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Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

Sept. 11

The Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News & Observer on how a congressional election in North Carolina may have foreshadowed the 2020 presidential race:

Early this year, when Republican Mark Harris called for a new election in North Carolina’s disputed 9th Congressional District, top-tier Republicans wanted little to do with taking his place on the ballot. They cited varying reasons such as work and family, but there also was a clear political reality at play: The Republican nominee would be running against a well-moneyed Democrat who had barely lost in a race that was now tainted by Republican election fraud. Why spend time and political capital on such an uphill climb?

On Tuesday, Dan Bishop showed why. The Mecklenburg Republican beat McCready in a race that was close — but not as close as the disputed 9th District result last November. Bishop’s win — and McCready’s somewhat disappointing performance — should at least raise the eyebrows of Democrats looking ahead to the 2020 election.

Certainly if you’re a Democrat, it’s not hard to find solace in Tuesday’s result. In a district that gave Donald Trump a 12-point win three years ago — and one that saw the president visit twice this year — McCready fell by just two percentage points. The foundational elements of last year’s Democratic blue wave didn’t really change Tuesday. The suburbs continued to abandon Trump’s party, turning what’s been a solidly Republican district for decades into something resembling a swing district. That’s troubling news for the president and GOP.

But this also is true: McCready, while not a dynamic candidate, ran a campaign that hewed to the Democratic playbook. He talked a lot about health care and the Republican threat to pre-existing conditions. He didn’t talk a lot about Donald Trump. He campaigned vigorously and didn’t make any blunders. And he lost by more votes, to a more flammable candidate, than 10 months ago.

In part that’s because Bishop was a smarter campaigner than Harris, investing more energy in conservative districts and counties like Robeson, which McCready won last year but not Tuesday. More important, perhaps, was the message he carried to those conservatives — that he was running against liberals already in Washington who wanted to make structural changes to American government.

Bishop didn’t say it nearly as politely. He called congressional Democrats “clowns” and socialists, and his party and president followed suit until election day. But the message appeared to resonate with at least some N.C. Republican voters who’ve seen national Democrats veer to the left since November. That lurch started with the Green New Deal, a bill that was more manifesto than legitimate legislation, a wish list of unfunded, unrealistic proposals to guarantee jobs, vacation and retirement security for all Americans. The leftward shift has continued with viable Democratic presidential candidates talking about breaking up big banks and tech giants, and about Medicare for All proposals that include the elimination of private insurance.

Liberals will argue that Americans voted for big change in 2018, which may be true, and in some cases such change may be a good idea. But pushing for fundamental, systemic transformation comes with a risk of unsettling moderate and conservative fence-sitters who might merely be troubled by the guy in the White House right now. Bishop exploited that discomfort in rural NC counties Tuesday, and that strategy could be fruitful in 2020 swing states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — and North Carolina. Are Democrats listening?

Online: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/ and https://www.newsobserver.com/


Sept. 10

The Washington Post on John Bolton’s departure as national security adviser:

The departure of John Bolton as national security adviser on Tuesday — President Trump said he fired him, and Mr. Bolton maintained that he quit — was logical and overdue. A rigid ideologue, Mr. Bolton has a long record of championing military action against U.S. adversaries, which Mr. Trump resists, and opposing negotiation with the likes of North Korea and Iran, which is the president’s natural instinct. He didn’t alter those views to suit Mr. Trump, and instead battled those who catered to the president’s wishes — most notably, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Mr. Trump was no doubt telling the truth, for once, when he tweeted, “I disagreed strongly with many of (Mr. Bolton’s) suggestions, as did others in the Administration.”

Yet Mr. Bolton, who served in previous Republican administrations, can hardly be blamed for the falling-out. His ultra-hawkish views and habit of bureaucratic infighting were well known, even notorious, in Washington when Mr. Trump hired him in April of last year. But the president, in the hunt for his third national security adviser in just 15?months, simply disregarded the facts. Apparently Mr. Bolton was picked because Mr. Trump had enjoyed watching him on television. The result was to compound the chaos that has characterized the administration’s foreign policy and left Mr. Trump without meaningful accomplishments.

Perversely, considering how out of sync he was with Mr. Trump’s priorities, Mr. Bolton managed to accomplish a fair amount — if mostly in a negative sense. Last week he helped persuade Mr. Trump to torpedo an agreement with the Afghan Taliban, painstakingly negotiated by the State Department over the course of nearly a year, just before it was to be signed. Earlier this year, he induced the president to set aside State’s work on a possible interim deal with North Korea on its nuclear program, and instead demand that dictator Kim Jong Un immediately commit to giving up all weapons of mass destruction. That helped to precipitate the collapse of the Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi and has led to a prolonged lapse in negotiations, during which North Korea has been testing new missiles.

