Editorial Roundup: United States

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

March 27

The Los Angeles Times argues that Ketanji Brown Jackson should swiftly be confirmed

Americans who followed the four-day confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson last week were treated to a rare display of brilliance, principle and unflappability that demonstrate her fitness, to say the very least, to sit on the nation’s high court. The next step should be obvious and simple. Jackson should be confirmed without delay.

The nominee was forbearing and masterful in responding to the series of non sequiturs hurled at her during long days of questioning by a handful of strutting, preening Republican senators more concerned with the coming midterm elections and their social media mentions than with determining whether Jackson has the integrity and the intellect needed in a Supreme Court justice. Her testimony showed that she does, and her straightforward responses to questions about irrelevant political and policy matters showed the remarkable measure of both knowledge and patience that enabled her to be such a capable trial judge.

No current justice besides Sonia Sotomayor has served as a trial judge, leaving the court nearly bereft of an essential perspective on the judicial system’s keystone element.

In many other ways, Jackson’s experience is much like the justices she will be joining. She earned her law degree from Harvard, as did four of the current justices (four others got theirs from Yale). She clerked for a prior Supreme Court justice, as did five of the sitting justices. She worked for elite law firms and served as an appellate court judge.

But instead of spending a portion of her legal career in partisan jobs in the political branches of government, such as White House or legislative counsel or in various assistant attorney general positions, as most of the other justices did, Jackson presided over a courtroom. She handed down sentences, worked as a public defender, served on the U.S. Sentencing Commission and focused on multiple facets of the actual application of justice on real parties. That experience made her an expert on the legal system and a tolerant (to a point) witness on the Senate stand. It allowed her to demonstrate her judicial demeanor to the public watching the hearing.

The only break in her composure, however slight, came not under the ridiculous questioning by Sen. Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, about whether he could be a temporary Asian or his colleagues’ various off-subject manifestos on defunding police, critical race theory and terrorism. It was the exuberant celebration by Democrat Cory Booker of New Jersey, who doubled down on the other attributes that make Jackson different from the justices who came before her, that visibly moved her.

“You got here,” Booker told Jackson, “how any Black woman in America who’s gotten anywhere has done. By being —.”

And then he stopped himself and resorted to a quip from the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards about dancer Ginger Rogers: She did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels.

It was clear what Booker meant: Jackson got where she is by being twice as smart, twice as determined, twice as hard-working and twice as tolerant as any number of white men who served on the court during an era — the majority of the nation’s existence — when neither Black people nor women were permitted to dedicate their lives and intellect to the law. That’s the caliber of person the Senate is now being asked to confirm to the Supreme Court. So for the nation’s sake, let’s get on with it.

ONLINE: https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-03-27/ketanji-brown-jackson-confirmation

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March 29

According to China Daily, Biden’s “Cold War view” of world is a recipe for disaster

Although his administration has since gone to great lengths to try and drive home the message that it was just something said in the heat of the moment and not a policy goal, in saying that “For God’s sake, this man (Vladimir Putin) cannot remain in power,” in Warsaw on Saturday, U.S. President Joe Biden left no one in any doubt about his objective, at least.

A White House official immediately tried to downplay the remark, saying “The President’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region … He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change.”

And during his visit to Jerusalem, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that “I think the President, the White House, made the point last night that, quite simply, President Putin cannot be empowered to wage war or engage in aggression against Ukraine or anyone else.” And Biden himself said “No” when asked whether his words mean the U.S. intends to support a regime change in Moscow on Sunday after he became coolheaded.

But there is no doubt that Biden meant what he said. Biden is trapped in a Cold War view of the world in which Russia is perceived as being comparable to the Soviet Union. Thus, he has been a consistent longtime supporter of expanding NATO into what Russia considers its sphere of influence, and has a missionary zeal to preserve the U.S.-centered global order. He has rejected out of hand any constructive dialogue with Russia, fearing that it might constrain the U.S.’s ability to dictate affairs not only in Europe but also in Eurasia and elsewhere.

It is a tragic irony that it is this view — and there are many in the U.S. political-military establishment who share it — that made the conflict in Ukraine inevitable. The conflict in Ukraine is by no means a struggle between good and evil as some in the West are conditioned and prone to portray, and Biden’s regime-change call is an irresponsible statement that will only serve to intensify the conflict.

As the Russian side demonstrates unflinching resolve to address its security concerns by forcing the West to shape a new security model with it, the U.S.’s continually pouring oil on the flames of the conflict in Ukraine will only lead to the continuous escalation of tensions.

The U.S. and other major Western countries should realize that dialogue and negotiation, not only between Ukraine and Russia but also between themselves and Russia, represent the only rational way to resolve the Ukraine crisis as well as pave the way for the formation of a lasting peace mechanism in Europe.

Biden’s hawkish position on Russia is a product of his times and milieu and is deeply ingrained in his psyche. But he needs to reflect on the fact that it is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

ONLINE: https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202203/29/WS6242f34ea310fd2b29e53fe3.html

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March 28

The Washington Post believes Biden’s new agenda is incomplete, insufficient — and pretty good

“Don’t tell me what you value,” President Biden has said for years. “Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” The $5.8 trillion budget proposal Mr. Biden released Monday is more realistic about the nation’s needs than many that have come before it. But it leaves out some of the most important details.

As he has before, Mr. Biden proposed more spending and substantial tax increases to pay for it. Much of the new spending is sorely needed. At a time in which congressional Republicans are dragging their feet on emergency COVID-19 funding, Mr. Biden called for massive investments in pandemic preparedness that would help protect against future COVID outbreaks and other epidemics. It would include a free adult vaccination program. Similarly, Mr. Biden proposed more funding for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to combat the nation’s gun violence epidemic.

The president would boost international aid, particularly to help other countries combat climate change, and increase the defense budget. Both would help restore the country’s global credibility and advance U.S. interests abroad.

Rather than offering free college for all, Mr. Biden proposed beefing up Pell Grants, which assist poor students rather than wealthier ones who do not need aid. More Internal Revenue Service funding would improve taxpayer support services and enable the agency to better crack down on tax cheats, who place more burdens on those who play by the rules. More election assistance money would enable states to secure voting systems and make absentee ballots postage-free.

To top it off, the White House claims Mr. Biden’s plan would cut deficits by more than $1 trillion over the next decade, in part by hiking corporate taxes. This nod toward fiscal responsibility contrasts with a bipartisan consensus that seemed to be emerging — that deficits do not matter.

Yet the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget notes that deficits would still total $14.4 trillion over the next decade, in part because Mr. Biden’s plan would fail to overhaul old-age retirement programs such as Medicare, continuing the national debt’s rise into alarming territory.

Moreover, the plan is incomplete, devoting scant space to Mr. Biden’s stalled Build Back Better agenda. Its provisions, unaddressed in the Biden budget, include boosting anti-poverty programs such as the child tax credit and the earned-income tax credit, bolstering Obamacare and pouring money into clean energy.

These omissions are meant to avoid antagonizing Sen. Joe Manchin III, the key holdout stalling the Build Back Better plan, as he continues negotiations. The West Virginia Democrat wants a slimmed-down bill focusing on climate change, prescription drug prices and deficit reduction. This would be substantially smaller than the ambitious Build Back Better program Mr. Biden pursued last year. Many needy Americans would miss the child tax credit, earned-income tax credit and Obamacare reforms in particular.

Despite these shortcomings in the spending blueprint, if Mr. Biden persuades Congress to accept many of the proposals he outlined Monday and gets even a slimmed-down Build Back Better bill over the finish line, he could claim substantial victories for himself and for the Americans who elected him.

ONLINE: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/03/28/bidens-new-agenda-insufficient-incomplete-pretty-good/

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March 25

The New York Times says pretending the pandemic is over won’t make it so

The worst of the COVID-19 pandemic may be behind us, but pretending that it is over will not make it so. A new Omicron subvariant, BA.2, is driving up coronavirus case counts in Europe and Asia, and experts predict it soon will account for the majority of new cases in the United States. The impact is uncertain. On the one hand, many Americans have already been infected by a similar strain of the virus. On the other hand, BA.2 arrives as people increasingly are resuming pre-pandemic behaviors, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly one-third of Americans have not completed their initial round of vaccinations, and more than 70% have not received booster shots.

In the face of this uncertainty, it would be reckless for the government to reduce its efforts to minimize new cases and help those who fall ill. Yet that is exactly what is happening after Congress recently failed to approve $15.6 billion for tests, treatments and vaccines.

Denied the funding it needs, the Biden administration is curtailing its efforts to combat the virus. Last week, the administration said that it would reduce the distribution of highly effective monoclonal antibody treatments by more than 30% and that it would be forced to end shipments this spring. It also stopped accepting reimbursement claims for COVID-19 tests and treatments from uninsured Americans; vaccine reimbursements will be accepted only through April 5. And the government said that it lacked sufficient funds to place an order for enough doses of vaccines to ensure the availability of booster shots later this year.

Congress must approve more funding immediately. Ensuring that COVID tests, treatments and vaccines remain readily available is the best way to prevent new waves of infections and to preserve the progress so far toward the end of the pandemic.

Failing to maintain adequate public funding means Americans increasingly will have to rely on their own resources. In effect, the United States is reverting to its usual approach to health care: Those with money and insurance will be able to get tests and treatments; those without may not. The price for a dose of monoclonal antibody treatment can approach $2,000, and even the relatively modest cost of test kits or vaccinations can discourage people from taking the basic steps necessary to protect themselves and others.

A bill to fund the government, which passed this month, initially included $15.6 billion in COVID aid, which would have provided the administration with much of the $22.5 billion it has requested. But the funding was stripped because House Democrats were unable to resolve an internal squabble. The bill would have repurposed unused money from earlier rounds of COVID aid, but some Democrats resisted, insisting the government should provide new funding.

To pass a new bill, Democrats will need the support of at least 10 Senate Republicans, and those most amenable want to use money from prior appropriations.

