Thomas B. Edsall | Why Conspiracy Theories Flourish in Trump’s America – The New York Times

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C., on politics, demographics and inequality.

“Whether he is out of power or in office, Donald Trump deploys conspiracy theory as a political mobilizing tool designed to capture anger at the liberal establishment, to legitimize racial resentment and to unite voters who feel oppressed by what they see as a dominant socially progressive culture.

The success of this strategy is demonstrated by the astonishing number of Republicans — a decisive majority, according to a recent Economist/YouGov survey — who say that they believe that the Democratic Party and its elected officials conspired to steal the 2020 election. This is a certifiable conspiracy theory, defined as a belief in “a secret arrangement by a group of powerful people to usurp political or economic power, violate established rights, hoard vital secrets, or unlawfully alter government institutions.”

Not only do something like 71 percent of Republicans — roughly 52 million voters, according to a University of Massachusetts Amherst poll released on Jan. 6, 2022 — claim to believe that Donald Trump won the 2020 election despite indisputable evidence to the contrary, but the Republican Party has committed itself unequivocally and relentlessly to promoting this false claim.”

Jack Goldsmith | Prosecute Trump? Put Yourself in Merrick Garland’s Shoes – The New York Times

Mr. Goldsmith served in the George W. Bush administration as an assistant attorney general, office of legal counsel, and as special counsel to the general counsel of the Department of Defense.

“The evidence gathered by the Jan. 6 committee and in some of the federal cases against those involved in the Capitol attack pose for Attorney General Merrick Garland one of the most consequential questions that any attorney general has ever faced: Should the United States indict former President Donald Trump?

The basic allegations against Mr. Trump are well known. In disregard of advice by many of his closest aides, including Attorney General William Barr, he falsely claimed that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent and stolen; he pressured Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to count certified electoral votes for Joe Biden during the electoral count in Congress on Jan. 6; and he riled up a mob, directed it to the Capitol and refused for a time to take steps to stop the ensuing violence.

To indict Mr. Trump for these and other acts, Mr. Garland must make three decisions, each more difficult than the previous, and none of which has an obvious answer.”

Neal K. Katyal | The Future Criminal Case Against Donald Trump – The New York Times

Mr. Katyal is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, was an acting solicitor general in the Obama administration and is a co-author of “Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump.”

“Congress and the Justice Department now find themselves in a complex dance, set to the tempo of the Jan. 6 hearings. The House select committee has already uncovered evidence suggesting that former President Donald Trump committed serious federal crimes.

Congress cannot bring criminal charges; the Justice Department must do so. And critics of the department are asking why it does not appear to be investigating these allegations. The hearings point to a potential answer: The committee is laying a foundation upon which prosecutors can build in a subsequent investigation.

And a subsequent investigation is virtually inevitable, given the evidence generated by the committee. How could Attorney General Merrick Garland ignore the facts the American people are now learning about?”

Should Biden Run in 2024? Democratic Whispers of ‘No’ Start to Rise. – The New York Times

“Midway through the 2022 primary season, many Democratic lawmakers and party officials are venting their frustrations with President Biden’s struggle to advance the bulk of his agenda, doubting his ability to rescue the party from a predicted midterm trouncing and increasingly viewing him as an anchor that should be cut loose in 2024.

As the challenges facing the nation mount and fatigued base voters show low enthusiasm, Democrats in union meetings, the back rooms of Capitol Hill and party gatherings from coast to coast are quietly worrying about Mr. Biden’s leadership, his age and his capability to take the fight to former President Donald J. Trump a second time.

Interviews with nearly 50 Democratic officials, from county leaders to members of Congress, as well as with disappointed voters who backed Mr. Biden in 2020, reveal a party alarmed about Republicans’ rising strength and extraordinarily pessimistic about an immediate path forward.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
I’m still in Biden’s court, though he pissed me off when he didn’t pass the Infrastructure Bill immediately, and caved to the left wing of his party, which I blame for most of our self-inflicted wounds. Sanders would lose in a landslide in the electoral college. When Nate Cohn puts together his amalgam of national polls, we will know who is hot and who is not, in the six swing states, that will determine the electoral college outcome. It would be great if Buttigieg could win them all. I I’ll bet you a penny, it remains Biden as our best chance. If Ukraine runs out of ammunition, which is happening now, and falls, all bets are off.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” and blogs at InconvenientNews.net.

Michelle Cottle | Jan. 6 Committee Hearing: Heroes and Villains – The New York Times

Ms. Cottle is a member of the editorial board.

