Thinking historically about Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech

Trump Rushmore 3

A lot of conservatives liked Trump’s speech on Friday night. I am told that The Wall Street Journal gave it a positive review.

I commented on the speech here, but I thought I would say a few more things about Trump’s use of history. My comments are in bold.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you very much.  And Governor Noem, Secretary Bernhardt — very much appreciate it — members of Congress, distinguished guests, and a very special hello to South Dakota.  (Applause.)

As we begin this Fourth of July weekend, the First Lady and I wish each and every one of you a very, very Happy Independence Day.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

Let us show our appreciation to the South Dakota Army and Air National Guard, and the U.S. Air Force for inspiring us with that magnificent display of American air power — (applause) –and of course, our gratitude, as always, to the legendary and very talented Blue Angels.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

Let us also send our deepest thanks to our wonderful veterans, law enforcement, first responders, and the doctors, nurses, and scientists working tirelessly to kill the virus.  They’re working hard.  (Applause.)  I want to thank them very, very much.

COMMENT: Over the weekend Trump claimed that 99% of the nation’s COVID-19 cases were “totally harmless.” This claim was even debunked on Fox News. What does this say about his real view of the “scientists working tirelessly to kill the virus.”

We’re grateful as well to your state’s Congressional delegation: Senators John Thune — John, thank you very much — (applause) — Senator Mike Rounds — (applause) — thank you, Mike — and Dusty Johnson, Congressman.  Hi, Dusty.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  And all others with us tonight from Congress, thank you very much for coming.  We appreciate it.

There could be no better place to celebrate America’s independence than beneath this magnificent, incredible, majestic mountain and monument to the greatest Americans who have ever lived.

COMMENT: Mount Rushmore is a majestic place. I would like to see it one day. It was also built on Lakota land. Earlier in my career I had a student who did a summer internship at Mount Rushmore. As someone who wanted to tell the truth about the nation’s past, she would often mention the Lakota connection during her tours. Needless to say, she took a lot of criticism from visitors who did not want to be confronted with such history. But this must be part of any conversation about this monument. It is part of what it means to live in a democratic society.

Today, we pay tribute to the exceptional lives and extraordinary legacies of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt.  (Applause.)  I am here as your President to proclaim before the country and before the world: This monument will never be desecrated — (applause) — these heroes will never be defaced, their legacy will never, ever be destroyed, their achievements will never be forgotten, and Mount Rushmore will stand forever as an eternal tribute to our forefathers and to our freedom.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: Anyone who teaches American history will always talk about the legacies of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. They are not under threat. They will be taught based on what they did with their lives–what they said, how they behaved, and how they led. Trump will be judged the same way.

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA!  USA!

COMMENT: This transcript comes from the White House. This is why the chants are included.

THE PRESIDENT:  We gather tonight to herald the most important day in the history of nations: July 4th, 1776.  At those words, every American heart should swell with pride.  Every American family should cheer with delight.  And every American patriot should be filled with joy, because each of you lives in the most magnificent country in the history of the world, and it will soon be greater than ever before.  (Applause.)

Our Founders launched not only a revolution in government, but a revolution in the pursuit of justice, equality, liberty, and prosperity.  No nation has done more to advance the human condition than the United States of America.  And no people have done more to promote human progress than the citizens of our great nation.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: Trump is right. July 4, 1776 is important and should be commemorated. Some of the ideals that drove the Revolution were the same ideals that led to the abolition of slavery.  On the other hand, these ideals were not consistently applied to all people. Morally, July 4, 1776 has a mixed legacy. Any history teacher who does not embrace this kind of complexity is not doing her or his job. Watch:

It was all made possible by the courage of 56 patriots who gathered in Philadelphia 244 years ago and signed the Declaration of Independence.  (Applause.) They enshrined a divine truth that changed the world forever when they said: “…all men are created equal.”

COMMENT: Again, what does “all men are created equal” mean in 1776 and in the larger context of the American story? This is a wonderful way of exploring American history with students. This is a conversation we are having in our history classrooms and one that needs to be taking place more regularly in American life.

These immortal words set in motion the unstoppable march of freedom.  Our Founders boldly declared that we are all endowed with the same divine rights — given [to] us by our Creator in Heaven.  And that which God has given us, we will allow no one, ever, to take away — ever.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: Americans have always been good Whigs. We have always put faith in the kind of progress Trump describes here. (I am reminded of Paul Tillich’s definition of faith as one’s “ultimate concern”). But this “march of freedom” has not been “unstoppable” for all Americans.

And let’s talk about rights and God. Jefferson and many of the founders believed that our rights come from God. But they rarely connected this general statement with specific rights. This leads to questions that are more theological than historical. For example, does the right to bear arms come from God? Was Jefferson right when he said that rights–all rights–are “endowed by our Creator?” Again, let’s have this conversation–perhaps in our churches.

Seventeen seventy-six represented the culmination of thousands of years of western civilization and the triumph not only of spirit, but of wisdom, philosophy, and reason.

COMMENT: I have no idea what this means.

And yet, as we meet here tonight, there is a growing danger that threatens every blessing our ancestors fought so hard for, struggled, they bled to secure.

COMMENT: Not really. Many of Trump’s political opponents also root their arguments in America’s founding ideals. American socialists often grounded their arguments in such ideals.

Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children.

COMMENT: How widespread is this “merciless campaign?” Has Trump magnified it because he needs an issue to run-on in November? It sure seems like it. Who is “wiping out our history?” Has Trump ever visited a history classroom? The idea that our children are indoctrinated should be offensive to classroom teachers who train students to think critically about their textbooks and the world.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our Founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities.  Many of these people have no idea why they are doing this, but some know exactly what they are doing.  They think the American people are weak and soft and submissive.  But no, the American people are strong and proud, and they will not allow our country, and all of its values, history, and culture, to be taken from them.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: The fact that Trump does not talk about the tearing-down and defacing of Confederate monuments is revealing. He never mentions them during this speech. It leaves us to wonder if Trump believes that it is time for these monuments to go. But today, without a script in front of him, we saw the real Trump. He tweeted: “Has [NASCAR driver] Bubba Wallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest rating EVER!” This seems like a defense of the Confederate flag. This tweet is much more fitting with the Trump administration’s pronouncements on race than anything he said in this speech.

According to his evangelical Christian press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, Trump is neutral on the Confederate flag.  Watch:

And as long as we are talking about Bubba Wallace, perhaps Trump should try to understand why an African American NASCAR driver, or any African American for that matter, might be alarmed when they see a rope tied into a noose. This tweet not only illustrates Trump’s utter failure to empathize with others, but it also shows that he knows nothing about the history of the nation he was elected to lead.

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA!  USA!

COMMENT: And the crowd goes wild!

THE PRESIDENT:   One of their political weapons is “Cancel Culture” — driving people from their jobs, shaming dissenters, and demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees.  This is the very definition of totalitarianism, and it is completely alien to our culture and our values, and it has absolutely no place in the United States of America.  (Applause.)  This attack on our liberty, our magnificent liberty, must be stopped, and it will be stopped very quickly.  We will expose this dangerous movement, protect our nation’s children, end this radical assault, and preserve our beloved American way of life.  (Applause.)

In our schools, our newsrooms, even our corporate boardrooms, there is a new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance.  If you do not speak its language, perform its rituals, recite its mantras, and follow its commandments, then you will be censored, banished, blacklisted, persecuted, and punished.  It’s not going to happen to us.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: Is cancel culture a problem? Perhaps. But here Trump is just playing to the base for the purpose of stoking their fears.

Make no mistake: this left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution.  In so doing, they would destroy the very civilization that rescued billions from poverty, disease, violence, and hunger, and that lifted humanity to new heights of achievement, discovery, and progress.

COMMENT: Again, many of the protesters are drawing from American ideals. Some are not, but many are.

To make this possible, they are determined to tear down every statue, symbol, and memory of our national heritage.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Not on my watch!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  True.  That’s very true, actually.  (Laughter.)  That is why I am deploying federal law enforcement to protect our monuments, arrest the rioters, and prosecute offenders to the fullest extent of the law.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE:  Four more years!  Four more years!  Four more years!

THE PRESIDENT:  I am pleased to report that yesterday, federal agents arrested the suspected ringleader of the attack on the statue of Andrew Jackson in Washington, D.C. — (applause) — and, in addition, hundreds more have been arrested.  (Applause.)

Under the executive order I signed last week — pertaining to the Veterans’ Memorial Preservation and Recognition Act and other laws — people who damage or deface federal statues or monuments will get a minimum of 10 years in prison.  (Applause.)  And obviously, that includes our beautiful Mount Rushmore.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: What is often missing in this debate over the tearing-down of monuments is the fact that it is illegal. It is destruction of property. This was wrong during the American Revolution and it is wrong today. I understand the anger and the violence–it is an American tradition. But conversations about which monuments should stay and which ones should go need to take place with the help of historians and public officials.

Our people have a great memory.  They will never forget the destruction of statues and monuments to George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, abolitionists, and many others.

COMMENT: I hope they won’t forget this. It is the responsibility of historians to make sure that this does not happen. It is also our responsibility to contextualize this moment in our history.

The violent mayhem we have seen in the streets of cities that are run by liberal Democrats, in every case, is the predictable result of years of extreme indoctrination and bias in education, journalism, and other cultural institutions.

Against every law of society and nature, our children are taught in school to hate their own country, and to believe that the men and women who built it were not heroes, but that were villains.  The radical view of American history is a web of lies — all perspective is removed, every virtue is obscured, every motive is twisted, every fact is distorted, and every flaw is magnified until the history is purged and the record is disfigured beyond all recognition.

COMMENT: “Extreme indoctrination?” “Hate their own country?” Again, he needs to get a better sense of what is happening in public school history classrooms around the country. I doubt he will get such a perspective from his Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, a woman who has never attended a public school and endorses policies that undermine them.

This movement is openly attacking the legacies of every person on Mount Rushmore.  They defile the memory of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt.  Today, we will set history and history’s record straight.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: Trump could have made this point with an appeal to complexity. But he doesn’t understand complexity. Historical complexity does not win him votes.

