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Other View: Dear Republicans: 'Obama did it, too' is no excuse

Jennifer Rubin

Despite their victories in the House, Senate and White House, Republicans still spend their time lamenting the media’s unfairness and complaining that Democrats are acting hypocritically. The thin-skinned President-elect Donald Trump and his media boosters are no better. They seem to bristle at every criticism, no matter how slight or how valid.

Fox Non-News host Bill O’Reilly whines that Democrats didn’t care about Russia until the hacking episode. That’s false, of course. (Both parties have been outraged over Russian aggression. Hillary Clinton spent a good deal of the election mocking Trump for his pandering to Vladimir Putin.) Moreover, the question is easily reversed: Why did Republicans care about Russian mischief until the November elections?

Trump’s bizarre post-election behavior, we grant you, is hard to defend, but “Obama skipped briefings, too” is not sufficient to justify Trump’s dereliction. “Obama treated the presidency like a never-ending campaign” doesn’t justify Trump spending his time at rallies patting himself on the back when he could be getting up to speed on policy.

This sort of reasoning would lead to all sorts of oddball contentions:

Hillary and Bill Clinton sold access, so it is OK when the Trump sons do the same. (“Prospective million-dollar donors to the ‘Opening Day 2017′ event — slated for Jan. 21, the day after inauguration, at Washington, D.C.’s Walter E. Washington Convention Center — receive a ‘private reception and photo opportunity for 16 guests with President Donald J. Trump,’ a ‘multi-day hunting and/or fishing excursion for 4 guests with Donald Trump, Jr. and/or Eric Trump, and team,’ as well as tickets to other events and ‘autographed guitars by an Opening Day 2017 performer.’”)

Frankly, there are not many Republicans or Democrats who are willing to be as tough on their own side as they are on the other. That goes for voters, media figures and activists who consider themselves to be on Team D or Team R. That’s part of the hyper-partisanship that has gripped politics since the Newt Gingrich era. (Speaking of hypocrisy, impeaching Bill Clinton for lying about infidelities when carrying on his own affair may still be the worst case of political chutzpah in my lifetime.)

Corruption, inattention and irresponsibility are not the sole provinces of either party, but continually ascribing ill motives to the other side and virtuous ones to your own has a way of skewing one’s judgment. It’s easy to assume that the other side is motivated by hate and up to no good while one’s own side has only the best intentions. Put yourself in a media cocoon where your own opinions are rarely challenged, and soon it’s hard to notice anything wrong with your own side or anything sympathetic about the other.

To be blunt, we don’t care whether “Obama did it, too” or “Democrats didn’t complain when Hillary Clinton did it.” Clinton is spending her time hiking in the woods, and Obama won’t be president a month from today. Trump and the new Congress should not get graded on a curve. Judge them on their own behavior, hold them to the same standard you’ve used for your “own” team and let the chips fall where they may. Is this really that hard?

Other View: Why the Russian ambassador became a target

A growing geopolitical role comes at a price in blood, as Russia was forcefully reminded on Monday when its ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, was shot in an Ankara art gallery. Russia might not be paying that price had it kept out of the Syrian conflict but, paradoxically, it has now joined the West in footing this bill.

In 2012, when Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, was killed by a mob in Benghazi, Russian propaganda outlets lectured the U.S. for meddling in the Middle East. “It was on Washington’s urging that NATO intervened in the conflict in Libya,” Russian state television editorialized. “But warnings that sooner or later this would produce a boomerang effect were drowned out by sloganeering about a victory for democracy in totalitarian countries.”

After Karlov’s murder, Russia got a taste of the same medicine from Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, who tweeted: “1/2 Russia has been responsible for horrendous violations of human rights & the murder of thousands innocent people in Syria & Ukraine.”

He then added in a follow-up that this was “no excuse” for killing the ambassador.

Callous as such statements are, there is some truth to them. Ambassadors are assassinated because they represent their countries, and they don’t do it in the same abstract way as innocent victims of attacks like the one in Berlin on Monday night. Diplomats are conduits for their nations’ policies. That sets them up as targets for those who want to make a statement against those policies.

Between 1968 and 1979, five U.S. ambassadors were killed in the line of duty, three of them in the Middle East, one in Cyprus and one in Guatemala — both countries where the U.S. was accused of meddling. In 1981, France lost its ambassador in Beirut as revenge for France’s role in the Lebanese civil war. The list goes on, and it includes dozens of lower-ranking diplomats.

