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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Paul Krugman: A Plague of Willful Ignorance

Trump has empowered America’s anti-rational streak.

In the early 20th century the American South was ravaged by pellagra, a nasty disease that produced the “four Ds” — dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia and death. At first, pellagra’s nature was uncertain, but by 1915 Dr. Joseph Goldberger, a Hungarian immigrant employed by the federal government, had conclusively shown that it was caused by nutritional deficiencies associated with poverty, and especially with a corn-based diet.

However, for decades many Southern citizens and politicians refused to accept this diagnosis, declaring either that the epidemic was a fiction created by Northerners to insult the South or that the nutritional theory was an attack on Southern culture. And deaths from pellagra continued to climb.

Sound familiar?

We’ve known for months what it takes to bring Covid-19 under control. You need a period of severe lockdown to reduce the disease’s prevalence. Only then can you reopen the economy — while maintaining social distancing as needed — and even then you need a regime of widespread testing, tracing and isolation of potentially infected individuals to keep the virus suppressed.

Eugene Robinson: There is no earthly reason this nation should be defiled by Confederate statues

Solving the problem is easy: Tear them all down.

The solution to the problem of Confederate memorials is simple: Tear them down, all of them. If a few must be left standing for practical reasons — the gigantic carvings on Stone Mountain outside Atlanta come to mind — authorities should allow them to be appropriately defaced, like the graffiti-scrawled remnants of the Berlin Wall.

The question of monuments to other white supremacists is more complicated, but it’s still not rocket science. As a society, we’re perfectly capable of deciding together which must go and which can stay. This supposed “slippery slope” isn’t really slippery at all.

There is no earthly reason any of this nation’s public spaces should be defiled by statuary honoring generals, soldiers and politicians who were traitors, who took up arms against their country, who did so to perpetuate slavery, and who — this is an important point — were losers. [..]

We put statues in places of honor to depict our heroes and our values. Overt racism is not an idea we honor — not in relationships and not in bronze and marble. Not anymore.

Jamelle Bouie: The Boy Who Cried Fake News

From inside the MAGA gates, Trump can’t see how the world has changed.

If there’s anything we’ve learned in the five years since Donald Trump came down that escalator, it’s that he cannot thrive without a constant stream of attention, adulation and affirmation. It’s why he’s obsessed with cable news and Fox in particular; why his cabinet meetings begin with almost worshipful praise from each of his appointees; and why he’s constantly touting his sky-high support from other Republicans.

It’s also why, on Saturday, he held an indoor rally in the midst of a respiratory disease pandemic. “I guarantee you after Saturday, if everything goes well, he’s going to be in a much better mood,” an unnamed Trump political adviser told CNN the day before the event. “He believes that he needs to be out there fighting and he feeds off the energy of the crowds.”

The president is plainly unable to handle bad news, or even the idea that he isn’t popular or well-liked. Someone who rejects the idea of being rejected may, for example, believe that voter fraud is the only threat to his re-election. And he’s constructed a bubble, let’s call it a safe space, in which he’s insulated from bad news, negative feedback and pretty much any kind of criticism. The result is that he’s unable to respond to a changing national mood, unable to adjust to a public that wants more leadership than spectacle.

Michelle Goldberg: America Is Too Broken to Fight the Coronavirus

No other developed country is doing so badly.

Graphs of the coronavirus curves in Britain, Canada, Germany and Italy look like mountains, with steep climbs up and then back down. The one for America shows a fast climb up to a plateau. For a while, the number of new cases in the U.S. was at least slowly declining. Now, according to The Times, it’s up a terrifying 22 percent over the last 14 days.

As Politico reported on Monday, Italy’s coronavirus catastrophe once looked to Americans like a worst-case scenario. Today, it said, “America’s new per capita cases remain on par with Italy’s worst day — and show signs of rising further.”

This is what American exceptionalism looks like under Donald Trump. It’s not just that the United States has the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths of any country in the world. Republican political dysfunction has made a coherent campaign to fight the pandemic impossible.

Amanda Marotte: Donald Trump thinks coronavirus testing is a plot to destroy him — and no, he’s not kidding

Lifelong con man has convinced himself he can make voters un-see the pandemic if he just keeps lying about it

At his Tulsa rally on Saturday, Donald Trump may have failed to draw the big crowd or the violent protests he desired, but he did enter a new phase in his efforts to make the coronavirus pandemic disappear through the magical power of lying about it.

During Trump’s disjointed speech, he mentioned that the “bad part” about testing people for the virus lies in the fact that “you’re going to find more cases.”

“So I said to my people, slow the testing down please,” he added, protesting that they “test and they test” and suggesting that cases that might otherwise be written off as “the sniffles” then get classified as COVID-19.

This is far from the first time that Trump has publicly speculated about concealing the extent of the pandemic by clamping down on testing. Indeed, there’s every reason to believe that the glacial pace of testing in the U.S. is a direct reflection of the president’s wishes.

As Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, observed the last time Trump whined about testing, “The lack of tests isn’t accidental. It’s by design.”

Despite this history, the White House made a show of playing Trump’s comment as a joke, with one administration official telling CNN that Trump was “obviously kidding” and another saying it was “tongue in cheek.”

But Trump doesn’t like it when his own people undermine his heartfelt desire to make the coronavirus go away through pure denialism, and so on Tuesday morning he laid down the law on Twitter: No, he’s not kidding, and he really does think he can disappear the virus by making sure people can’t get tested for it.