The national security adviser’s principal responsibility has traditionally been to oversee a disciplined policymaking process that includes the State Department, the Pentagon and intelligence agencies, and to tee up big decisions for the president. Mr. Bolton didn’t do that. Instead, he sniped at initiatives undertaken by others, like the North Korea talks and Afghan negotiations, and pursued long-standing pet causes of his own — such as his pointless crusade against the International Criminal Court. He championed an attempted coup against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, which fell flat.

This dysfunction was, of course, enabled and even encouraged by Mr. Trump, who has shown no interest in orderly process. During Mr. Bolton’s tenure, the president abruptly reversed course on bombing Iran, as well as making peace with the Taliban, and it has been impossible to keep track of his seesawing positions on China. “Sorry, it’s the way I negotiate,” he recently told reporters. Mr. Trump’s fourth national security adviser, if he can find one, will have to be a lot more pliable than Mr. Bolton.

Online: https://www.washingtonpost.com/


Sept. 10

The Tampa Bay Times on politics and weather forecasting during Hurricane Dorian:

By now everyone should be sick of hearing about President Donald Trump’s false claim that Alabama could be hit hard by Hurricane Dorian and about his doctored weather map. Enough with the one-liners and the Sharpie memes, and let’s move on. But there is nothing funny about hurricane forecasting being politicized and government agencies responsible for weather forecasts sniping at each other. Floridians have to trust hurricane forecasts are accurate and nonpolitical — because our lives depend on it.

The situation escalated Monday as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service became further tangled in the political storm over Trump’s false claim and sophomoric attempt to defend it. The Washington Post reported NOAA’s acting chief scientist told colleagues in an email Sunday that he is investigating the agency’s odd defence Friday of Trump’s misstatement. Meanwhile, the director of the National Weather Service broke with NOAA by backing the weather service’s forecasters and their performance. None of this is good for public confidence in hurricane forecasting, or for state and local emergency officials who depend on the forecasts to make critical preparations and issue evacuation orders.

Trump sparked the latest fury as he often does, by casually throwing out a falsehood and then doubling down when confronted with the facts. On Sept. 1, as Hurricane Dorian approached Florida’s east coast, Trump tweeted: “In addition to Florida – South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.” Yet forecasts at the time showed Alabama in no danger at all, with the official forecast track headed north, not west. Within minutes of Trump’s tweet, the National Weather Service in Birmingham, Ala., sought to correct the record: “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east.”

Of course, that was the only responsible reaction from the weather service. But as usual Trump would not let it go, and on Wednesday he displayed an outdated NOAA forecast in the Oval Office that had been doctored with a black semi-circle that extended the path of the hurricane cone into Alabama. The Washington Post reported that Trump used a black Sharpie marker to alter the map. As the political winds continued to blow on Friday, NOAA released a stunning rebuke of the Birmingham weather office, saying that information “demonstrated that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama.” The New York Times reported Monday that statement came hours after Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross threatened to fire top NOAA employees because the Birmingham weather office had contradicted the president.

Professional weather forecasters should not be transformed into political pawns. “You have science organizations putting out statements against their own offices,” Craig Fugate, Florida’s emergency management chief under Republican Gov. Jeb Bush and director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency under Democratic President Barack Obama, The Associated Press reported. “For the life of me, I don’t think I would have ever faced this under President Obama or Gov. Bush.”

The integrity and objectivity of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service cannot be compromised, regardless of who is president. Hurricane warnings and weather forecasts are not political statements, and public trust in them is essential. Floridians making decisions about buying supplies, closing businesses and evacuating cannot be wondering whether the projected path of the next major hurricane is tainted by politics or a false statement by the president, regardless of political party.

Online: https://www.tampabay.com/


Sept. 9

Business Day on the death of former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe:

In 1980 tens of thousands of people waving banners, dancing and chanting slogans, thronged the streets of Zimbabwe’s cities, celebrating the dawn of a new era under Robert Mugabe, a giant of the African liberation struggle.

Yet when his death was announced on Friday the messages on social media were decidedly mixed: “An icon of anti-imperialist struggle”, a “big loss to Africa”, “good riddance to this evil tyrant”, “rot in hell” and “the African continent is better off without Mugabe”.

Given Zimbabwe’s history, it is easy to sympathise with those who feel the need to dance on the grave of Mugabe, whose death comes nearly two years after he was ousted by his army after almost four decades in power, during which he destroyed much more than he built. The liberation hero had indeed become a power-hungry tyrant.

In his early years as president he appeared sensible, presiding over a booming economy, extending education to the black majority and, remarkably, championing racial reconciliation, including offering forgiveness to racist former white minority leader Ian Smith …

Mugabe went out of his way to reassure white farmers about their future in a newly independent country, knowing that Zimbabwe’s economic welfare depended on them and accepting that he was bound by a constitutional agreement lasting 10 years, to undertake land reform on a willing-buyer, willing-seller basis.

