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Opinion | Nick Kristof’s Strange, Probably Doomed Flirtation with Politics – POLITICO

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For at least a century or more after our republic was founded, it was considered both poor political etiquette and undignified to advance your own candidacy for higher office. Like a prophet from god, you were supposed to simply wait for the call. In politics, this meant biding time until your party, or a newspaper under the spell of your party, selected you to run.

Or at least pretend to wait for the summons. Nicholas Kristof, who has been writing a wonky and crusading op-ed column about international human rights and the disenfranchised for the New York Times for two decades, appears to be following this ancient dictate in his home state of Oregon, telling Portland’s Willamette Week this weekend that a group of his Oregon friends who are polling on his prospects as a candidate hope to persuade him to run for the governorship in 2022.

“We need new leadership from outside the broken political system,” Kristof told Willamette Week, presumably in straight-face mode, sounding exactly like a candidate. “I’m honestly interested in what my fellow Oregonians have to say about that.”

Will Kristof follow through and run as a Democrat to replace the term-limited Democratic occupant, Kate Brown? Does he have a chance? Will he connect with Oregon voters on the stump, or will he repel them by acting like he’s on a book tour raining his standard sanctimony on the masses? Does he really want to give up the high-prestige job of free-roving Times columnist for the thankless job of herding legislators and cracking down on administrators? And if he collects a long-shot win, what sort of guv might he be?

Throughout the 1800s, when newspapers were ideological vessels and the men who ran them filled them with ideas and political notions and skimped on reporting, it was not uncommon for journalists to hold office or rise in political parties, Hazel Dicken-Garcia writes in Journalistic Standards in Nineteeth-Century America. The two jobs were frequently consolidated into one. “[E]very nineteenth-century journalist of note had powerful political influence,” she maintains. The National Intelligencer editor served as the mayor of Washington. A co-founder of the New York Times won two terms in Congress. An editor of the Albany Journal held sway as a Whig Party boss, a New York Journal editor helped lead the Tammany society, and so on.

Journalists have always thought there was one way to look at politicians—down—and that they could do a better job governing than the palookas who got elected. Who knew better how the system worked than a journalist? Who was better connected, had spent more years perfecting his rhetoric and oratory, and possessed a stronger action plan than an opinion writer?

Historians tell us the standard that journos made good government officials began to be retired around the time of the Civil War as newspapers transitioned to being about events more than ideas, and all but vanished in the 20th century as newspapers remodeled themselves as story-tellers and drama-bringers. But as recently as 1872, New York Herald founder and editor Horace Greeley ran for president. Press baron William Randolph Hearst ran for the White House in 1904 and 1908. (He also won two terms in Congress, but they don’t count because the Democratic machine selected safe seats for him to win.)

Although a few journalists have won office since then, high-profile columnist-candidates like William F. Buckley Jr. and Patrick Buchanan haven’t shared their luck. A columnist like Buckley or Buchanan or Kristof might not be a bad government executive, but voters have come to treat the job of columnist as separate from that of office holder, perhaps because they’ve come to view the columnists’ job is criticizing others’ behavior while the office holder is expected to knock heads and produce results. Mark Zusman, the editor of Willamette Week pointed out to me that Oregon voters sometimes surprise the pundits. Tom McCall, an experienced print and broadcast journalist in the Pacific Northwest switched to politics in the mid-1960s and ultimately became governor, serving two terms. NBA veteran Chris Dudley, who played 16 seasons in the NBA (two of them for the Portland Trailblazers), came within 1.5 percentage points from taking the Oregon governorship in 2010, Zusman adds.

“There are some very sharp people working with Kristof, and the field has so many contenders that he might be able to break through given how different he is from the veteran pols who are circling this race,” Zusman says. “But is Nick the kind of guy who will dial for dollars?”

I can’t speak for Kristof’s temperament for the job. He seems to have remained rooted in Oregon, where he runs a family orchard. The one time I encountered Kristof, he seemed less stuck on himself than most elite columnists, so that counts for something. But what proof exists that he can raise money, campaign, lead his party, deal with the opposition party and manage the Oregon bureaucracy? When voters elected a non-politician as chief executive of the United States, we got a four-year carnival of political pranks and lies. Kristof can’t be as wretched an administrator as Donald Trump was, but will Oregon voters elect a governor whose most immediate job experience has been satisfying a handful of people in a newspaper office when the field will be filled with candidates who understand organizations and politicking? Kristof, whose trophy shelf bulges with all the top awards, has contested sex slavers for many years, but does he have the guts and patience to wrassle with a state legislature, even in a good-government state like Oregon?

Writers like Kristof, who has spent a lifetime bossing paragraphs around, can be excellent philosopher kings. Some even have the stuff to serve as the ruler of a tiny principality. But I wouldn’t trust one to be my governor.

*******

Every journalist should become king for a day. Send coronation details to [email protected]. My email alerts ran for class president and got beat. My Twitter feed stuffed the ballot box and got beat, too. My RSS feed is an active plotter against the government.

