Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials
Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
Arizona Republic on U.S. Sen. John McCain:
Let the record show that John Sidney McCain never quit on his country.
When he nearly died in a fire that killed 134 of his shipmates on an aircraft carrier in the Tonkin Gulf, he went on to fly combat missions.
When he nearly died ejecting out of a plane over North Vietnam, he steeled himself for nearly six heroic years of captivity as an American POW.
When he nearly died from torture in a Hanoi prison, he came home and began a career of service in Congress.
And as he neared death with cancer and its punishing treatment regimen, he railed against a brutal Syrian regime and the excesses of a populist president.
The man had no quit.
He came from an America that believed in the sun-faded ideals of honor and duty. And so he spent the last months of his three decades as U.S. senator making the case for honorable conduct.
In one of America’s dark hours, when the country was beset upon itself, McCain used his last great speech to call on the leaders of this country to stop savaging one another, to start working together.
Who will ever forget McCain’s return to the U.S. Senate last summer that brought every member of that body to their feet to warmly acknowledge him after doctors broke the news he had little time to live?
McCain acted as if the diagnosis were nothing. A trifle. And he had nothing to hide, appearing in public only days after surgery with a newly stitched incision above his left eye.
He was tranquil, good-natured and telling jokes.
McCain was our senior senator, but we shared him with the world. Just about every important conference on defense and foreign affairs eagerly sought McCain’s participation because he was so highly respected in that realm.
Many of us perked up when we heard McCain’s thinly veiled criticism of Donald Trump at the 2017 Liberty Medal Award Ceremony. But to go back and read the text is to understand McCain was doing more than rebuking an irresponsible president:
“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of Earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”
McCain strove to make that point, even in his return to the U.S. Senate. He was putting down a marker at the end, warning us that the rest of the world has not advanced enough for America to abandon global security to the other great powers.
If the John McCain who survived the Hanoi Hilton was not afraid to face death, he was also not afraid to face mistakes.
When the Arizona senator ran the first time for GOP nominee for president in 2000, allegations that he has a violent temper became a serious blight on his candidacy.
He would lose the Republican primary to George W. Bush, and over the years begin to mellow. Decades later, there were still flashes of that old McCain anger, but it had lost its earlier intensity. He had bridled one of his worst impulses.
By the end of his Senate career he had become a voice for comity and bipartisanship, not just calling for civility, but setting the example by reaching across the aisle. He was always first to admit he wasn’t perfect, but nonetheless implored his fellow senators to work in good faith with one another. And they respected him for it.
History will best remember McCain for his 2008 run for president when it was his great misfortune to go up against a political supernova in Barack Obama.
An enduring moment in that race came when one of McCain’s supporters told him, “I can’t trust Obama. I have read about him, and he’s not, he’s not — he’s an Arab.”
McCain replied, “No ma’am. He’s a decent family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.”
John McCain was a man of sturdy good judgment who was most composed when others were losing their minds. As xenophobia took over Arizona’s political landscape, McCain led a “Gang of Eight” in the U.S. Senate in pursuit of humane immigration reform.
He understood that America could not turn its back on modern immigrants any more than it could disavow its immigrant past.
McCain served his state and his country with integrity and high distinction.
The Washington Post says U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is deporting Mauritanians:
The West African nation of Mauritania is known for its poets, for its reserves of gold — and for its failure to take meaningful action to curtail the pervasive practice of modern slaveholding. Tens of thousands of people there, especially women and children, are believed to be in bondage, which explains why undocumented Mauritanians living in the United States have seldom been deported in the past — because doing so would mean enslavement and even torture for many of them.
That seems not to concern the Trump administration’s deportation agents, who, in a stark departure from past practice, have sent back dozens of Mauritanians to a likely future in bondage. In many cases, the deportees have lived in the United States for many years, during which they were merely required to check in periodically with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The deportees in question are black Mauritanians, who are ethnically distinct, and speak a different language from the majority Arab and Berber tribes that form the country’s majority and its slaveholding merchant class. They have suffered brutal discrimination as well as enslavement for decades. More recently, the government stripped them of citizenship, meaning that black Mauritanians living overseas, including in the United States, are stateless.
Mauritania doesn’t want them, and many of them left under threat of violence from the authorities. Heedless of that, and the grim fate that awaits them if they return, ICE is arresting and deporting them anyway. That is unconscionable. After deporting just 18 Mauritanians in the two years ending in October 2017, ICE has removed 79 since then; 33 of them had been convicted of a criminal offense. Another 41 are in ICE detention, according to the agency.
ICE’s arrests and deportations are enabled by the administration’s pressure on the Mauritanian government, which responded by authorizing travel documents that allow deportees to be returned to Mauritania. That sent a chill through the biggest U.S. community of Mauritanians, located in Columbus, Ohio, many of whom have lived there for 20 years.
Mauritania was the last nation on Earth to outlaw slavery, in 1981, but that was mainly a legal nicety. Between 40,000 and 90,000 of its 4.3 million people are believed to be held in households in a hereditary slavery system, passed from generation to generation, with little consequence from the authorities. Antislavery activists in Mauritania have been subjected to harassment and arrest, as documented by a recent report by Amnesty International.
According to the CIA World Factbook, Mauritania’s anti-trafficking enforcement is “negligible.” The Factbook added that of 4,000 child labor cases referred to the police in recent years by nongovernmental advocacy organizations, not one resulted in prosecution or conviction.
That provides an obvious reason for the administration to use its discretion and spare unauthorized Mauritanians who have lived productive lives in the United States from the possibility of a horrific fate. But discretion and common sense have not been the hallmarks of this administration’s immigration policy. The result, in this and other cases, is tragedy and suffering.
The Japan News says South Korea must maintain cooperation with the United States over the North Korea nuclear issue:
Diplomatic maneuvering has been intensifying between the United States, which is calling for denuclearization, and North Korea, which is trying to stall proceedings. To make progress on the nuclear issue, it is imperative for the international community, including China and South Korea, to maintain pressure by enforcing sanctions against Pyongyang.
U.S. President Donald Trump has directed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to cancel his planned visit to North Korea. Trump also said, “At this time ... I feel we are not making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
The bilateral negotiations have deadlocked because the North ramped up its tactic of giving priority to its calls for the lifting of sanctions and security guarantees for its regime while delaying denuclearization.
The International Atomic and Energy Agency has compiled a report, confirming that the North has been proceeding with nuclear development programs, including the continued operation of nuclear-related facilities in Yongbyon in North Korea’s northwestern region.
This is a move that runs counter to a commitment for the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” which was made by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, during his June summit with Trump, and thus cannot be overlooked.
Pyongyang should proceed with formulating a road map for its abandonment of nuclear weapons while standing at the start line for denuclearization by reporting all its nuclear arms and development programs.
North Korea, which gives weight to obtaining U.S. guarantees of security for its regime, has been persistently calling for an early declaration of the end of the Korean War. The United States has already made a concession of canceling its joint military exercises with South Korea. Washington should not comply with the North’s demand for a declaration of the war’s end as long as it does not take any concrete action toward denuclearization. ...
... A matter of concern is that South Korean President Moon Jae In leans toward promoting exchange and cooperation with the North.
It has been agreed by the two Koreas that Moon will visit Pyongyang in September to confer with Kim. Emphasizing that the development of the South-North relations is the only driving force for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Moon has disclosed his intention to hold within this year a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a railway and a highway linking the two Koreas.
The Moon administration is expediting efforts to open a South-North joint liaison office in Kaesong, North Korea. By establishing a close relationship between the two Koreas, Moon likely has the ulterior motive of bolstering the South’s position as a mediator between the United States and North Korea.
If cooperation with the North is pushed ahead with no progress seen in denuclearization, it may cause disarray in the U.S.-South Korea relationship. Moon should be aware that as things stand now, there is a limit to the progress that can be made in relations with the North.
Seoul has prosecuted South Korean firms for smuggling North Korean coal, an item banned by U.N. Security Council resolutions. The action came about when allegations of smuggling were highlighted by a Security Council expert panel on sanctions.
Amid increasing uncertainty over whether China, the major backer of the Kim regime, has been enforcing sanctions strictly, South Korea must not be allowed to participate in the widening of a hole in the network of U.N. sanctions against the North.
Los Angeles Times on President Donald Trump accusing Google of rigging search results against conservative news outlets:
President Trump fired off an angry Twitter broadside against Google before the sun rose Tuesday, accusing the search company of skewing its results in favor of “fake news” outlets at the expense of conservative ones. Relying on reporting from the right-of-center PJ Media site, Trump asserted that Google had “rigged” its search results to “shut out” stories about him from conservative and “fair media” outlets.
He went on to broaden his accusation: “Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good. They are controlling what we can & cannot see. This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!”
