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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Dahlia Lithwick and Scott Pilutik : John Bolton Is Not the Free Speech Hero We Need
His clownish fight with the president is the denouement that the Trump impeachment saga deserves.
n what may be the stupidest yet of the thousands upon thousands of lawsuits President Donald Trump has triggered, Attorney General Bill Barr’s Department of Justice filed a civil lawsuit in a federal court in the District of Columbia on Tuesday ostensibly seeking to stop publication of John Bolton’s upcoming book, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir. The suit is filed on behalf of “the United States of America,” and it claims that the former national security adviser is in breach of contract and has also violated a government nondisclosure agreement. The suit demands that he complete the government’s official “prepublication review process,” and also “not disclose classified information without written authorization,” and also ensure that his book, which has already shipped, not be published or disseminated, lest its publication cause “damage, or exceptionally grave damage, to the national security of the United States.” This of course comes on the heels of recent ominous warnings from Trump that Bolton—whose book is scheduled to be released next week and who has given an interview to ABC News that is set to be aired on Sunday—is staring down the barrel of “criminal problems” if he doesn’t stop this publishing juggernaut right quick.
Barr’s Department of Justice filed a civil lawsuit in a federal court in the District of Columbia on Tuesday ostensibly seeking to stop publication of John Bolton’s upcoming book, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir. The suit is filed on behalf of “the United States of America,” and it claims that the former national security adviser is in breach of contract and has also violated a government nondisclosure agreement. The suit demands that he complete the government’s official “prepublication review process,” and also “not disclose classified information without written authorization,” and also ensure that his book, which has already shipped, not be published or disseminated, lest its publication cause “damage, or exceptionally grave damage, to the national security of the United States.” This of course comes on the heels of recent ominous warnings from Trump that Bolton—whose book is scheduled to be released next week and who has given an interview to ABC News that is set to be aired on Sunday—is staring down the barrel of “criminal problems” if he doesn’t stop this publishing juggernaut right quick.
Now if all that sounds like “frivolous litigation” to your ears, it’s because when Trump—in his capacity as the boss of bosses of DOJ—uses the state to try to stop a book from being published, well, that would be prior restraint. As the Supreme Court noted in 1971 when it allowed for the publication of the Pentagon Papers, “Any system of prior restraints of expression comes to this court bearing a heavy presumption against its constitutional validity.” [..]
The prior restraint threat is nothing more than kayfabe, but the humiliation of the Department of Justice is once again exhaustingly real. The marks it will leave will remind us of how many folding chairs DOJ took to the head these four long years. The fact that Trump has a whole privately orchestrated law firm under Bill Barr willing to work the levers at taxpayer expense just makes it impossible for him to stop now.
Let’s be honest: It is a bitter pill to swallow to now be rooting for John Bolton, the man who opted for cashing in over testifying during the impeachment, when his revelations about Trump’s misdealings with foreign governments may have made a real difference. But here we are, not just rooting for the grifter-with-the-mustache against the grifter-with-the-hair, but also profoundly anxious at the fact that the Justice Department as well as an array of federal prosecutors have cheerfully lined up behind Barr to go after another one of Trump’s foes. As John Dean—who knows a thing or two about abuse of power in the executive branch—said, “this is about Barr using the Justice Department as Trump’s law firm.” That we’ve all gone numb to Barr’s willingness to perform precisely this role for some time now makes it all the more troubling. Barr’s gone from Trump’s personal prosecutor general to his bagman in the blink of an eye.
Armed pro-Trump fanatics are lashing out violently against protesters — and Fox News is begging them to go further
While the majority of the violence against peaceful protesters at Black Lives Matter demonstrations has been orchestrated by police, there’s also been a troubling side trend of increasing right-wing vigilantism against protesters. In city after city — and even in small towns — Donald Trump’s faithful are shooting protesters, hitting them with cars, or, in one case, attacking protesters with a chainsaw. Add to that multiple situations where self-appointed “patrols” of armed conservatives have shown up at demonstrations to threatened protesters, claiming they are responding to the threat of imaginary antifa violence. It’s spiraled so far out of control that even people who have taken no part in the protests are being menaced by gun-toting right-wingers, just because they’re black and the Trump fans have deemed them “suspicious.”
A great deal of blame for this can be laid at the feet of Trump himself, who has been eagerly responding to the protests by calling them “THUGS” and fantasizing about unleashing lethal violence against them. It’s more than fantasizing, really. Unleashing tear gas on protesters so he could have a photo-op was Trump acting on that fantasy, albeit in the most cowardly fashion, making others do his dirty work.
