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: Embracing the Softer Side of Infrastructure

Investments in the future don’t always involve concrete.

Republicans have been having a hard time explaining why they oppose President Biden’s American Jobs Plan.

Their real motives aren’t a mystery. They want Biden to fail, just as they wanted President Barack Obama to fail, and will once again offer scorched-earth opposition to anything a Democratic president proposes. And they’re especially opposed to public programs that might prove popular, and thereby help legitimize activist government in voters’ minds.

But laying out those true motives wouldn’t play well with the electorate, so they’ve been looking for alternative attack lines. And in the past few days many Republicans seem to have settled on the claim that most of the proposed spending isn’t really infrastructure.

Being who they are, they can’t help going to ludicrous extremes, and their claims that only a few percent of the proposal is “real” infrastructure are easily debunked. The only way to get anywhere close to their numbers is to declare, bizarrely, that only pouring concrete for transportation counts, which means excluding spending on such essentials for a modern economy as clean water, reliable electricity, access to broadband and more.

Michelle Goldberg: The Authoritarian Plan for a National Abortion Ban

Some on the right want the Supreme Court to go beyond ending Roe.

The anti-abortion movement was never going to stop with overturning Roe v. Wade.

For years, Republicans have argued that their goal was to return the issue of abortion to the states. At no point was this believable; since 1984, the Republican Party platform has called for a constitutional amendment banning abortion. Having spent decades denouncing abortion as a singular moral evil, the anti-abortion movement will not be content to return to a pre-Roe status quo, where abortion was legal in some places but not others.

So it’s not that surprising that, with the possible end of Roe in sight, some opponents of abortion are thinking about how to ban it nationally. Last week my colleague Ross Douthat wrote about a debate within the anti-abortion movement sparked by a highly abstruse article by the Notre Dame professor John Finnis in the Catholic journal First Things. Finnis argues that fetuses are persons under the 14th Amendment, and that the Supreme Court should thus rule abortion unconstitutional. The political implication, wrote Douthat, is that just jettisoning Roe is “woefully insufficient.”

Jamelle Bouie: If It’s Not Jim Crow, What Is It?

Georgia’s new voting law has to be understood in its own peculiar historical context.

The laws that disenfranchised Black Americans in the South and established Jim Crow did not actually say they were disenfranchising Black Americans and creating a one-party racist state.

I raise this because of a debate among politicians and partisans on whether Georgia’s new election law — rushed through last month by the state’s Republican legislature and signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican — is a throwback to the Jim Crow restrictions of the 20th century.

Democrats say yes. “This is Jim Crow in the 21st century. It must end,” President Biden said in a statement. Republicans and conservative media personalities say no. “You know what voter suppression is?” Ben Shapiro said on his very popular podcast. “Voter suppression is when you don’t get to vote.”

The problem with the “no” argument here is that it mistakes both the nature and the operation of Jim Crow voting laws. There was no statute that said, “Black people cannot vote.” Instead, Southern lawmakers spun a web of restrictions and regulations meant to catch most Blacks (as well as many whites) and keep them out of the electorate. It is true that the “yes” argument of President Biden and other Democrats overstates similarities and greatly understates key differences — chief among them the violence that undergirded the Jim Crow racial order. But the “no” argument of conservatives and Republicans asks us to ignore context and extend good faith to lawmakers who overhauled their state’s election laws because their party lost an election.

Catherine Rampell: The GOP, America’s most selfless political party

Republicans are on the verge of surrendering to Democrats solo credit for yet another incredibly popular issue: upgrading the nation’s crumbling infrastructure

Republican politicians have proven themselves an admirably selfless bunch. Time and again, they’ve handed over credit to Democrats — and Democrats alone — for all sorts of popular policy initiatives.

A year ago, Washington Republicans abdicated leadership on any coherent federal response to the pandemic, praising a Republican president who proudly didn’t “take responsibility at all” on the issue. (That president left office with a 38 percent approval rating for his handling of the outbreak; President Biden’s marks are now roughly double that, at 73 percent.) Then last month, Republicans effectively conceded political credit for the strengthening economic recovery by refusing to award a single vote to Biden’s popular $1.9 trillion fiscal relief bill. (The bill was favored by most Americans, in some polls by a supermajority.)

Now, astonishingly, Republicans are on the verge of surrendering to Democrats solo credit on yet another popular issue: upgrading the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. [..]

So, Republican pols continue scrambling for other excuses to oppose the infrastructure proposal. Maybe it’s the plan’s pay-fors, those evil tax hikes on corporations! Alas, raising taxes on corporations is super popular too.

Because GOP officials can’t articulate a coherent or consistent case for their objections, and they’re surely in favor of political unity, the only possible explanation left is that they’re just extremely generous souls — eager to bestow as many political brownie points upon their opponents as possible.

Chuck Rosenberg: Does the FBI have the right culture to fight domestic terrorism?

Chuck Rosenberg is a former U.S. attorney, senior FBI official and head of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Three months ago, rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol seeking violently to overturn the results of a valid presidential election. Not all of the rioters were domestic terrorists, but domestic terrorists were among the rioters. Vile extremists have raised their fists and torches elsewhere, including in Charlottesville in 2017. Domestic terrorism is a grave threat to the national security of the United States.

Because the FBI and the Justice Department are responsible for protecting us from that threat, we need to ask whether officials there are using all of the lawful tools at their disposal, whether the FBI is properly aligned to the threat, and whether the FBI’s culture helps or hinders that effort. One historical example is illuminating.

Before 9/11, FBI intelligence officials, especially in counterterrorism cases, did not fully share information gleaned in their investigations with FBI criminal investigative colleagues because of a “wall” between their operations. The origins of the wall are murky, but it inhibited full information sharing within the FBI and between the intelligence community and the Justice Department. The wall was rooted in policy and law, though it was more than that. It was reinforced by bureaucratic habit, trepidation and confusion within the Justice Department, and it made the FBI less effective. It also highlighted a stubborn inability to mend a faulty structure. That wall is gone. Do other barriers still exist?

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