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May 11 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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Neal K. Katyal and Joshua A. Geltzer: The Appalling Damage of Dropping the Michael Flynn Case

It embeds into official U.S. policy a shockingly extremist view of law enforcement as the enemy of the American people.

Criminal law specialists and members of the law enforcement community are tough to really shock. But the Justice Department’s announcement that it would drop criminal charges against Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, has provoked, in addition to outrage, a sense of utter demoralization among them. They’ve never seen such a thing before. After all, Mr. Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I.

But it’s important to understand why all Americans should be not just shocked but outraged. It’s not just because Mr. Flynn won’t go to jail or offer any service toward justice.

It’s because this move embeds into official U.S. policy an extremist view of law enforcement as the enemy of the American people. It’s a deception that Americans must see through — and that the federal judge overseeing Mr. Flynn’s case, Emmet Sullivan, can reject by examining the Justice Department’s rationale in open court and by allowing a future Justice Department to reconsider charges. [..]

Never mind that the arguments made in the Justice Department’s court filing on Thursday don’t pass the laugh test. Never mind that even Mr. Barr’s Justice Department surely doesn’t intend to apply the same principles to every other case or possibly any other case. Never mind any of that: The point, really, isn’t just to spring Mr. Flynn. It’s to impugn federal law enforcement. [..]

Presidents are not kings, and federal courts have a vital role to play in protecting our democracy. By carrying out these three lines of inquiry, the judge will be uncovering the truth and withholding his imprimatur from Mr. Trump’s and Mr. Barr’s appalling assault on American law enforcement.

Claire O. Finkelstein and Richard W. Painter: Trump’s Bid to Stand Above the Law

Next week, the Supreme Court will hear lawyers argue the president’s claim that he has absolute immunity while in office.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear one of the most consequential cases ever considered on executive privilege. Trump v. Vance concerns a subpoena issued by the Manhattan district attorney to President Trump’s accountants demanding the release of tax returns and other financial documents to a grand jury.

What is at stake is no less than the accountability of a president to the rule of law.

Mr. Trump claims that a president has “temporary absolute immunity,” meaning he cannot be criminally investigated while in office. Indeed, in oral argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York, his lawyers said that if the president were to shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, he could not be investigated or indicted until after he left office.

If the justices endorse this extreme view, they will make it impossible to hold this president, and all future presidents, answerable in courts for their actions. [..]

If the Supreme Court sides with Mr. Trump in the Vance case and agrees with his other assertions of executive authority, here is where presidential accountability will stand: A sitting president cannot be prosecuted or investigated through the authority of state or federal courts, and he cannot be investigated by Congress or tried in a meaningful way upon impeachment in the Senate. And under Mr. Trump’s broad theory of his authority over the executive branch, a president will be able to press federal agencies into service to hide corruption from public view.

We expect the pull of history, precedent and logic will give the Supreme Court the wisdom to defend the institutions of accountability for our political leaders and safeguard the rule of law.

Michelle Goldberg: ‘Social Shaming’ Will Not Save Us

With no federal leadership, people are left to figure out the coronavirus rules themselves.

An aphorism of online life goes: Every day, the internet picks a hero and a villain, and you hope that neither one is you.

On Wednesday, the villain was a conservative editor named Bethany Mandel, who tweeted, in what I’m guessing was a moment of extremis, “You can call me a Grandma killer. I’m not sacrificing my home, food on the table, all of our docs and dentists, every form of pleasure (museums, zoos, restaurants), all my kids’ teachers in order to make other people comfortable. If you want to stay locked down, do. I’m not.”

Naturally, people did indeed call her a grandma killer. For a while the phrase was a top-trending topic on Twitter. But despite her callous language, I couldn’t help feeling a stab of sympathy for Mandel’s anger and exasperation. It is only natural that after almost two months of something like house arrest, people are starting to lose their minds. The president of the United States and much of the Republican Party are signaling that all this suffering is unnecessary, a prim sort of virtue signaling. And they’ve squandered the time bought by the sacrifices of the citizenry, so there is no national plan for a safe reopening. The lockdowns thus seem to have no clear endpoint. [..]

It’s natural that people are struggling with formulating, enforcing and abiding by new social norms. There are villains here, but they’re not the ones desperate to escape this awful new half-life we’re all living. They’re the ones whose job it was to chart a way out, and just gave up.

Amanda Marcotte: Oops, they did it again: Trump’s refusal to wear a mask as a signal to fascism

Trump’s refusal to wear a mask isn’t just vanity — it’s also a fascist rejection of the duty to protect others

Despite knowing full well the furor that Vice President Mike Pence raised by not wearing a mask during a Mayo Clinic visit in late April, Donald Trump refused to wear a mask when visiting Honeywell factory in Arizona earlier this week — a factory that makes masks. This wasn’t just a symbolic nose-thumbing at people’s reasonable desire to be safe. Trump and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows were putting the lives of Honeywell employees in danger.

After all, masks are not primarily meant to protect the mask-wearer, but to protect others, since there’s clear evidence that people who are infected but have no symptoms can spread the coronavirus. Trump is regularly exposed to the virus, in fact — one of his personal valets just tested positive — and is a prime candidate to be such a carrier.

Of course Trump doesn’t care about other people, only his ego and his appearance. Reporting from the Associated Press confirms this, as a Thursday article explained Trump told advisers that wearing a mask would “send the wrong message.”

“The president said doing so would make it seem like he is preoccupied with health instead of focused on reopening the nation’s economy,” the AP reporters write.

This is another example of Trump’s false dichotomy between saving the economy and fighting the virus. After all, the economy isn’t going to recover if millions are sick and people are afraid to leave their houses — and early evidence from the states that have tried to “reopen” their economies makes that clear. But there’s also good reason to believe that the Trump-Pence antipathy to wearing masks signals to something deeper and darker.

 
Michelle Goldberg: ‘Social Shaming’ Will Not Save Us

With no federal leadership, people are left to figure out the coronavirus rules themselves.

An aphorism of online life goes: Every day, the internet picks a hero and a villain, and you hope that neither one is you.

On Wednesday, the villain was a conservative editor named Bethany Mandel, who tweeted, in what I’m guessing was a moment of extremis, “You can call me a Grandma killer. I’m not sacrificing my home, food on the table, all of our docs and dentists, every form of pleasure (museums, zoos, restaurants), all my kids’ teachers in order to make other people comfortable. If you want to stay locked down, do. I’m not.”

Naturally, people did indeed call her a grandma killer. For a while the phrase was a top-trending topic on Twitter. But despite her callous language, I couldn’t help feeling a stab of sympathy for Mandel’s anger and exasperation. It is only natural that after almost two months of something like house arrest, people are starting to lose their minds. The president of the United States and much of the Republican Party are signaling that all this suffering is unnecessary, a prim sort of virtue signaling. And they’ve squandered the time bought by the sacrifices of the citizenry, so there is no national plan for a safe reopening. The lockdowns thus seem to have no clear endpoint. [..]

It’s natural that people are struggling with formulating, enforcing and abiding by new social norms. There are villains here, but they’re not the ones desperate to escape this awful new half-life we’re all living. They’re the ones whose job it was to chart a way out, and just gave up.

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