And So It Begins

Dr. Malcolm Cross

This week the trial of President Trump before the Senate begins.  A delegation from the House of Representatives has delivered (finally!) the Articles of Impeachment.  Speaker Nancy Pelosi has distributed the thirty gold pens with which she signed them.  And Chief Justice John Roberts, who must preside over the trial, has been sworn in.  

The trial itself will almost certainly end in the President’s acquittal.  Public opinion, the actual Articles of Impeachment, the delay in transmitting those articles to the Senate, and the issue of what witnesses, if any, should be called, all diminish the chances for a Democratic triumph.

The main reason to expect the President’s acquittal is his continuing rock solid support from his Republican base.  To remove the President requires the support of at least 20 Republican Senators, assuming all 45 Democrats and both Independents in the Senate vote to convict.  But few, if any, of the Republican Senators will want to face the fury of the President’s base by voting to convict.

But it should also be noted that the charges against President Trump are weak.  Nowhere is he charged with a specific crime.  

Abuse of power?  The President is charged with withholding congressionally authorized aid from the government of the Ukraine unless its government announced an investigation into Hunter Biden’s work for Burisma, the Ukrainian natural gas company.  Yet the aid was delivered on schedule, well before the congressionally-imposed deadline, and to date the Ukrainian government has neither launched, nor even announced, a Biden-related probe.

And what about the charge that the President obstructed Congress?  True, he refused to submit documents to, or allow testimony of administration officials before, the House Intelligence Committee.  But the proper course of action was to litigate the matter before the federal courts.  Had federal judges ordered the President to comply with congressional demands, then his refusal to do so might well have justified an obstruction of Congress charge.  But in the absence of a refusal to obey a definitive court order, the charge seems to be a gross overreach by Congress.

It should also be noted that whatever the validity of the charges, Speaker Pelosi undermined their importance with her delay in their transmittal to the Senate.  Her initial rationale in demanding impeachment before Christmas was that the President’s continued incumbency posed too grave a risk to America’s democracy and the integrity of the 2020 presidential election to allow him to remain in office any longer.  That she waited 4 weeks to transmit the Articles to the Senate obviously belies this claim.  

Also undermining the strength of the Articles is the Democrats’ demand that more witnesses be called to testify in the Senate trial.  The Democrats say that witnesses such as Chris Mulvaney, the President’s Acting Chief of Staff, and John Bolton, the President’s fired national security adviser, be called to support and reinforce assertions that the President wanted to withhold aid to the Ukraine to extract an announcement of a Biden investigation.  Republicans have responded that this means the Democrats think the witnesses who testified before the Schiff committee were not sufficiently reliable.  Whatever.  It seems highly unlikely that any minds will be changed with the testimony of new witnesses.

But there could be a danger, to the Democrats, at least, should they prolong the issue of witnesses.  Consider the case of Lev Parnas, one of Rudy Guliani’s “business associates,” who claims he has more direct knowledge of the President’s Ukrainian gambit, as well as the degree to which other high-ranking officials, including the Vice President and the Secretary of State, were involved.  No doubt the Democrats would love to have him testify, but he could present serious credibility issues which Republicans would be all too happy to exploit:  He’s already been indicted for alleged violations of federal campaign finance laws, and Ukrainian officials he says he met deny any knowledge of him.

Another danger facing the Democrats is a potential Republican demand for witness reciprocity—an arrangement by which the Democrats can call their witnesses, in exchange for allowance of Republican-demanded witnesses as well.  At the top of the GOP’s witness wish list are the Bidens themselves, whom Republicans would love to question under oath about Hunter Biden’s Ukrainian ties.  Even if questioning reveals no technical legal violations, exploration and discussion of the $50,000/month payments to Hunter Biden can do Joe’s presidential bid no good.  

All in all, it would probably be best if, in the upcoming trial, the House Managers (the representatives Speaker Pelosi appointed to prosecute the President) simply presented their case, to be followed by the case for the President as made by his attorneys, with a vote by the full Senate to end the proceedings.  The presentation of witnesses will prolong the trial, but will not change the outcome of the proceedings.  The sooner the trial is over, the sooner we can resume the presidential election campaigns and submit the question of whether President Trump should remain in office to America’s most important jurors—the voters.

Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.


  1. It’s a mess. But I didn’t know this was going on in christian circles.

    Religious wars: Trump’s administration is pushing a Christian nationalist agenda — but activists are fighting back

    Last Thursday, Jan. 16, was Religious Freedom Day. As befits his mendacious nature, Donald Trump “honored” it by promoting two policies profoundly at odds with the original meaning of what religious freedom is all about: a license to discriminate with federal funds, both in employment and in provision of services, and new pressure on public schools to allow student prayer and religious use of school facilities.

