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Posts published in “Jones”

Must everything be a political fight?

jones

Back in the good old days, before the advent of cable news and social media, people had political differences but we did not tend to take offense from matters of everyday life. If people wore masks back then, it was just assumed that they were either bank bandits or health nuts. There was absolutely no reason in those days to take serious political offense from the presence or absence of a face covering. If a school board wanted to have an “inclusive” environment for students, it was not taken for granted that the kids were to be indoctrinated as part of a Communist plot.

Ever since Donald Trump called the country’s attention to the scourge of critical race theory (CRT) last October, some have claimed it to exist in every nook and cranny of the Gem State. Despite the fact that those fearful of the concept have yet to identify what it is or where it can be found in our school system, they are bound and determined to root it out.

For instance, the Kuna School Board meeting on August 3 fell apart when folks got riled up and demanded the exclusion of the word “inclusive” from the school’s strategic plan. Some Kavemen patrons saw the word as a gateway to CRT indoctrination. It is obvious that we don’t want our schools to be inclusive because that is a pathway to Communist mind control.

Back in June the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which champions the right of Idaho kids to be free of public schools, took on the Coeur d'Alene School District for developing an “equity framework.” The Foundation saw this as promoting a “deeply ideological, morally shameful and anti-academic program.” We should not scoff at this description because the IFF has spent years developing this very type of program to perfection.

Another stroll down memory lane might remind us of the day when the appointment of a doctor to a public health board was just a ho-hum affair. Commissioners of health boards would routinely appoint a licensed Idaho physician as a board member to provide input on public health issues. It is not so simple anymore because we find that political credentials of doctor appointees may well take precedence over public health knowhow.

The primary case on point is the physician vacancy on the board of Central District Health, which serves Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley Counties. Dr. Sky Blue, an epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist, received high praise from the local medical community and appeared at one point to be the front runner for the position. But then, the Ada County Republican Central Committee waded in to urge support for Dr. Ryan Cole, a doctor with lesser medical credentials but much more ideological heft.

Dr. Cole, a pathologist, received the disapproval of one Meridian doctor for his “role in discouraging vaccination and promoting unproven medical treatments.” Another physician disapproved of Dr. Cole’s advancement of “conspiracy theories.”

The Republican Central Committee expressed concern about Dr. Blue’s support of masks, vaccinations and other Covid-19 precautions. Any physician who believes in established science is obviously suspect.

Unfortunately, these kinds of needless quarrels are tearing apart communities across the country in proceedings of legislatures and all kinds of government boards and agencies. Ah, for those good old days of yore when we did not find it necessary to have heated arguments over non-existent problems like CRT and when facts prevailed over conspiracy theories.
 

The sad state of the GOP

jones

I can recall a time many years ago when I was proud to call myself a Republican. The Party had many leaders with vision and a dedication to sound public policy. Governor Bob Smylie strongly supported education and was able to get a sales tax enacted in 1965 to better fund Idaho’s public schools. My boss in the early 70s, Senator Len Jordan, supported civil and voting rights for all Americans. Former Governor Phil Batt was a supporter of human rights and good government.

During my service as State Attorney General in the 80s, Republicans joined with Democrats to pass the malicious harassment law and Terrorist Control Act, both of which were aimed at white supremacists. During that timespan, Republicans were conservative to moderate, but truthful, pragmatic, reasonable and honorable.

The present-day Republican Party has strayed so far from those roots that it is almost impossible to recognize. The dysfunctional performance of so many Republicans in the last legislative session drove reasonable folk to despair. Because so many in the GOP refused to support reasonable measures to control the spread of the coronavirus, many Idahoans needlessly died.

Two Republican officeholders are doing their level best to smear Idaho teachers and schools by falsely claiming that school kids are being indoctrinated. Rather than listening to Idahoans who say they are wrong, Lt. Governor McGeachin and Rep. Priscilla Giddings have fawned over a far-right conspiracy theorist who claims schools are pedaling Communism and pedophilia.

Both of these indoctrination theorists are running for higher office where they could wreak much greater havoc on the Gem State. McGeachin hopes to attain the Governor’s office with the help of her extremist friends in Real 3%ers of Idaho. Giddings will have to convince voters that it is fine for a would-be Lt. Governor to disclose the name of a teenage rape victim, lie about it and defame the victim. To their credit, responsible Republicans like Rep. Greg Chaney of Caldwell have acted to call her to account for her inexcusable conduct.

Another candidate for governor on the GOP ticket is Ammon Bundy, who was famously seen being arrested and bundled into a police car, tethered to an innocent office chair, for disrupting proceedings in the Idaho Legislature. The chair was released without bond but Bundy was subsequently convicted and banned from the Capitol grounds.

These are just a few of the misfits that Republican primary voters have unleashed upon the State. I do not contend that all of those voters are as flawed as many of the GOP candidates who prevail nowadays in primary elections. There are numbers of Republicans who are greatly distressed by the people sent to Boise by their fellow party members.

There are several reasons why candidates like McGeachin, Giddings and the top 15 or so on the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s “freedom Index” prevail in primaries. The closed Republican primary often produces the candidate who is able to move farthest to the right on the political spectrum. Generally, the primary does not produce a large turnout, which favors the committed radicals.

Also, the party machinery has been taken over by political zealots, making it difficult for worthy candidates to step forward. A prime example is the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee, which recently approved a resolution supporting the wacko John Birch Society. That would never have happened years ago. The Birchers were famous back in the 60s for claiming water fluoridation was a Communist plot. They continue to be wild conspiracy theorists.

Unless the Republicans who are concerned about the direction of their party take action to cleanse their ranks, the legislative dysfunction will continue or even worsen. This next primary election could be a wonderful opportunity to cull the herd. Although I became a committed independent in August of 2002, when it became clear that Cheney and Rumsfeld were going to take the country to a disastrous war in Iraq, I still vote in the Republican primary and will be there to help the reasonable Republicans take back their party.
 

Compulsory vaccinations

jones

Hennings Jacobson strongly objected to the state’s requirement that he be vaccinated. He argued that “a compulsory vaccination law is unreasonable, arbitrary and oppressive, and, therefore, hostile to the inherent right of every freeman to care for his own body and health in such way as to him seems best.” Similar arguments have been made by others around the State of Idaho in recent months.

Jacobson’s argument was presented to the U.S. Supreme Court on a cold December morning in 1904. He objected to a Massachusetts law requiring vaccination against smallpox. The Supreme Court upheld the law, saying that the U.S. Constitution “does not import an absolute right in each person to be, at all times and in all circumstances, wholly free from all restraints.” The Court held in Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905) that the health and safety of society took precedence over Jacobson’s objections to being vaccinated. It is still the law of the land these 116 years later.

The State does have the constitutional right to require a wide range of what might seem to be coercive measures for the protection of society. Idaho Code section 39-4801 requires immunization of kids from preschool to 12th grade as a condition for attending school. Current school requirements include DTaP, Polio, MMR and Hepatitus B.

Idaho’s Clean Indoor Air Act, which is based on legislative findings that secondhand smoke causes injury to members of society, prohibits smoking in a wide range of public venues. When it was under consideration in the Legislature, many raised Jacobson-like arguments against it, but it is accepted public policy today.

The State requires most employers to provide worker’s compensation protection for the benefit of their employees. Automobile owners must carry liability insurance for the protection and compensation of others. Parents must have child safety seats for the protection of their children. We all must have and use automobile seat belts. These requirements just scratch the surface of the obligations the government imposes upon us to protect ourselves and society. The State also has the power to stem a pandemic.

There is good news on the pandemic horizon. Experience with the Covid-19 vaccines establishes that they are safe, effective and a sure way to stop the pandemic in its tracks, provided that at least 70% of the population becomes fully vaccinated. Since the first of the year, about 99% of Covid-19 deaths have been among the unvaccinated. The State can and should require people in areas threatened by the virus to get vaccinated.

The bad news is that there is no chance the Idaho Legislature would ever take effective action to protect the public from the virus by requiring vaccinations. Because only 45% of Idahoans are fully vaccinated, our people remain vulnerable to the disease.

The job of protecting our vulnerable population has fallen by default upon the private sector. Employers can and should require employees who interact with the public to get vaccinated as a condition of employment, particularly in the healthcare industry. Thanks to St. Luke’s, St. Alphonsus, Primary Health and other health care systems across the State for taking this common sense step to protect the public. On the national level, medical groups representing millions of doctors, nurses and other health care workers have done likewise. The VA is requiring front-line health workers to get vaccinated.

With the Legislature’s abdication of its responsibility to safeguard the health and safety of Idahoans, private citizens and businesses must step forward to get the job done. Otherwise, our society will fall victim to the “anarchy” that the Supreme Court said would occur if everyone could make their individual choice of whether or not to get vaccinated against a dangerous disease.
 

