Petition to Remove the White House Press Credentials of Rick Wiles

You might recall the story of antisemitic right wing talking head Rick Wiles who blamed impeachment on a “Jew coup.” His video accusing Jews of plotting the murder of millions of Christians was removed from YouTube but has drawn no condemnation from Republicans who have appeared on his programs in the past. Apparently he has easy access to the White House via press credentials.

Yesterday, I become aware of a White House petition launched by attorney Marc Stanley which asks the Trump administration to restrict Wiles’ access to the White House. I signed it and I ask that you click the link and sign it too.  The petition reads:

On a November 22, 2019 broadcast recording, TruNews founder and host Rick Wiles opined that the House impeachment inquiry is part of a “Jew Coup” to overthrow President Trump and install a Jewish “Cabal” to control the country.

On December 4, 2019, Wiles doubled down, saying, “Jewish socialist Jerry Nadler’s Judiciary Committee escalated the Jew Coup.”

Rick Wiles has a long history of spreading anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, as well as radical Islamophobic and anti-LGBTQ propaganda.

In the past, Rick Wiles has applied for and been granted White House press credentials. His vile racism, bigotry, and appeals to hate and violence have no place in the White House and he should be banned for life.

Add your name to this petition and take a stand against Wiles, anti-Semitism and bigotry.

In any normal administration, this fact and the lack of response to it would have consumed at least one news cycle. However, in the Trump administration, it is just another hour of another day. However, this should not go without response, especially at a time when Trump is cynically courting Jewish voters.  I hope you will sign on.

Worship Leaders Praise Trump Administration’s Work for Marginalized While the Administration Marginalizes More People

On the White House Twitter account, Gateway Church worship leaders Cody Carnes and Kari Jobe gush about Donald Trump’s work for the “marginalized” and all the great things the administration is doing. Watch:

In this taxpayer funded video, the two Christian singers tell viewers that the administration is helping marginalized people. She said:

But the thing that moved me the most is just how everyone is so for making sure we’re changing people’s lives and not leaving those that are marginalized and those that have been trafficked and those that are…A lot of times for those of us who don’t work in the White House, it can look really big and something that we can’t really end. But they are working to end these things and change these things. And I’ve just been in tears all day. It’s been incredible. I’m just so thankful to be a part of this today and to see what God is doing in our White House.

Carnes followed by saying the “faith community” was involved:

So many good things happening for the faith community and for the world. And things that we all believe in in the faith community that can change the world are being supported and are happening in this house.

In the comments under Carnes’ and Jobe’s tweet, Jobe’s college roommate left a message that confronted this rosy assessment with bright light. Jory Micah wrote:

In October, no refugees were settled in the U.S. for the first time since the 1980s. There is an ongoing humanitarian crisis happening at our Southern border. Recently, a migrant teen boy died of the flu while in custody of U.S. Border Patrol. I could go on to discuss the Kurds and the faith community there that Trump left to be slaughtered by the Turks.

There is reason to believe the Administration’s rhetoric on human trafficking is faulty.  Many of their policies toward migrants and refugees actually make trafficking worse. But because Christian leaders have stars in their eyes, they won’t challenge what they are being told or do any independent research. Because Trump and Pompeo say it, it must be true.

Christians are supposed to be monotheists. However, in the age of Trump, there are two gods in many of their lives, and as I have written before, Trump shall have the preeminence.

UPDATE:  Bethel Seminary professor Andy Rowell has a list of the worship leaders who attended the Dec. 6 event at the White House.

Is It a Children’s Book or a Book for Adults? Eric Metaxas Can’t Seem to Decide about Donald Builds the Wall

Eric Metaxas loves him some Donald Trump.  Not only does he defend just about everything Trump does, Metaxas has written two illustrated books about the president. The most recent one is called Donald Builds the Wall. This one depicts Trump building a wall between the good people of the U.S. and swamp dwelling creatures of those swampy countries to our south. It is the casting of refugees as swamp creatures that has some people upset. Here is a tweet from Rondell Trevino, who founded an immigration group sympathetic to work with refugees.

Metaxas responded that the creatures weren’t migrants but politicians.

I suspect the distinction will be lost on most readers, especially young ones. Metaxas then claims the book isn’t really a kid’s book but rather “an adult HUMOR book in the GUISE of a kids book.”

