CNN | 2/22/2019 | Listen

'So over the top'

Updated 9:39 AM ET, Sun February 10, 2019

Editor's Note: Sign up to get our new weekly column as a newsletter. We're looking back at the strongest, smartest opinion takes of the week from CNN and other outlets.

(CNN) - Naked selfies or no naked selfies, Jeff Bezos is not going to be blackmailed or extorted by anybody. That's what Bezos, the Amazon founder and owner of The Washington Post, told David Pecker, publisher of the National Enquirer, in a blog post on Medium that had a lot of people making the wide-eyed emoji face Thursday.

But Peggy Drexler wrote that the Enquirer and its parent company, American Media Inc., miscalculated if they thought the world's richest man would cave to what he said were threats to publish incriminating photos and texts from an extramarital affair. People today don't care so much if you show your privates in private texts, she observed. "Much more memorable than a lewd photo: a man who does not let himself be a victim."

Former federal prosecutor Elie Honig wrote that it was a close call whether this is a criminal extortion case, though it would likely meet the legal standard required to bring charges. "AMI's alleged conduct here was so over the top, so distasteful, that I'd be confident I could sway a jury that it crossed the line from aggressive business tactics and into criminal extortion," Honig wrote.

Frida Ghitis noted that the "solar system circling the President ... magnifies the cringe factor in Trump's defense of the Saudis." It's unclear what Bezos meant in his Medium post when he mentioned "the 'Saudi angle' that apparently alarmed" David Pecker. "A Saudi envoy said the kingdom was not involved in the dispute between Bezos and AMI. Regardless, AMI's actions echo both the tone and tactics of the underworld feel of the Trump administration. That alone suggests we're nowhere near the end of this story."

(AMI responded to the Bezos allegations Friday, stating that it "believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos," but that "the Board has convened and determined that it should promptly and thoroughly investigate the claims.")

Trump's biggest nightmare isn't Mueller

In his weekly "Cross-exam" column, Honig called the Southern District of New York -- which "dropped an incendiary subpoena" on President Donald Trump's inaugural committee -- "particularly bad news for Trump." Unlike Robert Mueller's probe, "the SDNY isn't going anywhere and can take whatever time it needs." Honig is answering reader questions on probe-related things.

Throw that out

Marie Kondo's tidying show on Netflix debuted New Year's Day, launching a nationwide housecleaning. But Jennifer Le Zotte noted that Kondo's let-it-go credo ignores clutter's evil American twin: consumerism. Purging just makes room for new stuff—and big, fat American houses are just the boxes to put it in. Knock yourself out, Marie Kondo, "America's long-standing love affair with hyper-consumption cannot be so easily undone."

What do readers think about the Kondo craze? We asked; you answered: "It took awhile to really get at the joy thing but when it finally smacked me in the face I was able to see the negative emotional baggage attached to a lot of things I supposedly valued,'" wrote Mer Frazer of Schwenksville, Pennsylvania. "There's nothing wrong with having a lived-in house that doesn't look like a dental office," wrote Rick R. Vagnini of Paso Robles, California. Read all the responses here.

Did Trump pull a switcheroo?

Trump delivered his second State of the Union address Tuesday, and 15 CNN contributors weighed in on how it went, including:

Ana Navarro: "If you had been in a coma for the last three years, and suddenly awoke in time to hear just the opening minutes and closing minutes, you would think Trump was a unifying, bipartisan, gracious leader." The middle part? Hardly.

Roxanne Jones: His warnings about immigrant "caravans" and self-praise for criminal justice reform were infuriating. "In Trump's fantasy world, white men are the heroes."

Tara Setmayer: Trump's nods to his gallery guests -- including a Holocaust survivor, a young cancer survivor and a boy who'd been bullied -- were "touching, powerful moments ... refreshing to see, even if it was only for a few minutes."

And SE Cupp applauded the President's apparent magnanimity when his comment about more women in the workforce brought female Democratic lawmakers, clad in white, to their feet. Does he understand, she wondered, that it "is because of them, the women he gamely congratulated, that he will now face oversight and investigations into accusations of corruption ... and that he will likely face continued obstacles to advancing his agenda?"

Pelosi's thunderclap

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- dressed in white, just over Trump's left shoulder during the State of the Union -- would make a lousy poker player, wrote communications experts Juliana Silva and Bill McGowan. "She grimaced, she rolled her eyes, she muttered under her breath," and then she did something to send Twitter round the bend. She rose (smiling? smirking?) to stretch her arms in a (sarcastic?) "clap back" at the President after he called for the rejection of "the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution."

It had "the distinct vibe of a parent applauding a kindergartner for tying his shoes," wrote Monica Hesse in The Washington Post.

It was a viral meme by Wednesday morning.

And Pelosi's daughter Christine Pelosi tweeted that she recognized that look -- from childhood: "She knows. And she knows that you know. And frankly she's disappointed that you thought this would work."

Blackface

Two of Virginia's top three officials, Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring, have admitted wearing blackface (they apologized), and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax has been accused of sexual assault (he denies it). All are Democrats. Setting aside the surreal succession disaster for Democrats ("Either a morally compromised governor will be in charge, or the [Republican] legislature will execute a kind of partisan coup," marveled David Leonhardt in The New York Times), the nation was once again struggling with the awful stain of racism.

None of this surprised Lisa Woolfork, who saw only the resurfacing of "subtle and overt white supremacist values, enabled by white racial illiteracy." But Herring's self-aware apology could "model a way forward for other white people to truth, healing and reconciliation with their harmful past."

Ivanka Trump, is that you?

A performance art piece with an Ivanka Trump look-alike vacuuming a carpet in spike heels and a pink bell-sleeved dress drew a sniffy response from the first daughter. "Women can choose to knock each other down or build each other up. I choose the latter," she tweeted. That's rich, wrote art critic Paddy Johnson. Still, she saw "trite" and obvious symbolism and "a whiff of hypocrisy" in artist Jennifer Rubell's project. It's "armchair moralizing" Johnson wrote, of the kind we've been hearing from "millionaires over the last two years." Give it fewer platforms.

'DJT sure likes his ET'

Axios published a leaked trove of Donald Trump's personal schedules that seem to show that the President spends an awful lot of his workday in "executive time," doing ... who knows what? "On one level this is disconcerting," Michael D'Antonio wrote. "Shouldn't he be paying more attention to the job? But on the other hand, it may be a good thing that he's not fully engaged...Imagine the problems he could create if he really applied himself."

Zac Efron gets the face of evil exactly right

If we're disturbed at being reminded that serial killer Ted Bundy was good-looking -- by Zac Efron's performance in the upcoming movie "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile" -- we're completely missing the point, wrote Holly Thomas, of what constitutes evil. She explains.

A ghost story for Trump

Historian Joseph J. Ellis has a story for the President: "There were two ghosts hovering over the 55 delegates at the Constitutional Convention during the summer of 1787." The ghosts? Slavery and monarchy.

She's 97. She's a fashion model

Iris Apfel, the peacock style icon with the dinner-plate glasses, recently signed with the renowned IMG agency. She is inspiring people whose identities fall outside of the mainstream -- such as Ariel Henley, who grew up with Crouzon syndrome, a condition where the bones in the head don't grow. Apfel's embrace of both her beauty and her age "makes me excited for a future with even more diverse representation of beauty," Henley wrote. She "gives me hope that I will one day see someone like me featured in ads or modeling clothes on a runway."

Sign up to get this weekly column as a newsletter.


© 2018 Cable News Network. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Listen to CNN (low-bandwidth usage)

Go to the full CNN experience