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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Michelle Goldberg: An Impeachment Inquiry Is Coming. It Might Have Already Begun.

Robert Mueller’s testimony may have lacked thrills, but it marked a turning point in the case against the president.

Last Wednesday, after Robert Mueller’s terse and sometimes halting congressional testimony, conventional wisdom quickly congealed: Mueller’s performance had made Donald Trump’s impeachment far less likely. “Robert S. Mueller III’s disastrous testimony has taken the wind out of the sails of the Democratic impeachment drive,” wrote Marc Thiessen in The Washington Post. CNN’s Chris Cillizza declared Mueller’s testimony “a bust — at least when it came to generating momentum for impeachment.”

ess than a week later, it’s clear that these hot takes were wrong. At no point in Trump’s wretched rule has impeachment appeared more probable. Indeed, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee, which would oversee impeachment hearings, argue that an inquiry into impeachment has already begun. An inexorable confrontation between the House and the president has been set in motion.

Before Mueller’s testimony last Wednesday, 93 House Democrats had come out for an impeachment inquiry. As I write this on Monday, the number is up to 109; among them are Katherine Clark, vice chairwoman of the House Democratic caucus, and Mike Levin, a freshman from a swing district. By the end of the week, more than half the Democratic caucus could be on board.

Eugene Robinson: Trump’s escalation of racism means one thing: He’s worried about reelection

President Trump’s decision to put away his racist dog whistle and bring out his racist bullhorn has just one plausible explanation: desperation.

Disregard, as usual, what Trump claims about his political standing and his prospects for winning a second term. He is acting as though he knows he is likely to lose the election, perhaps by a humiliating margin — and fears what will happen to him and his dodgy business empire once he’s out of office.

Hence Trump’s undisguised appeals to white racial resentment and anger: the vicious and absurd demand that four House members of color “go back” to other countries; the unprovoked and sustained Twitter screed against well-liked veteran Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) and, unbelievably, the entire city of Baltimore; the gratuitous and slanderous claim that the Rev. Al Sharpton “Hates Whites & Cops!” Nothing subtle in any of this.

It overly flatters Trump to fear he’s playing three-dimensional chess or employing some kind of exotic political jiujitsu. What we’re hearing in his harangues and reading in his tweets is naked fear. And he has reason to be very afraid.

Paul Krugman: A Racist Stuck in the Past

In Trump’s mind, it’s still 1989.

Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way. Yes, Donald Trump is a vile racist. He regularly uses dehumanizing language about nonwhites, including members of Congress. And while some argue that this is a cynical strategy designed to turn out Trump’s base, it is at most a strategy that builds on Trump’s pre-existing bigotry. He would be saying these things regardless (and was saying such things long before he ran for president); his team is simply trying to turn bigoted lemons into political lemonade.

What I haven’t seen pointed out much, however, is that Trump’s racism rests on a vision of America that is decades out of date. In his mind it’s always 1989. And that’s not an accident: The ways America has changed over the past three decades, both good and bad, are utterly inconsistent with Trump-style racism.

Why 1989? That was the year he demanded bringing back the death penalty in response to the case of the Central Park Five, black and Latino teenagers convicted of raping a white jogger in Central Park. They were, in fact, innocent; their convictions were vacated in 2002. Trump, nevertheless, has refused to apologize or admit that he was wrong.

His behavior then and later was vicious, and it is no excuse to acknowledge that at the time America was suffering from a crime wave. Still, there was indeed such a wave, and it was fairly common to talk about social collapse in inner-city urban communities.

Paul Waldman: Trump’s new intelligence pick could make Russian interference more likely

President Trump has announced that he will nominate ultraconservative Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.) to be the new director of national intelligence, replacing Daniel Coats to oversee an intelligence apparatus that sprawls across 17 different federal agencies and touches the most sensitive and complex national security challenges faced by our country.

We all know why Ratcliffe was picked, and it’s not because he has served on the House Intelligence Committee for six whole months. It’s because Donald Trump saw him on TV yelling about how the Russia investigation was a big witch hunt.

And it’s the issue of Russia that makes his nomination particularly disturbing. [..]

Like Mattis, Coats had a tense relationship with Trump that eventually became untenable; what they had in common was that both seemed to take their jobs seriously. They were also both unable to offer Trump the kind of performative and substantive sycophancy he so desperately needs. As numerous reports have detailed, Coats’s insistence that Russia is a threat to the United States angered Trump and the White House.

On the other hand, Ratcliffe has made clear his belief that the only thing about Russia and 2016 that is worth investigating is whether the Kremlin was actually in cahoots with Hillary Clinton.

Contemplate for a moment what that means. Every serious person even remotely connected to the world of intelligence understands that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Trump get elected and as part of Vladimir Putin’s larger project to discredit Western democracy. Yet the person Trump wants to put in charge of America’s intelligence apparatus — it remains to be seen if he’ll be confirmed by the Senate — is determined to downplay and deny those obvious facts.

Catherine Rampell: ‘The president would never do that!’ Oh, yes, he would.

President Trump would never even think of doing that!

So we’ve heard again and again, from Trump allies apparently trying to pre-commit the president to not doing something stupid or dangerous that he’s obviously inclined to do.

They said it when they claimed, way back when, that Trump had no interest in starting any trade wars. They said it when Trump was contemplating defying a Supreme Court ruling on the census citizenship question. And they said it when Trump made his supposedly unintentionally racist comments about four congresswomen of color, when they wanted to bridle his itchy Twitter finger.

Each time, right after such pronouncements, Trump either immediately did the stupid or dangerous thing, or threatened to do it soon.

With his latest threats to weaken the dollar, we’re seeing this pattern once again.