“It turns out that not even Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka bought into the former president’s toxic fantasies about the 2020 election having been stolen from him. She came to understand pretty quickly after the election that there was no evidence of a plot by Democrats, accepting the assessment of Bill Barr, Mr. Trump’s attorney general at the time, that the game had not been rigged. Mr. Trump had lost, and all the wild claims to the contrary, as Mr. Barr says he told Mr. Trump, were “bullshit.”

Snippets from Ms. Trump’s and Mr. Barr’s recorded testimonies were among the many engrossing bits of evidence to emerge Thursday evening during the Jan. 6 House committee’s first public hearing. The grainy video clips somehow fit the somber mood of the proceedings and fueled the sense that dark dealings were at last coming to the light for inspection by the American people.

It is a heavy lift to get people to pay attention to a story that they think they already know — and that many have grown exhausted hearing about. And Democrats, bless their hearts, are often lousy storytellers, too focused on dry data or policy rhetoric or high-minded ideological ideals to weave a strong narrative or make a gut-level connection.

But in their opening argument to the American people, the Democrat-dominated Jan. 6 committee presented a story that was both informative and resonant — by turns heartbreaking, hair-raising and infuriating. Fact by fact, clip by clip, the committee laid out the contours of its case that the president of the United States spearheaded a monthslong, multifaceted effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election, culminating in the violent attack on the Capitol. More details will come in later hearings. But the committee’s Republican vice chairwoman, Liz Cheney, captured the crux of the story in her opening remarks: “President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack.”

Frank Bruni | Liz Cheney Will Not Tolerate Trump’s Lies – The New York Times

Contributing Opinion Writer

“I keep waiting for Liz Cheney to flinch.

I keep looking for some sign that her nerve is faltering, that the attacks are getting to her and that the loneliness of her situation — unconditionally contemptuous of Donald Trump, emphatically committed to a Republican Party beyond him — has become unbearable.

But no. She’s all in and she’s all steel. It could well be the political death of her. Or it could give her a kind of immortality more meaningful than any office.

Cheney, who represents Wyoming in the House, is front and center this week, with a starring role as the vice chair of the House committee whose investigation into the Jan. 6 riot has reached a dramatic culmination in prime-time television hearings. She’s one of just two Republicans on the nine-member panel.

But while the other, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, isn’t running for re-election, Cheney is in the middle of a furiously contested primary battle against a prominent Wyoming Republican official who has welded herself to Trump. Just two weeks ago, Trump traveled to the deep red state, which he won by more than 40 percentage points in 2020, to command his supporters to oust Cheney when they vote on Aug. 16. He said that she had “thrown in her lot with the radical left.”

Opinion | President Biden: What America Will and Will Not Do in Ukraine – The New York Times

Mr. Biden is president of the United States.

“The invasion Vladimir Putin thought would last days is now in its fourth month. The Ukrainian people surprised Russia and inspired the world with their sacrifice, grit and battlefield success. The free world and many other nations, led by the United States, rallied to Ukraine’s side with unprecedented military, humanitarian and financial support.

As the war goes on, I want to be clear about the aims of the United States in these efforts.

America’s goal is straightforward: We want to see a democratic, independent, sovereign and prosperous Ukraine with the means to deter and defend itself against further aggression.

As President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has said, ultimately this war “will only definitively end through diplomacy.” Every negotiation reflects the facts on the ground. We have moved quickly to send Ukraine a significant amount of weaponry and ammunition so it can fight on the battlefield and be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table.

That’s why I’ve decided that we will provide the Ukrainians with more advanced rocket systems and munitions that will enable them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you Joe Biden, and bless you. I agreed to recommend many of the top accolade comments. But I want more. I would have preferred a sentence about how important our NATO allies are, and how they were not all reluctant partners. I would like to see NATO and the US lift the blockade of Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea and the Sea of Asimov, even if that means removing the Russian navy from those bodies of water. While most of us agree, we want Ukraine to be able to win this war, some of us also want to do it soon enough, so there is something left of the Ukraine when they do finally expel the Russians.
David Lindsay Jr is the author of “the Tay Son Rebellion,” historical fiction about war in18th century Vietnam, and blogs at InconvenientNews.Net.

Bret Stephens | On Taiwan, Biden Should Find His Inner Truman – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“The White House insists that President Biden did not break with longstanding policy when, at a news conference in Tokyo on Monday with the prime minister of Japan, he flatly answered “yes” to the question, “Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?”

Don’t believe the diplomatic spin that there’s nothing to see here. Don’t believe, either, that the president didn’t know what he was doing. What Biden said is dramatic — as well as prudent, necessary and strategically astute. He is demonstrating a sense of history, a sense of the moment and a sense that, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, new rules apply.

