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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Paul Krugman: Trump the Intimidator Fails Again
Because he’s just a bully with delusions of grandeur.
International crises often lead, at least initially, to surging support for a country’s leadership. And that’s clearly happening now. Just weeks ago the nation’s leader faced public discontent so intense that his grip on power seemed at risk. Now the assassination of Qassim Suleimani has transformed the situation, generating a wave of patriotism that has greatly bolstered the people in charge.
Unfortunately, this patriotic rallying around the flag is happening not in America, where many are (with good reason) deeply suspicious of Donald Trump’s motives, but in Iran.
In other words, Trump’s latest attempt to bully another country has backfired — just like all his previous attempts.
From his first days in office, Trump has acted on the apparent belief that he could easily intimidate foreign governments — that they would quickly fold and allow themselves to be humiliated. That is, he imagined that he faced a world of Lindsey Grahams, willing to abandon all dignity at the first hint of a challenge.
But this strategy keeps failing; the regimes he threatens are strengthened rather than weakened, and Trump is the one who ends up making humiliating concessions.
Michelle Goldberg: The Nightmare Stage of Trump’s Rule Is Here
Unstable and impeached, the president pushes the U.S. toward war with Iran.
After three harrowing years, we’ve reached the point many of us feared from the moment Donald Trump was elected. His decision to kill Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s second most important official, made at Mar-a-Lago with little discernible deliberation, has brought the United States to the brink of a devastating new conflict in the Middle East.
We don’t yet know how Iran will retaliate, or whether all-out war will be averted. But already, NATO has suspended its mission training Iraqi forces to fight ISIS. Iraq’s Parliament has voted to expel American troops — a longtime Iranian objective. (On Monday, U.S. forces sent a letter saying they were withdrawing from Iraq in response, only to then claim that it was a draft released in error.) On Sunday, Iran said it will no longer be bound by the remaining restrictions on its nuclear program in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the deal that Trump abandoned in 2018. Trump has been threatening to commit war crimes by destroying Iran’s cultural sites and tried to use Twitter to notify Congress of his intention to respond to any Iranian reprisals with military escalation. [..]
Unlike with North Korea, it’s difficult to imagine any photo op or exchange of love letters defusing the crisis the president has created. Most of this country has never accepted Trump, but over the past three years, many have gotten used to him, lulled into uneasy complacency by an establishment that has too often failed to treat him as a walking national emergency. Now the nightmare phase of the Trump presidency is here. The biggest surprise is that it took so long.
Costs only become an issue when it comes to programs that run counter to Republican policy priorities
If you know who Sean Hannity is, you probably know that he is no fan of the Green New Deal. The proposal has blanketed Fox News since it debuted in November 2018, with Hannity and fellow hosts on the network narrowing in a particular line of attack, summarized during a radio spot he did last year: “What they are proposing is so outrageously expensive and cost prohibitive even they acknowledge that if we confiscated all the billionaires’ wealth, it still wouldn’t be able to pay for this mess of theirs.” Along similar lines, Republicans circulated a bogus study from the industry-funded American Action Forum claiming a Green New Deal would cost $93tn, elevating the number into something of a meme among rightwing talking heads and politicians. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell told his colleagues it would be more than enough to “buy every American a Ferrari”.
Hannity and McConnell, along with most of the rest of the Republican party, have more recently been heaping praise onto Trump for assassinating Iranian Gen Qassem Suleimani. “This is a huge victory for American intelligence, a huge victory for our military, a huge victory for the state department, and a huge victory and total leadership by the president,” Hannity boasted after the killing. Without consulting Congress, the president kicked long-simmering US-Iran tensions up to a boil that now threatens to spill over into another full-blown war in the Middle East. His threats to bomb cultural sites throughout the country – in violation of international law – make that even more likely. So why aren’t Republicans asking how the government would pay for it?
Eugene Robinson: Welcome to Trump’s war
This is what we feared, what we warned about. An erratic, petulant, clueless president, manifestly unfit to serve as commander in chief, has sparked a high-stakes international crisis. Welcome to Donald Trump’s war.
Trump’s decision to authorize the assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani was typically rash and shortsighted. Blowing to smithereens a high-ranking official of a sovereign nation is, by any standard, an act of war. Doing so without any discernible plan for what to do next is an act of stupidity, one for which I fear we will pay dearly with American blood and treasure.
Think about it: The president of the United States has threatened to bomb Iran’s priceless cultural sites, for no reason except spite and a desire to look “tough.” How would that differ from what the Taliban did in Afghanistan? Is this the kind of foreign policy we’re supposed to be proud of?
Trump campaigned on a promise to end our involvement in Middle East wars. Despite all his tough talk, he is so conflict-averse that he won’t even fire aides who displease him in person, instead using emissaries and tweets. His instinct now will probably be to back off. But I worry that the events he has set in motion will have a logic and momentum of their own.
One reason Donald Trump is president and Hillary Clinton is not is because of the support of seniors. He received a majority of the vote from people over the age of 65 in 2016. He presented himself as their ally, vowing to protect Social Security and Medicare.
But Trump is not the best friend of senior voters. He’s actually just about their worst enemy. If he’s elected to a second term, older Americans — and all those who care about them — will likely learn that the hard way.
Nowhere is this more clear than health care in general and Medicare in particular. Last fall, Trump told a group of seniors at one of Florida’s largest retirement communities that Medicare is “under siege” from Democrats. Medicare-for-all, he said, “would totally obliterate Medicare.” What he didn’t tell the audience was that same day he signed an executive order that likely will weaken Medicare. As Michael Hiltzik pointed out at the Los Angeles Times, the order, which demanded the government investigate raising Medicare reimbursement rates, could raise the cost of the program, undermining its finances, not to mention potentially increasing the amounts seniors need to pay over time. At the same time, Trump’s plan — also contained in the executive order — encourages more use of Medicare Advantage, which could ultimately push seniors toward narrow medical networks, cutting access to doctors and restricting choice. Finally, according to The Center for American Progress, the Trump policy could also make it more likely that seniors are subjected to surprise medical bills, something current law mostly protects them from.
In other words, under the guise of protecting seniors, Trump is laying the groundwork to weaken Medicare. “It’s actually a plan to reshape the program in favor of further enriching the health care industry at the expense of the sick,” says Emily Gee, a health economist with the Center for American Progress.