Trump’s Dirty Deeds: Is This an Off-Ramp for Evangelicals?

Yesterday President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen was sentenced to 3 years in prison for several crimes, including campaign finance violations. In his remarks prior to receiving his sentence, Cohen said he was sorry he helped cover up Donald Trump’s “dirty deeds.”

According to Cohen, Trump directed him to make hush money payments to two women for the purpose of influencing the 2016 presidential campaign. If Cohen (and Dept. of Justice prosecutors) are right, Donald Trump deceived the American people when he told reporters that he didn’t know about the hush money payments. Putting aside the intricacies of campaign finance laws, the evidence is mounting that Trump told the nation a story he knew wasn’t true.

Evangelicals in 1998 and Evangelicals Now

I am old enough to remember when presidential lying about personal moral behavior set off spasms of indignation among evangelicals. In 1998, some of them put pen to paper with an admonishment and solemn call for integrity.* They said the Clinton presidency was in “crisis.” Now, many evangelicals think we are in the best of times. My, how times have changed.

The entire statement is here. Let me bring out a couple of segments which could be written about the current crisis, if only it was seen as one.

We are aware that certain moral qualities are central to the survival of our political system, among which are truthfulness, integrity, respect for the law, respect for the dignity of others, adherence to the constitutional process, and a willingness to avoid the abuse of power. We reject the premise that violations of these ethical standards should be excused so long as a leader remains loyal to a particular political agenda and the nation is blessed by a strong economy. Elected leaders are accountable to the Constitution and to the people who elected them. By his own admission the President has departed from ethical standards by abusing his presidential office, by his ill use of women, and by his knowing manipulation of truth for indefensible ends. We are particularly troubled about the debasing of the language of public discourse with the aim of avoiding responsibility for one’s actions.

Remember this was written by evangelicals in 1998. Now we hear that a good economy and Supreme Court justices trump violations of ethical standards. Evangelicals of 1998 were “troubled about the debasing of the language of public discourse.” Now they join in the debasing.

It appears clear to me that evangelical leaders no longer believe “the moral character of a people is more important than the tenure of a particular politician or the protection of a particular political agenda.”

Neither our students nor we demand perfection. Many of us believe that extreme dangers sometimes require a political leader to engage in morally problematic actions. But we maintain that in general there is a reasonable threshold of behavior beneath which our public leaders should not fall, because the moral character of a people is more important than the tenure of a particular politician or the protection of a particular political agenda. Political and religious history indicate that violations and misunderstandings of such moral issues may have grave consequences. The widespread desire to “get this behind us” does not take seriously enough the nature of transgressions and their social effects.

This statement finds new relevance in the presidency of Donald Trump for reasons which go far beyond hush money payoffs to women. It is absolutely stunning what is now acceptable to evangelical leaders. Current evangelical leaders clearly have flipped this statement. It appears to me that they believe that their political agenda is more important than the “moral character of a people.”

At least that is how it has seemed up to now. I have to wonder: Could the Michael Cohen sentencing and surrounding events be the off-ramp for evangelical leaders? It was also revealed yesterday that the National Enquirer entered into a cooperation agreement with prosecutors regarding the hush money to one of the two women. The effect is that they acknowledged the money was paid to influence the campaign which contradicts Trump’s story. In other words, the magazine sided with Cohen’s version of events. Will evangelicals stick with Trump if it becomes crystal clear to them that he directed felonious violations of the law in contrast to his claims?

 

*(Declaration concerning religion, ethics, and the crisis in the Clinton presidency. The following declaration can be found at moral-crisis.org, November 16, 1998. To be released on 13 November 1998.)

White Evangelicals Stand with Trump

Are evangelicals moving away from Trump?

Family Research Council leader Tony Perkins wrote yesterday that any suggestion evangelicals are deserting Trump is wrong. He cited research from the Pew Foundation as a support.

Contrary to media reports, Perkins said white evangelicals, young and old, are sticking with Trump and also sticking with their evangelical identification. He took his information directly from a Christian Post article which reported on a speech given by Pew Foundation’s  Alan Cooperman. One fact that Perkins didn’t report is that evangelical voters are becoming more accepting of gays and same-sex marriage, even as they are becoming more pro-life and supportive of the Republican party. This is a trend I have written about previously.

Regarding Trump, white evangelicals gave him a 71% approval rating. For Perkins, this is a source of happiness; for me, it is a discouraging fact. According to Cooperman, those who attend church frequently are more likely than infrequent attenders to support him.

Something that Perkins doesn’t mention that concerns me is the wide gap between white and black evangelicals. Just 11% of black millennial Protestants identify as Republican whereas 77% of white millennial evangelicals do. While I don’t know what this means, the difference is stunning. On the big political issues of the day, religious similarity isn’t a unifying force. It is a big problem for me that the leader of a group purporting to research the Christian family doesn’t report this as a problem for the church.

This difference jumps out at me more than anything else in this report about Cooperman’s presentation. In general, blacks and whites see many issues differently in the culture. White evangelicals want to believe that the gospel unifies. Those opposed to social justice initiatives claim the gospel is enough to unify. However, in practice, that doesn’t seem to be working out. Instead of crowing about political victories, I think white evangelical leaders should be grieving and listening to our minority brothers and sisters.

 

Could John Kasich Lead a Successful Third Party Challenge?

Since John Kasich dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination, he has been at odds with his party over direction and support for Donald Trump.  Now he is signaling a move to a possible third party run for president in 2020.

According to the Dayton Daily News, Kasich told Whoopi Goldberg on The Political View program that he believes he could win a primary in New Hampshire but not do well in Southern states where Trump is strong.

Despite being quite religious himself, Kasich never really caught on with evangelical voters during the Republican primaries. He was widely viewed as a moderate, a perception which might now help him in a deeply divided nation. At least that’s one way to look at it.

I like Kasich and supported him in the primaries. I would support him as an independent but I don’t know if there are enough voters who would be willing to take the risk on a third party. Even though I think he is a good mix of principle and pragmatism, he was not able to inspire widespread support in 2016. It remains to be seen if the conditions are right for him now.

Image: From Johnkasich.com

 

Open Forum: Post Midterm Election Analysis

The big news from last night is a divided Congress with the Democrats taking the House by a wide margin and the Republicans widening their margin in the Senate.

It appears the suburban areas of the country rejected Trump and the rural areas moved a little closer to him.

Trump has already challenged Democrats by suggesting that he controls the Senate.

I don’t think that is going to persuade Democrats not to exercise oversight, do you?

What are your reactions? What are the important races and stories in your opinion?

Discuss in the comments section.

This Migrant Caravan Isn’t The First; Trump is Exploiting This One

For years, caravans of migrants from Central America have traveled through Mexico without a military response from the Trump administration. Like the current movement, refugees flee violence in their home countries and travel in groups to try to make the journey safer.

When the asylum process works some refugees are granted a hearing. Wearing an ankle monitoring bracelet is better than being threatened with violence back home.

Trump and the Republican leadership know that these caravans are not dominated by criminal types. Criminal types prey on the caravans. These are people who seek asylum and want a better life. There is a history of people presenting themselves at points of entry wanting to be vetted. Trump is deliberately obscuring that history by referring to the most recent caravan as an invasion and overreacting by sending troops to the border.

On average, such persons do contribute to the U.S. and benefit the economy and contribute to the social good. Trump’s stereotyping of asylum seekers as murderers and criminals and the recent caravan as a new threat is dishonest.

 

In Honor of Kanye: Historian Kevin Kruse Explains the History of Political Parties and Civil Rights

Princeton University history professor Kevin M. Kruse is a Twitter Ninja Warrior. He can slice and dice and bring the facts with a devastating wit.

Kevin M. Kruse – From Twitter page

In this Twitter thread he educates and illuminates a topic which has been muddied by Christian nationalist history writers such as Dinesh D’Souza and David Barton: The history of political parties and civil rights advocacy.
This thread is a wealth of information all in one spot and as such I highly recommend it. About the only thing I would add is a link to information on Lily White Republicans which he implied but didn’t name when he wrote:

That said, both parties in this period had their share of racists in their ranks.
When the second KKK rose to power in the 1920s, it had a strong Democratic ties in some states; strong GOP ones elsewhere.

As Kruse documents, the story of the evolution of the Democrats from Jim Crow to Civil Rights is one of the major stories of American political history. Thanks to Kevin for this thread.

