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May 19 2017

Pondering the Pundits

“Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

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Paul Krugman: What’s the Matter With Republicans?

On Wednesday, Paul Ryan held a press conference just after the revelation that Donald Trump had pushed James Comey to kill the investigation into Michael Flynn — you know, the guy Trump appointed as national security adviser even though his team knew that Flynn’s highly suspicious foreign ties were under investigation.

Faced with questions about the Flynn scandal and the Comey firing, Ryan waved them away: “I don’t worry about things that are outside my control.”

This might sound like a reasonable philosophy — unless you realize that Ryan is speaker of the House of Representatives, a legislative body with the power to issue subpoenas, compel testimony and, yes, impeach the president. In fact, under the Constitution, Ryan and his congressional colleagues are effectively the only check on a rogue chief executive.

It has become painfully clear, however, that Republicans have no intention of exercising any real oversight over a president who is obviously emotionally unstable, seems to have cognitive issues and is doing a very good imitation of being an agent of a hostile foreign power.

Jill Abramson: Trump is a president gripped by delusions of absolute power

“I have the absolute right” to share classified information with Russia. So tweeted the United States president in defence of having spilled national security secrets to the Russians. Note that well, and put the emphasis on the word absolute, because the president’s use of the word shows that he lacks any understanding of the US constitution.

America’s founding fathers were deathly afraid of centralised, absolute power. This is why the government they structured had three equal branches, and plenty of checks and balances. And the first amendment is first for a reason. Freedom of the press is guaranteed because the founders envisaged the press as a bulwark against absolute power. This goes to the heart of who we are, and what we might become.

This is American law for dummies, but Trump gives no indication of knowing its basic tenets. Fundamentals bear repeating. No one in the United States has absolute power or an absolute right to do anything that violates the constitution. But apparent violations seem to be occurring almost daily.

Lawrence Douglas: Impeachment seemed impossible a few days ago. Not anymore

The “presumption of regularity”. It is a term largely unfamiliar to those outside legal or governmental circles but one that all Americans should now learn. Born of centuries-old common law, the presumption stands for the idea that government officials are presumed to act lawfully and in proper discharge their office – absent evidence to the contrary.

Every elected and appointed official enjoys this presumption. It is not easily squandered. It is meant to withstand errors in judgment and lapses in leadership. What it does not indulge is a clear pattern of abuse. Once the presumption collapses, the official is no longer fit for office.

This is the position that Donald Trump now finds himself in. What took Richard Nixon more than five years Trump has managed to accomplish in the narrow compass of four months. He has confirmed the worst fears of those who questioned his fitness for office. All the same, 10 days ago, his staunchest critics might have called Trump a national disaster but essentially unimpeachable. Now it seems like just a matter of time before he is removed from office.

Eugene Robinson: Trump thinks he’s under attack. That’s very dangerous.

President Trump believes he is being persecuted, and that is a frighteningly dangerous mind-set for a man with such vast power.

Amid a week of dizzying developments on multiple fronts, Trump gave a graduation speech Wednesday at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy portraying himself as a victim, unfairly besieged by those who would destroy him.

“No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly,” Trump said. That is an absurd claim that cannot be taken seriously, of course, but it does give a sense of how the president feels about the scrutiny he faces.

Hours later, the Justice Department announced that former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III had been named as special counsel to investigate Russian meddling in the election and any possible collusion by persons connected with the Trump campaign. To my great surprise, the White House issued a statement that can only be described as calm, measured and appropriate.

Evan Greer: Chelsea Manning’s release is the inspiring proof: nothing is impossible

Yesterday morning, Chelsea Manning walked out of military prison a free woman.

I’d be lying if I said that I always thought this day would come. Over the last few years that I’ve been one of Chelsea’s close friends and supporters, there were many times that I had lost hope. I’m ashamed to admit that during some of our phone conversations, I would feign optimism in an attempt to raise Chelsea’s spirits, while quietly despairing that she wouldn’t survive.

But Chelsea did survive. And in the process she taught me – and the world – a valuable lesson.

Tyranny thrives on our collective self-doubt. Authoritarianism is built on the contagious idea that there is nothing that we can do to challenge it. Oppression lives in our cynicism and in the times when we do nothing – out of fear that if we do something our actions will be in vain.

Even in the darkest moments – after two suicide attempts, and years of brutal incarceration in conditions that the United Nations condemned as torture – Chelsea held on to a special brand of realistic optimism that infected her supporters, and kept us fighting for her, even when it felt like the odds were insurmountable.

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