Tag Archives: hypocrisy

Hannity, Evangelicals And Fiscal Conservatives

The election of Donald Trump has elevated hypocrisy to an art form.

Rightwing pundits criticized everything Obama did or said. (Of course, he was black…) Not only do they overlook appalling behavior, embarrassing (and frequently misspelled) tweets and uncivil, ignorant rants from Trump–they praise him when he engages in the exact behavior for which they excoriated Obama.

Case in point: Hannity. A post from Dispatches from the Culture Wars provides a recent–illustrative–example.

It has been announced that Trump will meet with Kim Jong-un of North Korea sometime soon, something no American president has ever done with a North Korean dictator. And Sean Hannity, not even pretending to be anything but a pathetic, hypocritical hack, is praising Trump for this great victory.

After quoting Hannity’s laudatory remarks, the post continues with a bit of history:

As always, the Wayback Machine shows a totally different story when Obama said in an interview that he would be open to meeting with him under the right circumstances if he thought it would help avoid a nuclear North Korea and preserve the peace.

During the May 15, 2008, edition of his Fox News show, Hannity referenced Obama’s answer and asked former House Speaker Newt Gingrich: “After Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, before we were at war with Nazi Germany, do you think it would be wise — would have it been wise for us to engage in talks with him?” Later during the same show, Hannity asked former Republican Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) the same thing: “After the Nazis invaded Poland, before we were at war with them, is it fair to ask the question, ‘Would you have met with Hitler in 1939?’

Then there’s Trump’s loyal base among self-proclaimed, “bible-believing” Evangelicals. Their continued support has been the subject of much (horrified) analysis from Evangelicals and others. A recent article in the Atlantic by Michael Gerson–formerly, George W. Bush’s speechwriter and an Evangelical himself– noted the jarring nature of that support:

One of the most extraordinary things about our current politics—really, one of the most extraordinary developments of recent political history—is the loyal adherence of religious conservatives to Donald Trump. The president won four-fifths of the votes of white evangelical Christians. This was a higher level of support than either Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, an outspoken evangelical himself, ever received.
Trump’s background and beliefs could hardly be more incompatible with traditional Christian models of life and leadership. Trump’s past political stances (he once supported the right to partial-birth abortion), his character (he has bragged about sexually assaulting women), and even his language (he introduced the words pussy and shithole into presidential discourse) would more naturally lead religious conservatives toward exorcism than alliance. This is a man who has cruelly publicized his infidelities, made disturbing sexual comments about his elder daughter, and boasted about the size of his penis on the debate stage. His lawyer reportedly arranged a $130,000 payment to a porn star to dissuade her from disclosing an alleged affair. Yet religious conservatives who once blanched at PG-13 public standards now yawn at such NC-17 maneuvers. We are a long way from The Book of Virtues.
Evidently, the promise of power trumps (sorry!) Christian behavior. That Jesus fellow was what our crass President would call a loser…
Despicable (and transparent) as these examples are, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and the Congressional GOP are the clear winners of the hypocrisy sweepstakes. These “fiscal conservatives” spent years whining about the national debt–and the minute they were in power, cheerfully added over a trillion dollars to that debt, in a rushed-through tax “reform” that gave away the store to the already-rich.
Adding insult to injury, the ink was barely dry on that policy abomination when Ryan announced that Republicans will target welfare, Medicare, Medicaid spending in 2018–in order to control the national debt that they just increased!
That unashamed display of Robin Hood in reverse takes real chutzpah.
Even reading about these people makes me want to take a shower.

What Bible Are They Studying?

In the wake of Trump’s response to the Charlottesville riots–and especially as we look to see and judge the reactions of White House staff and Congressional Republicans–a news item published a couple of weeks ago in The Hill takes on a particularly ironic flavor.

Many of President Trump’s Cabinet members gather at a weekly session to study the Bible, the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) reported Monday.

Ralph Drollinger, the founder of Capitol Ministries, says he leads a weekly Bible study with Cabinet members such as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

“It’s the best Bible study that I’ve ever taught in my life. They are so teachable. They’re so noble. They’re so learned,” Drollinger told CBN.

Vice President Pence, who is a sponsor of the faith sessions, reportedly joins the group when his schedule allows.

The snark just writes itself–especially when you consider that although Trump’s embrace of the “good people” carrying torches and chanting anti-black and anti-Jewish slogans prompted CEO’s to resign en masse from his two business advisory councils– it has yet to prompt even one departure from his Evangelical Advisory Board.

I am not a Christian (and I don’t play one on TV), so I don’t pretend to be conversant with the varying theologies that distinguish Christian denominations. But I have deeply religious Christian friends, and they assure me that Christ did not preach a doctrine of racial and religious hatred.

Evidently, the Evangelical Advisory Board and the leader of the cabinet’s Bible Study are more tolerant of intolerance than my Christian friends.

