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Feb 27 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 Ryan: The Uses of Outrage

Are you angry about the white nationalist takeover of the U.S. government? If so, you are definitely not alone. The first few weeks of the Trump administration have been marked by huge protests, furious crowds at congressional town halls, customer boycotts of businesses seen as Trump allies. And Democrats, responding to their base, have taken a hard line against cooperation with the new regime.

But is all this wise? Inevitably, one hears some voices urging everyone to cool it — to wait and see, to try to be constructive, to reach out to Trump supporters, to seek ground for compromise.

Just say no.

Outrage at what’s happening to America isn’t just justified, it’s essential. In fact, it may be our last chance of saving democracy.

Even in narrowly partisan terms, Democrats would be well advised to keep listening to their base. Anyone who claims that being seen as obstructionist will hurt them politically must have slept through the past couple of decades. Were Democrats rewarded for cooperating with George W. Bush? Were Republicans punished for their scorched-earth opposition to President Obama? Get real.

trevor Timm: Why Paul Ryan is just Donald Trump in better wrapping

Nearly all the oxygen and outrage in DC is being sucked up by Donald Trump and his outrageous executive orders. But let’s not forget about the man without whom Trump could not accomplish his larger agenda: the spineless speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, Trump’s mainstream defender and apologist at every turn.

Ryan, who has cultivated a sham image as the “reasonable” Republican for years, has backed virtually all of Trump’s most controversial and cruel policies. Ryan manages to never buck Trump on anything of significance, while getting publicity for meaningless, quasi-critical statements. He is the biggest fraud in American politics. [..]

That much was clear yet again over the weekend, as the New York Times’ Jim Rotenberg reported that Ryan’s office “declined to engage” with him on any questions about Trump’s despicable war on the press, which even Republicans who haven’t dared to break with Trump on much of anything decried as a move befitting a dictator. Instead, Rotenberg wrote, Ryan’s office said it “disputed the premise of the question”.

It’s just one in a long line of cowardly and slimy moves by Ryan, who is really just Trump in a more aesthetically appealing wrapper.

Charles M. Blow: Trump, Archenemy of Truth

Donald Trump’s unrelenting assault on the media is in fact an assault on the implacability of truth, the notion of accountability and the power of free speech. It is also a bit of a bow to the conspiracy theorizing that Trump is wont to do.

Last week at CPAC, the politically crippled Reince Priebus delivered a soliloquy lamenting Trump’s negative media coverage, saying, “We’re hoping that the media would catch up eventually.”

Trump’s “boss,” Steve Bannon, immediately blasted the notion the way a shotgun blasts a quail rising from the brush:

“The reason Reince and I are good partners is that we can disagree. It’s not only not going to get better. It’s going to get worse every day.”

Bannon continued:

“And here’s why. By the way, the internal logic makes sense. They’re corporatist, globalist media that are adamantly opposed — adamantly opposed to an economic nationalist agenda like Donald Trump has.”

He later added:

“And as economic conditions get better, as more jobs get better, they’re going to continue to fight. If you think they’re going to give you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken. Every day — every day, it is going to be a fight.”

The conspiracy theory Bannon posits here is perfectly shaped for the xenophobe: America’s media has economic interests that extend well beyond this country’s borders, and therefore Trump’s “America first” message and policies pose a very real, bottom-line threat to the media’s global prosperity. The threat is so urgent that the American media is willfully damaging the only real asset it has — credibility — by inventing falsehoods designed to damage Trump and insulate its own profitability.

Malcolm Nance: The story of the week is Trump, Russia and the FBI. The rest is a distraction

Narrative switching. That is what the Trump administration is desperately trying to do around Russia right now. The White House reportedly interfered with the FBI in the middle of an active investigation involving counter-intelligence. This was not only foolhardy but also suspicious, as it directly undermined their apparent objective: distracting us.

On 14 February, the New York Times reported that advisers and associates of Donald Trump may have been in direct and continuous contact with officers of the Russian intelligence agency, the FSB, during a tumultuous election campaign in which the American democracy itself was hacked. A major party – now in opposition – was the victim of an unprecedented cyber-attack.

According to the Times, intercepted telephone calls and phone records indicated to American counter-intelligence officers direct contact with the Russians.

The stakes are high. Most Democrats and more than a few Republicans believe this investigation could unearth details that could plunge the nation into a political and constitutional crisis not seen since the secession of the South in 1860 and 1861.

Richard Wolffe: Steve Bannon lifted his mask of death at CPAC. It wasn’t a pretty sight

There’s a reason why political operators like Steve Bannon have never sat on the national security council that effectively decides whether the United States should go to war. It’s the same reason why Bannon’s new seat on the NSC is such a threat to the security of the United States and its allies: because he’s permanently at war.

“I can run a little hot on occasions,” he admitted at the conservative freak show known as the CPAC conference. Judging from his rare public outing on Thursday, that would be an unusual example of diplomatic understatement. [..]

Bannon clearly shares Trump’s burning sense of resentment at being excluded from the establishment. For his boss, that reached a peak with the humiliation of President Obama’s jokes at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

For Bannon, now safely inside the West Wing, that means still seeing the world through the lens of the Breitbart website that shocked the media conscience with so much alt-right trash. At one point on Thursday, Bannon even used the phrase “we at Breitbart”, as if there were no real difference between his old job in digital far-right media and his new job as a presidential adviser.