A church write-up, followed by two book write-ups:
A. I watched the Christmas Eve and the Christmas Day services on YouTube. In the Christmas Eve sermon, the pastor talked about how many of us, in this prolonged time of solitude and reflection, may become frustrated with God’s high standards (law) and want little to do with God as a result. I am familiar with that kind of stinking thinking myself. The pastor also told a story about a friend from seminary named Mike. Mike was dating a woman and wondered if she loved him like he loved her. One day, he came to the pastor beaming, which was unusual for Mike. Mike was elated because the woman he loved loved him back, even though she was under no obligation to do so. The pastor likened that to God’s love: God loves us, even though he is under no obligation to do so and actually has reason not to, due to our sins.
B. In the Christmas service, the pastor referred to a scene from The Lion King, in which the baboon Rafiki senses that Simba is returning and that the disastrous, oppressive reign of Scar will soon end. Rafiki says, “It is time.” The pastor said that we, too, may be saying “It is time.” Perhaps we are dealing with grudges and finding that grudges are like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. Maybe “it is time” to let them go and forgive.
C. Fred V. Lucas. Abuse of Power: Inside the Three-Year Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump. Bombardier, 2020. Go here to purchase the book.
Fred Lucas is an award-winning journalist and White House correspondent who has written for largely conservative publications. He has a Master’s from the Columbia University School of Journalism and a Bachelor’s from Western Kentucky University.
As the title indicates, this book is about the Democrats’ attempt to impeach President Donald Trump throughout his term in office. It goes from the aftermath of the 2016 election, when some anti-Trumpers sought to prevent the Electoral College from rubber-stamping Trump’s victory, through the attempts to impeach Trump on emoluments, Charlottesville, and his alleged links with Russia. It culminates with the House’s official impeachment of Trump over Trump’s phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The final sentence of the book states: “In an impeachment void of a crime based entirely on partisan loathing, Pelosi, Schiff, and Nadler gave the country the worst impeachment in American history.”
While Lucas depicts Democrats as out for blood right after 2016, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi emerges as a voice of reason in Lucas’s narrative, at least initially. As Lucas narrates, Pelosi at first did not want to impeach Trump. A pragmatic politician, she was seeking to balance the centrist Democrats who barely won in Trump districts with the progressive Democrats. Her conflict with the left-wing Squad, which was small in number yet notorious for stirring up the Democratic base, pushed her over the edge and influenced her to support impeachment.
As far as Lucas is concerned, the House never demonstrated that Trump did anything deserving removal of office. For one, the charges, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, were nebulous. Presidents prior to Trump abused their power, and Presidents facing a Congress that was controlled by the opposition party often obstructed Congress, yet most of them did not face impeachment. Second, there is no evidence that Trump either bullied or bribed Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden. There was no quid pro quo: the military aid went to the Ukraine in accordance with Trump’s general pro-Ukraine policy, even though Zelensky had not launched an official investigation into Hunter Biden; moreover, Zelensky was unaware that the aid was even being held up, so he obviously did not feel bullied or bribed! Even some of the Democrats’ witnesses denied there was quid pro quo. The “whistleblower’s” claim was based on mere hearsay and contradicted by some who heard the phone call, and the whistleblower may have been a Democratic holdover involved in a conspiracy against Trump among Deep State operatives.
Those who followed the news during the impeachment saga will be familiar with Lucas’s overall narrative, but I still learned from this book. Lucas’s discussion of the Emoluments Clause to the Constitution is lawyerly and draws from American history; Lucas concludes that Trump may have violated it in a minor way, but not because he failed to put his assets into a blind trust; after all, George Washington as President still profited from his crops on Mount Vernon! Lucas also goes through past impeachments and the times that previous Presidents, including Barack Obama, based aid to countries on quid pro quo conditions. The book profiles such figures as Maxine Waters, with her alleged conflicts of interest, and New York Democratic Representative Jerry Nadler, who clashed with Trump back when Trump was a real estate developer. Ukrainian President Zelensky, like Trump, was a former entertainer, an upstart coming into office against huge odds on a promise to root out corruption.
The book also provides context for Joe Biden’s speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, in which Biden tells how he withheld aid to the Ukraine until it removed the prosecutor. Biden’s stated rationale was that the prosecutor was corrupt, not that he was investigating Hunter Biden. Whether Hunter Biden was the real reason is another issue.
Another point Lucas makes is that the mainstream media, including the New York Times, raised concerns about Hunter Biden’s Burisma dealings, even though they would dismiss those concerns right after Trump made them an issue. And Lucas notes that President Barack Obama himself pressured the Russian President to refrain from activity that could harm Obama politically.
Where the book could have been clearer was on whether Trump actually committed a crime. Lucas seems to say “no,” but some say that Trump was committing a crime simply by asking a foreign official for a political favor, whether there was quid pro quo or not. Even a Republican Senator whom Lucas quotes acknowledges that Trump committed a crime, but not one deserving impeachment. That raises the question: what crimes do merit impeachment? And here’s a related question: Given that the line between governing and politics is often thin, when does the absent of a line pose a problem, particularly one meriting impeachment?
