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Recent Kansas editorials

July 16, 2019

The Kansas City Star, July 15

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez owes Kansas Rep. Sharice Davids an apology for staffer’s tweet

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff sucker punched U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids of Kansas with an indefensible tweet saying she casts votes that “enable a racist system.”

Saikat Chakrabarti’s Twitter attack rightly has prompted a storm of criticism from other Democrats. Many stated the obvious: Even hinting that Davids is racist, or enables racism, is offensive and shockingly misguided.

Ocasio-Cortez, a fellow Democrat who is from New York, should publicly apologize for her staffer’s tweet, and Chakrabarti should consider another line of work.

The controversy began in late June, after Davids voted for a bill designed to provide emergency relief on the southern border. While the measure drew bipartisan support, several dozen liberal House Democrats thought it lacked needed additional protections for immigrant children.

One of those liberals was Ocasio-Cortez. In a tweet after the vote, her chief of staff compared the moderates who voted for the bill to “old southern Democrats of the 40s,” a clear reference to segregationists.

Did that include Davids? “I don’t believe Sharice is a racist person,” Chakrabarti tweeted in response later that evening. “But her votes are showing her to enable a racist system.”

What? Had the bill failed, $2.9 billion in additional refugee assistance would have been lost. Needed safeguards for immigrant children would have gone by the wayside. While it’s true more could have been done, it’s ridiculous to claim a vote for the bill was racist.

The perfect should never be the enemy of the good.

The bill passed 84-8 in the Senate. A majority of the House Democratic caucus supported the bill — including U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, who must bristle at the implication that he, too, enables racism. The measure passed by a 3-to-1 margin in the House. Those are hardly signs of entrenched congressional bigotry.

And who is Saikat Chakrabarti anyway? He’s a congressional staffer working for a freshman member of Congress. For a first-term staff member to question the vote of any member of the House, voting his or her conscience and district, is inappropriate.

“Why is he singling out a Native American woman of color?” asked a tweet from the House Democrats’ account. “She is a phenomenal new member who flipped a red seat blue. Keep her name out of your mouth.”

For her part, Davids, who is one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress, has taken a higher road. “Representative Davids’ complete focus is on serving the people of Kansas’ 3rd District, and that is where it will remain,” spokeswoman Johanna Warshaw said in a statement. That’s the best possible approach.

Even Chakrabarti seems to have backtracked. “I’ve known Rep. Davids for a long time, consider her a friend, and encouraged her to run for Congress back in the fall of 2016. I’m glad she did,” he tweeted Friday. It’s good to hear, but it isn’t enough.

A simple “we’re sorry, and it won’t happen again” from Ocasio-Cortez is essential.

Her apology became more necessary than ever after President Donald Trump tweeted that Ocasio-Cortez and three other members should “go back” to “places from which they came.”

The clear bigotry of that statement was stunning. And no one should confuse the president’s inarguably racist statement with Chakrabarti’s groundless claim. When someone sees faux racism around every corner, the conversation gets muddied.

The people of Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District deserve as much respect as voters in Queens, or any other district. Davids’ freshman colleague, Ocasio-Cortez, should show leadership and grace by apologizing for her staffer’s statement.

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The Iola Register, July 15

Right On Cue, Trump Riles Base With Attacks on Congresswomen

On Sunday, President Donald Trump told four Congresswomen of color to “go back” to what he assumed were their foreign countries of birth.

Of the four, three were born in the United States, and the other is a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Not that Mr. Trump cares. All he needed was that their color of skin is other than lily white, and so, naturally, they don’t belong here.

Mr. Trump targeted these four women because they frequently have common goals and, of late, have opposed the status quo among House leadership. Trump’s tirade has two goals: to stir division among Democrats and to rile up his base.

The women were elected to Congress in 2018 from their respective states of Minnesota, Massachusetts, Michigan and New York.

Ms. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bronx, N.Y., is of Puerto Rican descent; Ayanna Pressley, an African American, was raised in Chicago and now lives in Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib was born in Detroit to Palestinian immigrants. Only Ilhan Omar of Minnesota was born outside of the United States. At age 6, she and her family fled war-torn Somalia. After spending four years in a refugee camp in Kenya, they made their way to the United States. She became a U.S. citizen at age 17 in 2000, and was first elected to the Minnesota legislature in 2016.

Our president’s controversial comments should shock few; sadly, we all seem numb to it by now. But we reserve a deep sorrow and special species of shame for the Republicans who say nothing in the face of such hatred, who fail to speak out against bigotry, whose fear of Trump is only matched by their desire to survive one more election cycle. This is not to say that they, too, are necessarily racist, but only that they have ceded their principles and values to a man who does not deserve the honor, and they have seemingly either accepted this or know not the difference. Were that they were more afraid of letting such bigotry be further woven into our country’s fabric.

“You can’t leave fast enough,” Mr. Trump tweeted, pretending to call out the women for their “attacks” on democracy by calling for immigration reform.

The remarks play perfectly into Mr. Trump’s campaign strategy of regularly and frequently stoking fear among his supporters that our democracy is in jeopardy and only he can save it. Mr. Trump has proved it doesn’t matter if what he says is true because sure as the sun came up this morning, he proved to never pass up an opportunity to divide us, to draw a line in the sand and watch America fight it out. Such a game plan only tears us apart bit by bit, tweet by tweet.

Our president stole our Sunday and guided our public discourse to a mean and nasty place, one where brown people must prove they’re American, elevating the worst in us instead of inspiring our country to embrace the difficult but necessary journey toward both unity and diversity. Who needs Russia to undermine democracy when our own president does it so gleefully?

The Register would like nothing better than to bury this story. Why? Because our mission is to foster community, not tear it asunder with divisiveness. But we also have a mission to tell our country’s history — warts and all — as it plays out.

Only the American people can dictate how the next chapter will read.

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The Lawrence Journal-World, July 14

KU may have been more football-minded than high-minded in punishing Pooka

It is still early, but you already can start to hear the Rock Chalk chant rise for the football season now that star running back Pooka Williams has been reinstated to the team.

If you remember, Williams had been suspended for seven months while a criminal case alleging that he grabbed the throat of and punched a woman with whom he was romantically involved was resolved. Williams took a diversion in the case to keep it off his criminal record, so the matter never went to trial. A police affidavit, though, says the woman had bruises on her body and that text messages from Williams on her phone corroborated some of the details.

With the legal matter concluded, Williams has rejoined the team. But he must sit out the first game against Indiana State, a team so lightly regarded and from a smaller division that KU likely will be favored to win the game even without Williams. It is the closest thing college football has to an exhibition game.

Missing that game doesn’t seem like much of a punishment.

Some would point to the fact that Williams did miss seven months of being on the team. True, though all seven months were during a time when the team wasn’t playing games. Is missing the joy of a hard, physical football practice a punishment? Maybe if you are an elite athlete it is, but there are skeptics among us on that point.

Others may point out that, according to KU Athletics, Williams is “subject to probation” until he graduates. Yes, but probation isn’t a punishment as much as it is a threat of future punishment. Williams also must attend monthly meetings with a university conduct officer and complete a sexual violence accountability course. Those are not punishments. They’re blessings. Williams should be thankful he is in a place that has people to help him.

He also will be required to complete 40 hours of community service. Perhaps some consider community service a punishment, but hopefully that is not the prevailing view — for the sake of communities.

No, in many ways, the only punishment here is the one-game suspension. Missing one game is about the equivalent of what would happen if Williams twisted his ankle leading up to a game. A good hamstring pull might keep him out more than this.

To be clear, Williams shouldn’t have his life ruined by this incident, nor should he have his football career ruined by it. If you think otherwise, the entity you really ought to be mad at is the Douglas County district attorney for granting him a diversion. Unfortunately, Williams’ case was pretty run of the mill. Many get diversions for what he was accused of.

But at one point in time, universities used to be places that strove to have standards higher than the norm. They were institutions that sought to be high-minded. Now, many appear to be more football-minded. That is probably the clearest point in all this: KU is almost certainly a vastly better football team with Williams than without him.

The Rock Chalk chant likely wouldn’t be as loud if Williams missed many more games. But it would have been the right course of action. A suspension somewhere closer to half the season would have been appropriate. Williams would still get to play and benefit from the activity he loves, but the loss of the games likely would have disqualified him for many of the individual awards — like leading rusher or all-league — that he otherwise is a favorite to win. It would have been a more fitting punishment and might have put him in a better mindset for his junior and senior seasons.

But it is a moot point now. The Rock Chalk chant will happen much sooner this way, and it will be loud when Williams does something great on the field. But to some, it will sound different.

Tone deaf may be the best way to describe it.

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