Before these figures were immortalized in stone, they were American giants in full flesh and blood, gallant men whose intrepid deeds unleashed the greatest leap of human advancement the world has ever known.  Tonight, I will tell you and, most importantly, the youth of our nation, the true stories of these great, great men.

COMMENT: Again, complexity.

From head to toe, George Washington represented the strength, grace, and dignity of the American people.  From a small volunteer force of citizen farmers, he created the Continental Army out of nothing and rallied them to stand against the most powerful military on Earth.

COMMENT: Generally true, although I’m not sure the Continental Army wins without France.

Through eight long years, through the brutal winter at Valley Forge, through setback after setback on the field of battle, he led those patriots to ultimate triumph.  When the Army had dwindled to a few thousand men at Christmas of 1776, when defeat seemed absolutely certain, he took what remained of his forces on a daring nighttime crossing of the Delaware River.

They marched through nine miles of frigid darkness, many without boots on their feet, leaving a trail of blood in the snow.  In the morning, they seized victory at Trenton.  After forcing the surrender of the most powerful empire on the planet at Yorktown, General Washington did not claim power, but simply returned to Mount Vernon as a private citizen.

COMMENT: Perhaps Trump could learn from Washington’s humility.

When called upon again, he presided over the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, and was unanimously elected our first President.  (Applause.)  When he stepped down after two terms, his former adversary King George called him “the greatest man of the age.”  He remains first in our hearts to this day.  For as long as Americans love this land, we will honor and cherish the father of our country, George Washington.  (Applause.)  He will never be removed, abolished, and most of all, he will never be forgotten.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: The good folks at Mount Vernon interpret Washington in all his complexity.

Thomas Jefferson — the great Thomas Jefferson — was 33 years old when he traveled north to Pennsylvania and brilliantly authored one of the greatest treasures of human history, the Declaration of Independence.  He also drafted Virginia’s constitution, and conceived and wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, a model for our cherished First Amendment.

COMMENT: True.

After serving as the first Secretary of State, and then Vice President, he was elected to the Presidency.  He ordered American warriors to crush the Barbary pirates, he doubled the size of our nation with the Louisiana Purchase, and he sent the famous explorers Lewis and Clark into the west on a daring expedition to the Pacific Ocean.

He was an architect, an inventor, a diplomat, a scholar, the founder of one of the world’s great universities, and an ardent defender of liberty.  Americans will forever admire the author of American freedom, Thomas Jefferson.  (Applause.)  And he, too, will never, ever be abandoned by us.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: All true about Jefferson. He was also a slaveholder and probably raped his slave Sally Hemings.

Abraham Lincoln, the savior of our union, was a self-taught country lawyer who grew up in a log cabin on the American frontier.

The first Republican President, he rose to high office from obscurity, based on a force and clarity of his anti-slavery convictions.  Very, very strong convictions.

He signed the law that built the Transcontinental Railroad; he signed the Homestead Act, given to some incredible scholars — as simply defined, ordinary citizens free land to settle anywhere in the American West; and he led the country through the darkest hours of American history, giving every ounce of strength that he had to ensure that government of the people, by the people, and for the people did not perish from this Earth.  (Applause.)

He served as Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces during our bloodiest war, the struggle that saved our union and extinguished the evil of slavery.  Over 600,000 died in that war; more than 20,000 were killed or wounded in a single day at Antietam.  At Gettysburg, 157 years ago, the Union bravely withstood an assault of nearly 15,000 men and threw back Pickett’s charge.

Lincoln won the Civil War; he issued the Emancipation Proclamation; he led the passage of the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery for all time — (applause) — and ultimately, his determination to preserve our nation and our union cost him his life.  For as long as we live, Americans will uphold and revere the immortal memory of President Abraham Lincoln.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: Again, mostly accurate. Of course Lincoln was also a white supremacist, a war-mongerer, and a believer in government solutions to American problems.

Theodore Roosevelt exemplified the unbridled confidence of our national culture and identity.  He saw the towering grandeur of America’s mission in the world and he pursued it with overwhelming energy and zeal.

As a Lieutenant Colonel during the Spanish-American War, he led the famous Rough Riders to defeat the enemy at San Juan Hill.  He cleaned up corruption as Police Commissioner of New York City, then served as the Governor of New York, Vice President, and at 42 years old, became the youngest-ever President of the United States.  (Applause.)

He sent our great new naval fleet around the globe to announce America’s arrival as a world power.  He gave us many of our national parks, including the Grand Canyon; he oversaw the construction of the awe-inspiring Panama Canal; and he is the only person ever awarded both the Nobel Peace Prize and the Congressional Medal of Honor.  He was — (applause) — American freedom personified in full.  The American people will never relinquish the bold, beautiful, and untamed spirit of Theodore Roosevelt.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: True. Roosevelt was also an imperialist, nativist, and white supremacist.

No movement that seeks to dismantle these treasured American legacies can possibly have a love of America at its heart.  Can’t have it.  No person who remains quiet at the destruction of this resplendent heritage can possibly lead us to a better future.

COMMENT: Very few people want to “dismantle” the legacy of these men. But we can point out their flaws and still “love America.” There is a difference between “history” and “heritage.”

The radical ideology attacking our country advances under the banner of social justice.  But in truth, it would demolish both justice and society.  It would transform justice into an instrument of division and vengeance, and it would turn our free and inclusive society into a place of repression, domination, and exclusion.

They want to silence us, but we will not be silenced.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: This is rich coming from such a divisive president. Also, who is “us” here.

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA!  USA!

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  Thank you very much.

We will state the truth in full, without apology:  We declare that the United States of America is the most just and exceptional nation ever to exist on Earth.

COMMENT: Is America exceptional? Yes. It is exceptional for all kinds of reasons, including the fact that right now it is the only country (with perhaps the exception of Brazil) that still does not have COVID-19 under control. Is it the most “just” nation “ever to exist on earth?” Maybe. But the bar is pretty low. Again, let’s have this conversation outside of the culture war framework.

We are proud of the fact — (applause) — that our country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and we understand — (applause) — that these values have dramatically advanced the cause of peace and justice throughout the world.

COMMENT: Was the United States founded on Judeo-Christian principles? This is a contested idea. I wrote a book about it. Has the United States advanced peace and justice throughout the world? Yes and no. But these kinds of answers are not useful in a political rally.

We know that the American family is the bedrock of American life.  (Applause.)

COMMENT:  I agree. But it is hard to hear this from the guy who separated families at the border and put kids in cages.

We recognize the solemn right and moral duty of every nation to secure its borders.  (Applause.)  And we are building the wall.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: Are we building the wall?

We remember that governments exist to protect the safety and happiness of their own people.  A nation must care for its own citizens first.  We must take care of America first.  It’s time.  (Applause.)

We believe in equal opportunity, equal justice, and equal treatment for citizens of every race, background, religion, and creed.  Every child, of every color — born and unborn — is made in the holy image of God.  (Applause.)

COMMENTS: This is true. But it is also code for “All Lives Matter.”All Lives Matter Cartoon 2

We want free and open debate, not speech codes and cancel culture.

We embrace tolerance, not prejudice.

We support the courageous men and women of law enforcement.  (Applause.)  We will never abolish our police or our great Second Amendment, which gives us the right to keep and bear arms.  (Applause.)

We believe that our children should be taught to love their country, honor our history, and respect our great American flag.  (Applause.)

We stand tall, we stand proud, and we only kneel to Almighty God.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: Actually, this last couple of statements contradict the earlier remarks about free speech, tolerance, and rights.

This is who we are.  This is what we believe.  And these are the values that will guide us as we strive to build an even better and greater future.

COMMENT: Again, who is “we”?

Those who seek to erase our heritage want Americans to forget our pride and our great dignity, so that we can no longer understand ourselves or America’s destiny.  In toppling the heroes of 1776, they seek to dissolve the bonds of love and loyalty that we feel for our country, and that we feel for each other.  Their goal is not a better America, their goal is the end of America.

COMMENT: We have seen these references to American destiny before. When acted upon, the pursuit of American destiny has never gone well for people of color or the poor.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  In its place, they want power for themselves.  But just as patriots did in centuries past, the American people will stand in their way — and we will win, and win quickly and with great dignity.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: We will see if Trump’s people stand in the way of anything in November. I wonder what “winning” looks like here.

We will never let them rip America’s heroes from our monuments, or from our hearts.  By tearing down Washington and Jefferson, these radicals would tear down the very heritage for which men gave their lives to win the Civil War; they would erase the memory that inspired those soldiers to go to their deaths, singing these words of the Battle Hymn of the Republic: “As He died to make men Holy, let us die to make men free, while God is marching on.”  (Applause.)

They would tear down the principles that propelled the abolition of slavery in America and, ultimately, around the world, ending an evil institution that had plagued humanity for thousands and thousands of years.  Our opponents would tear apart the very documents that Martin Luther King used to express his dream, and the ideas that were the foundation of the righteous movement for Civil Rights.  They would tear down the beliefs, culture, and identity that have made America the most vibrant and tolerant society in the history of the Earth.

COMMENT: Trump is right. Many of the founding principles eventually contributed  to the end of slavery and did inform the Civil Rights movement, but I am not sure what Trump means by “tear apart documents.”

My fellow Americans, it is time to speak up loudly and strongly and powerfully and defend the integrity of our country.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA!  USA!

THE PRESIDENT:  It is time for our politicians to summon the bravery and determination of our American ancestors.  It is time.  (Applause.)  It is time to plant our flag and protect the greatest of this nation, for citizens of every race, in every city, and every part of this glorious land.  For the sake of our honor, for the sake of our children, for the sake of our union, we must protect and preserve our history, our heritage, and our great heroes.  (Applause.)

Here tonight, before the eyes of our forefathers, Americans declare again, as we did 244 years ago: that we will not be tyrannized, we will not be demeaned, and we will not be intimidated by bad, evil people.  It will not happen.  (Applause).

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA!  USA!

THE PRESIDENT:  We will proclaim the ideals of the Declaration of Independence, and we will never surrender the spirit and the courage and the cause of July 4th, 1776.

Upon this ground, we will stand firm and unwavering.  In the face of lies meant to divide us, demoralize us, and diminish us, we will show that the story of America unites us, inspires us, includes us all, and makes everyone free.