    The actual substance of the second policy was vastly over-hyped, noted Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. Religion had never been banned from education by the Supreme Court in the 1960s, she pointed out — only “mandatory Bible readings and prayers written by the government. It should not be controversial to oppose government-dictated religious practice.” But that’s clearly the direction Trump was signaling toward, and the public pressure of presidential posturing has real-life consequences, regardless of written laws and regulations.

    Trump’s actions drew swift condemnation from Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Center for Inquiry, among others. As CFI noted:

    [I]f a homeless atheist or LGBTQ teenager went to a federally-funded Catholic soup kitchen seeking nutritional aid, the organization could turn them away without so much as notifying them that alternative sources of aid exist.

    This amounts to a religious litmus tests to access public services. Welcome to “Handmaid’s Tale” America.

    But this was no surprise, given Trump’s dependence on Christian nationalist support, and the fact that he’s touted their line before, as I noted last year at this time. As Americans United president Rachel Laser said to Salon, “The Trump administration’s constant entanglement of church and state should make our founders turn over in their graves.”

    So what is surprising is the dramatic growth of a broad progressive pushback against this attempt to kidnap the meaning of America’s most distinctive contribution to the history of human freedom.

    It began in 2016, with the publication of “When Exemption is the Rule: The Religious Freedom Strategy of the Christian Right,” written by Frederick Clarkson, a senior fellow at Political Research Associates. Last year, Clarkson helped draft a model Religious Freedom Day resolution highlighting the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, whose anniversary the day celebrates. But this year has seen a marked change, Clarkson told Salon.

    “This was the year that the Christian right finally began to show signs of weakness,” Clarkson said. “Organized efforts by an historically broad movement began to gain traction in opposing the theocratic politics of the Christian right,” he explained. “In my view, a movement is so much more than a coalition or coalitions.”

    Laser sees similar signs as well. “The importance of church-state separation and religious freedom has made it back into the progressive community’s vernacular,” she said, adding, “Concerned citizens are raising church-state separation in town halls with presidential candidates and we are hearing about the misuse of religion to discriminate on the presidential debate stage.” And beyond that, “Our recent public opinion research shows that 60 percent of voters see church-state separation as a high-priority issue to them personally. And despite the Trump administration stacking the deck against us, we’re seeing victories in state legislatures, in Congress and in the courts.”

    Those victories reflect a lot more battles, as Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Jennifer Pizer told Salon. “In 2019, our litigation teams were in overdrive, back and forth to courthouses all over the country getting orders blocking examples of the Trump-Pence administration’s grotesque religious-exemption overreach,” Pizer said.

    There have also been broader results, Clarkson noted:

    Religious, secular and civil rights groups have maintained a sustained effort of exposure and opposition, and were joined in 2019 by the [Baptist Joint Committee], which waged an unprecedented campaign, based on a strong manifesto called “Christians Against Christian Nationalism,” which was joined in by top leaders of other Christian denominations. This unity frightened Christian right leaders who sought to smear the effort, but who were so fearful that they could not even bring themselves to say the name of the BJC.

    Movements draw together a wide range of people, communities, ideas, and aspirations. This was reflected in a range of stories I covered last year — which only scratch the surface of all the emerging activism:

    The expanding pushback against the state-level legal agenda of “Project Blitz” (the Christian nationalist equivalent of ALEC), which I first wrote about when Clarkson first exposed “Project Blitz” in 2018. (“Project Blitz lost significant momentum; having introduced and passed fewer bills than the year before,” Clarkson told Salon.)
    Congressional hearings on the “Do No Harm” act, which would curb discriminatory abuse of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. (The act now has 170 House co-sponsors, and 27 in the Senate. “This means the public education process is well underway about how the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act [RFRA] has been distorted and abused both by Supreme Court decisions and the Trump-Pence Administration,” Pizer said.)
    The lawsuit challenging the Trump HHS “Denial of Care” rule, which would have given free rein to a wide range of bigoted decision-making impacting the health and welfare of millions. (Rule since blocked by courts.) While LGBTQ and reproductive rights activists have long battled attacks from the religious right, the right’s own reframing has helped allies more directly see those attacks as directed at everyone, not just those explicitly targeted.
    The creation of Christians Against Christian Nationalism, noted above by Clarkson. [Salon story here].
    Publication of “The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism is Un-American,” [author interview here] which provides a wealth of information & has gained significant attention.
    The ongoing growth of the “ex-vangelical “movement, exposing the abusive, authoritarian reality behind the “wholesome, all-American” facade of white evangelicalism.
    The last story I only covered indirectly, by including ex-vangelical perspectives in my overall coverage. Because they have the most intense first-hand knowledge of the stakes involved, their perspective is necessary for any truly comprehensive coverage — even if (or because) it makes things more complicated.

