Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Washington Post on the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol:
President Trump's refusal to accept his election defeat and his relentless incitement of his supporters led Wednesday to the unthinkable: an assault on the U.S. Capitol by a violent mob that overwhelmed police and drove Congress from its chambers as it was debating the counting of electoral votes. Responsibility for this act of sedition lies squarely with the president, who has shown that his continued tenure in office poses a grave threat to U.S. democracy. He should be removed.
Mr. Trump encouraged the mob to gather on Wednesday, as Congress was set convene, and to "be wild." After repeating a panoply of absurd conspiracy theories about the election, he urged the crowd to march on the Capitol. "We're going to walk down, and I'll be there with you," he said. "You'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong." The president did not follow the mob, but instead passively watched it on television as its members tore down fences around the Capitol and overwhelmed police guarding the building. House members and senators were forced to flee. Shots were fired and at least one person was struck and killed.
Rather than immediately denouncing the violence and calling on his supporters to stand down, Mr. Trump issued two mild tweets in which he called on them to "remain" or "stay" peaceful. Following appeals from senior Republicans, he finally released a video in which he asked people to go home, but doubled down on the lies fueling the vigilantes. "We love you. You're very special," he told his seditious posse. Later, he excused the riot, tweeting that "these are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away."
The president is unfit to remain in office for the next 14 days. Every second he retains the vast powers of the presidency is a threat to public order and national security. Vice President Pence, who had to be whisked off the Senate floor for his own protection, should immediately gather the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment, declaring that Mr. Trump is "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office." Congress, which would be required to ratify the action if Mr. Trump resists, should do so. Mr. Pence should serve until President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20.
Failing that, senior Republicans must restrain the president. The insurrection came just as many top Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) were finally denouncing Mr. Trump's anti-democratic campaign to overturn the election results. A depressing number of GOP legislators — such as Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.), Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (La.)— were prepared to support Mr. Trump's effort, fueling the rage of those the president has duped into believing the election was stolen.
Mr. McConnell, to his lasting credit, was not. "President Trump claims the election was stolen," he said. But "nothing before us proves illegality anywhere near the massive scale, the massive scale, that would have tipped the entire election. . . . If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral." He added: "I will not pretend such a vote would be a harmless protest gesture while relying on others to do the right thing." As if to prove his point, the Trump mob would soon climb up the Capitol walls, and Mr. McConnell and his colleagues would seek refuge in secured locations.
Now that the stakes are viscerally clear, Mr. McConnell and every other Republican, almost all of whom bear some blame for what occurred on Wednesday, have an overriding responsibility to the nation: stopping Mr. Trump and restoring faith in democracy. That begins by recognizing Mr. Biden's victory as soon as possible. Those lawmakers, such as Mr. Hawley and Mr. Cruz, who sought to benefit from Mr. Trump's mob-stoking rage by objecting to the electoral vote count, must end their cynical posturing. They are directly impeding the peaceful transition of power.
The chaos confirmed once again the voters' wisdom in rejecting Mr. Trump in favor of Joe Biden. The president-elect rose to the moment. "I call on this mob, now, to pull back and allow the work of democracy to go forward," Mr. Biden said. "It's not protest. It's insurrection." He concluded: "Today is a reminder, a painful one, that democracy is fragile."
Mr. Biden is right. Rules, norms, laws, even the Constitution itself are worth something only if people believe in them. Americans put on their seat belts, follow traffic laws, pay taxes and vote because of faith in a system — and that faith makes it work. The highest voice in the land incited people to break that faith, not just in tweets, but by inciting them to action. Mr. Trump is a menace, and as long as he remains in the White House, the country will be in danger.
The Los Angeles Times on Georgia's historic Senate election:
In a stunning upset, Georgia voters have sent two Democrats to the U.S. Senate and given that party control of the Senate by the narrowest of margins. The Rev. Raphael Warnock became the first Southern Black Democrat to be voted into the U.S. Senate by defeating incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, and Jon Ossoff appears to have eked out a narrow win over first-term Republican David Purdue. Assuming the results hold, the wins for the two Democrats would be a significant and welcome development, ensuring that President-elect Joe Biden won't have to deal with a Republican-controlled Senate as he seeks to enact his agenda.
