Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:
The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, on Netanyahu invitation breaching protocol:
As part of its serial rebuttals to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address — remembered largely for GOP Sen. Joni Ernst's reminiscences of using Wonder Bread bags as foul weather footwear — the House Republican leadership has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress on Feb. 11.
"I don't believe I'm poking anyone in the eye," House Speaker John Boehner said of the invitation, although of course it was, a direct jab at Obama and a gross breach of traditional protocol.
Congress can invite whomever it wishes to speak to it, but when the guest is a foreign leader the White House as a matter of courtesy is consulted, or at least informed, well in advance.
Obama learned of the invitation just shortly before Boehner announced it publicly.
Netanyahu has never been reluctant about meddling in U.S. politics.
He lobbied strenuously, and thankfully unsuccessfully, for a U.S. airstrike on Iran's nuclear facilities, an attack whose results would have been problematic given Iran's defensive preparations.
In the current political climate, Netanyahu would add weight to Republican lawmakers' push to impose additional sanctions on Iran despite Obama's threat to veto them and diplomatic warnings that new sanctions would blow up talks with Tehran about scrapping its development of a nuclear weapons capability. In addition, it might fracture the coalition of nations that have joined with the U.S. in those talks.
Progress in those talks has been painfully slow and they might ultimately fail, but there is no Plan B other than an increasingly hostile Iran determined to assert itself by stepped-up military meddling in Iraq and Syria.
Congressional Republicans themselves do not have clean hands when it comes to meddling in Israeli politics. Netanyahu's Likud Party is behind the opposition Labor Party in polls leading up to Israeli elections in March. The prestige of an address to the U.S. Congress on the eve of the voting could give him a significant boost.
The old maxim that partisan politics stops at the water's edge, although infrequently honored more in the breach than in reality, has served this country well.
The Republicans may get yet another chance to run U.S. foreign policy after 2016. They should wait until the voters decide whether they deserve that chance.
In the meantime, they have more than enough problems to keep them occupied at home.
News Sentinel, Knoxville, Tennessee, on beefing up FOIA:
When the Tennessee Valley Authority refused at the end of last year to release information about the incentive package it gave a Clinton auto parts manufacturer, U.S. Reps. John J. Duncan Jr. and Chuck Fleischmann commendably blasted the utility for a lack of transparency.
The Republican lawmakers could do the citizens of the country an even greater service by proposing to strengthen the federal Freedom of Information Act to prevent agencies from shielding subsidies from public scrutiny.
Last summer TVA, the state of Tennessee, Anderson County and the city of Clinton put together an incentives package to assist SL Tennessee, a South Korean automotive parts manufacturer, in an $81 million expansion of its facility at the Clinton/Interstate 75 Industrial Park. The construction of a 250,000-square-foot building at the complex will lead to 1,000 new jobs, according to the company.
All the entities that contributed to the incentives package have released details of their participation — except TVA.
The state extended a $5 million grant, while the city of Clinton donated 53 acres of land with a tax value of $637,300. Anderson County agreed to contribute up to $300,000 from a special industrial development fund to repave the main roadway into the industrial park.
In exchange for Clinton's donation of land, SL Tennessee is giving enough property to the city for a new fire station. The company also will also provide the city up to $250,000 toward construction.
The News Sentinel filed a Freedom of Information Act request for details of TVA's involvement, but earlier this month TVA said its decision to keep the deal secret was final, and that the newspaper's only recourse would be through the courts. TVA is relying on its interpretation of an exemption to FOIA known as Exemption 5, which allows information that would put the government at a competitive disadvantage under wraps.
The Supreme Court, however, ruled in 1979 that under Exemption 5 incentives can be kept away from public scrutiny only during negotiations. The court ruled the cloak of secrecy ends "upon the awarding of a contract."
In a welcome development, Duncan and Fleischmann came down on the side of government openness in their criticisms of TVA's stance. "I believe all of (TVA's) activities should be transparent and open to the public," Duncan said. Fleischmann agreed, saying it is important that "our government and all related agencies function with proper transparency and oversight."
The congressmen could help resolve the dispute by introducing legislation that would clarify Exemption 5 — that such contracts, once signed, must be made available for public scrutiny.
Revealing the incentives TVA gave would not disclose any trade secrets, but it would allow citizens to determine whether TVA is being a wise steward of public money it spends on their behalf. Duncan and Fleischmann have an opportunity to ensure citizens can keep an eye on their government's activities.
Paris (Tennessee) Post-Intelligencer on law keeping Mexicans from returning:
Many Mexicans who came to this country illegally in order to find work would go home if they could, former Mexican president Felipe CalderÃ³n says.
That's because they're too likely to run afoul of U.S. immigration law when they try to go back across the border.
"If you provide flexibility, many Mexicans will go home," he said.
Most Mexican border crossers sneak across the line to look for work. "They're not looking for a new country." CalderÃ³n said.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, he said he thinks Republicans and Democrats could find common ground on the immigration issue.
A program to allow Mexicans to work seasonally in the United States would provide the labor America needs while giving Mexicans the jobs they seek, he said.
But "political revenge" against President Barack Obama stands in the way of agreement.
Failure to approve a more liberal immigration policy would be disastrous for Mexicans living in this country, he said.
During CalderÃ³n's presidency, migration to the United States slowed to a trickle as the Mexican economy grew, USA Today reported.
In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Obama said he would veto any bill that seeks to undo his immigration actions.
Throwing down the gauntlet, the House voted last week to attach reversal of the president's immigration actions to the bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security, which is to run out of money Feb. 27.
This all resembles a playground fight. The country needs a well-thought immigration policy, not a struggle to see which kid has the most marbles.
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