    “Having grown up steeped in Christian nationalism, which I’ve come to vehemently reject, I have difficulty performing patriotism, though I do love my country and democracy,” ex-vangelical author Chrissy Stroop, co-editor of “Empty the Pews: Stories of Leaving the Church,” told Salon. “I don’t know the extent to which it’s possible for us to reclaim the messaging around religious freedom from the Christian right,” she said, “but I do think there is value in trying to reclaim the original meaning of the concept and in celebrating robust pluralism.”

    Also worth noting is another important story I only touched on in passing — the religious freedom struggles of progressives whose faith is mocked and trampled on by Trump and his allies. I referenced the continued prosecution of humanitarian aid volunteer Scott Warren on two charges related to aiding migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border.

    But Warren is only one example among many. In November, the Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia Law School released a report, “Whose Faith Matters? The Fight for Religious Liberty Beyond the Christian Right,” which provides a comprehensive account of the wide range of contexts “in which people of faith engaged in humanitarian and social justice work have fought for the right to exercise their religion.”

    Finally, earlier this month American Atheists released its “2019 State of the Secular States” report, authored by Alison Gill, its vice president for legal and policy. States were classified into three categories: Just 10 qualified as having “strong protections for religious equality,” including “constitutional guarantees for religious freedom, protections against religious harm, and few religious exemptions,” while 21 states — among them Florida and Texas — were found to have “religious exemptions that undermine equality,” including “provisions that instill Christian Nationalism into the law,” as well as “a lack of explicit protections to ensure the separation of religion and government.” Between those two extremes, 19 states were found to provide “basic separation of religion and government,” but with “few protections against religious harm.”

    This report makes vividly clear the landscape of an ongoing cultural battlefield that’s been ignored — or purposely hidden — for far too long. While Project Blitz and Trump’s policies were promoted under the banner of “religious freedom,” Gill said, “This is nothing more than the cynical misappropriation of this fundamental American principle. In reality, these forces have undermined religious freedom by attempting to enshrine Christian privilege into the law,” while eroding separation of church and state.

    “Exposing their agenda is the key to defeating it,” Gill said. “This is why the State of the Secular States is such an important tool — the report provides benchmarks and helps us understand whether the states have faithfully executed, or eroded, this historical understanding of religious freedom.”

    She went on to say, “Recognizing the threat is just the first step. With this awareness, we can work together to stop this erosion of religious equality.”

    With all the activity noted above, and much more, a significant watershed has been crossed. The rich diversity of views outside the religious right has long been a significant disadvantage in confronting a highly focused minority. At long last, that’s beginning to change.

    The literal map that American Atheists provides is matched by other kinds of maps that are starting to emerge — maps of history, ideas and experience. Without such maps to help guide us, we can easily be mislead by claims that “here be dragons” that no one has actually ever seen. Or we can think that some very real things can’t possibly exist at all.

    One such example is the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC), founded way back in 1936. It’s the only national faith-based group focused solely on protecting religious freedom for all. Not only does such an organization exist — with deep roots in American Baptist history — this past year it played a leading role in reaching out to other like-minded Christians, regardless of denomination, in launching Christians Against Christian Nationalism.

    “Religious Freedom Day provides an annual reminder of how our country protects religious liberty in a unique way — one that has served us well for centuries,” BJC executive director Amanda Tyler told Salon. “Americans must reaffirm our promise of equal citizenship without regard to religion in these challenging days. The thousands of people who have signed the Christians Against Christian Nationalism statement are defending these principles.”

    A more expected form of opposition to Christian nationalism and its perverted notion of “religious freedom” comes from Andrew Seidel, an attorney with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. But if the form isn’t surprising, the scope and strength of his arguments are.

    “Christian nationalism is the false claim that America was founded as a Christian nation, that we were based on Christian principles and, most importantly, that we’ve strayed from that foundation, from our godly roots,” Seidel told Salon. “They use the language of return to justify their harmful public policy,” he said. “But there is hope. The very identity of the Christian nationalist [is] based on a host of myths and lies. Right now, America is in a desperate fight against Christian nationalism, a political theology that is an existential threat to our republic. That’s why I wrote ‘The Founding Myth’.”

    He ticked through an exhausting list of lies his book refutes:

    We’re one nation under God; “In God we Trust”; the Declaration of Independence relies on the Christian God four times; the Founders were all evangelical Christians; those founders prayed at the Constitutional Convention; Washington knelt in the snow at Valley Forge in prayer; our country is based on the Ten Commandments. All lies. All wrong.

    Stroop cited Seidel’s book for the powerful case it makes. “Andrew Seidel emphasizes the point that there can be no freedom of religion without freedom from religion, and he’s absolutely right about that. … I think he unfortunately undercuts that critical point, however, in devoting so much of the book to pitting the Bible against American secularism and democracy, not considering that there are indeed progressive and inclusive interpretations of the text.

