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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Jesse Wegman: With Trump, All Roads Lead to Moscow

Monday’s congressional hearing and the inspector general’s report tell a similar story.

When it comes to Donald Trump and Russia, everything is connected.

That’s the most important lesson from the two big events that played out Monday on Capitol Hill — the House Judiciary Committee’s hearings on President Trump’s impeachment and the release of the report on the origins of the F.B.I.’s investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

One of these involved the 2016 election. The other involves the 2020 election. Both tell versions of the same story: Mr. Trump depends on, and welcomes, Russian interference to help him win the presidency. That was bad enough when he did it in 2016, openly calling for Russia to hack into his opponent’s emails — which Russians tried to do that same day. But he was only a candidate then. Now that Mr. Trump is president, he is wielding the immense powers of his office to achieve the same end. [..]

These are serious and in some cases alarming missteps and would be a concern in any case, let alone in one targeting people closely associated with a presidential campaign. But don’t be lulled into thinking Republicans care about surveillance overreach — just as they don’t care about Hillary Clinton’s emails or Joe Biden’s son. They’re simply casting about for anything that will protect their president from the scrutiny that he has invited upon himself since long before he was elected.

Amanda Marcotte: Impeachment: Republicans have no defense for Trump — just tribal hatred of Democrats

During the “opening arguments” hearing, Republicans stick to conspiracy theories and claims that Trump is a victim

Republicans have nothing: That is the only reasonable conclusion one can draw after Monday’s impeachment hearing before the House Judiciary Committee. It’s clear that Donald Trump is guilty of running an extortion scheme against Ukraine in order to gin up false accusations against his potential 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. The evidence, which has been laid out in a series of hearings and in a 300-page document released last week, is voluminous and crystal-clear.

There is no substantive defense of Trump in the face of this overwhelming evidence. Instead, Republicans are betting that Trump’s base voters hate Democrats so much that they will keep on supporting Trump, no matter what crimes he commits, in order to stick it to the Democrats. It’s not necessarily a bad bet. [..]

For this reason alone, I’m beginning to be glad that Democrats want to wind this up quickly. The Republican lies are exhausting — arguably they’re meant to be exhausting to people of good faith, because exhausted voters often stop voting altogether. Limiting the amount of air time handed over to Republicans to spin their lies is starting to feel like a mercy.

William Saletan: It’s Not About Corruption. It’s About Revenge.

The GOP’s new explanation of why Trump extorted Ukraine.

Why did President Donald Trump—against the wishes of his State Department, his Defense Department, and his congressional allies—withhold military aid and a White House meeting from Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine? For weeks, Republicans said the reason was corruption. Trump cared deeply about fighting corruption, they explained, and he blocked the aid until he was sure that Zelensky would clean up Ukraine.

Unfortunately, that explanation doesn’t fit any of the facts. So Republicans have developed an alternative theory: Trump blocked the meeting and the aid because he thought Ukraine was out to get him. He did it for revenge.

The revenge theory starts with a May 23 meeting at the White House. A delegation of Trump appointees and a Republican senator, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, had just returned from Ukraine. They told Trump that Zelensky, who had just been inaugurated, was launching an unprecedented campaign against corruption. If Trump had cared about corruption, the delegation’s report would have moved him. It didn’t. He fixated instead on the idea that Ukraine was out to get him.

Robert Reich: Trump is the natural consequence of our anti-democracy decade

The president knows how the system works: the rich give money and get what they want in return. His defeat is imperative

We’re coming to the end of what might be called the anti-democracy decade. It began on 21 January 2010 with the supreme court’s shameful decision in Citizens United vs Federal Election Commission, opening the floodgates to big money in politics with the absurd claim that the first amendment protects corporate speech.

t ends with Donald Trump in the White House, filling his administration with corporate shills and inviting foreign powers to interfere in American elections. [..]

t doesn’t have to be this way. Even if Citizens United isn’t reversed by the supreme court or defanged by a constitutional amendment, a principled Congress and decent president could still rescue our democracy.

House Democrats have begun with their For the People Act, the first legislation they introduced when they gained a majority. It expands voting rights, limits partisan gerrymandering, strengthens ethics rules and limits the influence of private donor money by providing $6 of public financing for every $1 of small donations, up to $200, raised by participating candidates.

On the other hand, a second Trump term could make the anti-democracy decade a mere prelude to the wholesale destruction of American democracy.

Paul Krugman: Donald Trump Is Bad for the Jews

There are things more important than your tax rate.

On Saturday Donald Trump gave a speech to the Israeli American Council in which he asserted that many in his audience were “not nice people at all,” but that “you have to vote for me” because Democrats would raise their taxes.

Was he peddling an anti-Semitic stereotype, portraying Jews as money-grubbing types who care only about their wealth? Of course he was. You might possibly make excuses for his remarks if they were an isolated instance, but in fact Trump has done this sort of thing many times, for example asserting in 2015 that Jews weren’t supporting him because he wasn’t accepting their money and “you want to control your politicians.”

Well, it’s not news that Trump’s bigotry isn’t restricted to blacks and immigrants. What is interesting, however, is that this particular anti-Semitic cliché — that Jews are greedy, and that their political behavior is especially driven by their financial interests — is empirically dead wrong. In fact, American Jews are much more liberal than you might expect given their economic situation.  [..]

But it takes, well, chutzpah, a truly striking level of contempt for your audience, to foment hatred-laced identity politics, then turn to members of minority groups and say, in effect, “Ignore the bigotry and look at the taxes you’re saving!”

And some of the audience deserves that contempt. As I said, people are pretty much the same whatever their background. There are wealthy Jews who are sufficiently shortsighted, ignorant or arrogant enough to imagine that they can continue to prosper under a white nationalist government.

But most of my ethnic group, I believe, understands that Trump is bad for the Jews, whatever tax bracket we happen to be in.