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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Robert Reich: Welcome to Trump’s Corrupt State – the Star Wars cantina of world politics

The administration and the Republican party are nests of lobbyists and con artists who make Greedo look like a saint

Trump has been ramping up his “Deep State” rhetoric again. He’s back to blaming a cabal of bureaucrats, FBI and CIA agents, Democrats and “enemies of the people” in the mainstream media for conspiring to remove him from office, in order to allow the denizens of foreign “shitholes” to overrun America

But with each passing day it’s becoming clearer that the real threat to America isn’t Trump’s Deep State. It’s Trump’s own Corrupt State.

Not since the sordid administration of Warren G Harding have as many grifters, crooks and cronies occupied high positions in Washington.

Trump has installed a Star Wars cantina of former lobbyists and con artists, including several whose exploits have already forced them to resign, such as Scott Pruitt, Ryan Zinke, Tom Price and Michael Flynn. Many others remain.

This week the Guardian reported that a real estate company partly owned by Trump son-in-law and foreign policy adviser Jared Kushner has raked in $90m from foreign investors since Kushner entered the White House, through a secret vehicle run by Goldman Sachs in the Cayman Islands. Kushner’s stake is some $50m.

All this takes conflict of interest to a new level of shamelessness.

What are Republicans doing about it? Participating in it.

Neal K. Katyal: Trump’s Abuse of Executive Privilege Is More Than a Present Danger

He’s making it harder for future presidents to govern.

President Trump has been on an executive privilege extravaganza. In the past month, he’s asserted it to block Congress from obtaining documents about the census citizenship question, invoked it to try to bar the full Mueller report from being given to Congress, and used it to bar his former White House counsel, Don McGahn, from providing documents to Congress.

Executive privilege has a legitimate core, but Mr. Trump’s attempts are going to wind up undermining that core, and make it harder for future presidents to govern. He is essentially saying that he will not turn over information to Congress about potential wrongdoing — the absolute weakest claim to executive privilege along the spectrum of possible claims. [..]

Every time a president invokes executive privilege, there are three relevant audiences he has to think about: the courts, Congress and the public. Each has reasons to be worried about Mr. Trump’s profligate invocations. Presidents have a limited reservoir of secrecy available to them — the more they look wanton, the more these other entities grow concerned. And the worst part is that when they abuse the privilege, they risk generating legal precedents that will make it harder for future presidents to use the privilege in settings when they legitimately need it.

It is sometimes said that this Supreme Court will do nothing against this president, that a body with a majority composed of justices appointed by Republican presidents will not rule against him.

But the experience of President Nixon was instructive. The Supreme Court is composed of life-tenured justices for a reason. No one, particularly this president, should assume that politics will protect him in the highest court in the land.

Heather Cox Richardson: The historical argument for impeaching Trump

Since Nixon, Republicans have pushed the envelope under the guise of ‘patriotism’, and Democrats have tolerated it because of ‘civility’

The question of impeaching Donald Trump is about replacing the toxic partisanship of today’s Republican party with America’s traditional rule of law. It has become a constitutional imperative.

Since Richard Nixon, Republican presidents have pushed the envelope of acceptable behavior under the guise of patriotism, and Democrats have permitted their encroaching lawlessness on the grounds of civility, constantly convincing themselves that Republicans have reached a limit beyond which they won’t go. Each time they’ve been proven wrong. [..]

The Republican-controlled Senate will almost certainly not vote to remove Trump from office no matter how convincing the evidence of his criminality. But the process of impeachment by the House and a trial by the Senate would undercut the idea that prosecution is equivalent to partisanship. It would be a vivid illustration that American presidents – Republicans as well as Democrats – are bound by the rule of law and the US constitution.

The nation did not need such a demonstration in 1974: Republican leaders of that era forced their own president from office. Today’s Republicans will not do the same, and their complicity threatens to turn America into an autocracy.

E. J. Dionne, Jr.: We don’t usually put ‘moral’ and ‘economics’ in the same sentence. It’s time we started.

Do you build the economy from the top down or the bottom up? And is the main purpose of the economy the production of things or the enhancement of life?

I can imagine immediate objections to both questions. Don’t all successful economies involve bottom-up and top-down elements? Doesn’t everybody claim to be a bottom-up person at heart? And don’t “things” (such as the laptop I am writing on) enhance “life”?

Well, sure. Almost all questions involving binary choices are flawed in some way. But these two concerns underlie the sometimes explicit, often subterranean debates going on in the country — and, especially, in the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) has been rising in the polls because of the sheer, impressive bulk of her policy proposals, but also because she is pressing the issue of what it takes to build a moral economy.

Ross Barkan: The Trump administration is waging a quiet war on education

The Trump/DeVos vision of American education? Unshackle the rich and let them turn a profit at the expense of working-class students

Perhaps nothing illustrates the perverse nature of Donald Trump’s administration better than his approach to the regulatory state. In Trump’s America, those most zealously dedicated to unraveling federal oversight are in charge of the government, racing to shred laws as quickly as they can.

Although it rarely draws the outrage of his latest unhinged tweet or foible abroad, it is in the president’s Department of Education that this spirit of cruel nihilism is best on display. Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, and her underlings are dedicated to seeing their radical conservative vision of government achieved, and they’re taking aim at the very heart of public education.

Few Americans know the name of Diane Auer Jones, a deputy under DeVos. A former assistant secretary under George W Bush who resigned over the education department’s treatment of an accreditor that oversaw religiously-affiliated colleges, Jones is back with a vengeance: she has already slashed Obama-era regulations of for-profit colleges, including one rule that forced these schools to prove they provide gainful employment to graduates. She also recommended the reinstatement of a scandal-scarred accreditor the Obama administration tried to banish after the collapse of two for-profit chains under its supervision.