It's more than fitting that Warnock — the pastor of Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church, the former home of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. — would be the candidate to break the color line for Georgia. And it's a sad commentary on the state of American politics that he becomes only the seventh Black person to be elected to the Senate by popular vote (two others were appointed as caretakers to fill unexpired terms, and two were picked by state legislatures during Reconstruction); once Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is sworn in as vice president, only three of the 100 U.S. senators will be Black. That Warnock's apparent victory is historic reminds the nation of the barriers yet to be dismantled.
Beyond the symbolism, his win and Ossoff's are good news for Biden and for the country. Based on past performance, a Senate majority led by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could have made it difficult for Biden and his administration to deliver on their promise of a federal government that is both more competent and better attuned to the nation's needs than was the Trump administration.
It was also essential to remove from leadership a party that has all too readily embraced alternative realities and conspiracy theories, and that slavishly followed President Trump in undermining basic American institutions. The reckless pandering by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and others to Trump's followers bore fruit Wednesday as a mob of pro-Trump zealots broke into the Capitol and chased lawmakers from the chambers.
In addition, a country struggling to overcome a pandemic and restart its economy cannot afford the partisan gridlock that would have ensued if Republicans had retained control of the Senate. Washington has spent four years avoiding major problems that only the federal government can tackle, including the existential threat of climate change, failed immigration policies and crumbling infrastructure. Democrats now have a chance to address them.
Left-of-center constituencies wasted little time pointing to the looming shift in the Senate majority as a reason for Democrats to act boldly. One group pushing a progressive "digital rights" agenda summed up the sentiment perfectly: "Now that Democrats will likely control the House, Senate, and the White House, the party has no excuse but to act aggressively to reverse the damage done by the Trump administration's policies and enact legislation to protect Internet freedom, human rights, privacy, and democracy," declared Fight for the Future.
Still, it's important not to exaggerate how much freedom of action Biden will have with a Senate divided 50-50, with two independents caucusing with Democrats and incoming Vice President Kamala Harris able to cast a tie-breaking vote.
Even if Democrats were to amend a longstanding Senate rule and abolish the filibuster for legislation — not necessarily an achievable goal, given that some Democratic senators have balked at such a change — Biden would have to reckon with a Democratic caucus that includes more moderate figures such as Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana. And Republicans could have equal representation on Senate committees even with Democratic control. After the 2000 Senate elections, which also produced a 50-50 split, the parties agreed to such equal representation. (After Republican Vice President Dick Cheney took office, Republicans held the tiebreaking vote.)
Moreover, contrary to claims by Republicans, Biden is not in the thrall of his party's left wing and hasn't endorsed all of its agenda, although his approach would differ vastly from Trump's on issues as diverse as civil rights, environmental protection and ensuring access to affordable health insurance coverage.
Even with Democratic control, an evenly divided Senate means that Biden will have to compromise with Republicans. That's his preference in any case.
Assuming Republicans are willing to reciprocate, there is potential common ground on priorities including additional stimulus, counteracting the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, immigration and efforts to deal with climate change. And it's in the GOP's interests to find those areas of common purpose. If Republicans are reduced to being the party of "no," it may only diminish what little respect many of their constituents have for the people who govern them, regardless of whether they're Republican or Democrat. One of the clear undercurrents in politics today is the belief among millions of Americans that Washington isn't working for them. Just like Biden and his Democratic colleagues, Republicans in the capital have a stake in proving them wrong.
Regardless of which party controls the Senate, Biden must deal with a poisonous polarization on Capitol Hill that predates Trump but was exacerbated in the last four years. Democrats in Congress are unlikely to be disposed to compromise with Republicans who signed on to an utterly meritless attack on the legitimacy of Biden's victory. But they need to look forward.
Biden, who promised to be a president even for those who didn't vote for him, should press Democrats in Congress to be similarly open to legislating in the interests of all Americans. Democratic control of an evenly divided Senate, welcome as it is, doesn't make such an approach any less important. But it does make it more achievable.
The Wall Street Journal on President-elect Joe Biden's pick for U.S. Attorney General:
Joe Biden promised to lower the temperature of America's partisan hothouse, but some of his nominations have not lived up to that promise. One that does is his selection of Merrick Garland as Attorney General, perhaps now the most important cabinet post for domestic politics.
