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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Janelle Bouie: The Electoral College Is the Greatest Threat to Our Democracy

It’s still well under the radar, but the movement to circumvent the Electoral College gained ground this week. On Sunday, Jared Polis, the governor of Colorado, said he would sign a bill to join the National Popular Vote interstate compact, whose members have pledged to give their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. The Maine Legislature, likewise, is mulling membership and will hold hearings to discuss the issue.

Attacking those lawmakers, Paul LePage, the former governor of Maine — who still calls into conservative radio shows from his retirement home in Florida — dismissed the proposal as an attack on the political rights of white people. “Actually what would happen if they do what they say they’re going to do is white people will not have anything to say,” he said. “It’s only going to be the minorities that would elect. It would be California, Texas, Florida.”

That is racist nonsense. But it’s useful to think about, in a way, because beneath LePage’s objection is an unintentionally keen observation about the electoral status quo. If direct election of the president would give equal weight to all votes, then the Electoral College works to give outsize weight to a narrow group of voters in a handful of states. That bias is why Donald Trump is president. A healthy plurality chose his opponent, but his supporters dominated key “swing” states.

Paul Krugman: Socialism and the Self-Made Woman

If you’re like me, you could use at least a brief break from talking about Donald Trump. So why don’t we talk about Ivanka Trump instead? You see, recently she said something that would have been remarkable coming from any Republican, but was truly awesome coming from the Daughter in Chief.

The subject under discussion was the proposal, part of the Green New Deal, that the government offer a jobs guarantee. Ms. Trump trashed the notion, claiming that Americans “want to work for what they get,” that they want to live in a country “where there is the potential for upward mobility.”

O.K., this was world-class lack of self-awareness: It doesn’t get much better than being lectured on self-reliance by an heiress whose business strategy involves trading on her father’s name. But let’s go beyond the personal here. We know a lot about upward mobility in different countries, and the facts are not what Republicans want to hear.

Michelle Goldberg: Republicans’ Race to the Bottom

It’s hard to say what’s a bigger taboo in American politics: being a racist, or calling someone one.

Sure, the Republican Party will occasionally try to distance itself from one of its more egregiously hateful members, like Representative Steve King of Iowa, who lost committee assignments after seeming to defend white nationalism. But mostly, right-wing politicians and their media allies pretend, to the point of farce, that the primary racial injustice in America involves white people unfairly accused of racism. This makes talking openly about the evident racism of our president harder than it should be.

To see how this works in microcosm, consider the House Oversight Committee hearing at which Donald Trump’s former consigliere Michael Cohen testified on Wednesday. Cohen said, in his opening statement, that, in addition to being a con man and a cheat, Trump is a racist. This should be clear to all people of good faith, given that Trump was a leading figure in the birther movement, defended white supremacist marchers in Charlottesville, and claimed he couldn’t get a fair hearing from a judge of Mexican heritage, to mention just a few examples.

But Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina, strenuously objected to Cohen’s description, and came up with what he seemed to think was an airtight rejoinder. Meadows, who is white, had Lynne Patton, an African-American woman and longtime Trump employee now at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, stand behind him, and quoted her saying that she would not work for a racist. Checkmate!

Eugene Robinson: Michael Cohen’s revelations advance Trump’s inevitable reckoning

In Michael Cohen’s historic testimony Wednesday, there was a moment when the long-lost spines of President Trump’s political enablers, probably heaped in a clattering pile somewhere, must have felt a chill. It was when Cohen looked at his Republican inquisitors and foretold their future.

“I did the same thing you are doing now for 10 years,” Cohen said, sounding like an Old Testament prophet. “I protected Mr. Trump for 10 years. . . . And I can only warn [that] people that follow Mr. Trump, as I did blindly, are going to suffer the same consequences that I’m suffering. . . . Look at what’s happened to me. I had a wonderful life. I have a beautiful wife. I have two amazing children. I achieved financial success by the age of 39. I didn’t go to work for Mr. Trump because I had to. I went to work for him because I wanted to. And I have lost it all.”

Cohen’s warning was ignored by those present. But his revelations advanced the inevitable day of reckoning — for Trump, his family and his party.

Michael H. Fuchs: The Hanoi summit collapse reaffirms Trump’s amateur hour in diplomacy

Donald Trump came away from his meeting in Hanoi with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un with at least one thing: material for a new book, The Art of No Deal.

The breakdown in talks in Hanoi reaffirms what we’ve known for almost a year – this process has been diplomatic amateur hour. Trump has repeatedly undermined his own negotiating position by making clear that he already sees his diplomacy with North Korea as a success. After the first summit with Kim in Singapore in 2018 Trump falsely claimed that “there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea”. Days before the Hanoi summit, Trump said that he didn’t need Kim to make any more concessions – “as long as there’s no testing [of nuclear weapons and missiles], we’re happy”.

It’s no wonder that Kim wasn’t willing to give more in Hanoi – Trump has been telling him for months that the status quo is just fine.

It’s sad to see an American president embarrassed by the world’s most ruthless dictator, but that’s what the world just saw in Hanoi. Beyond the lack of substantive progress on the nuclear weapons program, Trump continued the disgusting spectacle of standing up for a tyrant who has been found by a United Nations commission to have committed “crimes against humanity”. In the span of hours in Hanoi Trump called Kim a “friend”, defended Kim from blame for the murder of Otto Warmbier, and yet again disputed US intelligence analysis that North Korea continues building more weapons.