Rod Dreher

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Trump’s Speech Is Good. Really Good

The Federalist publishes an advance copy of Trump’s remarks. These aren’t the remarks I, a follower of the man Swinburne contemptuously called the “pale Galilean,” would have liked to hear tonight. But from a strictly political point of view, this one is a winner that’s completely in touch with the cultural moment. Excerpts:

Our Convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation. The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life. Any politician who does not grasp this danger is not fit to lead our country.

Americans watching this address tonight have seen the recent images of violence in our streets and the chaos in our communities. Many have witnessed this violence personally, some have even been its victims.

I have a message for all of you: the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20th 2017, safety will be restored.

The most basic duty of government is to defend the lives of its own citizens. Any government that fails to do so is a government unworthy to lead.

Let me take a time out from the speech to repeat an e-mail a friend in a major American city sent to me this afternoon:

I went to the gun range today. Thursdays in the early afternoon, around 2, is my usual range time. Usually there are 3-5 people shooting. Two weeks ago I was the only one. Today I was first in line when someone finished, which was 45 minutes later. Every alley was full, and there were groups of people in line behind me. One group had 8 people. Of those, only 2 had ever shot. The other 6 want to learn.

I talked to one of my buddies there, and [he] said Monday at 10:00, they open at 9:00, they were already putting people in line, and it has stayed that way all week. He said people are scared, learning to shoot, and trying to get their LTC [license to carry] as quickly as possible.

Trump is definitely speaking to the moment. He may not be speaking to you, but he is speaking to many, many people in the country right now. Back to the Trump address:

The most important difference between our plan and that of our opponents, is that our plan will put America First. Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo. As long as we are led by politicians who will not put America First, then we can be assured that other nations will not treat America with respect. This will all change in 2017.

The American People will come first once again. My plan will begin with safety at home – which means safe neighborhoods, secure borders, and protection from terrorism. There can be no prosperity without law and order. On the economy, I will outline reforms to add millions of new jobs and trillions in new wealth that can be used to rebuild America.

A number of these reforms that I will outline tonight will be opposed by some of our nation’s most powerful special interests. That is because these interests have rigged our political and economic system for their exclusive benefit.

Big business, elite media and major donors are lining up behind the campaign of my opponent because they know she will keep our rigged system in place. They are throwing money at her because they have total control over everything she does. She is their puppet, and they pull the strings.

That is why Hillary Clinton’s message is that things will never change. My message is that things have to change – and they have to change right now. Every day I wake up determined to deliver for the people I have met all across this nation that have been neglected, ignored, and abandoned.

I have visited the laid-off factory workers, and the communities crushed by our horrible and unfair trade deals. These are the forgotten men and women of our country. People who work hard but no longer have a voice.


That’s rhetorical gold. All of it. I have never heard Trump or any other politician since Pat Buchanan put it so succinctly. More:

And when a Secretary of State illegally stores her emails on a private server, deletes 33,000 of them so the authorities can’t see her crime, puts our country at risk, lies about it in every different form and faces no consequence – I know that corruption has reached a level like never before.

When the FBI Director says that the Secretary of State was “extremely careless” and “negligent,” in handling our classified secrets, I also know that these terms are minor compared to what she actually did. They were just used to save her from facing justice for her terrible crimes.

In fact, her single greatest accomplishment may be committing such an egregious crime and getting away with it – especially when others have paid so dearly. When that same Secretary of State rakes in millions of dollars trading access and favors to special interests and foreign powers I know the time for action has come.

I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves. Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.

Again, this is Grade-A red-meat populism, which has the great advantage of telling a true thing about Hillary Clinton and the Establishment. Whether or not Trump can or will do a thing about it is another question. But this is a really good speech on these themes. Trump will go on:

America was shocked to its core when our police officers in Dallas were brutally executed. In the days after Dallas, we have seen continued threats and violence against our law enforcement officials. Law officers have been shot or killed in recent days in Georgia, Missouri, Wisconsin, Kansas, Michigan and Tennessee.

