Nov 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.

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Paul Krugman: Trump Gives U.S. Business the Ukraine Treatment

Support him if you want a tariff break.

The story that has emerged in the impeachment hearings is one of extortion and bribery. Donald Trump withheld crucial aid — aid Ukraine needed to defend itself against Russian aggression — and refused to release it unless Ukraine publicly said it was investigating one of his political rivals. Even Republicans understand this; they just think it’s O.K.

And remember, the Ukraine scandal made it into the public eye only because a single whistle-blower set an investigation in motion. I know I’m not alone in wondering how many other comparable scandals haven’t come to light.

Nor need these scandals involve foreign governments. What I haven’t seen pointed out is that Trump is quietly applying a Ukraine-type extortion-and-bribery strategy to U.S. corporations. Many businesses are being threatened with policies that would hurt their bottom lines — especially, but not only, tariffs on imported goods crucial to their operations. But they are also being offered the possibility of exemptions from these policies.

And the implicit quid pro quo for such exemptions is that corporations support Donald Trump, or at least refrain from criticizing his actions.

Michelle Goldberg: Republicans’ Big Lie About Trump and Russia

Collusion wasn’t a hoax and Trump wasn’t exonerated.

There are two very big lies that Donald Trump and his sycophants have used, through aggressive, bombastic repetition, to shape the public debate about impeachment, and about Trump’s legitimacy more broadly.

The first big lie is that “the people” elected Trump, and that the constitutional provision of impeachment would invalidate their choice. In fact, Trump is president only because a constitutional provision invalidated the choice of the American people. Trump lost the popular vote and might have lost the Electoral College without Russian interference, and yet many Democrats and pundits have been bullied into accepting the fiction that he has democratic, and not just constitutional, legitimacy.

The second big lie is that Russia didn’t help elect Trump, and that the president has been absolved of collusion. It’s true that the report by Robert Mueller, the former special counsel, did not find enough evidence to prove a criminal conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and Russian state actors. But the Mueller report found abundant evidence that the campaign sought Russian help, benefited from that help and obstructed the F.B.I. investigation into Russian actions. His investigation resulted in felony convictions for Trump’s former campaign chairman, deputy campaign chairman, personal lawyer, first national security adviser, and longtime political adviser, among others.

Catherine Rampell: There’s no other way to explain Trump’s immigration policy. It’s just bigotry.

It was never about protecting the border, rule of law or the U.S. economy. And it was never about “illegal” immigration, for that matter.

Trump’s anti-immigrant bigotry was always just anti-immigrant bigotry.

There’s no other way to explain the Trump administration’s latest onslaught against foreigners of all kinds, regardless of their potential economic contributions, our own international commitments or any given immigrant’s propensity to follow the law. Trump’s rhetoric may focus on “illegals,” but recent data releases suggest this administration has been blocking off every available avenue for legal immigration, too.

Last month, the number of refugees admitted to the United States hit zero. That’s the first month on record this has ever happened, according to data going back nearly three decades from both the State Department and World Relief, a faith-based resettlement organization.

So what happened?

Harry Litman: The whistleblower served their country. Now, leave them alone.

Here’s one thing I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving season, and I don’t even know “its” real name: the whistleblower.

Had he or she not done their part, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine was days away from going on CNN to announce an investigation into the 2016 election, based on a fantasy narrative about Joe Biden that originated from Russia (and amplified by President Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani), for which there has never been a shred of credible evidence. Instead, the whistleblower’s revelations forced the White House’s hand, shook loose the stalled military aid and launched an impeachment inquiry. Talk about an agent of change.

But for the whistleblower’s complaint, there is every reason to think that Zelensky would have played ball with Trump, as had long been planned, and made the public announcement that the former vice president and his son Hunter would be investigated, just as Trump and Giuliani demanded in exchange for the release of military aid.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Don’t forget Trump’s devastating impact on reproductive freedom

For a race with a record number of female candidates, the Democratic primary contest has seen relatively little discussion of reproductive freedom compared with other pressing issues. That changed at last week’s debate in Georgia, which earlier this year passed one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country, as the candidates engaged in perhaps the most robust discussion of abortion rights since the campaign began. As my Nation colleague Joan Walsh writes, the increased attention on abortion rights was likely a product of the debate having four female moderators. It was also long overdue. [..]

The Trump era has seen an array of reproductive policy horrors, including the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s tracking of teen girls’ pregnancies and periods to prevent them from seeking abortions. But the president’s devastating impact on reproductive freedom is sometimes underrated, perhaps because it’s an issue on which he is marching in lockstep with longtime Republican orthodoxy.