Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:
The New World Order That President Biden Will Inherit
The New York Times
President-elect Joe Biden has signaled that he will move swiftly to restore dignity to the badly sullied image of the United States; respect for the professionals of America’s diplomatic, intelligence and military services; and a more predictable, nuanced and sympathetic approach to foreign relations. That message of a restoration of norms is likely to resonate in many capitals around the world, as it did with an electorate that gave Mr. Biden a decisive victory over Donald Trump.
There is much that Mr. Biden can do in his first 100 days. He has already vowed to promptly rejoin the Paris accord on climate change and to make climate action central to his administration. He has declared his intention to restore the United States’ relationship with the World Health Organization, signaling that the United States will join forces with the rest of the world to halt the rampage of the coronavirus.
Mr. Biden is also expected to organize a summit of democracies, and to recommit the United States to exposing human rights abuses wherever they arise, whether in China, Russia, Saudi Arabia or Turkey. At the same time, he will seek ways to revive the nuclear deal with Iran, and agree with Russia to extend the New START treaty on limiting strategic nuclear arms. Hopefully, Mr. Biden will terminate American support for Saudi Arabia’s terrible war in Yemen.
These are all welcome signs of America’s imminent return to a role in the world that better reflects our historical values.
The team Mr. Biden is said to be assembling looks as if it will be composed of veterans of administrations past and paid-up members of the foreign policy establishment. If Republicans retain control of the Senate, Mr. Biden’s appointments could be constrained by the need to get them confirmed, while the scope of his actions will often be reduced to what can be accomplished through executive orders.
Even a Senate controlled by Democrats would not presage a dramatic departure in American strategies and policies. Mr. Biden may tone down the trade war with China, but contentious differences on issues such as 5G networks or China’s claims in the South China Sea will remain at the fore. Whatever hold President Vladimir Putin may have had on Mr. Trump almost never translated into a lifting of sanctions, and Democrats are not likely to seek a reset with Russia. Mr. Trump’s bromance with Kim Jong-un did little to change the U.S. stance on North Korea. Mr. Trump’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was decidedly one-sided, yet there had been no movement toward a two-state settlement in the years before Mr. Trump became president, and there is little indication that any such movement is imminent no matter who’s in the White House — or where the U.S. Embassy is.
Mr. Biden is likely to continue Mr. Trump’s attempts to withdraw from foreign wars and be reluctant to enter new conflicts, though with more nuance and more concern for allies. While Mr. Biden will definitely not emulate Mr. Trump’s zero-sum approach to trade, with tariffs slapped on friend and foe alike, free trade is not something Democratic voters are always keen on. While most NATO allies and members of the European Union will celebrate the exit of Mr. Trump, the United States is likely to continue insisting that NATO allies start paying a fair share for the common defense. The Europeans, for their part, have recognized that the United States is no longer the undisputed boss of the free world.
In short, the world is not what it was in 2016, nor can it go back to the status quo ante. China is considerably more assertive, and countering Beijing’s aggressions while recognizing its legitimate demands and seeking its help in containing North Korea or reducing carbon emissions will require creative new approaches. So will dealing with a right-wing president in Brazil or a tenacious dictator in Venezuela, or negotiating further nuclear arms reductions with Russia while maintaining sanctions, or trying to placate Israel and several Gulf Arab states while reviving a deal with their archenemy Iran.
It is a restive world, requiring constant adaptation and engagement from its most powerful democracy. But the importance of vision, expertise, honesty and simple decency in the management of world affairs cannot be overstated. Mr. Trump’s “America First” approach meant, first and foremost, reducing international affairs to the same level as his real-estate wheeling-dealing: What’s in it for me? The president’s infamous phone conversation with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, the one that got him impeached, provided an apt motto for his administration: “I would like you to do us a favor though.”
It is understandable that allies will harbor some doubts over whether Trumpism is finished for good, especially while Mr. Trump clings indecently to the hope of staying in power. But the expectation that a Biden-Harris administration will at least end the volatile and unpredictable lurches of the past four years has already elicited relief from allies who suffered Mr. Trump’s disdain. And it has caused anxiety among illiberal leaders who reveled in Mr. Trump’s camaraderie and the dimming of America’s beacon.
Simply abandoning Mr. Trump’s approach is immeasurably important for America and the world. The strength of the United States has always derived as much from the soft power of its democracy, freedoms and values as from its battleships and drones. That strength is multiplied by America’s alliances among democracies in the East and West.