On Sunday, more police were gunned down in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Three were killed, and four were badly injured. An attack on law enforcement is an attack on all Americans. I have a message to every last person threatening the peace on our streets and the safety of our police: when I take the oath of office next year, I will restore law and order our country.

I will work with, and appoint, the best prosecutors and law enforcement officials in the country to get the job done. In this race for the White House, I am the Law And Order candidate.

Straight-up Nixon ’68. Henceforth, every incident of violence against the police, every left-wing riot outside Trump campaign stops, and every campus disturbance this fall, will be a Trump commercial.

Here’s the love letter to Milo part:

Only weeks ago, in Orlando, Florida, 49 wonderful Americans were savagely murdered by an Islamic terrorist. This time, the terrorist targeted our LGBT community. As your President, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBT citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.

There’s so much more, but here’s how he winds the thing down:

But now, my sole and exclusive mission is to go to work for our country – to go to work for all of you. It’s time to deliver a victory for the American people. But to do that, we must break free from the petty politics of the past.

America is a nation of believers, dreamers, and strivers that is being led by a group of censors, critics, and cynics.

Remember: all of the people telling you that you can’t have the country you want, are the same people telling you that I wouldn’t be standing here tonight. No longer can we rely on those elites in media, and politics, who will say anything to keep a rigged system in place.

Instead, we must choose to Believe In America. History is watching us now.

It’s waiting to see if we will rise to the occasion, and if we will show the whole world that America is still free and independent and strong.

My opponent asks her supporters to recite a three-word loyalty pledge. It reads: “I’m With Her”. I choose to recite a different pledge.

My pledge reads: “I’M WITH YOU – THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.”

He’s going to deliver those lines in a couple of hours, and they’re going to bring the house down.

Read the whole speech. Or listen to it tonight. You may well hate this address, and it won’t be remembered in the annals of eloquent oratory, but give Trump his due: this thing gets the job he wants done done, and with great force. Ross Douthat earlier today called it “Buchananism without religion.” He’s right — and it’s Trump’s conspicuous lack of Christian virtue that worries me a very great deal about him in the White House.

But I’m not writing about that here. I’m writing about this speech, the biggest of Trump’s life. You know I’m not a Trump guy, but having read this address in advance, I think, for the first time, that Donald Trump could win this thing.

UPDATE: Now that I’ve actually heard Trump’s speech, in which he veered far off the script here, my opinion of it is greatly reduced. I am going to close comments here, and redirect you all to my post-speech critique here. 

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Spin Of The Year

The Very Rev. Katherine Ragsdale, lesbian cleric and then president and dean of Episcopal Divinity School, delivers 2009 'abortion is a blessing' address (National Organization for Women/Flickr)
The Very Rev. Katherine Ragsdale, lesbian cleric and then president and dean of Episcopal Divinity School, delivers 2009 'abortion is a blessing' address (National Organization for Women/Flickr)

Via the Episcopal News Service, a press release revealing that the ultramegaliberal Episcopal Divinity School is winding things down:

Episcopal Divinity School will cease to grant degrees at the end of the upcoming academic year, the seminary’s board of trustees decided July 21 on a 11-4 vote. During the next year, the board will explore options for EDS’s future, some of which were suggested by a specially convened Futures Task Force to make plans for EDS’s future.

“A school that has taken on racism, sexism, heterosexism, and multiple interlocking oppressions is now called to rethink its delivery of theological education in a new and changing world,” said the Very Rev. Gary Hall ’76, chairman of the board, in introducing the resolution. “Ending unsustainable spending is a matter of social justice.”

Translation: “Having abandoned anything to do with orthodox Christianity, we find that we have made ourselves completely irrelevant. If we spin our theological and financial bankruptcy as a sign of our virtue, maybe we won’t look so bad.”

