BIDEN TALKS OF WHAT'S WORTH BATTLING FOR, NOT FIGHTING AGAINST: Trump’s “America first” was about fear and isolation. Instead of looking to confront and bully those who opposed him in the election, Biden reached out and promised respect for those who disagree and to seek consensus. “To those who did not support us, let me say this: Hear me out as we move forward. Take a measure of me and my heart. If you still disagree, so be it. That’s democracy,” he said. “Disagreement must not lead to disunion,” he continued. “I pledge you this. I will be president for all Americans. I will fight as hard for those of you who did not support me as for those who did.” Biden aptly noted the nation seems to be engaged in an “uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal.” The resolution was in opening “our souls instead of hardening our hearts.”
THE SENATE SHOULD CONVICT TRUMP, BUT WILL PARTY LOYALTY PREVAIL?: As members of Congress respond to a mob’s assault on the U.S. Capitol, they may find something else badly damaged under the Capitol dome – the impeachment process itself. Michael J. Gerhardt, a law professor at the University of North Carolina and an expert on impeachment, says raw partisanship has disabled the Constitution’s mechanism for punishing presidents who abuse their power. “The fact that people are so intensely committed to their parties has made impeachment ineffective,” he said. “You can’t get people to put party aside and look at the facts. If you can’t get people to do that, then impeachment is no longer an effective measure for addressing presidential misconduct.” For Gerhardt, that argument is more about Republicans acquitting themselves than it is about convicting the president. “I see it largely coming from people who up and through the morning of January 6 were encouraging people to overturn the election and trying to do that themselves. So I think those people have lost the moral authority to tell the rest of Congress what to do,” he said.
AT THE INAUGURATION, AMANDA GORMAN WOVE HISTORY AND THE FUTURE INTO A STIRRING MELODY: The sun came out intermittently at President Joe Biden’s inauguration in Washington, but Amanda Gorman was her own source of illumination. With her canary-yellow Prada coat, her regal red headband, her thrice-scrubbed innocence and her exacting delivery, she was a one-person reminder that if winter is here, then spring cannot be far behind. The 22-year-old Gorman read her poem “The Hill We Climb” after performances by Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks — the great, the good and the well-intentioned. More notably, she appeared in the wake of poets who’ve read at previous presidential transitions, among them Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, Miller Williams, Elizabeth Alexander and Richard Blanco. It hardly matters that “The Hill We Climb” is not an eternal work of art: neither were the poems by Gorman’s predecessors. In cadences that fell somewhere between those of Lauryn Hill and Angelou herself, Gorman rose to meet a moment. If her performance made you vaguely feel that you’d had a blood transfusion, it was perhaps because you could sense the beginning of a remade connection in America between cultural and political life. A sleeping limb was tingling back into action.
A STATE AND LOCAL AID PACKAGE CAN HELP CONGRESS OVERCOME THE RED-BLUE DIVIDE: Much of the financial burden of dealing with the coronavirus has fallen on state and local governments, with significant aid from Washington to cover unbudgeted direct, disease-related costs — but no general aid to offset revenue losses. There have been about 1 million public-sector layoffs, concentrated in education, which also reflects school closings. Throughout the election year of 2020, Republicans objected to general aid as a “blue state bailout” and used that slogan to raise campaign funds. This divisive canard ignored the fact that most states had been building reserves prior to the pandemic but lost tax revenue due not to mismanagement but an overwhelming health and economic shock that struck red and blue states alike. Past state and local aid tied to pandemic needs went out in $1.25 billion minimum chunks to each state, with the balance divvied up according to state population. Now we have better information about the various states’ true needs; legislation can and should target aid where it’s most needed, based on states’ coronavirus caseloads and unemployment rates — and their revenue-raising performance. Lawmakers should endeavor as well to guarantee that more funds reach smaller localities; previous pandemic-related legislation only set aside a share of state dollars for cities and counties encompassing a half-million in population or more. The District should get the same share as it would if it were a state. If Republicans and Democrats want to unite the country and put red-state/blue-state hostility behind them, devising a sufficient, realistically targeted, state and local aid package would be a very good place to start.
FINALLY, A PRESIDENT ACKNOWLEDGES WHITE SUPREMACISTS: If the United States’ failure to anticipate the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was one of imagination, missing the terrorist attack of Jan. 6, 2021, was a failure of perception — a persistent refusal at the highest levels of our government to acknowledge the empirical reality of the threat posed by right-wing terrorists. Terrorism in the United States is overwhelmingly domestic and motivated by far-right ideologies, often racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant. In the past decade — indeed, in just about every year since 1990, other than 2001 — acts of right-wing domestic terrorism have been far more numerous and more lethal than acts of terrorism inspired or influenced by groups or movements overseas, according to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, a research center at the University of Maryland. Far-right plots are also less likely to be disrupted by law enforcement; in the past decade about two-thirds of right-wing domestic terrorist plans have ended in “success,” according to the center, compared with 22 percent of terrorist plans hatched by international and affiliated actors. After acknowledging the problem, there are several practical steps the Biden administration might take to address right-wing violence. Many of these are obvious, following the lessons that counterterrorism officials have learned investigating Islamic terrorism. Experts I talked to called for vigilant investigation and prosecution of the Capitol rioters; more resources for anti-radicalization programs, which have proved effective in countering jihadi recruitment; a much greater federal emphasis on investigating hate crimes, acts of ideologically motivated violence that often fly under the radar of terrorism investigators; continued deplatforming of right-wing agitators from mainstream media; and greater cooperation between the United States and other countries in tracking and preventing attacks and recruitment that crosses borders, a growing problem in a digital world.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
GREGORY GRIGGS: WE NEED TO SPEND MORE ON PRIMARY CARE IN THE COMMUNITY: Regarding “Underfunded for years, many NC public health departments lack resources to fight COVID,” (Jan. 19): The data in this article proves points the N.C. Academy of Family Physicians made early in the pandemic. The historical prioritization of inpatient procedures over public health and primary care has reinforced a dysfunctional sick-care system that has neglected prevention for far too long. This systemic underfunding of public health and primary care has led to difficulties throughout the pandemic, from the distribution of PPE to testing and tracing — and now in vaccinating the public against COVID-19. It is past time for our state and nation to closely examine how healthcare dollars are spent and provide increased funding for those areas that can really provide a positive return on the investment: community-based public health and primary care.
GRETCHEN GORDON: MADISON CAWTHORN IS NO DEFENDER OF THE CONSTITUTION: When U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn was sworn in, he pledged to defend the Constitution. Yet on that day, and ever since, he has been repeating the “Big Lie,” one so big it threatens to tear our democracy apart. Cawthorn didn’t just repeat this lie quietly. He urged followers to fight what was a free and fair election. The crowd he helped mobilize broke into the Capitol. Some erected a noose, some attacked police, leaving one officer dead. Others planned to kill the vice president and speaker. After seeing the violence he helped unleash, Cawthorn returned to the Capitol that night and voted to reject the certified electoral count. He used our precious vote in Congress to subvert the Constitution and fan the flames of violence and hate. Cawthorn must go.
DOUGLAS JURNEY: REPUBLICANS ARE ALLERGIC TO TRUTH AND FACTS: Literally every county election board in the country has certified that there was no election fraud and every state election commission has backed this up. Over 50 court cases have been thrown out because there was no evidenced of widespread fraud. Two Supreme Court cases were thrown out due to no evidence of fraud, and many recounts have been done with no evidence of widespread fraud. Yet, over 70% of Republicans think the election was stolen. Who are these people? Do they have no respect for truth and facts?