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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E. J. Dionne Jr.: Nancy Pelosi vows that House Democrats won’t act like Republicans

Incoming speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to be clear about what the new Democratic House majority will not be: They will not, she insists, act like the Republicans.

“We believe that we will not become them,” she said in a New Year’s Day phone interview during a visit to her native Baltimore. “We’re not going to do to them what they did to President Obama. . . . It’s really important for us not to become them and certainly not to become like the president of the United States in terms of how he speaks without any basis of fact, evidence, data or truth.

“We will respect each other’s opinions, and respect the truth.” Note: She said this before President Trump’s series of false claims in advance of his Wednesday meeting with congressional leaders about the government shutdown he precipitated in pursuit of his border wall.

Pelosi also pushed back hard against the idea that, in holding Trump and his administration accountable, Democrats would be engaging in some sort of investigative orgy. On the contrary, she said, Article I of the Constitution grants Congress responsibility for “oversight over the agencies of government.” [..]

The Democrats’ assumption of power in the House this week will alter U.S. politics in ways that go well beyond their capacity to make life miserable for the president and his lieutenants.

Arwa Mahdawi: Elizabeth Warren’s ‘likability’? The US media has learned nothing from 2016

The countdown to the US 2020 election has only just begun, but it’s already starting to look like a hellish repeat of 2016.

On Monday, senator Elizabeth Warren became the first major Democrat to announce her intention to run for president. As you may be aware, Warren is a woman, which means that it is basically illegal not to compare her with Hillary Clinton, despite the two being very different politicians. It is also mandatory to analyse her “likability”, which we all know is the most important issue when it comes to female candidates. Indeed, less than 24 hours after Warren had announced her bid, Politico published a story headlined “Warren battles the ghosts of Hillary”. They publicised the story with a widely derided tweet, asking: “How does Elizabeth Warren avoid a Clinton redux – written off as too unlikable before her campaign gets off the ground?”

I’ll tell you how Warren avoids a Clinton redux. It’s actually very simple: the media focuses on the issues the Massachusetts senator stands for instead of fixating on her “likability”. The media stops using “likability” as lazy shorthand for: “Is the US too misogynistic to vote in a female president?” The media stops perpetuating the narrative that powerful women are unlikable. The media starts treating her as a candidate, rather than a female candidate.

Linda Greenhouse: A Call to Arms at the Supreme Court

A specter is haunting the Supreme Court — disrespect for the Second Amendment. Perhaps you haven’t realized that the Supreme Court’s disinclination to expand on its landmark 2008 decision creating an individual right to gun ownership means that the justices are treating the Second Amendment as a “second-class right.” A “watered-down right.” A “disfavored right.”

If you are unaware of these outlandish claims, then you haven’t tuned into the rising chorus of judicial voices demanding more from the Supreme Court than gun fanciers already won in that intensely disputed 5-to-4 decision a decade ago, District of Columbia v. Heller.

Why is this happening, and why now? To understand why the “second-class right” meme is suddenly penetrating the judicial conversation, we have to begin with Justice Clarence Thomas. He is not the first member of the current Supreme Court to use the phrase; Justice Samuel Alito Jr. used it in his 2010 opinion that extended the analysis of the Heller decision, which had applied only to Washington, D.C., as a federal enclave, to the states. The court was being asked, Justice Alito wrote in McDonald v. City of Chicago, “to treat the right recognized in Heller as a second-class right,” which he said the court would not do.

Mark Schmidt: The Watergate Class of ’74 Has Valuable Lessons for Freshman Democrats

Forty-four years ago, in another year of national crisis over a scandal-ridden presidency, an election sent 91 new members to the House. That 1974 wave didn’t shift partisan control, but it did create one of the widest Democratic congressional advantages in a half-century.

It also sent to Washington a new kind of member of Congress: entrepreneurial, independent, deeply engaged with his or (in a very few cases) her constituents and district.

The new Congress of 2019 brings the largest shift in favor of Democrats in the House, at 40 seats, since Watergate. The congressional class of 1974 had a few other things in common with the new members elected in 2018. Just as this one brings 26 millennials to Congress, 1974 brought another generation into American politics, the baby boomers, along with a mandate to rein in what had become an “imperial presidency,” though the president who inspired that concern had already been airlifted from the White House lawn. They came ready not just to legislate but also to use Congress’s oversight powers and reform the institution.

That long-ago wave holds some lessons for the new Congress, particularly the focus on reform. But above all, the newly elected members from both parties should pay attention to the way those 1970s members saw their jobs and their relationship to constituents.

Eerica Rex: What a French Doctor’s Office Taught Me About Health Care

TOURS, France — A dozen of us sit expectantly in the orthopedic surgeon’s waiting room. We’re here for follow-ups. Some, like me, have had bunions removed. Others have had hips or knees replaced. Most are older women.

The copies of Paris Match and Le Monde on the table are at least six months old. The only artwork is a framed print of Claude Monet’s “Poppy Fields Near Argenteuil.” Since I’m only two weeks out from surgery and can’t drive, I came by taxi. The fare was underwritten by the French social security system, known familiarly as la Sécu, which also provides health insurance for all residents.

The woman seated opposite me tells me she’s on her second bunion surgery. Her doctor, a top orthopedic surgeon, charges more than the normal Sécu compensation, as do many specialists. Most French people purchase a supplementary insurance plan to cover costs not picked up by la Sécu. As a French resident and taxpayer, I have one too.

Another woman is recovering from a hip replacement. Medical chat is common in French waiting rooms. If the wait is long, everyone comes to know everything about one another’s complaints.

To my friends in the United States, this casual attitude seems foolish, even risky. But in France, medical privacy is irrelevant. No one will lose her job because of a lengthy convalescence. There is no possibility that pre-existing conditions will make insurance unaffordable. Unemployed people still receive treatment. Huge medical bills do not reduce ordinary citizens to a state of existential terror.

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