- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 11, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The following are excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:

The Daily Sentinel, Grand Junction, Colo., on bipartisanship: President Barack Obama may have entered the White House with hopes of closing the great partisan divide in this country, but it isn’t occurring so far. According to a study released last week by the Pew Research Center, the difference in Obama’s approval ratings among Democrats and Republicans is a massive 61 percent, the widest difference for a new president in the modern era. …

In contrast, in April of 2001, during President George W. Bush’s first few months in office, the partisan divide was 51 percent — with 87 percent of Republicans approving of the job Bush was then doing, and 36 percent of Democrats. … The Obama numbers appear to reflect a widening partisan dispute, no matter who resides in the White House. Since Presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter, when a majority of people in the opposition parties gave the new presidents positive approval ratings in their first few months, favorable ratings from members of the opposition party have been steadily declining. …

The increasing rancor among members of the two major parties doesn’t bode well for the ability to reach bipartisan solutions to complex problems, no matter who is in the White House.

On the Net: https://tinyurl.com/c8mjzq

The Star-Ledger, Newark, N.J., on military spending: … Most Republicans, while regularly railing against those old chestnuts “waste, fraud and abuse,” denounce critics of defense spending as soft on security — worse yet, “liberals.” Many Democrats believe the Pentagon is wildly guilty of gold-plating weapons projects for their ex-military buddies who lobby for the defense industry, but they soft-peddle criticism to avoid being pilloried as, well, “liberals.”

Now comes a pair of reports that make it clear that (1) defense spending, particularly on weapons systems, has exploded in recent years beyond any reasonable reckoning for inflation, and (2) serious policing of Pentagon contracting has virtually vanished. …

Even as defense costs are escalating, oversight has taken a holiday, according to the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan digital news organization specializing in investigative journalism.

While defense contracting almost doubled in the Bush years, the center declared this week, Pentagon investigators referred 76 percent fewer fraud and corruption cases to the Justice Department for prosecution than were sent during the Clinton administration. The reasons cited: relaxed regulations and declining investigative manpower. …

“No one,” said the center’s William G. Dupree in a scary summary, “is minding the store.”

On the Net: www.nj.com/starledger

Watertown (N.Y.) Daily Times, on Ted Stevens: The government’s bungling of the Ted Stevens prosecution is inexcusable.

Justice Department attorneys violated a basic tenet of judicial proceedings by withholding from the defense evidence that might have created the reasonable doubt jurors needed to acquit instead of convict Mr. Stevens. We’ll never know now.

As a result of the prosecutorial wrongdoing, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has asked a judge to vacate the conviction of the former Alaska senator and dismiss the entire indictment charging him with multiple counts of corruption. There will be no new trial. Mr. Stevens, guilty or not, will walk free. Justice has not been served. …

It was just the latest in a litany of government missteps that caused the presiding judge to reprimand Justice Department prosecutors and even hold them in contempt for their conduct. …

In a reversal of fortunes, the prosecuting attorneys could now face their own ethics charges following a review of their conduct. They should be fired and prosecuted for any violations. The abuse of government power and the judicial process casts a shadow over the Justice Department.

On the Net: www.watertowndailytimes.com

Chicago Sun-Times, on President Barack Obama and the Muslim community: If the war on terror is a war to win over the hearts and minds of young Muslims, the United States can have no better charmer in chief than President Obama.

Obama’s recent charm offensive through Turkey showed the president at his best at salving the wounds that the previous administration inflicted on our country’s reputation.

His trip was more than a shoring up of relations with Turkey, a key NATO ally, as it faces political and economic difficulties. It was a critical step to deprive terrorist leaders of a recruiting tool.

It’s a lot harder to sell the United States as the Great Satan when the nation’s chief executive visits with words of tolerance and partnership — and a friendly smile.

In his speeches, Obama stressed that Muslim Americans are an important part of the ethnic and racial mix of the United States, and that a sincere respect for Islam is critical to our country’s success abroad. …

He has shown the world that in Obama’s America, we do not confuse the vast majority of peace-loving Muslims with the relatively small number of radical fundamentalists who blow themselves up in marketplaces. …

On the Net: https://tinyurl.com/c347hu

Dagens Nyheter, Stockholm, Sweden, on Barack Obama’s European visit: Barack Obama’s European visit is over, and even if there have been some demonstrations, the welcome has been warm overall. … The contrast to George W. Bush’s last moments in power couldn’t be sharper.

There are also many signs of a new American foreign policy. Obama has ordered the closing of the Guantanamo prison camp, he’s reached out a hand to Iran, tried to improve relations with Russia, emphasized the importance of international organizations and has said that a nuclear-free world is possible.

All this is music to European leaders’ ears. The U.S. therefore seems to have regained its ‘soft power,’ or … getting countries to want what you want instead of getting them to do what you want. But, one might ask, has it helped? …

Professor Peter Feaver writes in Foreign Policy, that, ahead of Obama’s trip, the U.S. wanted Europe to adopt a more American stance toward the financial crisis, shoulder a greater military responsibility in Afghanistan and receive prisoners from Guantanamo.

The result, Feaver writes, has mainly been the opposite. …

On the Net: www.dn.se

The Observer, London, on NATO: Logistically, America is holding back the Taliban with only auxiliary help from Europe. And that, for now, is the limit of U.S. ambition. The strategy is to pin the insurgency back to a few areas, hoping to buy enough time for some kind of indigenous political process to set down roots in the rest of the country. …

Progress, however incremental, has been made in restoring basic civil rights to ordinary Afghans. That, in turn, has helped mitigate the sacrifices made as a consequence of military occupation, among Afghan civilians and NATO forces.

