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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Paul Krugman: Centrists, Progressives and Europhobia

Who’s out of touch with reality, again?

Will the Democratic presidential nomination go to a centrist or a progressive? Which choice would give the party the best chance in next year’s election? Honestly, I have no idea.

One thing I can say, however, is that neither centrism nor progressivism is what it used to be.

There was a time when arguments between centrists and progressives were framed as debates between realism and idealism. These days, however, it often seems as if the centrists, not the progressives, are out of touch with reality. Indeed, sometimes it feels as if centrists are Rip Van Winkles who spent the last 20 years in a cave and missed everything that has happened to America and the world since the 1990s.

You can see this in politics, where Joe Biden has repeatedly declared that Republicans will have an “epiphany” once Donald Trump is gone, and once again become reasonable people Democrats can deal with. Given the G.O.P.’s scorched-earth politics during the Obama years, that’s a bizarre claim.

You can also see it in economics. There are many reasonable criticisms you could offer of Elizabeth Warren’s economic proposals. But the one I keep seeing is that Warren would turn America into (cue scary music) Europe, maybe even (cue even scarier music) France. And you have to wonder whether people who say such things have paid any attention to either Europe or America over the past few decades.

Eugene Robinson: Enough with the Latin. What Trump did was bribery.

Enough with all the Latin. “Quid pro quo” is a namby-pamby, wishy-washy way to describe the crime President Trump clearly committed in his dealings with Ukraine. The correct term is bribery, and the punishment under federal law is up to 15 years in prison.

One thing Trump understands is the value of simplicity and repetition in getting a message across. Those seeking to hold him accountable through impeachment — an undertaking that requires and deserves public support — must heed that same lesson. Legalese in a long-dead language is the wrong approach. Instead, call the thing by its name.

“Read the transcript,” Trump regularly demands on Twitter. Well, I did read the rough and incomplete transcript of his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which Trump claims was “perfect,” and I’ve also been plowing through the transcripts of the closed-door House interviews of various witnesses. My conclusion is that Trump’s conduct is better described as bribery than as extortion.

Federal law states that a public official is guilty of bribery if he or she “directly or indirectly, corruptly demands, seeks, receives, accepts, or agrees to receive or accept anything of value personally or for any other person or entity, in return for . . . being influenced in the performance of any official act.”

You don’t have to be a lawyer to see that all the elements of the crime are present.

Robert Reich: Case Closed. There’s No Question the Founding Fathers Would Impeach Trump

If a president can invite a foreign power to influence the outcome of an election, there’s no limit to how far foreign powers might go to curry favor with a president by helping to take down his rivals.

Trump has asked a foreign power to dig up dirt on a major political rival. This is an impeachable offense.

Come back in time with me. In late May 1787, when 55 delegates gathered in Philadelphia to begin debate over a new Constitution, everyone knew the first person to be president would be the man who presided over that gathering: George Washington. As Benjamin Franklin put it, “The first man put at the helm will be a good one,” but “Nobody knows what sort may come afterwards.”

Trump’s entire presidency has been shadowed by questions of foreign interference favoring him. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation documented extensive contacts between Trump’s associates and Russian figures—concluding that the Kremlin sought specifically to help Trump get elected, and that Trump’s campaign welcomed Russia’s help.

Trump at one point in the 2016 election campaign even publicly called on Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails, and within hours Russian agents sought to do just that by trying to break into her computer servers.

More recently, he openly called on China’s help, saying before cameras “China should start an investigation into the Bidens.”

This is an impeachable offense, according to the framers of the Constitution. Trump did it.

Case closed.

Zach Everson: The Trump family’s Washington hotel is one of the worst swamps in D.C. Selling it won’t help.

One of the most frustrating results of Trump’s brazen business dealings is the precedent they have already set.

Seeking profit and maybe legitimacy, President Donald Trump’s business announced at the end of October that it’s considering selling the lease to its imposing Washington hotel. This should not be taken as a sign of ethical self-awareness. Offloading the Trump International Hotel Washington could make the Trump family millions. It would also just splash existing ethics concerns with even more swamp water. [..]

The Trumps’ are hoping to collect more than $500 million for the lease, The Wall Street Journal reported. That article said such a price would be one of the highest ever paid for a hotel on per-guest-room basis — and the Trumps may get offers close to it. According to The New York Times, Bruce Rosenberg, an executive at HotelPlanner.com, said the hotel could command bids around that asking price. The hotel’s lease says Trump may receive a 20 percent return on his investment from a sale, per The Washington Post.

So rather than handing over money to the president’s business one cocktail, steak dinner or presidential ballroom booking at a time, now one very special wooer has the option of shoveling millions to Trump in one convenient scoop.

Jamelle Bouie How to Use Your State as a Laboratory for Democracy

The new Democratic majority in Virginia can show how it’s done.

The last time Virginia Democrats had unified control of state government was 1993, under Governor Douglas L. Wilder. But it was a very different party — with rural strongholds in south and southwestern Virginia — and a very different majority, with moderates, conservatives and just a spattering of liberals.

This new majority, elected on Tuesday, is the inverse of that party. Its rural support is largely gone, replaced by deep gains in the suburbs and metro areas of Northern Virginia, Richmond and Hampton Roads. Its moderates are more liberal, its liberals are more left-wing (one incumbent in the House of Delegates, Lee Carter, is a dues-paying member of the Democratic Socialists of America), and its conservatives are a memory, casualties of past Republican victories.

This new majority, in other words, is the most progressive majority in Virginia legislative history. And with a liberal governor in Ralph Northam — who has somehow recovered from his “blackface” scandal — there’s now an opportunity to pass the kinds of policies that would sustain progressive victories and make the state a model for democratic reform.