Congress needs to govern

Posted Oct. 09, 2011, at 6:27 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 10, 2011, at 9:17 a.m.

Most members of Congress were probably high achievers in school. But, as a group, they have a serious deadline problem. Congress’ inability to get things done — and done on time — is creating grave risks for the country.

The nation teetered on the brink of default in early August because Democrats and Republicans couldn’t agree on whether to raise the debt ceiling. At the last minute, they brokered a deal — but one that largely postponed the problem.

Just eight weeks later, Washington’s procrastinating again. The Senate approved a stopgap spending bill that would keep the government open until mid-November. For a while, it looked as though even that wouldn’t get done because of a battle over how to fund federal disaster relief.

Even in normal times, Congress has a hard time meeting deadlines. The nonpartisan No Labels group released a report showing that only twice in the last 25 years has Capitol Hill passed all its yearly spending bills on time.

But these aren’t normal times. The failure to govern carries greater risks now. As the folks at No Labels put it, “Missed deadlines and petty arguments are unacceptable for elected officials tasked with pulling our nation out of an economic crisis.”

We have a $14 trillion debt, a stalled economy and vanishing consumer confidence. And what is Washington doing? Arguing over how to pay for disaster relief and postponing spending bills.

The stakes are high for Congress in November. Not only must lawmakers finalize those appropriation bills for 2012, but the debt supercommittee must approve an additional $1.5 trillion in savings by Nov. 23. If the bipartisan group, created in August as part of the debt ceiling compromise, can’t come to agreement, automatic cuts will be triggered across parts of the government.

Like all Americans, we expect robust debates. But leaders must do more than preen off talking points. They need to govern.

The Dallas Morning News (Oct. 4)

Occupy Wall Street needed

The pundit class has largely ignored, dismissed or mocked the Occupy Wall Street protest. We too find it hard to get especially worked up over a series of small demonstrations in a handful of cities, including Los Angeles, involving mostly disaffected people who have trouble expressing what it is they’re against. But isn’t that how the “tea party” started out?

The political left has been searching for the last couple of years to find an answer to the tea party. Some hoped last year’s rally in Washington led by TV comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, a response to right-wing rallies attended by such conservative media celebrities as Glenn Beck, would spark a national movement. That didn’t happen. Now they’re pinning their hopes on Occupy Wall Street, which in many ways is a mirror image of the tea party. Both groups are motivated by frustration over the rotten economy and are vague about causes and solutions, though if their positions could be summed up in a one-line manifesto, it might be: The tea party, dominated by elderly conservatives, blames government overspending and overreach for our economic problems and would therefore like to cut federal spending, while Occupy Wall Street, dominated by young liberals, blames corporate greed and would therefore like to tax the rich and decrease corporate political power.

Republican voters turned out in big numbers in the 2010 elections while the Democratic vote was depressed, leading to the GOP takeover of the House of Representatives. A recent Gallup poll found Democratic enthusiasm for voting in 2012 is at its lowest level in a decade, trailing Republicans’ net enthusiasm by 27%. No one can say whether Occupy Wall Street will change that. But it would be a mistake to write off the movement before it gets started.

Los Angeles Times (Oct. 4)

Justice in Knox case

The case against former University of Washington student Amanda Knox was always just too far-fetched. A seemingly normal college girl turned she-devil. Drug-fueled sex games gone bad. Her DNA nowhere in the room where her roommate, Meredith Kercher, was killed.

An Italian jury concluded what many have long suspected: Knox certainly was guilty of goofy, insensitive behavior and pot use. But there was never sufficient evidence to prove she murdered her roommate, whom she knew only a few weeks.

A lot has been written about the Italian justice system, much of it negative about the overzealous prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini. His conduct was over the top.

But say this, the Italian courts allow for two automatic appeals and the first one freed Knox and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito. Both consistently denied involvement in the case.

The 2007 murder case is a tragedy on many fronts. Kercher’s family has every right to want justice for their slain beloved daughter and sister. The family has ached deeply for four years.

Knox is not entirely without fault. In the wild, media-fueled frenzy following the murder accusations, she falsely accused a bar owner, Patrick Lumumba, for whom she worked at the time and caused him undue pain and suffering.

Still, it is time for Knox to come back to Seattle and resume her life. There are defamation cases and costs still to be determined. Her family is undoubtedly changed forever, if not completely without funds.

But there is a huge sense of relief now within the UW community, in West Seattle where the Knox family lived and for parents of college students everywhere. This case always seemed like a bad novel and somewhat, somehow, overblown and distorted.

The Seattle Times (Oct. 5)

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