Like life, confirmation process unfair

SAN DIEGO — Let’s be fair. The last thing the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process has been about over the past week is fairness.

The process has been dark, dirty and dysfunctional. Worst of all, it has also been profoundly unfair — and to more than one person.

A lot of folks have talked about the idea of fairness since Kavanaugh was accused of sexual misconduct in an incident that allegedly occurred more than three decades ago when the Supreme Court nominee and the alleged victim were both in their teens.

Attorneys for Christine Blasey Ford, the psychology professor who brought the accusation, had said that their client would address the Senate Judiciary Committee out of a sense of civic duty.

That narrative barely survived one news cycle. The story then became that Ford would not testify until the Federal Bureau of Investigation launched an inquiry.

But an inquiry into what? Certainly not what may or may not have happened in the 1980s. That’s ridiculous, especially since no federal crime was involved. Surely what some Democrats are hoping for is that Kavanaugh speaks to investigators and to the Senate committee — and that the statements don’t match.

So instead of investigating a crime, the real objective would be to manufacture one.

When Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa — who had invited Ford to address the panel — refused to go along with the call for an FBI investigation and set a deadline for the accuser to confirm her testimony, her lawyers said rushing the process was unfair.

“The committee’s stated plan to move forward with a hearing that has only two witnesses is not a fair or good faith investigation,” said attorney Lisa Banks.

If Ford doesn’t testify, and simply leaves her disturbing accusation out there with no accountability — like, oh, say an anonymous op-ed in The New York Times — this would be unfair to the nominee. So says a moderate Republican senator whose vote could be crucial.

“I think it’s not fair to Judge Kavanaugh for her not to come forward and testify,” said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine in a radio interview.

And, if Ford stands up the Senate, it won’t be fair to those Republicans who stuck their necks out and asked that she be invited to testify. Besides Collins, this group includes Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee.

Of course, it’s also not fair to Ford that — after she made clear in the letter she wrote to Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California lodging the accusation against Kavanaugh that she did not want to be identified — her name was leaked to the media.

None of this is fair to Kavanaugh — not to mention his wife, daughters and parents. What should have been a beautiful moment for that family has been marred by what seems to be a partisan attempt at character assassination by Democrats.

As for Ford, it’s fair to remind her of the stakes. If she doesn’t testify, her entire story will never come out. She’ll essentially go back to being “anonymous.”

Once again, the American people are stuck in the middle.

Of course, there are always going to be the partisans who have the miraculous ability to know exactly what happened more than 30 years ago, without hearing testimony from anyone. They’ve already made up their minds.

But many of us — perhaps most of us — don’t know whom to believe. We want to be fair to both the accuser and the accused.

GOP pollster Frank Luntz is picking up on that with the groups he surveys.

“The American people believe in fairness,” Luntz told Fox News’ host Laura Ingraham on Wednesday. “And they believe that everyone deserves their day in court.”

But, Luntz added, many wonder just how far we are willing to go back into people’s lives to discern what kind of human beings they are today. He found a lot of support for the idea that judging someone for something that may have happened long ago is not fair.

Given that Americans just celebrated Constitution Day and the 231st birthday of our nation’s founding document, you had better believe that none of this is fair to the Framers. When they entrusted the Senate with the power to advise and consent, this could not have been what they had in mind.


Ruben Navarrette’s email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available through podcast apps.

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

A crusade against diversity

I’m not one to back down from a challenge from the likes of Tucker Carlson.

The Southern native has spent much of his life on the East Coast, most of all Washington, D.C. I’ve known him for 20 years, since he wore a bow tie and was considered a moderate who supported immigration and had no beef with multiculturalism.

He was regarded by fellow Beltway journalists as an excellent magazine writer, and a thoughtful chronicler of politics and culture.

That was then, however. The new Tucker — the one with a primetime show on Fox News, a two-book deal worth $9 million, more than 2 million Twitter followers, and about 2.7 million nightly viewers — is not exactly kinder and gentler than the old one.

Quite the opposite. He has become mean, snide, condescending, and hostile to immigration. He most certainly does not see people of different colors and cultures as his equal, and he is not shy about showing it. Most of all, he enjoys tackling sacred cows — then killing and grilling them.

Recently, Carlson — who, it has been shown by media critics and civil rights groups alike, has a strong following among white supremacists — questioned the value of diversity.

Few cows are more sacred. Diversity is something pursued by everyone from the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies to Ivy League admissions officers to government recruiters.

In fact, how’s this for a small world? Achieving diversity in its workforce is also a stated objective of 21st Century Fox, the global media company that owns Fox News and pays Carlson’s multimillion-dollar annual salary.

