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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Katie Porter: Americans are in the dark on one of the Trump administration’s key coronavirus response tools

Katie Porter, a Democrat, represents California’s 45th Congressional District in the U.S. House.

President Trump’s announced orders of medical supplies using the Defense Production Act (DPA) should be a source of relief. To reopen the country, we’ll need tests to detect the presence of both the coronavirus and possible signs of immunity, and DPA orders can provide those tests. However, unlike most government contracts, DPA orders are not public documents, leaving Americans in the dark about one of the administration’s key tools in its covid-19 response.

In any future coronavirus relief legislation, Congress must make the administration’s DPA orders public. What little we do know about the president’s use of this Truman-era law is not encouraging. [..]

Most government contracts are made public because transparency with taxpayer dollars is the best way to deter waste, fraud and abuse of federal resources. DPA orders, which were designed for wartime and normally concern sensitive military technology, are understandably secret.

Congress passed the DPA at the height of the Korean War to accelerate the production of war materials. For much of its history, the DPA has lain dormant, used only for narrow needs, such resolving shortages of rare earth metals. Yet it exists for exactly the type of situation we find ourselves in — where an organized response from industry is vital to our national security.

The DPA empowers a president to go to the front of the line with private manufacturers and tell them what products to prioritize. It also allows the government to seize shipments of key items — such as personal protective equipment — from hoarders and importers.

But a law passed in 1950 did not anticipate a moment when every country was scrounging for medical gowns, masks and other protective equipment or was in the hunt for a cure to a new virus.

Amanda Marcotte: Quit telling your MAGA parents to take the coronavirus seriously — they’ll never listen

It’s no good browbeating Trump fans about social distancing. It will never work, and is likely to backfire

Despite Donald “Why Not Shoot Up Lysol?” Trump’s unsubtle yearning to “reopen” the economy (which won’t work) and let the novel coronavirus run rampant, a new poll from the Washington Post and the University of Maryland shows that strong majorities of Americans think that’s a really stupid idea. Eight out of ten Americans took one look at the yahoos protesting the lockdowns in various state capitals and said, nah, living is more important than being able to order that 400-calorie vanilla-hazelnut frappuccino inside the Starbucks instead of from the drive-through window. Despite the mighty efforts of Republicans to create a false dichotomy between saving lives and saving the economy, it appears most Americans understand that Americans can’t go back to work if they’re laid up or dying from COVID-19.

These poll numbers are likely cold comfort, however, to those who have family members, especially parents, among the 17% of Americans who think the social distancing orders are too restrictive. It’s a group that’s largely composed of Fox News addicts and Trump superfans, who are more inclined to believe the coronavirus is being exaggerated — or is even a hoax — because their beloved cable “news” channel has been telling them just that.

(To be clear, this group is a minority even among Republican voters, only 27% of whom oppose the coronavirus restrictions.)

Anyway, these folks are often indifferent or even hostile to the social distancing recommendations, and are engaging in all kinds of behavior that put them at a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus. So right now, a lot of adult children and other relatives of Fox News addicts — who tend to be senior citizens — are stressing out badly, fearful that their family members will catch a disease that tends to kill older people at a much higher clip.

Susan E. Rice: It’s Not Enough to ‘Get Back to Normal’

We can rebuild better. Here’s how.

A hallmark of America’s strength and resilience has been our ability to seize opportunity amid our greatest crises.

After the Civil War, we adopted constitutional amendments to end slavery and enshrine the concept of equal protection under the law. In the Great Depression, we established the Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps. After World War II, we had the G.I. Bill and founded NATO and the United Nations. During the Vietnam War and civil rights era, Congress abolished segregation, secured the right to vote for all Americans, and reinforced our social safety net through the Great Society.

As we struggle through the Covid-19 crisis — the greatest challenge to global health, national security and our economy since World War II — we must ask again how we can emerge a more just, equitable and cohesive nation.