That should not be a deal breaker. States have received more federal aid in the past two years than they know what to do with; some state coffers are overflowing. Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia signed legislation this week that will send up to $500 to Georgia households to help with the rising cost of food, gas and other essentials. About a dozen other states, including California, are considering similar distributions of surplus cash. But while higher prices are a real challenge for many Americans, policymakers must also remain focused on preventing fresh outbreaks of COVID-19, which could be even more economically painful.

A chunk of the funding requested by the Biden administration, for example, was earmarked to help lower-income countries fight the coronavirus. The United States has a moral obligation to provide this humanitarian aid, and there are diplomatic benefits to helping other nations. In addition, it will help the whole world get closer to the end of the pandemic. Allowing the virus to continue to run rampant in some parts of the world increases the chances that new variants will continue to develop and spread.

It is worth underscoring that much of what the Biden administration is requesting should not require emergency funding. The United States ought to maintain funding for public health, including the resources to monitor infectious diseases and to develop new vaccines and treatments, in the same way that it maintains funding for other forms of national defense. The gaping holes in the nation’s public health infrastructure, which the pandemic exposed, were created by exactly the kind of shortsightedness now on display.

ONLINE: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/25/opinion/covid-funding-congress-biden.html

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March 27

The Wall Street Journal argues that Biden needs new advisers and help from Congress

More or less the whole world—including his own advisers on background—has criticized President Biden for his latest gaffe in saying in his Warsaw speech on Saturday that Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power.” There’s no need to pile on. And someone should say that Mr. Biden’s unscripted remark did have the virtue of telling the truth that the problem in Russia won’t end even if Mr. Putin orders his troops out of Ukraine.

Mr. Biden’s remark, even after its repudiation on Sunday by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, may well make it harder to negotiate with Mr. Putin over Ukraine or anything else. And Mr. Biden’s habit of misstating his own policies—no fewer than three times during his European trip—is especially dangerous amid an international crisis.

Then again, the same critics who are lambasting Mr. Biden helped to hide his obviously fading capacities in the 2020 campaign. They circled the wagons around his Delaware basement because they thought he was the only Democrat who could defeat Donald Trump.

The reality is that we have to live with Mr. Biden for three more years as President. And please stop writing letters imploring us to demand that Mr. Biden resign. Do you really want Vice President Kamala Harris in the Oval Office? She was chosen as a bow to identity politics to unite the Democratic Party in the election campaign, not for her ability to fill the President’s shoes. In the last 14 months she has failed to demonstrate even the minimum knowledge or capacity for the job. We are fated to make the best of the President we have.

In that regard, Members of Congress of both parties will have to play a more assertive role, and the good news is that they have been doing so to good effect on Ukraine. Congress has stiffened Mr. Biden’s resolve on sanctions and military aid. The pattern is that the White House resists a tougher policy until it faces a defeat or difficult vote on Capitol Hill. Bipartisan coalitions of the willing will be even more important as the war continues, and threats from Iran, China and North Korea escalate.

As we’ve argued, Mr. Biden would also be wise to bring some high-profile conservatives and Republicans into his Administration. In 1940, as the prospect of world war approached, FDR brought in experienced GOP internationalists Henry Stimson as Secretary of War and Frank Knox as Secretary of the Navy. They built credibility with the public and on Capitol Hill for the hard choices to come.

Harry Truman worked with GOP Sen. Arthur Vandenberg to build support for NATO at the dawn of the Cold War. Jimmy Carter at least had the hawkish Zbigniew Brzezinski as his national security adviser when the Soviets tried to exploit Mr. Carter’s weakness.

Mr. Blinken has shown impressive energy as Secretary of State, and he was right in advising Mr. Biden not to withdraw in toto from Afghanistan. But Mr. Biden desperately needs to diversify the advice he gets beyond the liberal internationalists who dominate his councils. Susan Rice, Ron Klain and Jake Sullivan have the Afghan failure on their resumes.

Better advice is needed because Mr. Biden is right that the Russia problem won’t go away as long as Mr. Putin sits in the Kremlin. This doesn’t mean open advocacy of regime change is wise. Russians will have to decide if Mr. Putin must go.

But Mr. Biden’s muscular assertions in the written text of his Warsaw speech need to be supported by more than rhetoric. The U.S. and the West need to urgently restore and strengthen the credibility of their military and diplomatic deterrents. More hawkish advisers would send a more determined signal to the world—and especially to adversaries.

The world is entering the most dangerous period since the Soviet Union collapsed, and perhaps since the 1930s. The COVID crisis obscured the trend, but the dangers have become obvious as adversaries have reacted to what they perceive to be the American decline, division and weakness at the root of the Afghanistan debacle. Mr. Biden needs to back up his Warsaw words with a defense buildup and far more diplomatic realism to confront the great risks ahead.

ONLINE: https://www.wsj.com/articles/president-biden-regime-change-putin-russia-poland-gaffe-ukraine-war-national-security-advisers-klain-rice-sullivan-blinken-11648409352

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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