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Excerpts from recent Minnesota editorials

January 21, 2019

Minneapolis Star Tribune, Jan. 14

Trump and Russia: Americans need answers

FBI probe, Trump’s secrecy on meetings with Putin show why Mueller probe needs protection.

“I never worked for Russia,” President Donald Trump told reporters on Monday, a day after dodging the question by telling an interviewer, “I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked.”

If Trump is lying, the insult is to the American people — particularly those who have dedicated careers to countering Russian, and previously Soviet, threats. But the question had to be asked after back-to-back bombshell reports over the weekend about Trump’s opaque relationship with Russia.

On Friday, The New York Times reported that after Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey, the bureau “began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests.”

Beyond the grave national security implications, there was a possible obstruction of justice component to the investigation. That’s also the subject of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which has since superseded the initial FBI probe.

The Times’ story was followed by another deeply disturbing report from The Washington Post: that Trump had gone to great lengths to hide details from his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, including taking possession of notes from an interpreter and demanding that what was discussed not be revealed with administration officials, and by extension, Congress, the news media and — most profoundly — the American people. The result, the Post reported, is that there is not even a detailed classified record of at least five face-to-face meetings between Putin and Trump over the last two years.

This isn’t right. And it’s not normal, under any administration.

At least publicly, it’s not known if Trump is actually acting on Moscow’s behalf, even unwittingly, or whether this latest breach of presidential protocol is just yet another component of his reckless presidency.

If there’s anyone who can get the necessary answers, it’s Mueller, a man best-known for a lifetime of selfless service to his country.

He must be allowed to finish his job and report to Congress and the American people. Accordingly, it was reassuring that William Barr, Trump’s nominee for attorney general, has signaled in a letter sent to the Senate before he begins confirmation hearings Tuesday that he intends to let Mueller finish his investigation and supports maximum transparency in the results.

“I believe it is vitally important that the special counsel be allowed to complete his investigation,” Barr wrote. He later added: “I believe it is in the best interest of everyone — the president, Congress, and, most importantly, the American people — that this matter be resolved by allowing the special counsel to complete his work. The country needs a credible resolution of these issues.”

That’s a reassuring statement because Barr has previously criticized aspects of the investigation. Congress could offer its own reassurances, but protection of the Mueller investigation has been thwarted by the Republican-led Senate in a dispiriting display of putting party over country.

Trump has countered that “he’s been tougher on Russia than anybody else.” No, he hasn’t. Sure, sanctions have been imposed, but mainly at the behest of more principled administration figures or Congress. Trump also has denigrated U.S. intelligence agencies’ consensus of Russian interference in the 2016 election, he has called NATO “obsolete,” he has hastened Russia’s hold on Syria and he even parroted Putin’s lie about the Soviet Union’s Afghanistan invasion, among other examples of being soft of Moscow.

The reports from the Times and the Post should trouble all Americans — and increase public support for Mueller’s investigation.

___

Mankato Free Press, Jan. 13

Sandler’s persistence paved the way

Why it matters: Without Bernice Sandler’s hard work, women wouldn’t have gotten the protection and opportunities that Title IX guarantees them.

There was a time not that long ago when being on the cheerleading squad was the only sport available to young women. Today they can choose to compete in a variety of athletics at school and college.

Thanks to Bernice Sandler.

She was the point person 47 years ago behind passage of Title IX, the legislation that outlaws sex discrimination in education.

Her battle for sexual equality didn’t start out as a push to gain access to sports, according to a profile in The New York Times marking Sandler’s Jan. 5 death at age 90. She was spurred by how academia commonly treated women, including her own experience of being rejected for a job because she was “just a housewife who went back to school,” the potential employer said.

Sandler — ironically using the research skills acquired earning advanced degrees no one would hire her for — uncovered a reference to an unheralded executive order that barred organizations with federal contracts from discriminating on the basis of sex. So she went after universities, which get federal dollars, by filing administrative complaints against them through the Labor Department. That action eventually led to the landmark law.

The Times story explores how Title IX’s application grew over the years, clearing the way for equal opportunities for women’s athletics, and establishing that sexual harassment of students qualifies as discrimination under the law. As a result, colleges that get federal funding must take measures to prevent sexual discrimination, harassment and misconduct in all university services and academic programs.

