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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Jamelle Bouie: The Trump We Did Not Want to See

When are we going to stop trying to rationalize the irrational?

Much of the work of H.P. Lovecraft, an American horror and science fiction writer who worked during the first decades of the 20th century, is defined by individual encounters with the incomprehensible, with sights, sounds and ideas that undermine and disturb reality as his characters understand it. Faced with things too monstrous to be real, but which exist nonetheless, Lovecraftian protagonists either reject their senses or descend into madness, unable to live with what they’ve learned.

It feels, at times, that when it comes to Donald Trump, our political class is this Lovecraftian protagonist, struggling to understand an incomprehensibly abnormal president. The reality of Donald Trump — an amoral narcissist with no capacity for reflection or personal growth — is evident from his decades in public life. But rather than face this, too many people have rejected the facts in front of them, choosing an illusion instead of the disturbing truth.

Neal K. Katyal and George T. Conway III: Why Is Mitch McConnell So Afraid of John Bolton?

The Senate must hear his testimony in an impeachment trial.

The importance of John Bolton’s offer to testify if subpoenaed in the impeachment proceedings against President Trump cannot be overstated. In a single stroke, Mr. Bolton, the former national security adviser, elevated truth and transparency over political gamesmanship.

The Senate must take him up on his offer, as well as demand the testimony of President Trump and the administration officials he has barred from testifying. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, reportedly has the votes to proceed with the trial despite no agreement with Democrats on new witnesses and to leave it a question to take up after opening arguments. The Senate still must declare that it will call witnesses during the trial.

Everyone — Republicans, Democrats and independents — must know that these crucial witnesses will be heard.

The core principle behind the rule of law is that justice is blind and partisan identity should not influence a trial’s outcome. But anyone watching Mr. McConnell twist himself into knots in trying to block witnesses and documents has to wonder whether this notion ever took root in his mind.

Heather Digby Parton: Who needs John Bolton? Mike Pompeo has been pushing Trump into war with Iran all along

An evangelical Christian and hardline neocon, the secretary of state has quietly become a dangerous power player

Ever since President Trump ordered the assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani last Friday night, everyone in the world has been holding their breath wondering what would come next. There were tweets and public statements about retaliation, with the president saying he would target Iranian cultural sites, while the Iranians were promising they would not engage in the asymmetric responses everyone assumed they were planning. [..]

Trump may ignore them and just declare victory. But most experts expect that Iran will not be content with this limited response that causes no pain for the U.S., considering the importance of the man who was killed. Frankly, it’s not reasonable to believe that the U.S. is going to say it’s even-steven either, at least not as long as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has the president’s ear. All the reporting about how the decision was made says this debacle was his baby.

I think the presence of über-hawk John Bolton in the administration somewhat obscured Pompeo’s Iran obsession. As with our hopes that Attorney General William Barr would be a predictable Republican establishment institutionalist, there was some thought that Pompeo’s closeness with the president meant that he would manage his impulsivity and chaotic foreign policy. What appears to have happened is that, like Barr, Pompeo is an ideological extremist who has figured out how to appease and flatter the president into helping him achieve his own goals.

Reverend William Barber: Evangelicals using religion for political gain is nothing new. It is a US tradition

No one who has read US history can be surprised by the hypocrisy of Evangelicals for Trump but it also tells us how their undoing will inevitably come

Last Friday the Trump 2020 campaign held its first rally at a megachurch. King Jesus international ministries, located outside of Miami, Florida, hosted the Evangelicals for Trump Coalition kick-off. Before boasting about his commitment to fight for the religious right’s agenda, the president bowed his head to receive prayers from prosperity preacher Paula White and other religious nationalists who offer spiritual cover for a corrupt and immoral administration.

As a bishop of the church, I am troubled anytime I see Christianity used to justify the injustice, deception, violence and oppression that God hates. Even if Donald Trump had a perfect personal moral résumé, his policy agenda is an affront to God’s agenda to lift the poor and bless the marginalized. The distorted moral narrative these so-called Evangelicals for Trump have embraced is contrary to God’s politics, which have nothing to do with being a Democrat or Republican. But this misuse of religion is not new. It has a long history in the American story.

Strobe Talbott and Maggie Tennis : The Only Winner of the U.S.-Iran Showdown Is Russia

A crisis tailor-made for Vladimir Putin.

Hours before Iran launched a missile attack on U.S. troops in Iraq, Vladimir Putin visited Syria to huddle with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad over the mounting U.S.-Iran crisis. Russia has repeatedly condemned the U.S. airstrikes that killed Iranian Major Gen. Qassem Soleimani. It’s fair to assume that leaders in Moscow are seeking to turn the situation to their advantage.

Relations between Washington and Tehran have deteriorated since the onset of the Syrian conflict and even more so since President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal. At the same time, Russia and Iran have grown closer through military cooperation in Syria. Moscow’s expanding influence in Syria suggests that a conflict between the United States and Iran could advance Russia’s power and reputation in the region. At the very least, Russia will be able to paint the United States as an erratic aggressor, leading regional actors and international allies to question cooperation with Washington.