Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


VOTERS SHOULD PICK REPRESENTATIVES, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND: Thirty-one of the 50 winning candidates for the state Senate had victory margins that exceeded 20 percentage points – a landslide in any election. Just eight – 16% of the Senate, had victory margins at 10 percentage points or less. In the state House of Representatives, nearly 70% of the 120 members won with runaway victory margins that exceeded 20 percentage points. Just 19 races – barely 16% of the House (a familiar figure?) captured their seats with margins under 10 percentage points. The desires of a few outweighed the needs of the many. Gerrymandering protected nearly every legislator, regardless of their political affiliation, from any consequences at the ballot box. Our state cannot continue to have a legislature that is not accountable to the citizens.

ROB SCHOFIELD: #STOPTHESTUPID IN NORTH CAROLINA: Having watched the nearly decade-long gubernatorial campaign of soon-to-be-retired Lt. Gov. Dan Forest be reduced to a smoldering wreckage — thanks in large part to the candidate’s utterly ignorant and reckless pandemic denialism — you’d think these people might have grasped that spreading untruths and rosy fantasies is not the smartest approach for dealing with a deadly and unprecedented public health crisis. Unfortunately, that lesson seems not to have sunk in just yet in a lot of places — even to the people in and around the Forest camp. This troubling truth was displayed last week in an essay posted to the conservative website Longleaf Politics by Andrew Dunn, who served as the communications director for Forest’s campaign. Dunn entitled the essay “The Governor Who Cried Wolf” and in it he launched several broadsides at Gov. Cooper for, as he sees it, wrongfully stoking public fears about a virus that has infected more than 360,000 North Carolinians and killed more than 5,000. Setting aside for a moment the fact that Cooper has issued repeated statements of confidence and encouragement, calling for all of us to pull together as a community, the essay left a reader wondering as to what manner of public emergency would be sufficiently serious to spur Dunn and his easily distracted fellow travelers to maintain their focus. Would 10,000 dead North Carolinians do the trick? How about 20,000? Would they have grown bored with weekly updates from the nation’s leadership during World War II?

DONALD TRUMP IS THE SOREST LOSER EVER: Back before Joe Biden won the presidential election more than a month ago by a margin approaching 7 million votes, I wrote a column here listing 15 reasons “to not like Donald Trump.” I noted that he is a tax dodger, draft dodger, liar, and “he doesn’t own a dog.” I am now compelled to add a 16th reason: Donald Trump is perhaps the sorest loser in history. One of the first hard lessons most people learn growing up is that you win some, you lose some. Then you accept either outcome with at least a nodding grace toward your opponent. Trump, however, never grew up. When the race was called for Biden, that’s when we hit the road to full-on Crazytown, with an often-confused Rudy Giuliani at the wheel. Right beside him stood North Carolina’s own Sidney Powell, with arguments so bizarre that they make the craziest JFK assassination theory you ever heard sound like a bedtime story. From the start, Trump also has played the race card. His fraud charges targeted cities with large African-American populations — Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee, Atlanta. He all but said that because these were black votes they shouldn’t count. (In fact, it was women in the suburbs that tipped the crucial swing states for Biden). He lost. Yet the vast majority of our elected Republican officials, including North Carolina’s own senators — most of whom know the truth — won’t even acknowledge, much less publicly congratulate, the newly, and duly elected president of the United States. Is Trump really this powerful? Or are the people we are electing to office these days just so weak, so easily bullied that they can’t even open an umbrella in a downpour because some blowhard who just lost a big election says the sun is shining?

TRUMP FIRED ME FOR SAYING THIS, BUT I'LL SAY IT AGAIN: THE ELECTION WASN'T RIGGED: On Nov. 17, I was dismissed as director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a Senate-confirmed post, in a tweet from President Trump after my team and other election security experts rebutted claims of hacking in the 2020 election. On Monday, a lawyer for the president’s campaign plainly stated that I should be executed. I am not going to be intimidated by these threats from telling the truth to the American people. Three years ago, I left a comfortable private-sector job to join, in the spirit of public service, the Department of Homeland Security. At the time, the national security community was reeling from the fallout of the brazen Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. I wanted to help. States are constitutionally responsible for conducting the nation’s elections. At CISA, we were there to help them do it securely. Our first job was to improve CISA’s relationships with state and local officials, building trust where there was none. We also worked closely with representatives from across the election-security community, public and private, in groups called coordinating councils. A key development was the establishment of the Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center to share security-related information with people who can act on it for defensive purposes. This point cannot be emphasized enough: The secretaries of state in Georgia, Michigan, Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania, as well officials in Wisconsin, all worked overtime to ensure there was a paper trail that could be audited or recounted by hand, independent of any allegedly hacked software or hardware. That’s why Americans’ confidence in the security of the 2020 election is entirely justified. Paper ballots and post-election checks ensured the accuracy of the count. Consider Georgia: The state conducted a full hand recount of the presidential election, a first of its kind, and the outcome of the manual count was consistent with the computer-based count. Clearly, the Georgia count was not manipulated, resoundingly debunking claims by the president and his allies about the involvement of CIA supercomputers, malicious software programs or corporate rigging aided by long-gone foreign dictators.

