Christie: Fairness dictates delaying Kavanaugh confirmation after second accuser comes forward

Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s pick for Supreme Court, at his Senate confirmation hearing in Washington. (Eric Thayer/The New York Times)

What about now?

Last week, as the fast-moving drama surrounding the U.S. Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh unfolded, I asked whether his equally fast-moving confirmation process should be delayed.

Well, 60 percent of you said “yes”. Likely with the desire to hear out Professor Christine Blasey Ford on her allegations that Kavanaugh, as a drunken 17-year-old Georgetown Prep student, sexually assaulted her at a house party. She was 15 years old at the time.

RELATED: Poll: Should the Senate delay a confirmation vote on Judge Brett Kavanaugh?

But wait. That was last week. We now have what Republican supporters of Kavanaugh feared more than anything else: a second woman.

The New Yorker magazine reported Sunday night that Senate Democrats were investigating a second woman’s accusation of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh dating to the 1983-84 academic year, Kavanaugh’s first at Yale University.

RELATED: Senate Democrats Investigate a New Allegation of Sexual Misconduct, from Brett Kavanaugh’s College Years

Just as he did with Ford, Kavanaugh has denied the new allegations.

With regard to Ford, he denied ever attending such a party. Although Mark Judge, his best friend at the time, has written a book (and more) implying how they used to get drunk and attend such parties on the regular. Judge, now a well-known “conservative,” has said he has “no recollection” of the party that Ford has mentioned. He also has no desire to repeat that statement under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Christine Blasey Ford, the Palo Alto, Calif., professor accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. (ResearchGate.net/Zuma Press/TNS)

As you can imagine, in the past week Ford has been vilified by Republicans and Kavanaugh supports, as well as lifted up by Democrats and supporters of the #MeToo movement.

Conspiracies abound. The biggest being that this is an attack on a good man engineered by the Democrats to keep the nation’s highest court from leaning too far right. (Denying President Donald Trump another victory is just icing on the cake.) That the Dems withheld this information for months (it was six or seven weeks) just so they could spring it at the last minute.

The latter is ludicrous, of course, given that Ford never wanted to have her name used when this was first brought to the attention of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.

Regardless of how the respected California professor came forward. She did. On the record.

So Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has spent a week walking a fine line between belittling Ford’s recollection of a traumatic teenage experience and trying to coax her (through her attorney) into testifying soonest before his committee.

The week was a news whirlwind. Grassley scheduling Ford to testify before talking to Ford about testifying. Ford insisting on an FBI investigation into her allegations before testifying. President Trump publicly questioning Ford’s allegations because she didn’t report it at the time. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell guaranteeing the Christian-conservative Family Research Council a Kavanaugh confirmation before either Ford or Kavanaugh has even testified. Sen. Orrin Hatch, a senior Republican member of the committee, saying that Ford is likely “confused” and probably has “the wrong guy.”

Gee, why would anyone think that Ford wouldn’t get a fair hearing?

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., addresses the Family Research Council’s Value Voters Summit at the Omni Shoreham Hotel on Friday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Anyway, by the end of the week, there were reports that Ford had come to an agreement to testify before the Judiciary Committee this Thursday. Kavanaugh would testify the same day.

But then came Sunday.

The New Yorker said 53-year-old Deborah Ramirez described a traumatic sexual assault incident in an interview after being contacted by the magazine. Ramirez recalled that Kavanaugh exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away, the magazine reported.

Deborah Ramirez, 53, is accusing Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her while they were students at Yale University. (New Yorker)

In a statement provided by the White House, Kavanaugh said the event “did not happen” and that the allegation was “a smear, plain and simple.” A White House spokeswoman added in a second statement that the allegation was “designed to tear down a good man.”

Again, this is the one thing that Republicans did not want to happen, One woman willing to testify that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her can possibly be dismissed. But two — well-educated and respected — women testifying denotes a possibly disturbing pattern and adds pressure for an investigation.

As one former prosecutor said on CNN last week: “In my experience, these types of incidents are not one-offs,” he said. “There is typically a pattern of behavior… that means there’s likely more than one.”

The irony is not lost on me that on Monday, a Pennsylvania judge would decide whether 81-year-old comedian Bill Cosby would be labeled a “sexually violent predator” for alleged incidents that took place 30-plus years ago. Cosby was found guilty by a jury on all three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand. But make no mistake what one the case for prosecutors was the testimony of five other women that Cosby had done the same to them.

We must remember that there is no evidence beyond two women’s allegations that Kavanaugh has done anything wrong — so far.

But politics aside, it’s difficult to see how the Senate Judiciary Committee can push ahead with this confirmation process without allowing the FBI to investigate these specific allegations.

It’s not fair to Ford and Ramirez. It’s not fair to Kavanaugh. And it’s not fair to the American people.

Christie: Sex assault allegations make it tough to have Kavanaugh confirmation vote

Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault is willing to testify about her allegations before Congress, her attorney said Monday. (T.J. Kirkpatrick/The New York Times)

As the old saw goes: “What a difference a day makes.”

On Saturday, the sexual assault allegations contained in a leaked confidential letter from U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was being treated like an act of political desperation on the part of Democrats.

