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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Frank Bruni: Is Trump Toast?

There’s a persuasive argument that the 2020 election is already over.

Only two of the past six presidents before Donald Trump lost their bids for re-election. That’s good news for him.

But their stories are bad news for him, too.

In their final years in office, both of those presidents, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, experienced a noticeable slide in popularity right around the time — early May through late June — that Trump hit his current ugly patch.

According to Gallup’s ongoing tracking of the percentage of Americans who approve of a president’s job performance, Carter’s and Bush’s numbers sank below 40 percent during this period and pretty much stayed there through Election Day. It’s as if they both met their fates on the cusp of summer.

And the cusp of summer has been a mean season for Trump, who has never flailed more pathetically or lashed out more desperately and who just experienced the Carter-Bush dip. According to Gallup, his approval rating fell to 39 percent in early June from 49 a month earlier. So if Carter and Bush are harbingers, Trump is toast.

Amanda Marcotte: Russia bounty shocker: Trump never cared about the troops — only racism and re-election

Trump harangued NFL players for kneeling, but did nothing about Russia paying bounties to kill American soldiers

t’s safe to say that few things have obsessed Donald Trump more than his outrage at professional athletes who have chosen to kneel during the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality. Particularly in the fall of 2017 — while he was still smarting from the national outrage at his description of the white supremacists who rioted in Charlottesville as “very fine people” — Trump went on a rampage against the NFL kneelers, trying to position his racist response as patriotism and love for U.S. troops.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when someone disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired,'” Trump ranted at an Alabama rally in September 2017. [..]

It was always preposterous that Trump’s antipathy to the kneeling athletes was about patriotism and “supporting the troops,” rather than flat-out racism. Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who started the kneeling tradition (and who lost his job in the NFL for it), came up with the idea of taking a knee after consulting with a friend who was a Green Beret on the best way to speak out against racism without insulting the troops or the flag.

Moreover, in the past few weeks Trump has been on a tear about the supposed importance of maintaining monuments and military bases honoring Confederate generals and leaders. When you consider that hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops died fighting the white-supremacist traitors who started the Civil War, Trump’s attachment to Confederate iconography should have been definitive proof he doesn’t care about “the troops.”

Richard Cordray: Why the CFPB’s loss at the Supreme Court is really a win

For six years, I served as the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In 2010, Congress determined that this important new agency should have a single leader, with independent tenure protections, to make the hard decisions about how best to protect consumers against big banks and financial companies.

Our aggressive work to protect people from being cheated and mistreated understandably aroused opposition from some of these powerful companies. And so, ever since, the financial industry has been peppering the bureau with various challenges to its constitutionality. Among them was the claim that a single director of an agency wielding so much power does not square with strong notions of presidential control over the executive branch of the government. Some courts accepted this claim; others rejected it. Eventually, the case found its way to the Supreme Court, and Monday, in Seila Law v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the court issued a 5-to-4 ruling striking down the bureau’s leadership structure as unconstitutional.

On its face, that sounds like a major blow. The court’s holding that the agency was established in an unconstitutional manner might seem to jeopardize everything it does and all that it has ever done. Certainly, when the financial companies first began raising these claims, they did so with a desire to put the CFPB out of business once and for all.

But that is not the upshot of the decision. If anything, this ruling is a sheep that comes in wolf’s clothing. Although the court did invalidate the independent tenure of the CFPB’s single director, seven of the nine justices stopped right there and refused to go further. By carefully slicing off the tenure protections for the director, they left all other aspects of the agency in place. In fact, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. pointedly noted that “the CFPB’s structure and duties remain fully operative without the offending tenure restriction.”

Max Boot: Welcome to the United States of ‘Idiocracy’

When Mike Judge’s movie “Idiocracy” came out in 2006, almost no one saw it. (The film grossed less than $500,000 at the box office.) Now everyone should see it.

Luke Wilson plays an average Joe who is put into suspended animation and reawakens 500 years later to find himself the smartest person in America because everyone else has gotten so dumb. The No. 1 TV show features contestants being hit in their private parts; crops are watered with a sports energy drink, causing a famine; and the president is a former wrestler and porn star who curses freely and fires automatic weapons on TV.

Is there a better prophecy of our end times? The only thing “Idiocracy” really got wrong was its timeline. It has taken just 15 years, not 500, for America to become an idiocracy. Don’t believe it? Look at our response to the coronavirus pandemic. [..]

It is easy, and correct, to blame this epic failure on abysmal leadership. We have an irrational, incompetent president who spent months denying the reality of the disease (remember when he claimed it would “miraculously” go away by April?), while suggesting cures including a risky malaria drug and bleach injections.

Now President Trump is holding rallies in places such as Tulsa, where the disease is surging; campaign aides even removed signs from the arena urging rallygoers to practice social distancing. Trump is planning a Republican convention in a state, Florida, that has become a new hot spot of the disease. How idiotic can you get?

Jennifer Rubin: Tech companies are finally being shamed into action

At a time President Trump zealously protects Confederate statues, the Senate refuses to act on further financial relief, Republican governors insist the surge of novel coronavirus cases will not prompt a rollback in reopening plans and Republicans refuse to address systemic racial injustice in a serious way, you might get the feeling that a significant number of politicians think they are not accountable to the public. Whether it’s due to gerrymandering, the advantages of incumbency or simple arrogance, they continue to play to a thin stratum of ideologically extreme donors and right-wing media outlets. In November, the voters might surprise many of them, finally exerting the kind of accountability for anti-democratic, anti-scientific and anti-equality conduct.

In the meantime, however, corporate America, while far from perfect, has actually become more responsive to public opinion. It has come to appreciate (as we saw in the gun debate after the shooting in Parkland, Fla.) that consumers do not want to patronize companies they perceive as acting in antisocial or irresponsible ways. They might not, for example, want to shop at stores that sell guns or finance gun sales. More recently, on the racial justice front, the New York Times reports that “companies like Nike, Twitter and Citigroup have aligned themselves with the Black Lives Matter movement.” Netflix is committing $100 million to support African American communities. (Others are making less significant gestures, raising questions about the depth of their commitment.)

Now major corporations are undertaking an effort to change how tech companies respond to hate speech. A widespread advertising boycott of Facebook has shamed the platform’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, in a way that lawmakers have failed to do. Per the Times: “Marketing giants like Unilever, Coca-Cola and Pfizer announced that they were pausing their Facebook advertising. That outcry has grown, hitting the company’s wallet.” By refusing to be associated with content that is racist or poses a threat to our democracy, such corporations have forced Facebook to take some initial steps, such as agreeing to an audit by the Media Rating Council: [..]