The Free Press, Mankato, MN

August 25, 2013

The GOP dodge on immigration

Some argue few political repercussions for failure

The Mankato Free Press

---- — House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., has now shown what it would look like if House Republicans seek to kill immigration reform while trying to evade blame for it. Worse for Democrats, the GOP might not face electoral repercussions for killing reform in next year’s midterms.

“The bills that House Republicans do support may go nowhere,” the Huffington Post’s Elise Foley reported Goodlatte as saying at a town hall last week.

“ ‘Will the Senate agree to them? I don’t know,’ Goodlatte said. ‘But I don’t think Republicans in the House . . . should back away from setting forth the right way to do things.’

“ ‘Even if it doesn’t go all the way through to be signed by this president . . . it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t at least show the American people that we are interested in solving this very serious problem that we have in our country.’ “

One way to read this: As long as House Republicans pass a few immigration reform measures of their own, they will have demonstrated to the American people that they want to solve the problem, and it won’t matter whether their efforts result in a compromise with Democrats.

Ultimately, the fate of immigration reform rests with the GOP leadership. But the electoral consequences of killing reform almost certainly won’t be felt until after 2014.

Washington Post

Christie and gay conversion therapy

More than a decade ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that patients and their parents “avoid any treatments that claim to be able to change a person’s sexual orientation, or treatment ideas that see homosexuality as a sickness.” Last week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie officially endorsed this point of view.

Christie signed a bill banning licensed therapists from trying to “convert” gay teens to heterosexuality. For that he received stinging criticism from conservative anti-gay groups. It’s possible, however — hard as it may be to imagine — that Christie’s supporters are exaggerating the political courage he showed by signing this legislation. It’s also possible to overthink the more legitimate debate it raises.

Let’s dispose of the politics first. Christie, whose presidential ambitions extend beyond New Jersey, may well make trouble for himself among some socially conservative Republicans with his support of this bill. Yet opposition to so-called conversion therapy — much like opposition to same-sex marriage — is dwindling, and will further by 2016.

At any rate, truckling to fear and prejudice is no way to win a party nomination or, for that matter, to lead a state.

As for the debate over the policy itself, Christie and the nation’s pediatricians are in good company: The American Psychological Association and 11 other groups all concur that homosexuality is not something that can or should be “cured.” Yet some social conservatives maintain that the New Jersey law, only the second in the nation after a similar law in California, infringes on parental rights.

They are correct, of course. Parents who are desperate for their children to be straight, and willing to go to extremes in an attempt to make it happen, have just had their rights circumscribed in New Jersey. But the tales of abuse and heartbreak in the dubious field of conversion therapy are sufficient impetus to legislative action.

Bloomberg News

A suspected crime war in Syria

The world may be heading toward a showdown in Syria over a suspected poison gas attack launched by government forces, killing scores of civilians near Damascus. Horrific images have stirred outrage across the world: hospitals inundated with victims, glassy-eyed, convulsing, gasping for breath. Rows of corpses, many of them children, with no visible injuries.

On Thursday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that outside powers should respond “with force” if United Nations officials confirm that Syrian forces mounted such a chemical weapons attack. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey said “all red lines have been crossed,” and that if outsiders did not act, they would lose the power to deter future Syrian government attacks.

Over the next few days or weeks, the suspicion that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces unleashed toxic chemicals may harden into evidence of a war crime. If so, that would — should — change the world’s calculation about how to help rebels overthrow Assad.

We know this much already:

The United Nations won’t be much help, despite a raft of resolutions frowning on chemical weapons. Russia, Assad’s chief enabler, blocked a U.N. Security Council statement condemning the attack. All the Security Council could manage was a call for a “thorough, impartial and prompt investigation.” Advantage, Assad.

Assad can defuse this crisis and prove that his government didn’t launch these attacks if he provides full access to the attack sites for U.N. weapons inspectors to gather evidence. Anything short of granting immediate access will suggest to the world that he’s guilty as charged. Let’s see what the dictator permits.

In any Middle East crisis, all eyes swivel toward the U.S. But gassing civilians is a war crime. It’s not just an affront to the U.S., but to humanity across the globe. So the reaction should come not only from Washington.

The world approaches a moment of decision. If the Syrian government launched this chemical attack, will it be held accountable, not just by the U.S. but by countries in the Arab world and elsewhere? Will France, Turkey and other countries outraged by the attack muster the sand to impose a no-fly zone in Syria, along the lines of the NATO coalition that helped topple Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011?

Or will world leaders shrug, await Assad’s next outrage, and debate the meaning of “red line”?

Chicago Tribune