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: Bidencare Would Be a Big Deal

Don’t dismiss it because it isn’t Medicare for All.

On Monday morning America’s most prominent beneficiary of socialized medicine, in the process of receiving expensive, taxpayer-financed care at a government-run hospital, was tweeting furiously. One of President Trump’s manic missives particularly caught the eyes of health care experts: his exhortation to “PROTECT PREEXISTING CONDITIONS. VOTE!”

As always, it’s not clear whether Trump is merely being cynical or whether he is also genuinely ignorant.

He’s definitely lying when he claims to have a plan that’s better and cheaper than Obamacare. No such plan exists, and he has to know that. [..]

In any case, how the nation votes will indeed make a huge difference to the future of health care — and not just because Trump, if he holds on to power, will almost surely find a way to destroy Obamacare, causing tens of millions of Americans to lose health insurance. Joe Biden, if he wins (and gets a Democratic Senate), will make a big difference in the other direction, substantially expanding coverage and reducing premiums for middle-class families.

The second part of this statement may come as news to many readers, because Biden’s health proposals haven’t drawn much attention so far.

Jennifer Senior: Why Fox News Is Still in a Coronavirus Bubble

Humans will do figure eights to make facts suit their fictions. Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity help the faithful do that.

Back in the 1950s, the psychologist Leon Festinger came up with cognitive dissonance theory, which can essentially be described as the very human desire to reconcile the irreconcilable. Our brains, he realized, will go to baroque lengths — do magic tricks, even — to preserve the integrity of our worldview, even when the facts inconveniently club us over the head with a two-by-four.

Festinger’s most famous case study was of a cult that believed life on Earth would come to an end in a great flood around Christmas of 1954. The waters never came (obviously), but the leader had an explanation: She and her followers had warded off the apocalypse with the unflagging power of their faith.

Today, perhaps the best case study of cognitive dissonance theory can be found in the prime-time lineup on Fox News, where Donald Trump’s most dedicated supporters are struggling mightily to make sense of the president’s Covid-19 diagnosis. And just as Festinger’s work predicts, they are doubling down on their beliefs, interpreting recent events as incontrovertible proof that they were right from the start.

Robert Reich: Trump, Covid and empathy for the world’s least empathetic man

Biden is praying for him – and yet the Trump campaign’s negative ads continue. There’s an asymmetry of decency here

For about a minute today I found myself feeling sorry for Donald Trump. The poor man is now “battling” Covid-19 (the pugilistic verb is showing up all over the news). He’s in the hospital. He’s out of shape. He’s 74 years old. His chief of staff reportedly says his symptoms are “very concerning”.

Joe Biden is praying for him. Kamala Harris sends him heartfelt wishes. President Obama reminds us we’re all in this together and we want to make sure everyone is healthy.

But hold on: why should we feel empathy for one of the most unempathetic people in the world?

One reason is out of respect. He’s a human being. He’s our president.

Yet there’s an asymmetry here. While the Biden campaign has taken down all negative television advertising, the Trump campaign’s negative ads continue non-stop. [..]

Whether responding to Trump’s hospitalization this weekend or to Trump’s larger political maneuvers, Democrats want to act decently and nicely, to take the high road and be fair. They want to protect democratic norms, values and institutions.

This is admirable. It’s also what Democrats say they stand for.

But the other side isn’t playing the same game. Trump and his enablers will do anything to retain and enlarge their power.

It’s possible to be sympathetic toward Trump this weekend while acknowledging that he is subjecting America to a moral test.

What kind of society does the nation want: one based on decency and democracy, or on viciousness and raw power?

Rachel Rebouché: The Supreme Court’s next abortion decision may come sooner than you think

Rachel Rebouché is a law professor at Temple University.

The court doesn’t have to overturn Roe v. Wade to gut access to abortion.

A newly configured Supreme Court featuring a Justice Amy Coney Barrett need not overturn Roe v. Wade to gut abortion rights. The court stands poised to permit states and the federal government unfettered discretion to restrict abortion on the thinnest of justifications. The most immediate example is before the court now and could have repercussions for policies aimed at curbing the covid-19 pandemic.

Since approving medication abortion 20 years ago, the Food and Drug Administration has required in-person delivery of the first drug, mifepristone, that precipitates a nonsurgical abortion. In July, the federal district court in Maryland suspended the in-person requirement during the pandemic, ruling that the FDA’s restriction was unnecessary, given the safety and efficacy of medication abortion, and that it endangered patients who should otherwise minimize contact with providers. [..]

That Barrett could join the court and reinstate FDA policy is not a question of the future of Roe; the court, at any time now, could upend abortion access for thousands of people burdened by the FDA’s requirement and hit hardest by covid-19. If the court sides with the Trump administration, it will send the clear message that the court is prepared to give states wide discretion to enact laws that have no health benefits and are contrary to clear clinical evidence. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., even when voting to strike down an abortion restriction in a recent abortion case, wrote an opinion that further opened the door to such deference. It might not matter to the court that FDA restrictions are untethered to patient safety and produce no health benefit for patients.

Michelle Goldberg: A White House Infected With Propaganda

Trump risks lives to sustain his coronavirus lies.

There is a line from Hannah Arendt’s 1951 book “The Origins of Totalitarianism” that I’ve thought about constantly during the last four years. “Totalitarianism will not be satisfied to assert, in the face of contrary facts, that unemployment does not exist; it will abolish unemployment benefits as part of its propaganda,” Arendt wrote.

A regime dedicated to creating its own reality doesn’t just use language to lie. To truly animate lies, those in power must behave as if they’re true, no matter who gets hurt.

For the past seven months, Donald Trump’s big lie has been that the coronavirus isn’t as dangerous as scientists say, and that his administration has the virus under control. To sustain this lie, Trump’s circle has had to reject the mitigation and containment strategies that many other countries have used to get a handle on the pandemic, because those strategies are tangible reminders of the threat the virus poses.