an argument that trump should be removed from office

This editorial in a recent Christianity Today edition offers reasons why Christians should support removal of President Trump. It gives me pause..

Christianity Today – Dec. 19, 2019

In our founding documents, Billy Graham explains that Christianity Today will help evangelical Christians interpret the news in a manner that reflects their faith. The impeachment of Donald Trump is a significant event in the story of our republic. It requires comment.

The typical CT approach is to stay above the fray and allow Christians with different political convictions to make their arguments in the public square, to encourage all to pursue justice according to their convictions and treat their political opposition as charitably as possible. We want CT to be a place that welcomes Christians from across the political spectrum, and reminds everyone that politics is not the end and purpose of our being. We take pride in the fact, for instance, that politics does not dominate our homepage.

That said, we do feel it necessary from time to time to make our own opinions on political matters clear—always, as Graham encouraged us, doing so with both conviction and love. We love and pray for our president, as we love and pray for leaders (as well as ordinary citizens) on both sides of the political aisle.

Let’s grant this to the president: The Democrats have had it out for him from day one, and therefore nearly everything they do is under a cloud of partisan suspicion. This has led many to suspect not only motives but facts in these recent impeachment hearings. And, no, Mr. Trump did not have a serious opportunity to offer his side of the story in the House hearings on impeachment.

But the facts in this instance are unambiguous: The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.

The reason many are not shocked about this is that this president has dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration. He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals. He himself has admitted to immoral actions in business and his relationship with women, about which he remains proud. His Twitter feed alone—with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders—is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.

Trump’s evangelical supporters have pointed to his Supreme Court nominees, his defense of religious liberty, and his stewardship of the economy, among other things, as achievements that justify their support of the president. We believe the impeachment hearings have made it absolutely clear, in a way the Mueller investigation did not, that President Trump has abused his authority for personal gain and betrayed his constitutional oath. The impeachment hearings have illuminated the president’s moral deficiencies for all to see. This damages the institution of the presidency, damages the reputation of our country, and damages both the spirit and the future of our people. None of the president’s positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character.

This concern for the character of our national leader is not new in CT. In 1998, we wrote this:

The President’s failure to tell the truth—even when cornered—rips at the fabric of the nation. This is not a private affair. For above all, social intercourse is built on a presumption of trust: trust that the milk your grocer sells you is wholesome and pure; trust that the money you put in your bank can be taken out of the bank; trust that your babysitter, firefighters, clergy, and ambulance drivers will all do their best. And while politicians are notorious for breaking campaign promises, while in office they have a fundamental obligation to uphold our trust in them and to live by the law.

And this:

Unsavory dealings and immoral acts by the President and those close to him have rendered this administration morally unable to lead.

Unfortunately, the words that we applied to Mr. Clinton 20 years ago apply almost perfectly to our current president. Whether Mr. Trump should be removed from office by the Senate or by popular vote next election—that is a matter of prudential judgment. That he should be removed, we believe, is not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments.

To the many evangelicals who continue to support Mr. Trump in spite of his blackened moral record, we might say this: Remember who you are and whom you serve. Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior. Consider what an unbelieving world will say if you continue to brush off Mr. Trump’s immoral words and behavior in the cause of political expediency. If we don’t reverse course now, will anyone take anything we say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come? Can we say with a straight face that abortion is a great evil that cannot be tolerated and, with the same straight face, say that the bent and broken character of our nation’s leader doesn’t really matter in the end?

We have reserved judgment on Mr. Trump for years now. Some have criticized us for our reserve. But when it comes to condemning the behavior of another, patient charity must come first. So we have done our best to give evangelical Trump supporters their due, to try to understand their point of view, to see the prudential nature of so many political decisions they have made regarding Mr. Trump. To use an old cliché, it’s time to call a spade a spade, to say that no matter how many hands we win in this political poker game, we are playing with a stacked deck of gross immorality and ethical incompetence. And just when we think it’s time to push all our chips to the center of the table, that’s when the whole game will come crashing down. It will crash down on the reputation of evangelical religion and on the world’s understanding of the gospel. And it will come crashing down on a nation of men and women whose welfare is also our concern.

