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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Paul Krugman: The Cult of Selfishness Is Killing America

The right has made irresponsible behavior a key principle.

America’s response to the coronavirus has been a lose-lose proposition.

The Trump administration and governors like Florida’s Ron DeSantis insisted that there was no trade-off between economic growth and controlling the disease, and they were right — but not in the way they expected.

Premature reopening led to a surge in infections: Adjusted for population, Americans are currently dying from Covid-19 at around 15 times the rate in the European Union or Canada. Yet the “rocket ship” recovery Donald Trump promised has crashed and burned: Job growth appears to have stalled or reversed, especially in states that were most aggressive about lifting social distancing mandates, and early indications are that the U.S. economy is lagging behind the economies of major European nations.

So we’re failing dismally on both the epidemiological and the economic fronts. But why?

On the face of it, the answer is that Trump and allies were so eager to see big jobs numbers that they ignored both infection risks and the way a resurgent pandemic would undermine the economy. As I and others have said, they failed the marshmallow test, sacrificing the future because they weren’t willing to show a little patience.

And there’s surely a lot to that explanation. But it isn’t the whole story.

Eugene Robinson: Republicans’ long-term vote heist matters more than Trump’s tantrums

Don’t waste time and energy fretting over President Trump’s self-important threat not to accept a defeat in November. Worry instead that he and the Republican Party will try to steal the election through a multifaceted campaign of voter suppression.

When Fox News anchor Chris Wallace asked Trump earlier this month if he would commit to accepting the result of the coming vote, Trump’s answer was typically full of bluster and divorced from reality. “I have to see,” he said. “No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no.”

Those nonsensical words prompted a wave of needless angst over how the president might behave if voters give him the boot. It’s safe to assume, given what we’ve seen over the past four years, that Trump will react to losing with the emotional maturity of a bratty toddler at bedtime. But it’s also safe to assume that whatever tantrum he throws will be a meaningless sideshow.

Trump has many powers as president, but accepting or rejecting the outcome of a national election is not one of them. That responsibility falls to election officials in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. They will certify the winner in their jurisdictions; the electoral college will meet and vote accordingly; and the nation will choose a president — preferably a new one. If Joe Biden wins at least 270 electoral votes, he will be sworn in by the chief justice of the Supreme Court next Jan. 20.

Trump can — and probably will — spend the intervening time fuming, fulminating, howling at the moon. He can further strain the ties that bind our fragile democracy. But if he loses, and polls predict that’s likely, then he’s outta here. Look for him on Trump TV, I guess.

The thing to watch is what Trump and his enablers do before and during the election. If there is to be an attempted heist, that’s when it will take place.

Norman Eisen: Trump wanted his Roy Cohn. In William Barr, he found his John Mitchell instead.

“Where’s my Roy Cohn?” That was President Trump’s famous lament after then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation. But in Sessions’s eventual replacement, William P. Barr, Trump may have done even better — by his standards — than Cohn, the notoriously unscrupulous defense lawyer.

As Barr prepares to testify before the House Judiciary Committee for the first time as Trump’s attorney general, he has instead come to resemble another disgraced lawyer of the past: former attorney general John Mitchell, whose misplaced loyalty to President Richard M. Nixon outweighed the duty he owed to the Justice Department and the country.

Mitchell lied incessantly about Nixon’s role in Watergate and other misconduct, no matter the consequences — which in Mitchell’s case eventually included disbarment and prison. Barr’s long series of distorted, dishonest and false statements in defense of the president may not land him in criminal jeopardy, but they are familiar steps on that same crooked path — steps that the Judiciary Committee should press Barr to explain.

They begin with Barr’s misleading declarations about the report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in the interregnum before its release, including minimizing powerful evidence of obstruction of justice. A Republican-appointed federal judge ruled that Barr’s statements were “distorted” and showed a “lack of candor.”

I was preparing to serve as an impeachment counsel to the House Judiciary Committee at the time. As I write in a new book, my colleagues and I were astonished that Barr would sacrifice his reputation to protect Trump. Yet that episode turned out to be just the start of Barr’s service in defense of the president.

Michelle Goldberg: Twilight of the Liberal Right

Conservatism always contained the seeds of authoritarianism.

Anne Applebaum’s new book, “Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism,” begins cinematically, with a party she threw at a Polish manor house to mark the dawn of the new millennium. [..]

In “Twilight of Democracy,” Applebaum tries to understand why so many of her old friends — conservatives who once fancied themselves champions of democracy and classical liberalism — have become paranoid right-wing populists. “Were some of our friends always closet authoritarians?” she asks. “Or have the people with whom we clinked glasses in the first minutes of the new millennium somehow changed over the subsequent two decades?”

To Applebaum, today’s right, in both America and Europe, “has little in common with most of the political movements that have been so described since the Second World War.” Until recently, she writes, the right was “dedicated not just to representative democracy, but to religious tolerance, independent judiciaries, free press and speech, economic integration, international institutions, the trans-Atlantic alliance and a political idea of ‘the West.’” What happened?

Like Applebaum, I’m astonished to see erstwhile Cold Warriors abase themselves before Vladimir Putin. But I think she’s working from a mistaken premise about what once constituted conservatism. Liberal democracy per se was never the animating passion of the trans-Atlantic right — anti-Communism was. When the threat of Communist expansion disappeared, so did most of the right’s commitment to a set of values that, it’s now evident, were purely instrumental.

Peter Beinart: The Real Reason Biden Is Ahead of Trump? He’s a Man

It’s a lot easier to run a cautious, inoffensive campaign when you’re not up against a culture of misogyny.

A narrative has formed around the presidential race: Donald Trump is losing because he’s botched the current crisis. Americans are desperate for competence and compassion. He’s offered narcissism and division — and he’s paying the political price.

For progressives, it’s a satisfying story line, in which Americans finally see Mr. Trump for the inept charlatan he truly is. But it’s at best half-true. The administration’s mismanagement of the coronavirus and the Black Lives Matter protests only partially explain why the president is trailing badly in the polls. There’s another, more disquieting, explanation: He is running against a man. [..]

What has changed radically over the past four years isn’t Americans’ perception of Mr. Trump. It’s their perception of his opponent. According to Real Clear Politics’s polling average, Joe Biden’s net approval rating is about -1 point. At this point in the 2016 campaign, Hillary Clinton’s net approval rating was -17 points. For much of the 2016 general election, Mr. Trump faced a Democratic nominee who was also deeply unpopular. Today, he enjoys no such luck.

Why was Mrs. Clinton so much more unpopular than Mr. Biden is now? There’s good reason to believe that gender plays a key role. For starters, Mrs. Clinton wasn’t just far less popular than Mr. Biden. She was far less popular than every male Democratic nominee since at least 1992. Neither Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry nor Barack Obama faced overwhelming public disapproval throughout their general election campaigns. Hillary Clinton did.

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