OTHER VOICES

A GOP mess

Posted Dec. 15, 2011, at 5:32 p.m.

During one of the worst economic times in American history, one might think providing a challenger to oppose the mediocre President Barack Obama would be a simple task for the Republican Party, the party that gave us Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. It has proved to be anything but simple …

Almost a year ago, Sarah Palin seemed like a contender. She flirted with the idea, fell behind in the polls and has, for the moment, faded from the fray.

Real estate tycoon “The Donald” Trump also seemed to be considering running for president, but decided not to leave the relative sanity of the private sector.

Michele Bachmann stepped out strongly, until several gaffes and an unflattering photo on Newsweek’s cover overshadowed her message.

In stepped Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose own flubs made Bachmann look like one smart cookie. … Ron Paul’s libertarian-lite positions on unions, the EPA and the military could alienate many voters. …Herman Cain and his catchy 9-9-9 tax plan emerged as a possible formula for GOP success — until allegations of sexual improprieties forced him out of the running.

Now the race seems to be down to Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.

Gingrich has already dealt with his own rattling skeletons, but is a dichotomy. He’s the best known but also the most divisive candidate. Romney could be a strong opponent against Obama, but his Massachusetts health care plan still haunts him, and his Mormon faith is a problem for some religious conservatives.

What a mess. Someone from the Republican Party really ought to take the reins and run the race, or Barack Obama will be able to sleepwalk his way back into the White House.

Northwest Florida Daily News Fort Walton Beach (Dec. 15)

Teen emergency contraception

President Obama had pledged to run an administration that would keep politics out of decisions that should be decided on the basis of scientific judgment.

His health secretary’s decision to overrule a Food and Drug Administration recommendation and prevent the Plan B morning-after pill from being sold over the counter appeared to be an unsettling example of politics trumping science.

Major medical groups that supported making this contraceptive readily available included the American Academy of Pediatrics, which argued that the morning-after pill was safer than some existing over-the-counter medications. Pediatricians and women’s health advocates had pushed for expanding Plan B’s accessibility to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies.

But Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the president himself relied on more emotional arguments — namely, the prospect that girls as young as 11 would be buying the pill (which costs about $50 a dose) without parental consent.

The sad reality of this decision is that teens without access to emergency contraception are going to end up having abortions or having children they are not prepared to raise or support.

San Francisco Chronicle (Dec. 14)

The new Oliver Twists

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has come under fire recently for comments made about work ethic and poor families.

“Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits for working, and have nobody around them who works,” Gingrich said Dec. 1 in Des Moines, Iowa. “So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash,’ unless it’s illegal.”

The first statement is an unfair generalization. About 60 percent of families below the poverty line have at least one employed parent, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Gingrich’s words came in response to a question about comments he made Nov. 19 on child labor laws while visiting Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Gingrich awkwardly clarified his comments in a recent radio interview, saying: “Kids shouldn’t work in coal mines; kids shouldn’t work in heavy industry,” but added that he envisions eight to 10 child janitors hired for every two union janitors eliminated.

Such thinking seems motivated just as much by anti-union zeal as it is by a genuine desire to empower young people.

If schools can find a way to reward students for extracurricular activities, such as helping teachers in their classrooms after school, we’re all for it. There are reasonable ways to teach responsibility without creating a new generation of Oliver Twists.

Kids should learn the value of hard work in the classroom, not as wage laborers, before they turn 14.

The Oneonta (N.Y.) Daily Star (Dec. 15)

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