I WROTE THE SPECIAL COUNSEL RULES. BARR HAS ABUSED THEM.: Attorney General William Barr’s decision on Tuesday to name John Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut appointed by President Trump, as special counsel to investigate matters surrounding the 2016 election violates the rules for special counsels as well as fundamental democratic principles. There may be reasons the inquiry by Mr. Durham — an investigation that began in 2019 into the Trump-Russia inquiry — should continue, but there is absolutely no reason to permit an outgoing attorney general to try to install his preferred personnel at the investigation’s helm in the new administration. And it is entirely appropriate for President-elect Joe Biden to appoint all the prosecutors in his new administration, just as his predecessors have done. The special counsel regulations, which I drafted in 1999 as a Justice Department staff member, were designed with the idea that some investigations require a person from outside the department to assure the public of sufficient independence. We had in mind circumstances in which, for example, a president was alleged to have engaged in wrongdoing and having his attorney general conduct the investigation could cause a problem with impartiality. That is why they expressly require someone “outside the United States government” to serve as special counsel. Doing so helps reassure the public of an independent investigation. So far as anyone can tell, after months of work, Mr. Durham’s effort appears not to be investigative work that requires insulation from politics but political work that Mr. Barr now wants to insulate from investigative scrutiny. That stands the special counsel model on its head and underscores why he should not receive the “special counsel” designation. Mr. Durham’s top aide in the investigation, the well respected Nora Dannehy (who certainly fits that bill), “quietly resigned — at least partly out of concern that the investigative team is being pressed for political reasons to produce a report before its work is done,” according to colleagues. Whatever the circumstances of Ms. Dannehy’s departure, the special counsel regulations are all about public perception, and here they all stink.


RENEE SEKEL: THE NC LEGISLATURE HAS BILLIONS THAT COULD HELP PEOPLE, BUT THEY REFUSE TO SPEND IT: With great power comes great responsibility. Imagine being one of the 170 people with the greatest power to help millions of North Carolinians. Imagine having more than $4 billion to do it. The members of the N.C. General Assembly, in particular those in the ruling party, have that power. And according to an N.C. Controller’s report, they have $4.3 billion in revenue — on top of the state’s robust “rainy day” fund — just sitting there, available to be used to help North Carolinians struggling to cope with the devastation wrought by COVID-19. But legislators have chosen to do almost nothing. Billions sit unused as people lose jobs and homes, as families struggle to help their children cope in this awful year. And our legislators pretend they have neither the power nor the responsibility to do anything to help. What a waste.

GARY PARKER: THIS IS TRUMP'S WORST CRIME: In recent weeks President Trump has committed the most grievous crime of all of those he has committed. He has led tens of millions of people not to trust our presidential elections. Trump alleges widespread fraud, but neither he nor his attorneys can provide proof of it. Sadly, most Republican senators and representatives by their silence have joined him in this lie. They're all acting cowardly in their fear of "Twump's twittered tweets." Unfortunately, they're succeeding in this attack on our democratic system of government by making many people believe they can't trust our presidential election. Those tens of millions of voters who put their trust in Donald Trump rather than in our democracy eventually will learn how wrong they were. In the meantime, the avaricious Trump is raking in hundreds of millions of dollars in donations to his massive Election Defense Fund campaign ($179 million to date). The fundraising request says, "I need your help. The recount results were BOGUS. Our democracy and freedom is at risk." No, it's the Election Defense Fund for this already-defeated president that's bogus. Apparently the money could be used for Trump's personal expenses, like his $400 million debt coming due soon.

SUFYAN ALDULAIMI: MAKE THE U.S. A HAVEN FOR REFUGEES ONCE AGAIN: The next administration will renew a commitment to refugee resettlement in the U.S. This is good news, but there is a clear divergence of views on refugees in the U.S. right now. I’m tired of people belittling refugees like me. In my former country of Iraq, I watched helplessly years ago as masked men came to my home and shoved my brother at gunpoint into the trunk of a car. They had mistaken him for me, a translator for U.S. armed forces. My family paid a ransom to get him back. But we had to flee. Had I not had the help of the U.S. government and a refugee resettlement group, I’d likely be dead. How we — yes, I’m now a proud American citizen — treat refugees matters. To anyone who doubts the danger of xenophobia, let me be clear: This is a national security issue. Who will help U.S. soldiers next time they need a translator to walk alongside them, unarmed, in enemy territory? We must send a message to those who serve U.S. forces: We’ve got your back.



You're only as informed as your sources

If we've learned anything from the Trump debacle, it's that truth can be as elusive as a jackalope (which of course doesn't exist, but the fact I feel the need to tell you that sort of underlines my message).

I studied history in college, mainly because I had so many questions that were begging for answers. But for those of you who consider it a "soft" science, if it can even be called a science, doing it right can be extremely difficult. That requires multiple, independent, primary sources (somebody who was not only alive at the time but also witnessed the events in question). The farther back you go, the harder it is to find those primary sources. I won't bore you with some of the research I did, but I will no longer even crack open a Western Civ textbook or standard encyclopedia. It's worse than pointless, it's counterproductive and misinforming.

But finding primary sources on current events is not hard; the inclusion above of Chris Krebs and Neal Katyal is evidence of that. But it's also important to remember that primary sources are people, with their own perspectives and innate prejudices. That's where the "multiple" and "independent" factors come into play.

But of course you can't spend days researching each of numerous issues that emerge on a daily basis. You have to have a certain amount of trust in where you get your information. The Associated Press has been able to leverage an incredibly vast network of investigative journalists, while also maintaining a pretty tight control on accuracy. They've had a few stumbles, but the AP journalists killed while reporting far outnumber the handful of hacks that squeezed into their ranks. 190 have died in Iraq alone in the last two decades.

Readers never asked, "Will you die for me?" But they answered "yes" anyway.

With that context in mind, every time you choose to get your information without checking the sources, without verifying the accuracy by taking five minutes to poke it with a stick, you are dishonoring their sacrifices. And you are shortchanging yourself.