PA's 18th Congressional District Special Election Candidates Conor Lamb and Rick Saccone Square Off in Debate

Conor Lamb (from Conorlamb.com)

Earlier today, Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican Rick Saccone met for a debate moderated by KDKA Pittsburgh. The candidates tackled gun control, abortion, Russian interference, tax cuts and their own qualifications.
Saccone has been endorsed by David Barton and is an unabashed supporter of President Trump. Lamb is a moderate Democrat who is new to elective politics. The latest polls have them within 3 points.
In the debate, there was common ground. Both men felt existing gun laws should be enforced. Both men agree that due process is important in allegations of misconduct.
The candidates disagreed about many other matters including medical marijuana – Saccone voted against legalizing medical marijuana in PA. Lamb sides with medical opinion which favors the use of marijuana. Lamb asserted his concern for the deficit while Saccone touted the GOP tax bill.

Saccone’s Record on Draining the Swamp

When asked why voters should support the candidates, Saccone answered:

“I have never been part of the swamp. I have always been there cleaning up the swamp in Harrisburg. Most of my bills have passed unanimously or nearly unanimously,” Saccone said. “I have a record of doing what I say and my opponent has no record. A candidate can say anything he wants. How many times have you been disappointed by people who say they are going to do something, get into office and don’t do it. I’ve actually done what I said and I have the record to prove it.”

The facts don’t fully support this claim. When Saccone ran for U.S. Senate, he portrayed himself as a swamp cleaner. However, according to a report in the Allentown Morning Call, Saccone didn’t miss many opportunities to cash in on his status as a legislator.
As a state rep, Saccone sponsored a bill which prohibits public officials from accepting anything of value including “hospitality” as a gift from someone who wants to do business with the government. However, he does it all the time. According to the Morning Call, he also brings along his wife for the free meals.
Saccone has also billed PA taxpayers for office space owned by a campaign donor. Over his seven years in office, he has spent over $400,000 of tax dollars on expense accounts according to an Intercept report. In contrast to his claim, he has been involved in filling the swamp.
 

Trump Administration Halts Contracted Work on NREPP and Shifts Evidence-Based Focus to SAMHSA's Policy Lab (UPDATED)

UPDATE (1/8/2018) – This morning, I received this statement from a SAMHSA spokesman:

Although the current NREPP contract has been discontinued, SAMHSA is very focused on the development and implementation of evidence-based programs in communities across the nation.  SAMHSA’s Policy Lab will lead the effort to reconfigure its approach to identifying and disseminating evidence-based practice and programs.

The Policy Lab is referred to on SAMHSA’s website and is led by Christopher Jones. The Policy Lab was created by the 21st Century Cures Act and is an evolution of SAMHSA’s Office of Policy, Planning and Innovation. Clearly, the issue with the change from NREPP isn’t with the term “evidence-based” since the above statement uses the term and the Cures Act requires evidence-based interventions. For the exact language of the Cures statute, scroll to the end of this post.
——————-
(original post starts here)
Yesterday (Jan 4, 2018), a contractor for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration alerted program participants that funding for work onnrepp the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs & Practices had been terminated “for the convenience of the government.” According to a source with the contractor, the work was not terminated due to any problems with their work but because the administration did not want to continue it. According to my source, this action follows a freeze in the work which had been in effect since September, 2017.
The NREPP is an effort to alert the public and professional community about evidence-based practices in mental health treatment and prevention. According to SAMHSA’s 2018 budget justification, NREPP helps meet the requirements of the 21st Century Cures Act which requires the government to provide accurate information about what works in the treatment of mental illness and drug/alcohol addiction. SAMHSA is responsible to post this information on an agency website. SAMHSA requested $2.8-million in FY 2018 for NREPP.
According to an email I obtained which was later posted on Twitter by someone else, Development Services Group alerted their constituents that their contract to manage the NREPP’s contents and website had been terminated on December 28, 2017.
The email stated:

It is with great regret that we write to inform you that on December 28, 2017, we received notification from SAMHSA that the NREPP contract is being terminated for the convenience of the government.
This cancellation means that we can no longer make any updates to your program profile. We thank you for the help and cooperation you gave so that we could complete your review.
We are deeply saddened by the government’s sudden decision to end the NREPP contract, under which we have been able to provide and strengthen science-based information about mental health and substance use treatment and prevention programs, both nationally and internationally.
All comments and concerns should be directed to NREPP@SAMHSA.hhs.gov

