Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Criming in plain sight

Jacqueline Alemany/Washington Post:

Report: Trump businesses received $7.8 million in foreign payments during presidency

The report argues that the payments were in violation of the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause, a provision that bars federal officials, including the president, from accepting money or gifts from foreign governments without permission from Congress. That clause was central to a protracted legal debate when Democrats controlled the House and sought access to Trump’s financial records. The issue eventually landed at the Supreme Court, but there was no definitive ruling on whether Trump illegally profited from his presidency. Instead, the justices in 2021 said the cases were moot because Trump no longer held office.

Nate Cohn/New York Times:

Americans were angry with Truman because of high prices in the aftermath of World War II, even as other economic signals looked promising.

If there’s a time that might make sense of today’s political moment, postwar America might just be it. Many analysts today have been perplexed by public dissatisfaction with the economy, as unemployment and gross domestic product have remained strong and as inflation has slowed significantly after a steep rise. To some, public opinion and economic reality are so discordant that it requires a noneconomic explanation, sometimes called “vibes,” like the effect of social media or a pandemic hangover on the national mood.

But in the era of modern economic data, Harry Truman was the only president besides Joe Biden to oversee an economy with inflation over 7 percent while unemployment stayed under 4 percent and G.D.P. growth kept climbing. Voters weren’t overjoyed then, either. Instead, they saw Mr. Truman as incompetent, feared another depression and doubted their economic future, even though they were at the dawn of postwar economic prosperity.

The source of postwar inflation was fundamentally similar to post-pandemic inflation. The end of wartime rationing unleashed years of pent-up consumer demand in an economy that hadn’t fully transitioned back to producing butter instead of guns. A year after the war, wartime price controls ended and inflation skyrocketed. A great housing crisis gripped the nation’s cities as millions of troops returned from overseas after 15 years of limited housing construction. Labor unrest roiled the nation and exacerbated production shortages. The most severe inflation of the last 100 years wasn’t in the 1970s, but in 1947, reaching around 20 percent.

According to the historian James T. Patterson, “no domestic issue of these years did Truman more damage than the highly contentious question of what to do about wartime restraints on prices.”


Suffolk still relies on phone calls (cell and landline), nothing online.

Two good pollsters weigh in.

John Stoehr/The Editorial Board:

Democracy isn’t a hostage crisis

We have a choice.

An elected state official made a decision based on statute and material circumstances. An interested party objected, appealing to a higher authority. That authority (a court of law) may or may not decide. It depends. But what’s certain is that this legal process is inherently democratic. If it were antidemocratic, there would be no appeal. Indeed, Trump would have no right to an appeal. He does. So it is.

That this legal process is inherently democratic should be blindingly obvious to respectable people (ie, the pundit corps) who expressed their concerns about the state of democracy in America in the wake of decisions made in Maine and Colorado to disqualify Donald Trump.

The question, for me, is why isn’t it blindingly obvious? Why are respectable members of the pundit corps not seeing the plain truth? I think the answer can be found in human psychology. Fear is why.

Bolts Magazine:

Twelve Questions Shaping Democracy and Voting Rights in 2024

Opportunities abound for states to ease ballot access and voter registration this year. But the specter of major showdowns over the results of the November elections also looms.

Our team at Bolts has identified a dozen key questions that will shape voting rights and democracy this year. This is born less of a desire to be comprehensive than to offer a preliminary roadmap for our own coverage.

That’s because, while some questions that matter to 2024 will come down to federal decisions—likely starting with decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court on Donald Trump’s prosecutions and presence on the ballot, and on the VRA’s fate—a lot will hinge on the policies and politics of state and local governments: your county clerk in charge of organizing Election Day, your county board that decides where to put ballot drop boxes, your lawmakers tweaking the rules of ballot initiatives, your secretary of state wielding the power to certify results. (Be sure to explore our state-by-state resources on who runs our elections and who counts our elections.)

These are the officials we will be tracking throughout the year to help us clarify the local landscape of voting rights and access to democracy during a critical election year.


