Jul 11 2017

Pondering the Pundits

“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.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

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New York Times Editorial Board: Donald Trump Jr. and the Culture of Dishonesty

At a critical juncture in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign last year, his son Donald Trump Jr. met with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer who promised to share political dirt on Hillary Clinton. Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman at the time, and Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and a key strategist, also attended. [..]

On the face of it, this seemed a clear though perhaps unintended admission by Donald Trump Jr. that he had gone into the meeting expecting damaging information, and the episode is clearly grist for Mr. Mueller’s mill. As is a report Monday night by The Times that the president’s son had received an email saying Ms. Veselnitskaya’s information came from Moscow. But his shifty statements are also further evidence of how freely his father and the people around the president contort the truth. Only six months in, President Trump has compiled a record of dishonesty — ranging from casual misstatements to flat-out lies — without precedent in the modern presidency. Equally disheartening is his team’s willingness to share in his mendacity.

On Sunday, before Donald Trump Jr. acknowledged that there was a Clinton-related aspect to the meeting, Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, was on Fox News suggesting that the Veselnitskaya episode was “a big nothingburger” for the Trump campaign.

Eugene Robinson: Donald Jr.’s meeting is a legal game-changer

From now on, ignore the conventional wisdom about how the Russia scandal is not “resonating” with President Trump’s still-loyal base. The question at this point is what strikes a chord with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — and what kind of legal jeopardy Trump’s closest associates, including his eldest son and son-in-law, might eventually face.

Trump spent Monday morning live-tweeting fawning segments from his favorite cable news show, “Fox & Friends.” Within the cozy confines of that alternate universe, the story “everyone is still talking about” was said to be video of the president, before boarding his helicopter at Andrews Air Force Base, retrieving a Marine’s wind-blown hat.

In Mueller’s office suite, though, I’m confident there was much more talk about Donald Trump Jr.’s stunning admission over the weekend: In June of last year, he summoned Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to a meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer — described as having close connections with the Kremlin — in hopes of receiving derogatory information about Hillary Clinton.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Why We Released The Audio Of Trump’s Private Fundraiser

Recently my team at The Zero Hour (a news and opinion program I host on syndicated radio and cable TV) acquired a secret recording of Donald Trump’s remarks to a $35,000-a-head fundraiser. We gave the audio to The Intercept, which published it along with my analysis of Trump’s remarks. Here’s why we did it.

Trump’s fundraiser was held June 28th at his own Washington, D.C. hotel, which is steps down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House in the historic Old Post Office Pavilion. The Trump Organization leases the building from the federal government, in open violation of long-standing regulations.

The building features a five-story atrium, a restaurant called BLT Prime, and “The Spa by Ivanka Trump™.” In this luxurious setting, Trump held forth for more than forty minutes, mocking his enemies, humiliating his friends, and committing at least one major diplomatic gaffe.

We released this recording for several reasons. First, it offers more insight into the unusual (some might say “aberrant”) personality of the man who occupies the Oval Office. Secondly, as I laid out in my Intercept piece, the president’s remarks have significant political and diplomatic implications.

Richard North Patterson: Donald Trump And The Death Of Principled Conservatism

Among the wreckage wrought by President Trump is the death knell of the classical conservatism advanced by Barry Goldwater and William Buckley a half-century ago.

In high school, I was captivated by the vision elucidated by Goldwater in “The Conscience of a Conservative”: Limited government. Local control. Respect for the Constitution and rule of law. Protection of privacy and individual autonomy. Opposition to totalitarian ideologies which stifle individual enterprise and the human spirit. “The enemy of freedom,” Goldwater wrote, “is unrestrained power” — including corporate power.

So I reveled, too, in conservatism’s thought leader William Buckley. Not least was his civility: his delight in friendship — and open debate — with his ideological opposites.

Equally compelling was his intellectual discernment. Of Ayn Rand’s Nietzschean netherworld, he wrote, “her desiccated philosophy is conclusively incompatibility with transcendence, intellectual and moral,” adding that Rand’s insistence “that altruism was despicable, and only self-interest is good and noble . . . risks giving capitalism that bad name that its enemies have done so well.” With bracing clarity, Buckley read the John Birch Society and its rabid conspiracy theories out of the conservative movement.

In college, I concluded that the world was messier, human needs more complex, than their philosophy allowed. But I ever valued the consistency and rigor which informed conservative thought.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: The debate Democrats can’t duck

Democrats have launched a long-overdue debate about what they will stand and fight for. The party is impressively united — and its activists mobilized — against President Trump and the right-wing Republican agenda. With Trump unpopular and the Republican Congress even less so, Democrats are salivating at the prospect of a wave election next year that would allow them to take back Congress. After they came close but lost this year’s handful of special elections, there is increasing recognition that “we’re not them” is not sufficient. Democrats have to have a more compelling economic agenda and message. Not surprisingly, there is widespread disagreement about what that message should be.

In the New York Times, Mark Penn and Andrew Stein argue that the path back to power for Democrats is “to unquestionably move to the center and reject the siren calls of the left, whose policies and ideas have weakened the party.” Penn and Stein are deliciously unseemly personifications of the party’s money wing. Penn served as “chief strategist” for Hillary Clinton’s failed 2008 campaign while continuing as chief executive of Burson-Marsteller, a public relations firm with clients such as Blackwater, the shady private mercenary firm; drug companies such as Amgen; and British Petroleum, the company besmirched by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. He was forced to resign from that campaign when it was revealed he had met with Colombian officials about a free-trade agreement that Clinton nominally opposed. The multimillionaire Stein, a former Manhattan Bureau president, was convicted of tax evasion and endorsed Trump in 2016. [..]


Old party pros such as Penn and Stein don’t get it. They see how unpopular Trump and the Republican Congress are, but their credibility on what to do next is shot. The populist temper of the time is rousing citizens across the country. Politics as usual won’t suffice anymore.