Sep 27 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.

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

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Paul Krugman: Impeaching Trump Is Good for the Economy

It will slow down the administration’s war on competence.

If there’s one thing the tweeter in chief believes, it is that what’s good for Donald Trump is good for America. A little over a month ago (although it seems like much longer) he told a rally that “you have no choice but to vote for me,” because his electoral defeat would lead to a market crash.

But a funny thing has happened over the course of Trump’s latest terrible, horrible, very bad, no good two weeks. Suddenly, impeachment (though not removal from office) has gone from highly unlikely to highly likely. In fact, given the explosive nature of the now-revealed whistle-blower complaint, I don’t really understand how he can not be impeached.

And the financial markets have basically shrugged.

On the surface, this may seem strange. After all, whatever the eventual outcome of the surging prospect of impeachment, the immediate effect is surely to cripple the Trump administration’s ability to pursue its legislative agenda. Why doesn’t this worry investors?

The answer is, “What legislative agenda?” [..]

To be fair, legislation isn’t the only way presidents can make policy, and the prospect of impeachment will probably exert a chilling effect on Trump’s ability to pursue policy through executive fiat. But here’s the thing: Since most of what Trump is trying to do is bad for America, whatever paralysis impeachment may induce is all to the good.

For Trump has, in effect, been waging a war on competence.

Eugene Robinson: Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead on impeachment. 

The impeachment of President Trump need not be a long, drawn-out affair. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) could bring articles of impeachment to the floor of the House within weeks — or she could leave the president twisting slowly in the wind. Her call.

That Trump committed at least one impeachable offense is not in question. He unilaterally withheld $391 million in military aid that Congress had authorized for Ukraine, which is menaced by Vladimir Putin’s Russia. During a July 25 phone call, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his eagerness to acquire U.S. antitank missiles for his military. Having pointed out that the United States already does “a lot for Ukraine,” Trump responded to Zelensky’s request for more missiles not with a yes or a no, but with a condition: “I would like you to do us a favor though.”

The “favor” included working with Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and Attorney General William P. Barr to conduct an investigation of Joe Biden — shown by polls to be Trump’s most formidable opponent in the coming election — and his son Hunter. [..]

Since the evidence is public and undisputed, impeachment on that one charge could be wrapped up within weeks. There’s one problem, though. At least one other offense almost surely has to be investigated: the apparent coverup of the attempted Ukraine shakedown.

According to the whistleblower’s complaint that brought the Trump-Zelensky phone call to light — a complaint judged “urgent” and “credible” by the inspector general for the intelligence community — White House officials tried to “lock down” records of the conversation and confined the full transcript to an electronic system reserved for only the most highly classified information, such as covert operations. That is not how phone calls between the president and world leaders are usually handled, and it suggests two things: that Trump’s aides knew what the president was doing was wrong and that they tried to cover it up.

Catherine Rampell: What drives Donald Trump? Greed, and greed alone.

There’s a common thread that stretches forward from Donald Trump’s financial scandals of the 1980s to his damning phone call with the president of Ukraine.

It’s the self-dealing.

Wherever he was, whatever his title, the president has used the powers at his disposal to enrich or otherwise benefit himself, regardless of what law, fiduciary duty or oath of office bound him to do.

Trump ran his campaign in 2016 on a single premise: greed. (Okay, two premises: greed and racism.) He boasted to his fans about his (inflated) wealth and gilded lifestyle, both products of clever deployments of his avarice. It was a trait he promised, paradoxically, that he’d apply more altruistically once elected.

“My whole life I’ve been greedy, greedy, greedy,” he said at a January 2016 rally. “I’ve grabbed all the money I could get. I’m so greedy. But now I want to be greedy for the United States. I want to grab all that money. I’m going to be greedy for the United States.”

His track record suggested that would be unlikely, perhaps impossible — in part because his life has always been about blurring lines between personal gain and professional or legal responsibilities.

Brian Klass: Trump is pushing a fake scandal once again. Don’t buy it.

How is it possible that millions of Americans can believe in scandals that simply don’t exist?

Because of Donald Trump, Fox News, and the army of sycophants, bots, trolls and grifters that support Trump’s version of reality online, millions of Americans falsely believe that it was actually Joe Biden who did something dodgy in Ukraine. They can’t quite put their finger on it, perhaps, but something must have happened. After all, the president of the United States says so.

But there’s just one problem: That narrative is a lie. It’s not a false claim or misleading spin. It’s just a straight-up lie. The allegations against the former vice president are baseless. Nonetheless, Trump and his toadies have repeatedly and wrongly insinuated that Biden pressured a Ukrainian prosecutor to drop an investigation into Biden’s son, Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company at the time. Every aspect of that claim is not just wrong; it’s a total inversion of the truth. [..]

Voters should wise up and stop being duped by the deceiver in chief. The Ukraine scandal is an impeachable abuse of power involving not two men, but one: Donald Trump.

Corey Brettschneider: Does Trump need to break the law to be impeached? The answer is no

In the coming days, opinions sections and cable news shows will be inundated with discussion about whether President Trump’s attempt to pressure the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, into investigating Joe Biden’s role in a supposed conspiracy was a criminal act. However, the answer to this question alone does not tell us whether Trump should be impeached. The constitutional standard of impeachment – “high crimes and misdemeanors” – is not a legal one. Rather, an impeachable offense occurs when a president violates the oath to abide by the constitution’s limits and respect its values. Trump’s use of political pressure on a foreign power to further his own re-election chances clearly fits.

For Trump’s actions to merit impeachment, he need not have attempted to engage in a quid pro quo with Zelenskiy. The released transcript clearly shows the chief executive of the United States pressuring a foreign government to criminally investigate his political opponent. That alone is impeachable. To “faithfully execute” the law, as Article II demands of the president, requires enforcing the law impartially, as a tool for equal justice, not personal gain. This behavior alone, clearly evidenced by the transcript, is an impeachable offense because it is an egregious flouting of the oath of office.

Robert Redford: Don’t let Trump pollute our lakes and streams

The real star of my 1992 movie, “A River Runs Through It,” was not supposed to be Brad Pitt. It was supposed to be Montana’s iconic Big Blackfoot River, which starts as a watery thread up near the Continental Divide and runs down to its confluence with the Clark Fork near Missoula, about 75 miles west. The Blackfoot was so badly degraded by decades of gold mining and logging waste, though, we shot the film instead mostly on the Gallatin River 200 miles away.

Today, the Blackfoot is on the mend, thanks to state and local action grounded in common-sense federal protections for clean water in our rivers, lakes, estuaries and bays.

If there’s one thing, in fact, we should all be able to agree on as Americans, it’s that clean water is life itself. Any threat to that imperils us all.

That’s why we need to stand up to President Trump’s attempt to replace the clean water rule with a flimsy substitute that would leave half the nation’s wetlands and millions of miles of streams without the protection they need. That’s what Trump plans to do by December, unless enough of us speak out before then.