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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Simon Tisdall: Lock him up! Why is repeat offender Donald Trump still a free man?

The ex-president is accused of abuse of power, fraud, tax evasion and more but he has not been charged with anything

A sudden fall from power always comes hard. King Alfred was reduced to skulking in a Somerset bog. A distraught Napoleon talked to coffee bushes on St Helena. Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia hung around the haberdashery department of Jolly’s in Bath. Uganda’s Idi Amin plotted bloody revenge from a Novotel in Jeddah. Only Alfred the Great made a successful comeback.

All of which brings us to Donald Trump, currently in exile at his luxury club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Whingeing amid the manicured greens and bunkers of his exclusive golf course, the defeated president recalls an ageing Bonnie Prince Charlie – a sort of “king over the water” with water features. Like deposed leaders throughout history, he obsesses about a return to power.

Yet as Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell moves to kill off a 9/11-style national commission to investigate the 6 January Capitol Hill insurrection, the pressing question is not whether Trump can maintain cult-like sway over Republicans, or even whether he will run again in 2024. The question that should most concern Americans who care about democracy is: why isn’t Trump in jail?

Amanda Marcotte: CNN’s Rick Santorum dilemma and the Republican pundit paradox

If they’re reasonable, they’re not representative. But if they’re representative, they are too repulsive to air

Over the weekend, CNN fired Rick Santorum, a former Republican senator from Pennsylvania, failed presidential aspirant, namesake of one of the more unfortunate byproducts of anal sex, and advocate for the belief that birth control is “harmful to women” and “harmful to society.” Santorum finally got the boot from the network after weeks of protest following his comments at a right-wing student conference, in which he declared that European settlers arrived in the Americas to a “blank slate” and there “isn’t much Native American culture.”

Whether borne of ignorance or malice — or likeliest, a malicious refusal to learn — these comments were jaw-droppingly racist and flat-out false. [..]

Still, I have some sympathies for the dilemma that CNN is facing. Santorum may be a stone-cold idiot and a bigot, but it’s not like there are a lot of good options for the network — or any other mainstream media organization — when it comes to hiring pundits or opinion writers to articulate Republican beliefs for their audiences.

Media outlets face an increasingly difficult conundrum in trying to figure out what conservative voices to elevate. If a Republican is reasonable, then they’re not really representative of true conservative thought in the modern U.S. If they are representative, however, they’re going to be too stupid or bigoted — or, as Santorum shows, a combination of both — to put on the air.

Moira Donegan: The Texas abortion ban is a performance of misogyny. But it might get worse

Unconstitutional anti-abortion laws are often a grim kind of misogynist political theater. But that might be changing

Senate Bill 8, the six-week abortion ban that the Texas governor, Greg Abbott, signed into law last week, is a total ban on abortion in everything but name. The bill is one of several across the country that bans abortions at six weeks of gestation – in layman’s terms, four weeks after fertilization and two weeks after the first missed period. [..]

If left intact, the law would not only force Texas women to remain pregnant against their will; it would also empower any misogynist or anti-choice person to impose their bigotry on Texas residents through frivolous and harassing lawsuits. Hopefully, courts will throw out the civil suit provision. If they don’t, free speech in Texas will be severely curtailed.

For the most part, these bills have functioned as a grim kind of misogynist political theater, deliberate messaging exercises that don’t really go anywhere. But that might be changing. Last week, the supreme court agreed to hear a case challenging a Mississippi law that bans abortion at 15 weeks of gestation. The central question in that case will be whether pre-viability abortion bans really are constitutional. If the court rules in favor of Mississippi – and they appear likely to – abortion bans like the one that Texas just passed will become legal. And the falsely named “heartbeat bills” will go from a performance of misogyny, to an enforcement of it.

James Downie: Joe Manchin’s foolish hopes

Manchin should listen to two Republican senators who appeared on the Sunday talk shows this weekend.

With news that Senate Republicans will likely filibuster the creation of an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection — a commission negotiated by Republican Rep. John Katko (N.Y.) — many wondered whether Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) would finally change their views on filibuster reform. It’s time to find out.

Last week, Manchin told Politico, “I’m still praying we’ve still got 10 good solid patriots within [the GOP] conference.” As others noted, including my colleague Greg Sargent, the unwelcome answer to Manchin’s prayer is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) view: Republicans must treat any true accounting of the insurrection as an obstacle to winning back Congress in 2022. But if Manchin and others don’t want to hear that from McConnell, they can listen to two Republican senators who appeared on the Sunday talk shows this weekend — including one whom Manchin would surely need for his 10 votes. [..]

Inquiries maintain influence and credibility in the public’s eyes only when they produce damning, incontrovertible findings — think Watergate. Senate Republicans know this, so the only explanation for their opposition to the commission is: 1) They know a full accounting of that terrible day will shame the GOP; and 2) They’d rather once again put their party over the country.

Sens. Manchin and Sinema, this isn’t McConnell telling you there aren’t 10 reasonable Republicans. This is Collins (and Romney) all but screaming it. Ideally, the two Democrats would accept where this road is obviously heading and back filibuster reform now, before the unnecessary theater of trying to sway the unswayable. But at the very least, they should get ready to support changes as soon as the negotiations break down — which they will.