Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials
Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Washington Post on President Trump’s change in effort to pass new gun legislation after two deadly mass shootings:
For a moment, it seemed as though what was usually assumed in Washington could no longer be taken for granted. President Trump was promising “very meaningful background checks” in the wake of two gruesome mass shootings. He insisted that congressional Republicans would “lead the charge” for new gun legislation, which would have been a tectonic shift in the politics of guns that only sustained pressure from a figure such as Mr. Trump could possibly have produced.
Then the hope faded. Speaking to reporters on Sunday, the president cooled on background checks, insisted that he is “very concerned with the Second Amendment” and repeated shopworn Republican talking points. “It’s the people that pull the trigger. It’s not the gun that pulls the trigger,” he said. “They have bipartisan committees working on background checks and various other things. And we’ll see. I?don’t want people to forget that this is a mental-health problem. I don’t want them to forget that because it is. It’s a mental-health problem.”
Reporters asked him to clarify his stance on support for universal background checks. “I’m not saying anything,” he said. “I’m saying Congress is going to be reporting back to me with ideas. And they’ll come in from Democrats and Republicans. And I’ll look at it very strongly. But just remember, we already have a lot of background checks, okay?”
If the president is expecting a Republican Senate to send him a gun-control bill without his strong, public backing, he will be waiting a long time. This is the same party that blocked minimal gun-safety reforms after a shooter murdered 26 children and staffers at Sandy Hook Elementary School — and after every other gun-related atrocity since.
Other nations have mental-health problems, evil people intent on inflicting harm and violent video games. What distinguishes the United States is that American society is saturated with a wide variety of easily accessible guns — and the result is that mass shootings have become almost routine. The country has background checks, but they don’t apply to many firearms sales and transfers at gun shows and other places. As for the background checks that are conducted, federal authorities only have so much time to complete them before gun sales go through, meaning that dangerous people get weapons merely because the clock runs out.
Practically no one thinks this situation is reasonable. Some 90 percent of Americans favor universal background checks. Strong majorities, including among those key to GOP victory, favor other gun reforms, too. A package of essential policy changes would include a “red flag” law that allows judges to confiscate weapons from those at risk of committing imminent harm, an extension of the time federal authorities have to conduct background checks, and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Yet even these bare-minimum reforms seem, once again, out of reach — thanks in part to a president who apparently lacks the courage to champion measures he recognizes as necessary.
The San Francisco Chronicle on Planned Parenthood’s decision to reject federal grants that would not allow it to refer women for abortions:
Planned Parenthood made a difficult but principled decision to reject federal grants that came with an untenable condition: that participants in the program known as Title X could not refer women for abortions.
The Trump administration’s new rules on Title X funding represent an outrageous intrusion of politics into reproductive decisions. Planned Parenthood has always maintained that patients should be presented with a full range of medical options. That also was federal policy — until now.
Under the new rules, organizations that receive Title X funding would be able to discuss abortion with patients, but could not refer them to an abortion provider or even let them know where the procedure is available. The Trump administration is layering additional requirements including restrictions on which staff members can discuss abortion with patients and forcing clinics to financially and physically separate themselves from facilities that provide abortions.
One of the effects of the new policy is that it opens Title X funding to faith-based organizations that do not want to tell patients about all reproductive options, including abortion.
Planned Parenthood, the largest recipient of Title X funding at $60 million a year, must now scramble for other revenue sources in order to maintain services such as birth control, pregnancy testing and the screening for cancer and sexually transmitted diseases it provides to more than 1.5 million women each year.
Ever so predictably, the Trump administration has been trying to suggest that Planned Parenthood and other women’s-health groups — rather than a new government policy — should be to blame for jeopardizing these services. “They are abandoning their obligations to serve their patients under the program,” the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement Monday.
This policy needs to be reversed, whether by legal action (California has joined other states in a lawsuit) or congressional legislation. It’s shameful and dangerous to play politics with women’s health.
