Jun 05 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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Eugene Robinson: His Majesty Czar Donald I claims imperium

President Trump is a bald-faced liar who covered up collusion between his campaign and the Russians, tried to derail a federal investigation and claims to be above the law like some tin-pot dictator. This is not my assessment. It is what Trump and his attorneys proudly proclaim.

Don’t be distracted by Trump’s showmanship and buffoonery. Look instead at the essence of what he is trying to do: Save himself from possible impeachment by subverting the rule of law and enhancing tribalism at the expense of citizenship. In place of “E Pluribus Unum” he attempts to substitute a very different idea of the nation and what it stands for: “Just Win, Baby.”

A confidential Jan. 29 letter from Trump’s legal team to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, first published Saturday by the New York Times, gives copious new evidence — as if more were needed — of the president’s utter shamelessness and his smirking contempt for the people he is sworn to represent.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: The economic numbers are cheery, but don’t believe the hype

President Trump was so delighted by the May jobs report that he tipped off investors by tweeting while the information was still embargoed. The news — more than 220,000 new jobs, unemployment down to 3.8 percent, the lowest in 18 years — was undoubtedly strong. The Economic Policy Institute hailed “the economy’s steady march towards full employment,” noting that most of the drop in unemployment came from workers finding new jobs and only about one-third from workers leaving the workforce. Wages are finally beginning to budge, though the growth rates still don’t keep up with the rising cost of basics such as health care and education. The last time the U.S. economy enjoyed across the board wage growth was in 2000, when the economy also neared full employment levels.

The cheery numbers, however, should not blind us to the harsh reality facing most Americans. The United States is one of the richest nations in the world, yet many of its citizens live in misery. Consider: “About 40 million live in poverty, 18.5 million in extreme poverty, and 5.3 million live in Third World conditions of absolute poverty. It has the highest youth poverty rate in the [industrialized world] and the highest infant mortality rates. . . . Its citizens live shorter and sicker lives compared to those living in all other rich democracies, . . . and it has the world’s highest incarceration rate, one of the lowest levels of voter registrations in among [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] countries and the highest obesity levels in the developed world. The United States has the highest rate of income inequality among Western countries.”

The quotes come from the official “Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights on his mission to the United States of America,” on behalf of the U.N. Human Rights Council. Special Rapporteur Philip Alston notes that for the poorest Americans the situation is getting worse. “For almost five decades the overall policy response has been neglectful at best, but the policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship.”

Paul Krugman: Intellectuals, Politics and Bad Faith

Last week The Stanford Daily reported a curious story concerning Niall Ferguson, a conservative historian who is a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. The story itself, although ugly, isn’t that important. But it offers a window into a reality few people, certainly in the news media, are willing to acknowledge: the bad faith that pervades conservative discourse.

And yes, I do mean “conservative.” There are dishonest individuals of every political persuasion, but if you’re looking for systematic gaslighting, insistence that up is down and black is white, you’ll find it disproportionately on one side of the political spectrum. And the trouble many have in accepting that asymmetry is an important reason for the mess we’re in.

But how can I say that the media refuses to acknowledge conservative bad faith? While some journalists remain squeamish about actually using the word “lie,” and there’s still a tendency for headlines to repeat false talking points (which are only revealed to be false in the body of the article), readers do get a generally accurate picture of the extent to which dishonesty prevails within the Trump administration.

Michelle Goldberg: Does the Law Apply to Donald Trump?

It’s fitting that just as Donald Trump passed the 500th day of his despicable presidency, he marked the occasion by tweeting that he is above the law, declaring that he has “the absolute right to PARDON myself.”

This followed a weekend in which The New York Times obtained a January memo from Trump’s lawyers to Robert Mueller, the special counsel, making assertions about presidential power that would have embarrassed Richard Nixon.

Writing of Trump’s alleged attempts to shut down the Russia investigation, his lawyers Jay A. Sekulow and John M. Dowd (who has since resigned) essentially argued that the president cannot obstruct justice, because he is the arbiter of justice. The president’s actions, they wrote, “by virtue of his position as the chief law enforcement officer, could neither constitutionally nor legally constitute obstruction because that would amount to him obstructing himself.”

Another Trump attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, drove home the claim of sweeping presidential authority, telling HuffPost that Trump couldn’t be subpoenaed or indicted while in office even if he’d shot the former F.B.I. director James Comey.

The Trump team’s claims are at once audacious and desperate. It’s hard to know whether they represent a bold power grab, or a panicked response to an investigation that is closing in. I suspect the answer is a combination of the two. If Trump is guilty of serious crimes, and Mueller knows it, then Trump’s future hinges on destroying the mechanisms by which a president could be held accountable, even if it means destroying America’s constitutional order.

Jennifer Rubin: Why it’s essential to go after Trump for obstruction of justice

Let’s pause to consider how reckless, how downright dimwitted, it is to attempt to suborn perjury — electronically — while out on bail. Even the densest criminal would suspect that his communications were being monitored — in a case involving bank and tax fraud, money laundering and more. Manafort allegedly took action that would not only be a serious felony to add to the long list of charges but also would present powerful evidence of a guilty mind in the other crimes for which he has been indicted.

One might also conclude that someone confident of receiving a pardon would not behave in such a manner; he’d just sit back to wait for the missive from the president.
Needless to say, innocent people don’t ordinarily resort to falsifying evidence to prove their innocence. Come to think of it, neither do they draft exculpatory statements falsely explaining a meeting before the election with a Kremlin-linked lawyer and their son, son-in-law and campaign chairman. And yet, multiple denials that the president had anything to do with such a statement (explaining the purpose of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting) are now inoperative, we learn. The official story is that Trump did draft the untrue statement — during an FBI investigation, an investigation into Russian collusion. Manafort is not alone in his recklessness, it seems.

Thanks to Manafort and to the president’s assertion that he cannot obstruct justice (and to boot can pardon himself), we now have public attention focused on the crime of obstruction of justice, which is serious for any private individual and a fatal breach of the president’s oath to “take care” that the laws are faithfully executed. Even Republicans are fessing up that obstruction is a really big deal, whether a president can be prosecuted in office (or after office) or “merely” impeached.