Still, when it comes to pushing racial hot buttons, it often seems as if Carlson can’t control himself. Thus, he mused:

How, precisely, is diversity our strength? Since you’ve made this our new national motto, please be specific as you explain it. Can you think, for example, of other institutions such as, I don’t know, marriage or military units in which the less people have in common, the more cohesive they are? Do you get along better with your neighbors, your co-workers if you can’t understand each other or share no common values? Please be honest as you answer this question.

Very well. I can be both specific and honest.

First, I have to challenge the ludicrous suggestion that diversity is — for Americans — “our new national motto.” Americans have many national mottos.

We have the one that the Founders left us: “E Pluribus Unum” (“Out of Many, One”). And the one that defines how we feel about immigrants: “There Goes the Neighborhood.” And the one that springs from a nation of victims: “Call My Lawyer!”

Meanwhile, diversity is a desirable goal and a widely acknowledged asset. But it is not a motto, national or otherwise.

Second, I can, in fact, think of many institutions that are diverse and yet quite cohesive. Not in the phony contrived sense that Carlson puts forth — “the less people have in common, the more cohesive they are.” The less of this, the more of that. But plenty diverse and still cohesive.

Yes, in fact, it is true in marriage; if it’s really the case that opposites attract. And it’s also true in the military; the rank-and-file include people of all races and backgrounds, who are Christian, Jewish, and Muslim.

And the fact that members of this group are different doesn’t make it any less cohesive. They still come together as one — around their love of country, commitment to service, and sense of duty.

Also, while I’m touched that Carlson cares so much about whether I get along with my neighbors and co-workers — even if we speak different languages and come from different cultures — he needn’t worry. We all get along fine. We do understand one another, and we have many shared common values — like family, work, sacrifice, faith, patriotism, education, and more.

Finally, America is a magical place where people find commonality even while relishing their diversity. My college roommate — a Connecticut Yankee, Italian-American, and Catholic — told me a story about taking Italian cookies to school for “ethnic day” and being embarrassed that they did not look more like mainstream cookies.

The story rang a bell, because many years earlier my parents had — in Central California — experienced the same discomfort whenever they took tacos to school for lunch.

You see, our differences don’t get in the way of our similarities. Our differences are our similarities.

I was blessed to grow up in a small farm town with friends who were Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Armenian, Portuguese, Jewish, Irish, German, Italian, Filipino, Swedish, and Mexican.

I learned about their cultures, and they learned about mine. Everyone got along. There was no cultural conflict or ethnic strife. And from that, I’d like to think, came empathy and the ability to see things from the point of view of a friend or neighbor.

In fact, I see this dynamic every day in my work. For instance, if I write a column about farming and the labor shortage and include a few lines about the kind of wages farmworkers are typically paid these days, there is going to be a gap in understanding between those who come from the city and others who were raised in the country.

It’s extremely useful to able to communicate with both camps, and you’re only able to do that if you take the time to understand different types of people.

Finally, all of his recent crusading against diversity makes me wonder what Carlson’s day-to-day reality is like. Does he surround himself only with people who look, think, act, and speak like he does? If so, I feel sorry for him. That’s no way to grow, no way to learn.

We all need to challenge ourselves by going outside our comfort zones now and then and exposing ourselves to opinions different from our own. Otherwise, we’ll become soft and predictable and not very bright — suitable for no other employment than, perhaps, a hosting gig on Fox News.

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Slow #MeToo down: Julie Chen Moonves isn’t accountable for her husband

Women have pressured Julie Chen Moonves over her husband, but she didn’t do anything wrong. When did we start punishing women for their husbands?


Time to set some boundaries.

Public figures are not public property. And while they live their lives in the public eye, there are still things that are none of the public’s business. Every human being deserves some degree of privacy, and there is nothing more private than family.

This includes the relationship between spouses. Most of what goes on between a husband and a wife is their business, and no one else’s.

Remember what defenders of President Bill Clinton said in the late 1990s after he acknowledged an improper “relationship” with a former White House intern? The Democrats’ talking point was: “If Hillary Clinton doesn’t have a problem with it, why should voters?”

But that was before the #MeToo movement, which doesn’t know when to quit.

Sean Penn would probably agree with that last part. During a recent interview on NBC’s “Today,” the actor said that much of the #MeToo movement is “too black and white,” and that “it’s really good to just slow down.”

Others’ marriages are none of our business

Now what should go without saying must be said: It is none of your business, none of my business and certainly none of the business of the women on ABC’s “The View” whether Julie Chen Moonves — a co-host of CBS’ rival show, “The Talk” — is standing by her husband, Les Moonves, the disgraced former chairman and CEO of CBS Corp.

Media observers noticed when Chen Moonves — who has long identified herself simply as “Julie Chen” — recently used her full name in an apparent show of marital solidarity. Some wondered whether the co-host could still do her job.

“I think it’s going to be hard for her to go back to ‘The Talk,’ ” said Joy Behar, co-host of “The View.” “What topics can they do? They can’t talk about the #MeToo movement without her coming clean about her husband.”

