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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Paul Krugman: Trump Is Terrible for Rural America

His biggest supporters are his biggest victims.Economists, reports Politico, are fleeing the Agriculture Department’s Economic Research Service. Six of them resigned on a single day last month. The reason? They are feeling persecuted for publishing reports that shed an unflattering light on Trump policies.

But these reports are just reflecting reality (which has a well-known anti-Trump bias). Rural America is a key part of Donald Trump’s base. In fact, rural areas are the only parts of the country in which Trump has a net positive approval rating. But they’re also the biggest losers under his policies.

What, after all, is Trumpism? In 2016 Trump pretended to be a different kind of Republican, but in practice almost all of his economic agenda has been G.O.P. standard: big tax cuts for corporations and the rich while hacking away at the social safety net. The one big break from orthodoxy has been his protectionism, his eagerness to start trade wars.

And all of these policies disproportionately hurt farm country.

Michelle Golgberg: If This Is a Constitutional Crisis, Act Like It

Democrats in Congress need to deploy all their powers, including impeachment.

In their best-selling 2018 book “How Democracies Die,” the Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt wrote about the concept of “constitutional hardball,” in which politicians “deploy their institutional powers as broadly as they can get away with.” One example they gave was the way that Nicolás Maduro, the Venezuelan president, responded when the opposition party won control of the country’s legislature in a landslide 2015 election. To thwart his political enemies, Maduro turned to the Venezuelan supreme court, which was packed with loyalists, and which “effectively incapacitated” the legislature by striking down most of its bills. The letter of the law was maintained even as the system was subverted.

Now a clash between an autocratic president who disdains democratic norms and a chamber of the legislature controlled by the opposition is playing out in the United States. Donald Trump has said that he intends to fight all congressional subpoenas. The House Judiciary Committee just voted to recommend that Attorney General Bill Barr be held in contempt after Barr ignored a deadline to produce documents from the investigation of Robert Mueller, the special counsel. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is blatantly refusing to comply with the law requiring him to turn Trump’s tax returns over to the House Ways and Means Committee. Former White House Counsel Don McGahn is refusing to comply with a House subpoena, and Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. has signaled that he might not cooperate with a subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Some have argued that this isn’t yet a constitutional crisis because Congress’s constitutional remedies haven’t been exhausted; it can still turn to the courts to enforce its prerogatives. That’s little comfort for many Democrats, who despair of a fair hearing before our Supreme Court, whose conservative majority includes two judges chosen by Trump in part for their expansive view of executive power. But however you define constitutional crisis, there’s no question we’re in a moment of constitutional hardball. So far, however, only Republicans really seem to be playing.

Anita Hill: Let’s Talk About How to End Sexual Violence

That’s the most important conversation right now.

Last month, Joe Biden called me to talk about his conduct during Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 1991. There has been a lot of discussion recently about whether he has offered me the right words. Given the #MeToo movement and Mr. Biden’s bid for the presidency, it’s understandable why his role in the hearings is being debated anew.

If the Senate Judiciary Committee, led then by Mr. Biden, had done its job and held a hearing that showed that its members understood the seriousness of sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence, the cultural shift we saw in 2017 after #MeToo might have began in 1991 — with the support of the government.

If the government had shown that it would treat survivors with dignity and listen to women, it could have had a ripple effect. People agitating for change would have been operating from a position of strength. It could have given institutions like the military, the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission greater license to take more decisive action to end the scourge of harassment. And research shows that if leaders convey that they won’t tolerate harassment, people within an organization typically obey.

Instead, far too many survivors kept their stories hidden for years.

Eugene Robinson: The war in Washington isn’t between Trump and Democrats. It’s between Trump and Congress.

The escalating war in Washington is not between the White House and “Democrats,” despite what President Trump may claim. It is between an arrogant, out-of-control executive and the people’s duly elected representatives in Congress, whose sworn duties transcend politics. There’s a big difference.

Trump tries to drag everyone and everything down to the basest, most transactional level, which is the only level he knows. In his telling, it’s “Democrats” who are demanding to see his tax returns, “Democrats” who want public testimony by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and former White House counsel Donald McGahn, “Democrats” who are holding hearings and issuing subpoenas for the sole purpose of persecuting Donald J. Trump.

The president cynically tries to paint the whole thing as pure politics, as if it were all some kind of game. But it is not. An adversarial foreign power, Vladimir Putin’s Russia, maliciously interfered with our presidential election in 2016. Trump campaign officials and advisers had scores of unusual contacts with Kremlin-connected Russians, then lied about those contacts. Trump tried repeatedly to thwart any investigation of those contacts and lies, engaging in conduct that many legal experts believe clearly amounts to obstruction of justice.

Moira Donegan: Georgia’s six-week abortion ban reveals the cruelty of the anti-choice movement

Under the new law, it’s possible that Georgia authorities could start treating every miscarriage as a potential homicide

The anti-choice movement has taken a sadistic turn in Georgia, where a new abortion ban, called HB 481, has just been signed by Governor Brian Kemp. Signed into law this Tuesday and due to take effect in 2020, the bill effectively bans abortion outright, declares fetuses to be persons with full legal rights and protections, and imposes prison sentences for women found guilty of aborting or attempting to abort their pregnancies. [..]

Now, self-managed abortions are largely safe and effective, because the face of self-managed abortion has changed. Self-induced abortion no longer looks like a coat hanger; it looks like a pill. Misoprostol, a drug that can be used to treat ulcers but also empties the uterus, is prescribed by abortion clinics as the second of two abortion drugs, along with Mifepristone, which is used first to loosen the lining of the uterus. Mifepristone is hard to find on the black market, because it is subject to tight regulations. But Misoprostol can easily be found on the internet, and it can end a pregnancy on its own; it’s overwhelmingly effective during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, especially for women with an average BMI. The effect of the medication looks identical to an accidental miscarriage; if the patient doesn’t tell anyone she induced, then no one needs to know.

However, under the new law, it’s at least possible that Georgia authorities could start treating every miscarriage as a potential homicide. Women who are able to self-induce at home with black market Misopristol might be relatively more safe than their grandmothers who had to use coat hangers and knitting needles. But that doesn’t mean that the cops won’t start asking questions.