Editorial Roundup: United States

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

Nov. 13

The Washington Post on the Nov. 7 mid-term elections:

As Tuesday’s elections showed, the Republican Party continues to reap what it sowed when a GOP-nominated Supreme Court majority ended the federal constitutional right to abortion in 2022. Ohio became the seventh state to back reproductive rights via ballot referendum. The GOP nominee for Kentucky governor reversed himself this fall by declaring that he would sign a bill to allow for abortions in cases of incest and rape, after defending a state law that made no such exceptions, but the damage to his political standing was done — he lost. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) avoided the word “ban” and coalesced GOP legislative candidates around “limiting” abortion after 15 weeks, but this framing failed to lure enough moderates or dampen Democratic enthusiasm. His party lost both houses of the General Assembly.

But the lesson of Tuesday’s off-year elections is bigger than the political fallout from the Dobbs decision. Across the country, voters rewarded experience, rejected extremism — in both parties — and sought balance in government. In Virginia, where the popular Mr. Youngkin wasn’t personally on the ballot but campaigned hard for a GOP legislature, Democrats succeeded by running as a check on potential overreach. In Kentucky, where legislators weren’t up for reelection, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) positioned himself as a governor — in the mechanical sense of regulating acceleration — on ultraconservative supermajorities in both chambers.

Former president Donald Trump carried the Bluegrass State by 26 points in 2020, but many Republicans voted to reelect Mr. Beshear because he governed competently through the pandemic and civil unrest of 2020, a deadly tornado in 2021, and devastating floods in 2022. Kentuckians also rewarded Secretary of State Michael Adams (R), in the primary and general elections, for his strong stand against election denial. He blasted the “demagoguery” and “hogwash” of those who claim the 2020 election was stolen from Mr. Trump. He worked with Mr. Beshear to expand absentee and early voting. Mr. Adams also refused to join other conservative election officials who pulled out of a bipartisan consortium called the Electronic Registration Information Center, also known as ERIC, which helps fight voter fraud but was the target of a pro-Trump campaign that falsely accused the group of being a left-wing plot to add more minority voters to the rolls.

Voters prize serious-minded leadership. It also happened in Fairfax County, where Supervisor Patrick S. “Pat” Herrity (R-Springfield) beat the odds in a blue district to survive as the only Republican left on the 10-member board of Virginia’s most populous county. Mr. Herrity was rewarded for fiscal responsibility and a pragmatic streak.

Another lesson Tuesday: Public safety remains a paramount concern. Democrats who distanced themselves from defund-the-police sloganeering and took citizen concerns seriously fared well. In Philadelphia, Cherelle Parker cruised to victory by promising to hire hundreds more police officers and restore stop-and-frisk strategies, within constitutional limitations. She’ll be the city’s first female mayor.

Meanwhile, in suburban Loudoun County outside D.C., progressive Commonwealth Attorney Buta Biberaj (D) trails a GOP challenger. Ms. Biberaj lost significant support after she brought charges, following an altercation at a school board meeting, against the father of a girl who had been sexually assaulted in a high school restroom. Many in Loudoun saw her as focusing on that as opposed to what they considered higher enforcement priorities.

Typical of the statewide pattern in Virginia, however, Loudoun also backed pro-choice Democrat Russet Perry for Senate in one of the state’s most expensive races. The result is that Virginia will remain the only Southern state that hasn’t restricted abortion since Dobbs. Divided government could be a blessing in disguise for Mr. Youngkin. The last time they won a trifecta, 12 years ago, Virginia Republicans moved to mandate invasive transvaginal ultrasounds to deter pregnant women from seeking abortions in the name of “ informed consent.” Then-Gov. Robert F. McDonnell withdrew his support after massive protests and pushed the legislature to revise the measure. If the GOP held big enough majorities next year, the General Assembly might have tried to roll back gun control, voting access and carbon-emission limits.

Now Mr. Youngkin has an opportunity to focus more on governing than dealing with speculation about a possible late entry into the presidential race. Democrats should work with him to find common ground on vital issues such as raising educational standards, improving mental health, modernizing infrastructure and combating fentanyl. A budget surplus allows room for the state to make strategic investments consistent with a competitive tax structure.

There’s a national lesson in this, too, though to be sure there’s no federal budget surplus. With a partial government shutdown looming on Nov. 17, leaders in both parties must find a way to make divided government work for their constituents. Tuesday was a mandate for moderation.



Nov. 8

The Wall Street Journal on the relaxed U.S. enforcement of oil sanctions against Iran:

You’d think the Biden Administration would have realized by now that enriching the Iranian regime is a dangerous mistake. You’d be wrong. Relaxed U.S. enforcement of oil sanctions continued through October, refilling Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s coffers even after the Oct. 7 slaughter and the more than 40 attacks on U.S. troops by Iran’s proxies in the weeks since.

