Roundup: Editorial opinions from other papers
Hillary Clinton vs. the NRA
In 2008, Barack Obama bent over backward to defuse suspicions from gun owners and their chief lobbying group, the National Rifle Association. “I believe in the Second Amendment,” he assured one audience. “I will not take your shotgun away. I will not take your rifle away. I won’t take your handgun away.”
A lot of good it did him. The NRA ran ads saying he “would be the most anti-gun president in American history.” Four years later, with that fear unrealized, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre warned that Obama was plotting “to ensure re-election by lulling gun owners to sleep” so he could then “erase” the Second Amendment. That, of course, also didn’t happen.
Back in 2008, running against Obama, Hillary Clinton also tried to make nice with the gun-rights crowd, fondly recalling that she had learned to shoot as a child. But Obama’s experience then and since proved there is nothing a Democratic presidential nominee can say or do to appease NRA sympathizers.
So Clinton is taking a different approach this time. She’s endorsed the gun control measures sought in vain by Obama after the Sandy Hook massacre, including universal background checks. She’s slammed Bernie Sanders for supporting legislation passed in 2005 giving firearms manufacturers protection from some lawsuits. Clinton’s message to the gun lobby is: Bring it on.
That shift is notable particularly because of her husband’s experience in the White House challenging the NRA. After winning passage of a federal ban on assault weapons, Bill Clinton saw his party wiped out in the 1994 elections, giving Republicans control of the House for the first time in 40 years. Democrats suffered a net loss of 54 seats; the then-president attributed 20 of those defeats to the gun issue.
What’s changed? Some states with lots of gun owners who once were up for grabs, like Arkansas and Tennessee, now appear out of reach for Democrats. Nationally, public opinion is on Clinton’s side: Not only do 89 percent of Americans support universal background checks, so do 87 percent of Republicans and 84 percent of voters in households with guns.
On top of that, it’s become clear that the NRA will do everything it can to defeat any Democratic nominee. Clinton clearly figures that these days, trying to get along with the NRA won’t win her any votes, and challenging it may.
There are risks in her forthright stance. If she gets the nomination, she could turn out gun owners who might otherwise stay home on Election Day, in states where the contest is close. If a Republican is elected, the gun lobby will be able to claim credit. If not, though, the NRA is likely to face a president who is not on its side — and has no reason to fear it.
Chicago Tribune, March 18
Indonesia is a potential US partner
The United States purposely included Indonesia in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations gathering it organized in California last month to serve as a counterpoint to China in Asia.
Indonesia is a vigorous democracy, with the fourth-largest population in the world. It is also the most populous Muslim country and remains a moderate society.
Its economy is relatively healthy. Gross domestic product growth slipped in 2015, but to a very respectable 4.8 percent. The country does relatively well with exports of palm oil, rubber, tin and oil.
Compared with Asian rivals China, India, Japan and South Korea, though, it punches beneath its weight. One problem is geography. Indonesia is an archipelago of 13,466 islands, which makes infrastructure — as well as national governance — expensive and complicated.
President Joko Widodo was elected in 2014 on a platform of change and honesty. He is a member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, which controls only 105 of 560 seats in the parliament, thus requiring him to govern through an unwieldy coalition. His party is led, not by him, but by Megawati Sukarnoputri, a former president and, worse, the daughter of Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, a dictator who ruled from 1945, when it gained independence from Holland, to 1967.
Indonesia’s major challenges come from its size, potential vulnerability to Islamic extremism, widespread corruption and China’s sagging fortunes as a customer.
All of that said, Indonesia remains a promising partner for the United States in Asia, particularly as a moderate Muslim state with economic promise. President Barack Obama, who spent part of his youth there, is right to court the country.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 11