Mark Galli is editor in chief of Christianity Today.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/december-web-only/trump-should-be-removed-from-office.html?fbclid=IwAR2A3oHRAoNgCbrr3lk7381-OUDxLItyLeygK4sLjoIWJAkpEuIl2rRIBsM

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Democrats Rediscover Constitution

This is almost unreal. To think the Democrats actually think the Constitution is worth consideration. If you don’t see the hypocrisy please give me a call. (419-349-1406)

One satisfying feature of the impeachment drama is the outbreak among Democrats of enthusiasm for the Constitution. What a refreshing change from years past, when every time a conservative raised a constitutional point, the liberals would roll their eyes and complain that the right was trying to “weaponize” the national parchment. The left seemed to detest the Constitution and the white male nationalists who wrote it.

This attitude came to a head in 2011, after the Republicans won control of the House and decided to open the 112th Congress by reading the Constitution aloud on the floor. What a fracas broke out. The New York Times called it “a ghastly waste of time.” Ezra Klein, now editor at large of Vox, said on TV that the parchment “is confusing because it was written more than 100 years ago. It was ironic. Liberals, after all, had won some of their greatest causes by wielding the Constitution and its Bill of Rights. School desegregation, free speech, restrictions on public prayer, the right to abortion— these were among the liberal causes won by wrestling on the bedrock of the American constitution.

Never mind all that. Salon headlined a piece, “Let’s stop pretending the Constitution is sacred,” and illustrated it with a photo of a protest sign: “I Believe in the Constitution. I’m a ‘Right-Wing Extremist.’ ” The Daily Kos later called the reading the “most boring circus ever.”

What a difference a decade makes. Today you can’t open your browser without seeing Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her camarilla kvelling about the Constitution. The first thing the House Judiciary Committee did was trot out four law professors to talk about not only the Constitution but—wait for it—the Founding Fathers’ original intent.

 

The impeachment effort has Pelosi and even leftist law professors touting the Founding Fathers’ intent.

 

Then Mrs. Pelosi marched up to a podium and instructed the Democratic caucus to go ahead and impeach President Trump. “When crafting the Constitution,” she said, “the Founders feared the return of a monarchy in America and, having just fought a war of independence, they specifically feared the prospect of a king-president corrupted by foreign influence.” Madison, she said, feared “that a president might betray his trust to foreign powers.”

She hauled in that old rascal Gouverneur Morris, the constitutional wordsmith. Morris feared, she said, that a president might be “bribed” to “betray his trust” and emphasized that “the people are the king.” She inadvertently likened Mr. Trump to George Washington, who was also accused of kingly airs.

She rattled on about George Mason, who “insisted that a president who procured his appointment in his first instance through improper and corrupt acts might repeat his guilt and return to power” and during the debate over impeachment asked: “Shall any man be above justice?” The speaker actually spoke of Mason, a major slaveholder, as acting “in his great wisdom.”

Mr. Trump’s wrongdoing, Mrs. Pelosi averred, “strikes at the very heart of our Constitution: a separation of powers, three coequal branches, each a check and balance on the other.” She may not have proffered any evidence, but it was nice to hear her quoting the Constitution in Republican terms. The Democrats have come a long way.

Mr. Lipsky is editor of The New York Sun.

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Iran-Contra Was a Better Class of Scandal

As good a summary of Iran-Contra as I have heard in a long time.

WSJ  12/7/2019

During presidential scandals, members of the media often speak of the Iran-Contra affair. I’m not sure they really understand it.

In retrospect that scandal was distinguished by two central, shaping characteristics. First, it was different from other scandals in that its genesis wasn’t low or brutish. It wasn’t about money, or partisan advantage, or sex; it was about trying to free American hostages in the Mideast, and attempting to pursue a possible, if unlikely, foreign-policy advance. It had to do with serious things. Second, when the story blew it eventually yielded a model of how to handle a scandal, though it didn’t look that way at the time. In July 1985 President Reagan was in Bethesda Naval Hospital recovering from colon-cancer surgery when his national security adviser, Bud McFarlane, told him of a potential opening in efforts to free the seven American hostages the Iranian-dominated terrorist group Hezbollah had taken in Beirut. Among them were the Associated Press reporter Terry Anderson; Father Lawrence Jenco, the head of Catholic Relief Services in Lebanon; and William Buckley, the Central Intelligence Agency’s Beirut station chief. Buckley, who’d seen action in the U.S. Army in Korea and Vietnam and been much decorated, had been held since March 1984 and endured more than a year of torture. Reagan knew this, and he’d met with the families of other hostages.

Mr. McFarlane said Israeli contacts had told him that a group of moderate, politically connected Iranians wanted to establish a channel to the U.S. With the Iran-Iraq war raging and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in his 80s, Iran’s political leadership might soon be in play. The moderates would show their sincerity by persuading Hezbollah to give up the hostages. Mr. McFarlane wanted to talk. Reagan approved.

