America First or Trump First?

I was seeing a U.S. president put Russia first, not America first.

.. What’s the matter with you? I don’t know the definitive answer to that question, but I know that it will be an increasing problem as we enter Phase 3 of the Trump presidency.

.. Phase 1 saw Trump unhinged but bound — bound by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Economic Adviser Gary Cohn. In Phase 1 Trump said and did plenty of crazy stuff, but these key aides limited the damage.

.. Phase 2 has seen Trump unhinged and unboundTrump has neutered Kelly, distanced himself from Mattis and sacked Tillerson, McMaster and Cohn. He replaced the last three with men so hungry for their jobs that they were ready to step over the bodies of their predecessors, who, they knew, were pushed out for standing up to Trump on policies and principles

Watching longtime anti-Russia hawks — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton — shucking off everything they’ve said over the years and ignoring Trump’s coddling of Putin and his trashing of the F.B.I. in order to grab jobs they’d long coveted is witnessing careerism, sycophancy and cynicism on an industrial scale.

But that sets up Trump Phase 3: unhinged and unbound and unintended.

.. “What America’s allies in Europe learned from Trump’s recent visit is that the United States, at his direction, is acting more like predator than partner. They are concluding that Trump is not looking for a better deal with the European Union. He’s looking to destroy the European Union. And even though they understand the difference between the president and the government he leads, they know the West may never be the same again.”

.. There is one critical defense line left — that formed by F.B.I. Director Christopher Wray, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

.. Wray, Coats and Rosenstein all rose to the occasion. They knew Helsinki was a test of their institutions and themselves, and they passed it with flying colors — always putting America first and not Trump first when it really mattered.

.. Wray also let lawmakers and other critics know that their conspiracy theories about the F.B.I. and Justice Department’s Russia investigations were not intimidating him

.. Rosenstein backed up Coats 100 percent, declaring: “As Director Coats made clear, these [Russian] actions are persistent, they are pervasive, and they are meant to undermine America’s democracy on a daily basis, regardless of whether it is election time or not.”

.. Unfortunately, the secretary of homeland security showed no such spine. Asked if the Russians had intervened to favor Trump, Nielsen said with a straight face: “I haven’t seen any evidence that the attempts to interfere in our election infrastructure was to favor a particular political party. I think what we’ve seen on the foreign influence side is they were attempting to intervene and cause chaos on both sides.”

.. That was the sound of a senior national security official putting Trump first, not America first. Nielsen proved to be a shameful coward. I sure hope we do not have a homeland security crisis on her watch.

.. Why do they so freely sacrifice their own reputations and their own integrity to defend a man with no integrity, a man who would sell each and every one of them down the river the second he decided it was in his interest? It is inexplicable to me.

At least Stormy Daniels got paid.

 

Richard Rohr Meditation: Another Power

We are living through perilous and polarizing times as a nation, with a dangerous crisis of moral and political leadership at the highest levels of our government and in our churches. We believe the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith are now at stake.

[As Christians,] it is time to be followers of Jesus before anything else—nationality, political party, race, ethnicity, gender, geography—our identity in Christ precedes every other identity. . . . “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). [3]

Parker Palmer broadens this shared responsibility to those of other faiths:

All three traditions [Christianity, Judaism, and Islam] are misunderstood because some of their alleged adherents engage in hateful and violent behavior that distorts and defies the values they claim to represent. At their core, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and all of the major world religions are committed to compassion and hospitality. . . . In this fact lies the hope that we might reclaim their power to help reweave our tattered civic fabric. [4]

The Hebrew prophets, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammed first appear to be “nothing,” outside the system, and really of no consequence. But like leaven and yeast, their much deeper power rises, again and again, in every age, while kings, tyrants, and empires change and pass away.

Giuliani Promised a Surprise Before the Election. Comey Delivered One.

Once, in his days as New York’s chief federal prosecutor and later as the city’s mayor, Rudolph W. Giuliani was a master of releasing damaging leaks aimed at the kneecaps of opponents. Sometimes, they were true.

