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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Abortion Bans Don't Protect The Rights of 'The People'

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments over a Mississippi law banning abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. The law roundly defies the court's decisions affirming a right to abortion, but the state portrays the ban as the mildest of correctives.

All Mississippi wants the justices to do, insisted state solicitor general Scott Stewart, is defer to "the people." The law, he said, came about because "many, many people vocally really just wanted to have the matter returned to them so that they could decide it — decide it locally, deal with it the way they thought best, and at least have a fighting chance to have their view prevail."

Justice Brett Kavanaugh seemed to find the argument persuasive. It's his understanding, he said, that Mississippi believes "this Court should be scrupulously neutral on the question of abortion, neither pro-choice nor pro-life."

Letting the people decide, and aligning the court to neither promote nor prevent abortion, sounds sensible — even libertarian. What neither Stewart nor Kavanaugh acknowledged, though, is that, in a fundamental sense, these conditions have already been met.

Under the court's major abortion decisions, the people, as individuals, already have the full authority to make up their minds on the issue. Those who believe that every pregnancy should be carried to term are free to forgo abortions. Those who disagree are free to procure abortions. No woman is forced to abort her fetus, and no woman is forced to undergo childbirth.

By the same token, the Supreme Court has adopted a position of neutrality. Just as the Constitution does not let government forbid or require anyone to worship, the Constitution does not let the government forbid or require anyone to bear a child. Each pregnant woman is free to decide for herself.

But when Stewart and Kavanaugh use these terms, they have in mind a different meaning. If Roe and Casey were overturned, the people would be empowered not as individuals but as a collective. The court would be "neutral" only on the matter of whether states allow abortion or ban it.

Apply these meanings to a different constitutional right and the defects in their logic become clear. Champions of gun rights have always argued that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms" is an individual liberty — as the court agreed in 2008.

They believe the court must keep "the people" of any state from using the power of government to abridge this right. Americans who believe in free speech and religious liberty feel the same way about First Amendment guarantees.

Stewart insisted that abortion rights are different because the framers didn't explicitly protect them. The Roe and Casey decisions, he argued, "have no basis in the Constitution. They have no home in our history or traditions."

In fact, they have a spacious place in our history and traditions. In his 2017 book Sex and the Constitution, University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone notes that abortion was legal and widely performed in the United States at the time the Constitution was ratified — and wasn't outlawed for more than a century afterward.

It's true that the Constitution doesn't mention the right to abortion. But the Constitution protects many freedoms it doesn't mention — the freedom to marry, the freedom to refuse medical treatment, the freedom to have children and govern their upbringing, and more.

The Ninth Amendment stipulates that not all protected liberties are spelled out: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

If the Constitution has nothing to say about abortion, does that mean a state could require some women to have abortions — say, to prevent the birth of children with serious congenital defects?

Of course not. Requiring abortion would be a gross violation of physical autonomy, which enjoys broad constitutional protection. But banning abortion has the same effect. And the Supreme Court appears poised to let it happen.

Pro-life advocates say abortion ends a human life, as if that settles everything. But the issue is not whether a fetus is alive or human. It's whether and when its preservation is sufficiently important to override a woman's fundamental right to control her own body.

Americans have long disagreed on that question. Our disagreement is a powerful argument for leaving the choice to each pregnant woman.

Right now, we let the people decide, one by one, under the protection of a neutral government. But probably not for long.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

When Biden's Partisan Objectives Clash With His Urgent Climate Goals

The Biden administration, to its credit, never misses a chance to emphasize the importance of dealing with climate change. President Joe Biden calls it an "existential" threat to humanity. John Kerry, his special envoy on the issue, said in April: "That means life and death. And the question is, are we behaving as if it is? And the answer is no."

That was certainly true under former President Donald Trump, who championed coal, abandoned the 2015 Paris agreement on climate, and dismissed global warming as a hoax. Biden has brought a badly needed shift on policy. But his policies sometimes are at war with his rhetoric.

One crucial part of his agenda is speeding the transition from gasoline-powered vehicles to electric ones. Cars and light trucks account for 16 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and Biden wants half of all autos sold in this country to be electric or plug-in hybrids by 2030. That transition would significantly reduce carbon output.

But let's not get the idea that the administration is laser-focused on whatever it takes to curb climate change. Its enthusiasm for electric vehicles, it turns out, is not unlimited. In Biden's eyes, some electric vehicles are good and some are bad, and the difference has nothing to do with greenhouse gases.

The social spending and climate package recently approved by the House of Representatives would encourage Americans to buy electric vehicles by providing a tax credit of as much as $12,500 for each purchase, an increase over the existing $7,500 credit. That indirect subsidy is needed because these cars generally cost more to purchase than comparable conventional cars.

