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: Biden, Sanders, Social Security and Smears

Lying about a rival is bad, even if you don’t like his past positions.

While the news media has been focused on the “spat” between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, something much more serious has been taking place between the Sanders campaign and Joe Biden. Not to sugarcoat it: The Sanders campaign has flat-out lied about things Biden said in 2018 about Social Security, and it has refused to admit the falsehood.

This is bad; it is, indeed, almost Trumpian. The last thing we need is another president who demonizes and lies about anyone who disagrees with him, and can’t admit ever being wrong. Biden deserves an apology, now, and Sanders probably needs to find better aides.

That said — and this is no excuse for the Sanders camp — it would be good to have Biden explain why, in the more distant past, he went along with the Beltway consensus that Social Security needed to be pared back.

Eugene Robinson: Trump doesn’t want aides with values. He wants servile minions.

How on earth does President Trump find them? All the worst people, I mean.

You will recall that as a candidate he promised to bring to Washington all “the best” people. Don’t hurt yourself laughing. It’s astounding how thoroughly Trump has managed to do the polar opposite, surrounding himself with incompetents, mediocrities, sycophants and grifters.

Exhibit A would be Lev Parnas, the Soviet-born Florida businessman who reportedly was drowning in debt in Boca Raton — from “a movie deal gone bad,” according to The Post — before finding his way into Trump’s circle via Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer. Every time Trump denies even knowing Parnas, who is under indictment for making illegal campaign contributions, Parnas and his lawyer post another photo or video proving otherwise. [..]

Just as jailed lawyer Michael Cohen helped Trump pay off a porn star and a Playboy model to prevent disclosure of Trump’s alleged affairs with them, Giuliani tried to muscle the Ukrainian government into publicly smearing Trump’s potential opponent in the coming election, Joe Biden. And Attorney General William Barr obediently tells Trump he can do anything he wants. Plus ça change.

Trump doesn’t want aides with principles and values. He wants servile minions who will do what he says, regardless of whether it’s right or wrong. “All the worst people” is a feature of the Trump presidency, not a bug.

Laurence H. Tribe: Trump’s lawyers shouldn’t be allowed to use bogus legal arguments on impeachment

The president’s lawyers have made the sweeping assertion that the articles of impeachment against President Trump must be dismissed because they fail to allege that he committed a crime — and are, therefore, as they said in a filing with the Senate, “constitutionally invalid on their face.”

Another of his lawyers, my former Harvard Law School colleague Alan Dershowitz, claiming to represent the Constitution rather than the president as such, makes the backup argument that the articles must be dismissed because neither abuse of power nor obstruction of Congress can count as impeachable offenses.

Both of these arguments are baseless. Senators weighing the articles of impeachment shouldn’t think that they offer an excuse for not performing their constitutional duty.

The argument that only criminal offenses are impeachable has died a thousand deaths in the writings of all the experts on the subject, but it staggers on like a vengeful zombie. In fact, there is no evidence that the phrase “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” was understood in the 1780s to mean indictable crimes.

On the contrary, with virtually no federal criminal law in place when the Constitution was written in 1787, any such understanding would have been inconceivable. Moreover, on July 20, 1787, Edmund Randolph, Virginia’s governor, urged the inclusion of an impeachment power specifically because the “Executive will have great opportunitys of abusing his power.” Even more famously, Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 65 defined “high crimes and misdemeanors” as “those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.”

Karen Tumulty: Trump took aim at kids’ nutrition. He picked the wrong food fight.

No one loves a food fight more than President Trump. But now, he has picked the wrong one: His administration is taking aim at children’s lunch plates.

The Agriculture Department, which runs nutritional programs that feed nearly 30 million students at 99,000 schools, is proposing new rules that would allow schools to reduce the amount of vegetables and fruits required at lunch and breakfasts. In place of these healthy options, schools would be able to sell kids more pizza, burgers and fries. Though the reasons being given for the move include cutting food waste, the potato lobby appears to be one of the real forces at work.

The administration, which has made undoing the achievements of its immediate predecessor a common theme in its policymaking, chose former first lady Michelle Obama’s 56th birthday to make the announcement. She was a driver behind the scientifically based standards that were set under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The timing of the new Agriculture Department announcement was just a coincidence, administration officials claimed. [..]

There was actually a time when Republicans prided themselves on being champions of better nutrition for children. Richard M. Nixon greatly expanded the federal school lunch program started under Harry S. Truman. “The time has come to end hunger in America,” Nixon said. When Mike Huckabee was governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007, he made cutting childhood obesity a signature issue. During his tenure, the state’s public schools took sugary sodas out of their vending machines and replaced them with water, milk and juice. Huckabee also advocated giving food stamps more purchasing power if they were spent on fruits and vegetables.

Back in 2011, when strident figures such as Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh started mocking Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign, Huckabee defended it: “I think we ought to be thanking her.” We still should. This move by the Trump administration, if it is allowed to stand, will be one that parents remember when they go to the polls in November.

Lawrence Douglas: Mitch McConnell is cynically undermining any notion of an honest impeachment trial

He’s not as noisy as Trump, but McConnell has always been just as recklessly partisan and shameless

In the Soviet Union, show trials were a legal farce in which the guilt of the accused had been determined well before the hapless defendant was dragged before the court. But even in the most grotesque of Stalinist proceedings, the court went through the motions of hearing the testimony of witnesses and receiving evidence, even if those motions were entirely pro forma.

Today in America, we are confronted with a sad inversion of the Stalinist show trial: the “McConnell show trial.” The McConnell show trial mocks judicial process by loudly trumpeting the innocence of the accused before the trial begins. In the McConnell show trial, no witnesses need be called, no documents reviewed; the jury marches to the orders of the accused. [..]

McConnell’s acts of hyper-partisanship are less noisy than the president’s, but no less effective in poisoning American politics and degrading our constitutional democracy. Now, on the eve of what should be sober reckoning with presidential malfeasance, he seeks to use the very poisoned conditions that he has helped create to justify even more toxic acts. Having gutted the impeachment trial before it has even begun, McConnell has dared the electorate to make him and his party pay a price at the polls. Whether they will is the great question to be answered in 2020.