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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Mark Joseph Stern: Trump Judge Neomi Rao’s Flynn Opinion Is Dangerous and Anti-Democratic

Donald Trump’s most brazenly partisan judicial appointee has come through for the president once again.

On Wednesday, in a 2–1 decision, Judge Neomi Rao forced a district court to dismiss the prosecution of Michael Flynn. Rao’s opinion is an exercise in outcome-driven sophistry that barely pretends to be a judicial opinion. While gutting a vital check of executive misconduct, Rao whitewashed the Justice Department’s flagrantly political decision to drop charges against Flynn—hours before the House Judiciary Committee heard whistleblowers testify about political interference at the DOJ, including in Flynn’s case. Rao accused the district court of “unprecedented intrusions on individual liberty” simply because it dared to “prob[e] the government’s motives” for meddling in the prosecution of the president’s ally.

Wednesday’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will almost certainly be appealed to the full court and possibly the Supreme Court after that. If upheld, Rao’s ruling will set a terrible legal precedent. But equally devastating are its broader, long-term implications for judicial independence.

Amanda Marcotte: Red-state reopening has been a disaster — and Republican hopes for a comeback are collapsing

Reopening stores and restaurants won’t save the economy with the caseload spiking, and even Republicans know it

Republicans believed the state of Texas would be the national model to prove Donald Trump and his supporters in right-wing media correct about the coronavirus. Trump and conservative pundits hav continued to champion conspiracy theories painting the virus as being deliberately exaggerated by Democrats in order to power down the economy and sink the president’s re-election chances. They’ve and that it’s fine to lift the pandemic restrictions, even in places that haven’t met any of the criteria laid out by public health experts for safer economic reopening.

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, a Republican who has remade himself in the Trumpist mold, made a big public noise about how his state’s reopening — in the face of all reasonable advice — would accomplish the twin goals of being safe and restarting the economy.

His administration’s focus “is keeping Texans safe while restoring their ability to get back to work, open their businesses, pay their bills, and put food on their tables,” Abbott claimed in May, when Texas went to “phase 2” of reopening, adding, “we are slowing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting our most vulnerable.”

In early June, when the state went to “phase 3,” Abbott kept up the clap-happy talk, saying, “The people of Texas continue to prove that we can safely and responsibly open our state for business while containing COVID-19 and keeping our state safe.” He promised that officials “will continue to mitigate the spread of this virus, protect public health, and get more Texans back to work and their daily activities.”

Twenty days later, Abbott was singing a much different tune, going on KBTX-TV and begging people to stay home.

Heather Digby Parton: Trump’s campaign of delusion hits the rocks — and Republican women are bailing out

A new Sun Belt spike in COVID-19 cases could be Trump’s Waterloo. Denying reality just isn’t working anymore

President Trump had his spirits lifted a little bit on Tuesday when he visited his beloved unfinished border wall and held an event in a megachurch filled with 3,000 cheering fans demonstrating their devotion in Phoenix, one of the most intense COVID-19 hotspots in the country. Virtually none of the crowd wore masks and they sat together, shoulder to shoulder, for hours, screaming and laughing, sharing their aerosols with abandon.

Trump was no doubt reassured by the spectacle. They love him so much they are ready to die for him.

He droned on for 70 minutes or so, hitting most of his greatest hits and complaining about mail-in voting, saying this election will be the most corrupt in history. But the main thrust of his message was that he had directed the best pandemic response of any leader in the world and that the U.S. is back, baby!

The “numbers” he was referring to there were economic statistics. But as you know, he’s been complaining about the COVID case numbers for months as well, even insisting earlier this week that if we didn’t do all this testing we wouldn’t have so many cases. He appears to have a mental block on this subject and is simply unable to comprehend that if we weren’t testing we would still have the cases. Apparently no one has asked him if he thinks fewer tests would result in fewer deaths, but it would certainly be interesting to know the answer.

Chuck Rosenberg: Bolton’s book suggests Trump corruption runs deep. Worse? Republicans don’t care.

The failure of House Democrats to examine this additional corruption, Bolton wrote, and their sole focus on Ukraine were “impeachment malpractice.” But would it have made a difference?

President Donald Trump was impeached in the House of Representatives because he linked the provision of security aid to an embattled ally, Ukraine, with a request that its president announce a bogus investigation of Trump’s political rival, Joe Biden. The evidence of Trump’s malfeasance was compelling, and the president’s conduct — putting political self before the interests of the nation — was egregious. But it did not seem, in the end, to matter to his supporters in Congress. In early February, along a predominantly party-line vote, the Senate acquitted Trump.

According to Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton in his new book, “The Room Where It Happened,” Bolton knew of Trump’s similar corrupt behavior beyond Ukraine. (The Trump administration sought to block distribution of the book, but a federal judge recently declined.) As The New York Times reported, Bolton knew that “Mr. Trump was willing to intervene in [Justice Department] investigations into companies like Turkey’s Halkbank to curry favor with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey or China’s ZTE to favor” Chinese President Xi Jinping. [..]

Bolton’s revelations, assuming they are true, suggest that Trump spends his time in office offering crooked backroom deals to foreign leaders. This is depressing. But perhaps more depressing is the reality that had the House investigated these additional allegations, the outcome of the impeachment trial likely would have been the same — an acquittal.