By The Associated Press
Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Telegraph, UK, on Britain formally beginning the process to leave the European Union:
This is a historic day for Britain. Today, a UK government triggers Article 50 and begins the process of Brexit. And so the country enters a period of negotiation that, early signs suggest, will be tough, even acrimonious. But the goal is worth some hard work. Britain is seeking to restore its sovereignty.
Even Eurosceptics have to marvel at how far the country has come. Until recently, Brexit was dismissed by the establishment as a fringe position. A referendum was offered largely as a bribe to Ukip voters; a Remain win was predicted. Not only did Leave triumph against the odds but the prime minister, David Cameron, was forced to resign.
Mr. Cameron's replacement, Theresa May, had also opposed Brexit - and yet she astutely read the winds and declared that she would see it through, even if it meant walking away from the EU without a deal. The length of time Mrs May set from her ascendancy to triggering Article 50 proved wise. It allowed the Civil Service to prepare. It allowed the country to get over the shock of the referendum result. And it allowed the Remain militants to exhaust parliamentary obstruction. Britain is on the way to Brexit.
The road will be long; there will be obstacles to progress. The problem boils down to perspective. In her Lancaster House speech, delivered in January, the Prime Minister signaled that her focus is on the future: on the terms of withdrawal, yes, but also future cooperation - laying the foundations for "the greatest possible access" to the European market "through a. bold and ambitious free trade agreement".
Many EU leaders, however, are thinking about punishment. They want to make Britain pay, to set an example. The European Commission calculates that the UK owes it €60 billion. This is a bold opening gambit by the EU, but the UK Government has already signaled that it regards the sum as preposterously large - and the House of Lords has even said that Britain could walk away from the negotiating table without paying anything at all.
Then there is the issue of the fate of foreign citizens. Mrs. May wanted to strike an early deal on this matter, to say that the EU citizens currently resident in the UK were welcome to stay. But Berlin and Brussels refused to discuss it.
The contrast in attitudes is sobering. Mrs. May will tell the Commons that she is fighting on behalf of "EU nationals who have made this country their home". Ministers are said to have wanted to make today the cutoff point for the free movement of people - a reasonable request. Again, the EU has said no.
This stubbornness is reminiscent of the EU's behaviour during Mr. Cameron's renegotiation effort. It serves an emotional need to put the UK in its place - but amounts in the long-run to self-harm. After all, by some estimations Europe needs Britain even more than Britain needs Europe.
The Europeans need access to our markets: Germany sells more cars to the UK than to any other country, while our financial services are second to none. And the UK's cooperation on everything from energy to defense is critical to the stability of the continent. The row over migration is indicative of a painful fact: the UK's economy is vibrant, growing and attracting the youth of Europe. Britain is one of the few European success stories still going strong, while the eurozone struggles from crisis to crisis.
Britain enters these negotiations in a strong position. Mrs. May's long-term goal will be to shift the EU's attention away from the conditions of separation and toward constructing a framework for the future. She must resist being distracted by any naysayers back home, especially the SNP and its grandstanding vote last night at Holyrood for a second independence referendum.
Mrs. May is a serious-minded politician and will doubtless regard today as an occasion for getting down to business, rather than celebrating. But for those who have for so long dreamed of this moment, a toast is irresistible. To a long campaign well fought. To the triggering of Article 50 and the accomplishment of an impossible dream. And to Britain, whose future is full of potential.
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The Washington Post on President Trump's climate plan:
Under President Barack Obama's leadership, the world finally began addressing one of the greatest challenges human beings have ever faced, a multi-generational struggle to keep the planet temperate and accommodating to human life. President Trump's move to rip up Mr. Obama's climate policies are beyond reckless. Children studying his presidency will ask, "How could anyone have done this?"
Climate science is complicated, but the basics are easy enough for those schoolchildren to understand. When humans burn fossil fuels, they emit heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere. Releasing vast amounts of these gases for decades changes the atmosphere's chemistry, creating an ever-thicker blanket. The world has therefore warmed and will continue to warm; the more fossil fuels burned, the hotter the planet will get.
