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.

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.

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.

Is Trump Lying or Just Clueless about Tariffs?

Anyone who pays attention to what Trump says on a regular basis is already aware of this doozy:

Trump has doubled down on the claim that China pays tariffs to the U.S. as if we are getting revenue from the Chinese government. In fact, American importers pay the higher prices imposed by Trump’s administration. Ultimately, American businesses frequently raise prices which hurts consumers, especially those in the lowest income brackets.

Larry Kudlow grudgingly admitted that China isn’t paying the tariffs.

Here is one of Trump’s Ohio 2016 voters coming to his senses and realizing Trump has made a mess of things.

Of course, China is not paying duties on imported goods imposed by the U.S. administration. American businesses are. Is Trump lying or is he really that clueless?

I don’t know. There are good reasons to believe either possibility. He lies easily but he also is so narcissistic that he thinks he is right when he is clearly wrong. Either way, this issue illustrates that Trump is simply incompetent. I look forward to the defense strategies of his sheep.

Poll: 59% of White Evangelicals Will “Definitely” Vote for Trump in 2020

In a Washington Post/ABC News poll taken from April 22-25, 59% of white evangelicals say they will “definitely” vote for President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. Another 23% say they will consider voting for him. Only 15% say they definitely will not vote for him.

Despite widespread coverage of the Mueller report, evangelical voters seem fixed on Trump. Perhaps white evangelicals don’t believe there is much to worry about. In the same poll, 57% of evangelicals said they don’t think Russian interference will be a threat to the 2020 election. Nearly 8 in 10 (78%) didn’t think the interference had an impact on the 2016 election. Compared to other groups, evangelicals led the way in skepticism about the influence of Russian meddling.

Evangelicals are with Trump on immigration as well. They are the leading group to say his immigration policies make them more likely to support him in the next election. Sixty-three percent believe Trump’s immigration policies are good compared to 16% who oppose them.  Among all voters the breakdown is 34% who support Trump due to his immigration policies versus 42% who oppose him for that reason.

I don’t think it goes too far to say that white evangelicals as a group see the world about like Donald Trump. This is a frightening and sobering thought.

The Charlottesville Rally Wasn’t about Robert E. Lee as a General

President Trump doubled down on his claim that very fine people were in Charlottesville to show support for the statue of Robert E. Lee. When asked about that comment, he said he answered that question “perfectly.” Then he discussed his view of why some of the people were there. Watch:

A review of Trump’s comments from the Charlottesville news conference shows that he condemned neo-Nazis and white supremacists in one breath but in other comments he suggests that there was some other group of Lee statue supporting people who gathered with the neo-Nazis and white supremacists. In this theory, these “very fine people” were there only to support the statue which isn’t a bad thing in his mind. I maintain it is entirely right and proper to question the wisdom and character of anyone showing up to a rally convened by neo-Nazis and and white supremacists. If neo-Nazis show up in my town and rally against drunk driving, I am not going to carry a sign in that march even though I oppose drunk driving.

In my view, it is not noble to support the myth of Lee as a great statesman and General. However, I do know that some people do think that and do so sincerely. Their desire to uphold the Lost Cause blinds them to a complete picture of Lee. What makes me think Lee worship is a smokescreen is that the activities of the weekend were not about Lee. When the tiki torch marchers gathered around Lee’s statue, they didn’t sing tributes to Lee or chant “General Lee is my favorite General.” They chanted, “You will not replace us.” Watch:

The “us” in this chant referred to white people not members of the “Lee is my favorite General” club.

Those people weren’t there because of their love of military history. If they were there for Lee at all, it was because he represents white supremacy. What is very fine about that?

Giving cover to Trump’s distraction, people like Dinesh D’Souza and Matt Walsh want to make Charlottesville about Robert E. Lee as a General. It wasn’t.

 

Image: By Cville dog – Own work, Public Domain