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Columns
Pitts: Democrats, you’ve been had!

Dear Democrats:

That was no government shutdown. It was a long weekend. It was a snow day.

Don’t get me wrong. I am no fan of shuttering the federal government as a tactic of political negotiation. In the first place, it inflicts hardship on the people you’re sworn to serve. In the second place, it confirms the U.S. Capitol building as the world’s most majestic day care center.

Shutting down the government is almost always the wrong thing to do. But as my pastor likes to say, if you’re going to do wrong, at least do wrong right.

You, on the other hand, did wrong wrong, making yourselves look feckless, spineless and brainless in the process. You’d said you would not vote to fund the government until the GOP acted to save young immigrants brought illegally to this country as children—DREAMers—from deportation. Three days later, you folded like a baby stroller, accepting a deal in which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed only his “intention” to take up the legislation you want.

Repeating for emphasis: his “intention.”

So suddenly, we’re supposed to buy that McConnell—the same McConnell who brazenly stole a Supreme Court seat from you—is a stand-up guy? Meantime, you’re out there trying to pass off this lump of congealed chicken fat as the Hope Diamond.

As in Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz insisting that because of the shutdown, you won “the potential for momentum.” CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin nearly sprained her jaw keeping a straight face.

Who can blame her? After all, the truth is closer to what GOP Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina told Politico: “We gave them nothing.” For that matter, it’s even closer to what Denzel Washington said in “Malcolm X”: “You been had! You been took! You been hoodwinked!”

Say what you will about them, but if you woke the average GOP lawmaker up at 2 a.m. and asked what he believes, he would spout, as if on a recorded loop, the anti-tax, anti-government, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, anti-Muslim, anti-black, anti-abortion creed so attractive to the mostly white, predominantly older and disproportionately male slice of the electorate that votes for them.

Could you do that? I think not.

Someone said on Twitter the other day that the Republicans are petrified of their base—and you are, too. There’s painful truth in that. Indeed, the Washington Post reported that you folded because you feared alienating voters in “conservative, largely white battleground states.” You often seem terrified of alienating voters who do not embrace you, while discounting those—such as immigrants, African Americans, LGBTQ and, yes, progressive whites—who do.

Got to dance with the one who brung ya, the saying goes. Yet you often seem intent on dancing with anyone but.

Frankly, you could stand to be more petrified of your own base—especially since the political left is having itself a moment unlike anything we’ve seen in almost 50 years. People are marching and raising money. Upstarts are running for office. The left is galvanized by a fierce new energy.

A few years ago, the far right rode a wave just like this—i.e., the tea party—into power. The GOP establishment never saw it coming. Will you?

I’m no political strategist, so I will not offer strategic advice. But I will note that strategy becomes easier once you settle in your own mind who you are, what you believe and what, exactly, you will fight for. Millions of us wonder.

Get back to us when you know.


Letters
Your Views: Trump's vulgar remark would have made his dad proud

Dear President Trump,

I learned from news reports that you called a number of people after your immigration meeting on Jan. 11 (where you used your “best words” vocabulary). You forgot to call me.

I would have told you that you had lived up to the hopes and expectations of one person. It would have pleased your father, Fred.

On Memorial Day in 1927, he was arrested in Jamaica Plains, Bronx, New York City while participating in a parade that became a “near riot,” according to the newspapers of that time. That parade was co-sponsored by Italian fascists and the KKK.

Yes, you would have made your “ol’ dad” proud.

As for my opinion, I’m hoping you apologize to the U.S.A. and the world. But I don’t expect that.

Maybe…next time, kiddo.

IRENE SALZMAN

Janesville


Other_views
Guest Views: New tariffs won't make America great

Can Donald Trump stand prosperity? Fresh from a government shutdown victory and with the U.S. economy on a roll, the president decided on Tuesday to kick off his long-promised war on imports—and American consumers. This isn’t likely to go the way Mr. Trump imagines.

“Our action today helps to create jobs in America for Americans,” Mr. Trump declared as he imposed tariffs on solar cells and washing machines. “You’re going to have a lot of plants built in the United States that were thinking of coming, but they would never have come unless we did this.”

The scary part is he really seems to believe this. And toward that end he imposed a new 30 percent tariff on crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells and solar modules to benefit two bankrupt companies, and a new 20 percent to 50 percent tariff on washing machines to benefit Whirlpool Corp. The tariffs will hurt many more companies and people, and that’s before other countries retaliate.

The Journal reported Tuesday that the Trump tariff may spur an unnamed panel manufacturer to invest in a new plant in Florida that will create 800 new jobs. But the Solar Energy Industries Association says it expects that the tariff will cost 23,000 U.S. jobs this year alone. It will also mean that billions of dollars of solar investments are likely to be postponed or canceled.

