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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Paul Krugman: In Praise of Fallible Leaders
We need a president who can admit it when he’s wrong.
Last week Joe Biden made an off-the-cuff joke that could be interpreted as taking African-American votes for granted. It wasn’t a big deal — Biden, who loyally served Barack Obama, has long had a strong affinity with black voters, and he has made a point of issuing policy proposals aimed at narrowing racial health and wealth gaps. Still, Biden apologized.
And in so doing he made a powerful case for choosing him over Donald Trump in November. You see, Biden, unlike Trump, is capable of admitting error.
Everybody makes mistakes, and nobody likes admitting having been wrong. But facing up to past mistakes is a crucial aspect of leadership. [..]
Trump’s pathological inability to admit error — and yes, it really does rise to the level of pathology — has been obvious for years, and has had serious consequences. For example, it has made him an easy mark for foreign dictators like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, who know they can safely renege on whatever promises Trump thought they made. After all, for him to condemn Kim’s actions would mean admitting he was wrong to claim he had achieved a diplomatic breakthrough.
But it took a pandemic to show just how much damage a leader with an infallibility complex can inflict. It’s not an exaggeration to suggest that Trump’s inability to acknowledge error has killed thousands of Americans. And it looks likely to kill many more before this is over.
It was the murderous dictator Joseph Stalin who supposedly said that one death was a tragedy, one million deaths a mere statistic. One hundred thousand deaths are difficult to get one’s mind around. The toll in our nation from covid-19, as it reaches that horrific milestone, must be seen as a catastrophe — and an indictment.
The long Memorial Day weekend gave the pandemic an indelible visual image: President Trump, wearing a ball cap but no mask, enjoying himself on his Northern Virginia golf course. Last week, you will recall, Trump declared it was “essential” that Americans be able to spend Sunday at church services. He chose to head for the links instead. [..]
But the election is coming, Trump is in campaign mode, and the only political technique he has mastered is the driving of wedges. He has made it a political statement not to wear a mask or respect social distancing. According to polls, most Americans are willing to follow the advice of medical professionals. Enough may follow Trump’s lead, however, to guarantee that the rate of infection and death remains higher than it has to be.
The offense is not just that many of the 100,000 lost American lives might have been saved; it is also that more needless death is surely to come. Donald Trump stands indicted.
Greg Sargent: Trump’s war on reality just got a lot more dangerous
Coronavirus deaths in the United States are rapidly closing in on 100,000. The economic depression is stretching out ahead of us as far as the eye can see. Joe Biden is holding a steady lead in polls.
So President Trump has decided he has only one real chance at reelection: to bet mostly on his magical ability to create the illusion that we’re rapidly returning to normalcy, rather than taking the difficult concrete steps that would make that more likely to happen.
The signs of this are everywhere: in a new federal testing blueprint that largely casts responsibility on the states. In Trump’s new rage-tweets at the North Carolina governor over whether a full convention will be held under coronavirus conditions. And in demands for liability protections for companies so sickened workers can’t sue.
All these things, in one way or another, show that Trump’s war on reality has veered into a new place. Trump is responding to our most dire public health and economic crises in modern times with a concerted, far-reaching effort to concoct the mirage that we’re racing past both.
“Our human capital stock is ready to get back to work,” said White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett on Sunday. Republicans, particularly Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have a plan.
It’s not a plan to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, or a plan to give direct assistance to struggling Americans, or a plan to ensure that state budgets don’t collapse.
Instead, it’s a plan to make sure no one is allowed to sue businesses for what they did or didn’t do during the pandemic.
It’s called “liability protection,” the new incarnation of the old conservative goal of “tort reform,” the euphemism for chaining the courthouse door to prevent people from suing when they get harmed. Not only is it morally indefensible, right now it’s also the worst possible way to help the American economy get back on its feet. [..]
In the world Republicans want to create, most of us will be more reluctant to go out, because a situation where businesses have blanket protection and also aren’t being constrained by regulation is more dangerous for everyone.