We must demand that our children are taught once again to see America as did Reverend Martin Luther King, when he said that the Founders had signed “a promissory note” to every future generation.  Dr. King saw that the mission of justice required us to fully embrace our founding ideals.  Those ideals are so important to us — the founding ideals.  He called on his fellow citizens not to rip down their heritage, but to live up to their heritage.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: Totally agree. Now let’s see Trump lead us in this direction. Until then, this is empty rhetoric. At this stage of his presidency these words have no meaning. Again, this speech must be considered in the context of the entire Trump administration. It is going to take more than a speech to win back public trust.

Above all, our children, from every community, must be taught that to be American is to inherit the spirit of the most adventurous and confident people ever to walk the face of the Earth.

Americans are the people who pursued our Manifest Destiny across the ocean, into the uncharted wilderness, over the tallest mountains, and then into the skies and even into the stars.

COMMENT: Let’s remember (again) that “Manifest Destiny” was an attempt to drive native Americans from their land in the name of God and progress.

We are the country of Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, and Frederick Douglass.  We are the land of Wild Bill Hickock and Buffalo Bill Cody.  (Applause.)  We are the nation that gave rise to the Wright Brothers, the Tuskegee Airmen — (applause) — Harriet Tubman, Clara Barton, Jesse Owens, George Patton — General George Patton — the great Louie Armstrong, Alan Shepard, Elvis Presley, and Mohammad Ali.  (Applause.)  And only America could have produced them all.  (Applause.)  No other place.

We are the culture that put up the Hoover Dam, laid down the highways, and sculpted the skyline of Manhattan.  We are the people who dreamed a spectacular dream — it was called: Las Vegas, in the Nevada desert; who built up Miami from the Florida marsh; and who carved our heroes into the face of Mount Rushmore.  (Applause.)

Americans harnessed electricity, split the atom, and gave the world the telephone and the Internet.  We settled the Wild West, won two World Wars, landed American astronauts on the Moon — and one day very soon, we will plant our flag on Mars.

We gave the world the poetry of Walt Whitman, the stories of Mark Twain, the songs of Irving Berlin, the voice of Ella Fitzgerald, the style of Frank Sinatra — (applause) — the comedy of Bob Hope, the power of the Saturn V rocket, the toughness of the Ford F-150 — (applause) — and the awesome might of the American aircraft carriers.

COMMENT: I don’t see how people can praise such a speech. It is full of contradictions. First off, many of the people Trump mentions here would no doubt be outspoken critics of the Trump presidency. (Although we will never know for sure, of course). Second, these men and women all applied American ideals in different ways. After spending the entire speech articulating a very narrow view of the Revolution’s legacy, Trump makes an empty appeal to diversity here.

Americans must never lose sight of this miraculous story.  You should never lose sight of it, because nobody has ever done it like we have done it.  So today, under the authority vested in me as President of the United States — (applause) — I am announcing the creation of a new monument to the giants of our past.  I am signing an executive order to establish the National Garden of American Heroes, a vast outdoor park that will feature the statues of the greatest Americans to ever live.  (Applause.)

COMMENT: My thoughts on this.

From this night and from this magnificent place, let us go forward united in our purpose and re-dedicated in our resolve.  We will raise the next generation of American patriots.  We will write the next thrilling chapter of the American adventure.  And we will teach our children to know that they live in a land of legends, that nothing can stop them, and that no one can hold them down.  (Applause.)  They will know that in America, you can do anything, you can be anything, and together, we can achieve anything.  (Applause.)

Uplifted by the titans of Mount Rushmore, we will find unity that no one expected; we will make strides that no one thought possible.  This country will be everything that our citizens have hoped for, for so many years, and that our enemies fear — because we will never forget that American freedom exists for American greatness.  And that’s what we have:  American greatness.  (Applause.)

Centuries from now, our legacy will be the cities we built, the champions we forged, the good we did, and the monuments we created to inspire us all.

My fellow citizens: America’s destiny is in our sights.  America’s heroes are embedded in our hearts.  America’s future is in our hands.  And ladies and gentlemen: the best is yet to come.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA!  USA!

THE PRESIDENT:  This has been a great honor for the First Lady and myself to be with you.  I love your state.  I love this country.  I’d like to wish everybody a very happy Fourth of July.  To all, God bless you, God bless your families, God bless our great military, and God bless America.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

 

Thoughts on Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech

Trump Mount Rush

In case you missed it, Trump gave a speech at Mount Rushmore, South Dakota on the night of July 3, 2020.

Read the text here.

Watch the entire event here:

Thoughts:

1. Mary Hart

2. South Dakota governor Kristi Noem introduced Trump by appealing to America’s founding ideals. She said, “Let’s not destroy history.” This is in interesting exhortation from the governor of South Dakota. What is Noem doing to fund the teaching of history in South Dakota schools? In 2015, the state dumped early American history. I am not sure if things have changed since 2015, but back then I wrote this piece.

3. Noem said that her state prides itself “on the close-knit nature of our community.” She praised all the South Dakotans for showing-up and then said that the crowd included people “from across the nation.” The crowd was packed like sardines into what looked like a small space. I saw very few masks.

4. Noem and Trump did not mention anything about the tearing-down, removal, and defacing of Confederate monuments. The focus was entirely on the monuments to the “founding fathers.” Does anyone know how many non-Confederate monuments were defaced or torn down in the last month?

5. If we want to talk about American history, let’s remember that this entire event occurred on Lakota land. And yes, Trump talked about “manifest destiny” in his speech.

6. Historian Seth Cotlar tweeted this: “I can’t stress enough how angry and reactionary this speech is, on a day that celebrates the violent, statue-destroying revolution that birthed America.” Is Cotlar right? Let’s start here. You may also want to read this book.

7. Trump tried to make the case that Democrats and protesters are trying to “erase American history.” Meanwhile, millions of Americans were ignoring his speech because they were watching a movie about the American founding on Disney+.

8. At one point Trump said, “George Washington will never be removed, abolished, or forgotten.” I am sure the good folks at Mount Vernon are on it.

9. At another point of the speech, Trump threw thousands of history teachers under the bus when he said, “Our children are taught in school to hate their own country.” The only people who would believe this are Fox News viewers or people who have never set foot in a real history classroom.

10. As I watched the speech, I could not help but wonder what Frederick Douglass would have thought about Trump invoking his name. The same goes for Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammad Ali, not to mention Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and Roosevelt.

11. It sounds like white supremacist Steven Miller wrote this speech. There is a reason why he is one of the few people who have been with the administration since the beginning.

Here is Ron Brownstein of The Atlantic:

It sounds like Trump was at it again earlier this evening:

When it comes to American history, Trump is the one who has “absolutely no clue.” He doesn’t even read the teleprompter in an inspiring way.  And then he has the nerve to attack history teachers.

Here is what I wrote in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump:

…the problem with Donald Trump’s use of American history goes well beyond his desire to make America great again or his regular references to some of the darker moments in our past–moments that have tended to divide Americans rather than uniting them. His approach to history also reveals his narcissism. When Trump says that he doesn’t care how “America first” was used in the 1940s, or claims to be ignorant of Nixon’s use of “law and order,” he shows his inability to understand himself as part of a larger American story. As Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson wrote in the wake of Trump’s pre-inauguration Twitter attack on civil rights icon John Lewis, a veteran of nonviolent marches who was severely beaten at Selma: “Trump seems to have no feel for, no interest in, the American history he is about to enter.” Gerson describes Trump’s behavior in this regard as the “essence of narcissism.” The columnist is right: Trump is incapable of seeing himself as part of a presidential history that is larger than himself. Not all presidents have been perfect, and others have certainly shown narcissistic tendencies; but most of them have been humbled by the office. Our best presidents thought about their four or eight  years in power with historical continuity in mind. This required them to respect the integrity of the office and the unofficial moral qualifications that come with it. Trump, however, spits in the face of this kind of historical continuity. This isn’t conservatism; it is progressive thinking at its worst. Alexis de Tocqueville once said, “Not only does democracy make men forget their ancestors, but also clouds their view of their descendants and isolates them from their contemporaries. Each man is forever thrown back on himself alone, and there is a danger that he may be shut up in the solitude of his own heart.”

 

The Christian Right faith of Trump’s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany

Kayleigh

Here is a taste of Emma Green’s piece at The Atlantic: “The Temptation of Kayleigh McEnany“:

McEnany’s role in the Trump administration played differently on the Facebook page of her alma mater, the Academy of the Holy Names. When the school announced her promotion to press secretary, a debate broke out in the comments over whether the academy should be congratulating her at all. Some classmates expressed confusion about how their Christian education aligns with the vision of politics she promotes. While several of her peers defended her achievement in becoming press secretary, even one of McEnany’s former teachers conveyed disappointment in how she has done so: “We taught that truth was not expediency but was the touchstone of relationships,” the teacher wrote. “Much of the rhetoric I have read and interviews I have seen when she was a commentator on television show how far from [the academy’s] values she now espouses. This saddens me.”

Of all the criticism McEnany has received, accusations that she has betrayed Christian teachings seem to be the only ones that bother her, perhaps because her faith is so personal. She and her husband, the Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Sean Gilmartin, had a baby girl, Blake, just a few months before McEnany took the press-secretary job. Between bringing Blake to visit the White House and posing her in a bright-red “KEEP NH GREAT” Trump cap, McEnany is intent on raising her daughter as a Christian: “If I give Blake the same faith upbringing and relationship with Jesus Christ that my parents gave me, she will be an unstoppable woman of faith in whatever she decides to do,” she recently told CBN. McEnany wrote in her book that she was upset when a CNN viewer suggested she should tuck in her cross necklace “when showing support for someone who goes against so many things that the Bible teaches.” She knows that no one is perfect, including politicians, she wrote. She bears her cross because she believes that it represents how “humanity might have a chance at a salvation that we do not deserve.”

Read the entire piece here.

As I read Green’s piece, I am struck at just how much McEnany’s understanding of Christian faith is shaped by a Christian Right confluence of GOP politics, Fox News conservatism, and a collection of cherry-picked Bible verses. There are millions of Americans like her and nearly all of them voted for Trump in 2016.

