Category : Office of the President

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–A Complete National Disgrace: The Kavanaugh hearings as American nadir

Over the past few years, hundreds of organizations and thousands ofpeople (myself included) have mobilized to reduce political polarization, encourage civil dialogue and heal national divisions.

The first test case for our movement was the Kavanaugh hearings. It’s clear that at least so far our work is a complete failure. Sixty-nine percent of Americans in one poll called the hearings a “national disgrace,” and the only shocking thing is that there are 31 percent who don’t agree.

What we saw in these hearings was the unvarnished tribalization of national life. At the heart of the hearings were two dueling narratives, one from Christine Blasey Ford and one from Brett Kavanaugh. These narratives were about what did or did not happen at a party 36 years ago. There was nothing particularly ideological about the narratives, nothing that touched on capitalism, immigration or any of the other great disputes of national life.

And yet reactions to the narratives have been determined almost entirely by partisan affiliation. Among the commentators I’ve seen and read, those who support Democrats embrace Blasey’s narrative and dismissed Kavanaugh’s. Those who support Republicans side with Kavanaugh’s narrative and see holes in Ford’s. I can think of few exceptions.

These hearings were also a devastating blow to intellectual humility. At the heart of this case is a mystery: What happened at that party 36 years ago? There is no corroborating evidence either way. So the crucial questions are: How do we sit with this uncertainty? How do we weigh the two contradictory testimonies? How do we measure these testimonies when all of cognitive science tells us that human beings are really bad at spotting falsehood? Should a person’s adult life be defined by something he did in high school?

Commentators and others may have acknowledged uncertainty on these questions for about 2.5 seconds, but then they took sides….

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Senate, Supreme Court, Theology

(R+P) Gene Zubovich–The Christian Nationalism of Donald Trump

Without a clear stand on questions of nationalism, religious groups sway from one extreme to the other with the changing times, unable to offer much resistance to the general mood of the country and the machinations of politicians. That was certainly the case during the Cold War, as religious folks celebrated America and its war against godless communism. Many of the same churches changed their tune in the 1960s, when widespread protests took place against the Vietnam War.

The fight goes on even today. In thinking about Christian nationalism, I am reminded of a visit I made to a North Carolina church in 2006. It held about 500 people, and it had two large screens on either side of the pulpit. The service was just before the Fourth of July and sounded much like Trump did in his Independence Day address. The pastor reminded congregants that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. Then the choir began singing:

“Off we go into the wild blue yonder / Climbing high into the sun / Here they come zooming to meet our thunder / At ‘em boys, Give ‘er the gun!”

It was the “U.S. Air Force” song and as it played, a veteran walked between the pews toward the pulpit waiving the Air Force flag and the two screens played footage of bombers dropping ordinance on Iraqi targets during Operation Desert Storm. The scene repeated for the Army, the Navy, the Marines, and finally the Coast Guard. After the nationalist display, the service ended with a few hymns, including, without any obvious irony, “Down by the Riverside” (“I’m gonna lay down my sword and shield down by the riverside / Ain’t gonna study war no more”).

I imagine that ten years later, in the age of Trump, the president enjoys widespread support at this church, since he enjoys broad appeal with white evangelicals across the country. And I imagine the minister would cheer the president’s militaristic rhetoric. In retrospect, it’s easy to see how the Christian nationalism I witnessed in 2006 paved the way for today’s politics.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Office of the President, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) Akhil Reed Amar–A Liberal’s Case for new Supreme Court Justice Nominee Brett Kavanaugh

In 2016, I strongly supported Hillary Clinton for president as well as President Barack Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland. But today, with the exception of the current justices and Judge Garland, it is hard to name anyone with judicial credentials as strong as those of Judge Kavanaugh. He sits on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (the most influential circuit court) and commands wide and deep respect among scholars, lawyers and jurists.

