In Private, Republicans Admit They Acquitted Trump Out of Fear

One journalist remarked to me, “How in the world can these senators walk around here upright when they have no backbone?”

Not guilty. Not guilty.

In the United States Senate, like in many spheres of life, fear does the business.

Think back to the fall of 2002, just a few weeks before that year’s crucial midterm elections, when the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq was up for a vote. A year after the 9/11 attacks, hundreds of members of the House and the Senate were about to face the voters of a country still traumatized by terrorism.

Senator Patty Murray, a thoughtful Democrat from Washington State, still remembers “the fear that dominated the Senate leading up to the Iraq war.”

“You could feel it then,” she told me, “and you can feel that fear now” — chiefly among Senate Republicans.

For those of us who, from the start, questioned the wisdom of the Iraq war, our sense of isolation surely wasn’t much different from the loneliness felt in the 1950s by Senator Herbert Lehman of New York, who confronted Joe McCarthy’s demagogy only to be abandoned by so many of his colleagues. Nor was it so different from what Senator George McGovern must have felt when he announced his early opposition to the Vietnam War and was then labeled a traitor by many inside and outside of Congress.

History has indeed taught us that when it comes to the instincts that drive us, fear has no rival. As the lead House impeachment manager, Representative Adam Schiff, has noted, Robert Kennedy spoke of how “moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle.”

Playing on that fear, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, sought a quick impeachment trial for President Trump with as little attention to it as possible. Reporters, who usually roam the Capitol freely, have been cordoned off like cattle in select areas. Mr. McConnell ordered limited camera views in the Senate chamber so only presenters — not absent senators — could be spotted.

And barely a peep from Republican lawmakers.

One journalist remarked to me, “How in the world can these senators walk around here upright when they have no backbone?”

Fear has a way of bending us.

Late in the evening on day four of the trial I saw it, just 10 feet across the aisle from my seat at Desk 88, when Mr. Schiff told the Senate: “CBS News reported last night that a Trump confidant said that Republican senators were warned, ‘Vote against the president and your head will be on a pike.’” The response from Republicans was immediate and furious. Several groaned and protested and muttered, “Not true.” But pike or no pike, Mr. Schiff had clearly struck a nerve. (In the words of Lizzo: truth hurts.)

Of course, the Republican senators who have covered for Mr. Trump love what he delivers for them. But Vice President Mike Pence would give them the same judges, the same tax cuts, the same attacks on workers’ rights and the environment. So that’s not really the reason for their united chorus of “not guilty.”

For the stay-in-office-at-all-cost representatives and senators, fear is the motivator. They are afraid that Mr. Trump might give them a nickname like “Low Energy Jeb” and “Lyin’ Ted,” or that he might tweet about their disloyalty. Or — worst of all — that he might come to their state to campaign against them in the Republican primary. They worry:

“Will the hosts on Fox attack me?”

“Will the mouthpieces on talk radio go after me?”

“Will the Twitter trolls turn their followers against me?”

My colleagues know they all just might. There’s an old Russian proverb: The tallest blade of grass is the first cut by the scythe. In private, many of my colleagues agree that

  • the president is reckless and unfit. They
  • admit his lies. And they
  • acknowledge what he did was wrong. They know
  • this president has done things Richard Nixon never did. And they know that
  • more damning evidence is likely to come out.

So watching the mental contortions they perform to justify their votes is painful to behold: They claim that calling witnesses would have meant a never-ending trial. They tell us they’ve made up their minds, so why would we need new evidence? They say to convict this president now would lead to the impeachment of every future president — as if every president will try to sell our national security to the highest bidder.

I have asked some of them, “If the Senate votes to acquit, what will you do to keep this president from getting worse?” Their responses have been shrugs and sheepish looks.

They stop short of explicitly saying that they are afraid. We all want to think that we always stand up for right and fight against wrong. But history does not look kindly on politicians who cannot fathom a fate worse than losing an upcoming election. They might claim fealty to their cause — those tax cuts — but often it’s a simple attachment to power that keeps them captured.

As Senator Murray said on the Senate floor in 2002, “We can act out of fear” or “we can stick to our principles.” Unfortunately, in this Senate, fear has had its way. In November, the American people will have theirs.

Arms and the Very Bad Men

Trump’s rationale for going easy on Saudi Arabia is a shameful lie.

A few days ago, Pat Robertson, the evangelical leader, urged America not to get too worked up about the torture and murder of Jamal Khashoggi, because we shouldn’t endanger “$100 billion in arms sales.” I guess he was invoking the little-known 11th Commandment, which says, “On the other hand, thou shalt excuse stuff like killing and bearing false witness if weapons deals are at stake.”

O.K., it’s not news that the religious right has prostrated itself at Donald Trump’s feet. But Trump’s attempt to head off retaliation for Saudi crimes by claiming that there are big economic rewards to staying friendly with killers — and the willingness of his political allies to embrace his logic — nonetheless represents a new stage in the debasement of America.