Russia has been extraordinarily lucky in this respect. In 1829, its ambassador in Tehran, one of Russia’s most revered authors, Alexander Griboedov was killed in a riot against Russia’s outsized influence and perceived arrogance after it won a war against Persia; to atone, the Shah sent the Russian czar an enormous diamond. After that, Russian ambassadors were only killed by White Russian officers as revenge for the Bolshevik takeover of power. One explanation could be that the Soviets took the security of their diplomats extra seriously, turning embassies into fortresses and closely guarding the ambassadors. Another reason is that the Soviet Union often sided with the same violent parties that killed Western diplomats.

Now, however, Russia finds itself in a new, unaccustomed position. It is still not part of the West as far as the West is concerned, but it is Western enough, godless enough to hundreds of Islamist terror groups. The Turkish policeman who shot Karlov was apparently a strong backer of the rebels whom the Syrian Army, with Russian support, has just defeated in Aleppo.

Broadly, “Western” powers meddling in the Middle East today face the same dangers as they did in the 1970s and early 1980s, when the majority of ambassadors were assassinated. The region is once again a powder keg, only this time the wars have displaced tens of millions of people. It’s a war in which every representative of the secular world is a target for someone.

That, perhaps, is why there is no visible rift between Russia and Turkey. On Tuesday, the two countries’ foreign ministers laid flowers together in Moscow in memory of the murdered ambassador. If the assassination is a casus belli at all, it should be one against Islamist radicals on all sides of the Syrian bloodbath.

Our View: School districts should stay clear of lobbying

Every person who lobbies in Idaho has to register with the Secretary of State’s Office, and, not surprisingly, the list is awfully long. Last year, 420 people registered. A list of their names and who they lobby for is 46 pages long.

Add one more name to the list this year: The Blaine County School District has hired its own lobbyist to represent its interests in the legislative session that begins next month. According to the state, it is the only district in Idaho individually lobbying lawmakers.

We think this is a dumb, and potentially dangerous, idea.

For starters, the district is using taxpayer money to pay for its lobbyist. As first reported in the Idaho Mountain Express, Phil Homer, a former superintendent and Idaho Association of School Administrators lobbyist, will be paid $3,300 per month. Considering a typical legislative session runs about three months, Homer stands to make about $10,000.

We can think of plenty of other, more useful ways the district could spend that money.

What the district thinks Homer will accomplish is unclear. Districts are already collectively represented by lobbyists in the legislature, including by the group Homer used to work for. What will one more lobbyist accomplish for Blaine County schools?

That Homer is also the former superintendent seems especially shady, and his hire shifts responsibility away from the board and puts a wedge between it and state lawmakers. The job duties of being a school district administrator and school board member include communicating with legislators. Here, Blaine County schools have outsourced that responsibility.

The idea was first floated by current Superintendent GwenCarol Holmes, who has her share of detractors in the Wood River Valley. One group has even sued the school district, claiming Holmes is helping to cover up decisions and manipulating individual school board members.

Two board members deserve credit for voting against this terrible idea: Cami Bustos and Elizabeth Corker.

“It just, it does not sit right with me to be paying or using (district) funds for political purposes, no matter how good we think they are,” Corker said, according to the Express.

We couldn’t have said it better.

Reading between the lines, it appears the district is worried the Legislature could strip some of its funding as it seeks to rework how Idaho schools are funded. As Holmes put it, “sometimes we’re envied for our resources.”

If that’s the case, the district is shooting itself in the foot. Nothing would make the district appear to lawmakers as if it is overfunded like hiring your own lobbyist.

Perhaps most disturbing is the precedent this sets. There are 115 school districts in Idaho — and hundreds upon hundreds of other taxing districts. What if they all hired lobbyists?

That list in the Secretary of State’s Office would be a heck of a lot longer than it already is.

Letter: Courts failed victim in Dietrich case


Courts failed victim in Dietrich case

John R.K Howard’s attorney states that the victim in the locker room assault was not at any time pinned down or subjected to any sort of forcible penetration. Are we to conclude that the hanger just happened to end up in the victim’s rectum? A wild throw? Perhaps as they all were moving about the locker room, the victim backed into it. Just a crazy accident that Tanner Ward swung the hanger in such a way that a “random” kick landed it up inside the victim.

It is a wise move for John R. K Howard to take the plea, for these pathetic explanations would make a guilty verdict guaranteed. And for Deputy AG Hemmer to reduce the felony charges is a travesty of justice. Men with such a flawed moral character as Howard will continue to inflict their brand of “justice” on people until authorities hold them accountable for their crimes without watering them down.

Joanne Cavaness