Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
Miami Herald on Cuba being taking off terror list:
As politically unpalatable as it may seem, the Obama administration's decision to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism is an inevitable bow to reality. Cuba remains a repressive, one-party police state, but it no longer exports subversion throughout the hemisphere as it did when the Reagan administration placed it on the list in 1982. At the time, Cuba was actively engaged in supporting the FARC guerrilla movement in Colombia, among other terrorist groups. That's what got it onto the list in the first place.
Today, as the State Department's own Web site acknowledges, Cuba is brokering a peace agreement between the leftist group and the Colombian government. It is no longer the hemisphere's beacon of revolution, in large part because the Cuban model long ago lost its allure for all but the most naive believers in Marxism.
Crossing Cuba off the list should not be deemed a reward but an acknowledgment of the change in behavior. Indeed, changed behavior was cited by the Bush administration in 2006 when it took Libya off the list after it ended a program to develop weapons of mass destruction.
The administration's critics are dismayed to see it giving away every bargaining chip and getting nothing in return, but it was proving to be a hindrance more than a help in the process of normalization.
Removing Cuba from the list lifts some financial sanctions on the island and thus gives U.S. banks confidence that they aren't violating U.S. law if they facilitate monetary transactions for their customers. It also helps bring Cuba back into the international financial system, which could help empower the private sector by increasing investment on the island and loans to small businesses.
Congress now has 45 days to act if it wants to reject the removal, but that would obviously meet with President Obama's veto, even if it could win approval in the Senate, turning it into another unproductive political melodrama. Better to just skip it.
Wall Street Journal on Obama's one-man nuclear deal:
President Obama says he wants Congress to play a role in approving a nuclear deal with Iran, but his every action suggests the opposite. After months of resistance, the White House said Tuesday the President would finally sign a bill requiring a Senate vote on any deal — and why not since it still gives him nearly a free hand.
Modern Presidents have typically sought a Congressional majority vote, and usually a two-thirds majority, to ratify a major nuclear agreement. Obama has maneuvered to make Congress irrelevant, though bipartisan majorities passed the economic sanctions that even he now concedes drove Iran to the negotiating table.
The Republican Congress has been trying to reclaim a modest role in foreign affairs over Obama's furious resistance. And on Tuesday afternoon the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously passed a measure that authorizes Congress to vote on an Iran deal within 30 days of Obama submitting it for review.
As late as Tuesday morning, Secretary of State John Kerry was still railing in private against the bill. But the White House finally conceded when passage with a veto-proof majority seemed inevitable. The bill will now pass easily on the floor, and if Obama's follows his form, he will soon talk about the bill as if it was his idea.
Obama can still do whatever he wants on Iran as long as he maintains Democratic support. A majority could offer a resolution of disapproval, but that could be filibustered by Democrats and vetoed by the President. As few as 41 Senate Democrats could thus vote to prevent it from ever getting to President Obama's desk — and 34 could sustain a veto. Obama could then declare that Congress had its say and "approved" the Iran deal even if a majority in the House and Senate voted to oppose it.
Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker deserves credit for trying, but in the end he had to agree to Democratic changes watering down the measure if he wanted 67 votes to override an Obama veto. Twice the Tennessee Republican delayed a vote in deference to Democrats, though his bill merely requires a vote after the negotiations are over.
His latest concessions shorten the review period to 30 days, which Obama wanted, perhaps to mollify the mullahs in Tehran who want sanctions lifted immediately. After 52 days Obama could unilaterally ease sanctions without Congressional approval. Obama has said that under the "framework" accord sanctions relief is intended to be gradual. But don't be surprised if his final concession to Ayatollah Khamenei is to lift sanctions after 52 days.
Corker also removed a requirement that the Administration certify to Congress that Iran is no longer supporting terrorism. This sends an especially bad signal to Iran that Congress agrees with Obama that the nuclear deal is divorced from its behavior as a rogue state. One of Obama's least plausible justifications for the nuclear deal is that it would help to make Iran a "normal" nation. But if Tehran is still sponsoring terrorism around the world, how can it be trusted as a nuclear partner?
Our own view of all this is closer to that of Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, who spoke for (but didn't offer) an amendment in committee Tuesday to require that Obama submit the Iran nuclear deal as a treaty. Under the Constitution, ratification would require an affirmative vote by two-thirds of the Senate.
Committing the U.S. to a deal of this magnitude_concerning proliferation of the world's most destructive weapons_should require treaty ratification. Previous Presidents from JFK to Nixon to Reagan and George H.W. Bush submitted nuclear pacts as treaties. Even Obama submitted the U.S.-Russian New Start accord as a treaty.
