Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


MEADOWS SLIDES ON TRUMP'S SLIPPERY SLOPE OF TRUTH: During the hearing a much-animated Meadows complained of Cohen’s “insatiable desire for celebrity” and in a heated exchange said: “I’m concerned about your lies today.” While dogged during the hearing in demanding the truth from Cohen, he’s been more of a lap dog when it comes to setting the same standard of President Donald Trump. Meadows hasn’t uttered a word of concern – much less an ounce of outrage, about a president who has offered 9,179 false or misleading claims through March 17 – his 787th day in office, according to The Washington Post FactChecker. During the hearings Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, might have come close to explaining Meadows’ frustration and double standard. "Our colleagues aren't upset because you lied to Congress for the president,” he said seeming to address Cohen but really Meadows and others on the committee and those watching. “They're upset because you've stopped lying to Congress for the president."

PARENTS IN ADMISSIONS SCANDAL WERE SERVING THEIR EGOS: It’s not especially shocking to learn some very rich and famous parents used bribery and cheating to get their mediocre spawn admitted into top-tier universities like Yale and Stanford. What is surprising is why they’d think it matters. Clearly these pay-to-play parents don’t value education. When you throw hundreds of thousands of dollars at a smart stranger to take the SAT or ACT for your kid while he’s off to Cabo, it’s obvious you don’t think it’s important to actually learn stuff. So why would they do it? Why would they pay as much as $6.5 million to get their middling kid into an Ivy? It’s not as if the pampered offspring won’t be given a “job” in whatever field they choose, college or not. So why scheme so hard, spend so much, risk a ruined reputation and, most important, demonstrate to your child that you have zero faith in his or her intellect and ability?

UNC BOARD--ACT LIKE YOU RUN A $3.2 BILLION BUSINESS, NOT A LEMONADE STAND: In August a diverse coalition of former UNC Board members warned that the “Board of Governors has become increasingly politicized, and some members are conflicted. Politics has no place in the selection of members, and any conflicts of interest must be avoided. Boards must have a high level of independence and professionalism to be effective.” Earlier this month Mary Sue Coleman, president of the Association of American Universities, openly worried that the UNC Board was in crisis. “The pattern of disorderly transition generated by the UNC Board of Governors appears to be grounded in historical grievances. Focusing on such grievances impairs the balanced leadership expected from a university system that was once a superstar of American higher education.” Board Chairman Smith has sought to challenge critics, saying the board’s worked effectively to shore up troubled Elizabeth City State University and make the NC Promise reduced tuition plan at selected campuses successful. The unfortunate reality is that these laudable efforts are isolated, not representative of the board’s overall performance.

STATE COULD LOSE BIG IN U.S. BUDGET OVER TRUMP'S WALL: The Pentagon sent its hit list to Congress this week — specific projects across the United States and around the world that may lose funding leave town as the money heads south to build President Trump’s long-promised border wall. It’s an especially big challenge for North Carolina’s Sen. Thom Tillis, who also is a member of Armed Services and until now a staunch advocate for projects on this state’s military bases, including Fort Bragg, Camp Lejeune, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and the Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station. Each of those installations stands to lose tens or even hundreds of millions that had been budgeted for repairs and new facilities. Tillis last week executed one of the more astonishing flip-flops in congressional history when he voted against the measure rejecting the president’s declaration of a national emergency and the looting of the Pentagon budget to build the wall. For weeks, Tillis had opposed the president’s initiative because it hijacks Congress’ appropriation authority. He argued in a Washington Post op-ed column that, “There is no intellectual honesty in now turning around and arguing that there’s an imaginary asterisk attached to executive overreach.” But last week, he apparently found the asterisk and knuckled under to the president.

RACISM IN JURY SELECTION IS REAL. CAN THE SUPREME COURT PUT AN END TO IT? As versions of the case made their way through the Mississippi court system, judges and appellate courts took notice of Mr. Evans’s disregard for Batson v. Kentucky, the 1986 decision that said that prosecutors cannot use peremptory challenges to dismiss prospective jurors on the basis of race. When Mississippi’s highest court reversed Mr. Flowers’s third conviction, the judges chastised Mr. Evans for what they deemed “as strong a prima facie case of racial discrimination as we have ever seen in the context of a Batson challenge.” But Mr. Evans didn’t seem to learn his lesson. He kept targeting his peremptory challenges at black prospective jurors almost exclusively and with near-surgical finesse. At the last Flowers trial, he allowed just one black citizen on the jury; he peppered the other five black people being considered with probing, race-neutral questions, only to later strike them from the jury. The justices on Wednesday appeared ready to chastise Mr. Evans yet again. “The history of the case prior to this trial is very troubling,” said Justice Samuel Alito, adding that Mr. Evans’s record in the case “is cause for concern and is certainly relevant to the decision that ultimately has to be made in the case.”