However, in an interview with CBN News, Metaxas clearly stated that the book is for children.

Obviously this is for kids, so you want to make it simple, but it is kind of that simple because we’ve lost sight of the basics of what it means. If you want freedom you have to guard your freedom. You have to make sure the people who are part of your nation buy into that idea of what it is to be free and these are really heavy ideas that are not being done justice in the mainstream media and we kind of thought in a children’s book, in a humor book we can say what you can’t say sometimes in a different form.

The publisher’s description of the book on Apple books describes it as “the children’s book and political parable that America needs right now. ”

So which is it Eric?

Caravan of Troublemakers

In the introduction the book, Metaxas and his illustrator Tim Raglin call refugees a “caravan of troublemakers” who are coming to “take over the country.”

This appears to be a reference to the recent waves of refugees coming from Central America who are fleeing violence.

I suspect that this is a book which historians will see as an indicator of the bankruptcy of evangelical leadership during the Trump era. The effort to get children to associate people wanting to find a better life in the United States with “bad news,” “troublemakers,” and “swamp creatures” is clear and indefensible. In the past, refugees leaving their homes and coming to America (think Neil Diamond) have been considered noble. In the pen and ink of Metaxas and Raglin, they are “troublemakers” and “bad news.”

Currently, we have a president who allows Stephen Miller – an open white nationalist sympathizer – to serve as an advisor to the president on the subject of immigration. Last month, for the first time, no refugees from anywhere were settled in the U.S. The State Department has a freeze on resettlements and a plan to reduce such moves to the lowest level in 30 years in 2020.

Metaxas’ book lionizing Trump doesn’t appear in the hands of children in a vacuum. This administration has steadily kneecapped the flow of legal immigration, even when that means keeping brown-skinned Christians out.

Thus, Metaxas book is fiction is more ways than the obvious one. He promotes a fictional narrative about Donald the swamp drainer and Donald the freedom preserver. And Metaxas now claims he isn’t targeting children. This is just one of many stories he can’t get straight.

Future Metaxas Books

Metaxas does have a wealth of material to work with. I can suggest some future titles:

Donald Bribes a Foreign President

Donald Abandons an Ally

Donald Grabs a Cat

Donald Loses a Trade War

Think of more? Leave them in the comments.

Additional note:

In previous media interviews, Metaxas calls these books “children’s books”:

On his Facebook page, Metaxas calls the book a children’s book.

The Holy Spirit Led Metaxas to Write Children’s Books about Trump

In this CBN clip, the book is repeatedly referred to as a children’s book.

For kids of all ages…

Publisher’s description on Apple books.

How many adult books are sold on Toywiz.com?

Gordon Allport on the Program of the Demagogue

In 1949, Leo Lowenthal and Norbert Guterman wrote a book titled Prophets of Deceit. In his 1954 book The Nature of Prejudice, personality psychologist Gordon Allport summarized Lowenthal’s and Guterman’s findings into a section he called “The Program of the Demagogue.”

If you have ever been able to get through a Donald Trump rally, you will recognize the points Allport summarized. It is as if Trump is reading from a script. Here is the excerpt from 1958 version of The Nature of Prejudice (p. 389-390).*

The Program of the Demagogue

In their volume Prophets of Deceit, Lowenthal and Guterman have analyzed a large number of similar speeches and tracts. There is a sameness of protest and hatred in all of them. What the demagogue is saying seems to boil down to the following points. 2

You’ve been cheated. Your social position is insecure because of the machinations of Jews, New Dealers, communists, and other agents of change. Sincere and plain folk like us are always dupes. We must do something.

There is widespread conspiracy against us. It is being engineered by devils — by Wall Street, Jewish bankers, internationalists, the State Department. We must do something.

The conspirators are sexually corrupt too. They “roll in wealth, bathe in liquor, surround themselves with the seduced daughters of America.” “Oriental erotics debauch youth for the purpose of wrecking gentile morale.” Aliens enjoy all the forbidden fruit.

Our present government is corrupt. The two-party system is a sham Democracy is a “trick word.” “Liberalism is anarchy.” Civil liberties are “silly liberties.” We cannot be universalistic in our ethics. We must look out for ourselves

We can’t trust the foreigners. Internationalism is a threat. But we can’t trust our own government either. Alien termites bore within. Washington is a “Bolshevik rat’s nest.”

Our enemies are low animals: reptiles, insects, germs, sub-human. Extermination is called for; we must do something.

There is no middle ground. The world is divided. Those who are not for us are against us. It is a war between haves and have-nots; between true Americans and “foreigners.” “The Talmudic philosophy of Europe- Asia-Africa and Nudeal is directly opposite that of Christian.”

There must be no polluting of blood. We must keep racially pure and elite. Vile contamination comes from dealing at all with the moral lepers of liberalism.

But with disaster around the corner what can you do? Poor, simple, sincere people need a leader. Behold I am he. It isn’t the American nation that is wrong, it is the corrupt men in office. Change the personnel. I am available. I’ll change the whole smelly mess. You’ll have a happier and safe life.

The situation is too urgent to permit the luxury of thought. Just give me your money, and I’ll tell you later what to do. Everybody is against me . I am your martyr. The press, the Jews, the stinking bureaucrats are trying to shut me up. Enemies plot against my life, but God will protect me. I’ll lead you. And I’ll ignite the public mind everywhere. And I’ll liquidate millions of bureaucrats and Jews.

Maybe we’ll march on Washington . . . 

This is the playbook of the Trump GOP. He and Fox News have convinced his base that they have been cheated and threatened by immigrants and the Democrats. Immigrants are devalued and debased. They are the problem. He will stop the invasion. The country was a disaster before he came along and we needed him to make America great again. He alone can save us. He alone can drain the swamp. We must stick together against the attacks of a liberal press, the enemy of the people. They are godless but God is on my side.

Allport said in the 1950s that the aim of this kind of demagogue is “a totalitarian revolution following the pattern of fascism.” With hopefulness, he added:

American democracy has a remarkable resiliency, for it has with stood such demagogy for decades, in fact, since before the founding of the nation. But today, the aggravating of strains, the cultural lag (i.e., the failure of social skills to keep pace with technological) have made the appeal greater than ever before. It is not a movement that is born overnight. Its seeds are always present, and its growth may be gradual and imperceptible up to a point, and then sudden and alarming. It waxes and wanes with the rise and fall of particular demagogues. But sometimes its roots gain a firm hold in congressional committees, in local and state political groups, in certain newspapers, and among certain radio commentators.

On the whole, the democratic tradition seems still in the ascendancy. Each fascistic movement generates a strong counter-current. Yet the mounting of social strain and the acceleration of social change in our day create a precarious condition. The question is whether realistic diagnoses and policies can be evolved to ameliorate domestic and international ills and to improve men’s outlook before panic and fear drive them in larger numbers to embrace demagogic nostrums.

Allport’s question haunts me. I think he has the situation diagnosed but I don’t believe our psychology or our policies have kept up with the pace of social and technological change today. Panic and fear drove a sufficient number of presidential voters to elect a spectacularly ill-equipped reality television actor and businessman of questionable success. Panic and fear appear to be driving a defense of Trump’s abuse of power based on something other than reality. Evangelical placation of everything Trump does is almost certainly driven by panic and fear. Surely they are not walking by faith.

I hope our democratic institutions will survive the panic and fear whipped up by Trump. The social strain is here, accelerated social change is here and I believe we are in a precarious condition.  Here’s hoping that our democratic tradition remains the ascendant attitude with enough of us to thwart The Program of the Demagogue.

Court Evangelicals: In All Things, Trump Must Have the Preeminence.

Last weekend, Donald Trump’s evangelical advisors met with him to talk over impeachment strategy. Here is a picture of group on Family Research Council president Tony Perkins’ twitter feed.

I see Gateway Church pastor Robert Morris, James Dobson, Robert Jeffress, Paula White, and AACC owner Tim Clinton among others.

Perkins says the reason the Democrats want to impeach Trump is due to his support for pro-life, pro-family policies. Odd, absolutely nothing has been mentioned about those policies in the numerous depositions taken so far. Everything has been about the president’s effort to manipulate Ukraine’s president to start an investigation of Hunter Biden in order to get dirt on Joe Biden. The president has stonewalled Congress and engaged in activities to cover up his activities. I believe the attempt to get a foreign government help to win an American election is an impeachable offense.

American evangelical leaders will have to answer for their blind trust in a political leader. I didn’t think evangelical leaders could get much lower but they have. Even if they don’t think what Trump did is impeachable, they should not excuse it. It is as if the Constitution or framers’ intent don’t matter anymore. The only thing that matters is protecting Donald Trump.

Watergate House Judiciary Interviews were Held Behind Closed Doors

Yesterday, nearly 30 House Republicans invaded the secure hearing room where a witness was being interviewed in the Trump impeachment investigation. Known as a SCIF (sensitive compartmented information facility), the room is off limits to cell phones and and communications devices which can be compromised by listening technology. However, several of the House members brought their cell phones into the SCIF, potentially compromising security.

Ostensibly, their complaint was that the hearings were secret and should not keep them from entering. They also compared the Trump investigation to the Nixon investigation during the Watergate scandal, saying the Nixon process was public.

There is a surface appeal to their calls for openness. Many people who follow this matter would like to know more than can be gleaned from opening statements and leaks. However, the claim that Republicans have been shut out is preposterous. There are scores of Republicans who have clearance to be in the closed meetings. In fact, there were Republicans in the meeting yesterday who had permission to be there.

Also, the comparison to Watergate isn’t favorable for the Republicans. The House Judiciary Committee held closed-door hearings prior to submitting articles of impeachment just as the current House is doing. Critics in that day had similar criticisms as described in this May 10, 1974 article from the Des Moines Tribune (click the link to read the entire piece).

The article sounds quite current with similar criticisms of the process of interviewing witnesses. In hindsight, this process served to protect witnesses and eventually gave way to a public presentation of evidence.

Something that was true of Watergate that is not true now concerns the involvement of the Senate. The Senate convened public hearings in early 1973 and compelled witnesses to testify. Many people remember these hearings and have perhaps conflated the Senate’s hearing and the House’s work in their memory of that era.

Regarding the current rules governing impeachment in the House, there is nothing that appears to forbid standing committees from investigating what might and might not be an impeachable offense. Here is a relevant quote from the Congressional Research Service brief on impeachment in the House:

Material related to the conduct of a federal official might reach the House and be referred to committee prior to the adoption of a resolution directing a committee to conduct an investigation. Historically, this has included petitions and materials from citizens. In addition, standing committees, under their general investigatory authority, can seek information and research charges against officers prior to the approval of a resolution to authorize an impeachment investigation.

There are three standing committees currently investigating the conduct of the president and related officials. They already have investigatory authority and will turn over their findings to the Judiciary committee and eventually to the public. There will be public hearings and a vote on articles of impeachment which the Judiciary committee will almost certainly produce. Then the matter will go to the Senate where the Chief Justice will preside over a public trial. The president will have a chance to offer his defense.

For those who can’t believe something unless they see it on Fox News, first I offer my sympathy, and second, I offer this from Fox and Friends:

About Donald Trump’s Let the Kids Fight Analogy

During a rally last night in Dallas, TX, Donald Trump said his approach to Syria was “unconventional what I did.” About the warring factions, he said “they’re going to have to fight a little while” and “sometimes you have to let them fight, like two kids in a lot. You have to let them fight, and then you pull them apart!” Watch:

As if the Kurds don’t know anything about war (they lost over 10k of their number fighting ISIS with us), Trump continued in his speech to talk about the nasty fighting since the U.S. pulled out. In his mind, the two sides are now ready to pause and make a deal because he made his unconventional move. He said Turkey would not have made the deal without “tough love.”

Many have correctly chastised the president for this simplistic view of the situation. The Turks and the Kurds and the Syrian Christians are not kids fighting on the playground. If anything Turkey is a bully beating up on small children. Even though, there is no analogy that works when one side (Turkey) commits atrocities and wants to rid the area of an entire group of people.

As a boy, I was in my share of playground fights, but nobody was beheaded, nobody was killed, nobody lost a home. Trump continues to demonstrate that he has little if any human compassion for anyone but himself. All that matters, it appears, is that he comes out of the situation looking good.

Think about what he is saying. In essence, he is saying that the beheadings, rapes, displacements, and other atrocities were all a part of his unconventional plan. Sometimes you have to let them fight awhile, then you pull them apart. In this narrative, he is the puppet master, letting them fight. He has the illusion that he was in control all along.

In fact, Turkey’s strong man Erdogan got everything he wanted out of the deal. He may not even honor the agreement. Within hours of the “pause,” shelling continued in the region according to reports earlier this morning. In fact, U.S. interests have not been served since the U.S. pulled out the region.

Meanwhile, the narcissistic president and his adoring followers congratulate themselves under the illusion that they are in control while the rest of us hang on for dear life.

To Christian Counselors, Mike Pompeo Lauds the Trump Administration’s Foreign Policies While Kurds Die

Today, in Nashville at a conference hosted by Tim Clinton (aka the American Association of Christian Counselors), Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lauded the foreign policy of the Trump Administration. His glowing praise comes amid Congressional testimony from former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and worsening atrocities involving the Kurds and Syrian Christians.

Calling America a force for good in the world, Pompeo told AACC attenders that the Trump administration “has spoken the truth in many ways that previous administrations haven’t done.” Pompeo lamented the persecution of Christians by ISIS at the same time Christians are now being killed by Turkish forces invading Northern Syria. This morning’s Christianity Today headline is: “Christians Killed on Syria’s Front Lines.” Due to President Trump’s decision to remove American military presence, Christians are suffering at the hands of Turkish aggressors.

The section discussing religious persecution that I referred to above begins at 12:31 and ends at just after the 15 minute mark in the clip below.

It is surreal to hear Pompeo talk about truth telling in foreign policy when there is abundant evidence that the President has not told the truth about his dealings with Ukraine. To me, the whole situation is surreal. The entire crowd acts as if nothing is happening in the wider world. The president just stabbed the Kurds in the back and is under an impeachment investigation. The president’s whim makes the resurgence of ISIS more likely and emboldens a dictator in Turkey who is no friend of religious freedom.

 

Is the Constitution Unconstitutional?

Yesterday, Donald Trump’s White House Counsel told the House of Representatives that the White House would not cooperate with the impeachment inquiry in any way. The letter began:

I write on behalf of President Donald J. Trump in response to your numerous, legally unsupported demands made as part of what you have labeled contrary to the Constitution of the United States and all past bipartisan precedent-as an “impeachment inquiry.” As you know, you have designed and implemented your inquiry in a manner that violates fundamental fairness and constitutionally mandated due process.

For example, you have denied the President the right to cross-examine witnesses, to call witnesses, to receive transcripts of testimony, to have access to evidence, to have counsel present, and many other basic rights guaranteed to all Americans. You have conducted your proceedings in secret.

In essence, the letter claims the impeachment inquiry has no Constitutional basis since the House has not voted to initiate the inquiry and since the Republicans don’t have subpoena power.

The problem with this line of thought is that the Constitution does not require  a House vote or any particular procedures. Here is what the Constitution says:

The House of Representatives shall choose their speaker and other officers; and shall have the sole power of impeachment. (Article 1, Section 2)

The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two thirds of the members present.

Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States: but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment, according to law. (Article 1, Section 3)

The House acts as a grand jury which does work in secret. The House investigates possible charges and if necessary constructs Articles of Impeachment which are then tried in the Senate. Because the Constitution doesn’t specify procedures, the House can do things publicly and privately or in some combination.

It appears to me that Trump is painting himself into a corner and is trying to buy some time. However, many of those following him might believe that his rights are being infringed just because he said so.

At least two of his current supporters once offered a different point of view of the executive branch’s failure to cooperate with Congress.  Lindsey Graham had this to say about Nixon:

This is the situation we are now in with Trump. He has repeatedly failed to comply with requests for information and subpoenas or allow his staff to comply.

Trey Gowdy, who is now going to assist Trump in his defense, once agreed it was wrong to withhold information.

Trump’s letter, in essence, argues that the Constitution is unconstitutional. Trump wants to drive the process but has no authority to do so.

While the Kurds Fear, Donald Trump Revels in His “Great and Unmatched Wisdom”

There is no bottom.

Maybe this will be the 25th Amendment moment. Congressional Republicans and evangelicals are all up in arms about Donald Trump’s decision to leave Northern Syria wide open for Turkish forces to engage the Kurds. Even though the Kurds fought with us against ISIS, Turkey views them as terrorists and wants to wipe them. Trump has stood aside after a call with Turkey’s strongman leader, Erdogan.

The “great and unmatched wisdom” line is the headline grabber but also insane is the threat to obliterate Turkey’s economy if they go “off limits.” There is a megalomania here that is frightening.

UPDATE: This is an extraordinary message from the DOD: