Putin Overplays His Hand

On July 6, Greece announced that it had “irrefutable evidence” that Russia was trying to undermine the Prespa agreement, by attempting to buy off officials and otherwise intervening in Greece’s internal affairs. In a pointed statement, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias accused Russia of also funding protests within Greece, and declared that his country would not be bullied. Greece has now expelled two Russian diplomats, leading Russia to cancel an upcoming visit to Athens by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and to announce the expulsion of Greek diplomats from Moscow.

.. Russian mischief has also been detected north of the Greek border. According to Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, Russia has funded anti-government protests and pushed Russian-oriented businesses in Macedonia to foment violence in the run-up to the September 30 referendum.

.. Russia has made no secret of its desire to weaken NATO. By opposing the Prespa agreement, it may be hoping to prevent Macedonia from joining the alliance. But even when pressed, Putin’s Russia will not acknowledge that it opposes Greek-Macedonian rapprochement, let alone apologize for taking active measures to interfere in Greek and Macedonian domestic affairs.

.. The irony is that Putin has long criticized the United States for overreaching and attempting to impose its values on others. In the Balkans and elsewhere, Putin has tried to present himself as a reasonable partner who will not ask questions about human rights or insist on respect for any particular set of values.

Yet it is now clear that neither friend nor foe should tolerate Russia’s foreign policy. The Kremlin has stepped up its policy of interfering secretly in other countries’ political processes. It has tracked down and attempted to murder former members of its security services inside NATO member states. And it has apparently tried to scuttle a hard-won agreement between two Balkan neighbors who are trying to overcome decades of mistrust.

.. Looking ahead, it will be important to remember that Russia’s foreign policy is motivated not just by spite and bitterness, but also by a nagging awareness of its own decline.

Why I Can No Longer Call Myself an Evangelical Republican

evangelicalism, a transdenominational effort to faithfully represent Christ in word and deed, shaped my life and outlook, helping me to interpret the world.

.. Some of the most impressive moral movements in American politics — the efforts to abolish slavery and to end segregation and the struggle to protect unborn life — have been informed by Christianity

.. Yet the support being given by many Republicans and white evangelicals to President Trump and now to Mr. Moore have caused me to rethink my identification with both groups.

.. I consider Mr. Trump’s Republican Party to be a threat to conservatism, and I have concluded that the term evangelical — despite its rich history of proclaiming the “good news” of Christ to a broken world — has been so distorted that it is now undermining the Christian witness.

.. “Evangelical is no longer a word we can use.” The reason, he explained, is that it’s become not a religious identification so much as a political one.

.. the term evangelical “is now a tribal rather than a creedal description.”

.. the events of the past few years — and the past few weeks — have shown us that the Republican Party and the evangelical movement (or large parts of them, at least), have become what I once would have thought of as liberal caricatures.

.. Assume you were a person of the left and an atheist, and you decided to create a couple of people in a laboratory to discredit the Republican Party and white evangelical Christianity. You could hardly choose two more perfect men than Donald Trump and Roy Moore.

  • Both have been credibly accused of being sexual predators, sometimes admitting to bizarre behavior in their own words.
  • Both have spun wild conspiracy theories, including the lie that Barack Obama was not born in America.
  • Both have slandered the United States and lavished praise on Vladimir Putin, with Mr. Moore declaring that America today could be considered “the focus of evil in the modern world” and stating, in response to Mr. Putin’s anti-gay measures in Russia: “Well, maybe Putin is right. Maybe he’s more akin to me than I know.”
  • Both have been involved with shady business dealings.
  • Both have intentionally divided America along racial and religious lines.
  • Both relish appealing to people’s worst instincts.
  • Both create bitterness and acrimony in a nation desperately in need of grace and a healing touch.

.. Rather than Republicans and people of faith checking his most unappealing sides, the president is dragging down virtually everyone within his orbit.

.. Prominent evangelical leaders, rather than challenging the president to become a man of integrity, have become courtiers.

 

‘I Want to Explode’ — A Roger Ailes Protégé Bares His Soul

Joe Lindsley was as close to the late Fox News chairman as anybody. Now, for the first time, he’s giving his account of their dramatic split.

For two years, as an ambitious twentysomething, Joe Lindsley had a closer relationship with Roger Ailes than any Fox News executive. He lived, for a time, on the Aileses’ property in upstate New York, vacationed with Ailes and his wife, Beth, and served in effect as a surrogate son.

But then Lindsley suddenly decided to leave, throwing the then 71-year-old media mogul into a panic. Ailes was so furious about his departure that he tried to ensure Lindsley could never work as a journalist in Washington. Or, at least, that’s what he told Bill Kristol shortly after Lindsley’s departure.

.. His dramatic exit was widely reported at the time because, those news reports alleged, News Corporation security guards tailed him through the Hudson Valley’s quaint local towns, seeking either to lure him back or to shut him up.

.. Ailes’ relationship with Lindsley was all the more extraordinary because the late Fox News chief didn’t cultivate protégés—he decapitated them. Since the founding of Fox News in 1996, several executives who had served a rung beneath him had found themselves suddenly exiled to the outer reaches of the network or fired outright. But Lindsley, four decades Ailes’ junior, was different. Ailes treated him like a son, laid out a promising path for his advancement, and, according to Lindsley, introduced him to people as “Ailes Jr.”

.. Ailes, at a meeting in his office at News Corporation headquarters in Manhattan and again in subsequent phone conversations, pressed Kristol to blackball Lindsley in Washington media circles

.. When Kristol’s Fox News contract expired at the end of 2012, the network did not renew it, and his relationship with the network was permanently severed.

.. “When I left Fox, I was not beholden. I had never signed nondisclosure papers; I was in a unique position.”

.. “When Ailes was at the top of his game, he was raging at something—everything would melt out of his way. And I was the same way. I considered rage my chief talent,” Lindsley says. “The rage was a cover for deep wounds that were never healed, that were never even addressed.”

.. Lindsley is calling his book a memoir, but it takes an unusual format. Written in the third person—he says the protagonist, Jack Renard, who becomes an apprentice to Roger Ailes, is his alter ego—it lands somewhere between memoir and roman à clef.

.. During Renard’s first meeting with Ailes, the Fox chief declares, “The President of the United States”—Barack Obama, of course—“is a terrorist.”

.. said the book reads like “somebody having a manic episode” and left him uncertain what was real and what was made up.

.. As far as Lindsley is concerned, that’s precisely the point. He doesn’t disguise the fact that the bookwriting process, and the book itself, was part of a long recovery that is still running its course.

.. Ailes calls him to ask, rhetorically, “You in church praying for answers?”

“Well, maybe God’s not home,” Ailes tells Renard. “He’s not home today. I heard from Him. He’s busy. He doesn’t have time for you.” He goes on to tell the impressionable young journalist that truth doesn’t exist—only narratives. “That’s why we have five Supreme Court justices,” he declares. “Everything must be made into a narrative … Facts don’t matter.” Then he invites him to dinner at the Olive Garden.

.. This aura of jolliness surrounding a bitter, angry, and perhaps fearfully sad core made him absolutely mysterious and hence ferociously powerful.”

.. living in Roger’s world, he felt himself taking on Ailes’ attributes—not just physically but emotionally. “I would wake up in the middle of the night with these realizations of who I had been and how I was changing. On a basic level, you could say I was driven by a brilliant rage … but I had a spiritual inner level of knowing I wanted to be a different person, I didn’t want to live being governed by rage and hate,” he says.

.. Lindsley told me that, though he remains a conservative, he doesn’t think highly of Fox News—and it’s not clear how much his anger and regrets color his retelling of events. “It’s a disservice to good reporters and a disservice to the republic when they claim to be a fantastic news source,” he says of the network.

.. Lindsley says he had come to feel increasingly suffocated by Ailes’ paranoia. (“Paranoia was his great comfort,” he says.) Ailes was convinced, for example, that President Obama was working an operative inside Fox News, and he hounded staff members in an effort to out the mole, according to one Fox News executive. “He couldn’t rest easy at all in life. Peace was a phantom. He was always raging,”

.. The book’s manic tone, Lindsley says, is by design. “When people read the story, I want them to feel as paranoid, as crazy, as disturbed as I felt,” he told me. “I want the reader to feel that sort of frenzy and to understand deeply what this world is like, this world that has affected all of us.”

.. In addition to his personal discomfort with Ailes, Lindsley was also disappointed in the news product. He concluded they were impossible to disentangle—that Ailes’ brutishness and anger weren’t affecting only him, but also the news he was putting out in Cold Spring and at Fox and that, by extension, they were corroding the country. “Many Americans invite Bill O’Reilly into their living rooms more often than their neighbors,” he says.

.. the network, with its catchy graphics and busty blondes, seduces viewers and creeps up on them in the same way that Ailes did on him—and to the same effect, producing hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of paranoid, angry, and agitated voters.

.. Fox News Channel, he says, is more a brand than a news outlet, and Ailes succeeded in “convincing a large part of the American people” that Ailes was “on their side.”