The Founders required two-thirds approval on treaties because they wanted major national commitments overseas to have a national political consensus. Obama should want the same kind of consensus on Iran.
But instead he is giving more authority over American commitments to the United Nations than to the U.S. Congress. By making the accord an executive agreement as opposed to a treaty, and perhaps relying on a filibuster or veto to overcome Congressional opposition, he's turning the deal into a one-man presidential compact with Iran. This will make it vulnerable to being rejected by the next President, as some of the GOP candidates are already promising.
The case for the Corker bill is that at least it guarantees some debate and a vote in Congress on an Iran deal. Obama can probably do what he wants anyway, but the Iranians are on notice that the United States isn't run by a single Supreme Leader.
The Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle on abortions in Kansas:
The pregnancy-terminating procedure most commonly known as "dilation and evacuation" goes by another name — dismemberment abortion.
That's because doctors who perform it — usually during the second trimester — dilate the cervix to remove the unborn with forceps, clamps, scissors and other instruments, often in parts.
Fortunately, a new law in Kansas prohibits doctors from performing such ghastly procedures in most instances. The state's Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act makes it the first in the country to bar the procedure, which accounts for nearly 10 percent of abortions.
The law takes effect July 1 and bars Kansas practitioners from doing the procedure unless the woman's life is in danger. Similar measures have been introduced in Missouri, Oklahoma and South Carolina.
While abortion-on-demand advocates shout that the ban would limit women's access to abortion, the law has no effect on medically induced abortions or vacuum procedures that primarily are used in the vast majority of abortions performed during the first trimester. Kansas already bans abortions in the third trimester.
There's nothing radical about the new law. A 2014 Gallup poll shows the nation is as much opposed to abortion as it is in favor, with 47 percent describing themselves as pro-choice and 46 percent saying they were pro-life. A poll of 1,000 adults released recently by Vox/PerryUndem suggests the public has an even more complex view: Thirty-nine percent said they don't identify themselves decisively as pro-life or pro-choice; 21 percent said neither; 18 percent said both.
Questions over dismemberment abortion were not addressed in the polls, but we can't imagine too many of those polled actually being in favor of it. Congratulations to Kansas for bringing a gruesome, life-ending procedure to an end in the state.
Express-News, San Antonio, Texas, on vouchers not covering tuition costs:
Passage of a voucher bill — or school choice legislation, as proponents like to refer to it — is a high priority in the state Senate this legislative session, but the bills on the table raise serious concerns.
Legislation introduced by Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, does not adequately address the need to close achievement gaps between low-income and wealthy students, provide for accountability from private schools that would be recipients of vouchers, or ensure that the state will see an overall "saving" in education costs as a result of the implementation of a voucher system.
Offering parents of children in failing public schools vouchers to use for private school enrollment sounds like a great idea — until you take a look at private school tuition and how much the state is willing to fork over.
Our research into private education costs in Bexar County indicates publicly funded vouchers would not go far in the private sector and would require significant out-of-pocket expenses, meaning many low-income families would be unable to take advantage of the subsidies.
Campbell's bill would give parents the equivalent of 60 percent of the average daily attendance allotment the state pays school districts for each of the 180 school days a student is in class. The average paid per student varies from school district to school district, but 60 percent of the average is about $4,996 a year, according to the Texas Education Agency.
That hardly makes a dent in tuition costs at San Antonio's TMI — The Episcopal School of Texas or Saint Mary's Hall, where tuition is well over $22,000 a year. Tuition costs typically do not include uniforms, books and other expenses.
The price tags at parochial schools are a bit lower but still require more than a state voucher would offer.
Incarnate Word High School's base tuition is $8,550 a year, and that does not include registration, technology and wellness fees, and parent teacher organization fees, which quickly add more than $900 to the bill. Central Catholic High School tuition for the next school year is $10,700.
For out-of-parish families, St. Gregory the Great Catholic School tuition for grades one through eight is $5,650. Parish members are charged only $4,850, but there also is a registration fee of $325 and a general fee of $500.
Private and religious schools also require an application process; none is open enrollment. A voucher would not necessarily guarantee a seat in a classroom. Will state taxpayers be responsible for litigation fees from admission challenges?
In a recent opinion piece published in the Express-News, Campbell wrote that "the most effective way to fix our schools is to restore accountability and empower parents through school choice," yet her legislation provides for no rules or accountability for private schools.
Taking money from an already underfunded public school system and diverting it to private and religious schools without providing for some accountability for the diverted funds is not good public policy. It is expected that a $1.7 billion savings would come from the 40 percent of the average daily attendance allotment that would not be spent on public education.