China Daily on a decline in the intensity of protests in Hong Kong:
It might be too early to breathe a sigh of relief assuming that the demonstrations in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will end soon. But there are indeed signs, suggesting that the city, plagued by two months of violence, could be on the right track to end the disturbances.
Over the past several days, the city has been spared the violence that had become a common occurrence since the middle of June. The latest public rally organized by the demonstrators on Sunday was generally peaceful, with the attendees expressing their opinions in a civilized manner. It is hoped that weeks of turbulence have finally brought home the message that violence will get them nowhere.
The newfound peace has afforded the SAR government a chance to seek an end to the current turmoil through dialogue. Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, chief executive of the HKSAR, said on Tuesday the SAR government will set up a communication platform to hold dialogue with the Hong Kong community, with the aim of helping the city move on from the present undesirable situation.
She also said there will be a fact-finding inquiry into the causes of the protests and the police response to them.
Members of the city’s opposition camp should be realistic and pragmatic when putting forward their demands. Any demands or proposals raised in the process must be reasonable and fall within the bounds of law, particularly the Basic Law. Indeed, that the radicals have been insisting on unreasonable and illegal demands has been the reason the upheaval has dragged on for over two months, causing huge damage to the city.
Dialogue can help enhance mutual understanding among different elements in society. But it would be unrealistic for anyone to expect that a panacea for all of Hong Kong’s deep-seated social problems can be found in one fell swoop.
In extending an olive branch, the SAR government has undoubtedly expressed its sincere desire to end the current chaotic situation in the city. But this friendly gesture should in no way be interpreted as an invitation for illegal and unreasonable demands from political radicals.
Previously, the SAR government had shunned the idea of holding dialogue with protesters. No legitimate government in the world will allow itself to be forced into holding dialogue with insurrectionists through intimidation. Should the demonstrators continue to use violence and make farfetched demands, the opportunity for dialogue will be lost.
The New York Times on the firing of the white New York City police officer who put a black man in a chokehold that contributed to his death:
As he announced that he was firing the police officer who had put Eric Garner in the chokehold that led to his death, New York City’s police commissioner, James O’Neill, sent the country’s largest police force a message: You may not think I’m on your side, but I am.
As a former beat officer, Mr. O’Neill said the decision to fire Officer Daniel Pantaleo was difficult. “I’ve been a cop a long time,” he said at a midday news conference at Police Headquarters. “And if I was still a cop, I’d probably be mad at me — ‘You’re not looking out for us.’ But I am.”
It was a powerful message from one of the most prominent law enforcement officials in the country: Police officers who violate the public trust must be held accountable, for the good of the public and the police force.
Mr. O’Neill said he had determined that Mr. Pantaleo’s actions in the Garner case made him unfit to serve, despite a “commendable service record” of nearly 300 arrests.
Mr. Garner’s fatal encounter with the police on a Staten Island street in 2014 helped to propel the Black Lives Matter movement, in which protesters across the country took to the streets demanding accountability in the killing of black Americans by police officers.
New York police officers said Mr. Garner, 43, resisted when they tried to arrest him on charges of selling untaxed cigarettes.
But millions of Americans watched a video of Mr. Garner’s struggle with Mr. Pantaleo and saw something else: an unarmed man struggling for his life.
They saw Mr. Pantaleo’s arm wrapped tightly against Mr. Garner’s neck, a chokehold banned by the Police Department in 1993. They heard Mr. Garner’s desperate cry for help as he pleaded, “I can’t breathe,” again and again until falling silent.
Yet, for five years, justice was elusive. In 2014, a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Mr. Pantaleo on criminal charges. Federal Justice Department officials in the Obama administration weighed civil rights charges for years but left the case mired in indecision. On July 16, one day before the five-year statute of limitations expired, Attorney General William Barr ordered the case be dropped.
All the while, Mr. Pantaleo continued to serve on the force, even seeing his overtime pay increase in the year after Mr. Garner’s death.