Judge Kavanaugh, who is 53, has already helped decide hundreds of cases concerning a broad range of difficult issues. Good appellate judges faithfully follow the Supreme Court; great ones influence and help steer it. Several of Judge Kavanaugh’s most important ideas and arguments — such as his powerful defense of presidential authority to oversee federal bureaucrats and his skepticism about newfangled attacks on the property rights of criminal defendants — have found their way into Supreme Court opinions.

Except for Judge Garland, no one has sent more of his law clerks to clerk for the justices of the Supreme Court than Judge Kavanaugh has. And his clerks have clerked for justices across the ideological spectrum.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, President Donald Trump, Senate, Supreme Court

(WSJ) Adam O’Neal–Taking an honest look Inside the Christian group to which Amy Coney Barrett’s belongs

Judge Amy Coney Barrett could be President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court—a prospect that thrills many conservatives. A former Antonin Scalia clerk and Notre Dame professor, Judge Barrett, 46, seems an ideal choice. Yet her religious beliefs could lead to a contentious confirmation process. Would it be a risk to pick her?

Last year President Trump nominated Ms. Barrett for a seat on the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Several Democratic senators pondered whether an “orthodox Catholic” would have dual loyalties. “The dogma lives loudly within you,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein said during Ms. Barrett’s hearing. “That’s of concern.”

Video of Mrs. Feinstein’s religious test quickly spread, provoking outrage from thousands of Americans. Yet a New York Times news story suggested she and her colleagues hadn’t gone far enough: The nominee’s “membership in a small, tightly knit Christian group called People of Praise never came up at the hearing, and might have led to even more intense questioning.”

Richard Painter, a law professor and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Minnesota, loved the article. He recently tweeted the link, adding his own comment on People of Praise: “A religious group in which members take an oath of loyalty to each other and are supervised by a male ‘head’ or female ‘handmaiden.’ That looks like a cult.” As nonbigots do, Mr. Painter then added, “don’t even try playing the ‘anti-Catholic bigotry’ card.”

It’s easy to make People of Praise sound terrifying. Isn’t there a TV show and novel about these “handmaid” people? Do Americans really want a cultist on the Supreme Court? Despite such insinuations from “resistance” conspiracy theorists, understanding the group requires more than a couple of tweets….

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Senate, Supreme Court

(Washington Post) ‘What’s next?’ Muslims grapple with Supreme Court ruling that they believe redefines their place in America

“For all my life, I’ve felt that this is my country,” said [Ramy] Almansoob, a 34-year-old structural engineer who was born in the United States and raised in Yemen, returning in 2015 to the suburbs of Washington to build a new life for his family. “We all knew that the United States is the place where you have freedom, and that’s what I always had in my mind. It’s not how it used to be.”

Almansoob applied to bring his wife and daughters to the United States a few months before Trump took office in January 2017. The ban, which seemed to echo Trump’s campaign call “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” quickly followed. And after two amended versions and a number of court battles, the Supreme Court in December allowed for the temporary implementation of the ban on Yemenis, Syrians, Iranians, Somalis and Libyans.

Now the court has upheld the policy, a decision that added permanence to the sentiment among many American Muslims that the government views and treats them differently from other Americans.

“It has put me in the position of second-class citizenship,” said Abrar Omeish, a Libyan American in Virginia who recently ran for a spot on the school board in Fairfax County.

Civil rights and religious advocacy groups across the country reacted to the court’s decision Tuesday in a passionate uproar.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Immigration, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Supreme Court

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s D-Day Prayer on June 6, 1944

“My Fellow Americans:

“Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

“And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

“Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

“Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.
“They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest — until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

“For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.&

“Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

“And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them — help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

“Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

“Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

“And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

“And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment — let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

“With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace — a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

“Thy will be done, Almighty God.

“Amen.”

You can listen to the actual audio if you want here and today of all days is the day to do that. Also, there is more on background and another audio link there.–KSH.