Fox News poll: white evangelical support for Trump in November drops to 66%. Biden is doing better now with white evangelicals than Obama in November 2012.

Trump St. Johns

According to a just-released Fox News poll, 66% of white evangelicals plan to vote for Donald Trump in November 2020.

25% of white evangelicals say they will vote for Joe Biden.

It is worth noting here that Obama got 26% of white evangelical votes in 2008 and 21% of white evangelical votes in 2012. In other words, Biden is doing better than Obama did with white evangelicals in November 2012 and is doing about the same as Obama did in November 2008. Trump got 81% of evangelical votes in 2016. Hillary Clinton got 16%.

Only 3% will vote for another candidate in November 2020.

Some more revealing stuff in the recent Fox News poll:

  • 63% of Biden’s support comes from voters who “fear the other candidate might win.” (31% are “enthusiastic” for Biden to win).
  • It appears that the social and racial unrest in the wake of the George Floyd killing did not really change the way voters see Trump on race. In August 2017, 56% of voters did not think that Trump “respects racial minorities.” In June 2020, the number (56% is exactly the same).
  • 54% of Americans believe that racism is a “widespread” (systemic?) problem in the police department. 41% believe that the cases of police brutality are just “isolated incidents.”
  • 57% of Americans have a “favorable” view of the Floyd race protests.  35% of Americans have an “unfavorable” view of the protests.
  • 56% of American “disapprove” of Trump’s response to the protests. 31% approve.

And here is some specific stuff on white evangelicals:

  • 72% approve of the job Trump is doing as president. 49% “strongly approve” and 23% “somewhat approve.”  9% “somewhat disapprove.” 18% “strong disapprove.”
  • 75% approve of the way Trump is handling the economy.
  • 66% approve of the way Trump is handling health care.
  • 56% approve of the way Trump is handling race relations.
  •  61% are “extremely interested” in the 2020 presidential elections.  20% are “very interested.” 16% are “somewhat interested.” and 2% are “not at all interested.” This is very high when compared to other identity groups.
  • 58% have a “strongly unfavorable” opinion of Hillary Clinton.
  • 48% have a “strongly unfavorable opinion of Joe Biden.
  • 66% believe that Trump “cares about” them.
  • 30% believe that Biden “cares about” them.
  • 61% believe Trump “respects racial minorities.”
  • 37% believe Biden “respects racial minorities.”
  • 51% believe that “corporate influences” are a “major threat” to government
  • 52% believe racism is a “major threat” to the country. (Compare this to 80% of Democrats and 73% of white suburban women).
  • 33% believe that income inequality is a major threat to the country.
  • 59% believe coronavirus is a “major threat” to the country. 31% believe coronavirus is a “minor threat” to the country. 10% say it is “not a threat at all.”
  • 39% are “concerned” about racism. 35% are “somewhat concerned” about racism. 24% are not concerned about racism.
  • 60% believe that police brutality against black Americans are “isolated incidents.”
  • 61% oppose reducing funding for police departments and moving those funds to mental health, housing, and other social service.
  • 50% have an unfavorable opinion of the George Floyd protests. 43% have a favorable opinion
  • 55% approve of Trump’s response to the protests.

Read the entire poll here.

Fox News mistakes a Monty Python quote for the words of a Seattle protester

Monty Python strikes again. Read this piece at The Independent:

Fox News’ coverage of the Seattle protests has taken another hit after the news organisation quoted a Reddit Monty Python joke as real for its viewers.

Martha MacCallum, host of Fox News’ The Story, was covering Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) for her viewers, which included claims from the cable news channel that there were leadership problems within the organisation.

To illustrate this point, Fox News shared a screenshot of a Reddit post entitled “I didn’t vote for Raz”. Raz Simone, a rapper, is the alleged unofficial leader of CHAZ.

“I thought we had an autonomous collective,” Ms MacCallum said, reading the Reddit post. “An anarcho-syndicalist commune at the least, we should take it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week.”

What Fox News failed to realise was that this post was a joke that played off a popular scene from the 1975 comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Read the rest here.

In Fox News interview, Trump suggests it is possible he has done more for African Americans than Lincoln. TRANSCRIPT

Here is Trump’s interview with Fox News journalist Harris Faulkner:

This rough transcript is taken off the video above. My annotations are in purple.

Faulkner: Mr. President, with all that’s happened in the last couple of weeks I feel like we are at one of those historical moments where future generations will look back and they’ll decide who we were. Are you the president to unite all of us, given everything that’s happening right now.?

Trump: Well I certainly think so and I certainly hope so. The relationships we have are incredible. The spirit of this country and especially considering what happened. We had out of nowhere a plague come in from China–it just came in. And it came all over the world. It went all over the world. You look at 186 countries and they were devastated. And we were certainly hit very hard. Some were hit harder than us, relatively. But we were hit very very hard. And now we are making our comeback.  NOTE: Trump continually uses COVID-19 as an excuse for his failed presidency.  He believes everything was going well until we got hit by the “plague.” He sees the coronavirus as an unfortunate parenthesis in what was, and will continue to be, one of the greatest presidencies in American history. In reality, COVID-19 and his response to the social unrest in the wake of the killing of George Floyd will actually define his presidency. This is the time when people needed a president. Sadly, we did not have one.

And then on top of it we had the riots, which were unnecessary to the extent they were. If the governors and mayors would have taken a stronger action I think the riots would have been–you could call them protesters, you could call them riots, there were different nights, different things. In Minneapolis they went numerous nights and I said “you got to get the [National] Guard in there. We got the Guard in there and it all stopped. It could have done that earlier. NOTE: The protests continue to take place.

No you look at what’s going on–I mean you could look at couple of places that are in such great shape–but then you look at Seattle, what’s that all about? How did they allow that to happen? That’s just a bad philosophy.

So I think it’s incredible where we are and what we’ve done considering where we came from. We were riding high. We had the greatest economy in history. We had the greatest employment numbers in history, including black, African American. And if you look at the African American numbers they were incredible–best they’ve ever been. Spanish. If you’d look at Hispanic and Asian numbers, women numbers, everybody. And then we got hit with this plague. This horrible plague. And it was devastating for many ways, including the lives that were lost. That can’t be never be regained. Economics we’re gonna economically we gonna be great. Next year we’re gonna have a fantastic year. I think we’re gonna have a fantastic third quarter. But you can never replace the lives.

Faulkner: I want to talk with you about where we are just in terms of the black community, people of color. I hear you use the word “rioter” and I understand, we covered it on Fox News, I covered much of that at night as it was bursting a couple of Saturday nights ago. The looting. And it was heart-breaking to see businesses, small businesses, which we know employ more than 66% of people in America.

Trump: Devastating.

Faulkner: It was. At the same time you had peaceful protesters. And they were hurting. And I know from your team you watched that eight minutes and forty-six seconds of George Floyd.

Trump: I did.

Faulkner: And Mr. President, your response to that is different than a person of color. And I’m a Mom. When he called-out “Mom” on that tape, it’s a heart punch. So I’m curious from you what do you think the protesters–not the looters and the rioters, we’re intelligent enough to know the difference in our country right–what do you think they want? What do you think they need right now? From you? NOTE: As you will see in the next paragraph, Faulkner asked Trump a question that he is incapable of answering. 

Trump: So I think you had protesters for different reasons. And then you had protesting also because they just didn’t know. I’ve watched. I’ve watched them very closely. ‘Why are you here?’ And they really weren’t able to say. But they were there, for no reason perhaps. But a lot of them really were there because they’re following the crowd. A lot of them were there because what we witnessed was a terrible thing. What we saw was a terrible thing. And we’ve seen it over the years. This was one horrible example, but you’ve seen other terrible examples. You know that, better than anybody would know it. And I know it. I’ve seen it too. I’ve seen it before I was president and during the presidency. NOTE: Trump continues to blur the difference between rioters and peaceful protesters despite the fact that Faulkner made it clear in her question that “intelligent” people know the difference. He fails to answer her question about what the African-American community needs from him right now. 

Faulkner: What do you say to them? NOTE: Faulkner won’t let him off the hook on this one.

Trump: I think it’s a shame. I think it’s a disgrace. And it’s gotta stop. At the same time, you also know that we have incredible people in law enforcement and we have to cherish them and take care of them and we can’t let something like this where you have a bad apple go out and destroy the image of a whole, of millions of people who take really good care of us. And then you have a movement where they say, “let’s not have a police department.” And you say where are these people coming from. NOTE: Trump gives lip service to George Floyd’s death, but he never says his name. In fact, he never says his name during the entire interview. And then he pivots to law enforcement.  It is worth noting that virtually no one wants to do away with police departments. But Trump needs his base to believe this. It will be a major talking point for the November election. Trump also repeats his “bad apple” approach to racism. In other words, this is not about systemic racism. It is only about a few bad cops.

Faulkner: So do you think you’re perhaps closer to where the nation might have been right now with police reform? You’ve got both sides talking. You’ve got the third most powerful person in the House, James Clyburn, saying “no” to defunding police. We need reform. NOTE:  Here is Clyburn.

Trump: “That’s a big step when he says “no” because everyone understands that. And I don’t know, is that just a phrase to break things up? NOTE: Again, Trump tries to pivot back to his campaign strategy here by suggesting that Clyburn really wants to dump police departments. As you see in her follow-up question, Faulkner won’t let that happen.

Faulkner: No, because he was talking about some of the things that would be in a bipartisan bill. I mean I can’t put words in his mouth, I can only tell you what he said.

Trump: No, I’m not talking about him, I’m saying when they talk about police, when they actually talk about beyond defunding, they actually go all out. Because defunding to a lot of people means break-up the police forces and either that or don’t give them any money so essentially their breaking-up.

Faulkner: What do you want to see? What is police reform to you?

Trump: I want to see really compassionate, but strong law enforcement, police force, but law enforcement. NOTE: In other words, Trump does not have any real plan.

Faulkner: Say “no” to choke-holds?