ROSEMARY MCGEE: RELEASE THE FULL MUELLER REPORT: It’s imperative that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report be released to the American people. As taxpayers the American people are entitled to the full result of Mueller’s effort. It’s of paramount importance now since we have never had a president like Trump before. The chief executive should not be able to cover up a crime and should be exonerated if there was no crime. In a recent poll, 87 percent of respondents – representing both parties – want to see a full report at the conclusion of Mueller’s investigation, including a strong majority of North Carolinians. The U.S. House voted 420 to 0 to make the report public. It’s critical that Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr stand up and support their constituents. It’s their job.

WILLIAM A. FRANKLIN: RIDDELL BILLS ARE WINDOW DRESSING, NOTHING MORE: Dennis Riddell, Alamance Republican villain at large to the Legislature, suddenly wants to “repair” schools after seven years of demolition of NC public schools to please the religious right-wingers he depends on. And to heck with all children — he is proud of home schooling and lack of assimilation of such kids into society. Now Rep. Steve Ross, Sen. Rick Gunn and Riddell, all people working for Art Pope and the Kochs, want to continue to pervert the schools and their systems to their purposes and ideologies. Riddell knows nothing about schools and grades but lots about how to please Pope and friends. His bills are window dressing in lieu of solid pay improvement and working conditions, sufficient for his friends to continue to confuse any discussion of public education, in which I do not include right-wing parochial schools and religious academies — which steal money from public education. depriving your child of better educations and outcomes. It is time to rid ourselves of these self-serving rich people and recover our public schools and our legislature.

BRENDA JAMES: THE LOST NEIGHBORHOODS OF GENTRIFICATION: I believe the African American community has taken another hit. I am speaking about those people who trying to live on disability, minimum wage, work first, unemployment or no income at all. A few decades ago, a vibrant community called Hayti was razed. When members of that community get together, most of us couldn’t come up with a viable reason. First the freeway was put down the middle of Hayti. A lot of people lost their homes and businesses. Some never recovered. Then, urban renewal came in and relocated everyone else. Hayti was a working-class community. My parents lived, worked and raised their family there. There was an air of pride in the way people carried themselves and conducted their business. If this was a poor community, I don’t think they knew it. They never showed that to us. We were a strong and proud people. Now, the south side of Durham is experiencing a new remodeling on many of the streets we played on as children. I was told that this project is called gentrification. This is the process of renewal accompanying the influx of middle-class people into deteriorating areas that often displaces earlier, poorer residents. Is gentrification a modern way of saying urban renewal? Where will the former residents be relocated?



From the dark side

This week's loser is Dick Burr, for trying to excuse the inexcusable:

In a March 12 Forum letter a writer argued that I should oppose President Trump’s national emergency declaration in order to protect Congress’ constitutional powers.

And your response is proof positive that writing LTEs is not a complete waste of time and/or energy. It's also proof that you actually did have misgivings about shirking your Constitutional responsibility to wield at least minimal oversight over the Executive Branch. But this is a sad defense:

What he and many editorial writers in North Carolina have gotten wrong is that the president’s declaration is lawful and constitutional expressly because Congress gave his office the very authority he invoked.

In 1976, Congress passed the National Emergencies Act, which enables the president to use his executive order powers to declare a national emergency. Since then, every president has exercised these powers and more than 30 national emergencies are still in effect.

The National Emergencies Act did not "grant" the President these powers, it was enacted to curb those powers which already existed. Like Truman's 1950 emergency over Korea, which was still in effect at the end of the Vietnam War, and contributed (greatly) to how and why were were embroiled in that conflict.

But that (accurate) history aside for the moment, Trump's Wall emergency is vastly different than previous ones, because it is a political emergency. He didn't get the funding he asked for, even though he still hasn't spent the funding he received last year, so he decided to just take it. This isn't about a ticking time bomb, or a pandemic, it's about power. It's about Trump being frustrated with the Constitution itself, which grants spending authority to Congress.

And of course Burr knows all that, and he knows that we know, so here's a disingenuous bread-cumb:

I have concerns about any president having this much power, but changing that requires Congress to change the law.

No, it doesn't. It would make it easier if all you needed was a simple majority, but the Supreme Court ruled against that in 1983. So even if you wanted to change the law back (which you don't, the above was just rhetorical masturbation), it could/would be quickly challenged in court.

In summary: Yes, Congress did refine previous powers already granted to the President, but it also reserved for itself the ability to block those powers. And then the 3rd Branch stepped in and forced Congress to follow standard Veto procedures if they wanted to overturn an Executive National Emergency. But Congress still has the Constitutional authority to do what Burr claims it can't.

The harsh reality is, as long as we have spineless cowards like Richard Burr and Thom Tillis "representing" us in the U.S. Senate, we will not be able to stop Trump's slide down into tyranny.