In fact, it was being characterized as a joke by many political insiders and even veteran journalists, as this Friday image from editorial cartoonist Signe Wilkinson shows:

CARTOON VIEW SIGNE WILKINSON

By Sunday morning, however, the allegations were no longer joke-worthy. Christine Blasey Ford, a Stanford University research psychologist, told The Washington Post that she is the woman alleging that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than three decades ago, when they were high school students in suburban Maryland.

As one might expect, no one’s been laughing since. In this age of #MeToo, when powerful men are being taken down all over the place for sexual misconduct going back years, the seriousness of Ford’s allegations cannot be understated.

To that end, Wilkinson caught on quick and sent out another cartoon Monday morning:

CARTOON VIEW SIGNE WILKINSON

For the record, Kavanaugh has strenuously denied that the sexual assault recounted by Ford ever happened. A Republican-leaning group is preparing to launch a $1.5 million advertising and marketing campaign in his defense; focusing I’m sure on how desperate Dems timed the release of these allegations to shut down an upcoming vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Well, mission accomplished.

There’s really no way, either politically or ethically, that the Republican-controlled Senate can move forward without a complete airing of these accusations. Truth be told, the Kavanaugh confirmation process has been a politically motivated cluster from the beginning. After being rushed by the Republican leadership, tens of thousands of pages of documents were dumped on Democratic committee members hours before the confirmation hearings began. Democrats, knowing they couldn’t stop the confirmation, fostered an almost circus-like atmosphere during the hearings.

It’s been almost laughable. Which is probably why when Feinstein released Ford’s letter, in which Ford had asked to remain anonymous, most saw it as just a last-ditch attempt to stymie the inevitable.

But then Ford, seeing this decided that she wanted to be the one to tell her story. To say that she isn’t a joke. That she alone has had to bear this trauma for 35 years; and that despite a successful career, marriage and family, the scars from being held down with a hand over your mouth while your clothes are being pulled at never really go away.

This is what Republican leaders must now navigate. They must somehow re-assure the thousands of American women like Ford. Though highly educated and successful, they carry around the memory of heinous incidents from their youth that they are loathe to discuss, even with those closest to them.

And by the way, here we are again, nearly 30 years after the infamous confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, with a group of old, white men — at least on the GOP side of the judiciary committee — presiding over a woman’s virtue.

But this is not the same culture that greeted Anita Hill.

Not taking the claims of woman willing to go public, and on the record with serious allegations of sexual assault allegations would likely carry a steep political price for the party in power.

Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) of the Senate Judiciary Committee during an executive business meeting to consider the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

Thus, Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley has already offered for both Ford and Kavanaugh (again, who denies the allegations) to testify before the committee. But not in public.

As of Monday, Grassley and the rest of the GOP leadership still seem determined to rush this confirmation through.

That could be a mistake, especially since Ford has offered to testify publicly. Also, at least two GOP senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Jeff Flake of Arizona (a member of the judiciary committee) are no longer solid “yes” votes for Kavanaugh. And that can hardly be afforded with a narrow 51-49 vote margin in the Senate.

To be sure, the margin for error for handling Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh is razor thin. But the GOP also faces a political deadline in that their control of the Senate could be gone on Nov. 6.

The Senate could delay a confirmation vote on Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination to allow for a complete vetting of the sexual assault allegations against him.

But should it?

Take our poll and let us know what you think.

Goodman: Serena’s meltdown was thievery, too

Serena Williams of the U.S. and Naomi Osaka of Japan at the trophy ceremony for the U.S. Open after Osaka defeated Williams in the final at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York, Sept. 8, 2018. (Chang W. Lee/The New York Times)

Serena Williams put on a deeply disappointing display on Saturday. Her unconstrained anger over an umpire’s call ruined the U.S. Open women’s tennis singles final and completely deflated the stunning victory of a 20-year-old champion who has idolized the legendary 36-year-old icon all her life.

Yes, the chair umpire robbed Serena of a game, which basically put the uphill match out of reach for her. But Williams robbed the newcomer Naomi Osaka of something irreplaceable, the joy she should have had in winning her first Grand Slam and the clamor and attention that should now be washing over this rising star.

And yes, I know that double standards based on sexism exist in tennis, and that Palm Beach Gardens’ most famous resident could be absolutely right that umpire Carlos Ramos was excessively hard on her because of that. That’s the view of the incomparable Billie Jean King, who applauded Serena for standing up for women, and of the six-time U.S. Open champ, Boca Raton’s Chris Evert. That’s how it looked to my wife, watching TV with me as the incredible sequence of events unfolded on Saturday afternoon.

The hard-hitting Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins laid out that case with blunt authority:

Ramos took what began as a minor infraction and turned it into one of the nastiest and most emotional controversies in the history of tennis, all because he couldn’t take a woman speaking sharply to him.

My reaction was different. I was really stunned that Serena exploded — and then wouldn’t let go. Ramos did start things off by making a questionable call: that the struggling champ had been getting signals from her coach in the stands. Ramos penalized her with a warning.

But Serena immediately turned it into a judgment of her honor and character. “I don’t cheat to win, I’d rather lose,” she pleaded.

