- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

Oct. 8

The Post and Courier, Charleston, South Carolina, on a case for war to Congress:

Memoirs by a former defense secretary and a former ambassador to Iraq raise serious new questions about President Obama’s candor and sense of direction in the foreign challenges now facing the nation. The president has “lost his way,” according to Leon Panetta, who served Obama as head of the Central Intelligence Agency and Secretary of Defense, and who once served as President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff.

That is a dangerous place for the nation to be, as it marks the beginning of the third month of the air campaign against Islamic State. This new war had its first casualty Oct. 1, a Marine lost at sea, but does not yet have an official name. Nevertheless, we are probably seeing the opening moves in a war that Panetta says could last 30 years.

A big unanswered question is: How did we get here? As Jonah Goldberg noted on our opinion page Saturday, President Obama likes to deflect the blame for mistakes. On the current collapse of the Iraqi armed forces and the rise of Islamic State, he has pointed to George Bush and former Iraqi Premier Maliki as the individuals most to blame. On the question why he withdrew U.S. forces from Iraq in December 2011, Obama recently complained, “What I just find interesting is the degree to which this issue keeps on coming up, as if this was my decision.”

But in an excerpt of his new memoir published by Time magazine, Leon Panetta says the White House could have worked a deal to keep U.S. troops in Iraq but stood back from Pentagon efforts to get one. Panetta, a long-time Democratic Party insider, was defense secretary in 2011, the last year American troops were in Iraq.

Christopher Hill, a career diplomat and former ambassador to Iraq, also has a new memoir. He says that in 2009 Vice President Joe Biden took over from the State Department in setting U.S. policy in Iraq and his actions communicated to Iraqis a U.S. desire to withdraw.

If that is not enough to show that the administration wanted to remove U.S. troops from Iraq and made no effort to reach the necessary agreement with the Iraqi government, there is what Obama himself has said about his intentions.

In short, it’s clear that President Obama wanted the troops out and failed to examine the potential consequences of their withdrawal. In doing so, he set the conditions for the current crisis.

If Panetta is correct, the nation can expect to pay a big price for its renewed involvement in the hostilities. Congress has yet to debate this return to war, currently being conducted by U.S. forces primarily in the air. There are strong arguments to support a concerted multinational campaign against the radical Islamic State, which continues to make military gains - most recently in Syria.

Obama’s first step should be to ask Congress to back his plan. Not only is it necessary to restore his credibility, but congressional authorization to go to war is a constitutional imperative too long ignored.




Oct. 7

Island Packet, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, on tax rate:

Local leaders are correct that Act 388 has been disastrous for our schools.

The 2006 state law prevents the Beaufort County School District from taxing primary residences for school operations. Instead, only owners of second homes and commercial properties are taxed to pay for school operations. The result: thousands of second homeowners have claimed their Beaufort County houses as their primary residence, significantly reducing their property tax bills — and shrinking the tax base for school operations.

But undoing Act 388 appears politically impossible at this time. Few state lawmakers are willing to vote for any plan that would force the vast majority of the state’s homeowners (and voters) to pay more in property taxes toward schools.

So while we’re sympathetic to County Council’s and the Beaufort County school board’s plight, they’re going to have to do more than just complain.

And they need to accept that they haven’t made the best budgetary decisions either, setting inaccurate tax rates and playing politics with scarce local dollars. Last year’s inaccurate tax rate tore a $5 million hole in the district budget. Now, the district may be facing a second consecutive year of a tax revenue shortfall. This could result in more district cuts or the school board dipping into its reserve fund to make up the difference. That’s no way to run a school district.

At least local leaders are finally recognizing the problem. County administrator Gary Kubic recently called a meeting to hash out a more cohesive process for setting the tax rate. Getting the county treasurer, auditor, assessor, district superintendent and finance staff all at the same table is a good start to figuring out how to set a tax rate that all can agree on.

Once a process is established, we hope this same group of local leaders can work together to find ways to minimize Act 388’s effect locally. One possibility is impact fees to generate extra cash for the schools.

They can also join forces to encourage statewide changes, such as sunsetting certain tax exemptions, fully funding schools on a per-pupil basis and creating new safeguards to ensure that those who re-classify their secondary homes as primary ones are being honest.

Local leaders cannot undo Act 388. But they can do a better job of working together to set an accurate tax rate and speaking as a united front of needed state reforms.




Oct. 5

Morning News, Florence, South Carolina, on domestic violence:

Pink is a distinctive color. It’s red mixed with white. It’s soft. It’s warm. Who isn’t pretty in pink?

Purple is different. It’s red mixed with blue. It’s bold. It’s cold. It’s the color of a bruise.

These are the colors of two important causes that are in the spotlight each October but shouldn’t be ignored any other month.

Pink means Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Purple means Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The contrast between the two causes goes far beyond hues.

Breast cancer is a deadly disease that has claimed too many lives, but thanks to awareness campaigns, money is raised that goes toward education and science. Both have been successful in reducing the mortality rate.

Domestic violence is a social and mental problem that manifests itself in physical and mental ways. If it’s a problem that science can solve, physicians take a back seat to psychologists. Shelters for battered women need funds, but fundraising for this cause is more challenging than raising money to fight breast cancer. One thing is for sure: You can legislate against domestic violence.

But in South Carolina, they won’t.

According to “Till death do us part,” a powerful special report that The Post and Courier published earlier this year, more than 300 women were killed by men in the past decade in South Carolina. That’s more than three times the number of soldiers from South Carolina who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

Domestic violence death rates have dropped by 64 percent nationally in the past two decades, according to the Post and Courier, but the problem hasn’t changed in South Carolina. It consistently has ranked among the worst states nationally in the rate of women killed by men. In 2011, it ranked No. 1 with 61 female homicide victims and 2.54 deaths per 100,000 females.

The problem has been recognized in the state Legislature, but talk has not resulted in action. Preventive programs aren’t getting the money they need. Penalties need to be toughened for abusers, but 30 days remains the maximum sentence for a first domestic abuse conviction.

There are only 18 domestic violence shelters in the entire state. Animals are treated better than abused women. According to the Post and Courier, 380 women were turned away from shelters from July 2012 through June 2013 because of a lack of room.

This needs to change.



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