Editorial Roundup: Excerpts From Recent Editorials

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:


March 14

The New York Times on Congressman Steve King and xenophobia:

Many Americans have been marveling at the bald racism of Steve King, Republican member of Congress from Iowa’s Fourth District, who said this over the weekend on Twitter:

“Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

He was praising Geert Wilders, a far-right Dutch politician who wants to close his country to Muslims, whom he calls “scum.” What Mr. King said about civilization and babies was a little cryptic. On Monday, on CNN, he elaborated:

“There’s an American culture, American civilization. It’s raised within these children in these American homes. That’s one of the reasons why we require that the president of the United States be raised with an American experience. We’ve also aborted nearly 60 million babies in this country since 1973.

“There’s been this effort we’re going to have to replace that void with somebody else’s babies. That’s the push to bring in much illegal immigration into America, living in enclaves, refusing to assimilate into the American culture and civilization.”

Earth to Mr. King: Illegal immigration is not an abortion-linked repopulation scheme. Immigrants in America do assimilate. They have for centuries, and the latest newcomers will do the same, given the chance, as will their children and grandchildren. And if by “American culture and civilization” you mean a Christian, English-only whitopia, then a lot of Americans will object to your framing. Some might even wonder whether your hostility to American values reflects your own failure to assimilate. But that’s America for you.

Mr. King has been at this for years. He has proposed an electrified border fence, to shock migrants like cattle. He said young immigrants have calves like cantaloupes, from hauling marijuana over the border. His foreign babies tweet is more of the same: doomsaying with a side of hate.

It’s also a dot.

The dots have been piling up. There are so many, they are starting to connect themselves. The picture is of a president waging a toxic campaign of ethnocentrism and xenophobia, creating fear that foreign hordes threaten our existence. That campaign emboldens extremists like Mr. King and taints the entire G.O.P.

Mr. King has long been a leader of the “hell no” caucus, a handful of far-right House Republicans who trolled Congress over immigration reform. They couldn’t remake the system on their own, but during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama years, with the collusion of congressional leaders, they shut down everyone else’s attempts to fix it.

Now Donald Trump is in power, and Mr. King is enjoying a moment of ideological solidarity. A few in his party have condemned his latest rant, but the White House has been silent. Mr. King’s worldview harmonizes nicely with that of Mr. Trump and the architects of his anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim policies, Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was among the hardest of Senate immigration hard-liners.

Together they are pushing an old nativists’ dream: a “self-deportation” strategy, also called “attrition through enforcement,” which envisions making America whiter by making life intolerable for unauthorized immigrants. Their crackdown is hurting not only those here illegally but also refugees, asylum seekers, even students and guest workers.

Mr. Trump has worked himself into a frenzy over immigration and crime, and insists on depicting Europe as an immigrant hellhole. “You look at what’s happening,” he said last month. “We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?”

Nobody, actually. But that’s what he said. Mr. Trump has made his ignorance, or cynicism, quite clear. He doesn’t know or care how immigration works. He doesn’t understand the damage his wall and deportation surge will do to the economy and the American character, or maybe he just cares more about harnessing bigotry.

Meanwhile, the damage is piling up. Bomb threats terrorize mosques and synagogues; vandals attack Jewish cemeteries; confused racists attack South Asians. In these conditions, hate effloresces. In the United States, intolerance is in breakout.

That is why Mr. King — and his journey from the fringe — matters.




March 11

The Detroit News on the plan to replace the Affordable Care Act:

Debate in Congress about the fate of Obamacare should begin with this truth: The Affordable Care Act in its current form is disintegrating, and without a substantive fix Americans across the economic spectrum will either lose their health insurance or be priced out of using their policies.

Insurance companies are fleeing the Obamacare exchanges. Only a half dozen of the 23 original ACA exchanges, formed with $2.4 billion in taxpayer startup money, remain. One-third of America has just one exchange insurer to choose from, and in some places none.