Never mind that the infraction was no indictment of her behavior, let alone her character. It was against the coach for gesturing. Ramos might have cooled things down right then if he had pointed that out to her.

Then, a little while later, Serena hit a backhand into the net, an unforced error, and smashed her racket in fury. Sorry, that’s not championship behavior. I hated it when John McEnroe did it, and I hated to see her do it. And she made it no more palatable by dressing it up as an act of sisterhood: Hey, women should have every right to be as obnoxious as the men!

It so happens that Martina Navritalova, no slouch as a warrior for women’s dignity, agrees with me, writing: “We cannot measure ourselves by what we think we should also be able to get away with. In fact, this is the sort of behavior that no one should be engaging in on the court.”

For throwing the racket, Ramos properly charged Williams with a penalty. This second infraction cost her a point.

The context: We were in the second set. Williams had lost the first set, soundly, 6-2. She was losing this one. She wasn’t moving around the court well. Her serve was failing her. And Osaka had nothing but poise. The young Japanese-American-Haitian who got her training in Fort Lauderdale, now on the Arthur Ashe Stadium stage before a worldwide audience, was firm, focused, fluid and hitting with accuracy.

But Williams couldn’t drop it. She approached the chair and demanded an apology — which, c’mon, was never going to happen. Referees don’t do that, no matter the sport.

Then she went completely off the rails with a rant about being a mother and raising her daughter to “stand for what’s right for her.” Serena now seemed to me like someone carrying too heavy a load, not just a tennis champ chasing records for all-time, but a very self-conscious role model out to show that she could bounce back from a maternity leave, be a standard bearer for a new-model kind of strong, black femininity and perform at the highest level of her sport, all at the same time.

Even after the match resumed, and Osaka won another game, to lead 4-3, Williams resumed the argument and called Ramos a “liar” and “a thief.”

That was it. Penalty number three. Which meant Serena lost a full game. Just like that, it was Osaka, 5-3, and needing to win just one more game for the championship trophy.

Was that fair? Not really. Ramos could, and should, have played it cooler. But the real problem was that Williams should have got hold of her emotions before that final outburst.

It seems to me that you can’t win at anything if you don’t put your emotions on hold and focus on the challenge at hand. (Sure, the anger worked for McEnroe, but he is that unusual psychological type, the person who blows up and then feels calm and rejuvenated, no matter how anyone else around them feels.) Most of us can’t function well at all when we’re clouded by rage.

The fact is, bad calls happen. They even happen to great athletes. The job of the athlete is to compartmentalize it. Put it aside. Put yourself back in the match.

Then, after you’ve lost or won, complain and campaign all you want.

Is this hard to do? Hell, yes. I doubt that I could banish my anger from my mind if I thought my integrity had been impugned. I would be beside myself with rage. But I’m not a champion. She is. You only get to be a champion of Serena Williams’ caliber with very strong mental discipline – which she has had to employ for years, given the umpteen obstacles she was forced to overcome to dominate in such a white person’s sport.

Serena, the six-time U.S. Open champion, did not have that discipline on Saturday. In front of a crowd that really, really wanted to see her regain the crown for the first time since 2014.

All this said, I wonder why women’s tennis doesn’t insist on female umpiring. If pro-male bias is so insidious in this sport, then why not take the decision-making out of men’s hands altogether?

Goodman: A patriot leaves us, when we need patriots the most

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), then the Republican presidential nominee, arrives onstage for a campaign event in Scranton, Pa., on Sept. 22, 2008.
(Todd Heisler/The New York Times)

Of course John McCain would leave words of inspiration.

At this moment in American history when the nation is riven into increasingly warring camps, the heroic former POW, Arizona senator and almost-president said this in his recently published book, The Restless Wave:

“Before I leave, I’d like to see our politics begin to return to the purposes and practices that distinguish our history from the history of other nations. I would like to see us recover our sense that we are more alike than different. We are citizens of a republic made of shared ideals forged in a new world to replace the tribal enmities that tormented the old one….

“Whether we think each other right or wrong in our views on the issues of the day, we owe each other our respect, as long as our character merits respect, and as long as we share, for all our differences, for all the rancorous debates that enliven and sometimes demean our politics, a mutual devotion to the ideals our nation was conceived to uphold, that all are created equal, and liberty and equal justice are the natural rights of all….

“I want to urge Americans, for as long as I can, to remember that this shared devotion to human rights is our truest heritage and our most important loyalty.”

I didn’t agree with McCain on political positions. But I thought the world of him as a man. And I cherished how he practiced his patriotism.

He grew up with a heightened sense of duty, the son and grandson of U.S. Navy admirals. He bore torture as a POW. Yet after the war he sought common ground with the Vietnamese people and with American dissenters, like his fellow senator, John Kerry, who spoke out as a leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War while McCain was a captive.

In the Senate, he evolved from uncompromising conservative to a man who looked beyond labels and caricatures to become close friends with liberal lion Ted Kennedy (who died of the same brain cancer exactly nine years before McCain’s passing on Aug. 25) and ally with Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold on campaign finance reform.

During his 2008 bid for the presidency, he famously defended his opponent Barack Obama when a woman at a campaign event called him “an Arab.”

“No, ma’am,” McCain interrupted. “He’s a decent family man and citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about.”

That moment said volumes about McCain’s character. And it shows how far, 10 years later, his Republican Party has veered from that generosity of spirit. Now the party’s leader does all he can to inflame white-identity anxiety and fan fears of the “other.”

Last year he interrupted his treatments for glioblastoma to make that dramatic appearance on the Senate floor and give thumbs-down, literally, on the Republicans’ attempted repeal of Obamacare. With a doctor’s scar prominent over his left eyebrow, he addressed his colleagues and, just for a moment, restored a long-lost dignity to the U.S. Congress.

“I hope we can again rely on humility,” he said, “on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again and by so doing better serve the people who elected us.

“Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the internet. To hell with them. They don’t want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood.”

In mourning McCain, I’ll be mourning not just a man but a sensibility. A man who exemplified the highest calling of citizenship is gone. Let the rest of us follow his lead.

Christie: Let’s take a breath, think about this ‘Abolish ICE!’ thing

About 15,000 New Yorkers march in support of immigrant families and to condemn the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policies on June 30. (Erik McGregor / Sipa USA/TNS)

In an election year, one side is always looking for that pivotal issue that will pump up passion among voters and give their side an advantage over the other.

For the left that has been the immigration issue. President Donald J. Trump all but handed his haters the equivalent of a gimme when he instituted a “zero-tolerance policy” for those crossing illegally into the U.S. A policy that resulted in children — some less than a year old — being dispassionately separated from their parents at our southern border.

Pictures and audio captured the immigration mess that bordered on an atrocity, and help Trump’s detractors paint him and his administration as heartless. It looked like a winning strategy at the polls, as the overwhelming majority of Americans detested the child separations.

The president backtracked and reversed, and is still stumbling over the issue.

But the left — and some Democrats — maybe a little drunk on their success,  have possibly taken things too far.

“Abolish ICE” makes for a good rallying cry. But demanding the abolition of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency also provides Trump — and the right  — with a useful weapon for bludgeoning Dems politically. And a significant portion of the American public will agree.

LOS ANGELES, CA – Sen. Kamala Harris speaks at the Families Belong Together – Freedom For Immigrants March at Los Angeles City Hall. (Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images)

Democratic Sens. Sen Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, Kirsten Gillibrand, of New York, and Kamala Harris, of California, have all pounded the issue at Senate hearings and public rallies. But no one was taking it too seriously.

Then, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — stunned the New York Democratic establishment, and the nation, with her primary victory last month over 10-term U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley. Part of her platform: Abolish ICE!

And now, the slogan, has caught on with the left and threatens to steamroll the Democratic agenda — whatever that is at the moment.

Yes, “Abolish ICE!” is usually followed with, “Replace it with something else,” but nobody’s listening to that part.

All the masses hear — both on the left and the right — is “Abolish ICE!” Well, on the right, they also hear, “We want open borders!”

And that’s been the left’s election-year give back to Trump. He has said as much.

President Donald Trump has gone the attack against Democratic lawmakers who have called for abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement, seeking to seize political advantage on an issue that has put him on the defensive for weeks and offer a winning message for Republicans facing a forbidding midterm election. (Al Drago / The New York Times)

What’s frustrating is that beyond being a nice slogan, abolishing ICE is no more a serious policy proposal than claiming Mexico’s “gonna pay for the wall.”

At the risk of stating the obvious, elections have consequences. Those include changes in policy, not typically the creation or elimination of whole agencies. If Americans don’t like ICE’s current enforcement polices, the public should demand a change in those policies, or a change in the leaders who promulgate those policies. During the Vietnam War, millions of Americans demanded an end to the war; no one seriously demanded that we abolish the entire U.S. Defense Department. That would be stupid as it would have completely compromised our national security.

Getting rid of ICE is not on that level, but it would definitely compromise public safety. ICE is a law-enforcement agency. It consists of essentially two components: enforcement and removal operations (ERO), and homeland security investigations (HSI), which is dedicated to the investigation of cross-border crimes such as smuggling dangerous drugs and contraband, the theft of intellectual property, child pornography and human trafficking.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson (AP Photo / Andrew Harnik)

In a recent op-ed for The Washington Post, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson:

“During the last three years of the Obama administration, when I headed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), President Barack Obama gave me the policy direction to focus ICE’s deportation resources on recent border crossers and those undocumented immigrants convicted of serious crimes. We did that. In those years, the number of deportations from the interior United States went down, but the percentage of those deported who were serious criminals went up. We stripped away the barriers that existed between ICE and so-called sanctuary cities. By the time I left office, 21 of the 25 largest jurisdictions that had refused to comply with ICE detainers – written requests to delay the release of people arrested by local law enforcement – had signaled a willingness to work with ICE again in pursuit of the most dangerous undocumented criminals.

RELATED: ‘Abolish ICE’: What is Immigration and Customs Enforcement and what does it do?

