Mar 13 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: Springtime for Sycophants

When Donald Trump came to office, many feared that he would break up our close economic relations with Mexico and/or start a trade war with China. So far, neither has happened.

It’s true that our free trade agreement with Mexico and Canada is still under threat, and Trump has placed tariffs on some Chinese goods. But his trade ire seems increasingly focused on an unexpected target: the European Union, which he tweeted has “horrific barriers & tariffs on U.S. products going in.”

This is odd on several levels. To the (very large) extent to which Trumpism is based on racial enmity, picking a fight with Europe, of all places, seems strange. Furthermore, the U.S. has always looked favorably on the E.U., which is, for all its faults, a major force for peace and democracy. Why rush into a spitting match with our allies that only serves the interests of enemies of freedom like Vladimir Putin? Oh, wait.

Beyond all that, however, Trump is just wrong on the facts. “U.S. exports to the European Union enjoy an average tariff of just 3 percent,” says the U.S. government’s own guide to exporters.

Where is Trump getting his misinformation? Probably from Peter Navarro, his trade czar, whose star is clearly rising. And the story of Navarro’s rise tells you a lot about the nature of the Trump administration — a place that rewards sycophants who tell the boss what he wants to hear.

Catherine Rampell: Hey, Putin: Don’t pin this on the Jews

Maybe the Russians didn’t meddle in our 2016 election. Maybe it was the Jews.

So says President Trump’s favorite green-room buddy and shirtless equestrian, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In an interview that aired Friday evening, NBC’s Megyn Kelly asked Putin whether it bothered him that Russians had interfered in the U.S. election.

“I couldn’t care less,” he replied. “They do not represent the interest of the Russian state. Maybe they’re not even Russians. Maybe they’re Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews, just with Russian citizenship.”

The White House has so far remained silent on Putin’s anti-Semitic scapegoating. And based on a draft House Intelligence Committee report, other Republicans are also apparently in denial that Putin wanted Trump to win, despite the intelligence community’s conclusions to the contrary.

So allow me to chime in instead. I can’t speak for Ukrainians or Tatars. But as a Jew, I find Putin’s attempt to implicate my people to be disgusting, offensive, obviously false.

Because let’s be frank: If Jews had rigged the election, it would have had a way different outcome.

Rick Wilson: The Walls Are Closing In on Trump

The Fox and Trump media enterprise today launched into a spasm of complete ecstasy as the House Intelligence Committee declared their investigation of Russian interference in our elections and their contacts with and collaboration with the Trump campaign over, done, solved. In their alternate reality, they’re declaring the CASE CLOSED.

They might not want to get too far over their skis on this one because both the Senate and Bob Mueller are still taking this question seriously, as opposed to the clownish covering of Donald Trump’s ample ass by the Republicans on the House Intel Committee. Its chairman Devin Nunes and the committee itself are both hopelessly compromised. Nunes has done everything in his power to cover for the President, his staff, and their Russian contacts, and to elide Vladimir Putin’s stated intent and obvious actions. [..]

That Members of Congress who have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution and protect this nation have engaged in a sham investigation about to produce a sham report to protect a sham President is an insult to the oath they swore and itself a clear and present danger to the security of our nation. Nunes, the Fredo of L’Affaire Russe, will have a sharply defined role in the history of this sad moment: the clownish and weak man who exposed his nation to danger and disruption by a hostile enemy nation merely for partisan benefit.

The reality is that Mueller has built a case slowly, carefully, and methodically as Trump continues to set his case on fire with obvious obstruction and manic tweets. The Senate inquiry, too, is serious, bipartisan, and delving into the places, people, and issues the House Intel Committee ignores.

Eugene Robinson: Trump’s surrender

Once again, President Trump has made a cowardly, cynical and monumentally stupid retreat on the issue of guns. No one should have expected otherwise.

Forget everything he said in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., shooting about the urgent need for meaningful action. Trump now takes a position that will almost surely guarantee more gun violence in schools, not less. It must take a lot of hard work and concentration to be so utterly wrong.

The president — I can’t believe I’m writing this, but it’s true — wants to arm “highly trained expert teachers” with concealed weapons. Anyone who thinks this is not one of the worst ideas in history should conduct a brief thought experiment. Imagine any one of your elementary school, middle school or high school classrooms. Imagine a loaded gun in there somewhere. Now imagine what could go tragically wrong.

Trump’s support for arming teachers and his refusal to back sensible gun-control measures represent a craven surrender to the National Rifle Association. In his made-for-TV meeting with members of Congress to discuss gun violence, Trump accused Republicans of being “afraid of the NRA.” But he’s the one cringing and cowering to keep the gun lobby’s favor.

Michelle Golbberg: Will Betsy DeVos Expand the School-to-Prison Pipeline?

On Sunday evening, CBS’s “60 Minutes” broadcast an interview that Lesley Stahl conducted with Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s education secretary and one of the richest members of his very rich cabinet. It was overwhelmingly seen as a disaster for DeVos, who struggled to answer very basic questions. She couldn’t say, for example, why schools in Michigan, her home state, have largely gotten worse since the widespread introduction of the school choice policies she lobbied for. When Stahl asked whether, as secretary, she’d ever visited a failing school to find out what went wrong, DeVos said, “I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.”

Like many things in Trump’s administration, this performance was shocking but not surprising. Before becoming secretary of education, DeVos had never worked as an educator or a policymaker; she was a donor to education reform efforts favored by the right, such as school choice and vouchers. Her confirmation hearings last year were an embarrassment. She appeared to be unfamiliar with the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, a federal civil rights law. After taking office, she described historically black universities and colleges, founded in response to segregation, as “pioneers when it comes to school choice.”

As this comment suggested, DeVos is, at best, oblivious about race. That obliviousness — or worse — is behind one of the more disturbing moments in her “60 Minutes” interview. In a sick irony, some on the right would use the recent school shooting in Parkland, Fla. — allegedly committed by a young man who carved swastikas into the magazines for his semiautomatic rifle — as a pretext to roll back civil rights protections for students of color. On “60 Minutes,” DeVos, whom Trump has chosen to lead his new school safety commission, appeared to signal she’s on board.