Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news media 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: Greta Versus the Greedy Grifters

Why a 17-year-old is a better economist than Steve Mnuchin.

I’ve never been a fan of Davos, that annual gathering of the rich and fatuous. One virtue of the pageant of preening and self-importance, however, is that it brings out the worst in some people, leading them to say things that reveal their vileness for all to see.

And so it was for Steven Mnuchin, Donald Trump’s Treasury secretary. First, Mnuchin doubled down on his claim that the 2017 tax cut will pay for itself — just days after his own department confirmed that the budget deficit in 2019 was more than $1 trillion, 75 percent higher than it was in 2016.

Then he sneered at Greta Thunberg, the young climate activist, suggesting that she go study economics before calling for an end to investment in fossil fuels.

Well, unearned arrogance is a Trump administration hallmark — witness Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, claiming that a respected national security reporter couldn’t find Ukraine on a map. So it may not surprise you to learn that Mnuchin was talking nonsense and that Thunberg almost certainly has it right.

Nikolas Bowie: Don’t Be Confused by Trump’s Defense. What He Is Accused of Are Crimes.

Abuse of power and obstruction of Congress have long been considered criminal and merit impeachment.

Watching CNN last week, I learned that I’m partly responsible for President Trump’s legal defense.

On the screen was one of the president’s lawyers, Alan Dershowitz, explaining his new position that impeachment requires “criminal-like behavior.” When the legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin interjected that “every single law professor” disagreed with him, Mr. Dershowitz rejoined that one professor — me! — was “completely” on his side.

Mr. Dershowitz encouraged Mr. Toobin to read a law review article I wrote on the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, in which a former Supreme Court justice, Benjamin Curtis, successfully argued that no one should ever be punished for doing something that wasn’t a crime. Mr. Dershowitz apparently thought my article supported his view that even if Mr. Trump did everything the House has accused him of doing, the president shouldn’t be convicted because he hasn’t been accused of criminal behavior.

As an academic, my first reaction was to be grateful that someone had actually read one of my articles.

But as a legal academic, my second reaction was confusion. Even if you think impeachment requires a crime, as I do, that belief hardly supports the president’s defense or Mr. Dershowitz’s position. President Trump has been accused of a crime. Two in fact: “abuse of power” and “obstruction of Congress.”

Charles M. Blow: America, the Idea, Is Lost

The Senate is poised to deliver another blow to voter confidence in our system.

Our electoral process has become corrupted, with politicians seeking to block some from the ballot and plutocrats seeking to beguile those who would vote.

Now, with the Trump impeachment, we are seeing that the structure of government is also showing signs of fracture.

There has been no doubt, since the White House released the quasi-transcript of the phone call between Donald Trump and the president of Ukraine, that Trump had been engaged in a corrupt act when trying to pressure the Ukrainians to announce an investigation of the Bidens. Indeed, this month, the Government Accountability Office determined that Trump broke the law when withholding funds to Ukraine as part of his pressure campaign.

Then, Trump did everything within his power to conceal what he had done when the House of Representatives launched its impeachment investigation.

Now, Senate Republicans stand poised to cement in precedent, by way of an acquittal, that the president who thought himself king, who considers himself above the law, is in fact above the law. Oaths be damned. Constitution be damned.

David Leonhardt: Iowa Should Never Go First Again

The current system is a form of white privilege that warps the process.

The Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary owe their first-in-the-nation status partly to circumstance. Decades ago, Iowa’s caucus was the initial step in a long, complex process that the state used to award delegates, which meant that the voting had to happen early in the year. New Hampshire was mostly trying to save money — by scheduling its primary on the same day as many annual town meetings, which were held before the spring mud season.

But circumstance has not kept Iowa and New Hampshire at the front of the line. An aggressive protection of their own self-interest has. As primaries and caucuses became a bigger part of national politics in the 1970s, officials in Iowa and New Hampshire have fought hard to stay first. [..]

It’s all worked out very nicely for the two states. A typical voter in Iowa or New Hampshire has up to 20 times more influence than somebody in later-voting states, one study found. Sometimes, the two states have turned a parochial issue (ethanol) into a national priority. Local hotels, restaurants, pollsters and television and radio stations have received millions of dollars in extra business.

This system has worked out much less well for the other 48 states. They have voluntarily surrendered political influence — and allowed the presidential nominating process to become warped.

Neal K. Katyal, Joshua A. Geltzer and John Roberts Can Call Witnesses to Trump’s Trial. Will He?

Democratic House managers should ask the chief justice to issue subpoenas for John Bolton and others.

An overwhelming number of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, believe the Senate should hear from relevant witnesses and obtain documents during President Trump’s impeachment trial. Striking new revelations about the president’s role in the Ukraine affair, as reported from an unpublished manuscript by John Bolton, underscore the need for his testimony and that of others.

Yet Republican members of the Senate have signaled that they intend to uphold Mr. Trump’s unprecedented decision to block all of this material.

But it turns out they don’t get to make that choice — Chief Justice John Roberts does. This isn’t a matter of Democrats needing four “moderate” Republicans to vote for subpoenas and witnesses, as the Trump lawyers have been claiming. Rather, the impeachment rules, like all trial systems, put a large thumb on the scale of issuing subpoenas and place that power within the authority of the judge, in this case the chief justice.

Most critically, it would take a two-thirds vote — not a majority — of the Senate to overrule that. This week, Democrats can and should ask the chief justice to issue subpoenas on his authority so that key witnesses of relevance like John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney appear in the Senate, and the Senate should subpoena all relevant documents as well.