Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Washington Post on how the Senate is handling President Donald Trump's impeachment trial:
Senate Republicans on Tuesday laid the groundwork for a truncated trial of President Trump that would be a perversion of justice. Proposals by Democrats to obtain critical evidence were voted down. Unless several senators changed their positions, votes to acquit Mr. Trump on the House’s charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress could come as soon as next week without any testimony by witnesses or review of key documents. That would be unprecedented compared with previous presidential impeachments. It would gravely damage the only mechanism the Constitution provides for checking a rogue president.
Yet the rigging of the trial process may not be the most damaging legacy of the exhibition Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) is orchestrating in full collaboration with the White House. That might flow from the brazen case being laid out by Mr. Trump’s lawyers. The defense brief they filed Monday argued that the president “did absolutely nothing wrong” when he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch investigations of Joe Biden and a Russian-promoted conspiracy theory about the 2016 election. It further contends that Mr. Trump was entirely within his rights when he refused all cooperation with the House impeachment inquiry, including rejecting subpoenas for testimony and documents. It says he cannot be impeached because he violated no law.
By asking senators to ratify those positions, Mr. Trump and his lawyers are, in effect, seeking consent for an extraordinary expansion of his powers. An acquittal vote would confirm to Mr. Trump that he is free to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election and to withhold congressionally appropriated aid to induce such interference. It would suggest that he can press foreign leaders to launch a criminal investigation of any American citizen he designates, even in the absence of a preexisting U.S. probe, or any evidence.
The defense would also set the precedent that presidents may flatly refuse all cooperation with any congressional inquiry, even though the House’s impeachment power is spelled out in the Constitution. And it would establish that no president may be impeached unless he or she could be convicted of violating a federal statute — no matter the abuse of power. Those are principles that Republicans will regret if they conclude that a Democratic executive has violated his or her oath of office. Yet Mr. Trump demands they adopt his maximalist position regardless of the consequences.
We know that many Republican senators do not accept this unacceptable defense. Some, such as Rob Portman (Ohio), Patrick J. Toomey (Pa.), Mitt Romney (Utah), Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Susan Collins (Maine), have publicly criticized Mr. Trump for calling on Ukraine or China to investigate Mr. Biden. Mr. Portman and Mr. Toomey have taken the position that Mr. Trump’s behavior was wrong but not worthy of impeachment — a response that would, at least in theory, preserve some guardrails on the president’s behavior.
Mr. Trump’s defense is designed to destroy those guardrails. If Republican senators go along with it, they will not only be excusing behavior that many of them believe to be improper. They will be enabling further assaults by Mr. Trump on the foundations of American democracy.
The Wall Street Journal on how the House is handling President Donald Trump's impeachment trial:
The Senate impeachment trial began Tuesday with political theater over rules. Senate Republicans prefer an expeditious trial while Democrats who rushed to impeach in the House are suddenly demanding witnesses and crying “coverup.” So let’s break down what’s really going on in the fight over witnesses.
By our deadline, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell looked set to keep his caucus together for his organizing resolution. His framework provides Democratic House impeachment managers 24 hours over three working days to make their case, followed by the same for a White House defense. Bill Clinton’s trial also provided each side 24 hours, though neither ended up using even half.
But Democrats are demanding that the Senate also call former National Security Adviser John Bolton ; acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney ; Mulvaney adviser Robert Blair ; and White House budget official Michael Duffey.
This is more than a little disingenuous. House Democrats could have gone to court to challenge President Trump’s assertion of executive privilege over testimony, and the House did sue initially to compel former Bolton deputy Charles Kupperman. But House Democrats abandoned their demands when litigation didn’t fit their rushed political timeline. They declared instead that the existing evidence more than justified impeachment. Yet now their “overwhelming” evidence has become a GOP “coverup.”
We wouldn’t mind hearing from Mr. Bolton. But even if he does appear as a witness, he’d have to abide by Mr. Trump’s claims of executive privilege. A President doesn’t give up that privilege in an impeachment trial. The difference with Mr. Clinton’s trial is that Mr. Clinton litigated his privilege claims against independent counsel Kenneth Starr before impeachment. Yet Democrats still opposed most witnesses, including Monica Lewinsky.
Maybe Democrats hope witnesses will turn up something more damaging on Mr. Trump, but our guess is that the real game is political and geared to taking back the Senate. Democrats figure Republicans will vote down witnesses, and they can run from here to November claiming the trial was “rigged” and hid the truth.
We think Republicans are justified in voting to convict or acquit based on the current evidence without witnesses. But if they want to rebut the coverup claims, then call the Democrats’ bluff. Give them witnesses, but insist on calling those the President’s team would also like to call such as Hunter and Joe Biden.