According to DSG, it isn’t clear what will become of NREPP. The reason the process of evaluating programs was given to a contractor was because SAMHSA did not have a sufficient number of staff to do the job. The website may remain but at present no additional guidance has come from SAMHSA. According to DSG, all materials are being returned to the government and not sent to another contractor.
My calls and emails to SAMHSA have not been returned.
It isn’t clear how SAMHSA will meet the mandates of the Cures Act without a functioning evidence-based program. Another open question is why the program was halted in the middle of the fiscal year without cause (“for the convenience of the government”).
(Updates will be added to this posts through the day)
——————
The entire text of the 21st Century Cures Act is here. For the section relevant to the Policy Laboratory and the work on evidence based practices and programs, see below.

SEC. 7001. ENCOURAGING INNOVATION AND EVIDENCE-BASED PROGRAMS.
    Title V of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 290aa et seq.)
is amended by inserting after section 501 (42 U.S.C. 290aa) the
following:
``SEC. 501A. <<NOTE: 42 USC 290aa-0.>>  NATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH AND
                          SUBSTANCE USE POLICY LABORATORY.
    ``(a) In General.--There shall be established within the
Administration a National Mental Health and Substance Use Policy
Laboratory (referred to in this section as the `Laboratory').
    ``(b) Responsibilities.--The Laboratory shall--
            ``(1) continue to carry out the authorities and activities
        that were in effect for the Office of Policy, Planning, and
        Innovation as such Office existed prior to the date of enactment
        of the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Reform Act of
        2016;
            ``(2) identify, coordinate, and facilitate the
        implementation of policy changes likely to have a significant
        effect on mental health, mental illness, recovery supports, and
        the prevention and treatment of substance use disorder services;
            ``(3) work with the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics
        and Quality to collect, as appropriate, information from
        grantees under programs operated by the Administration in order
        to evaluate and disseminate information on evidence-based
        practices, including culturally and linguistically appropriate
        services, as appropriate, and service delivery models;
            ``(4) provide leadership in identifying and coordinating
        policies and programs, including evidence-based programs,
        related to mental and substance use disorders;
            ``(5) periodically review programs and activities operated
        by the Administration relating to the diagnosis or prevention
        of, treatment for, and recovery from, mental and substance use
        disorders to--
                    ``(A) identify any such programs or activities that
                are duplicative;
                    ``(B) identify any such programs or activities that
                are not evidence-based, effective, or efficient; and
                    ``(C) formulate recommendations for coordinating,
                eliminating, or improving programs or activities
                identified
[[Page 130 STAT. 1221]]
                under subparagraph (A) or (B) and merging such programs
                or activities into other successful programs or
                activities; and
            ``(6) carry out other activities as deemed necessary to
        continue to encourage innovation and disseminate evidence-based
        programs and practices.
    ``(c) Evidence-Based Practices and Service Delivery Models.--
            ``(1) In general.--In carrying out subsection (b)(3), the
        Laboratory--
                    ``(A) may give preference to models that improve--
                          ``(i) the coordination between mental health
                      and physical health providers;
                          ``(ii) the coordination among such providers
                      and the justice and corrections system; and
                          ``(iii) the cost effectiveness, quality,
                      effectiveness, and efficiency of health care
                      services furnished to adults with a serious mental
                      illness, children with a serious emotional
                      disturbance, or individuals in a mental health
                      crisis; and
                    ``(B) may include clinical protocols and practices
                that address the needs of individuals with early serious
                mental illness.
            ``(2) Consultation.--In carrying out this section, the
        Laboratory shall consult with--
                    ``(A) the Chief Medical Officer appointed under
                section 501(g);
                    ``(B) representatives of the National Institute of
                Mental Health, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and
                the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism,
                on an ongoing basis;
                    ``(C) other appropriate Federal agencies;
                    ``(D) clinical and analytical experts with expertise
                in psychiatric medical care and clinical psychological
                care, health care management, education, corrections
                health care, and mental health court systems, as
                appropriate; and
                    ``(E) other individuals and agencies as determined
                appropriate by the Assistant Secretary.
    ``(d) Deadline for Beginning Implementation.--The Laboratory shall
begin implementation of this section not later than January 1, 2018.
    ``(e) Promoting Innovation.--
            ``(1) In general.--The Assistant Secretary, in coordination
        with the Laboratory, may award grants to States, local
        governments, Indian tribes or tribal organizations (as such
        terms are defined in section 4 of the Indian Self-Determination
        and Education Assistance Act), educational institutions, and
        nonprofit organizations to develop evidence-based interventions,
        including culturally and linguistically appropriate services, as
        appropriate, for--
                    ``(A) evaluating a model that has been
                scientifically demonstrated to show promise, but would
                benefit from further applied development, for--
[[Page 130 STAT. 1222]]
                          ``(i) enhancing the prevention, diagnosis,
                      intervention, and treatment of, and recovery from,
                      mental illness, serious emotional disturbances,
                      substance use disorders, and co-occurring illness
                      or disorders; or
                          ``(ii) integrating or coordinating physical
                      health services and mental and substance use
                      disorders services; and
                    ``(B) expanding, replicating, or scaling evidence-
                based programs across a wider area to enhance effective
                screening, early diagnosis, intervention, and treatment
                with respect to mental illness, serious mental illness,
                serious emotional disturbances, and substance use
                disorders, primarily by--
                          ``(i) applying such evidence-based programs to
                      the delivery of care, including by training staff
                      in effective evidence-based treatments; or
                          ``(ii) integrating such evidence-based
                      programs into models of care across specialties
                      and jurisdictions.

