Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: The week that was

Leaving aside Trump’s implied threat to Attorney General Merrick Garland, when has that damn fool ever done anything to “reduce the heat?”

Susan B. Glasser of The New Yorker asserts that it has been a stellar week politically for President Joe Biden yet someone else has been sucking up all of the media air.

American politics remains trapped in the story of Trump, Trump, Trump. Biden, of course, is not irrelevant. Much of his bad polling can be attributed to the sour mood of Democrats and independents who have been cheering for him to do more. Maybe now they will rally around their leader. Maybe some of his recent accomplishments will matter when voters go to the polls in November. “Do I expect it to help?” Biden said, on Monday, when asked whether the burst of successes might help Democrats in November. “Yes, I do.”

But, with the Republican Party still in thrall to its defeated former President, the achievements of Biden, no matter how considerable, are subordinate to the country’s larger crisis: the collapse of the Republican Party into a cult of personality. This has been reinforced, to the extent it needed reinforcing, by the week’s dramatic Trump happenings, which included an unprecedented F.B.I. search of Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago, on Monday. Agents were apparently hunting for classified, possibly nuclear-weapons-related national-security documents that the ex-President improperly kept in his possession, according to reporting by the Washington Post. Also among these was the news that Trump, called to testify in a long-running New York State civil investigation of his business, on Wednesday, invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to avoid answering questions more than four hundred and forty times.

In any normal, functioning moment in the United States, these events would be taken as a clear and unmistakable sign of the grave legal threat to the former President from the various investigations into his conduct, which also include a separate Justice Department probe into the origins of the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, the ongoing House select-committee inquiry into January 6th, and a Georgia criminal investigation into Trump’s efforts to pressure state officials there after his 2020 election loss. It’s hard to imagine any other ex-President with such legal exposure as the favored contender to lead his party back to power.


E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post says that the Biden Administration has to be a little bit frustrated that during one of the most successful weeks of the Biden presidency, his predecessor grabbed all of the headlines.

You can only imagine the frustration in Bidenworld over the past week. As the president — the actual one — set about celebrating his extraordinary legislative successes of recent weeks, Trump was everywhere.

The surest sign that the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago was not part of some fiendish political plan? The last thing the White House wanted was an event that would relegate Biden’s victories — on climate, health care, tech policy, prescription drug prices, taxes and major new assistance for veterans — to second or third place in the news cycle. […]

Whatever else they were doing, the voters who put Biden into the presidency in 2020 were seeking something closer to a functional, normal democracy. This was the opposite of what we had when Trump rampaged around the White House, obsessed only with himself, his image and the attention-grabbing havoc he could wreak.

That normality means Biden does not grab the headlines, particularly on cable news and social media, the way Trump still can. No one who runs for president lacks ego, but Biden is a fundamentally decent man who has spent his life thinking about what legislation he could pass, which problems he might start solving, and how he could tilt the economic playing field a bit more toward the kinds of people he grew up with in Scranton, Pa., and Delaware.

Michael D, Shear and Zolan Kanno-Youngs of The New York Times analyzes President Joe Biden’s latest legislative triumph.

Even with the latest legislative triumph, the president’s accomplishments on Capitol Hill fall far short of the scale and ambition of F.D.R.’s New Deal or Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. And passage of Friday’s bill may say less about Mr. Biden’s ability to restore American bipartisanship than it does about the deep ideological breaches in his own party, which forced him to accept a much scaled-back version of his original legislative goals.

But taken together, the bills Mr. Biden has helped usher through a closely divided Congress since taking office 18 months ago touch many parts of American society.

There will be a vast new pot of money to combat climate change. Medicare will be free to negotiate for lower drug prices. The government will invest billions to help computer chip makers compete. Health care subsidies will be extended for years. Lead pipes will be replaced. Broadband internet will be built in poor and rural communities. Roads, bridges and tunnels will be restored. New gun safety measures will go into effect and background checks will be expanded. The nation’s budget deficit will be reduced.

To pay for some of it, investors will send more of their profits to the government, with a new tax on company stock buybacks and a 15 percent corporate minimum tax for wealthy companies.

Since this is supposed to be a “news analysis”, they could have written about Republican intransigence and the razor-thin Congressional for the Dems (as opposed to “the deep ideological breaches in his own party, especially as not one Democrat in the Congress voted against the Inflation Reduction Act). No Democrats in Disarray in that respect.

They don’t even mention voting rights.

On August 14, 1935 President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law. Heather Cox Richardson commemorates the occasion on her Letters From an American Substack and writes about one of Social Security Act’s chief architects; FDR’s Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins.

By the time most of you will read this, it will be August 14, and on this day in 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law. While FDR’s New Deal had put in place new measures to regulate business and banking and had provided temporary work relief to combat the Depression, this law permanently changed the nature of the American government.

The Social Security Act is known for its payments to older Americans, but it did far more than that. It established unemployment insurance; aid to homeless, dependent, and neglected children; funds to promote maternal and child welfare; and public health services. It was a sweeping reworking of the relationship between the government and its citizens, using the power of taxation to pool funds to provide a basic social safety net.

The driving force behind the law was FDR’s Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins. She was the first woman to hold a position in the U.S. Cabinet and still holds the record for having the longest tenure in that job: she lasted from 1933 to 1945.

Hannah Roberts of POLITICO Europe reports that Italian right-wing parties have dropped their Euro-skepticism in a manifesto that was leaked to POLITICO Europe.

A draft of the right-wingers’ joint program for government, agreed by representatives of the parties on Wednesday and seen by POLITICO, stated that Italy is “a fully fledged part of Europe” and pledged its “full adhesion” to European integration.

The document also said, if elected, the next Italian government will seek changes to the terms of its pandemic recovery fund deal with the EU, since the Ukraine war and inflation have changed the context significantly.

The pro-EU declaration is likely to be broadly welcomed by investors and European politicians as well as officials in Brussels, with opinion polls showing an alliance of right-wingers led by Giorgia Meloni is on course to win power in the September 25 election.

Bond traders and European governments had been concerned that the downfall of Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s coalition would trigger a period of upheaval with a new, untested right-wing coalition taking over.

Finally today, I noticed that conservatives and other assorted concern trolls have taken to speaking up in support for author Salman Rushdie and Rushdie’s ideals of freedom of expression. Ed Pilkington and Philip Oltermann of the Guardian reminds conservatives (and everyone, really) what Mr, Rushdie sees as dangerous today..

The Satanic Verses was published a decade before Matar was born to parents who emigrated from Lebanon. But, according to reports, his social media activity suggests an admiration of Iran and an attraction to Shia extremism.

Just a fortnight ago, Rushdie had talked to the German news magazine Stern about his safety. The author said his life would have been in a lot more danger if social media had been around at the time he wrote The Satanic Verses: “More dangerous, infinitely more dangerous”.

“A fatwa is a serious thing. Luckily we didn’t have the internet back then. The Iranians had send the fatwa to the mosques by fax. That’s all a long time ago. Nowadays my life is very normal again.” Asked what made him afraid now, Rushdie said: “In the past I would have said religious fanaticism. I no longer say that. The biggest danger facing us right now is that we lose our democracy. Since the supreme court abortion verdict I have been seriously concerned that the US won’t manage that. That the problems are irreparable and the country will break apart. Today’s greatest danger facing us is this kind of cryptofascism that we see in America and elsewhere.

Have a good day, everyone.

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