But Biden and his congressional allies are not enamored of all electric vehicles. They want to restrict the full tax break to those cars that are built by union workers in the United States and have batteries built by union workers in the United States. Buyers of other vehicles would get only a $7,500 credit — a $5,000 penalty.

That penalty would apply to almost all of the 50 electric vehicles currently sold here, including every model made by Tesla, the Ford Mustang Mach-E, the Nissan Leaf, the Rivian pickup, the Hyundai Ioniq, and more. The only exceptions are two Chevy Bolt models. It would also harm workers in U.S. plants operated by foreign automakers, which are nonunion and produce nearly half of all the vehicles sold here.

The discrimination is a giant favor to the United Auto Workers, a stalwart of the Democratic Party that has been weathering a major corruption scandal. "The union has stressed to the Biden administration that the country shouldn't sacrifice union jobs to meet its climate goals," reported The Wall Street Journal. A White House spokesman insisted that "jobs taking on the climate crisis must also be jobs that build the middle class."

There are some obvious flaws in the administration's logic. One is that given the monumental size of the battle against climate change, it is imperative to enlist every automaker, including nonunion ones.

To exclude nearly all electric cars from the full tax credit will make the national transition away from gas-powered vehicles — a hugely formidable undertaking under the best of circumstances — slower and more expensive. It's exactly the wrong strategy if you place a supreme priority on saving the planet from excessively high temperatures.

The UAW has repeatedly lost elections allowing workers at foreign-owned plants to decide whether to sign up with the union. Limiting the tax credit will hurt those workers. It will also encourage automakers to build electric cars abroad, where they can achieve lower labor costs — enough, perhaps, to overcome the tax disadvantage.

It will also be a boon to the internal combustion engine. As Jeffrey Schott, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told me, "If you raise the cost of electric vehicles too much, people will buy gas-powered cars."

The Trump administration refused to require any sacrifice from fossil fuel companies and their employees merely to avert the worst-case climate scenario. The Biden administration is willing to act against climate change, but it too insists on protecting certain groups at the expense of the broad American public — and all humanity.

Denying the full tax credit to the vast majority of electric vehicles will mean more carbon emissions and warming of the planet. But hey — it's not like this is a matter of life and death, right?

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

A Native American Woman Retires That 'Squaw' Slur For Good

It has been 400 years since Native Americans took part in the first Thanksgiving, hosted by the Europeans who had appeared the previous year. This year also marks the first time a federal department has been headed by a Native American, and last week, she did something wise that none of her predecessors saw fit to do.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland declared the word "squaw" to be derogatory and told the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to begin removing it from federal sites. "The term has historically been used as an offensive ethnic, racial, and sexist slur, particularly for Indigenous women," said a department press release, an assertion that is impossible to refute. "There are currently more than 650 federal land units that contain the term, according to a database maintained by the Board on Geographic Names."

Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribal nation, describes herself as a 35th-generation New Mexican. She was one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress in 2018.

Her announcement may be reviled as an oppressive policing of language. No doubt diehards were likewise aggrieved in 1962, when Interior Secretary Stewart Udall issued an order to change place names that included the N-word — of which there were dozens. The government took until 1974 to replace the term "Jap" in site names with "Japanese."

A few years ago, my wife and I had the strange experience of going for a hike outside Moab, Utah, in a place called Negro Bill Canyon. I had mixed feelings about the name. On the one hand, it was obviously a great improvement over "N——- Bill Canyon," as it was previously known. But "Negro Bill Canyon" was not a name I could utter comfortably.

The locals apparently came to agree. One Moab resident who led a petition drive said: "People cringe when we have to tell the name of it. The looks on their face is: 'What did you just say?'" In 2017, the county council voted to call it Grandstaff Canyon, in honor of the Black rancher for whom it was originally named.

It's hard to defend site names that carry racist connotations. Even the Texas legislature voted in 1991 to change the names of 19 places that contained "Negro," including a valley in West Texas called Dead Negro Draw — which, yes, was once called something far worse. It is now Buffalo Soldier Draw.

"Squaw" is regarded by Native Americans as offensive, even obscene. But hundreds of sites have been adorned with the word (including several using variations on "Squaw Teat"). One of them was the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, the Squaw Valley Resort in California. Last year, the owners announced they would re-christen it Palisades Tahoe."

"'Squaw' is a hurtful word," said a corporate official. "We are not hurtful people."

While in Congress, Haaland introduced legislation requiring the federal government to "review and revise offensive names of Federal land units" and create an advisory board to solicit and recommend new names. The bill attracted only a handful of co-sponsors and went nowhere.

Names don't have to be derogatory to warrant revision. The tallest peak in North America was named for William McKinley, an Ohio politician who ascended to the presidency but never laid eyes on Alaska, where the 20,000-foot mountain is located.

In 1975, the Alaska legislature voted in favor of replacing "Mount McKinley" with "Denali" — as indigenous people had known it for centuries. But the federal government did nothing until 2015, when Interior Secretary Sally Jewell ordered the change, as Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), had proposed.

Only someone with a tin ear and no sense of history could regard McKinley as a better name than Denali. It was probably inevitable, then, that during his presidential campaign, Donald Trump would vow to reverse the Obama administration's action. "Great insult to Ohio," he tweeted, which must have mystified most Ohioans.

In 2018, Republican House members from Ohio urged President Trump to follow through on his promise. But his Interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, tossed the request into his circular file. For reasons known only to Trump — probably his short attention span — that was the end of it.

Native Americans can't alter the grim experiences they have suffered at the hands of European settlers and their descendants over the past four centuries. But Haaland has found one thing that can be undone.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Wyoming Republicans' Purge Of Liz Cheney Denigrates Them, Not Her

The Republican Party of Wyoming has formally banished Rep. Liz Cheney from its ranks. This decision calls to mind Evelyn Waugh's remark when told that Winston Churchill's son, a politician and journalist, had undergone surgery for a benign tumor: "A typical triumph of modern science to find the only part of Randolph that was not malignant and remove it."

Saying she is not a Republican is like saying Kim is not a Kardashian. Cheney is the daughter of two proud, prominent stalwarts of the GOP. Father Dick served in four Republican administrations, the last as vice president. Mother Lynne chaired the National Endowment for the Humanities under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and gained fame for championing conservative cultural values.

Liz was a senior official in President George W. Bush's State Department and has been elected to Wyoming's sole House seat three times. She was a member of the House Republican leadership.

She lines up on the right on almost every significant issue of public policy — celebrating the Second Amendment, pushing for oil and gas production, opposing abortion rights and more. She voted 93% of the time with former President Donald Trump. Last year, she got a rating of 96 percent from the ultra-conservative group Heritage Action — and two percent from the tree-hugging League of Conservation Voters.

But history and devotion to the cause don't matter in today's GOP. The only thing that matters is loyalty to Trump. Cheney took such offense at Trump's role in the Capitol riot, which was aimed at overturning a democratic election — oh, and, by the way, put her life in jeopardy — that she voted to impeach him.

That vote and her persistent criticism of the Madman of Mar-a-Lago got her removed from her House leadership position. Following her conscience has made her radioactive even among the Wyoming Republicans who once rallied behind her.

Two things about today's GOP are striking. One is the near-universal allegiance to Trump, no matter how badly he behaves or how much he trashes long-standing Republican policies. Republicans are basically reenacting the 1937 Soviet Communist Party conference, in which delegates applauded the murderous dictator Joseph Stalin for 11 straight minutes because they were too terrified to stop.

The second notable fact is how much dissent the party used to allow as a matter of course. In 1974, seven GOP members of the House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach Richard Nixon. They were not exiled to Siberia.

It used to be rare for the party to persecute its mavericks. Dissidents found ample room in the GOP tent, even though they often lost platform battles. Among the politicians known by what now sounds like an oxymoron — "liberal Republican" or "moderate Republican" — were such major figures as President Dwight Eisenhower, New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, President Gerald Ford and Michigan Gov. George Romney.

Ronald Reagan led the 1980 conservative takeover of the GOP, but he made common cause with moderates — even choosing one of them, Bush, as his running mate. In his day, it was said that Democrats look for heretics while Republicans look for converts. Lately, though, the Republican Party seems to be taking lessons from "The Spanish Inquisition for Dummies."

It's a measure of how far the party has traveled that George W. Bush, beloved by Republicans during his presidency, couldn't bring himself to vote for his party's nominee in 2016 or 2020. Reagan, who supported the North American Free Trade Agreement and amnesty for undocumented immigrants, would be considered irredeemable by his party today.

Extremists in the party, however, can be tolerated. When the House voted to revoke the committee assignments of Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene for racist, antisemitic, violent and generally insane statements and tweets, 199 Republicans sided with her.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy urged his members to oppose the censure of Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., for a cartoon video of him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Notes Politico, "The 13 Republicans who backed the infrastructure bill then endured a wave of violent threats against their lives, many of which were encouraged by some of the most extreme members of their own conference."

But a fondness for violent rhetoric has long been a trademark of Trump, who still commands the broad allegiance of the party faithful. Republicans who encouraged, excused or defended what he did on Jan. 6 retain their good standing. So to be purged, as Cheney has been, is not a disgrace. It's an honor.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

The Inflation Uptick Is No Cause For Alarm

In the annals of American economic policy, the year 2020 will be remembered as a remarkable success. That may sound odd, considering that the economy suffered a seizure that caused unemployment to quadruple almost overnight. But sometimes success is measured less by what is achieved than by what is avoided.

