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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Robert Reich: Facts are under siege. Now, more than ever, we need to invest in journalism

Facts are under siege. Now, more than ever, we need to invest in journalism

Guarding the independence of the press is essential to maintaining truth as a common good. And truth is essential to democracy.

As Thomas Jefferson wrote, “[W]ere it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Yet the press’s freedom and independence are under siege, and a growing segment of the public no longer trusts the major media.[..]

Trump’s lies and ongoing attacks on his critics in the media score points with his base but at the expense of a weakened democracy. If a large enough portion of the public comes to trust Trump’s own words more than the media’s, Trump can get away with saying – and doing – whatever he wants. When that happens, democracy ends.

How, then, can print and broadcast news rebuild public trust? Publishers and editors must demonstrate to the public that their news stories are produced accurately and intelligently by following five principles.

Bob Bauer: Trump Is the Founders’ Worst Nightmare

Once in the Oval Office, a demagogue can easily stay there.

Donald Trump’s Republican congressional allies are throwing up different defenses against impeachment and hoping that something may sell. They say that he didn’t seek a corrupt political bargain with Ukraine, but that if he did, he failed, and the mere attempt is not impeachable. Or that it is not clear that he did it, because the evidence against him is unreliable “hearsay.”

It’s all been very confusing. But the larger story — the crucial constitutional story — is not the incoherence of the president’s defense. It is more that he and his party are exposing limits of impeachment as a response to the presidency of a demagogue.

The founders feared the demagogue, who figures prominently in the Federalist Papers as the politician who, possessing “perverted ambition,” pursues relentless self-aggrandizement “by the confusions of their country.” The last of the papers, Federalist No. 85, linked demagogy to its threat to the constitutional order — to the “despotism” that may be expected from the “victorious demagogue.” This “despotism” is achieved through systematic lying to the public, vilification of the opposition and, as James Fenimore Cooper wrote in an essay on demagogues, a claimed right to disregard “the Constitution and the laws” in pursuing what the demagogue judges to be the “interests of the people.”

Should the demagogue succeed in winning the presidency, impeachment in theory provides the fail-safe protection. And yet the demagogue’s political tool kit, it turns out, may be his most effective defense. It is a constitutional paradox: The very behaviors that necessitate impeachment supply the means for the demagogue to escape it.

Jennifer Rubin: Nadler calls Trump’s bluff

When the House Intelligence Committee held depositions of key witnesses, President Trump’s lawyers cried: “Unfair! Secret hearings!” In fact, a slew of Republicans had the right to ask questions, though some chose not to attend. When the hearings moved to a public phase, the White House hollered: “Unfair! Trump’s lawyer isn’t present!” When the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), invited Trump’s lawyers to attend, the response was: “Unfair! We’re not coming!”

What is unfair is that Trump and his lawyers have given up any semblance of fidelity to facts, have smeared distinguished witnesses, attempted to intimidate the whistleblower (and put his or her safety in jeopardy), hurled baseless accusations at House Democrats investigating presidential wrongdoing and, worst of all, obstructed Congress by refusing to produce documents and blocking critical witnesses from testifying. [..]

What is unfair is that Trump and his Republican cohorts are doing everything in their power to obstruct and delegitimize the only real constitutional check on a lawless executive. It is the American people who should be hollering at them.

Paul Waldman: The White House’s impeachment defense? No defense at all.

On Sunday, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone wrote an angry letter refusing the invitation from Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) for the White House to send lawyers to participate in the impeachment hearings that will begin this Wednesday. While it’s possible that they might change their minds in later hearings, for now the White House has made clear that they’d prefer to pretend that the entire process is somehow not real.

The best defense, they’ve decided, is no defense at all.

Cipollone’s letter, like many documents produced by the president’s private lawyers and government lawyers alike, is written in a Trumpian tone, full of preposterous assertions and childish whining, as though the authors were laboring to channel the president’s distinctive rhetorical style. Its central argument is that the president’s rights have been violated, citing “the complete lack of due process and fundamental fairness afforded the President throughout this purported impeachment inquiry.”

Purported? I’d invite any criminal defendant to walk into court and proclaim, “I refuse to participate in this purported trial!” and see how that works out for them.

Of course, impeachment is not precisely like a criminal proceeding, though it has some parallels. In particular, this phase of the process is where the president has the opportunity to mount his own defense. Yet it appears he may choose not to.

Norman Solomon: Corporate Media’s Mantra Is ‘Anyone But Sanders or Warren’

Anyone who’s been paying attention should get the picture by now. Overall, in subtle and sledgehammer ways, the mass media of the United States—owned and sponsored by corporate giants—are in the midst of a siege against the two progressive Democratic candidates who have a real chance to be elected president in 2020.

Some of the prevalent media bias has taken the form of protracted swoons for numerous “center lane” opponents of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. The recent entry of Michael Bloomberg has further jammed that lane, adding a plutocrat “worth” upwards of $50 billion to a bevy of corporate politicians.

The mainline media are generally quite warm toward so-called “moderates,” without bothering to question what’s so moderate about such positions as bowing to corporate plunder, backing rampant militarism and refusing to seriously confront the climate emergency.

Critical reporting on debate performances and campaign operations has certainly been common. But the core of the “moderate” agenda routinely gets affirmation from elite journalists who told us in no uncertain terms four years ago that Hillary Clinton was obviously the nominee who could defeat Donald Trump.