The human species still has time at least to moderate the trajectory. But on the course Mr.?Trump set Tuesday, the prospect will be for sharp environmental disruption. Among many other things, scientists have predicted more and more intense heat waves, more volatile weather, more abrupt changes in the landscape, more destruction from invasive pests, more illness from microbes flourishing in warmer fresh water and more urban flooding. Americans alive today will saddle future generations with the costs of acting too late, when addressing the issue sooner would have been cheaper and far less destructive.
Even as climate science has steadily improved, the U.S. climate debate has descended into a partisan mess, with a once-great American political party embracing rank reality-denial. The nation has now reached an anti-intellectual nadir, elevating a man who called climate change a "hoax" to the presidency and a climate-change denier to head the Environmental Protection Agency. The country reaped the fruits of this decision Tuesday, when Mr. Trump signed an executive order to unwind Mr. Obama's Clean Power Plan and several other important climate rules.
The practical effects will be serious though not immediate. The Trump administration will have to rewrite federal regulations, which takes time and will encounter stiff resistance from environmental groups with many lawyers. Between now and 2020, other federal policies will continue to put some downward pressure on emissions. After 2020, the absence of the plan will be felt. According to an Energy Information Agency assessment released in January , energy-related greenhouse-gas emissions would have declined significantly between 2020 and 2030 -- not by enough, but it would have been a decent start. Without the plan, these emissions will stay roughly the same over that crucial decade. And, by the way, energy experts predict no coal renaissance in Appalachia, despite Mr. Trump's campaign promises, because the economics simply do not make sense in a country awash in cheap natural gas.
The nation had a climate policy. Now it does not. If Mr. Trump has a plan that would significantly cut greenhouse emissions in a smarter way than Mr.?Obama's Clean Power Plan -- indeed, a few senior Republican statesmen offered one just a few weeks back -- he should propose it. Instead, the president has put the country on a know-nothing path to an endangered planet.
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The New York Times on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan:
Authoritarian leaders have long appreciated the power of fanning fears of real or perceived enemies to garner popular support. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey is good at this. He has exploited a conflict with Kurdish insurgents and a failed coup to win elections and wage a brutal crackdown on critics, and now he is picking a fight with Europe to rally support for a referendum next month on constitutional changes that would essentially give him unfettered power. The tactic might get him some votes, but like the powers he seeks, it has dangerous consequences for Turkey's future.
His pretext for bashing Europe is that leaders in Germany and the Netherlands have barred his proxies from holding campaign rallies among the millions of Turks living in their lands. Never mind that campaigning abroad is illegal under Turkish law, or that Mr. Erdogan has already stacked the odds in his favor at home by arresting scores of journalists and closing down more than 150 news organizations. Branding Germans or the Dutch as Nazis creates yet another external threat that might convince Turkish voters of the need for a tough boss who knows how to deal with such foes.
Whether his strategy succeeds will become clear in the referendum on April 16. Under the proposed changes, the president would have the sole authority to appoint and dismiss government ministers and could dissolve Parliament on any grounds; he would also appoint six of the 13 members of the country's top judicial board, and the others would be elected by Parliament, which would most likely be controlled by the political forces of the president.
Mr. Erdogan is aware that this could mark a fateful retreat from the Westernization that has guided Turkey for several decades now. Though Turkey's accession to the European Union has been on ice for some years now, put there in large part by European leaders reluctant to include a large Muslim nation in their grouping, the agreement signed more than 50 years ago establishing an accession process, along with Turkey's membership in NATO and other international forums, have signified an intention to embrace the principles of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights.
When he first came to power in 2003 as prime minister, Mr. Erdogan seemed to welcome this direction. Now, sadly, Europe has become his enemy of convenience. At a rally on Saturday, he acknowledged that the referendum could close the doors to the E.U. For that reason, he continued, "a 'yes' vote is very important . because Turkey is not the stooge of anyone." As the referendum approaches, the Turks would do well to ask whether they really want to take so dangerous a step backward.
President Trump, flanked by coal miners, described the order to undo President Obama's climate legacy as a step toward energy independence. Climate diplomats from other major economies said they would continue to carry out their agreements with or without the U.S.
