“Punting 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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New York Times Editorial: No Shame
There are many unanswered questions about the vicious assault in Benghazi last month that killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. And Congress has a responsibility to raise them. But Republican lawmakers leading the charge on Capitol Hill seem more interested in attacking President Obama than in formulating an effective response.
It doesn’t take a partisan to draw that conclusion. The ugly truth is that the same people who are accusing the administration of not providing sufficient security for the American consulate in Benghazi have voted to cut the State Department budget, which includes financing for diplomatic security. The most self-righteous critics don’t seem to get the hypocrisy, or maybe they do and figure that if they hurl enough doubts and complaints at the administration, they will deflect attention from their own poor judgments on the State Department’s needs.
Paul Krugman: Death By Ideology
Mitt Romney doesn’t see dead people. But that’s only because he doesn’t want to see them; if he did, he’d have to acknowledge the ugly reality of what will happen if he and Paul Ryan get their way on health care.
Last week, speaking to The Columbus Dispatch, Mr. Romney declared that nobody in America dies because he or she is uninsured: “We don’t have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don’t have insurance.” This followed on an earlier remark by Mr. Romney – echoing an infamous statement by none other than George W. Bush – in which he insisted that emergency rooms provide essential health care to the uninsured.
These are remarkable statements. They clearly demonstrate that Mr. Romney has no idea what life (and death) are like for those less fortunate than himself.
Free speech is dying in the Western world. While most people still enjoy considerable freedom of expression, this right, once a near-absolute, has become less defined and less dependable for those espousing controversial social, political or religious views. The decline of free speech has come not from any single blow but rather from thousands of paper cuts of well-intentioned exceptions designed to maintain social harmony.
In the face of the violence that frequently results from anti-religious expression, some world leaders seem to be losing their patience with free speech. After a video called “Innocence of Muslims” appeared on YouTube and sparked violent protests in several Muslim nations last month, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that “when some people use this freedom of expression to provoke or humiliate some others’ values and beliefs, then this cannot be protected.” [..]
Of course, free speech is often precisely about pissing off other people – challenging social taboos or political values.
At Thursday’s vice presidential debate, Representative Ryan renewed his claim that he has a secret plan to cut the deficit while cutting all tax rates by 20 percent and not eliminating any tax deductions for which the middle class are large recipients. Oh, and Romney has also promised to increase military spending. [..]
There is, of course, no Ryan plan. There cannot be a Ryan plan because mathematicians are not like historians. The cruel joke about historians is that while God himself cannot change history; historians can. It is perhaps because they can be useful to God in this regard that he tolerates their continued existence and frequent errors. Mathematicians are useless to God, at least in the non-exotic realms of mathematics relevant to budgets, because they are so good at exposing errors and when they do so the error is beyond dispute. (Econometricians are God’s favorites among the quants.) No budget plan could meet all (or even most) of the policy constraints Ryan and Romney have promised they would obey. It is mathematically impossible. Romney and Ryan’s primary lie is that they have a secret plan to cut taxes, cut the deficit, and increase military spending.
Andrew Leonard: Romney’s magic economy plan
Mitt Romney gets a lot of guff from his critics for his unwillingness to spell out the details of how he plans to fix the U.S. the economy; how exactly his tax reforms will work, for example, or what precisely he will do in his first 100 days to boost job creation. But the best thing about the Romney agenda is that by his own admission, he doesn’t need a plan. Just getting himself elected is the ticket to prosperity. [..]
The notion that Romney could spur economic growth “without actually doing anything” invites mockery. The Atlantic’s Matt O’Brien memorably dubbed it “faith-based economic strategy.” At the very least it seemed to betray a breath-taking level of unwarranted hubris. But the key to understanding his boast is to ignore the low-hanging fruit (“without actually doing anything”) and focus on five crucial words: “We’ll see capital come back.“
If you support strong and effective government, then the unfamiliar glow you felt after last Thursday’s debate was the satisfaction of seeing your opinions forcefully defended by a national candidate. There hasn’t been much of that going on lately. But a deceptive question was asked in the vice presidential debate, while other important ones still haven’t been asked of any national candidate.
The president’s been undercutting his own party’s best message and keeps threatening to cut benefits for its signature programs. As for Mitt Romney and his running mate, there’s little left to be said: They’re both determined to undermine Medicare and Social Security. Even if they’re retreating from their most radical ideas now, you know those ideas will be back once they’re in office.
If what follows focuses more on the president than on his challenger, its because the Republicans are beyond redemption on this issue. But both candidates need to answer some direct questions on this topic.
Robert Kuttner: Muddled Ideology, Muddled Debate
The nation’s pundits have had a fine week, psychoanalyzing President Obama’s dismal performance in the first debate and Joe Biden’s effective if a bit over-the-top counter-punching in his match with Paul Ryan.
Maureen Dowd had it about right when she wrote that “Because Obama doesn’t relish confrontation, he often fails to pin his opponents on the mat the first time he gets the chance; instead, perversely, he pulls back and allows foes to gain oxygen.” Ouch.
But the psycho-biography school, fascinating as it is, mostly misses the point.
Romney and Obama have each muddled their views — but Romney does it in a way that helps him, while Obama’s muddling helps the Republicans. Let me explain.