Washington Post:

A quarter of Americans believe FBI instigated Jan. 6, Post-UMD poll finds

More than 3 in 10 Republicans have adopted the falsehood that the FBI conspired to cause the Capitol riot

Twenty-five percent of Americans say it is “probably” or “definitely” true that the FBI instigated the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, a false concept promoted by right-wing media and repeatedly denied by federal law enforcement, according to a new Washington Post-University of Maryland poll.

The Post-UMD poll finds a smaller 11 percent of the public overall thinks there is “solid evidence” that FBI operatives organized and encouraged the attack, while 13 percent say this is their “suspicion only.”

Among Republicans, 34 percent say the FBI organized and encouraged the insurrection, compared with 30 percent of independents and 13 percent of Democrats.

Jill Lawrence/The Bulwark:

McConnell’s Two Big Legacies: The End of Roe and the Forever Grip of Trump

The Senate Republican’s power plays haven’t turned out as planned.

The longest-serving party leader in Senate history, McConnell has wielded power ruthlessly to advance conservative goals. Yet it is increasingly clear that his legacy, so tightly intertwined with Donald Trump’s, has been built on a foundation of political miscalculations.

The conservative Supreme Court he and Trump co-created to overturn Roe’s longstanding constitutional right to abortion has triggered a sustained voter backlash across red states and blue. The entire country, meanwhile, remains trapped and threatened by the Republican party’s inability to move past Trump—even after he fomented a multi-front attack on democracy to stay in power.

Trump is now charged with 91 counts in four criminal indictments, two of them related to his “Big Lie” that he won the 2020 election and his alleged attempts to subvert it. As the 2024 primary season begins, polling shows that he’s on track to capture the GOP nomination for the third time, with even odds of winning his desperation play: a return to the White House, where he can deploy all the levers, authorities, and shields of the presidency to end his legal troubles or at least disappear them over a distant, perhaps posthumous, horizon.

The longer all of this goes on, the more McConnell—who was Senate majority leader when Trump loyalists stormed the Capitol—bears the burden of not stopping it, or at least trying, when he could have and should have.


Paul Waldman/MSNBC:

The real reason Mike Johnson chaperoned 60 House Republicans at the border

Republicans treat these jaunts to the border as accomplishments in themselves, far more meaningful than any legislative response.

Given this toxic stew of silliness and bad faith with which Republicans approach a complicated policy issue that they claim to care about above all others, you’d think the White House and congressional Democrats would be roasting them mercilessly. They’d be telling the public that only one party is serious about immigration, and it isn’t the one that shouts the loudest about it.

If only that were true. Instead, the White House and Democrats seem helpless as Republicans insist on blocking President Joe Biden’s request for more Ukraine funding — or even funding for the government as a whole — unless it is joined to radical immigration policy changes that they know Democrats won’t tolerate. The result may be no more help for Ukraine, and it certainly won’t be anything to address the problems at the border. Which is just fine with Republicans.

Rasmus Nielsen/Financial Times:

Forget technology — politicians pose the gravest misinformation threat

As we head into a big election year, beware the risks of misleading statements from those at very top

In the US, the Washington Post stopped counting after documenting at least 30,573 false or misleading claims made by Donald Trump as president. In the UK, the non-profit FullFact has reported that as many as 50 MPs — including two prime ministers, cabinet ministers and shadow cabinet ministers — failed to correct false, unevidenced or misleading claims in 2022 alone, despite repeated calls to do so.

These are actual problems of misinformation, and the phenomenon is not new. Both George W Bush and Barack Obama’s administrations obfuscated on Afghanistan. Bush’s government and that of his UK counterpart Tony Blair advanced false and misleading claims in the run-up to the Iraq war. Prominent politicians have, over the years, denied the reality of human-induced climate change, proposed quack remedies for Covid-19, and so much more. These are examples of misinformation, and, at their most egregious, of disinformation — defined as spreading false or misleading information for political advantage or profit.

This basic point is strikingly absent from many policy documents — the NCSC report, for example, has nothing to say about domestic politics. It is not alone.



From Cliff Schecter with Bob Cesca: