Editorial Roundup: Missouri

Kansas City Star. April 22, 2024.

Editorial: These Missouri and Kansas Republicans in Congress finally did right by Ukraine

We don’t get that many chances to say, “Well done, House Speaker Mike Johnson,” or “Yay you, some (but not others) of the Missouri and Kansas Republicans in Congress” who joined every Democrat in the House in passing crucial and long overdue aid to our allies in Ukraine.

So here we are, glad to get to congratulate those of you who bucked “Drowsy Donald” Trump’s pro-Putin view that Ukraine should essentially give in and give up. You know, so Russians can turn their attention to doing “whatever the hell they want” to NATO countries who don’t, as he puts it, pay their bills.

(The former president’s secret plan to end the war in 24 hours, according to Hungary’s authoritarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, who sees Trump as a “man of peace,” is that he “will not give a penny in the Ukraine-Russia war. Therefore, the war will end, because it is obvious that Ukraine cannot stand on its own feet.” While Trump himself never knocked down Orban’s statement, Trump aides told The Washington Post that nah, the real plan is for “Ukraine to cede Crimea and Donbas border region to Russia.” But either way, the plan would force Ukraine to back down.)

The Texas Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was absolutely right to ask fellow lawmakers: “Are you Churchill or Chamberlain?” in this make-or-break moment for Ukraine.

Even Trump, who let’s just say is not Churchill in this or any other scenario, thankfully went quiet on Ukraine aid when he saw that his supporters in Congress were likely to lose the House vote that should have happened six months ago. And “Moscow Marjorie” Taylor Greene hasn’t yet followed through on her ongoing threats to oust Johnson from his speakership if he actually started doing his job.

There is a lesson about courage here, but whether or not House Republicans learn anything lasting from this brief return to common sense, what they just did does matter.


On NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pushed back hard on a question about how long Americans should be expected to fund the war in Ukraine: “The Americans are not funding the war in Ukraine,” he said through a translator. “Ukraine is sending their best sons and daughters to the front line. And this reduces the price for all Europe, for all NATO. It reduces the price for everyone, including the U.S. as the leaders in NATO. U.S. Army now does not have to fight protecting NATO countries. Ukrainians are doing that. And it’s only the ammo that the civilized world is providing,” in part through the aid package that includes $61 billion for Ukraine, $26 billion for Israel and $8 billion for allies in the Indo-Pacific. The Senate can’t pass it fast enough.

For months, while Johnson dithered and delayed, Ukraine lost ground and lives. At the State of the Union address, Johnson did clap at President Joe Biden’s comments about the importance of helping Ukraine, but couldn’t seem to decide how enthusiastically he should react.

Things got personal for the speaker, though, after his son was accepted at the Naval Academy.

“To put it bluntly, I would rather send bullets to Ukraine than American boys. My son is going to begin in the Naval Academy this fall. This is a live-fire exercise for me as it is for so many American families. This is not a game; this is not a joke.”

It never was.


On Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has been saying we need to support Ukraine, but also that “we must deal with our border first,” warned on Fox News Sunday that “if you give Putin Ukraine, he will not stop. … And if you give him Ukraine, there goes Taiwan because China’s watching to see what we do. … So, this idea ‘give up on Ukraine makes the world safer’” is wrong, he said. Do that, and “there goes Taiwan. Ukrainians are fighting like tigers. So this idea that we can’t help Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan at the same time, I reject that. I reject it totally.”

So do we. And Senator, might you have a word with your Missouri colleague Josh Hawley, who has incorrectly denied that Ukraine is even an ally?

Democratic Reps. Sharice Davids of Kansas and Emanuel Cleaver and Cori Bush of Missouri of course joined every other member of their party on Ukraine aid, though in a statement, Bush qualified that support: “While I have significant concerns about the scale of U.S. defense spending, including this latest $60 billion package for Ukraine and its potential to prolong this brutal war, it serves as necessary leverage for the Ukrainian government.”

Missouri Republican Reps. Sam Graves and Ann Wagner also voted for aid to Ukraine, while Reps. Mark Alford, Eric Burlison and Jason Smith did not. Blaine Luetkemeyer didn’t vote. And Kansas Republican Rep. Jake LaTurner voted for aid to Ukraine, while Reps. Ron Estes and Tracey Mann did not.

Estes did vote for aid to Israel and Taiwan, but not to Ukraine, which he said was “too much for me to support when the United States has already spent more than $100 billion on Ukraine aid.”

As we’ve said before, this is not charity, but an investment in freedom, and in assuring that Mike Johnson’s son and so many other American men and women don’t have to fight in Europe.


St. Louis Post-Dispatch. April 17, 2024.

Editorial: Missouri’s House leader thwarted his ethics probe. Voters shouldn’t forget it.

Missouri House Speaker Dean Plocher will apparently escape any official consequences for his gross and repeated abuses of power. A report to The House Ethics Committee on Monday recommended a slap on the wrist for Plocher’s various shady fiscal and political stunts — but the committee failed to approve even that. This despite the report detailing Plocher’s use of stonewalling and intimidation to thwart the ethics probe itself.

Luckily, there’s one more group of people Plocher still must convince of his fitness for elective office: Missouri’s Republican voters, who will decide in the August primary whether they want this epitome of swampy, self-dealing politics to be their nominee for Secretary of State, potentially putting him in charge of Missouri’s entire electoral process.

The silver lining of this week’s failed ethics probe is that voters now have a publicly available report detailing the myriad reasons that would be an awful idea.

Plocher, of Des Peres, hasn’t been implicated in some big, explosive ethics breach, but rather a series of shady little ones, generally unrelated, indicating an ongoing contempt for the very concept of ethical guardrails. A common theme is his retaliatory instinct toward staffers, fellow lawmakers and anyone else who tries to hold him accountable.

Last fall, media reports exposed that Plocher had been double-dipping on official travel reimbursements (including a conference in Hawaii), charging the taxpayers for expenses that had already been covered by his campaign funds. Plocher claimed they were administrative errors and paid back thousands of dollars.

In October, Plocher embarked on a still-unexplained quest to steer almost $800,000 in state contracting to a private firm to handle constituent services for lawmakers, even though the state already provides that service in-house. That stealth campaign, aided by a politically connected lobbying firm, prompted pushback from a nonpartisan staffer — whose job Plocher allegedly threatened in response.

Also unexplained was Plocher’s decision in the midst of those controversies to suddenly fire a well-regarded chief of staff from his office and replace him with disgraced former House Speaker Rod Jetton, who’d been the subject of a federal bribery investigation.

If Plocher was at all aware of how bad this all looked, it wasn’t reflected in his decision to spend $60,000 for renovation and furniture in the Speaker’s office, and to seek special exemptions from state travel reimbursement rules that required flying coach instead of business class.

As even Republican lawmakers began publicly criticizing Plocher’s ethics issues, he responded by allegedly blackballing two of them in retaliation, bottling up their bills. “I’m absolutely being punished,” Republican Rep. Mazzie Christensen told the Missouri Independent in February.

The bipartisan Ethics Commission meetings probing all of this in recent months were closed to the public and the media, until Monday. In that open meeting, the bipartisan panel considered a 30-page report that outlined some of those issues — and which revealed Plocher’s brazen attempts to stymie the committee’s probe itself.

Plocher ignored at least three interview requests before finally appearing. He or his allies “highly encouraged” others not to cooperate. “I have not encountered more unwilling witnesses in any investigation in my career,” wrote a lawyer who worked on the report. State Rep. Robert Sauls, D-Independence, vice chair of the committee, called it “absolute obstruction.”

Despite all of that, the draft report to the committee recommended only the mildest of sanctions.

Those included a statement “expressing disapproval of the appropriateness of (Plocher’s) conduct” — and a guarantee from Plocher that “no member or employee of the House of Representatives be retaliated against or suffer any repercussions for providing assistance” to the Ethics Committee.

That the report’s authors thought it necessary to include that last part says much about how they had come to view Plocher’s way of doing things. Yet the committee voted 6-2 against adopting the report, with bipartisan splits on both sides of the vote.

Their reasoning is a little unclear. Is it possible some of the members wanted tougher sanctions?

“We have come to the point where I don’t know what else I can do,” said the committee chair, Rep. Hannah Kelly, R-Mountain Grove, who voted to approve the report. “The House rules are not structured to investigate the speaker.”

That’s apparently true, as Plocher’s own obstructionism has demonstrated. That’s a problem the Legislature might want to address in its ethics enforcement process going forward.

But in this case, there’s a ready solution available to voters in the Aug. 6 primary. If Missouri Republicans want to claim any credibility at all to their often-expressed desire to “drain the swamp,” they can demonstrate it by declaring that Speaker Dean Plocher’s unethical antics are disqualifying for higher office.