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Mar 31 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.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

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Paul Krugman: This Land of Denial and Death

Covid-19 and the dark side of American exceptionalism.

Death comes at you fast. Just three weeks ago the official line at the White House and Fox News was that the coronavirus was no big deal, that claims to the contrary were a politically motivated hoax perpetrated by people out to get Donald Trump. Now we have a full-blown health crisis in New York, and all indications are that many other cities will soon find themselves in the same situation.

And it will almost certainly get much worse. The United States is on the worst trajectory of any advanced country — yes, worse than Italy at the same stage of the pandemic — with confirmed cases doubling every three days.

I’m not sure that people understand, even now, what that kind of exponential growth implies. But if cases kept growing at their current rate for a month, they would increase by a factor of a thousand, and almost half of Americans would be infected.

We hope that won’t happen. Many although not all states have gone into lockdown, and both epidemiological models and some early evidence suggest that this will “flatten the curve,” that is, substantially slow the virus’s spread. But as we wait to see just how bad our national nightmare will get, it’s worth stepping back for a few minutes to ask why America has handled this crisis so badly.

Eugene Robinson: Trump finally submits to reality

In any war, reality has a way of changing the battle plans of even the most stubborn and vainglorious of generals. Even, it seems, President Trump.

The president’s reaction to the coronavirus pandemic was first to ignore it, then minimize it, then irresponsibly tout an unproven drug treatment, then try to construe it as something that could somehow be confined to urban hotspots. It was as if he had to go through the five stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance — to mourn the economic growth and stock market gains he believed could win him reelection.

Over the weekend, Trump appeared to surrender to the facts. A month ago, he had foolishly predicted that the number of cases of covid-19 in the United States would soon be “down to close to zero.” On Sunday, he argued that keeping the number of deaths in this country below 100,000 — not cases, which may soar into the millions, but fatalities — would mean having done “a very good job.”

I realize it’s always dangerous to be optimistic where Trump is concerned. Perhaps I’m going with hope over experience, but for the first time, I have the sense that the White House accepts the scientific consensus about the threat covid-19 poses. I heard Trump’s usual bluster and bombast at his Rose Garden performance this weekend, but I also heard realism.

Michelle Goldberg: Trump to Governors: I’d Like You to Do Us a Favor, Though

Once again, the president is using aid to extort re-election help.

Last December, during a congressional hearing on impeachment, the Stanford Law professor Pamela Karlan tried to explain the gravity of Donald Trump’s Ukraine quid pro quo by making a domestic analogy.

Members of Congress, she said, should imagine living in a state “prone to devastating hurricanes and flooding.” What would they think, she asked, if their governor requested a meeting with the president to talk about disaster assistance, and he replied, “I would like you to do us a favor”?

Karlan seemed to assume that the grotesquerie of this hypothetical would be obvious. Now, with American life upended by coronavirus, her flagrantly corrupt scenario has come close to reality.

True, Trump is not demanding that governors investigate Joe Biden in exchange for federal help. But he’s strongly suggested that if governors speak candidly about his monumental incompetence, he’ll penalize them and their states as they struggle to contain the coronavirus. Once again, he’s using his control of vital aid to extort assistance with his re-election.

Catherine Rampell: Saving lives in the pandemic will also save the economy in the long run

If you’ve listened to President Trump or his aides in recent weeks, you might think we have to choose between what’s optimal for public health and what’s optimal for the economy. We can save lives, or maximize gross domestic product.

But if you listen to economists, you’ll learn that this is a false choice. Prematurely reopening businesses, schools and public gatherings — as Trump has agitated to do — would be worse for long-run economic growth than requiring them to remain closed until the virus is contained.

Last week, Trump and his National Economic Council director, Larry Kudlow, complained that the “cure” to this pandemic — that is, our collective economic coma — might “be worse than the disease.” Right-wing news organizations echoed this complaint, sometimes appallingly implying that Grandpa should be sacrificed to juice GDP. [..]

In fact, there’s near-unanimity among economists that the best way to limit economic damage would be to listen to the public health experts’ advice about how to limit infections — including by continued dramatic social distancing measures.

This should make sense.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Can Andrew Cuomo become FDR?

Andrew M. Cuomo is having quite a moment. Using the bully pulpit that the first Gov. Roosevelt, Theodore, made famous, the current governor of the Empire State hopes to emerge as our era’s equivalent to the second Gov. Roosevelt, Franklin. It’s an astounding, complex transformation brought on by the coronavirus crucible, and the nation is transfixed.

The pandemic is Cuomo’s Great Depression. Unlike our juvenile president, Cuomo has been clear, compassionate and inspiring these past weeks. He has taken the words of Franklin Roosevelt to heart (and to Twitter): “The news is going to get worse and worse before it gets better and better, and the American people deserve to have it straight from the shoulder.”

In his daily news conferences, Cuomo doesn’t deflect responsibility, but rather accepts it: “If someone is unhappy, blame me.” Instead of making sweeping, silly statements, he’s hyper-specific on everything from the number of ventilators the state needs to the number of tests administered. And instead of scoring political points, or humoring free-market fundamentalists who argue that stabilizing the economy should be prioritized over saving lives, he is eloquent in his plain-spokenness. “My mother is not expendable and your mother is not expendable and our brothers and sisters are not expendable … we’re not going to put a dollar figure on human life.”

Cuomo has captured the nation’s attention. Millions of Democrats, and no doubt many independents, are asking why he is not the Democratic nominee for president. The answer lies in the contradictions that this remarkable politician has never been able to resolve.