It looks unlikely, then, that deals with Saudi Arabia will raise U.S. annual arms exports by more than a few billion dollars a year. When you bear in mind that the industries involved, mainly aerospace, are highly capital intensive and don’t employ many workers per dollar of sales, the number of U.S. jobs involved is surely in the tens of thousands, if that, not hundreds of thousands. That is, we’re talking about a rounding error in a U.S. labor market that employs almost 150 million workers.

Another way to look at Saudi arms sales is to notice how small the stakes are compared with other areas where Trump is casually disrupting business relations. He seems, for example, to be eager for a trade war with China, which imported $187 billion worth of U.S. goods and services last year.

.. Because the Federal Reserve believes that we’re at full employment, and any further strengthening of the economy will induce the Fed to raise interest rates. As a result, jobs added in one place by things like arms sales will be offset by jobs lost elsewhere as higher rates deter investment or make the U.S. less competitive by strengthening the dollar.

.. what we’re looking at here is another step in the debasement of our nation.

  • Accepting torture and murder is a betrayal of American principles;
  • trying to justify that betrayal by appealing to supposed economic benefits is a further betrayal.

And when you add in the fact that the claimed economic payoff is a lie, and that the president’s personal profit is a much more likely explanation for his actions — well, genuine patriots should be deeply ashamed of what we’ve come to as a nation.

The psychology of selling.

An in-depth look at why people buy what they buy.

At the most basic level, it’s important to understand that most people buy for one of two reason — they buy to move closer to pleasure or to move further away from pain.

.. People don’t buy a cherry red Maserati because it’s the logical thing to do — they buy it because it’s makes them feel something.

The same can be said for a $10,000 speaker system or a $500 pair of Denim Jeans or a $300 plate of caviar or a $1,000/night stay at a luxurious resort.

These decisions aren’t logical, they’re emotionally driven.

.. So, when selling a product that is pleasurable to your customer, be sure to consider triggering their emotions. Make them feel something.

.. People justify their purchases with logic.

In the previous section we discussed that when people make purchases to move them closer to pleasure they will make their buying decisions based off emotion.

.. When Mark goes out and makes the emotionally charged decision of spending $60,000 on a brand new Maserati, sooner or later he will have to answer the question, “Mark, why the hell did you spend a small fortune on a cherry red Maserati?”

This is where the concept of logic enters into the picture. Generally speaking, while people make emotional buying decisions, they will justify their purchases with logic.

.. People buy because other people buy.

.. There is a reason products “trend” on Amazon, they become increasingly popular as more people use them, wear them and show them off.

.. what’s very interesting about this concept of trust is that 84% of online shoppers are now trusting product reviews as much as recommendations from their actual friends.

.. As a marketer, be very aware of what your customer’s are saying both online and offline about your product or service. Not to mention, create products or services that are easily-shareable to strengthen their chances of going viral.

.. Ask your customers how they feel when they use your product. Pay extra close attention to the words and emotions they describe. Recycle their words and feelings and enhance them in your marketing messaging.

..  You need to find out the logic behind buying whatever you’re selling. I would start by asking your customers the following question — our product is kind of expensive, why did you spend your hard earned money on it? Their answer(s) will be heavily factual. They won’t say “because I love it and it makes me feel good”. They’ll be more likely to say something like “because it had features A, B and C and because it solved this specific problem.” Yes, this question will be a bit abrasive, but it is important. It puts the customer in the hot seat much in the same way if they were asked by a friend or family member. Once you’ve established the logical reasons for buying your product or service, this should also be included in your marketing messaging.

 

US “Defense” Budget About Control of Resources & Dominance

The Souls of Poor Folk identifies the United States’ irrational attachment to war:

The massive U.S. defense budget has never actually been about “defense.” . . . Rather, their goals are to consolidate U.S. corporations’ control over oil, gas, other resources and pipelines; to supply the Pentagon with military bases and strategic territory to wage more wars; to maintain military dominance over any challenger(s); and to continue to provide justification for Washington’s multi-billion-dollar military industry. [4]

The Souls of Poor Folk: Auditing America 50 Years After the Poor People’s Campaign Challenged Racism, Poverty, the War Economy/Militarism and Our National Morality, https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/audit/, 11. See the report for detailed and well-researched data.

Richard Rohr Meditation: Christ Is the Template for Creation

In Bonaventure’s writings, you will find little or none of the medieval language of fire and brimstone, worthy and unworthy, sin and guilt, merit and demerit, justification and atonement, even the dualistic notions of heaven or hell, which later took over.

Bonaventure summed up his entire life’s theology in three central and sacred ideas:

  1. Emanation: We come forth from God bearing the divine image, and thus our inherent identity is grounded in the life of God from the beginning (Genesis 1:26-27).
  2. Exemplarism: Everything in creation is an example, manifestation, and illustration of God in space and time (Romans 1:20). No exceptions.
  3. Consummation: All returns to the Source from which it came (John 14:3). The Omega is the same as the Alpha; this is God’s supreme and final victory.

.. The Christ Mystery—the crucified and resurrected Christ—becomes the visible template for the pattern of all creation. Christ reveals the necessary cycle of loss and renewal that keeps all things moving toward ever further life. The death and birth of every star and atom is this same pattern of loss and renewal, yet this pattern is invariably hidden, denied, or avoided, and therefore must be revealed by Jesus—through his passion, death, and resurrection.

.. Bonaventure’s theology is never about trying to placate a distant or angry God, earn forgiveness, or find some abstract theory of justification. He is all cosmic optimism and hope! Once we lost this kind of mysticism, Christianity became preoccupied with fear, unworthiness, and guilt much more than being included in—and delighting in—God’s positive, all-pervasive plan.

.. The problem is solved from the beginning in Franciscan theology: “Before the world was made, God chose us in Christ” (Ephesians 1:4). If more of the Church believed St. Francis and Bonaventure, they could have helped us move beyond the inherently negative notion of history being a “fall from grace.”

.. Bonaventure invited us into a positive notion of history as a slow but real emergence/evolution into ever-greater consciousness of a larger and always renewed life (“resurrection”).

Evangelicals defend Trump’s alleged marital infidelity. But his infidelity to America is worse.

The infidelity that we must concern ourselves with is called “whoring after other gods” in the Bible (see Hosea 9:1 or Amos 7:17).

.. Whenever a nation chooses to hurt the poor, oppress the stranger, mistreat the weak and corrupt the courts in the Bible, prophets accuse political leaders of public infidelity. Unlike in a marriage, such adultery is not a private matter; it must be challenged and called out in the public square.

.. Jerry Falwell, Jr., responding to critics, claimed Jesus’ teachings are about private morality, not public policy: “Jesus said love our neighbors as ourselves but never told Caesar how to run Rome,” he wrote on Twitter.

..  It’s hard to imagine someone who proclaimed the “kingdom of God” in the first century not having a vision for the transformation of society.

.. It’s hard to imagine, that is, unless your whole faith has been built upon the justification of systemic evil. Falwell’s distinctly American reading of the Bible is not new. It was passed down to him by generations of so-called Christians who learned to read the Bible in the 19th century as a text that did not condemn, but rather affirmed race-based chattel slavery.

.. For those moral activists, the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision and the Missouri Compromise were deeply moral issues — inseparable from one’s personal relationship with God.
.. After the Civil War, when federal troops enforced the Reconstruction amendments for a brief period in the South, slaveholder religion did not go away. Instead, it developed a way of using scripture to criticize “Northern corruption” and black political power. In a word, slaveholder religion framed the attempt to expand democracy in the 1870s as immorality.
.. We cannot understand the “Moral Majority” that Falwell’s father helped organize to counter the policies of the civil rights movement apart from this history.
.. This strand of slaveholder religion has always been primarily concerned with the consolidation of power and the justification of systemic injustice. The Trumpvangelicals are not forsaking their god to defend Trump. They are showing us that their god is cash, not Christ.

Kamala Harris Is (Again) Interrupted While Pressing a Senate Witness

Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat of California, was cut off by Republican senators on Tuesday as she questioned Attorney General Jeff Sessions during the latest high-profile Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in its investigation into Russian election interference.

.. But the moments were notable as the second time in a week that Ms. Harris, who is of Indian and Jamaican descent and is the only minority woman on the committee, was interrupted by two male colleagues during a hearing.

.. Last Wednesday, Ms. Harris was interrupted by Senator Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina and the chairman of the committee, and Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, as she tried to question the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein. On Tuesday, the two again interjected as she questioned Mr. Sessions over his role as campaign surrogate for President Trump and contact with Russian officials

.. When Ms. Harris then pressed Mr. Sessions on a Justice Department policy he cited as his rationale for not answering questions, Mr. McCain spoke up.

“Chairman,” Mr. McCain said, “the witness should be allowed to answer the question.”

Mr. Burr responded: “Senators will allow the chair to control the hearing. Senator Harris, let him answer.”

.. Here is a partial transcript of Ms. Harris’s exchange with Mr. Sessions.

HARRIS: “Is that policy in writing somewhere?”

SESSIONS: “I think so.”

HARRIS: “So did you not consult it before you came before this committee knowing we would ask you questions about that?”

SESSIONS: “Well, we talked about it. The policy is based …”

HARRIS: “Did you ask that it would be shown to you?”

SESSIONS: “The policy is based on the principle that the president …”

HARRIS: “Sir, I’m not asking about the principle. I am asking, when you knew you would be asked these questions and you would rely on that policy, did you not ask your staff to show you the policy that would be the basis for you refusing to answer the majority of questions that have been asked of you?”

McCAIN: “Chairman, the witness should be allowed to answer the question.”

BURR: “Senators will allow the chair to control the hearing. Senator Harris, let him answer.”