Editorial Roundup: United States

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

June 10

The New York Times says that Americans must fully confront what happened on Jan. 6

On Thursday night, a congressional committee began an unflinching conversation with the citizens of this country about, in the words of the committee chair, Donald Trump’s last stand, his attempt to spur the enemies of the Constitution to subvert American democracy.

Facts about what happened during the Jan....

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Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

June 10

The New York Times says that Americans must fully confront what happened on Jan. 6

On Thursday night, a congressional committee began an unflinching conversation with the citizens of this country about, in the words of the committee chair, Donald Trump’s last stand, his attempt to spur the enemies of the Constitution to subvert American democracy.

Facts about what happened during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack were clearly and soberly laid out. Videotaped testimony underscored those findings. The rallying cries of the former president and the ensuing breach of the Capitol were shown for all to see.

It was the first of several hearings by the Jan. 6 committee that are meant, in part, for the history books. But the importance of the hearings isn’t simply about holding Mr. Trump, his allies and the flag-draped thugs storming the halls to account. The hearings challenge all Americans to recommit to the principles of democracy, ask how important those values are to us and face the threats posed to our democratic way of life.

Those threats are real and present, as Mr. Trump prepares to possibly again seek the office he has already desecrated once. The committee is doing its duty to defend against these threats by presenting evidence that the attack on the Capitol was not an isolated event, that it was a coordinated assault and that it continues to this very day. Our duty, as American citizens, is to participate fully in this process, by watching and absorbing the committee’s evidence and considering what it would mean for our democracy if Mr. Trump were to run for president again.

The eloquent restraint of the committee’s leaders was equal to the gravity of the task before them. The chair, Bennie Thompson, a Black former schoolteacher from Bolton, Miss., called back to history. He invoked the words of Abraham Lincoln, who wrote, before the critical election of 1864, “This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so cooperate with the president-elect,” in making a solemn commitment to accept the results even if a loss might have meant the end of our Union.

The vice chair, Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who has been marginalized by her fellow Republicans for condemning Mr. Trump, warned of judgment from generations to come. Addressing her colleagues’ defense of “the indefensible,” she said, “There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”

The chilling videos and interviews aired in the two hours of the hearing did far more than replay the familiar horrors. They were revelatory and dramatic, showing how Mr. Trump urged his followers to violate the Constitution and refused to rein them in even when his most loyal aides pleaded with him to do so.

Republican politicians, with brave exceptions such as Ms. Cheney, have dismissed the hearings as unimportant, a partisan show trial and an unwarranted political attack on Mr. Trump. The House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy — whose office was seen being overrun in one of Thursday evening’s clips — declared that congressional Republicans will issue their own report on Jan. 6, focusing on the security preparations. This misdirection tries to obscure the truth of what is in that footage: Many of the same Republicans had to flee their chamber in panic as a howling mob rampaged through the Capitol.

The absence of full Republican participation in the hearings does not diminish their importance. On the contrary, the absence has prodded Mr. Thompson and Ms. Cheney to ensure that every accusation they level is supported by evidence. Mr. Trump’s heretofore loyal attorney general, William P. Barr, testified that he told the president that his claims of a stolen election were “bullshit.” Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, said that she accepted Mr. Barr’s conclusion. And some of the same Republicans who now downplay Jan. 6 are said to have asked for presidential pardons in its aftermath.

These politicians know that something truly terrible happened on Jan. 6, and confronting it is essential to healing our divided nation. At least 20 million people watched the opening session of the hearings on Thursday; our democracy will be strengthened if they are followed and experienced by everyone, in the same way the Senate Watergate hearings into the misdeeds of an earlier president transfixed the nation in 1973.

The stakes today are arguably far higher: This investigation is an attempt by the elected representatives and civil servants of our democracy to figure out how it nearly came undone. As Ms. Cheney said, “We all have a duty to ensure that what happened on Jan. 6 never happens again.”

Those Americans who still believe in Mr. Trump and his grievances may disagree with whatever conclusions the committee draws, but we urge them to see and hear the evidence the committee has collected from interviewing 1,000 witnesses and gathering more than 140,000 documents.

Those Americans who were horrified by Jan. 6 also must not turn away in the belief that they already know what happened. There is much more to come in future hearings that has not yet been publicly disclosed. Gaining a deeper and more detailed understanding of the forces at work inside the White House, among Republicans speaking and texting that day and at the Capitol is essential to facing an essential truth about democracy: that it depends on leaders who commit to a peaceful transfer of power.