Trump: I don’t like choke-holds. Now I will say this. As someone who, you know, you grow-up and you wrestle and you fight or you see what happens, sometimes if you’re alone and you’re fighting someone whose tough, and you get somebody in a choke-hold, what are you going to do say “Oh, I don’t” and its a real bad person and you know that and they do exist, I mean we have some real bad people. You saw that during the last couple of weeks. You saw some very good people protesting, but you saw some bad people also. And you get someone in a choke-hold and what are you going to do now, let go and say “let’s start all over again, I’m not allowed you to have you in a choke-hold?” It’s a tough situation. Now if you have two people in the case that we’re talking about, you had four people. And two of them I guess pretty much started. It’s a very, very tricky situation. So the choke-hold thing is good to talk about because off-the-cuff it would sound like “absolutely,” but if you’re thinking about it, then you realize maybe there is a bad fight and the officer gets somebody in a position that’s a very tough position.

Faulkner: So say it’s a sliding scale depending on what the circumstances are. Do you want to be in that conversation? Are you in that conversation?

Trump: I really am. And I think the concept of choke-holds sounds so innocent, so perfect, and then you realize if its a one-on-one, now if it’s two-on-one then it’s a little bit of a different story depending, depending on the toughness and strength. You know we’re talking about toughness and strength. We are talking, there’s a physical think here also. But if a police officer is in a bad scuffle and he’s got somebody in a choke-hold

Faulkner: Well, if it’s a one-on-one fight for the life.

Trump: Yeah. And that does happen. That does happen. So you have to be careful. With that being said, it would be I think a very good thing that generally speaking it should be ended. NOTE: Trump could care less about choke-holds. This is a political dance. Choke-holds are “perfect.” It’s about “toughness and strength.” “Generally speaking it should be ended.” Just another word salad.

Faulkner: That’s interesting. Do you want that to be a top-down federal, or should it be at the local level?

Trump: Well it could be at the local level.

Faulkner: Because that’s the question right now as Congress goes back and forth too.

Trump: It could be local level and in some cases it will be local level. But I think we can certainly make recommendations and they could be very strong recommendations.

Faulkner: When you look at me and I’m Harris on TV, but I’m a black woman. I’m a Mom. And you know, when, and you’ve talked about it but we haven’t seen you come out and be that consoler in this instance. And the tweets. ‘When the looting starts, the shooting starts.’ Why those words?

Trump: So, that’s an expression I’ve heard over the years.

Faulkner: Do you know where it comes from?

Trump: I think Philadelphia, the mayor of Philadelphia

Faulkner: It comes from 1967. I was about eighteen months old at the time. Everybody’s shooting wiki because they probably got it wrong. But it was from the chief of police in Miami. He was cracking-down. And he meant what he said. And he said “I don’t even care if it makes it look like brutality, I’m gonna crack down.” When the looting starts the shooting starts. NOTE: See our post on this history here.

Trump: Yeah.

Faulkner: That frightened a lot of people when you tweeted that.

Trump: It also comes from a very tough mayor, who might have been police commissioner at the time, but I think mayor of Philadelphia named Frank Rizzo. And he had an expression like that. But I’ve heard it many times, I think it’s been used many times. It means two things. Very different things. One is if there is looting there is probably gonna be shooting and that’s not a threat, that’s really just a fact because that’s what happens. And the other is, if there’s looting there’s going to be shooting. Their very different meanings.

Faulkner: How interesting?

Trump: No, there’s very different meanings.

Faulkner: Do you think most people see it that way?

Trump: I think they see it both ways. No, I’ve had it viewed both ways. I think it’s meant both ways. Not by the same person. But when the looting starts it often times means their is going to be shooting, there’s going to be death, there’s going to be killing and its a bad thing. And it’s also used as a threat. It’s used both ways. But if you think about it, look at what happened, how people were devastated with the looting. Look at what happened. NOTE: Read Trump’s last three paragraphs aloud. They make no sense. We all know what Trump meant by that tweet. So does he. 

Faulkner: Your rally in Oklahoma is set for June 19th. Was that on purpose?

Trump: No, but I know exactly what you’re going to say.

Faulkner: I’m just asking.

Trump: Think about it.

Faulkner: I’ve not got anything to say.

Trump: Think about is as a celebration. My rally is a celebration. We’re going to Oklahoma and if you think about it relative to your question think about it as a celebration. Don’t think about it as an inconvenience. Think about this as a celebration.

Faulkner: Oh, no, no, no. It’s on the day of African-American emancipation.

Trump: The fact that I’m having a rally on that day, you can really think about that very positively as a celebration. Cause a rally to me is a celebration. It’s gonna be a celebration and its an interesting date. It wasn’t done for that reason but its an interesting date. But it’s a celebration. NOTE: Someone must have told Trump to pitch his Tulsa rally as a “celebration.” He uses the word eight times in about a minute or two.  Notice that Trump never explains what will be celebrated at the rally. An “interesting date?” That’s all he has to say about Juneteenth? If scheduling the rally on Juneteenth was a mistake (a mistake which reveals the racial insensitivity of the Trump presidency), his answer to this question might provide a wonderful opportunity to apologize, admit it was a mistake, and perhaps say something about the meaning of this day for the African-American community. He does not of this. Since this interview aired, Trump has moved the rally to June 20.

Faulkner: Talk to me about police reform. You call yourself the “law and order president.” What does that mean?

Trump: We are going to do lots of, I think, good things. We also have to keep our police and our law enforcement strong. They have to do it right. They have to be trained in a proper manner. They to do it right. Again, the sad thing is that they are very professional. But when you see an event like that with the more than eight minutes of horror–that eight minutes of horror, it’s a disgrace–then people are saying “are all police like that?” They don’t know. Maybe they don’t think about it that much. It doesn’t make any difference. The fact is they start saying ‘well, police are like that.’ Police aren’t like that. NOTE: When he says he is a law and order president he means this.

Faulkner: Can the “law and order president” also be the “consoler-in-chief?”

Trump: Yes. I think so. I think the “law and order president” can keep a situation like Seattle from ever happening. It should never happen. What happened in Seattle, what happened in Minneapolis should never happen.

Faulkner: You had some harsh words to say about Seattle’s mayor. Why?

Trump: Because I saw her break down. I saw her leave. I saw her have absolutely no control. And I saw her make a lot of bad decisions including “don’t do anything that’s going to affect anybody.” Toughness sometimes is the most compassionate. Because people are getting badly hurt. Look at what happened in Minneapolis where they left the precinct. The city was a great place. I’ve been there many times. It’s a great place.

Faulkner: Can you talk about the black police officer who was killed?

Trump: By being compassionate, she thought she was being compassionate or in the case of Minneapolis the young gentleman, the mayor, thought he was being compassionate. I mean what was that all about? And look at the damage and the travesty and the small business and the death. Look at what happened. So by being soft and weak you end-up not being compassionate. It ends-up being a very dangerous situation. NOTE: Trump does not understand the meaning of “consolation” or “compassion.”

Faulkner: I want to talk with you about revitalization in black communities. The focus of the opportunity zones that you put into place, I think it was late 2017.

Trump: Right, Tim Scott.

Faulkner: Senator Tim Scott. How does all that fit into talking with the protesters and people right now wanting for the black community, and not just black, but communities of color, people who are disadvantaged in general. I mean the economy is a great unifier right?

Trump: I think I’ve done more for the black community than any other president. And let’s take a pass on Abraham Lincoln, because he did good, although it’s always questionable, you know in other words the end result. NOTE: Trump’s narcissism is on display here. He cannot admit that Lincoln was a better president. Faulkner calls him out on it:

Faulkner: Well, we are free Mr. President. He did pretty well.

Trump: But we are free. You understand what I meant. So I’m gonna take a pass on Abe, Honest Abe as we call him.

Faulkner: But you say you’ve done more than anybody.

Trump: Well, look. Criminal justice reform, nobody else could have done it. I did it. I didn’t get a lot of notoriety, in fact the people I did it for then go on television and thank everybody but me and they needed me to get it done and I got it done and I got five or six Republican senators who had no interest in getting it done and they were great and got it done. We did that. The historically black colleges and universities were not funded, the weren’t funded. I got them funded on a long-term basis and took care of, I became friendly, every year for three years, you know the story, they would the heads, the deans, the presidents of the universities and colleges would come up. I got to know them. Forty-four or so people would come up to the Oval Office. First year was normal. I said “alright, let’s do it.” Second year I said, “why you back again?” Third year I said, “why are you here?” They said because for many years we’ve had to come back here every single year. One of them, great people, said “we have to beg for money.” I said, “you shouldn’t be begging, you should be back at your colleges or universities and you should be teaching and doing the job.” I got them long-term money. More than they had. Much more than they had. And I got it permanent. They don’t have to come back into Washington D.C. I said “the only bad part is I won’t see you again, maybe.” It was true. There were like forty-four guys, they were great people. But I took care of that. Opportunity zones, I did that. Prison reform. I mean I’ve done more, I mean, Harris, honestly, I’ve done more. NOTE: Trump’s record with historically black colleges has been mixed.

Faulkner: Were those hit in some of the rioting? Those cities? Those opportunity zones?

Trump: The opportunity zones where vast amounts of money are going into areas that never got money. They’re investing. The people that put the money have tax advantages or they get certain advantages otherwise their not gonna put-up their money. And it affects tremendously the employment in areas that were absolutely dead or dying.

Faulkner: So they should bounce back faster, either from the pandemic or from this latest round of destruction.

Trump: They were bouncing back really well and then we got the plague. OK. But they’ll be. And will get this straightened out with what this is now. You can never lose, we can never gain back all of those lives that were lost. Outside of that, we’re going to be in very, very strong shape. We have tremendous stimulus. We have a lot of things happening.

Faulkner:  I was gonna toggle right then to former commander in Louisville I believe Dorn, David Dorn.

Trump: Yes, I called his wife last night.

Faulkner: You talked with Anne Marie?

Trump: Yes.

Faulkner: It didn’t get a lot of coverage. We talked about it on both my shows on Fox. But his murder was streamed live on Facebook. African-American cop. These have been a really tough couple of weeks. And you have lost people of color on both sides of what I guess would be termed as a fight, although I think we’re all in this together, and we’ve got to get to a better place.

