Feb 15 2017

Pondernig 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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Howard Fineman: The White House Is Already In Flames

National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is gone ― that didn’t take long ― but he leaves behind a famous and fateful question: What did the president know and when did he know it?

Donald J. Trump has been president for less than a month, and already the Watergate query is all the capital is talking about, and, as a result, there is a widespread sense of a White House in deep, perhaps cataclysmic, trouble.

The list of failures and missteps of the Trump administration is as well known as it is long: a litany of patently obvious lies to the public and the press; mismanagement and vicious infighting; several malodorous Cabinet choices; mixed messages from on high, many of them coming within minutes of each other; leaks that gush like a fire hydrant; national security lapses that would be comical if they were not so risky; and a job approval rating lower at this point than that of any new president in memory.

But all of that is as nothing compared with the conflagration now.

Sherrilyn Ifill: The president lays the groundwork for a nationwide voter intimidation program

White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller argued Sunday that President Trump was the victim of voter fraud in the election. “Voter fraud,” Miller insisted, “is a serious problem in this country.” This statement is untrue. He also said that “the White House has provided enormous evidence” of this fraud. This is also untrue. [..]

Although “voter fraud” has long been on the list of myths perpetuated by state-level Republican leaders to justify onerous voter ID laws, even Republican members of Congress have refused to endorse the president’s views about widespread voter fraud. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that no federal dollars should be used to support the president’s search for voter fraud. Ayotte rejected Trump’s account of her defeat.

Thus, the president and his team’s peculiar repetition of claims about voter fraud must be recognized for what it is: They are laying the groundwork for forthcoming efforts. We should prepare for the president to issue a sweeping executive order requiring a nationwide investigation of alleged voter fraud. The justification for it will be as unmoored from facts, as was the basis for the seven Muslim-majority countries selected for the president’s travel ban. And the results will be just as, if not more, pernicious.

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship
; We Must Know The Truth

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: there MUST be an investigation by an independent, bipartisan commission of Russia’s ties to Donald Trump and his associates and that nation’s interference in our elections. Emphasize independent and bipartisan. That commission must have full subpoena power to call witnesses and make them testify under oath or risk prosecution. Hearings must be held out in the open, and televised live for the nation and the world to see. That’s what a democracy is all about.

The resignation of national security advisor Michael Flynn and Tuesday night’s news of repeated contacts between Trump associates and Russian intelligence make such an inquiry even more imperative. On Friday, winging his way to Mar-a-Lago on Air Force One, Trump told the press he knew nothing about the previous night’s Washington Post report that Flynn had secretly discussed lifting sanctions against Russia with Russia’s ambassador to the United States. But on Tuesday, press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that Trump had known about Flynn’s phone calls — and his lies about it — weeks ago.

Why was nothing done until the media broke the story? And why did Trump lie? As the National Lampoon joked back during the Watergate era, rephrasing the crucial questions aimed at Richard Nixon: “What did the president know and when did he STOP knowing it?”

Lawrence Douglas: Lying got Michael Flynn fired. But that’s what the Trump White House does best

True to his word, Donald Trump is draining the swamp. What he neglected to mention was that it would be a swamp of his own making. Less than one month old, and already the Trump presidency has the making of an ethical superfund site.

The problems did not begin with Kellyanne Conway shilling for Ivanka Trump’s latest product line. And they will not be solved with the resignation of Michael Flynn, the intemperate and vaguely paranoid national security adviser forced out after 24 days on the job.

The problems began on day one. Having brazenly refused to remove himself from his far-flung business interests, Trump has been in violation of the constitution from the instant that he swore to uphold it.

All this could have been easily avoided. Trump could have placed his holdings in a blind trust, as virtually all experts urged. He still could. But Trump has refused.

It is a shibboleth of constitutional democracy that no man is above the law. Only this president demonstrates little enthusiasm for the inconveniences of constitutional governance. His rejection is less ideological – Trump lacks the radical and apocalyptic vision of his chief strategist, Steve Bannon – than it is temperamental. He is too impatient and too extravagant a narcissist to bind himself by the rules that apply to mere mortals.

Amanda Marcotte: Can journalists debunk Trump’s lies without amplifying them? It’s challenging but not impossible

When White House adviser Kellyanne Conway went on TV and made up a fatal but entirely fictional terrorist attack in order to justify President Donald Trump’s travel ban, many Trump opponents thought they finally had slam-dunk proof of Conway’s unapologetic lying. It’s one thing to shamelessly spin Trump’s scandals or  manipulate statistics to mislead people, but conjuring dead bodies and terrorist attacks out of thin air? Even the Nazis waited until the Reichstag was on fire before concocting falsehoods about it.

Liberals and leftists had a field day with Conway’s fake terrorist attack, joking on social media, creating fake fundraisers and even holding fake memorial services for the nonexistent victims of the “Bowling Green massacre” that Conway had repeatedly mentioned to separate news outlets.

Unfortunately, initial polling data suggests that despite the widespread mockery and debunking, Conway’s invention of a fake terrorist attack was successful. Public Policy Polling, a progressive polling organization, found that 51 percent of the Trump supporters polled believe that the “Bowling Green massacre” — which, again, did not happen — justified Trump’s now-suspended ban on travelers and immigrants from certain Muslim countries.

How can so many people be so gullible? Well, there are a lot of possibilities. It could be that these folks know, on some level, that the “Bowling Green massacre” is not real but want to believe it’s true or partly true.