The insurrection and the lies that led to it, as Mr. Thompson put it, “have put two and a half centuries of constitutional democracy at risk.” The danger will remain until Americans fully confront what happened on that day. The committee has given us that chance.

ONLINE: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/10/opinion/january-6-hearing-trump.html

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June 13

According to the Washington Post, the Fed should go big to fight inflation

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell proved he could act swiftly and decisively in March 2020 as the coronavirus exploded around the world and large parts of the economy halted. Now, Mr. Powell needs to adopt bold and aggressive tactics again to fight inflation. The time for steady and gradual moves from the Fed is over.

Ideally, Mr. Powell and his team would announce a larger-than-planned 75-basis-point increase in the Fed’s benchmark interest rate this week, raising it from about 1 percent now to about 1.75%. For the past month, top Fed officials have been signaling they will do a 50-basis-point increase, but that was before the disastrous May inflation report that came out Friday and showed large price shocks in gas, groceries, rent, airfares, cars and various services. Inflation is broad-based. It won’t be easily cured. And numerous polls and surveys show Americans expect high inflation to stick around. The Fed needs to take decisive action — the sooner, the better. Otherwise, Mr. Powell risks losing the public’s confidence.

In the past decade, the Fed has tended to prefer modest moves in order not to spook markets or the public. But inflation is already spooking people. The stock market has slumped into bear market territory. The bond market is flashing recession warning signs. The real estate market is drying up. Investors predict the Fed has to hike interest rates 175 basis points by the end of September. That means at least one 75-basis-point hike would be needed. The Fed gains little by delaying the pain that everyone sees coming at this point. The biggest risk for the Fed is not doing enough to fight inflation. The board already made this mistake earlier in the year. It should not stumble again.

Danielle DiMartino Booth, chief executive of Quill Intelligence and a former top Dallas Fed official, put it bluntly Monday: “The Federal Reserve’s slow and steady approach to tightening policy is now an outright insult to working Americans.” Inflation is up 8.6% in the past year, far outpacing average pay gains of 5.2%.

At a minimum, the Fed needs to enact the expected 50-basis-point increase this week and heavily signal the possibility of a larger hike at its next meeting in late July. The ongoing strength of the job market gives the Fed some room to hike aggressively now without doing much, if any, damage to employment. That window could close soon as executives increasingly fear a recession and will likely pull back on hiring. It’s yet another reason to go big now.

The conventional wisdom is that monetary policy is mostly about talk and setting expectations; former Fed chair Ben Bernanke recently said it’s “98% talk and 2% action.” But the nation needs to see action at this time. After wrongly calling inflation “transitory” for much of last year, the Fed must prove that it is serious about tackling this substantial threat to the U.S. economy.

ONLINE: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/06/13/federal-reserve-should-go-big-now-fight-inflation/

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June 9

The Wall Street Journal says that abortion polling results aren’t black and white

The conventional wisdom on abortion polling is that the Supreme Court is walking into a gale-force political wind if it overturns Roe v. Wade. Gallup reported last week that 55% of Americans identify as pro-choice, up six points since 2021 and near a record high. The Journal’s poll last week says 68% of people hope the Supreme Court doesn’t completely overturn Roe.

Movement in such topline figures is meaningful, but it obscures as much as it reveals. What do people mean when they identify as pro-choice? In the Gallup survey, 67% of Americans say abortion should be “generally legal” in the first three months of pregnancy. But it falls precipitously to 36% in the second trimester and 20% in the final trimester.

Recall what the Supreme Court is deciding in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The Mississippi law under review generally bans abortion after 15 weeks. That’s the second trimester. According to Gallup, that has public opinion on its side. “A majority of Americans (55%) are generally against abortion in the second three months,” the pollster says. This is the same percentage who called themselves pro-choice.

In other words, there are many pro-choice Americans who nonetheless oppose abortion in the second and third trimesters, and this isn’t necessarily inconsistent. One study of 2019 abortions in the U.S. says that 79% were performed at nine weeks or less of pregnancy, and 93% at 13 weeks or less.

That’s key context for the polls that ask whether abortion should be legal in “most” circumstances. Someone can say yes while still supporting restrictions like Mississippi’s.