Iran exported nearly 1.4 million barrels of oil per day in October, sustaining its average for 2023. This is up 80% from the 775,000 barrels per day Iran averaged under the Trump Administration’s “maximum pressure” strategy, according to United Against Nuclear Iran, the group of former U.S. Ambassador Mark Wallace and Sen. Joe Lieberman, whose Tanker Tracker generates the best public data we have.

The Iranian surge in oil exports since President Biden took over has brought Iran an additional $32 billion to $35 billion, according to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The calculations are tricky, but the cause of the Iranian windfall is clear: As part of Mr. Biden’s quiet diplomacy with Iran, the U.S. has curtailed sanctions enforcement. Customers and middlemen have concluded the risk is low and the discount on Iran’s oil is too good to pass up.

This transfer of funds to Iran is cumulatively more significant than the President’s recent $6 billion ransom payment in return for five hostages. And it keeps growing, even as the money fails to moderate Iranian behavior. Instead it finances Iran’s aggression abroad via proxies such as Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen and the front groups in Iraq and Syria that shoot at American bases almost daily.

In 2020 the State Department assessed that Iran sends $100 million a year to Palestinian terrorist groups, arming and training them to attack Israel and murder its civilians as Hamas did Oct. 7. Last year Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said that his group receives $70 million from Iran, plus long-range rockets.

Citing an Israeli security source, Reuters reports that Iran’s funding for Hamas ballooned in the past year to $350 million. Hamas’s new capabilities took Israel and the U.S. by surprise, but they didn’t come from nowhere.

About 70% of Iran’s oil exports are to China, which helps explain the blossoming Russia-China-Iran axis challenging world order. Iran sends China cheap oil and Russia new military drones. It may export missiles too, now that the Biden Administration allowed international missile sanctions to lapse.

In return, Iran receives the money and diplomatic cover it needs to advance its war on the U.S. and Israel. Russian military support in Syria shields Iranian arms transfers, and the potential for nuclear cooperation should keep Western policy makers up at night.

If the Biden Administration wants to limit the flow of oil money to Tehran, it knows what to do: enforce the law and sanction the complicit banks, purchasers, insurers, tankers, ports and other players that facilitate the trade. Does the President have the will to break from his strategy of appeasement?



Nov. 13

The Los Angeles Times on Donald Trump's dangerous language:

It is a full-time job to call out every one of Donald Trump’s lies and efforts to divide this nation, but his “vermin” address on Saturday deserves special attention.

The ex-president and leading Republican candidate for 2024 dishonored military veterans and further tainted his political party with a hate-filled Veterans Day speech featuring words that would have been at home in Nazi Germany.

He promised to “root out” his opponents — supposedly on behalf of veterans who fought to protect liberty.

“In honor of our great veterans on Veterans Day, we pledge to you that we will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country, that lie and steal and cheat on elections, and will do anything possible — they’ll do anything — whether legally or illegally, to destroy America, and to destroy the American dream,” he said to a cheering crowd in Claremont, N.H., after having posted essentially the same thing on Truth Social.

His words are repugnant for their historical connections to acts of racism, slaughter and populist dictatorship. The word “vermin” describes harmful rodents and insects. When turned on human beings, it implies the same response — extermination.

In response to criticism that Trump was calling for violence against his enemies, his campaign doubled down. Spokesman Steven Cheung told the Washington Post that “those who try to make that ridiculous assertion are clearly snowflakes grasping for anything because they are suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome and their entire existence will be crushed when President Trump returns to the White House.”

Trump has taken over the party of Abraham Lincoln, who in the closing weeks of the Civil War called for “malice toward none” and “charity for all,” and who urged that Americans worked to bind up the nation’s wounds. Trump now leads the party of Dwight D. Eisenhower, who led U.S. soldiers in an epic struggle to throw out Nazis, fascists and others who branded people as “vermin” for opposing them.

Years after World War II, after his two terms as president, and after the witch hunts in which Sen. Joseph McCarthy promised to root out communists in the Army and the federal government, Eisenhower spoke to his fellow Republicans at their 1964 convention.

“I believe with all my heart that the kind of party ours must be is one that rejects as unfit and unwholesome all who are purveyors of hatred and intolerance, who are prone to the use of violence, who malign the character of fellow Americans and who baselessly charge decent Americans with treasonable acts or intentions,” he said.

How can Americans, Republicans particularly, recognize Trump as the successor to their great leaders of the past? There is increasingly more of a resemblance to other leaders, of other countries, who, like him, hammered hatred, grievance and self-obsession into the opposite of liberty, justice and democracy. Those dictators were ultimately defeated only at the cost of hundreds of thousands of American lives.



Nov. 10

The Guardian on Israel's political strategy:

Israel has some of the most advanced armed forces in the world, but in its war against Hamas it lacks an equally sophisticated political strategy. The humanitarian catastrophe occurring in Gaza is taking on frightening dimensions. Bread is running out. Scabies and diarrhea rip through overcrowded shelters. Brackish water is making people sick. Even US officials now admit the civilian death toll is likely to be far higher than the 10,000 reported. It is talking, not fighting, that will end the war.