In this case, we avoided a catastrophic collapse that would have caused more misery and hardship than Americans have endured since the Great Depression. The worst pandemic in a century appeared out of nowhere, and economic activity suddenly came to a halt. We were sliding toward a deep, dark abyss.

Today, Americans have worries of a different kind, notably a jump in the inflation rate. In October, the Consumer Price Index was up by 6.2 percent from a year earlier. Republicans have raised the specter of runaway inflation and put the blame on President Joe Biden and his party.

"Why is inflation here?" asked House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. "Because of the spending of what the Democrats have done. The trillions of dollars." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, "It's a direct result of flooding the country with money."There is a kernel of truth in what they say. The federal government did flood the country with money last year — sending three sets of direct stimulus payments to citizens. But lest we forget, Biden was not president last year. Donald Trump was.

The Senate, controlled by the GOP, approved those payments as well as a boxcar load of other expenditures. The first relief measure, passed in March, amounted to a staggering $2.2 trillion. Trump signed another $900 billion package in his final weeks in office.

Those outlays kept millions of Americans from missing meals, losing homes and going bankrupt. But much of the money wasn't spent, because the pandemic kept people out of stores, restaurants, hotels and airports. Much of the money went to build up savings and pay down debt.

As a result, many of us are in a far better position to make purchases now that life has regained a semblance of normality. It's no surprise that prices are higher now than a year before — when vaccines were not available and people were hunkering down to avoid infection. Last year, low demand kept prices down. Today, growing demand is pushing them up.

A jump in prices, however, doesn't mean inflation is here to stay. The October increase was the biggest since 1991. Anyone remember the Great Inflation of the '90s? No, because after the 1991 surge, inflation cooled.

In retrospect, the money delivered to Americans probably exceeded the need. But in 2020, it made sense to err on the side of doing too much. Any sane policymaker, given the choice between a far worse recession last year and higher inflation this year, would have gratefully accepted the latter.

Supply snafus, another product of COVID-19, are pushing prices up by limiting the supply of goods and services. Republicans blame Democrats, arguing that the stimulus checks and supplemental unemployment benefits have sapped many Americans of their willingness to work.

There is a kernel of truth in this argument, too. Unemployed people who are not destitute can afford to be choosier about jobs. But the extra unemployment payments ended, and the cutoff made no difference in labor force participation.

One major factor discouraging work is that the pandemic made many jobs a lot worse. Flight attendants, teachers, retail employees, restaurant servers and other workers who interact with lots of people now have to worry about COVID-19, as well as surly customers who reject vaccines and masks.

No surprise, then, that luring the unemployed back to work requires higher wages. But the pandemic will subside, and when it does, those jobs will look more appealing.

Biden's critics claim that his infrastructure and social spending packages will feed inflation. But those outlays will be spread out over 10 years, unlike last year's pandemic relief. They will also be largely paid for with tax increases, canceling any stimulative effect.

Lately, Americans are feeling the after-effects of last year's public health crisis and the measures taken to address it. The recent inflation spike is one of them. But the pandemic will subside, and as it does, the after-effects will diminish as well.

The economy is not in perfect condition right now. But recalling the potential apocalypse that loomed in March 2020, we should not forget how far we've come.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Why Religious Exemption From Vaccine Mandates Is A Big Mistake

Reprinted with permission from Creators

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice once recounted how her grandfather experienced a spiritual revelation. When he lacked the money to fulfill his dream of graduating from Stillman College, he was told he could get a scholarship — but only if he wanted to become a Presbyterian minister. "That's just what I had in mind," he replied.

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Why Do We Encourage Americans To Live In Flood Zones?

Reprinted with permission from Creators

It was once said of a Philadelphia Phillies outfielder renowned for his defensive prowess, "Two-thirds of the Earth is covered by water, the other one-third by Garry Maddox." At 72, Maddox can no longer cover quite that much ground. But then, there is less to cover. Every day, the areas underwater seem to be expanding.

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Should We Be Willing To Go To War Over Taiwan?

Reprinted with permission from Creators

In the aftermath of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, President Joe Biden told the United Nations General Assembly that the upshot is to "close this period of relentless war." But if the forever war is over, the prospect of an even more dangerous war is emerging elsewhere — in the Straits of Taiwan.

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Is The United States Too Disunited To Survive?

Reprinted with permission from Creators

The United States has rarely been as divided as it is today — red states vs. blue states, vaxxers vs. anti-vaxxers, the woke mob vs. insurrectionists and Houston Astros fans vs. decent human beings. Some people think the problem is not that Americans are too divided but that they are not divided enough. They have a suggestion: a national divorce.

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That New Child Tax Credit Is Good For Our Kids — And Everyone Else


The United States is one of the richest societies on earth — but one with more than its share of poverty. While American capitalism has done wonders to raise living standards for the great majority of people, it has left millions out of this prosperity.

Whether our failure deserves sustained national attention is at the heart of the current debate over social insurance policy. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) drew cheers from conservatives when he declared, "I don't believe that we should turn our society into an entitlement society."

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What’s So Bad About ‘Coastal Elites’?

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

There was a time when "coastal" was an innocent geographical adjective, as in "coastal islands" or "coastal flooding." It referred to events and places located on large bodies of saltwater. But somewhere along the way, "coastal" gained a sinister, shameful connotation.

Populists and pseudo-populists have long fulminated against elites. But these days, the only thing worse than being one of the elite is being one of the "coastal elite."

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Grisham Memoir Shows Why Trump’s Second Term Would Be Even Worse

Amid the many grifters, misfits, bunglers, liars and toadies who served President Donald Trump, heroes are hard to find. But even in this loathsome group, a few people did eventually grow weary of wallowing in the muck. One of them is Stephanie Grisham.

As White House press secretary, she had the dubious achievement of never holding a press conference, which is akin to an Olympic swimmer never getting wet. But Grisham has written a book in which she tries to atone for her sins by providing fresh evidence of what we already knew about her former boss.

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A Disturbing Decline, From 9/11 Unity To Pandemic Division

The 21st century in America has so far been bracketed by two terrible mass-casualty events. The first was the 9/11 attacks, 20 years ago today. The second is the COVID-19 pandemic. The radically different public response to these episodes reveals a lot about us, and much of it is not flattering.

The airline hijackings were the worst terrorist attacks in U.S. history. They catalyzed a wave of fear and anger that permanently reshaped our foreign and domestic policies — or, rather, warped them.

The near-panic that gripped the nation back then is understandable. But it's plain today that our leaders, with broad public support, grossly overreacted. The consequences afflict us even now.

No one could have imagined on September 10, 2001, that an American president would authorize the use of torture against alleged enemies in secret prisons. Or that hundreds of American Muslims would be arrested and detained without charges for days, weeks or months. Or that hostility toward Muslims would grow widespread enough to require a new term: Islamophobia. Or that the government would soon be collecting millions of records of phone communications — many of them in violation of the law.

Worse yet, though, were the two protracted wars the United States launched after the 9/11 attacks. The invasion of Afghanistan was a legitimate response, because the terrorist group behind the attacks had been operating there. But after toppling the Taliban and routing al-Qaida, we stayed on in a foolish quest to remake the country — a quest given up only recently.

Then there was the invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein. He had nothing to do with the attacks, which didn't stop President George W. Bush and those around him from using 9/11 as a pretext for war. Between Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. sacrificed more than 6,800 American lives and trillions of dollars. But the president who initiated them was rewarded with reelection.

All this came in response to attacks that cost fewer than 3,000 lives. This pandemic will kill more Americans than that in the next three days — on top of the 649,000 who have already died from COVID-19.

The risk to each of us is hundreds of times greater than the risk of being killed by terrorists ever was. But the spirit of unity that arose after 9/11 has been conspicuously absent in the face of the virus.

What accounts for the disparity? Americans may not be unique in finding it easier to rouse themselves against violent human enemies than against microbes that spread silently through the populace. Osama bin Laden was easy to hate. The pathogen, visible only under a microscope, doesn't stir the same primal fury.

The 9/11 attacks produced a pervasive alarm that vastly exceeded the real danger. The low mortality rate of COVID-19, by contrast, has been used to downplay the need for basic public health measures, such as vaccinations and face coverings.

Leaders matter, for better or worse. Bush used his bully pulpit to call for a "crusade" against "evil-doers," and soon was vowing action against an "axis of evil" consisting of North Korea, Iraq, and Iran. In hyping the threat of terrorism, he commanded broad support and little meaningful resistance.

President Donald Trump, however, used his office to minimize the risks posed by COVID-19 and undermine public health guidance from experts. In March 2020, he admitted to journalist Bob Woodward that he had deliberately downplayed the virus in the full knowledge of how dangerous it was.

Publicly, he compared it to the flu and repeatedly promised it would soon disappear. He refused to wear a mask in public, mocked the government's chief infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and held indoor rallies in packed arenas.

Trump declared war not on foreign enemies but on Democratic governors such as Michigan's Gretchen Whitmer. His credulous followers soon came to see the pandemic as a hoax cooked up to keep Trump from being reelected.