    “That move plays into the Christian nationalists’ attempt to define ‘religious freedom’ as exclusive to right-wing Christians, who must, the way they see it, be free to impose their will on others in order for them to consider themselves to have ‘religious freedom’ at all.”

    Consonant with Stroop’s point, the “Whose Faith Matters?” report notes that “the commonly held position that ‘religious liberty should not be a license to discriminate’ seems to accept at face value the notion that carve-outs from antidiscrimination law for religious conservatives do in fact protect religious liberty.” Rather, “the very opposite is true: weakening civil rights law necessarily weakens religious freedom. Ceding the domain of ‘religious liberty’ to the Christian right overlooks the ways in which equality and religious freedom are mutually reinforcing rights, each dependent on the other.”

    This kind of criticism is actually a sign of the health and growing vitality of the broader movement. We increasingly see multiple different perspectives engaging with each other, producing a richer, more nuanced framework for developing a multi-layered, multi-faceted understanding of the issues involved.

    Today’s Christian nationalist ideology builds on much earlier foundations, as historian Steven Green explores in his 2015 book, “Inventing a Christian America: The Myth of the Religious Founding.” A presentation on his book by Green precipitated one of the most disturbing attacks ever seen from a Project Blitz group last year, which threatened the funding of Minnesota’s nonprofit historical association.

    The myth Green describes originated in the revolutionary period and was solidified shortly after that. “It was in the early 1800s, however, that the narrative that the nation had a Christian founding and was specially blessed by God took hold,” Green said, “as members of the second generation sought to sanctify the nation’s origins and to distinguish it from other countries.” Heirs always have insecurities, it seems, and we were no different as a nation. Since then, the narrative has waxed and waned, he said, with a resurgence in the last 30 years. “These Christian nationalists are reacting to the nation’s shifting racial and religious demographics, as well as to decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court limiting government promotion of religion and extending protections to previously marginalized groups such as members of the LGBTQ community.”

    White Protestants are still culturally predominant, but that power is waning, so a different sort of insecurity is driving the current resurgence. “Even though much of their work is rhetorical, convincing religious conservatives that they are under attack,” he notes, they have gained some tangible victories

    such as convincing the Texas State Board of Education to incorporate material about the nation’s Christian origins into the state’s social science curriculum. The Congressional Prayer Caucus’ Project Blitz has also mounted an ambitious agenda to encourage state legislatures to enact policies that reflect a Christian perspective.

    Likely the greatest success of Christian nationalists and their allies has been to convince legislators and judges to adopt an exaggerated understanding of regulatory burdens on the free exercise of religion.

    In contrast to Green’s broad historical perspective, stands the chilling concrete issue of personal survival raised by the Trump administration’s Denial of Care rule. As I noted last June, when the lawsuit to challenge it was filed, religious conscience exemptions are neither new nor controversial in themselves:

    There have long been provisions for health care providers to abstain from practices for religious reasons, in carefully balanced ways that preserve patient access to care and maintain patient health as the central focus of medicine. But the “denial of care” rule turns all this upside down, placing an imaginary right to discriminate at the center, and requiring everything else to accommodate them.

    Indeed, it extended religious exemptions to virtually all employees, not just medical personnel. Three different federal courts have thrown the rule out, but those decisions are under appeal, and with so many Trump-appointed judges throughout the judicial, there is legitimate concern over what may happen. Freya Riedlin, federal policy counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, explained:

    The vacated rule, if reinstated on appeal, could embolden an immensely broad array of health care workers, including receptionists and ambulance drivers, to turn away and refuse to serve patients based on moral or religious grounds. Patients seeking services like contraception, abortion or gender-affirming care would be most impacted by the rule. Because the rule does not provide exceptions even in emergencies, it could even mean being denied life-saving medical care.

    The Denial of Care Rule applies to virtually every kind of health care provider. Health care facilities risk losing all federal funding if they do not grant employees carte blanche to deny information and services. Because the Rule is infeasible to implement, if allowed to go into effect, it could coerce many health care facilities to eliminate reproductive health care and LGBTQ health care, leaving millions across the United States without access to critical health care.

    This is only one of multiple “attacks on women and other vulnerable populations” from the Trump administration “that are purportedly in the name of religious liberty [and] front and center of its ideological agenda,” Riedlin said. “This trend shows no signs of abating and we expect to see more of the same throughout 2020.”

    Pizer agreed: “As the next election approaches, we are seeing a fast-accelerating pace of regulatory changes aiming to expand religious rights to discriminate across the areas governed by federal law, and to secure the flow of federal tax dollars to private religious agencies that want to perform public functions and impose their religious views on as much of society as possible.”

