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Editorial Roundup: New York

Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York's newspapers:

Blame Bloomberg, not Trump for Bloomberg News' dilemma

New York Post

Dec. 3

Sorry: It's just silly to blame Brad Parscale, the Trump 2020 campaign manager, for the ridiculous position that Michael Bloomberg has put Bloomberg News in.

Parscale announced Monday that the campaign won't give Bloomberg News reporters credentials for “rallies or other campaign events,” since the agency's editors have “declared their bias openly.” It may opt “to engage with individual reporters or answer inquiries” on a “case-by-case basis.”

Makes sense: Bloomberg's editor-in-chief, John Micklethwait, announced that, since the company's owner joined the race, it won't investigate any Democrats running for president, but only the incumbent.

As Megan Murphy, a former Bloomberg Washington bureau chief, noted, those rules are “staggering” and “ridiculous.”

That didn't stop Dean Baquet, the New York Times executive editor, from slamming the Trump campaign's move: “We condemn any action that keeps quality news media from reporting fairly and accurately on the presidency and the leadership of the country.”

Huh? The campaign isn't the White House, and Bloomberg has told the world it won't be “reporting fairly.”

You'd think the Times' top newsman would understand that publicly saying you won't look into the failings of an entire side of the spectrum is the opposite of fairness.

Online: https://bit.ly/2LiFoBF

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Mr. Schiff's Impeachment Opus

Wall Street Journal

Dec. 3

These columns warned that once the machinery of impeachment was up and running, it would be impossible to stop. And so on Tuesday Adam Schiff released his House Intelligence Committee report on Ukraine that finds President Trump guilty of playing domestic politics with foreign policy. But it's clear the President's real sin is being the willful, undisciplined Donald Trump voters elected.

The bulk of Mr. Schiff's 300-page opus is a prosecutorial account of Mr. Trump's four-month attempt to persuade new Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce investigations into corruption and Ukraine's role in the 2016 election. It is not a flattering tale, and it would make a compelling plank in a 2020 campaign indictment of Mr. Trump's character and poor judgment.

But Mr. Schiff's report casts himself and his cause as much grander. He is Adam at the bridge of our republic, heroic defender of American democracy. His introduction is worth quoting at length to capture his pretensions to nonpartisan statesmanship.

“The decision to move forward with an impeachment inquiry is not one we took lightly. Under the best of circumstances, impeachment is a wrenching process for the nation. I resisted calls to undertake an impeachment investigation for many months on that basis, notwithstanding the existence of presidential misconduct that I believed to be deeply unethical and damaging to our democracy,” he writes.

But in the end he heard the call of duty:

“In making the decision to move forward, we were struck by the fact that the President's misconduct was not an isolated occurrence, nor was it the product of a naïve president. Instead, the efforts to involve Ukraine in our 2020 presidential election were undertaken by a President who himself was elected in 2016 with the benefit of an unprecedented and sweeping campaign of election interference undertaken by Russia in his favor, and which the President welcomed and utilized.”

Here Mr. Schiff reveals the real impeachment motivation: Mr. Trump never would have won in 2016 without Vladimir Putin's help, but Robert Mueller failed to prove that. So Democrats are settling for the lesser melodrama of Ukraine, an unchained Rudy Giuliani, and Joe and Hunter Biden. The details may not add up to much more than Mr. Trump obsessing about what he thinks Ukraine did in 2016, but it's all the Democrats have.

The report's summary sentence reveals the weakness of its case with overstatement: “The president placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States, sought to undermine the integrity of the U.S. presidential election process, and endangered U.S. national security.”

Yet every President seeks some political advantage in pursuing foreign policy. That includes Barack Obama when he asked Dmitry Medvedev to tell Mr. Putin to go easy on missile defense until after the 2012 election.

As for undermining election integrity, that was Bill Clinton when he vacuumed foreign campaign contributions from the Riadys and multiple other foreigners in 1996. Or Hillary Clinton in 2016 when her campaign financed Christopher Steele to spread Russian disinformation on Mr. Trump to the media and FBI.

Mr. Trump, in his reckless way, asked President Zelensky for the “favor” of investigating Joe Biden and tried to delay military aid. But as Senator Ron Johnson relates in his recent letter that is a more even-handed account of events, Mr. Trump's attempts were resisted across Washington and ultimately failed.

None of this undermined elections or “endangered” U.S. national security because there was no investigation and the aid was never withheld. Even if aid had been withheld, that would merely have put U.S. policy back to where it was when Mr. Obama denied Ukraine lethal military aid for several years until Mr. Trump provided it.

The Starr report laid out irrefutable evidence that Mr. Clinton lied to a grand jury and tampered with witnesses. Those were criminal offenses. The evidence that Richard Nixon obstructed justice was also clear once the tapes became public. By contrast, Mr. Schiff's report mentions no specific crime and is full of too many inferences and overbroad assertions to provide a convincing impeachment case.

This explains why Mr. Schiff's report won't gather a single Republican vote, and why this impeachment will remain partisan. On this score, we had to smile at Mr. Schiff's high-toned invocation of the Founding Fathers' fear of “excessive factionalism.” He claims to be defending “democracy" against “the power of faction” that would dare defend Mr. Trump against impeachment. Like the President, Mr. Schiff lacks the virtue of being self-aware.

Online: https://on.wsj.com/2YhCeTT

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Reject NY campaign finance report

The Auburn Citizen

Dec. 1

A politically appointed commission given the power to transform New York state's election law has gone out of its way to minimize public access to its work. And that approach has continued with the handling of its final report, which as of late morning on Saturday had not been publicly released.

That's a big problem because this report becomes law without action, via a special session, by the state Legislature within 20 days of its release.

The New York State Public Campaign Finance Commission has ignored loud calls from good government groups and political leaders across the spectrum for an early release of this report and a completely transparent deliberations process. Initially, the commission said it would release the report by the Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving, a classic move for any government entity looking to avoid public scrutiny. The commission then said it wouldn't make that self-imposed deadline, and pushed the ETA to Friday. That day came and went without a report. The legal deadline comes Sunday, Dec. 1.

While votes by the commission earlier in November appeared to solidify what the report will call for in terms public campaign financing, fusion voting and donation limits, it was troubling to hear commission officials last week talk about the delay in releasing the final report because commissioners were making edits. Were these edits coming from a consensus of the nine-person commission? If so, how were they arriving at it, and why weren't these discussions being done in public?

It's just the latest example of why this approach to campaign finance reform is truly representative government at its worst. Legislators and the governor kicked their fundamental responsibility of passing and signing laws to a panel of political operatives. And that panel has been inefficient and secretive.

Based on that, we believe there's only one response that lawmakers should take, and that is to return to Albany this month to reject the commission's report and vow to take on this work themselves in the 2020 session.

Online: https://bit.ly/35ZTyzx

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‘Immoral' doesn't figure into some nations' policies

The Post-Journal

Dec. 4

During visits to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, on Sunday, Pope Francis pronounced that, “The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral.” He added, “As is the possession of atomic weapons.”

For many years, the Roman Catholic Church seemed to sanction policies by the United States and a few other powers to maintain nuclear arsenals to deter use of atomic bombs by other countries -- specifically, the old Soviet Union and China. Speaking in the only cities where atomic bombs have been used in war, Francis seemed to be disavowing the church's previous stance.

One wonders if he has ever read of the horrors of firebombing a city, as the United States did during the closing months of World War II, in attempts to convince Japanese leaders to end the war. More people perished in firebomb attacks than in the two nuclear explosions.

And one wonders whether Francis has considered how many more Japanese and Americans would have died had use of atomic bombs not ended the war. In all probability, continued resistance by the Japanese would have resulted in far more deaths than occurred in the atomic bombings.

But that was a long time ago. What about now? Should the United States and Russia scrap their nuclear arsenals, in compliance with the pope's statements?

How would Islamic Iran react? How about atheist North Korea? Or China?

Surely Pope Francis understands that the very last thing Americans -- and, we suspect, Russians -- want is to see nuclear weapons used again.

But leaders in some other nuclear-armed countries view their weapons, and missiles to deliver them, as means to dominate others. “Immoral” is not a word figuring into their policies.

Sadly, then, the pope's words reflect hope, not reality.

Online: https://bit.ly/2PeuBcU

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Election security should be a shared priority

Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Nov. 30

If America is to remain America, we need to make sure our voting is what voters believe it to be, and not a sham controlled by cheaters.

As politics has become more of a high-stakes game, its battlefields these days swirl around its own core mechanism -- elections.

U.S. diplomats have testified in the current impeachment inquiry that President Donald Trump pressured Ukraine to help weaken a 2020 political opponent, using hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. military aid as leverage. This raises the question of where the boundary of politics lies. Trump and his defenders say he did nothing illegal, but the Constitution is not clear about that. Our nation's founders clearly feared foreign nations becoming involved in domestic politics, but a certain amount of that has always been with us. At what point is it out of bounds? It is a slippery slope, however, and if we aren't careful, we will have our political parties actively allying themselves with foreign powers. There is reason to fear Trump is already engaging in that.

In defending the president, Republicans fall back on the centrality of elections: They say Democrats are just trying to overturn the 2016 vote.

Perhaps not directly, though. It seems unlikely that the Senate will remove Trump from office, even if the House impeaches him, so maybe Democrats are mainly doing this as a demonstration -- to show next year's voters that Trump needs to go.

It's all about winning the next election.

This compulsive campaigning is exhausting to ordinary Americans, who would love to see less partisan warfare and more focus on solving common problems. But it's also kind of reassuring that the real power in this country, the kind would-be leaders crave, derives from the people's free choice.

Yet if elections are corrupted, they no longer drive real democracy.

Serious threats to the fairness of our elections have been widely reported by our federal intelligence agencies, and some county election boards have reported attempted hacks. The Mueller investigation presented alarming proof that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to sway voters toward Trump -- although it didn't find enough evidence to prove Trump participated in that.

Since then, however, Congress has done nothing to make our elections more secure.

Agents of the Russian government mostly focused on propaganda, through social media and other internet channels, as they previously did to interfere with elections in Baltic countries. That means people need to be extra careful to scrutinize what they read and to think for themselves. Simply following the lead of your chosen political party on every issue makes you much easier to manipulate. Be your own person. Pick and choose from the cafeteria of ideas.

But while simple strength of character can go a long way toward bluntingpropaganda (both domestic and foreign), individuals can't do much to stop someone from hacking into our election computer system and changing the numbers. And that kind of outright cheating is probably coming more than in the past.

If our political party leaders are to agree on anything, we would think it would be that the game be played without foreign interference. So far, though, they haven't done much about it.

After the 2000 presidential election's Florida recount debacle, Congress members of both parties passed the Help America Vote Act, which upgraded voting machines so our democracy wouldn't be undermined by bad, old technology. We mourned losing the reliable and easy-to-use turquoise lever-action voting machines, but we were glad other places no longer had to rely on hole-punching clunkers.

Likewise, after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Congress acted in a bipartisan manner to increase transportation security. This involved sacrifices, such as ease of crossing the U.S.-Canada border -- which did long-term damage to northern New York's economy. But it also prevented terrorist attacks.

Now, as foreign threats loom again, Democrats and Republicans need to set aside their preoccupations and realize election security is in their and the nation's best interest.

One way to do it is for the federal government to give money to states, to give to local boards of election, to shore up security measures. A House budget bill would put $600 million toward this, and a Senate bill would commit $250 million, according to The Hill newspaper. We hope they agree soon on a sufficient amount. Anyone who tries to block it, we have to question his or her motives. After all, foreign adversaries don't so much want to help one party win as they want the U.S. weakened by political division.

Meanwhile, our state legislature and governor have made numerous election changes this year, nearly all of them are focused on increasing voter turnout. This is good, in general, but security should be a priority as well.

We are fine if some security measures protect against what is typically called “voter fraud”: people voting under other people's names or voting when they are not eligible. That, obviously, is cheating and wrong. But it has always been with us, and however many people might commit such fraud is a drop in the bucket compared to what one computer hacker could do.

Cyber-attacks are perhaps the biggest current and future threat to our democracy. Foreign nations are unlikely to risk tangling with Earth's biggest military, but if they can manipulate the U.S. with cyber-attacks and the U.S. ignores it, that's what they'll do.

We, as a people, need our leaders not to ignore it.

Online: https://bit.ly/389ceOX

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