Trump’s DNI Pick John Ratcliffe Once Hosted Wallbuilders for a Local Prayer Breakfast

This came across the wire today.

 

John Ratcliffe is Donald Trump’s nominee for Director of National Intelligence to replace Dan Coats. In addition to having little intelligence background or experience, questioning Russia’s role in the 2016 election and inflating his resume, he is (or at least was) sympathetic to Christian nationalism.

It seems fair to go back to Ratcliffe’s days as a mayor of Heath, TX since his public service experience is so thin. He has been a Congressman since 2014 when he defeated 91 year old Ralph Hall and conservative Republican in a primary. There is no serious Democratic resistance in the district. In that race, David Barton endorsed Hall.

Given Ratcliffe’s rise to power, no doubt now all is forgiven. In addition to a Trump loyalist, Russia doubter, Rep. Ratcliffe may be sympathetic to Christian nationalism.

Hat tip to Ron West’s blog.

 

High Crimes or Misdemeanors?

For me, this is enough.

Is There a Limit for Evangelical Trump Supporters?

Reading an op-ed by Michael Brown, I thought of this question: Is there anything Donald Trump could do to lose evangelical support?

Brown’s column acknowledges some of Trump’s flaws, including the recent attacks on four Democratic minority congresswomen. Brown says he has no desire to defend any of Trump’s inappropriate behavior but given the choice of Trump and a Democratic candidate, he will choose Trump.

So this prompted me to wonder what would it take to cause Brown and/or other evangelical supporters to abandon Trump. What would Trump have to do? If he murdered someone, would that be enough? Attended a gay wedding? Or would all of those far right judge appointments make that worth it?

Trump has been credibly accused of numerous crimes and immoral acts. It will take years to investigate them all. But for Brown and those who think like him, it doesn’t matter. Our American institutions, principles, and other matters of law are secondary to judges and abortion. Brown ended by saying:

And then ask yourself this question: If we can save the lives of babies who were being slaughtered in the womb, do you think they will care if the man who helped save them was sometimes vulgar and crude? And do you think they’ll find us un-Christian if we voted for him?

So then, is there no limit? Is there no crime or evil deed Trump could do that would make Brown and those of like mind think twice? Trump is not just vulgar and crude. Among many other things, he regularly deceives the public, is presiding over one of the most corrupt administrations in American history, and has been credibly accused of assaulting numerous women (and has bragged about doing so). Is there no bottom?

What High Crime or Misdemeanor Would it Take?

I leave it as an open and public question for Michael Brown and/or any other evangelical Trump supporter. What would make you support impeachment? What high crime or misdemeanor would it take? The ones we know about aren’t enough, so what would it take? Be specific, name something Trump could do which would end your support.

Brown thinks those opposed to Trump are not really worried about Christian witness. For the most part, I agree with him that Christian witness isn’t the real issue. Obviously, Trump supporters don’t care about their Christian witness. That is the last thing they care about. They now trust in Trump and not God.  Being unsatisfied with the results of virtue as a means of reaching public policy goals, they have gone in for raw political power. In the short term, this seems to be working out better. Virtue was so difficult and didn’t really get the job done.

As an aside, I don’t understand the attachment to Trump. If Trump was impeached, they would have Mike Pence who is less erratic but just as committed to their public policy goals. In any case, evangelicals have fallen on their sword for Trump and one doesn’t often survive falling on one’s sword.

Donald Trump recently told a Turning Point USA crowd that “I have article two where I have the right to do what I want as president.” Trump also has a court full of evangelicals who let him do whatever he wants.

 

Lindsey Graham on Trump: Is He a Racist or a Narcissist?

This is a question Trump supporter and Senator from SC Lindsey Graham sought to address in his defense of Trump today. Here is a series of tweets from Frank Thorp, NBC news reporter with Graham’s thoughts.

I really do believe that if you’re a Somali refugee who likes Trump, he’s not going to say ‘go back to Somalia.’ A racist says go back to Somalia because you’re a Somalian or you’re a Muslim or whatever, that’s just the way he is. More narcissism than anything else.

The main line of defense is that Trump likes who likes him even if that person is a person of color. According to Graham, race alone does not determine the disliking. Trump says nasty things about people who insult him even if they are white. Witness his treatment of Paul Ryan. It is true that he cuts down anybody who points out the president’s flaws. Furthermore, he has surrounded himself with minorities who gush his praise. It is less than clear what he says about them behind closed doors but he has not avoided his minority supporters.

As I thought about this, it occurred to me that a check on this would be to assess the types of insults he makes against various disliked people. I haven’t checked this, but I don’t think he has ever told Bernie Sanders or Nancy Pelosi to go back to their countries of origin.

