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: Learn to Stop Worrying and Love Debt

Why you should ignore the coming Republican deficit rants.

Amid all the wild swings in U.S. politics over the past decade, one thing has remained constant: the G.O.P. position on government debt. The party considers high levels of debt an existential threat — if a Democrat is sitting in the White House. If a Republican president presides over big deficits, well, as Donald Trump’s budget director reportedly told supporters last year, “nobody cares.”

So it’s a completely safe prediction that once Joe Biden is sworn in, we will once again hear lots of righteous Republican ranting about the evils of borrowing. What’s less clear is whether we’ll see a repeat of what happened during the Obama years, when many centrists — and much of the news media — both took obvious fiscal phonies

Let’s hope not. For the fact is that we’ve learned a lot about the economics of government debt over the past few years — enough so that Olivier Blanchard, the eminent former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is talking about a “shift in fiscal paradigm.” And the new paradigm suggests both that public debt isn’t a major problem and that government borrowing for the right purposes is actually the responsible thing to do. seriously and joined in the chorus of fearmongering.

Neal K. Katyal: I Wrote the Special Counsel Rules. Barr Has Abused Them.

There is no reason for the outgoing attorney general to appoint his preferred prosecutor for the continuing Trump-Russia inquiry.

Attorney General William Barr’s decision on Tuesday to name John Durham, the U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut appointed by President Trump, as special counsel to investigate matters surrounding the 2016 election violates the rules for special counsels as well as fundamental democratic principles.

There may be reasons the inquiry by Mr. Durham — an investigation that began in 2019 into the Trump-Russia inquiry — should continue, but there is absolutely no reason to permit an outgoing attorney general to try to install his preferred personnel at the investigation’s helm in the new administration. And it is entirely appropriate for President-elect Joe Biden to appoint all the prosecutors in his new administration, just as his predecessors have done.

The special counsel regulations, which I drafted in 1999 as a Justice Department staff member, were designed with the idea that some investigations require a person from outside the department to assure the public of sufficient independence. We had in mind circumstances in which, for example, a president was alleged to have engaged in wrongdoing and having his attorney general conduct the investigation could cause a problem with impartiality. That is why they expressly require someone “outside the United States government” to serve as special counsel. Doing so helps reassure the public of an independent investigation.

Rebecca Solnit: Republicans are standing up to Trump. Unfortunately, it’s too little, too late

Republicans like Gabriel Sterling – who are horrified by the torrent of death threats facing electoral workers – are voicing their outrage very late in the day

The first time I watched Georgia voting systems implementation manager Gabriel Sterling’s furious tirade about the threats against him and his coworkers, I was impressed. Here was a Republican, a self-described conservative, telling off the president and all the people making those threats. “Death threats. Physical threats. Intimidation. They have lost the moral high ground. I don’t have all the words for this because I am angry.” He was clearly furious. He talked about a young contract worker: “There’s a noose out there with his name on it. This kid just took a job and it’s just wrong. I just can’t begin to explain the level of anger I have right now … Mr President, it looks like you probably lost the state of Georgia. Stop inspiring people to commit acts of violence.”

It didn’t take long for me to sour on his indignation. They never had the moral high ground. The death threats and intimidation against him and his co-workers are wrong. However, they’re not the first people to get them but in some sense the last, and if you care about people the president has attacked verbally and urged violence against, you could have started caring during the 2016 campaign. Nothing suggests Mr Sterling did, since he belongs to a party that has supported Trump and, more broadly, campaigns of hate and discrimination for the last 40 years and more. In recent years, Trump has urged police to treat arrestees more roughly, audiences to harass and even rough up journalists and dissidents in his crowds, and is well-known for the 26 credible accounts of sexual abuse and violence with which women have charged him. He’s the guy who pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio in 2017 for his conviction for disobeying a judge’s order to stop racial profiling.

Amanda Marcotte: Dr. Fauci’s gamble pays off — white-knuckling his way through Trump set him up to steer Biden

For months, Fauci endured calls to resign in protest, but it’s good he didn’t — now he can shape vaccine policy

After a career of being largely unknown to the vast majority of Americans, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has headed the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, has become a celebrity during the pandemic. With Donald Trump both unwilling to take a responsible leadership role and frankly incapable of it, Fauci filled in the void. Despite working full days directly on the pandemic, he also did countless TV interviews and appeared at multiple congressional hearings, all to educate the public about the coronavirus and encourage steps to limit its spread.

No good deed goes unpunished, and Dr. Fauci has learned this lesson more than anyone. For his efforts, he has spent months being terrorized by Trump, who is childishly jealous of the positive attention Fauci gets, and is incapable of understanding why people might like the kindly old medical expert more than they like the raving sociopath in the Oval Office. [..]

But Fauci’s strategy of hanging in and meeting Trump’s vitriol with bland responses, while it may not have been dramatically satisfying, turned out to be successful: Not only is President-elect Joe Biden planning to keep Fauci on in his current role, the incoming president is also designating the famous disease expert as his chief medical adviser.

This isn’t just good news for Dr. Fauci — arguably, it’s not even good news for him personally, since his life is about to get much harder — but it’s good news for the nation.

Heather Digby Parton: What hath the Republicans wrought: Will Trump’s insanity finally rip the party apart?

Whatever happens in Georgia, Trump’s conspiracy theories have created a deranged third force the GOP can’t control

Over the past few years both the media and Democratic officials have often reported that certain Republicans say on background or in private that they really can’t stand Donald Trump. Veteran reporter Carl Bernstein even named some names a few days ago. Some people in the media and political classes would apparently prefer that the public see the Republican establishment as terrified of Donald Trump’s base rather as than the cynics they are, eagerly taking advantage of Trump’s chaos to advance their agenda.

Trump’s post-election flights of lunacy provide an excellent case in point. While “mainstream” Republicans covertly whisper in Joe Biden’s ear that they know he won the election, and assure him that they find Trump’s twaddle about “rigged” votes and what have you terribly uncouth, they remain quiet in public, ostensibly because they want to let Trump have his tantrum and run out the clock, at which point we will pretend that all this unpleasantness never happened. This is, of course, nuts. President-elect Biden and every other Democrat who goes before the cameras to reassure Americans that the Republicans understand that Trump is off his rocker and that as soon as he’s gone we’ll all get back to normal are enabling them to continue the sabotage of our democracy. Democrats have no obligation to cover for Trump’s accomplices and they need to stop doing it.