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Feb 02 2018

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: The Republican Plot Against the F.B.I.

So this is what a partisan witch hunt really looks like.

In a demonstration of unbridled self-interest and bottomless bad faith, the Trump White House and its Republican minions in Congress are on the cusp of releasing a “memo” that purports to document the biggest political scandal since Watergate. To pull it off, they are undermining the credibility of the law enforcement community that Republicans once defended so ardently, on the noble-sounding claim that the American public must know the truth.

Don’t fall for it.

Reports suggest that the three-and-a-half-page document — produced by the staff of Representative Devin Nunes (R-White House), who somehow still leads the House Intelligence Committee despite his own record of shilling for President Trump, and who is supposed to be recused from these matters — has nothing to do with truth or accountability. Rather, it appears to be misleading propaganda from people who are terrified by the Russia investigation and determined to derail it by any means necessary.

Mr. Nunes’s cut-and-paste job ostensibly shows that anti-Trump F.B.I. investigators conspired to trick a federal intelligence court into granting them a warrant to spy on a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page, because of his Russian connections — in that way corrupting the entire Russia investigation from the start. How did the investigators manage this feat? By relying on a dossier prepared by a former British intelligence agent, Christopher Steele, but hiding from the court that Mr. Steele’s work was being funded by Democrats, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and thus was hopelessly biased.

There’s so much deception and obfuscation going on here that it’s hard to know where to start.

Eugene Robinson: Trump has picked a fight with the FBI. He’ll be sorry.

Presidents don’t win fights with the FBI. Donald Trump apparently wants to learn this lesson the hard way.

Most presidents have had the sense not to bully the FBI by defaming its leaders and — ridiculously — painting its agents as leftist political hacks. Most members of Congress have also understood how unwise it would be to pull such stunts. But Trump and his hapless henchmen on Capitol Hill, led by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), have chosen the wrong enemy. History strongly suggests they will be sorry.

The far-right echo chamber resounds with wailing and braying about something called the “deep state” — a purported fifth column of entrenched federal bureaucrats whose only goal in life, apparently, is to deny America the greatness that Dear Leader Trump has come to bestow. It is unclear who is supposed to be directing this vast conspiracy. Could it be Dr. Evil? Supreme Leader Snoke? Hillary Clinton? This whole paranoid fantasy, as any sane person realizes, is utter rubbish.*

The asterisk is for the FBI.

The bureau has no political ax to grind, and the attempt by Nunes and others to portray it as some kind of liberal cabal is comical. But it does have great institutional cohesion, a proud sense of mission, and a culture that inculcates the “us vs. the world” attitude that is so common among law enforcement agencies.

Paul Krugman: The Gang That Couldn’t Think Straight

A few days after President Trump was inaugurated, Benjamin Wittes, editor of the influential Lawfare blog, came up with a pithy summary of the new administration: “malevolence tempered by incompetence.” A year later, that rings truer than ever.

In fact, this has been a big week for malevolence. But today’s column will focus on the incompetence, whose full depths — and consequences — we’re just starting to see.

Let’s start with a few recent stories.

In his State of the Union, Trump devoted part of one sentence to the disaster in Puerto Rico, struck by Hurricane Maria. “We are with you, we love you,” he declared. But the island’s residents, almost a third of whom are still without power four months after the storm, aren’t exactly feeling that love — especially because on the very day Trump said those words, FEMA officials told NPR that the disaster agency was ending its work on the island.

FEMA later said that this was a miscommunication. But at the very least it suggests a complete lack of focus.

Oh, and for the record, I don’t believe that Trump, who spent much of his speech falsely blaming brown people for a nonexistent crime wave, loves Puerto Ricans.

Catherine Rampell: Trump’s tax cuts are rocketing us into the debt ceiling

The financial doomsday clock is ticking, and, thanks to the massive tax cuts passed by Congress in December, the ticks just sped up.

Unless Congress gets its act together, the federal government will default on its debt in a few short weeks. This event would set off a constitutional crisis and a global financial crisis. And it would be not some inevitable catastrophe but wholly man-made, created by an inept White House and a Congress too distracted, disorganized or greedy to act in the nation’s best interest.

For the past century, Congress has imposed a statutory limit on how much the United States can borrow. In theory, this limit is supposed to impose fiscal discipline upon spendthrift politicians.

In practice, it does no such thing.

The debt ceiling doesn’t actually restrict how much Congress can spend. It merely restricts the Treasury Department’s ability to pay bills Congress has already incurred. Year after year, Congress has passed budgets that authorize spending well beyond expected revenue, then raised the debt ceiling so that Treasury can borrow to make up the shortfall.

As a result, the main role of the debt ceiling in recent years has been as political hostage. Every year or so, when it comes time to raise the debt limit, attention-seeking politicians demand concessions in exchange for their precious votes.

This strategy is attractive because everyone (well, almost everyone) knows that defaulting on our debt would be disastrous.

John Nicholds: Scott Walker’s Rejection of Representative Democracy is Shameful

Gov. Scott Walker is thwarting representative democracy in Wisconsin. He is refusing to call prompt special elections to fill the seats of former state Sen. Frank Lasee, of De Pere, and former state Rep. Keith Ripp, of Lodi, a pair of Republicans who quit the Legislature in December to take posts with the governor’s administration. Walker wants to leave those seats open until January 2019 — denying tens of thousands of Wisconsinites representation for a full year.

That’s indefensible.

Unfortunately, Walker’s anti-democratic assault on popular sovereignty is part of an emerging pattern.

Across the country, politicians of both parties have been busy this year trying to dismantle or undermine the infrastructure for holding the special elections that ensure Americans are elected when legislative seats go vacant. Supporters of voting rights and genuine democracy should not simply be concerned by this pattern. They should be mounting a robust popular, legal and legislative response that guarantees equal representation under the law for all Americans.