But even in those early years his intolerance for dissent was limited, with a number of incidents indicating how ruthless he might be were he to gain full control of Zimbabwe, which he had reluctantly governed in coalition with rival Joshua Nkomo after an election victory in 1980.

It did not take Mugabe long to unleash his henchmen …. on Nkomo’s supporters. A series of massacres of Ndebele civilians followed, and hundreds of homes were trashed. Civilians were rounded up en masse, beaten for hours and executed, often in public ….

Having crushed the dissidents, Mugabe’s dream of a one-party state where he would be able to dictate terms came true. With his dictatorial face on full display, he lay the country’s fortunes to waste with an ill-conceived plan to seize white-owned agricultural land, sinking the economy to the point where the central bank was printing a 100-trillion Zimbabwe dollar bills, throwing millions of middle-class Zimbabweans into poverty.

If ever a set of circumstances called for a celebratory dance on the grave, this would be it. But to rejoice over Mugabe’s death would rob us of our spirit of ubuntu, the same spirit that persuaded Nelson Mandela to strike up a cordial relationship with his jailers and compelled Mugabe to initially build a good working relationship with his former white adversaries.

Equally, celebrating Mugabe’s legacy would be an insult to the memory of the thousands of people who were killed in his pursuit of power. He deployed the same ruthlessness in his fight against white colonial rule in the 1960s and 1970s to crush post-independence opponents, rig elections and drive his once-prosperous country into destitution.

The reality is that Mugabe’s glorious revolutionary past pales in comparison to the unfortunate pain his post-liberation governance inflicted on Zimbabweans of all races, millions of whom have since fled the country in search of a better future elsewhere. Those left behind are fighting for survival in a moribund economy where there are shortages of everything from petrol to sugar.

Online: https://www.businesslive.co.za/


Sept. 7

The New York Times on how colleges and universities could end the practice of legacy admissions:

For nearly a century, many American college and university admissions officers have given preferential treatment to the children of alumni.

The policies originated in the 1920s, coinciding with an influx of Jewish and Catholic applicants to the country’s top schools. They continue today, placing a thumb on the scale in favour of students who already enjoy the benefits of being raised by families with elite educations. Of the country’s top 100 schools (as determined by the editors at U.S. News & World Report), roughly three-quarters have legacy preferences in admissions. These anachronistic policies have been called “affirmative action for the rich” and “affirmative action for whites.”

Preferential treatment for legacy admissions is anti-meritocratic, inhibits social mobility and helps perpetuate a de facto class system. In short, it is an engine of inequity. Little wonder that it is unpopular with most Americans, yet supported by the affluent who both oversee the college admissions process and are its primary beneficiaries.

Legacy admissions are no ordinary leg up. In 2011, a Harvard researcher who studied 30 of the nation’s most selective schools found that all legacy applicants had a 23 per cent higher probability of admission, while “primary legacy” students (those with a parent who attended the school as an undergraduate, rather than, say, a grandparent or aunt) had a 45 per cent higher probability compared with their peers, all other things being equal.

A federal trial last year over the admission practices at Harvard University focused on how the school’s affirmative action policies may have affected Asian-American applicants. That case is still being considered by a judge. But in the course of the trial some eye-popping numbers came to light. Between 2010 and 2015, the admission rate for legacy applicants at Harvard was higher than 33 per cent. It was 6 per cent for non-legacies. More than 20 per cent of the white applicants admitted to the school during that period were legacy students.

Backers of legacy preference point out that at Harvard and other schools across the country, the student body — and with it the pool of alumni — has gotten more diverse over time. That means that the composition of the legacy population is also diversifying. At Harvard, evidence from the trial showed, some 80 per cent of legacy admissions for the class of 2014 were white, while only 60 per cent of legacies in the class of 2019 were white. Would ending legacy preference equate to pulling up the ladder ahead of a more diverse group of students who could leverage their legacy status?

Not in the least. Consideration of race in admissions can be defended not only as a remedy for past injustices but also as an imperative for schools seeking to represent the population at large. But continuing to give applicants an advantage simply because of where their parents went to school is, as one critic called it, “a form of property transfer from one generation to another.”

Colleges counter that the children of alumni — partly by virtue of the education their parents received — are well qualified for admission into their schools. That raises the question: If the value of a degree is indeed generational (research shows that it very likely is), why do the progeny and grandprogeny of graduates deserve yet another thumb on the scale?

