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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Charles M. Blow: Crisis as Political Catalyst
The Democratic presidential candidate must be able to respond to any situation.
Last week, Donald Trump demonstrated the incredible power the president has to create such a crisis with the assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani in Iraq.
There is no way to know as of yet what prompted Trump to take such an action. The administration has said that there was an imminent threat from Suleimani, who was actively planning attacks on American interests. However, as CNN reported, “The lack of evidence provided to lawmakers and the public has fueled lingering skepticism about whether the strike was justified.” [..]
Whatever Trump’s reasoning, he has, at least for the moment, shifted the narrative.
Impeachment talk recedes a bit as newspaper column inches and television news analysis adjust to include coverage of the attack, fears of Iranian retribution and the broader question about what this all means for our interests and allies in the Middle East.
Democratic candidates on the trail are now discussing the Iranian episode in addition to health care, an issue that has come to define the contest.
And as all this happens, voters see candidates through a different lens. The candidates deemed strong on domestic policy may not enjoy that same favor on foreign policy.
Susan E. Rice: The Dire Consequences of Trump’s Suleimani Decision
One thing is clear after the killing of Iran’s second most important official: Americans are not safer.
Americans would be wise to brace for war with Iran.
Full-scale conflict is not a certainty, but the probability is higher than at any point in decades. Despite President Trump’s oft-professed desire to avoid war with Iran and withdraw from military entanglements in the Middle East, his decision to order the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s second most important official, as well as Iraqi leaders of an Iranian-backed militia, now locks our two countries in a dangerous escalatory cycle that will likely lead to wider warfare.
How did we get here? What are the consequences of these targeted killings? Can we avoid a worse-case scenario? [..]
When Iran does respond, its response will likely be multifaceted and occur at unpredictable times and in multiple places. President Trump will then face what may yet be the most consequential national security decision of his presidency. If he reacts with additional force, the risk is great that the confrontation will spiral into a wider military conflict. If he fails to react in kind, he will likely invite escalating Iranian aggression.
It’s hard to envision how this ends short of war.
Intimidating whistleblowers, politicizing law enforcement, protecting rogue military officers and criminal sheriffs – the pattern is depressingly clear
As the Senate moves to an impeachment trial and America slouches into this election year, the rule of law is center stage.
Yet Donald Trump is substituting lawless thuggery for impartial justice.
The biggest immediate news is the president’s killing of Qassem Suleimani. The act brings America to the brink of an illegal war with Iran without any congressional approval, in direct violation of Congress’s war-making authority under the constitution. [..]
You see the pattern: whistleblowers intimidated, the justice department politicized, findings of special counsels and inspectors general distorted or ignored, foreign policy made by a private citizen unaccountable to anybody, rogue military officers and rogue sheriffs pardoned.
Each instance is disturbing on its own. Viewed as a whole, Trump’s lawlessness is systematically corrupting justice in the US.
Impartial justice is the keystone of a democracy. Even if the Senate fails to remove Trump for impeachable offenses, American voters must do so next November.
Those who made their peace with Trump all made the same fatal mistake: Believing that he believed in anything
If consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, as Emerson famously observed, then maybe Donald Trump really is the “stable genius” he has proclaimed himself. Certainly our president’s vanity and narcissism are such that he’d enjoy seeing himself on Emerson’s list of the great and misunderstood giants of history: “Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh.” At least, Trump might appreciate that if he knew who even half those people were. Or if he could read.
There are other, more plausible explanations for Trump’s behavior, of course. Such as that his greatness is entirely in his own mind, and that he barely recognizes other people or the outside world as real. He is a damaged, impulsive man-child whose pathologies distill many of the worst pathologies of the nation that (more or less) elected him. So many judgments of Trump — from those who love him, those who hate him and those who have ridden along and made their peace with him for various reasons — were built on the faulty premise that he could be predicted or controlled, or at least that he was guided by some recognizable ideology.
Nearly all of us, frankly, have been guilty of that to some degree. In this moment of crisis, I think we all owe a debt to NeverTrump conservatives like Tom Nichols and Rick Wilson, and to mental health professionals like Dr. Bandy Lee, Dr. Lance Dodes, Dr. John Gartner and others, who have consistently warned that Trump was unstable and unpredictable, and at some stage was likely to endanger the safety of not just the United States but the entire world. Well, here we are.
Heather Digby Parton: Why Trump did it: A strategic distraction, or a spoiled child showing off his new toys?
Iran killing pushed impeachment out of the headlines, showed off some hardware and impressed the Christian fanatics
For all the talk about Donald Trump wanting to end the “forever wars,” I think we knew what he was really talking about, don’t we? He wanted to end the “Bush-Obama” wars because his only real foreign policy has been to reverse anything his predecessors did. That includes all of them going back to at least Franklin D. Roosevelt, and maybe Abe Lincoln.
It’s been clear from the beginning that Trump had no real understanding of world affairs or history, beyond a vague notion that America has become weak and feckless due to our foolish adherence to silly legal and moral restraints on our behavior. Despite our economic and military dominance in every corner of the globe, he feels the U.S. has been humiliated by strongmen who think we’re soft. It is the worldview of a spoiled child.
It was inevitable that he would one day decide to demonstrate military strength to prove his mettle, and entirely predictable that he would do it impulsively at a moment of extreme political danger. His anger and frustration over the impeachment process have been palpable. He’s been way in over his head from the start, and the stress of trying to do a job he is so clearly unqualified to do has undoubtedly frayed his nerves. He was going to lash out — it was only a question of when and where.