According to media reports, Pastor Ralph Drollinger, the 7-foot-1 former UCLA basketball star who leads these sessions, has his own take on a number of biblical admonitions. He once lectured a group of Sacramento lawmakers that female politicians with young children have no business serving in the Legislature. He called those who do so sinners. (Interestingly, he subsequently defended fathers whose careers take them out of the home for extended periods, although he did say they should be “extra sensitive” to such absences–whatever the hell that means.)

This is a “discipleship” that supports snatching health insurance from millions of Americans; that believes God wants them to deprive poor women access to the lifesaving pap smears and breast exams provided by Planned Parenthood; that wants to give wealthy taxpayers “relief” while viciously slashing already inadequate safety-net programs for the poor. It’s a “discipleship” that ignores biblical admonitions about stewardship of the environment. A “discipleship” that apparently has no problem supporting a President who equates good people and Nazis. I could go on. And on.

Isn’t there something in the bible about knowing people “by their works”?

Let me just modify that famous Gandhi quote: I like my friends’ Christ. I do not like these self-proclaimed “Christians.” They are so unlike my friends’ Christ.

 

 

When History is Written…

When the history of the 21st Century is written (assuming there are people alive to research and write it) America’s current decline will be attributed largely to one man–and that man isn’t Donald Trump.

Of course Trump is dangerous. A number of his choices–both personnel and what passes for policy in his childlike worldview–are potentially catastrophic. But he is too delusional and ignorant to qualify as evil.

No, the most evil man in American government, in my humble opinion, is Mitch McConnell.

Trump is simply the result of McConnell’s consistent elevation of partisanship and power over principle. As James Fallows has pointed out, it was McConnell who took the filibuster from a seldom-used mechanism meant to ensure that minority opinions would be heard to a routine method of subverting majority rule. It was McConnell who famously promised to obstruct anything and everything Obama might do, irrespective of whether what was being obstructed was good policy, good for the country, or even if it had originated with his own party.

It was McConnell who, in the  summer of 2016,” put the kibosh on FBI going public with a warning of the Russian interference in the election, which they were already investigating.

And needless to say, it was McConnell who ignored 200+ years of precedent, and simply refused to allow the Senate to do its constitutional duty of advising and consenting to a sitting president’s nominee for the Supreme Court–doing incalculable damage to the rule of law and ultimately, to respect for close decisions that will be handed down by a court that includes a Justice conspicuously occupying a “stolen” seat.

In 2006, as McConnell was about to emerge as the Republican leader in the Senate, Zachary Roth and Cliff Schecter wrote an article for the Washington Monthly titled “Meet the New Boss.”  Here are some excerpts:

McConnell is a staunch conservative and a master of procedure, but no piece of landmark legislation bears his name. Almost the only issue on which he has a national profile is campaign-finance reform, and on that, he’s known as the man who fought it at every turn…

The Senate’s shift toward increased party discipline has been accompanied by a growing willingness to use the legislative process to benefit the Republican Party’s financial backers…

[McConnell is] a master of Senate rules and procedures, and he harbors no presidential aspirations that might distract him from his job. But unlike earlier leaders, he doesn’t keep score by legislative accomplishments. For the first time in recent memory, the Senate will be run by a leader with both the ability and the desire to use the institution entirely for partisan advantage

I’m hardly the only observer who attributes much of  America’s current dysfunction to McConnell. Dana Milbank calls him “The Man Who Broke America.” Milbank starts with one of the many, many examples of McConnell’s hypocrisy and dishonesty:

“No majority leader wants written on his tombstone that he presided over the end of the Senate,” the minority leader said.

He continued: “Breaking the rules to change the rules is un-American. I just hope the majority leader thinks about his legacy, the future of his party, and, most importantly, the future of our country before he acts.”

Are these the words of Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as the Republican majority changed Senate rules this week to do away with filibusters of Supreme Court nominations?

Actually, they were uttered in 2013, by then-Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), when Democrats pushed through a similar filibuster change for lesser nominations.

Milbank doesn’t mince words:

No man has done more in recent years to undermine the functioning of U.S. government. His has been the epitome of unprincipled leadership, the triumph of tactics in service of short-term power.

Milbank further documents McConnell’s willingness to subvert longstanding Senate culture in service of rabid partisanship, pointing out that by 2013 his unprecedented, frequent use of the filibuster had blocked 79 of Obama’s nominees; that compared with 68 presidential appointments blocked during “the entire previous history of the Republic.”

The primacy of the rule of law was the most basic premise of the American constitution; as John Adams famously proclaimed, the Founders gave us a government of laws, not men. The constitutional architecture, with its three branches of government and a federalist structure leaving significant authority to the states, was an effort to constrain the abuse of power.

Trump doesn’t understand any of that, and he clearly has no idea how to use the rules themselves to evade those constraints. He doesn’t even know what the rules are.

McConnell, unfortunately, does.

Has Mitch McConnell Killed Irony?

