Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium 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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Michelle Goldberg: Trump to America: Who’s Going to Stop Me?

An unbound president invites more foreign election interference.

In a new interview with ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos, parts of which were released on Wednesday evening, Donald Trump announced his willingness to betray and subvert American democracy, again. Asked what he would do if he were offered foreign dirt on an opponent in 2020, he said he’d take it, and pooh-poohed the idea of calling federal law enforcement.

“Oh, let me call the F.B.I.,” he said derisively. “Give me a break, life doesn’t work that way.”

That Trump has no loyalty to his country, its institutions and the integrity of its elections is not surprising. That he feels no need to fake it is alarming. With the end of Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation, House Democrats’ craven fear of launching an impeachment inquiry, and the abject capitulation of Republicans to Trumpian authoritarianism, the president is reveling in his own impunity.

Maybe the insult of it can jolt the country out of its current stasis. Every so often, Trump says or does something so grotesque that it cuts through the despairing numbness engendered by his presidency, galvanizing the forces of decency anew. It happened after Trump defended white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, after he compared nonwhite countries to excrement, and after he bowed and scraped before Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. This should be one of those moments.

That doesn’t mean it will be. Much of the Resistance is exhausted by last year’s push to retake the House and deflated by the anti-climactic aftermath of the Mueller report. For two and a half years, as Trump has treated his oath of office the way he’s rumored to have treated a Moscow hotel bed, it’s felt as if something has to give. But day by day, what’s giving is the will to stop him.

Jamelle Bouie: Mitch McConnell, Too, Welcomes Russian Interference

Or at least he won’t let Congress do anything to stop it.

Why won’t Mitch McConnell protect our elections from outside interference?

His Republican colleagues in the Senate want to do something. That’s why some of the most conservative members of his caucus are working with Democrats to improve the nation’s election security.

One proposal, according to The New York Times, would “require internet companies like Facebook to disclose the purchasers of political ads.” Another, devised by Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, would “impose mandatory sanctions on anyone who attacks an American election.” Yet another, the brainchild of Senators James Lankford of Oklahoma and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, would “codify cyber information-sharing initiatives between federal intelligence services and state election officials.”

House Democrats have already introduced legislation to bolster election security and would most likely work with the Senate to put together a compromise proposal should a bill pass that chamber. But McConnell refuses to consider any legislation on election security during this congressional term. For the Senate majority leader, the problem has already been solved, and this rare show of bipartisan cooperation doesn’t matter. “I think the majority leader is of the view that this debate reaches no conclusion,” Roy Blunt of Missouri, a McConnell ally, said.

The easiest explanation for McConnell’s opposition to the various election security proposals is captured in one word: Trump. Only recently has the president acknowledged foreign interference in the 2016 election. “Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected,” Trump said last month on Twitter, blasting Robert Mueller’s investigation. “It was a crime that didn’t exist.” Later, however, he returned to his usual position of denying any assistance or interference at all. “Russia did not get me elected,” he said.

The president’s endless denial makes sense: To acknowledge any election interference on his behalf is to undermine the legitimacy of his victory, even if the hacking and disinformation were not decisive.

Frank Bruni: Donald Trump Will Pick the Democratic Nominee

He’s responsible for the bloat, tenor and dynamics of the party’s primary.

For his unexpected surge in the nascent contest for the Democratic presidential nomination, Pete Buttigieg, 37, can thank his formidable intellect, his considerable poise and political instincts that have been close to flawless so far.

But his greatest debt of gratitude goes to Donald Trump.

Ask Buttigieg-besotted voters whether his youth gives them pause and they’ll say that extra seasoning sure didn’t improve the taste of Trump. Question whether serving as mayor of a small Indiana city is adequate preparation for being the leader of the free world and they’ll say that it’s infinitely preferable to a background in reality television, casinos and beauty pageants.

Kamala Harris’s fans like her smarts, toughness and flashes of warmth. But you know what some of them like even more? The idea of Trump’s presidency being bracketed by a black predecessor and a black, female successor. That casts Trump’s values as outliers, untrue to America. It shrinks him to a costly one-off, a wretched asterisk.

Every incumbent president looms large over the contest to determine his opponent, but the shadow cast by Trump is bloated beyond measure. He’s not just influencing the Democratic race. He’s perverting it. It looks and sounds little like 2016, 2012, 2008 or any other year that I can easily recall, and the main reason isn’t rising progressivism, increasing diversity or metastasizing social media. It’s Trump.

Paul Krugman: Liberal Wonks, or at Least Elizabeth Warren, Have a Plan for That

The surprising power of evidence-based progressivism.

Not long ago, political pundits were writing off Elizabeth Warren’s political chances, but recent polling makes her an increasingly plausible contender, and her comeback has been getting her a sudden wave of favorable media coverage.

Will she actually be the Democratic nominee? If so, will she win? I have absolutely no idea. Nor does anyone else.

But the political strategy powering her comeback is interesting. And I think many observers are missing a key reason her strategy seems to be working — namely, that her agenda is radical in content and implications, but well grounded in evidence and serious scholarship.

Normally, would-be presidential nominees campaign on some combination of personal narrative and soaring rhetoric promoting broad themes: “I’m a war hero/symbol of the American dream/longtime challenger of the Establishment, and as president I’ll bring us together/drain the swamp/fight the power.”

Warren, by contrast, has been rolling out substantive, detailed policy proposals — many, many substantive, detailed policy proposals. Traditional punditry says that this should be a turnoff, that voters’ eyes will just glaze over at the proliferation of white papers.

But Warren has managed to turn relentless wonkery into a defining aspect of her political persona. Supporters show up at her rallies wearing T-shirts that proclaim “Warren has a plan for that!” And she is, by all accounts, managing to make earnest policy discussion a way to connect with her audiences.

Charles M. Blow: Democrats Must Be Daring

Too many are leaning toward their safest candidates rather than their favorite ones.

In presidential politics, timing is everything.

It is all about being the right candidate for right now. What you have or have not done is less important than how your sensibilities align with the cycle.

And every election is different, which makes efforts to graph the lessons of previous elections onto a current one a somewhat futile and fruitless exercise. Yes, there are some things that change slowly like demographics, but the mood of the electorate is not one of them.

Every electorate is shaped by and responds to not only the wind at their backs but also whatever is blowing in their faces. Should an incumbent be unseated or saved? Is it an election for change or for continuity?

The problem is that voters figure out the true contours of a race only once voting and caucusing begin. The race at the beginning — the leading candidates and the most resonant issue — is often unrecognizably different from the race at the end.

This is why I take all current poll and prognosticating about the 2020 race with a grain of salt. It’s not that I don’t believe the polls. To the contrary, I very much do. I am not one of those who threw this legitimate scientific tool out with the 2016 bath water.

But being a person who follows polling, I know that everything the polls capture now is subject to extreme alterations as the race progresses. Current polls simply capture a moment in time, and this moment is too far away from the only moment that truly matters: Election Day.