There will be plenty of time to sort out why the United States fell for Mr. Trump or whether he can come back. President-elect Biden has signaled that he intends to lead America back into the international arena, and whatever their qualms or doubts, America’s friends and allies should not wait to join forces in tackling the business of the day — a global pandemic and the future of the planet, to name just two items on the agenda.
Trump’s dangerous stonewalling
There is no good reason for the current president to stonewall the incoming one. But that is what is happening, and it could not be worse timing.
President-elect Joe Biden is being kept on the outside looking in as President Donald Trump refuses to concede. As Trump pursues slim-chance lawsuits, his General Services Administration has declined to release federal funds or allow Biden’s team the necessary interaction with counterparts in government.
That Biden is being deprived of critical information about the COVID-19 outbreak including whatever strategy the Trump administration is using to fight it and the latest vaccine-distribution preparation, even as the country enters the most dangerous period of the pandemic — a moment when the White House’s coronavirus task force says there is “aggressive, unrelenting, expanding broad community spread across the country.”
And that Biden is not receiving the official daily intelligence briefings other presidents-elect have received for the continuity of government, covering the immediate risks and threats facing the nation.
Biden put it starkly and correctly in a Monday appearance: “More people may die if we don’t coordinate.”
Even if Trump believed that after his challenges he would be sworn in for a second presidential term in January, there is no reason not to make sure both men are prepared to assume office, because one of them assuredly would.
Consider that while the race in New York’s 3rd Congressional District remained undecided this year, the Committee on House Administration invited Republican newcomer George Santos to new member orientation. That courtesy meant that Santos would be prepared to represent his district, which covers parts of Nassau, Suffolk and Queens, if he ended up with a lead over incumbent Democrat Tom Suozzi. So Santos attended. On Tuesday, he conceded, and left.
Trump’s stonewalling is unusual and potentially risky. The transition delay because of the recount in Florida in 2000 meant that President George W. Bush didn’t have his full team on the job until months after taking office. This delay was cited in the 9/11 Commission Report, which said that “Since a catastrophic attack could occur with little or no notice, we should minimize as much as possible the disruption of national security policymaking during the change of administrations.”
Why are we tempting fate not with a potential future threat, but a real viral one?
Trump’s hindrance comes as allies such as Newsmax chief executive Christopher Ruddy urge him toward a transition. It comes even as Trump flails toward late-term actions, with reports of him asking for options for a military strike on an Iran nuclear site and pushing to lock in drilling rights for Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And while he keeps Biden in the dark about coronavirus strategy, he also gives his ear to unqualified advisers like Dr. Scott Atlas, the radiologist who mocks masks and encouraged people to “rise up” against the COVID-19 restrictions in Michigan.
It’s a dangerous last act for the 45th president.
Legislation Should Not Be Necessary For Situation That Cuomo Created
It’s one thing for New York state to withhold or cut aid to schools in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Every school should have been expecting the state to take action — and, to their credit, most schools in our readership area took pre-emptive action.
But it is another thing entirely not to reimburse districts for transportation aid that has already been spent. The issue is especially acute for rural school districts that relied on bus drivers to deliver meals and packets of school work to students when schools were shut down earlier this year.
What’s worse, Michael Ginestre, Sherman superintendent, and Maureen Donahue, Southwestern superintendent, both told The Post-Journal they believe they were misled by the state. Districts were mandated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to make sure meal services and learning programs continued, and districts that received CARES Act money were encouraged not to lay off employees. Now, schools have spent money it turns out they didn’t have to the tune of $220,000 for Pine Valley, $178,000 for Southwestern and $80,000 for Sherman.
Legislation has already been introduced in the state Legislature, and passed in the state Senate, to correct the situation. But, given that the governor asked for and was granted extensive executive powers, legislation should not be necessary. When it comes to what happens in businesses and homes in counties throughout the state, the governor thinks he has unlimited power. That’s why it is unfathomable that the governor needed the legislature when it came time to decide whether or not to reimburse schools for money caused by Cuomo’s own shutdown.
COVID-19 relief bill urgently needed
The Auburn Citizen
Included among his usual deluge of tweets related to the election that are at best delusional, President Donald Trump dropped a simple but potentially important nugget of truth on Saturday morning:
“Congress must now do a Covid Relief Bill. Needs Democrats support. Make it big and focused. Get it done!”
It didn’t get a ton of attention from the president’s most ardent supporters, nor was it widely amplified by his loudest critics. The continued attention on his false claims of voting fraud and his insistence that he won the 2020 election drowned that out for another day.
