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Nov 01 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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Kashana Cauley: Slavery Thrived on Compromise, John Kelly

In an interview with Laura Ingraham on Fox News last night, the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, said “the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War,” a statement that would shock, among others, the founding fathers. After spirited debates at the 1787 Constitutional Convention, they included Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 in our Constitution, which said each slave, for legislative representation and taxation purposes, counted as three-fifths of a person. That provision is known as the Three-Fifths Compromise, a term that clearly states that Northerners and Southerners were, in fact, quite able to reach weird compromises on slavery.

But our country’s tortured attempt to find some kind of balance on whether it was right to enslave African-Americans wasn’t limited to the Three-Fifths Compromise. To argue that the Civil War came about because Americans couldn’t compromise on whether black slaves were truly people or not would require us to ignore at least six other major compromises on slavery, from the first fugitive slave law in 1793, which said that escaped slaves in any state could be caught, tried and returned to their masters, to the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which allowed residents of the two territories to vote on whether to allow slavery. Slaveowners and abolitionists compromised on slavery over and over again, throwing black people’s rights onto the bargaining table like betting chips in a casino.

Michelle Goldberg: The Plot Against America

On Monday morning, after America learned that Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and Manafort’s lobbying partner, Rick Gates, had been indicted and turned themselves in to federal authorities, the president tried to distance himself from the unfolding scandal. “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign,” the president wrote in one tweet. A few minutes later, he added, in another, “Also, there is NO COLLUSION!”

At almost the exact same time, news broke suggesting that the F.B.I. has evidence of collusion. We learned that one of the Trump campaign’s foreign policy aides, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about his attempts to solicit compromising information on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government. Despite Trump’s hysterical denials and attempts at diversion, the question is no longer whether there was cooperation between Trump’s campaign and Russia, but how extensive it was.

In truth, that’s been clear for a while. If it’s sometimes hard to grasp the Trump campaign’s conspiracy against our democracy, it’s due less to lack of proof than to the impudent improbability of its B-movie plotline. Monday’s indictments offer evidence of things that Washington already knows but pretends to forget. Trump, more gangster than entrepreneur, has long surrounded himself with bottom-feeding scum, and for all his nationalist bluster, his campaign was a vehicle for Russian subversion.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: America’s expanding ‘shadow war’ in Africa

That four U.S. Army soldiers lost their lives in an ambush in Niger should spark a reckoning. While U.S. news outlets flood us with reports on President Trump’s alleged insults to a widow who lost her husband and the congresswoman who defended her, and probe the tactical details of the ambush, the real question is: What are U.S. soldiers doing in combat in Niger and elsewhere across Africa? Under what authority do they operate? Is national security served by risking soldiers’ lives in what appears to be an expanding and enduring shadow war in Africa?

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, claimed that he had no idea there were 1,000 U.S. soldiers in Niger, but he has no qualms about the mission. But after briefings by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, he boasted that “You’re going to see more actions in Africa, not less. You’re going to see more aggression by the United States toward our enemies, not less; you’re going to have decisions being made not in the White House but out in the field.”

The senator shamelessly flaunts Congress’s utter dereliction of its fundamental constitutional responsibility to declare war. The Founders gave Congress that power because they were worried about the executive’s penchant for wars that ended up impoverishing the people. As James Madison wrote to Thomas Jefferson, “The constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, & most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war in the Legislature.”

Eugene Robinson: Trump must be wondering who else is talking to Mueller

After Monday’s legal shock and awe, one thing is certain: The Mueller investigation poses a serious and perhaps existential threat to the Trump administration.

Apologists for the president can yell “nothing burger” until they’re blue in the face. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates — now under home confinement and charged with offenses that carry long prison terms — would likely disagree. Campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, whom special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has “flipped” into cooperating with the probe, also might attest that Monday’s acts and revelations are a very big deal.

President Trump had good reason to spend that morning upstairs in the White House residence, brooding and fuming. Regarding Manafort and Gates, Trump perhaps could argue that Mueller has made no allegation — thus far — of collusion with the Russians to boost Trump’s prospects in the election. But the Papadopoulos case, according to court documents, is all about Russian mischief — and what the Trump campaign may have known about it.

Robert Dallek: American democracy has gone through dark times before

The announcements that Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos have been indicted by a federal grand jury on various charges, including conspiring against the United States, money laundering and lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) deepens the current cynicism about politics, politicians and the Trump administration in particular.

According to the Washington Post, seven out of 10 Americans see the country being as sharply divided into warring political camps as during the Vietnam war 50 years ago. The division and inability of the Trump administration to pass any major legislative initiative about immigration, healthcare and now possibly federal taxes, despite Trump’s repeated promises about making America great again, create doubts about democracy’s effectiveness as a system of government.

Current events remind some people of Winston Churchill’s famous observation that democracy is the worst possible system – except for all the rest. Or maybe it’s just like all the rest. What makes it particularly distressing is the view that this is not an aberration but rather the “new normal.”

It might help Americans to remember that we have been through these periods of disillusionment before.