Public confidence in the Department of Justice has been severely damaged in recent years, not least the last four, as it became clear that President Trump's partisan adversaries manipulated the FBI and Justice Department to try to handicap his Administration. Mr. Trump toward the end of his term also increasingly demanded that the Justice Department be weaponized in reverse. Attorney General Bill Barr refused and did his best to depoliticize prosecutorial decisions.
The Biden Administration will face pressure from the left to pursue Republicans who worked in the Trump Administration, banana-republic style, along the lines Sen. Elizabeth Warren called for in her presidential campaign. Vice President Kamala Harris said in 2019 she would have "no choice" but to prosecute Mr. Trump for obstruction of justice if elected President.
But Mr. Garland, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals judge whom President Obama unsuccessfully nominated to the Supreme Court in 2016, is unlikely to have signed up for a job of political recrimination. For more than two decades he has been a mainstream center-left judge with a calm temperament and no demonstrated interest in settling scores or legal "Resistance."
Mr. Garland's experience as a prosecutor during the high-crime 1990s may help balance anti-police sentiment in the Administration. His vaunted status among Democrats, who feel he was wronged by the 2016 Republican decision not to seat him on the Supreme Court, might give him more credibility to make decisions that disappoint progressives.
The Biden Administration will still be legally liberal, and perhaps aggressively so. It's not a coincidence that Mr. Garland's selection came a day after the Georgia runoff elections that wrested Senate control from the GOP. Some Democrats worried about their ability to confirm Mr. Garland's replacement on the D.C. Circuit if Republicans kept their majority.
Now the Biden team knows there will be fewer checks on its agenda. Mr. Garland also has a record of deferring to executive agencies, which will help him shape and defend the Biden Administration's regulatory approach.
Yet amid explosive partisan tensions, the most important Justice priority is to restore confidence that the federal government's greatest domestic powers are accountable and not abused for political ends. Mr. Biden's choice of Judge Garland over a more polarizing pick bodes well for his Administration.
South Florida SunSentinel on President-elect Joe Biden's task to address climate change:
Not so long ago, the dangers posed by global warming and climate change loomed off in the future, allowing Americans to put off finding solutions. But tomorrow has arrived, and the new reality is impossible to deny.
The years from 2015 through 2020 were the hottest six years on record for the planet. The past year ushered in the country's worst season ever for wildfires, along with a record number of tropical storms in the Atlantic. The Great Lakes are warming, and their water levels are at or close to record highs.
Yet Donald Trump's administration didn't just fail to take the steps needed to slow climate and mitigate its effects. It implemented policies to make things worse. He withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 Paris climate accord, which committed nearly all the world's nations to curb greenhouse gas emissions. His Environmental Protection Agency mounted an effort to repeal the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which was designed to slash carbon emissions from power plants.
It rolled back an Obama-era rule curbing releases of methane, a potent source of warming. It relaxed limits on tailpipe emissions from cars. Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at the Columbia Law School, has said, "Donald Trump has been to climate regulation as General Sherman was to Atlanta."
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That leaves President-elect Joe Biden with a formidable task — to undo the damage caused by his predecessor, redouble our national commitment to limit climate change, and to take this action mindful of the economic and financial costs.
Americans understand the need for action. A June poll by the Pew Research Center found that "broad majorities of the public — including more than half of Republicans and overwhelming shares of Democrats — say they would favor a range of initiatives to reduce the impacts of climate change."
The incoming president wants to "put the country on a sustainable path to achieve net-zero emissions no later than 2050." He has promised to hold a global climate summit within 100 days of taking office. He has named former Secretary of State John Kerry as his global climate envoy and former EPA chief Gina McCarthy as head of a new White House office on climate policy.
Some things are working in Biden's favor. The cost of solar and wind power has plummeted over the past decade, making renewable energy far more competitive with coal and natural gas. Auto companies are investing heavily in electric vehicles. The pioneering Tesla company is now worth more than the nine biggest carmakers combined.
Despite Trump's promises to bring back coal, dozens of coal-fired power plants have closed during his presidency. The oil industry has written down $245 billion in assets, recognizing that the recent decline in demand is irreversible.
