Aug 20 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.
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Paul Krugman: The Slippery Slope of Complicity

When was the last time centrist talking heads declared, “Donald Trump just became president” (because he bombed someone, or something like that)? I think it’s been more than a year. At this point, you have to be a truly fanatical practitioner of bothsidesism not to see that Trump is every bit as terrible a human being, and every bit as much a menace to the republic, as some of us warned when all the cool kids were busy snarking about Clinton’s emails.

The real news of the past few weeks isn’t that Trump is a wannabe Mussolini who can’t even make the trains run on time. It’s the absence of any meaningful pushback from Congressional Republicans. Indeed, not only are they acquiescing in Trump’s corruption, his incitements to violence, and his abuse of power, up to and including using the power of office to punish critics, they’re increasingly vocal in cheering him on.

Make no mistake: if Republicans hold both houses of Congress this November, Trump will go full authoritarian, abusing institutions like the I.R.S., trying to jail opponents and journalists on, er, trumped-up charges, and more — and he’ll do it with full support from his party.

But why? Is Trumpocracy what Republicans always wanted?

E. J. Dionne Jr.: America is slouching toward autocracy

In their book, “How Democracies Die,” political scientists Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt write: “How do elected authoritarians shatter the democratic institutions that are supposed to constrain them? Some do it in one fell swoop. But more often the assault on democracy begins slowly. . . . The erosion of democracy takes place piecemeal, often in baby steps.”

Our nation is divided in many ways, and one of the most important chasms involves the question of whether President Trump poses a threat to our constitutional foundations. Is he merely a loud-mouthed demagogue, or is he an autocrat in the making, willing to strike at the underpinnings of republican government?

Those of us fearful that Trump is subverting basic freedoms and the arrangements that sustain them are frequently dismissed as alarmists who fail to recognize the endurance of checks, balances and other circuit-breakers. In this view, asserting that Trump imperils our liberties demonstrates a lack of appreciation for the genius that is the American experiment.

Michelle Goldberg: The Debt-Shaming of Stacey Abrams

The campaign for governor of Georgia is a supersaturated microcosm of American politics right now, offering the starkest possible choice between irreconcilable visions of the country’s future. The Democrat, Stacey Abrams, former minority leader of the Georgia House, aims to become the first African-American woman governor in American history. She seeks to harness her Southern state’s changing demographics, assembling a coalition of minority voters and white urban and suburban liberals. Her opponent, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, is a Trump manqué skilled in voter suppression. He boasted in a campaign ad, “I’ve got a big truck, just in case I need to round up criminal illegals and take them home myself.”

It’s going to be a tight race: Abrams and Kemp are currently tied in the polls. But Republicans think they can damage Abrams by going after her on the issue of her personal debt, which totals more than $200,000. Last week, an ad from the Republican Governors Association hit her for lending money to her own campaign while owing $54,000 to the Internal Revenue Service, describing her as “self-serving” and “fiscally irresponsible.” Kemp himself made a baseless suggestion that Abrams might have violated the law: “Instead of paying more than $50,000 in back taxes, she gave $50,000 to her campaign. If that’s not criminal, it should be.”

This line of attack throws a pernicious political dynamic into high relief. The financial problems of poor and middle-class people are treated as moral failings, while rich people’s debt is either ignored or spun as a sign of intrepid entrepreneurialism.

Michael H. Fuchs: It’s time to end America’s war in Afghanistan

A child born on this date in 2001 – just before the terrorist attacks of 9/11 – is old enough to be fighting today in the war in Afghanistan.

This week – almost 17 years after the war began – the Taliban attacked Ghazni, killing more than 100 Afghan army soldiers. The Taliban also overran a base, where they killed another 17 soldiers.

It’s not hard to imagine that some of the fighters on both sides of this week’s battles – those fighting for the Afghan army and the Taliban – were not yet born on 9/11.

As America’s longest war continues in Afghanistan, it is sapping America’s resources and strategic focus while the list of far more serious national security threats – from climate change to the rise of China – continues to grow. It is time to find a way to wind down America’s war in Afghanistan, one way or another.

The United States remains stuck in strategic limbo in Afghanistan. No matter how many allied forces deploy to Afghanistan, there is no victory to be had on the battlefield. But Afghanistan is where the 9/11 attacks were planned. This is a fact that imprisons US presidents and policymakers – imagine being the president who withdrew US troops from Afghanistan, only to then suffer another terrorist attack on US soil planned in Afghanistan. There is no good option.

Catherine Rampell: Free-speech conservatives, this is your call to arms

To all those supposed constitutional conservatives out there, consider this your call to arms: The First Amendment is under direct attack, and this time from a much more powerful foe than misguided college freshmen.

By whom I mean: the ostensible leader of the free world.

Again and again, President Trump has used the weight of his office and the broader federal government to inflict financial damage upon critics, whistleblowers, journalists and peaceful protesters for exercising their rights to free speech.

Trump’s most recent salvo involves former CIA director John Brennan. During his long career in intelligence, Brennan briefed Republican and Democratic presidents alike. Which makes his fierce criticism of Trump, and his characterization of Trump’s Helsinki performance as “treasonous,” all the more biting.

Such comments led Trump to revoke Brennan’s security clearance Wednesday. The administration said Brennan no longer needed clearance because it didn’t plan to call on him for consultations. But high-level clearances are valuable for private-sector work as well.

In other words, this was about shutting Brennan’s mouth by going after his wallet.