Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:
Impeach Trump Again
The New York Times
President Trump’s efforts to remain in office in defiance of democracy cannot be allowed to go unanswered, lest they invite more lawlessness from this president or those who follow.
The attack on the Capitol on Wednesday was not a spontaneous eruption of violence. It was the culmination of a campaign waged by the president of the United States and his allies in Congress and the right-wing media to overturn the results of a free and fair election that began even before the ballots began to be counted on Election Day.
That campaign involved a barrage of lies about the integrity of the voting process from the president, his allies and other elected Republicans. It included farcical legal challenges that were laughed out of court even as they sowed doubt in the minds of a majority of Republicans about whether Joe Biden won fairly. It involved the president and his allies strong-arming state election officials to change the vote count outright. When it all failed, the president held a rally on the National Mall and sent the angry crowd to march on the Capitol and stop Congress from declaring Mr. Biden the winner of the presidency. The riot came at the cost of at least five lives and shook the confidence of the nation and the world in the stability of American democracy.
Each of these efforts amounts to an unprecedented assault on the rule of law. Taken together, they constitute a crime so brazen that it demands the highest form of accountability that the legislature can deliver. As regrettable as this moment is for the nation, there is no other option but to vote to impeach the president for a second time.
Mr. Trump began undermining November’s election before the first vote was cast. Throughout the spring and summer, as the pandemic forced states to be more flexible with mail and absentee voting, he claimed repeatedly and without evidence that mail-in balloting would be rife with fraud.
Then, after it was clear Mr. Biden was the victor, and after weeks of public and private attempts to get states to change their vote totals and deliver him a second term, the president encouraged his supporters to converge on Washington on Jan. 6. (“Be there, will be wild!” he tweeted.) Tens of thousands of them, from all over the country, answered his call.
Mr. Trump took to the stage and gave perhaps the most un-American speech ever uttered by a president.
“We will not take it anymore,” Mr. Trump told the crowd. “We will stop the steal.”
“States want to revote. The states got defrauded. They were given false information. They voted on it. Now they want to recertify,” Mr. Trump said to cheers. “They want it back. All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify, and we become president.”
“Fight for Trump!” the crowd bellowed.
Mr. Trump said that he’d just spoken to the vice president, who was due to oversee the ceremonial counting of electoral votes. “I said: ‘Mike, that doesn’t take courage. What takes courage is to do nothing - that takes courage.’ And then we’re stuck with a president who lost the election by a lot, and we have to live with that for four more years. We’re just not going to let that happen.”
“We’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you, we’re going to walk down, we’re going to walk down,” Mr. Trump said, “to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and -women, and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them.” He continued: “Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated, lawfully slated.”
“We fight. We fight like hell,” the president said. “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
With that, the crowd struck off and some of the president’s loyalists stormed the Capitol.
The charges against Mr. Trump are clear: inciting an insurrection. The House could give him fair consideration without the lengthy hearings it required to impeach him in December 2019 after he strong-armed the Ukrainian president. The evidence now is not secondhand accounts of meetings and phone calls. The offenses occurred in public for weeks and then live on national television.
Significant support from Republicans would be necessary to achieve the two-thirds majority in the Senate required for a conviction. But the deadly attack on Congress finally seems to have shaken some of them from their reflexive backing of the president who incited it. Senators were driven out of their own chamber, and into hiding, while they were in the middle of performing their constitutional duty of counting the electoral votes.
Mr. Trump may not have called directly for this behavior, but there is no question that he encouraged it and then refused for hours to condemn it, even as the whole world watched in horror. When he finally asked for rioters to stop and go home, he continued to claim the election had been stolen.
So far, among Republicans, only Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who described the president’s behavior as “wicked,” has said he would consider impeachment. Others are said to be privately discussing voting for it. Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania have called on the president to resign. If Republican senators refuse to convict Mr. Trump, they would go on the record - for their constituents to see and reconcile - defending a man who was happy to put their lives, and the nation’s democratic future, at risk for nothing but his own quest to hold on to power.
The arguments against impeachment - that it could actually sow more division or further embolden Mr. Trump and his allies politically, that it could distract from Mr. Biden’s agenda in his first several weeks in office, that the Senate may ultimately fail to convict - are worth considering. There could be more unrest and even violence. In many ways, it would be easier to let Mr. Trump leave office and attempt to consign the storming of the Capitol to the past.
But, ultimately, there can be no republic if leaders foment a violent overthrow of the government if they lose an election.
