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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Eugene Robinson: For Trump, incompetent bribery is still bribery

The Republican goalposts on impeachment were last seen crossing the Mississippi River and speeding onto the Great Plains. When they reach the Pacific Coast and can be moved no further, it appears they will teeter on a lonely, wind-whipped cliff: the contention that President Trump and his enablers tried to make a “drug deal” with Ukraine but were too clumsy and clueless to pull it off.

“Drug deal” is the metaphor former national security adviser John Bolton reportedly used to describe Trump’s attempt to coerce Ukraine into smearing Democratic front-runner Joe Biden. A more precise term is bribery — demanding manufactured dirt on Biden in exchange for release of nearly $400 million in military aid — and federal law makes clear that seeking such a trade is just as illegal as actually making it happen.

Republicans are pretending otherwise, though, because it’s unclear what else they can say. After just two days of public testimony in the impeachment probe, Trump’s defenders are left sputtering. [..]

The stubborn facts are that the military aid to Ukraine was released only after a whistleblower’s complaint came to the attention of Congress, meaning the jig was up; and that Zelensky was all set to announce the bogus investigations Trump wanted.

And federal law states that a public official who “seeks” or “demands” something of value in exchange for performing an official act is as guilty of bribery as one who actually receives such a favor.

Alas for Trump, incompetent bribery is still bribery. And it’s still an impeachable offense.

Thomas L. Friedman: Mike Pompeo: Last in His Class at West Point in Integrity

The secretary of state’s behavior has been cowardly and self-serving.

It seems like every story you read about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo always includes the sentence that he graduated “first in his class” from West Point. That is not a small achievement. But it is even more impressive in Pompeo’s case when you consider that he finished No. 1 even though he must have flunked all his courses on ethics and leadership. I guess he was really good in math.

I say that because Pompeo has just violated one of the cardinal rules of American military ethics and command: You look out for your soldiers, you don’t leave your wounded on the battlefield and you certainly don’t stand mute when you know a junior officer is being railroaded by a more senior commander, if not outright shot in her back.

The classes on ethics and leadership at West Point would have taught all of that. I can only assume Pompeo failed or skipped them all when you observe his cowardly, slimy behavior as the leader of the State Department. I would never, ever, ever want to be in a trench with that man. Attention all U.S. diplomats: Watch your own backs, because Pompeo won’t. [..]

As for Ambassador Yovanovitch, thank you for your service. You are a credit to our nation and its ideals — everything your boss was not. Hold your head high. Jefferson would have been proud of you.

Paul Waldman: Elise Stefanik is a poster child for the GOP’s Trump-era dilemma

Elise Stefanik is suddenly famous. And she may come to regret it.

The third-term congresswoman from upstate New York used to be known — to those who knew her at all — as one of the most moderate Republicans in the House. But she thrust herself to the front of the impeachment inquiry, making her one of President Trump’s chief defenders.

Stefanik is now being lauded in conservative circles. But her new prominence may already be producing a backlash that could complicate her reelection campaign in 2020. Indeed, Stefanik’s story is a microcosm of a dynamic that has played out around the country over the past couple of years, leading to one Republican defeat after another. [..]

A member of Congress such as Stefanik has a tricky line to walk. She wants to let Trump-loving Republicans know she’s there for the president. But with every step she takes in that direction, she may motivate her Democratic constituents to work even harder against her. Moderate Republicans and independents in suburban areas who are drifting away from Trump may also turn their backs on her, if they figure she’s just another Trump shill. Making herself into a national figure produces a flood of contributions for her opponent.

In other words, Stefanik has now tied her fate to Trump. Maybe that’ll work out for her, but if she decides it’s not such a great idea after all, it will be too late.

Jill Filipovic: 2020 could see an end to safe, legal abortion anywhere in America

It’s more crucial than ever to have a president in office who won’t just pay the usual lip service to women’s rights

If you care about the rights of women to make their own reproductive choices, 2020 is the year that matters.

It’s too late to do anything about the current makeup of the court – except, of course, for women and the people who love them to be very, very loud in our support of abortion rights, and signal that there will be a serious cost if the court overturns or scales back Roe.

But abortion rights supporters need to understand that the anti-abortion movement will not be content to simply overturn Roe. Nor will they be content with what they say is their goal – to let the states decide. They will campaign not just at a state level but at a federal one to outlaw abortion wholesale in the United States.

This is the very real threat of 2020: Not just the end of Roe, which itself would be catastrophic, but an end to safe, legal abortion anywhere in the United States of America.

Democratic candidates, and voters, must face this threat head-on.

Amanda Marcotte: Democrats are not “censoring” Donald Trump — his increasingly desperate staff is doing that

Democrats would love Trump to testify before Congress. His staff is doing whatever it can to keep him off Twitter

On Friday, Donald Trump, with his usual sociopathic levels of impulsiveness, thought it wise to commit another likely impeachable offense in the middle of a hearing in the ongoing impeachment inquiry. As former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testified to Trump’s bizarre, unethical and abusive behavior, he took to Twitter to lambast her in real time, claiming that everywhere she had been posted “turned bad” and personally blaming her for the civil war in Somalia, which is the epitome of a baseless accusation. House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff, D-Calif., called the act “witness intimidation”.

When asked about it by reporters later that day, during a press conference that was ostensibly about health care pricing, Trump, as is his habit, declared that he’s the real victim.

“You know what? I have the right to speak,” Trump said, in response to a question that was, by being a question, an invitation to speak.

“I have freedom of speech just as other people do, but they’ve taken away the Republicans’ rights,” he continued, as exactly zero people tried to turn off his microphones or shut him up in any other way.

Trump knows his followers love these victim trips so much that they’ll simply ignore the fact that Democrats couldn’t shut him up if they wanted to. In reality, Democrats don’t want to shut Trump up at all. If anything, the opposite is true. Democrats clearly want Trump to keep that motormouth running and those rage-fingers tweeting: The more Trump uses that freedom of speech, the stronger their case for impeachment gets.