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Mar 21 2016

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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Paul Krugman: On Invincible Ignorance

Remember Paul Ryan? The speaker of the House used to be a media darling, lionized as the epitome of the Serious, Honest Conservative — never mind those of us who actually looked at the numbers in his budgets and concluded that he was a con man. These days, of course, he is overshadowed by the looming Trumpocalypse.

But while Donald Trump could win the White House — or lose so badly that even our rotten-borough system of congressional districts, which heavily favors the G.O.P., delivers the House to the Democrats — the odds are that come January, Hillary Clinton will be president, and Mr. Ryan still speaker. So I was interested to read what Mr. Ryan said in a recent interview with John Harwood. What has he learned from recent events?

And the answer is, nothing.

Like just about everyone in the Republican establishment, Mr. Ryan is in denial about the roots of Trumpism, about the extent to which the party deliberately cultivated anger and racial backlash, only to lose control of the monster it created. But what I found especially striking were his comments on tax policy. I know, boring — but indulge me here. There’s a larger moral.

Trevor Timm: After invading Iraq 13 years ago the US is still making the same mistakes

We invaded Iraq 13 years ago on Sunday, but you would barely know from watching the news. Perhaps because there are so many war anniversaries these days it’s hard to keep track, or perhaps, it’s because our country has learned virtually nothing from the biggest foreign policy debacle of our generation.

The US government celebrated the Iraq war anniversary by announcing that they were sending more troops to the country. Remember this is a war that supposedly “ended” more than three years ago, yet thousands of troops have been sent back there since late 2014 to fight Isis, a group whose creation can be directly tied to the first Iraq war – or I guess the second one, depending on how you count.

In all, the US has been bombing Iraq for 25 years, which includes the last four presidents (you can watch a montage of all four announcing their respective bombing campaigns here). And if you listen to the leading candidates for both political parties, you can bet that streak will reach five on their first day in office.

Robert Kuttner: A Tale of Two Conventions and One Electoral College

The Republican National Convention meets in Cleveland July 18 through 21. A week later, the Democrats gather in Philadelphia. Let’s look into the crystal ball and imagine the scenes.

In Cleveland, it may be a coronation of Donald Trump, but more likely, the GOP elite, which is belatedly getting its act together, will cause Trump to fall short of a first ballot victory by a few votes. Then things will get truly ugly.

Right now, Republicans have what games theorists call a collective action problem. If Cruz and Kasich could agree on a block-Trump alliance, each could ask his supporters to vote for whichever of the two is stronger in a given primary. Then, depending on who has more delegates, they could duke it out for the nomination in Cleveland, and maybe team up as a ticket.

Given that GOP primaries from here on are generally winner-take-all affairs, except in a few states that deliberately send lots of uncommitted delegates, such a tactical alliance could probably block Trump. Since he has never won an absolute majority in any primary (he came closest in Massachusetts of all places with 49.3 percent), the anti-Trump forces can presumably outvote the Trump forces if they can agree on a single candidate.

Stanley Fish: “I Wouldn’t Lead It”: Understanding Trump’s Incitement to Violence

In the March 20th edition of the Wall Street Journal, political commentator Peggy Noonan reflects on Donald Trump’s saying that if he were denied the nomination by some nit-picking rule (like the rule that you must win a majority of the delegates before you can claim victory), “I think you’d have riots” and “bad things would happen.” Of course, he added, “I wouldn’t lead it.”

Noonan wonders if he knows what he’s saying, if he knows that his statement comes across as a threat: “Nice little convention you have here, shame if someone put a match to it.” Doesn’t Trump understand, she asks, that “American politics is always potentially a powder keg?”

Of course he does. In an earlier post I analyzed Trump’s rambling, episodic, anecdotal and sequentially incoherent speaking style as a twenty-first century instantiation of the mode of self-presentation celebrated long ago by Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), who boasted that he wrote without premeditation and just let one thought (and word) follow another in whatever order occurred to him. The idea was to achieve a spontaneity that says to the reader or listener: “here I am warts and all, a real person telling you what I think, not one of those confected public figures who hides behind a curtain of commonplace pieties; at least with me you know what you’re getting.”

Heather Digby Parton: The Republicans’ SCOTUS obstruction proves that things are only going to get worse in Washington

Last week’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia sparked another round of speculation about whether or not the Republicans were on the verge of sobering up and becoming responsible leaders who will perform their duties as prescribed in the Constitution. President Obama has offered them a man of the highest integrity who by all accounts is extremely well-liked by members of both parties. And although he is seen as a member of the center left, he is known to be a moderate in judicial temperament and very respectful of precedent. Republicans could never have expected a more congenial choice from a Democratic president. And it doesn’t matter one little bit. Despite the wistful hopes of commentators and establishment Democrats everywhere, they will not confirm him.

This isn’t entirely surprising, of course. This is one of “their” seats, which they believe is ordained by their Creator to be a hardcore rightwing zealot. And it is true that appointing a moderate to the “Scalia seat” will change the balance on the court. That’s the sort of thing that tends to happen when presidents are elected from the same party all but eight years out of 24, which can legitimately be seen as a referendum on the two parties’ judicial philosophy. They’ve been lucky this didn’t happen sooner.