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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Richard Wolffe: Republicans are finally realising Trump is his own worst enemy – and theirs

The president’s increasingly risible attempts to paint himself as a victim are alienating even his most loyal supporters

There was a time, not so long ago, when it was widely considered suicidal for an American politician to pay hush money to porn stars, cosy up to Russian leaders, or use national security dollars to buy foreign interference at election time.

In those quaint days of yore, an experienced politician might have steered well clear of anything that smacked of being on the wrong side of civil rights. [..]

Until now, Trump has assumed he can get away with murder because Republican senators will acquit him in an impeachment trial. That may be a reasonable assumption, even for someone as smart as Trump.

But there’s one thing that Republican senators value, and it’s not Trump’s leadership or his personal charm. It’s survival.

At some point, Mitch McConnell will look at the polls and his projected losses in the Senate and realise that there’s something even worse than Trump unleashing his tweetbots in a Republican primary.

Thomas L. Friedman: Trump’s Syria Trifecta: A Win for Putin, a Loss for the Kurds and Lots of Uncertainty for Our Allies

It’s pure genius!

On the eve of the Iraq war, in 2003, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain addressed a joint session of Congress about America’s foreign policy mission: “In some small corner of this vast country, out in Nevada or Idaho or these places I’ve never been to but always wanted to go,” said Blair, “there’s a guy getting on with his life, perfectly happy, minding his own business, saying to you, the political leaders of this country, ‘Why me, and why us, and why America?’ And the only answer is, ‘Because destiny put you in this place in history, in this moment in time, and the task is yours to do.’”

Blair is still right about the role that destiny has placed on America’s shoulders, but years later it is also clear that many Americans are exhausted with that role. [..]

The job of the president, though, is to balance the understandable desire of Americans to no longer bear every burden and oppose any foe to ensure the survival of freedom with the fact that U.S. interests and values still require us to remain engaged around the world in a sustainable way.

But sustainable engagement requires us to do at least three things: make fine distinctions, leverage allies and amplify islands of decency. Alas, Trump violated all these principles in Syria.

Harry Litman: House Democrats have a savvy impeachment strategy

Don’t look now, but the House Democrats are playing it very smart.Justly lambasted for their bumbling efforts to follow up on the Mueller report only a few months ago, the Democrats appear to be assembling a meticulous and tightly focused case for impeachment, notwithstanding the White House’s efforts to obstruct and upend them however it can.

Their latest advance was Tuesday’s killer testimony from acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine William B. Taylor that the release of military aid to Ukraine was contingent on that country’s government making a public declaration that it would investigate former vice president Joe Biden, his son Hunter, and interference in the 2016 election.

Taylor’s testimony had been highly anticipated ever since it was revealed that he sent this text to two other U.S. diplomats: “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

Crazy is one word for it. Impeachable is another.

Emerging reports suggest that Democrats are zeroing in on a single “abuse of power” impeachment count, based on President Trump’s attempts to strong-arm Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into delivering dirt on Biden, a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.

This is a savvy strategy for several reasons.Crazy is one word for it. Impeachable is another.

Emerging reports suggest that Democrats are zeroing in on a single “abuse of power” impeachment count, based on President Trump’s attempts to strong-arm Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into delivering dirt on Biden, a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.

This is a savvy strategy for several reasons.

Jesse Wegman: Donald Trump’s Quid Pro Quo Is Now a Smoking Gun

Mr. Trump’s own acting envoy, William Taylor, described how the president tried to force Ukraine to advance his political interests.

If Tuesday’s congressional testimony by William Taylor, the acting United States envoy to Ukraine, is to be taken at face value — and no one in the Trump administration has yet denied a word of it — then it is now beyond doubt: President Trump placed his personal political future above the national-security interests of the United States. He did so at the expense of longstanding foreign policy, a critical international alliance and the stability of the global order — and he used hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to do it.

The nation has known the basic outlines of this story for weeks, thanks to the bravery of a C.I.A. whistle-blower and others. But in 15 pages, Mr. Taylor laid out with a stunning degree of detail the extent of Mr. Trump’s effort to extort Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, and his son over supposed corruption.

You know it’s bad for the president when the only response the White House can muster is to sidestep the testimony and complain instead about “a coordinated smear campaign from far-left lawmakers and radical unelected bureaucrats waging war on the Constitution.”

Would that be the same Constitution that Mr. Trump referred to, in part, as “phony” just this week? Also, “radical unelected bureaucrat” is a curious way to describe Mr. Taylor, who currently serves as Mr. Trump’s acting envoy to Ukraine and is a retired career civil servant and Vietnam War veteran who has served under both Republican and Democratic presidents.

Katrina vanden Heuvel; Democrats shouldn’t let Trump’s problems turn them into the party of war

Will President Trump’s Syrian fiasco transform Democrats into the party of war? Former vice president Joe Biden and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg are taking shots at Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s continued support for getting U.S. troops out of the Middle East. And ever-martial Hillary Clinton is slandering Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the most forceful opponent to U.S. intervention in the race for the Democratic nomination, as a Russian asset. In other words, Trump’s Middle East follies are having perverse effects at home.

Not surprisingly, Democrats have rushed to condemn the president’s sudden withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria. Opening the door to a Turkish invasion, abandoning our Kurdish allies, emboldening Syria, Russia and Iran, and standing aside while casualties and refugees mount — it is hard to imagine a more calamitous spur-of-the-moment decision.

The danger is that the opportunity to trash Trump will revive an interventionist temper among Democrats. After Clinton’s vote for the Iraq War cost her dearly against both Barack Obama and Donald Trump, even establishment Democrats began to realize that the public was tired of endless wars. [..]

Trump’s toxic combination of arrogance and ignorance, his desire to pose as both the tough guy and the peacemaker are truly destructive. But so, too, is the establishment assumption that the United States can police the world with a “light footprint” without finding ourselves mired in endless wars for which we lack the will either to win or to end.