Jan 02 2017

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: America Becomes a Stan

In 2015 the city of Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, was graced with a new public monument: a giant gold-plated sculpture portraying the country’s president on horseback. This may strike you as a bit excessive. But cults of personality are actually the norm in the “stans,” the Central Asian countries that emerged after the fall of the Soviet Union, all of which are ruled by strongmen who surround themselves with tiny cliques of wealthy crony capitalists.

Americans used to find the antics of these regimes, with their tinpot dictators, funny. But who’s laughing now?

We are, after all, about to hand over power to a man who has spent his whole adult life trying to build a cult of personality around himself; remember, his “charitable” foundation spent a lot of money buying a six-foot portrait of its founder. Meanwhile, one look at his Twitter account is enough to show that victory has done nothing to slake his thirst for ego gratification. So we can expect lots of self-aggrandizement once he’s in office. I don’t think it will go as far as gold-plated statues, but really, who knows?

Dean Baker: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/38938-trump-trade

Shortly after Donald Trump enters the White House, we should get an answer to a key question from his campaign: What does he actually intend to do about trade? Trade was one of his main issues when he campaigned in the key industrial states that he won in November.

Trump argued that past presidents of both parties had failed the country’s workers by signing bad trade deals. He said that the negotiators were “stupid” and that he would instead appoint “smart” negotiators who wouldn’t let Mexico, China and other trading partners beat us at the negotiating table.

Trump is correct in identifying trade as a force that has caused enormous economic damage to millions of people in these states, but he is wrong that the problem was “stupid” negotiators. The vast majority of people who have been given the responsibility for negotiating trade deals are smart, ambitious and hard-working.

The large trade deficits we have been running in the last two decades are not due to negotiators. We run large trade deficits because securing manufacturing jobs in the United States has not been a priority for our negotiators.

Robert Kuttner: Impeaching Trump

Donald Trump is wildly unfit to be president, and he will demonstrate that in ways that break the law and violate the Constitution. Since the election, there have been three wishful efforts to keep Trump from the presidency: a recount doomed by a lack of evidence; a futile campaign to flip Trump electors; and an even more improbable drive to get the Supreme Court to annul the 2016 election.

These moves, indicative of magical thinking, make Trump’s opposition look a lot weaker than it is―at a time when the stakes for the Republic could not be higher. There will also be marches and demonstrations, but they will also look weak unless they have a strategic focus.

There is only one constitutional way to remove a president, and that is via impeachment.

What’s needed is a citizens’ impeachment inquiry, to begin on Trump’s first day in office.

Robert Reich: My New Year’s Wish For Donald Trump

Donald Trump issued the following tweet on the last day of 2016: “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”

The man who is about to become president of the United States continues to exhibit a mean-spirited, thin-skinned, narcissistic and vindictive character.

Trump sees the world in terms of personal wins or losses, enemies or friends, supporters or critics.

He hasn’t yet figured out that a president holds a position of public trust that transcends personal animus. A president is supposed to represent all Americans, including those who voted against him and may continue to oppose him.

In a democracy, those who fight against a president’s policies are not his personal enemies; they are political opponents and critics. A democracy depends on the freedom to oppose those in power, without fear of reprisal, without being denigrated or labeled an enemy.

Happy New Year, Mr. Trump. You have 20 days in which to learn how to act as a president. All of us – even those who oppose your policies and worry about your character – sincerely hope you do

Heather Digby Parton: The biggest story of 2016: James Comey was Donald Trump’s MVP — most valuable politician

The big story of the 2016 election, the one which remains for me the most shocking and inexplicable, is the fact that James Comey, the director of the FBI, put a very heavy thumb on the scale which decided the election. It started back in July when he made inappropriate public criticism of Clinton even as he legally exonerated her. This is not something law enforcement is ever supposed to do, and it’s certainly unethical to do it in a highly charged political case.  Donald Trump and the Republicans used that criticism as evidence that Clinton was still subject to prosecution and “lock her up” (and worse, like “hang the bitch” and “Hillary for prison”) became sickening rallying cries at Trump campaign events. Close advisers and associates called for Clinton to be” shot for treason” and “arrested, tried, and executed.”

The word “emails” became shorthand for alleged criminal behavior by Hillary Clinton.  Under pressure from these hysterical Republicans, Comey continued to violate FBI practice by turning over the raw investigative files to congress, which he released in pieces and the Republicans promptly leaked, keeping the controversy going as the press once again used screaming “email” headlines to report nothing new or significant.

Despite all that, Clinton was leading in the polls going into the final stretch. And then as people all over the country were already voting, just 11 days before election day,  Comey sent his famous letter to the congress announcing they had found some emails on a laptop that might or might not be relevant to the earlier Clinton probe. The Republicans in congress eagerly released it publicly calling it a “re-opening” of the case and the media predictably went wild, talking of little else for days and splashing the news across front pages all over the country.

Comey knew very well why doing this was improper. Shortly after he left his job as a high ranking official in the Bush Justice Department a serious scandal took place around the firing of certain U.S. Attorneys.