But if some of the president’s more moderate supporters and critics are looking for a potential off-ramp to the lunacy of the past two weeks, a ramp that would lead this country to a badly needed boost, this is the best opportunity we’ve seen so far.
COVID-19 is out of control in almost every state, and even in most counties, in this country. We are on the verge of widespread breakdown in our health care system if some strong efforts to curtail the spread of the disease are not established.
But to do many of those things, we also need financial and logistical support from the federal government. And it can’t wait until President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into office.
Somewhere in his head, Donald Trump gets that. He put it in writing for the whole world to see on Saturday. Perhaps he can see a lame-duck relief bill as a way to undo some of the heavy damage his election rhetoric is doing to this nation.
But to get him to that point requires vocal support from others in Congress, especially Republican members who can get through to him because they have stood by him through his lowest moments in office.
We understand some will read this and scoff. Perhaps we’re the ones being delusional here. But at this point, with COVID-19 daily records being set and the specter of thousands of daily deaths in a few weeks in sight, we need to try everything in order to get an immediate and concrete bipartisan relief package done.
Don’t let Albany lawyers disenfranchise CNY voters
We’re getting a disturbing view of the lengths political parties will go to win the close election in the state Senate’s 50th District. Lawyers from Albany are hovering over the Onondaga and Cayuga county boards of elections as absentee ballots are opened, seeking to invalidate hundreds, possibly thousands, of Central New Yorkers’ votes.
That’s right. They’re here to tell you your vote may not count.
It’s a nakedly partisan process, as captured in a video showing New York State Senate Republican Conference lawyer Robert Farley withdrawing his objection to one absentee ballot as soon as he was told the 96-year-old voter had cast it for President Donald Trump.
Reasons for disputing ballots are legion: “yucky stuff” on the paper, illegible signatures, the handling of ballots deposited in drop boxes, and even the constitutionality of applying for an absentee ballot online during a global pandemic — an objection that, if serious, should have been raised long before Election Day.
In other words, the challenges are not a good-faith effort to find voter fraud. They are a bad-faith effort to thwart the intent of voters who chose the other party’s candidate. This goes beyond bare-knuckle politics. It’s messing with people’s constitutional right to vote.
A judge ultimately will decide which ballots count and which ones don’t. We’re counting on the court to reject these bad-faith challenges and to honor each voter’s good-faith intent.
We’re not just talking about pieces of paper here. Each ballot represents a person who managed to exercise his or her right to vote in spite of a global pandemic and many procedural obstacles to casting an absentee ballot.
New York’s famously restrictive voting rules were relaxed this year to let people afraid of the coronavirus send in absentee ballots instead. The Legislature amended election law, allowing county elections commissioners to count ballots with minor flaws as long as voters were in “substantial compliance” with the rules. The intent of the law was to stop “hyper-technical legal challenges to ballots” that deny people their right to vote. Clearly, the law is not working as intended.
With mail voting here to stay, even after the pandemic is over, the Legislature now must update election law to give equal protection to mail and in-person voters. As it is, mail voters face a higher level of scrutiny — and a higher probability their votes won’t be counted — than voters who show up at the polling place. The mechanism for challenging ballots must not disadvantage one class of voters.
These frivolous ballot challenges also put elections workers and campaign volunteers in harm’s way, as they cram around tables, for days on end, to examine each jot on each ballot. As if on cue, Onondaga County’s ballot count was suspended Friday after a coronavirus exposure.
Both candidates in the 50th District, Republican Angi Renna and Democrat John Mannion, are employing outside lawyers to challenge the validity of absentee ballots. But don’t look for false equivalency here. So far, ballots cast by Democrats are being challenged three times more often than ballots of Republicans, a database assembled by Syracuse.com’s Michelle Breidenbach shows.
Renna is silent on the tactics being employed on her behalf. Onondaga County GOP Chair Benedicte Doran washes her hands, saying Renna’s campaign is operating independently of the local committee. Are we supposed to believe they are just innocent bystanders, as Albany lawyers seek to disenfranchise their neighbors? Who’s calling the shots here?
We won’t forget. Neither will those hundreds of voters whose ballots may not be counted — and not just their votes in the 50th Senate District. Their choices for president, Congress, state Assembly and local offices also will end up in the trash if these challenges stand.
You can put these unsavory ballot challenges in a bucket with partisan gerrymandering and voter roll purges. If that’s what Republicans need to do to win elections — if they can’t win on the strength of their candidates and ideas — then they deserve to lose.