Congressional testimony this week by the top Pentagon officials charged with the Afghanistan pullout made clear that President Joe Biden opted against their recommendation against completely withdrawing U.S. troops. Nor did they try to sugarcoat the Pentagon’s various missteps that blocked a successful end to the 20-year war.
They were bluntly — and refreshingly — honest. America needs a lot more of that. Washington politicians on both sides of the aisle have grown so fearful of the truth, they seem willing to say or do anything to hide it from the American people.
In a Senate hearing Tuesday, questioners gave Gens. Mark Milley and Kenneth McKenzie no room for evasion when it came to the advice they gave Biden. Milley also acknowledged mistakes in trying to apply traditional U.S. military doctrine and training to a guerrilla warfare situation. Presidents Trump and Biden also failed to pivot, instead stubbornly insisting on specific parameters and timelines to meet their political needs.
The first step in any lessons-learned exercise is admitting that there are lessons still to be learned. Milley and McKenzie get that. Too bad Biden still doesn’t.
— The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
When the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called gun violence a “serious public health threat” in a recent interview, it may have seemed like garden-variety politics. But Rochelle Walensky, the CDC’s director, was ending more than two decades of official near-silence on the topic — and suggesting a better approach may finally be on the way.
The last time a CDC director attempted to address gun violence was in the mid-1990s, when some of the agency’s research had connected home firearm ownership to higher rates of gun deaths. A Republican Congress, heeding industry lobbyists, promptly passed legislation blocking the CDC from spending resources to “advocate or promote gun control.”
Over the next quarter-century, virtually all federally funded gun research ground to a halt. Although gun violence is the second-leading cause of death among young Americans, the government spent only $12 million to study the topic between 2007 and 2018. Cancer, the third-leading cause, received $335 million a year.
The result of this abdication is that very basic policy questions remain unanswered, even as firearms cause more than 30,000 U.S. deaths a year. Do restrictions on assault weapons reduce violence? Are there “best practices” that could prevent suicides, homicides or accidental injuries? What reforms could impede mass shootings?
Thankfully, things are starting to change. In 2018, Congress effectively lifted the restrictions on federal gun research. With Walensky now making the issue a priority, real progress seems possible.
Perhaps her most important gesture was outreach to gun owners. “We cannot understand the research of firearm violence, firearm injury, without embracing wholeheartedly the firearm-owning community,” she said. “Come to the table. Join us in the conversation.”
Pitfalls remain. One is that Congress must remain committed to funding gun-violence research (whether at the CDC or elsewhere) despite opposition from Second Amendment absolutists.
The federal government’s effort to reduce traffic fatalities — widely considered a success — took decades of sustained attention and generous funding. Gun-violence research deserves no less.
— Bloomberg Opinion
The Biden administration is actively pushing Congress to require banks to report to the Internal Revenue Service on the account activity of a huge swath of Americans. This unwarranted snooping would be an invasion of privacy.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and the IRS have asked Congress to mandate that banks send along annual inflows and outflows from accounts with at least $600 or $600 worth of transactions. That’s a low bar that would expose the majority of bank accounts to additional scrutiny.
The administration claims this would allow the IRS to conduct audits more efficiently. In reality, it’s all about the federal government trying to squeeze Americans for additional tax dollars.
Congress should make sure this extraordinary approach to tracking of the bank accounts of average Americans never happens.
— The Detroit News
Senate Democrats face a stark choice on immigration: Improve the lives of millions of immigrants by giving them a path to legal residency — a move that would also prove a boon to the nation’s economy — or hide behind a procedural recommendation and expose their rhetoric as empty promises.
The Senate parliamentarian determined last week that the Democrats’ proposal to provide legal status to roughly 8 million people falls outside the boundaries of what can be done through budget reconciliation, a process that allows a simple majority to pass a bill instead of the usual 60-vote threshold.
But the parliamentarian’s decision is only advice. Dismissing it is not a decision to be made lightly, of course, but it has happened before — most recently when Republicans who controlled the chamber removed the 60-vote threshold for voting on Supreme Court nominees. Immigration reform is worth the risk.
— The Seattle Times