The Nature of Prejudice

The work of Gordon Allport on prejudice seems relevant. Allport wrote in 1954 that humans find it very easy to fall into prejudices but very difficult to abandon them. A foundation for prejudice according to Allport is personal values. For Trump there appears to be no higher value than loyalty to himself. Allport wrote:

…negative prejudice is a reflex of one’s own system of values. We prize our own mode of existence and correspondingly underprize (or actively attack) what seems to us to
threaten it The thought has been expressed by Sigmund Freud, “In the undisguised antipathies and aversion which people feel towards strangers with whom they have to do, we recognize the expression of self-love, of narcissism.”

The process is especially clear in time of war. When an enemy threatens all or nearly all of our positive values we stiffen our resistance and exaggerate the merits of our cause. We feel — and this is an instance of overgeneralization — that we are wholly right. (If we did not believe this we could not marshall all our energies for our defense.) And if we are wholly right then the enemy must be wholly wrong. Since he is wholly wrong, we should not hesitate to exterminate him. (p. 26)

Allport also argued prejudices are maintained by placing exceptions to the negative prejudgment into subcategories. Allport described the process this way:

There is a common mental device that permits people to hold to prejudgments even in the face of much contradictory evidence. It is the device of admitting exceptions. “There are nice Negroes but . . ” or “Some of my best friends are Jews but. . . .” This is a disarming device. By excluding a few favored cases, the negative rubric is kept intact for all other cases. In short, contrary evidence is not admitted and allowed to modify the generalization; rather it is perfunctorily acknowledged but excluded. (p. 23)

So in response to Lindsey Graham, it certainly is possible that President Trump is motivated by both negative racial stereotypes and narcissism. I am not making a diagnosis but I am saying that the work of Allport demonstrates that one may maintain negative prejudice while claiming one does not have negative judgments by using an exception as proof — as Graham did for Trump. What may move minorities (or a member of any other group Mr. Trump doesn’t like) into the good or — more cynically — useful category is that they praise him. He appears to dislike many whites but doesn’t appear to have a group prejudice toward them. What is at issue is the evidence that keeps coming up that he may have prejudices toward certain minorities as a group which can be overcome principally by obsequious praise for him.

 

Are Some Americans Less American Than Others?

On July 14, President Trump tweeted the following message:

So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!

Although they were not named, the progressive congresswomen Trump referred to were Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley. These legislators had been publicly feuding with Nancy Pelosi and Trump waded into the Democrats’ internal conflict.

There are many problems here. The first is that three of the four congresswomen are from the United States. They can’t go back to any other country. Trump has been accused of racism with these tweets because these are all women of color.

I understand the accusation. Growing up in Southern Ohio in the 1960s, I recall hearing white people saying that black civil rights advocates should ‘go back to Africa.’ That made no sense to me since we were all born in the same country, many of us in the same town. However, I eventually figured out the “go back” phrase was a way to put people of color into an outgroup–not us. Users of the “go back” attack wanted to put minority hearers in their place. The message was like things the way they are or leave. Change is not an option.

This is what Trump did with his tweets. He created false categories of “we” and “they.” Trump put Americans he disliked into a category of “their country” and put him and his supporters into “our country.” As soon as I read those tweets, I associated them with the “love it or leave it” and “go back to Africa” rhetoric I heard in the past. I suspect many people of color did as well. This is false and demeaning because the congresswomen are American citizens and entitled to raise their voices in dissent without having their membership in American society challenged. We’re all Americans, right?

Compounding Trump’s error, he attacked the progressive congresswomen because they expressed dissent. Although he has suffered little public push back from Republicans, he is on the wrong side of history with his message. For those Trump supporters who are having trouble seeing the problem, let me cite two former presidents.

In opposition to the 1918 Sedition Act, Theodore Roosevelt defended free speech and the duty to dissent. In an Kansas City Star op-ed just days before a vote on the bill, Roosevelt wrote:

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or anyone else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about anyone else.

Being anti-Trump isn’t being anti-American. According to Roosevelt, citizens have a right to criticize the president. Furthermore, it is our duty to participate to speak up with what we feel is the truth.

Republican President Dwight Eisenhower told a Columbia University audience in 1954 that part of being American is to dissent.

Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionaries and rebels—men and women who dared to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.

Without exhaustive debate – even heated debate – of ideas and programs, free government would weaken and wither. But if we allow ourselves to be persuaded that every individual, or party, that takes issue with our own convictions is necessarily wicked or treasonous–then indeed we are approaching the end of freedom’s road. We must unitedly and intelligently support the principles of Americanism.

Judged by the standards of these Republican presidents, those congresswomen are in the mainstream of Americanism and patriotism. You and I may disagree with their dissent or policy positions, but we cannot disagree with their right and duty to represent their constituents and speak freely. Even if you like Trump’s policies, you should reject the proposition that dissent makes some Americans less American than others. I hope a majority of both parties in Congress will do more than express verbal disapproval, but instead formally and strongly condemn Trump’s divisive rhetoric.

