Archive | Politics

The Ruination of GOP Statesmen

Michael Gerson’s column in The Washington Post today is a burst of moral clarity. Gerson argues that Republican politicians endorsing Donald Trump have sullied themselves, and that includes Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who is the GOP vice-presidential nominee:

Pence did his part at the convention. He displayed considerable political and rhetorical skill. And he brought great shame on himself and the Republican Party in the process…

Every serious Republican who crosses the event horizon of endorsing Trump is sucked into a black hole of compromise and self-deception. And many of us — still loyal to a humane conservatism — will never be able to think about such leaders in the same way again…

The reputation of any politician close to Trump will eventually be ruined. But it is particularly sad when good and decent people vouch for Trump’s character, knowing almost nothing about him… The only politician who will be proud of what he did on Wednesday evening is Ted Cruz, who refused to endorse. He may have been booed on the floor, but I imagine he slept well. And he won’t be ashamed to recount that night to his children and grandchildren.

This is a hard-hitting column. I recommend that you read the whole thing. It really sums up the malaise I’ve felt while watching the GOP convention this week. How can these serious statesmen line-up to endorse a constitutional menace? Ryan, Walker, Rubio, Perry, and others. How could they?

I am with Gerson. I will never be able to think about these leaders in the same way again. Trump has exposed the limits of their judgment and principle. When they should have stood up, they stood down. It is as sad a spectacle as I have ever seen in politics.

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Ross Douthat’s Lament for the GOP…Twitterized

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Could plagiarism and a rick-roll in one speech be an accident?

The message coming out of the first night of the GOP convention can be summed up in one word: PLAGIARISM. Melania Trump’s speech was initially well-received by pundits. But the plaudits were short-lived as it became clear that her speech plagiarized a speech given by Michelle Obama at the 2008 Democratic Convention.

Trump’s speech will be parsed and analyzed ad infinitum for the next day or so. I’m sure the Trump campaign will have some response (UPDATE: Here it is).

Mrs. Trump is responsible for the words she delivered, but I would simply note that this speech was likely put together by a speech-writer. And that leads to a question. Can this possibly have been an accident?

Could a speech-writer lift an entire paragraph from another speech on accident? Could it be an accident that the plagiarized portion is a section about honesty and character? Also, the speech had a Rick-Roll embedded in it (see below, HT: Josh Philpot). Could that possibly have been an accident?

The way in which this speech went wrong is too cute by half. It looks like intentional sabotage. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would wonder if a #NeverTrump mole had infiltrated the speech writers. But I’m not a conspiracy theorist, so I’ll just admit that I don’t know what happened here.

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Senator Ben Sasse, a lone voice of moral clarity 

Among congressional Republicans, Senator Ben Sasse is standing almost alone against his party’s presumptive nominee Donald Trump. Sasse has consistently been one of the few clear voices throughout the dumpster fire known as the 2016 presidential election. Earlier this evening, Senator Sasse posted an open-letter to American voters. He argues that it is wrong to vote simply for the lesser of two evils. Too much is at stake in this election. He writes:

To be clear, I have a strong desire for a candidate who is a conservative. But this is more foundational than mere policy differences right now. More important are the virtue of the individual who would serve as our president, as our face to the world, and their understanding of limited government—which is that we believe in the universal dignity of our people and in their inalienable rights.

This discussion is about much more than one election. It is about who we are as a people. It is about what this nation stands for—it is about what America means. Our two dominant political parties will probably come apart, and many of us are going to need to recognize that, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept fundamentally dishonest leaders.

If we shrug at public dishonesty—if we normalize candidates who think that grabbing power makes it okay to say whatever they need to in the short-term—then we will be changed by it. Given what we now know about them, choosing to vote for these two individuals is in some ways less about them than it is about us. I’m not sure how we come back from that.

You need to read the rest of Senator Sasse’s letter. He is right on target about what is at stake in this election. We have before us two documented, cynical liars. If we aquiesce to this, it says something about us, and it will ultimately undermine our republic.