Perhaps the best explanation for the sharply contrasting public reactions is that the war on terrorism caused a negligible inconvenience to the vast majority of Americans. COVID-19 demanded significant changes in how we live — and millions of people not only refused to cooperate but celebrated their defiance.

The measures deemed necessary to fight terrorism exploited our eagerness to hate our enemies, which we had no trouble doing. Those required to combat COVID-19 required us to love our neighbors. Somehow, that's a much harder sell.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

Compulsory Childbearing Comes To Texas

For nearly half a century, Americans have lived in a country in which safe, legal abortions were generally accessible to those needing them. The constitutional protection established in the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision was firm and secure. That fact, paradoxically, worked to the political advantage of activists who reject abortion rights.

They could pose as moderates trying merely to set some reasonable limits. So they pushed to require parental consent for minors, forbid "partial-birth" abortions, impose waiting periods, prevent post-viability abortions and saddle clinics with extensive regulations in the name of safeguarding health. In many states, they got their way.

But the new Texas abortion law should dispel any illusions about their real, and immoderate, purpose. What they want is to deprive all women of the liberty to decide whether to carry pregnancies to term. They favor a regime of compulsory motherhood from which there is no escape.

The law prohibits abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, a point at which many women and girls don't even know they're pregnant. It allows no exception for a woman who has been gang-raped or a girl who has been molested by a relative. It would punish not only doctors and nurses who perform abortions but anyone who furnishes the slightest assistance to someone who gets one.

The scheme is fiendishly clever, delegating enforcement to private citizens. They are empowered to sue providers and anyone who "aids and abets" an abortion — and collect a minimum of $10,000, plus lawyers' fees, for each abortion performed. It is designed to turn Texas into a nest of profit-seeking narcs.

This setup was meant to avert a constitutional challenge, and so far, it's working. Because state officials have no role in enforcing the law, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday, it has no authority to block it.

Part of the sinister genius of the law is that it doesn't ever have to be used to succeed in extinguishing the right to abortion. Clinics and medical personnel will be at risk of onerous judgments if they terminate pregnancies after the cutoff point. If they win their cases, they would still have to pay their own attorneys — and if they lose, they would have to pay the lawyers who sued them.

By merely cooperating with women who choose to exercise a constitutional right, providers would invite severe financial penalties. The law may eliminate the vast majority of abortions even if no one ever files a lawsuit or collects a reward. It promises to render the constitutional right null and void.

You may assume the effects will be confined to the Lone Star State. Women with money may figure they can always drive to New Mexico or fly to Chicago to terminate a pregnancy. But as Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe told me, the law has an unlimited reach.

If a Texas woman gets an abortion anywhere, any person — not just any Texan — would probably be able to file a lawsuit and collect rewards from the clinic and anyone who gave her any help. Texas lawmakers have locked every exit. And it's safe to bet that other states will do the same.

The point is not to put purportedly sensible limits on the reproductive freedom of women. John Seago, the legislative director of Texas Right to Life, said his goal is "to live in an abortion-free state." He doesn't want fewer abortions; he wants no abortions. He wants his state — not to mention all of America — to be a place where any pregnant woman or girl has only one option: enduring a nine-month physical ordeal before giving birth.

But the "pro-life" movement's efforts to punish those involved in abortion contains a curious omission. Anyone working for a clinic that performs a prohibited abortion may be sued. Anyone helping someone obtain an abortion may be sued.

Who may not be sued? The woman herself. Seago cheerfully admits that he would like to see abortion doctors sent to prison. But "women need to be treated differently than abortionists," he told The Atlantic. "Even with civil liability, we say that women cannot be the defendants. That's not the goal." It's a stunning display of hypocrisy that makes nonsense of the claim that abortion is murder.

For half a century, most American women and girls have been able to take for granted that they would have the option of ending a pregnancy if they felt the need. But millions now face the reality of being forced into childbearing. In Texas, reproductive freedom is a contradiction in terms.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

Why Corporations Are Leading On Vaccine Mandates

Public health is normally the responsibility of government officials and agencies. But the rampaging delta variant of COVID-19 has shown public institutions to be inadequate to the task. So it may be up to the private sector to do the heavy lifting.

Early in the pandemic, the urgent danger forced governors and mayors to take drastic actions that many citizens resented — closing businesses, issuing stay-at-home orders and mandating masks. But the arrival of vaccines sharply curtailed the virus, allowing life to return to near-normal. Even though this virulent variant has sent infections and hospitalizations soaring, public officials are leery of the opposition that new requirements might provoke.

President Joe Biden has shied away from putting any mandates on ordinary Americans, for obvious reasons. When he raised the idea of a door-to-door outreach initiative to encourage vaccinations, Republicans reacted as if the Gestapo were coming to drag people out of their beds. Treading lightly is part of Biden's attempt to restore calm after the nonstop turbulence of the previous four years.

He did issue an order requiring federal employees to either get vaccinated or wear masks and undergo regular testing. But that's not so controversial — if only because the GOP's anti-government zealots don't worry much about inconveniencing Washington bureaucrats.

The mandate will help stem the spread of the disease. But public employees make up just 15 percent of the U.S. workforce. The vast majority of Americans work in the private sector. Fortunately, capitalists can act with greater freedom and less political controversy than governments can.

Some of them are not waiting for brave statesmanship from politicians. A host of corporations have decided that when it comes to boosting vaccinations, they need more than gentle encouragement.

The Walt Disney Co. announced that all salaried and nonunion workers must be vaccinated. Walmart Inc. is requiring inoculations for everyone at its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. Google and Facebook are doing likewise at their U.S. campuses. Tyson Foods will insist that its 120,000 employees get their shots.

Chicago real estate firm Related Midwest is giving its employees a choice between getting a vaccination and getting a pink slip. United Airlines and Delta Air Lines Inc. will insist on shots for new hires. Hundreds of private (as well as public) colleges and universities have told students and faculty to be vaccinated in time for the fall term.

Some Republican officials are trumpeting their rejection of "vaccine passports," of the sort decreed by New York City for employees and customers of restaurants, bars, fitness centers and performance venues. Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida signed a bill forbidding businesses to ask customers for proof of vaccination. Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas barred companies that get state funds from imposing such rules.

But even in the GOP, there seems to be no fervent desire to tell businesses what to do. Meddling in conditions of private employment would be conspicuously incompatible with the usual (and usually sound) conservative approach to economic matters.

That's why it's not likely to catch on, even in places where vaccine resistance is most rabid. Republican officeholders seldom embrace policies that antagonize the business community, which accounts for a lot of campaign contributions. Their customary view is that if workers don't like how their employers operate, they are welcome to exercise their God-given right to find another job.

Companies in red states are happily accustomed to operating without a lot of bossy-pants government. They also rarely have to deal with unions, which might push back on mandatory vaccinations.

In Democratic states, of course, policymakers have made a priority of getting the vaccine into people's arms, not indulging those who think it contains a microchip. Even diehard progressives might rather defer to the titans of industry if it means saving lives.

So if businesses are inclined to impose vaccine mandates, no one is going to stop them. And more companies are likely to impose them.

Most adults are already immunized, and many will think they deserve to be protected from irresponsible co-workers. In a labor market where many employers are having trouble finding workers, a vaccine requirement would probably attract more applicants than it would repel.

Elected officials may not want to insist that Americans take this simple step to protect others as well as themselves. But if they aren't willing to lead, they shouldn't stand in the way of those who are.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

The Capitol Riot Aftermath Bodes Ill For Democracy

Someday, the past year or so may be remembered as a bout of temporary insanity among a large share of the American people. This group refused to take basic precautions against a devastating pandemic, swallowed the lies of a president who had lost an election, and excused a violent mob that attacked the Capitol to prevent Congress from doing its constitutional duty.

Or maybe not. Maybe it will come to seem perfectly normal. Maybe this period will be known as the time when we lost our bearings for good, dooming us to a catastrophic national unravelling.

The rise in insanity is hard to overstate. A recent poll found that 20 percent of Americans — including half of those who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 — believe the inoculation implants a microchip that the government can use to track them. Nearly half of Republicans don't plan to get vaccinated.

Even as the Delta variant fuels a surge in infection, governors in some red states have rejected mask requirements in public schools, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vowing to "provide protections for parents and kids who just want to breathe freely."

Right-wing politicians and their media allies have spread the preposterous claim that massive fraud deprived Donald Trump of reelection. A May Reuters-Ipsos poll showed that 61 percent of Republicans believe it. An April Reuters-Ipsos poll found that a majority of them agree that "the January 6 riot at the Capitol was led by violent left-wing protestors trying to make Trump look bad."

It gets worse. A poll sponsored by the Public Religion Research Institute found that the lunatic QAnon movement has gained a significant following, with 23 percent of Republicans affirming that "the government, media and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation." GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado have praised QAnon.

This week's hearings on the Capitol insurrection were another reminder of the alarming radicalization of the Republican Party, something exploited and encouraged by Trump.

The mob set up a gallows, chanted "Hang Mike Pence," forced both Republican and Democratic members to flee for their lives and savagely beat police officers. But congressional Republicans now want to move on, treating it as a minor incident grossly exaggerated by Democrats and the media — rather than an extremist effort to block a legitimate transfer of power.

GOP senators blocked the creation of an independent commission to investigate the attack. House Republicans tried in vain to stock a House committee with Trump henchmen who could be counted on to disrupt the inquiry.

Many Republican politicians are too infatuated with Trump — or too afraid of him — to admit the terrifying scope of the danger the insurrection represents. The party's elected officials have become a coalition of crazies and cowards.

It fell to a lonely pair of GOP conservatives, Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, to join the House investigative committee and decry the events of January 6 as a horrific attack on the nation and the Constitution.

Kinzinger did something else, debunking the pernicious claim that the Capitol attack was not as bad as the riots that erupted in cities last summer over the police murder of George Floyd.

"I was called on to serve during the summer riots as an Air National Guardsman," he said. "I condemned those riots and the destruction of property that resulted. But not once did I ever feel that the future of self-government was threatened like I did on January 6. There is a difference between breaking the law and rejecting the rule of law, between a crime — even grave crimes — and a coup."

In Tuesday's hearing, Kinzinger struck a hopeful note: "Democracies are not defined by our bad days. We're defined by how we come back from bad days."

But the response of Republicans to the attack is even more ominous than the attack itself. The aftermath offered a moment for them to confront the cancer that has embedded itself in the party and act to cut it out. They refused.

The majority of GOP voters have insisted on rationalizing or defending the insurrection while staying loyal to the defeated president who did so much to incite it. By indulging them, Republican leaders are inviting more of the same — and worse.

What kind of democracy is defined by its bad days? A dying one.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

Pompeo Should Stop Lying About America's Founding

One of the many aggravating ills of the era of Donald Trump is having our intelligence constantly insulted. It is one thing to have spirited debate on divisive issues. It's another to have transparently fraudulent claims thrust upon us by people who are smarter than they pretend to be.

One of these is former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who weighed into the mostly manufactured controversy over "critical race theory" in schools with an ungrammatical tweet: "If we teach that the founding of the United States of America was somehow flawed. It was corrupt. It was racist. That's really dangerous. It strikes at the very foundations of our country."

Pompeo is an evangelical Christian, which makes it odd for him to suggest that what our forebears brought about in 1776, or 1789, achieved perfection. Christianity teaches that all humans are afflicted by original sin, dooming them to fall short in every endeavor. The philosopher Immanuel Kant channeled the Lutheran faith of his upbringing when he wrote, "Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made."?

But you don't have to be a Christian to see the absurdity of Pompeo's position. Of course our founding was flawed, as was our Constitution. Of course it was racist, because neither Black people nor Native Americans were allowed the same rights as whites. Of course it had elements of moral corruption in upholding slavery, the second-class status of women and the dispossession of indigenous people. He might as well deny that the ocean is salty.

Many Americans think the Constitution was a miracle inspired by the Almighty. But you would think that if a miracle brought our founding charter into being, it could have omitted some major defects.

There was the exclusion of nonwhites from the rights granted to others. There was the exclusion of women. There was the outsized political power granted to slave states.

Even if conservatives want to defend these disparities, it's hard to see how they can attribute to God so many features that later had to be corrected.

The system for electing the president was so faulty that it required a constitutional amendment just 15 years later, after it produced an Electoral College tie — not between Thomas Jefferson and his opponent, John Adams, but between Jefferson and his running mate, Aaron Burr. Some miracle.

That wasn't even the first revision (not counting the Bill of Rights, which makes up the first ten amendments). In 1795, the 11th Amendment was ratified to grant each state sovereign immunity against lawsuits by citizens of other states.

These sorts of repairs are what you would expect in a design produced by mortal creatures who lacked the ability to foresee the future. A design that was — what's the word I'm looking for? — flawed.

That's not to say that Americans should be ashamed of our origins. A rational conservative — or liberal — can argue persuasively that the nation and system of government were the best that could be achieved given the historical circumstances, conflicting interests, and political passions prevailing at the time.

Accepting the existence of slavery was the terrible price of keeping the southern states in the same union as the northern ones. The undemocratic nature of the Senate, ditto. The inferior status of Blacks, Native Americans, and women was too entrenched to be altered.

The same conservative can argue credibly that the durability of the nation and the adaptability of the Constitution to a 21st-century society are proof of their fundamental virtues.

Pompeo is not stupid. He graduated first in his class from West Point and got a law degree from Harvard. One thing he was doubtless taught at both institutions is that to progress at anything, you have to be willing to admit your errors. You can't ace the final if you don't understand why you failed the midterm.

But either he has let religion and ideology erode his reasoning capacity or he has chosen to make baldly preposterous statements to hoodwink the ignorant.

That's a feature of much "conservative" advocacy in our blighted era: It demands the acceptance of obviously false claims simply because they serve political ends. It poisons discourse by elevating prejudice and dogma over facts.

Honestly confronting the bad as well as the good of our history is not dangerous. It does not "strike at the very foundations of our country." The truth is nothing to fear — unless you put your faith in lies.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.