The Journal poll frames the question in terms of weeks, not trimesters, and it gets different answers. It says only 34% of Americans want to ban abortion after 15 weeks, while 43% are opposed, and 21% are neither. Even so, this isn’t the consensus that Democrats are trying to project, especially if the result depends so much on the wording of the question. Also, what ultimately matters is state opinion. Mississippi is presumably more supportive of the state’s post-15 week ban than is the nation as a whole.

The real contradiction in the polling is Roe, which has become a totem that doesn’t reflect the underlying policy views. Fifty-five percent of Americans tell Gallup that abortion should be generally illegal in the second trimester. Yet a majority say the Supreme Court should keep Roe. That circle can’t be squared, and it probably reflects that many Americans don’t realize what Roe really allows.

The Roe line of precedent enshrines a fundamental right to abortion until fetal viability, about 23 or 24 weeks. That’s almost the third trimester. In practice under Roe, however, abortion is legal right up to the day before birth and for any reason if a woman can find a doctor willing to perform it.

All of this complicates the media narrative that reversing Roe will be a political bonanza for Democrats, which they seem to believe. Only two of them in Congress—Sen. Joe Manchin and Rep. Henry Cuellar —voted no recently when Democrats tried to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act. That bill guarantees abortion access through viability, and through all nine months if a health provider deems the pregnancy a “health” risk. Does that include mental health? It also protects sex-selective abortions and undercuts state laws that require parental involvement for minors.

Public opinion on abortion policy remains diverse and for the most part more moderate. How the politics shakes out depends on how the debate and policies go in the states. If the Supreme Court overturns Roe, some states will ban abortion and some will allow it with few limits.

Others might settle at 15 or 18 weeks, roughly where democratic laws in Europe have come out. The polling suggests that’s what many Americans favor. But whatever people tell pollsters about Roe as precedent, they can’t get the policy they seem to want until Roe goes and the political debate opens up.

ONLINE: https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-contradictions-of-abortion-polling-roe-v-wade-11654809065

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June 10

The Los Angeles Times says the Senate’s modest action on gun safety is better than nothing

It was hard to discern what was most upsetting during this week’s congressional hearing on the national epidemic of gun violence.

Was it the pediatrician from Uvalde, Texas, describing the bodies of decapitated children in his emergency room on May 24, so mutilated that they could only be identified by their “blood-splattered cartoon clothes”?

Was it the mother who talked about the last time she saw her daughter alive, watching her receive an award for good grades during fourth grade at Robb Elementary School, promising to take her out for ice cream later and then leaving for a day of work? It was a decision that she said “will haunt me for the rest of my life.”

Or was it the 11-year-old girl, who said she was so afraid of being killed by the gunman who’d already massacred her teacher and her classmates that she decided to play dead on the floor of her classroom by covering herself with blood from her friend’s body?

After this heart-wrenching testimony, the Democratic-controlled House took logical action and passed a package of reasonable gun safety measures. The bills would increase the age to buy semiautomatic weapons from 18 to 21, ban high-capacity magazines, create new requirements for gun owners to safely store their firearms and expand “red flag” laws that allow families and police to ask courts to order the removal of firearms from people at extreme risk of harming themselves or others.

But compounding the tragedy of recent mass shootings in Uvalde; Buffalo, New York; and Tulsa , Oklahoma; (as well as dozens more that don’t generate as many headlines — carnage in recent days in Portsmouth, Virginia; Baltimore; Mesa, Arizona; Saginaw, Michigan; Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Philadelphia has left 31 people injured and 15 dead, including a pregnant woman whose 25-week-old fetus was pulled from her body) was the all-but-certain likelihood that the House legislation will stall in the Senate.

Even though gunshots are now the leading cause of death for American children — taking more young lives than car crashes — Republicans’ resistance to limits on firearms will likely doom the bills in the 50-50 Senate, where the filibuster rule requires support from 10 GOP senators to advance debate.

The good news, if you can call it that in the nation that has the highest rate of firearm deaths among the world’s most developed countries, is that a bipartisan group of senators is trying to craft a gun safety bill that has a chance of passing the Senate and being signed into law. It would be much narrower than the House legislation, and could include incentives encouraging states to create red-flag laws, an expansion of federal background checks to incorporate juvenile records and funding to improve school security and support mental health programs.

This is hardly the kind of bold, transformative policy that we would like to see. The nation should expand background checks and reinstate the assault weapons ban, policies that have been shown to save lives and are supported by more than 60% of Americans, according to a Pew survey last year.