Insurers are bailing because the financial assumptions made by the Obama administration were way off base, and they’re losing money. Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Michigan, for example, lost $68 million on individual policies last year.

And it’s not just customers of the exchanges that are impacted. Instead of containing health insurance costs, Obamacare has sent them skyrocketing. Rising premiums make policies unaffordable for many Americans, and high co-pays and deductibles render the policies all but useless.

The healthy, young Americans whose coerced participation in the insurance market was supposed to control policy costs aren’t buying.

In short, Obamacare has failed in its mission of providing all Americans with affordable health insurance.

Congressional Republicans last week introduced their solution, which has the blessing of President Donald Trump.

It is not perfect. Conservative Republicans are denouncing it as a new entitlement because it continues heavy subsidies for individual insurance buyers. Democrats are objecting to any changes in Obamacare.

But it is a solid starting point for the unavoidable revamping of the health insurance system. Both the president and GOP congressional leaders say they are open to negotiating.

The proposed legislation provides a basis for forging a solution, and the hard-liners in both parties should recognize the urgency of getting something done before the current system collapses.

The GOP plan holds onto some of the more popular elements of the Affordable Care Act, including protecting those with pre-existing conditions and allowing children to stay on parental policies until age 26.

And it adds some significant reforms that were included in the Republican Better Way plan that was widely supported by GOP lawmakers last year.

It gets rid of most of Obamacare’s taxes, coverage mandates and regulations and instead provides incentives for individuals to buy insurance on the open market. Those without employer-provided health insurance would receive age-adjusted tax credits to replace the ACA exchange subsidies ranging from $2,000 to $14,000.

That provision begins to erase the unfair aspect of the current system, in which employers can deduct the cost of insurance policies but individuals can’t.

Medicaid would be converted to block grants to the states, awarded on a per-capita basis and adjusted for inflation. This will allow governors to innovate to cut costs and craft plans suitable for each state, and provide incentives for limiting the program’s unchecked expansion.

The GOP Freedom Caucus must come to the reality that Obamacare can’t simply be repealed and the free market restored. The pre-ACA insurance market doesn’t exist anymore, and Americans won’t stand for having 20 million people suddenly tossed off coverage. What they should be seeking is a plan that can get through Congress.

This bill can be shaped to build a consensus, if hard-line Republicans and obstinate Democrats are open to a realistic solution.




March 14

The Washington Post on Turkey’s spat with Germany and the Netherlands:

ABOUT 150 journalists have been thrown in jail, and about 170 media organizations closed down. University professors are being marched in chains to prison. The government fired more than 3,000 members of the judiciary, and thousands more civil servants have been ejected from their jobs. Smartphone users are being arrested for using an encrypted app. Sound like a purge in China or Russia? Think again. This is Turkey, a NATO member that a decade ago was regarded as a model Muslim democracy. Now, under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it has become one of the most repressive regimes in the world.

Since a July 15 failed coup attempt, Mr. Erdogan has launched waves of purges, claiming that the self-exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, was behind the overthrow effort, and accusing thousands of people of subversion and belonging to terrorist organizations. As the State Department noted in its 2016 human rights report, many were detained “with little clarity on the charges and evidence against them.” The purges are accelerating as Turkey nears an April referendum on whether to give Mr. Erdogan new powers. Meanwhile, a flood of educated bureaucrats, academics and businesspeople are desperately trying to flee Turkey to Greece or Georgia.

Recently, the authorities arrested a Turkish-German newspaper correspondent, Deniz Yucel, who writes for Die Welt, on charges of “disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization” and “inciting people to hatred and enmity.” His real offense may be that he published articles about the hacking of private emails of Turkey’s energy minister, the son-in-law of Mr. Erdogan. German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the arrest as “bitter and disappointing.” Mr. Erdogan would hear none of it, declaring the journalist a “German agent” and a terrorist.