What happens to the math if some of the more than 300,000 home-schooled students or private-school students decide to briefly enroll in public schools to become eligible for subsidies?
If approved, vouchers would be usable at private and religious schools of all faiths. Does that mean voucher students and their families would have to sign that they are in agreement with a religious school's doctrinal positions?
In South Carolina, where a voucher program became embroiled in litigation, there was an uproar when Greensboro Islamic Academy received a majority of applicants.
Serious issues need to be addressed before the state moves on a voucher or school choice program. The last thing Texas needs is more drawn-out litigation over its precious few education dollars.
Orange County Register, Santa Ana, California, on Hillary Clinton running for president:
Hillary Clinton announced Sunday that she is making a second run for the presidency.
She did so by way of a feel-good video that brought to mind the #MakeItHappy TV commercials created by the advertising firm Wieden & Kennedy for soft-drink giant Coca-Cola, which issued "a call to action to promote positivity both online and in the real world."
The former secretary of state, former two-term U.S. senator from New York and former first lady didn't mention her resume during her two-minute, 15-second spot; she didn't even appear in her video until the last 30 seconds or so.
Instead, she enunciated her views through the everyday Americans she featured in her online announcement — people of all ages, races, genders and sexual orientations looking hopefully toward the near future.
"My daughter is about to start kindergarten next year," said a young mom. "My brother and I are starting our first business," said two Latino entrepreneurs. "I'm getting ready to retire soon," said a grandmotherly woman. "I'm gonna be in the play, and I'm going to be in a fish costume," said a cherubic child.
Finally, Clinton appeared on screen. "I'm getting ready to do something, too," she said, smilingly. "I'm running for president." Everyday Americans like those that appear in her video "need a champion," she said. "So you can do more than just get by. You can get ahead."
We think Clinton's understated announcement rather effective.
Indeed, not only did she soften her image — if only for her announcement video — she also sounded a populist message that almost certainly will resonate with many Americans — that the American Dream belongs not just to "those at the top."
Of course, one well-made video does not a successful presidential campaign make. And though Clinton is the odds-on-favorite to be the Democratic Party's 2016 presidential nominee, there are many months to go before the Democrats' convention in Philadelphia.
In the meantime, the former secretary has further to do between now and then about such controversies as the disappearance of thousands of her State Department emails, still-unanswered questions about Benghazi and meetings between high-level State Department officials and foreign donors to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation while she was still secretary of state.
But for now, Clinton has gotten her second presidential campaign off to a good start. We shall see if she can sustain the momentum.
Khaleej Times, Dubai, on Obama's gamble:
Barack Obama appears to be battling the odds as he reaches out to foes at home and abroad. His latest challenge is to convince Congress to back the Iranian nuclear framework agreement.
Not only are ties with Tehran on the mend, there is hope of fresh dawn in relationship with Cuba and other Latin American states, which the Republicans are not comfortable with.
A non-interventionist U.S. policy could be in America's interests but the President has a task on hand to convince his foes to look beyond the ideological divide and petty partisanship.
That is why the U.S. president went on record recently by saying that partisanship had gone too far, and it has put America in the shade. The once feared and respected superpower is viewed with suspicion even by its friends and allies.
The debate, however, is unlikely to stop here and goes on to encompass the role that President Obama has played in Asia and the Middle East. The Republicans, who have made Obama's second-term policies their campaign target are stopping at nothing. The duel started when Obama decided to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, and at the same time decided not to engage in further conflict in the Arab world. Syria remained off the State Department's agenda, and President Bashar Al Assad has lived to fight another day.
Domestic opponents of the president have always seen him as giving too much away to America's traditional foes. Republican leaders have for long advocated an adventurist foreign policy, especially in the Middle East. Which is why the GOP thought of playing the Israel card and made Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu take the gamble of landing in Washington to address Congress during his election campaign.
This episode of brinkmanship to undermine the White House is what irritates Obama, as he castigated the partisanship of the legislators and went on to take names of some stalwarts who nurse personal ambitions at the cost of American dignity.
The big question is: what should Obama do now? His measured approach to foreign policy has paid dividends and an intervention by Congress to undo the progress made on Iran could only affect the standing of the world's lone major power. Obama, on his part, wants a UN Security Council seal of approval to ensure the gains are not reversed.
America may have slid in the world's eyes as an honest mediator and peacemaker, but the president is striving for a fair exit from its former areas of influence, away from war and conflicts. He has moved ahead with his policy of non-partisanship despite the mounting criticism from all quarters. So what next for the President? An olive branch to North Korea?