Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials
Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
China Daily on President Trump’s DPRK stance:
Calling the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea leader a “pretty smart cookie”, and displaying amazing readiness to personally meet him, United States President Donald Trump has apparently softened his rhetoric, prompting some to imagine that once unlikely scenario might happen.
Although the White House was quick to roll back, shifting the limelight onto the “right circumstances”, which spokesperson Sean Spicer said “are not there right now”, Trump’s remark is in line with his new-found determination to find a resolution to the DPRK issue.
Although the once clear-and-present danger of military conflict no longer seems as imminent, with both Pyongyang and Washington demonstrating restraint. It has not disappeared, and the road to denuclearization remains long and tortuous.
Not just because the US and the DPRK remain trapped in a vicious circle. In response to the latest military drill conducted by the US and the Republic of Korea — during which two nuclear-capable B-1B bombers joined forces with the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and nuclear-powered submarines — Pyongyang accused Washington of pushing the peninsula to the “brink of nuclear war” through “reckless military provocation”. And we have had earfuls of that following each nuclear or missile test by Pyongyang.
But also because the inevitable toll of any military action on the ROK weighs heavily on all decision-makers, and makes it extremely difficult to justify using force. That may be why the White House has chosen to remain somewhat vague and refrained from drawing a redline, despite its desire to mount maximum pressure.
The most likely outcome, then, is the US and other stakeholders find themselves bogged down in protracted debate over a feasible way to translate their wishes for a peaceful solution into acceptable-to-all actions, while the DPRK continues with its brinkmanship while avoiding crossing what it perceives to be the US’ bottom line.
As a result, the DPRK will likely advance its nuclear weapons goals, even accomplish them. That would mean Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe claiming justification for putting to rest his country’s war-renouncing Constitution.
Abe has already managed to demolish legal constraints on “collective self-defense” without violating Article 9, and lifted the long-standing ban on weapons exports.
On Monday, he reiterated the need to revise the county’s Constitution, citing tensions in the region. On the same day, Japan dispatched one of its largest warships to protect a US navy supply vessel.
To borrow a line from Trump, Pyongyang “will have good missiles”, if the current stalemate persists.
Abe, on the other hand, can ride the waves of confrontation and see his dream come true, without contributing anything substantial to end the stalemate.
The New York Times on Confederate monuments:
The Confederate-flag-waving white supremacist who murdered nine African-Americans in a Charleston, S.C., church two years ago made it impossible to evade the fact that the banner — and Confederate ideology generally — had been a rallying point for white supremacy and racial terrorism for more than 100 years.
That tragedy brought fresh urgency to a reappraisal of public monuments that was underway in many Southern communities, including New Orleans, whose mayor announced within days of the massacre that he planned to relocate four Confederate memorials that were built to celebrate a time when black citizens were not fully human in the eyes of the state.
The city plans to place the memorials in storage until an appropriate setting can be found, perhaps a museum that could put them in historical context. But the unfolding backlash — including threats against crane operators and demonstrations — shows the extent to which many citizens are hesitant to part with even the most abhorrent artifacts of history and how little many of them know about when and why these memorials were built.
The first memorial was relocated last month by workers who wore masks and bulletproof vests because they feared for their lives. It is called the Battle of Liberty Place Monument and was erected in 1891 to commemorate the uprising of the Crescent City White League, white supremacists who opposed Reconstruction and the integrated police force that resulted. Decades later, in 1932, a plaque was added expressly articulating its white supremacist origins.
The memorials that are slated to be relocated belong to the cult of the lost cause and were built to valorize a treasonous war that was fought to preserve slavery — and to essentially deify generals like Robert E. Lee who fought it.
Some who claim attachment to these monuments, which dominate the city’s most prominent public spaces, are white supremacists themselves. Others need to understand that the monuments were typically built during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the Southern states were unleashing a reign of racial terror on black communities while simultaneously writing them out of their constitutions.
Citizens of color have always understood this and chafed at the sight of the monuments on their streets. As one African-American told The New York Times recently, “They’re putting that image right in our face and saying, ‘Blacks at the bottom, whites at the top.’”
Critics have accused Mayor Mitch Landrieu of trying to rewrite history. But as he noted when he addressed the New Orleans Council on this matter two years ago, many people, including African-Americans, who were voiceless when the city stocked its plazas and thoroughfares with monuments to white supremacy have voices now and deserve to be heard on this matter.
As for the city’s future, he asked, “How can we expect to inspire a nation when our most prominent public spaces are dedicated to the reverence of the fight for bondage and supremacy?”
The Los Angeles Times on how the Trump administration is handling refugee resettlements:
In the first few days of the Trump administration, the Department of Homeland Security stopped sending investigators overseas to interview refugees seeking asylum in the United States. That was, in effect, a cold stop on processing new applications. The face-to-face interviews are a required part of the vetting process to ensure that potential immigrants pose no risk to American public safety or national security.
Freezing those resettlements — most of which had already been vetted and approved by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees — was a cruel move. At a minimum, it delayed the hopes of thousands of victims of war and unrest seeking permanent refuge in the U.S. from violence or repression in their home countries. Then President Trump followed it up with his atrocious directives formally suspending all refugee resettlement for 120 days (among other things), ostensibly to give the government time to review the vetting process. The administration pointed to no flaws in the process; it just declared that they were weak and needed fixing and that national security hung in the balance.
No sooner did he issue them, however, than those directives were put on hold by court orders. Mayhem has not ensued, suggesting Trump’s warning of threats to national security was, at best, alarmist.
We’ll leave it to legal minds to determine whether the government’s pause in refugee interviews — which began before Trump’s directive — violates the letter of an injunction from a federal judge in Hawaii against the latest version of the directive, including the moratorium on resettlements. But it certainly violates the spirit of it, and contradicts America’s role as a welcoming haven for the oppressed of the world. Now 16 U.S. senators — 11 Democrats and 5 Republicans, led by Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) — have written to the secretaries of State and Homeland Security demanding an explanation of the administration’s policy toward refugee resettlement and of how those policies comport with the court injunction. The American public deserves those answers, too.
Among those whose applications are being held up are people fleeing genocide — as determined last year by the State Department — at the hands of Islamic State, as well as Iraqis whose work for the U.S. has put them at risk of retaliation. But there also are thousands of people from other nations looking for relief. The Trump administration has left them in limbo. According to data published by the State Department, the U.S. has admitted 43,241 refugees since Oct. 1, the start of the current fiscal year, for which President Obama and Congress had budgeted 110,000 refugee admissions. But 30,122 of those entries came before Trump’s inauguration; since March 1 only 6,213 refugees have been admitted, part of a steady decline in monthly admissions during Trump’s brief time in office.
The president and some of his key advisors — “economic nationalists” Stephen K. Bannon and Stephen Miller most notably — have publicly opposed robust immigration, whether the new arrivals are refugees seeking safety or otherwise. So it’s hard not to view the reduction in resettlements as part of a White House plan to broadly curtail immigration. Trump’s suspended immigration orders would reduce the resettlement target for the current fiscal year to less than half of the 110,000 set by Obama and Congress. Whether immigration in general is too high is a legitimate subject for political discussion. But for Trump to unilaterally undercut admissions to people in desperate straits, who in effect have no countries or homes to return to safely, is cold-hearted and in the service of no end other than xenophobia.
Every country has the right and responsibility to control its borders, and to determine who gets to enter and remain. And the U.S. has, in the modern era, been relatively welcoming. In fact, the foreign-born segment of the U.S. population has quadrupled since 1960, creating a more diverse society. And since the Refugee Act of 1980, the U.S. has accepted 3 million refugees at fluctuating annual levels reflecting changing global events and U.S. priorities. In this era of vast migration spawned by wars and famines — the highest levels of human displacement since the end of World War II — the United States needs a more robust refugee resettlement program, not a retreat. Shutting our doors to the desperate would be a mistake.
