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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With QAnon on the rise, Alex Jones tells his fans to “kill” progressives: Trump Nation is going full cuckoo
A pandemic is spiraling out of control and Donald Trump’s reaction is to roll his eyes and say, “It is what it is.” Unsurprisingly, polling data shows that his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, is pulling ahead, not just in national polls, but in a number of battleground states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida, none of which Trump can afford to lose. After all, the incumbent has nothing real to run on. The economy is the worst it’s been since the Great Depression of the 1930s, Americans are losing health insurance by the millions, and Republicans are responding by trying to shortchange unemployment benefits for the millions of people who’ve lost their jobs.
With nothing real to hang on to, it’s no surprise that conservatives — already prone to spreading misinformation — are increasingly addicted to conspiracy theories, wallowing in paranoid fantasies to justify the ludicrous notion that there’s any reason to keep on supporting Trump and the Republican Party.
Unfortunately, this turn towards even greater conspiratorial thinking on the right is also extremely dangerous. There’s already a strong link between right-wing paranoia and right-wing violence. Add the increasing likelihood of Trump’s defeat, the rising stress from the coronavirus, and a blitz of violent propaganda, and there’s a real chance that right-wing conspiracism will lead to even more domestic terrorism, hate crimes and neofascist goons in the streets.
Heather Digby Parton: Trump’s claims about mail voting were always incoherent: Now they’re falling apart
Donald Trump can’t keep his story straight: Now mail-in voting is totally fine in Florida. Anyone remember 2000?
I don’t know about you, but when I saw Donald Trump do an abrupt pivot on his crusade to depict mail-in voting as a form of voter fraud on Tuesday, I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
That certainly wasn’t because I believe he’s seen the light and has realized that mail-in voting is perfectly safe, or that he realizes it’s imperative at a time when in-person voting may expose people to the deadly coronavirus. No, it was because he singled out Florida as the one state he believes really knows how to handle elections. Anyone who was around 20 years ago to observe the 2000 election will understand why I felt that awful sense of dread.
You may recall how that disputed election result, with a 538-vote difference in Florida and a recount in progress, was decided in favor of the Republican candidate — whose brother just happened to be the governor — helped along by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court, two of whom happened to have been appointed by their father, the former president. Let’s just say that the Republicans controlled the levers of government and they knew how to use them.
Ryan Goodman and Andrew Weissmann: Will Bill Barr Try to Help Trump Win the Election?
Two investigations appear to be potential fodder for pre-election political machinations.
Today, Wednesday, marks 90 days before the presidential election, a date in the calendar that is supposed to be of special note to the Justice Department. That’s because of two department guidelines, one a written policy that no action be influenced in any way by politics. Another, unwritten norm urges officials to defer publicly charging or taking any other overt investigative steps or disclosures that could affect a coming election.
Attorney General William Barr appears poised to trample on both. At least two developing investigations could be fodder for pre-election political machinations. The first is an apparently sprawling investigation by John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, that began as an examination of the origins of the F.B.I. investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The other, led by John Bash, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas, is about the so-called unmasking of Trump associates by Obama administration officials. Mr. Barr personally unleashed both investigations and handpicked the attorneys to run them.
But Justice Department employees, in meeting their ethical and legal obligations, should be well advised not to participate in any such effort.
It has been six months since Senate Republicans voted to acquit President Trump in his impeachment trial. This November, voters have a remarkable opportunity to prove they have a stronger moral compass than those senators ― and show them the door.
There are lessons my parents taught me about America. They taught me there is dignity and honor in working hard and playing by the rules. That the Constitution and the law mattered. That voting was a civic responsibility and an obligation. That our nation and our family were worth defending against people who would take advantage. That I should treat others as I would want to be treated. That honesty, duty and integrity were inherently good and that to cheat, lie and steal was wrong. [..]
Of the lessons my parents taught me, the most important was the difference between right and wrong. When the president illegally demanded that a foreign country help him cheat in a U.S. election, that was wrong. When he illegally used U.S. national security policy to pressure them to do it, that was wrong. When he illegally tried to cover it up, that was wrong.
A child could understand this. Why not Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona? Why not Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, Sen. David Perdue of Georgia or Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa? Why was it too hard for Sen. Susan Collins of Maine to say, “It’s wrong to break the law and undermine our democracy”? Why couldn’t Montana’s Steve Daines or North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, or 45 other Republicans take a simple stand for right rather than wrong?
Perhaps, as Upton Sinclair once wrote, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”
But you, reader, have no such impediment. And in just a few short months, you may be able to remove that burden from your senator.
President Trump has changed his mind on many issues. Yet there is one theme of his presidency that remains strikingly constant: his peculiar deference to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. We witnessed it again in Trump’s new interview with Jonathan Swan of Axios, when he once again refused to criticize the Russian president for allegedly offering Taliban fighters bounties in return for killing U.S. soldiers, and also excused Russian arming of the Taliban by arguing, “Well, we sold them weapons when they were fighting Russia, too. The Taliban, in Afghanistan. … I’m just saying, we did that, too.” (Note: The Taliban, which was formed in 1994, never fought Soviet forces, which left the country five years earlier.) We already knew that Trump had avoided raising the issue in a series of phone calls with Putin in the past few months.
Trump’s stubborn refusal to criticize Putin remains a mystery. But the damage this position has done to U.S. interests is known, and could become even greater in the future. Most troubling, Trump’s stance on Putin — which often contrasts with policies of his own administration — creates an ambiguity that is destructive in his own right. [..]
Given this consistent track record of supporting Putin, it should not be surprising that Putin might misjudge Trump’s commitment to NATO or deterrence more generally. Trump’s latest signal of weakness — refusal to even raise the issue of Russian actions against U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan — can only deepen Putin’s doubts about American resolve. Such doubts in turn can birth dangerous adventurism.