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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George T. Conway III and Neal K. Katyal: How Pelosi should play her impeachment cards
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has announced that she plans to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate, but that does not mean she has lost in the seeming standoff with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) over whether to call witnesses at the Senate trial. McConnell has said “there’s no chance the president’s going to be removed from office” and “there will be no difference between the president’s position and our position.” In response, Pelosi still has cards in her hand — if she plays them — because the House approved two articles of impeachment against President Trump.
The first article of impeachment effectively charges the president with shaking down Ukraine; the second impeaches him for his unprecedented obstruction of Congress. That gives the speaker room to maneuver. She could choose to tweak her announcement and send only the second article, on obstruction, for trial. Or she could transmit them both — along with a House-approved provision advising the Senate that if it fails to obtain adequate witnesses and documents, the House will reopen the investigation into Article I and subpoena that material itself.
Separating the two articles — our preferred approach — would make perfect sense. When it comes to the second article, all the evidence about Trump’s obstruction is a matter of public record. There’s nothing more to add, so the second article is ripe for trial. But as to the first, although there is plenty of evidence demonstrating Trump’s guilt, his obstruction has prevented all of the evidence from coming to light.
James Mann: Donald Trump Is No Dick Cheney
Republican foreign policy was once defined by clashing world views. Now it’s defined only by loyalty to the president.
first glance, the recent drone strike ordered by President Trump against an Iranian general would seem to return Republican foreign policy to the George W. Bush era. Several elements of the attack reflected the approach to the world defined by Mr. Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney: a belief in the efficacy of military force, the validity of pre-emptive attack and the determination to avoid seeking approval from congressional leaders. But on closer examination, such comparisons fail. In his foreign policy, Mr. Trump represents something wholly new.
The president’s recent actions underscore the fact that the Republican Party has no guiding principles; it has only Mr. Trump, who demands loyalty to himself as its leader. Nor does the party leadership have senior figures with long experience in foreign policy who might challenge Mr. Trump’s thinking. The Republican Party, which once served as home for a variety of clashing philosophies about foreign policy, has lost its moorings.
Susan Hennessey and : Trump’s Frightening Vision of the Presidency Is on Trial, Too
The president believes that what is good for him and what is good for the country are indistinguishable.
When the trial of President Trump begins, perhaps as soon as this week, the Senate will formally confront only the two questions posed by the articles of impeachment passed in the House of Representatives. Did Mr. Trump abuse the powers of his office in his interactions with Ukraine? And did he obstruct Congress’s investigation of that matter?
But the real question before the Senate is far broader than the specific scandal recounted in the articles. What is on trial, at the most basic level, is Mr. Trump’s vision of the American presidency.
It may seem to give Mr. Trump too much credit to suggest that he has a coherent vision of the presidency; he is plainly not a political theorist. But over his three years in office, and in the campaign that preceded them, he actually has put a vision of the presidency on the table. Throughout this most unusual administration, Mr. Trump has shown how he imagines the presidency should work, what he believes it is for and how he thinks its powers should be deployed. The Ukraine scandal presents a near-perfect distillation of Mr. Trump’s conception of his office — and the House’s articles of impeachment will put many of the elements of his vision before the Senate for judgment.
Fundamentally, Mr. Trump proposes that the purpose of executive power is to serve the individual interests of the president. It serves the public good only coincidentally and only when convenient.
Jamelle Bouie: Progressives Are the Real Pragmatists
Medicaid expansion is just the latest example of how liberal policies make for good politics.
When left-wing Democrats push for universal benefits and expansive new policies, they do so with a theory of politics in mind. It goes like this: The reason to fight for debt-free college or Medicare for all isn’t just to improve life for Americans, but to build new ground for progressive political activity. New programs create new constituencies, and new programs with broad benefits can give more Americans a stake in the expansion and preservation of the welfare state. Conservatives know this. That’s why they’ve fought so hard to block or undermine even modest new programs.
Take the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, which stands as the latest proof of the truth of that progressive theory. [..]
Major new programs are difficult to pass. The struggle to make them happen is almost always “divisive.” But if you fight that fight and win, then in addition to passing the program, you’ve also laid groundwork for future political victories. Despite being undermined by the Supreme Court, the Medicaid expansion has found a toehold in American politics, producing a powerful constituency for itself.
The social safety net depends on public support to survive. And one way to generate that support is to make it as strong and expansive as possible, with the most ambitious policies you can bring to fruition. Conservatives understand this in their bones. As Democrats debate their choices and decide on a presidential nominee, they should also keep this lesson uppermost in their minds.
Three months ago, President Trump suddenly withdrew U.S. forces from northern Syria that were, in part, thwarting Iran’s efforts to dominate the country, declaring, “Going into the Middle East is one of the worst decisions ever made in the history of our country. It’s like quicksand.” Well, last week he dramatically escalated America’s military engagement in the region, ordering a strike on Iran’s most important military leader and deploying thousands more troops. How to make sense of this Middle East policy?
It gets more confusing. Around the same time that he was urgently withdrawing U.S. troops from what he called the “bloodstained sand” of Syria, Trump sent 3,000 additional troops to Saudi Arabia. (When asked why, he answered that the Saudis were paying good money for this deployment.) And just a few weeks after announcing the Syria withdrawal, he reversed himself and left some troops in the north “for the oil.” All clear now?
After the killing last week of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, Trump warned that were Iran to attack “any Americans, or American assets,” he would retaliate “VERY FAST AND VERY HARD.” And yet after Iran did attack two bases in Iraq hosting U.S. forces, Trump essentially did nothing, announcing that Tehran “appears to be standing down.” I’m glad Trump chose to deescalate, but that doesn’t change the fact that he reversed himself yet again. [..]
Trump does not have a foreign policy. He has a series of impulses — isolationism, unilateralism, bellicosity — some of them contradictory. One might surge at any particular moment, triggered usually by Trump’s sense that he might look weak or foolish. They are often unleashed without any consultation, and then his yes men line up to defend him, supporting the president’s every move with North Korean-style enthusiasm, no matter how incoherent.