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May 22 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”.

Paul Krugman: What’s the Matter With Europe?

If you had to identify a place and time where the humanitarian dream — the vision of a society offering decent lives to all its members — came closest to realization, that place and time would surely be Western Europe in the six decades after World War II. It was one of history’s miracles: a continent ravaged by dictatorship, genocide and war transformed itself into a model of democracy and broadly shared prosperity.

Indeed, by the early years of this century Europeans were in many ways better off than Americans. Unlike us, they had guaranteed health care, which went along with higher life expectancy; they had much lower rates of poverty; they were actually more likely than we were to be gainfully employed during their prime working years.

But now Europe is in big trouble. So, of course, are we. In particular, while democracy is under siege on both sides of the Atlantic, the collapse of freedom, if it comes, will probably happen here first. But it’s worth taking a break from our own Trumpian nightmare to look at Europe’s woes, some but not all of which parallel ours.

Jennifer Rubin: Trump keeps bulldozing over our legal norms

Former acting attorney general Sally Yates hit the nail on the head on Monday on “Morning Joe.” She explained, “I think what we’re seeing here is the president has taken his all-out assault of the rule of law to a new level and this time he is ordering up an investigation of the investigators who are examining his own campaign. You know, that’s really shocking.” And things got even worse as the day progressed.

Ah, the good old days — when then-attorney general Loretta Lynch’s greeting extended to former president Bill Clinton on an airport tarmac was enough to raise a ruckus and take her out of the decision-making on the Hillary Clinton email investigation (the one that was disclosed during the campaign and reopened 11 days before the election, as opposed to the Russia investigation that was kept secret). Now, President Trump orders up an investigation of investigators based on no evidence of impropriety and then meets directly with Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray to discuss sharing and/or releasing such information. Yes, we are through the looking glass.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: The Democratic wave won’t crest without progressive insurgents

Progressive populist candidates are surging in Democratic primaries across the country. Potential contenders for the 2020 Democratic Party’s presidential nomination are embracing many of the signature ideas that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) drove into the debate — Medicare for All, tuition-free college, a $15 minimum wage and more. Record numbers of female candidates — a surge fed by reaction to the election of Donald Trump and the rise of the #MeToo movement — are running, most for the first time.

Insurgent candidates fared well in the most recent round of primaries — in Pennsylvania, Nebraska and Idaho. The Pennsylvania congressional delegation is currently all men. Now, with retirements and reapportionment, three to six Democratic women could win House seats in November. Pennsylvania activists also celebrated three women’s stunning victories over entrenched machine incumbents in state legislative races. The women were buoyed by the support of progressive organizations, including Democrats for a Socialist America (DSA) and Our Revolution, one of the key organizations coming out of the Sanders campaign, People’s Action, and Keystone Progress, a state grass-roots organization.

Katherine Rampell: It’s been amateur hour on China negotiations

The Trump administration is supposed to be negotiating with China. But right now it more often seems to be negotiating with itself.

China knows what it wants out of these bilateral negotiations; the White House plainly does not. Trump officials have offered shifting and at times contradictory demands and objectives, further complicated by administration infighting, public turf wars, reversals, retractions and clumsy errors.

In short: Over here on Team USA, it’s been amateur hour.

On Friday, for instance, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told reporters that China had offered to reduce the U.S. trade deficit by “at least” $200 billion.

That would be an astonishing figure, as it would comprise more than half of our entire goods deficit with China.

No actual figures were included, certainly not $200 billion.

So how did Kudlow respond when confronted with these developments?

On ABC’s “This Week,” he denied that he’d ever touted an agreement on the $200 billion figure, saying that it was just “a number that interests the president a lot.

This is hardly the only time the administration has been confused about the facts, or its own position.

Matthew Miller: Rod Rosenstein’s dangerous gamble

President Trump on Sunday launched his most direct attack on the Justice Department’s independence since he fired FBI Director James B. Comey, taking to Twitter to “hereby demand” that it open a counter-investigation of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Trump’s demand crossed every institutional norm that has long safeguarded the Justice Department’s independence. The president was calling for an investigation into both political opponents from the former administration and career law enforcement agents, without evidence of wrongdoing, for the obvious purpose of undermining a criminal probe into his own conduct and that of his associates. Trump was clearly testing the limits of the system that constrains presidential interference with the Justice Department. And the response so far — including Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein’s decision to refer the matter to the department’s inspector general — shows that the system is failing.

There is no legitimate justification for asking the inspector general to investigate a hyped-up claim that the FBI inappropriately infiltrated the Trump campaign. Just as in February there was no legitimate justification for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in response to claims by House Republicans, asking the inspector general to investigate alleged — and debunked — abuses by the department in securing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant against former Trump aide Carter Page.