The city’s police union responded to the commissioner’s decision on Monday with its own form of resistance. “We are urging all New York City police officers to proceed with the utmost caution in this new reality, in which they may be deemed ‘reckless’ just for doing their job,” the Police Benevolent Association president, Patrick Lynch, said in a statement, appearing to call for a work slowdown. “We will uphold our oath, but we cannot and will not do so by needlessly jeopardizing our careers or personal safety.”
It’s important that Mr. O’Neill and Mayor Bill de Blasio brush off the bombast while continuing to give officers the support they need.
In the past, New York has been too reluctant to discipline its police officers, with grave consequences. Particularly troubling is evidence suggesting that officers rarely face discipline for using chokeholds, even though the move is banned.
Mr. Pantaleo had four substantiated allegations of abuse against him before he choked Mr. Garner — far more than a vast majority of members of the force.
Mr. Garner’s family has suffered immensely. His daughter Erica Garner died in 2017 of a heart attack after years of activism in the wake of her father’s death. Mr. Garner’s stepfather, Benjamin Carr, died of a heart attack last month. Mr. Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, has been tireless in seeking justice for her son. It is a small mercy, at least, that she has seen something approaching justice done.
The lack of accountability in Mr. Garner’s death has also remained an open wound in the city, adding to a sense of grievance against the police among black and Hispanic New Yorkers even as crime rates were falling to record lows.
Mr. O’Neill seems to understand this. He said Monday that every time he sees the video of Mr. Garner, he wants to intervene to change the confrontation from turning tragic.
“Every time I watched the video, I say to myself, as probably all of you do, to Mr. Garner, ‘Don’t do it, comply,’” he said. “To Officer Pantaleo, ‘Don’t do it.’”
But Mr. O’Neill said that Mr. Garner’s death “must have a consequence.”
It must. And, after too many years, it finally has.
The Houston Chronicle on a rule change from the Trump Administration that would deny legal status to any immigrants that U.S. officials think are likely to apply for government assistance:
Lyndon Johnson had his War on Poverty; Donald Trump has declared war on the impoverished themselves.
The president’s latest salvo might have been fired at immigrants, but it sent a clear message to anyone struggling to make ends meet in America that the current occupant of the White House would prefer you look elsewhere for help.
The Trump administration last week issued a revised rule that would deny legal status to any immigrants U.S. officials think are likely to apply for government assistance such as food stamps or subsidized housing.
Kenneth Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the new “green card” rule would help ensure immigrants allowed to stay in this country “can stand on their own two feet” and won’t become a drain on society.
That seemingly innocuous comment was meant to assure taxpayers the president is only protecting their interests, but it has a more sinister connotation when placed in context with other moves by this administration to limit aid to the poor.
It smacks of the same rhetoric that decades ago spawned the “welfare queen” myth that poor women living in ghetto neighborhoods were having babies to get a monthly check instead of getting a job.
Trump declared his war on the poor with an executive order issued April 10, 2018, titled “Reducing Poverty in America by Promoting Opportunity and Economic Mobility.” Call it his manifesto.
Trump’s document admitted welfare reform under Bill Clinton in 1996 included a work requirement but insisted the system “still traps many recipients, especially children, in poverty and is in need of further reform.”
It’s true that too many Americans are poor, about 40 million, and too many of the poor are children, about 13 million. But blaming temporary assistance programs for persistent poverty is an elitist trope and a gross distortion of reality.
Many poor families are working multiple jobs and still need help. Instead of extending a hand, Trump is making their situation more difficult.
He’s figured out it’s easier to bypass Congress, especially with Democrats controlling the House, and get subservient department heads to make rule changes like the revised green card requirements.
The Department of Agriculture, for example, is making a rule change that would eliminate food stamp benefits for 3.1 million Americans.
It doesn’t matter that 11 million people have left the food stamp rolls since its post-recession peak of 47 million. Trump wants more people off food stamps. Instead of addressing the reasons so many families experience hunger and periods of food insecurity, he is callously cutting off a lifeline many use as a last resort.
The USDA rule change says if a family of four earns $32,640 a year — 130 percent above the federal poverty level — and has more than $2,250 in the bank, it will no longer qualify for food stamp aid of about $1.40 per person per meal.
