Tuesday, December 17, 2019

True conservatives and true Christians should welcome impeachment

Following are two op-ed pieces on the theme of Trump’s unfitness for the presidency. An empty faith demanded by a bogus prophet is how a group of Republicans characterize Trump and his sycophants. Second, whatever message you think is conveyed by Christmas, its spirit contradicts Trump’s un-Christ-like views of heroism and strength.

Thanks to Rebecca McCreary and Roving Reporter Sherry Moreau for their alerts.

(1) An empty faith, a bogus prophet

We Are Republicans, and We Want Trump Defeated announced kin the NY Times op-ed by George T. Conway III, Steve Schmidt, John Weaver and Rick Wilson who “have worked for and supported Republican campaigns.” Now they say "The president and his enablers have replaced conservatism with an empty faith led by a bogus prophet.

To fully appreciate what they say you should know this background: George T. Conway III is an attorney in New York. Steve Schmidt is a Republican political strategist who worked for President George W. Bush, Senator John McCain and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. John Weaver is a Republican strategist who worked for President George H.W. Bush, Senator John McCain and Gov. John Kasich. Rick Wilson is a Republican media consultant and author of “Everything Trump Touches Dies” and the forthcoming “Running Against the Devil: A Plot to Save America From Trump and Democrats From Themselves.”

And here is their op-ed in full.

Patriotism and the survival of our nation in the face of the crimes, corruption and corrosive nature of Donald Trump are a higher calling than mere politics. As Americans, we must stem the damage he and his followers are doing to the rule of law, the Constitution and the American character.

That’s why we are announcing the Lincoln Project, an effort to highlight our country’s story and values, and its people’s sacrifices and obligations. This effort transcends partisanship and is dedicated to nothing less than preservation of the principles that so many have fought for, on battlefields far from home and within their own communities.

This effort asks all Americans of all places, creeds and ways of life to join in the seminal task of our generation: restoring to this nation leadership and governance that respects the rule of law, recognizes the dignity of all people and defends the Constitution and American values at home and abroad.

Over these next 11 months, our efforts will be dedicated to defeating President Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box and to elect those patriots who will hold the line. We do not undertake this task lightly, nor from ideological preference. We have been, and remain, broadly conservative (or classically liberal) in our politics and outlooks. Our many policy differences with national Democrats remain, but our shared fidelity to the Constitution dictates a common effort.

The 2020 general election, by every indication, will be about persuasion, with turnout expected to be at record highs. Our efforts are aimed at persuading enough disaffected conservatives, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in swing states and districts to help ensure a victory in the Electoral College, and congressional majorities that don’t enable or abet Mr. Trump’s violations of the Constitution, even if that means Democratic control of the Senate and an expanded Democratic majority in the House.

The American presidency transcends the individuals who occupy the Oval Office. Their personality becomes part of our national character. Their actions become our actions, for which we all share responsibility. Their willingness to act in accordance with the law and our tradition dictate how current and future leaders will act. Their commitment to order, civility and decency are reflected in American society.

Mr. Trump fails to meet the bar for this commitment. He has neither the moral compass nor the temperament to serve. His vision is limited to what immediately faces him — the problems and risks he chronically brings upon himself and for which others, from countless contractors and companies to the American people, ultimately bear the heaviest burden.

But this president’s actions are possible only with the craven acquiescence of congressional Republicans. They have done no less than abdicate their Article I responsibilities.

Indeed, national Republicans have done far worse than simply march along to Mr. Trump’s beat. Their defense of him is imbued with an ugliness, a meanness and a willingness to attack and slander those who have shed blood for our country, who have dedicated their lives and careers to its defense and its security, and whose job is to preserve the nation’s status as a beacon of hope.

Congressional Republicans have embraced and copied Mr. Trump’s cruelty and defended and even adopted his corruption. Mr. Trump and his enablers have abandoned conservatism and longstanding Republican principles and replaced it with Trumpism, an empty faith led by a bogus prophet. In a recent survey, a majority of Republican voters reported that they consider Mr. Trump a better president than Lincoln.

Mr. Trump and his fellow travelers daily undermine the proposition we as a people have a responsibility and an obligation to continually bend the arc of history toward justice. They mock our belief in America as something more meaningful than lines on a map.

Our peril far outstrips any past differences: It has arrived at our collective doorstep, and we believe there is no other choice. We sincerely hope, but are not optimistic, that some of those Republicans charged with sitting as jurors in a likely Senate impeachment trial will do likewise.

American men and women stand ready around the globe to defend us and our way of life. We must do right by them and ensure that the country for which they daily don their uniform deserves their protection and their sacrifice.

˘We are reminded of Dan Sickles, an incompetent 19th-century New York politician. On July 2, 1863, his blundering nearly ended the United States.

(Sickles’s greatest previous achievement had been fatally shooting his wife’s lover across the street from the White House and getting himself elected to Congress. Even his most fervent admirers could not have imagined that one day, far in the future, another incompetent New York politician, a president, would lay claim to that legacy by saying he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it.)

