Jul 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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Rick Wilson: Republicans Thought Peter Strzok Would Be a Punching Bag. He Just Knocked Them Out.

Those who forget the lessons of televised congressional hearings are doomed to repeat them, which is why the morning segment of the Capitol Hill show trial of veteran FBI agent and former head of the Bureau’s Counterespionage division Peter Strzok turned into a disaster for Republicans.

Donald Trump’s congressional enablers, sycophants, and political suck-ups wanted a punching bag, but Strzok instead delivered one of the rarest of moments: the full Joseph N. Welch.

Welch, the chief counsel for the U.S. Army during the infamous McCarthy hearings in 1954, had reached a breaking point. After McCarthy’s tendentious badgering reached a fever pitch, Welch delivered a famous rejoinder that ended the Wisconsin senator’s career. Watched by millions on live television, Welch went full beast-mode. [..]

This morning, it was Strzok’s turn. After an hour of drama-queen badgering from Trey “Benghazi” Gowdy and Bob Goodlatte, Strzok issued two passionate statements that will be the takeaways from an otherwise disorganized and contentious shitshow of a hearing before the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees.

The first was a ringing defense of the FBI, with Strzok showing the kind of real passion that makes for great television. The FBI lifer issued a ringing defense of himself and his agency, punching Gowdy hard in the nose.

Eugene Robinson: The Trump administration kidnapped children. Someone should go to jail.

The Trump administration’s kidnapping — that’s the proper word — of the children of would-be migrants should be seen as an ongoing criminal conspiracy. Somebody ought to go to jail.

Under a federal court order, all 103 children under the age of 5 who were taken from their families at the border were supposed to be returned by Tuesday. The government missed that deadline, and I wish U.S. District Judge Dana M. Sabraw, who issued the order, had held somebody in contempt. One candidate would be Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who on Tuesday had the gall to describe the administration’s treatment of immigrant children as “one of the great acts of American generosity and charity.”

On Thursday, officials announced with fanfare that 57 of the kids — some still in diapers — had been returned to their parents. But 46 others were deemed “ineligible,” meaning they remain in government custody. [..]

Given that the intention from the beginning was clearly to frighten and intimidate would-be migrants from Central America, why should anyone believe that the administration is acting or speaking in good faith now? Why should we accept at face value that exactly 103 children under 5 were seized? How can we be sure there is only one case in which officials can’t find or identify the parents? Given that it has taken weeks to return just 57 children, what is the likelihood the government kept adequate records?

This is an administration, after all, that conducts immigration court proceedings, or travesties, in which children too young to know their ABCs are expected to represent themselves without the benefit of legal counsel. Imagine your 3-year-old child or grandchild in that situation. Now tell me how adopting child abuse as a policy is supposed to Make America Great Again.

Paul Krugman: For Trump, Failure Is the Only Option

So Donald Trump went to a NATO summit, insulted our allies, then made the absurd demand not just that they increase defense spending — which they should — but that they raise it to 4 percent of G.D.P., much higher than the bloated military spending in his own budget. He then claimed, falsely, to have won major concessions, and graciously declared that it is “presently unnecessary” to consider quitting the alliance.

Was there anything our allies could have done that would have mollified him? The answer, surely, is no. For Trump, disrupting NATO doesn’t seem to be a means to an end; it’s an end in itself.

Does all of this sound familiar? It’s basically the same as the story of the escalating trade war. While Trump rants about other countries’ unfair trade practices — a complaint that has some validity for China, although virtually none for Canada or the European Union — he hasn’t made any coherent demands. That is, he has given no indication what any of the countries hit by his tariffs could do to satisfy him, leaving them with no option except retaliation.

Robert Kagan: Things will not be okay

Human beings often choose self-delusion over painful reality, and so in the days and weeks to come, we will hear reassurances that the NATO alliance is in good shape. After all, there have been spats in the past — over the Suez crisis in 1956, Vietnam in the 1960s and ’70s, missile deployment in the Reagan years and, of course, Iraq. American presidents have been complaining about shortfalls in European defense spending for decades. President Trump is not wrong to criticize Germany’s pipeline deal with Russia. As for this week’s fractious summit, we are urged to focus on the substance, not the rhetoric. U.S. forces in Europe have been beefed up in recent years, and new plans are in place to resist Russian aggression. On the ground, the alliance still functions.

All true, but unfortunately beside the point. Small troop deployments and incremental defense increases don’t mean much when the foundations of the alliance are crumbling — as they are and have been for some time. And pointing to previous differences ignores how much political and international circumstances have changed over the past decade. Europe faces new problems, as well as the return of some of the old problems that led to catastrophe in the past; and Americans have a very different attitude toward the world than they did during the Cold War. This is not just another family quarrel.

Catherine Rampell: China will learn its lesson — just not the one Trump wants

President Trump wants to teach China a lesson. Unfortunately, the lesson that China learns may be the exact opposite of the one Trump thinks he’s teaching.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration released a list of proposed tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese products. This would be in addition to tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese goods partially rolled out last week. Trump has said that another round, targeting $300 billion in goods, is in the works.

Do the math: If all those tariffs came to pass, we would have new taxes on $550 billion worth of Chinese products — that is, more than the sum total of Chinese goods imported last year by the United States.

China sees itself as the victim here and has vowed to retaliate tit-for-tat. We buy about four times as much in goods from China as China buys from us, though. Which means China will “run out” of U.S. products to slap with tariffs long before the United States does.

Trump apparently believes China will therefore be forced to cave to his confused and ever-shifting demands, whatever they are. Huzzah! Victory is near!

What he doesn’t recognize, however, is that China has lots of other tools that it can use to fight back. Specifically, even without tariffs, the Chinese government can make life very, very difficult for the many U.S. firms that do business there.