Gail Collins on What the Planned Parenthood Fight Is Really About  The New York Times' Gail Collins points out that, in the continued fight over federal funding for Planned Parenthood, the conservatives against funding for abortion don't seem to be any more keen on contraception--and you can only tell this by what they don't say. This is crucial to understanding a "disconnect," says Collins: "For eons now, people have been wondering why the two sides can’t just join hands and agree to work together to reduce the number of abortions by expanding the availability of family-planning services and contraception." But it turns out, despite broad support for and use of contraception even among Catholics, "many social conservatives are simply opposed to giving women the ability to have sex without the possibility of procreation," declares Collins. "What we have here is a wide-ranging attack on women's right to control their reproductive lives that the women themselves would strongly object to if it was stated clearly."

Ann Marlowe on Free Libya  Ann Marlowe delivers a positive dispatch from Benghazi, Libya to The Wall Street Journal this morning, describing a city full of excited and liberated people working together to pick up garbage and keep their streets safe as they brace themselves for life in "Free Libya." Marlowe observes that "many of the fears articulated by American observers are discounted here. No one believes that a civil war between east and west is likely." In fact, "the Transitional Council appears to expect a negotiated settlement to end the conflict, though not one that leaves in power Gadhafi, his family, or anyone associated with him."

Joshua Green on What Republicans Really Want  Atlantic editor Joshua Green warns readers that last week's near government shutdown was not the doing of "wild-eyed Tea Party freshmen bent on sowing discord and making puppets of the GOP leadership," but rather a strategic plan by veteran Congressional conservatives who "interpret last November's election results as having been a clear expression of the country's desire to cut back the size of government." Though a shutdown was averted, the coming battle over whether or not to raise the debt ceiling may see another shutdown threat, as several major Republicans have already declared their refusal to vote for debt expansion unless promised further spending and tax cuts. Green predicts that, "strange as it may now seem, the day could soon arrive when everyone regrets the budget deal that has just been struck and wishes instead that the government had shut down." Why? "A shutdown over the continuing resolution would have clarified who was right in this debate, without posing any real risk to the economy. "

Fareed Zakaria on Obama's Budget Proposal  Fareed Zakaria praises Obama's rebuttal to Paul Ryan's budget proposal, but notes the President "lost his courage in proposing sensible reforms to entitlement programs." Though Zakaria admits that Obama's proposal is likely better than Ryan's, presenting an "vision of an activist government that will make crucial investments in education, infrastructure and research," keeping up with other countries doing the same, Zakaria argues that "we need radical thinking to make [entitlements] affordable, if only to be able to spend on all the investments that Obama believes in," and that "the nation will probably also need to try every approach" to cost-cutting health care. "What's critical is that, finally, after years of kicking the can down the road, we are having the national debate about America's future."

Donal Luskin on Ayn Rand, Individualist  A movie version of Atlas Shrugged opens tomorrow. Donald Luskin clarifies in The Wall Street Journal today that the Republican party's recent appropriation of Ayn Rand "as a tea party Nostradamus" is a bit misguided, as "during Rand's lifetime, she was loathed by the mainstream conservative movement." Motivated by individualism, Rand was an atheist and a feminist who was outspokenly pro-choice, pro-racial integration, and opposed to both the Vietnam war and the draft. "If anything, Rand's life ought to ingratiate her to the left," Luskin proposes. "An immigrant woman, she arrived alone and penniless in the United States in 1925. Had she shown up today with the same tale, liberals would give her a driver's license and register her to vote." Though Conservatives like Paul Ryan now tout Rand's Atlas Shrugged as the capitalistic gospel, Luskin points out that, in the book, government regulation as well as big business pose equal threats to capitalism. "On tax day, with our tax dollars going to big government and subsidies for big business, let's remember it's the celebration of individualism that has kept 'Atlas Shrugged' among the best-selling novels of all time."