    So the battle to reclaim the true meaning of religious freedom has inextricably become increasingly central to the 2020 election, and to the political concerns of virtually all Americans, whether they realize it or not.

    “These snowballing threats have prompted stronger partnerships, growing public awareness, growing congressional support and public distancing from discrimination by some who led the national charge against LGBT equality not long ago,” said Pizer.

    “In all that progress lay the seeds of public awareness that can blossom into public rebuke of the outrageous distortion and misuse of religious liberty that put so many of us at risk.”

  2. This reads to me that type person that opens his bible and “cherry picks the bible”. Those can prove to be dangerous individuals. It was done in the early days of America to make ownership of other human beings approved by God.

    I know of parents that have members of the LGBTQ Community its labeled, They are people of christian faith and their history by actions very devoted to that fifth. It’s not really a fair proposition to the American fighting soldier that has perished in defending each American’s right to have constitutional rights. The LGBTQ very well have rights protected with dead American soldiers death.

    What I sense are leaders that fail in being able to work on their very clear difficulty and that’s be living up to Jesus’s 2nd Commandment, the one Jesus told us would be the mot difficult. Love thy neighbor. But if you think I’m going to let a man using Christianity to deny the rights of anyone I can’t do. And if you think I’m going to set by and turn our nation in being like Russian where gay men have been jailed and not long ago 13 gay men died in a State round up of gay men and incarcerated over 100 in Crimea then think again.

    You want a gun in Russia? I’ll tell you that you won’t get one if you are of the people. Putin suckered the fee paying members of NRA that are the people. And the guys I know in Erath County that own hunting guns and pistols for protection at home have told me they don’t want an AR-15 because they don’t want to have what their hunting looking like “swiss cheese”.

    None of them have overdosed on Rush Limbaugh or the like. Hugh Wolfe taught me along with Mayor Jack Arthur, Dr Grant and my dad those type guys make big advertiser dollars as alarmist and creating fear and building fear. Hugh Wolfe told me about Garner Ted Armstrong because his cousin was a neighbor to Armstrong. My dad, Dr Grant along with Mayor Arthur agreed.

  3. Ut Oh, hometown hero and Foxs news star congressman can no longer lie and hide out with liars and expect to be the home town hero any longer…

    Devin Nunes ‘lied to the American people’: Hometown newspaper slams GOP congressman for ‘betraying our country’

    Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) was scorched by his hometown newspaper in an editorial blasting the Trump supporter for his “betrayal.”

    “Kiev, Ukraine, is nearly 6,200 miles from Tulare, Calif. That’s a long way from home for Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, who now faces explosive allegations that he and his staff contacted shadowy Ukrainian figures in an effort to betray American democracy,” The Fresno Bee noted. “Text messages released by the House Intelligence Committee last week reveal that a top Nunes aide named Derek Harvey – who on Trump’s National Security Council before he joined Nunes’ staff – sought direct contact with Ukrainian officials in an effort to smear former Vice President Joe Biden.”

    Nunes, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, has been a leading defender of the president.

    “For months, Nunes has acted as Trump’s attack dog, defending the president from accusations that he pressured Ukraine to investigate Biden. Nunes sat in House Intelligence Committee meetings and derided the impeachment proceedings against Trump as a ‘hoax.’ Yet he was sitting on a ticking time bomb the entire time. The newly-released texts prove … that Nunes’ staff also engaged in secret efforts to damage Biden,” the newspaper noted. “Nunes knew the Ukraine allegations were true because his office was involved in the same plot. But he used his position in Congress as a platform to spread lies and mislead the public.”

    The editorial declared that it is “undeniable” that the Fresno Republican lied.

    “Regardless of whether you lean Democratic or Republican, here’s an undeniable fact: Nunes lied. He lied to the American people and to his own constituents about the Ukraine allegations, dismissing them although he knew they were true. He deliberately misled the American people by attempting to undermine impeachment hearings that examined an anti-Biden effort in which his own office had direct involvement,” The Bee noted. “Even if you support President Trump, there’s no denying the fact that Nunes’ actions have backfired and will only hurt Trump. Knowing his own staff was neck-deep in an effort to smear Biden using foreign contacts, Nunes should have let someone else play defense.”

    The newspaper seemed to conclude it is time for Nunes to leave Congress.

    “Devin Nunes has betrayed the truth, betrayed the trust of voters and, quite possibly, betrayed our country. We don’t know exactly where this new evidence will lead, or what fate has in store for Nunes, but we do know this: The people of California’s 22nd congressional district deserve better,” The Bee wrote.

