Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news media 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: How Zombies Ate the G.O.P.’s Soul

Everyone with principles has left the party.

s this the week American democracy dies? Quite possibly.

After all, everyone in Washington understands perfectly well that Donald Trump abused the powers of his office in an attempt to rig this year’s presidential election. But Senate Republicans are nonetheless about to acquit him without even pretending to look at the evidence, thereby encouraging further abuses of power.

But how did we get to this point? Part of the answer is extreme partisanship and right-wing political correctness (which is far more virulent than anything on the left). But I also blame the zombies.

A zombie idea is a belief or doctrine that has repeatedly been proved false, but refuses to die; instead, it just keeps shambling along, eating people’s brains. The ultimate zombie in American politics is the assertion that tax cuts pay for themselves — a claim that has been proved wrong again and again over the past 40 years. But there are other zombies, like climate change denial, that play an almost equally large role in our political discourse.

And all of the really important zombies these days are on the right. Indeed, they have taken over the Republican Party.

Frank Bruni: Iowa’s Unholy Mess

The stakes are too high to begin like this.

Is Iowa a metaphor? A harbinger?

Either way it’s a mess — and not the way any Democrat wanted the party’s voting to begin in an election year with stratospheric stakes.

To excite the most Americans possible and have its best chance of toppling President Trump, the Democratic Party needs a sorting of candidates that’s coherent, a system that inspires faith, a process that makes participants feel respected and heard.

Iowa provided none of that on Monday night. Instead it staged a baffling spectacle resistant to any timely, definitive verdict. More than 12 hours after the actual, physical caucusing at hundreds of locations across the state had finished, there were still no official results, just resentments, recriminations and reports that a newly intricate manner of counting had proven laborious, a newly developed app for it hadn’t worked as planned, a backup phone line had jammed and the campaigns had been asked to join a pair of emergency conference calls with state Democratic officials.

Maybe there’s a moral here about dreaming too big and reaching too high. Maybe there’s just a terrifying repeat of the party’s awful luck in 2016.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: It’s time to leave Iraq once and for all

The question of Iraq — whether we should leave or stay — again looms over a U.S. presidential election. In 2016, President Trump was elected in part because he promised to end endless wars and bring U.S. forces home from Iraq and other Middle East conflicts.

But the United States now has more boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria than when he was nominated. And Trump himself is now leading the forever war lobby arguing that U.S. forces must stay in Iraq in defiance of the Iraqi request for them to leave.

Trump’s broken promise on Iraq will hurt him in the 2020 election, and, given his narrow margin of victory in key battleground states, it could be the reason for his defeat. But the Democrats should not rest on this prospect alone. They should actively make it happen by convincing the public (or more precisely, those Americans who voted for Trump in 2016 because of his position on endless wars) that they can deliver when Trump could not.

Greg Sargent: Trump is about to get a lot more dangerous. Here’s what’s coming.

When President Trump is acquitted by the Senate on Wednesday afternoon, he’ll surely take from it the message that he can continue abusing his powers however he sees fit to corrupt the 2020 election. He now knows he’ll face zero consequences.

But House Democrats can try to do something about this. They can redouble their oversight and investigative efforts, post-impeachment, geared toward the specific aim of illuminating — and preventing — future efforts by Trump to wield the machinery of government to influence the election’s outcome.

Some ultra-savvy pundits will scoff: Didn’t Democrats just get through impeachment? And some Democrats will be tempted to slink away in defeat, muttering that impeachment wasn’t “worth” the “trouble.”

But this is precisely the wrong message to take from what just happened. The impeachment and trial produced a remarkable new fact record documenting extraordinary misconduct and likely criminality on Trump’s part. This has stripped away any illusions about what Trump is capable of inflicting on our political system — demonstrating why continued efforts to protect the country are even more imperative.

Catherine Rampell: On health care, is Trump malicious or just incompetent? Yes.

Is the problem incompetence or malice?

When it comes to the Trump administration’s terrible health-care agenda, the answer appears to be both.

At least, that’s the takeaway from Vice President Pence’s comments at an Iowa diner last week, when he appeared to not know that his administration is working to cut, rather than expand, health coverage for the poor.

While Democrats debate the best path to universal health coverage, Republicans appear to remain laser-focused on taking insurance away from as many Americans as possible. They’ve adopted a multipronged approach, too.

There’s the lawsuit attempting to strike down the entire Affordable Care Act, including the law’s protections for patients with preexisting conditions. This is despite President Trump’s insistence that he “saved” said provisions and will “always protect” them. During an interview in Davos, Switzerland, last month, Trump also professed his interest in cutting Medicare if he gets elected to a second term. This too defies a campaign promise to leave the program untouched.