Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium 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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Jamelle Bouie: Blackface Is the Tip of the Iceberg

The structural problems we need to solve lie at the roots of American society.

Over the last month, we’ve learned just how much racism is too much to sustain a career in American politics.

It took almost 16 years for House Republicans to reprimand Steve King of Iowa for his frequent expressions of explicit racism, stripping him of his committee assignments. The catalyst? An interview with The New York Times in which he expressed sympathy with racist ideas. “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King said.

Compare that slow-moving response with the quick dismissal of Michael Ertel, the Republican secretary of state in Florida, who resigned the same day that photos of him in blackface were revealed to the public. Taken at a Halloween party in 2005, they show Ertel with a painted face and a costume that make clear he was mocking survivors of Hurricane Katrina.

The reaction after the discovery of a racist image on the medical school yearbook page of Ralph Northam, the governor of Virginia, has been almost as swift. As the world now knows, the photo, taken at a party in 1984, shows one person in blackface and another dressed as a member of the Ku Klux Klan, both holding beers and gazing at the camera. Northam initially said he was in the photo, although he couldn’t say which figure he was. He later backtracked, claiming he wasn’t in it and vowing to finish his term. [..]

Put these examples together and you can begin to discern a standard: In American politics, lawmakers can get a pass for almost anything short of open allegiance to racist ideologies or the explicit use of racist imagery.

There is a logic to this dynamic, even as it produces absurd results, like forceful condemnations of racism from a Virginia Republican Party that fielded an unapologetic neo-Confederate for Senate just over three months ago or calls for Northam’s resignation from a Republican National Committee that otherwise stands firmly behind President Trump.

Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders: Schumer and Sanders: Limit Corporate Stock Buybacks

Corporate self-indulgence has become an enormous problem for workers and for the long-term strength of the economy.

From the mid-20th century until the 1970s, American corporations shared a belief that they had a duty not only to their shareholders but to their workers, their communities and the country that created the economic conditions and legal protections for them to thrive. It created an extremely prosperous America for working people and the broad middle of the country.

But over the past several decades, corporate boardrooms have become obsessed with maximizing only shareholder earnings to the detriment of workers and the long-term strength of their companies, helping to create the worst level of income inequality in decades.

One way in which this pervasive corporate ethos manifests itself is the explosion of stock buybacks. [..]

Between 2008 and 2017, 466 of the S&P 500 companies spent around $4 trillion on stock buybacks, equal to 53 percent of profits. Another 30 percent of corporate profits went to dividends. When more than 80 percent of corporate profits go to buybacks and dividends, there is reason to be concerned.

Jill Abramson: Will the media ever figure out how to cover Trump?

The news media’s collective shock that Donald Trump won in 2016 was evidence of how out of touch most reporters were with the less affluent, less educated, rural parts of the country, where white voter rage galvanized into votes that made him the 45th president. In the days after the election, there was anguished self-examination in many newsrooms and vows to cover the parts of the United States that had been mistakenly overlooked.

But more than two years later, the same question bedevils journalism: Can our tribe cover their tribe?

The president does have his amen corner on right-wing talk radio, Fox News and Breitbart, megaphones that help keep his base rock solid and reticulate his warped version of the facts and truth. But in the rest of the news media, there is little evidence that reporters have fulfilled their pledge to report on and reflect the interests and values of the people who voted for him. There have been some good dispatches from the heartland, but too often what is published amounts to the proverbial “toe touch in Appalachia.”

Karen Tumulty: Ralph Northam must resign. And that’s just a start.

There are many things that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) should say right now.

The first is that he is resigning.

Once he has done that, he also owes the Commonwealth of Virginia — and the rest of the country — a much fuller explanation.

A racist photo like the one he apparently chose to represent himself in his 1984 medical school yearbook does not just happen spontaneously. It is the product of something much larger — the culture that produced Northam, the kind of person he was. And there may indeed be a story of redemption in there somewhere. If there is, it is one that should have been told to the voters of his state long ago, so they could judge whether the man who put himself forward to lead them was who he said he was.

Jennifer Rubin: Can we skip to the State of the Union response?

State of the Union speeches were boring, long-winded and ultimately irrelevant long before President Trump arrived. I got my hopes up when Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) offered Trump the alternative of submitting his State of the Union remarks in written form. No such luck — Trump is set to deliver his address Tuesday before a joint session of Congress.

Trump’s State of the Union is even less significant than the State of the Unions offered by recent presidents. Trump lies more than past presidents and has a greater gap between rhetoric and action than most. In other words, it does not matter what he says Tuesday night. In a nanosecond, the words evaporate and we return to Trump tweets, fabrications and attacks.

Trump’s State of the Union also suffers because he has become a bore — regurgitating the same points, incorporating no new ideas or information (for he is incapable of learning) and spouting the same know-nothingism. He is drearily predictable.