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Italy’s Mr. Fix-It Tries to Fix the Country’s Troubled Justice System — and Its Politics, Too – The New York Times

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The issue has become a test for whether Prime Minister Mario Draghi can really change Italy.

LODI — If there is one person who does not have to be persuaded of the need for Italy’s urgent push for judicial reform — which Prime Minister Mario Draghi has staked his leadership on — it is the former mayor of the northern town of Lodi, Simone Uggetti.

Early one morning, Lodi’s financial police knocked on his door, hauled him off to prison, strip searched him and put him in a small cell with a convicted murderer and a drug dealer. It was the start of a five-year ordeal — over the awarding of city contracts, worth 5,000 euros, to manage two public pools — that was used by his political opponents to destroy his career, his credibility, his reputation and his family.

“Who are you? You’re the mayor who got arrested, all your life,” Mr. Uggetti said this week, still visibly shaken by the experience, which ended only in May when an appeals court absolved him, saying no crime had ever taken place. He wept in court. “It was the end of a nightmare,” Mr. Uggetti said. “Five years is a long time.”

Such cases are all too common in Italy, where the far-reaching power of sometimes ideologically driven magistrates can be used to pursue political vendettas or where businesses can easily become ensnared in cumbersome and daunting litigation that is among the slowest in Europe.

Mr. Draghi is so convinced Italy’s courts need fixing that he has said he is willing to risk his government’s survival on the issue, by putting to a confidence vote new legislation that would shorten civil and criminal proceedings. Without speedier trials, he argues, all the economic renewal and political change required in Italy will not come — and there is a lot that needs changing.

Elisabetta Zavoli for The New York Times

On Thursday evening, the government announced it had reached a unanimous agreement with a broad array of interests in the government. A vote will take place in coming days.

“The objective is to guarantee a speedy justice system that respects the reasonable duration of a trial,” Marta Cartabia, Italy’s justice minister, said Thursday night after the announcement. “But also guarantees that no trial goes up in smoke.”

The issue has become the first major test, beyond vaccinations, of whether Mr. Draghi, a titan of the European Union who helped save the euro, can leverage his formidable Mr. Fix-It reputation and the grand political coalition behind him to solve a long-festering problem that has threatened the democratic process and economy in Italy, the last of Europe’s major powers to escape far-reaching overhauls of its postwar systems.

Mr. Draghi’s gambit has all the potential to change a country where, as the saying goes, “you aren’t anybody unless you are under investigation.” It is nothing less than an attempt to restore Italians’ confidence in their political leaders and institutions after decades of anti-establishment vitriol, angry headlines and social media invective.

The threat of endless litigation, Mr. Draghi has argued, scares off foreign investors, constrains growing Italian companies, and could even keep Italy from meeting the requirements imposed by the European Union to gain its share of a more than 200 billion euro post-Covid recovery fund.

“Justice is one of the keystones of the recovery,” said Claudio Cerasa, the editor of il Foglio, a newspaper that has emerged as the voice of protecting the rights of defendants, and also frustrated accusers, from slow and politicized justice. He said Mr. Draghi “depoliticizes the conflict and brings it on a different level, which is the Draghi trademark, he transforms everything into common sense.”

Still, it is no easy task. But Mr. Draghi is betting that, after many decades, the political winds around the issue have shifted in his favor.

Justice emerged as perhaps the central theme of contemporary Italian politics in 1992, when the watermark Clean Hands investigation exposed complex, vast and systemic corruption that financed the country’s political parties.

The scandal came to be known as Bribesville and brought down a ruling class, marking the end of Italy’s First Republic after World War II.

Prosecutors became public heroes and, capitalizing on the spreading impression that all politicians were guilty of something, stepped into the power vacuum.

But so did Silvio Berlusconi, the brash media mogul, who became prime minister and a constant target of prosecutors who investigated him for corruption and other crimes. He portrayed them as politically motivated Communists, or “red robes,” and almost always beat the rap by running out the clock and reaching a statute of limitations.

That infuriated magistrates and eventually fueled a “hang ’em all” populist backlash led by the anti-elite Five Star Movement, which once again depicted the political establishment as a corrupt caste.

By 2018, Luigi Di Maio, one of its leaders, made lists of all rival candidates under investigation and called them “unpresentable.” The media splashed accusations and leaked investigations on front pages, and then barely mentioned or buried dropped charges or acquittals.

Max Rossi/Reuters

Now, that anti-establishment season seems to be waning, and populists have apparently made the calculation that, electorally, “lock-em up” no longer pays.

Mr. Di Maio, who led j’accuse Five Star protests against Mr. Uggetti and once rode the popular anger to victory in national elections, is now contrite. Now Italy’s foreign minister, he wrote an apology in Il Foglio to Mr. Uggetti after his acquittal in May for the “grotesque and indecorous manner” he behaved.