As we at Homeland Security asked ICE to focus more on criminals, we heard pleas from many in the enforcement and removal operations workforce whose pay had been capped at an arbitrary ceiling; we put them on the same pay scale with their law-enforcement peers. All this was a good step in the direction of public safety, and it was good for morale. In 2016, my last year in office, the morale within ICE’s 20,000-person workforce increased 7 percent, according to the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

Meanwhile, I constantly reminded ICE leadership that controversial, high-profile cases of fathers torn from their families and students pulled from their schools for deportation would turn ICE into a pariah in the very communities where its agents must work, and would threaten to undermine ICE’s larger public-safety mission. I regret to watch that happening now, as ICE is vilified across the country and sanctuary cities are emboldened to proclaim themselves as such. My thoughts are with the hardworking men and women of the agency caught in the middle of this political firestorm.”

Sign up for The Palm Beach Post FREE weekly Opinion newsletter: Text Opinion to 444999

All that these calls to abolish ICE have done so far is further divide the public — and its which-ever-way-the-wind-blows politicians — and hinder already slim chances at immigration reform. No wonder running against Washington remains such a popular campaign tactic.

Immigration reform is something most Americans believe that we need. How to get there has been the sticking point for more than 30 years.

A zero-tolerance policy that removes toddlers from their parents at the border is not the answer. But neither is outright abolishing ICE.

Christie: Drivers shrug off higher gas prices for 4th of July, summer travel

Gas prices, which surged ahead of the July 4th holiday, are expected to keep rising through the summer. Pump prices are already the highest since 2014. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

After weeks and weeks of dueling stories about whether gas prices will continue to go up ahead of the July 4th holiday, the consensus seems to have settled on consumers paying more at the pump.

RELATED: Christie: Um… so what’s going on with these rising gas prices?

According to Gas Buddy, which as late as last week was proclaiming a drop in the highest gas prices drivers have seen in four years, motorists hitting the road to celebrate the July 4 holiday will be shelling out an average of $2.90 per gallon, the highest Independence Day gas prices since 2014, when the national average hit $3.66 per gallon.

“Oil has surged over 10 percent just in time for summer’s busiest travel holiday, costing motorists over $1 billion more than last year,” Patrick DeHaan, a GasBuddy analyst, said in a news release. “All the ingredients exist for the national average to inch closer to $3 per gallon, just in time for the second half of the summer.”

But whether that will cause drivers to curtail or even change their travel plans is altogether another question; and most analysts don’t believe it will. They expect a record-breaking number of Americans to travel by car this holiday, and traffic to be at its worst on Tuesday in the late afternoon.

Motorists are expected in record numbers this week despite higher gas prices. ( Bloomberg / Patrick T. Fallon)

AAA, which has tracked travel numbers over Fourth of July for the last 18 years, reports that the number of on-the-road travelers will be up 5 percent from 2017. That’s despite gas prices going up an average of 62 cents across the country from a year ago.

Again, we are still pretty far from the 2014 national average and most analysts don’t believe motorists will be jarred into changing their driving habits until the price hits the psychological threshold of $3 per gallon.

They might not have to wait for long. Higher prices are expected to hang around all summer. After five-straight weeks of prices dropping, gas prices are likely to increase again as oil prices surged to $73 per barrel late Thursday, the highest since 2014. The U.S. State Department ordered buyers to curb their oil purchases from Iran by November. In addition, OPEC’s smaller-than-expected oil production increase last week fueled speculation that global inventories will continue to drop, and a government report showed U.S. oil inventories dropped three times as much as expected as total petroleum exports from the U.S. hit a new record high.

President Donald Trump said Saturday that he had received assurances from King Salman of Saudi Arabia that the kingdom will increase oil production, “maybe up to 2,000,000 barrels” in response to turmoil in Iran and Venezuela. Key OPEC member Saudi Arabia acknowledged the call took place, but mentioned no production targets.

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters aboard Air Force One as he travels to his resort in Bedminster, N.J. on Saturday. Trump said that he was pressuring Saudi Arabia and OPEC to increase oil production. (Al Drago/The New York Times)

Trump wrote on Twitter that he had asked the king in a phone call to boost oil production “to make up the difference…Prices to (sic) high! He has agreed!”

A little over an hour later, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported on the call, but offered few details.

“During the call, the two leaders stressed the need to make efforts to maintain the stability of oil markets and the growth of the global economy,” the statement said.

It added that there also was an understanding that oil-producing countries would need “to compensate for any potential shortage of supplies.” It did not elaborate.

Well, there you go. We’ll have to see whether the Saudis honor any agreement with the president. And even if they do, whether it will have the desired effect of pushing down gas prices.

Sign up for The Palm Beach Post FREE weekly Opinion newsletter: Text Opinion to 444999

Regardless, even with high gas prices, most motorists aren’t likely to curtail their travel during the most popular summer holiday, due to its appeal and rich tradition celebrating the nation’s birthday.

AAA says that the Fourth of July falling on Wednesday this year has given travelers more flexibility to schedule trips either the weekend before or after the holiday. That could account for the increase is drivers this year.

Are high gas prices having an effect on your travel plans?

Goodman: The targeting of journalists has to end

At Least 5 Killed In Shooting At Annapolis Capital-Gazette Newspaper
ANNAPOLIS, MD: Today’s edition of the the Capital Gazette for sale on a newspaper stand. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

When I first heard reports of gunfire at a Maryland newsroom, my immediate thought was: all that journalist-hatred that’s going around. It’s caught up with us.

Admit it, you thought that, too.

The thundering from the president of the United States, calling journalists “the enemy of the people.” The finger-pointing at the writers and camera people in the pens at the back of his rallies, the crowd turning around to spew vitriol at the people who report the news.

The wish expressed, just days ago, by alt-right bad boy Milo Yiannopolous, in a text message: “I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight” – which he’s now calling a joke.

It turned out that the man who killed five and wounded several others at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis was someone with a longstanding grudge against the paper. He had been convicted of harassing a woman who had been a high school classmate. When a Capital Gazette columnist wrote about the case, he unsuccessfully sued the paper for defamation and began harassing it – including making online threats to writers and editors.

Every newsperson can imagine this happening. Every newsroom has unbalanced people like this in its orbit. When I worked at the Philadelphia Inquirer in the 1980s and ‘90s, we called them “wackjobs” — almost affectionately, as if to kid away the latent threats they represented — and we had a long list of them.

What’s different now is, today’s wackjobs have the models of mass shooters to go by. The Annapolis shooter, if he didn’t think Parkland or Pulse sufficient, had the example of the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, where two brothers attached to an Al Qaeda group shot 12 people to death for the crime of satire.

And because mass shootings are a contagion, we must assume this will happen again. There cannot be a newsroom in America that, upon hearing word of shots fired at a newspaper, did not immediately begin reassessing its security. Yes, that includes our own.

An undated photo provided by the newspaper shows Rob Hiaasen, an editor and a features columnist for The Capital in Annapolis, Md.
Rob Hiaasen

And there cannot be a newspaper in America where it did not feel as though members of your family have died. At some important level, all of us in this business feel connected, especially those of us who have retained our love and commitment to it for some years. I did not know the Annapolis victims personally, although anyone who worked at The Palm Beach Post 20 years ago has fond memories of Rob Hiaasen, whose personality was brought to life Thursday in a beautiful, mournful column by an old friend, Frank Cerabino.

Yet these losses feel personal.

We have become so used to mass shootings in this country – we alone among advanced nations – that we usually feel little more than weariness when absorbing the news of yet another one. It’s different when the victims are much like you. Just as no student or parent feels the same degree of security after schools are turned to battlefields and children to casualties, so today does no American journalist feel as safe as we did before colleagues were slaughtered Thursday in their workplace.

And in the background, I keep hearing that hum: “Fake news.” “They lie.” “They make up sources.”

Today President Trump, in a show of sympathy for the Capital Gazette victims, said, “Journalists, like all Americans, should be free of the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job.”

The gall.

This is a man who, using the biggest podium in the world, tears relentlessly into the honesty and patriotism of the reporters and news outlets whose job is to fulfill the ideal of uncovering and telling the truth.

And because the truth is often unflattering and threatening to this man, he has waged a three-year war against the credibility of journalists, just as he attacks the credibility of an independent judiciary, the FBI and members of Congress he can’t bring to heel.

No one has inflamed the present atmosphere more than he, this man who occupies the highest office in our land. He has set a tone which he feeds at every rally and almost every day on Twitter.

I am not blaming him for Thursday’s tragedy in Annapolis. But I do charge him with injecting a sense of hatred into the soul of this nation that journalists do not deserve and which — in a country with more guns than people — may all too easily turn into bloodshed.

All over social media, journalists have been sharing their thoughts. Some of the best came from a Sun Sentinel reporter, Ben Crandell, a former colleague of mine. On Facebook he wrote:

“There is not much money to be made as a reporter at a daily newspaper such as the Capital Gazette. There is no glamour, no prestige. There is only the benefit of knowing that they helped inform their neighbors about things they need to know, entertained them with a story they hadn’t heard, made them chuckle, or shed some light on the pivotal play that won the big game at the high school.

“There is no fake news at a daily newspaper such as the Capital Gazette. It would take too much time. Reporters there are only good at what they’ve been trained to do: Ask the questions readers would want asked, collect information, confirm the facts, discard information that cannot be confirmed, snap the facts together into a story that fairly represents what they’ve seen and heard, and submit the story to an editor, maybe several, who reconfirms the facts before publication.

“If there has been a mistake in one of their stories, they write an explanation with the correct information so it can be published on the website and in a prominent spot in the next day’s paper.

“And then they go home to coach the volleyball team, care for an ailing loved one, do military reserve training, volunteer at the church, see a band, drink a beer, cut the grass. They are not just like you – they are you.”

Christie: Does Sanders, Bondi harassment mean our incivility has finally gone too far?

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi voices her support for then-candidate Donald Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. (Damon Winter/The New York Times)

Not unlike a lot of opinion journalists, for years I’ve been harping on the lack of civility that increasingly permeates our public discourse.

Immigration, NFL protests, gun rights, you name it, we are somehow unable to have a civil debate about it. From a South Carolina congressman yelling, “You lie!” at then-President Barack Obama during a State of the Union address to this past weekend’s heckling of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi at a movie theater.

We’ve got to find a way to get past this. For our own sanity. And Thanksgiving dinners. And kids’ soccer games. And movie openings.