    Devin Nunes’ Ukraine lies are a betrayal. Voters in his district deserve better

    — Fresno Bee (@FresnoBee) January 20, 2020

      • You don’t even use your name and it is not fake news. Fake news is suckers term that used for repelling the facts for an orange idiot that would call Erath County residents losers. And besides my frind it is only an article that they was reprinted from Nunes hometown newspaper. Go to Sacramento and talk to people that vote for him. Go in the office of the Sacramento Bee instead of using a Steve Bannon term “fake news” in Erath County to mislead people. It’s weak and its growing old.

      • And BIG D I am a Constitutional defender which means while you might be letting your guard and temporarily a bone spur trans acquired from listening tdo Trump’s rally speeches just know those rallies are likened to Hitler’s Beer Hall speeches as he began building Nazism in the early 1930’s. That constitution has had soldiers die defending it and Trump had bone spurs after he used (4) 4-S deferments.

      • And BIG D this is not fake news and Oregon State University is not a fake university. This is an op-ed letter to is simply a news organization supported only by readers contributors and most are young journalist major.

        I was childhood friends with a Republican senator — here’s what I wish he knew now

        As a one-time (more than sixty years ago!) but long-out-of-touch friend of Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), I have often wanted to write him to question his silence vis-à-vis the tragic aberration that is Donald Trump and the collaboration of the Republican Party in the undermining of our democracy. Not having his private address, however, I was loath to risk a “Thank you for your views, which are very important to us” response from his staff, with no way of knowing if he himself ever received my letter. I expect those same screeners, however, will make sure he sees an op-ed concerning him.

        Lamar and I were born to middle-class families in small towns in East Tennessee, and we both imbibed with our mothers’ milk the simple, honorable values of that mostly wholesome setting. Our public school educations reinforced the norms of fairness and truth-telling and began to show us the importance of “getting your facts straight.”

        Then we were privileged to traverse together the life-altering adventure of a liberal arts education at Vanderbilt University, sensitizing us to the power of language and awakening us to the insights of history, philosophy, literature, and other liberal arts disciplines. As his fraternity brother and friend, I knew Lamar to be an exceptionally intelligent, hard-working, and trustworthy young man. These qualities served him well in law school, as Tennessee’s Governor, and in the other positions of great responsibility he has held.

        It is thus all the more perplexing that he has not distanced himself from the vulgar, amoral, mendacious, and emotionally unstable reprobate currently defiling the Office of the Presidency or from the unprincipled and utterly undemocratic machinations of his party. (I must emphasize that all these harsh adjectives, far from mere opinion, have been thoroughly documented, even as they have been dismissed as “fake news” by those with no regard for objective reality.) The question all this raises for me is: What has happened to those basic values Lamar and I were taught early on—honesty, civility, decency, and shame?

        When, for only the third time in our nation’s history, impeachment of the president must be acted upon, the Senate seems poised to place its imprimatur on the pernicious idea—the hallmark of the Trump Era—that truth is optional, that facts can be rendered moot by childish name-calling or partisan reinterpretation. At such a dire moment, the imperative has never been greater for every Senator to consult his or her conscience and to ponder the oath they have sworn: to “support and defend the Constitution”. The Constitution, not the President.

        Life has taken Lamar and me in profoundly different directions. It is the stuff of novels that two people with almost identical backgrounds could wind up with such radically divergent political perspectives. Still, time and circumstance cannot have completely erased the core values we learned growing up.

        Doubtless, there are intense pressures—even dangers—that anyone in a position of power must contend with. Ultimately, there is only one way to defy such threats—with courage. I can only hope that, at this pivotal point in our nation’s history, Senator Alexander will muster that courage and reflect on whom he has most admired and why—and on how he himself wishes to be remembered. Having done so, he will surely then employ his considerable abilities and unique position to begin making our country whole again.

        Richard L. Clinton is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Oregon State University.

      • Well the Koch brothers ( I know recently one died) continuing dismantling of social security dream just mover closer to reality. With Bone Spurs Trump driving the get away car. It hurts to think about the children abandoned by Church House Republicans in Erath County but I was a wrong. They’ll go with Trump until all the dogs under the porch die.

        Donald Trump Says He’s Willing to “Look” at Entitlements “Toward The End of This Year”

        When Donald Trump campaigned for president in 2016, one of his central promises was that he would not touch Medicare or Social Security benefits for the elderly, a vow that helped him come off as a relative centrist in the Republican field on economic issues. However, during a Wednesday interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Trump told CNBC host Joe Kernen that his administration would look into cutting federal entitlement programs at some point toward the end of the year, and that reforming them would be “the easiest of all things.” Here’s the exchange:

        JOE KERNEN: Entitlements ever be on your plate?