But doing something is better than nothing. And expanding red-flag laws to more states could make a positive difference. California is among 19 states that have laws allowing family members and law enforcement officers to seek a court order to temporarily remove firearms from people at significant risk of harming themselves or others.

New research examining the first three years of the California law allowing these “gun violence restraining orders” found that they were successful in removing firearms in 58 instances in which someone threatened a mass shooting, including six cases targeting schools. They were also effective in preventing possible self-harm, which was threatened in about 40% of the cases examined during the 3-year period. No suicides occurred among people who threatened self-harm and then had their guns removed by court order, according to the study from the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis.

California can make this policy even more effective by educating the public that it’s possible to ask courts to remove someone’s guns and by training more judges, district attorneys and law enforcement officers in how the process works. It was good to see last week that Gov. Gavin Newsom announced $11 million to support such outreach.

Senators in Washington, meanwhile, must push ahead and reach a bipartisan agreement to reduce the number of Americans who are killed, injured and traumatized by gun violence. It’s the very least they can do for the nation’s children.

ONLINE: https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-06-10/federal-national-gun-safety-gun-control-bills-legislation

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June 10

The Guardian says the Jan. 6 committee has a greater purpose than merely merely investigating the storming of the U.S. Capitol

Despite its name, the January 6 committee is not merely investigating the storming of the U.S. Capitol in 2021. It is rightly examining the broader campaign to deny the will of the people. Its first public hearing on Thursday highlighted the terror of a day that led to the deaths of at least seven people and saw 140 police officers injured as a mob, armed with cable ties and stun guns, wielded flagpoles as clubs. Graphic footage and vivid testimony from a Capitol police officer – “I was slipping in people’s blood… It was carnage” – reminded primetime viewers just how shocking and frightening those events were.

Yet the greater horror is that the riot was not an anomaly, but the “culmination of an attempted coup”, part of a months-long effort to overturn the election result. It happened when more genteel methods had failed, though they got much further than they should have. “President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack,” said Liz Cheney, the House select committee’s vice-chair.

Rioters have already been jailed. But those most culpable have yet to be held accountable. The committee’s exhaustive efforts have established genuinely shocking revelations: when Donald Trump learned that supporters were chanting “Hang Mike Pence”, he reportedly remarked that his vice-president might “deserve” it. The sheer number of those in his inner circle – including his daughter Ivanka – who were clear that he had lost and, in many cases, told him so, was damning. Establishing that Mr. Trump knew full well that Joe Biden had won might, potentially, help to build a legal case against him. That task, however difficult, looks simple compared to the challenge of changing voters’ minds, already largely made up. Many of the worst aspects took place in full view. Mr. Trump repeatedly lied that the election had been stolen. He urged his supporters “to fight like hell”. He refused to call them off when begged by top Republicans. As one rioter said, “I answered the call of my president”.

Most Americans – 70% – believe that finding out what happened that day matters, but 52% of Republicans judge it not very or not at all important. In a world of “alternative facts”, the truth can simply be ignored: Fox News did not broadcast the hearing.

As November’s midterms approach, voters appear more concerned about the cost of living than threats to democracy which they may, wrongly, imagine to have been overcome. At best, the hearings may boost Democratic fundraising, persuade a few reluctant voters to the polls, or give pause to the undecided who were thinking of giving Republicans another chance. Mr. Trump remains the favorite to be his party’s presidential candidate in 2024. Senior Republicans who denounced him after the riot fell quickly and shamefully silent; Ms. Cheney and her colleague Adam Kinzinger have been vilified for serving on the committee.

The committee is not only establishing the historical record, but seeking to safeguard institutions in the future. Next time, Republicans will be more organized and more ruthless in pursuing victory whatever the ballots say.

The GOP has systematically sought control of election processes and installed its people in the judiciary. The far right – including members of militias who played a critical role in the January 6 attacks, such as the Proud Boys – are moving off the streets and seeking elected office. Next time, no mob may be required. Just as the storming of the Capitol was one in a series of assaults upon democracy, so this must be only one of many attempts to uphold it. If these hearings appear to preach to the converted, they are no less essential. The alternative – giving up – is unthinkable, because the Trumpists haven’t, and won’t.

ONLINE: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/jun/10/the-guardian-view-on-the-january-6-committee-hearing-truth-v-alternative-facts

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