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Day: September 29, 2015

Boehner climbs off the tiger


     WASHINGTON — John Boehner was a deal-maker who took over the House speakership at a moment when making deals had, for many Republicans, become a mortal sin.

     He was thoroughly conservative in a Republican Party that had moved the goal posts on what constituted conservatism. He could never be conservative enough for his critics on the right.

     His tea party antagonists call themselves “constitutionalists,” but they seem to ignore the part of the Constitution that provides the president — in this case, a president from the other party — with veto power.

     The GOP’s most ardent conservatives thought they had won the right to run the country when they took control of the House in 2010. They felt this even more strongly after gaining a Senate majority in 2014. Democrats who controlled one or both houses of Congress when Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush were in the Oval Office never presumed they had such power. But the standards Boehner was held to were more exacting.

     Over the years, the Obama White House was divided in its view of Boehner. President Obama, who called the speaker “a good man” on Friday, always thought he could work with him. As a member of the Illinois state senate, Obama had productive relationships with classic, old-school Republican legislators. He saw Boehner in that light.

     But members of the president’s staff were frustrated with the speaker, particularly in the days when Washington was trying to avoid potential catastrophe over a failure to raise the debt ceiling in 2011. One told me then that Obama might be better off dealing with a less amiable figure than Boehner who could actually deliver the House Republican caucus and make deals stick.

     In truth, given the hostility to Obama that runs so deep in the Republican Party, and given the tea party revolt, it’s doubtful that any Republican would have found it easy to deliver. Boehner had a pattern of letting the right push things to the limit, and then agreeing to pass bills with Democratic votes to avoid a complete breakdown in governing. It was the responsible thing to do, but Boehner’s critics saw each moment of responsibility as another sell-out.

     David Winston, a Republican pollster who is close to the speaker, praised his decision to quit as a case of “putting the country first.” Boehner, he said, “always believed in governing and in pushing things forward,” adding: “Shutting things down was not his idea of moving things forward.”

     But Boehner often gave a lot of room to the party’s agitators, feeling he had little choice. After the damaging government shutdown in 2013, he was remarkably candid, telling Jay Leno: “When I looked up, I saw my colleagues going this way, and you learn that a leader without followers is simply a man taking a walk. So I said, ‘You want to fight this fight, I’ll go fight the fight with you.’ But it was a very predictable disaster.”

     Pleased, perhaps, that he was finally done with “predictable disasters,” Boehner broke out in song when he discussed his decision to leave in October with reporters on Friday.

     Boehner’s situation often reminded me of a passage from John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address: “In the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.” Boehner was happy to ride the tea party to the speakership — but to keep the job, he often had to appease the tiger.

     On NBC’s “Meet the Press” in February 2011, for example, he declined to take issue with those calling Obama a Muslim. He said the president’s own statements were “good enough for me,” but added: “The American people have the right to think what they want to think. I can’t — it’s not my job to tell them.”

     That stray “I can’t” said a great deal about the box Boehner felt he was in.

     Boehner, a very committed Catholic, might well see Pope Francis accepting his invitation to be the first pontiff to address Congress as his career’s high point. A man unafraid to show his emotions, he was moved to tears as Francis spoke. Boehner might have been thinking of how hard it was to answer the pope’s call for a “renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity,” a “spirit of cooperation,” and an environment in which people showed “respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience.”

     Boehner is a decent man who tried to live up to those words. But his angry and fractious party made this impossible.

     E.J. Dionne’s email address is [email protected]. Twitter: @EJDionne.

     (c) 2015, Washington Post Writers Group

The golden age of aid


      WASHINGTON — Bill Gates is now focused on the eradication of malaria, and parasites everywhere have reason to fear.

     There are, he tells me, two possible places to draw a line across Africa marking the next northward advance of malaria elimination. “If you want to get all of Zambia,” he explains, “you also have to get Katanga” (a portion of the Democratic Republic of Congo where health services are weak). Clearing islands such as Papua New Guinea and Madagascar, he says, should be relatively easy. A new Gates Foundation report argues against malaria containment in favor of malaria elimination — a goal that has provoked skepticism even among some malaria experts. Gates wants to see the plasmodium at Appomattox.

     The billionaire’s main contribution to global health is the manner in which he combines technology, aspiration, resources and rigor. It is the same approach that has chased the polio virus across the world to its redoubts in Taliban-controlled regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

     Gates both drives and reflects a remarkable trend. Over the last 25 years, efforts to help the global poor have been massively ambitious and massively successful. More than a billion people have risen out of poverty. Tens of millions more are in school, or have been saved from infectious diseases. Child mortality was halved, then halved again. More than 9 million people are on AIDS treatment in Africa. It is now possible to set goals in a number of areas — malaria elimination, an AIDS-free generation, the end of extreme poverty — and not be dismissed as a crank.

