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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Frank Bruni: They Didn’t Drink the Bleach, but They’re Still Drinking the Kool-Aid

Is the Republican indulgence of the president bottomless?

One of the most widely read articles in The Times last weekend was a report by Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman that Republican leaders are dreading the potential consequences of President Trump’s “erratic handling” of the coronavirus crisis.

Consequences like a higher death toll and more fitful recovery than America might otherwise experience? No. Trump’s re-election is party leaders’ focus. They fear that if he rants, rages and stumbles around too outrageously and too much, he won’t get the chance to rant, rage and stumble around for four more years. If his madness is too naked, there’s a ticking clock on how long he can inflict it on the rest of us.

Forget about his damage to the country. They’re concerned about his damage to the party — and about not having one of their own in the White House, no matter how ill suited for it he is. Republican officials confessed additional anxiety that Trump might hurt the re-election prospects of Republican senators, who have abetted his worst behavior by excusing and even laundering it. God forbid they too don’t get an encore, so that they can perpetuate their shameful performances.

In a political ecosystem as partisan as ours, Republicans protect fellow Republicans and Democrats do likewise with their own. Those are the rules. That’s the game.

But the degree to which this impulse is indulged makes all the difference, as does the nature of the offenses and inadequacies being forgiven. For the sake of decency and of our increasingly fragile democracy, there must be a limit. And when it comes to Trump, Republicans don’t seem to have one.

Steven Rattner: The Coronavirus Stimulus Package Is a Mess

Congress gets an A+ for speed but a B- for quality.

The next round of economic stimulus has now emerged from Congress’s sausage factory, with more rescue efforts inevitably to follow.

Hats off to Congress for moving quickly, particularly in passing the gargantuan $2.2 trillion package late last month. But even amid a crumbling economy, we need more attention to the details — less rough justice and fewer special-interest pleadings — and more effective administration.

Most prominent have been the flaws in the wildly underfunded Payroll Protection Program, which has left many small businesses without help. Even the $320 billion added this week won’t be nearly enough; an additional $400 billion or more is likely to be needed.

The underfunding and a poor rollout led to businesses in some of the least affected states receiving a disproportionately large share of the funds compared with harder-hit states like New York.

Meanwhile, loopholes in the legislation are allowing millions of dollars in aid from the program to flow to undeserving public companies and others with deep-pocketed shareholders. Huge restaurant groups and hotels managed by large chains also qualify, as long as individual locations employ fewer than 500 workers.

That’s just one of the myriad problems. [..]

More rescue programs are inevitable. For example, the small-business Payroll Protection Program is still too small and covers only eight weeks of payroll, a far shorter time period than the likely period of high unemployment.

In addition, with the economy in deep recession, longer-term initiatives, like the long-awaited infrastructure program, are need to reduce high unemployment and restore economic growth.

Congress and the administration need to do a better job with both design and administration.

Jamelle Bouie: Another Way the 2020s Might Be Like the 1930s

The strikes at Amazon and elsewhere over working conditions and low pay have been small, but they may spark a new movement.

Class consciousness does not flow automatically out of class identity. Being a worker does not necessarily mean you will come to identify as a worker. Instead, you can think of class consciousness as a process of discovery, of insights derived from events that put the relationships of class into stark relief.

Or as the political theorist Cedric J. Robinson observed about the Civil War and Emancipation,

Groups moved to the logic of immediate self-interest and to historical paradox. Consciousness, when it did develop, had come later in the process of the events. The revolution had caused the formation of revolutionary consciousness and had not been caused by it. The revolution was spontaneous.

We aren’t yet living through a revolution. But we are seeing how self-interest and paradox are shaping the consciousness of an entire class of people. The coronavirus pandemic has forced all but the most “essential” workers to either leave their jobs or work from home. And who are those essential workers? They work in hospitals and grocery stores, warehouses and meatpacking plants. They tend to patients and cash out customers, clean floors and stock shelves. They drive trucks, deliver packages and help sustain this country as it tries to fight off a deadly virus.

