Aug 28 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: Why It Can Happen Here

Soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a friend of mine — an expert on international relations — made a joke: “Now that Eastern Europe is free from the alien ideology of Communism, it can return to its true historical path — fascism.” Even at the time, his quip had a real edge.

And as of 2018 it hardly seems like a joke at all. What Freedom House calls illiberalism is on the rise across Eastern Europe. This includes Poland and Hungary, both still members of the European Union, in which democracy as we normally understand it is already dead.

In both countries the ruling parties — Law and Justice in Poland, Fidesz in Hungary — have established regimes that maintain the forms of popular elections, but have destroyed the independence of the judiciary, suppressed freedom of the press, institutionalized large-scale corruption and effectively delegitimized dissent. The result seems likely to be one-party rule for the foreseeable future.

And it could all too easily happen here. There was a time, not long ago, when people used to say that our democratic norms, our proud history of freedom, would protect us from such a slide into tyranny. In fact, some people still say that. But believing such a thing today requires willful blindness. The fact is that the Republican Party is ready, even eager, to become an American version of Law and Justice or Fidesz, exploiting its current political power to lock in permanent rule.

Michelle Goldberg: The End of Impunity

One of the unofficial slogans of the Trump era — besides “grab ’em by the you-know-what” and Rudy Giuliani’s recent “truth isn’t truth”— is “nothing matters” (sometimes preceded by a nihilistic “lol”).

Donald Trump flouts the Constitution, raking in money from supplicants who curry favor with him by patronizing his gaudy hotels. Congress is silent. The president’s commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, was accused of effectively stealing more than $120 million in various schemes — Forbes described him as possibly one of the “biggest grifters in American history.” It barely registered in the headlines. ProPublica reported that a trio of random Trump cronies with neither military nor government experience is secretly running the Veterans Affairs Department out of Mar-a-Lago. Republicans have made no plans for hearings. The president’s former lawyer testified that Trump directed him to commit felonies to cover up alleged affairs in advance of the election. The shock lasted about 48 hours.

This culture of impunity is less a result of Trump’s political skill — he’s deeply unpopular — than of one-party rule. The majority of voters want a check on this administration, but the Republican Party doesn’t care; it’s beholden to a minority that delights in the helplessness of fellow citizens. If Democrats take the House in the November midterms — which the model of the statistics website FiveThirtyEight gives them about a 70 percent chance of doing — that helplessness ends. Contrary to Republican claims, there are no Democratic plans for imminent impeachment proceedings. But there will be subpoenas, hearings and investigations. Things that haven’t mattered for the past 19 months suddenly will.

Eugene Robinson: Want to honor McCain, GOP? Grow a spine.

Much of the nation will spend the coming days honoring the late Sen. John McCain. The Republican Party, however, will only pretend to do so.

President Trump’s GOP could not care less about the ideals McCain stood for, such as honor, service and community. The party is shamefully molded in Trump’s image now, with his enormous corruption, monumental selfishness and grasping little hands.

This is no exercise in hagiography, which is supposed to be reserved for saints. McCain (R-Ariz.) had many flaws and made big mistakes, not the least of which was loosing Sarah Palin upon the world and letting her bring the politics of idiocy into the mainstream. He was a conservative and a foreign-policy hawk; I am neither. But never for a minute could I, or anyone else, doubt McCain’s commitment as a public servant. He cared more about the nation’s well-being than his own.

How quaint such sentiments sound, 19 months into the Trump era.

Catherine Rampell: Has Trump ended NAFTA? Not just yet.

President Trump announced Monday that he’s “terminating” the North American Free Trade Agreement, and boasted that he and Mexico just struck “maybe the largest trade deal ever made.”

Actually: Trump can’t unilaterally kill NAFTA; this is only a possible step toward any new trade deal involving Mexico; it’s probably not a good step; and it may not actually lead to any new deal at all.

In other words, it’s precisely the puffery we’ve come to expect from a president who doesn’t understand what his own administration is doing, or doesn’t care.

Trump campaigned on fixing our “stupid” trade deals, including NAFTA. And, at more than two decades old, this tripartite pact with Canada and Mexico does indeed require sprucing up.

The global economy has changed since the early 1990s. NAFTA doesn’t address major industries that barely existed (if they existed at all) when the agreement was negotiated, such as e-commerce. It also didn’t do much for labor or environmental standards.

Roland E. Martin: These African American Pastors Who Sucked Up to Donald Trump Are a Disgrace

Black people cannot stand Donald Trump.

I don’t mean there is distaste for his policies and his Twitter outbursts. I’m talking about a feeling of anger that knows no bounds.

Sure, it’s easy to find a small percentage of African Americans who swear allegiance to him and the Republican Party, but for black folks in general, Trump is a name that is more despised than Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and that is no small feat.

The list of black grievances is long:

  • Trump’s vitriolic attacks on NFL players who have protested police brutality;
  • Calling Rep. Maxine Waters names and saying she has a low IQ;
  • Berating sports journalist Jemele Hill;
  • Failing to properly condemn the white racists in Charlottesville; hiring numerous folks in his administration with racial animus;
  • Doubling down on the guilt of the Central Park 5, all minority men who were exonerated for a brutal rape that divided New York City in the 1980s. Trump contributed to this by taking out newspaper ads calling on the young men to get the death penalty;
  • Refusing to apologize for birtherism and the attacks on the citizenship of President Barack Obama;
  • Calling basketball icon LeBron James and CNN’s Don Lemon dumb after their recent interview.

That’s why when a group of “inner-city pastors”—that was how the White House labeled it on the transcript—met with Trump recently, the criticism from black America was fast and furious.

Many were most angry with Cleveland pastor Darrell Scott, a staunch Trump supporter, for saying he was the most pro-black president he had ever seen in his lifetime.