But there are signs that the limits of liberalization have been reached. To shore up his position ahead of elections later this year, President Hamid Karzai recently backed a law giving men of the country’s Shia minority total dominion over their wives, legalizing child marriage, rape and incarceration inside the home. Even if, as seems likely, pressure from NATO leaders forces Mr. Karzai to withdraw the law, questions remain over whether or not he can be trusted to uphold the country’s post-Taliban constitution. …

The West cannot support civil rights in Afghanistan without local support. But by definition, the Afghans whose rights are most under threat are those who are least able to show support for the occupation. Yet they would be betrayed if NATO lost the will to fight on and the country descended into chaos.

So Mr. Obama is right that the war must continue. But NATO must be clear that it is fighting to uphold the constitutional order of Afghanistan, not just whoever happens to oppose the Taliban at any moment. As long as a stable political process under that constitution remains a credible aspiration, alongside anti-terror operations, NATO has the chance to maintain legitimacy for its occupation. But once it is perceived to be backing just one set of oppressors against another, its mandate is effectively over.

On the Net: https://tinyurl.com/dcjulz

Gulf News, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on President Barack Obama and the Muslim world: It is encouraging to see a shift in America’s policy towards the Muslim world. U.S. President Barack Obama’s statement that America will never be at a war with Islam is welcome. It is hoped that this line of thinking will mark the beginning of a healthy relationship between the U.S. and the Muslim world.

In his first visit as president to a Muslim country (Turkey), Obama called for a partnership with the Islamic world, including in the fight against terrorism …

There is no doubt that Obama’s reconciliatory approach will be beneficial. But he has to take practical steps to move beyond mere promises and implement these stances. The U.S. will find many parties in the Muslim world willing to extend a hand of cooperation — one that is based on mutual respect. But most important of all is for Obama to look at the Muslim world beyond the confines of politics and build on what it represents in the cultural, historical, social and economic arenas.

Yet peace is not only America’s prerogative. The Muslim world should play a pro-active role and become engaged in the process. As a matter of fact, this is an opportunity for Muslims across the globe. They can help build bridges with others, both in Muslim as much as in non-Muslim communities and countries.

On the Net: https://tinyurl.com/dh44q9

Houston Chronicle, on Michelle Obama’s trip to London: She rocked the Old World with her 21st-century style and self-confidence, affectionately hugging the famously touch-me-not Queen Elizabeth; going toe to designer-clad toe with French first lady fashionista/singing star Carla Bruni, and showcasing up-and-coming American designers in the land of Dior and Yves St. Laurent. …

But it was in a setting far removed from the centers of power and royalty that Michelle Obama gave a telling glimpse into an aspect of her persona that could prove infinitely more profound and consequential than her fashion sense and her popular appeal.

At an all-girls school in Islington, one of London’s most notoriously ill-performing school districts, Obama gave the only public speech of her U.K. visit. In it she articulated what could become her ultimate legacy: her vision of empowerment through education for untold millions of girls and women. …

She spoke of confidence and values and “a belief that with a good education there’s nothing you can’t do.” Then she told them, “You are the women who will build the world as it should be. You’re going to write the next chapter in history not just for yourselves, but for your generation and generations to come.”

After her speech, Obama hugged all the girls within reach, to their obvious delight and awe. … She might well have just written the first page of that next chapter in history.

On the Net: https://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/editorial/6363579.html

The Leaf-Chronicle, Clarksville, Tenn., on Defense Secretary Robert Gates: Defense Secretary Robert Gates has his goals set toward the correct target: Afghanistan.

The $534 billion budget he proposed on Monday would shift billions of dollars from programs with cost overruns to those weapons and systems needed in the fight in Afghanistan. Although he wants to cut certain programs, his proposed budget actually represents an increase from the $515 billion budget for 2009. …

His task may not be an easy one on Capitol Hill.

Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute, a think tank, said that Gates is likely to face stiff opposition from certain members of Congress. He told USA Today that members protecting their turf would drag their feet on cutting anything that could affect jobs back home. “Congress will ultimately decide, for example, whether to buy more F-22s,” he said. …

With Pentagon projections that the United States will need to stay actively involved in the war in Afghanistan for years to come, we must ensure our military has the right weapons and training to get the job done and get it done as safely as is possible.

On the Net: https://www.theleafchronicle.com/article/20090408/OPINION01/904080306/1014/OPINION

Dagsavisen, Oslo, Norway, on NATO’s newly appointed secretary-general: All of Turkey expected [NATO’s next secretary-general] Anders Fogh Rasmussen to publicly apologize for a Danish newspaper printing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad cartoons. Of course, there was no such apology. It would be absurd for a prime minister to apologize for what a newspaper printed.

But the fuss about Fogh Rasmussen … shows how inflammatory his appointment was for NATO. … Turkish government sources apparently spread the claim that the [incoming] secretary-general had promised to apologize and also to finally close a Kurdish TV-station in Denmark. They grossly overestimated their influence. …

The problem for NATO is that alliance has gotten a prime minister who must constantly balance on a diplomatic tightrope because of his own opinions and earlier statements.

The biggest problem is that the strongest supporter of the USA’s offensive war on Iraq is now going to lead the defense alliance NATO.

On the Net: https://www.dagsavisen.no

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