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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Sherrod Brown: In Private, Republicans Admit They Acquitted Trump Out of Fear

One journalist remarked to me, “How in the world can these senators walk around here upright when they have no backbone?”

Not guilty. Not guilty.

In the United States Senate, like in many spheres of life, fear does the business.

Think back to the fall of 2002, just a few weeks before that year’s crucial midterm elections, when the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq was up for a vote. A year after the 9/11 attacks, hundreds of members of the House and the Senate were about to face the voters of a country still traumatized by terrorism. [..]

History has indeed taught us that when it comes to the instincts that drive us, fear has no rival. As the lead House impeachment manager, Representative Adam Schiff, has noted, Robert Kennedy spoke of how “moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle.”

Playing on that fear, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, sought a quick impeachment trial for President Trump with as little attention to it as possible. Reporters, who usually roam the Capitol freely, have been cordoned off like cattle in select areas. Mr. McConnell ordered limited camera views in the Senate chamber so only presenters — not absent senators — could be spotted.

And barely a peep from Republican lawmakers.

One journalist remarked to me, “How in the world can these senators walk around here upright when they have no backbone?”

Fear has a way of bending us.

Neal K. Katyal and Joshua A. Geltzer: Trump Was Not Convicted. But He Was Exposed.

The impeachment process yielded a public education that will come back to haunt the president and his enablers.

The vote to acquit President Trump was a dark day for the Senate. Uninterested in hearing from witnesses (and likely scared by what they would say), uncritical of outrageous legal arguments made by the president’s lawyers and apparently unconcerned about the damage Mr. Trump has done to the integrity of America’s elections, a majority of senators insisted on looking the other way and letting him off the hook for a classic impeachable offense: abuse of public office for private gain.

But while the Senate got it wrong, the American people learned what’s right. This impeachment was about much more than the final vote of 100 senators. It was a process, and that process yielded a public education of extraordinary value. While the Senate may emerge from the process weakened, the American people, on the whole, emerge from it strengthened by a sharpened sense of what’s right and what’s wrong for an American president; of what it means for a political party to show moral courage; of what it looks like when dedicated public servants speak truth no matter the consequences; and of the importance of whistle-blowers for ensuring accountability.

Andrew Gawthorpe: Impeachment was a health-check for American democracy. It is not well

The Republican-controlled senate collectively shrugged in the face of Trump’s crimes. So much for checks and balances

The acquittal of Donald Trump reminds us once again of the fragility of American democracy. The failure of impeachment along blatantly partisan lines means that the crucial barriers protecting us from authoritarianism cannot be relied on. The fate of the country’s institutions are left to the mercies of a man singularly unfit to safeguard them.

The slow-creep of authoritarian rule need not be dramatic. It can even, as impeachment seemed at times, be rather boring. Democracy can die by inches, with precedents being established and barriers swept away so gradually that we don’t see what is happening until it is too late. Historians may look back on the past few years as just such a time, with today’s acquittal bringing to maturity a process from which American democracy may take a long time to recover.

Amanda Marcotte: State of the Union: Trump trolls the libs and defiles his office; Pelosi upstages him

Trump’s speech featured reality-show stunts, racism and pompous, empty rhetoric. But he can’t erase impeachment

For whatever reason, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has still failed to wrap up his sham impeachment trial of Donald Trump, denying his orange overlord the much-anticipated acquittal that Trump clearly wished to trumpet. And so it was that Trump took to the House chamber on Tuesday night, one day short of his kangaroo exoneration, to give the annual State of the Union or, as I like to call it, the Sniffing Olympics.

Though the soon-to-be-forgotten Iowa caucus snafu dominated the news cycle for a full day leading up to Trump’s speech, some Democrats managed to capture media attention away from the breathless incompetence and point it toward the, dare I say, more pressing moral concern of the criminal in the White House and the corrupt Republican Party that is protecting him.

Heather Digby Parton: State of the Union: Surreal and angry, with way too much Rush Limbaugh

The speech was mostly wooden, hateful Trump boilerplate — plus a brilliant reality-TV moment for the MAGA tribe

Weirdly enough, Tuesday night wasn’t the first time a president delivered a State of the Union address in the middle of his impeachment trial. Back in 1999, Bill Clinton delivered one in the same circumstances. It’s hard to believe the timing would work out almost exactly the same way but it did.

Clinton was skilled at giving State of the Union speeches under stressful situations. In 1994 he gave the speech without a Teleprompter for several minutes and nobody knew the difference. In 1997, it was broadcast on a split screen with the verdict in the O.J. Simpson civil case. In 1998, his speech came just two weeks after the revelations about his affair with Monica Lewinsky and was good enough that many people believe it may have saved his presidency. Still, the speech during his impeachment must have been very tough. [..]

The anger and aggression is much more intense this time, even though there’s almost no chance that any Republicans will vote to convict Trump. And while Clinton was remorseful for his behavior, publicly apologizing to the nation for putting it through the whole ordeal, Trump is clearly furious and reportedly plotting his revenge,