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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Trump is desperate, and encouraging violence from his superfans. That’s dangerous, and we can’t look the other way
Donald Trump, by design, is a chaos monster who shovels crap out faster than people can process it. Unencumbered by normal human qualities like empathy or conscience, Trump can bounce from one awful behavior from another — grifting, sexual assault and harassment, racism, lying, conspiracy-mongering, criminal schemes — with astonishing speed, doing more wicked deeds in a day that what most aspiring villains can accomplish in a year or even a lifetime.
In an effort to get a handle on the endless deluge of awfulness pouring out of Trump, it’s become common to describe some of the godawful things he does as “distractions” from other awful things he does. It’s an effort to triage our response, apparently on the theory that figuring out which Trump evils rank higher than others can somehow sharpen our efforts to process and resist them. It’s an honorable desire based in empirical evidence: Indeed, Trump sometimes does or says nasty things to divert public and media attention from other nasty things he does or says. Unfortunately, this often fails to understand that the nasty stuff Trump does to distract us from other nasty stuff is incredibly dangerous on its own terms, and can’t just be shrugged off as a pure or content-free distraction.
Today’s case in point: Trump, who has frequently indulged in late-night binges of Twitter vitriol while most Americans are asleep, was at it again late on Wednesday night when he decided to promote a video by a cowboy cosplayer and Trump superfan named Couy Griffin declaring, “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”
“Thank you Cowboys. See you in New Mexico!” Trump said of the video, which echoed a 19th-century slogan — “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” — used to justify genocide against Native Americans.
Laurence H. Tribe and Joshua A. Geltzer: Trump is doubly wrong about Twitter
On Tuesday, President Trump claimed — on Twitter, no less — that Twitter is “stifling FREE SPEECH,” thus suggesting that Twitter is violating the First Amendment. As usual, Trump is wrong on the law, but this time he’s even more wrong than usual. There is someone violating the First Amendment on Twitter, but it’s not Twitter — it’s Trump. What’s more, his threat on Wednesday to shut down Twitter altogether would mean violating the First Amendment in new ways. [..]
Here’s the irony: While Twitter isn’t using its platform to violate the First Amendment, Trump is. That’s not just our view; it’s what a federal appeals court held in a landmark decision last year. The court ruled that Trump was violating the First Amendment by blocking on Twitter those whose views he disliked. It is long-standing constitutional law that, when a government actor such as Trump creates a public forum in which different views are encouraged to be shared, the government can’t then pick and choose which voices to permit and which to silence. That’s what the court found Trump did, holding that, having used his @realDonaldTrump Twitter account as an official governmental public forum, Trump couldn’t then selectively censor his critics.
But it isn’t just that Trump is already committing the very violation of which he’s accusing Twitter: Astonishingly, Trump is now raising the possibility of aggravating his First Amendment offense by adding another. Apparently so outraged by Twitter’s accurately questioning his inaccurate tweets, Trump denounced social media platforms that “totally silence conservative voices” and threatened to “strongly regulate, or close them down.”
For Trump to do so would be an obvious First Amendment violation of its own. No matter what one thinks of Twitter, operating a social media platform that hosts a wide array of speech is, itself, a form of expression protected under the First Amendment. Just as Trump can’t shut down a newspaper because he doesn’t like one of its articles, he can’t close down Twitter — let alone all of social media — because he doesn’t like a warning affixed to a couple of his tweets.
Michelle Cottle: Trump Will Have His Coronation
If North Carolina won’t host the Republican Party’s convention, he’ll find a state that will.
On the somber occasion of Memorial Day, President Trump delivered a message to Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina: Nice little convention you have planned. Shame if anything happened to it.
The president’s precise wording was only slightly more subtle. The Republican National Convention is scheduled for Charlotte the last week in August, less than three months from now. With the coronavirus still on the prowl, no one knows if it will be possible to hold such a gathering safely or if it might be a poor idea to cram tens of thousands of people into an arena for several days — not to mention turn them loose on the cocktail parties, dinners, breakfasts, panel discussions, policy luncheons, concerts, receptions, protests, counterprotests and other japery that surround these quadrennial spectacles.
But Mr. Trump will not be denied his hours of prime time and his coronation. Grousing that the state’s “Democrat governor,” Roy Cooper, is “still in Shutdown mood,” he demanded in a Monday Twitter thread that Mr. Cooper “guarantee” the festivities could proceed with “full attendance” as originally planned. If not, he threatened, “we will be reluctantly forced to find, with all of the jobs and economic development it brings, another Republican National Convention site.”
Later that day, Vice President Mike Pence went further, floating three possible alternative states — Florida, Texas and Georgia — all “farther along on reopening” and all with Republican governors. He assured the viewers of “Fox & Friends,” “What you’re hearing the president say today is just a very reasonable request of the governor of North Carolina.”
No. What the public is hearing is an ultimatum grounded not in reason but in what serves Mr. Trump’s political ambitions and personal neediness.
Peter H. Shuck: Trump’s ‘Horrifying Lies’ About Lori Klausutis May Cross a Legal Line
The president’s innuendo about the death of a congressional staffer in 2001 could lead to a costly court judgment against him.
President Trump and his minions relentlessly grind out despicable acts — gratuitous insults to war heroes, over 18,000 (and counting) false or misleading statements, many decisions courts have ruled illegal. But Mr. Trump’s wantonly cruel tweets about the tragic death in 2001 of Lori Klausutis are distinctive: They may constitute intentional torts for which a civil jury could award punitive damages against him.
Here are the key facts. Ms. Klausutis, age 28, died in the Florida district office of a Republican congressman, Joe Scarborough, who was then in Washington. The police found no evidence of foul play and the coroner reported that the cause of death was a hard fall against a hard object precipitated by her floppy mitral valve disease. [..]
Although the tweets targeted Mr. Scarborough, his own infliction of emotional distress claim may be weaker than Mr. Klausutis’s. By shrugging off the tweet as simply political gamesmanship on the president’s part, Mr. Scarborough may not have suffered the “severe emotional distress” required for an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim.
Even so, Mr. Scarborough might succeed in a defamation suit against Mr. Trump for reputational harm. After all, the president’s innuendo that Mr. Scarborough may have murdered Lori Klausutis — presumably credible to the many Trump Twitter followers who subscribe to conspiracy theories — may seriously harm Mr. Scarborough’s reputation with them and others.