Tennessee editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:
The Post-Intelligencer, Paris, Tennessee, on high diplomacy:
The truth can be so darned inconvenient.
Vice President Joe Biden learned that old lesson all over again after his remarks last week to a group of Harvard University students.
He was talking about the Middle East troubles when he said one of our nation’s biggest challenges is that some of our allies keep helping groups with extremist leanings.
Our friends in other countries tend to oppose the dictatorial regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and their actions have made things difficult for us.
In explaining the situation, Biden said, “The Saudis, the Emiratis, etc., what were they doing? They were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war. What did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad.”
Some of that aid, he said, ended up in the hands of Jabhat-al-Nusra, an al-Qaida affiliate, and now also the Islamic State.
In addition, The Associated Press reported, Biden singled out Turkey for allowing foreign fighters to flow across its border into Syria.
All of this is perfectly true. It’s what our diplomats have been reporting in their secret communications to our nation’s leaders.
But Biden’s frankness made things difficult for the White House, which has been trying for months to convince Middle Eastern powers to join the fight against the Islamic State group.
We can only imagine the high-level flap. At any rate, Biden quickly apologized to the president of Turkey and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi.
High-level diplomacy is a complicated game where nuances can be as important as facts.
Our vice president got his wrist slapped, and there probably was no permanent harm.
But we know full well that he was just speaking the truth.
The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, on Russia:
The details are still murky, but this is too good a story for cable TV to pass up.
Russia has canceled a 21-year-old high-school-student exchange program with the United States because a Russian teenager in the program, spending the academic year in Michigan, has sought asylum here for fear he will be persecuted if he returns home. He is gay.
It is true that Russia is notably inhospitable to gays, but the terms of the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) program, under which 238 Russian students are currently studying in the United States, require that all participants return home at the end of their year.
Because of privacy laws involving juveniles, few details have emerged from the U.S. side, but the Kremlin has used the case to portray Russia as a wholesome bulwark against increasingly decadent Western values. A top Russian foreign ministry official portrayed the student’s defection, if that’s what it was, as a violation of not only the agreement but also the basic “moral and ethical principles of Russian society.”
One could fairly ask if under Vladimir Putin Russia has any moral or ethical principles other than self-enrichment, self-perpetuation in office, encroachment on its neighbors and seeking to mask its decline as a great power by aggravating the West and especially the United States.
Nonetheless, the United States, as in the Elian Gonzalez case, is obligated to return the boy home. Then at least Western diplomats and media can keep an eye on his treatment at the hands of the Russian authorities.
News Sentinel, Knoxville, Tennessee, on Gov. Haslam moving state in right direction:
Voters in this fall’s general election should mark their gubernatorial ballots for incumbent Republican Bill Haslam, and not just because he only faces token opposition.
Haslam has taken a pragmatic, businesslike approach to the office; instituted K-12 education reform; launched an ambitious effort to raise the number of Tennesseans with post-secondary degrees and certifications; and adeptly managed a state budget through a sluggish economic recovery that has stagnated revenues.
The former mayor of Knoxville, Haslam faces Democrat Charles V. “Charlie” Brown, a retiree from Oakdale whose primary victory many have credited to the fact that his name appeared first on the ballot. Other challengers are Constitution Party nominee Shaun Crowell, Green Party nominee Isa Infante and Independent candidates Steven Damon Coburn, John Jay Hooker and Daniel T. Lewis.
As an incumbent with a solid record, deep pockets and a statewide electorate that has leaned toward the GOP in recent years, Haslam will have no problem dispatching the opposition. The only question will be his margin of victory.
Since Haslam took office, Tennessee has been among the nation’s leaders in job creation, adding 168,000 new positions. The governor established the Drive to 55 initiative to create a more educated workforce and the Tennessee Promise program so students can afford post-secondary education. His education and government overhauls have stressed performance and accountability.
Haslam should be re-elected not because he does not have strong opposition but because Tennessee is headed in the right direction.