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Mar 19 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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Charles M. Blow: Trump: The Un-American President

“I said, ‘Wrong, Justin, you do.’ I didn’t even know … I had no idea. I just said, ‘You’re wrong.’ ”

That, as reported by The Washington Post, was Donald Trump boasting during a private fund-raising dinner about lying to Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada, our northern neighbor and closest ally.

When caught in the lie, Trump did what Trump does: Repeats the lie, louder, stronger, and more stridently. [..]

Surely, some may think this lie to Trudeau is a small matter, particularly in light of the waves of Trump chaos and scandal that wash over us several times a day.

But it is this damaging of truth, this injuring of American identity, this undercutting of American credibility that will be the hardest to reverse.

One of Trump’s most lasting legacies will likely be the damage he’s doing to the fundamental idea that truth matters.

The world is watching, and that includes the world’s children, some of whom will register him as their first American president. How will they regard this absence from world leadership that Trump is enacting? Will they grow up repulsed by it? Most hopefully will. But there will undoubtedly be others that draw a different lesson from the Trump philosophy: Create your own reality; populate it with “facts” of your own creation; use lying as a tactic; remember that strict adherence to truth is a moral barrier and morality is a burden.

This is what this man is projecting: A debauched character and a hollow place where integrity should exist.

John Kiriakou: I Went to Prison for Disclosing CIA Torture. Gina Haspel Helped Cover It Up.

I was inside the CIA’s Langley, Va., headquarters on Sept. 11, 2001. Like all Americans, I was traumatized, and I volunteered to go overseas to help bring al-Qaeda’s leaders to justice. I headed counterterrorism operations in Pakistan from January to May 2002. My team captured dozens of al-Qaeda fighters, including senior training-camp commanders. One of the fighters whom I played an integral role in capturing was Abu Zubaida, mistakenly thought at the time to be the third-ranking person in the militant group.

By that May, the CIA had decided to torture him. When I returned to CIA headquarters that month, a senior officer in the Counterterrorism Center asked me if I wanted to be “trained in the use of enhanced interrogation techniques.” I had never heard the term, so I asked what it meant. After a brief explanation, I declined. I said that I had a moral and ethical problem with torture and that — the judgment of the Justice Department notwithstanding — I thought it was illegal.

Unfortunately, there were plenty of people in the U.S. government who were all too willing to allow the practice to go on. One of them was Gina Haspel, whom President Trump nominated Tuesday as the CIA’s next director.

Chris Hayes: What ‘Law and Order’ Means to Trump

Donald Trump is not subtle. While normal political language functions through implication and indirection, Mr. Trump luxuriates in saying the quiet part loud. But in doing so, Mr. Trump exposes what drives the politics of the movement he commands. That is most evident in the way he talks about crime and punishment.

No president since Richard Nixon has embraced the weaponized rhetoric of “law and order” as avidly as Mr. Trump. “When I take the oath of office next year, I will restore law and order to our country,” he said during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in 2016. “I will work with, and appoint, the best prosecutors and law enforcement officials in the country to get the job properly done. In this race for the White House, I am the law and order candidate.”

Time and again, the president denounces “illegals” and “criminals” and the “American carnage” they wreak on law-abiding Americans. He even advised an audience of police officers to rough up suspects they were arresting.

Yet this tough-guy stance disappears when the accused are in the president’s inner circle. In defending Rob Porter, the White House senior aide accused of abuse by both of his ex-wives, the president wondered whatever happened to due process while praising a man accused of giving his wife a black eye. (Mr. Porter denies the abuse.)

Jennifer Rubin: Republicans demonstrate they aren’t up to the task of confronting Trump

Republicans fanned out on the Sunday shows, only to reveal how entirely unwilling they are to confront a president growing more unhinged by the day. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) when asked about the need for legislation to anticipate Robert S. Mueller’s firing asserted, “I don’t see the president firing him. I think the White House has said ten times, maybe more, that they’re not going to fire Robert Mueller, they want him to be able to finish the investigation. So I — I don’t even think that’s going to be necessary, because the president’s not going to fire him.” What!? Trump’s lawyer over the weekend declared Mueller should close up shop; Trump himself went after Mueller in a Sunday tweet. (“The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime.”) [..]

Republicans still refuse to be candid about what the investigation has already found and why Trump’s attacks on the FBI and special prosecutor are themselves evidence of “corrupt intent.” It would be nice if they called out Trump as, for example, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) did. “If they didn’t do anything wrong, why are they going to such extreme lengths to undermine this investigation, which is being carried out in a very responsible way? You have noticed there haven’t been many, if any leaks from the Mueller investigation, nonpolitical,” he said on “Face the Nation.” “They’re trying to get to the bottom of a very complicated set of facts. And anybody that says there’s nothing to it, well, they have already had three or four guilty pleas and 15 or 20 indictments. That tells me that there is something going on here, and there’s something serious.” Is it really so hard for GOP leaders to say something as obvious as that?

Ruth Marcus: Trump had senior staff sign nondisclosure agreements. They’re supposed to last beyond his presidency.

Back in April 2016, when the notion of Donald Trump in the White House still seemed fanciful, The Post’s Robert Costa and Bob Woodward sat down with Trump, and Costa, at one point, raised the subject of the nondisclosure agreements for employees of which the candidate was so fond.

Costa: “One thing I always wondered, are you going to make employees of the federal government sign nondisclosure agreements?”

Trump: “I think they should. . . . And I don’t know, there could be some kind of a law that you can’t do this. But when people are chosen by a man to go into government at high levels and then they leave government and they write a book about a man and say a lot of things that were really guarded and personal, I don’t like that. I mean, I’ll be honest. And people would say, oh, that’s terrible, you’re taking away his right to free speech. Well, he’s going in.”

Reader, it happened. In the early months of the administration, at the behest of now-President Trump, who was furious over leaks from within the White House, senior White House staff members were asked to, and did, sign nondisclosure agreements vowing not to reveal confidential information and exposing them to damages for any violation. Some balked at first but, pressed by then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and the White House Counsel’s Office, ultimately complied, concluding that the agreements would likely not be enforceable in any event.