Democrats say this is irrelevant to Mr. Trump’s behavior, but it is directly relevant to their charge that Mr. Trump acted with a “corrupt motive” when he asked for an investigation of Hunter Biden’s Ukraine activities. The White House says Mr. Trump was legitimately worried about corruption, including whether Ukraine turned a blind eye to natural gas company Burisma, which had Hunter Biden on its board.
If the Senate calls more witnesses, let’s hear both sides of this dispute. Hunter Biden can explain what he told his father about his business in Ukraine, and Joe Biden can explain the ethical wisdom of firing a Ukrainian prosecutor who was investigating Burisma. There’s also former Obama energy czar Amos Hochstein, who raised concerns with Joe Biden and his aides about Hunter’s Ukrainian ties. And let’s hear from Chris Heinz, former secretary of state John Kerry’s stepson, who broke business ties with Hunter because his Burisma work was “unacceptable.”
This would be a spectacle, and our guess is that Democrats really don't want to hear more witnesses. They merely want to pretend they do, get Republicans to vote against witnesses, and use that as an issue in November. Perhaps Republicans should call them on it.
The StarTribune on President Trump and climate change:
President Donald Trump rightly touted “America’s extraordinary prosperity” in his speech at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday. But his history of overlooking the global component of that success is wrongheaded, especially because transnational threats can reverse the uninterrupted U.S. economic growth that began during the Obama era.
Chief among these threats is climate change, which the president has previously called a hoax. He didn’t go that far in Davos, but he did decry the “perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse.”
No, conditions aren’t apocalyptic. (Unless you’re a kangaroo in Australia’s wildfires — or if not Down Under, down south in coastal U.S. states that are requesting billions in aid to mitigate the impact of climate change while never mentioning the term, according to a New York Times analysis of the requests).
A more adult reckoning came from 17-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, who told the gathered elites in Davos that “the facts are clear, but they’re still too uncomfortable for you to address.” That alacrity was amplified by a more august source, 81-year-old WEF founder Klaus Schwab, who said that “the world is in a state of emergency and the window to act is closing fast.”
States of emergency are possible because of other transnational threats, too. Responding to them multilaterally is much more effective, especially in cases like pandemics (possibly including the coronavirus China is straining to contain), as well as the borderless scourge of terrorism. Trump will meet with Pakistani, Iraqi and Kurdish leaders in Davos, but his “America First” foreign policy that’s led to the abrogation of climate, nuclear and trade accords undermines U.S. security.
This includes the economic security that undergirds everything else. It’s welcome news that the administration reached a “phase one” trade deal with China, and that in the midst of Washington’s gridlock an accord between the U.S., Mexico and Canada was passed on a bipartisan basis.
The progress on trade — as well as fiscal stimulus from 49 central banks — was among factors cited Monday by the International Monetary Fund as it predicted global growth of 3.3% in 2020, up from last year’s 2.9%. But IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva also noted ominous echoes of a previous era. “The beginning of this decade (has been) eerily reminiscent of the 1920s — high inequality, rapid spread of technology and huge risks and rewards in finance,” Georgieva said. “For the analogy to stop right there and go no further, acting together in a coordinated way is absolutely critical.”
Trump’s triumphal tone at the Alpine resort came amid a mountain of evidence that he engaged in the wrong kind of internationalism — leveraging Ukraine’s government to interfere in the U.S. election. The impeachment trial that began Tuesday is not a “hoax,” as the president again mischaracterized it in Davos. For Congress, it’s a constitutional duty.
Indeed, good governance and the rule of law are the roots of the economic strength Trump talked about in Davos.
China Daily on combating the Wuhan coronavirus:
President Xi Jinping said on Monday that the relevant departments must put people's health first, after it was revealed that there had been a sharp increase in the number of people infected with a new strain of coronavirus. His words should prompt the mobilization of all available resources to prevent a repeat of the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic of 2003.
His remarks came after health authorities on Monday confirmed many new cases of the virus and a third death from the outbreak, bringing the total number of reported cases to 224. That the new cases include people outside Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, where the virus was first detected last month, marks the spread of the virus to other parts of the country. And outside the Chinese mainland, there have been confirmed cases in countries such as Thailand, Japan and the Republic of Korea.
To be fair, medical workers have done a good job by identifying the novel virus in such a short period of time. Yet in hindsight, Wuhan local health commission officials might have been hasty in considering human-to-human transmission unlikely, citing a lack of clear evidence when the first cases emerged, which were traced to a local seafood market believed to be the epicenter of the outbreak.