On Friday night, a group of protesters accosted Bondi outside the screening of the new documentary about Mister Rogers at the Tampa Theatre, questioning her about her recent actions on health care policy and her stance on immigration.

RELATED: Pam Bondi confronted by protesters outside Mister Rogers movie

A video of the confrontation, taken by progressive activist Timothy Heberlein of Organize Florida, shows several people shouting down Bondi as she leaves the theater escorted by law enforcement after seeing “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.”

This followed news, of course, of the most infamous incident of the weekend: senior White House spokeswoman Sara Huckabee Sanders being tossed out of a Virginia restaurant by the owners.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House press secretary, speaks during a press conference on June 14 the White House briefing room in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

Sanders, who has not engendered the most support from the liberal side of the political spectrum as a lightning rod for the ire of Trump haters, said over the weekend that she had been asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant because she worked in the Trump administration. She added that she “politely left” after the request.

The restaurant’s co-owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, later told The Washington Post that her staff had called her to report Sanders was at the restaurant on Saturday night. Wilkinson said several restaurant employees are gay and knew Sanders had defended Trump’s desire to bar transgender people from the military.

RELATED: The owner of the Red Hen explains why she asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave

Sanders’ tweet created a firestorm on Twitter, with many conservatives and Trump supporters, including her father, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, chiming in with criticism of the restaurant.

Where does it end? We seem to have reached the point of no return when it comes to incivility among our citizens. And now, many folks are asking folks to pump the brakes.

Again, growing incivility in our discourse has been an issue for years — much of it racially charged for political purposes by Obama’s election, police shootings, etc. But we’ve apparently gone beyond vocal disagreements over abortion rights to not even sitting next to one another in a restaurant or movie theater, filling prescriptions at the same pharmacy or buying a wedding cake from the same baker.

A primary reason for things reaching this new level, whether some of us want to admit it or not, lies at the feet of President Trump and his almost daily divisive Twitter rants in the name of not being politically correct.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) at a news conference where House Democrats called for an end to separating immigrant families, on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

The trouble is liberals or progressives are no longer content with turning the other cheek. Beyond the protests and calls to action on everything from Confederate monuments to women’s rights to gun rights, the left-wingers now seem as energized as their counterparts on the right under the Obama administration.

It’s now commonplace to hear Trump supporters and Republicans — who still approve of the job he’s doing — ask for folks to “just give him a chance.”

“Fat chance,” say an increasing number of liberals. “Like the chance you gave Barack Obama?” they reply.

If we’re not quite down the rabbit hole here, we’re getting uncomfortably close. And we don’t need folks pushing us even further.

Maxine Waters, the Democratic firebrand congresswoman from California, chided a crowd this weekend to “push back” against Trump supporters wherever you see them, “in a restaurant, in the department store, in a gas station.”

We don’t need that.

But Bondi wasn’t much better. She went on Fox News Sunday to boast of not backing down from protesters — with appropriate police backup of course — and suggested, “The next people are going to come with guns. That’s what’s going to happen.”

Yeah, real helpful.

RELATED: Trump attacks ‘filthy’ Red Hen, the Virginia restaurant that asked Sarah Sanders to leave

And then there’s the president himself, who once again took to Twitter to dis the restaurant that booted Sanders.

President Donald J. Trump (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

“The Red Hen Restaurant should focus more on cleaning its filthy canopies, doors and windows (badly needs a paint job) rather than refusing to serve a fine person like Sarah Huckabee Sanders,” Trump tweeted Monday morning.

“I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside!” he added.

It was unclear Monday whether Trump had ever visited the establishment — the Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia, which is 50 miles northeast of Roanoke near the Shenandoah Valley — or how he would have determined its level of cleanliness.

The Red Hen passed its latest state health inspection, in February, without any violations.

Sign up for The Palm Beach Post FREE weekly Opinion newsletter: Text Opinion to 444999

He later also went to Twitter to take some sophomoric jabs at Waters.

As I said earlier, the president can shut a lot of this down or at least put us on a path back to civility with his own words and actions.

The question will he, or maybe we’ve already gone to far down that rabbit hole.

Christie: OK, you try measuring expectations for the Trump-Kim summit

President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un of North Korea during a document signing ceremony on Sentosa Island in Singapore, June 12, 2018. The two leaders signed what Trump called a “comprehensive document.” Trump indicated that a process of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula could begin “very quickly. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

UPDATE: President Trump and Chairman Kim signed an agreement to move toward denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula some time in the next “3-15 years.” Something the North Koreans have agreed to before, by the way. Details are sparse, but Trump apparently wants to stop U.S.-South Korea training exercises — or “war games” — as a precursor to removing U.S. troops altogether. Also, future meetings could be held in Pyongyang and the White House. Bottom line: The only thing historic about this summit right now is a big photo op between a U.S. president and a brutal North Korean dictator.

***

By the time you read this Tuesday morning, the long-awaited, much-hyped summit between President Donald J. Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has come and gone.

The days of pomp and circumstance that led up to the hours-long meeting of East and West, socialism and capitalism, ego and ego-prime, young and old, basketball and golf is over. There’s nothing left but the Twitter storm to follow.

Well, actually there was to be a 4 a.m. (ET) news conference on Tuesday with Trump, sans Kim.

Kim is on his way back to Pyongyang; and later to Russia to meet with President and fellow dictator Vladimir Putin, who also happens to be a favorite of Trump. We can speculate that Putin, in fact, could serve as the future facilitator of a summit between Trump and Kim — a la President Jimmy Carter with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Although that didn’t turn out too well in the end for Sadat.

SINGAPORE — North Korean leader Kim Jong-un walks along the Jubillee bridge during a tour of some of the sights on June ahead of his summit meeting with U.S. President Donald J. Trump in Singapore. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

As of 7 a.m. Tuesday (ET), Trump is already on his way back to the U.S. aboard Air Force One. The schedule, as of Monday night, has him back at the White House by 8 a.m. Wednesday.

By the time the meeting arrived Monday night (9 p.m. ET), the expectations for the historic face-to-face had already been set so low it is hard to gauge what would likely happen.

Even NBA great and Kim BFF Dennis Rodman was talking down expectations.

“People should not expect so much for the first time,” Rodman said as he emerged from the baggage claim area at Changi airport around midnight Monday. “Hopefully, the doors will open.”

He told reporters he wasn’t sure if he would meet Kim in Singapore.

http://kutv.com/news/nation-world/former-nba-star-rodman-arrives-in-singapore

White House officials have said Rodman will play no official role in the diplomatic negotiations. Trump said last week that Rodman had not been invited to the summit.

We’re kind of left to wonder then whatever happened to the lofty goals of set for this “historic” summit months ago when it was first mentioned.

SINGAPORE — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo answers questions at a press briefing on Monday. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had been saying as late as Sunday that President Trump’s goal is nothing short of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

But try to find one Korea expert that would give that even a remote possibility from this summit. Most said that Kim won’t even entertain talk of such a thing unless the U.S. and other nuclear-powered nations do the same. (Yeah, like that’ll happen.)

Ending the Korean War — basically a paperwork issue — by signing a formal peace treaty was also out there as a major goal. Kim would basically have to do what former North Koreaan president Syngman Rhee wouldn’t do 65 years ago, which is join the U.S. and South Korea and sign the armistice agreement officially ending hostilities.

Of course, it’s not that simple.

The 1953 agreement calls for all sides to hold a political conference “to settle through negotiation the questions of the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Korea (and) the peaceful settlement of the Korean question.”

That summit, the Geneva Conference of 1954, ended in spectacular failure. Not only did it not produce a peace treaty ending the Korean War, but negotiations over France’s withdrawal from its colonies in Indochina set the stage for the Vietnam War.

Sign up for The Palm Beach Post FREE weekly Opinion newsletter: Text Opinion to 444999

It still could happen. But since China and the U.S. were both major combatants on both sides of the war, both would need to be there for an official ending. (Right, there’s no China in Singapore.)

Take our poll, and tell us what you would be happy with coming out of the Trump-Kim summit.

Goodman: Roseanne’s raw racism earns well-deserved cancellation

Roseanne Barr   (Brinson+Banks/The New York Times)

A television network stood up for decency today. With head-spinning speed, ABC canceled its hit revival “Roseanne,” just hours after its titular star tweeted a crude racist remark about former Obama presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett.

The viciousness of the tweet (“muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby = vj”) was a shock too great for Disney, ABC’s owner, to tolerate, even if it meant sacrificing the highest-rated and most-watched series of the broadcast season.

Robert Iger, Disney CEO, tweeted “there was only one thing to do.”

The quick axing was a necessary corrective in this age of Trump, when the dog whistles from the White House have awakened many an inner racist. When you have a president who says there are “some fine people” amid the neo-Nazis at Charlottesville, who talks about “shithole countries,” you’re going to see an uptick in hate speech. You’re going to get what Roseanne Barr called her “bad joke” about Jarrett’s “politics and her looks.”

You can’t separate President Donald Trump from this story. Indeed, Trump has celebrated “Roseanne”‘s high ratings as a powerful endorsement of himself and his followers.

In the revival of the show, the title character returned to the air after a 21-year absence as, explicitly, a Trump supporter — just like Barr, the mouthy comedienne who plays her. The sitcom was seen as smart counter-programming on a network that has made a specialty of minority-themed comedies with a liberal bent, like “Black-ish” and “Fresh Off the Boat.”

ABC seemed, in fact, to be smelling the makings of a trend. There was talk of developing more shows to cater to conservative, Trump-admiring audiences. And why not, if the shows could deal with our divisions with humor and wisdom — and not compound our divisions?

The network seemed OK with its hard-to-control star, even when she filled her Twitter account with wildly fact-free conspiracy theories.

But raw racism — such as comparing an African-American woman (even a woman as accomplished as Jarrett) to a simian — has no place in American society. We cannot go back to a time when it was considered OK for many white Americans to look upon people of other races, cultures or religions as less than fully American — nay, less than human.

When that attitude surfaces, it must be confronted and repudiated.

By doing so in such a swift and forceful manner, ABC has done us all a favor. It has helped steer America’s course back towards its true north.

I’d like to know what you think.