P.S. Will any of the #courtevangelicals come out and condemn these tweets?

These tweets and Trump’s response to them (he doesn’t mind that people consider them racist because many people agree with them) should be a gut check for Trump’s evangelical supporters. Will they really be able to absorb this?

Evangelical Christianity has already taken quite a hit with the Trump presidency and took a body blow with photos of Mike Pence at the border coldly reviewing refugees standing around without room to sit in a smelly containment cell. If Trump gets away with these comments and his defense without evangelical protest, the damage will only get worse.

What if the Children at the Border Belonged to You?

What if the children held in the facilities described in the ABC News report below belonged to you? Would you express your outrage? What would you do?

From the report on the ABC News website:

After assessing 39 children under the age of 18, she described conditions for unaccompanied minors at the McAllen facility as including “extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water, or adequate food.”

All the children who were seen showed evidence of trauma, Lucio Sevier reported, and the teens spoke of having no access to hand washing during their entire time in custody. She compared it to being “tantamount to intentionally causing the spread of disease.”

At the same time, the Trump administration argues that basic necessities aren’t basic at all.

As for the conditions at detention facilities, lawyers for the Trump administration last week argued that providing basic necessities, like soap, was not a requirement of the Flores agreement. Three judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals repeatedly asked if the lawyers if they were arguing that “safe and sanitary” did not include the ability to sleep soundly or use soap.

To Trump supporters: What if these kids belonged to you?

I realize this blog post won’t do much, but I ask my readers to tweet it and spread this on social media. I ask you, if you blog or write, to write stories about it. Ask friends with larger accounts to keep writing and complaining. Call your representatives and senators. Apparently, marches are planned. Go, if you can.

Court Evangelicals: Hear No Evil, See No Evil

We live in a time when the organized religion of the party in power is silent. Many religious right court evangelicals are sloppy drunk on power. They don’t speak for the poor and powerless and weak. They are arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned. How this administration can be lauded as pro-life, I cannot understand. I get the anti-abortion policies, but I don’t see how subjecting born, living children to these conditions simply for being refugees (for any reason) is pro-life.

For readers who might protest that all of this is the fault of Congress, I want to remind you that Congress for two years was in the control of the GOP. No, there is no excuse. Trump and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell could have a deal tomorrow. Trump could today direct his agencies to treat children humanely. He obviously does what he wants on everything else. If he wanted children to be treated well, things would change.

If your son or daughter was in one of these places, what would you want someone to do? What did Jesus teach us? What we want others to do to us, do to others also. Surely this applies to our children. Would I want this kind of treatment done to my children? American Christians spend millions to send missionaries to these nations to help people. Now they are here. They are starving and sick and crying right in our borders. It seems like the least we can do is to treat them humanely as we would want done to our own.

To contact your Representative and Senators, call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. You can give the operator your zip code and you will be routed to the appropriate office. The offices log the calls to assess sentiment so any expression that you want to see children taken care of humanely will help. If you know your Representative, you can also find the Twitter account, and send emails.

See also this New Yorker account.

American Greatness Quietly Withdraws Bayonet

The name calling has gotten hot and heavy in the recent Ahmari v. French dust up but I haven’t seen any calls for anyone’s death. For that, you need to go to the inappropriately titled Center for American Greatness. In a recent column about Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on Mexico, associate editor Pedro Gonzalez took exception to Cato Institute’s David Bier’s views of Trump’s proposals. In response to Trump’s threat to impose tariffs if Mexico did not reduce the number of asylum seekers getting to the U.S. through Mexico, Bier tweeted:

In response, Gonzalez wrote:

Not only do we have troops at the border now, but on the same day Bier called on Mexico to open the floodgates from Central America, a U.S. Marine fired his weapon while on duty along the southern border. The Marine reported he had been attacked inside his vehicle by three people. Around the same time, a mob of angry Hondurans attacked the U.S. embassy in Tegucigalpa. Technically, this was an act of war. Bier doesn’t seem to mind.

In a perfect world, as opposed to this clownish vale of tears, Bier’s remarks would put him at the business end of a bayonet—and to say so is not more incitant than calling on a foreign power to facilitate Invasion U.S.A.

Nevertheless, Bier’s reaction is what we have come to expect from the libertarian-right.

According to Gonzalez, David Bier should die for expressing his views on Trump’s immigration policy. Sohrab Ahmari wrote that civility and decency are secondary values. In practice, this means civility and decency don’t matter. Winning is primary. Re-ordering for that Highest Good is primary. In Gonzalez’s perfect world (re-ordered?), Bier’s First Amendment expression would put him at great risk. Apparently dissent and disagreement isn’t a characteristic of American greatness at American Greatness.

