Friday, May 25, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Obama skirts law going it alone

President Barack Obama cannot have it both ways no matter how frustrated he is with a deadlocked Congress that fails to act on most anything. He complains that congressional Republicans refuse to work with him, yet he fails to consult with them even when the law requires it. The president's understandable impatience with a dysfunctional Congress does not trump his legal obligations, and he has to engage congressional leaders even when it is inconvenient.

Congress' investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office, rightly faulted the Obama administration last week for crossing the line. In unusually direct language, the GAO said the Defense Department broke the law by failing to give advance notice to Congress of the May swap of five Taliban prisoners being held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for the Taliban's release of an American prisoner, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

The GAO found that the law was "clear and unambiguous." The 2014 statute requires the administration to notify relevant congressional committees at least 30 days before the transfer or release of any prisoner from Guantanamo. The Defense Department notified Congress on May 31, the same day as the transfer. And for good measure, the GAO noted, the department violated a second law by using funds for the release that were not legally appropriated.

The explanation from the White House was weak and self-serving — and beside the point. It exposed the hypocrisy of an administration that was quick to dismiss the congressional role in bringing this solider back but has been all over the map on the need for Congress' approval before American forces are sent into harm's way.

Obama has made clear he will use his executive authority in the remainder of his term to move forward on immigration, climate change and other issues that are hopelessly stalled in Congress. He has some room on those fronts to chart a more sensible approach to deportations, border security and global warming, even if the more durable route is to keep working with Congress on a legal and binding response to these pressing national challenges.

But there is a difference between Obama being practical about policies that won't pass and choosy about ones that are already law. It is one thing for the administration this week to work around Congress' failure to pass climate change legislation by seeking a voluntary accord instead on global greenhouse gas emissions. But it is another for the administration to seriously consider ramping up its month-old military campaign against Sunni militants in Iraq and Syria without congressional approval. Lacking the firepower to control global warming raises far fewer immediate implications for the United States than turning additional firepower on a growing jihadi force that threatens the security of two sovereign Mideast states.

The White House has practical reasons for having Congress take some responsibility for the messy range of risky options in Iraq and Syria. But a nation of laws cannot stand by while its chief executive uses a wartime footing to avoid the legal checks and balances that distinguish its democratic system. Congress needs to debate the use of force and join the president in making the case to the public. These are not minor matters to leave to the auditors.

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Editorial: Filling Rocky Point lagoon to build townhomes is an empty-headed idea

Editorial: Filling Rocky Point lagoon to build townhomes is an empty-headed idea

One of the worst ideas in a long time in the field of urban planning received a blessing this month when the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission approved a land-use change for a project that calls for filling three acres of water insi...
Published: 05/25/18
Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Regardless of the reason, the cancellation of the U.S.-North Korea summit to address Pyonyang’s nuclear program is hardly the worst possible outcome of this high-stakes diplomatic gamble. President Donald Trump was unprepared, North Korea’s Kim Jong ...
Updated: 4 hours ago

NFL kneels before the altar of profits

The owners of the 32 National Football League teams sent a wrongheaded and, frankly, un-American message to their players Wednesday: Expressing your opinion during the national anthem is no longer permitted."A club will be fined by the League if its ...
Published: 05/24/18
Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Legislation that waters down the 2010 Dodd-Frank law and was sent to President Donald Trump this week is a mixed bag at best. Some provisions recognize that Congress may have gone too far in some areas in the wake of the Great Recession to place new ...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/24/18

Another voice: The chutzpah of these men

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Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has begun the important work of rebuilding trust with its patients and the community following revelations of medical errors and other problems at its Heart Institute. CEO Dr. Jonathan Ellen candidly acknowledges...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18