Trump’s Behavior Was Not Good, Yet His Defenders and Detractors Are Somehow Worse
Saturday, December 21, 2019 2:50 pm Daniel J. Summers
As I write this, we are on the other side of the House's impeachment vote, though some legal analysis says that it's not official until those articles are sent to the Senate. Our hot take culture is filled with people sharing their view of what's happened. That's not really my thing, though; the early take is often completely wrong. (Exhibit A for this was the circle game non-troversy at the Army/Navy game; so glad the wokescolds wasted our military's time investigating that.) Another of our culture's pasttimes is giving the worst possible reading to anything that happens, and assuming the worst possible motivation behind it. (See “Exhibit A” again…) Again - not my style and not my speed, because doing that rarely leads one to the truth. So, I've been following the reporting, transcripts, defenses, analyses, and prosecutions from an information gathering viewpoint, trying to cut through the partisan bovine excrement and resistance-disguised-as-objective reporting to determine what happened, how severe it was, and what should be done about it.
“These are the established facts” rarely is followed by established facts as I've found them, using primarily the transcript of the alleged dastardly call and the testimony of the Ukrainians involved. The Congressionally-approved aid was not discussed as much as Ukraine's desire to buy more missiles. Then, in the most quid pro quo part of the call, a White House visit was offered in exchange for Ukraine announcing an investigation. Note what this wasn't - it wasn't a request to do an investigation, it was a request to announce an investigation. It also wasn't part of the previously-approved military aid or the future missile sales. The announcement would have been embarrassing to Joe Biden, whose son Hunter would be implicated; interestingly, Biden's lowest polling to date occurred when this was the main story occupying the news. Ukrainian leaders have also said that they did not feel like they were being extorted.
The above are the facts, as the dictionary defines facts; other characterizations are something other than facts. It was neither a perfect call nor a gross abuse of Presidential power.
That being said, what President Trump did with Ukraine was not good. If there is an investigation needed, then encourage them to do it. Unless there are allegations that Joe knew that his son was trading on a connection to the US government, though (which I've rarely seen alleged), doing a “guilt by association” attack on Joe through his kids is way more objectionable than someone making a pun with one of his children's names. And, connecting requests like this with a call that had discussed foreign aid is worthy of official censure…
...which brings us to his detractors. The House of Representatives, and the Democrats within it, have behaved even worse. From Adam Schiff's creative interpretation of the transcript to open the hearings, to their misrepresentation of the facts (holding up Congressionally-approved aid for personal political reasons), to their lack of objectivity and transparency - they seem to be hanging on to a thread of legitimacy. They focus-grouped their prosecution, settling on the term “bribery,” which they repeated ad nauseum until it was time for official articles to be drafted. Then, we get a charge called “obstruction of Congress,” which isn't even a thing, especially as applied to the executive or judicial branches. My more cynical nature thinks that they were hoping that reporters would say “obstruction of justice” (because that's a thing, and a thing to which most people are opposed), or that people would at least think it. Given the misconduct, a motion to censure would have been much more appropriate; interestingly, until they forward the articles to the Senate, that's exactly what they've done.
Those defending the President are just as bad. The call was far from perfect and the aid did not flow when it was expected to flow. Republicans have (rightly) long complained about how Presidents Clinton and Obama (especially Clinton) traded access and overnights at the White House for political gain or favors; how is this now just the way it is when it's someone in the same party? You don't get to claim to be the party of principle if you abandon those principles to keep or maintain power or influence. And, while Trump's impeachment was conceived 60 days before he took office, and has been executed in a purely partisan way, Senators McConnell and Graham deciding to double down on the lack of objectivity bewilders me. In an impeachment trial, the Senate is the jury; juries aren't supposed to pre-judge the case to which they are assigned.
One of the strangest aspects of this administration is how evangelical Christians (among whose number I count myself) wholeheartedly defend Trump not just as a politician, but as a person. This is the crux of an editorial posted at Christianity Today entitled "Trump Should Be Removed from Office." In the editorial, the author says that this removal can come from either the Senate or the next election, but it's hard not to view the headline as intentionally incendiary, particularly given the current context. And, true to form, I've seen liberals and atheists sharing it far and wide saying, “See? Even Christianity Today thinks he should be thrown out!” (It doesn't.) It's also prompted responses from prominent evangelicals, including Franklin Graham (Billy Graham's son), whose defenses fall into the category of the paragraph above. Christians should be better than this; Scripture emphasizes the importance of truth, and of being quick to hear yet slow to speak.
I continue to be an evangelical Christian, believing that our problems will not be ultimately solved by government, but through the transforming work of Christ in each of our lives. This is a key point missed by those who paint Billy Graham's silence on civil rights during his early years as racism. God working in human hearts can eliminate racism, but people in racist cultures (both oppressed and oppressor) need eternal salvation far more than earthly salvation; he was focused on the former. When government follows biblical principles, government flourishes; however, our government cannot follow biblical principles simply because they're biblical. Our government operates “by the consent of the governed,” and forcing behavior does nothing to change the ultimate state of a soul. To be sure, the current administration has appointed many people who protect life and religious liberty; that should not cause us to sweep bad behavior under the rug.
While my Christianity has not changed, the Republican party to which I belonged through 2016 has changed immensely. The GOP has been known, at different times in history, as the “party of Lincoln” and the “party of Reagan.” Both these men were inspirational leaders who presided over difficult times in our nation's history, and the legacy of both only increased once they left office (with reconstruction and the end of the Cold War). The GOP is now the “party of Trump,” demanding sycophantic loyalty to a leader, and looking to use the same heavy-handed government intervention on social issues that the liberals do - just to different ends. This does not align with my conservative principles at all. No leader is perfect, and our presidents put their pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us. And, while the life issue is very, very important, a host of other issues need less government, not more.
Hello, Libertarian Party. You have a new member whose sole dissent with your platform is preborn life, but I know I'm not alone in that. I look forward to working with you to advance the cause of freedom and conservative less-government principles, and I encourage my Christian friends to consider the same things I have. I will write more about how I've aligned my faith and the LP platform in the months to come.