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Mar 09 2018

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 Krugman: Oh, What a Trumpy Trade War!

There’s near-universal consensus among both economists and business leaders that Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum are a bad idea, and that the wider trade war those tariffs could trigger would be very destructive. But the chances of heading off this policy disaster are small, because this is a quintessential example of Trump being Trump.

In fact, the tariffs are arguably the Trumpiest thing Trump has done so far.

After all, trade (like racism) is an issue on which Trump has been utterly consistent over the years. He has spent decades railing at other countries that, he claims, hurt America by taking advantage of our relatively open markets. And if his views are based on zero understanding of the issues or even of basic facts, well, Trumpism is all about belligerent ignorance, across the board.

But wait, there’s more. There’s a reason we have international trade agreements, and it’s not to protect us from unfair practices by other countries. The real goal, instead, is to protect us from ourselves: to limit the special-interest politics and outright corruption that used to reign in trade policy.

Trumpocrats, however, don’t see corruption and rule by special interests as problems. You could say that the world trading system is, in large part, specifically designed to prevent people like Trump from having too much influence. Of course he wants to wreck it.

Eugene Robinson: Stormy Daniels beat Trump at his own game

The president who boasted of treating women like sex objects is being outplayed at his own tabloid-warfare game by a porn star. Maybe there’s justice in the world after all.

You might have missed it in the ceaseless fusillade of news, but on Wednesday the White House all but confirmed the story that actress and director Stormy Daniels is dying to tell: Shortly before the election she was paid $130,000 in hush money to keep quiet about an “intimate relationship” she had with Donald Trump in 2006, soon after Melania Trump gave birth to the couple’s son, Barron.

Daniels filed a lawsuit Tuesday arguing that she should be free to speak about the affair, since a nondisclosure agreement laying out the terms of the payment was never actually signed by Trump. Asked about the payment at a White House briefing, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump denies the allegations and that, in any event, “this case has already been won in arbitration.” She later added that “the arbitration was won in the president’s favor.”

Trump was reportedly “very unhappy” with Sanders’s performance, but come on, give her a break. How is she supposed to keep all the lies straight as they multiply, overlap and at times contradict? She’s good at it, but every once in a while, a little truth is bound to slip out.

What she inconveniently seemed to confirm is that Trump is a party to arbitration proceedings regarding a nondisclosure agreement involving Daniels. Obviously, there would be no such agreement unless there were something Trump wanted to hide. And if Daniels’s silence was worth $130,000, it must have been something Trump really wanted to hide.

The Daniels affair is of more than just prurient interest: It would appear that Trump may have violated federal campaign law by failing to disclose the payment on his reporting forms.

Catherine Rampell: Trump has been playing right into China’s hands

If this is how we show China who’s boss, China has just learned it has a pretty dumb boss.

On Thursday, President Trump signed sweeping new tariffs on steel and aluminum, against the urging of economists, allies and most of the manufacturing, retail and home-building industries. This policy will likely destroy American jobs both in industries that use steel and aluminum and in ones that may soon be hit by retaliatory measures from other countries.

But no matter all that. Trump really, really wants to stick it to China! Too bad this won’t stick much.

U.S. steel jobs have been mostly lost due to technological change (i.e., robots, not China). U.S. aluminum jobs have been mostly lost to places with cheaper electricity (i.e., Iceland, which is coincidentally also not China).

Right now China isn’t even among the top 10 producers of U.S. steel imports. The top country we import from is Canada, which apparently should be grateful it has been given a reprieve from these tariffs “at least at this time.”

If hurting Canada is Trump’s best strategy for intimidating China, our next step should be maple-syrup taxes.

Misdirected metal tariffs are hardly the only way our dealmaker in chief has revealed himself to be a less-than-slick negotiator with China.

William Rivers Pitt: The GIGO White House: Garbage In, Garbage Out

Let’s play a little mental game, you and me.

Cast your mind back about three years and imagine a scenario in which alleged Russian meddling in US elections was a matter of great and growing concern. Evidence of this meddling has been piling up, and all signs indicate the Russians will seek to further disrupt elections to come. Without saying why, President Obama has not authorized any of the agencies tasked to defend against such intrusions to take any protective actions, despite being fully funded for such a request.

Now imagine a reporter asking Secretary of State John Kerry about protecting that most fundamental element of US democracy — the vote — against Russian interference, only to have him reply: “If it’s their intention to interfere, they’re going to find ways to do that. And we can take steps we can take, but this is something that once they decide they are going to do it, it’s very difficult to pre-empt it.”

Imagine what would happen next. Conservative rage would blast the mantle of the Earth into orbit around Neptune. They would still be hunting Kerry with dogs somewhere in the Maryland countryside, and Mr. Obama would be plying his new trade as a yak herder in Outer Mongolia. Probably, though, the Republicans still wouldn’t have done anything about the potential for Russian meddling.