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: Trump and His Party of Pollution

Environmental destruction may be their biggest legacy.

Given what we’ve seen in the impeachment hearings so far, there is literally no crime, no abuse of power, that would induce Republicans to turn on President Trump. So if you’re waiting for some dramatic political turn, don’t hold your breath.

On second thought, however, maybe you should hold your breath. For air quality has deteriorated significantly over the past few years — a deterioration that has already cost thousands of American lives. And if Trump remains in power, the air will get much worse, and the death toll rise dramatically, in the years ahead. [..]

Why? Follow the money. There’s huge variation among industries in how much environmental damage they do per dollar of production. And the super-polluting industries have basically put all their chips on the Republicans. In 2016, for example, coal mining gave 97 percent of its political contributions to Republican candidates and causes. And polluters are getting what they paid for.

This, by the way, is one reason I and others find it so mind-boggling when people like Joe Biden say that everything will be fine once Trump is gone. If Trump doesn’t succeed in destroying our democracy (a big if), his most damaging legacy will be the vast environmental destruction he leaves behind. And Trump’s pro-pollution stance isn’t an aberration. In this, he is very much a man of his party.

Charles M. Blow: This Is Not a Game

The first public hearing in the impeachment proceedings was sad, yet necessary.

On Wednesday the first public hearing in the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump took place.

It was a somber moment. The country has not often inched up to this precipice, and for good reason.

The fact that we are here signals that the country got something horribly wrong. It elevated a man of poor character who did not keep faith with the country, but instead did something so egregious and offensive that lawmakers are forced to employ one of the Constitution’s greatest powers.

No, this was not a good day. But it was a necessary day.

It is a stress test for the country and its institutions. It will test whether a president with utter contempt for tradition, history, conventions and the rule of law itself can be reprimanded and chastened by the instruments of power as they now exist.

The notion that no one is above the law is being tested.

The thing is that Trump, knowingly or not, has been priming the country for this moment, weakening it for this moment. He has attacked vital institutions like the press. He has corroded the very idea of truth. He has snatched the souls from Republicans in Congress. And he has seeded the courts as much as possible with people who are likely to be more in line with his positions.
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This impeachment will test whether the spell Trump cast can indeed be broken.

Eugene Robinson: History is in motion. Tweets and tantrums cannot stop it.

This is not a food fight, though Republicans seem to wish it were. This is not a cheesy reality show where fake outrage “wins” and substance “loses.” This is history.

The first day of public testimony in the House impeachment inquiry on Wednesday produced a stunning account of misconduct by the president of the United States. Two veteran diplomats described an elaborate clandestine scheme in which President Trump sought to coerce the president of Ukraine into trading arms for dirt — nearly $400 million in desperately needed military aid in exchange for publicly smearing former vice president Joe Biden, Trump’s potential opponent in the 2020 election.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Thursday that the testimony of William B. Taylor Jr., the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, and George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, “corroborated evidence of bribery” by Trump. Pelosi’s assessment, in my view, is an understatement. We heard evidence to substantiate at least three articles of impeachment.

Karen Tumulty: Impeaching a president requires both a lens and a mirror

Impeaching a president is an investigational endeavor that requires both a lens and a mirror.

It demands an examination of actions by the person to whom the country has entrusted the most powerful office in the world. But impeachment also means examining what we as a nation have decided to tolerate.

That is why it was fitting that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) opened Wednesday’s public impeachment hearing by reminding us of three shocking words that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney uttered last month.

Mulvaney publicly admitted that President Trump attempted to turn hundreds of millions of dollars in congressionally appropriated security aid for Ukraine into a lever to force that country’s president to take actions that would help Trump’s own political interests. And then Mulvaney said: “Get over it.” [..]

Extortion, coercion, bribery — name it what you will. Schiff called it all of those things. But then the Intelligence Committee chairman posed the real questions at hand: “Is that what Americans should now expect from their president? If this is not impeachable conduct, what is?”

And what does it say about a country that could look at Trump’s actions and decide to shrug them off?

Catherine Rampell: Trump has bulldozed over Congress on immigration. Will lawmakers ever act?

Republican lawmakers seem to be having self-esteem issues.

The legislature, after all, is an equal branch of government with constitutionally granted powers. Lately, nearly all of those powers have been siphoned off by the president and his team of unelected bureaucrats. Yet, again and again, GOP lawmakers meekly submit to this constitutional castration.

To wit: Congress’s power of the purse? Gone. Regardless of how much money Congress appropriates for, say, a border wall or military aid to Ukraine, President Trump has made clear that he’ll ignore the number and pencil in his own. [..]

Which brings me to the most significant power Trump has stripped from Congress: its lawmaking authority. This is best illustrated by the administration’s actions basically rewriting immigration law wholesale, with nary a peep from GOP legislators.

Sure, on some immigration matters, Congress has relinquished its responsibilities, effectively giving Trump the ability to contort immigration policy as he sees fit.