Excerpts from recent Minnesota editorials
Minneapolis Star Tribune, July 24
Heed Mueller on one clear point: Interference threatens democracy
He satisfied neither Trump’s critics nor defenders. But nation could unite to protect democracy.
Former special counsel Robert Mueller, in hour after hour of congressional testimony, gave this country a vivid demonstration of the kind of by-the-book, nonpartisan, unshowy demeanor that at once bolstered his credibility while diminishing that of some of his more self-aggrandizing questioners. The nation should be grateful that such public servants still exist.
Mueller restated forcefully that his report did not, as President Donald Trump has claimed repeatedly, exonerate the president. But he resisted attempts by some Democrats to get him to say that the only reason he did not charge Trump was because of a legal opinion that states a sitting president cannot be indicted. He confirmed nonetheless that Russia interfered in the election, that it benefited Trump, and that Trump’s organization welcomed it and lied to cover it up. That is damaging for Trump, and no amount of tweeting that the hearing was a “disaster” for Democrats will alter it.
But those who hoped the former special prosecutor would swoop in like some avenging angel and persuade Americans of the need for impeachment were left unsatisfied. Mueller refused to go outside the parameters of his report, and in doing so, avoided becoming a pawn of either side. Yes, Mueller made clear that a president could be indicted once he leaves office. But that is theoretical and, it must be said, unlikely. While no one is above the law, there is no precedent for criminally indicting, let alone convicting and jailing, a former president.
The Constitution is clear on the remedy for a president who abuses his office. It is a political process, not a criminal one. Democrats have hard decisions to make on whether to pursue impeachment, and as Mueller’s testimony showed, there will be no easy path, particularly as the election draws nearer.
And that brings us to what may have been the most important element of Mueller’s testimony. Without reservation, Mueller sounded an unequivocal warning about Russian interference that should spur immediate action.
“Over the course of my career I’ve seen a number of challenges to our democracy,” he said. “The Russian government’s attempts to interfere in our election is among the most serious ... . This deserves the attention of every American.”
Coming from someone with the stature of Mueller, who headed the FBI under Republican and Democratic presidents and who has spent a lifetime in law enforcement, such a warning should not be taken lightly. Mueller also let it be known that the FBI continues to investigate counterintelligence regarding Russian interference.
That makes it imperative that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell end his obstruction of the bipartisan election security bill and allow a vote to move forward. Minnesota fought a yearlong battle to free up election security funding. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar has tried to bring the Election Security Act to the floor, to no avail. The act would, among other things, provide backup paper ballots that are crucial to accurate, tamper-proof recounts.
Congress will continue to be divided over what to do about a less-than-scrupulous president. But it can come together on what should be common ground for any patriot — securing this nation’s election infrastructure against foreign interference. Failure to do so is a betrayal of the voters elected leaders serve.
St. Cloud Times, July 19
Americans, please know this nation is battling for its soul
Many political junkies are viewing President Trump’s tweets about four new members of Congress as defining the main issue for the 2020 presidential election.
That’s an understatement. We say those actions define the only issue.
Trump’s discriminatory sentiments, bolstered by his past actions and utterances, put front and center one simple reality:
Americans are in a battle for the soul of this nation.
Are we, as our founders proclaimed 243 years ago, a nation where all are created equal? Are we, as Americans, following our nation’s pledge of liberty and justice for all? Are we bound by the rule of law? Are we a place where anyone can work hard and rise from humble beginnings — yes, even beginnings that start on foreign soil.
Because that’s what our founders envisioned. And we’re not guessing. They said so. They wrote it down.
So the question before Americans — not just for the 2020 election, but for the future of the country is this: What country do you want to live in?
Do you want this to be a nation striving for all the freedoms our founders not only envisioned, but willingly put their lives behind with their signatures?
Or do you want a country led by a president bent on keeping power by stoking fear, using intimidation and making verbal attacks on select Americans?
We believe supporting or opposing any politician based on a single issue should be done very rarely.
However, President Trump’s repeated championing of nativism along with his reckless history of targeting of people of color, women and sometimes people with disabilities, make this a time when that single-issue measure needs to be applied.
Enough of excusing and ignoring his bigotry and hate because your economic times are good or you can’t stomach the other party.
If you support him with your vote, own this: You support a president who embraces the exact opposite values of those written into the very documents presidents are sworn to uphold.
U.S. House Republicans who did not speak out against Trump’s original tweets this past week, including U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minnesota, deserve similar scrutiny, especially when many of these same leaders two days later rebuked supporters for chanting “send her back” at Trump’s Wednesday campaign rally.
The president literally put those words in the crowd’s mouths. How can any honest American rebuke those who repeated the words, but not the powerful leader who put them up to it?
America has a president with a history and current practice of fomenting hate and bigotry based on negative stereotypes of those who are not like him, be they foreign-born, female or otherwise “other.”
He swore an oath to lead a nation, not a party. He made a promise to be the president of all the people, stating in his own inaugural address that “the oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.”
He has broken that promise, and he cannot lead the people when he disdains and derides a significant portion of them.
A Republican challenger — although an ideal alternative for middle-of-the-road centrist Republican voters who just can’t fathom voting outside the GOP — isn’t going to happen. Democrats who might otherwise cast a primary vote for a one-issue outlier to move the party platform have to be asking themselves if, this time, it’s worth it. This is no time for politics as usual.
What should America be? It’s time for soul-searching. It’s time to choose.
The Free Press of Mankato, July 25
Franken: Senator’s resignation still for the best
The publication this week of a New Yorker piece sympathetic to former Sen. Al Franken quotes the Minnesota Democrat as saying he “absolutely” regrets resigning in the midst of numerous allegations of harassment. It suggests Franken is angling for a return to politics.
We’re not swayed. We believe, as we did in late 2017, that Minnesota, the Senate, the DFL and the issues Franken cares about were all better served by his departure.
As a practical matter, we don’t see what door Franken, 68, expects to open to revive his political career. Minnesota has two DFL senators. It has a DFL governor. The congressional district in which Franken resides has a DFL representative.
A Senate berth could perhaps open if Sen. Amy Klobuchar finds her way onto the national ticket, but her presidential campaign hasn’t found any noticeable traction. And any attempt by a Democratic president to appoint Franken to a job requiring Senate confirmation will doubtless result in a contentious hearing.
The New Yorker article itself doesn’t really stand up to a close reading. Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight put it well: “This article is a master class in biased reporting and editing. There are so many subtle ways that it seeks to manipulate the reader into taking Franken’s side.” While it attempts to undermine the LeeAnn Tweeden allegations — the ones that include the infamous “pretend to grope her as she naps” photo — it barely mentions the others.
Could Franken have remained in the Senate for the remaining two-plus years of his six-year term? Probably; it’s been a long time since the Senate formally expelled a member. But had he stuck it out, the controversy would have consumed him. He would have been in a weaker position electorally — assuming he sought a third term in 2020 — than his successor, Sen. Tina Smith, is today.
The Democrats who called upon their colleague to resign in 2017 drew a clear distinction between themselves and the Republicans, who continue to embrace a president tainted by more serious improprieties than anything Franken was accused of. While there are few if any elected officials innocent of hypocrisy, Franken’s ouster spoke well of the Democrats then, and they should not regret it now.