Sep 26 2019

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.

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Elizabeth HoltzmanI Voted to Impeach Nixon. I’d Do the Same for Trump.

The Ukraine scandal has a lot of similarities to Watergate.

For those of us who were there during Watergate, the Ukraine scandal is beginning to sound like an echo chamber.

Multiple reports say that President Trump used his office to press Ukraine’s president to investigate Joe Biden and provide damaging information about him, though there is no evidence of wrongdoing on Mr. Biden’s part. This was a bid to affect the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, just as the Democratic National Committee headquarters break-in at the Watergate complex aimed to affect the 1972 presidential election.

Mr. Trump’s reported actions would amount to a Nixonian misuse of presidential power that threatens our democracy and constitutes high crime and misdemeanor. The Constitution is clear: A president who uses presidential powers for purely personal and political reasons, as Mr. Trump appears to have done, commits an impeachable offense. [..]

As the legal commentator Benjamin Wittes noted last week on the website Lawfare, in addition to constituting abuse of power, pressuring Ukraine to investigate Mr. Biden and his son for political purposes violates their civil liberties. That also recalls Watergate, because Mr. Nixon violated the civil liberties of Daniel Ellsberg, who was being prosecuted for leaking the Pentagon Papers. Among the grounds for Nixon’s impeachment was his involvement in breaking into Mr. Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office, seeking information to smear him.

Like Mr. Nixon’s, Mr. Trump’s reported actions demand impeachment — the one remedy to protect the rule of law, the rights of Americans and the integrity of our elections from a president bent on violating them. The framers created the impeachment power to safeguard democracy. It is Congress’s urgent responsibility to use it now.

Neal K. Katyak: Trump Doesn’t Need to Commit a Crime to Be Kicked Out of Office

The Constitution is clear that the standard for an impeachable offense is political, not criminal.

An important line of defense for President Trump against the House decision to formalize impeachment proceedings is that he did not commit a crime. In this view, asking a foreign government to investigate your chief political rival is not a “thing of value” for purposes of campaign finance statutes, meaning that there was technically no violation of federal criminal law.

But the potential criminality of the president’s conduct is not the full picture. Our founders deliberately drafted the Constitution’s impeachment clause to ensure the potential grounds for impeachment would cover more than criminal activity.

The White House memo summarizing the president’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s new president (it’s not really a transcript) contains devastating facts. It shows that the president of Ukraine asked President Trump for help buying Javelins (an antitank weapon system) and that Mr. Trump’s next words were, “I would like you to do a favor, though,” after which he requested information about CrowdStrike (an American cybersecurity firm) and his leading 2020 opponent, Joe Biden.

That is brazen conduct — and it took place the day after Robert Mueller testified in Congress, perhaps when Mr. Trump felt liberated from the shadow of the Russia investigation. It shows the president trying to outsource his political opposition research to a foreign government in exchange for enabling the purchase of weapons from the United States. Even Richard Nixon, who knew a thing or two about opposition research, never thought to outsource the Watergate break-in to a foreign government.

Charles M. Blow: It Has Begun

An impeachment inquiry is nothing to celebrate. Still, it is evidence of what’s right being put ahead of what’s expedient.

It is truly wondrous and arresting to see the Constitution in action, to see its ultimate tool — impeachment — employed, to see this mechanism that the drafters of the document must have considered an 11th-hour alternative be called up out of necessity.

It is not a thing to be celebrated. It is a thing to be soberly considered. It is a sign that the character and behavior of the target — in this case the president — is being searched for deficiency (in this case already demonstrated) and the American electorate has been betrayed.

This is a funeral; it is not festive.

Still, it is awe-inspiring and reaffirming to see politicians put what is right above that which might be risky, to stand on principal in an area consumed by political expediency.

This step, whatever may flow from it, reinforced the public’s faith that the rich and powerful can, too, be subject to the law, that fairness and justice are still principles of primacy in this land.

Donald Trump has demonstrated on multiple fronts a contempt for his office and his oath, as well as the rule of law and the Constitution itself.

He has operated in a way that betrays an internal sensibility that he can and will live outside the rules and above the law. But, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi put it, “No one is above the law.”


Jamelle Bouie: Trump Has Just One Plan for Victory

To get re-elected, he will stop at nothing. That’s why impeachment is crucial.

It took a remarkable number of unlikely occurrences to make Donald Trump president.

In Hillary Clinton he had a distinctly unpopular opponent who, like him, divided the electorate along starkly partisan lines. She was undermined by a foreign government that stole and released damaging information on her campaign, as well as a federal investigation that tied her to scandal with regular updates and revelations. Clinton also faced — and Trump had the advantage of — news media that couldn’t distinguish between ordinary, if unseemly, political misconduct and truly extraordinary transgressions.

All of this — including third-party candidates who split the anti-Trump vote, a Clinton campaign that didn’t compete for vital constituencies, and the president’s own campaign of innuendo and racist demagogy — was just enough to win him a slim victory in the Electoral College. And while Trump still brags about his “historic victory,” he is clearly aware of the unique conditions that drove his unlikely win. It’s why he has devoted the past year to trying to recreate them.

The emerging Ukraine scandal is a case in point. Thanks to a whistle-blower in the intelligence community as well as reporting from investigative journalists at multiple newspapers (including this one), we have enough evidence to think that Trump used hundreds of millions in congressionally authorized military aid to try to extort the Ukrainian government into investigating Hunter Biden’s business activities in the country, as well as Joe Biden’s alleged efforts to protect his son from prosecution.

Max Boot: Come on, NFL. Just give Kaepernick the damn ball.

Another NFL season is in full swing. A few players are still kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality, but the controversy has receded from the headlines — and from President Trump’s Twitter feed. The NFL has even reached a settlement — reported by the New York Times to be worth “considerably less than $10 million” — with quarterback Colin Kaepernick and safety Eric Reid, two former teammates on the San Francisco 49ers who claimed they were blackballed by the league for kneeling.

Reid is back in the league as the starting safety for the Carolina Panthers. Not Kaepernick. He is reported to be working out three hours a day starting at 5 a.m. and to be “literally in the best shape of his life.” He even trained this summer with star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. of the Cleveland Browns. His agent is reaching out to teams to get him a tryout — but apparently hasn’t gotten a single positive response.

This makes no football sense. Granted, Kaepernick hasn’t played since Jan. 1, 2017, but he’s only 31 years old — a decade younger than the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady — and all that inactivity means he’s a lot fresher than other players his age. Kaepernick played six years for the 49ers, leading them to two conference championship games and one Super Bowl. He threw 72 touchdowns to 30 interceptions. And his skills as both a runner and passer would seem to be a perfect fit for today’s NFL, which features mobile quarterbacks such as Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens. (I still have traumatic memories of Kaepernick running for three touchdowns and passing for two more in 2010 to lead the University of Nevada Wolfpack over my California Golden Bears.) [..]

But while NFL fans might be Democrats, the NFL’s wealthy owners are primarily Republicans. Nine NFL owners collectively donated $8.9 million to Trump’s inaugural and campaign committees. One of them — Jets owner Woody Johnson — is now ambassador to Britain. Even though Trump has said that Kaepernick should get another shot — “if he’s good enough” — he could easily reverse himself and blast Kaepernick if he should take the field, especially if he kneels again. NFL owners appear to be putting fealty to Trump — or at least fear of Trump — over the needs of their teams. To paraphrase another outspoken NFL player, just give Kap the damn ball.