American policy toward Taiwan for the past 43 years has been chiefly governed by two core, if somewhat ambiguous, agreements. The first, the One China policy, which Biden reaffirmed in Tokyo, is the basis for Washington’s diplomatic recognition of Beijing as the sole legal government of China.

The second, the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, is the basis for our continued ties to Taiwan as a self-governing entity. But unlike the treaties the U.S. maintains with Japan and South Korea, the act does not oblige American forces to come to the island’s defense in the event of an attack — only that we will provide Taiwan with the weapons it needs to defend itself.

Former presidents, including Donald Trump, have hinted that the United States would fight for Taiwan but have otherwise remained studiedly vague on the question. That may have once served Washington’s strategic purposes, at least when relations with Beijing were warming or stable.

But Xi Jinping has changed the rules of the game.”

Thomas L. Friedman | My Lunch With President Biden – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“President Biden invited me for lunch at the White House last Monday. But it was all off the record — so I can’t tell you anything he said.

I can, though, tell you two things — what I ate and how I felt after. I ate a tuna salad sandwich with tomato on whole wheat bread, with a bowl of mixed fruit and a chocolate milkshake for dessert that was so good it should have been against the law.

What I felt afterward was this: For all you knuckleheads on Fox who say that Biden can’t put two sentences together, here’s a news flash: He just put NATO together, Europe together and the whole Western alliance together — stretching from Canada up to Finland and all the way to Japan — to help Ukraine protect its fledgling democracy from Vladimir Putin’s fascist assault.

In doing so, he has enabled Ukraine to inflict significant losses on Russia’s invading army, thanks to a rapid deployment of U.S. and NATO trainers and massive transfers of precision weapons. And not a single American soldier was lost.

It has been the best performance of alliance management and consolidation since another president whom I covered and admired — who also was said to be incapable of putting two sentences together: George H.W. Bush. Bush helped manage the collapse of the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany, without firing a shot or the loss of a single American life.

Alas, though, I left our lunch with a full stomach but a heavy heart.

Biden didn’t say it in so many words, but he didn’t have to. I could hear it between the lines: He’s worried that while he has reunited the West, he may not be able to reunite America.

It’s clearly his priority, above any Build Back Better provision. And he knows that’s why he was elected — a majority of Americans worried that the country was coming apart at the seams and that this old war horse called Biden, with his bipartisan instincts, was the best person to knit us back together. It’s the reason he decided to run in the first place, because he knows that without some basic unity of purpose and willingness to compromise, nothing else is possible.

But with every passing day, every mass shooting, every racist dog whistle, every defund-the-police initiative, every nation-sundering Supreme Court ruling, every speaker run off a campus, every bogus claim of election fraud, I wonder if he can bring us back together. I wonder if it’s too late.

I fear that we’re going to break something very valuable very soon. And once we break it, it will be gone — and we may never be able to get it back.

I am talking about our ability to transfer power peacefully and legitimately, an ability we have demonstrated since our founding. The peaceful, legitimate transfer of power is the keystone of American democracy. Break it, and none of our institutions will work for long, and we will be thrust into political and financial chaos.”

Elon Musk Would Reverse Twitter’s Ban on Trump – The New York Times

“Elon Musk said on Tuesday that he would “reverse the permanent ban” of former President Donald J. Trump on Twitter and let him back on the social network, in one of the first specific comments by Mr. Musk, the world’s richest man, of how he would change the social media service.

Mr. Musk, who struck a deal last month to buy Twitter for $44 billion, said at a Financial Times conference that the company’s decision to bar Mr. Trump last year for tweets about the riots at the U.S. Capitol was “a mistake because it alienated a large part of the country and did not ultimately result in Donald Trump not having a voice.” He added that it was “morally wrong and flat-out stupid” and that “permanent bans just fundamentally undermine trust in Twitter.” “

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Elon Musk does not understand the damage that unregulated social media has on democracy, through the promotion of fake news and fake facts and conspiracy theories. My partner and I have been saving our money to buy a Tesla, probably in the next year or two. If Musk undoes the small progress that Twitter has made to be socially and politically responsible, including the banning of Trump, we will not be buying that Tesla, but one of its competitors, which are now coming out every month. We owe a great debt to Elon Musk for creating or accelerating the electric car market, but that does not mean we can look past his repulsive insensitivity to the threats, including Donald Trump, that endanger democracies here and abroad.
David writes about the climate crises here in comments, and at his blog, InconvenientNews.net