“Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.
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Katrina vanden Heuvel: Why slashing the NIH budget is indefensible
In January 1970, the organizers of the first Earth Day published a full-page ad in the New York Times. A few months ahead of thousands of demonstrations and teach-ins across the United States, they declared that Earth Day represented “a commitment to make life better,” “to provide real rather than rhetorical solutions,” and “to challenge the corporate and government leaders who promise change, but who short change the necessary programs.” They continued, “April 22 seeks a future.”
Nearly half a century later, the scientific community is once again issuing a call to action. When the world commemorates the 48th Earth Day this weekend, the occasion will be marked by March for Science rallies nationwide and around the globe. At a time when facts and science are under attack, the organizers hope to send a loud and clear message that “science is a vital feature of a working democracy.” Denouncing policies that “threaten to further restrict scientists’ ability to research and communicate their findings,” they warn that “we face a possible future where people not only ignore scientific evidence, but seek to eliminate it entirely.”
One of the most threatening of those policies is in President Trump’s budget blueprint: a cut of nearly $6 billion to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
John Nichols: The Democratic Party Must Finally Abandon Centrism
It is easy to dismiss the “Come Together and Fight Back” Tour that this week will take Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez to eight cities in eight states this week as mere political theater. But this tour has the potential to finally begin redefining a Democratic Party that is still struggling with its identity after the disastrous 2014 and 2016 election cycles. That’s a big deal, not just for a party that lacks focus but for an American political process that will alter dramatically—for better or for worse—in the months and years to come.
Political parties change identities over time, as anyone who has watched the sorry trajectory of the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower can certainly attest. Sometimes, parties evolve. Sometimes, parties respond to moral and political demands that can no longer be denied. That was certainly the case for Democrats in the late 1940s and ’50s, when wise members of the party began to recognize the necessity of a clean break with the Southern segregationists who had historically been central figures in the Democratic coalition.
Though many Democrats still do not fully recognize the fact, their party is again at a moment where it must change.
Richard North Patterson: Echoes Of Watergate In Russia’s Attack On U.S. Democracy
There are striking parallels between Watergate and Russia’s intrusion in our election. In 1972, President Nixon’s reelection campaign broke into the DNC offices at the Watergate Hotel and wiretapped its phones, hoping to facilitate Nixon’s victory. In 2016, Russia hacked e-mails from the DNC and the Clinton campaign to help elect President Trump. Now, as then, at issue is whether a president and those closest to him colluded to attack our institutions.
For many, Watergate evokes nostalgia, proof our system works. But in the trenches it was brutal. So I asked William Cohen to assess the current inquiry in light of his central role in Nixon’s impeachment. [..]
Watergate featured two strokes of luck — the tapes themselves, and Nixon’s decision not to destroy them. But Cohen cites deeper and more sobering differences.
In his view, Russia’s intrusion in our election “is more of an existential threat to our democracy than Nixon was.” The power to impeach Nixon existed within our system; we cannot keep a foreign power from distorting our democracy. Thus it is all the more imperative to know whether they colluded with our president.
But while the stakes are greater, our will is not.
It’s worth remembering, particularly when the Hillary Clinton recrimination news cycle is in full swing, that Donald Trump is president today because of a margin of fewer than 80,000 votes spread across three states.
“The most important states, though, were Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin,” Philip Bump in The Washington Post wrote in December. “Trump won those states by 0.2, 0.7 and 0.8 percentage points, respectively — and by 10,704, 46,765 and 22,177 votes.”
Those three states, however, had been comfortably won by Democrat Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012. Much of the recent shift, however tiny, was due to white working-class voters becoming slightly more Republican than they used to be. This, in turn, has prompted an ugly and ongoing fight between two progressive factions: those who believe those voters were primarily motivated by a sense of economic insecurity and people who think the shift occurred because racist appeals are prompting more white people to vote for Republicans.
Back in January, Jeremy Scahill, the journalist who literally wrote the book on Blackwater, the notorious mercenary outfit, reported at the Intercept that Erik Prince, the company’s founder, was with Donald Trump and his family at Trump Tower on election night in November. That suggested a degree of intimacy between them that had not been previously revealed. Scahill went on to report that Prince had been advising the Trump team on defense and intelligence matters and had given input into the possible choices to head the Pentagon and the State Department.
To anyone familiar with Prince and his history, this was an ominous sign. Blackwater had been so tarnished by criminal activity during the Iraq War, including convictions for the murders of Iraqi civilians, including children, that Prince had to rename the company more than once and his personal reputation was shredded. Prince and his family had a long association with Mike Pence, however, through mutual religious and political affiliations based on a militant theocratic worldview. Prince and his sister Betsy DeVos, now the Secretary of Education, were big donors to Trump’s campaign. Considering that Trump’s knowledge of world affairs can barely fill a shot glass, seeing Prince among his inner circle of advisers is unnerving to say the least.