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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Michelle Goldberg: Trump’s Shredding of Civil Liberties Won’t Stop With Antifa

An American was killed by federal agents and the president called it “retribution.” We are so far gone.

There is still a lot we don’t know about the killing, early this month, of Michael Forest Reinoehl.

Reinoehl, a self-described antifa supporter, was a suspect in the shooting of Aaron J. Danielson, a backer of the far-right group Patriot Prayer, during an August street confrontation in Portland, Ore. Prosecutors charged him with murder. Reinoehl, speaking to Vice News, said he acted in self-defense. There will be no trial to sort out what happened, because the federal marshals sent to arrest him gunned him down. [..]

If it’s the official posture of the government that the antifa movement constitutes a major security threat, that will influence how individual agents behave. Trump has repeatedly sent American law enforcement the message that members of antifa are terrorists who should be treated with extreme violence, and that protests against racial injustice and his administration are dominated by antifa.

There are many ways the presidential election could go sideways, leading to mass demonstrations over ballot counting. In the same Fox News interview in which he gloated over Reinoehl’s death, Trump was asked what he would do if his opponents “riot” on election night.

“We’ll put them down very quickly,” he said. All those who’ve demonstrated against this president should know that what’s done to antifa today can be done to them tomorrow.

Jennifer Rubin: Trump’s disastrous town hall shows he should never have made mental acuity an issue

Trump’s performance was embarrassingly bad.

It was not simply that President Trump resorted to obvious lies at the ABC News town hall Tuesday night, or that he was rude and ineffective in addressing the terrific, substantive questions from real, undecided voters. His campaign’s bigger worry is that he came across as confused, lost and incoherent. He really should not have gone down the road of challenging his opponent’s mental acuity. [..]

Imagine how much worse it will be for Trump when he has a prepared opponent willing to deliver a tongue-lashing for such silly lies and excuses. Biden could ask when we can finally expect Trump’s magic health-care plan and demand he bring it to the next debate. Biden could laugh and roll his eyes when Trump blames him for not assuming the duties of president (“C’mon, man — you are president, not me!”). We saw in Trump’s devastating interview with Axios’s Jonathan Swan that Trump short-circuits whenever confronted with a new piece of information outside his limited frame of reference. When he tosses up another word salad, Biden surely can say, “You just talked for a minute and said nothing. Answer the question.” There might be less fact-checking, but the Biden team can put out a split-screen version of the debate with a rolling fact check. More important, the Biden team stands to receive a bountiful gift of soundbites for its next round of ads.

Erin N. Marcus: A Roger Stone protege is interfering in important CDC reports. It’s appalling.

Erin N. Marcus is a professor of clinical medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and a Public Voices fellow.

In 1981, a report appeared in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) about five previously healthy young men in Los Angeles who had developed a severe pneumonia caused by an unusual organism, Pneumocystis carinii. None of the men knew each other. Their main shared trait was that they had each engaged in sex with men.

The article was the first case series in the medical literature to describe the syndrome that we now call AIDS. It was extremely important — both clinically, in that it alerted doctors to think about Pneumocystis carinii when evaluating pneumonia in men who have sex with men, and scientifically, in that it spurred researchers to investigate why these otherwise healthy men were suddenly dying. [..]

This is characteristic of the MMWR, known as a trustworthy scientific publication. Its high standards of evidence and its reliability have made it an important source of data for clinicians and public health researchers for decades.

That reputation is now at risk. According to recent news reports, the spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, Michael Caputo — a political appointee and protege of Roger Stone who worked as a consultant for President Trump — has tried to force the CDC to delay the MMWRs and coerce the CDC into altering wording on its findings. He has also demanded that the CDC retract published MMWR articles. Caputo’s rationale has been that CDC scientists are part of a “deep state” opposed to Trump’s reelection and that the reports contradict Trump’s statements about covid-19 and make him look bad.

Caputo’s manipulation is appalling. If left unchecked, it could have disastrous consequences for the reputation and reliability of the CDC, which has already been battered by the U.S. response to covid-19. It could also prove devastating for medical practice in the United States more broadly.

Amanda Marcotte: Dr. Bleach-Injector and his death cult want you to get “herd developed”

Don’t expect Trump’s latest idiocy to lose him followers — they’d rather get COVID-19 than admit they were wrong

Donald Trump was doing spectacularly bad science again, this time during a town hall in Philadelphia hosted by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday night. The event went about as well for the president as anyone who has been awake during the past four years could have predicted, which raises the important question: Wasn’t his new campaign manager supposed to be competent?

When asked about an audio clip captured by journalist Bob Woodward in which Trump talks about the coronavirus pandemic and how much he “wanted to always play it down,” Trump slid right into his don’t-believe-your-lying-ears mode, claiming that he, in fact, “up-played it.” Whatever that means. Then the “very stable genius” currently squatting in the Oval Office rolled out his brilliant plan to lick the coronavirus problem (as transcribed by the invaluable Aaron Rupar of Vox):

TRUMP: It is going away.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Without a vaccine?

TRUMP: Sure. Over a period of time.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And many deaths.

TRUMP: It’s gonna be herd developed.

He also used the phrase “herd mentality.” [..]

Right now, somewhere around 2% of Americans have tested positive for the coronavirus — which is still a whopping 6.6 million people, more than any other nation on Earth — and of that group, just over 196,000 have died as of Wednesday afternoon. I leave it to readers — who, unlike Trump, didn’t pay someone to take their SATs for them — to figure out how many more people are likely to die if we go with Trump’s brilliant plan of infecting perhaps 35 times as many people with the virus as have now tested positive.

(Or, skip the algebra and read this article from the Washington Post, which estimates that Trump’s “good brain” plan would kill nearly 3 million people.)

Here I thought that Trump had crammed thousands of his followers, without masks, into an indoor rally in Henderson, Nevada, just because he’s a terminal narcissist who prioritizes his insatiable need for applause over the lives of the very swing-state voters he would need to win the election. But hey, it might also be that he’s using the bodies of his own supporters — who tend, on average, to be older and likelier to die of COVID-19 — for his grand experiment in “herd development.”

Move over, Burning Man: It’s time for a new desert festival! Donald Trump’s Coronafest 2020: The drugs aren’t as good, and you’re way likelier to end up dead.

Heather Digby Parton: With no end in sight, Trump’s lies just keep making the pandemic worse

Trump has risked his followers’ lives and damaged the credibility of science — and for what? It’s not nearly over

With the release of Bob Woodward’s book “Rage,” we’ve been given the opportunity to revisit the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic with the added insights of comments the president made in private at the time. Unsurprisingly, we have learned that Donald Trump was lying to the public every step of the way. Day after day, we hear more of the Woodward tapes, and each one reveals Trump to have been even more reckless and self-centered than we knew, leaving Woodward and millions of others unable to tell “whether he’s got it straight in his head what is real and what is unreal.”

The president had the presence of mind to tell Woodward in April that the virus is “a killer if it gets you,” but shortly after that told the public, “The Invisible Enemy will soon be in full retreat!” By July, he had stopped even trying to explain away his failure. [..]

Trump likes to say that “nobody’s ever seen anything like this,” and in this case, at least, he’s right. The consequences of the president’s psychological and intellectual shortcomings, which led him to downplay the pandemic, are so devastating that it led Scientific American to endorse a candidate for president for the first time in the magazine’s 175-year history:

The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people — because he rejects evidence and science. The most devastating example is his dishonest and inept response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which cost more than 190,000 Americans their lives by the middle of September. He has also attacked environmental protections, medical care, and the researchers and public science agencies that help this country prepare for its greatest challenges. That is why we urge you to vote for Joe Biden, who is offering fact-based plans to protect our health, our economy and the environment.

It is hard to see how any rational person could come to any other conclusion.