A sampling of courses from the current EDS catalogue:

HB CS 4152 Liberating Bible Interpretations, Antiracist, and White Identity: Approaches to Reading Scripture

What makes an interpretation of the Bible liberating? For whom? When? Where? We will explore how various stages of racial identity development and awareness present challenges to our reading of the texts and each other, in order to develop antiracist and other anti-oppression strategies for preaching and teaching from scripture. Critical Race Theory and Critical White Studies shall inform our primary focus on racial identity of “white” readers while also looking at other culturally dominant features of identity in the interpretive process of biblical texts. G

PT L 1420 Unleashing Our Voices: Voice, Identity, and Leadership
A course for the courageous, who wish to explore first-hand the liberatory [sic] and transformative power of their voices in community. Using the classroom community as a laboratory, the course will combine: (1) practical work on voice production and the body/mind/soul as human instrument with (2) in-class discussion and small team exploration of readings on voice, identity/community membership, and leadership. Voice work will include group exercises for freeing the body and voice, as well as individual work in front of the group using prepared spoken texts and/or sung pieces. Readings will be drawn from writings on the physical voice and voice as an element of social location from womanist, feminist, anti-white supremacist, and other anti-oppression perspectives. Participants will engage questions of voice and power in pastoral, liturgical, theological, educational, and spiritual contexts.

L 3020 Challenging the Liturgical Traditions, Postcolonial, and Queer Perspectives

A critical exploration of intersections between a cluster of contemporary theologies—for example, feminist, queer, postcolonial, “child theology”—and liturgical theology and practice.

T PT 2165 Mission, Ministry, and Sacraments: Re-visioning the Church Inside-Out

This course seeks to construct a theology of the church the essential nature of which is its “inside-turned-outness” for the life of the world. In the light of this basic stance of a church as a people—externally focused and God’s- Reign oriented—a theological re-visioning of the central elements of the church’s sacramental life, worship, wit- ness, and ministry is undertaken. A central question is how we can recover the basic calling of the church to be a sign and instrument of a God-intended “alternative humanity” and an agent of transformation in a world characterized by oppressive, exclusivist, and fragmenting forces. Faith-filled resistance, compassionate solidarity, and creative hope shall serve as significant categories in such a re-visioning. Participants will explore the practical and pastoral implications of such a re-visioning for the empowerment of local congregations as change agents.

T CS 1710 Feminist Theories and Theologizing

This course introduces the student to varieties of feminist and gender theories and theorists, e.g., liberal feminism, radical feminism, Marxist feminism, post-colonial feminism, womanist theorists, and Asian American feminism, in order to provide a theoretical foundation for theologizing on behalf of women. is course fulfills the feminist theory requirement for the MATS student concentrating in FLT. G

T 2010 Contemporary Christologies

Who is Jesus Christ for us today? is course will explore a number of contextual christologies, including the Black Christ, the feminist Christ, the womanist Christ, the Asian Christ, the Asian feminist Christ, the Latina Christ, the queer Christ, and the disabled Christ. is course will also explore the intersections of postcolonial and queer theory with contemporary christological reflection.

T 2160 Third World Feminist Theology

A critical study of the challenges and the contributions of ird World feminist theology to the theological discipline. The works of Mercy Amba Oduyoye, Elsa Tamez, Ivone Gebara, Chung Hyun Kyung, and Mary John Mananzan will be studied. G

T PT 2323 Spirituality of Healing

This course explores the spiritual foundations of healing, including mind and body connections, breaking the cycle of violence, and developing life-affirming spiritual practices. Particular emphasis will be on healing from internalized racism, homophobia, and other forms of structural oppression. There will be opportunities to study Chinese approaches to healing.

Gosh, I cannot imagine why they can’t sustain enough interest among the faithful to stay open. Last year, EDS’s president, an abortion rights activist and lesbian who married her partner at Boston’s Episcopal cathedral, resigned. She once stood outside an abortion clinic and saying that “abortion is a blessing.”

If I were a billionaire, I would buy the EDS buildings in Cambridge, Mass., and turn them over to the Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria. After an exorcism, naturellement. 

