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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Tim Kaine and Mike Lee: Why we’re introducing a resolution on war with Iran

For more than 40 years, the United States and Iran have had a troubled relationship. Because of the Iranian regime’s insistence on spreading terror throughout the region and its efforts to develop nuclear weapons, multiple administrations have considered a broad range of options — both military and diplomatic — to counter these threats.

The legality of many of these actions has been murky at best, and this has not always been the fault of just the executive branch. Far too often, Congress has been the one to shirk its responsibility to debate the proper use of force to meet global threats.

That needs to change. That’s why we have partnered to introduce a resolution that would prohibit war with Iran without congressional authorization.

Frank Bruni: Warren and Klobuchar Teach the Boys a Lesson

At the Democratic debate, gender comes to the fore.

Would a female Democratic nominee have a harder time beating Donald Trump than a male one?

I can’t tell you, because I don’t have a crystal ball and because it’s a stupid question, its answer dependent on which female candidate you’re talking about, on how she runs her campaign, on the twists and turns of the national conversation between now and November.

But I can tell you this: Either of the two women among the six candidates on the stage in Des Moines on Tuesday night would give Trump a serious run for his money. Both have earned the right to take him on. Both would be formidable presidents.

And both made clear, with commanding performances, how absurd it is that this country hasn’t yet shattered the highest glass ceiling of all.

I’m focusing on Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar because during the most electric stretch of this seventh debate of the Democratic primary, the focus was indeed on them — or, rather, on the idea that their party couldn’t risk nominating one of them at a juncture when getting rid of a Republican incumbent has seldom, if ever, been so important.

Eugene Robinson: Democratic officials have reason to hope for a happy ending. The debate shows why.

It wasn’t much of a donnybrook. It wasn’t even much of a food fight. At Tuesday night’s Democratic debate in Iowa, the candidates generally aimed their fire at President Trump rather than at each other — and left the Iowa caucuses, just weeks away, totally up for grabs.

When the evening began, former vice president Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) all had a shot at winning the first-in-the-nation primary contest, according to polls. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) was looking for a miracle. Billionaire Tom Steyer was doing whatever it is he’s doing. Nothing that happened during the debate seemed likely to send anyone soaring or tumbling.

I know, I know, you probably want an assessment of who won and who lost. All right, but only with the caveat that I didn’t see or hear anything game-changing. [..]

The Democratic Party’s dream is that at the end of the convention, as the balloons fall from the rafters, all umpty-seven candidates who started the race can come onstage and join hands in unity against Trump. Tuesday’s debate didn’t change the race, but it did give Democratic officials reason to hope that the happy ending they seek for might actually happen. These were not bitter rivals. They actually seemed to like each other.

Karen Tumulty: Can a woman be elected president? Let’s put that silly question behind us.

Can we now put this silly question behind us?

Of course a woman can be elected president. If she’s the right person for the moment. If she’s more appealing than the prospect of four more years of President Trump.

The same ifs are true for a man.

At Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate here at Drake University, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) found themselves still tangled in a distracting squabble over whether Sanders discouraged his Massachusetts colleague from running by telling her that a female candidate for president couldn’t win.

Sanders repeated his denial that he had ever said any such thing. “How could anybody in a million years not believe that a woman could become president of the United States?” he demanded.

Warren stood by her recollection that he had. “Look, this question about whether or not a woman can be president has been raised, and it’s time for us to attack it head on,” she added.

Yes, let’s.

Amanda Marcotte: Why do minor culture-war issues dominate election coverage, while we ignore the serious stuff?

Why Trump’s plumbing obsession and a Democratic slap-fight over mansplaining get more coverage than real issues

Tuesday night offered one of the most damning illustrations of one of the most persistent problems in politics: The way a seemingly inconsequential culture-war fight can loom larger in the public imagination during elections than meatier issues like the economy, foreign policy and whether or not our democracy can survive a wannabe fascist president.

The Democratic primary debate touched on a large number of serious issues pressing down on the country: De-escalating tensions that Trump has escalated with Iran, affordable health care, tax policy, climate change, accessible child care, trade policy. But one of the big flashpoints, which threatened to loom over the rest of the debate, was what, on the surface, appears to be a quarrel between Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont over whether he was kind of mansplainy to her that one time about whether a woman could win the presidency.

Meanwhile, at Donald Trump’s rally scheduled as counter-programming to the Democratic debate, the president — who is facing down impeachment and trying to recover from nearly starting a war with Iran — decided to spend his time doing a comedy routine that would have felt hackneyed in the ’80s, about his grievances with common household appliances like showers, toilets, light bulbs and dishwashers. [..]

Elections always get bogged down in minor bullshit — see also Hillary Clinton’s emails, false accusations that Al Gore said he “invented” the internet, John Kerry’s wind-surfing — but it’s particularly galling to see it happen in an election cycle where the very survival of our democracy could very well be at stake.

I’m frustrated by it. Most people I know are frustrated by it. And yet, even when we’re frustrated by it, it’s often hard to pull away from these culture war flashpoints.

Why can’t we all just collectively rise above it? Why are Americans so petty?