But Mr. Cerasa, Il Foglio’s editor, suspected that the change may be more tactical than heartfelt. He said that parties that wielded the judicial system as a weapon also felt its scorpion sting while in power, and faced a barrage of civil and criminal cases.

But something else has changed: Mr. Draghi has now become the organizing force of Italian politics.

With hundreds of billions of euros of E.U. assistance hanging in the balance, and a pandemic still in the air, establishment chops and palpable sanity are in high demand. Mr. Draghi is seen to have both and has seized the moment to consolidate power.

Gregorio Borgia/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

No political novice, Mr. Draghi appears to have the support to pass his judicial legislation — and to put Italy on more solid footing by baking lasting change into the system.

The government’s agreement on the legislation includes Five Star, which had expressed concerns about letting criminals off the hook, but which ultimately agreed to withdraw their proposed amendments. Other backing came from the nationalist League party of Matteo Salvini; Mr. Berlusconi’s party on the right; the liberal Democrats on the left; and Matteo Renzi, the former prime minister.

Not everyone is enthusiastic, though.

Marco Travaglio, the editor of Il Fatto Quotidiano, which has deep ties to magistrates and has served as a megaphone for Five Star’s aspersions, has been lashing out and angrily resisting what increasingly feels like the end of an era in Italian politics. This month he mocked Mr. Draghi as a privileged brat and characterized his justice minister, Ms. Cartabia, a former president of Italy’s constitutional court, as a rube who “cannot distinguish between a tribunal and a hair dryer.”

But for the most part, people are on board with Mr. Draghi, and Mr. Uggetti hoped that the prime minister would bring more balance to the system that nearly ruined him.

Elisabetta Zavoli for The New York Times

Mr. Uggetti now works as the chief executive of a tech firm outside Lodi developing business management software. “I’m rebuilding my life,” he said.

Still, he misses being mayor. As he walked around the pool that was the source of his judicial nightmare, and which is now an empty ruin, he ticked off all the things he would fix (bike paths and roads), and pointed out historical tidbits (a bridge where Napoleon won a major battle, a statue of a scientist) as if he still represented the town.

He considered running for mayor again a possibility. But there was another possibility too. In Italy, a higher court can overrule an appeals court, cancel an acquittal and put a person on trial again. That higher court still has time to decide to retry him.

“They have the power to say ‘No, this appeal sentence is no good,’” he said, shaking his head. “I really hope that it finishes here.”

Emma Bubola contributed reporting from Rome.

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Totalenergies CEO says its decision to exit Petrocedeno not linked to politics – Reuters

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A general view of a logo on the TotalEnergies headquarters in the La Defense business district in Paris, France, July 28, 2021. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

PARIS, July 29 (Reuters) – TotalEnergies said on Thursday that the sale of its 30.3% stake in Petrocedeno was not linked to the political situation in Venezuela, its chief executive said.

Patrick Pouyanné was speaking during an analyst call.

Reporting by Benjamin Mallet. Editing by Jane Merriman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Independent MP Derek Sloan hopes his new political party ‘excites’ Canadians about politics – Global News

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Independent MP for Hastings Lennox and Addington, Derek Sloan, has confirmed to Global News that he is in the process of trying to launch his own political party. The MP says it will be called the “True North” party, pending Elections Canada Approval.

“I think Canadians are disenfranchised with the current political landscape, and I’m hoping to excite Canadians about politics and about Canada and to really get people happy again about Canada and hopeful,” said Sloan.

A spokesperson for Elections Canada said that they are working to ensure all requirements under the Canada Elections Act are met, in order for Sloan’s party to become official.

Read more:
Tory caucus to meet Wednesday to determine fate of MP Derek Sloan

In the meantime, Sloan has been spending time outside of his riding during the pandemic, making a number of trips to Western Canada.

Sloan explained that his travels are necessary in order to promote his “movement” on a national scale.

“Right now I believe for the sake of our riding, I need to sort of boost the popularity of this movement across the country,” said Sloan.

Sloan became an independent MP earlier this year when he was removed from the Conservative Party of Canada.

Former conservative senator, Hugh Segal, says Sloan’s move to create a new party could negatively impact his former party.

“If he’ll be more to the right, he’ll obviously be taking some votes away from the Conservatives at that far right-winged edge in his constituency and other constituencies where there may be candidates for his new party,” said Segal.

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Liberal Mike Bossio lost his seat to Sloan last election, and will be trying to win it back during the upcoming election.

Bossio believes Sloan has become a polarizing figure in the riding due to his views (ranging from abortion and LGBQT2 issues, to COVID-19 and vaccines.)

“He has a very different worldview that he’s been sharing with Canadians. It’s certainly not a view that I share in any way, shape or form, I think that it’s a toxic and dangerous view,” said Bossio.

Sloan says while he’s starting to build momentum for his new party in Western Canada, his intention to run in his own riding has not changed.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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