You can either save money for emergencies or eat. Not both.
Meanwhile, Department of Housing and Urban Development rule changes could hurt poor people looking for affordable housing. Secretary Ben Carson has decided HUD will no longer enforce an Obama administration rule that required more than 1,200 municipalities to file desegregation plans or risk losing federal housing funds.
HUD officials said it was taking too much time to analyze the desegregation plans, which frequently were rejected for being incomplete or inconsistent with civil rights laws. Advocates for fair housing said that was exactly why HUD should enforce the rule, but Carson acted like he didn’t hear them.
Trump’s enfeebling of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is another disservice to the poor. The CFPB was created in 2011, in part, to advocate for Americans who suffered from the predatory loan practices that helped send this nation into crippling recession.
That wasn’t the mission Trump gave Mick Mulvaney when he appointed him CFPB’s interim director in 2017. The former South Carolina congressman promptly ordered a hiring freeze, put new enforcement cases on hold and sent the Federal Reserve, which funds the agency, a budget request for zero dollars.
“Elections have consequences at every agency,” Mulvaney told reporters. He was replaced last year by another Trump acolyte, Kathy Kraninger, who has stayed the course Mulvaney set.
So, too, has Trump stayed on course, subversively sticking it to the poor through rule changes that too often escape public scrutiny even as he makes speeches declaring his affection for the common man.
Comparisons of Trump with other familiar names in history have been made. How about P.T. Barnum? He also knew how to put on a good show filled with illusions and sleights of hand.
The Wall Street Journal on changes the Trump Administration is proposing to the 1973 Endangered Species Act:
Perhaps you’ve been reading that the Trump Administration wants to make it easier to eliminate polar bears, spotted owls and other species from the face of the earth. As ever in Donald Trump ’s Washington, the reality is different, so allow us to explain.
The uproar concerns a proposed new rule to revise some practices under the 1973 Endangered Species Act. For all the praise liberals shower on that law, it has achieved far less than advertised. A 2018 report from the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Gordon found that since 1973 the ESA has helped to recover only 40 species, and nearly half of those were mistakenly listed in the first place.
Meanwhile, the law has become a legal weapon to strip property rights and block millions of acres from private development. Congress ought to rewrite the ESA but can’t break a partisan impasse. So this week Interior Secretary David Bernhardt tried to clarify regulation under the law to prevent abuses.
The new rule restores Congress’s original two-tiered approach, killing the Fish and Wildlife Service’s “blanket rule” that treated “endangered” and “threatened” species alike. This will devote scarce government dollars — and landowner attention — to the species most at risk. It will also provide states more flexibility to assist species that are struggling though not seriously endangered.
The new rules clarify vague terms such as “the foreseeable future” to mean only as far as the government can “reasonably determine” a danger of extinction. This will make it harder for activists to use claims of vague future climate damage to declare many more species endangered.
And the rules remind regulators they must use the same five criteria in deciding whether to delist a species as they did when listing one — destruction of habitat or range; overutilization; disease; inadequate regulation; or other natural or manmade factors. This will guard against special interests that move the goalposts every time a recovered population is proposed to be cleared.
Another reform would limit the use of “critical habitat” designations that tie up tens of millions of acres of U.S. land. The rules reinstate a requirement that agencies first evaluate acreage that contain the at-risk species before considering new, unoccupied areas. Agencies also must prove that unoccupied critical habitat contains “one or more of the physical or biological features essential to the species’ conservation.”
The goal of all this is to return to a rules-driven, scientific approach to species management. States like California are threatening to sue, but Interior will have a strong defense because its new rule adheres closely to the text of the statute. Greens long ago commandeered the species law via lawsuits and regulatory overreach to put more land under bureaucratic control. This has alienated landowners and misallocated scarce resources.
Many struggling species live on private land, and the cooperation of owners is crucial for recovery. Environmental laws and regulations should encourage stewardship, rather than penalize private partners. To the extent the rules improve private-public cooperation, the key deer and sage grouse will benefit. Which is supposed to be the point of the law.