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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Robert Reich: Trump’s COVID: Empathy for the world’s least empathetic person?

“Can you imagine if Biden had contracted Covid rather than Trump? Trump would be all over him.”

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 calls his symptoms “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 world’s least empathetic people?

Out of respect. He’s a human being. And 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.

And at almost the same time that Biden, Harris, and Obama offered prayers and consoling words, the Trump campaign blasted “Lyin’ Obama and Phony Kamala Harris” and charged that “Sleepy Joe isn’t fit to be YOUR President.”

Can you imagine if Biden had contracted Covid rather than Trump? Trump would be all over him. He’d attack Biden as weak, feeble, and old. He’d mock Biden’s mask-wearing – “See, masks don’t work!” – and lampoon his unwillingness to hold live rallies: “Guess he got Covid in his basement!”

Heather Digby Parton: Trump’s incoherent COVID bluster is destroying him — but America continues to suffer

Trump is back home and tweeting like a lunatic — maybe he’s fine! But this has been a massive political train wreck

President Trump spent Tuesday night tweeting madly for hours about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and various conspiracy theories about the 2016 election. Twitterati speculated that his experimental drug cocktail and steroid treatment for COVID-19 might be making him manic and grandiose. But how could you tell, really? This is pretty much his normal modus operandi. The only reason one might suspect that his drug treatment was contributing to the burst of energy and wild commentary is that he is a 74-year-old man with co-morbidities who has been seriously ill with a disease that has killed more than 210,000 Americans. Since he didn’t even make one of his “proof of life” videos on Tuesday, it’s possible someone else was tweeting for him. But in the end the best guess is that Trump was lying in bed with Fox News on as usual, scrolling through his Twitter feed and incoherently venting his spleen — just as he might do on any other Tuesday night.

Sick or high or just having a normal one, it is perfectly understandable that Trump would be melting down in spectacular fashion. His only concern for the last four years has been getting re-elected for four more years, and that’s not going well at all at the moment. This tumultuous last couple of weeks brought him only one piece of good news: the death of a beloved liberal icon, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The insensitive glee with which Trump and his GOP accomplices greeted that event, and their shameless hypocrisy in insisting on filling the seat just weeks before the election, was a true high point for the Republicans this year. I hope they enjoyed their moment, because everything that’s happened to them since then has amounted to an epic train wreck.

Margaret Sullivan: Trump doesn’t need Russian trolls to spread disinformation. The mainstream media does it for him.

This time, it only took the megaphone of the presidency — amplified by journalists trying to seem neutral — for Trump’s falsehoods to go viral, a Harvard study found.

Voting fraud, according to study after study, is rare. Mail-in ballots are, with a few exceptions, a safe way to vote.

But millions of Americans have come to believe something radically different: They think the Nov. 3 election could very well end up being stolen. That the outcome — especially if it relies on counting the votes that come in later than in a normal election year — might well be illegitimate.

Where would they get such an idea?

Conventional wisdom might say it comes from false stories and memes spread on social media, originating from foreign troublemakers trying to influence the election results — most likely in favor of President Trump, who is behind in public opinion polls and stands to benefit most from doubt sown about the reliability of mail-in ballots.

Not so, says a major new study: It’s the American mainstream press that’s doing most of the dirty work.

Jennifer Rubin: The Commission on Presidential Debates should be disbanded

The commission is acting recklessly.

The Commission on Presidential Debates allowed President Trump to debate last week without proof of testing negative for the coronavirus and without forcing Trump’s entourage at the event to abide by the commission’s rule on mask-wearing. Circumstantial evidence strongly suggests Trump’s Rose Garden ceremony for the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court was a superspreader event, making it entirely possible that Trump was positive when he debated without a mask on Sept. 29. Given this, the commission’s insistence on in-person live debates has become a public health hazard.

On Wednesday night, the commission will allow Vice President Pence to appear at the vice-presidential debate, even though he, too, was at the Rose Garden event and sat immediately in front of at least one person who tested positive (Sen. Mike Lee of Utah). Pence will be separated from Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) by the skimpiest of plexiglass panels.

What is clear is that the commission is allowing the White House to call the shots. Commission co-chair Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr. told the Los Angeles Times: “There will be a plexiglass divider between the two candidates and the candidates and the moderator. The Trump campaign agreed to that so long as we don’t surround Vice President Pence all the way around.” It should not be Pence’s call. The plexiglass is for others’ protection, not just his.

Jamelle Bouie: The Myth of Trump’s Political Genius, Exposed

His victory in 2016, the product of luck as much as skill, went to his head.

It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true: Donald Trump is bad at electoral politics.

Yes, he is the president, which by itself would suggest the opposite. But to look at his conduct during the coronavirus pandemic is to see someone who doesn’t understand his own political interests and won’t listen to anyone who does.

The past week has been instructive in this regard. Last Tuesday, he faced off against Joe Biden in the first presidential debate. Trump, who trailed Biden in national polls and in most swing states, had one job: to bring wavering voters back into the fold. With a sufficiently competent performance, Trump could stop the bleeding and maybe even mount a small comeback. It wasn’t going to be easy, but it should have been simple — a straightforward turn that any incumbent president ought to have been able to make.