Editorials March 8

March 9, 2014

Horror in Nigeria

The deteriorating situation in northeastern Nigeria created by attacks of a violent Islamist organization, Boko Haram, bears U.S. watching but not U.S. involvement.

Most of the attacks by the group trying to overthrow the government center around the city of Maiduguri and are directed against schools and schoolchildren, who, in the eyes of Boko Haram, represent anti-Islamic government activity that should be extirpated.

The killings have several disturbing aspects. First is their sheer number. Boko Haram has claimed thousands of lives since 2009, including at least 74 people killed in the past three weekends. Fifty-nine children died after the militant group set fire to their boarding school on Feb. 24.

Second, the inability of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and his armed forces to subdue Boko Haram is shameful. The country has an impressive 500,000 troops, but they have either avoided battle with the militants or fled when encountering them. Senior military officers instead devote their time and energy to skimming off the country’s oil wealth.

Third, northeast Nigeria borders on Cameroon, Chad and Niger. This means that the disorder could spread easily to the neighbors, turning Nigeria’s national problem into a regional one. Each of the countries could also serve as a refuge for Boko Haram forces evading Nigerian efforts to bring them under control.

None of this is an American problem, however, and it should not become an excuse for U.S. military involvement in that part of West Africa. Mr. Jonathan needs to use his armed forces to put Boko Haram out of business and he must coordinate with the presidents of Cameroon, Chad and Niger to mount a regional security effort.

The matter becomes increasingly urgent as the pace of the organization’s attacks rises. It must be dealt with promptly before it gets any worse.

— Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

D.C. virus strikes again

When the nation’s governors gathered in the U.S. capital, they tried to deliver a bipartisan message that gridlock in Washington is impairing efforts to govern at the state level.

Too bad their efforts to drive home that point were undercut by their own displays of partisanship.

Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, chairman of the National Governor’s Association, delivered the script.

“While Washington remains mostly gridlocked — preventing long-term solutions — we are addressing challenges by reforming education, building infrastructure, improving health care and developing energy resources. Governors do not have the luxury of standing still. Our hope is that our federal partners will do their part and take action,” said Fallin, a Republican.

Chiming in was Gov. Steve Beshear of Kentucky, a Democrat. “The whole country’s frustrated with this place,” he said.

Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado, a Democrat who is vice chairman of the association, pointed out that “unlike what you see in Congress,” state officials “love to share and steal ideas from each other and see them improved.”

A month previously when delivering the governors’ State of the States address, Hickenlooper pointed out that more than 26 percent of most state budgets come from the federal government. “The politics of fiscal responsibility can no longer be centered around crisis and deadlines,” Hickenlooper said.

By the time the governors had disbanded, however, it was apparent that the same divisions that are hamstringing Washington are also interfering with cooperation among states.

After a group of Democratic governors met with President Barack Obama, they tore into Republicans. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, said Republican governors “have been distracted by a more radical social agenda that gives tax cuts to the wealthy (and) asks the middle class to pay for them while they cut education and the opportunities that allow us to grow jobs.”

Shumlin tried to return to the script several days later in a bipartisan media briefing after governors met with Obama. “We governors actually have to get things done. It’s not like Congress down here,” Shumlin said.

That’s when Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana launched his now-famous tirade against Obama. “The Obama economy is now the minimum wage economy,” Jindal said, drawing gasps that he had broken protocol. Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy, a Democrat, claimed Jindal’s remark was “the most insane statement I’ve ever heard.”

To Americans more removed from the scene, however, it seemed like the visiting governors had succumbed to whatever virus infects Washington. It’s unfortunate the governors couldn’t stay on point. It’s a message Washington needs to hear.

— Lincoln Journal Star