Feb 25 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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Paul Krugman: Republican Cynicism May Win Trump Re-election

Fiscal hypocrisy is his biggest advantage.

It may have slipped by you, but last week Donald Trump suggested that he may be about to give U.S. farmers — who have yet to see any benefits from his much-touted trade deal with China — another round of government aid. This would be on top of the billions in farm aid that Trump has already delivered, costing taxpayers several times as much as Barack Obama’s auto bailout — a bailout Republicans fiercely denounced as “welfare” and “crony capitalism” at the time.

If this sounds to you like a double standard — Democratic bailouts bad, Republican bailouts good — that’s because it is. But it should be seen as part of a broader pattern of breathtaking fiscal hypocrisy, in which the G.O.P. went from insisting that federal debt posed an existential threat under Obama to complete indifference to budget deficits under Trump. This 180-degree turn is, as far as I can tell, the most cynical policy reversal of modern times.

And this cynicism may win Trump the election.

Michelle Goldberg: Putin Would Hate President Bernie Sanders

The Russian autocrat may support Sanders, but Sanders doesn’t support him.

On Friday, The Washington Post reported that U.S. officials had briefed Bernie Sanders that Russia was trying to boost his fortunes in the Democratic primary fight, as it did in 2016. It’s not hard to imagine Vladimir Putin’s motives.

Russia aims to cause chaos and division in liberal democracies, and so has often supported both far-right and far-left figures; there’s a reason the state-run Russian propaganda network RT hosted the American Green Party’s 2016 presidential debate.

Further, Russia’s investment in Donald Trump has paid off handsomely, and the country’s leaders evidently believe, just as many American pundits do, that Sanders would be Trump’s weakest opponent. “If Sanders wins the Democratic nomination, then Trump wins the White House,” a former adviser to ex-Russian President Dmitri Medvedev told GQ’s Julia Ioffe.

But Russia doesn’t have any special insight into how American elections are going to play out, and right now, some polls show Sanders winning both the primary and the general. Like a lot of nervous liberals, I worry that these numbers won’t hold up. But if they do and Sanders becomes president, Putin may live to regret what his country did to build support for him.

Joseph S. Nye Jr.: No, President Trump: You’ve Weakened America’s Soft Power

Armed forces aren’t the only power America projects. Its values stir admiration around the globe. But they’re taking a beating in the White House.

President Trump claims he “made America great again.” The facts show just the opposite. The United States has lost credibility since 2017. The president’s looseness with the truth has debased the currency of trust that is needed in a crisis, and his continual disdain for our allies means we have fewer friends. [..]

Our power comes not only from our military and economic might. Most previous presidents have understood that power also comes from being able to attract others. If we can get you to want what we want, then we do not have to force others to do what we want. If the United States represents values that others want to follow, we can economize on sticks and carrots. Added to hard power, the soft power of attraction is what the military calls a force multiplier. And that makes our values a source of American power.

Indeed, our absence of government cultural policies like those China promotes can itself be a source of attraction. Hollywood movies that showcase independent women and a free society in action can attract people in countries that lack those opportunities. So, too, does the charitable work of American foundations and the benefits of freedom of inquiry at American universities. On the other hand, when our policies appear hypocritical, arrogant and indifferent to others’ views, the government can undermine our nation’s soft power. When Donald Trump interprets “America First” in a narrow way, he makes everyone else feel second class.

Eugene Robinson: Sanders is leading something rare and unpredictable in U.S. politics

Deal with it: Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is not even a Democrat, is leading the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. And it looks possible that none of his rivals will be able to catch him. If you want to get rid of President Trump, prepare to get behind Sanders and do everything you can to make him president.

Only three states have spoken. Plenty of opportunities for twists and turns remain, starting with the next debate on Tuesday and the South Carolina primary on Saturday. But Sanders is now the clear front-runner, with a plausible straight-line path to the nomination.

He earned it. Sanders has built a nationwide grass-roots organization, raised a ton of money through small-dollar donations, inspired real passion on the campaign trail and motivated his supporters to come out and vote. That is how you win.

The candidates who trained most of their fire on former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg in the last debate were aiming at the wrong guy. Now, after the way Sanders dominated in the Nevada caucuses, it might be too late.

John D. Negroponte and Edward M. Wittenstein: Trump plays a dangerous game in weakening the top intelligence job

President Trump’s recent ouster of acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire, and his appointment of political loyalist Richard Grenell as yet another acting DNI, revive serious questions about the administration’s attitude toward the intelligence community as a whole and, in particular, toward an institution created by bipartisan legislation more than 15 years ago.

Make no mistake: The Trump administration’s continued failure to nominate a qualified, permanent DNI since the abrupt resignation of Daniel Coats, a former senator, seven months ago leaves a serious gap in the U.S. national security structure. Internal politicization and lack of leadership in the intelligence community can be just as serious as the myriad external threats confronting the United States.

It would be a mistake to forget the history behind the DNI’s creation. Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the 9/11 Commission called for strong, independent management to help “connect the dots,” as well as integrate intelligence across the “foreign-domestic divide” that separated the missions of the CIA and FBI.