Trump: With Chief Dorn, so I spoke to his wife. She was devastated. Sounds just like a great woman. But did you see all the people that went to that funeral. It was incredible. So the people get it. But whatever it is, you’ll have to explain this one to me, it wasn’t covered. This was an African American, top guy, many years on the force. NOTE: Dorn’s death was covered by CNN, MSNBC, NBC, CBS, ABCThe New York Times, the Associated Press, and The Washington Post.

Faulkner: Killed by looters, streamed live on Facebook.

Trump: Killed by looters. And he wasn’t being aggressive either. He was just

Faulkner: He was defending his friend’s pawn shop.

Trump: He was a very professional guy. And he was killed. And why didn’t that get any air time? And yet the people got it, because when you looked at what, I don’t know if you got to see that, the lines were around the block. It was a beautiful thing to say.

Faulkner: Oh yeah. The visitation on Monday and the funeral the next. Absolutely. 6100 people.

Trump: But no, he was a great gentleman. I just say this, if there were more toughness you wouldn’t have the kind of devastation that you had in Minneapolis and Seattle. I mean let’s see what’s going-on in Seattle, but I will tell you if they don’t straighten that situation out, we’re gonna straighten it out.

Faulkner: And what do you mean by that? I don’t know if you caught it, but governor Cuomo was so upset with Mayor DeBlasio of New York he said “I’m gonna displace him.” I don’t really know how that would work, but, I mean, is that what you mean in Seattle?

Trump: What I mean is very simple. We’re not gonna let Seattle be occupied by anarchists. And I’m not calling them protesters

Faulkner: Have you talked to the mayor?

Trump: No, but I got to see a performance that I’ve never seen before. You think he was  weak person in Minneapolis, the woman, I don’t know, have she ever done this before.

Faulkner: In Seattle?

Trump: Oh, it’s pathetic. No, no. We’re not going to let this happen in Seattle. If we have to go in, we’re going to go in. The governor’s either gonna do it, let the governor do it, he’s got great National Guard troops, he can do it. But one way or the other it’s gonna get done. These people are not gonna occupy a major portion of a great city. They’re not gonna do it. And they can solve that problem very easily.

Faulkner: General Milley, Joint Chiefs of Staff, I don’t know how much you knew what he was going to say today before he spoke. But he says he regrets having been there [at Trump’s photo-op on June 1]. He apologized having been there on the Lafayette Square with you for the picture. The infamous picture as you walked to the church and held the Bible.

Trump: I think it was a beautiful picture. And I tell you I think Christians think it was a beautiful picture.  NOTE: I commented on this here. I also spoke to The Guardian and Australian public radio about it. Not all Christians thought it was a beautiful picture.

Faulkner: But why do you think you’re hearing from General Miller, from Secretary of Defense Esper, and not why you think you are, but do you think it’s significant?

Trump: No. I don’t think so. No, if that’s the way they feel I think that’s fine. I have good relationships with the military. I’ve rebuilt our military. I spent two and a half trillion dollars, nobody else did. When we took it over from President Obama, and Biden, the military was a joke. The military was depleted. NOTE: Learn more about how the military brass responded to his photo-op here and here. Trump is obviously angry about this. He pivots to his general support for the military.

Faulkner: I have one last question. It has to do with Joe Biden. Did you hear what he said today?

Trump: No, I didn’t.

Faulkner: OK. He said (sarcastically laughing) that he believes you will steal the election and if you don’t win he thinks that military will escort you from the White House. NOTE: Faulkner threw Trump a lot of softballs in this interview. Her sarcastic chuckle as she asks this question explains why many believe that Fox News is state television.

Trump: Look. Joe’s not all there. Everybody knows it. And it’s sad when you look at it and you see it, you see it for yourself. He’s created his own sanctuary city in the basement of wherever he is and he doesn’t come out. And certainly if I don’t win, I don’t win. I mean you know, go on and do other things. I think it would be a very sad day for our country. NOTE: First, expect more of these attacks on Biden in the coming months. Second, I don’t believe Trump will go peacefully.

Tonight in the Rose Garden and at St. John’s Church, Trump Announced His 2020 Re-Election Strategy

Trump St. Johns

It’s hard to know where to start writing about what we all just witnessed earlier this evening.

Donald Trump was scheduled to speak in the Rose Garden at 6:30pm. Shortly before his speech, Attorney General Bill Barr came out to inspect the crowd. Then federal police used tear gas, flash grenades and rubber bullets to drive-out peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square Park, located across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House.

Trump’s speech was short. He said that he was an ally of all peaceful protesters. This is another Trump lie. I wrote about that here, but the act of driving these protesters out of the park today was a sign that he does not support peaceful protesters. More on this below.

His speech did not address the racial tensions in America that led to these protests. There was no empathy for the plight of African-Americans in the United States. Trump is incapable of this.

Trump rightly condemned the destruction of property and the outside rabble-rousers who, by all reports, are causing this damage. But rather than trying to bring the country together, he blamed state governors for the riots and destruction in major urban areas.  (He did the same thing on a call with governors this morning). At one point in the speech, Trump said that he wants “healing” not “hatred.” Please look in the mirror Mr. President. You are an agent of hate in this country. There is nothing you have done in your presidency thus far to bring any kind of national healing whatsoever.

When Trump said “America always wins,” he was not referring to a much-needed victory over the evil of racial injustice, but was rather referring to the use of military force and violence to stop the riots. This, for Trump, is the only way he understands a “win” for America. Trump plans to mobilize the U.S. Army in cities around the country through the use of the 1807 Insurrection Act (I will write more on this in another post) to “dominate the streets.” He also sent a dog-whistle to his base by referencing his protection of Second Amendment rights. Some will no doubt see this as the president telling them to take matters into their own hands.

When Trump talked about justice in this speech, he meant quelling the riots through force. He did mention justice for George Floyd, but these words have no meaning until his presidency reverses course on the issue of race. Trump must not only stop the race-baiting, but must support policies that will address systemic racism in America. I don’t see this happening because Trump does not understand the true meaning of justice.

I wrote about justice this morning, with the help of 20th-century German moral philosopher Joseph Pieper: “…the claim implicit in the principle of justice [is that we] must confirm the other person in his otherness and procure for him that which is due.” Justice starts with empathy and understanding, but Trump is a narcissist and he does not read.

Throughout the speech, Trump kept saying that he is a “law and order” president. This is another dog-whistle. Here is what I wrote about this phrase in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump:

For most Americans, “law and order” is associated with Richard Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign. According to historian Michael Flamm, “law and order was the most important domestic issue in the presidential election and arguably the decisive factor in Richard Nixon’s narrow triumph over Hubert Humphrey.” As might be expected, the need to bring law and order to American streets was a response to a significant rise in crime during the 1960s, particularly among African Americans and juveniles in American cities. The high crime rate among black men brought fear to white working-class Americans. Flamm notes that “by the late 1960s, white Americans overwhelmingly associated street crime with African Americans, who were more than seventeen times likely as white men to be arrested for robbery. The worst fears of white Americans materialized in the summer of 1967, when race riots broke out in Detroit and Newark. The violence continued in 1968 following the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. In Chicago, Mayor Richard Daly ordered his police officers to shoot looters on sight in the street. In Washington D.C. , race riots, led by black activist Stokely Carmichael, came within blocks of the White House, prompting President Lyndon Johnson to dispatch federal troops armed with machine guns to quell the violence. Later in the year, the Chicago police used tear gas to control protesters at the Democratic National Convention.

The Nixon campaign capitalized on the chaos. Nixon promised that, if elected, he would end the riots–using force if necessary. His campaign blamed the lack of law and order on the Democrats and portrayed his opponent, Hubert Humphrey, as weak on crime. Nixon consistently denied he used the phrase “law and order” to send a message to white voters who feared African American violence, but many of his conservative supporters clearly heard the message. Nixon walked a fine line on matters related to race. He was aware, from watching his independent opponent, George Wallace, that calling attention to racial difference worked very well in presidential campaign, especially in the South. Yet Nixon was not Wallace: he opposed segregation and supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Still, when he was not in front of the cameras, he was not reticent about his disdain for the “damn negroes.” He confided to his counsel, John Ehrlichman, that Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs would not help African Americans because “blacks were genetically inferior to whites.” After filming a campaign advertisement calling for law and order in public schools, Nixon said to his aides, “Yet, this hits it right on the nose…it’s all about law and order and the damn Negro-Puerto Rican groups out there.

Like Nixon, Donald Trump claims that his use of the term “law and order” has nothing to do with race. Yet when he combines the phrase with a steady drumbeat of attention to “Muslim terrorists” or illegal Mexican immigrants that he claims were committing violent crimes, he is sending a message to his largely white working-class constituency that he hears, shares, and prioritizes their fears. Trump wants to restore law and order to America much like Nixon promised to do in the 1960s. Is this what he has in mind when he says he wants to make America great again?

After Trump’s speech, he walked out the front door of the White House to nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church. It is known as the “Church of the Presidents” because every American president, beginning with James Madison, has attended the church (presidents sit in pew 54). During some of the protests on Sunday night (March 31) a fire started outside the church and spread into the basement of the parish house. It was extinguished quickly and there was no major damage. The words “The Devil is across the street” was sprayed on the church in graffiti and windows were smashed.

Trump walked to St. John’s for a photo-op. The church did not know he was coming and both the Episcopal bishop of Washington D.C. and the rector of the church have condemned the visit.

Trump stood before the church and held-up a Bible. When a reporter asked him if he was holding his Bible, Trump said it was “a Bible.” He then invited several members of his cabinet and staff to join him. (Interestingly enough, Mike Pence was not present).

And that is all he did. He stood there, held-up the Bible at a couple of different angles, and then left. He did not pray. He did not offer words of comfort or healing. He did not pray for the coronavirus victims. The message was clear. Trump’s law and order response–an approach with deep roots in racism and violence–is somehow informed by the Old and New Testament. (Once again, let’s remember that Trump’s favorite Bible verse is “an eye for an eye”). Off the top of my head, I cannot think of a U.S. president who has used a Bible–a material object representing the word of God–in this way.

