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Oct 24 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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Philip Zelikow: Self-Dealing in Ukraine: The Core of the Impeachment Inquiry

As the Ukraine story develops, the public focus has remained largely on wrongdoing by the president outside the realm of criminal law, focusing instead on President Trump’s apparent use of his office for personal gain. On one level, this makes sense: Impeachment is only about removal of the president from office, not about criminal prosecution and imprisonment. So the standards and processes for impeachment are different.

But it would be a mistake to ignore the criminal law entirely. Evidence of criminal misconduct, specifically, the federal bribery statute, should influence political judgments about impeachment. After all, “Bribery” is one of the grounds for impeachment specifically enumerated in the Constitution.

Walter Shapiro: Trump’s presidency is built on lies. Does he actually believe them?

The president’s efforts in Ukraine break Watergate’s record for presidential stupidity. What was the point?

A puffed-up Donald Trump on Wednesday peddled his latest Syrian retreat as if his ability as a presidential peacemaker eclipsed Teddy Roosevelt, who won the 1906 Nobel prize for negotiating the end of the Russo-Japanese war, and Jimmy Carter, who helped broker the lasting Israeli-Egyptian accord. [..]

As the president boasted, complete with a dollop of false modesty: “Today’s announcement validates our course of action with Turkey that only a couple of weeks ago were scorned. And now people are saying: ‘Wow, what a great outcome. Congratulations.’ It’s too early [for] me to be congratulated. We’ve done a great job. We’ve saved a lot of lives.”

Wow, indeed.

From the phantom peace in Syria to the phantom wall on the Mexican border, the Trump presidency is based on the theory that reality is created by mere assertion. The scariest interpretation of the torrent of Trump lies is that the president actually believes the words that he is saying each time his lips move.

New York Times Editorial Board: Why Did Republicans Storm the Capitol? They’re Running Out of Options

As more testimony is disclosed, it becomes clearer that President Trump’s only defense against impeachment is to distract from the facts.

Around 10 a.m. Wednesday, a gaggle of conservative House members on Capitol Hill staged a “protest,” barging into the secure room — called a SCIF — where members of three House committees were preparing to hear testimony from Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary of defense. [..]

The entire spectacle was a circus — which was the point. This was a publicity stunt aimed at delegitimizing the impeachment investigation that Mr. Trump and his defenders have portrayed as a partisan inquisition. If a few rules and national security precautions got violated along the way, so be it. Mr. Gaetz & Co. were happy to oblige a president who has demanded to be protected at all costs.

In fact, Mr. Trump is said to have given them a thumbs-up the day before. On Tuesday, he “met with about 30 House Republicans at the White House to talk about the situation in Syria and the impeachment inquiry,” at which time the members “shared their plans to storm into the secure room,” Bloomberg News reported. Mr. Trump told them he thought it was a good idea.

Why wouldn’t he? As more and more testimony is disclosed, it becomes clearer that the president’s only defense against impeachment is to distract from the facts and complain about how unfairly he’s being treated.

Max Boot: If this isn’t impeachable, nothing is

Words such as “devastating” and “bombshell” hardly do justice to the congressional testimony of William B. Taylor Jr., the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. This wasn’t a smoking gun. It was a smoking howitzer, and it devastated all of the excuses and evasions made by President Trump’s die-hard defenders. The party lines — “what Trump did was wrong but not impeachable” and “at least there was no quid pro quo” and “get over it, everyone does it” — are now, as they used to say during Watergate, inoperative.

The new White House fallback — that “this is a coordinated smear campaign from far-left lawmakers and radical unelected bureaucrats waging war on the Constitution” and that it’s all based on “triple hearsay and selective leaks” — is laughably inadequate given the copious, detailed, utterly convincing testimony that Taylor provided in his 15-page opening statement, to say nothing of what he said behind closed doors. That Taylor was a compelling witness is evident from the fact that Republicans could find nothing to leak that would undermine his admissions.

Andrew Gawthorpe: Bill Taylor’s testimony removes any last plausible line of defense for Trump

Trump clearly perverted US official diplomacy in pursuit of his own private interests. It is hard to think of a more shocking misuse of presidential power

On Tuesday, Donald Trump dismissed the impeachment inquiry into his conduct towards Ukraine as a “lynching”. This proved, unsurprisingly, that the president doesn’t know much about history – for a start, victims of lynching couldn’t look forward to a trial heavily stacked in their favor, which is probably what awaits Trump in the Senate. It also showed that there is no depth to which Trump will not stoop in an attempt to distract attention from his wrongdoing.

It was no surprise that Trump wanted to create a distraction on the day that the impeachment inquiry heard its most explosive testimony yet. But we shouldn’t let him. Stunning new details were provided by Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, who the state department tried to block from testifying before Congress. He went anyway, and what he said provided the most direct evidence yet that Trump ordered military assistance to Ukraine to be withheld until Kyiv agreed to take action that would benefit the president’s re-election campaign.