Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:


Dec. 22

The Journal on banning “no-knock” police raids:

Law enforcement agencies throughout the nation have been rethinking their tactics this year, in efforts to prevent tragedies such as the death in March of Louisville, Kentucky, resident Breonna Taylor.

Taylor died during a raid by police investigating illegal drug trafficking — with which she was not alleged to have been involved. She perished in a hail of bullets after police burst into her apartment and her boyfriend, who says he thought criminals had invaded their home, opened fire. Police fired back and Taylor was killed.

Louisville police insist they announced their presence before breaking down the apartment door. Taylor’s boyfriend has said he did not hear the officers.

Law enforcement agencies sometimes use “no-knock” raids in such situations. They do not reveal their presence before charging into homes and apartments. The consequences, whether targets of a raid are not alerted or, in the Taylor case, may not hear warnings, can be tragic.

“No-knock” raids should be banned for that reason. Indeed, they sometimes give law enforcement the opportunity to prevent destruction of evidence — but they also can result in needless violence, including deaths.

It is to be hoped that law enforcement agencies will abandon “no-knock” tactics on their own. Where they do not, state legislators should step in and enact statutory bans.



Dec. 20

The Herald-Dispatch on the Watergate scandal:

Subject to revisionism and neglected in the era of obsession with screens small and large, history is instructive to those who bother to contemplate it.

Watergate endures principally for the purpose of providing the suffix for the scandal of the moment, but that drama and its climax leave lessons far nobler than initially comprehended and currently recalled.

For those rendered by youth unable to properly appreciate neckties the width of torsos, lapels extending to the shoulders and, of course, bell-bottoms and sideburns, a brief refresher: In 1972, a “Keystone Cops” crew of burglars twice broke into national Democratic Party headquarters, the first time to bug a phone there and the second to repair the bug. The latter endeavor was detected by a security guard, and authorities subsequently arrested five men.

The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward — whose name perhaps rings a bell — reported three days later that an address book belonging to one of the burglars included the name of former CIA agent Howard Hunt, a consultant to Richard M. Nixon, president of the United States. This led Woodward and Carl Bernstein, another Post reporter, on a journalistic odyssey that revealed Nixon’s cover-up of his knowledge of the crimes and culminated in his resignation from office, a singular event in the history of the country.

In the cauldron of the scandal and the bitterness of its end, Nixon’s axiomatic flaws were on national display. Nearly a half-century after his resignation, and more than a quarter-century after his death, he remains an emblem of corruption, narcissism and paranoia. And yet, especially considered in the present moment, that represents only a partial view of the man, his time and those around him.

That scandal produced three climactic events. In the first, a group of senators visited the White House to advise Nixon there were sufficient votes to impeach him and remove him from office. Those either old enough to recall that time or who have taken more than passing notice of history know the man at the forefront of that moment was Barry Goldwater, a Republican senator from Arizona known as the father of modern conservatism and the author of a book titled “The Conscience of a Conservative.” He led the group in urging Nixon to resign.

By that time, secret tapes from the Oval Office, recorded at the behest of Nixon himself, had been unearthed revealing the president’s role in the cover-up. This left him with few avenues for escape and his partisan allies without adequate rhetorical means of supporting him.

His fate clear, Nixon decided to quit, elevating Vice President Gerald Ford to the highest office in the land. A month later, Ford pardoned Nixon, ending what the new president described as “our long national nightmare.” Observers speculated that decision cost Ford the election in 1976, but people on both sides of the political divide later would concur that it was a necessary act to begin the process of recovery from a national trauma.

History sometimes treats its subjects differently than the moment in which they lived. Nixon evolved into a kind of tragic figure. Gazing at him across the decades from the vantage point of the modern hour casts a slightly brighter light upon him. A simplistic view would say he had no choice but to resign. The tapes meant the jig was up. That is true. But it is also true he might have carried out the fight regardless of the odds stacked against him or the harm it might have done the country.

Instead, he surrendered, a thing Nixon was ordinarily loathe to do. Ford’s pardon indeed ended a dark moment in our history. It allowed America to move on.

The current occupant of the White House, and his supporters and detractors, would do their country good to take note. It is long since time to close this chapter in American history and move on to the next.



Dec. 17

The Charleston Gazette-Mail on traveling for the holidays amid the coronavirus pandemic:

With Christmas fast approaching, West Virginians need to put serious thought into whether traveling during a pandemic — out of state or even to another house in the same town to see friends or family, especially for an extended period of time — is the right thing to do.

This week has presented wonderful news, as the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine arrived, and emergency responders are receiving the initial shot of the two-dose treatment, while a plan has been laid out to get vaccinations to those most at risk from the virus — the elderly in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities — as quickly as possible.

At the same time, COVID-19 continues to spread ever more quickly in West Virginia, and vaccinations won’t be available for the general population until March, according to the most optimistic estimates.

Thursday morning, the state Department of Health and Human Resources announced another 32 coronavirus deaths, putting the total at 1,071 and marking 92 deaths since the beginning of the week. The positivity rate of tests statewide was more than 10% on Wednesday and 8.13% on Thursday. While Gov. Jim Justice downplayed Wednesday’s alarming numbers, saying there weren’t as many tests as usual (slightly more than 12,000), Thursday’s percentage comes from a day in which more than 14,000 people were tested, typical for a 24-hour period.

There were 1,636 new cases reported Thursday, a new daily high. Active cases remained above 21,000, while cumulative cases, having just crossed the 60,000 mark late last week, are near 68,500. The DHHR’s color-coded risk map had 18 counties classified as red — the highest risk for spread and infection — and 24 at the second-highest threat level of orange. Nine counties were at the gold level, while only three were lower-risk yellow, and one county (McDowell) was listed at lowest-risk green.

Those levels were determined mostly by the lower metric of positive test percentage in each county. If following the metric of cases per capita — which DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch said this week also should be heeded in determining risk — each of West Virginia’s 55 counties was red.

So, West Virginians find themselves in a precarious situation. A big part of the solution to this crisis has arrived in the form of the vaccine, but the rate of deaths, new cases and hospitalizations is trending significantly upward with each day that passes.

Masks, social distancing and limiting interactions with those outside the home remain the best defense until everyone is vaccinated, according to public health officials and the governor.

When eying holiday plans, West Virginians need to ask themselves who they might be endangering. It’s difficult. Everyone would like to be together for Christmas, and the risk might seem minimal. But even young and healthy individuals can carry and spread the virus to others easily, and usually without exhibiting any symptoms themselves. Contact with elderly relatives or even strangers through travel or attending gatherings, like church services, where best practices aren’t in place could be fatal for someone.

There is perhaps no holiday more sacred than Christmas, but this year, as counterintuitive as it would seem at any other time, the best gift might be distance.