Since then, there have been reports about patients diagnosed with the new coronavirus who had no exposure to the market. In response to the latest development, Li Gang, director and chief physician of the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention, on Sunday said “possibility of limited human-to-human transmission cannot be ruled out,” though he insisted “the risk of continuous human-to-human transmission is low.”
Yet such remarks offer little reassurance given that after the SARS virus first infected humans, it mutated into a more virulent strain. And the stark reality the country is facing is a wider spread of the virus fueled by the Spring Festival travel rush that will see hundreds of millions of people traveling nationwide or overseas during the holidays.
The National Health Commission said in a statement on Sunday that the pneumonia outbreak is still “preventable and controllable,” and undoubtedly lessons were learned from the SARS epidemic. Yet the fact that the source of the virus has still not been identified and that its transmission path has not been completely mapped calls for urgent and more effective detection and quarantine measures to curb the spread of the epidemic.
The health authorities can never be too cautious when dealing with public health hazards, especially when fighting a completely new strain of deadly virus. While measures such as beefing up monitoring and disinfection efforts, and conducting temperature detection at airports and train stations, as Wuhan has already taken, are indispensible, it is also important to keep the public fully informed.
This is a lesson learned during the SARS outbreak at a very high cost in human lives. The country should not have to learn that lesson all over again.
The Los Angles Times on 2nd amendment sanctuary cities:
Nearly two years ago, the governing board of Effingham County, Ill., passed a resolution declaring itself a “sanctuary county” and barring “employees from enforcing the unconstitutional actions of the state government.” Those actions? Gun control laws, which are resoundingly unpopular in the rural county some 215 miles south of Chicago.
Since then, more than 400 other local jurisdictions in 20 states (including the city of Needles here in California) have adopted similar resolutions, some with more bite than others, but all in defiance of the law.
The simple fact is: Local governments cannot decide willy-nilly that if they don’t like a state law, they don’t have to enforce it. While states may have powers unique from the federal government’s, no such duality exists at the municipal level. Cities have only the powers granted to them by their states.
The 2nd Amendment sanctuary movement adopted its name as an obvious play on the immigration sanctuary movement. But those movements are related in name only, and it is possible to support the latter without supporting the former. Immigration codes, after all, are part of federal civil law, not criminal law, and local jurisdictions have the right to decide that they don’t want to use local tax dollars to enforce federal civil codes. They may not impede the federal government’s ability to enforce its immigration codes, but they don’t have to cooperate.
The 2nd Amendment sanctuary movement, by contrast, involves local authorities seeking to negate state criminal laws governing who can own a firearm and under what conditions. Those are laws that are by definition supposed to be enforced by local police agencies. And unlike situations where laws are not enforced because of so-called “prosecutorial discretion,” the gun sanctuary jurisdictions are not claiming that a lack of resources keeps them from enforcing the laws, but merely that they don’t agree with the laws.
Many of the jurisdictions seem to recognize that they lack the authority to ignore the state laws, so they frame their resolutions somewhat ambiguously — if a gun law is unconstitutional, it won’t be enforced. But they don’t spell out what, in their opinion, makes a law unconstitutional or who gets to decide. So it’s as much political theater as anything else, a baring of the teeth against disliked laws, but rarely one that amounts to much.
Yet it’s still dangerous because it represents a further fraying of the national fabric. Democracy works only as far as people have faith in it. If local jurisdictions dislike state laws, there are democratic mechanisms for changing them. Laws that have been duly passed and enacted should be followed; that’s what the rule of law means. We can make exceptions for prosecutorial discretion or for truly reprehensible laws — Jim Crow laws come to mind. Gun laws, however, do not fall into that category, and this move to flout them is a display of faithlessness in our democracy.
Democrats in Virginia recently took control of the state Legislature, and with a pro-gun-control governor they are working on a slate of pragmatic laws including mandatory background checks for all gun sales, a “red flag” law allowing guns to be confiscated from people deemed a risk to themselves or others, a measure allowing local officials to ban firearms from public events and government buildings, and a one-per-month limit on handgun purchases. But on the local level, more than 100 Virginia counties and cities have adopted 2nd Amendment sanctuary resolutions.
On Monday, pro-gun groups opposed to the state measures gathered at the Capitol building in Richmond for a rally and a “lobbying day,” and many were expected to be armed (Virginia is an “open carry” state). Organizers also invited out-of-state self-styled militias to take part. So there was a throng of politically motivated people carrying arms descending on a seat of government power. That rings more of intimidation than democratic expression.
