Sep 07 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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Eugene Robinson: Trump offers us a glimpse behind the curtain. There’s nothing there.

One of the most cynical quotations in history is also one of the most widely attributed. Let’s ponder the version associated with Groucho Marx: “Sincerity is the key to success. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”

From the moment Donald Trump opened his quest for the presidency, this idea has defined him and served as an organizing principle of his politics.

He presented himself as the guy who said whatever was on his mind, who didn’t talk like a politician, who didn’t care what others thought and who railed against “political correctness.” [..]

Putting aside the catastrophe of his presidency, this approach has worked remarkably well for Trump. But when the input on which he bases his calculations is garbled or contradictory, he doesn’t know which way to go. Lacking any deep instincts or convictions, he tries to move in several directions at once, an awkward maneuver even for an especially gifted politician. In these situations, Trump offers us a glimpse behind the curtain, and we see there is nothing there.

Charles M. Blow: Inner Racism Revealed

Allow me a moment of personal indulgence: When I began writing a column many years ago, it quickly dawned on me that although I had strong and firm views on some things, there were many others about which my opinions weren’t fully formed. I believe that many of us have areas in our lives where our opinions are fungible. It was only through my experience in this job that my own opinions became so clear to me. Doing the job honed me, revealed me, exposed me.

I believe that something similar, but on a much grander and much more consequential scale, happens with presidents. As Michelle Obama said: “Being president doesn’t change who you are. No, it reveals who you are.” That is what is happening with Donald Trump.

He has in the course of his life been on all sides of many issues, although he was always a liar, bully, misogynist, opportunist and economic isolationist. But his racial hostility and white supremacy seem to have blossomed with his entry into politics and his Russia-aided election. After spending a life catering to the appetites of the greedy and gauche, he realized that there was an exponentially larger market of white nationalists and neo-Nazis. To the aspirational he could be landlord, but to the racists he could be overlord.

David Leonhardt: Your Coming Tax Increase

A 19th-century economist named Adolph Wagner made a prediction that came to be known as Wagner’s Law: As societies became wealthier, their taxes would rise. They would rise because people would want more of the services that government tended to provide better than the private market, like national security, education, medical care and a guaranteed retirement.

Wagner’s Law has proven truer than not, but there are still many people who would like to pretend otherwise. Specifically, they wish we could summon a country with a strong military, good schools, health care and comfortable retirements — but falling taxes. It’s a nice fantasy.

Yesterday, Larry Summers, the economist and former Treasury secretary, gave a lunchtime presentation in Washington laying out the statistics that debunk the falling-taxes fantasy. He effectively updated Wagner’s Law for the United States in 2017.

Paul Pillar: Haley’s Dishonest Speech About the Iran Nuclear Agreement

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the agreement that limits Iran’s nuclear program, is for Donald Trump one more of the Obama administration’s achievements to be trashed.  It goes alongside the Affordable Care Act, the Paris climate change agreement, and other measures (most recently the “dreamers” program involving children of illegal immigrants) as targets for trashing because fulfilling campaign rhetoric is given higher priority in the current administration than whether a program is achieving its purpose, whether there are any realistic alternatives available, or what the effects of the trashing will be on the well-being of Americans and the interests and credibility of the United States.

Nikki Haley, whose foreign policy experience has consisted of these past few months as the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, has assumed the role of chief public trasher of the JCPOA for the administration.  Evidently no demands on the time of the U.S. ambassador in New York, from the issue of North Korea (which has real, not imagined, nuclear weapons) to the war in Syria were too important to keep her from giving a speech at the American Enterprise Institute that represented the administration’s most concerted and contrived public effort so far to lay groundwork for withdrawing from the JCPOA.  Haley has warmed to this cause both because of her own previous parochial interests, including those associated with financial contributions she has received, and because it is a convenient vehicle for playing to Trump’s urges.  Haley evidently feels no obligation to perform as one of the “adults” in the administration to whom the country looks to contain those urges.

Sherri Goodman: Irma, Harvey reveal ‘massive national security risks’

Even as emergency management officials in Texas scramble to rebuild after Hurricane Harvey, they acknowledge that they were unprepared for the scope and strength of the storm, which was made more severe by the effects of climate change.

The widespread destruction in Houston shows that the changing climate is a direct threat to our citizens’ security right here at home. Hurricane Irma gaining strength in the Caribbean and threatening Florida and Puerto Rico is further worrying officials and emergency responders. It’s clear that we need to think bigger and act now.

Emergency planners and military planners alike, at both FEMA and Department of Defense, routinely use exercise-planning tools like war-gaming to prepare for extreme weather events. We plan and exercise for a nuclear attack by North Korea. We prepare for the next phase of Russian and Chinese aggression. We prepare for deliberate terrorist attacks on the homeland. But we are not yet clear-eyed about the threat of extreme weather in the era of climate change.