Pondering the Pundits

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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Salman Rushdie: I’ve seen dictators rise and fall. Beware, America.

In my life, I have seen several dictators rise and fall. Today, I’m remembering those earlier incarnations of this unlovely breed. [..]

Extreme narcissism, detachment from reality, a fondness for sycophants and a distrust of truth-tellers, an obsession with how one is publicly portrayed, a hatred of journalists and the temperament of an out-of-control bulldozer: These are some of the characteristics.

President Trump is, temperamentally, a tinpot despot of this type. But he finds himself in charge of a country that has historically thought of itself — by no means always correctly — as being on the side of liberty. So far, with the collusion of the Republican Party, he has ruled more or less unchecked. Now an election looms, and he is unpopular, and flails about looking for a winning strategy. And if that means trampling over American freedoms, then so be it. [..]

If he is allowed to use the actions of a tiny minority of criminals and white extremist infiltrators to invalidate the honorable protest of the vast majority against the murder of Floyd, the violence of the police toward the black community and the entrenched power of American racism, he will be on his way to despotism. He has threatened to use the Army against American citizens, a threat one might have expected from a leader of the former Soviet Union, but not of the United States.

In my most recent novel, “Quichotte,” I characterized the present moment as the “Age of Anything-Can-Happen.” Today I say, beware, America. Don’t believe that it can’t happen here.

Helaine Olen: Donald Trump is the real anarchist

President Trump wants us to believe anarchists are responsible for our nation’s sorry state.

“Our nation has been gripped by professional anarchists,” he declared from the Rose Garden on Monday night. Those anarchists have, he said, joined with “violent mobs, arsonists, looters, criminals, rioters, antifa and others” to bring mayhem to the United States.

But let’s be clear. The leading cause of the chaos sweeping the streets of the United States is Trump. What has happened to our nation over both the past nearly 3½ years and the past week is exactly what we should expect to happen when the person in charge has no stated beliefs other than his self-interest, and little agenda other than tearing down the accomplishments of others. [..]

In the guise of promoting what he calls “law and order,” Trump instead promotes violence, chaos and anarchy. And, in the best-case scenario, we’ve got at least six more months of this. It’s fantastical to think Trump will suddenly act with reason and restraint as he fights for his reelection. But the thought of four more years of this is almost too painful to bear.

Richard Wolffe: Trump has reached the ‘mad emperor’ stage, and it’s terrifying to behold

He incites violence from the safety of a bunker, then orders peaceful people tear-gassed for the sake of a surreal photo op

Writing from a Birmingham jail, Martin Luther King Jr famously told his anxious fellow clergymen that his non-violent protests would force those in power to negotiate for racial justice. “The time is always ripe to do right,” he wrote.

On an early summer evening, two generations later, Donald Trump walked out of the White House, where he’d been hiding in a bunker. Military police had just fired teargas and flash grenades at peaceful protesters to clear his path, so that he could wave a Bible in front of a boarded church.

For Trump, the time is always ripe to throw kerosene on his own dumpster fire. [..]

This is no coincidence of timing. In other crises, in other eras, there have been presidents who understood their most basic duty: to calm the violence and protect the people. In this crisis, however, we have a president who built his entire political career as a gold-painted tower to incite violence.

We were told, by Trump’s supporters four years ago, that we should have taken him seriously but not literally. As it happened, it was entirely appropriate to take him literally, as a serious threat to the rule of law.

Cornel West: A boot is crushing the neck of American democracy

The fundamental question at this moment is: can the United States be reformed?

Here we go again. Another black person killed by the US police. Another wave of multiracial resistance. Another cycle of race talk on the corporate media. Another display of diversity with neoliberal leaders, and another white backlash soon to come. Yet this time might be a turning point.

The undeniable barbaric death of George Floyd, the inescapable vicious realities of the unequal misery of the coronavirus, the massive unemployment at Depression levels and the wholesale collapse of the legitimacy of political leadership (in both parties) are bringing down the curtain on the American empire. [..]

The fundamental question at this moment is: can this failed social experiment be reformed? The political duopoly of an escalating neofascist Donald Trump-led Republican party and a fatigued Joe Biden-led neoliberal Democratic party – in no way equivalent, yet both beholden to Wall Street and the Pentagon – are symptoms of a decadent leadership class. The weakness of the labor movement and the present difficulty of the radical left to unite around a nonviolent revolutionary project of democratic sharing and redistribution of power, wealth and respect are signs of a society unable to regenerate the best of its past and present. Any society that refuses to eliminate or attenuate dilapidated housing, decrepit school systems, mass incarceration, massive unemployment and underemployment, inadequate healthcare and its violations of rights and liberties is undesirable and unsustainable.

Mitch Landrieu: The Price We Have Paid for Not Confronting Racism

We will remain trapped in a cycle of anger and hopelessness until more white Americans come to grips with our past.

I was struck by these words.

“To pursue our present course will involve the continuing polarization of the American community and, ultimately, the destruction of basic democratic values.”

I read on. The alternative “will require a commitment to national action — compassionate, massive and sustained, backed by the resources of the most powerful and the richest nation on this earth. From every American it will require new attitudes, new understanding, and, above all, new will.”

No, this was not a news report in the wake of unrest in cities across America this week. It was not a statement about the devastating impact of the coronavirus.

Some 52 years ago, the bipartisan National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders — better known as the Kerner Commission, appointed by President Lyndon Johnson — released a report after researching and analyzing the causes that had led to over 150 race-related riots in 1967. [..]

Unfortunately for all of us, the report’s recommendations were mostly shelved, deemed too expensive and controversial. Johnson, who commissioned the report and is rightly hailed as a hero for championing civil rights and the poor, barely acknowledged it largely out of fear of how it would be received by the white middle class.

The truth is, we do not have a deficit of ideas in this country. We have a deficit of courage.

And what a price we have paid.