Foul-mouthed comedian Kathy Griffin was more blunt. In a tweet, she shared a message that she claimed to have recently sent Chen Moonves. It went like this: “F— you and your misogynistic husband. You two deserve each other. …Bye b–ch.”

Now Chen Moonves has quit her job at “The Talk,” saying in a video statement that right now, she needs to “spend more time at home with my husband and our young son.”

The departure should please those who thought it was inappropriate for a woman to participate in a talk show aimed at women when her husband is accused of assaulting women.

Notice I said that it is her husband, the former network chief, who faces accusations. Not her. Chen Moonves is her own person, with her own life and career.

Why should she be punished, or pressured to do anything, because of what her husband stands accused of? Shouldn’t she be allowed to have a zone of privacy around her marriage — and be able to separate her private life from her public one?

Should women be defined by their husbands?

That might be too much to ask when you’re the one accused of misconduct. Consider the spectacle surrounding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who stands accused of an act of sexual misconduct that allegedly took place more than 30 years ago. Even if Kavanaugh is innocent, he cannot hope to have a protective barrier of privacy around his family.

But, again, what misconduct has Chen Moonves been accused of?

Finally, I have to wonder: Is this where the feminist movement has taken us after more than half a century? I have two daughters. I always thought those who wanted to empower women, push for equal rights, battle wage inequality, and ensure that girls have the same opportunities as boys also believed that women shouldn’t be defined by their husbands.

Now some of those same people are eager to hold a woman accountable for her husband’s behavior. Gosh, that was a short ride.

I’ve been married for 15 years this week, and there are still times when I feel like I don’t understand the rules. Now it seems the rest of society doesn’t either.

We have enough respect for the martial bond to not compel a wife to testify against her husband in a court of law. But we reserve the right to bully, in the court of public opinion, a wife who stands by her husband?

Let’s give women like Julie Chen Moonves some space. Most of us don’t have any idea what they’re going through.

Besides, Americans have bigger problems. We’re a mess. Social skills are out the window. We’re in each other’s faces. We impugn each other’s motives, think ourselves superior to everyone else, and put tremendous stock in our own opinion while dismissing opposing ones.

No wonder we so often step over the line. More and more these days, as we’re reminded by the case of Julie Chen Moonves, we don’t even know where the line is.

Ruben Navarrette Jr., a member of the USA TODAY Board of Contributors, is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group and host of a daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation.”  Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

If you’re innocent, Judge Kavanaugh, it’s time for you to holler

SAN DIEGO – And to think, up until last week, I would have said that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was painfully boring with a confirmation process to match.

What do I know? Scandals are never boring. Still, as a proud American who hates to see our institutions sullied, give me boring any day.

The Kavanaugh proceedings have taken a detour into the sewer, which explains the stench.

Senate Democrats are trying to take out this nominee, for the unpardonable sin of having been nominated by President Trump. And a lot of what has happened over the past several days does not make their side look pure and wholesome.

Consider:

  • The fact that the accusation of sexual misconduct was initially made anonymously.
  • The fact that Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California — who learned of the allegation several weeks ago — never mentioned it during the hearings or in a private meeting with Kavanaugh.
  • The fact that the man who was reportedly with Kavanaugh during this alleged assault says it never happened, and that he never witnessed the nominee being disrespectful to women.

None of this helps the Democrats in their crusade to kill the Kavanaugh confirmation by any means necessary.

To get here, we took a dark and dangerous road.

But here we are nonetheless. And, just days before the scheduled Senate vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination, we’re facing a barrage of questions. For instance, do we believe what she said, or what he said?

And: Even if Kavanaugh did — as a 17-year-old who had too much to drink — everything that she said, should it doom Kavanaugh’s nomination?

And also: What about that article of faith among liberals that says people can change?

Barack Obama admitted to using cocaine. George W. Bush had a drinking problem. Bill Clinton said he smoked marijuana but apparently incompetently since he claims he didn’t inhale.

American voters gave them all a second chance — and, ultimately, two terms in office.

I could list the moral failings of the current president that his supporters — including on the religious right — are all too willing to forgive, but I don’t have the word space.

Which brings us to this question: Is the moral standard for a Supreme Court justice higher than it is for the leader of the free world?

And this one: What’s the standard for a U.S. senator? The late Edward Kennedy left the scene of a car crash off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island in 1969, where a young woman died. Kennedy served for another 40 years.

Why? Because, as they say on the left, people change.

But apparently not Supreme Court nominees put up by Republicans. They aren’t people, too?

And yet, at the same time, Kavanaugh has not done himself any favors with the way he has responded to his name being dragged through the mud. How he reacts now, as a grown man, says more about his character than what he may have done as a teenager. So far, not so good.

