Sep 09 2019

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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Michelle Cottle: Trump Backs Down, Again and Again

In the face of protest or pushback, the president reverses himself.

On Aug. 7, the Trump administration quietly changed its immigration policy to end medical deferred action, a program that allows a small number of gravely ill immigrants to remain in the United States to receive lifesaving treatment. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services began sending notices to applicants that it would “no longer consider” such petitions, except from service members and their families. Applicants were warned that they had 33 days to leave the country or risk being deported and rendered ineligible for re-entry.

As news of the change trickled out, public outrage grew on social media and beyond. More than 100 Democratic lawmakers signed a letter to top immigration officials, demanding an explanation. How did the Trump administration respond? It reversed itself — at least temporarily. On Sept. 2, U.S.C.I.S. announced that it would reopen medical deferred-action petitions that had been pending as of Aug. 7.

Along with providing a reprieve for the people whose lives depend on this program, the turnabout is a reminder that the Trump administration can be — if not shamed — at least pressured into doing the right thing.

Of course, the president can also be pressed to do the wrong thing, as when, at the behest of the gun lobby and its congressional defenders, he has repeatedly flip-flopped on plans to pursue popular gun safety measures.

He also has a tendency to announce one thing and then reverse himself within days, or hours.

For better and for worse, Mr. Trump is a chronic waffler. As such, the American public would do well to stay vigilant about what his administration is up to — and not be shy about applying pressure.

Charles M. Blow: Maps Don’t Lie

Unless someone goes out of his way to try to make one do so.

I’m still stuck on Sharpie-gate. Sorry. But, so is Donald Trump. [..]

The problem: Alabama as a target had been eliminated days earlier as scientists refined their models and projections with more up-to-date information.

The president had either made an honest mistake (that happens) or he hadn’t kept track of more current briefings (that shouldn’t happen) or both. But, whatever the case, it was easy to fix by simply admitting the error.

Admitting error isn’t the Trumpian way. In Trump’s word view, admitting fault, no matter how small, exposes a frailty. In all things, one must deny, deny, deny, and do so strongly.

But correcting the error was not beyond the National Weather Service’s Birmingham, Ala., office, indeed it was their duty. They tweeted that day: “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east. #alwx

This was prudent. People make very real decisions about how to keep families safe, whether to keep businesses open and whether to keep government agencies running, based on storm predictions. Trump’s error, in the abstract, could have been small, but failure to correct it could have had far-reaching implications, costly ones and possibly even deadly ones.

This set up a familiar fight for Trump: Him, his ego and his fallacies on one side, and truth, science and proper processes on the other.

Frank Bruni: The Republicans Are Dropping Like Flies

What do retiring members of Congress know that President Trump doesn’t?

There was no home for Representative Will Hurd in Donald Trump’s Republican Party. [..]

We talk and write all the time about the Never Trumpers: those previously stalwart Republicans who cringed at Trump’s entry into the presidential race; grew increasingly apoplectic as he raged on; began to live, courtesy of him, in an unwavering state of unalloyed outrage; and scaled new media and sometimes financial heights as party turncoats, their antipathy toward the president more titillating and telegenic by dint of their loyalty to Republicans before him.

But they’re not the best gauges of his and the party’s political fortunes. Their estrangement and emotional pitch have been changeless.

The more interesting and maybe predictive group are the Republicans who, to varying degrees, tried to make do with Trump, found ways to rationalize him and still won’t acknowledge how offensive he is but have fled or are fleeing government nonetheless. He made their participation in political life joyless. He so thoroughly befouled their party’s image that they reek by association. And, thanks largely if not entirely to him, many of them faced or face punishment at the polls.

Paul Waldman: A shocking CNN scoop confirms: Officials are defending our country from Trump

What good is having a secret if you can’t tell people about it?

This is the dilemma President Trump has found himself in many times. Often he just blurts (or tweets) the secret out, as he did recently when he tweeted a probably classified image of an Iranian launch facility, enabling the Iranians (and everyone else) to learn more about American surveillance capabilities.

And according to this extraordinary CNN story, from early in his presidency, the intelligence community felt it had no choice but to make decisions based on the likelihood that the person with almost unlimited access to American secrets probably couldn’t keep his mouth shut — especially when it came to Russia:

In a previously undisclosed secret mission in 2017, the United States successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government, multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge told CNN.

A person directly involved in the discussions said that the removal of the Russian was driven, in part, by concerns that President Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy.

The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. The intelligence, concerning ISIS in Syria, had been provided by Israel.

[..] If you were an American intelligence official and you just watched that happen, what would you do? Your obvious response would be to ask, “What else is he going to tell the Russians? What’s he going to tell Vladimir Putin the next time he sees him? What other intelligence assets is he going to burn?”

You’d have to assume the worst, which is apparently what they did.

Arnold Schwarzenegger: Trump can’t erase a decade of clean air progress with a Sharpie

California has been a leader in the fight to clean our air since one of my heroes, Ronald Reagan, was our governor.

The Trump administration, for some reason, is hellbent on reversing decades of history and progress. Whether it is political pettiness, shortsightedness or just plain jealousy, I couldn’t tell you.

I can tell you that it’s wrong. It’s un-American. And it’s an affront to long-standing conservative principles.

To understand why I’m so angry about the administration’s move to revoke California’s waiver to regulate automobile emissions, you must understand the history. In 1967, Reagan established the California Air Resources Board to fight crippling pollution. He appointed as its first director not a political hack or lobbyist, but a scientist, Arie Jan Haagen-Smit, who was a pioneering researcher of the causes and impacts of smog. The 1970 Clean Air Act, signed by another California Republican, President Richard M. ­Nixon, gave California the authority to regulate air pollution — and ever since, we have had what is called a waiver from the federal government to set car pollution limits. [..]

The Trump administration’s threat to revoke our waiver to clean our air is more extreme. And coming from a Republican White House, it’s downright hypocritical. [..]

Knee-jerk reactionary policies such as the move to revoke our clean air waiver create uncertainty. These companies have been planning and working toward cleaner cars for a decade. They didn’t ask for the Trump administration’s backward thinking, and they know it won’t help them. This “solution” in search of a problem reminds me of the nine words that most terrified Reagan: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

Business leaders — and Californians — know that you can’t just erase decades of history and progress by drawing a line through it with a Sharpie. It’s time the administration learns that lesson.

California will fight this decision. And I promise you, we will win.