     Following World War II, America and other nations organized the new economic order by creating durable institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. In this generation, a number of remarkably effective institutions to fight poverty and disease have been created that most Americans probably have never heard of. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI). The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. And a private philanthropy, the Gates Foundation, belongs on this list as funder and peer.

     This is — implausibly but truly — the golden age of aid. These impressive institutions have clear goals and measurement as part of their DNA. And they have worked in the context of eight broad Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) —  reducing by half the proportion of people suffering hunger, ensuring universal primary education, cutting child mortality by two-thirds, etc. — that were approved at the U.N. Millennium Summit in 2000. The MDGs didn’t do much directly, but they allowed the comparison of progress among countries, encouraging appropriate shame and healthy competition. And the goals gave reformers additional leverage within countries.

     Now the MDGs, rather confusingly, have given way, at a recent U.N. meeting, to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They demonstrate the U.N.’s infinite appetite for acronym and show evidence of committee design. There are now 17 goals and 169 targets. “When I sit with the head of a country, I don’t say there are 169 things I want you to think about,” says Gates, “I pick, at most, four.”

     Yet Gates says he “feels good about the SDGs.” And with good reason. Though less prioritized, many of the goals are specific enough to encourage a new round of ambition. During the current U.N. Summit, for example, PEPFAR announced the goal of reducing HIV infections in young women — a particularly vulnerable group — by 40 percent over the next two years. Officials at PEPFAR are frankly unsure how they will reach that goal. But it is certain to disrupt current practices and drive innovation. That is also Gates’ intention by setting out the goal of defeating malaria in a generation. “There was once 1 million dead [from malaria each year],” he says, “Now it is half a million. But the path from half a million to zero is not just more bed nets.” It will require new methods of diagnosis and treatment to stay ahead of the adapting parasite and to keep moving the malaria elimination line northward in Equatorial Africa.

     Where, outside the best of corporate America, do you see such voluntary, strategic disruption? Such commitment to measured outcomes? It is the precise opposite of the way most people view spending on global health and development. But it is common practice in the golden age of aid.

     Michael Gerson’s email address is [email protected].

     (c) 2015, Washington Post Writers Group

Netters rebound, beat McKay 3-0

McNary’s Sydney Hunter puts up a block in competition Tuesday, Sept. 22. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
McNary’s Sydney Hunter puts up a block in competition Tuesday, Sept. 22. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

McNary High School’s varsity volleyball team bounced back from its first league loss to take a 3-0 win over McKay High School Tuesday, Sept. 15.

“In the second set, it became a five-point game and that was a test, but we came together and pulled it out,” said Lady Celt Jaylene Montano.

Set scores were 25-14, 25-20 and 25-17. Vanessa Hayes led the offense with eight kills on the night. Reina Strand put down five. Kylie Gilmour led McNary’s defense with nine digs and she served up five aces.

“We were communicating a lot more than we did with West Albany, and we created more plays that helped us get ahead,” said Gilmour.

McNary Head Coach Kellie Scholl also credited Valerie Diede with tough play in the match.

The Celtics traveled to North Medford High School last weekend to take part in the Rogue Valley Classic.

The Keizer team swept their pool play opponents – Foot Hill, North Medford and Churchill high schools – to take first headed into bracket play.

“We started off in the first game with a different rotation, but we adapted really well. I think we had really good communication and supported each other really well,” said Montano.

In the first match of bracket play, McNary battled hard with Bend High School and eventually emerged the victors. Set scores were 30-28 and 25-17. That win pitted the team against Roseburg High School and the long drive and longer day began to take its toll.

“We were talking a lot in the morning, but we got a little tired by the end of the day,” said Gilmour.

The Lady Celts lost to Indians in sets of 25-15 and 25-22.

“Reina had a great tournament, she hit and blocked extremely well for us. Sydney Hunter also played well offensively. Both setters, Sam Van Voorhis and Madi Cloyd, did a great job distributing the ball to all our hitters. Shaylee Williams also had a very nice tournament,” said Scholl.

Montano said she wanted to see the team focus on being more consistent with opponents North Salem and Sprague high schools who were next in line. Gilmour said the team still had room to grow.

“I think we’re playing as a team, but we always have room to improve. I think we’ll do fine against both teams,” Gilmour said.