republicans, wouldn’t go to abortions, which already are barred from federal funding except in the case of rape, incest, or life endangerment — and which make up only 3 percent of the services Planned Parenthood performs." It's clinics do a lot of breast and cervical cancer screening, plus STD prevention, which reduces unwanted pregnancies in the first place.

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