Feb 13 2020

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news media 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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Robert Reich: Michael Bloomberg is trying to buy the presidency – that should set off alarms

If the choice comes down to tyrant or oligarch, we must choose the latter. But our democracy would still be in peril

We haven’t seen his name on any of the ballots in the first four states, but that’s about to change. I’m talking, of course, about multibillionaire presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg has a chance of winning the presidency because his net worth is more than $60bn.

The yearly return on $60bn is at least $2bn – which is what Bloomberg says he’ll pour into buying the highest office in the land. It’s hardly a sacrifice for him, but it’s a huge sacrifice for American democracy.

Encouraged by the murky outcome from the Iowa caucuses and the notable lack of enthusiasm for Joe Biden, Bloomberg has decided to double his spending on TV commercials in every market where he is currently advertising, and expand his campaign field staff to more than 2,000.

He’s not competing in the first four states with caucuses and primaries but focusing instead on 3 March. So-called Super Tuesday will be more super than ever because it now includes California, Texas, Virginia, Minnesota, North Carolina and Massachusetts – a third of all delegates to the Democratic convention.

“It’s much more efficient to go to the big states, to go to the swing states,” Bloomberg told the New York Times. “The others chose to compete in the first four. And nobody makes them do it, they wanted to do it. I think part of it is because the conventional wisdom is, ‘Oh you can’t possibly win without them.’”

Later, he added: “Those are old rules.”

Yes, and the new rules are also to spend billions of your own money, if you have it.

Nicholas Kristof: I Worry About Sanders, and His Coattails

Can he win, and if so, can he help elect a Democratic Senate so he can accomplish something?

He was an earnest and intelligent oddball, I decided, but not a serious politician with a future. So I didn’t write about Mayor Bernie Sanders — underscoring that I have a record going back almost four decades of misjudging political talent.

Sanders is now the front-runner to win the Democratic nomination. Yet note that in the betting markets, Sanders is the leader to win the nomination but President Trump is favored to then win re-election in November.

I cringe as I write that. Yet Trump’s Gallup job approval rating has reached a new high and oddsmakers have significantly elevated his chances of re-election.

So that is the prism through which to view this election: Would Sanders increase or reduce the likelihood of a Trump victory? And would he help or hurt Democrats running for the Senate in states like Kansas and Alabama?

I admire Sanders for his authenticity and passion. He has poured his heart into ending American complicity in atrocities in Yemen, even though this cause wins him no votes. Likewise, Sanders has shown unusual political courage in criticizing Israel’s land grabs in the West Bank, leading a political action committee to run attack ads against him. (The accusation that Sanders, who lived on an Israeli kibbutz for a time and would be the first Jewish president, is anti-Israel is absurd.)

That said, Sanders raises some red flags.

Charles M. Blow: The Notorious Michael R. Bloomberg

His racist stop-and-frisk policy as New York mayor can’t be forgotten.

Let’s state some facts: Michael Ruben Bloomberg notoriously expanded stop-and-frisk in New York City to obscene proportions, violating the bodies and constitutional rights of mostly minority men and boys, and not only defended the policy, but mocked his detractors and bragged about it.

What Bloomberg did as mayor amounted to a police occupation of minority neighborhoods, a terroristic pressure campaign, with little evidence that it was accomplishing the goal of sustained, long-term crime reduction.

Nearly 90 percent of the people stopped were completely innocent. He knew that. They were the collateral damage in his crusade, black and brown bodies up against walls and down on the ground, groped in the middle of the city by strange men with guns, a vast expanse of human psychological wreckage about which he couldn’t care less. [..]

No amount of Democrats’ anti-Trump fear and panic will ever erase what Bloomberg did. Democrats have a field of fascinating candidates. Many have some crime and justice issues of their own, but nothing approaching the scale of Bloomberg’s racist policy.

If Democrats cast aside all of these candidates in favor of Bloomberg and his wealth, I fear they will be making it harder to defeat Trump in November.

Chuck Rosenberrg: This is a revolting assault on the fragile rule of law

Something extraordinary and deeply troubling happened at — and to — the Justice Department this week. Four federal prosecutors properly, and as a matter of conscience, withdrew from the Roger Stone case. They had shepherded that case through the criminal-justice system but in an alarming development were ordered to disavow a sentencing recommendation they filed with the federal judge overseeing the matter.

Their original recommendation — asking the judge to sentence Stone within the range set by the U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines for the offenses for which Stone was convicted at trial — was a perfectly ordinary filing. It is the type of pleading filed in federal courts by federal prosecutors every day. Certainly, when a defendant is convicted at trial, it is routine for prosecutors to suggest to the judge that he be sentenced within a prescribed range — the result of a cumbersome sentencing guidelines calculation that is often debated between the parties and adjudicated by the court.

Of course, the filing was just a recommendation to the judge, who has ample authority to sentence Stone within that range — or above it or below it — as she determines. Prosecutors do not sentence defendants; judges do. So how did something so ordinary become so extraordinary?

Mimi Rocah and Glen Kirschner: Roger Stone case reveals Barr and Trump’s gross politicization of American criminal justice

Barr’s gross distortion of the Mueller report led to calls for him to step down. He did not, and now we are facing the same situation all over again.

On Monday, federal prosecutors recommended that Republican operative and Trump associate Roger Stone be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison for crimes including witness tampering and making false statements. In the middle of the night, the president lashed out, tweeting that the sentencing request was “horrible,” “very unfair” and a “miscarriage of justice.” The following day, all four prosecutors withdrew from the Stone case, with one, Jonathan Kravis, immediately resigning from the Department of Justice.

Later that day, the interim U.S. attorney for D.C., Timothy Shea — a former adviser to Attorney General William P. Barr — filed an updated memo saying that the original sentencing request “did not accurately reflect the Department of Justice’s position on what would be a reasonable sentence” and the sentence originally requested “would not be appropriate or serve the interests of justice in this case.”

This series of events sent shock waves through the network of former Justice Department prosecutors and officials. Why? Because it signals a new and dangerous chapter in the politicization of the department by Donald Trump and William Barr.