But what may be even more important is the impact of Fox News and other right-wing media outlets, who have been shamelessly misleading their audiences, hyping imaginary threats and creating the rationalizations that right-wing vigilantes — or, more bluntly, domestic terrorists — need and want in order to justify their assaults and threats against peaceful protesters and other innocent people.
Stephen I. Vladeck: How the Supreme Court Is Quietly Enabling Trump
Using emergency relief at the court, the administration has imposed controversial policies without a final determination of their legality.
In the coming weeks, the Supreme Court is expected to clear its docket of current term cases, with potential major decisions on DACA, abortion, President Trump’s financial records and public funding for religious schools. Like Monday’s ruling on L.G.B.T. discrimination, it’s a safe bet that they will generate outsize attention — and that the decisions will be deeply controversial in some quarters.
But for all of the attention that we pay to these “merits” cases on the court’s docket, the Trump administration, with a majority of the justices’ acquiescence, has quietly racked up a series of less visible — but no less important — victories by repeatedly seeking (and often obtaining) stays of lower-court losses.
Such stay orders are generally unsigned and provide no substantive analysis. But they nevertheless have the effect of allowing challenged government programs to go into full effect even though lower courts have struck them down — and often when no court has ever held them to be lawful in the first place. [..]
At the very least, if the justices mean to change the rules for when government litigants should be allowed to obtain emergency relief, they should say so. Otherwise, the court’s behavior in these cases gives at least the appearance of undue procedural favoritism toward the government as a litigant — a “disparity in treatment,” as Justice Sonia Sotomayor warned in February, that “erodes the fair and balanced decision making process that this Court must strive to protect.”
Especially when that disparity seems to repeatedly favor conservative policies over progressive ones, it gives at least the appearance that the court is bending over backward to accommodate a particular political agenda — a message that, now more than ever, all of the justices should be ill inclined to send.
Frank Bruni: The Revenge of the Trump Tattletales
Keep your friends close and your enemies away from book publishers.
Beware the number of enemies you make, and pray to God they don’t have literary agents.
That’s a lesson President Trump never learned. But he’ll be schooled anew in late July, the scheduled publication date for a book by his niece, Mary Trump. Spoiler alert: She’s not defending the honor of a misunderstood uncle. She’s reportedly plunging a dagger into him, though its lethalness is unclear. It’s not as if she had an Ivanka-grade seat to the circus of his life.
John Bolton had an excellent, if briefly occupied, perch as the third of Trump’s four national security advisers so far. That’s surely why he makes the president so nervous. Trump and his flunkies are raging about and suing to delay distribution of Bolton’s book, “The Room Where It Happened,” set for release early next week. (“He’s broken the law,” Trump fumed on Monday, referring to the administration’s claims that Bolton is trafficking in classified information. “I would think that he would have criminal problems.”) But Martha Raddatz of ABC News has done a long interview with Bolton to be aired on Sunday. One way or another, the truth will come out.
Then again, the truth was never in. While most presidential administrations leak like kitchen faucets — or at worst, garden hoses — Trump’s leaks like Niagara Falls, as many unflattering books and much unsparing journalism have already shown. And while most presidential administrations have a few embittered exiles, Trump’s has a teeming diaspora of disgusted refugees, many of whom tattled as soon as they fled, either on the record or in whispers to reporters.
There are countries around the world, large and small, where aggressive government action and a mutual commitment by the population have gotten the coronavirus pandemic under control. The United States is not one of them.
Well over 2 million Americans have been infected, over 115,000 of us have died, and rather than falling, our rates of new infections and deaths seem to have stabilized at horrifically high rates.
Yet now, in a propaganda effort that can only be described as obscene, the Trump administration is trying to convince us not only that the pandemic is all but behind us, but also that its spectacularly incompetent response has been a great triumph.
This will without a doubt go down as one of the worst presidential failures in American history. And we can see now that it had three distinct (if overlapping) phases. [..]
It will be nowhere more apparent than at Trump’s upcoming rally in Tulsa this Saturday. Local officials are pleading with him to cancel it, but he is determined to pack 20,000 people into an arena where they can shout and cheer and breathe each other’s air — and you can bet that almost none of them will be wearing masks, because that would just show that they aren’t devoted to the president who refuses to wear one himself.
This pandemic is an era-defining catastrophe, and it didn’t have to be this way. It’s almost impossible to imagine a president more ill-prepared, by virtue of experience and temperament and judgment, to handle it, and all our worst fears have come true. Don’t let him or any of his lackeys tell you otherwise.