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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Preet Brahara: Nepotism and partisanship in the US civil service is reaching a crisis point

Here is how we can reform the political appointments process to protect government decision-making from political patronage or nepotism

Long before President Donald Trump lied about the path of a hurricane and threatened the leadership at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, he nominated the former CEO of AccuWeather to serve as its administrator. In past presidencies, such a nomination would have been out of bounds. It breaks the decades-long precedent of having a scientist lead the more than 6,000 scientists and engineers at Noaa, not to mention the obvious conflict of interest in putting someone in control of the government’s weather data who had advocated for the privatization of that data for his personal profit. The nomination turned out to be a prelude to President Trump’s politicization of the traditionally non-partisan work at Noaa.

Over the last half century, a set of norms, unwritten rules, and a few laws kept the presidential appointments process focused on naming people to senior government positions who serve in the public’s interest. Appointees were expected to be qualified, free of conflicts of interest, and not members of the president’s family. These principles helped prevent corruption and maintain a basic level of trust in the integrity and effectiveness of government and those who led it. They protect government decision-making from the improper influence associated with political patronage or nepotism.

Of course, presidents didn’t always get it right, and when they ran afoul of these principles, Congress took notice.

Lloyd Green: Rudy Giuliani is Donald Trump’s real secretary of state

Giuliani wanted to be tapped as America’s top diplomat, and it looks like he got more than he bargained for: congressional scrutiny and the media’s glare.

From the looks of things, Rudy Giuliani has been the real secretary of state from Day One of the Trump administration. From Ukraine to Turkey to Iran to Foggy Bottom, Giuliani has left his mark. Who cares if Mike Pompeo now sits in the same office once occupied by Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.

“America’s Mayor” has emerged as the Zelig of the Trump presidency, appearing anywhere and everywhere, the only thing missing being feathers sprouting from his head. As to whether Giuliani has truly served the presidency’s true interests, as opposed to simply playing Trump’s TV lawyer, that’s a whole other story. [..]

But Giuliani is learning, as others have before, there is no brass ring when it comes to Trump. Giuliani wanted to be tapped as secretary of state, and it looks like he got more than he bargained for. Globetrotting has begotten congressional scrutiny and the media’s glare.

Once remembered as a face of courage amid the ruins of 9/11, Giuliani has now been forced to lawyer up as the prospect of impeachment tightens it grip around Trump and his minions. As the saying goes, answered prayers are the most dangerous.

Robert Reich: Donald Trump: xenophobe in public, international mobster in private

The founding fathers said betraying America to foreign powers was an impeachable offense. The president must go.

The most xenophobic and isolationist American president in modern history has been selling America to foreign powers for his own personal benefit.

Trump withdrew American troops from the Syrian-Turkish border, leaving our Kurdish allies to be slaughtered and opening the way for a resurgent Islamic State. Trump’s rationale? He promised to bring our soldiers home.

There could be another reason. Trump never divested from his real estate business, and the Trump Towers Istanbul is the Trump Organization’s first and only office and residential building in Europe. Businesses linked to the Turkish government are also major patrons of the Trump Organization. Which may be why Trump has repeatedly sided with the Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has been intent on eliminating the Kurds. [..]

To ensure no president would “betray his trust to foreign powers”, as James Madison put it, they included an emoluments clause – barring a president from accepting foreign payments.

They also gave Congress the right to impeach a president for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors”. During the Virginia ratifying convention, Edmund Randolph confirmed that a president “may be impeached” if discovered “receiving [help] from foreign powers”.

You don’t have to be an originalist to see the dangers to democracy when a president seeks or receives personal favors from foreign governments. There is no limit to how far a foreign power might go to help a president enlarge his political power and wealth, in exchange for selling out America.

Leah Litman: The Supreme Court could get a lot more undemocratic

Despite the significant power it wields, the Supreme Court is among the federal government’s most undemocratic institutions. Its justices are appointed for life terms, and selected and confirmed by presidents and the Senate — which themselves do not necessarily reflect the will of the public.

For this reason, academics often characterize the court as “counter-majoritarian,” meaning that it has the power to stand against the majority of the public sentiment in setting policy. But as counter-majoritarian as the Supreme Court is by design, it could get even worse. This term, the court will review cases pertaining to weighty topics ranging from LGBTQ rights to protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. By the end of next summer, we will have a glimpse into just how undemocratic the new conservative majority on the court is willing to be.

Paul Waldman: Once again, Trump chooses the stupidest path

When Barack Obama was president, he had a foreign policy principle that aides described as “Don’t do stupid s—.” In large part a reaction to the Iraq War, it was — despite its seeming simplicity — a warning to consider the unintended consequences and long-term effects of policy initiatives based on unrealistic ideas, especially about what military action can accomplish. It was an acknowledgment that if the administration isn’t careful and thoughtful in the foreign policy decisions it makes, the result can be disaster.

If you didn’t look too closely at his desire to avoid another Middle East war, you might think President Trump shared the same view. But unfortunately — as events in northern Syria are now proving — “stupid s—” is Trump’s specialty.

The Turkish invasion of an area controlled by Kurdish forces who were once allies of the United States has demonstrated what can happen when America’s final decision-maker is someone so weak, ignorant and impulsive. It all started with a phone call between President Trump and a foreign leader, which apparently is how many of our most urgent crises now begin.