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God Help Charles Kinsey

YouTube screen grab
YouTube screen grab

This one is not even remotely a close call. What kind of out-of-control police officer shoot at an autistic man and the caretaker trying to help him — a caretaker who was clearly in no position to hurt a soul?! From the Miami Herald:

When a 23-year-old autistic man carrying a toy truck wandered from a mental health center out into the street Monday, a worker there named Charles Kinsey went to retrieve him.

A few minutes later the autistic man was still sitting cross-legged blocking the roadway while playing with the small, rectangular white toy. And Kinsey was prone on the ground next to him — a bullet from an assault rifle fired by a police officer having struck his leg.

“He throws his hands up in the air and says, ‘Don’t shoot me.’ They say lie on the ground, so he does,” Kinsey’s attorney Hilton Napoleon said Wednesday. “He’s on his back with his hands in the air trying to convince the other guy to lie down. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Cellphone video footage obtained by Napoleon clearly shows the heavy-set autistic man sitting and playing with his toy while Kinsey, dressed in a yellow shirt and shorts, obeys police orders to lie down on his back.

The video, taken before the officer fired his weapon, shows Kinsey on his back with his hands in the air telling police he didn’t have a weapon and asking them not to fire. At one point the autistic man appears to yell at Kinsey to shut up. A second brief video shows officers who are carrying rifles physically patting down Kinsey and the autistic man while they are lying on the ground.

In an interview with WSVN-Channel 7, Kinsey said that after he was shot, officers approached and flipped him over and handcuffed him.

“Sir, there’s no need for firearms,” Kinsey told the news station he said to police before he was shot. “It was so surprising. It was like a mosquito bite.”

Kinsey said when he asked the officer why he fired his weapon, the cop responded, “I don’t know.”

Read more here. The police aren’t saying anything at the moment.

Again: I thank God that neither Charles Kinsey nor the autistic man was hurt killed (that’s what I meant to say) by this trigger-happy uniformed officer.

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The Benedict Option Still Stands

I'm sticking with the guy on the left (Photo by Rod Dreher)
I'm sticking with the guy on the left (Photo by Rod Dreher)

I want to thank you readers who drop me letters, especially when you send me things to look at. You can’t possibly know this, but I’m inundated with e-mail daily right now, more than usual. It’s coming at a time when I am under a lot of pressure to finish the Benedict Option book, for an August 5 deadline. I’m also trying to move house (well, Julie is managing all of that, and doing all the heavy lifting, so to speak, but it’s still a major stressor). And trying to keep up with my blogging responsibilities during this intense political season.

It’s also true that I am very, very distressed by the situation in our country. I believe that a Hillary Clinton presidency would be a catastrophe for the thing I care about most: religious liberty. Yet I believe a Trump presidency would be a different kind of catastrophe, one that would, among other things, make war more likely. (For example, even though I believe it was foolish to bring all those countries on Russia’s borders into NATO, I think it is foolish for Trump to put NATO’s security guarantees to them up for grabs. If Trump is sworn in, I foresee Putin sending tanks into the Baltics soon thereafter.) One of the core reasons that I am a conservative is fear of the mob. It’s why I loathe and despise what Black Lives Matter and other SJWs do on campuses, and this week, what Republicans aligned with Trump have been doing in Cleveland and beyond. American politics has entered a stage where the passions of the mob increasingly rule both sides, because emotional extremism is rewarded. I want no part of any of it.

I said earlier this year, when I reached an agreement with Sentinel, the conservative imprint of Penguin Random House, to write The Benedict Option, that I wouldn’t be speaking in much more detail about it on this blog. What you don’t see, by design, is how my thinking on the Ben Op has changed and deepened as a result of, well, deliberation, but also by interviewing so many people, and reading so many new things. Because of circumstances beyond my control — long story — I was not able to travel at all to report the book. I did go to Norcia, as you know, and I got to visit Clear Creek because they had a conference and paid my way to speak there. Otherwise, alas, I had to do this from home. I don’t think it will have made much difference in the end. I’ve got so much material I could easily have written a book twice as long as The Benedict Option is going to be.