The incoming president also got a gift from the outgoing Congress. In December, a bill passed to sharply curtail the use of a chemical used in refrigerators and air conditioners that contributes to global warming. Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer of New York called this "the single biggest victory in the fight against climate change to pass this body in a decade."
Biden has a range of proposals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He wants to tighten energy efficiency standards for appliances and buildings, ban any new oil and gas leases on federal lands, increase mass transit funding and develop technologies to boost nuclear power and capture carbon emissions.
Though all of these ideas make sense in principle, he needs to insist that each initiative pass a strict cost-benefit test. Otherwise, a vital cause may be used as a pretext for all sorts of wasteful pork-barrel projects.
Biden should remember the solar-panel maker Solyndra, which went bankrupt in 2011, leaving taxpayers on the hook for $528 million in federal loans. A Washington Post investigation of the project found that "Obama's green-technology program was infused with politics at every level" and that "when warned that financial disaster might lie ahead, the administration remained steadfast in its support for Solyndra." Let's not repeat the mistake.
Of even greater importance is the need for Biden to seek balance in his priorities and not allow the fight against climate change to needlessly damage growth and destroy jobs. In recent years progressive Democrats seized on the idea of spending trillions in the form of a Green New Deal to combat global warming by reinventing much of the U.S. economy on the fly. It is a wildly expensive and unrealistic approach that Biden should avoid. He wobbled on his messaging during the campaign but steered clear of an endorsement.
Now that he's about to become president, he'll have the chance to lead Democrats and Republicans in the right direction. The best climate option, and the one least susceptible to corruption and mismanagement, is also the hardest political sell: levying a tax on carbon fuels to gradually raise their price. That would stimulate a burst of capitalist innovation to get the greatest efficiency gains for the least expense. It's an approach Republicans ought to prefer to top-down regulation, but the GOP's allergy to new taxes makes it unlikely.
As president, Biden can do much to focus our national attention on climate change. "He should bring home the message that it's a real problem, and it will take decades of work to deal with it," says David Bookbinder, chief counsel of the Niskanen Center, a centrist think tank. "Making that clear would be an enormous step forward." The American people, we suspect, would respond positively.
Their support will be needed. Combating climate change is an urgent obligation that the Trump administration shirked. Biden has made a commitment to accept the challenge, and that's a very good start.
The Houston Chronicle on the problems with the U.S.'s coronavirus vaccination rollout:
When a New York nurse became the first person in the U.S. to receive the much-anticipated COVID-19 vaccine, even President Trump's critics heralded the moment as a victory in the fight against the virus that has killed 350,000 Americans. It seemed a partial vindication of Trump's reliance on vaccines rather than social distancing and mask mandates to contain the pandemic.
Just three weeks later, however, the country's vaccine roll-out isan utter mess. The federal government is chiefly to blame, but states and local officials, all of whom had many weeks to prepare for what everyone knew would be a massive logistical challenge, have been caught tragically flat-footed as well.
There is no federally coordinated vaccine plan. No cohesive system for getting vaccines into the arms of people desperate for protection. The United States hasn't even launched a nationwide vaccination awareness campaign. Our airwaves should have been saturated weeks ago with a Smokey Bear or Don't Mess with Texas-type campaign urging confidence in the vaccine. Imagine posters of Rosie the Riveter rolling her shirt only a bit higher for her life-saving shot in the arm. "We can do it!" she would exclaim anew.
President Trump put a U.S. Army general in charge of the large-scale vaccination distribution, bragging of military precision and pledging to "deploy every plane, truck and soldier required." He promised 100 million doses would be available by the end of 2020, a figure administration officials later reduced to 20 million.
The vaccines arrived behind schedule and with no apparent coordination with state and local officials for distribution.
By late Tuesday, just 17.02 million doses had been distributed and only 4.84 million people had received their first, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That's not only disgraceful. It has cost lives.
The federal government has simply foisted responsibility for the vaccine rollout onto states, which in turn, passed the buck to a patchwork of overburdened, under-resourced local public health agencies, hospitals, pharmacies and private providers.
In Texas that has resulted in overtaxed phone lines, crashing registration systems, misinformation, miscommunication and frustration.
With little guidance, some counties have resorted to registering people using Signup Genius and Eventbrite, apps normally used for happy hours and classroom parties. In the Rio Grande Valley, people camped out overnight to get spot in Hidalgo County's first community vaccination clinic. In other cities, providers rushed to find takers for vaccines that were in danger of going to waste.
In Harris County, reserve sheriff's deputy Mark Brown registered himself and his wife for the vaccine — believing they were eligible because he was a first responder, as CDC guidelines suggest. Instead, they were met with a three-hour wait Saturday and the unwelcome news that they weren't eligible after all.
Hundreds of appointments were canceled after an error on the county's website mistakenly allowed the general public to register.
The Houston Health Department's vaccine rollout didn't fare much better. On the first day, the phone lines crashed after being overwhelmed with calls from appointment-seekers, forcing city officials to switch to on-site registration for the day. On Monday, within a few hours, slots were booked online through the end of the month.
Such scenes, reminiscent of the chaos of the early days of COVID-19 testing, should not be happening. Trump's vaccine development initiative, Operation Warp Speed, gave government officials months to prepare.
The current pace of vaccinations falls far short of what is needed to achieve herd immunity, which experts say requires vaccinating about 80 percent of the U.S. population or about 240 million people. To reach that level by summer, about 1.5 million people would have to be vaccinated per day, Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told the editorial board.
Hotez likened the federal vaccine distribution to dropping off 40 million boxes of IKEA furniture with a sign saying "assembly required."
That needs to change quickly. Continued confusion will discourage already skeptical people from getting immunized, squander scarce vaccines and allow the virus to kill many more Americans.
President-elect Joe Biden has pledged a goal of 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days, an encouraging sign.
But the nation can't wait for Biden to take the helm. Trump officials must immediately address glitches, establish clear communication channels and stick to something resembling a plan.
Gov. Greg Abbott must make getting vaccines out to Texans his top priority, and local agencies must learn quickly from missteps.
There must also be clearer communication of who is eligible for vaccines and where to get shots.
There is no time to waste — and nothing more pressing. The virus has already claimed too many lives. It doesn't need the help of a bungled vaccine campaign to kill more.
The Guardian on Julian Assange's extradition ruling:
Donald Trump is using his last days in office to pardon those who do not deserve it. Among the most egregious recipients are the Blackwater security guards responsible for the Nisour Square massacre – the killing of unarmed civilians, including children, in Iraq. The president's deplorable decision fits a pattern: just over a year ago, he pardoned a former army lieutenant found guilty of murder after ordering his men to fire at three Afghans, and a former US army commando facing trial over the killing of a suspected bombmaker.
There has been no such mercy shown to a man whom the US is pursuing after he cast an unforgiving light on its abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan. Julian Assange's future is dependent on the decisions of British courts. On Monday, district judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled that the WikiLeaks founder could not be extradited to the US, where he has been charged under the Espionage Act, including for publishing classified material.
But she rejected defence arguments that the prosecution had misrepresented the facts and that he was being pursued for a political offence. She ruled against extradition only on the grounds that the risk of him killing himself was substantial, given his mental health and the conditions in which he was likely to be held – in isolation in a "supermax" high-security prison.
This decision is a relief for Mr Assange and his family. But it is no cause for celebration for the defendant and his supporters, or for those concerned about press freedom more broadly. The American Civil Liberties Union has described charging him over publication as "a direct assault on the first amendment". The ruling offers no protection to any journalist who might find themselves in Mr Assange's position. It is no victory for the right to share material of clear public interest.
Mr Assange's lawyers will on Wednesday apply for bail on his behalf. Legal experts suggest that his chances are poor: he served a 50-week sentence for skipping bail after police removed him from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he had fled to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault investigation that was subsequently dropped. But his prospects of avoiding extradition now appear considerably brighter; he has a family to consider; and his mental health and the physical risks posed by Covid in Belmarsh prison, where he has been held since April 2019, make the case for bail more pressing.
Legal proceedings are likely to drag on for years – unless the US chooses to scrap these charges rather than appeal. It should do so. There is a shameful contrast between this administration's simultaneous pardoning of men for horrific offences and the pursuit of a man who exposed war crimes. When Joe Biden takes office on 20 January, he cannot undo the damage caused by undue and unjust lenience. But he can, and should, let Mr Assange walk free.