.. witnesses told the inspector general that a fear of leaks from within the F.B.I. drove the agency’s former director, James Comey, to break with established policy against opening or discussing investigations in the run-up to an election.

.. The former attorney general, Loretta Lynch, told investigators that Mr. Comey “said, ‘It’s clear to me that there is a cadre of senior people in New York who have a deep and visceral hatred of Secretary Clinton.’ And he said, ‘It is deep.’”

.. Mr. Comey said he found it “stunning,” Ms. Lynch told the investigators. She replied to him: “I’m just troubled that this issue — meaning the, the New York agent issue and leaks — I am just troubled that this issue has put us where we are today with respect to this laptop.”

.. On Oct. 25, 2016, three days before Mr. Comey’s stunning announcement, Mr. Giuliani appeared on a Fox morning television show.

“We got a couple of surprises left,” Mr. Giuliani said.

He chortled, and when asked to expand on the subject, replied, “And I think it’ll be enormously effective.”

On Thursday, Oct. 27, Mr. Giuliani appeared on another Fox show and said he was talking about “pretty big surprises.” He added, “We’ve got a couple of things up our sleeve that should turn this thing around.”

The news of the reactivated email inspection arrived the following day

.. Upon inspection by the F.B.I., the emails on the laptop turned out to be much ado about hardly anything — many of them had already been reviewed, and the authorities decided they did not warrant changing the conclusion

.. In interviews this week, including on Fox, Mr. Giuliani said that the “surprise” he was talking about in 2016 had nothing to do with the email investigation, but was a speech that Mr. Trump was going to give right before the election blasting Mrs. Clinton.

It’s hard to imagine that anyone, Mr. Giuliani included, would have classified a Trump campaign speech as a “pretty big surprise.”

.. On the day of Mr. Comey’s announcement in 2016, Mr. Giuliani was so pleased that he blurted out a description of his sources for inside information on the email case.

“The other rumor that I get is that there’s a kind of revolution going on inside the F.B.I. about the original conclusion being completely unjustified, and almost a slap in the face of the F.B.I.’s integrity,” Mr. Giuliani said in a radio interview with Lars Larson, the conservative talk show host.

“I know that from former agents. I know that even from” — Mr. Giuliani paused, then continued — “a few active agents who obviously don’t want to identify themselves.”

.. And now Mr. Giuliani is telling a new version. All his predictions were just speculation by retired agents, he said on Fox Business recently.

“We knew just by instinct,” he said, “that the New York office was enraged.”

The Wrath of God Poured Out — The Humiliation of the Southern Baptist Convention

The last few weeks have been excruciating for the Southern Baptist Convention and for the larger evangelical movement. It is as if bombs are dropping and God alone knows how many will fall and where they will land.

America’s largest evangelical denomination has been in the headlines day after day. The SBC is in the midst of its own horrifying #MeToo moment.

.. We thought this was a Roman Catholic problem.

.. The terrible swift sword of public humiliation has come with a vengeance. There can be no doubt that this story is not over.

.. We cannot blame a requirement of priestly celibacy. We cannot even point to an organized conspiracy of silence within the denominational hierarchy. No, our humiliation comes as a result of an unorganized conspiracy of silence.

.. Did we win confessional integrity only to sacrifice our moral integrity?

.. This is exactly what those who opposed the Conservative Resurgence warned would happen. They claimed that the effort to recover the denomination theologically was just a disguised move to capture the denomination for a new set of power-hungry leaders.

.. As I recently said with lament to a long-time leader among the more liberal faction that left the Southern Baptist Convention, each side has become the fulfillment of what the other side warned. The liberals who left have kept marching to the Left, in theology and moral teaching. The SBC, solidly conservative theologically, has been revealed to be morally compromised.

.. Is complementarianism the problem? Is it just camouflage for abusive males and permission for the abuse and mistreatment of women? We can see how that argument would seem plausible to so many looking to conservative evangelicals and wondering if we have gone mad.

.. I believe that any public accusation concerning such a pattern requires an independent, third-party investigation.

.. I believe that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible verbally inspired Word of God.