The absence of a sustainable peace plan divides Israel and its allies. When Benjamin Netanyahu suggested Israeli forces could be in Gaza indefinitely, Washington made it clear it wanted no permanent reoccupation. Mr Netanyahu backed down. But he has not ruled out shrinking Gaza’s territory to create a “ buffer zone ” or forcibly displacing Palestinians. Mr Netanyahu leads the most rightwing government in Israel’s history: one minister recently suggested dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza.

Israel, which lost 1,400 people in a single day of horrific Hamas violence, remains in a deep state of shock. It is not only the loss of life that Israel is dealing with. Many Israelis also personally feel they are in danger, no matter where they live in the country. Mr Netanyahu was wrong to reject a ceasefire-for-hostages deal in Gaza. Freeing innocents from Hamas’s clutches need not stand in the way of making sure the militants pay for their atrocities.

What is also at stake is whether Israel’s leadership can continue with a policy of active and unrelenting hostility towards the Palestinians. This political strategy sought through unassailable military strength to end claims for an independent Palestinian state over the West Bank and Gaza with a capital city in East Jerusalem. Paradoxically, this meant strengthening the extremist elements among the Palestinians, who also rejected the two-state solution.

Mr Netanyahu has said for years that he will never permit a Palestinian state, and has spent his entire career fighting against the idea. It was Donald Trump who backed Mr Netanyahu, leaving 5 million Palestinians without an honest broker in the Middle East. Much of the world had also given up on the conflict’s honourable resolution, in view of Israel’s steady building of illegal settlements in the West Bank and a divided Palestinian leadership. Just a week before 7 October, US officials were boasting that “the region is quieter today than it has been in two decades”. Those words ring hollow today.

Earlier this month, Israel’s prime minister said his country faced a “ long war ” in Gaza. But how long and to what end? Modern Israel’s longest war to date was a clash with Hamas five years ago that took almost two months. The longer the fighting, the more likely war spreads to nearby countries and the higher the Palestinian civilian death toll. The latter statistic is a recruiting sergeant for Hamas, prompting Joe Biden’s top military adviser to warn that time is short in Gaza for the Israelis.

But it is not clear if these are the voices that Mr Netanyahu is listening to. Unfortunately, he is more likely to hear the words of his younger brother, Iddo, who wrote last Thursday that only the urgent “terrible fear of our power” could pacify Palestinians, rather than Israel waiting for them to rid themselves of “abysmal hatred”. It is this approach, and thinking, that has failed both Israelis and Palestinians – and needs to change.



Nov. 14

China Daily on talks between Beijing and Washington:

The world is watching as the leaders of China and the United States meet in San Francisco.

The relationship between the two largest economies is probably the most important state-to-state relationship at the moment. What the two leaders discuss, as well as what they agree on, or disagree on, may determine not only how the two countries treat each other, but even how the world order evolves going forward.

Doubtlessly, the two leaders have much to discuss. Literally everything of significant concern — from the Taiwan question to exports of semiconductors and fentanyl precursor chemicals — may be on the table. Considering Beijing and Washington have presented each other their respective list of grievances in advance, the two leaders will enter discussions with a clear knowledge of what the other side is most concerned about.

But China-US relations have deteriorated to such a degree that expecting too much will only invite disappointment. Not least because Beijing and Washington themselves have seemingly different expectations regarding today’s meeting. The US goal is to responsibly manage competition and work together where the countries’ interests align, particularly on transnational challenges, and to maintain smooth channels of communication, according to a statement released by White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

Beijing on its part has expressed hopes that the meeting will result in bilateral ties returning to the track of healthy, steady development.

At a routine news briefing on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning reiterated Beijing’s opposition to the US administration defining US-China relations in terms of competition. The Chinese side has always seen and handled China-US relations in accordance with the principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation, she said.

Mao highlighted Beijing’s wish that Washington will genuinely honor previous promises of not seeking a new Cold War and having no intention of conflict with China, with a clear focus on Taiwan. Stressing “every US administration” has promised to not support “Taiwan independence” — including the current one — she urged Washington to oppose “Taiwan independence” with practical actions.

But despite US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo dismissing the notion of a military conflict with Beijing over Taiwan when speaking to CNN, she once again framed relations in terms of “great competition”. Such different views going into the talks are symptomatic of the present strained relations, if not the cause and effect.

Given the two sides’ divergent framing of relations, the two leaders need to demonstrate that they are genuinely trying to shape common contours for the relationship if the two countries are to act in recognition that they have a shared interest in continuous, constructive engagement and collaborating whenever, wherever possible.

How the two sides define their relations after the meeting will shape their approaches to each other in the foreseeable future.