Posted in History, Military / Armed Forces, Office of the President, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer

Watch CNN’s ‘1968’ and Relive a Tumultuous Year

The most exciting thing on TV this Memorial Day weekend is the documentary series 1968: The Year That Changed America, produced by Tom Hanks, 61, who besides his movie star gig rivals Ken Burns, 64, as America’s leading historian onscreen. Hanks should get his 16th Emmy nomination for this two-night, four-part, deep dive into a year that outdoes 2018 for tumultuous changes — many of which have a familiar ring.

There’s a controversial game-changer president (Lyndon Johnson) with historically low approval ratings, bloody political riots, a crisis in Korea, a fractured nation at endless war abroad (and also with itself) and an unprecedentedly close — and ugly —presidential election nearly upended by charges of illegal foreign interference.

And it all looked so promising when 1968 began. In the documentary, we hear Johnson crowing about his Medicare and Medicaid programs helping 25 million Americans, and Jesse Jackson noting, “In terms of civil rights, no tree in the forest is as tall as Abe Lincoln, except Lyndon Johnson.” Then all hell breaks loose, cities erupt in flames, George Wallace leads a third-party candidacy that fails (yet also forged the new coalition that now rules America) and Johnson wonders why the people he did so much for turned on him so bitterly.

1968 clarifies why Americans turned on each other in ways that still affect us today.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Military / Armed Forces, Office of the President, Politics in General, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Vietnam, Violence

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s D-Day Prayer on June 6, 1944

“My Fellow Americans:

“Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

“And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

“Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

“Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.
“They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest — until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

“For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.&

“Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

“And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them — help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

“Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

“Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

“And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

“And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment — let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

“With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace — a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

“Thy will be done, Almighty God.

“Amen.”

You can listen to the actual audio if you want here and today of all days is the day to do that. Also, there is more on background and another audio link there.–KSH.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Europe, France, History, Military / Armed Forces, Office of the President, Spirituality/Prayer

(WSJ) Jonathan Den Hartog–Lincoln’s Biblical Lessons of Reconciliation

Lincoln spoke to both sides without shying away from making distinctions or abandoning his own commitments. He blamed the South for pushing the nation to war, especially over slavery: “It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces.” But in that critique, Lincoln urged humility. “Let us judge not, that we be not judged,” he asserted, echoing the Gospel of Matthew. Balancing his criticism, he argued that the horrible bloodshed of the war was a judgment on the North too.

Given these truths, Lincoln closed by calling his hearers to steady service: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in.” The most important of these tasks was “to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.” In this invitation, Lincoln was calling to mind the Good Samaritan of Luke 10, who, finding an injured man, “bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine.” Similarly, Lincoln echoed the book of James, which teaches the duty of visiting “the fatherless and widows in their affliction.” Lincoln concluded this humanitarian vision could cross borders and ethnic divisions, providing an example to the world.

In the present moment, a desire to “bind up” must be a precondition for resetting some of the fractures the nation is experiencing today. Americans should look to Lincoln’s words as an enduring call to reconciliation.

Read it all.

Posted in History, Office of the President, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Barbara Bush Remembered as Tough, Loving Matriarch

Before more than 1,000 people, including four former presidents, at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, speakers lauded Mrs. Bush as a loving but steel-tough “enforcer” who steered a powerful family through trying times. She was the second woman in U.S. history to be the wife of one president and the mother of another.

“She called her style a benevolent dictatorship, but honestly, it wasn’t always benevolent,” her son Jeb Bush recalled. “There were no safe spaces or microaggressions allowed with Barbara Pierce Bush.”

Many also made note of her quick, sometimes biting, wit—a central characteristic that helped her resonate with everyday people across the political spectrum.

“She was the first lady of the greatest generation,” historian Jon Meacham said at the funeral, comparing her to Abigail Adams, the wife of America’s second president, John Adams, and mother of its sixth president, John Quincy Adams. Mr. Meacham wrote a book about President George H.W. Bush, to whom Mrs. Bush was married for 73 years.

Mrs. Bush died Tuesday at her home at age 92 with her husband at her side. Two days earlier, a family spokesman said in a statement that she was in failing health and had declined continued medical treatment to focus on “comfort care.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Marriage & Family, Office of the President

(Wash Post) I have no fear of death’: Barbara Bush on faith and finality

Barbara Bush had spent an hour talking about legacy and family — about the Christmas dance where she met the man who’d become her husband, about being “the enforcer” of a family that included two former U.S. presidents.

Then, in a flash, she was talking about death.

It was 2013 and Bush was 88 at the time of the interview, part of a C-Span series focusing on first ladies. She wore a pink blazer and her trademark faux pearls — and spoke with a mixture of grace and bluntness that her family and the American people had come to instantly recognize over the past four decades.

“I’m a huge believer in a loving God,” she said. “And I have no fear of death, which is a huge comfort because we’re getting darned close.

“And I don’t have a fear of death for my precious George or for myself because I know that there is a great God.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Marriage & Family, Office of the President, Religion & Culture

(DP) At Princeton, Prominent South Baptist Russell Moore argues politics has altered US evangelicalism

“God does not need the evangelical movement; the evangelical movement desperately needs God,” Moore said.

Moore explained that there is conflation between the evangelical church and politics in modern America.

“So often in 2018 America, evangelicalism is associated more with Iowa caucuses than the good news of Jesus Christ,” Moore said.

He defined evangelicalism as “the link of renewal and revival movements which unite historic, conventional orthodoxy with the necessity of personal conversion and evangelism.”

Additionally, Moore said he believes that any true evangelical movement must be focused upon the Cross.

“An emphasis on the Cross is one of the hardest thing to maintain in any Christian group, and that includes American evangelicalism,” Moore said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Salvation (Soteriology)

(Washington Post) Dozens of evangelical leaders meet to discuss how Trump era has unleashed ‘grotesque caricature’ of their faith

As evangelicalism has grown without any formal hierarchy, it has formed tribes often driven by celebrity pastors, authors and artists. Evangelical leaders of institutions have been having conversations about how to address an evangelical identity crisis, said Rich Mouw, former president of Fuller Seminary, but most of these gatherings are small.

“There’s a real pastoral problem right now that in any given congregation that it’s a topic you can’t talk about,” Mouw said. “I don’t think it’s fear. I think it’s genuine pastoral perplexity about how we deal with this.”

Other invited leaders at this week’s gathering include Mark Labberton of Fuller Seminary, Ed Stetzer of Wheaton College, Jo Anne Lyon of the Wesleyan Church, Harold Smith of Christianity Today and Gabriel Salguero of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Evangelicals, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture

(Atlantic) Michael Gerson–on President Trump and the Evangelical Temptation

Evangelicals also have a consistent problem with their public voice, which can be off-puttingly apocalyptic. “We are on the verge of losing” America, proclaims the evangelical writer and radio host Eric Metaxas, “as we could have lost it in the Civil War.” Franklin Graham declares, a little too vividly, that the country “has taken a nosedive off of the moral diving board into the cesspool of humanity.” Such hyperbole may be only a rhetorical strategy, employing the apocalypse for emphasis. But the attribution of depravity and decline to America also reflects a consistent and (so far) disappointed belief that the Second Coming may be just around history’s corner.

The difficulty with this approach to public life—other than its insanely pessimistic depiction of our flawed but wonderful country—is that it trivializes and undercuts the entire political enterprise. Politics in a democracy is essentially anti-apocalyptic, premised on the idea that an active citizenry is capable of improving the nation. But if we’re already mere minutes from the midnight hour, then what is the point? The normal avenues of political reform are useless. No amount of negotiation or compromise is going to matter much compared with the Second Coming.

Moreover, in making their case on cultural decay and decline, evangelicals have, in some highly visible cases, chosen the wrong nightmares….

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Evangelicals, History, Office of the President, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture

(Mount Vernon) A multi-media timeline of George Washington’s Birthday

Throughout its history, citizens of the United States have gathered to commemorate George Washington’s birthday in honor of his service to the nation. See how these celebrations have changed in the more than 280 years since Washington’s birth.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Office of the President