Five Best Friday Columns

Matt Miller on Wyden-Ryan, Tom Hayden on the anti-war movement, Kirk Johnson on Iraqi resettlement, Walter Shapiro on presidential races, Kimberley Strassel on Ron Paul

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Matt Miller in The Washington Post on the Wyden-Ryan Medicare plan Yesterday Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Paul Ryan proposed a bipartisan plan to reform Medicare. For several reasons, it is "is the most fascinating policy and political maneuver of the year," writes Miller. Ryan has likely deflected Democratic attacks on Republican Medicare proposals that would have figured prominently in 2012 races, but to do so, he's changed several important positions from his previous plans. Miller argues that Ryan has in many ways embraced ideas like a public option insurance that define ObamaCare. He's also proposed a plan that will inflate the deficit, where his last plan focused on balancing the budget. This could force him to admit that taxes will have to be raised to pay for boomers' entitlements. "Wyden will have set in motion a Republican 'uncle' on taxes that could fundamentally alter policy debate in the years ahead. It's complicated but fascinating," Miller writes.

Tom Hayden in the Los Angeles Times on America's anti-war movement Peace activists will gather today in Chicago to commemorate the anti-war speech Barack Obama gave there in 2002. "As the United States completes its withdrawal from Iraq, it is worth pausing to remember the determined peace activists who opposed the war from the start, including one who took up their cause and became president," writes Hayden. He recalls the pro-war sentiments of the time and the political courage Obama showed when he spoke out at the Federal Plaza there. Antiwar demonstrations leading up to 2008 drew hundreds of thousands, and motivated a strong anti-war bloc in Congress. Hayden notes that electing a president who campaigned on ending an ongoing war was unprecedented, but describes the complicated shifts in Obama's policy since taking office. "Now the challenge will be to bring the war in Afghanistan and the drone strikes over the border in Pakistan to an end as quickly as possible," he says.

Kirk Johnson in The New York Times on resettling Iraqis in America As the British withdrew from America after losing the Revolutionary War, they shipped many that had remained loyal to them to Canada for protection. "Despite yesterday's announcement that America's military mission in Iraq is over, no one is acting to ensure that we protect and resettle those who stood with us," writes Johnson, who founded a group for resettling Iraqis. He says the "byzantine" process for those contractors, embassy workers, and interpreters who now seek asylum can take a year and a half. He writes that past security breaches and political untenability lessen the chances for reform, but writes that threats to these Iraqis are real and serious. He uses examples from wars like Vietnam to show the harm we cause when we don't provide enough asylum to our allies. "Moral timidity and a hapless bureaucracy have wedged our doors tightly shut and the Iraqis who remained loyal to us are weeks away from learning how little America's word means," he writes.

Walter Shapiro in The New Republic on predicting presidential races Since the beginning of election coverage, pundits have routinely settled on a conventional wisdom that has been quickly proven false, that Rick Perry would be a good campaigner, for example. "After covering nine presidential campaigns, I am confident in my ability to prophesize just one thing: The current media storyline of a protracted Gingrich-versus-Romney struggle through the primaries is oversimplified," he writes. He draws parallels to precedents from historical campaigns to show the many ways this narrative could be disrupted in favor of another one. For example, he uses Walter Mondale's unlikely comeback against Gary Hart in the 1984 New Hampshire primary to show that Bachmann or Santorum could still surge ahead in Iowa. "The danger for all political reporters is to fall under the hypnotic sway of false certainty," he notes.

Kimberley Strassel in The Wall Street Journal on Ron Paul A few weeks away from the Iowa caucuses, Ron Paul's poll numbers and media exposure are beginning to rise. "Ron Paul is, in many ways, the ideal candidate for a conservative electorate hungry for a principled GOP nominee. Ron Paul will never be the GOP nominee. For this, Mr. Paul has himself to blame," writes Strassel. She notes that Paul is known for his consistency, but she says he's made important alterations to his emphases (not his positions) this campaign, staying quieter, for instance, on talk of legalizing drugs and eliminating entitlements in favor of more realistic plans for bringing everyone closer to his vision. But, she says, on foreign policy he remains totally at odds with the conservatives in his party, and rather than toning it down this year, he's only increased the rhetoric. "Because he can't, or won't, accommodate his own foreign policy views to those of the nation, there is only one bar to a Ron Paul victory: Mr. Paul."

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