Mr. Trump will also make doing the laundry great again, or at least more expensive, with a new 20 percent tariff on the first 1.2 million imported washing machines every year. Above that the tariff will go to 50 percent. Don’t even think about assembling a washer with foreign parts, which get whacked with a 50 percent tariff above 50,000 imported units in the first year.

Goldman Sachs analyst Samuel Eisner wrote Tuesday that consumers can expect price increases for new machines of 8 percent to 20 percent depending on how much of the tariff the manufacturers decide to eat. Producers and workers are also losers. LG Electronics USA noted Tuesday that its new plant to make washers in Clarksville, Tenn., will be “the most advanced factory in the world” but warned that the tariff “hinders the ramp-up of the new plant and threatens many new U.S. jobs.”

Manufacturers will also lose flexibility in sourcing parts, which is critical to competitiveness. In South Carolina, where Samsung has a new $380 million appliance plant, the Trump tariffs aren’t welcome. Republican Gov. Henry McMaster is worried they’ll hurt the investment climate and invite retaliation.

Mr. Trump conducts trade policy as if U.S. trading partners have no recourse. With exports of $30.9 billion in 2016 and among the country’s highest level of exports per capita, South Carolina knows better. By justifying tariffs solely on the failure to compete, Mr. Trump is inviting other countries to do the same for their struggling companies. Their case at the World Trade Organization will also be a layup, allowing legal retaliation against U.S. exports.

By the way, if Mr. Trump thinks these new border taxes will hurt China, he’s mistaken again. China ran a distant fourth as a producer of solar cell and modules for the U.S. in 2017, after Malaysia, South Korea and Vietnam. Korea and Mexico are the two largest exporters of washing machines to the U.S. Mr. Trump’s tariffs are an economic blunderbuss that will hit America’s friends abroad and Mr. Trump’s forgotten men and women at home.

—The Wall Street Journal


Columns
Funt: Dan Rather returns

He looked pretty good sitting behind the antique partners desk in his home-office. In fact, darn good for a newsman of 86.

Dan Rather has a new weekly gig, not on ordinary television but on a YouTube feed operated by what’s called TYT, “The Young Turks” ultra-progressive talk channel.

Rather’s resume is becoming too bulky for a neat one-paragraph bio. Successor to Walter Cronkite, he was the face of CBS News for more than two decades before being ousted over his flawed reporting on President George W. Bush’s National Guard service during the Vietnam War.

Circumstances of that unfortunate period can be cast many different ways, as Rather himself made clear in a book tediously detailing his side of the story. But even before that he was a quirky journalist: a cross between Edward R. Murrow and Inspector Clouseau.

At the height of his CBS career Rather was accosted on a Manhattan street by a seemingly deranged individual demanding, “Kenneth, what’s the frequency?” The man claimed CBS was beaming signals directly into his brain. Rather was shaken; R.E.M. later made a hit song out of it.

Then there was the time in 1980 when Rather did a lengthy “60 Minutes” report on the war in Afghanistan, reporting amid gunfire from a mountain top overlooking a Soviet encampment. The Washington Post’s Tom Shales observed that Rather, dressed in peasant togs, appeared to be, “Dan Rather as Stuart Whitman playing Dan Rather. Or Dan Rather playing Stuart Whitman playing Dan Rather. Perhaps it’s all part of the New Reality.”

Shales called him “Gunga Dan.”

But much as Bernie Sanders has, late in life, captured the imagination of millennials in search of reason, Rather has become a social media star. His Facebook page has over 2 million likes, his “News and Guts” page has another million, and he pops up regularly as a cable-TV commentator.

Now, in his TYT show, “The News with Dan Rather,” he describes himself as “An old TV newsman, leaning on new media, to connect with our future.” He’s providing a dose of news with a dash of commentary.

He warns that constant media coverage about who will get indicted and who will get elected results in “diversions that leave the powers that be free to take us back and free to take us down.”

Not surprisingly Rather is a severe critic of Trump and his presidency. He told Politico, “To have this kind of chaos, bordering on havoc, with (Trump in power), that’s something new, and very, very dangerous.”

He’s a champion of responsible news media, of course, reminding us on his YouTube program that the goal is to provide a constitutional check on power. This requires what Rather calls “a shared sense of the truth.”

The new show, posted on Mondays at 5:30 p.m. ET, got about 75,000 views in the first 12 hours, and 5,000 likes. It’s a small pond for a guy who once was one of TV’s biggest fish.

But Dan Rather imparts a kind of calm reassurance about things. Based on the time I spent talking with him back in his CBS heyday, I can assure you he’s the same folksy, dedicated gentleman that you see on the screen.

He once observed, “What I say or do here won’t matter much, nor should it.” Still, it’s good to have Dan Rather back, especially right now, when the world seems upside down.