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Pundits & Editorials

Kristol thinks Obama has been studying his Marx reader and pundits explain why the Vatican and the White House need each other. Plus: A new definition of campus diversity:

• Asking "What can we expect from Benedict?", in USA Today religion professor Stephen Prothero outlines the state of Catholicism in American on the eve of Pope Benedict XVI's visit.

• "Benedict XVI's White House visit at last signals the true normalization of U.S.-Vatican relations and arrives at a difficult time for both parties. In a multipolar world, they can no longer exercise hegemony, whether political or religious," observes Italian journalist Massimo Franco in the Los Angeles Times.


• "Benedict XVI is an odd man for our season," thinks Suzanne Fields. "Benedict is a tough icon for a soft age, unapologetic for defending the ancient code of morality, virtue and rectitude by which everyone can measure himself."

• "As Pope Benedict XVI visits the United States, will he likewise be shielded from a scandal that has brought an unprecedented harvest of shame for the Roman church in America (and elsewhere)? I am speaking, of course, of the plague of clerical sexual abuse. Or will he deal forthrightly with the matter, as needs to be done?" Emmett Coyne, a Roman Catholic priest, asks in the Washington Post.

• "There's a lot that could be done to perk up our sagging confidence" in the economy. "That won't happen, however, unless the next president is someone who understands what went wrong. And right now, that doesn't look at all certain," worries Paul Krugman.


• "If substantial numbers of health-care providers shook off the insurance monkey on their back, en masse, and the supply of providers was substantially increased by opening more medical schools, the result would be a more honest, cost-effective system benefiting everyone. Except the insurance companies," argues Dr. Jonathan Kellerman in the Wall Street Journal

• "Politicians are devising economic stimulus measures to encourage consumers to spend more. These measures will cost taxpayers $200 billion or more. This is not money well spent," judges economist Edward E. Leamer in the New York Times.

• "Unless working people can exercise their right to lift their families out of poverty and exploitation, trade cannot strengthen democracy or advance a better world. And until they can exercise their fundamental human rights without fear that they will end up in a garbage dump... there should be no trade agreement with Colombia," AFL-CIO President John Sweeney insists in the Washington Post.

Mary Anastasia O'Grady finds support for the Colombia Free Trade Agreement among the country's labor leaders. Gustavo Palacio, "a Colombian labor leader in a region that was a killing field until President Álvaro Uribe took office in 2002, wants the trade deal to go through."


• "Foreign reporters highlighted a few weeping monks decrying Tibet's lack of freedom in the Jokhang Temple," scoffs Anne Wu of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in the Boston Globe. "Didn't the young Han Chinese man shown separately on Sinovision, whose teenage sister died in the fire set by the mobs, deserve equal coverage?"

• In the Los Angeles Times, Mike Chinoy, a senior fellow at the Pacific Council on International Policy, contends that "it will be up to" South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and President Bush "to craft a response" to North Korea "that will keep the nuclear negotiations and North-South rapprochement on track -- or face an increasingly dangerous situation on the Korean Peninsula."

Asa Hutchinson sees an overlooked area of vulnerability to terrorist threats. "We continue to strengthen our borders, transportation networks, critical infrastructure and intelligence. As we continue to strengthen our homeland security, though, we cannot fail to shore up our nation's financial infrastructures."

• "The United States has an Islam problem," Roger Cohen notices. "Say the name of the religion of almost 20 percent of the world's population and images of bearded, Wahhabi extremists surge.... A central challenge of the next president will be reinventing America's relations with the Islamic world."

• Evaluating the controversy sparked by a vodka ad "featuring a map of the American Southwest as Mexican territory," Gregory Rodriguez writes that "raw fear of Mexican secessionism is unfounded, code for racial fear and enmity. That's what the Absolut controversy means, and it's enough to drive you to drink."

• "Foot-dragging in filling judicial vacancies is a growing problem." President Bill Clinton "got a Republican-controlled Senate to confirm 15 of his appellate court nominees in his final two years in office. So far the Democratic Senate has confirmed only seven Bush nominees," John Fund counts.

• Acknowledging the Bush administration's rush to invade Iraq, in the Wall Street Journal the American Enterprise Institute's Michael Rubin expresses concern over the next foreign policy challenge. "Now it appears that it is Democrats who are making the mistake of being too optimistic. On Iran, North Korea, China, Russia and Venezuela, they dismiss realism and embrace the most optimistic assessments of our adversaries."

• "Immediately after Mark Penn resigned as" Hillary Rodham Clinton's "chief strategist a week ago, he was on the phone with at least two prominent Democrats to assure them that nothing had changed. He said that -- though lacking a title now -- he still was polling and crafting her message," Robert Novak reports.

William Kristol traces recent statements by Barack Obama back to Karl Marx's writings on religion. "It's one thing for a German thinker to assert that 'religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature.' It's another thing for an American presidential candidate to claim that we 'cling to ... religion' out of economic frustration."

• For more on Obama's remarks, see Earlybird's Campaign News section.

• "Is Robert Andrews crazy to take on Frank Lautenberg?" Stuart Rothenberg (subscription) wonders, referring to the primary challenge facing the Democratic senator from New Jersey.

• "Don't shut Americans out," Nat Hentoff pleads in response to Justices Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas' position that "TV coverage of their oral arguments... would introduce an 'insidious dynamic' into the proceedings."

From The Editorial Boards...

• "With foreclosures running at about 20,000 per week, at least 100,000 more families are likely to lose their homes before Congress passes a relief bill. And even then, the measure may fail to stanch the problem unless Congress comes up with something that is significantly better than proposals currently in either chamber," the New York Times frets.

• "There is now a bipartisan chorus in favor of helping lenders write down loans and cut borrowers' interest rates," notes the Los Angeles Times. "The gradual shift among Republicans exposes one of the more troubling aspects of the sub-prime mortgage meltdown."

• "The sad truth about America's current political culture is that it no longer looks at the tax code as a way of efficiently raising revenue to provide for the common good. If it did, it would not tolerate a system so complex and subject to manipulation," asserts USA Today.

• The Wall Street Journal finds at least some good in the long presidential campaign season. "The Democratic Party fight is helping us learn that there's more to Barack Obama than the eloquent, post-partisan, disciplined purveyor of 'hope' that he typically projects."

• The Washington Post wants to hold Obama to his earlier pledge to accept public financing. "The real test of a candidate is whether he will stick by an announced principle even when that's against his own interest."

• "When the United States ambassador to Iraq suggests that a precipitous withdrawal of American troops from that country could lead to a bloodbath on the scale of the Rwandan genocide [of] the 1990s, serious people need to listen," the Washington Times points out.

• "Across America, the nation's select colleges are expanding their concept of diversity," applauds the Christian Science Monitor. "It's not just about improving racial and ethnic balance on campus, but also increasing the percentage of low-income students -- which is even lower than for minorities."

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