Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials
Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Arizona Republic on Sen. John McCain’s legacy:
In a life in which there is nothing left to prove, came one more catastrophic challenge Wednesday night.
“McCain has brain cancer,” roared the CNN home page.
On every news front in America, the same words told you the gravity of the moment: One of the world’s most powerful men is severely ill.
That brought all the other powerful people bearing tributes:
“Cancer doesn’t know what it’s up against. Give it hell, John.”
- Former President Barack Obama
“Senator John McCain has always been a fighter.”
- President Donald Trump
“John McCain is as tough as they come.”
- Former secretary of State Hillary Clinton
“Cancer picked on the wrong guy.”
- Vice President Mike Pence
Then Meghan McCain stepped in
But it was shortly after 5 p.m. Arizona time that another tribute emerged on social media in words both moving and elegant from a daughter, who said:
“It won’t surprise you to learn that in all this, the one who is most confident and calm is my father,” wrote Meghan McCain.
No, Meghan. We’re not surprised.
Fifty years ago, John Sidney McCain III faced perhaps the most impossible odds of his life: That he, a 31-year-old Navy aviator, would ever measure up to the McCains who came before him.
Both his father and his grandfather were four-star admirals in the United States Navy.
And things were not starting out well for John.
None of this ever broke McCain
In July of that year, 1967, John McCain barely escaped with his life when an electrical malfunction discharged a rocket and set ablaze the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal. One-hundred-thirty-four Americans would die that day.
In October 1967, McCain flew his A-4E Skyhawk in a bombing mission over Hanoi and was struck by a North Vietnamese missile. He ejected from his aircraft, breaking both arms and a leg. He then nearly drowned parachuting into Trúc Bach Lake.
The Vietnamese who found him stabbed him with a bayonet and crushed his shoulder with a rifle butt.
He would be taken to the Hanoi Hilton, where his captors continued the beatings and refused him treatment. It was the beginning of six years of imprisonment, in which he was routinely tortured and paraded about as an object of propaganda.
As the son of a high-ranking admiral, he was given the opportunity to skip the line and go home early. But he refused. He would not benefit from some other American’s misfortune.
He would survive the war, return home and become one of the most influential leaders of our time.
‘It will not make him surrender’
He has been through the political gantlet time and again, including a grueling run for president in 2008. And still he managed to stay vital and win a sixth term in the United States Senate at age 80.
So you understand why Sen. McCain is calm.
“He is the toughest person I know,” wrote his daughter. “The cruelest enemy could not break him. ... Cancer may afflict him in many ways. But it will not make him surrender. Nothing ever has.
“My love for my father is boundless, and like any daughter I cannot and do not wish to be in a world without him. I have faith that those days remain far away.
“Yet even in this moment my fears for him are overwhelmed by one thing above all: Gratitude for our years together and the years still to come. He is a warrior at dusk, one of the greatest Americans of our age, and the worthy heir to his father’s and grandfather’s name.”
The McCain legacy is in good hands
What father could read those words and not be moved to tears.
No one knows how this remarkable story ends. Our prayers and undying admiration are with John McCain today.
But a new McCain has emerged with poise and eloquence and, yes, her father’s guts. No matter what happens now, John McCain must know his legacy stretches well beyond his years.
And a daughter faces the same daunting challenge her father confronted half a century ago — living up to a name that is splashed in grandeur.
John McCain is calm today. But he is also, no doubt, warmed by the knowledge that his name and his legacy are in good stead.
The Philadelphia Inquirer on what could fix the Affordable Care Act:
The biggest problem with the failed Republican effort to kill the Affordable Care Act is it was based on a lie. Even now, its detractors insist Obamacare is collapsing, despite evidence that with some structural fixes it could be as effective as Medicare in providing health insurance to millions of Americans.
The medicine needed to cure the ACA became clear soon after the rocky rollout of its exchanges in 2013. But instead of addressing its flaws, Republicans used the wave of public displeasure with Obamacare to solidify their hold on both houses of Congress and win the presidency. Failing to deliver on their promise to repeal Obamacare, though, is likely to cost them in future elections.
The Republicans should salve the wounds to their pride and collaborate with Democrats on legislation that would improve the ACA. For that to happen, Republicans must get over their fear of crossing the GOP’s tea-party wing, which has been calling the Republican senators who refused to support the repeal effort traitors.
President Trump has been playing to that crowd ever since his election campaign. He’s not about to abandon it now that his dwindling poll numbers suggest tea-party support is crucial to ensure the faithfulness of Republican lawmakers who don’t feel the same love for him.
Outside Washington, Americans can only hope Democrats and Republicans will one day put the needs of the public above partisanship and fix Obamacare. For months, observers with ties to the health care and insurance industries have spelled out what needs to be done. But their recommendations have been ignored by Republican leaders who want to kill the patient, not save it.
Trump likes to boast about his success as a businessman. Anyone who has ever run a business knows you must build a customer base to be successful — and that there might be some lean times until you do. Same thing goes for Obamacare, which was built on a hybrid business model to garner the support of insurance companies worried about the potential for drooping profits.
A private business uses discounts and other incentives to build its customer base. But as a government program, Obamacare could use a carrot-and-stick approach. The carrot: subsidies to cover the higher premiums some consumers would pay. The stick: tax penalties on individuals who could afford but didn’t buy health insurance, and on larger companies who didn’t offer coverage to employees.
Congress could make more people eligible for subsidies, increase the size of subsidies to get more people to buy insurance, or make the penalties larger so fewer people would opt to pay them instead of buying insurance. Or it could do a combination of all three. Increase the number of customers buying insurance and premiums should go down.
Obamacare needs other fixes, but it’s not in a “death spiral.” In fact, New York had a 28 percent increase in enrollments this year, with 17 insurance carriers offering plans on the ACA exchange. Other states aren’t doing as well. But they might be if it weren’t for the partisan politics that for too long has been played with America’s health care.
The Dallas Morning News on President Donald Trump’s needling of Attorney General Jeff Sessions:
Just six months ago, Jeff Sessions promised the American people that if his fellow senators allowed him to serve as Attorney General he’d be bound by the rule of law, not by his loyalty to President Donald Trump.
Few foresaw just how quickly that pledge would be put to the test by the president, who has spent the last two weeks publicly needling Sessions as a weak and disappointing AG.
Trump has made the source of his displeasure clear. Had he known that Sessions would remove himself from oversight of the widening investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, he says he never would have nominated Sessions.
This attack, which has so far been met with steely resolve by the Cabinet member, does great damage to America. Had any other president in recent memory — from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush to Barack Obama — expressed so naked a political view of the Department of Justice, voters on the right and left would have reacted with anger.
We need that courage now, from all sides. Trump has recast the debate over Sessions’ decision to recuse himself in purely personal terms, as is his tiresome wont. It’s “very unfair” to him and to any president, Trump contends, for his attorney general to step aside from an investigation like this.
In Trump’s world, then, a president names an attorney general primarily to ensure that Justice does not interfere with the president, rather than to ensure that justice itself runs its course.
As he has continued his attacks this week, Trump called Sessions “very weak” in not re-launching the criminal case against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the opponent Trump beat last November but can’t stop talking about.
Trump’s presidency is forever pushing boundaries. But the line that has kept the DOJ insulated from the rawest of political agendas in the White House at least since Richard Nixon blew up his presidency by ordering the Saturday Night Massacre in 1973 is one that should not bend.
A more recent lesson should have given Trump pause. Surely Trump understands how disastrously his firing of FBI Director James Comey has backfired?
But so far the only thing that seems to have kept Sessions in his job is the fact that so many of Trump’s own base see the former senator as a representative of the early true-believers that helped elect Trump.
We do not share that fondness for the politics or priorities of Sessions, whom we believed was a poor choice for Attorney General. But Trump’s assault on Sessions is a dagger stabbed straight at the heart of the department’s integrity; it’s a thrust that must be repelled.
Los Angeles Times on Congressional Republicans helping President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to “get rid of” a law prohibiting churches and other nonprofits from endorsing candidates:
As part of his all-too-successful courtship of religious conservatives, Donald Trump promised during his presidential campaign to “get rid of” the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 law that prohibits churches and other tax-exempt nonprofit organizations from endorsing candidates for public office.
In May, the president issued a largely symbolic executive order that purported to fulfill that campaign promise. Now Republicans in Congress are engaging in stealth tactics to give it real force.
With little fanfare, the House Appropriations Committee recently added language to a Treasury Department spending bill that would make it harder for the Internal Revenue Service to enforce the Johnson Amendment’s prohibition of political endorsements by nonprofits — but only in connection with political activity by “a church, or a convention or association of churches.”
Under that provision, no determination that a church has engaged in improper politicking could take effect without the consent of the head of the IRS, notification of two congressional committees and the expiration of a 90-day waiting period.
Though these provisions fall short of an outright repeal of the Johnson Amendment, they are clearly designed to make such determinations exceedingly rare. Moreover, because the new restrictions wouldn’t apply to investigations of political endorsements by secular tax-exempt organizations, they would almost certainly violate the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment.
Finally, even if one believes that the Johnson Amendment should be repealed or revised — and we don’t — the change shouldn’t be accomplished by erecting procedural roadblocks through the back door of the appropriations process. When the full House takes up the Treasury spending bill, it should remove the language about the Johnson Amendment from the legislation, as Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) and Debbie Wasserman Shultz (D-Fla) had proposed in the Appropriations Committee.
The best reason to do so, however, is that the current, limited prohibition makes sense. With characteristic disregard for the facts, Trump claimed during last year’s campaign that, as a result of the Johnson Amendment, “religion’s voice has been taken away.” In fact, the law doesn’t prevent religious organizations from speaking out about an array of political issues — including homelessness policy, as we note above — and members of the clergy are free in their personal capacities to endorse candidates.