Lucas also could have mounted a more rigorous defense of Trump in areas where Trump appears secretive, like he had something to hide. Lucas notes that Trump graciously made the transcript of his phone call public, but why did Trump invoke executive privilege, or why did Republicans not want to hear from witnesses? Republicans had answers to this, some good (i.e., not wanting to drag the country through a long process), some not-so-good (i.e., the House should have already made its case, as if new evidence is irrelevant).
Lucas also makes the point that the Democrats’ obsession with impeachment impeded the U.S. from tackling the coronavirus in its early stages. That could be; still, it is not as if Trump’s record here is flawless, as when Trump held mass rallies where people did not wear masks.
Lucas is still a good writer, and I am open to reading other books by him, such as his book about talk-radio.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. My review is honest.
D. Billy James Hargis. The Real Extremists: The Far Left. Christian Crusade, 1964.
Billy James Hargis was an ultra-conservative preacher, who was particularly prominent during the 1960’s. He sent me this book in the 1990’s, after I wrote a letter to him as a child. I tried to read this book in high school and enjoyed what I read, but I did not finish it due to lack of discipline. Now, as an adult who has read numerous books, I read and completed it.
Here are some thoughts:
—-One issue that Hargis addresses is whether Nazism and Fascism are right-wing or left-wing. In his day, as in ours, the left loves to call right-wingers “Fascist.” Hargis, like others after him (i.e., Gary Allen, Jonah Goldberg), appeals to the collectivist, economically statist policies of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy to argue that Nazism and Fascism belong on the political left, not the political right. The political right, unlike Nazism and Fascism, believes in limited government and economic freedom. Even more interestingly, Hargis talks about how American Nazis have protested against his Christian Crusade.
George Lincoln Rockwell was the head of the American Nazi Party, and what he says about Hargis and the John Birch Society in his book, White Power, is telling. One the one hand, Rockwell praises them as patriots for recognizing that Fidel Castro was a Communist, back when the American establishment saw Castro as a George Washington type of figure. On the other hand, Rockwell levels a lot of criticism at Hargis and the Birchers. Rockwell wanted a robust, masculine, fighting movement that would take to the streets, whereas Hargis and the Birchers pursued a more urbane approach of handing out pamphlets to a limited number of people, which Rockwell regarded as ineffectual. Hargis and the Birchers also denied being racists and anti-Semites, whereas Rockwell overtly proclaimed that the white race was superior, that white nationalism was essential, and that Jewish power (behind both revolutionaries and capitalism) was a threat to be confronted.
In terms of ideology, Rockwell overlapped in some areas with Hargis and the Birchers, yet he also diverged from them. Like Hargis and the Birchers, Rockwell was anti-Communist, anti-international banker, anti-globalist, and anti-Civil Rights movement. Rockwell criticized the U.S.’s policy in the Vietnam War as a no-win approach. Rockwell was also culturally conservative and saw the sexual revolution as a negative force, and Rockwell criticizes FDR for undermining the gold standard, a criticism other rightists have made. In contrast with Hargis and the Birchers, however, Rockwell was not exactly an economic libertarian, at least not in White Power. Rockwell, like many Neo-Nazis, advocated a third position between socialism and capitalism, which accepted a role for the state in guaranteeing white people’s economic security.
In short, I think that Nazism and Fascism contain elements of the left and the right.
—-Hargis writes in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination, when many on the left were trying to blame it on the right for fostering an atmosphere of hatred against JFK. Hargis, like John Stormer in another 1964 right-wing classic, None Dare Call It Treason, points out that JFK was assassinated by a Communist, Lee Harvey Oswald.
Hargis’s stance is understandable, in light of his context. Still, it is refreshing that right-wing, conspiratorial literature that emerged subsequent to him is more open to the idea that JFK was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy, particularly a conspiracy among the establishment, rather than by a lone gunman. We see this in works by Roger Stone, Jerome Corsi, and Jim Marrs, and also by people who would probably be characterized as the fringe right, such as Jeff Rense and the Liberty Lobby. In addition, Hargis’s position on the Kennedy assassination is rather incongruous. Hargis, like many on the right, probably regarded JFK’s foreign policy as soft on Communism. Why, then, would a Communist want to assassinate him?
—-Hargis has a chapter on union bosses Walter and Victor Reuther. Like John Stormer, Hargis talks about the Reuthers’ encouragement of people in a letter to carry on the fight for a Soviet America, a quotation that many regard as spurious. Unlike Stormer, Hargis provides more background information. He tells the story of the Reuthers and discusses the content of the supposed letter. It is plausible, in my mind, that the Reuthers initially were involved in left-wing movements outside of the political mainstream, and they may even have initially regarded the Soviet Union as a positive experiment that would help workers. The official historical narrative is that they eventually became anti-Communist, however, as they sought to purge Communists from union ranks. Still, Hargis has reasons to criticize the Reuthers, who sought to suppress right-wing voices in the public arena.
This book is well-documented and has its moments of narrative intrigue. The time when conservative journalist Edith Kermit Roosevelt got in trouble with the Reuthers on one of her investigative endeavors stands out as an example.