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: The Education of Fanatical Centrists

Will they finally admit what the G.O.P. has become?

It’s hard to believe that barely three weeks have passed since Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, issued a mysterious subpoena to the acting director of national intelligence, demanding that he produce a whistle-blower complaint filed by someone in the intelligence community.

Since that subpoena was issued, the impeachment of Donald Trump has gone from implausibility to near certainty; I at least find it hard to see how the House can fail to impeach given what we already know about Trump’s actions. Conviction in the Senate remains a long shot, but not as long as it once seemed.

And the whole tenor of our national conversation has changed. It looks to me as if we’re witnessing the rapid collapse of a powerful faction in U.S. public life, one whose refusal to accept facts at odds with its prejudices has long been a major source of political dysfunction.

Eugene Robinson: The GOP’s bootlicking cowardice knows no bounds

President Trump’s defense against impeachment is bombastic, full of lies and incoherent to the point of lunacy, which is no surprise. Republicans are beclowning themselves to pretend Trump is making sense — and that, sadly, is also no surprise.

Trump has described his smoking-gun phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as “perfect,” which is only true from the point of view of the prosecutors in his impeachment trial — if it comes to that. His lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, has claimed that Zelensky was the first to mention Joe and Hunter Biden, while the rough transcript of the call clearly shows it was Trump who did so. Trump has demanded that the whistleblower be unmasked, and claimed that he or she somehow misrepresented the call, hoping no one will notice that the allegations in the whistleblower’s complaint have been confirmed by documents and statements released by the White House. [..]

At this point, we can dispense with the notion that Trump welcomes impeachment because he believes it gives him a political advantage. He reportedly told House Republicans that being impeached would be “a bad thing to have on your résumé.” His tweets and harangues betray what seems to be a visceral horror of being hauled into the dock and put on trial, even if he believes that, ultimately, he will not be removed from office. In his long life of privilege, Trump has rarely been held accountable for his bad behavior. He seems not to enjoy the experience.

For now, Trump can cling to the fact that lily-livered Republicans still fear his wrath. They’re looking at the polls, though, and hearing from their constituents. It is certainly true that brute-force intimidation can compel obedience — but it rarely generates true loyalty.

Catherine Rampell: Trump found a way to simultaneously sabotage our health-care and immigration systems

President Trump sabotaged the health-care system. Separately, he’s sabotaged the immigration system.

And now, in a presidential twofer, on Friday night the administration found a way to sabotage both simultaneously.

Unable to repeal Obamacare, the Trump administration has worked to make it less functional and more expensive. It has done this by zeroing out the individual mandate, expanding the availability of cheap but worthless junk insurance and curtailing the annual open-enrollment period, among other actions.

The cumulative effect of these policies has been to reduce the share of people who have (real, non-junk) insurance; those still motivated to seek comprehensive insurance tend to be sicker and more expensive to cover. The predictable result? Premiums hundreds of dollars higher than they would otherwise be, according to estimates from health-care analyst Charles Gaba.

Robert Reich: Trump is the kid with his hand in the cookie jar – and Republicans know it

Don’t assume the Senate won’t convict and remove a president who sees the danger and grows more desperate by the day

Donald Trump will almost certainly be impeached in the House, possibly as soon as Thanksgiving. The odds are rising that he’ll be convicted in the Senate.

There are only two questions at stake, and the answers to both are becoming more obvious to more Americans every day.

The first is whether asking a foreign power to dig up dirt on a political opponent is an impeachable offense. The answer is indubitably yes.

When the framers of the constitution gave Congress the power to impeach a president, one of the high crimes they had in mind was acceding to what Alexander Hamilton called “the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils”. James Madison argued for impeachment lest a president “might betray his trust to foreign powers”.

The second question is whether Trump did this. The answer is also an unqualified yes. In the published version of his phone conversation with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Trump asks for the “favor” of digging up dirt on Joe Biden.

Everything Trump has tried to do to divert attention from these two facts is further undermining his case and his credibility.

Simon Tisdall: The US withdrawal from northern Syria creates the perfect climate for war crimes

Erdoğan aims to expel refugees and force Kurdish forces away from Turkey. It will result in enormous damage

Donald Trump’s rash and foolish decision to pull the remaining US ground troops out of northeast Syria is a shocking betrayal of the Kurdish forces that were instrumental in destroying the Islamic State “caliphate”. It opens the way for a vicious, protracted struggle between the Kurds and Turkey’s military, which is poised to cross the border. And that in turn presages more civilian suffering in a country that has seen far too much during the past eight years.

Trump’s impromptu order was taken against the advice of his generals and diplomats and without prior consultation with allies such as the UK that have forces in the field. It came following a telephone conversation with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s president, on Sunday evening. Trump tried last year to withdraw US forces but was thwarted at the time. Now he has got his myopic, capricious way. Erdoğan has been pushing for months to create

what he terms a “safe zone” on Syrian territory 20 miles deep by 300 miles long. For him, too, altruism is not a motive.

Erdoğan has three aims, all problematic. One is to force the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which comprise about 60,000 fighters, away from Turkey’s southern border. Erdoğan vilifies the SDF as terrorists in cahoots with the PKK – the Turkey- and Iraq-based Kurdistan Workers’ party that Ankara has been fighting for decades. The terrorist tag is not remotely accurate. But demonising all Kurds as enemies of the state is a familiar tactic used by Erdoğan to bolster his divisive, dictatorial nationalist agenda.