Virginia officials feared a repeat of the August 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville that led to violent confrontations between far-right, neo-Nazi and white supremacist demonstrators, and the people who protested them. It culminated in the death of one protester and significant injuries to more than two dozen other people who were mowed down by a car driven by a neo-Nazi from Ohio. So nervous were state officials about another outburst of violence that Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency and barred firearms and other weapons from the capitol grounds until Tuesday, the day after the rally. And their concerns seem warranted: On Thursday, FBI agents filed illegal weapons and other charges against three members of a white supremacist group who reportedly had discussed attending the rally.
We all have the right to protest or mount a demonstration, and pro-gun advocates are no different until their demonstrations cross the line into acts of violence or physical intimidation. Local governments also have a right to dissent from laws they dislike, and to lobby for changes. That is how democracy works. But it is irresponsible for local jurisdictions to pick and choose which laws they will enforce, especially when such stances undermine the legitimacy of a democratically elected government and play into the hands of extremists.
The SunSentinel on whether a woman can be elected president:
Yes, a woman can be elected president of the United States.
It’s time to put that non-issue behind us.
One nearly was, and it wasn’t her gender that dealt her a loss.
As Bernie Sanders pointed out in the Democratic debate in Iowa Tuesday (Jan. 14) night, “Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 3 million votes.”
Everywhere else, that would have been enough.
Regrettably, the United States is burdened with an anachronism called the Electoral College, reflecting the mistrust of small states for large ones. A system crafted to elect George Washington most recently served up someone most unlike him.
Just 77,000 more votes in three key states made the difference between a President Clinton and a President Trump four years ago; between having a First Man or a First Lady in the White House.
That was so close, it could have been Russia’s meddling that made the difference. Or James Comey’s October surprise. Or Clinton’s failure to campaign in three normally safe states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — that she had lost to Sanders in the Democratic primaries.
It used to be said that a Roman Catholic couldn’t be elected president. Then John F. Kennedy was.
Divorce was assumed to be a disqualification. Ronald Reagan disproved that.
Race was the next frontier. Then Barack Obama was elected.
In the current campaign, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is a formidable contender. She’d be even stronger if she weren’t contending with Sanders for the same voters. She scored points in the Des Moines debate by observing, truthfully, that the men on the stage had collectively lost 10 elections while she and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota were undefeated.
That Klobuchar remains in a dwindling field reflects her potential as the moderate alternative to Sanders or Warren if Joe Biden doesn’t do well in the early caucus and primary states. There is no question that either of those women is a qualified rival to Trump and would make a far superior president.
Male machismo and misogyny — the only reasons for even asking whether a woman could be president — are hardly unique to the United States. Yet 59 other nations, spanning the globe and every region and ethnicity, have had women as heads of government. Why hasn’t it happened here?
One reason is that it took time to break the glass ceilings in Congress, state capitals and the vice presidency, which are the traditional proving grounds for presidential prospects.
Since women were enfranchised 101 years ago, only five Democratic women and two Republicans have attained enough political exposure and stature to be taken seriously as candidates in the two major parties. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine was the first, opposing Barry Goldwater for the 1964 GOP nomination. Clinton gave Obama strong competition in 2008 before winning the nomination eight years later.
But only two women have been chosen as running mates, and both tickets lost — Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and John McCain and Sarah Palin in 2008.
Another reason is that many of those other nations, notably Great Britain and Israel, are parliamentary democracies that do not directly elect their heads of government. Their prime ministers have generally come up through party ranks, showcasing their talents. In our nation’s infancy, it was the party caucuses in Congress that nominated presidential candidates.
The Democratic debates should have put to rest the gender issue. As New York Times columnist Frank Bruni observed, pointed questions could also be raised over age — Biden is 77 and Sanders is 78 — and over Pete Buttigieg’s identity as a gay man who has a male spouse.
“Doesn’t that make them risky nominees in their own ways?” Bruni wrote. “If Warren and Klobuchar were less polite and restrained, they might have said so last night. Instead they just turned in debate performances that showed just how commanding women are.”
It was CNN, rather than any of the candidates, that performed the worst in the debate. That distinction owes to one of the moderators, Abby Phillip, who in effect called Sanders a liar after he denied Warren’s claim that he had told her a woman couldn’t be elected president.
Turning to Warren, Phillip asked her, “What did you think when Sen. Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?”
It was a loaded question that Sanders didn’t get a chance to rebut. Poynter Institute media critic Tom Jones rightly called it “stunning in its ineptitude, stunning in its unprofessionalism.”
Warren was clearly uncomfortable. “I disagreed,” she said, and sought to change the subject.
So, can a woman be elected president?
So can a man.
There is no material difference.
What really matters is who are qualified, competent and trustworthy.