Behavioral health

jones

There is a chronic shortage of behavioral health resources in Idaho. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that about 100,000 Idaho adults had an unmet need for mental health treatment in 2018-2019. Children fare no better in the Gem State. Idaho has received a 46th place ranking among the states for child access to mental health care. The Idaho suicide rate hit a record high of 420 in 2020. Suicide calls have seen an uptick in Boise, and most likely across the State, since the first of the year. There were 250 reported drug deaths in Idaho in 2018. These problems have intensified since the onset of the pandemic.

There is a critical lack of crisis intervention help for people with serious mental health or drug abuse problems, particularly for those without insurance coverage or other financial resources. People who need immediate help are often turned away because existing crisis response facilities are already crowded. Sometimes, the only alternative is to call in law enforcement officers, many of whom are not trained to deal with mental health and other crisis issues.

To its credit, the state has begun to reduce the behavioral health deficit with Regional Behavioral Health Centers but there is a long way to go to meet the need. The Idaho court system has contributed with its problem-solving courts. Drug Courts, Mental Health Courts, and Veteran Treatment Courts have been instrumental in helping troubled people deal with mental issues and drug abuse. The problem is that these services are only available to those caught up in the justice system. So many people in Idaho who are not yet in legal trouble but who need similar support simply cannot find it.

Idaho should adopt an approach now being used in 42 other states, including every state that borders Idaho except Wyoming. That is, establishment of what are called Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs). This program has produced good results in making mental health and substance abuse services available to many localities across the country on an around-the-clock basis.

CCBHCs have been established in all but 8 states to help address the shortage of resources. They provide 24-hour crisis care and evidence-based services to anyone in need of mental health or substance abuse treatment services, regardless of ability to pay. That saves lives and, by providing for intervention before situations reach truly crisis proportions, government dollars.

The CCBHC program was begun in 2014 as a Medicaid demonstration project in 8 states and later expanded to include a grant program. Because of favorable results, it has gained rare bi-partisan support in both Houses of Congress. Legislation has recently been introduced to expand the CCBHC program and put it on sounder financial footing. The legislation, called the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act of 2021 (Senate Bill 2069), is co-sponsored by Republican Senators Blunt, Ernst and Daines and Democrat Senators Wyden, Tester and Cortez Masto, among others.

CCHBCs would significantly improve Idaho’s ability to deliver behavioral health services within its borders, and grant those in crisis situations immediate access to those services, without consideration of their ability to pay. All we need to get things started is for Idaho’s U.S. Senators to sign onto the legislation and support its funding. The Governor’s implementation of the program would seal the deal.
 

Playing pandemic politics presents perverse predicament

jones

For the last year or so, Idaho’s Governor wannabes and their legislative supporters have engaged in pandemic politicking to win over voters. They have railed against scientifically proven preventive measures such as social distancing and mask wearing. Those measures, particularly the consistent use of masks in public, could have prevented the great majority of coronavirus infections and deaths in Idaho and across the country, benefitting people of every political persuasion.

The Ammon Bundys and Janice McGeachins of Idaho have portrayed mask wearing as a personal freedom issue, rather than the love-thy-neighbor protective measure that it really is. Consequently, needless divisiveness ripped through our good State, pitting families, friends and neighbors against one another to no good end.

With the advent of several effective vaccines that have brought serious infections under control, the politics of the pandemic have taken a perverse turn. Our science-denying politicians, egged on by the Idaho freedom Foundation and Fox News talking heads, have taken to badmouthing efforts to vaccinate the public to save lives. The irony of this ill-advised strategy is that the people most likely to suffer are their own supporters.

Since the first of the year, the vaccines approved for usage have dramatically reduced Covid-19 infections and deaths in the U.S. As vaccinations have increased, the death rate has plummeted.The people now at greatest risk are those who are not fully vaccinated.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says that 99.2% of Covid-19 deaths in June were suffered by unvaccinated Americans. The Director of Idaho’s Department of Health and Welfare, David Jeppesen, reported a similar death rate in Idaho. He recently said that 98.8% of the 443 Idahoans who died of Covid-19 from January 1 through July 3 were unvaccinated.These figures show the effectiveness of the vaccines and the dangers posed to those who refuse their protection. Practically every Covid-19 death is preventable.

There is a political divide between the parties on this critical public health issue. Recent polling disclosed that about 38% of Republicans said they would “definitely” not get shots, while less than 5% of Democrats would refuse. The disparity shows up in every published vaccination map. The historic blue states have much higher vaccination rates than the historic red states. The southern states generally have the lowest vaccination rates in the country. Idaho’s rate of fully vaccinated stands at 44.6%, well below the national average of 55.9%.