He certainly has breathed new life into the demonstration of hypocrisy….

Example #1: Readers of this blog need not be reminded that McConnell absolutely refused to even consider a  sitting President’s Supreme Court nominee –an unprecedented assault on constitutional norms. And yet, when Chuck Schumer threatened to return the favor (albeit with a caveat: the Democrats would not stonewall a moderate candidate, only a radical one), he proclaimed that “the American public” wouldn’t stand for such dastardly behavior.

Um…any mirrors in your house, Mitch?

Example #2: The Senate is preparing to schedule hearings on Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees. However, a number of them have not turned in the documentation required for the FBI’s background check, and the Office of Government Ethics has raised objections to the speed with which McConnell wants to proceed. (He is “pooh poohing” the Office’s insistence on complete documentation prior to going forward with the hearings.)

This sudden desire to accommodate a President-Elect is especially interesting in light of  a letter McConnell wrote to Harry Reid prior to hearings on President Obama’s nominees. In that letter–which recently surfaced–McConnell set out a list of demands that absolutely had to be met prior to the Senate giving any consideration to those nominees.

McConnell wrote that “we expect the following standards will be met:

  1. The FBI background check is complete and submitted to the committee in time for review prior to a hearing being noticed.
  2. The Office of Government Ethics letter is complete and submitted to the committee in time for review and prior to a committee hearing.
  3. Financial disclosure statements (and tax returns for applicable committees) are complete and submitted to the committee prior to a hearing being noticed.
  4. All committee questionnaires are complete and have been returned to the committee. A reasonable opportunity for follow-up questions has been afforded committee members, and nominees have answered, with sufficient time for review prior to a committee vote.
  5. The nominee is willing to have committee staff interviews, where that has been the practice.
  6. The nominee has had a hearing.
  7. The nominee agrees to courtesy visits with members when requested.
  8. The nominee has committed to cooperate with the Ranking Member on requests for information and transparency.

There’s more, but you get the idea.

Now, I really have no objection to any of these requirements; I think they are appropriate. Evidently, Mitch McConnell (aka “turtle man”) also thought they were appropriate–when the nominations were being made by a Democratic President.

Suddenly, they are no longer necessary safeguards to protect American citizens from malfeasance or worse. (I’m sure the fact that McConnell’s wife is one of those nominees has nothing to do with this 180 degree change…)

How does this disgusting excuse for a human being sleep at night?

If It Walks Like a Duck, Call it a Turtle

A couple of weeks ago, Catherine Rampell had a must-read column in the Washington Post, beginning with “Don’t tax you, don’t tax me. Tax that feller behind the tree!”

Rampell focused upon the rampant hypocrisy of the “no tax” ideologues:

Jonathan Gruber has been vilified for (among other things) noting the “tortured” way that sections of the Affordable Care Act were written in order to stay in the good graces of both the Congressional Budget Office and the public. But such budgetary gamesmanship has long been an open, and bipartisan, tactic in Washington. When “spending” became a dirty word, Congress phased out earmarks. In their place, it doled out treats to special interests through the tax code, now awarding more than a trillion dollars each year in federal tax breaks, carve-outs and loopholes. Arithmetically, letting someone pay less in taxes is identical to spending money on them, but voters don’t see things that way….

Voters hate taxes and will punish any politician who threatens to raise them (or, in many cases, does not accede to cutting them). But schools, roads, police forces, garbage collection, firefighters, jails and pensions still cost money, even when you cut them back as much as voters will tolerate. So instead of raising taxes, state and municipal governments have resorted to nickel-and-diming constituents through other kinds of piecemeal, non-tax revenue raisers, an outcome that is less transparent, and likely to worsen the economy, inequality and social injustice.

Examples abound. Call it a toll. Call it a fee. Finance local government with smoke and mirrors.

This “no tax” chicanery plays to our worst impulses, the “I’ve got mine, Jack, and piss on the public good” attitudes that have crippled efforts to improve our communities and build a more inclusive, robust public square. But as intellectually dishonest as the “that’s not really a tax” strategies are, they’re a subset of a larger, even more troubling phenomenon: we’ve stripped our language of content.

I’ve frequently noted–in response to overheated rhetoric from the Right–that President Obama really can’t be both a socialist and a Nazi, because those words have meanings, and they are different. (And actually, in a sane world, neither remotely applies to the President, whether you like his policies or hate them.) Science is not a system of “beliefs” equivalent to religion, because falsifiable empirical facts are not matters of “faith.” LGBT folks don’t have “lifestyles,” they have orientations. I could go on and on.

The problem with misuse and abuse of language is that we lose the ability to communicate with each other. When words no longer have generally accepted meanings, we are just making sounds–and when those words are turned into epithets and insults, intelligible conversation comes to a screeching halt.

Language is one of the most important achievements of the human race; it is fundamental to human progress. We jeopardize more than we realize when we debase it.