The accuser is Christine Blasey Ford, a California psychology professor who says that she recently passed a lie-detector test about the incident and that she told a marriage counselor about it in 2012, though she didn’t mention Kavanaugh by name back then.

Why would she? How many people knew who Brett Kavanaugh was in 2012?

There is no upside for Ford. Whether the allegation is true or not, her life will never be the same. Ask Anita Hill.

To all this, Kavanaugh says coolly: It never happened. That’s it.

His handlers have also released a letter signed by 65 women who claim that they knew the nominee in high school and he never behaved this way.

The letter is a ridiculous tactic that proves absolutely nothing, by the way, except perhaps that Kavanaugh didn’t behave badly with any of those 65 women.

The nominee must do better. If you’re innocent, you don’t parse your words. You holler! It’s time for a Clarence Thomas “high-tech lynching” moment where Kavanaugh goes back before the Senate Judiciary Committee — as he is scheduled to do on Monday, along with Ford — and says that, as the father of two young girls, he is outraged that the opposition would sink this low. This is your name, Judge. Let’s hear the holler.

Otherwise, I’ll be inclined — along with what I’m sure will be many other Americans — to discount what he said and believe what she said.


Ruben Navarrette has a daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” and may be contacted at ruben@rubennavarrette.com.

© 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Educational competition

Back to school time. And for today’s parents, that means facing more choices than a Las Vegas buffet.

I know this menu. My wife and I have loaded up our plates with a sample of everything.

By contrast, I can’t help but think back to how simple things must have been for my parents’ generation. When I went to elementary and intermediate school in the 1970s, my classmates and I walked or rode our bikes to the neighborhood public school.

In my hometown in the farm country of Central California, you might now and then run across a young person who went to private school — usually a Catholic school.

Yet, for the most part, just one generation ago, the public school monopoly was the only game in town.

Today, the world of K-12 education is completely different from what it used to be. Parents have choices, lots of choices.

There are still private schools, but not all of them are parochial. There are also specialized schools for children with learning differences like dyslexia.

For the last 25 years, there have also been charter schools, a kind of hybrid between public-private schools. They get money from the state, so they run on public tax dollars. But they have more autonomy than traditional public schools, which means they can experiment with different types of instruction.

And, in the last two decades, there has been an increase in the number of students who are homeschooled. Since 1993, homeschooling has been legal in all 50 states. Much of the early interest came from Christian fundamentalist parents seeking to shield their children from public school textbooks and curriculum that offended their religious sensibilities.

Nowadays, slightly more than 3 percent of the school-age population is homeschooled. Yet there is still a lot of ignorance about the concept. It does not always mean a student sitting with a parent at the dinner table, with an open textbook. There are homeschool associations, and brick-and-mortar buildings with teachers where students go a few days a week in between home study.

And, I have learned, parents choose homeschooling for a multitude of reasons. Sometimes, it is to avoid bullying or to protect a child who may appear socially awkward. Sometimes, it’s to avoid the constant testing in public schools, or give children more time to pursue sports and other extracurricular activities. Or maybe it’s because parents want students to learn the basics but also have more time for electives like music and debate, which have sometimes been removed from the public-school curriculum.

Likewise, individual states have built reputations for being either a good or bad place to homeschool children; that is, some states make it easy for parents to homeschool their children, others not so much. For states like California, with high per-student expenditures, it’s a good deal financially since parents get to spend on instruction — in their child’s name — roughly a quarter of the funding that would normally go to a public school.

In fact, these days, parents have so many choices that it can be confusing. Every parent wants what is best for his or her child, but it’s hard to know exactly what that is.

As if that were not maddening enough, parents who have more than one child — and who are paying attention — will note that each of them is different. They may have different styles of learning and process information in unique ways.

That’s how it is in our family. So, this year, our educational choices are a smorgasbord.

My children — ages 9, 11, 13 — went to a Montessori charter school from kindergarten to 3rd grade, 5th grade, and 7th grade.

Now my two girls are being homeschooled by my wife — a Montessori-trained educator and licensed language therapist — and the teachers who work at a homeschool charter school. Both my daughters are self-starters with enough discipline to work in their home classroom, neighborhood library, or school classroom.

My son was supposed to be homeschooled, as well. But, at the last minute, he opted for public school. He is now one of about 1,000 pre-teens at his middle school moving between eight periods a day. It seems like a good fit, since he needs rules, deadlines, structure, and set expectations. Public school gives him that.

Competition is a good thing. It’s true in business. And it’s true in education. The public schools in America have run the board for too long, unchallenged. We’ve let bureaucrats, administrators and teachers’ unions create a system of low accountability that exists chiefly for the benefit of adults who work in it.

Many parents are catching on, and voting with their feet by taking their children elsewhere. The market speaks.

You would think that those who, every day, teach lessons would be quicker to learn theirs.

