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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The Washington Post Editorial Board: The U.S. still hasn’t done nearly enough to stop election interference

IT IS obvious to all but the willfully ignorant that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. What is less obvious is what this country is going to do about it. So far, the signs have pointed to: not nearly enough. A report from scholars at Stanford University offers one road map — and shows how the nation remains shockingly near the beginning of the road.

The Stanford report includes 45 recommendations for protecting the U.S. democratic process. Some three years after Vladimir Putin’s government planted trolls and bots on social media sites to propagandize for Donald Trump, hacked into the emails of officials on Hillary Clinton’s campaign and probed election infrastructure for vulnerabilities, the president’s team has not pursued a single one of them. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) continues to block even the consideration of stand-alone legislation that would bolster election security.

The refusal to act is dangerous. Though Russia infiltrated voting networks in 2016, there is no evidence any machines were tampered with or votes changed. Next time, we might not be so fortunate. The government must mandate voter-verified paper trails for auditing elections after the fact, but systems also need to be secure in the first place: Third-party code inspections and probes for vulnerabilities by hired ethical hackers would help. Political parties should be allowed to assist their state affiliates, as well as candidates and campaigns, in beefing up cybersecurity. Legislation to this effect is pending in both chambers of Congress. It just isn’t going anywhere.

George T. Conway III and Neal Katyal: Trump just invited Congress to begin impeachment proceedings

Much ink has been spilled about whether President Trump committed a criminal and impeachable offense by obstructing justice. That question deserves extensive debate, but another critical question — the ultimate question, really — is not whether he committed a crime but whether he is even fit for office in the first place. And that question — the heart of an impeachment inquiry — turns upon whether the president abuses his power and demonstrates an unfitness to serve under the defining principles of our Constitution.

On Tuesday, Trump gave us direct evidence of his contempt toward the most foundational precept of our democracy — that no person, not even the president, is above the law. He filed a brief in the nation’s second-most-important court that takes the position that Congress cannot investigate the president, except possibly in impeachment proceedings. It’s a spectacularly anti-constitutional brief, and anyone who harbors such attitudes toward our Constitution’s architecture is not fit for office. Trump’s brief is nothing if not an invitation to commencing impeachment proceedings that, for reasons set out in the Mueller report, should have already commenced.

Jonathan Capehart: Trump, ‘respect’ and toilet paper

For President Trump, R-E-S-P-E-C-T is a big deal. He demands it for the nation (even though he has squandered it) and for himself (even though he’s not worthy of it). One of his favorite insults against opponents is to declare that no one respects them. He does it as much to get under their skin as to get a laugh at their expense. So, when Trump hurled it at former vice president Joe Biden during remarks at a rally in Iowa on June 11, I laughed. But not at Biden.

“In the past, and under the Obama administration, our politicians let other countries push us around, treat us badly, treat our country with no respect,” the president said. “And you see that with Biden. We would never be treated with respect because people don’t respect him, even the people that he’s running against.”

I laughed because Trump’s dig at Biden reminded me of a hilarious observation on respect and the president from comedian Wanda Sykes.

“The moment that I saw him board Air Force One with toilet paper on the back of his shoe, I said, ‘They don’t like him.’ Everyone around him who works with him, they cannot stand him. They have no respect for this man,” Sykes told me at the 92nd Street Y in New York this month during a conversation about her new stand-up special on Netflix. “I mean, you would stop a stranger to get toilet paper off their shoe. I’ve almost missed a flight because I’m at my gate and I see someone walking by with toilet paper [on their shoe], and I’m like ‘I can’t let that happen’ and I run down and get the toilet paper off.”

Julian Brave Noisecat: No, climate action can’t be separated from social justice

Elites who divorce climate policy from social justice are almost as out of touch as those who deny climate science altogether

If you set aside Republicans’ obsession with cow farts, perhaps the most prevalent criticism of the Green New Deal is its emphasis on social justice. Critics contend that the far-reaching climate agenda is far too concerned with extraneous issues such as jobs, infrastructure, housing, healthcare and civil and indigenous rights. Stick to greenhouse gases, they say; reforming the energy system is utopian enough.

This criticism crosses the aisle among elites. In February, the New York Times editorial board wondered whether addressing the climate crisis was “merely a cover for a wish-list of progressive policies and a not-so-subtle effort to move the Democratic Party to the left?” A day later, the Washington Post editorial board opined that serious policymakers should not “muddle” decarbonization with social programs that “divert money and attention from the primary mission”. And in a widely circulated 11,000-word Open Letter to Green New Dealers, Jerry Taylor, the president of the Niskanen Center, a pro-market environmental group, was incredulous. “The Green New Deal resolution quite literally gives a nod to every single last policy demand forwarded by the Democratic Socialists of America,” he wrote. “The climate is too important to be held hostage to political commitments.” The general gist of all this: take your social justice agenda elsewhere, activists. It has no place in serious climate policy.

But here’s the thing: social justice concerns are always intertwined with public policy – and absolutely central to climate policy.

Amanda Marcotte: How Democrats can exploit Trump’s addition to drama and turn it against him

Right now, the political argument against impeaching Donald Trump — and the political argument is the only argument — is that it will somehow backfire on the Democrats, despite the overwhelming evidence of Trump’s guilt and his tendency to act like a cornered rat at all times. At the top of the list for reasons to believe that impeachment will backfire is the reason that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seems to favor: Trump himself seems, at times, to want impeachment.

On Tuesday evening, Ashley Parker of the Washington Post published one of those inside-the-anonymous-White-House-chatter pieces exploring the idea that Trump is, in fact, flirting with impeachment. Parker noted that Trump gets so irate about the idea that he refuses to even say the word — instead childishly calling it the “I-word” — but also argues that he likes hearing from advisers who tell him “that impeachment could be a political blessing” and might even help him get re-elected.

Look, there’s no doubt that Trump is, even as he rages against it, attracted to the idea of being impeached. He brings it up with reporters, even when he’s not asked about it. He tweets about it relentlessly, making sure that the idea never falls far from the political discourse of the day.

But it’s probably giving Trump too much credit to suggest that he does this because he’s a political mastermind, seeking to goad Democrats into shooting themselves in the foot. While I don’t think Trump is as big an idiot as many liberals believe, he’s also more of an impulsive hothead, like the late King Joffrey on “Game of Thrones,” rather than a scheming mastermind like Littlefinger.