        PRESIDENT TRUMP: At some point they will be. We have tremendous growth. We’re going to have tremendous growth. This next year I– it’ll be toward the end of the year. The growth is going to be incredible. And at the right time, we will take a look at that. You know, that’s actually the easiest of all things, if you look, cause it’s such a–

        JOE KERNEN: If you’re willing–

        PRESIDENT TRUMP: –big percentage.

        JOE KERNEN: –to do some of the things that you said you wouldn’t do in the past, though, in terms of Medicare–

        PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, we’re going– we’re going look. We also have– assets that we’ve never had. I mean we’ve never had growth like this. We never had a consumer that was taking in, through– different means, over $10,000 a family. We never had the kind of– the kind of things that we have. Look, our country is the hottest in the world. We have the hottest economy in the world. We have the best unemployment numbers we’ve ever had. African American, Asian American. Hispanics are doing so incredibly. Best they’ve ever done. Black. Best they’ve ever done. African American. The numbers are incredible. The poverty numbers. The unemployment and the employment. There’s― there is a difference, actually. But the unemployment and employment numbers for African Americans are the best we’ve ever had. You know, we just― came up with a chart, and it was a very important to number to me. African American youth has the highest, by far, unemployment. The best unemployment numbers that they’ve ever had. And the best employment numbers. Right now we have almost 160 million people working in the United States, and we’ve never even been close to that, Joe.

        This is a fairly big WTF moment from the president whose entire brand, perfectly calibrated to older Fox News viewers, was “Republican trash talker who will get rid of the immigrants and cut your taxes, but not your Social Security benefits.” It’s especially strange given that a) Democrats in the House are not going to join hands and slash programs for the elderly with him, and b) one of his potential presidential rivals, Joe Biden, is currently under fire for his own history of advocating for entitlement cuts. A whole lot of people (including myself in a post I just wrote yesterday!) assumed Trump would make like Bernie Sanders and batter Biden for the exact same thing during the general. Now, he seems to be spoiling that whole line of attack.

        It’s so weird for the president to be talking about this now that one almost has to wonder if he understood what Kernen meant by “entitlements.” Sure, he mentions Medicare, but it’s unclear from the tape whether Trump is really listening, or understands the topic at hand. I mean, who on earth thinks that cutting Social Security is the “easiest of all things”? (Oh right, this guy.)

        On the other hand, the White House gave the Washington Post this wishy-washy statement:

        A White House spokesman said in a statement that the president is not pushing “benefit cuts” but rather that the administration would aim to eliminate things such as “waste” and “fraud” in the programs.

        “President Trump is keeping his commitment to the most vulnerable Americans especially those who depend on Medicare and Social Security,” the statement said. “His budgets have proposed more savings to mandatory programs than any President in history, including lowering drug costs, eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse, and getting people off welfare and back to work.”

        Which doesn’t exactly sound like a denial to me.


        Fox News legal analyst bucks his network and lays out why Trump’s attack on impeachment is bogus

        udge Andrew Napolitano has been one of the political wild cards at Fox News: like his colleague Chris Wallace — but unlike so many others at the right-wing cable news outlet — Napolitano doesn’t see it as his job to reflexively defend everything President Donald Trump says and does. And Napolitano, in an op-ed published on Fox News’ website this week, takes issue with Trump’s assertions that his impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate is a “hoax.”

        “His trial is not a charade or a joke or a hoax,” the libertarian judge emphasizes. “It is deadly serious business based on well-established constitutional norms.”

        Trump, Napolitano notes, was indicted by the U.S. House of Representatives on two articles of impeachment: one for abuse of power, the other for obstruction of Congress.

        “The abuse consists of his efforts to extract a personal political ‘favor’ from the president of Ukraine as a pre-condition to the delivery of $391 million in military aid,” Napolitano notes. “The favor he wanted was an announcement of a Ukrainian investigation of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his son, Hunter.”

        Napolitano poses a question: “did Trump act criminally?” But he goes on to explain that in the U.S. Constitution, the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” as used by the Founder Fathers isn’t actually a reference to criminal law.

        “The Constitution prescribes the bases for impeachment as treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” Napolitano points out. “However, this use of the word ‘crimes’ does not refer to violations of federal criminal statutes. It refers to behavior that is so destructive of the constitutional order that it is the moral equivalent of statutory crimes.”

        Napolitano elaborates on his point, writing, “If the president moved to Russia and ran the executive branch from there, or if he announced that Roman Catholics were unfit for office, he would not have committed any crimes. Yet surely, these acts would be impeachable because, when done by the president, they are the moral equivalent of crimes and are so far removed from constitutional norms as to be impeachable.”

        The judge concludes his op-ed by with an assertion that is seldom expressed at Fox News: there is plenty of “evidence” that Trump committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” as described in the U.S. Constitution.

        “What is required for removal of the president?” Napolitano writes. “A demonstration of presidential commission of high crimes and misdemeanors, of which in Trump’s case, the evidence is ample and uncontradicted.”