Ruben Navarrette is a contributing editor to Angelus and a syndicated columnist with The Washington Post Writers Group and a columnist for the Daily Beast. He is a radio host, a frequent guest analyst on cable news, and member of the USA TodayBoard of Contributors and host of the podcast “Navarrette Nation.” Among his books are “A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano.” 

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

When the search for your father turns into a treasure map

My dear reader, let me tell you something you probably already know: Practice does not always make perfect. Many journalists write for a living, but that doesn’t mean all journalists are good writers.

Some are good reporters. Some are good observers. Some have a good handle on people. Some are good thinkers.

San Diego-based journalist Jean Guerrero is one heck of a good writer. Good enough, at 30, to have earned a master’s of fine arts in creative nonfiction, and have written for The Wall Street Journal from Mexico City. Good enough to have her critically acclaimed first book — “Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir” — published by Penguin/Random House, and see that labor of love win the 2016 PEN/Fusion Emerging Writers Prize.

And good enough to have started her book’s prologue with this grito:

“I’m sorry, Papi. Perdoname. I know how much you hate to be pursued. You’ve spent your whole life running. Now the footsteps chasing you are mine.”

I was hooked. What follows are pages and pages of smooth prose, painful introspection, smart analysis and deep self-awareness — coupled with a brazen airing of familial laundry.

As a reporter for public television, Guerrero’s day job has her covering the U.S.-Mexico border, and she has become an expert on timely yet thorny subjects like family separation and human trafficking.

From what I’ve seen, she knows how to find a story. But what makes her stand out, and makes the book worth the read, is her ability to tell that story.

As I was reading, I got a surprise. The book isn’t about what I thought it would be about. This “cross-border” memoir is not really about the border at all, as much as it is about a man who got crossways with those who loved him.

The U.S.-Mexico border is merely the stage for this play. The plot revolves around family. The drama between Guerrero, her parents and her younger sister spreads everywhere — including both sides of the border — like the contents of a spilled purse.

For Guerrero, the border is nothing more than a line scribbled in the dirt. Though she was born in San Diego, she sees herself as both “American” and “Mexican” — a citizen of both countries. Yet, until she moved to Mexico at 22, she didn’t speak Spanish, as she puts it, “beyond a child’s capacity.”

The lead role in this drama belongs to Marco Antonio Guerrero, Jean’s Mexican-born father, a hard worker with big dreams that were beaten down by a flurry of punches — bad choices, drug addiction, marital infidelity, mental illness. We all know someone like Marco — stuck between wanting to be a good husband and father, and realizing that those things are not within our capacity.

Jean has known her father all her life. Yet, writing this book allowed her to meet him for the first time.

“My father was always crossing borders,” Guerrero told me. “Between substance abuse and sobriety, between madness and sanity.”

The heroine of the story is undoubtedly Guerrero’s mother, and namesake, Puerto Rican-born Jeannette Del Valle, a physician who also maintained a home and raised two girls as a single mom without complaint. She loved Marco long after she reached the point where she couldn’t live with him, and feared for her daughters’ safety enough to ask him to leave. We all know someone like Jeannette — playing the rotten hand she was dealt while putting her children first.

Guerrero admits that she has, for most of her life, had an “unhealthy obsession” with discovering what made her father tick — even though he wasn’t around. Heck, probably because he wasn’t around.

Yet, ironically, it’s her mother who had the greatest influence on her life.

“The truth is my relationship with my mother is even more complicated than my relationship with my father, and I don’t think I could even begin to explore it through the page until I have children of my own,” she said.

“I discovered my feminism and the amazing strength of the women in my family — and myself — through my journey in pursuit of my father.”

And what other treasure did she find?

“I discovered that all my father ever wanted was to be heard,” she said. “So now, in my work, I naturally gravitate to people who want to be heard.”

No doubt, Guerrero finds a lot to gravitate to on the U.S.-Mexico border. And those hungry for a hearing are fortunate to have the ear of such a gifted storyteller.

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

The media writes its own obituary

SAN DIEGO — It used to be the media would fact-check a story. Now, many people feel they need to fact-check the media.

That’s not a bad idea. In the Trump era, much of the media — a vast landscape of newspapers, broadcast networks, talk radio, news sites, social media and more — didn’t just lose the public’s trust. They threw it out the window. In their zeal to humiliate and run out of office someone who they think should never have been elected, they seem to have decided the end justifies the means.

Even some members of the media admit the profession has lost its way, although they blame external factors beyond their control.

But the media are not victims. Sure, President Donald Trump declared us the “enemy of the people.” Yet other presidents also hated the media, and the media kept its credibility. Not this time. Because much of the media hates this president right back. This seems especially true of the so-called elite media on the East Coast. There are plenty of good reporters and producers at newspapers and television stations around the country who are not plotting to nullify the results of the last election.

Then there are the folks in New York and Washington, some of whom seem to think it is their sacred duty to save the country. When journalists lose sight of their true mission, and take on new responsibilities, bad things happen.

We developed this trust deficit with the public because we climbed into the arena not as referees but as players, ignored the rules we learned as cub reporters, wore our biases on our sleeves, blurred the line between reporting and commentary and took attacks personally while responding in kind.

Recent events have not showered the media in glory. Whether we’re talking about CNN, NBC or The New York Times, the judgment of news agencies is in doubt. Too often, those who are supposed to cover the story have become the story.

When the criticism starts flying, intra-media rivalries take hold. The newspaper people I talk to point to cable television as the problem, while the television folks I know will often single out talk radio. Talk radio blames newspapers. Truth is, we’ve all made mistakes.

Pundits need to stop talking about whether the country could face a constitutional crisis and accept the fact that we’re already living through a communications crisis.

  • We live in strange times when The New York Times feels the need to warn its reporters — who are supposed to be objective — not to express opinions in tweets because, in the first year of the administration, there was so much of that going on.
  • We live in strange times when national columnists feel comfortable telling people not just to vote in the midterm elections — but to vote for any and all Democrats.
  • We live in strange times when The New York Times op-ed page does something rarely done: run an anonymous op-ed eviscerating the White House. This practice was criticized by famed journalist Bob Woodward, who is hardly a defender of the administration. The Times says that its editors are satisfied that the author is trustworthy and “the senior administration official” is well-placed enough to have firsthand information. But how are readers to reach their own conclusions?
  • We live in strange times when a former producer at NBC News accuses the network of killing a story on disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein written by Ronan Farrow for reasons that had nothing to do with journalism. Mr. Farrow took the story to The New Yorker and later won the Pulitzer Prize.
  • We live in strange times when CNN won’t retract a story about what former Trump attorney Michael Cohen may have said about that infamous meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian attorney at Trump Tower even after its source — Democratic lawyer Lanny Davis — admitted he lied to the network.
  • And we live in strange times when NBC’s Chuck Todd, in an essay for The Atlantic, issues an extraordinary call to arms and urges colleagues to combat “the campaign to destroy the legitimacy of the American news media.” Mr. Todd thinks the journalistic creed — “Don’t engage” — is outdated, and he suggests a better course of action is to “showcase and defend our reporting.”

Actually, Chuck, I think the media has done enough showcasing — of our work and ourselves. That’s part of why we’re on the defensive.

Ruben Navarrette is a columnist syndicated by The Washington Post (ruben@rubennavarrette.com).

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

I’d welcome Donald Trump’s impeachment, but he has gotten these 20 things right

Donald Trump vilifies women, Muslims, Mexicans and others, and I’d welcome his impeachment. But to be fair, here are 20 things he’s managed to get right.


During the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina shared with his colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee a message for President Donald Trump: “You do some things that drive me crazy. You do some great things.”

I can relate.

Trump has been driving me crazy since June 2015, when he came down the escalator at Trump Tower, declared his presidential bid, and labeled my Mexican grandfather — who came to this country legally as a boy around 1915 — a rapist, criminal and drug smuggler.

He drove me even crazier when, showing how little he knows about immigration, he said Mexico didn’t send its “best” people. That is all it sends. The only folks who stay behind are the elderly who can’t leave and the entitled who feel they shouldn’t have to.

Nonetheless, I count 20 good things Trump has done in his nearly 20 months in office.

I’d welcome impeachment but fair is fair

I’m surprised the number climbed that high. I’ve been a consistent Never Trumper who hopes the president’s first term is his last. I would even welcome impeachment. Even so, I’m also a journalist trained to look for the truth and share it whether it’s popular or not.

Thus, even as someone who has criticized Trump on issues ranging from trade to immigration to education, it’s only fair to do what much of the news media refuse to do — admit that Trump has done some things right. Such as:

►Move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

►Pull the United States out of the Iranian nuclear deal.

►Stand up to NATO countries for not ponying up enough money to cover the organization’s expenses and their own defense costs.

►Take on the news media and not back down, exposing bias and agenda-driven journalism intended to run him out of office.

►Put an intense focus on immigration, the importance of border security and the cost of illegal immigration, including U.S. citizens killed by the undocumented.

►Target the ruthless Salvadoran street gang MS-13.

►Picking James Mattis as Defense secretary, Nikki Haley as ambassador to the United Nations, John Kelly as White House chief of staff andKellyanne Conway as senior adviser.

►Begin a dialogue with North Korea about ending its nuclear weapons program.

►Focus attention on Rust Belt states and give respect to white working-class voters, overlooked by the elites on both coasts.

►Challenge elitism and question what it means to be “elite.”

►Create millions of new jobs (the White House claims as many as 3 million) and bring unemployment down to 3.9 percent, the lowest since 2000.

►Focus national attention on the opiod crisis, including a look at doctors who overprescribe pain pills.

►Nominate impressive Supreme Court candidates Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

►Propose and help pass a tax cut and cut federal regulations.

►Pull out of the Paris Agreement on climate change and defy global warming alarmists.

►Renegotiate unfair trade deals in search of better terms.

►Target racial preferences at colleges and universities, which often hurt intended beneficiaries by lowering standards.

►Refocus immigration debate by ending DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and trying to force Congress to confront the thorny issue of what to do with “Dreamers,” who were brought to the USA illegally when they were kids.

►Shake up both the Republican and Democratic establishments and remain independent from the Washington cartel.

►Make politics more accessible to people who have rarely voted or cared about it, and widen the door of civic engagement.

But Trump embraced ugly demagoguery

Don’t misunderstand. This doesn’t mean I think Trump has been a good president, or that he hasn’t produced more negative than positive. It only means that he did some things right.

Spelling them out reminded me that under different circumstances, I could have voted for Trump for president. I like people who keep their promises, battle elites, and give voice to the overlooked. If only Trump hadn’t embraced an ugly and dangerous form of demagoguery to attack and vilify women, Muslims, Mexicans and others, things might have been different.

You may disagree with every item on that list. What I call a positive, you might consider a negative. Or you might be able to cite two negative items for every positive one.

That’s fine. Make your own list. I’m not looking for agreement, or trying in vain to convince Trump haters. Life is too short for that. I only want to be fair, not just to the president but to those voters — my fellow Americans — who gave him the job.

Ruben Navarrette Jr., a member of the USA TODAY Board of Contributors, is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group and host of a daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation.” Follow him on Twitter: @RubenNavarrette.

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

The dignity of work

Human beings are a work in progress. Some of us can be petty, even mean, to those who we consider beneath us.

It goes without saying that we ought to be kind to everyone no matter how much money they have or what they do for a living.

Sadly, it needs saying.

We also need to say a good word for respecting an honest day’s work — and those who put one in.

As we settle into the middle class, do we really have to lose respect for the good ol’ fashioned hard work that allowed our grandparents to pay their bills and put our parents through school so they could, one day, get good jobs and put us through school to get better jobs down the road?

Human resource managers tell me that, when they look through resumes of young people, they see scant work experience.

In high school in the 1980s, I had dozens of friends who worked at summer or after-school jobs.

Today, we see fewer and fewer teenagers working in hotels, coffee houses, or fast food restaurants.

I’ll never forget the hardest and most physically demanding job I ever had. I worked in an outdoor packing house my first summer home from college. For 10-12 hours a day, I stacked 40-lb. boxes of plums, peaches and nectarines onto wooden pallets.

These memories come back to me now that America has found itself engaged in a national conversation about the value of work.

Thanks to Geoffrey Owens — and the individuals on social media who recently tried to shame the 57-year-old television actor. Owens played Elvin Tibideaux on The Cosby Show from 1985 to 1992.

And what did Owens do wrong? He was working at a Trader Joe’s in Clifton, New Jersey — where workers typically earn $11 per hour.

The brouhaha began when a woman named Karma Lawrence happened to see the actor ringing up groceries at the store in a stained t-shirt, recognized him and snapped photos on her phone. Then she posted them with this editorial comment:

“I used to watch The Cosby Show all the time; it was my favorite show. It was definitely (Owens). I would have thought after The Cosby Show he would maybe be doing something different. It was a shock to see him working there and looking the way he did. It made me feel really bad. I was like, ‘Wow, all those years of doing the show and you ended up as a cashier.’ ”

And what’s wrong with being a cashier? Or bagging groceries? Or sweeping floors? Or laying brick? Or picking up garbage?

Nothing. Nothing at all. Some people need to be reminded of that, it seems. They include all the folks on social media who ganged up on Owens for working at Trader Joe’s.

And the so-called journalists at Fox News and the Daily Mail, who did stories about the actor-turned-supermarket-clerk as if it were a UFO sighting.This is what passes for news these days?

Owens doesn’t work at Trader Joe’s anymore. He quit in response to the incident, which he said made him feel “devastated.” He got over it thanks to the outpouring of support he got from all over the Internet, including tweets from fellow actors who had their own stories of working at menial jobs to make ends meet.

A spokesman for Trader Joe’s said the company would be happy to welcome Owens back. But the actor may be busy in the days to come, given the job offers he got in response to the ruckus.

Filmmaker Tyler Perry is one of those who stepped up with an opportunity, saying he was inspired by the example of someone willing to do whatever it takes to provide for his family.

Meanwhile, the woman who started this wishes she had kept her phone in her purse and her comments to herself. Lawrence said in a recent interview with a New Jersey newspaper that she took the photos on a “bad impulse,” and that she was sorry.