Mr. Trump is not the only person at fault. Many Republican lawmakers riled up his supporters for weeks with false claims of election rigging and continued to object to the electoral vote even after the attack. The 14th Amendment bars from office any federal or state lawmaker who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” or given “aid or comfort” to those who have. Congressional leaders will need to reckon with which of their colleagues require censure for their actions, and perhaps even expulsion.
Any and all rioters who broke laws on Wednesday need to be identified and prosecuted. Attempting insurrection is as serious a crime as there is in a self-governing republic. As more of the rioters are arrested, it will also be essential to get to the bottom of how they were allowed to wreak havoc and yet, for the most part, walk away unscathed. That will require investigations by both Congress and the Justice Department.
Yet it can’t be lost that the violence on Wednesday was the nadir of a coordinated, relentless campaign to cast doubt on the strength of American democracy. In the end, the driving force behind the lies, the chaos and the bloodshed of the past few days and weeks is Mr. Trump. As long as he is not held fully to account, any future chief executive might feel equally unbound by a lawless precedent.
New York’s chaotic vaccine rollout
Error messages and frozen computer screens. Hour-long waits on hold by phone only to be disconnected. Appointments made, only to be oddly canceled moments later. Pharmacies listed as ready-to-go, only to not even be scheduling vaccinations at all.
Have you tried to get an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine yet?
It’s been a very rocky start. New York’s efforts in scheduling people for their first vaccines have been a chaotic maze of frustrating, time-consuming and sometimes futile steps showing, yet again, the limits of the state’s aging information technology infrastructure. Also at issue: the limited supply of doses that makes appointments difficult to get.
State officials say they were prepared for the start of statewide vaccine appointments, and that tens of thousands of people successfully booked appointments in the last two days. But it’s clear the state’s system couldn’t meet the demand, and the situation worsened Tuesday, though officials correctly point out that the federal decision to broaden guidelines to include anyone 65 and older further taxed the system.
Nonetheless, the state has known a vaccine was coming - and that demand would be extensive - for months. State officials should have learned from the atrocious failure of the state Department of Labor’s unemployment system last year. While they said they ramped up their systems and staffing, it clearly wasn’t enough.
That’s not to say this was going to be easy. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday that the expansion of eligibility criteria meant that 7 million New Yorkers are eligible for the vaccine. But the state is still getting just 300,000 doses a week. If the pace were to stay as it is now, many older New Yorkers would be unable to get an appointment until the summer. That’s an unacceptable scenario and it’s imperative that federal officials pick up the pace, if not now, then as soon as President-elect Joe Biden takes office next week.
But New York has to be better prepared for this constantly changing situation and that means finding ways around the often Byzantine way of doing things so common in Albany. It means enlisting outside experts or considering public-private partnerships with entities that understand supply chains or the scheduling and programming of large events. It means increasing staff and capacity. And it means communicating with local governments and with residents, so county officials can better plan for appointments at the sites they’re running, and so everyone knows what to expect.
It was essential that the state’s efforts start smoothly, particularly to instill confidence and get us past this crisis and back to some normalcy. Eligible New Yorkers have to be patient, and should only show up if they have an appointment. State officials, meanwhile, must match their hope that kinks will be worked out in the coming days with the effort to make that happen, even as some appointments may be months away.
The demand is only going to increase, especially once the vaccine opens to more of the public. The state must learn from its early mistakes and be ready.
Solving The City’s Healthcare Issue The Right Way Will Be Worth The Wait
Mayor Eddie Sundquist has taken an important first step toward hopefully resolving one of the city’s biggest recurring cost issues - retiree health care.
The mayor moved too quickly in trying to move retirees off of the city’s health care plan as part of the 2021 budget. Counting on the projected $1 million in savings was always difficult because imposing a change on the city’s unions invites lawsuits - and the city hasn’t fared well when challenging its bargaining units in court.
Negotiated changes, then, are preferable to unilateral action.
The city has taken the first step by reinvigorating a health care committee that will include members of the administration, union members and retirees together to talk.
That’s a good first step, but it’s also an easy step. The second step is much harder - all sides keeping a cool head as difficult discussions are had. For years the city has seen about 90% of its budget tied up in salary and benefits for city workers. The only way to lower the city’s tax burden or create money for new programs is to lower that percentage, and that means change.
City officials also must be especially careful during these discussions. We have seen over the course of the past three decades the lasting impact of employee negotiations. What seems fair in 2021 may have unintended consequences decades down the road.
Resolving the city’s retiree health care issue isn’t going to happen quickly, but taking the time to do it right is worth the wait.
Hoping for better
Adirondack Daily Enterprise
On Friday we said Donald Trump should not only be removed from office, but also jailed and prosecuted for inciting a mob to storm the U.S. Capitol. But what about the dozens of members of Congress, including the North Country’s own Rep. Elise Stefanik, who sacrificed principles and integrity to support his lies and imitate his name-calling and abuse?
For them, the solution has to be political. For Trump and the rioters, however, it has crossed over into the realm of criminality.
Some Democrats in the North Country are calling for Stefanik to resign. We are not. Those who think she must go should get real and work on drafting a candidate to oppose her in the 2022 election. She won the November election with roughly two-thirds of the votes, a huge margin. Like her or not, she is unquestionably the people’s choice to do this job of representing us in Congress.
Ideally, we all should respect that, and she should respect the people of this district - all of them. But this country has come a long way from ideals.
Let’s work on fixing that.
Our politics have strayed from standing for something to standing against other people. This is more pronounced on the Republican side in the Trump era, but it exists on the Democratic side as well. Instead of our parties being schools of thought, we have something more resembling gangs.
But the system stays the same. As always, the number-one job of a politician is to get elected. Politicians follow what people want, and lately, the public has been in attack mode more than any other time in our lives. More than ever, people don’t care so much about how you play the game; they just want to win at all costs.
Integrity, honesty and sympathy have gone out of style.
We hope, and we even dare to believe that they will come back. We think Wednesday’s mob raid on the Capitol might be a turning point. People are sick of how toxic our nation has become. We certainly are.
Remember how, after the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001, Americans of all political beliefs came together? The fact that so many people are not doing so now - a little, but not enough - is deeply discouraging.
Yet we took hope from an unlikely place Wednesday night: U.S. senators. As they rose to speak one after the other, we could not peel ourselves away from the screen - because it was so different, so much better than what we have become used to hearing from politicians. Republicans, Democrats and others were talking about government the way it should be. Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, spoke about how American democracy is not normal in a human history filled with kings and dictators, and how it must be carefully maintained. Some senators, such as Lindsey Graham, changed their minds and said they could no longer be party to the Trump train. Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican who never bought Trump’s nonsense, got a standing ovation for saying, “The best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth.” Even those who objected to states’ electors - thus perpetuating Trump’s lies about votes being stolen from him - at least talked about believing in government rather than lawlessness.
Laying aside short-term goals such as election, politicians should know that in the long term, integrity will be how they are measured in history. Richard Nixon won two presidential elections, but we don’t look back on him fondly because he played dirty. When we remember great sports teams, we don’t cherish goons, bean ballers and bone breakers - those who pushed boundaries to get away with as much rule-breaking as they could. Rather, we treasure those who played with class and character, as well as amazing talent.
So yes, we dare to hope that, starting now, integrity will be voters’ top desire, along with honesty and sympathy. Be on notice, politicians at the local, state and federal levels: We might be right.
You may think this is naive, but we honestly believe most Americans are desperate for it. They are hungry for Republicans and Democrats to get over their feud and treat each other like human beings again.
It’s a tall order, but what’s the alternative?
New York must fix vaccine rollout bottleneck
The Auburn Citizen
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced some good news on Friday when he said that New York state will move into its next prioritization phase for COVID-19 vaccinations as soon as Monday.
Expanding the pool of New Yorkers eligible for vaccines from the state’s 1A phase to 1B will mean many more people can get the vaccine, including any residents over 75 and a broader group of essential workers.
But while it’s great that this phase is finally going to start, it’s a downright failure that it took this long to get to this point.
The state’s first vaccination prioritization phase started more than three weeks ago and a huge portion of the population eligible in group 1A still has not had the first shots.
The reasons for this are many, and the responsibility falls on many, as well. The state, though, is ultimately responsible for getting this done, and the buck needs to stop with the governor.
We’re glad to hear the news from the governor that a much larger network of vaccine providers will be involved with this next phase, from retail pharmacies to public health departments to special mass pop-up clinics run by the state. That should help get more people vaccinated faster.
But there’s one important additional change the state needs to make. It cannot allow its prioritization schedule to become so rigid that it creates a bottleneck, which is exactly what happened in phase 1A.
There’s absolutely no valid reason for any vaccines to be spoiled because providers couldn’t find enough eligible people willing to take a shot; there needs to be mechanism to deviate from the eligibility list when appropriate.
New York also cannot take three weeks to get past phase 1B. This is a once-in-a-century, life-threatening pandemic, and we now have vaccinations that can bring it to an end. Throughout this nation, including New York state, leaders are failing to meet a moment that requires a massive, well-coordinated and highly efficient operation.
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