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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Charles M. Blow: When Good People Don’t Act, Evil Reigns

Stop thinking that the horrors of the world will simply work themselves out.

I have often wondered how major world tragedies and horrors were allowed to unfold. Where were all the good people, those who objected or should have? How did life simply go on with a horror in their midst?

How did the trans-Atlantic slave trade play out over hundreds of years? How did slavery thrive in this country? How was the Holocaust allowed to happen? How did the genocides in Rwanda or Darfur come to be?

There is, of course, nearly always an explanation. Often it is official policy; often it is driven by propaganda. But I’m more concerned with how people in the society considered these events at the time, and how any semblance of normalcy could be maintained while events unfolded.

It turns out that our current era is providing the unsettling answer: It was easy. [..]

As Edmund Burke wrote in his 1770 “Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents”: “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”

But you may be more familiar with another quote often attributed to Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Robert Reich: The Real Threat to Law and Order

Trump knows he has to distract the nation from the pandemic he has failed to control – leaving more than 188,000 Americans dead as of September 8, tens of millions jobless, and at least 30 million reportedly hungry.

So he’s mounting a tried-and-true law and order campaign.

At the Republican National Convention, Trump said: “Your vote will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans, or whether we give free rein to violent anarchists, agitators and criminals who threaten our citizens.”

He’s right. But the anarchists, agitators, and criminals threatening Americans are not those protesting police violence. They are the highly armed and racist right-wing vigilantes, along with the conspiracy theorists and shady criminals Trump has repeatedly encouraged and surrounded himself with. [..]

You want the real threat to American law and order? It’s found in these and other Trump enablers, lackeys, and bottom-dwellers. They are the inevitable exCRESense of Trump’s above-the-law, race-baiting, me-first presidency. It’s from the likes of them that the rest of America is in true need of protection.

Heather Digby Parton: Trump ramps up his assault on the election — because there’s no other way he can win

Trump isn’t even trying to win a fair fight — but his plan to declare an election-night victory could backfire

It’s obvious by now that Trump is no longer trying to win the election by legitimate means. He’s tried to scare suburban women with the specter of rioters in their cul-de-sacs, and that hasn’t works. He hoped he could hurriedly broker some “deals” in the Middle East and win the Nobel Peace Prize, but nobody takes him seriously on foreign policy. His alleged love of the military has been seriously called into question and his demands that government agencies push unproven cures and vaccines before they are ready haven’t helped his standing.

So this is all that’s left:

“The only way we can lose this election is if it’s rigged — remember that,” pretty much says it all. It’s not the first time Trump has made claims like that. Back in 2016 he told rally-goers that he would only accept the results of the election if he won.

Trump’s efforts to delegitimize mail-in voting have been well-covered. He’s not being subtle about it. He’s had his hatchet-man postmaster general sabotage the Postal Service just as it faces a massive upsurge of mail-in ballots. He has literally telling his followers to vote by mail and then show up at their polling places and try to vote again, which of course is illegal. He has repeatedly lied about states sending ballots only to Democratic voters and not Republicans. He has insisted that Democratic officials “control millions of votes” which they intend to steal for their own party.

Amanda Marcotte: Trump escalates the signals to his followers: Use lethal violence to help me hold power

After the shootings in Kenosha and Portland, Trump is telling right-wing militias to help him crush the left

Well, that escalated quickly. Only a couple of weeks ago, Donald Trump and his allies were using the term “self-defense” to condone the behavior of armed right-wingers who showed up at Black Lives Matter protests to intimidate demonstrators — and also to justify the alleged murder of two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, by 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse.

Now Trump has expanded the universe of excuses for such lethal violence, suggesting that it’s acceptable in the name of “retribution.” [..]

So Trump is preparing his people — both the armed civilians and his right-wing allies in law enforcement — to take violent action by teeing up the rationales now. Using false claims of “voter fraud,” he’s encouraging his followers to be “poll watchers,” an obvious euphemism for trying to intimidate anyone whose race, appearance or demeanor makes them look like a probable Democrat. Now he’s pushing the boundaries of what constitutes a legitimate use of violence.

The beauty of “retribution” as an excuse for violence is how flexible it is. Implicit in Trump’s unhinged comments is a belief that laws against murder are too strict, and that his followers should feel free to transgress them if they conclude that the target of their ire has it coming. In lionizing people like Rittenhouse or the marshals who shot Reinoehl out of “retribution,” Trump is sending a clear signal to his followers: Forget what the law says, and do whatever you think is necessary to “make America great again.”

Paul Waldman: Trump’s pandemic lies unmask his contempt for the American public

He never thought we were capable of mounting a common effort to defeat the virus.

When Bob Woodward released tapes of interviews he conducted with President Trump this year, the result was shock and outrage. On Feb. 7, Trump made clear that he knew the coronavirus was airborne and unusually deadly; on March 19, he admitted he deliberately played it down, “because I don’t want to create a panic.” This proved that Trump was not in denial; he knowingly lied to the public.

But now we’re seeing something that in its way is just as shocking: With the death toll from covid-19 approaching 200,000, Trump is still downplaying the pandemic, in both word and deed. His decisions, it has become clear, are guided not only by his self-interest (as always), but also by an utter contempt for the public and what they are capable of.

The defense that Trump didn’t want to create a panic is complicated by the fact that he tries to create panic all the time, whether it’s panic that caravans of migrants are about to invade Texas or panic that anarchists are coming to burn down suburban neighborhoods. And it’s clear that the panic Trump most worried about was a panic in financial markets.