Mr. Erdogan’s pursuit of expanded power in the referendum has also stirred incendiary arguments between Turkey and both Germany and the Netherlands after Turkish ministers were prevented from addressing expatriate Turks in those nations. When two municipalities in Germany canceled campaign events, Mr. Erdogan declared it was “not different from Nazi practices.” Ms. Merkel rightly replied that such language “can’t be justified.” Ms. Merkel walks a tightrope at home over the delicate issue of refugees from the Middle East. Turkey is restraining the tide and is a major trading partner with Germany. But faced with Mr. Erdogan’s repression, the German chancellor is proving to be a welcome voice of conscience, filling a vacuum left by the United States.

Since President Trump took office, the State Department has been largely silent about Turkey’s downward spiral. While the 2016 human rights report was filled with detail about the crackdowns, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson didn’t attend the March 3 release of the report. Mr. Tillerson has asserted that he cares about protecting human rights abroad, but what will he do about it?




March 12

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on the Trump administration’s foreign-policy moves:

Two new U.S. moves related to Syria raise the inevitable question of what is going on in foreign policy under the new administration of President Donald Trump. The first is an increase in the U.S. force level in Syria, announced Thursday, of 400 Army, Marine and Special Forces personnel, in effect doubling U.S. troops there involved in the now six-year-long multiparty civil war. The ostensible reason for the increase is to aid Kurdish and other, Turkish-backed forces in the campaign to take Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s declared capital in Syria.

The other new U.S. enterprise, also announced Thursday, is the convening of an international conference in Washington, March 22-23, to discuss fighting terrorism. Some 68 nations and international organizations are invited. Russia is not — which in effect abandons the idea that it is on our side in the battle against international terrorism. Also, perhaps snubbing it takes some of the starch out of the suggestion that the Trump administration is too close to Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. China isn’t invited, either.

There may be some thought in Washington that Raqqa can be made to fall either before or during the U.S.-hosted meeting, although that is a risky gamble given the months it has taken for Iraqi and U.S. forces to take Mosul from IS, a feat not yet accomplished.

There are some flaws in what appears to be the new, two-pronged U.S. effort. The first is that Raqqa, the town the new U.S. forces are being sent to take, doesn’t amount to much. A hundred miles east of Aleppo, population 200,000 or so, under IS control since 2013, it is likely that IS forces will simply fade away from Raqqa rather than fight and die to hold it. Victory there would be a minor prize, considering the U.S. investment put into it.

A second problem is that the Kurdish troops the U.S. is supporting in the effort to take Raqqa are considered by NATO ally Turkey to be a bitter enemy. (Turkey also has troops in Syria engaged in the effort to take Raqqa.) So who takes Raqqa and who will govern it after the presumed victory?

Not inviting the Russians to the Washington anti-terrorism conference is probably a mistake also, although the argument for excluding them is somewhat clear. Russia does honestly consider itself engaged in the global war against terrorism, based in part on the Moscow government’s own problems with Islamic extremists in the Caucasus and elsewhere. It could be better to take them at their word on that issue and include them in the late-March Washington deliberations.

China, also not invited, considers Muslim Uighur separatists in the west of China to be Islamic terrorists.

There aren’t that many issues that the United States, Russia and China agree on, but fighting international terrorism is definitely one of them. Besides, the Washington-based media could occupy themselves during the conference trying to figure out with whom in the Trump administration the Russian delegates are meeting, publicly and privately.




March 14

The Wall Street Journal on recent election results in India:

India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies won a remarkable 80% of the assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous state, in election results announced on Saturday. This political earthquake will boost Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s chances of re-election in 2019 and give him a fresh chance to advance economic reforms.

The opposition Congress Party and its allies thought Mr. Modi crippled his party’s chances when he withdrew almost 90% of the country’s banknotes last November. The resulting chaos hit the poor hard and slowed the economy. But voters saw the move as necessary to tackle corruption, crime and tax evasion.

