“Mitt Romney is grinding his way to the Republican presidential nomination not by winning hearts but by imposing his will on a party that keeps resisting him. He is assembling the peripheral elements of the GOP as his rivals divide the votes of the passionate believers. His campaign is part John McCain, part Michael Dukakis and part Richard Nixon,” writes Brookings’ E.J. Dionne. (Washington Post)

Politico’s Arena asks: Will the canine story dog Mitt Romney? CEPR’s Dean Baker says “It is certainly reasonable to ask what sort of schmuck puts a dog in a carrier on a car roof.”

AEI’s Michael Barone says Obama’s mode is always deferral. Iran for example: “I draw the conclusion that Netanyahu will very soon order an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear-weapons facilities. Meanwhile, Obama is kicking the can down the road, announcing Tuesday that the United States will participate in further negotiations with Iran.” (National Review)

The economic fallout from bombing Iran. (Bloomberg)

“Worse, attempts to stop Iran’s program militarily will bolster its resolve to pursue a nuclear deterrent. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said the military solution will make Iranians ‘absolutely committed to obtaining nuclear weapons.’ He continued, ‘. . . they will just go deeper and more covert.’

So if Iran lives to fight another day, with the ayatollahs still standing, hawks in Washington will surely argue that the U.S. cannot afford to show weakness — and that our credibility depends on staying behind to create a friendly state in Tehran,” write Malou Innocent and Jonathan Owen. (New York Daily News)

Americans are sick of the Middle East. (National Review)

CAP’s Larry Korb: Time to rein in the defense budget. (Politico)

Charles Murray, with no solutions: “Some of the critiques [of Coming Apart] are fair, some are frivolous. But there’s one — “He doesn’t offer any solutions!” — that I can’t refute. The reason is simple: Solutions that are remotely practicable right now would not do much good.” (New York Times)

Room for Debate asks: How fair are hate crime laws? (New York Times)

Brookings’ Suzanne Maloney and Mehdi Khalaji of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy discuss diplomacy vs. military on dealing with Iran’s nuclear question: