- Associated Press - Friday, October 14, 2016

Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New England newspapers:

The (Waterbury) Republican-American (Conn.), Oct. 8, 2016

In 2007, then-presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said, “I don’t want to pit Red America against Blue America. I want to be the president of the United States of America.” Unfortunately, President Obama didn’t live up to those words. Since he took office in January 2009, the federal bureaucracy has engaged in downright corrupt practices to advance the political agenda of “Blue America.” This is exemplified by the manner in which the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI investigated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s email practices during her 2009-13 stint as Secretary of State.

In 2015, State Department and Intelligence Community inspectors general referred the email matter to the FBI as a “potential compromise of classified information.” It was worthy of a dogged investigation. However, the FBI and DOJ (the FBI’s parent agency) oversaw a disgraceful process that trampled the rule of law.

The FBI “deliberately chose to accept” a lie from Clinton Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills that she knew nothing of the homebrew email system until after Mrs. Clinton left office, The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley A. Strassel wrote Sept. 30. Bryan Pagliano, Mrs. Clinton’s information technology guru, told the feds Ms. Mills knew of the system by early 2010 at the latest. When FBI Director James B. Comey testified before the House Judiciary Committee Sept. 28, he claimed not to remember why Ms. Mills’ line was accepted.

FBI documents reveal, among other things, that Ms. Mills inquired about technology that could be used in “wiping computer data,” and worked on deleting emails with a server administrator who referred to the “Hillary coverup operation,” according to a Sept. 28 Journal editorial. Evidently, no one at the FBI or DOJ pursued this.

Immunity was granted to Ms. Mills and Heather Samuelson, another Clinton aide. Mr. Comey claimed the FBI was trying to get their laptop computers. However, as the Journal noted, “The FBI merely had to seek a subpoena or search warrant. By offering immunity, the FBI exempted the laptops and their emails as potential evidence in a criminal case.” Immunity also was given to Mr. Pagliano and two other men who had technical knowledge of Mrs. Clinton’s system. “Usually, the FBI only ‘proffers’ immunity deals in return for genuine information. In this case, the FBI seemed not to make any such demands,” the Journal asserted. “The deals also did not include - as they often do - requirements that the recipients cooperate with other investigating bodies, such as Congress.”

When FBI agents interviewed Mrs. Clinton in early July, Ms. Mills served as the former secretary’s attorney. This was illegal, according to National Review columnist Andrew C. McCarthy, a former assistant U.S. attorney. “Section 207 of the penal code makes it a crime for a former government official to attempt to influence the government on behalf of another person in a matter in which the former official was heavily involved while working for the government,” he wrote.

It’s no great mystery why “Emailgate” wasn’t investigated seriously. A thorough investigation may have led to indictments of Mrs. Clinton and her cronies. That would have imperiled Democratic candidates across the United States and, by extension, Mr. Obama’s legacy.

This miscarriage of justice ran contrary to the American spirit. Politics never should trump the law. Of course, an earnest investigation was too much to ask of Team Obama. It regularly uses DOJ and the Internal Revenue Service for political purposes. Indeed, it is not unreasonable to conclude the conscription of the Obama administration would make Richard Nixon blush.




The (Brunswick) Times Record (Maine), Oct. 14, 2016

Physical and emotional violence from intimate partners is extremely common. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. One in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will be victims of some sort of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.

In many cases, domestic violence can also be sexual violence. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men have reported experiencing rape at some point in their lives. Additionally, approximately 1 in 20 women and men have experienced sexual violence other than rape - such as unwanted sexual contact, or non-contact unwanted sexual experiences - within the last year (according to a 2012 survey).

It is sadly ironic that during this month, where we should all be thinking of ways to stop sexual and domestic violence and help survivors, that Donald Trump and Bill Clinton have been at the center of the daily news cycles for their comments and behaviors involving sexual assault and harassment.

For those who have experienced this type of violence in their lives, the past week may have been traumatizing. For others, it’s been a sad reminder that we live in a culture where many women are not only abused sexually by men, but are also be used as pawns to assert power over others.

Fortunately, for some, a horrible moment was seized as an opportunity to show strength and solidarity.

Last week, an audio recording from 2005 was released in which Donald Trump bragged about grabbing women’s genitals and kissing them without their consent. The words were shocking, but the fact that they came from Trump was not.

Anybody familiar with Trump’s campaign knows what he thinks about women and how he talks about them. He ranks their looks from 1 to 10, likens them to animals, and even refers to the ones he likes - including his own daughter - as a “piece of ass.”

We also know the audio is more than just ‘locker room talk.’ Over the years, Trump has left a long line of women in his wake who have accused him of sexual harassment, unwanted touching, groping and even rape.

On Sunday evening, about 48 hours after the leaked audio went viral and less than two hours before the start of his second presidential debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump organized a surprise press conference with three victims of Bill Clinton’s alleged sexual misconduct - Paula Jones, who said she had once been flashed by him; Juanita Broaddrick, who said he once raped her; and Kathleen Willey, who accused him of aggressively groping her. The fourth woman was Kathy Shelton, who claimed to have been raped at age 12 by a man Hillary Clinton defended in court as a public defender in the 1980s. The press conference was only about three minutes long, during which the women each briefly expressed support for Trump, anger at the Clintons, or both. Not long after the press conference, Trump seated three of the alleged victims in the debate audience.

It was clear that Trump’s intention was not to empower women who had experienced sexual violence - it was to dis-empower Hillary Clinton. Trump wanted to humiliate her on a public stage by bringing up a dark time in her past, and to gain some campaign traction in the process.

Whether the tactic was enough to rattle Hillary and throw her off her game is up for debate. What’s certain is that Trump’s decision to use victims of abuse to benefit his standing - after being caught admitting to assaulting women himself - was disgusting, infuriating and entirely loathsome.

Astonishingly, many members of the GOP decided that this particular scandal marked the right moment to disavow Trump - not any other time in the past two years. Trump has repeatedly mocked, shamed and objectified women; called Mexicans rapists and criminals; suggested banning people from the U.S. based on their religion; mocked a disabled journalist and suggested murdering the families of terrorists.

When you consider everything Trump has said and done, it’s hard to understand why this moment is the straw that broke the camel’s back. For most of us, the camel has been buried under a mountain of straw for months now.

Two Republicans from our state are staying their respective courses - Gov. Paul LePage and Congressman Bruce Poliquin. LePage has made clear that he will vote for Trump, and in a recent press conference brushed off the leaked audio as a mistake, noting that the only person who was ever perfect “died on a cross.” Poliquin has spent the better part of this year refusing to say whether or not he will vote for Trump, and he’s still not budging on that front.

Although Poliquin did condemn what Trump said in the recording, it’s clear that he would rather not talk about Trump’s words and actions at all. But while burying your head in the sand is certainly the easiest way to deal with being a Republican these days, it doesn’t help to get this state or this country out of the gutter that Trump has driven us into.

The only way out is to speak up.

Bill Clinton is an alleged sexual abuser and rapist - that fact is important and should not be brushed under the rug. Neither should the leaked audio from 2005 or the number of allegations against Trump.

The fact that Trump weaponized the traumatic histories of Jones, Broaddrick, Willey and Shelton to attack another woman is despicable. However, it is important to note that these women are not to blame for his behavior, and should feel no shame in sharing their stories.

Regardless of political affiliation or campaign stunts, a person standing up and letting the world know that they have experienced sexual violence is an act of courage and strength. It is something to be admired. It is something that makes it easier for other victims of sexual violence and harassment to come forward, even if their abusers hold great power over them. Even if their abusers were at one time, or may be in the future, a leader of the free world.

The stories that have surfaced are making people all across the country talk about sexual violence and abuse - a topic that is often only spoken of in secret, or not spoken of at all.

Not long after the tape was released, writer Kelly Oxford began a movement on Twitter encouraging people to share their stories of sexual assault - and reached more than 9 million people.

In the days following the debate, three more women came forward with their stories of being physically attacked by Trump - Jessica Leeds and Rachel Crooks to The New York Times, and Natasha Stoynoff to People.

A domino effect is taking place. With the last and final presidential debate less than a week away, and the presidential election less than a month away, we may see more people coming forward. If there is a bright spot to be found in a week that has been painful for so many, it is that survivors of sexual abuse may find strength and support in each other, and that their stories may help to prevent future assaults.




The (Springfield) Republican (Mass.), Oct. 11, 2016

Well, at least Mike Pence says he’s staying on board. Not that he and Donald Trump are talking much these days. Or even agreeing on fundamental matters.

After the Friday release of a videotape on which Republican presidential nominee Trump was heard boasting that his celebrity status had allowed him to kiss and grope women without their consent, there was rampant speculation about Pence, the Indiana governor who had agreed to serve as Trump’s running mate. Would he stay? If so, would he be solidly behind the reality TV star at the top of the ticket?

An answer came Sunday in a post-debate tweet from Pence. Despite Trump’s having said that the two hadn’t spoken about Syria, adding that he disagreed with Pence’s plans on how best to proceed there, the No. 2 tweeted that he was “proud to stand” with Trump.

He made his bed, and he intends to lie in it.

Other Republicans, though, not so much.

On Monday, House Speaker Paul Ryan backed as far away from Trump as possible without actually unendorsing the nominee. The Wisconsinite, who’d been slow to support Trump once the billionaire businessman had locked down the nomination, had come around. Finally. Sort of. But he now wants nothing to do with the clownish candidate.

It’s fascinating to watch GOP officials endeavor to distance themselves from Trump without maddening his voters. Though one can understand the dance they feel they need to perform, the ones who deserve the most respect are those who’ve never cozied up to Trump.

Down the road - and likely not very far down the road - there’ll be only two types of Republicans: those who stood with Trump, in one way or another, and those who took a principled stand against the party’s clueless, race-baiting, misogynistic, anti-immigrant nominee.

The latter list is awfully short. It contains, most prominently, both former Presidents George Bush. And former Bay State Gov. Mitt Romney, the GOP presidential nominee four years back. Among sitting U.S. senators, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Mike Lee of Utah are at the head of the anti-Trump class.

How long will it be before those who cast principle aside to back Trump find themselves regretting that truly impolitic decision?




The Lebanon Valley News (N.H.), Oct. 10, 2016

Brevity may indeed be the soul of wit, but it apparently is not the heart of legal writing.

The New York Times recently reported about the uproar caused when the federal judiciary proposed shrinking the maximum word count for briefs filed in federal appellate courts by 1,500, from the current 14,000. The American Academy of Appellate Lawyers was not on board with this at all. “There are cases where the facts are complicated, and where areas of the law are complicated,” pleaded Nancy Winkelman, a partner in a Philadelphia law firm and president of the academy.

That is undoubtedly true. On the other hand, 14,000 is a lot of words to spill on any subject, no matter how complicated. (For comparison sake, that is roughly 25 times the length of the average editorial that appears in this space.) And federal appellate judges, who hear appeals from trial courts on some of the most important criminal, civil and constitutional issues that arise, deserve some sympathy. The Times calculates that based on the average caseload, a federal appeals court judge might be obliged to read some 42 million words each year. “You get numb,” Judge Laurence Silberman, who has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for 30 years, confessed to The Wall Street Journal last year. Briefs “are too long to be persuasive,” he added to the Times.

And it’s not only the length, said Judge Mary Beck Briscoe of the 10th Circuit. Lawyers would do their clients and judges a favor “by focusing the court’s attention on the core facts and dispositive legal issues,” and excising tangential facts and secondary arguments on issues on which they are unlikely to prevail. In the end, a compromise was struck between the competing concerns of judges and appellate lawyers. A new rule that will go into effect Dec. 1 sets a maximum of 13,000 words for briefs.

This is an argument, of course, that also plays out in journalism, higher education and business all the time. Writers want to cram every nugget of information they have gleaned into their news articles, term papers or memos, while the editors, professors and executives who are professionally obliged to read the work advocate for more concise presentation. Sometimes we think that Strunk and White’s injunction from The Elements of Style should be posted in offices everywhere: “A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”

Trying to hold back the flood of words in the digital age may seem just as fruitless as King Canute’s exertions against the tide. Compared with its handwritten and typewritten predecessors, the computer is a word producer of awesome power, one all too often harnessed in the service of communicating every single thought that has crossed the writer’s mind on the subject at hand. And since there is no need to actually print something on paper with ink to publish it, the limits of internet communication are virtually limitless. That’s perhaps why so many web-only news sites appear to have dispensed with editors entirely.

Fortunately, though, the final veto on verbosity is held by readers, who can exercise it simply by stopping in midsentence. Obviously, no lawyer should want to risk driving a judge to distraction by an overly long pleading, just as no newspaper writer wants readers to give up halfway through an exhaustive piece he or she has labored all week to produce. But as they say, the reader is always - or almost always - right.




The Providence Journal (R.I.), Oct. 12, 2016

It comes down to character. Donald Trump lacks the temperament, the judgment and the motivation to be president of the United States. The Republicans have no serious candidate for president.

We say this with sorrow, because the American electorate deserves to choose between well-qualified candidates. Mr. Trump is woefully unsuited for the presidency. We wish, but do not expect, he would abandon his pursuit of the office.

We have already seen, through his reckless conduct on the campaign trail, by his insults, incitements and willful ignorance, that he is the wrong sort of person to lead our great nation through a perilous time in history. Mr. Trump, a real estate mogul who was well cast as a reality TV star, is the kind of man who glorifies himself above all other considerations, including compassion, fairness and decency.

He has blurted out countless statements that were not true, or gross exaggerations. He has failed to calibrate his comments to reflect an understanding of the limits of presidential power, and the importance of protecting minority rights in America. He has demonstrated he is not knowledgeable about even important matters of public policy. A president’s words matter, because they can have consequences, in shaping public attitudes, dispiriting allies, or inviting retaliation by enemies.

And now, his own words, captured on a hot microphone on a bus he rode with a television show host in 2005, offer yet more evidence that he is deeply unfit to lead any kind of public enterprise, much less the world’s greatest republic. “Locker room” talk in private is not necessarily disqualifying. But the tape is like the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back - adding up to crushing evidence of Mr. Trump’s lack of character.

Remember, this man isn’t running for boss of the junkyard. Eleven years after he was taped saying these things, he wants voters to believe he can be trusted with our safety, our gears of justice, our foreign and domestic policy.

When the tape surfaced, Mr. Trump said he was sorry for the comments, that he respects women, that it was just private banter, that men everywhere talk like this among themselves.

Some do. But most men, in truth, do not.

Men who are less self-centered, less pumped up on their fame and wealth, understand that most women do not welcome uninvited advances, especially any as crude as the ones Mr. Trump described. Indeed, many women would respond to the actions Mr. Trump describes with a blow to the head or a police report.

If the tape were out of character, it is possible Mr. Trump would politically survive it. But it merely confirms that he is callow, self-centered and crude - attributes that were abundantly clear even before celebrity-smitten primary voters gave him the Republican nomination.

We need a strong two-party system. The Republican Party clearly needs to do a better job managing the selection of a nominee that it would be proud to run behind in the next election.




The Barre-Montpelier Times Argus (Vt.), Oct. 7, 2016

Bernie Sanders and others on the left have been concerned that Hillary Clinton is too hawkish in her foreign policy. After the foolishness of the Iraq war and Afghanistan’s persistent struggle with the Taliban, they share with the Obama administration a reluctance to involve the United States in new quagmires abroad.

Increasingly, Obama-style doveishness seems so last year. We no longer live in a world where the most pressing question is how to extricate ourselves from the disasters and difficulties caused by George W. Bush. That was job No. 1 in the early days of the Obama administration.

But time has passed since those days, and the challenges before us are different. One of the most pressing is the new aggressiveness of Russia, which presents the United States with something like a new Cold War. It is not a contest from which the United States can shrink.

Even Mike Pence, the Republican vice-presidential candidate, appeared to recognize the new reality in his debate with Tim Kaine. He was firm in denouncing Russian President Vladimir Putin, even though his position on Putin was at variance with the views of the man at the head of his ticket.

Firm handling of Russia does not mean going to war with Russia. Hillary Clinton must already be weighing the tools in her diplomatic arsenal for bringing pressure on Russia and exacting a price for its war crimes, cyberespionage and aggression. The United States did not ask for a renewed rivalry with Russia, but it is important to be clear about the ways that Russia is endangering democracy, not just in the Middle East, but in Europe and the United States.

The threat from Russia is not ideological, as it was in the Cold War days. Rather, Putin is promoting Russia in the manner of a fascist dictator. It suits his purpose to make democracy in Europe weaker, so he is waging a war in Syria, which continues to flood Europe with refugees, strengthening proto-fascist movements in Europe and potentially weakening European resolve in standing up to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere.

We lasted through a decades-long rivalry with the Soviet Union without resort to war, and it is just as necessary now as it was then to stand up to threats to democracy emanating from Moscow. Hawkishness has not been in Obama’s bones. He has been strong in bringing sanctions to bear against Russia because of Ukraine and against Iran because of its nuclear program, but the ongoing provocations by Putin require a whole recalibration of our relationship.

Russia’s crimes in Syria, aiding in the devastation of Aleppo, have been historic. Putin has pursued a policy of destruction with impunity and has put Russia outside the bounds of civilized democratic values. The report this week from the Netherlands describing evidence of Russian complicity in the downing of a Dutch airliner in Ukraine was another indicator of Putin’s lawless instincts.

As president, Hillary Clinton will have to exercise U.S. power unapologetically and carefully, containing Russia’s destructive role in the world and showing that liberal democracies have the power to stand up against dictatorial thugs.

Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize shortly after attaining office in 2009, long before he had established himself as a peacemaker. He himself was embarrassed by the premature laurels. He has done much for the cause of peace in reducing America’s damaging role in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those nations know now they have to rely on themselves more than on us. In Iran, Obama averted the rush to war by crafting a deal halting Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Hillary Clinton’s supposed hawkishness may arrive in the White House at just the right time, bolstering the western democracies as they take on the problems of war in the Middle East, terrorism, refugee flows and provocation in Eastern Europe. Her opponent in the election struts and pretends he has a clue about the world. Meanwhile, the direction of the election campaign offers the reassurance that the next president will have the experience and the toughness to deal with the new challenges of our era.

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