- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 28, 2009

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

Journal Star, Peoria, Ill., on former Vice President Cheney’s recent comments: Tradition holds that presidents and vice presidents just out of office perform one simple duty for their successors: They stay quiet for a while. Apparently Dick Cheney didn’t get that memo. Several times since leaving office, he’s directly criticized the two-month-old Obama administration. The latest time came in a CNN interview, when Cheney said Obama has made Americans less safe by taking steps to close the detention center in Guantanamo Bay and to try terror suspects in civilian court. Of course, as an American citizen Cheney has every right to speak up, as do we in noting that he didn’t add anything new to the debate or any shine to his reputation. His views are well-known, and were rejected by the majority of voters who supported Obama’s stances. The latter deserves more than two months to determine his legacy. The entire reason this tradition of silence exists is to show respect for the choices voters make in a democracy. The few men who know how hard it is to run the country should respect that formidable task enough to let their successors begin their work without sniping from the sidelines. It says more about the critics than it does the current officeholder. Leave the second-guessing to those still inside the political arena with the ability to do something about it. …

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The Miami Herald, on President Obama’s efforts in Freedom of Information Act: President Barack Obama took a long step forward last week to fulfill a promise of greater transparency in government by mandating a 180-degree change in the handling of Freedom of Information requests. Attorney General Eric Holder directed all agencies to act on the presumption that documents should be released, rather than finding a pretext to keep the information secret. “In the face of doubt, openness prevails,” he said. This reverses the policy put in place by former Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2001, which treated requests for information as hostile attempts to obtain public records. Mr. Holder’s order basically restores the standard set by former Attorney General Janet Reno in 1993. It says each agency will also be responsible for responding in a “timely manner.” This does not mean everything the government knows is now public information. Exceptions will be made if any agency “reasonably foresees that the disclosure would harm an interest” protected by one of the exemptions to release or if it is prohibited by law. Still, it puts the onus on bureaucrats to show why they can’t comply. Given that the FOIA is the chief tool used by researchers, academics, journalists and other interested citizens to fight needless government secrecy, the decision is timely and welcome. …

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Courier-Post, Cherry Hill, N.J., on payments to executives at firms receiving bailout funding: Save some outrage for other bailouts … Don’t let AIG madness blind you to the other ridiculously wasteful spending going on. … Consider, for example, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the twin mortgage finance titans that some people blame for setting the table for much of the current economic crisis. The companies were seized by federal regulators in the fall and have sought out $15.2 billion and $44.8 billion in bailout funds, respectively. So where is that money going? Fannie Mae disclosed in a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to The Associated Press, that it is planning bonuses of $470,000 to $611,000 for four top executives, on top of their base salaries this year. … What is wrong with these people? Who really thinks people who drive their businesses to the brink of extinction and the worldwide economy to the brink of collapse deserve bonuses in the half-million-dollar range?…

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Spartanburg (S.C.) Herald-Journal, on bills to snatch back AIG, bank bonuses: The government can’t be allowed to pass laws levying extraordinarily punitive taxes on tiny groups of people, particularly not when it is doing so to cover up its own incompetence. … (L)egislators tried to do just that, introducing bills that would snatch back “bonuses” paid to AIG employees and workers at other bailout-buoyed banks. … The fact that the Bush and Obama administrations both knew such bonuses would be paid, and in fact eliminated language in the bailout that would keep them from being paid (arguing it would cause massive lawsuits), hasn’t stopped the waves of fake outrage. It can seem like justice to tax these bonuses away. That’s the populist point lawmakers are trying to make as they try to distract voters from the fact that they voted in favor of paying these bonuses.

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The Independent, London, on domestic Islamist radicalization: The Government unveiled a new strategy yesterday designed to curb domestic Islamist radicalization. A rethink was certainly in order. The suspension earlier this week of official ties with the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) was a vivid demonstration of the shortcomings of the previous strategy. In the wake of the London bombings of July 2005, the Government invited the MCB to Downing Street for discussions on how to respond to the growth of extremism among young British Muslims. Public money was channeled to the organization to help it turn the young away from terror. But it turned out that, despite its name, the MCB was not actually representative of British Muslims, and it had little clout with those individuals the Government needed to influence. The problem is that British Muslims are a diverse and fragmented community. Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Somalis, Iraqis and Nigerians living in Britain all have different cultures, outlooks and economic circumstances. The lesson is that it would be better for the Government to decentralize its approach to dealing with British Muslims, rather than trying to communicate through a single umbrella organization of doubtful authority such as the MCB. … But the heartening news is that by standing up for the principles of moderation, and robustly isolating the preachers of intolerance, the Government will be going with the grain of majority British Muslim opinion. The battle against radicalization is one that can and must be won.

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Dagens Nyheter, Stockholm, Sweden, on Iran and the West: President Barack Obama wants to talk to Iran. That’s good politics, assuming it’s combined with demands. Most people seem to agree that the goal for international policies with Iran is to prevent the country from getting nuclear weapons. The question is rather how it will be done, and (it is) clear that what has been tried so far has also failed. President George W. Bush was harsh in his tone to say the least. It was clear from the beginning that a change would happen with Barack Obama in the White House… The road the U.S. has chosen to take is worth trying - the rest of the world has to find a new way to get out of the blind alley it is finding itself in. …

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Jerusalem Post, on Israel’s relations with Egypt: There was something melancholy about our story this week that Egyptian Ambassador to Israel Yasser Reda would be marking the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our countries by not boycotting a Jerusalem conference and reception today. This wasn’t the way Israelis imagined peace would look three decades after President Anwar Sadat’s historic journey to Jerusalem. Egypt’s Foreign Ministry marked the lead-up to the anniversary with a strong condemnation of Israel’s refusal to allow the Palestinian Authority to conduct a “cultural festival” within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries - including a march on the Temple Mount, complete with PLO flags. The PA knows that Israeli law prohibits it from operating in Jerusalem, which is precisely why it organized the illegal demonstration - to hammer home its claims of sovereignty. … Israel’s Foreign Ministry, in contrast, marked the anniversary by issuing a warm statement recalling Sadat’s visit and his Knesset address. It highlighted the various spheres of Egyptian-Israeli cooperation and noted that bilateral trade climbed to $271 million in 2008. … For an enduring peace, it is imperative, therefore, that Mubarak use the remaining years of his tenure to re-conceptualize and re-brand Egypt’s attitude toward Israel. A first state visit would be a good starting point.

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Postimees, Tallinn, Estonia, on the economic crisis in Eastern Europe and the Baltic countries: The global economic crisis leaves no region unaffected, though its effects are felt more painfully in some areas than others. The crisis has hit Central and Eastern Europe substantially harder than most of Western Europe, and caused lot of misery particularly in the open small Baltic economies of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The European Commission is predicting that the Estonian economy will shrink 7 percent this year while Latvian and Lithuanian economies will see a downfall of 10 and 6 percent respectively. In comparison, the crisis for Poland and the Czech Republic means that they have to settle for economic growth of merely 2 percent instead of the 6 percent predicted earlier. It seems that the Eastern European economic trouble is close to the heart of new U.S. President Barack Obama, who is making his first European visit in April. The Estonian finance minister recently received a U.S. government-signed letter, which called for reconsidering the criteria for entering the euro-zone and introducing the euro - a key target for many nations in Eastern Europe to get out of the vicious economic circle. It could very well be that the President of the United States will evolve to be a strong advocate for loosening the requirements for adopting single currency and an ally for those favoring fast-track adoption of the euro in the Baltics and Eastern Europe.

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