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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Preet Bharara: The Wrong Justice Department Official Lost His Job This Weekend

The attorney general, Bill Barr, undermined the rule of law by forcing out Geoffrey Berman, the United States attorney in Manhattan.

President Trump has long made clear that, for him, “rule of law” is a limited-utility slogan. By word and deed, he has demonstrated his belief that the law and its instrumentalities exist to serve him, personally and politically.

He has pressured individuals and institutions to pervert their usual independent government missions to comply with a mandate of pure self-interest to protect the president’s friends and pursue the president’s adversaries. This explains Mr. Trump’s ire at his former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself from the Russia investigation; recusal made the protection part of the mandate harder to accomplish. [..]

Mr. Trump’s latest domestic political errand involves the office I led for almost eight years — the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, commonly known as S.D.N.Y., a place where politics is supposed to be off limits. The United States Attorney Geoffrey Berman was fired on Saturday in a manner and under circumstances that warrant criticism and scrutiny.

Jennifer Senior: America’s Wannabe Autocrat Is in the Home Stretch. How Worried Should We Be?

Beware a despot when he’s cornered.

Two weeks ago, I wrote that perhaps, at long last, we had reached a tipping point in Trump’s popularity, and I stand by it. On Thursday, a poll conducted by Fox News (Fox!) showed him trailing Biden by 12 percentage points; the Tulsa arena hosting his comeback rally on Saturday was two-thirds empty. The man is ripe for the ultimate “Downfall” video. Especially given his recent sojourn in an actual bunker.

Yet it’s precisely because Trump feels overwhelmed and outmatched that I fear we’ve reached a far scarier juncture: he seems to be attempting, however clumsily, to transition from president to autocrat, using any means necessary to mow down those who threaten his re-election.

Whether he has the competence to pull this off is anyone’s guess. As we know, Trump is surpassingly incapable of governing. But he has also shown authoritarian tendencies from the very beginning. For over three years, he’s been dismembering the body politic, institution by institution, norm by norm. What has largely spared us from total evisceration were honorable civil servants and appointees.

Trump has torn through almost all of them and replaced them with loyalists. He now has a clear runway. What we have left is an army of pliant flunkies and toadies at the agencies, combined with the always-enabling Mitch McConnell and an increasingly emboldened attorney general, William Barr.

Charles M. Blow: ‘Law and Order’ for ‘Blacks and Hippies’

Trump’s tough talk doesn’t seek to address the rage that inequity has bred, but rather to contain it.

Last week, Donald Trump stood in the White House Rose Garden and announced an executive order on police reform — a list of minor, unfunded actions that incentivized some changes but mandated none.

This was his response to the anti-racism, anti-police brutality Black Lives Matter protests sweeping the country. I don’t think it was an action he wanted to take, but one that he had to take at this moment when his poll numbers are dipping and people are demanding change.

Not once in his speech did he say the words “protests” or “protesters.”

Instead, it was a whiplash speech that swung from acknowledging the pain of families who’ve lost loved ones to police violence and promising “to fight for justice for all of our people,” to more law-and-order talk and condemnation of riots, looting and arson.

Those lawless acts occurred in some cities in the beginning, but the protests have moved well beyond that now.

Jennifer Rubin: Trump’s campaign has no clue how to solve this problem

President Trump’s disastrous rally in Tulsa is arguably more than a one-time embarrassment. Rather, it revealed a central problem for a campaign already taking on water: What is Trump going to do with his time for five months?

Remember, before the Tulsa debacle, he was frantic to return to rallies with his die-hard supporters. Without them, he was becoming extra grouchy, according to news reports. Tulsa was supposed to kick off a series of these showstoppers, but the show is now stopped indefinitely. [..]

Trump has painted himself into a corner of the electorate, namely the true believers in red states. His access to other voters is curtailed or ineffective. When he does reach a broader audience, disasters tend to ensue (e.g., saying during his Tulsa rally that he ordered testing be slowed down, the horrific optics at his West Point speech, his attack on peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square followed by a cheesy photo op with a Bible).

Someone versed in reality TV should have seen this coming. Trump has been overexposed for 3 ½ years and has nothing new to offer. His racist appeals, a mainstay of his message, are even less tolerable in the current political environment. His act has gotten old and tired. The way to solve this, Trump surely knows, is to fire the “host” and get someone new. It’s reality TV 101.

Robert Reich: What Defund the Police really means: replacing social control with investment

Protests over brutality and racism highlight how far the US has travelled from any sort of equality. Real change is needed

Some societies center on social control, others on social investment.

Social-control societies put substantial resources into police, prisons, surveillance, immigration enforcement and the military. Their purpose is to utilize fear, punishment and violence, to maintain what they consider order.

Social-investment societies put more resources into healthcare, education, affordable housing, jobless benefits and children. Their purpose is to free people from the risks and anxieties of daily life and give everyone a fair shot at making it.

Donald Trump epitomizes the former. He calls himself the “law and order” president. He even wants to sic the military on Americans protesting against police brutality.

Trump is really the culmination of 40 years of increasing social control in the US and decreasing social investment.