Jan 16 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.

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Cornell William Brooks and Jonathan Greenblat: On this MLK Day, it’s more important than ever to fight hate and bigotry

For more than a century, our two organizations have fought on behalf of justice and equality. We have worked together on anti-lynching laws, school desegregation, voting rights legislation, hate crime laws and criminal-justice reform.

Both the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP have done much to make the United States a fairer and stronger nation, and we often have done it together. Either organization simply could stand on its legacy, especially on a day set aside to remember a hero of the civil rights battles of the past. But on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we recognize that this is no time to wax poetic about past triumphs or rest on our laurels. Now more than ever, we must build a strong coalition of now.

The new administration is taking office this week after an extraordinarily divisive election campaign that featured dog-whistled and overt anti-Semitism as well as mainstreamed racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, misogyny and other forms of hate. Bigotry that for so many years was hidden, repressed or relegated to the fringes of society no longer appears to be taboo. Words that were once used only by extremists such as white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan and, more recently, the so-called alt-right have become part of the public conversation. Disturbingly, according to the FBI, the number of hate crimes reported to law enforcement increased in 2015, and a hate crime is committed every 90 minutes in the United States.

Paul Krugman: With All Due Disrespect

As a young man, Congressman John Lewis, who represents most of Atlanta, literally put his life on the line in pursuit of justice. As a key civil rights leader, he endured multiple beatings. Most famously, he led the demonstration that came to be known as Bloody Sunday, suffering a fractured skull at the hands of state troopers. Public outrage over that day’s violence helped lead to the enactment of the Voting Rights Act.

Now Mr. Lewis says that he won’t attend the inauguration of Donald Trump, whom he regards as an illegitimate president.

As you might expect, this statement provoked a hysterical, slanderous reaction from the president-elect – who, of course, got his start in national politics by repeatedly, falsely questioning President Obama’s right to hold office. But Mr. Trump — who has never sacrificed anything or taken a risk to help others — seems to have a special animus toward genuine heroes. Maybe he prefers demonstrators who don’t get beaten?

But let’s not talk about Mr. Trump’s ravings. Instead, let’s ask whether Mr. Lewis was right to say what he said. Is it O.K., morally and politically, to declare the man about to move into the White House illegitimate?

Yes, it is. In fact, it’s an act of patriotism.

Joy Ann Reid: Trump Could Address These Legitimacy Questions—But He Won’t

The shadow of illegitimacy stalks President-elect Donald Trump. Those are not words to be written lightly. But they are becoming harder to avoid as Trump’s presidency-in-waiting becomes increasingly mired in scandal before it’s even begun.

Civil rights hero John Lewis shocked the world on Friday by saying bluntly that Trump is not a legitimate president (Trump responded in a Tweet on Saturday, hitting Lewis for the state of his Georgia congressional district). Lewis put his considerable moral authority on the line to make such a bold statement – though anyone who knows his history knows that he’s always been bold. But he is hardly the first person to think it: that this president increasingly lacks the core element required for a broad sense of legitimacy: strong public confidence that he was honestly and fairly elected, and will act in the national interest, and not some other interest – financial or worse – as president.

It’s not that Americans, including Lewis, are refusing to accept that Donald Trump will be the president once he’s sworn in, the way birthers, including Donald Trump, did to Barack Obama. But birthers were a tiny fraction of the public, and their insane theory of Obama’s secret Kenyan birth remained confined inside the Republican Party base. Obama entered office with approval ratings approaching 70 percent, and with even some Republican voters basking in the glow of his election as the nation’s first black president

Randi Weingarten: DeVos’s Disqualifying Record

One year ago, Congress—urged on by parents and educators—reached a cease-fire in the education wars. After No Child Left Behind and the fixation on testing instead of on children, Republicans and Democrats—from rural, urban and suburban communities—agreed on a fresh start for public education with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). What a difference a year makes. This week, the Senate will consider the nomination of Donald Trump’s choice for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, someone who has spent decades—and millions of dollars—to divide communities and defund, undermine and privatize public schools.

DeVos lobbied for a school voucher law that voters in her home state of Michigan overwhelmingly rejected. But she was able to push through the vast expansion of for-profit charter schools with little oversight. DeVos has written so many checks (including to several senators who will vote on her nomination) and strong-armed so many lawmakers that, despite having no experience in public education, she has influenced nearly every aspect of education in Michigan. The result? Achievement has declined across the state. In addition to media reports of rampant corruption, nearly half of Michigan’s charter schools rank in the bottom of America’s schools, and the state’s charter schools lag 84 percent behind state averages in math and 80 percent in reading.

Americans want the secretary of education to strengthen and support the public schools that 90 percent of American children attend. In a speech last week at the National Press Club, I outlined four pillars that do just that—and help ensure every neighborhood public school is a viable choice for parents. The pillars focus on children’s well-being, powerful learning, teacher capacity and collaboration.

Jonathan Freedland: Don’t treat Donald Trump as if he’s a normal president. He’s not

There is one week to go and all is confusion. Next Friday Donald Trump will take the oath of office and be sworn in as president of the United States. But still no one has the first clue how to handle what’s coming. Politicians, journalists and diplomats, in the US and around the world, are searching for guidance, desperately flicking through the pages of the rulebook, a manual full of past precedents and norms that they have spent their careers mastering – but that Trump burned and shredded months ago.

In normal times, even those few parts of this week’s “dirty dossier” affair that are firmly established would be enough to undo an incoming president. Put aside the lurid details of what went on in Moscow hotel rooms. Assume they’re untrue. Focus instead on the fact that the US Department of Justice sought and eventually gained secret court warrants to investigate two Russian banks and their links with a series of Trump associates.

Remember how much damage it did to Hillary Clinton for the FBI to be looking (again) at her use of a private email server. Regardless of what they found – nothing, as it happens – the mere fact that she was under investigation wounded her badly, perhaps even denying her the presidency. Yet now we know that federal investigators were keen to probe Team Trump not over its email habits, but something much more serious: possible links with a hostile foreign power.