Owens isn’t sorry — not for doing honest work, and certainly not for the important national conversation he helped spark.

“I hope what doesn’t pass is this rethinking of what it means to work, the honor of the working person and the dignity of work,” he told co-host Robyn Roberts on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“There is no job that’s better than another job,” Owens said. “It might pay better, it might have better benefits, it might look better on a resume and on paper. But actually, it’s not better. Every job is worthwhile and valuable.”

Oh, how I love that phrase: “the dignity of work.” Americans have lost sight of that concept. Until we find it, we won’t live up to our potential — not as a country and not as human beings.

Ruben Navarrette is a contributing editor to Angelus and a syndicated columnist with The Washington Post Writers Group and a columnist for the Daily Beast. He is a radio host, a frequent guest analyst on cable news, and member of the USA Today Board of Contributors and host of the podcast “Navarrette Nation.” Among his books are “A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano.”


Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

For many, time is money — but does that include farmworkers?

Before we rush off to work, let’s pause for a moment and think about how much some Americans earn per hour.

In a recent Labor Day column about the declining American work ethic, I wrote: “Today, in the agricultural hub of Central California, farmers tell me they’re paying $30 per hour to pick tomatoes and $40 per hour to pick melons. On the coast, they’re paying $60 per hour to pick avocados. They still can’t find enough workers.”

Who knew this could be so controversial? You wouldn’t believe the pushback I’ve gotten in the last few days. There were many skeptics who doubted that wages were that high in agriculture.

They are. I’ve interviewed farmers and farmworkers, and both groups confirm it. Also, there have been articles about how tough it is for farmers and ranchers to find laborers, and how they’ve had to increase wages to avoid losing the ones they already have.

Still, labor advocates had such a low opinion of growers that they doubted farmworkers were so well-paid. Others had such a low opinion of immigrants, who make up the vast majority of the workforce in agriculture, that they doubted the laborers deserved such wages.

So how much is someone’s time worth? The short answer: Whatever someone else is willing to pay for it.

Fine. But that rule suddenly doesn’t apply to farmworkers? Why not? What ugly vein of elitism did we just tap into?

Let’s start in the basement. The federal minimum wage is a mere $7.25 per hour. But 29 states and the District of Columbia have higher minimum wages.

In California, the state minimum wage will — on Jan. 1, 2019 — go up to $12 per hour. Individual cities can set higher amounts; on July 1, 2019, the minimum wage will go up to $14.25 per hour in Los Angeles and already is $15 per hour in San Francisco.

Yet the market makes its own rules. Fast-food restaurants in this state can’t find workers. Apparently, not a lot of young people want to flip burgers anymore. Employers are now offering $13 to $16 per hour.

It’s our own fault. We could have seen this coming. Americans have devalued work over the years to the point where many young people now consider it a waste of time.

At construction firms, dairy farms and landscape companies, the workforce is getting older. And when those elderly workers retire, not many young people are lining up to take their place.

What intrigues me most are those Americans who demand a pretty penny for their time. Not experience or expertise. Just time.

Do you have any idea what babysitters charge these days? A few years ago, my wife and I would get quoted $12 to $15 per hour — or more if the babysitter had to watch more than one child.

Not long ago, we bought meals from a woman who did a brisk business cooking food for working families. A salmon dinner for four might cost $60. She charged not just for the food and cooking skill — but for her time as well.

That’s key. Americans value their time immensely, and they expect you to value it, too.

About 10 years ago, here in Southern California, I needed a fence stained. A handyman, who happened to be a naturalized U.S. citizen from Europe, offered to do it — for $75 per hour.

Need your car repaired? Take it to the dealer, and you’ll pay at least $95 per hour in labor costs.

The other day, I called a plumber to unclog a drain. It took him about 25 minutes to get his equipment in place, and five minutes to pop the drain. Those 30 minutes cost me $125.

Of course, I have lawyer friends who charge their clients as much as $400 or $500 per hour for their time.

And, as someone who has been speaking professionally for 25 years, what do you think some people earn on the lecture circuit for an hour at a podium? It can often be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

All good. We believe that pro athletes, Hollywood stars and tech company CEOs should be able to earn as much as possible, because we think their time and talents are worth what the market allows.

But not farmworkers. There, the rules are different? Why? Because we think this isn’t skilled work, that anyone can do it?

That is a quaint perspective most often found in people whose only exposure to fruits and vegetables is at a farmers’ market.

Prove me wrong. Every farmer I’ve ever interviewed has the same message for American workers: “Step right up. We’re hiring.”

Not everybody at once. Take your time.

© 2018 Washington Post Writers Group

Ruben Navarrette Jr.’s daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available through every podcast app. Email: ruben@rubennavarrette.com

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns
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