Impeachable offenses

  1. Impeachable
  2. The Trump Gay Holocaust That Wasn’t
  3. All or Nothing
  4. Mussolini on fascism
  5. Dissing the suburbs for the wrong reasons
  6. A Safe and Happy Place
  7. Abbt. Tryphon on Evangelicals

1

Andrew Sullivan has returned to cyberspace at a more sustainable pace (in case you didn’t know — it’s not fresh news). His extremely prolific and remarkably good blog was threatening to kill him with stress. Now, he shows himself capable of even better, if rarer, things.

At the center of the Comey firing is, it seems to me, a simple question. Is the presidency of Donald Trump a threat to liberal democracy? This has always been the question. It’s why his presidency is different than any other. Yes, there are policy goals that can be debated …

The core concern was always deeper than this. It was that Trump doesn’t understand the Constitution he has sworn to protect; that he would abuse his executive power, to lash out at enemies; that he would undermine the rule of law by trying to get his way, consequences be damned; that he would turn vital democratic institutions, such as the Justice Department and the FBI, into mere handmaidens of his own interest, rather than guarantors of the public’s. And it is clear to me that the firing of Comey — while within the president’s Constitutional powers — falls squarely into this category. To fire someone who is conducting an investigation into your own campaign cannot help but be seen as an interference with the rule of law. It is to cast doubt on the integrity of that investigation, and its future. It undermines public confidence that the executive branch can enforce the law against itself. It politicizes what should not be politicized. It crosses a clear line.

And it also crosses a line when you keep lying brazenly about why you did it. You don’t pin it on Rod Rosenstein. You don’t pretend it’s about “showboating.” You don’t ludicrously argue that you’ve just finally realized that Comey did Hillary wrong. You don’t also say that you were going to fire him anyway. You don’t say the FBI was in turmoil under Comey, when it wasn’t. And you don’t say you want to get to the bottom of the matter when you have already declared the entire story a hoax. More to the point, you don’t lie about all these things and then go on television and blurt out the truth: “When I decided to just do it [fire Comey], I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russian thing with Trump and Russia … is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election.” Read that again. The president has just said on national television that the Russia investigation was in the front of his mind when he decided impulsively to fire Comey. He has admitted he wanted to remove the FBI director because his investigation — which is fast intensifying — was targeting his campaign. That is called obstruction of justice.

All of this is simply unacceptable. An attempt to obstruct justice is an impeachable offense. And Trump has just openly admitted to such a thing. When, one wonders, will the patriots in the Republican Party stand up and confront this?

(Trump Just Incriminated Himself, emphasis added) Self-incrimination in a sort of Freudian slip was enough to get me off my former position.

The private dinner where Trump suborned professions of personal loyalty from Comey is exactly the sort of thing the emphasized text refers to.

At this point, I think the threat from the Trumpistas is probably less than the threat to the Republic by letting high crimes and misdemeanors go unimpeached. That the Trumpistas know Trump’s position is indefensible is betrayed by their verbal tics — two responses to everything:

  • But but but but but but … CLINTON!!!!
  • That’s too stupid to dignify with a rebuttal.

But impeachment won’t be easy, it won’t be neat and clean, and there may be strange bedfellows. Any sane LGBTQ advocate, for instance, will tend to prefer Trump to Pence, just as Republicans will want to hold on for more SCOTUS nominees..

UPDATE: It really is maddening blogging on this idiot. Now he’s gone and given away state secrets — another state’s, not ours to give — in a sort of “my manhood’s bigger than your manhood” Boast-A-Thon with Russian officials. I accelerated publication by 11.5 hours in response so this won’t be further deprived of timeliness by a 3 am Tweetstorm.

2

Andrew Sullivan shifts topics and continues:

At the beginning of last week, we were all waiting for a religious freedom executive order that would destroy any remnants of gay rights in America. At least, that’s what you were expecting if you were cursorily scanning the press, or getting emails from various lobby groups …

And then it didn’t happen. In fact, the executive order was a nothingburger for the Christianist right. It merely reiterated support for political sermons — but in bland generalities. It contained no broad measures that would encourage discrimination against gay or trans people … Mark Joseph Stern was forced to follow up with a new story: “Trump’s Executive Order Spared LGBTQ People. Trumpcare will kill them.” Nice try.

