• A Radical Fix for Washington: Have Congress Do Its Job
    If Congress performed more of the tasks assigned to it by the Constitution, it also would feel compelled to act more responsibly

    ILLUSTRATION: ALEX NABAUM
    By Gerald F. Seib
    May 17, 2018 11:29 a.m. ET

    Here’s a simple yet radical thought on how to fix much of what ails Washington: Have Congress do its job.

    When attempting to explain the myriad problems that plague the nation’s capital, people talk of partisanship, polarization and a White House in perpetual chaos—and there’s certainly plenty of all that to go around. Yet every one of those problems is exacerbated by the way Congress has abdicated or shirked its duties.

    Maybe, just maybe, if Congress accepted and performed more of the tasks assigned to it by the Constitution, it also would feel compelled to act more responsibly—to find the compromise, to overcome the partisanship, to reach the durable solution. Like the young adult who leaves home and suddenly has to live with the consequences of his or her own actions, it would have to start doing the mature thing.

    Instead, we often are living with the opposite. For years, Congress has punted its Constitutional responsibilities down Pennsylvania Avenue to the president. It’s often unable to perform its most basic function, which is to pass spending bills, instead resorting to giant catchall spending measures that nobody has read and that leave the executive branch to fill in many policy blanks. In a similar illustration of its problems, a House crippled by intramural feuding on Friday failed to pass a farm bill, another piece of core legislation.

    On problem after problem, in other words, Congress has said in effect, “We’re not responsible”—which only liberates it to act irresponsibly. Read more …

  • From Parkland to Waffle House

    Society ‘dropped the ball’ on Nikolas Cruz and Travis Reinking. A hero picked it up.

    After the shooting in Nashville, April 22.
    After the shooting in Nashville, April 22. PHOTO: MARK HUMPHREY/ASSOCIATED PRESS

    The death toll at a Nashville Waffle House stopped at four because James Shaw pushed back.

    Mr. Shaw ran toward shooter Travis Reinking out of an instinct for self-protection. “I acted in a blink of a second,” he says. “It was like: ‘Do it now. Go now.’ I just took off.”

    He says he’s no hero, but men have been awarded the Medal of Honor for acting on the same blink-of-an-eye instinct. Mr. Shaw is not only a hero, but an object lesson in what America once took for granted but no longer does.

    Over a long time, going back decades, the opposite instinct became the norm in the United States when confronted with threats.

    The threats could be large, like school shootings and terrorism, or they could be small, daily assaults on the most basic civilized orderings of everyday life. Such as 14-year-old girls using four-letter words.

    We used to push back instinctively. Then, we routinely began to step aside.

    The new instinct—don’t do it—happened for all sorts of reasons: You’ll get in trouble with the lawyers. Somebody else is supposed to take care of these things. There must be a better way to understand this problem. Eventually, the simple answer of a James Shaw—“Do it now!”—just died.

    That may be changing. There is evidence that people in positions of social authority are rediscovering the value of pushback.

    On the same day the Waffle House shooting happened, The Wall Street Journal published a story with the headline “Schools Take Zero-Tolerance Approach to Threats After Parkland Shooting.”

    It reported that school officials around the country “are warning parents and students in memos, community meetings and school assemblies that language perceived as threatening, even done in jest, could land younger students in juvenile detention centers and older ones in jail with criminal records.”

    You read that right. Forget the chat in the school counselor’s office. Your next talk will be with the folks at the precinct house. The squad car is waiting at the schoolhouse door.

    A return to the 1940s? We could do worse. And you know that we have when the only solution left is turning schools into armed sentry posts.

    A prosecutor in Macomb County, Mich., said: “If you threaten a school, you are going to be charged.” Beyond common sense, the reason is astonishing: Since the February Parkland shooting, 54 students in Michigan have been charged for making threats against schools.

    Up to now, apparently, you could shoot your mouth off like this—threatening classmates or the entire school—and get off with what in our times has become the one-size-fits-all excuse: “What’s your problem? I was kidding.

    Amy Klinger of the Educator’s School Safety Network told the Journal, “There are kids being arrested today that would have not gotten arrested for the same thing in January. We have come to some sort of place where people realize you can‘t say that stuff.”

    After decades of social mayhem, we have indeed come to some sort of place. Better late than never.

    Pushback is a social virtue. Its utility is a society’s self-preservation. Pushback from people in positions of authority—school principals, university presidents, the cops, parents—has always been the ballast against disorder in a free society.

    If you stepped over a line—and a general consensus once existed on where those lines were—a small personal price was paid, if only in embarrassment for one’s parents. (Please, no false analogies to Maoist social-media shaming.)

    That consensus fell apart. In the 1980s, sophisticates laughed at First Lady Nancy Reagan’s antidrug slogan, “Just say no.” She was defending a broader social attitude. She lost.

    Similarly in schools, the opponents of pushback theory discovered a remarkable weapon: the Supreme Court. Proponents of standing aside turned decades of school disciplinary tradition into constitutional issues. They won.

    In a series of decisions, the justices made the disciplinary authority of principals legally complicated. Fearful of triggering expensive litigation, school authorities pulled back. The environment for learning degraded and remains so to this day in both good and poor public schools.

    The No. 1 reason inner-city parents give for trying to get their children into charter or parochial schools is safety, to escape the chaos and danger of the public schools.

    In 2007 the Supreme Court recognized what had happened, and ruled in the “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case (Morse v. Frederick) that principals could tell a student advocating illegal drug use near the school to shut up. In his concurrence, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote, “Students will test the limits of acceptable behavior in myriad ways better known to schoolteachers than to judges.” So we learned.

    The phrase used to explain killers Travis Reinking and Nikolas Cruz is that authorities “dropped the ball.” This week, James Shaw picked up the ball inside a Waffle House. It’s time for the people in charge of our institutions to start doing the same thing.

    Write henninger@wsj.com.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/from-parkland-to-waffle-house-1524696345?mod=djemMER

  • Trump Keeps His Predecessors’ Promises

    He’s not the first to argue for tariffs, border security and an embassy move—only the first to deliver.

    President Donald Trump at the White House on March 22 shows a presidential memorandum targeting China's economic aggression.
    President Donald Trump at the White House on March 22 shows a presidential memorandum targeting China’s economic aggression. PHOTO:ANDREW HARRER/BLOOMBERG

    In response to Donald Trump’s election, Democrats have suddenly rediscovered the blue-collar voters and middle-class households left behind by technological innovation and global trade. Like a penitent fasting during Lent, liberal statesmen have confessed that they didn’t spend enough taxpayer money on new redistributive programs. If only they had done more of what they had wanted to do in the first place.

    What else could explain the sudden rise of supposedly nativist, protectionist and isolationist forces? Or Mr. Trump’s victory, which the self-proclaimed experts failed to predict? In this case America’s elites are uncharacteristically too humble: They do not give themselves enough credit for the politics they helped create.

    Mr. Trump’s populism is the direct result of the establishment’s hypocrisy. He is implementing policies that more-mainstream figures from both political parties have promised for years but then failed to accomplish. In this way, they built the demand for the actions they now denounce as destructive and even racist. Moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, pushing back against China’s unfair trade practices, securing the border—aren’t those are just empty campaign promises? No candidate thinks he can actually get them done, right? Somebody forgot to tell Mr. Trump.

    Read more …

  • Last fall, Oprah Winfrey spoke with 14 Michigan voters, seven of whom voted for Donald Trump. Winfrey sat down with the voters again to get their thoughts on Trump’s first year in office Read more …

  • The GOP’s Gun Temptation

    In Parkland’s wake, Trump and Rubio flirt with feel-good but ineffective solutions.

    Protestors gather at the Florida state Capitol in Tallahassee to push for stricter gun regulation, Feb. 21.
    Protestors gather at the Florida state Capitol in Tallahassee to push for stricter gun regulation, Feb. 21. PHOTO: COLIN ABBEY/EPA-EFE/REX/SHUTTERS/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

    Republicans have held the political high ground on gun rights for decades, and they’ve done it by sticking together and sticking to the facts. Nothing will lose them that credibility faster than if they jump on the false-hope bandwagon.

    The Parkland, Fla., school shooting is rightly causing a new national debate. With astounding cynicism, Democrats rushed to capitalize on dead teens, while ineffectually dragging out the same fatigued arguments they’ve been making since the Clinton era. They are back again with the “assault weapons” cry—calling for an arbitrary ban on a handful of scary-looking guns, when millions of other firearms can kill just as efficiently. (The 1994 assault-weapon ban was still in effect at the time of the 1999 Columbine massacre.) They are back again with confiscation, even though they know it’s a nonstarter with the Supreme Court and the public. The Parkland community deserves real policy proposals, not more empty posturing.

    The GOP has excelled in recent decades in pointing out the barrenness of this gun-control agenda with statistics and common sense. And they’ve pointed out the unifying thread behind these mass-shooting events: mental illness. Former Pennsylvania Rep. Tim Murphy spent three years pushing legislation to overhaul and bring accountability to federal mental-health programs, and President Obama finally signed it in December 2016.

    Read more …

  • Isn’t it like the Democrats to politicize this?
    What we need is personal responsibility and to put God and morality back into our lives and schools.
    “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” – Rahm Emanuel
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