Apr 14 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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Neal K. Katyal: It’s the Worst Possible Time for Trump to Make False Claims of Authority

He does not have “total” authority over states.

I teach my law students that every so often in the law, the best way to understand the veracity of a claim is just to say it out loud. They got a great example of this on Monday when President Trump made a contribution to the legal lexicon: “When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total. And that’s the way it’s got to be. It’s total.”

In terms that would even have made President Richard Nixon blush, our commander-in-chief sounded more like the leader of some tinpot dictatorship than of the United States.

The design of our Constitution was designed to rebel against such arrogation of power. Separation of powers and federalism aren’t fusty concepts designed to please rebellious aristocrats; they are the living embodiment of our founders’ desire to divide and check power — not vest “total” “authority” in one person, no matter how wise that person may be. [..]

You’ve heard this before — Mr. Trump is asserting powers way beyond the Constitution. So why is this night different from all other nights? Consider four things.

Amanda Marcotte: Trump says his “authority is total” — while he blames everyone else for his failures

In Trump’s evil, incoherent theory of government, he has all the power — but none of the responsibility

Donald Trump is melting down. Well, more than usual, anyway. Berating America in a tone that evokes Eric Cartman of “South Park,” Trump lashed out on Monday at anyone who would dare question his A-THOR-ATE-I. Monday’s propaganda session disguised as a “coronavirus briefing” was wilder than usual, with Trump going well beyond his already megalomaniacal daily  rants, subjecting the viewers at home and the beleaguered White House reporters to a mendacious propaganda video that attempted to spin his wild failures into some story of great success. And throughout this meltdown, Trump was asserting his godlike powers in the same tone used to lecture trophy wives about how they need to show a little more gratitude to the man whose ill-gotten gains keep them flush with golden toilets.

“When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total, and that’s the way it’s got to be,” Trump declared to the reporters who risk their health to show up daily to bear witness to a character who makes Emperor Palpatine’s on-screen villainy seem subtle and underplayed.  [..]

But this isn’t just about Trump lying, which comes to the Pussy-Grabber-In-Chief more naturally even than camera-hogging. That particular lie — that he holds full power over everyone and everything — cuts directly against another one that Trump has been hiding behind throughout this coronavirus crisis and the economic fallout: That all this is someone else’s fault.

From the moment Trump realized he couldn’t just bullshit people into believing the coronavirus was a hoax, he has focused his energies almost entirely on trying to find someone else to pin the blame on, since he holds entirely blameless, as he does for all the other times he’s failed as a leader, a businessman, a husband and father, and a human being. While other presidents might put at least some effort into helping Americans get through this tragedy — try to imagine the tone Barack Obama would have struck — Trump’s singular focus is on arguing that this is not his fault

Jamelle Bouie: Why Coronavirus Is Killing African-Americans More Than Others

Higher rates of infection and death among minorities demonstrate the racial character of inequality in America.

We know that Covid-19 is killing African-Americans at greater rates than any other group. You can see this most clearly in the South. In Louisiana, blacks account for 70 percent of the deaths but 33 percent of the population. In Alabama, they account for 44 percent of the deaths and 26 percent of the population. South Carolina and Georgia have yet to release information on death disparities, but in both states blacks are more likely to be infected than whites. The pattern exists in the North as well, where African-American populations in cities like Chicago and Milwaukee have high infection and death rates.

Federal officials have tied these disparities to individual behavior — the surgeon general of the United States, Jerome Adams, who is African-American, urged blacks and other communities of color to “avoid alcohol, tobacco and drugs” as if this was a particular problem for those groups. In truth, black susceptibility to infection and death in the coronavirus pandemic has everything to do with the racial character of inequality in the United States.

To use just a few, relevant examples, black Americans are more likely to work in service sector jobs, least likely to own a car and least likely to own their homes. They are therefore more likely to be in close contact with other people, from the ways they travel to the kinds of work they do to the conditions in which they live.

Today’s disparities of health flow directly from yesterday’s disparities of wealth and opportunity. That African-Americans are overrepresented in service-sector jobs reflects a history of racially segmented labor markets that kept them at the bottom of the economic ladder; that they are less likely to own their own homes reflects a history of stark housing discrimination, state-sanctioned and state-sponsored. And if black Americans are more likely to suffer the comorbidities that make Covid-19 more deadly, it’s because those ailments are tied to the segregation and concentrated poverty that still mark their communities.

Eugene Robinson: President Trump can’t reopen the country. Only we can do that.

Controversy over when President Trump will “reopen the country” is nothing more than another ploy to spice up his tiresome reality-show drama. Trump won’t determine when it’s safe again for us to mingle again at work and play. We will.

Trump said Friday that when to restart what he called “the greatest economy ever created” will be “by far the biggest decision of my life.” He claimed Monday in a tweet that when to “open up the states . . . is the decision of the president, for many good reasons.” He pretends there is a switch and that he alone can flick it, but of course no such thing exists. This crisis is not all about him. It’s all about us.

For one thing, Trump is not the one who decided to shut everything down: He never issued a nationwide stay-at-home order. We are sequestered and socially distanced because our governors and mayors told us we needed to be. And we continue housebound, wearing masks when we infrequently venture outside and dutifully scrubbing our hands when we return, because we understand the need to protect our health and that of others. I’d love it if everything suddenly went back to normal. But I know that isn’t possible.

Imagine that Trump were to unilaterally set a date certain for social distancing to end — May 1, say, or May 15, or perhaps June 1. Imagine, improbably, that all state and local officials went along. What would you do?

Katrina vanden Heuvel: This crisis has created a new and profound sense of solidarity

In the 1960s, organizers from the United Farm Workers needed a way to communicate across language barriers. They created the “unity clap” — a tradition that’s used by activists, community organizers and labor movements to this day. It starts out slow, like a heartbeat, and picks up speed as more and more people join in, until everyone is clapping together. Most of the farm workers decades ago were Latinx and Filipino; many didn’t speak English — let alone each other’s languages. But all of them understood the meaning of the clap.

Every night recently, from my apartment in Manhattan, I can hear New Yorkers join in a unity clap of our own: a standing ovation for the doctors, nurses, first responders, custodians, cooks and other health-care workers who are risking their lives to save ours.

This crisis has exposed many cruel weaknesses in our medical, political and economic systems. At the same time, it has generated a new and profound sense of solidarity. In the past few weeks, people around our city, our country and our world have gone to great lengths to support those around them.