Best columns: The U.S.
Democratic hypocrisy on Russia
“Democrats are exasperated that Republicans don’t share their outrage over the ever-widening scandal surrounding Donald Trump and Russia,” said James Kirchick. But on Russia, Democrats are total hypocrites. For eight years, the liberals now calling Trump supporters “Putin’s pawns” blindly supported Democratic President Obama’s naïve attempt to woo Vladimir Putin with concessions—the so-called reset. Obama removed missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, and famously was caught on an open microphone telling a Putin ally that after the 2012 election, he’d have “more flexibility” to make concessions. During the 2012 campaign, Obama mocked Republican Mitt Romney’s assertion that Russia was America’s “No. 1 geopolitical foe.” In 2012, Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton objected to the passage of the Magnitsky Act, which imposed sanctions on Russian officials for human rights abuses. Obama essentially ceded Syria to Putin, and even after the Russian leader annexed Crimea in 2014, Obama dismissed Russia as a weak “regional power.” How weak does Russia seem now? Liberals enraged by Trump’s strange fondness for Putin need to admit that their last president’s policy on Russia was also “an epic disaster.”
Authorizing grand theft by the police
“Liberals and conservatives alike despise it.” It’s been proved to be rife with outrageous abuses, and the Obama administration and 24 states put strict limits on the practice. So why then did Attorney General Jeff Sessions insist last week on reviving civil asset forfeiture? asked Robert Gebelhoff. “Probably because police have become addicted to the revenue stream it provides.” Civil asset forfeiture, a legacy from the “war on drugs,” has allowed police to seize $29 billion worth of citizens’ cars, houses, cash, and other property and transfer it to the government— without a conviction or even a criminal charge. All that’s necessary is for local or state cops to contend that they have reason to suspect the property was used in the commission of a crime; the evidence can be a single marijuana cigarette or a large amount of cash in a motorist’s car. Not surprisingly, civil forfeiture has spawned jaw-dropping abuses, with police departments preying on passing motorists and the poor and using the seized property to expand their budgets, give themselves raises, and buy new cop cars and other goodies. Why overrule the states to bring back a policy almost everyone hates? Sessions hasn’t met a tough-oncrime policy he doesn’t like—regardless of what the facts show.
Why Trump may regret picking Pence
Of all President Trump’s blunders, the biggest may have been “choosing Mike Pence as his running mate,” said Steve Chapman. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and Trump’s erratic behavior make impeachment a “real possibility”—especially if congressional Republicans decide they’d rather have Pence in the White House. During Watergate, Richard Nixon had “insurance policies” in the form of two highly flawed vice presidents: Spiro Agnew, loathed by the majority Democrats, and—after Agnew resigned over a bribery charge—Gerald Ford, widely regarded as “decent but dumb.” For any president, “the more unthinkable a vice president is for the top job,” the better. But most Republicans find the pious Pence eminently thinkable. A canny political operator, he’s beloved by Christian conservatives and has good relations with Congress. Democrats see Pence as a “right-wing puritan,” but probably would prefer him to “an unpredictable, thin-skinned narcissist” who might nuke North Korea or Iran. As the Russia revelations mount, both parties may gaze on Pence and say, “What are we waiting for?” On that day, Trump may wish he’d picked “Chris Christie or Ted Cruz.”