Rather, the Johnson Amendment says to churches and other nonprofits that if they desire the considerable financial benefits of tax-exempt status, they must refrain from a small subset of political speech. The overarching principle is that taxpayers shouldn’t be asked to subsidize political endorsements with which they disagree. The experience of the last 63 years shows that that principle can coexist with vigorous political advocacy and activism by churches and other religious organizations.
The New York Times on terrorism trials in federal courts and comparing reactions to them during Barack Obama and Donald Trump’s presidencies:
Republicans raged over what they called the White House’s weak and dangerous decision last week to prosecute in federal court a man suspected of belonging to Al Qaeda, rather than shipping him off to the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Sorry, wrong year. That happened back in 2009, when President Barack Obama and his attorney general, Eric Holder Jr., tried to put Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind, on trial in New York City.
Senior Republicans claimed to be aghast. John Boehner, then the House minority leader, said Mr. Obama was “treating terrorism as a law enforcement issue and hoping for the best.” Jeff Sessions, then a senator from Alabama, said the attempt to move Mr. Mohammed to federal court showed “fighting global terrorism is not the priority it once was.”
Republicans complained about more than Mr. Mohammed, whose civil trial was called off in early 2010; throughout Mr. Obama’s presidency, they fumed often at the prospect that terrorism suspects would enjoy the constitutional protections of civilian trials.
Yet there was no similar outcry last week at the news that Mr. Sessions, now the attorney general, has agreed to try Ali Charaf Damache in a federal court in Philadelphia. Mr. Damache is believed to be a recruiter for Al Qaeda and is charged with providing material support to the organization. He was extradited from Spain, where he was arrested in 2015, and made his initial appearance before a federal judge on Friday.
The extradition effort began under Mr. Obama and continued under President Trump, who promised during the campaign to keep Guantánamo open and to send more “bad dudes” there. But before anyone starts thinking that Mr. Trump and his allies have come to see the value of federal trials for terrorism suspects, there is a simpler explanation: The administration most likely had no choice. Spain, like many other countries, sees Guantánamo as the moral catastrophe and legal black hole that it is, and would have refused to hand Mr. Damache over without a guarantee that he would not be sent there to face a military commission.
Whatever factors combined to bring Mr. Damache to the federal court system, it was the right move. Forget the overheated rhetoric and look at the record: Federal prosecutors have won about 200 “jihadist related” terrorism and national security cases since Sept. 11, as a federal judge noted in 2015. Meanwhile, not a single Sept. 11 defendant has been convicted under the Guantánamo military commissions. That system, plagued from the start with delays and legal challenges, has led to just eight convictions over all, three of which have been overturned — a record the commissions’ former chief prosecutor called a “litany of failure.”
Little of this has sunk in with Mr. Trump. Perhaps Mr. Damache’s trial will show him that the federal court system is far better equipped to handle such prosecutions than military commissions at Guantánamo Bay will ever be.
The Australian on President Donald Trump’s Twitter habits:
Donald Trump clearly is frustrated by the way allegations of Russian collusion in last year’s presidential election are engulfing members of his family. But that does not justify the unedifying, over-the-top Twitter rampage he has launched to demean, denigrate and, presumably, force the resignation of Attorney-General Jeff Sessions. Nor does it provide grounds for his apparent determination, in viciously targeting Mr Sessions, to relaunch the “lock her up” theme of his 2016 campaign by ominously recalling that the embattled Attorney-General “has taken a very weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes”. Nothing, however, appears sacrosanct. Even the President’s youngest son, Barron, has been drawn in rhetorically to help make Mr. Trump’s argument against the Russian probe. “Jared Kushner,” he tweeted of his son-in-law, “did very well yesterday in proving he did not collude with the Russians. Witch Hunt. Next up, 11-year-old Barron Trump!”
Mr. Trump, as the President of the most powerful nation on earth and leader of the free world, should be above such crassness. He is, as The Wall Street Journal has noted, “harming himself, alienating allies and crossing dangerous legal and political lines”. His implied suggestion that his Attorney-General should prosecute his defeated opponent “is the kind of crude political retribution one expects in Erdogan’s Turkey or Duterte’s Philippines”.
Mr. Sessions, America’s top law officer, was a veteran US senator who campaigned tirelessly for Mr. Trump. He has provoked the President’s ire because he recused himself from supervising the Russian collusion investigation — which he was right to do. What Mr. Trump needs to consider is that it is his tweeting, rather than Mr. Sessions, that is creating a mess around his administration. If the President’s new communications director, the smooth-talking financier Anthony Scaramucci, does nothing else he must persuade his boss to be much more presidential and discerning about his tweets. If he fails, the administration could come off the rails completely and Mr. Trump’s busy fingers end up destroying his own presidency.