      • Have they played the Trump tape on Ms Yovanovitch, Ambassador of Ukraine and she served us beginning in Ronald Reagan’s administration. And a man comes along that becomes President and been bankrupt 3 times and when he was running for President he couldn’t borrow a single dime from an American bank and in a wink of an eye he ruins and attacks a good woman that no locker room I’ve ever been would have been allowed to be tarnished.

        Ms Yovanovitch is a better human than Donald Trump will ever be. Expect no apology and no removal of office because Mr Trump is a Republican and everyone knows that we must bow to Republicans.

      • This Saudi Prince here Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the Saudi billionaire bailed Donald Trump from bankruptcy twice and at one time was the 2nd largest shareholder in Fox News but was forced to sell off huge amounts because he was caught funding ISIS. And he said if America is divided I will profit from Fox News. Also the New Yorker magazine is not “fake news:.

        ith his battle with Megyn Kelly and Fox News still raging, Donald Trump got into another spat on Thursday—this time with an ultra-wealthy Saudi prince who helped him out, financially, twice in the nineteen-nineties, when some of Trump’s businesses were struggling.

        On Thursday morning, as part of his daily online blitzkrieg against his enemies, Trump retweeted a picture that appears to show Kelly with Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a Saudi billionaire who owns stakes in a number of American companies, including 21st Century Fox, the corporate parent of Fox News. The caption superimposed on the picture reads, in part, “Most people don’t know that the co-owner of Fox News is Prince Al-Waleed of Saudi Arabia here with his sister and with host Mygan Kelly.”

        Unfortunately for Trump, there were at least three problems with the message he retweeted. First, the picture is likely a fake—it circulated last summer, prompting the fact-checking site to conclude that it had been doctored. Second, the claim that bin Talal is a “co-owner” of Fox News is misleading. And third, the Prince isn’t the sort of fellow to sit back and ignore such antics. On Thursday afternoon, he posted a tweet of his own, in English, which read, “Trump:You base your statements on photoshopped pics?I bailed you out twice;a 3rd time,maybe?”

        At first, I thought this message might be another hoax. However, a former political analyst at the Saudi Embassy, Fahad Nazer, contacted me to point out that it had come from bin Talal’s verified Twitter account. Plus, this isn’t the first time that bin Talal, who is a nephew of the late King Abdullah, has tangled with Trump on Twitter. In December, after Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, the Prince tweeted, “You are a disgrace not only to the GOP but to all America. Withdraw from the U.S presidential race as you will never win.” Trump fired back: “Dopey Prince @Alwaleed_Talal wants to control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money. Can’t do it when I get elected. #Trump2016.”

        As bin Talal’s latest dig at Trump suggests, the two have a tangled past, stemming from the Prince’s history as an investor. According to Forbes magazine, he is the richest individual in the Arab world, with a net worth of more than seventeen billion dollars. On Wall Street, he is known for buying beaten-down stocks and holding onto them for a long time, and for being a passive investor. During the early nineties, he bought into News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch’s company. He is still the second-biggest investor, behind Murdoch, in 21st Century Fox, which was split off from News Corp. a couple of years ago (but to describe him, as the doctored image did, as the “co-owner” of Fox News is a big stretch). He also owns stakes in Apple, Disney, Citigroup, and Twitter.

        This latest tweet battle with Trump refers to the Prince’s investments in troubled Trump properties. The first of these transactions took place in 1991, when, according to Businessweek, bin Talal bought Trump’s huge yacht the Trump Princess from creditors, for eighteen million dollars. At the time, Trump’s Atlantic City casinos were heavily indebted; he also put his airline, the Trump Shuttle, up for sale.

        The second deal came in 1995, when bin Talal and a partner, a Singapore hotels company, paid hundreds of millions of dollars to take control of The Plaza, on Fifth Avenue, from Trump. A Times story at the time said that the buyers had agreed to “pay part, or all, of Mr. Trump’s $300 million mortgage on the hotel, guarantee interest payments on Mr. Trump’s Plaza debt and spend $28 million to renovate part of the hotel.” Trump, the article said, was “under heavy pressure because of more than $115 million of guarantees he has given on the Trump Organization’s debt, and because of his recently announced attempt to raise $250 million to expand his casino investments.”

        As far as we know, Trump’s finances are much sounder now than they were back then, and he is in no need, as bin Talal’s taunt suggested, of a third infusion of cash. Still, the gibe is a reminder that even though, so far, Trump’s G.O.P. rivals have struggled to make much capital out of his somewhat checkered business history, there are others who are more than willing to bring it up.

        John Cassidy has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1995. He also writes a column about politics, economics, and more for

        1st rule in Politics is never fall in love with a Politician.

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