Here a good rule of thumb. Whenever a public official uses the Bible to justify law and order during times of unrest, expect the worst. I think history offers some good lessons on this front, from politicians in the antebellum South to Nazi Germany. One should also be concerned when a president uses tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash grenades to remove peaceful protesters in front of a church for the purpose of using this sacred space to fortify such a show of power.

What we witnessed today was the president using this moment of racial strife and social unrest to announce his November 2020 campaign strategy. He will present himself as a strongman who will protect fearful white people. In this sense, he is like the Savage in C.S. Lewis’s Pilgrim’s Regressa Nietzschian warlord who tells Vertue that “If I am to live in a world of destruction let me be its agent and not its patient.” And he will justify all of this using the Bible–a direct appeal to his fearful white evangelical base who believe Trump is their divinely-appointed champion. It was all staged, not unlike a reality television show.

The court evangelicals, as expected, support what Trump did today. If you believe that America is a Christian nation and needs to be reclaimed as such, then anytime the president lifts a Bible, and especially if it is done at a historic church, it is a great thing.

Here is Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas:

Fox News has Robert Jeffress lined-up for an early morning appearance:

Expect Jeffress to talk about this.

Tony Perkins just retweeted:

Here is Marc Burns:

I am reminded of a quote I added to the Commonplace Book this morning:

All moral laws derive from one law: that of truth” [Goethe]…A person who is incapable of viewing things impartially, uninfluenced by the affirmations or negations of the will, a person who is incapable, for a time, of simply keeping silent and perceiving what is there, and then of converting what he has seen and learned into a decision, is incapable of achieving the good, or in other words is incapable of performing an ethical act in the full sense of the term.  —Joseph Pieper, “The Art of Making Right Decisions,” *Civitas* (1970) in The Weight of Belief: Essays on Faith in a Modern Age, 212.

For the sake of the country, Trump needs to keep silent and start “perceiving what is there.”

Robert Jeffress’s Bizarre Interview with Lou Dobbs

“Bizarre.”

I realize the use of this term to describe Jeffress’s most recent interview with Lou Dobbs on Fox Business News says more about me than it does Jeffress. Let’s remember that Jeffress believes everything he said last night was perfectly logical and morally consistent. There was nothing bizarre about it.

Watch:

This is another great illustration of how the Christian Right support of Donald Trump works. Christian Right leaders ignore everything Trump has done in the last week to stir division in the country. They build their case for why evangelicals must re-elect the president on his support of “religious liberty” (among one or two other things). And yes Al Mohler and Eric Metaxas, I put “religious liberty” in scare quotes because white evangelicals rarely defend the religious liberties of non-evangelical religious groups. I am convinced that white evangelicals think about religious liberty differently than the rest of Americans.

Jeffress, like other evangelicals, is only capable of seeing racist acts, not systemic racism. I wrote about this on Thursday in the context of three of his court evangelical friends. It is easy to condemn what happened to George Floyd. But it takes work to look into the mirror and see how racism is deeply embedded in the fabric of American life. So far Jeffress is unwilling to do that. I encourage him to think more deeply about this subject. Read some African-American history. Perhaps he could start with his own church. (He can use St. Paul Episcopal Church in Richmond as a model).

Moreover, Jeffress sees no tension between his condemnation of racism and his ardent support for Trump, a man who uses race to divide America and has perfected a form of politics sustained by appeals to the most racist moments in our nation’s history. I wrote about this extensively in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump

Finally, how does Jeffress reconcile his call for “peace” at the end of the Dobbs interview with his support of Trump, a man who, as I noted above, called for violence against the men and women protesting George Floyd’s murder? Conflict and strife fuel Trump’s presidency. And let’s not forget who is calling for peace here. The same guy who said this.

Bizarre indeed.

Peter Beinart: The Right-Wing Media Never Really Changed Its Tune on COVID-19

Limbaugh

Donald Trump gave Rush Limbaugh a Presidential Medal of Freedom

Trump finally admitted that COVID was a serious threat. But the conservative commentators who keep the Trump train moving continue to push narratives that pose a threat to American lives.  Here is Beinart at The Atlantic:

Mainstream news descriptions of the right-wing media’s approach to COVID-19 typically go something like this: At first, prominent conservatives on television and radio downplayed the threat; only when Donald Trump himself acknowledged that the coronavirus was likely to kill large numbers of Americans did his enablers on Fox News and talk radio reverse course.

On March 31, the New York Times contributing opinion writer Kara Swisher asserted that Fox News had “dished out dangerous misinformation about the virus in the early days of the crisis” and had only recently gotten “much more serious in its reporting on the coronavirus, as has Mr. Trump.” On April 1, the Times reporter Jeremy Peters described an initial “denial among many of Mr. Trump’s followers” in the press about the seriousness of the COVID-19 threat, followed by a “sharp pivot” to acknowledging its severity but “blaming familiar enemies in the Democratic Party and the news media” for the destruction the virus has brought.

As damning as such accounts are, they’re also too generous. They depict the right-wing media’s understatement of the coronavirus danger as a thing of the past. That’s not so. Some of the most influential conservative commentators on television and radio—Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, and Glenn Beck—still downplay the danger posed by COVID-19. Remarkably, they’re rejecting scientific expertise even when it’s endorsed by Trump himself.

Read the rest here.

Why Listen to Dr. Tony Fauci When You Have Fox News Commentator Laura Ingraham at Your Disposal?

Trump Ingraham

As some of you know, Donald Trump believes that a malaria and lupus drug called hydrocholorquine will help coronavirus patients. A team of reporters at The Washington Post tell us more about Trump’s obsession with this drug. Here is a taste of their recent piece:

As he stares down a pandemic, economic collapse and a political crisis of his own, President Trump thinks he may have found a silver bullet: hydroxychloroquine.

He hears about the controversial anti-malarial drug on the phone from friends in New York, including from his personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani. He hears about it in White House meetings from some advisers eager to please the boss, who share anecdotes of the drug working on covid-19 patients. And he hears about it on television, from physicians on Fox News Channel panels who tout its efficacy.

In fact, Fox host Laura Ingraham and two doctors who are regular on-air guests in what she dubs her “medical cabinet” visited the White House last Friday for a private meeting with Trump to talk up the drug, according to two White House officials and another person familiar with the meeting.

Never mind that hydroxychloroquine is an unproven treatment for covid-19 and is still in the testing stages, or that it has dangerous side effects, or that medical professionals are divided on its capability. The infectious disease expert on Trump’s own coronavirus task force, Anthony S. Fauci, has privately pleaded with the president to be more cautious.

And this:

The action came after Trump met with Ingraham, who has been enthusiastically promoting hydroxychloroquine on her 10 p.m. Fox News show. She brought along two guests of her program — Ramin Oskoui, a Washington-based cardiologist, and Stephen Smith, a New Jersey-based infectious disease specialist — and Trump asked that FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn attend as well.

Smith made a detailed presentation to Trump about his view on treatment, putting an emphasis on the benefits of hydroxychloroquine based on his own experiences and studies, according to two White House officials and a person familiar with the meeting.

Trump listened intently, they said, and emerged from that meeting seemingly determined to advocate for hydroxychloroquine to be more widely used.

Read the entire piece here.

How Many Have Died Because of These Voices?

This reminds me of Kara Swisher’s recent piece.

And it doesn’t stop.  Here is Laura Ingraham, TODAY:

This is anti-intellectual populism 101. It is also very dangerous and utterly irresponsible. Please listen to public health experts.

By the way, here is Naval War College professor Tom Nichols. I recommend his important book:

 

“Fox, the whole Fox, and nothing but the Fox”

Hannity

I think a lot of folks can relate to this piece.  Here is Kara Swisher at The New York Times:

I’m a huge pest, in fact. “I’m going to block your number, if you don’t stop,” my mother said to me over the phone several weeks ago from Florida, after I had texted her the umpteenth chart about the spread of coronavirus across the country. All of these graphs had scary lines that went up and to the right. And all of them flashed big honking red lights: Go home and stay there until all clear.

She ignored my texts, so I had switched to calling her to make sure she had accurate information in those critical weeks at the end of February and the beginning of March. She is in the over-80 group that is most at risk of dying from infection. I worry a lot.

But she was not concerned — and it was clear why. Her primary source of news is Fox. In those days she was telling me that the Covid-19 threat was overblown by the mainstream news media (note, her daughter is in the media). She told me that it wasn’t going to be that big a deal. She told me that it was just like the flu.

And, she added, it was more likely that the Democrats were using the virus to score political points. And, did I know, by the way, that Joe Biden was addled?

Thankfully, Mom had not gone as far as claiming the coronavirus is a plot to hurt President Trump — a theory pushed by some at Fox News heavily at first. While she has been alternately appalled and amused by the president, and often takes his side, she is not enough of a superfan to think that he is any kind of victim here.

So, she kept going out with friends to restaurants and shopping and generally living her life as it always had been. “What’s the big deal, Kara? Stop bothering me,” she said over the phone. “You’re the one who is going to get sick, if you don’t stop working so much.”

And with that she was off to another social event, with me unable to stop her since I was hundreds of miles away. That spring break kid was bad, but this was also not good.

I could not lay the blame at the feet of social media this time. No, Facebook was not my mother’s source of misinformation (in fact, the company has been trying to improve in this area). It was not the fault of Dr. Google, which has at least pushed out more good information than bad. And my mom doesn’t use Twitter.

Instead, it was Fox, the whole Fox and nothing but the Fox.

Read the entire piece here.

The “Massive Backtracking” at Fox News

Fox News

Here is former Clinton press secretary Joe Lockhart:

Paul Farhi’s and Sarah Ellison’s piece at The Washington Post reminds us that:

  • Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham of Fox News said the news media was stirring “mass hysteria” and were “panic pushers.”
  • Hannity said downplayed the power of this pandemic.
  • Ingraham called the Democrats “the pandemic party.”
  • Ingraham told the elderly to quarantine, but suggested everyone else should go about their daily activities and “don’t take a cruise maybe.”
  • Fox Business News host Trish Regan said the media was using the coronavirus to “impeach Donald Trump.”
  • Only Tucker Carlson has taken the coronavirus seriously.
  • “Judge” Jeannine Pirro said that the idea that the coronavirus is more deadly than the flu “doesn’t reflect reality.”
  • Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, went on Fox and said that the coronavirus was sent to the United States by Kim Jong Un and the Chinese.
  • On Sunday, Devin Nunes went on Fox and told everyone who was healthy to go out to dinner.  Then he made an absolutely disingenuous effort to clean things up.

Now Hannity is referring to the coronavirus as a “crisis” and extolling Trump’s leadership.  Ingraham is calling this a “dangerous health crisis.” Fox took Regan’s program off the air. Trump said he disagreed with Nunes’s “go out to dinner” line.

Fox News has stopped downplaying this crisis.  I am glad to see this.  But we will probably never know the extent of the damage it did. There are so many senior citizens and elderly Americans who watch this network and take what they hear as gospel. I also wonder how much Fox News had to do with so many churches keeping their doors open on Sunday.

What Are the Court Evangelicals Saying About the Coronavirus?

coronavirus_social-copy

According to Ruth Graham’s piece at Slate, they feel pretty calm about.  Here is a taste:

In the 2015 book Countdown to the Apocalypse: Why ISIS and Ebola Are Only the Beginning, Robert Jeffress described a world on the brink of chaos. “Never in my lifetime have I sensed so much unrest in the air,” the Dallas pastor wrote. “Will an Ebola epidemic or an outbreak of some other super virus spread across America?” But today, as an actual “super virus” advances across the United States, Jeffress seems to be feeling much more sanguine. “I do predict this will be under control in the not too distant future,” Jeffress told me on Thursday. “I would encourage any Christian to take sensible precautions without being overrun with anxiety.”

Jeffress, one of Donald Trump’s most full-throated evangelical supporters, plans to preach a sermon on the coronavirus this Sunday at his church, First Baptist Dallas. Its title is “Is the Coronavirus a Judgment From God?” Jeffress strongly suggested to me that the answer is no: “Many times illness is just a consequence of living in the fallen world.” In other words, the virus is nothing to fear nor anything to draw theological or political conclusions from.

Graham asked me to weigh-in:

Few other prominent pastors would speak from the pulpit in such blunt political terms. But that doesn’t mean their politics aren’t influencing their theology. “It’s hard not to think of this as a political story,” said historian John Fea, who has written about white evangelicals’ loyalty to the president. Fea suggested that some Trump-supporting pastors and prophets may be taking their cues from both the president and from Fox News, even if they don’t see it that way. The president himself has gone out of his way to minimize concerns about the virus. In an interview with Sean Hannity this week, Trump said he had a “hunch” that the coronavirus death rate is actually significantly lower than the WHO’s estimate of 3.4 percent. “Personally, I would say the number is way under 1 percent,” the president said. At a Pennsylvania town hall on Fox News on Thursday night, he said that widespread travel cancellations might be good for the economy, since “people are now staying in the United States.”

Read the entire piece here.

Where is this “we have nothing to fear” and “trust God” mentality when it comes to the demographic and cultural changes that they think are undermining their Christian nation?

Peggy Noonan: “Trump Isn’t Easing Coronavirus Forebodings”

Corona

In the last few minutes, The Washington Post reported a second coronavirus case of unknown origins. CNN just identified a third case of unknown origins. There are now sixty-four entire cases in the United States.

Trump’s recent press conference the other day was a disaster.  It was filled with inaccurate and misleading information.

Earlier today, we learned that the Trump administration will not permit Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of  the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to appear on five Sunday morning news shows.

Conservative media is doing its best to shape the political narrative.  Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity of Fox News are claiming that the Democrats are trying to weaponize the coronavirus in an election year.  Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh is telling his audience that the coronavirus is “the common cold.”

Medical and scientific experts are needed to diagnose, stop the spread, and find a vaccine for the coronavirus. But populists do not trust experts or intellectuals. Populism is Trump’s political brand. This is a problem.

Not all conservatives run with the Fox News/Rush Limbaugh crowd. Wall Street Journal columnist and former Ronald Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan writes in her recent column: “If coronavirus becomes a formally recognized world-wide pandemic, and if it hits America hard, it is going to change a lot—the national mood, our cultural habits, the economy.”  Here is another taste:

In a public-health crisis the role of government is key. The question will be—the question is—are the president and his administration up to it?

Our scientists and health professionals are. (I think people see Tony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health as the de facto president on this.) Is Donald Trump? Or has he finally met a problem he can’t talk his way out of? I have written in the past questioning whether he can lead and reassure the nation in a time of crisis. We are about to find out.

Leaders in crises function as many things. They are primary givers of information, so they have to know the facts. They have to be serious: They must master the data. Are they managerially competent? Most of all, are they trustworthy and credible?

Or do people get the sense they’re spinning, finagling, covering up failures and shading the facts?

It is in crisis that you see the difference between showmanship and leadership.

Early signs are not encouraging. The messaging early this week was childish—everything’s under control, everything’s fine. The president’s news conference Wednesday night was not reassuring. Stock market down? “I think the financial markets are very upset when they look at the Democratic candidates standing on that stage making fools out of themselves.” “The risk to the American people remains very low.” “Whatever happens we’re totally prepared.” “There’s no reason to panic, because we have done so good.”

It was inadequate to the task.

Read the entire piece here.

A Court Evangelical Who Hosts a Patriotic “Freedom Sunday” Warns Christians About Accommodating to the Culture

Here is court evangelical Robert Jeffress talking to Fox Business News host Lou Dobbs:

3 thoughts:

1. Jeffress should be careful about suggesting First Baptist Dallas, a bastion of segregation for most of its history, has never changed a message that he claims is built on “the eternal truth of God’s word.”  Those “six blocks” in Dallas were built on a mixed legacy.  It is a history and legacy that Jeffress and his congregation have yet to address.

2. Jeffress also better be careful when he says that it is only liberal churches that accommodate to American culture. Jeffress holds an annual Sunday morning 4th of July celebration in his church and has proven over and over again that the Republican Party holds him captive.

3. Jeffress suggests that the Bible teaches three things: opposition to abortion, religious liberty, and the support of Israel.  Jeffress knows it is politically expedient in the frenzy of a Fox News interview to boil public Christianity down to these three things.  Since Pete Buttigieg supports “none of these things,” Jeffress says, he should not be referencing the Bible in public.

Last night I picked-up my Bible, randomly turned to the first two chapters of the New Testament book of James, and started reading.  These chapters focus on a few central themes: growing in faith amid religious persecution, the guarding of the tongue, the condemnation of the rich, and the importance of good works as markers of a true Christian faith.  What if these things informed an evangelical public and political theology?

What Can Evangelicals Learn from Adam Schiff?

They can learn something about moral clarity. They can learn something about doing the right thing.  They can learn something about patriotism.

“If the truth doesn’t matter, we’re lost.”

Here is what Fox News had to offer in the wake of Schiff’s speech.

There is nothing here on the content or the merits of the House defense.  They are talking about television ratings and CNN.  They are making vague references to our “Constitution.”  Is this all the Fox News crowd has to offer–gotcha lines and sarcastic jokes?  I am guessing we will see more of this on Saturday when Trump’s defense lawyers take the stage.  Will Cipollone and Sekulow be able to present a counter-narrative to the one presented by the House Managers over the last several days?  Will they even try? Is there a fact-based alternative narrative?

It is only a matter of time before Robert Jeffress gets on Fox News with Lou Dobbs to trumpet the court evangelical defense of Trump.  Expect multiple appeals to Trump’s visit to the March for Life.  They are already weighing in:

Thoughts on GOP Congressman Doug Collins’s Recent Comments About the Democrats and Terrorism

Watch Georgia GOP representative Doug Collins tell Lou Dobbs on Fox Business that Democratic congressmen love terrorists and mourn the death of Iranian military commander Qased Soleimani:

If you don’t want to watch the whole thing, pick-it-up at the four minute mark.

Collins says: “I did not think she [Nancy Pelosi] could become more hypocritical than she was during impeachment, but guess what, surprise, surprise, Nancy Pelosi does it again and her Democrats fall right in line. One, they’re in love with terrorists.  We see that.  They mourn Soleimani more than they mourn our Gold Star families who were the ones who suffered under Soleimani. That’s a problem.”

Thoughts:

  1. The main points of Collins’s statement are not true.  The Democrats are not “in love with terrorists” and they are not mourning Soleimani.  (Although perhaps all Christians might mourn the taking of a human life that is created in the image of God and has dignity and worth).
  2. Collins is an evangelical Christian.  He has a Masters of Divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.  He served as the senior pastor of Chicopee Baptist Church.  He currently attends Lakewood Baptist Church in Lakewood, Georgia.
  3. Do you see what Collins is doing here?  He is misrepresenting the truth to score political points.  He is trying to scare ordinary Americans into believing that the Democrats love terrorists.  This is a pretty standard Christian Right strategy.  Frankly, it doesn’t matter whether or not Collins is telling the truth about his Democratic colleagues. He just needs to convince ordinary evangelicals and everyday Americans that what he says is true.  He is betting that most ordinary evangelicals will not fact-check him. It’s a good bet.
  4. Another example of this strategy is Eric Metaxas’s recent op-ed in The Wall Street Journal.  In that piece the Christian author suggests that a vote for anyone other than Donald Trump will lead to the murder of babies, the influx of socialism, the prevalence of cultural Marxism, and an immigrant invasion through open borders.  I addressed all these issues yesterday in this post.  Metaxas’s piece, which is filled with bad theology and unproven statements, is written to Trump’s base, so it doesn’t matter whether or not his theology is bad or his facts are misleading.  Trump’s base will believe him.  Metaxas is doing his part for the pro-Trump cause in the wake of Mark Galli’s Christianity Today editorial.  By the way, has anyone noticed that the court evangelicals have been writing a lot since the “Evangelicals for Trump” rally in Miami last week.  Tony Perkins wrote that Trump is the best president Christians have ever had.”  Charlie Kirk, the new colleague of Jerry Falwell Jr.,  wrote that Trump is our last best hope against socialism.  Ralph Reed praised Trump for “reviving America’s Christian heritage.”  And Metaxas suggests that Trump will protect Christians from “woke mobs.”

Something is happening to American evangelicalism.  Former Ohio governor John Kasich has been noticing: