The Abbreviated Pundit Roundup is a regular feature of Daily Kos.
For a portion of my years at the Los Angeles Times, one of my assignments was helping to find and syndicate columnists and edit or supervise the editing of their work. Not columnists published in the Times itself but at other newspapers. I inherited a lot of them, almost exclusively white and mostly conservatives including Mona Charen, Cal Thomas, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Henry Kissinger, and Armstrong Williams, with a handful of moderates or liberals like Robert Reno, William Pfaff, and Jesse Jackson.
This part of my job was a constant battle with my bosses. Every time I tried to recruit a liberal woman or another person of color, I was told “we already have” syndicated women or we already have a Black columnist. Molly Ivins? I had been told to try to recruit columnists from other syndicates, the kind of raiding all syndicates engaged in at the time, and she was one of my first efforts. She had told me early on in our discussions that if our contract was better than her soon-to-expire contract with Creators Syndicate, she’d sign with us. But “we already have three women,” I was told by my bosses. That wasn’t the argument when I suggested anyone as a possible Latino columnist. We had no syndicated Latinos, liberal or otherwise, when I arrived at the Times and none when I left. They claimed there was not a big enough audience for a syndicated Latino columnist. I did manage to recruit and get approved the lesbian columnist Deb Price.
This situation wasn’t solely bias on the part of my superiors. I heard the same rap from dozens of editorial page and op-ed page editors when trying to interest them in someone I had managed to get past the bosses: “We already have a Black columnist,” “we already have a woman columnist (even though half the time they were talking about Erma Bombeck).
If I had tried to put forward a columnist as far to the left as, say, Cal Thomas is to the right, I would have been laughed out of the room. In the two decades since then, scores of newspapers have folded and the survivors have deeply downsized their staffs and slashed the number of syndicated columnists when they haven’t eliminated them completely. While there has been somewhat of a shift on some newspaper op-ed pages, the majority of columnists today still range from moderate to ultra-conservative, with rare exceptions, and the proportion who are women or people of color is still far below what it should be. That shift is disturbing to certain folks. As Alex Shepard writes below, “the opinion pages were safe spaces for white, reactionary writers” in the past,” and they aren’t happy with the direction things are going.
Alex Shepard at The New Republic writes—The Real Snowflakes on the Op-Ed Page:
For years, conservative and centrist columnists have been depicting college campuses as if they were the settings of horror movies. A virus is incubating and spreading. Every year, more and more people are infected with wokeness. The stakes might be small—a misconstrued story about Chinese food and Oberlin College is frequently cited—but, these writers argued, something much scarier is afoot. Every year, more snowflakes enter the real world, spreading cancel culture through every strata of society. Soon, the whole world will be a campus.
The furor following The New York Times’ publication of Senator Tom Cotton’s op-ed was, for many of these writers, a vindication. During a town hall meeting on Friday at the Times, in which staffers voiced their outrage and concerns, op-ed columnist Bari Weiss took a victory lap. She tweeted that the debates about political correctness on campus—the debates she had warned about—were now on the front door of the country’s leading newspaper, as well as “other publications and companies across the country.” New York magazine columnist Andrew Sullivan has spent the last week tweeting variations of “We all live on campus now,” the headline of a column he wrote in 2018. National Review was somehow even more histrionic: The headline to a Tuesday David Harsanyi column about the Cotton op-ed described recent events without irony as a “Cultural Revolution.” The big issue for these writers wasn’t systemic racism or police brutality. It was the return of Maoism.
These arguments rest on the idea that liberal democracy is under threat—from an increasingly authoritarian right wing, sure, but also from an increasingly dogmatic left. Sullivan has recirculated a 2019 diatribe about Ibram X. Kendi’’s bestseller How to Be an Anti-Racist, whose recent presence on bestseller lists he has bemoaned. “They seem not to genuinely believe in liberalism, liberal democracy, or persuasion. They have no clear foundational devotion to individual rights or freedom of speech,” he wrote.
Despite all the paeans to liberal democracy, Sullivan and Weiss’s project is a small one. Other anxieties are apparent. For decades, the opinion pages were safe spaces for white, reactionary writers. These writers are lashing out at a loss of impunity, and a rise in editorial standards, that is making opinion journalism stronger.
Mara Gay at The New York Times writes—Good Riddance to One of America’s Strongest Police Secrecy Laws:
The large street demonstrations in scores of cities and towns across the country are bringing sudden and sweeping changes to police practices and accountability.
Minneapolis is preparing to disband and rebuild its police department.
California is poised to ban the use of police chokeholds.
Dozens of cities are considering redirecting millions in taxpayer funds from America’s heavily militarized police departments to education, health care, housing and other needs of black and Hispanic neighborhoods that have been underinvested in for generations.
New York took a step toward reform with the repeal Tuesday evening of a state law known as 50-a, a decades-old measure that has allowed the police to keep the disciplinary and personnel records of officers secret. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign the bill. [...]
In New York State, the repeal must be the beginning of changes to policing, not the end. The violent response to largely peaceful protests has pulled back the curtain on what black Americans already knew: that local police departments across the United States, including in New York, are too often abusive and unaccountable to the very people they are supposed to serve. It is time for far-reaching reform.
Dana Milbank at The Washington Post writes—Here is Trump’s speech on race — word for word, alas:
President Trump’s planned address to the nation on race, American Urban Radio’s April Ryan reports, is being written by none other than Stephen Miller, a Trump aide and aficionado of white nationalism.
This is bound to raise a fuhrer. What next? Paul Manafort drafting a presidential address on business ethics?
But Miller can stand down. Trump has already given his remarks on race — many times, in fact. Here they are, entirely in Trump’s own words, excerpted:
I have a great relationship with the blacks. I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks. Oh, look at my African American over here. Look at him. [...]
Why do we need more Haitians? Why are we having people from all these shithole countries come here? We should have more people from places like Norway.
An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama’s birth certificate is a fraud. His grandmother in Kenya said, “Oh, no, he was born in Kenya.” A lot of people do not think it was an authentic certificate.
As someone born in Georgia the same year two Black World War II veterans and their wives were lynched 60 miles east of Atlanta by 20 men who fired 60 bullets at them and then cut the fetus out of Mae Dorsey, who was seven months pregnant, I find the removal Confederate monuments, ripping down of Confederate battle flags displayed in public spaces, and the renewed drive to rename the 10 U.S. military bases named for Confederate traitors refreshing even though this is all symbolic.
The neo-Confederates and other promoters of the Lost Cause are obviously unhappy with this shift away from tolerance for these symbols. Unhappy with this tearing down of what they dare call “American heritage.” I suspect a goodly proportion of them will be even unhappier with the punishment meted out when the transformation of U.S. policing ends impromptu lynchings like George Floyd’s.
Tim Murphy at Mother Jones writes—Donald Trump, Like the Confederacy, Is Picking the Wrong Hill to Die On. All your bases are belong to the US:
The US military, the New York Times pointed out in an editorial last month, has 10 bases named for former Confederate officers. They include Camp Beauregard, named for the officer who fired on Fort Sumter to start the Civil War; Fort Pickett, named for the person most synonymous in American military history with futile slaughter; Fort Lee, named for the person who ordered that slaughter and ultimately lost the war; and Fort Gordon, named for a person many people are saying was a Klansman. In recent weeks, as protesters have pushed governments across the world to remove monuments to notorious racists—or taken the matter into their own hands—these bases have once again been a target for criticism. On Tuesday, retired General David Petraeus and former CIA chief David Petraeus argued in The Atlantic that the time had come to “remove the name of traitors” from American bases.
But President Donald Trump, who is an idiot, has a different point of view. On Wednesday, he responded that changing the names of these bases would rewrite the nation’s “history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom”:
Just to make sure the message was clear, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany followed up with a statement arguing that changing the names would insult soldiers who died overseas
John Nichols at The Nation writes—Georgia Shows How Serious the Threat of Voter Suppression Will Be This November:
Georgia is now ground zero for voter suppression. The state’s largest newspaper summed up the crisis on the morning after Tuesday’s primary election in the state descended into chaos: “‘Complete Meltdown.’” Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, ticked off the evidence of “a system that is failing” voters: “malfunctioning machines, long lines, polling sites that opened late and insufficient numbers of back up paper ballots in Georgia.”
LaTosha Brown, the cofounder of the group Black Voters Matter, tweeted early Wednesday morning: “Georgia’s Elections were a HOT MESS! Last voter walked out at 12:37am in Union City.” Brown and her group provided support for voters who waited five or more hours to cast ballots in predominantly African American precincts, while noting that in suburban precincts there were fewer lines. Referring to the stark disparity, she said, “I come over to this [suburban polling place], and white folks are strolling in. On my side of town, we brought stadium chairs.” [...]
The Georgia primary was such a fiasco, such an overwhelming affront to the basic premises of American democracy, that it cries out for a response. But that response cannot begin or end in one state.
Every vote that Never Trumpers shave from Donald Trump’s re-election total with their advertising and frequent cameos on cable TV is good news. But after Trump is ousted, we can count on all or most of them returning to their previous gigs pushing the extremist agenda the Republicans have been crafting for the past 40-50 years, depending on how you count.
Jason Sattler at USA Today writes—What Never Trump Republicans deserve: The thanks of a grateful nation, and nothing more:
Key ”Never Trump” Republicans have figured out something obvious that eluded them in 2016: Stopping Donald Trump requires getting behind the one person who can finish the job — the Democratic nominee for president. They should be rewarded for this insight with the defeat of Donald Trump. And that’s it.
The Lincoln Project is made up of some of the right’s top political operatives and anti-Trump voices. They include George Conway, Steve Schmidt and Rick Wilson, who has nailed Trump’s reverse-Midas touch with the coinage “Everything Trump Touches Dies” — earning him, in turn, a couple of bestsellers and a lot of coin. Before he decided to turn fire on his party’s standard-bearer, the GOP strategist helped elect lots of Republicans and torched lots of Democrats, including Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, a triple-amputee Vietnam War veteran whom Wilson helped brand as soft on terror. [...]
Democrats should feel zero obligation to put a Never Trumper in the Cabinet or on any federal court. Maybe Wilson should get a Kennedy Center Honor for coming up with “Cheeto Jesus,” but that’s it.
No olive branch should be offered beyond a joint effort to reform the executive power that allowed a bunker inspector like Trump to veer the presidency so close to dictatorship. Any appeasement beyond that could be disastrous.
John Feffer at Responsible Statecraft writes—The descent of America:
[...] Donald Trump didn’t suddenly introduce racism into U.S. foreign policy. As I wrote back in January 2018, “Trump was only putting into words an underlying principle of U.S. foreign policy. For decades, the United States has treated countries like ‘shitholes’ even if policymakers haven’t called them such, at least not in public.” Racism is reflected in U.S. budget priorities, in the minuscule size of foreign aid programs, in the pattern of U.S. interventions, in the racial composition of the U.S. Army’s “essential workers” (otherwise known as grunts), and even in the Pentagon’s militarization of domestic policing. Trump certainly didn’t create any of these dynamics, though he has often aggravated them.
Still, the current president’s elevation of racism is not simply rhetorical. There is method to his mania.
Trump is using racism as a tool to destroy whatever lingering commitment the United States has to liberal internationalism. The latter philosophy inspired Americans to help create the United Nations, launch the Peace Corps, administer foreign aid programs, and collaborate with other countries to fight global warming. This liberal internationalism has always had its defects, from paternalism to naivete. But it’s a damn sight better than the illiberal nationalism that Trump offers as an alternative.
Trump’s deployment of racism at home and abroad cuts the legs out from under liberal internationalism. No other country can take America’s human rights rhetoric seriously. No other country can accept America’s claim to impartiality as a broker of peace deals, climate deals, any deals. First put your own house in order, they will say. [...]
Diallo Brooks at OtherWords writes—A Bittersweet Juneteenth. Our ancestors were emancipated on Juneteenth, but we're still fighting for true freedom in this country:
Over the past two weeks of national protests, I have heard some people decry our criminal justice system as broken. They’re right that the system is unjust, but it’s important to understand what black folks learn the hard way: The system wasn’t built to protect us, because anti-black racism is at the core of our country’s foundation.
Even during its ugliest and most violent expressions, in other words — even when our brethren are killed — our justice system has functioned exactly as it was intended.
For more than 400 years, black Americans have been targeted and murdered in cold blood simply for being black. In the 17th century, slaves and free black Americans alike were under constant surveillance to “detect, prevent, investigate, and prosecute black alleged misconduct,” according to a brief published by the American Constitution Society.
Following our ancestors’ freedom from bondage, anti-black surveillance was codified for nearly a century through a dizzying array of Jim Crow laws that criminalized our blackness, caused widespread poverty, and generally kept us “in our place.” [...]
These profound injustices have come to the fore during this moment of acute crisis.
Tara Lachapelle at Bloomberg writes—#MeToo Made Hollywood Better. So Can This National Movement:
If corporate America and Hollywood struggled in how to respond to #MeToo, race and racial bias have been even more difficult for them to navigate. And for the same reasons: a lack of diversity up top. The broad response to the recent protests continues to oscillate between encouraging and awkward. American businesses — from fast food and makeup, to retailers and streaming-video services — flooded Instagram last week with black squares in support of the protests (though those that used the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag unintentionally drowned out posts from protest organizers). They promised, vaguely, to help effect change, and in some cases are putting money behind that promise.
Some media companies are taking it a step further. On Wednesday, AT&T Inc.’s HBO Max removed the movie classic “Gone With the Wind” from its app because of the film’s racist depictions. ViacomCBS Inc.’s Paramount Network canceled “Cops,” a show that was entering its 33rd season and has been criticized for glorifying police while promoting racist stereotypes. It's a start.
But just like with #MeToo, this isn't about hiding away past bad behavior or troubling history in some dusty case under lock and key. It's about hiring and promoting more women, black people and others of color — and giving them a platform for expressing themselves.
Jhumpa Bhattacharya, Aisha Nyandoro and Anne Price at The Nation write—If Black Lives Matter, the ‘Welfare Queen’ Myth Must Go:
Breonna Taylor and Atatiana Jefferson were both killed by the police while inside their homes for the crime of being a black woman in America. Police officers in Oakland, Calif. chose to storm into a home with riot gear and guns drawn where unhoused black mothers from Moms4Housing were providing shelter for their children in the cold winter months.
While there is less national attention paid to black women, police brutality and state-sponsored violence against black women is long-standing and pervasive.
Why do government decision-makers and police officers respond to black women with violence and indifference? Because the ever-pervasive welfare queen myth has taught us to devalue the lives and humanity of black women, making them expendable and not fully human. The term, introduced in the 1970s by Ronald Reagan, refers to women who allegedly misuse or collect excessive welfare payments. Thanks to decades of dog-whistle politics, the term has become synonymous with being black and female in America. That is the uncomfortable truth we have to grapple with.
Along with fueling ever growing inequality on racial and gender lines, the welfare queen myth is literally killing black women at the hands of our nation’s government. [...]
Black women never recovered from the Great Recession, and if we don’t change course and embark on a campaign to eradicate this narrative, the aftermath of the pandemic will be far worse. If we truly want to build an economic and political system in which black life is valued, we must finally delete the welfare queen out of existence.
The editorial board of The Washington Post concludes—Trump is spreading a dangerous conspiracy theory about antifa:
PRESIDENT TRUMP spread a deranged and dangerous conspiracy theory this week when he accused a 75-year-old man pushed to the ground by police in Buffalo of faking the force of his fall — as well as attempting to “scan” the cops. The man, claimed the president, was “antifa,” a member of a militant activist network known for violent tactics.
This allegation was entirely baseless, a shameful smear of a victim of state violence. It was also part of a pattern. The White House, with the help of Attorney General William P. Barr, is inventing a domestic terror threat from whole cloth, blaming the loose, left-wing anti-fascist, or antifa, movement for the unrest roiling the country these past weeks. The only thing that’s missing is the evidence.
Certainly, much of the property destruction and looting that has accompanied these mass demonstrations against racism have come from people with outside agendas, some political and some merely opportunistic. And certainly, antifa has smashed plenty of windows in recent years — on Inauguration Day in Washington, for example, or in Charlottesville, or at the University of California at Berkeley. Finally, it is certainly possible that individuals making mayhem at protests sympathize with antifa, or even consider themselves antifa affiliates.
Yet experts point out that disrupting demonstrations in general alignment with antifa’s goal of dismantling white supremacy is hardly the group’s ideological bailiwick. They’ve also pointed out that the group isn’t much of a group at all: that antifa is too diffuse and too small to mount a coordinated co-option campaign.
Will Bunch at The Philadelphia Inquirer writes—Why it took a police killing, and not a dictatorial president, to finally fill America’s streets:
The remarkable images that came out of Washington, D.C. this weekend were, in some ways, a near-fulfillment of the political fantasies of the large but loosely aligned group called “the Resistance” that had literally started forming in the pre-dawn hours of November 9, 2016 — vowing to protest, impede and eventually end the presidency of Donald Trump by virtually any means necessary.
Now, nearly 41 months into Trump’s term, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue appeared under siege, literally surrounded by tens of thousands of chanting, occasionally singing protesters. In response, the 45th president has surrounded his palace with a new insurmountable fence, and had even famously retreated to the White House bunker for a short time, in fear of the crowd. On the surface, it looked very much like what one clique on the left — the faction that has protested Trump’s unfitness from 2017′s Women’s March straight through his impeachment trial this year — had prayed for, a Hong Kong-style protest aimed at bringing an end to Trumpism.
Except there was just one thing — the hordes out in the streets of D.C. (and literally hundreds of other U.S. cities and towns) this weekend weren’t there to protest Trump, not really. The much deeper issues of systemic racism in America, enforced by violent policing and illustrated by the killing of one man, George Floyd, on a Minneapolis street corner, brought out thousands of Millennials/Gen Z’ers and people of color who’d once viewed the Trump “resistance” as more their mom’s fight.
Nancy LeTourneau at The Washington Monthly writes—What Republicans Really Mean When They Talk About “Law and Order”:
It is worth remembering what Donald Trump said about law enforcement during his speech at the 2016 Republican convention.
An attack on law enforcement is an attack on all Americans. I have a message to every last person threatening the peace on our streets and the safety of our police: when I take the oath of office next year, I will restore law and order our country.
I will work with, and appoint, the best prosecutors and law enforcement officials in the country to get the job done. In this race for the White House, I am the Law And Order candidate.
For a party that vacillated between being post-truth and post-policy, the mantra of “law and order” has always served as a dog whistle to the racists in their ranks, which effectively rallied the troops when Trump promised to crack down on “those people.”
The president is now deluding himself about garnering support from people of color by planning to give a speech on race relations in America. But reports suggest that his favorite white supremacist—Stephen Miller—will write the speech. That is most likely a recipe for disaster.