Dallas Morning News on efforts to overhaul Obama-era health insurance law:
Just about everyone in Washington wants to move on from last week's big standoff over Republicans' failed attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
That's understandable, maybe, but it's also deeply cynical. The health care plan has always needed improvement, and for six years Republicans refused to tweak it, preferring to use its shortcomings as a political rallying cry.
Take President Donald Trump's tweet from Monday night: "The Democrats will make a deal with me on healthcare as soon as ObamaCare folds - not long. Do not worry, we are in very good shape!"
No, "Obamacare" is not going to fold. And the president's tweet shows he misunderstands entirely the lessons from last week.
One lesson was that his party's success in November merely papered over, rather than healed, the GOP's deep divisions. And we learned that Americans actually want health insurance; they now expect that it can't be taken away by pre-existing conditions, a loss of a job, or other unforeseen developments.
But that doesn't mean every American loves the Affordable Care Act. Or that the way health insurance works today is the way it has to always work. But whatever eventually replaces "Obamacare" is going to have to build off the guarantees already in place.
That's why House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Friday that the law will be with us "for the foreseeable future."
Still, if everyone agrees that the Affordable Care Act needs fixing, why can't we fix it? All that is standing in the way is the kind of Washington cynicism that puts party and politics ahead of people and policy.
To change that, House Republicans should accept that the Affordable Care Act is here to stay for now, but develop a list of small-scale changes aimed at fixing its best-known problems.
For instance, maybe Trump's insistence that health insurance be sold across state lines could be tried, on a pilot basis, in one region where it looks most promising. Maybe one or two states could be allowed to replace the individual mandate with the GOP's proposal for heavy penalties for letting insurance lapse.
These are starting points. The idea is for Republicans to put forth fixes, but to do so within the framework of the system already in place.
Democrats could be honest about where "Obamacare" doesn't work as well as it should, and either sign on to the GOP fixes or develop their own with the an eye toward winning moderate GOP support.
And Trump? He should tell Republican leaders he'll sign the first "Obamacare" bill that reaches his desk with at least, say, 20 Democratic votes in the House and five or 10 in the Senate. He's said he wants to work with Democrats; time to show it.
That way, everyone wins. The health care system gets better. And if its critics still want to try to repeal it altogether sometime in the future, nothing is stopping them from trying.
The Star Tribune on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch:
Based on his credentials alone, Judge Neil Gorsuch should have had a relatively easy path to confirmation as a Supreme Court justice. He is a well-regarded, deeply experienced jurist who has clerked for two Supreme Court justices, in addition to serving a decade on the appeals court. Four long days of confirmation hearings may not have produced the most detailed answers, but they did little to indicate in any way that Gorsuch is unfit for the high court.
However, this seat carries a taint that has burdened Gorsuch with the justifiable bad feelings left from Republicans' ruthless decision last year to deny an appointment to President Barack Obama following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Obama also nominated a respected jurist, Merrick Garland, whom Republicans snubbed.
Now Republicans face the distinct prospect of a filibuster from Democrats, who are increasingly confident that Gorsuch lacks the 60 votes needed to clear the procedural vote. Gorsuch has not always helped his case. When Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a former prosecutor, attempted to suss out Gorsuch's reasoning on a child disability ruling that was unanimously overturned by the Supreme Court in the very midst of the hearings, she got from Gorsuch snappish responses that shed little light.
Gorsuch would have been better served by being more forthcoming. That he leans conservative surprises no one. His rulings reflect a textualist and originalist bent, and he should have been unafraid to discuss the reasoning that drove them.
National Republicans and conservative interest groups also did the nominee no favors with an unseemly and repellent multimillion-dollar ad campaign that hawked the nominee like a new flavor of cereal. Gorsuch should have been allowed more dignity than that, and the resulting backlash by inflamed Democrats whose states were targeted has not helped.
Democrats may well decide to filibuster the nomination, and that is their right. Klobuchar, who has built a reputation for working with both sides, announced Tuesday that she will vote no on Gorsuch because of ongoing concerns about his judicial judgment on several topics.
Every nominee has flaws. But there are significant pluses to Gorsuch as well. His key rulings show a healthy skepticism about the reach of government and law enforcement, and he does not seem inclined to be overly deferential. He has shown keen attention to the value of procedural rules. Moreover, Trump did campaign in part on the notion that he would replace Scalia with someone like-minded. Voters chose him knowing that.
The court needs to be brought back to its full complement. Gorsuch has passed the key competency tests and should be confirmed.
Faced with a filibuster, Republicans may have little recourse other than invoking the so-called "nuclear option," which would allow them to move the Gorsuch confirmation on a simple majority vote.
That could prove dangerous in the long run. Since the 1980s, Senate control has regularly flipped between the two parties -- seven times to Democrats, nine to Republicans and two congressional sessions when it was evenly divided. No party has managed to control the Senate for more than three or four years at a time and often with thin margins.
Senate Democrats jettisoned the filibuster rule for Cabinet and lower federal court appointments in 2013, after repeated GOP filibusters of Obama appointments. They paid a price this year, when they were powerless to block Trump Cabinet nominations that passed by a bare majority.
The price for confirming Gorsuch may prove similarly high for Republicans.
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The Chicago Tribune on Russian President Vladimir Putin:
The other day a man fell out of a fourth-floor Moscow apartment and suffered serious head injuries. The real surprise is not that Nikolai Gorokhov had an accident but that he survived. People who dare to challenge Russian President Vladimir Putin often don't. Gorokhov's fall came just a day before he was to appear in court on behalf of the family of Sergei Magnitsky -- who died in a Russian prison cell where he languished after, yes, daring to challenge Putin.
Two days after Gorokhov's hard landing, a former Russian parliamentarian was shot to death in broad daylight in Kiev. It may not surprise you to learn that Denis Voronenkov had defected to Ukraine last year, had criticized Putin's seizure of Crimea and was planning to testify in a corruption case against a Putin ally. "This was the demonstrative murder of a witness, common for the Kremlin," charged Ukraine's prosecutor general, Yuri Lutsenko.
Episodes like these are not rare: The Washington Post has counted 10 Putin critics who met sudden ends, often in mysterious or violent circumstances. The deaths make it appear someone wants to deter people from speaking out against the corruption, repression and brutality of the Russian president. They send the message that no dissenter is safe.
But on Sunday, Putin learned that some people are not easily cowed. In more than 90 cities, marchers turned out to protest corruption, with particular regard to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. He was the subject of an incriminating video put out by Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption crusader who has said he will run against Putin in 2018. Some protesters chanted "Shame!" and some brandished rubber ducks, a reference to the house for ducks Medvedev reportedly had built in a pond on one of his ill-gotten estates.
A Moscow radio station estimated that more than 60,000 Russians had taken part in the demonstrations. In any case, they were reported to be the biggest unauthorized rallies in five years. Stiff sentences given to many protesters back then had discouraged dissent. But the revelations about Medvedev stirred new outrage that soon erupted into the streets.
This is not the only cause for Putin to worry. Hobbled by international sanctions, the economy is limping. Truckers are also planning a campaign of protests against new highway tolls.
These marches were notable for the large number of young people, who may have yet to absorb the full danger of defying the regime. Hundreds of protesters were arrested, others were beaten and Navalany got a 15-day sentence for supposedly resisting arrest. Worse may be in the offing, given Putin's brutal tendencies.
The West can't prevent Putin from dealing harshly with critics, but it can let him know his abuses won't be ignored or excused. In light of President Donald Trump's friendly attitude toward the Kremlin, it was a pleasant surprise to hear the U.S. State Department issue a statement condemning the mass arrests.
"Detaining peaceful protesters, human rights observers and journalists is an affront to core democratic values," said spokesman Mark Toner, who also decried the arrest of Navalny and the raid on his anti-corruption group's office.
Maybe Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and others in the administration are willing to judge Putin on the basis of his vicious record, not on Trump's foolish hopes. And it may be that the investigations and questions around the Trump campaign's contacts with Russian officials have left the president little room to cozy up to the Kremlin. Anything he might do to ingratiate himself with Putin would feed suspicions -- particularly after the spectacle of Russian demonstrators being hauled off to jail
Amid his growing international isolation and signs of discontent at home, Putin may hope for sympathy or a show of support from the White House. He shouldn't get it.
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