Just How Divided Is the Republican Party?

Everybody knows how divided the GOP is but these two tweets within inches of each other in my Twitter feed depict the situation.
First, Sen. Jeff Flake:


Then, as if on cue to illustrate Flake’s assertion, enter Dinesh D’Souza:


These are two people who would agree about many things related to policy but are worlds apart on character. All that goes with Trumpism has served to split the GOP in ways the Dems could only hope to do. The witches brew of Christian nationalism and nativism is a political religion which has led so many people to call evil good and good evil. The destruction has come from within.
For GOP readers on the fence due to life issues and tax cuts, let me point you to the reality that the current administration is supporting pro-death policies in Yemen, and the middle class tax cuts become tax hikes after a few years. Big families will be negatively effected more than smaller families (pro-family?). The tax cuts benefit wealthier Americans with minimal relief for most middle class people. About 10% of middle class taxpayers will never see a tax cut due to the way the legislation is structured. Many Trump voters who supported him because he promised relief for the middle class will actually pay more while he gets a big tax cut.
D’Souza wants to stick it to media. At the end of the day, what’s the good of that? He may feel better somehow, but how does that help ordinary working people? Here’s hoping some principled people rise up in positions of power who seek the common good, not just for their tribe.

David Barton Backed Candidate for MI Governor Stripped of State Senate Committee Assignments

David Barton
David Barton

In the war between the alt-right/Christian nationalist and establishment factions of the GOP, battles are being waged in state races around the country. Even Ted Cruz may face a primary challenge in TX. In MI, David Barton and now Sean Hannity have endorsed Patrick Colbeck for governor. Can Steve Bannon be far behind?
Colbeck’s opposition in MI isn’t just the Democrats. On October 10, the MI Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof stripped him of all of his Senate committee assignments. Although Meekhof has not provided a specific reason for the unusual move, it may be an expression of the GOP war between the establishment and alt-right/Christian nationalist factions of the party. According to a Detroit News report, Colbeck is a favorite of the tea party in MI.
Colbeck believes he is being punished for attempting to “drain the swamp.”


Colbeck posted to his campaign Twitter account the extraordinary letter from Meekhof.

Ordinarily, this would be the kiss of death for a GOP candidate. However, Colbeck’s race will be one to watch in order to assess the strength of theMI logo growing coalition between white identity alt-right nationalists and Christian nationalists. Although Trump and Bannon aren’t being mentioned by name as yet, the endorsement of Hannity puts Colbeck in play as an anti-establishment candidate.
Other notes:
Apparently, Sen. Colbeck didn’t like my post on Tuesday about David Barton’s endorsement. He blocked me from viewing his account on Twitter.
 
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