When an Idahoan dies of Covid-19, there is less than a 2% chance that the person has been vaccinated. The same holds true across the country. There is also a substantial likelihood that the person is a Republican, since the vaccination rate among Democrats is substantially greater. Unvaccinated Republicans are a prime target for the virus.

When Ammon Bundy discourages vaccinations, like when he attended the burning of a giant syringe in April, he puts Republicans most at risk. When Janice McGeachin and the Idaho Freedom Foundation rail against improving Idaho’s vaccination rate, they primarily jeopardize the health of their own followers.

Fox News talking heads, like Tucker Carlson, may well consign some of their conservative listeners to Covid deaths by scaring them out of getting vaccinated. It is a perverse irony that those who purport to love their followers are the ones who jeopardize the health of those followers with false and misleading contentions about the safety and efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines and the substantial protection afforded by vaccination.
 

A hot time on the old planet

jones

Every scouting family knows that Lord Robert Baden-Powell was the founder of the world scouting program. Included in his last message to the scouts was this piece of wisdom: “Try and leave this world a little better than you found it, and when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate, you have not wasted your time but have done your best.” Ever since, scouts have understood the imperative to make things better for future generations.

Many who have been in power in America and across the world for the last three decades have not only wasted their time, but actually made things much worse, when it comes to the single most important issue of our time--climate change. The scientific community began issuing increasingly alarming warnings about the existential threat of a warming planet in the early 1990s. They told us that the greater the concentration of greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane in the atmosphere, the warmer the planet would get. They said we had to stop burning fossil fuels if we wanted to keep the Earth from becoming an uninhabitable hothouse.

For the most part, we and our policy makers ignored them, and the planet has continued to get hotter. The Pacific Northwest reached record highs through the end of June. Lytton, B.C., broke Canada’s all-time heat record, reaching 121 degrees, while most of the village went up in flames. Authorities think that over 800 deaths in the region may be linked to the extreme heat. While the Pacific Northwest was sweltering, the land surface temperature in Verkhoyansk, Siberia, reached 118 degrees.

The heat now trapped in Earth’s atmosphere has almost doubled since 2005. NOAA scientists announced in April that CO2 levels were higher now than at any time in the last 3.6 million years. Consequently, NASA tells us that 2020 tied 2016 as the hottest year on record and that the world’s seven warmest years have all occurred since 2014.

We routinely see headlines that should cause our leaders to jump into action to keep the Earth from frying. “Earth is now losing 1.2 trillion tons of ice each year. And it’s going to get worse.” “Antarctica just hit 65 degrees, its warmest temperature ever recorded.”

Yet, the most we get from Republican Senators, including our Idaho Senators, is a ho- hum response and no action.

This is not just an academic issue--scientists sitting around trying to justify their existence. We see evidence of climate disaster all around us. Massive wildfires have ravaged California, Australia and even Siberia. The heated atmosphere is disrupting weather patterns, bringing searing heat to temperate regions, as we recently witnessed in the Pacific Northwest, and causing unimaginable deluges to the U.S. southern states and elsewhere around the world. Violent weather has become commonplace. The oceans are heating up, which promises to compromise the world’s food supply. We will see more wars being fought over scarce resources. Mass migrations of people fleeing areas where food can no longer be produced because of heat, drought or massive deluges, will dramatically increase. The present situation at our southern border will pale in comparison.

We have it within our power to salvage a livable planet for our grandchildren and their offspring. It will take a herculean effort and massive financial investment, but it can be done. If we don’t use our best efforts to avert further climate disaster, future generations will curse us for handing them an unbearably hot and hostile planet. Historical accounts will identify the short-sighted culprits who deprived them of a livable world. The rogues’ gallery may well include Senators Crapo and Risch. Future Americans will wonder why these officials wasted their time on Earth, failing to take the action scientists identified as essential to save the planet.
 

Here’s to a happy fourth

jones

A group of American patriots met in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776, to sign a document declaring independence from the British Crown. The signers ended the Declaration of Independence, saying “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” They knew that formation of a new nation was dangerous and could only succeed if everyone worked together in common purpose. As Ben Franklin aptly put it, "We must all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately."

