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.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Charles M. Blow: We Don’t Need Debates

Trump will just make a scene and lie. What’s in it for voters?

The first column I ever wrote was about the April 2008 Democratic presidential debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. It took place in the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

The debate was a mess. [..]

Since then, I have covered many more presidential debates — sometimes writing about them, sometimes discussing them on television or social media. At one time, I was into the spectacle of it all as much as anyone else. I waited for the defining moments and the slip-ups, the best zingers and the worst flubs.

But debates have come to be about sport and sparring rather than a true comparison of the relative readiness of the candidates. They are too much theater, too little substance.

Robert Reich: Amid talk of civil war, America is already split – Trump Nation has seceded

The president thrives on division, speaks of ‘we’ and ‘them’ and encourages violence. No wonder we fear he won’t accept defeat

What is America really fighting over in the upcoming election? Not any particular issue. Not even Democrats versus Republicans. The central fight is over Donald J Trump.

Before Trump, most Americans weren’t especially passionate about politics. But Trump’s MO has been to force people to become passionate about him – to take fierce sides for or against. And he considers himself president only of the former, whom he calls “my people”.

Trump came to office with no agenda except to feed his monstrous ego. He has never fueled his base. His base has fueled him. Its adoration sustains him.

So does the antipathy of his detractors. Presidents usually try to appease their critics. Trump has gone out of his way to offend them. “I do bring rage out,” he unapologetically told Bob Woodward in 2016.

In this way, he has turned America into a gargantuan projection of his own pathological narcissism.

Amanda Marcotte: Forget “The Apprentice” — Trump’s taxes show he was really “The Biggest Loser”

Between Poppa Trump and Mark Burnett, Trump was gifted $840 million — but he may still owe as much as $1 billion

Donald Trump’s seemingly immovable approval numbers are a testament, above all other things, to the power of racism, and the way that 40 to 42% of Americans will stand by their man, no matter how bad things get, so long as he keeps hating the same people they hate. But that legendary floor of his — he has almost never dropped below 40%, or risen above 45% — is also a testament to the power of narrative fiction, especially of the televised variety.

During the 2016 Republican primary, polling showed that Trump supporters were bamboozled by “The Apprentice,” mistaking the fictional Trump of the “reality” TV show for the real Trump, a repeated business failure with a series of bankruptcies under his belt. To this day, about half of Americans still believe that Trump is a competent steward of the American economy, despite the worst downturn since the Great Depression, because they mistook a character he played on TV for the real thing. Trump has boosted this lie about his business acumen by concealing decades of his tax returns so that he could claim to be a successful billionaire without being fact-checked by his own accountants.

But now, after years of trying, the New York Times has successfully harpooned the white whale that journalists, prosecutors, activists and Democrats have been hunting for years: Donald Trump’s tax returns.

Unsurprisingly, the documents suggest Trump cheats on his taxes, as he cheats in every other aspect of life, from marriages to presidential elections. Perhaps more importantly, the documents show that Trump’s entire persona as a successful businessman isn’t just a lie, but the inverse of reality. If we’re going strictly on profit and loss, Donald Trump is the worst living businessman in America.

Catherine Rampell: Trump’s long-hidden tax returns make him look like a terrible businessman, or a cheat. Probably both.

Trump has about a half-billion dollars’ worth of motivation to stay in office four more years.

Richard Nixon famously said, “People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook.” That comment was not about the Watergate break-in, but rather, some funny business in his tax returns. Under public pressure, Nixon ultimately released those returns, revealing a major underpayment on his income taxes and creating a new norm for at least partial tax disclosure that all his successors complied with.

Until President Trump, that is.

And now it may be clear why. Bombshell reporting Sunday from the New York Times — based on the examination of thousands of personal and business tax records — suggests that Trump, like his disgraced predecessor, engaged in a lot of financial activity that also looks pretty crooked. [..]

Trump claimed no tax liability for so many years because, according to the documents reviewed by the Times, he sustained mindbogglingly huge, chronic losses. The magnitude of these reported losses suggests he has been a thoroughly incompetent businessman or has been cheating Uncle Sam.

Most likely both.

David Masciotra: The president wants you dead — and so do his friends and advisers. It’s that simple

It’s not adequate to say that Trump’s regime is stupid and incompetent. That’s true — but the malice runs deeper

The president of the United States wants you dead.

Throughout the dystopian horror of the past four years, critics of the Trump administration have speculated, with persuasive evidence and analysis, that Donald Trump and his gaggle of ghouls — Jared Kushner, Bill Barr, Stephen Miller, et al. — are both incompetent to prevent death and indifferent to the onslaught of death if the victims, whether they lose their lives in a largely preventable pandemic, a natural disaster caused by climate change, or at the hands of police or right-wing terrorists, are not white, rich and Republican.

Recent revelations should force Americans to consider an even darker reality, and gather insight into the malevolence of humanity that is typically accessible only in barbaric episodes of history and frightening stories of literature. The most powerful man in the federal government delights in the infliction of pain, misery and grief.