But that glorious day is not now. Apparently, someone got to Gonzalez and let him know that the re-ordering is not complete. He removed the suggestion that Bier’s immigration views made him worthy of death. The link above is the Google cache (preserved here). There was no explanation for the removal. Was it because a funding source complained? Or did some secondary value bubble up somewhere but without courage to say so?

Special Day of Prayer for the Enemies of the President

Franklin Graham is holding a “special day of prayer” for Donald Trump on June 2nd. Graham says the president needs prayer because he has been attacked more than any other president in history. Trump needs prayer, Graham proclaimed, because the entire nation will suffer if his enemies prevail.

I think Graham is going about this in the wrong way. If he really believes Trump is being attacked and persecuted, he should pray also for those he sees as the enemy.

Matthew 5:45 tells us:

 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

However, since he and his group of court evangelicals have chosen sides and decided their course of action, I will cover the part of the prayer territory Graham is leaving uncovered and encourage others to do the same.

Enemies Prayer List

We can pray for the House of Representatives investigators. They are having a devil of a time getting people at the White House to abide by the rule of law. They issue subpoenas and legitimate requests for information only to have them ignored. We should pray for them to have better results and that the rule of law will be followed.

We can also pray that judges quickly rule according to law and not political loyalties. So far, the results look promising.

We could pray for our allies. Often Trump seems to consider them enemies. He often has been nicer to Russia and North Korea than leaders of our traditional allies. The Graham group can pray for Trump, Russia and North Korea; we can take England, France, and Canada.

Let’s add the press to our prayer list. They have a hard job but are maligned on a daily basis simply for reporting what Mr. Trump says and does. Some are bad actors but they are on the left and right. We can pray extra for them.

Apparently, Trump thinks poor Central American refugees are his enemies. I will gladly set aside more time to pray for them. Surely, they need it. They also qualify as being members of the “least of these” Jesus told us to pray for. They should get a double portion.

Who is with me?

If you have other suggestions for our prayer list, please leave them in the comments.

Whatever you pray about, I urge you not to turn Sunday worship into a political pep rally for or against Trump. Whatever you do, do it on your own.

What Will Court Evangelicals Pray on Trump’s Special Day of Prayer?

In a helpful gesture, well over 200 court evangelicals have gone on record as supporters of Donald Trump in a solicitation to fellow evangelicals to pray for the president on June 2. Many of the usual suspects are on the list, but I must admit I am having a hard time getting over former DC Talk member Michael Tait being there.

Nothing in the call to prayer calls Trump to repentance for his many lies, for his support for ruthless dictators around the world, for his obstructions of reasonable Congressional oversight, or for the authorization of cruel treatment of asylum seekers at the border. The Scripture used by Franklin Graham as foundation for the event calls on Christians to pray for kings and those in authority. In our system, that includes the president, but it also includes Congress. The House Democrats are trying to exercise oversight but are being thwarted by Trump and his supporters. I pray for the investigators to continue having victories in the courts. Republicans once believed in the rule of law. Now they believe in protecting Trump. Just what is it that Graham and his court evangelicals want us to pray about when it comes to the subpoenas?

I do and plan to continue praying that the right thing will happen and the House investigators will prosper. From my own perspective, I believe that should lead to an impeachment inquiry. I don’t know for certain how that would end up because one can’t know the findings until the hearings are held and the investigations are completed. However, I think the Mueller report as well as other actions by Trump have more than warranted such hearings.  Many Christians are praying for the truth to come out via the investigations; what are Graham’s Christians praying for?

It isn’t clear to me what the court evangelicals are praying for. From an outsiders perspective, it looks like they are praying to preserve a person and not the office. It appears they are asking God to keep Trump in office no matter what he does. If that’s not true, then I think they need to work on their messaging. If it is true, then they have the wrong message.

Pay to Pray: Jim Bakker Sells Trump Benefit Coins as Point of Contact with God

In the “Grifters Gonna Grift” category, I report to you a story I saw on Right Wing Watch. Watch:

So Jim Bakker and Lance Wallnau want people to send them $45 for this gold plated coin to use as a “point of contact” between them and God to pray Trump’s reelection. Wallnau says that unbelievers think coin believers are “crazy” but actually the believers are the “sane ones.”

I don’t think Wallnau and Bakker are crazy. I think they are cynically fleecing people. Grifters gonna grift.

If they are sincere, what a strange and weak god these guys have. From their point of view, their god started a miracle but he needs people to buy a coin to make contact with him to “keep the miracle going.” The miracle is that there are people who will actually do this. Wallnau and Bakker need Trump to stay in office so their scams can continue.

It should be obvious that there is no place in Protestant teaching for financially enhanced prayers. One’s faith isn’t enhanced or released by an amulet or talisman. These people are preaching some other religion.