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Apr 18 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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Gene Healy and John Glaser:Repeal, Don’t Replace, Trump’s War Powers

On Monday, two days after President Trump declared “Mission Accomplished” on the latest round of missile strikes against Syria, a bipartisan group of senators unveiled legislation intended to reassert Congress’s relevance to the wars we fight. But the new Authorization for the Use of Military Force, introduced by Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, and the Democrat Tim Kaine, may end up doing the opposite.

Senator Kaine is right that, as he said in a speech about the bill, “for too long Congress has given presidents a blank check to wage war.” The 2001 authorization, passed three days after the Sept. 11 attacks and aimed at the perpetrators of those attacks, has done just that. Three presidents in a row have warped its limited authority into an enabling act for globe-spanning presidential war.

The Corker-Kaine resolution won’t bring an end to the Forever War; it will institutionalize it. Instead of ratifying war powers that three presidents in a row have seized illegally, Congress should repeal — and not replace — the 2001 legislation.

Sarah Vowell: It’s Tax Day. Don’t Forget to Read Thoreau.

There must have been a lot of Abu Ghraib-inspired loitering in post offices that year. The first time I had to turn in a tax return after seeing those photos of Iraqi prisoners of war being tortured by United States Army reservists, I stood in front of a mail box for 45 minutes, hesitating to contribute to the federal coffers and envying the folk singer Pete Seeger. Mr. Seeger’s wife, Toshi, used to cover their tax return with a blank sheet of paper so he saw only the one line he had to sign and not the amount of money he was sending to Washington to pay for wars he disapproved of.

I played Al Capone in an eighth grade re-enactment of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. So of course I mailed my tax return. I slunk home and figured I had two choices: I could cheer up, or I could reread Thoreau. [..]

Rereading “Civil Disobedience” annually, around tax time, is on the same to-do list as sending forms to my accountant and gathering the wadded-up receipts that suggest that my job is not writing but drinking tea in airports. Because the point of Thoreau’s admitted “harsh and stubborn and unconciliatory” rant is worth remembering at least once a year: Our money makes us complicit. You and I paid for the rope at Abu Ghraib just as our forebears footed the bill for Gen. Winfield Scott and Capt. Robert E. Lee to dock at Veracruz in 1847 and follow the trail blazed by Hernán Cortés to storm Mexico City because the guy in the White House really needed Utah.

Michael Tomasky: RNC’s Comey Attacks Are Right out of the Dictators’ Playbook

When wtf moments happen at the pace they have in the age of Trump, it gets tough to sort out which outrages really matter.

When we do encounter a stand-out moment, we need to take notice. And I say we’re in one now. When future historians write the dystopian timeline of how we lost the republic under Trump, they’ll make special note of this current campaign by the Republican National Committee to smear James Comey.

If you haven’t gone to http://lyincomey.com, I suggest you do so. No; scratch that. You don’t need to. Don’t give them the traffic.

Just ponder what it means that the RNC has now gone into full Trump mode—everyone who deals with him gets dragged down to his level eventually, or drags themselves down voluntarily—in attacking a lifelong Republican and lifelong prosecutor who has spent his career doing what Republicans used to want G-men like Comey to do: put the bad guys in jail.

This is straight-up caudillismo—unquestioning subservience to the strong man, of the sort heretofore seen in places like Nicaragua under the Somozas or the Philippines under Marcos. It’s not that I wouldn’t expect the RNC to defend Trump. I would. It’s the way they’re doing it. The abject genuflection, even to the point of adopting his way of speaking (Lyin’ Comey). In its obvious effort to please the big man, stay on his good side, it has that whiff of totalitarian quaking about it, like the men who wrote the headlines at Pravda back in the 1930s, choosing each verb with the greatest care lest they run afoul of Uncle Joe.

Michael Winship: Mob Rule at the White House

I blame Tony Soprano.

As entertaining and compelling as the “The Sopranos” was back in the day—and I certainly count myself among its fans—by so successfully humanizing a thug and his henchmen in organized crime, I can’t help but wonder if the TV series, and other shows and movies like it, may have helped contribute to an atmosphere in which a man like Donald Trump not only can be elected and then allowed to treat the presidency like a Mafia clubhouse, but even be admired for it.

And yes, that was an 86-word sentence. I can hear Tony growling, You got a problem with that?

In his controversial new book, “A Higher Loyalty,” fired FBI director James Comey, who has come under a relentless hail of Twitter fire from @realDonaldTrump, describes the president as “unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values,” and while Tony Soprano certainly was, too, I confess the comparison may be unfair. To Tony.

Tony Soprano is a far more well-rounded and better written character than Trump, and at least sufficiently self-aware to have once said to his consigliere Silvio, “All due respect, you got no @#%^&* idea what it’s like to be Number One. Every decision you make affects every facet of every other @#%^&* thing. It’s too much to deal with almost. And in the end, you’re completely alone with it.”

Although Trump may realize the truth of this more and more, arrogance and hubris would never allow him to say it out loud.

Richard Eskow: 7 Questions About the Syria Airstrikes That Aren’t Being Asked

Mission accomplished,” says the President. What, exactly, was the mission? And what exactly was accomplished?

Donald Trump is being mocked for using this phrase in a tweet to praise what he claims was a “perfectly executed” airstrike against chemical weapons facilities in Syria. This recalls George W. Bush’s egregious evocation of the phrase in 2003 to claim an early end to the U.S. entanglement in Iraq, which is still ongoing fifteen years later.

History made a fool of Bush for that proclamation, which was printed on a banner behind the President as he delivered his speech proclaiming an end to the Iraqi conflict on the deck of an aircraft carrier.

But Bush’s foolish and lethal incursion to Iraq had the backing of virtually the entire national-security establishment. So did Donald Trump’s bombing attack on Syria, as did the bombing attack he ordered last year.