Years later, George Washington reiterated the theme of unity and common purpose in his Farewell Address. He said, “To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a Government for the whole is indispensable.” He issued a strong warning against political partisanship, saying it “agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection.” What a prescient warning from America’s Founding Father.

At this 245th anniversary of declaring independence, the nation is mired in political warfare, false conspiracy theories and, worst of all, an attempted insurrection. America achieved greatness by its people working together to forge a more perfect union. There have been many bumps along the way but we have always been able to right the ship of state and move forward in unity.

The last three decades have seen the development of such extreme political partisanship that the future of the American experiment is seriously threatened. Parties in Congress vote in lock step. The mantra of the party that does not hold the presidency is to make the current occupant of the office fail, even if it causes the country to also fail.

It does not have to be this way. I’ve witnessed a Congress where members worked in harmony to perform important work, despite strongly conflicting political views. I spent three years (1970-1973) working for a Republican Senator in Washington. It was a job that made me proud of my country. Senators and their staffs worked with one another across party lines to do the people’s business. There were certainly disagreements over policy but not the acrimonious exchanges that are commonplace today, not the poisonous process that is the daily gruel of the present-day Congress. There was a real ethos of putting country over party during those years.

My boss, Idaho’s Senator Len Jordan, was a commonsense conservative, who had the courage to do the right thing as he saw it. Although he supported his party when its objective aligned with his beliefs, he always put the interests of America over those of his party. Many of his colleagues in both parties saw it the same way.

Jordan voted for the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, along with 26 of his Republican colleagues, and joined 29 other Republicans in voting for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Senate Democrats from secessionist states opposed both bills. Jordan voted against two of President Nixon’s appointees to the Supreme Court, both of whom appeared to be hostile to civil rights. Seventeen Senators of Nixon’s party opposed Clement Haynesworth and 13 voted against Harrold Carswell. That simply would not happen in today’s Senate.

The idea that Members of Congress must religiously support their political party, regardless of America’s best interests, is a clear and present danger to our country. It is contrary to the Spirit of 1776 that the nation celebrates on the Fourth of July. If we are to survive as a nation, each and every one of us must pledge to be Americans first and foremost, placing the future of our country above all partisan interests. We should demand that all who would represent us at every level of government do likewise. If we continue down the destructive hyper-partisan path we now are on, the promising venture that began in Philadelphia 245 years ago will not come to a happy ending.
 

Our Afghan friends

jones

With each day that ticks by until September 11, the deadline for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, the danger of death will increase for Afghans who supported the American presence in their country. Much has been said of late about the debt we owe these endangered souls, but now is the time for quick, decisive action to save them. Otherwise, they will likely fall victim to Taliban assassins.

The first order of business must be to energize two special immigrant visa (SIV) programs for Afghans who put themselves at risk for helping Americans--one specifically for interpreters and one for Afghans who were employed by the U.S. Many of those Afghans, and their families, have been marked for death by the Taliban.

The SIV programs have languished, bogged down by bureaucratic red tape. There are 12,000 authorized, but unused, slots for the last two years and an inexcusable backlog of nearly 19,000 SIV applicants and 50,000 family members. This is a travesty. To his credit, President Biden has called for a speed-up in processing SIV applications and a review of SIV programs, with a report due in six months. The speed-up is long overdue but the six-month review is completely unacceptable. Taliban killings are on the increase and many SIV applicants and their family members will be murdered during the delay.

Many, if not most, SIV application files contain adequate information upon which to make a determination. The main criterion should be whether an American soldier or employer has furnished credible verification of an applicant’s fidelity to the U.S. and Afghan governments. I lived and served with South Vietnamese soldiers and translators for over six months in a combat setting and got to know over a dozen well enough to have vouched for them. The decision on an application can and should be done in weeks, not years.

If the Administration or Congress considers it absolutely essential to conduct more vetting, the applicants and family members should be extracted from Afghanistan so that further processing can be conducted in a safe environment. Many thousands of refugees from Southeast Asia were successfully processed at U.S. military bases in the late 1980s. The International Refugee Assistance Project has suggested a mass evacuation of at-risk Afghans to Guam for processing.

Congress needs to substantially increase the number of slots available for SIV applicants and their families. There simply aren’t enough now and it is likely the demand will increase significantly as September 11 approaches.

The U.S. should also provide for resettlement of a wide range of Afghans who do not qualify for the SIV programs, but who are likely targets of Taliban reprisal--uncorrupted government and military officials, women’s rights advocates, reporters, educators and the like.

Military personnel like Major Naiem Asadi, a legendary Afghan pilot who is credited with saving American lives, certainly deserves sanctuary in the U.S. He was granted approval, but then had the approval revoked. Because of numerous death threats, he and his family were forced to go into hiding. He has reapplied for admission and clearly has earned it.

Journalists like Farahnaz Forotan, who learned last November that she was on a Taliban death list, should also be granted sanctuary. There are thousands more like these two--good people who placed their trust in ill-considered U.S. promises of democracy and peace in Afghanistan.

There is one more critical problem that gets little coverage in the media--the wretched condition of America’s refugee infrastructure. In order to resettle any number of these immigrants in the U.S., massive and immediate investment must be made to beef up the capability of resettlement agencies.

The last four years saw a precipitous drop in refugee admissions, which has had a devastating effect on resettlement agencies. The agencies have been gutted and will have to be restored to health quickly in order to handle an influx of Afghan immigrants. It will take a significant infusion of federal dollars to get the job done.

Many Vietnam veterans were devastated when South Vietnam fell in April of 1975. I am still haunted by the horrific fate that befell my South Vietnamese friends--my interpreter and many soldiers who trusted ill-advised U.S. promises to bring peace and freedom to their country. We did not make a concerted effort to extract our South Vietnamese friends from harm’s way, to our great dishonor. Let’s not shame our country again. We have a short amount of time to save our Afghan friends who risked their lives to help our troops, but speed is essential. The Administration and Congress must act now!

Jim Jones is a Vietnam combat veteran, who served as Idaho Attorney General for 8 years and as a Justice on the Idaho Supreme Court for 12 years (2005-2017).
 

Stronger with allies

jones

The optics of the G-7 meeting are encouraging. President Biden was warmly received by our closest allies and plans were laid to forge a joint strategy to confront China, our principal geopolitical adversary. The U.S. has dropped its go-it-alone policy and returned to its post-WWII alliance-based strategy of supporting democracies and opposing tyrannical regimes.

In the wake of WWII, the U.S. worked hard to build democracies in Germany, Japan and other autocratic countries that had been our enemies. We figured it would make America safer and stronger, as democracies would be less likely to rise up against us. The strategy greatly exceeded our expectations. Over the many years since, our Atlantic and Pacific alliances have strengthened our hand in dealing with the enemies of peace, most notably in bringing about the downfall of the Soviet Union.

During the last four years, our relations with traditional allies, both in Europe and Asia, suffered grave damage. It was more common to see the U.S. insulting our allies, than to see effective action being taken to counter the malign activity of the despots. The dysfunction in American government--a flailing, ineffective response to the pandemic, the proliferation of conspiracy-theory politics, and coddling of dictators--led many of our allies to question the viability of the American experiment.

A recent Pew Research Center poll of the people of 13 friendly nations found a remarkable jump in their favorability rating of the United States from 2020 to 2021, increasing 33% in Germany, 30% in Japan, and 26% in Canada. The return to an alliance-based foreign policy played a significant part in putting our country back on track.

However, there are lingering concerns by our allies. Polling across 16 populations found that 17% regarded the U.S. as a good example to follow. However, 57% of respondents said the U.S. “used to be a good example, but has not been in recent years.”

The upshot of the Pew poll is that our friends want to see us back as the leading nation, but they have been severely shaken by the chaos of the last four years. Especially in light of the January 6 insurrection and continuing false claims of election fraud, our friends in the world want to see us pull our nation out of the dismal swamp we have inhabited in the last few years.

This is not just a popularity contest. We inhabit a complicated world and are no longer able to go it alone. We are stronger and more resilient when we are able to count on trusted allies. We are weaker when we lose the trust of their people.

The signs are encouraging that the United States will again become the beacon that shines hope into the dark corners of the Earth. It will take hard work and steady commitment. Not everyone has to agree with every policy the new administration implements to strengthen our ties with friendly nations, but unwarranted, partisan obstruction won’t help.

An example of a positive contribution arrived in the form of a June 13 op-ed in the Washington Post, authored by Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.).

They point to Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) as a “move that brought economic uncertainty, damaged U.S. credibility among trading partners and ceded to China hard-fought economic ground in the Asia-Pacific.” They assert that we must regain our leadership in the Pacific by working hard to join the CPTTP, the trading agreement that our former partners put together following our withdrawal from the TTP. They are absolutely correct.

By embracing this positive move the Biden Administration could show the world that we are truly back in the game, that we are one with our Pacific allies and that we are ready, willing and able to compete head to head with China.