Thus commenced an initiative that its participants thought farsighted, its critics called almost criminally naive, and Secretary of State George Shultz later called “crazy.”

The moderates wanted the U.S. to permit Israel to sell them some TOW antitank missiles. They would pay, and the U.S. would replenish the Israeli stock. This would enhance their position in Iran by proving they had connections to high officials in Washington.

Reagan should have shut everything down at the mention of weapons. He didn’t. He later wrote, “The truth is, once we had information from Israel that we could trust the people in Iran, I didn’t have to think thirty seconds about saying yes.” It was only a one-shipment deal, he reasoned, and the moderates had agreed to his insistence that they get the hostages out. A shipment was made, and hostage Benjamin Weir was released.

In October 1985 the terrorist group Islamic Jihad announced it had killed William Buckley. (The White House National Security Council concluded he’d probably already died of a heart attack.) Reagan stayed hopeful, although when word got around of what was happening, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and Mr. Shultz opposed it. Mr. Shultz told Reagan that while it might not technically be an arms-for hostages deal, it would certainly look like one—and it would blow sky-high as soon as it leaked, as it would leak.

By winter it was clear some of the Iranian go-betweens were dubious. No more hostages were being released. Mr. McFarlane resigned. His successor, John Poindexter, pressed for another shipment of missiles, to be followed by talks with Iranian moderates. CIA Director William Casey agreed it was worth the risk if there’s a chance they could deliver. Mr. Shultz and Weinberger pushed back. Reagan later said, “I just put my foot down.” In the spring, Mr. McFarlane returned for a secret trip to Iran, which he’d been told would free the last of the hostages. He went home without them.

That July, Jenco was released. Casey and the NSC asked for another missile shipment. Reagan approved.

Then a new terrorist group took three more American hostages in Lebanon.

A channel had been opened to a group that included a nephew of the speaker of the Iranian Parliament, who requested various gifts including a Bible inscribed by the president. Amazingly, he got them. Later, it was reported the Americans even brought

 

It arose out of serious aims, not tawdry ones, and holds lessons in resilience and perseverance a cake shaped like a key.

In November 1986, a Lebanese news outlet broke a story saying America was trading arms for hostages.

It was explosive. Reagan looked like a hypocrite—his administration had long pressed others not to sell arms to the Iranians. His people looked like fools gulled by gangsters.

Mr. Shultz later summed it all up this way: “The U.S. government had violated its own policies on antiterrorism and against arms sales to Iran, was buying our own citizens’ freedom in a manner that could only encourage the taking of others, was working through disreputable international go-betweens . . . and was misleading the American people—all in the guise of furthering some purported regional political transformation, or to obtain in actuality a hostage release.” Mr. McFarlane, Mr. Poindexter and Casey “had sold it to a president all too ready to accept it, given his humanitarian urge to free American hostages.”

Reagan was embarrassed, but once he saw the dimensions of the problem—he believed his motivations were right and the American people would understand once he explained—he took a series of constructive decisions. He kept Mr. Schultz, who’d been public in his criticism, in the administration.

When Reagan’s friend and confidante, Attorney General Ed Meese, announced he’d found evidence that Lt. Col Oliver North of the NSC had diverted part of the money the Iranians paid for the weapons to the anti-Communist Contras in Nicaragua, Reagan was originally sympathetic, less so when he was told Col. North was shredding documents. In the end he fired him. Mr. Poindexter resigned.

Reagan appointed a commission to investigate everything that had been done. The three members were sensitively balanced: chairman John Tower, a Republican senator; Edmund Muskie, a Democratic former senator and vice-presidential nominee; and Brent Scowcroft, the cool-headed former and future White House national security adviser. There were 50 witnesses, including the president. A joint congressional committee held public hearings. Reagan waived executive privilege. He accepted an independent counsel.

The Tower Commission’s 200page report was delivered in February 1987, three months after the story broke. It was sharply critical of the president but found he did not know of the Contra angle.

Democrats in Congress and the media had exploited the mess for all it was worth, but on another level some Democrats quietly pitched in. A former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Robert Strauss, met with the Reagans and helped steady the ship.

Throughout the drama the president fell into a funk. The public turned on him; his poll numbers plummeted.

But he wasn’t over. There were great triumphs ahead—the Intermediate- Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed in 1987 and ratified in 1988; “Tear down this wall” in 1987, and its fall in 1989, less than 10 months after Reagan left the presidency.

Our allies were offended by the scandal but impressed by its aftermath. Mikhail Gorbachev noticed too: The old lion didn’t die.

Iran-Contra was a big mistake, a real mess. But its deeper lessons have to do with how to admit and repair mistakes, how to work with the other side, and how to forge through and survive to the betterment of the country.

DECLARATIONS

By Peggy Noonan

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Trump vs Schiff??

 WSJ 12/7/2019

Hearings were hardly necessary to show that Donald Trump, in all too characteristic a fashion, took interest in his administration’s Ukraine policy only when he saw a chance to lard on Ukrainian announcements that he could throw back in the face of domestic critics who questioned his 2016 legitimacy.

So why does Adam Schiff feel the need to stretch every truth beyond the breaking point in a House Intelligence Committee impeachment report released this week?

A media transcript plainly shows that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was not referring to a Ukraine quid pro quo when he said politics will influence foreign policy and that critics should “get over it.” Ambassador Gordon Sondland merely “presumed” that Mr. Trump sought a quid pro quo from Ukraine. Why falsely characterize these men’s statements, as the Schiff report does, when doing so is unnecessary to convince anyone that Mr. Trump nevertheless envisioned a quid pro quo?

Mr. Schiff claims Mr. Trump delayed “critical military aid” to Ukraine, but offers no evidence that the aid was critical. (The missiles discussed in Mr. Trump’s supposedly incriminating call with Ukraine’s president were not even part of the holdup.) He insists Mr. Trump’s dealings undermined U.S. national interests, but a president is perfectly entitled to differ with Mr. Schiff over what constitutes the national interest. With a casualness you expect only from the media, he relies heavily on the fallacy that wishing to examine Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election is tantamount to denying Russian meddling.

Mr. Schiff must gild the few lilies in his possession to distract from a glaring omission in his own proceedings. “Fact witnesses” were called to discuss whether there was a quid pro quo, but none were called to give evidence on whether the “quos” Mr. Trump sought from Ukraine were unfounded or illegal.

Don’t underestimate this sign of Mr. Schiff’s disingenuousness. However much the media lies about it now, a Ukrainian official allied with the then-Poroshenko government spoke openly to the Financial Times in 2016 of his work to ensure Mr. Trump’s defeat. Ditto the Bidens: Mr. Trump may be barking up the wrong tree in some ways, but Joe Biden is not just Mr. Trump’s present-day “political rival.” He is a former vice president who, when tasked to help clean up corruption in Ukraine, allowed his unqualified, drug-addict son to receive a lucrative board seat at a Ukrainian company under investigation for corruption.

These are subjects whose illegitimacy must be proved, not just assumed. And yet missing from the final report is any evidence that broaching them with the Ukrainians amounted to the crimes of bribery, extortion or campaign-law violation that Mr. Schiff once told us it did.

Instead, Mr. Schiff insinuates a motive he’s not prepared to state clearly, one designed as much to rescue his own reputation as slur Mr. Trump’s. This is his report’s reference to Mr. Trump as a president “elected in 2016 with the benefit of an unprecedented and sweeping campaign of election interference undertaken by Russia in his favor.”

In fact, Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society painstakingly examined the social-media evidence and found Russia’s impact on the election to be trivial. More to the point, the authors concluded: “If the biggest win for Russian information operations is to disorient American political communications, then overstating the impact of those efforts actually helps consolidate their success.”

Bingo. Mr. Schiff may not be a Russian agent but he qualifies as a Kremlin asset in the sense that Hillary Clinton has been known to use the term. Example: Nothing in Mr. Trump’s words and actions, and nothing in the testimony of any witness, supported the claim with which Mr. Schiff began his hearings, that Mr. Trump asked Ukraine to “make up dirt, lots of it” on the Bidens.

Is this not the kind of shameless twisting of the facts the Kremlin’s own propagandists use to sow discord and bitterness? Mr. Schiff later fibbed and said he was engaging in “parody,” but anybody can listen to his remarks and hear him insisting his rendition is the accurate “essence” of Mr. Trump’s “rambling” presentation.

Which raises a question. Festooning their impeachment case with lies and innuendo of the sort Mr. Schiff specialized in during the collusion fiasco is hardly a way for Democrats to win over the noncommitted. Indeed, why allow someone so discredited with Trump voters and Middle America to be the face of this effort in the first place? Answer: Because we’re having this impeachment for no other reason than to appease the House left and save Nancy Pelosi’s speakership when and if Donald Trump is re-elected.

BUSINESS WORLD

By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.

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I'm serious… usually. (Martin Rossol)