Five Best Tuesday Columns

Charles Lane on gas prices, David Carr on federal whistle-blowers, Kimberley Strassel on Rick Santorum, Stephen Trachtenberg on affirmative action, and Jane Harman on Bashar al-Assad. 

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Charles Lane in The Washington Post on politicizing gas prices Republicans are blaming rising gas prices on President Obama's policies. Obama is rejecting their assertion that there's a short-term fix to global markets, but he similarly politicized gas prices in 2007 when Bush was in office. "Please, everyone, just ignore this blather. Here's what is actually going on: World crude oil prices determine the vast majority of the per-gallon price of gasoline — 76 percent of it, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Those prices have been trending upward for more than a decade, largely because of surging demand in China and other emerging markets. Gas prices have followed suit." Lane points out that rising gas prices are actually a sign of global economic recovery, and they spurred investment in fracking and other technology. Lane outlines various other factors that drive prices to point out that "American motorists are caught up in a vast global market for energy whose cyclical forces of supply and demand are more important than the short-term policy choices of the U.S. government."

David Carr in The New York Times on the White House and whistle-blowers When White House Press Secretary Jay Carney cited the journalists in Syria who died "to bring truth," ABC's Jake Tapper confronted him by suggesting that the administration only wants journalists to expose the truth abroad, but prosecutes leaks at home. Carr writes: "Fair point. The Obama administration, which promised during its transition to power that it would enhance 'whistle-blower laws to protect federal workers,' has been more prone than any administration in history in trying to silence and prosecute federal workers." He notes some of the more egregious cases, arguing that secrets leaked haven't been dangerous exposures but more standard whistle-blowing on corrupt practices. Yet leakers are prosecuted under the Espionage Act, essentially as spies, which Carr characterizes as an over-reach. Noting the authorized leaks of flattering news like the Osama bin Laden raid, Carr says "it's worth pointing out that the administration's emphasis on secrecy comes and goes depending on the news."

Kimberley Strassel in The Wall Street Journal on defining Rick Santorum As we approach Tuesday's Michigan primary showdown, Strassel takes a step back to examine the race between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. "The Michigan primary, and possibly the Republican presidential nomination, may come down to this one question: Who is Rick Santorum? Is he, as the former Pennsylvania senator avers, a consistent "full-spectrum" conservative ... Or is he, as his opponent Mitt Romney argues, little more than a Bush-era big-spender?" Strassel says Santorum has to answer charges that he voted with the big-spending Republican pack while in the Senate, and though there are nuanced reasons a legislator compromises with his colleagues, Santorum's losing the fight to prove this. Yet Santorum's stump speech is improving, and he's making a more persuasive case that Romney isn't the electable alternative because of his own past. "Mr. Santorum can't outrun his votes, and his big-picture strategy is arguably his best means of moving beyond them."

Stephen Trachtenberg in Bloomberg View on affirmative action The Supreme Court agreed to hear a case on affirmative action recently, a move most interpret to mean that a five judge majority will overturn the Court's previous ruling in favor of the practice in college admissions. "Each school will respond appropriately in its own way. But on the whole, the impact will be similar, if not uniform, across the country," writes Trachtenberg. Schools have already decided that using just standardized tests and high school grades would produce far too uniform a student body. They'll continue to make exceptions for less politically-charged, and less academically successful groups like men, students from underrepresented states, and the socioeconomically disadvantaged. Affirmative action was originally conceived to right a wrong, but it's led to a greater valuing of diverse student bodies as beneficial to everyone. "Schools will work within the law, as they have in the past, and they will be creative in responding to any court ruling as they continue to fulfill their mission."

Jane Harman in The Wall Street Journal on immunity for Assad Syria's dictator Bashar al-Assad is certainly responsible for the slaughter of thousands of his own citizens. "Looking to Yemen as a model, the U.S. could offer Assad the same immunity arrangement that former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh received in exchange for a quiet departure from power. This would save the lives of many Syrians and help break the dangerous political bond between Syria and its patron, Iran." Harman argues that the moves we've made in Yemen look likely to help ease violence there and spur a regime change. While an immunity plan isn't a perfect solution, failing to bring justice to Assad, it would save lives, and Harman argues it could help us strategically in our stand-off with Syria's ally Iran. " If Assad were allowed to leave with a guarantee of safe haven, the real work of encouraging a Syrian-led transition to a democratic and pluralistic political system could finally begin."

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