It’s a good sign of progress that young women are likely oblivious to how they benefit from the work and persistence of Sandler. But that’s OK; she was probably happy knowing that Title IX’s opportunities and protections are simply expected in many ways these days.

She also realized that the fix wasn’t quick and that the journey would be very long. And that is exhibited on many fronts today, including the recent #MeToo movement and regular reports of unequal pay for women.

With Sandler’s dedication as an example, others can continue her work, including people in all walks of life as demonstrated in a Times anecdote. Sandler once refused to enter through the back door of an all-male organization. After walking through the front door, she distributed buttons saying “Uppity Women Unite.” A male waiter asked for a handful. He then placed them on the urinals in the men’s bathrooms.

Her story is a great illustration of how, in this struggle for equality, women need not go it alone.

___

St. Cloud Times, Jan. 12

Dear Gov. Walz, Thanks for your agenda; here’s ours

Dear Gov. Tim Walz,

Congratulations on your election and inauguration. The Times Editorial Board is encouraged by many of the points, promises and priorities you made campaigning and in preparing to take office.

That said, here are top priorities from this board’s perspective:

Build a reasonable budget on time

As you know, recent Legislatures and governors have turned the state’s biannual budget process into a debacle.

Whether it’s partisanship, procrastination or both, it’s hard to remember the last time Minnesotans weren’t left shaking their heads as the governor and a handful of leading legislators bickered about the state’s two-year budget as deadlines whizzed past.

Yes, that applies to your predecessor and fellow Democrat Mark Dayton. And before him, it was Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who did not do any better with timely, bipartisan budgets than his predecessor, Jesse Ventura.

Those 20 years — and 10 budgets — offer four bright-line lessons you and legislative leaders should follow.

1. Set early deadlines and meet them.

2. Always, always, always keep talking.

3. Keep budget numbers reasonable. In other words, don’t compile a plan that increases taxes substantially, if at all. Similarly, for Republicans reading this letter, don’t dig in at “no tax increases” and refuse to move.

4. Always, always, always keep talking.

Get modern on transportation

For decades, the near-entirety of Minnesota’s transportation debates have centered on one old-as-the-Roman-Empire concept: Pave more lanes.

All other discussions of rail, mass transit, air service and more have been side shows, at best. An aviation fund was even raided during the Pawlenty administration and used to bolster the general fund.

Our highways, roads and bridges are vital links for Minnesota’s people and products. Their construction and maintenance supports thousands of jobs. It’s clear they will remain the stars of the transportation firmament, likely forever and as they should be.

But it’s long past time for the state government to take a serious look at new ideas for moving people around the ever-growing metro area and for moving Minnesotans from regional center to regional center, that moves forward from a roads-only approach.

New ingredients in our transportation recipe are needed to avoid building our way to gridlock.

Education, improved

We see some merit in the St. Cloud NAACP and local attorney Jerry Von Korff planning to sue the state over inadequate funding of mandated special education services.

This board has long championed fair opportunities for all students — and school districts. However well-intended these mandates are, they come without full funding, which forces all districts to tap other funds to pay for them.

School boards and school districts should never shirk their responsibility to educate every type of student who lives in their domains. However, if the lawsuit forces the entities that mandate these rules to fund them, we are satisfied. You and the Legislature have a chance to settle it early by phasing in measures that fully fund the mandates.

Common-sense gun reforms

This board supports the concept Walz floated Monday, that it’s possible to both protect Second Amendment rights and have common-sense gun legislation.

Requiring background checks for gun buyers from private or unlicensed sellers makes sense. The parameters of “red flag” orders that would allow courts to order the seizure of guns from someone deemed a threat would need to be defined, but the idea is worth considering.

Also, what about working with Republicans to fund mental health care programs, a solution often mentioned by GOP candidates and legislators as an alternative to gun control measures? Even better, do this and fund research into gun violence.

Set an example

Your invocation of One Minnesota is encouraging.

We are under no illusions that the deep divides between Minnesotans on polarizing issues will be resolved by warm words and hearty handshakes. But it can’t hurt.

Minnesota has long stood as a bastion of good behavior, neighborliness, tolerance and reason — even if we disagree. That’s eroding as the national political climate poisons everything it touches.

Don’t let that happen. Fight hard, but fight fair — and allow your opponents the same privilege.

Show the people that reason still has a home in Minnesota.

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