The Boston Globe on Republicans distracting from Russian “perfidy:”
The foremost strategic goal of last year’s Russian meddling in US elections, former director of national intelligence James Clapper said at his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, was to sow discord and distrust among Americans.
Unfortunately, that effort worked beyond the Kremlin’s greatest hopes. And to judge by the hearing, it’s still working: Senate Republicans, especially the tedious Texas Republican Ted Cruz, continue to approach the investigation in a partisan spirit, ensuring that the chain of events the Russians began continues to yield dividends in division.
By failing to take Monday’s hearing seriously — Cruz instead went off on a tangent related to Hillary Clinton’s e-mails — too many GOP senators are shying away from doing their jobs. Chuck Grassley, the Iowa senator, was more interested in obfuscating the issue of Russian meddling by instead harping on press leaks. Other senators wanted to relitigate the unrelated issue of President Trump’s travel ban. Bringing up those sideshow issues not only distracts from the real problems, but deepens the divisions Russia sought to exploit in the first place.
Clapper expressed just a hint of exasperation midway through the hearing at questions that seemed more aimed at making political points than getting to the truth about a national security threat. “The transcendent issue here is the Russian interference in our election process,” he said.
Hopefully, as the inquiries unfold, more Republicans will follow the example of Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, whose thoughtful questions to Clapper and the other witness, former acting attorney general Sally Yates, put his GOP colleagues to shame. After all, as Clapper said during the hearings, Republicans are sure to become targets of Russian interference eventually.
Yates was the main attraction in the lead-up to the hearing, but in the end, she and Clapper told the committee little that wasn’t already public information (though her smackdown of Cruz made great television). She testified that she had informed the White House that former national security adviser Michael Flynn had lied, a notification she gave 18 days before he was fired. Although she was cagey about providing details of classified matters, it’s clear that Flynn had lied about his conversation with the Russian ambassador to the United States, whose phone the US intelligence community had under surveillance.
Flynn’s lying — and the Trump administration’s slow and deceptive response to it — form an important part of the Russian interference story. But only a part. The public needs a Congress willing to put aside partisan point-scoring to get to the bottom of the whole saga of Russian interference, including any possible collusion with the Trump campaign. Monday’s hearing didn’t provide much new information, but it showed Americans — and the rest of the world — that many US political leaders are all too happy to do the Kremlin’s work by continuing the partisan sniping instead.
The Chicago Tribune on the repeal of Obamacare:
House Republicans squeaked through an Obamacare replacement bill Thursday, prompting President Donald Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan to break out the smiles and declare victory.
Not yet. Action now shifts to the Senate.
How should Americans view this fitful process? Three things we know:
.The House bill is a beginning, not an end. There almost surely aren’t 51 senators who will buy this version intact. Expect much to and fro. Will that process deliver a new law? Maybe, maybe not. That said, you can disparage elements of this plan, but you also have to acknowledge the larger imperative here: Obamacare is flopping. Every discussion about what’s happening in Washington should start with that admonition. Congress got yet another dose of reality in recent days when insurance giant Aetna pulled out of Virginia’s health exchanges for 2018.
.All eyes are on pre-existing conditions. Obamacare is simple: Insurers have to cover people with pre-existing conditions and can’t charge them more. The GOP bill is more complicated. Insurers still would have to cover people with pre-existing conditions. But states could apply for waivers so insurers could charge more to customers with pre-existing conditions — if those people let their insurance coverage lapse. States that waive the pre-existing condition rule also would have to set up high-risk pools for the sickest people, or participate in programs that subsidize insurance companies to lower premiums for everyone. This isn’t a radical notion; before Obamacare, Illinois and many other states had these pools.