I cannot stress enough how important this message is. Our country will be whatever we make of it for better or for worse. I hope people will listen before it is too late. We need an alternative, and we need one right quick.

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Supreme Court refuses to defend religious liberty for pharmacists

Last week, I was at a meeting hosted by The Alliance Defending Freedom. There I was introduced to a Christian family who was ordered by the State of Washington to sell abortion-inducing drugs in their family-owned pharmacy (see their story above). This family and two other pharmacists believe that killing unborn children is wrong, and so they sued the state for relief.

In 2012, a federal court ruled that the law violated the free exercise clause of the first amendment and that the law was “riddled with exemptions for secular conduct, but contain no such exemptions for identical religiously-motivated conduct.”

In 2015, however, a federal appeals court overruled and said that the pharmacists and family must violate their consciences in order to do business in Washington State. The family and the pharmacists appealed their case to the Supreme Court.

This morning, the Supreme Court denied to hear their appeal. It means that the lower court ruling stands and that they cannot do business in Washington State unless they are willing to violate their religious beliefs.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote a dissent against the Supreme Court’s decision, and he was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas. You need to read this excerpt from the dissent:

“This case is an ominous sign. At issue are Washington State regulations that are likely to make a pharmacist unemployable if he or she objects on religious grounds to dispensing certain prescription medications. There are strong reasons to doubt whether the regulations were adopted for—or that they actually serve—any legitimate purpose. And there is much evidence that the impetus for the adoption of the regulations was hostility to pharmacists whose religious beliefs regarding abortion and contraception are out of step with prevailing opinion in the State. Yet the Ninth Circuit held that the regulations do not violate the First Amendment, and this Court does not deem the case worthy of our time. If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead, those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern. The Stormans family owns Ralph’s Thriftway, a local grocery store and pharmacy in Olympia, Washington. Devout Christians, the Stormans seek to run their business in accordance with their religious beliefs…. Ralph’s has raised more than ‘slight suspicion’ that the rules challenged here reflect antipathy toward religious beliefs that do not accord with the views of those holding the levers of government power. I would grant certiorari to ensure that Washington’s novel and concededly unnecessary burden on religious objectors does not trample on fundamental rights.” [underline mine]

The fortunes of religious liberty are waning in our country right now. The notion has been diminishing in the popular consciousness, and now the Supreme Court is declining to defend our first freedom as well. Alito is right, this is a “cause for great concern.” If the state can ignore the first amendment and coerce these Christians to violate their conscience, then the state can do anything.

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I’m a single-issue voter on multiple issues, and so are you.

Election 2016 has presented evangelical voters with a real conundrum. There is no clearly pro-life candidate in this race. We know where the presumptive Democratic nominee stands. And even though the presumptive GOP nominee professes to be pro-life, we have good reasons to doubt that claim. He praises Planned Parenthood, supports the “health” exception, and names his pro-abortion rights sister as the kind of judge that would make a good Supreme Court appointment.

Still, many evangelicals who met with Trump this week in New York are making a “single-issue” calculation, and it goes like this. We know what kind of justices we would get with a Clinton presidency. There’s a chance that we might get some good ones with Trump. Ergo, despite his questionable character and pro-life credentials, single-issue pro-life voters should support him.

But that argument is not persuasive if you understand what single-issue voting really is. Single-issue voting is not the idea that being right on any single issue qualifies a candidate for office. Single-issue voting is the idea that being wrong on a single issue may disqualify a candidate from office. In this latter sense, every voter is potentially a single-issue voter. Unless you have no moral or political principles at all, then you must be a single-issue voter in this sense. The question is simply what single issue rises to that level of importance to you.

For example, no one would say that a candidate is qualified for office simply because he opposes legal slavery. But of course everyone would say that a candidate would be disqualified if he supported legal slavery. No matter how attractive that candidate might otherwise be, if he wanted to resurrect chattel slavery in the United States he would be disqualified on that single issue alone. That is single-issue voting. 