On that day in Pennsylvania, Sickles was a major general commanding the Union Army’s III Corps at the Battle of Gettysburg, and his incompetence wrought chaos and danger. The Confederate Army took advantage, and turned the Union line. Had the rebel soldiers broken through, the continent might have been divided: free and slave, democratic and authoritarian.

Another Union general, Winfield Scott Hancock, had only minutes to reinforce the line. America, the nation, the ideal, hung in the balance. Amid the fury of battle, he found the First Minnesota Volunteers.

They charged, and many of them fell, suffering a staggeringly high casualty rate. They held the line. They saved the Union. Four months later, Lincoln stood on that field of slaughter and said, “It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”

We look to Lincoln as our guide and inspiration. He understood the necessity of not just saving the Union, but also of knitting the nation back together spiritually as well as politically. But those wounds can be bound up only once the threat has been defeated. So, too, will our country have to knit itself back together after the scourge of Trumpism has been overcome.

(2) Trump’s contorted conceptions of heroism and strength are contradicted by Christmas

Michael Gerson asks us to imagine “the spectacle of a thin-skinned, graceless old man attempting to crush the spirit of an idealistic teenage girl” as he shows us how Trump has adopted the coward’s conception of heroism.

Two recent events — one deadly serious, the other merely pathetic — raise the question: What is the true meaning of strength?

First, there was President Trump’s grant of clemency to three U.S. servicemen accused of war crimes — two of whom Trump brought to the stage during a Florida fundraiser in a kind of presidential tribute to brutality. In Trump’s version of events, he was protecting “warriors” from the pettifogging timidity of the so-called deep state. “We train our boys to be killing machines,” tweeted the commander in chief, “then prosecute them when they kill!”

Both act and explanation are destructive and offensive. The men and women of the U.S. military are not trained to be killers, though killing combatants in war is certainly part of their job. They are marinated in a code of honorable conduct and serve a cause — the cause of freedom and human dignity — that is inconsistent with the commission of war crimes.

Trump, as we know, is not big on moral codes and is disdainful of causes that transcend nationalism. Once again, he is squandering an inheritance he does not value or understand. He also is expressing a certain view of strength — strength as the brutal application of lawless violence — that is closer to the creed of the Cosa Nostra than to the “duty, honor and country” that calls and characterizes the U.S. armed forces. Trump has adopted the weak man’s view of what strength looks like, the small man’s view of what greatness looks like, the coward’s conception of heroism.

The second event — Trump’s cyberbullying of 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg — had lower stakes but represents a similar view of strength. Trump — probably feeling both envy and anger at Thunberg’s selection as Time’s Person of the Year — urged her to “work on her Anger Management problem.” If pressed, Trump would surely explain that he was getting back at someone who had criticized him first. Future historians will look back with horrified confusion at the spectacle of a thin-skinned, graceless old man attempting to crush the spirit of an idealistic teenage girl.

In Trump’s worldview, nothing is more contemptible than weakness — which he defines as vulnerability and self-restraint in the face of provocation. The elements of his code? Blessed are the powerful and pitiless. Blessed are the cruel and ruthless. Do unto others twice as bad as they do unto you.

It is instructive that these two events — the clemency and the bullying — should come during the Christmas season. Whatever you think about the historicity of the biblical accounts, they provide a powerful story about the true nature of power.

The whole narrative is framed by governmental attempts to assert and maintain control. The site of the birth is determined by a government census. The wise men must frustrate Herod’s attempt to locate a competing king. The slaughter of the innocents is state-sponsored mass murder. The holy family must flee to Egypt as refugees. The Roman Empire and its client ruler are attempting to snuff out potential sedition in its cradle. And that intention is fulfilled some three decades later — to all outward appearances — in a public trial and crucifixion.

“From beginning to end,” says Christian author Philip Yancey, “the conflict between Rome and Jesus appeared to be entirely one-sided. The execution of Jesus would put an apparent end to any threat, or so it was assumed at the time. Tyranny would win again. It occurred to no one that his stubborn followers might just outlast the Roman empire.”

But that is what happened. And the Christmas narrative indicates why. Whatever else this story may be, it is an inversion of our view of power — as though we had lived our whole lives upside down and were finally set aright. In God’s perspective on events, the culmination of history takes place among common people. Shepherds are the audience for angels. The stable is more influential than the royal court. Refugees are more important than rulers. The hopes of humankind are met, against all expectation, in a helpless infant. Power is found in the renunciation of power; strength is perfected in weakness.

It is not always obvious how this great inversion applies in our lives or our politics. But it forbids us from believing that cruelty can bring authority, or that peace can be achieved through murder, or that justice can arrive through lawlessness. It calls us to humility and decency over arrogance and ruthlessness. And it provides the Christmas hope that love will have the final word.

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