Jul 03, 2022
Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Short stack
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We begin today with Carol Leonnig of The Washington Post writing about the institutional problems of the Secret Service in light of the new revelations regarding the Jan. 6 insurrection.
The new depiction of the Secret Service — which has endured a decade of controversy from a prostitution scandal and White House security missteps during the Obama years to allegations of politicization under Trump — has cast new doubt on the independence and credibility of the legendary presidential protective agency.
On one end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Trump unsuccessfully cajoled his agents to drive him to Capitol Hill, where he would have joined a mob of his supporters descending violently on the grand symbol of democracy. Some 45 minutes later on the other end, Vice President Mike Pence refused a request of his security detail to get into an armored car — concerned, according to testimony, that his protectors would take him away from the Capitol and prevent him from carrying out his duty to oversee the final count of electoral college votes.[...]
Ornato and Engel were previously questioned by the committee about that day, and both had confirmed that Trump demanded to be taken to the Capitol and was furious about being told they would not do so, according to people familiar with their testimony. Neither had been asked about Trump’s alleged physical altercation in the car, according to two people briefed on their testimony.
Robin Givhan, also of The Washington Post, gives a performance review of Jan. 6 committee chairman Bennie Thompson.
The witness called him “sir.” When Cassidy Hutchinson, the former White House aide, testified before the Jan. 6 committee on Tuesday afternoon, she addressed Chairman Bennie G. Thompson with a word that afforded him respect as a man, not merely as an official. His tone during these hearings has not been that of a cold prosecutor or an enraged legislator. Thompson has been firm but gentlemanly. Even optimistic. He has been a point of stillness as the committee sorts through the chaotic cesspool of January 6.He wouldn’t be the one questioning Hutchinson, drawing out the lurid details of a president in the throes of a diabolical temper tantrum, but he was the one setting the tone for the day’s hearing, just as he had done for the five preceding ones.[...] Pull up a chair and have a listen; the stories will curl your hair.
The Jan. 6 hearings have been for the benefit of the American public and Thompson has been the dignified host inviting folks in. His tone is calm and slightly melancholy. But he never gives off even a whiff of resignation. He has been resolute in his belief that America is the greatest country in the world and that the insurrection was “a hiccup” in our history. For Thompson, democracy isn’t shattered beyond repair; it’s damaged, but fixable.
And somehow, Thompson is convincing.
Jonathan Weisman of The New York Times writes about a real and growing divide between Blue State America and Red State America.
The tearing at the seams has been accelerated by the six-vote conservative majority in the Supreme Court, which has embraced a muscular states-rights federalism. In the past 10 days the court has erased the constitutional right to an abortion, narrowed the federal government’s ability to regulate climate-warming pollution and blocked liberal states and cities from barring most of their citizens from carrying concealed guns outside of their homes.
“They’ve produced this Balkanized house divided, and we’re only beginning to see how bad that will be,” said David Blight, a Yale historian who specializes in the era of American history that led to the Civil War.
Historians have struggled to find a parallel moment, raising the 19th-century fracturing over slavery; the clashes between the executive branch and the Supreme Court in the New Deal era of the 1930s; the fierce battles over civil rights during Reconstruction and in the 1950s and early 1960s; and the rise of armed, violent groups like the Weather Underground in the late ’60s.
For some people, the divides have grown so deep and so personal that they have felt compelled to pick up and move from one America to the other.
Musa al-Gharabi of NBC News notes that some of the attacks on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in light of the overturning of Roe v. Wade were racist.
Soon after the court handed down its decision, some pro-choice advocates began hurling outrageous and overtly racist remarks in Thomas’ direction (including liberal evocations of the “N-word” on Twitter) — often to the acclaim of some other left-aligned whites.
The remarks were so ubiquitous that “Uncle Clarence” began trending on Twitter, a reference to the eponymous character of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” who has emerged as a symbol of Black men who are too subservient to whites.In practice, the term is primarily deployed against Black people who strike positions that elite liberals find distasteful. For instance, “Uncle Tim” previously trended on Twitter after Black Republican Sen. Tim Scott’s rebuttal of President Joe Biden’s inaugural address to a joint session of Congress.
Then again, in other cases, minorities who violate the preferences and sensibilities of liberals are literally declared to be white instead. At least insofar as Thomas and Scott are branded as race-traitors, critics still recognize their race.
I didn’t see those sort of attacks here at DK but I did see those sort of attacks by white liberals all over Twitter.
Look...don’t make me defend Clarence Thomas. He’s not worth it for a host of reasons.
I have noticed that many of the attacks on Clarence Thomas are similar to the attacks on Barack Obama or Kamala Harris. Given the chasm in political ideologies among the three, I wonder what they could have in common.
Also; just because your black friend “goes there” with highly colorful language about Clarence Thomas doesn’t mean that you can go there.
Robin Wright of The New Yorker writes about NATO’s new strategy to confront Russia.
The new strategy reflects a dramatic shift in the West—from talk of Europe’s economic and security interdependence with Russia, in the post-Cold War era, to open confrontation with Moscow, Ivo Daalder, a former U.S. Ambassador to NATO who now heads the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, told me. Stoltenberg called the summit “transformational.”
The NATO summit also marks a departure from the policies of Donald Trump, who said he “trusted” Putin, threatened to withdraw from nato, and left his fellow-leaders shaken at every encounter. NATO’s reach is instead expanding. It had just twelve founding members in 1949. With the invitations extended this week to Sweden and Finland, it will soon include thirty-two countries, and its frontline with Russia will double. “Putin thought he could break the transatlantic alliance,” Biden said at a press conference on Thursday. “He wanted the Finlandization of NATO. He got the NATO-ization of Finland.” The new strategic concept for the first time cites the challenges posed by China and the need to build “resilience” against political meddling, disinformation, energy shortages, and food insecurity. In another first, it pledged to deepen ties with allies in the Indo-Pacific. The leaders of Japan and South Korea met with NATO members, including Biden, on the sidelines in Madrid.
The new strategy is muscular and sweeping in ways that could play out for years, even decades, Doug Lute, a former Ambassador to NATO and retired three-star general, told me. Putin’s war, and NATO’s response, represents a historic “inflection point,” like the fall of the Soviet Union or the 9/11 attacks, he said. The summit, however, did not address how NATO envisions ending the war or what it will do about membership for Ukraine. On Wednesday, the director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, predicted that the war could grind on for an “extended” time. Putin intends to seize most of Ukraine, not just the eastern and southern regions he now controls, she said. In a speech to NATO leaders, the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, asked whether his nation had “not paid enough” to join NATO. More than ten thousand Ukrainians—up to two hundred a day—have been killed since Russia launched its invasion, in February. More than five million have fled the country; another seven million have been displaced inside it. More than a hundred billion dollars in civilian infrastructure has been destroyed, with the World Bank projecting that the Ukrainian economy will contract by up to forty-five per cent this year.
Michael Sauga of Der Spiegel asks: are the sanctions against Russia in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine working?
What is certain is that the policy of boycotts and embargoes has profoundly changed the union itself. The EU has adopted six sanctions packages since the Kremlin began rolling its tanks.
It has frozen the assets of more than 1,100 aids of Russian President Vladimir Putin and 30 oligarchs. Most Russian banks have been cut off from Europe’s financial markets. Coal from Siberia may no longer be imported, and jet engines or truffle butter can no longer be exported to Moscow or St. Petersburg. Nearly a hundred billion euros worth of trade goods are blocked in what officials at the European Commission now openly call the "militarization of export controls."
What had once been envisioned as an economic community is transforming itself into a security alliance and is vigorously expanding its influence over the member states. In the course of its sanctions, the EU has enacted dozens of new laws, increased its staff and created a task force to track and confiscate Russian financial assets. "The Commission has cleverly used the situation to secure further powers for itself," says one EU diplomat in Brussels.
Finally today, Senay Boztas of the Guardian reports on the transformation of The Netherlands in a narco state.
The mayors of Amsterdam and Rotterdam are warning of a “culture of crime and violence that is gradually acquiring Italian traits”, with record amounts of intercepted drugs at the port of Rotterdam, extreme violence that often kills the wrong target, and €15bn to €30bn a year laundered into property, cannabis “coffee shops”, tourism and bars. Allegations that the country, better known for its tolerance and fiscal frugality, has the characteristics of a “narco state 2.0” are now being taken extremely seriously.[...]
The Dutch government announced a new international collaboration last Monday against criminals who ship cocaine from South America via the ports of Rotterdam and nearby Antwerp in Belgium. Politicians also want to scrutinise “facilitator” businesses, expand crown witness schemes, delve into opaque financial structures and offer vulnerable young people in 16 neighbourhoods better options than crime.
Paul Vugts, a crime reporter for Amsterdam paper Het Parool, who spent six months living under police protection after getting death threats, said it was high time for action. “It took the killing of a crime blogger, the innocent brother of a crown witness against [alleged drug gang chief] Ridouan Taghi and others, then the witness’s lawyer Derk Wiersum, and last summer my colleague Peter R de Vries, the crown witness’s official confidant. We don’t have mafia like Italy, but this kind of violence is mafia-like. It is terror.”
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