Pro-life voters have traditionally been single-issue voters in that sense. It’s not that being pro-life qualifies anyone for office. It’s that being wrong on the issue ought to disqualify a candidate. Evangelical Trump supporters are arguing that this single-issue certainly disqualifies the Democratic nominee but that there may be a chance it has not disqualified the GOP nominee. At first blush, it’s a compelling argument. What’s wrong with it?

This whole calculus is based on the premise that single-issue voting can only be about one single issue. This is simply a category mistake. I am a single-issue voter on the abortion issue. But I’m also a single-issue voter on wife-beating, slavery, war-crimes, and a host of other issues. Any candidate who supports wife-beating, slavery, war-crimes is barking up the wrong tree if they think they will have my support. They will never have it. Ever. Why? Because I’m a single-issue voter, and I’m willing to bet that every person reading these words is as well. Again, the question is simply what issues are that important to you.

So how does this reasoning appy to the choices before us in 2016? There is no question that the Democratic nominee is disqualified on the basis of the single issue of abortion. The GOP nominee may be as well. But even if we were to grant for the sake of argument that he were not disqualified on the basis of his abortion views, he is disqualified on a number of other single issues. His pledge to direct our miliatry to commmit war crimes, his fomenting of mob-violence at political rallies, his appeal to racism, and a host of other character flaws are all single issues, any one of which by themselves would be disqualifying.

That is why the most common argument in favor of Trump–at least the one I’m hearing from evangelicals–isn’t compelling to me. And it shouldn’t be to them either.

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Albert Mohler discusses Trump and character in public leadership

Albert Mohler says that if he were to endorse Trump, he would have to apologize to President Clinton for everything he said about character and public leadership during the 1990’s. This is a good word. Mohler is not going to endorse any candidate, but it is clear where he stands on the Trump candidacy. Download here or listen below.

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Donald Trump announces new religious advisory board

RNS reports that Donald Trump has named a new religious advisory board. The full list of board members is as follows:

• Michele Bachmann — Former Congresswoman

• A.R. Bernard — Senior Pastor and CEO, Christian Cultural Center

• Mark Burns — Pastor, Harvest Praise and Worship Center

• Tim Clinton — President, American Association of Christian Counselors

• Kenneth and Gloria Copeland — Founders, Kenneth Copeland Ministries

• James Dobson — Author, Psychologist and Host, “My Family Talk”

• Jerry Falwell Jr. — President, Liberty University

• Ronnie Floyd — Senior Pastor, Cross Church

• Jentezen Franklin — Senior Pastor, Free Chapel

• Jack Graham — Senior Pastor, Prestonwood Baptist Church

• Harry Jackson — Senior Pastor, Hope Christian Church

• Robert Jeffress — Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church of Dallas

• David Jeremiah — Senior Pastor, Shadow Mountain Community Church

• Richard Land — President, Southern Evangelical Seminary

• James MacDonald — Founder and Senior Pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel

• Johnnie Moore — Author, President of The KAIROS Company

• Robert Morris — Senior Pastor, Gateway Church

• Tom Mullins — Senior Pastor, Christ Fellowship

• Ralph Reed — Founder, Faith and Freedom Coalition

• James Robison — Founder, Life OUTREACH International

• Tony Suarez — Executive Vice President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

• Jay Strack — President, Student Leadership University

• Paula White — Senior Pastor, New Destiny Christian Center

• Tom Winters — Attorney, Winters and King, Inc.

• Sealy Yates — Attorney, Yates and Yates

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Hugh Hewitt in high dudgeon

I don’ usually do this, but I have to pass on to you today’s episode of the Hugh Hewitt Show. He is my favorite political analyst/talking head, and he was hilarious today. He spoke like a man who has just experienced a tent-revival-style conversion. There was repentance (“I was wrong”), zeal, and a resolve to make converts to his cause.

Until today, he has been copiously above the fray vis-à-vis the Trump candidacy. He has said that he’s “Switzerland”—committed to neutrality in the Republican primary and open to voting for GOP nominee even if it’s Trump. He has never been #NeverTrump, and has been arguing against #NeverTrump as wrong-headed. Continue Reading →

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