The remarkable truth is that Trump is not anti-gay. For all his general hideousness, he has — so far — been the least anti-gay Republican president in history …

But none of this is supposed to count. Massive, historic achievements for gay rights gained only in the last few years have now been accepted by a new Republican administration — the true sign of political success — but we’re all still allegedly under imminent assault. The administration has, in fact, been “a catastrophe” for gays, according to one activist. The New York Times thundered against the “fallacy” that Trump is somehow pro-gay. Here’s their evidence: a Republican president, elected by a huge majority of evangelicals, has appointed several officials who hold views on gay issues that are in line with orthodox Christianity. The Census Department won’t count gays in 2020. And the Justice Department has withdrawn a year-old advisory asserting that Title IX mandates that trans kids in high school can go to whatever bathroom or locker room they choose. This was rightly seen at the time as a very aggressive federal stance on a highly controversial subject. Reversing it is not a radically reactionary act. And, er, that’s it.

I know there could be worse to come. But you get the sense from many in the gay-rights movement that the greater the success we have achieved in the last decade the more intolerable the remaining injustices become. The rhetoric ratchets up past 11, whatever progress is made. The hysteria never abates. I know that’s how you raise funds, get on TV, and rack up the page views. But sometimes, a historic shift really is durable. And at some point, you have to consider taking yes for an answer.

(Emphasis added)

I’ve said or hinted at it before, but I don’t think the gay rights crusaders can take yes for an answer for at least one spiritual reason: they stand accused by their own consciences, no matter how much social approbation media and the courts collectively can gin up.

3

R.R. Reno’s rejoinder to Alan Jacobs’ “When Character No Longer Counts“:

Christians have theological reasons for not theologizing their political judgments. The Bible has a theology of history, but with all due respect to our civil religion, which tends to see America as God’s chosen nation, America has no unique role in that history …

… Jacobs can’t see that Trump’s campaign came as close to the platform of European post–World War II Christian democracy as any American candidate for president has come in two generations.

Jacobs exemplifies the all-or-nothing approach to politics characteristic of Evangelicals. Seeking a theological voice in the public square, Evangelicals are tempted to discern direct divine warrants for their political judgments. This can lead someone to speak of God anointing Donald Trump to save our nation, and thus implying that no Christian in good conscience could have voted for anyone other than Trump. Alan Jacobs and other Evangelicals (Peter Wehner is a notable instance) are mirror images, describing Trump in ways approaching divine condemnation, implying that no Christian in good conscience could have voted for Trump.

Our political witness as Christians should not be like that ….

On balance, I’m with Jacobs. I don’t understand why Reno couldn’t see that Trump was (as he still is) emotionally unstable and a grave threat when wielding government power. Any case that he’s better than Hillary Clinton must acknowledge Trump’s obvious personality disorder(s) if I’m going to take it seriously

I’ll grant Reno that many of the denunciations of Trump from religious quarters seemed too theological, as did many of the endorsements — but Jacobs got there first. Reno seems to be saying “your tribe can’t help all-or-nothing Manichean politics” even though Jacobs, it seems to me, did avoid them, soundly criticizing flaky pastors who essentially invited us to trust their private judgments or revelations:

For American evangelicals tend to believe in an activist God, a God more directly involved in political and social history, and so they require a more thoroughly theological account of politics. And from this point of view, it turns out, the very unlikelihood of Trump could be a sign of divine activity.

David Barton, the controversial evangelical historian, takes this view:

One thing I know for sure is that in the race of primaries, we had a lot of really good God guys in there. And we had a huge turnout of professing Christians and evangelicals and others, so there is nothing to complain about that we didn’t get a voice, we didn’t get a candidate. We had great candidates to choose from and this is who the people chose, and this is who the people chose with a really high turnout of evangelicals. So I kind of look back and say, “Hmmm, I wonder where God’s fingerprint is in this?” because this is not necessarily a failure of the church.

For Barton, the fact that Christian voters did not vote for the “really good God guys” but instead chose Trump is certainly surprising — but perhaps the surprise should lead Christians to suspect that the Holy Spirit was at work in those voters, that “God’s fingerprint” could be discerned in the unexpected outcome.