Unfortunately, we are today condemned to be led by a president who has no conception of the national interest apart from his personal interest. Donald Trump is obsessed with his image and poll numbers and the Dow Jones average, but sadly none of the ambitious questions that inspired his predecessors — chiefly, how can we exit this crucible of death and hardship as a more decent America?

Yet, as destructive and lethal as Mr. Trump’s failings are, we cannot afford to miss this moment of reckoning. The coronavirus has laid bare our domestic divisions, unequal economy, and glaring racial and socio-economic disparities as well as the fragility of our democracy. To recover from this crisis, it will not suffice to contain the carnage, reopen our economy and “get back to normal.” “Normal” is too costly and deadly for all Americans.

Now is the time to rebuild better — our economy, our health care and education systems, our democratic institutions — so that we cure the root causes of our collective disease. While one can hope we soon will be blessed with new leadership committed to national unity, human dignity, and respect for democracy, we cannot afford to wish and wait.

There are two steps Congress should take now to lay the foundation for national renewal by providing seed capital for transformative change.

Michelle Cottle: Joe Biden Is Not Hiding. He’s Lurking.

Never get in the way of an incumbent who is digging his own grave.

Rarely has America been in greater need of competent, reassuring leadership. The pandemic has brought out the worst in President Trump, who continues to behave as if he’s presiding over a sick spinoff of “The Apprentice” during sweeps week. His misinformation briefings are such a disgrace that his advisers have sought to downsize them. His hawking of drugs of unproven efficacy and potential lethality is grossly irresponsible. His call for citizens to “LIBERATE” certain (Democratic-led) states from his own administration’s social-distancing policies was nuts. And just when you thought his performance could not get more erratic, there he was, musing about “cleaning” Covid-19 patients with a shot of disinfectant.

A majority of Americans, polling shows, are unimpressed.

For many Democrats, the remedy is obvious: Former Vice President Joe Biden, the party’s presumptive nominee for president, should be elbowing his way into the conversation. He should be doing more interviews, issuing sharper critiques, proffering better plans — basically presenting himself as a smarter, steadier alternative to Mr. Trump. Since the pandemic took hold, there has been much discussion about Mr. Biden’s having become “invisible” and what it will take for him to break through. (Even he is said to be growing twitchy.) Why, frustrated supporters fret, won’t he fight for a higher profile?There are plenty of good answers to this question. Some speak to the basic political reality of national crises and some to Mr. Biden’s particular quirks. [..]

Much can happen in six months. But there’s no reason to believe that having Mr. Biden more in the president’s face at this time would help him in November. Better for now to keep the election a referendum on Mr. Trump.

As one former Democratic operative put it, “When a guy is digging his own grave, you don’t fight him for the shovel.”

Karen Tumulty: Trump missed an opportunity to prove himself. Governors show it.

When the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination got underway last year, there were four current or former governors in contention.

Three of them — Steve Bullock (Mont.), Jay Inslee (Wash.) and John Hickenlooper (Colo.) — didn’t last as far as the first contest in Iowa. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts hung in longer, though it wasn’t clear many Americans were even aware he was running.

Maybe the problem was that competence seemed, well, boring. The pragmatism and managerial ability that it takes to run a state successfully were not qualities that voters seemed to find appealing in this divisive and partisan political environment.

Not, that is, until the coronavirus came along. A new Washington Post-University of Maryland poll is the freshest evidence that governors have emerged as the heroes of the deepest national crisis in recent memory.

Sure, there have been scattered protests outside of capitols across the country as conservative activists have sought to generate a backlash against state-issued stay-at-home orders. But the Post-U. Md. survey found that an astounding 77 percent of Americans view their governor’s response to the pandemic, which has killed more than 57,000 Americans thus far, as “good” or “excellent.”

The poll number had grown by five percentage points in the past week alone and was consistent across party lines. For Democrats, Republicans and independents to find they agree upon anything is the rarest — and most welcome — of situations these days.