Like many policies of past eras, legacy admissions get uglier the closer you look at them. A few decades ago, the percentage of legacy students at top schools was sometimes higher than it is today. But admission rates at those institutions have fallen much faster than the percentage of legacy students. “If you take a typical Ivy League school, maybe 20 or 30 years ago, they might admit two-thirds of legacy applicants. Now they might admit one-third of legacy applicants. But, at the same time, their overall acceptance rate has probably gone down from between 20 and 25 per cent to between 5 and 10 per cent. So, proportionally, being a legacy is even more of an advantage,” Dan Golden, an investigative journalist, told The New Yorker. …

Reform of higher education is in the air. After the college admissions cheating scandal this spring revealed a rot at the heart of higher ed admissions, lawmakers pledged to take action to reform the system. A bill introduced in the California State Legislature would bar any school that gives preferential treatment to donors or legacies from participating in the state’s Cal Grants program. In April, Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Wyden, both members of the Senate Finance Committee, called on the Internal Revenue Service to step up enforcement of existing tax laws that may have prohibited the various charitable-giving mechanisms that allowed wealthy parents to buy their kids seats at top schools.

Mr. Wyden went a step further, introducing legislation that would force schools to “establish a policy that bars consideration of family members’ donations or ability to donate as a factor in admissions” in order for donations to the school to be fully tax deductible.

More drastic measures have been proposed. A report on narrowing racial and ethnic gaps in higher education, released early this year by New America, a liberal research organization, outlined a federal remedy. “Congress should withhold Title IV aid to those highly resourced and highly selective institutions that engage in legacy admissions and other preferential admissions treatments that overwhelmingly favour wealthy and white families, including early decision programs.”

Withholding federal funds — a public policy bulldozer that the federal government successfully used against schools that violated civil rights laws — would be a major step, but one that also risks hurting low-income students who earn spots at elite schools and need the aid.

Instead, the government could require schools to tally and publish how many of their students are legacy admits, along with their scores and socioeconomic status, as a way to give the issue more publicity and to shame them into ending the practice. Senator Ted Kennedy — a legacy student if ever there was one — introduced legislation to do just that in 2003 …

Whatever the mechanism, it makes sense for a group of competitor schools to take the leap together, a mutual stand-down. Doing so would be in the best traditions of American higher education, which for decades has worked to extend opportunity to generations of poor and minority students. Inaction by the academy, on the other hand, risks fueling a growing public sense that higher education is part of the crisis of the American establishment.

Online: https://www.nytimes.com/


Sept. 6

The Wall Street Journal on the increase of the number of Americans without health insurance:

The number of Americans without health insurance rose last year, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday, and Democrats say this justifies more government control. Yet the reality is more complicated — in particular, note that having a Medicaid card is no guarantee of great medical care.

The good Census news is that real median earnings of men and women who work full time and year round “increased by 3.4% and 3.3%, respectively, between 2017 and 2018.” Some 2.3 million more Americans are working full time. The poverty rate fell 0.5 percentage points from 2017, to 11.8%, the fourth annual decline in a row.

Yet 8.5% of Americans lacked health insurance in 2018, up from 7.9% in 2017, the first increase since the recession, and this figure is getting all the media attention. Much of the decline comes from a dip in Medicaid coverage, and as a general rule you’d expect fewer folks to qualify for Medicaid as the economy improves and poverty declines.

But Census notes that overall coverage fell one percentage point for people in families that earn 300% to 399% of the federal poverty line, and 0.8 percentage points for folks above 400%. “During this time,” Census notes, “the overall health insurance coverage rate did not statistically change for any other income-to-poverty group.”

These are the folks we’ve written about many times: Americans who earn too much to qualify for ObamaCare subsidies but may have few alternatives. The left’s solution is to reinstate ObamaCare’s individual mandate that forces the middle class to buy the product anyway. This shows that merely having access to insurance doesn’t mean it’s valuable.

The decline in Medicaid coverage doesn’t appear to be due to folks picking up insurance at a job, and the left is blaming the higher uninsured rate on Trump Administration policies including its rules on association health plans and short-term insurance options. But the point of association health plans is to make it easier for more small businesses to offer insurance to more workers. The rule is ensnared in court in any case.

The left is also flogging that uninsured rates are lower in states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act than in those that didn’t. This is presented as a reason to expand Medicaid.

Yet our contributor Brian Blase notes that, according to the Census report, the uninsured rate increased from 2017 to 2018 in states that expanded Medicaid among those who earn less than 100% of the poverty line. That means some who are eligible for Medicaid declined to sign up. Mr. Blase and Aaron Yelowitz also explained last month in these pages how Medicaid expansion has unleashed a surge of improper enrolment by Americans who don’t qualify.

The larger point is that the only conversation the left wants to have about health care is how many Americans are insured, and that’s so they don’t have to answer for failures like Medicaid’s narrow provider networks, high emergency room use rates, and more.

Democrats running for President talk about proposals like Medicare for All exclusively as “universal coverage,” not about, say, how quickly you’ll be able to see a specialist. Having that insurance card in your wallet will be small consolation as you wait for a knee replacement allocated by political discretion.

Online: https://www.wsj.com/


The Associated Press