The GOP bill includes more than $100 billion for state-run high risk pools over several years. Will that be enough to cover everyone who needs it? Unclear. Senators, get an answer to this key question. People with serious pre-existing conditions that require expensive treatment need help paying bills more than they need low-premium insurance coverage. The flip side: With pools covering the highest-cost patients, premiums for other citizens could fall. In sum, high-risk pools can work — if they are adequately funded.
.All eyes should also be on Medicaid. Medicaid soon could cost Illinois more — but that’s not news. Obamacare’s generous federal assistance enticed Illinois and many other states to massively expand their rolls. That federal honey pot couldn’t last. The new GOP plan phases out that increased federal assistance starting in 2020. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner says the GOP bill “continues to be of deep concern.” One reason: the potential impact on 650,000 residents who gained coverage via that Obamacare Medicaid expansion. Bottom line: Illinois needs to rethink its Medicaid program. Under Obamacare or its replacement, Washington likely won’t be willing or able to keep paying nearly all of the expansion costs.
So, Senators, get to work. We’ve supported this effort because it provides Americans far more flexibility to buy the more affordable policies that people demand — not coverage the government mandates. Under this bill, for instance, states can redefine the “essential” health benefits insurers must offer. That could also trim costs substantially and lure young, healthy people to get insured.
We’ll soon have an updated Congressional Budget Office estimate of how many Americans would be able to buy insurance under this legislation. That should help guide the Senate. CBO estimated that under an earlier House bill, 24 million fewer Americans would have insurance by 2026. That’s daunting.
The even worse alternative: Lawmakers could stand back and let more insurers flee Obamacare. Let premiums, deductibles and co-pays keep rising. Let people keep losing access to their doctors and hospitals. That is, let Obamacare collapse. And let all those people scramble to find coverage, if they can.
A fourth thing we know: No one wants that.
The Washington Post on what the Trump administration can do about a “corruption-prone” visa program:
The first thing to be said about the weekend’s visa-peddling conference by the Kushner Companies in China is: The administration should take it as an opportunity for a forthright policy stance.
Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and a chief White House adviser, has no stake in the project promoted over the weekend and has recused himself from the family business. The company, which included mention of Mr. Kushner and a large photo of his father-in-law at the event, has apologized for any impression of influence trading that might have been created by its presentation. The firm has long raised money for its real estate ventures from the EB-5 program, which awards legal residency in the United States to foreign investors.
Three months ago, we urged Mr. Trump to join the movement against this program; in the meantime, it has been reauthorized in the omnibus appropriations bill that Mr. Trump just signed — though, in fairness, he affixed his signature not to save the visa program but to keep the government open. With the clock ticking until the program’s new expiration date, Sept. 30, the president has a chance to get behind efforts to end the hopelessly inefficient and corruption-prone EB-5 program before it causes more embarrassment.
For a man who made it into the Oval Office on a promise to close the immigration door to low-priority entrants, and to reduce immigration-related threats to national security, ending EB-5 should be a no-brainer. It began a quarter-century ago as a well-intentioned plan to attract international capital to the United States by awarding permanent residency to 10,000 foreigners per year who agreed to invest at least $500,000 into a U.S. business, creating at least 10 jobs directly or indirectly. In September 2015, the Bipartisan Policy Center estimated that 44,000 people, a third of them foreign investors and the rest family members, had qualified since 1992. A disproportionate number of recent entrants come from China; their political and financial antecedents are difficult to vet, let alone to vet “extremely.” The yield has been 77,150 full-time jobs and approximately $4.2 billion in investment — trivial in relation to the giant U.S. economy. Lobbyists have manipulated the program’s rules so that it now favors big-city hotel, office and apartment developers, rather than depressed rural and urban zones as Congress originally intended. There has been a string of highly publicized scandals involving fraud.
Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) have a bill to end the EB-5 program once and for all. This is not a government visa-selling program. It is a government visa- giveaway program; the private-sector businesses, in effect, sell them, in return for low-cost financing of projects they would probably do anyway. Ending EB-5 would be an easy step on the path to rational immigration reform.