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: Democrats May Save Us Yet

America’s defenders of democracy take a stand.

Wednesday’s impeachment of Donald Trump was neither a surprise nor a turning point. We’ve known for weeks that the House would vote to impeach. We also know, as surely as we can know anything in politics, that a Republican-controlled Senate won’t convict Trump and remove him from office; it may not even pretend to consider the evidence. So it would be easy to be cynical about the whole thing.

But that’s not how it felt. For me, and no doubt for millions of my fellow citizens, Wednesday was a very emotional day — a day of both despair and hope.

The reasons for despair are obvious. We could so easily lose everything America is supposed to stand for. The birthplace of liberty may very well be just months away from abandoning all its ideals.

But there were also reasons for hope.

The enemies of freedom are, it turns out, as shameless and corrupt here as they are in nations, from Hungary to Turkey, in which democracy has effectively collapsed. But the defenders of American democracy seem more united and determined than their counterparts abroad. The big question is whether that difference — that true American exceptionalism — will be enough to save us.

New York Times Editorial Board: Trump Has Been Impeached. Republicans Are Following Him Down.

Ignoring facts and trashing the impeachment process is no way to protect democracy.

On Wednesday evening, the House of Representatives impeached the president of the United States. A magnificent and terrible machine engineered by the founders, still and silent through almost all of American history, has for only the third time in 231 years shifted into motion, to consider whether Congress must call a president to account for abuse of power.

So why does it all seem so banal? The outcome so foreordained?

Most people say they know what’s going to happen, and who are we to say they’re wrong? The House voted to impeach Donald Trump by a party-line vote, with the exception of three Democrats representing Trump-friendly districts who voted against at least one article of impeachment. In the next month or two, the Senate will almost surely acquit him, also on a party-line vote.

It isn’t supposed to be this way. There’s plenty of blame to go around for the intense — really, infantilizing — degree of polarization that has overwhelmed American politics across the past 40 years. But the nihilism of this moment — the trashing of constitutional safeguards, the scorn for facts, the embrace of corruption, the indifference to historical precedent and to foreign interference in American politics — is due principally to cowardice and opportunism on the part of Republican leaders who have chosen to reject their party’s past standards and positions and instead follow Donald Trump, all the way down.

Gail Collins: Will Impeachment Drive Trump Batty?

Check the belfry. Maybe things could get worse.

The only problem with impeachment is that it might drive Donald Trump even crazier than usual.

Or probably.

The scariest thing about the whole process has been the president’s absolute, total inability to handle it like a sane person, let alone a sensible politician. On the day before the impeachment vote, when reporters asked Trump if he accepted any responsibility for what was happening, he did not say, “I just wish I could have been clearer about my total dedication to the country’s welfare.” He said: “No. I don’t take any.” [..]

Impeachment doesn’t do anything without Senate conviction. But Trump is perfectly aware of — O.K., tormented by — the fact that a vote to impeach, all by itself, puts a big asterisk next to his name.

“It will follow him around for the rest of his life,” predicted California Democrat Ted Lieu during the debate.

Unless Trump does something so ungodly that being impeached will just look like a footnote. Shudder.

Eugene Robinson: Now Trump’s legacy bears an asterisk of shame

Don’t move on quite yet. Pause a moment before racing ahead to questions about what a Senate trial will look like or what impact all of this will have in November. Let what just happened sink in: On Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019, Donald Trump became only the third U.S. president to be impeached by the House of Representatives. This will be his legacy for all time.

Knowing there will be an asterisk of shame next to his name in the history books drives Trump around the bend, apparently. But he earned it. Trump is precisely what the framers of the Constitution feared, an unethical and immoral president who would trample the nation’s laws and institutions to keep himself in power. The House, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), stood up to tell him: No. Not here. Not now.

“What is at risk here is the very idea of America,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said, as he ended eight hours of often bitter debate. Moments later, the House approved two articles of impeachment charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The idea of America survives. At least for now.

Let me note, probably not for the last time, that this historic action wasn’t taken by “the Democrats,” although it is true that no Republicans voted to impeach. “The Democrats” have no standing under the Constitution to do anything. Schoolchildren will learn that it was the House, given the “sole” power of impeachment by our founding charter, that voted to mark Trump’s presidency indelibly with the ultimate stain. And they will learn why.

George Conway: Republican senators run the risk of being shamed by Trump himself

In his unhinged letter Tuesday, President Trump accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of having “cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!” A few days earlier, he accused Democrats of “trivializing impeachment.”

If anything has cheapened or trivialized the process by which Trump was impeached, it was House Republicans’ refusal to treat the proceedings with the seriousness the Constitution demands. Unable to defend the president’s conduct on the merits, GOP members of the House resorted to deception, distortion and deflection: pretending that Trump didn’t ask President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political rival; claiming that Ukraine interfered with the 2016 election; and throwing up all manner of silly assertions of procedural unfairness.

Now, as the process moves to the Senate, Republican senators threaten the ultimate cheapening and trivialization of Congress’s constitutional obligations: holding a “trial” that would be nothing but a sham. [..]

For the extraordinary evidence of the Ukraine scandal isn’t a one-off. Putting his interests above the nation’s is what Trump instinctively does.

Trump’s written tirade to Pelosi confirms the point: It shows that, even as he is being impeached, he still has no idea why — and thus no idea what his presidential duties require. He hasn’t learned his lesson, and never will.

And that is the ultimate point Republican senators who care about their legacies should consider: They run the risk of being refuted and shamed on the pages of history not just by the evidence — but by Trump himself.