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Dec 14 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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Dahlia Lithwick and David S. Cohen: Buck Up, Democrats, and Fight Like Republicans

On Monday, members of the Electoral College will vote in Donald J. Trump as president. Though he lost the election by nearly three million votes and almost daily generates headlines about new scandals, the Democratic Party is doing little to stop him. If you’ve been asking yourself “Where are the Democrats?” you’re not alone.

Since the election, top Democrats have been almost absent on the national stage. Rather, they have been involved largely in internecine warfare about how much to work with Mr. Trump. The Hillary Clinton campaign, trying to encourage a peaceful transition, has gone almost completely dark, with her most notable appearances coming in selfies with strangers. Nobody deserves downtime more than Mrs. Clinton, but while she is decompressing, the country is moving toward its biggest electoral mistake in history. [..]

Contrast the Democrats’ do-nothingness to what we know the Republicans would have done. If Mr. Trump had lost the Electoral College while winning the popular vote, an army of Republican lawyers would have descended on the courts and local election officials. The best of the Republican establishment would have been filing lawsuits and infusing every public statement with a clear pronouncement that Donald Trump was the real winner. And they would have started on the morning of Nov. 9, using the rhetoric of patriotism and courage.

How can we be so certain? This is what happened in 2000. When Florida was still undecided after election night, the Republicans didn’t leave their fate in the hands of individuals or third-party candidates. No, they recruited former Secretary of State James A. Baker III to direct efforts on behalf of George W. Bush. They framed their project as protecting Mr. Bush’s victory rather than counting votes. They were clear, consistent and forceful, with the biggest names in Republican politics working the process.

New York Times Editorial Board: Donald Trump’s Nominees Are In for a Rough Ride

Worried about the corporate gazillionaires whom Donald Trump is naming to his cabinet? Don’t fret — it could be months, if ever, before these people set foot inside the federal government. Mr. Trump’s transition team is seriously behind — some in Washington say they’ve gotten nowhere — on vetting his nominees for potential conflicts of interest. Whatever one thinks of his choices, this does not bode well for a smooth transfer of power.

Unlike his reality TV show, Mr. Trump doesn’t get the final say on hiring. Nominees face a long process to ensure they’ll be working for the American people, not for their own enrichment. By law, they must submit hundreds of pages of financial disclosures, shed assets and jobs and take other steps to avoid conflicts of interest. They must undergo an F.B.I. background check that looks back 15 years. That’s just the executive branch. The Senate, which has the power to confirm or reject nominees, has its own disclosure requirements. [..]

His nominees are mostly new to Washington, so they probably know little about the layers of screening and divestiture that lie ahead, or the laws behind them. The main law, enforced by the Office of Government Ethics, is 18 U.S.C. §208. This criminal conflict-of-interest statute prohibits an executive branch employee from participating “personally and substantially” in government matters affecting his or her own financial interests or those of a spouse or underage child, general partner, organization in which he or she serves as an officer, director, trustee, general partner or employee, as well as anyone with whom he or she is negotiating for or has an arrangement concerning prospective employment.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: By Picking Tillerson And Perry, Trump’s Pretty Much Just Trolling Us Now

When it comes to Cabinet-level appointments, Donald Trump hasn’t lost his ability to astonish and dismay. At this point his staffing process has pretty much turned into an extended exercise in trolling, a test to see how much humiliation the American people will endure.

Rick Perry for the Department of Energy? Perry will be running an organization he doesn’t even think should exist. By that logic, I should be the CEO of Citigroup. Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, for Secretary of State? Negotiating a peace treaty requires a different skill set than getting a permit to drill in the Black Sea.

The New York Times published a thoughtful op-ed by physicist Lawrence M. Krauss noting that the current Energy Secretary is also a physicist (a Nobel Prize-winning one) and outlining a number of critical issues facing the department. It was headlined, “Rick Perry is the Wrong Choice for Energy Secretary.”

The wrong choice? It’s hard to view these nominations as anything but the deliberate mockery of their departments, and of government itself.

Steven W. Thrasher: Democrats: don’t try to work with Donald Trump. Just say ‘no’

All Democrats must say “no” to working with Donald Trump and his lazy, shiftless thugs who want to steal the labor of our bodies, the sanity of our minds, and the beauty of our natural resources. Democrats need to say “no” to him, on everything, with the same forceful confidence Trump displays.

Any collaboration with Trump will yield nothing more than humiliation, anyway. Al Gore met with Ivanka Trump about climate justice only to have a climate denier nominated to helm the EPA, the ExxonMobil CEO named to lead the state department and a witch hunt against any government scientist who has gone to a climate change conference. Similarly, labor leaders who signaled they were interested in working with Trump in repealing Nafta were shown to be chumps when he named a fast-food CEO to oversee the labor department.

But there is a more important reason than salvaging dignity that Democrats shouldn’t do business with the president-elect: every time they say “I hope to find common ground with him,” they are saying that their pet issue is more important than the fact Trump has said Mexicans are rapists, “you can do anything” to women, Muslims should be registered or banned, the exonerated Central Park Five still deserve to be executed, and differently abled people deserve to be mocked. Each time a Democrat says “yes” to Trump’s choices or meetings or policies, they are normalizing his hate, ceding any moral ground they might be able to muster in future fights.

Give America the chance women around Trump don’t get, Democrats, and say “no” every time he tries to screw us.

Sam Goodman: Game, Set And Match: How The West Let Assad Win The Civil War In Syria

Donald Trump’s election as President and the expected warming of American relations with Russia is seen by many as the final straw that sees Bashar Al-Assad win the civil war he started and remain in power. The truth, however, is that Bashar effectively won the war three years ago when the free world stuttered in enforcing Obama’s red line regarding Assad’s use of chemical weapons.

The House of Commons vote in August 2013 to authorise airstrikes against the Assad regime’s chemical weapon stockpile was the only time British foreign policy could have unilaterally changed the course of the war. If that vote had been won, the last three years would have played out very differently.

It is worth bearing in mind that Russia was then not lending Assad a hand obliterating the opposition in Syria then. ISIS was not yet a powerful, unified entity. It was just one of many jihadi groups fighting for power. The Free Syrian Army, composed of those who initially protested Assad’s rule and the soldiers who mutinied rather than shoot unarmed civilians, held a third of the country, including Aleppo and large swathes of the suburbs of Damascus and had anywhere between 30-100,000 men under arms. The Syrian National Council was created as an inclusive alternative to Assad was comprised of Kurds, Shias, Sunnis and Christians.