It is tempting to attribute the BJP’s wins in Uttar Pradesh and two other states to Mr. Modi’s promises to reinvigorate manufacturing and create jobs. But Mr. Modi said little about economic reform in his stump speeches. Instead he focused on development broadly, making government more responsive to the poor and continuing the anticorruption campaign.

As always, caste played an important role. Mr. Modi’s strategist Amit Shah hand-picked the candidates for each constituency rather than using the usual party loyalists and quota-fillers. Fresh faces from backward castes drew votes from these key communities, even as the BJP delivered a message of pan-Hindu unity and rejection of the incumbent Samajwadi Party’s caste-based politics.

That shrewd coordination shows the importance of a strong national leader. By contrast, Congress is saddled with Rahul Gandhi, whose indecisiveness and lack of charisma have left the party rudderless. Congress won in Punjab only because the incumbent BJP-allied Akali Dal Party saw its support collapse after communal violence.

The question is whether Mr. Modi will use some of his political capital to jump-start reform immediately or wait until after 2019. Mr. Modi has been stymied by the BJP’s lack of a majority in Parliament’s upper house, which is largely selected by state assemblies.

Saturday’s wins will increase the government’s leverage in the upper house, but only after a delay. Uttar Pradesh is not due to replace its legislators until April 2018. By then the looming general election will put much-needed but unpopular changes to labor laws and land acquisition on hold.

While big-ticket reform is unlikely in the short run, Saturday’s results suggest an ongoing shift in Indian politics. Mr. Modi continues to sell a vision of “new India” in which government removes obstacles to the poor improving their own lives. This is a clear break from Congress’s politics of handouts and special privileges.

Mr. Modi will likely use his renewed political capital over the next two years to tackle several bottlenecks in the economy. The state banks need recapitalization so that private companies can borrow and invest. Construction of roads and railways still lags demand.

But only by undertaking far-reaching deregulation can the government meet its goal of expanding manufacturing to 25% of the economy in 2020 from the current 16%. And without that industrial boom, India can’t create jobs for a labor force that adds a million new workers every month. Without bolder action he can’t deliver the opportunities he promised.




March 13

The Boston Herald on how the U.S. government should treat states that have legalized recreational marijuana:

Massachusetts needs clarity from the Trump administration about how it plans to treat states that have legalized recreational marijuana, since that arrangement conflicts with federal law. We suspect U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be more eager to work with some Massachusetts officials than others to clear up the confusion.

Obama administration policy was essentially to turn a blind eye to states that made pot legal for recreational use. But White House press secretary Sean Spicer last month said almost offhandedly that the Trump administration may step up enforcement. Questions abound.

State Treasurer Deb Goldberg, whose office must implement the voter-approved pot law, last week wrote to Sessions asking for “further explanation.”

“Fiscal responsibility requires predictability, and I want to ensure that we fully understand the DOJ’s intentions,” she wrote.

U.S. senators from the “pot states” have also written to Sessions, asking him to continue the Obama administration policy. The first signature on that letter was that of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren. And in her case Sessions may not be in a rush to reply.

Sessions, of course, has been on the receiving end of relentless vitriol from Warren since he was nominated to be AG. His career, she said, has been “defined by hostility to civil rights, immigrants & the rule of law.” She suggested he is a racist, sexist bigot; decried his “radical hatred” and called him dangerous. She was rapped on the knuckles for maligning Sessions on the Senate floor — a punishment she then used as a fundraising tool ($25 T-shirts).

Amid revelations about Sessions’ undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador Warren called on him to resign. But now she needs a favor.

OK, so it’s not actually a “favor” when a senator consults the sitting AG on a serious policy matter. And we would expect Sessions to set aside any personal pique in fulfilling his duties. (U.S. Sen. Ed Markey also voted against Sessions, and also signed the letter.)

But it’s hardly helpful to the folks back home when a senator puts her ideological interests before the practical interests of her state. Demonizing the party that holds the White House and controls Congress may score her yet another hit on MSNBC — but how does it serve Massachusetts?



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