The close-quarters, public-facing nature of this work mean these workers are also more likely to be exposed to disease, and many of them are furious with their employers for not doing enough to protect them. To protect themselves, they’ve begun to speak out. Some have even decided to strike.

Amanda Marcotte: The Republican dilemma: They could have dumped Trump! But now they’re stuck with him

Facing a tough election year, embattled Republicans made their choice: Down the slippery slide with President Lysol

Donald Trump’s approval ratings over the coronavirus pandemic are in free fall, having tumbled 10 points over the last month, to 39% in a new Emerson poll. This comports with the FiveThirtyEight tracking of Trump’s overall approval, which shows that after a short rally-round-the-flag response to the coronavirus, the public is starting to understand that the man who goes on TV and suggests injecting household cleaning products is a complete imbecile. Moreover, he’s the principal reason the U.S. has a massive shortfall in testing and four times as many official cases of COVID-19 as the second most hard-hit country, Spain. (This is without taking into account, unfortunately, how much the Chinese government may have fudged that nation’s numbers.)

That said, Trump’s overall approval numbers still aren’t dipping below his baseline of about 42%, which appears to be immovable. That’s because Trump’s base voters care about sticking it to the liberals more than they care about anything else, including their own health, their jobs or protecting our country from total collapse.

That puts Republicans running in 2020, especially endangered incumbents in swing states, in quite a bind. Yes, we’re talking about you, Susan Collins — along with other precarious GOP senators like Cory Gardner of Colorado, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Martha McSally of Arizona. To align themselves fully with the orange overlord is to alienate the possible swing voters who aren’t too keen on the “inject disinfectants” platform. But if they try to distance themselves from President Clorox Chewables too much, they risk bringing down Trump’s Twitter wrath unto them and alienating those base voters they will absolutely need to have any hope of surviving what looks to be a tough election cycle for their party.

Dahlia Lithwick: Can’t Stop Thinking About Trump’s Bleach “Joke”? Me Neither.

The horror of the past few days is worth marking for its breathtaking failure of leadership—even after everything this president has put us through.

Last week, after Donald Trump announced at a live press briefing that he was having his top medical advisers investigate whether light could be brought “inside the body,” or if, perhaps, people might clean out their lungs with disinfectant “by injection inside or almost a cleaning,” the memes soon overtook the news itself. Bleach companies and reputable news operations were forced to warn Americans not to ingest disinfectant. Twitter melted down, more than it usually does. The insanity of this particular escapade threatened to end the daily press extravaganzas altogether. (That ended up only lasting until Monday night.)

Trump responded to the uproar with his customary deflection: It had all been a huge joke—a joke aimed at a vicious press that has been unkind to him. Or, as he put it on Friday, because he wanted to “see what would happen,” he was actually just being hilarious when he suggested this. “I was asking a sarcastic—and a very sarcastic question—to the reporters in the room about disinfectant on the inside,” he said. “But it does kill it.” He repeated the word sarcasm four times just in case anyone missed it. Then, after an incomparable Twitter rant against the press again on Sunday, in which he seems to have confused the Pulitzer Prize with the Nobel Prize and the Nobel Prize with something he called the “Nobles,” he dragged all of us back to his well of hilarity with a tweet asking, “Does anybody get the meaning of what a so-called Noble (not Nobel) Prize is, especially as it pertains to Reporters and Journalists? Noble is defined as, ‘having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals.’ Does sarcasm ever work?” [..]

Mel Brooks once said “tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.” It captures perfectly why Trump’s attempts at nasty put-downs sting—the differences between “you” and “me” are immaterial right now, because this lethal virus threatens us all. The heartbreak here isn’t that Donald Trump now says he told a joke. That’s an old, old play, one that barely registers as noteworthy anymore. The heartbreak is that even in the midst of global suffering, he still finds scraps of joy in the suffering of those he despises.