Frank Amedia, the founder of Touch Heaven Ministries and a fervent Trump admirer, takes this logic a step further, suggesting that Trump’s moral flaws are a paradoxical sign of God’s favor: Trump’s success is “not because Donald Trump has heralded his faith or the name of God, but the Lord has put His favor upon him …

The analogue deployed most frequently in the course of the campaign was Cyrus the Great, the ancient king of Persia who, through his conquest of Babylon, liberated the people of Israel from their captivity.

The invocation of Cyrus is helpful for those who want to see “God’s fingerprint” on the rise of Trump but who can’t quite convince themselves that Trump is much of a Christian, for Cyrus was used by God without knowing God. Thus Jeremiah Johnson, a pastor and leader of Behold the Man Ministries, wrote in July 2015 that God had spoken to him and said, “Just as I raised up Cyrus to fulfill My purposes and plans, so have I raised up Trump to fulfill my purposes and plans prior to the 2016 election.”

Trump’s bad behavior and rough language are a kind of test of our commitment, our willingness to persevere in finding hidden truth: “[Y]ou must listen through the bantering to discover the truth that I will speak through him.” Johnson is effectively saying to Christians skeptical of Trump’s character, “Who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?”

The joke in that last sentence reveals, I think, a major difference between the now widely discarded “character counts” model and the one that has, among many Christians, replaced it …

These leaders have replaced a rhetoric of persuasion with a rhetoric of pure authority — very like the authority that Trump claims for himself. (“Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.”) Consequently, their whole house of cards may well collapse if the Trump presidency is anything other than a glorious success, and will leave those who have accepted that rhetoric bereft of explanations as well as arguments. Presumably the most fervent supporters of Trump will argue (as Trump himself will argue) that his failures have occurred because others have betrayed him, have rejected the man that God raised up to rescue America, but this will require the replacement of the Cyrus analogy with another one yet to be determined. We can only hope that no one compares a failed Trump to an American Jesus betrayed by American Judases.

4

In 1929, Benito Mussolini gave a speech to the Italian Chamber of Deputies. His purpose was to present the Lateran Accords that regulated relations between the Italian state and the Catholic Church. With Catholicism’s historic claim to ultimate spiritual authority in mind, Mussolini gave a fulsome account of the ideals of fascism:

The fully fascist State proclaims in its full ethical ­character: It is Catholic, but it is fascist; it is above all, exclusively, essentially Fascist. Catholicism integrates it; we declare this openly, but no-one dreams of us changing the cards on the table with philosophy and metaphysical claims. It is useless to deny the moral character of the fascist State. It would embarrass me to speak from this rostrum if I did not feel the representative of the moral and spiritual strength of the State. What would the State be if it did not have a spirit, its own morality, which gives strength to its laws and makes citizens obey them

Hold that thought …

5

I have come to believe that suburbia — living in quasi-estates remote from work in the city — has a dubious future and was, as James Howard Kunstler says, the single greatest misallocation of resources in history. But some criticisms make me want to leap to its defense:

Did racism or economic anxiety drive people to the suburbs? What if it was both?

Got that? Suburbanites are fiends, neurotics, or both.

The article itself is barely better than the headline and lede.

6

Speaking of Kunstler, his new novel, A Safe and Happy Place, has now been released — self-published with Amazon.

Self-publishing marks a break with Atlantic Monthly Press, which had been publishing his books for a while now. He reflects on the publishing industry scatologically, but then turns, more interestingly, to the process of writing the novel, told in a woman’s voice (which he hasn’t done before).

7

Abbot Tryphon says some nice, brief, things about Evangelicals (and some deservedly critical things about those (fewer and fewer) who continue trying to maintain their Orthodox parishes as ethnic clubs).

8

… Let’s pick that thought back up again now:

Substitute “liberal” for “fascist” and one can imagine a devoted follower of John Rawls saying exactly the same thing. Liberalism alone constitutes the ethical character of society, which, if it wishes to be liberal, must be essentially and exclusively liberal. This is what Ryszard Legutko means when he says that liberal democracy is tempted by totalitarianism.

(R.R. Reno)

* * * * *

Men are men before they are lawyers or physicians or manufacturers; and if you make them capable and sensible men they will make themselves capable and sensible lawyers and physicians. (John Stuart Mill, Inaugural Address at St. Andrew’s, 1867)

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

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