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Excerpts from recent Wisconsin editorials

September 19, 2018

The Capital Times, Sept. 12

Yes, give all Trump aides a lie detector test

“TREASON?” tweeted President Trump after The New York Times published an anonymous op-ed column by a senior Trump official that was headlined “I am part of the resistance inside the Trump administration.”

Republicans and Democrats have been debating whether the author is courageous for speaking out or cowardly for doing so anonymously as he or she described actions that insiders have been taking to prevent the president from acting on his worst impulses.

Trump, of course, is determined to identify the author. In fact, it appears that the president — who mangled “anonymous” twice at a Montana rally when referring to the piece — has been distracted to the point of suffering more than usual from sleep deprivation. He has even called on the Department of Justice to investigate “because I really believe it’s national security.”

In the wake of the column, a large number of Trump’s Cabinet and White House officials issued statements denying that they wrote the column. In response, it was pointed out that Mark Felt denied at the time of the Watergate scandal that he was “Deep Throat,” the inside source who kept reporters on the trail that led to Richard Nixon’s resignation as president. Three decades later, we learned that Felt was indeed Deep Throat. So much for denials — especially from those working for an administration with a culture of lying.

As Donald Trump Jr. acknowledged that his father could trust only a few people around him, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, said that the president would be justified in requiring his senior officials to take a lie detector test. “I would agree to take it in a heartbeat,” declared Vice President Mike Pence — to no one’s surprise.

Nicolle Wallace, who served as President George W. Bush’s communications director and now hosts “Deadline: White House” on MSNBC, offered a different response. For those who haven’t seen Wallace’s show, it has been fast gaining popularity for a number of reasons, including the fact that she is a never-Trumper; she still has many GOP contacts so she often has inside info on what is going on in the Trump White House; and she regularly calls out Republicans for failing to stand up to Trump, particularly when the president stomps all over what used to be GOP policies.

“I think they should put everyone on a polygraph and ask them if they think Donald Trump is fit for the office of the president,” said Wallace, naming John Kelly, Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner. When her panelists chuckled, she added:

“It’s a serious offer. If you’re willing, any one of you, hook up to a polygraph, we’ll put it on TV, you can have my hour, we’ll do one a day.”

We know this won’t happen, but think about it. Is there anyone besides the Donald himself who could answer “yes” when asked if Trump is fit to be president and pass a lie detector test?

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The Journal Times of Racine, Sept. 17

Wauwatosa incident shows respect goes a long way

The potential was all there for this encounter to go sideways. Two white women riding in a Lexus; a black teen in the back seat; two witnesses stopping a squad car and telling them the women were being robbed.

Police responded, of course, chasing the car down and pulling it over.

But this encounter ended in an apology, not a police shooting. That’s the way it should be and we’re thankful that’s how this one ended.

The incident happened early this month about noon on a Sunday in Wauwatosa. The women had just left church and picked up one of the women’s grandsons, an 18-year-old, and were driving near West Burleigh Street and North Mayfair Road.

According to Wauwatosa Police reports, an officer in a squad car in the area was flagged down by a black couple in another vehicle who told them a robbery was occurring and the suspect was in the back seat of a blue Lexus, which they pointed out to the officer.

Police pulled the vehicle over and, from the police cam video, apparently waited for backup before ordering the backseat passenger out of the car from a distance. The teen got out of the car and was directed to put his hands in the air, face away from police, at least one of whom had his gun drawn, walk to a nearby sidewalk and then walk backward toward the police vehicle. He was ordered to get on his knees; Wauwatosa Police handcuffed him and put him in the back of a squad car where he was questioned.

Police then approached the Lexus and began talking to the two women, one of whom quickly said the youth was her grandson.

That, of course, took the steam out of the situation and the youth was quickly un-handcuffed and released. The Wauwatosa officer is heard on the video explaining the reason for the stop and telling the grandmother it seems like a “big misunderstanding.”

“I apologize for that guy (the motorist who hailed police) not knowing what he was talking about,” one officer says.

The grandmother responds: “I’m sure he saw two old white ladies in a car with a black kid and made some assumptions.”

When told the complainant was black, she responds: “Oh, my God. Well then it’s even worse.”

So, yes, there may have been some “profiling” done here — but it was by the complainant, not Wauwatosa police. The couple that flagged down police didn’t remain at the scene as directed.

We have several takeaways from this encounter. First, from the news reports and the squad-car dash cam video, the Wauwatosa officers acted in a thoroughly professional manner throughout. Even though their information was that a robbery attempt was going on, they were steady, direct in their orders to the suspect and respectful to him once he was in handcuffs.

Yes, at least one officer had his gun out, but it was not directed at the suspect. To those — and, yes, there are some — who say the police overreacted by doing so, we say: Nonsense. Officers in Wauwatosa and elsewhere are called upon, night and day, to answer calls to stop suspect vehicles and to go through doors where they don’t know what they will find or what firepower they will face. They must be ready and able to protect themselves and other citizens.

Second, the 18-year-old had the good sense to do exactly as he was directed by police. By doing so, secure in the knowledge that he had done nothing wrong, the handcuffs were off and he was released within 6 minutes.

Third, respect goes a long way in defusing police-citizen encounters. We saw that from the Wauwatosa Police officers here; we saw that from the youth who was a suspect.

While it’s unfortunate that the profiling happened in the first place and presumptions were made, we applaud the young man for acting respectfully and for police working with him to quickly de-escalate the situation.

This encounter ended the way it should have, with no arrests and no injuries. We keep hoping that would happen every time, but situations are not always benign like this one. Still, we’ll keep hoping and we’ll take this one as a happy ending.

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Wisconsin State Journal, Sept. 16

Two senators serious about draining swamp

President Donald Trump’s promises to “drain the swamp” during his campaign were hollow at the time but seem laughable now.

The culture of corruption in Washington, D.C., has thrived under Trump — and every day seems to bring revelation of a new scandal, from misuse of campaign funds to insider trading to Cabinet secretaries living high on taxpayer dollars.

That doesn’t mean the bipartisan dream of better ethics in Washington is dead. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts., has introduced a broad ethics proposal that is picking up support across the partisan divide — including from U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska.

On “Meet the Press” last week, Sasse said he could agree with many of the measures Warren is proposing, despite their ideological differences.

“So, Sen. Warren and I are about as far apart on the political spectrum as you can get on most things,” Sasse said. “But on a number of ethics reform issues, I think she and I might well see eye to eye.”

Warren’s bill would prohibit elected officials from becoming lobbyists — ever. It would restrict stock ownership by members of Congress and Cabinet secretaries and put more restrictions on Americans lobbying for foreign governments and companies. All elected officials and candidates for federal office would be required to disclose their tax returns, including President Trump if he runs again.

“Our national crisis of faith in government boils down to this simple fact: People don’t trust their government to do the right thing because they think government works for the rich, the powerful and the well-connected and not for the American people,” Warren said at a press conference last week. “And here’s the kicker: They’re right.”

After memorial services for U.S. Sen. John McCain, Sasse suggested tough, meaningful ethics rules would be a suitable tribute to the senator. On “Meet the Press,” he also spoke of a crisis of public trust, and indicated a willingness to talk with Warren to work together.

We hope Wisconsin’s congressional delegation will join such a bipartisan effort. The stench emanating out of Washington didn’t begin with Trump, but it has certainly worsened under his watch, and its corrosive effects will harm faith in our democracy.

Public service should not be a path to personal fortune. Members of Congress shouldn’t use confidential information they receive to buy or dump stock. Members of the administration shouldn’t waste taxpayer money on charter flights when commercial flights are available. Congressional staffers and executive branch employees shouldn’t worry about their future job prospects with industries they’re supposed to be overseeing.

Warren’s bill would address many of these issues. It would shut the revolving door between Congress and K Street, require more disclosure from lobbyists about their activities and prohibit them from making direct contributions to candidates.

While several of the provisions in Warren’s bill are aimed clearly at Trump — from the tax return requirement to forcing the vice president and president to divest themselves of their businesses — the issue goes far deeper than any one president.

The American people have a right to know that their elected representatives are working for the public good, not private gain. Ethically untainted officials are far more likely to make better decisions that actually benefit everyone, not just the well-connected elite.

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