Not long thereafter, Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic advisor, told reporters that “we’re taking a look at it.”
It doesn’t take much of a look to recognize what’s going on here. Famously thin-skinned, Trump doesn’t like the barrage of criticism he’s getting online, much of it delivered in the form of news and opinion pieces from the country’s mainstream media. So in addition to trying to discredit those outlets as “fake news,” he’s now trying to sow distrust in the search engine that leads people to them — and, worse yet, threatening to take action against them.
Yet Trump has company on this issue. It’s become an article of faith in some conservative circles that tech companies are warping their products and services to discriminate against conservatives. Among other pieces of evidence, these critics point to incidents on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter that, they argue, show companies disproportionately downgrading or blocking content from conservatives. ...
For its part, Google insists that its only goal is to deliver relevant search results, and that its engineers “never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.” The company won’t say exactly how its continually updated search technology does work, however — that’s a closely guarded trade secret.
Still, there’s an easy way to judge whether Google has, in fact, cleverly rigged its search engine to elevate bad news about the president over the hosannas of a grateful nation. Search for Trump news on another site — Microsoft’s Bing, say, or DuckDuckGo — and compare the results with Google’s. There will be differences on the margins, but the thrust will be the same. Most of the results will come from mainstream news outlets with large audiences.
Users have to dig a little deeper to unearth links to smaller or more specialized sites. But will they bother? That’s one of the things that critics of the tech platforms assert: The vast majority of internet users rely on the shortcuts that these platforms provide, and won’t bother to hunt for the stories and tweets — conservative, liberal or otherwise — that don’t get promoted.
Research bears that out, at least for Google, where 95% of users don’t look past the first page of links. Don’t blame Google for that. If anything, it’s a sign of a worrisome lack of curiosity among internet users and an apparent disinterest in diverse information sources.
Admittedly, Google’s search algorithm doesn’t rank sites purely on the basis of popularity and authenticity. European regulators fined the company more than $2.8 billion last year for favoring its own shopping service over competing comparison-shopping sites. But the company doesn’t claim to be neutral — it claims to offer results that are relevant, which tells users that it’s doing some kind of filtering.
Some conservatives are calling on the government to use antitrust law against Google and other tech giants that dominate their markets. But Trump seems to be calling for something different: Using the power of government to change how Google’s technology works. Such a big-government solution, turning Washington into a manipulator of search results, would be worse than the supposed problem it purports to solve. The president should stop Googling himself and pay more attention to the duties of his office.
The Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina, on prison reform programs:
A prison reform bill that passed the House with a strong bipartisan majority is slowly dying in the Senate. It must be rescued and broadened.
The First Step Act focuses on ways to help federal prisoners prepare for a productive life once they leave prison and to support them in their search for employment. It is a thoughtful attempt to break the destructive cycle that results in more than half of federal prisoners returning to prison within a few years after their first release. Pilot programs have shown that recidivism can be sharply reduced by providing such support.
The lone problem with the First Step Act is that it addresses only the 225,000 inhabitants of federal prisons. That is just 15 percent of the nation’s prison population. The bill doesn’t help the far more numerous inmates transitioning from state prisons and local jails. It should provide states with grants to encourage the establishment of similar prison-to-society assistance programs.
South Carolina has shown that such programs can work. The state’s comprehensive re-entry program, part of a partnership between the Department of Corrections and the Department of Employment and Workforce, began at a Manning facility and is being expanded to other sites. Almost 70 percent of the people who leave prison after taking part in the program find work within a year, which is nearly three times the national average, according to corrections chief Bryan Stirling.
In the long run, reducing the number of repeat offenders is the best way to address the burdensome cost of prisons. Instead, some states facing overcrowded prisons and prison riots are considering sentencing reforms like those enacted last year in Louisiana. Reducing sentences saves money in the short run, but it may prove to be a temporary respite unless the ex-offenders are successfully reintegrated into society. All it takes is one sensational crime to turn voters against what some hard-line legislators call “jailbreak” laws too lenient on prisoners.
Upfront costs of reintegration programs can be a major obstacle to state action. Federal grants could provide a helpful financial bridge to meet the start-up costs.
Meanwhile, the First Step Act is caught in a conflict between senators who seek federal sentencing reforms and those who strongly oppose them.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wants to add bipartisan sentencing reforms that narrowly missed Senate passage in 2016 to the House legislation. That is adamantly opposed by Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, who opposed the sentencing reform bill passed by the Louisiana Legislature last year, and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, who argues that federal sentences are not tough enough.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, could sideline the entire prison reform bill to avoid a debate pitting Republicans against each other before the midterm elections. That would be a shame.
Sen. Grassley should do the right thing and drop his effort to attach sentencing reforms to the bill and instead focus his committee on broadening it to encourage state action on the prison-to-society transition. Sen. McConnell should then green-light that bill. Such a compromise would lead to meaningful assistance for people trying to put their lives back together and avoid a return trip to prison.
The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch on Ohio State University’s policies amid the suspension of football coach Urban Meyer over domestic violence allegations made against an assistant coach:
The important news concerning Ohio State University this past week wasn’t about Urban Meyer. It wasn’t about Gene Smith or Zach Smith or even entirely about Courtney Smith — even though, as a woman whose repeated complaints about being threatened and abused by her husband were dismissed, her story is at the center of it.
The important issue is domestic violence, and Meyer and the others are just figures in another case.
To be sure, their involvement makes it a high-profile case. The OSU Board of Trustees suspended Meyer without pay as head football coach because he tolerated a favored employee’s clearly unacceptable behavior for years; because he didn’t tell the truth when asked at a press conference about the employee’s controversy; and because, when people started asking uncomfortable questions about it, his first response was not to come forward with honesty but instead to make sure his old text messages were deleted.
Athletic Director Gene Smith was suspended without pay for 17 days because he failed to recognize and correct an organizational culture that allowed Meyer’s failures.
Those are, under OSU’s institutional policies, the offenses and omissions that triggered discipline. But there is a lot more to be troubled about in the story of Zach and Courtney Smith and their relationship to the university.
Zach Smith is a former assistant to Meyer, both at the University of Florida and at Ohio State; he is a grandson of the late Earle Bruce, beloved former Buckeye coach and mentor to Meyer. By all accounts, Smith and his former wife Courtney had a troubled relationship prone to conflict. Meyer knew about a fight between the Smiths in Florida in 2009, when Mrs. Smith accused her husband of throwing her against a wall. Mr. Smith was arrested, but no charges were filed.
Meyer has said he didn’t believe Courtney Smith’s claim. But over the years that followed, Meyer knew about plenty of bad behavior by Zach Smith. There was the recruiting trip on which he and another OSU assistant coach took high-school coaches to a strip club; failures to pay his credit-card and phone bills; and, during divorce proceedings in 2015 and 2016, an increasing tendency to show up late for work and not show up at all for recruiting visits and to lie about it.
In late 2015, Meyer learned that Powell police were investigating new domestic-violence accusations Courtney Smith made against her husband. In June 2016, Meyer told Zach Smith to get treatment for addiction to an ADHD drug.
But Meyer didn’t fire Smith until July, after a court found he was a danger to his wife and issued a domestic-violence protection order against him.
Meyer has acknowledged that a “blind spot” about Zach Smith, rooted in his affection for Bruce, led him to repeatedly go easy on his assistant — threatening multiple times to fire him the next time something happened, but never officially reporting his concerns to others.
Misplaced loyalty is one thing, but where was the concern for Courtney Smith? The couple’s toxic relationship features many of the signs that often end up in violence and tragedy. It could have gone much worse.
Meyer espouses respect for women as a “core value” of his program; it’s hard to understand how he could decline for so long to step in or speak up about a situation so fraught with danger.
Something Meyer told Zach Smith when he learned of the Powell police investigation is telling: “If you hit her, you are fired.”
Ohio State has struggled to respond adequately to problems of sexual violence involving employees and students. It established a Sexual Civility and Empowerment Center with much fanfare in 2015, but suspended its operations in February amid complaints that employees actually harmed people reporting sexual assaults by casting doubt on their complaints and “re-traumatizing” them.
An investigation followed and the university has promised to open a new centralized office to address sexual misconduct and harassment by explaining to people their rights and connecting them with support and resources.
And then there are questions about uninvestigated complaints of sexual assaults in previous years in wrestling and diving programs.
The saga of the Smiths and Urban Meyer suggests that the university needs a renewed emphasis on the idea that, when somebody knows that domestic violence might be happening, keeping quiet about it isn’t an acceptable option.
The noisy public debate about Meyer’s fate shows that many in our community don’t recognize that obligation. Many have questioned why he should be responsible for “personal problems” between “consenting adults.”
Whether Meyer and Gene Smith should have received harsher penalties is up for debate. But calling out their failure of leadership sends a message that this community needs to hear.