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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Karen Tumulty: Political smear campaigns aren’t new. But Trump takes them to a whole new level.

Conspiracy theories and smear campaigns are as old as our politics. [..]

If the nature of these vile tactics is not new, their potency has reached a point never seen before. Part of that is the power of social media. But the real force behind it is a president with a knack for branding and no capacity for shame. Even before he officially became a candidate, Donald Trump built a following by trafficking in racist, baseless lies about Barack Obama’s birthplace.

No longer does a conspiracy theory require an actual conspiracy behind it before it can take flight. It needs only a few taps on Trump’s smartphone or an unhinged Instagram post by one of his adult sons, Don Jr. or Eric. [..]

Smear campaigns will presumably always be with us, to one degree or another. But the brazenness with which Trump practices them is something entirely novel in our politics. Only by defeating him in the fall will Americans be able to stand up and say they deserve something better than this.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: It’s Trump’s party now — and will be even after he’s gone

Discussing the risks of reopening his state last month on Fox News, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) declared, “There are more important things than living.” The comment was revealing. President Trump’s manic, malicious and mismanaged presidency constantly captures our attention, and he’s often treated as some kind of grotesque outlier. But while Trump emits his own unique forms of venom, he is a reflection of, not a contrast to, today’s Republican Party. On the central challenges facing the country, the Republican Party, like Trump, is unending in its cruelty. [..]

The problem isn’t Trump alone. The media reports that Republican legislators privately shake their heads and roll their eyes at Trump’s outrages. But with rare and noble exceptions, Republican politicians in general defend the indefensible and promote the problematic. On the emergency, the economy, our security, our democracy, they simply are wrongheaded. Whether because of tribalism, excessive partisanship, their money sources, the Fox News-Rush Limbaugh right-wing media frenzy or a combination of all those factors, the Republican Party of Eisenhower, much less Lincoln, is gone. Now it is Trump’s party and will be, even after he’s gone.

Amanda Marcotte: Is Trump taking hydroxychloroquine? Who cares? It’s another right-wing snake-oil scam

Right-wingers have long fantasized they have access to medical “miracles” unavailable to us pathetic normies

With the rising scandal over Donald Trump’s mass firing of inspectors general who are threatening to uncover widespread corruption in his administration, the president is clearly desperate for some delicious culture-war bait that will distract cable news pundits and lure his supporters and his critics into pointless arguments. So he coughed up one such juicy nugget on Monday afternoon, bragging to reporters that he had started taking hydroxychloroquine — the anti-malarial drug with no proven benefits for COVID-19 — 10 days ago. [..]

Trump’s “evidence” that hydroxychloroquine works is, of course, that he hasn’t gotten the virus yet. Assuming that’s true, the likelier explanation is the more scientific one: The White House has instituted a rigorous testing and tracing system, which the Trump administration has deliberately made unavailable to the rest of us. Reports that multiple members of the administration have tested positive for the coronavirus are a direct result of this testing regimen. This isn’t evidence that Trump “should” have gotten the coronavirus by now. It’s actually evidence that he’s been kept safe, because rigorous testing means that people who are positive are identified and quarantined before they have a chance to infect him.

That’s the most galling thing about this entire hydroxychloroquine gambit. In fact, Trump does have access to an “elite” form of health care that isn’t available to the public at large: Testing and tracing. He’s all too happy to use this scientific strategy while hyping snake oil to the public, rather than pursue sensible scientific measures on a large scale to protect the entire population.

Michelle Cottle: Why Did Mike Pompeo Want His Watchdog Fired?

His vague explanations for asking President Trump to dismiss the State Department’s inspector general don’t add up.

Three years in, President Trump’s vow to “drain the swamp” stands as one of his more ludicrous campaign promises. That said, his spring cleaning of inspectors general has exposed a patch of grime that threatens to make life awkward for one of his staunchest allies, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Late on Friday, Mr. Trump informed Congress that he was ousting yet another internal watchdog — the fourth in six weeks. His latest target: Steven Linick of the State Department. The president offered no explanation for the firing, saying only that he no longer had “the fullest confidence” in Mr. Linick.

Pressed on his decision on Monday, the president insisted that he personally had no problem with Mr. Linick. “I never even heard of him,” he told reporters. “But I was asked to by the State Department, by Mike.” Stressing repeatedly that he has the “right to terminate” as many pesky I.G.s as he wants to — especially those appointed by President Barack Obama — Mr. Trump professed ignorance of the details: “You’d have to ask Mike Pompeo.”

Democratic lawmakers, journalists and even some Republicans are now lining up to do just that. Because as it turns out, Mr. Pompeo asked the president to ax Mr. Linick while the inspector general was in the midst of investigating potential misconduct by … Mr. Pompeo.

Susan E. Rice: Trump Is Playing the China Card. Who Believes Him?

He attacks Joe Biden to deflect blame for his terrible handling of Covid-19 and record of appeasing Beijing.

There is a long history of American presidential candidates using China as a campaign cudgel — from Bill Clinton blasting President George H.W. Bush in 1992 for dealing with a Chinese premier known as the “Butcher of Beijing” to Donald Trump’s 2016 attack that the Obama administration had allowed China to “rape” the United States while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. This election year, China-bashing will reach a new level, as Mr. Trump seeks to capitalize on high voter disapproval of China, Beijing’s failure to contain the coronavirus and persistent bilateral tensions between our countries.

Desperate to obscure the reality of more than 90,000 American deaths and 36 million unemployed amid Mr. Trump’s utterly incompetent handling of the pandemic, Republicans have no better strategy than to play the China card. The Republicans are executing a 57-page campaign memo that recommends branding opponents “soft on China” and reveals their rationale for repeated refrains of the “Chinese virus” and “Wuhan lab.” [..]

On China, Mr. Trump has much to fear from his own record.