Aug 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”.

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New York Times Editorial Board: All the President’s Crooks

From the start of the Russia investigation, President Trump has been working to discredit the work and the integrity of the special counsel, Robert Mueller; praising men who are blatant grifters, cons and crooks; insisting that he’s personally done nothing wrong; and reminding us that he hires only the best people.

On Tuesday afternoon, the American public was treated to an astonishing split-screen moment involving two of those people, as Mr. Trump’s former campaign chief was convicted by a federal jury in Virginia of multiple crimes carrying years in prison at the same time that his longtime personal lawyer pleaded guilty in federal court in New York to his own lengthy trail of criminality, and confessed that he had committed at least some of the crimes “at the direction of” Mr. Trump himself.

Let that sink in: Mr. Trump’s own lawyer has now accused him, under oath, of committing a felony.

Only a complete fantasist — that is, only President Trump and his cult — could continue to claim that this investigation of foreign subversion of an American election, which has already yielded dozens of other indictments and several guilty pleas, is a “hoax” or “scam” or “rigged witch hunt.”

Paul Krugman: Partisanship, Parasites, and Polarization

Parasites are a huge force in the natural world. For the most part they simply feed on their hosts. But there are a number of cases in which they exert a more insidious influence: they actually change their hosts’ behavior, in ways that benefit the parasites but damage and perhaps eventually kill their victims.

And lately I’ve been wondering if that’s what’s happening to America. How much of our political sickness is the result of a parasitic infection? What I have in mind specifically is an infestation of direct-marketing scams that exploit and reinforce political partisanship, largely on the right, basically to sell merchandise.

If this sounds absurd to you, bear with me a bit. I’m not the first person to make this suggestion – Rick Perlstein, our leading historian of modern conservatism, made basically the same argument (without the biological analogy) back in 2012, and as I’ll explain, a lot of things have happened since then to reinforce his point.

Bob Bauer: McGahn has to decide where his duty to America overtakes his duty to Trump

The White House counsel is often called “the president’s lawyer,” but that’s an exaggeration. The counsel is a government employee whose client is the United States of America. But it is also too easy to say that he or she represents only the “office” of the presidency. On a day-to-day basis, the counsel advises someone very specific — the flesh-and-blood individual in the Oval Office whom he or she was hired to support.

Like his predecessors, the current White House counsel, Donald McGahn, has had to sort out where his obligations to that individual, Donald Trump, end and his overriding responsibilities to the public begin. This task, never simple, has put McGahn in the awkward but inescapable position of assisting the United States, his “real” client, in a criminal investigation of the president. [..]

Some critics have suggested that because the counsel is inevitably ensnared in conflicting loyalties, the position ought to be abolished. But the president cannot get by without dedicated lawyers to help with the government’s business. If his legal problems become personal, then he and the White House counsel have to have a shared understanding of the boundaries — as defined by the lawyer’s ethics and, one can only hope, a president’s character and respect for his own office.

Jennifer Rubin: Michael Cohen: Trump’s greatest fear comes true

You can say this for President Trump: When the raids on his attorney Michael Cohen’s house, hotel and office occurred, he knew it was trouble, as his slew of tweets at the time showed. About four months after Cohen saw FBI agents cart out boxes of documents, he surrendered to the FBI and entered a plea deal in federal court to a total of eight counts, five for tax evasion, one for a false statement to a bank and two related to campaign-finance charges. Most important, the plea states that Cohen, in committing the campaign-finance violations, acted at the behest of the “candidate.” There is only one candidate. The president of the United States has now been implicated in commission of federal crime(s) by his longtime lawyer. Take that in. The details of those crimes and Cohen’s obligations, if any, to cooperate will unfold.

Trump was right to be panicked back in April, and since then we’ve all learned of more damaging facts that Cohen may substantiate. Cohen is at the intersection of at least three possibly disastrous legal stories. [..]

Buckle up. Trump now goes from the frying pan into the fire.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: In the dark days of Trump, there are still sweet victories to celebrate

In March 2005, not long after George W. Bush’s reelection, I wrote in the Nation that “it can be difficult, in these times, to maintain a sense of hope — as corruption, war, lies and injustices large and small loom all around, and outrage about the Right’s assault on our democracy threatens to overwhelm us.” At the time, I felt it was important to celebrate even small moments of triumph, so I started a recurring feature to lift up positive stories that I hoped would inspire progressives. I called it “Sweet Victories.”

A lot has changed since then. But in the first two years of the Trump era, I have often felt similarly downbeat. And in this time of turbocharged news cycles rife with ugly, sensational and brutal stories, I again feel the need, as I did then, “to remember that millions of us are organizing, agitating, mobilizing — and that there are many hard-fought victories to celebrate.”

Led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an exciting crop of new progressive voices has emerged from the midterm primaries. Last week, Ilhan Omar, a Somali American former refugee, resoundingly won a crowded Democratic contest in Minnesota. Omar is now expected to join Rashida Tlaib, who prevailed in a competitive Michigan primary this month, as the first Muslim women ever elected to Congress. Insurgent candidate Jahana Hayes, the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, also won her primary in Connecticut and now appears set to become the first black woman from New England to serve in the House. And in Vermont, Christine Hallquist’s overwhelming victory made her the first openly transgender candidate in the United States to win either major party’s nomination for governor. These women are running as trailblazers, but just as importantly, they are also running — and winning — with bold, progressive ideas, such as tuition-free college and Medicare for all.