So, to get to the point of this post: one of you readers sent me this morning this post from the Orthodox priest Father Stephen Freeman, reflecting on the Benedict Option. It delighted me because it reflects where my thinking has gone as I’ve been writing the book. I haven’t gotten into any of this on the blog these past few months, because I’m saving it for the book. Here are some excerpts:

Morality asks questions of right and wrong. What constitutes right action and why? Virtue asks an even deeper question. What kind of person is able to think and act in a right way? In terms of the gospel, we can see virtue as lying at the heart of Christ’s statement, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” For someone who lacks virtue (is not “pure in heart”) even their reason and perception will be distorted. They will not only fail at doing the good, they will not even be able to see what the good is.

To suggest that we live in a culture in which virtue is absent is thus a very serious charge. It means that we are unable to agree on even the most mundane matters about what is right and wrong. Worse still, we have become the kind of people who are unable to even know the answer to such questions. MacIntyre’s next book, Whose Justice, Which Rationality, pushed his analysis even further. His work sits like a prophetic word over the modern landscape of moral discourse.

But After Virtue’s last paragraph remains. The Benedict Option has passed into current religious conversation, at least among those who think his analysis is correct. If virtue itself has collapsed, and our ability as a culture to understand and agree about the moral project has disappeared, how do we even begin to recover? Or, more poignant still, how do we even survive such a disaster?

The problem can be stated in terms of a circle. Virtue itself is a requirement for right action. How can people who lack virtue ever come to know what virtue itself is, much less go about creating a community of virtue? I’ve always thought of this under the guise of “take’s one to know one.” Obviously, something from outside is required in order for virtue to be nurtured.


This, actually, is one way of understanding the gospel itself. If no one is pure in heart, then who can teach us about God? The answer is, Christ Himself. Christ is the one who is pure in heart. He Himself is the man of virtue. And so it is that Christ establishes the Church. Human beings do not actually live as individuals (despite all the modern rhetoric to the contrary). We belong to communities. If the communities to which we belong no longer know or are capable of virtue, then we ourselves cannot become virtuous.

The Church, however, is the living and abiding remembrance of virtue – the character of Christ Himself. The Church is the birth, in the world, of the living presence of the character of Christ. This is the heart of the “Benedict Option.” The monastic communities of Late Antiquity (the “Dark Ages”) were formed and shaped according to the character of Christ. “Character formation” was at the very heart of their life. In broader terms, we describe that formation as salvation itself.

It is worth noting, however, that these communities were not the result of people looking around and saying, “Gee, the Empire has fallen and the process of forming virtue has collapsed. Let’s start some monasteries and survive this thing.” The Benedict Option, in its original form, was God’s work, not man’s. This is necessarily the case.

Read the whole thing.

This is absolutely the case. As I repeat in the book’s manuscript, Benedict did not leave the world for the sake of saving it. He left the world for the sake of saving his own soul. He knew that to put himself in a position where he was open to the Holy Spirit required living life in a certain way, in community. Hence the monastery. The monastic calling is a special one given to a relative few men and women, but the principle that believers need a community, a culture, and a way of life to keep themselves open to the formative (re-formative) power of divine grace is true for all of us.

It has always been true, but it is a truth we Christians in this chaotic time and place need to lay claim to urgently. This week, I interviewed Mark Gottlieb, a modern Orthodox rabbi (N.B., “modern Orthodox” Jews are Orthodox, but not like the haredim, the black hats), about what we Ben Op-oriented Christians can learn from the Jewish experience. One thing he said was that we Christians have to rediscover the power of regular daily prayer. He spoke of how participating with the community in morning, afternoon, and evening prayer, day in and day out, structures a believer’s entire reality. It does so by keeping one ever aware that we live and move and have our being in the presence of God. There is no substitute for praying like this. St. Benedict calls it opus Dei — the work of God.

Some folks like to say, “The Benedict Option sounds like nothing more than the Church being the Church.” To which I say, “Yes! Absolutely! But the Church — not just the institution, but you and me — hasn’t been the Church for a long, long time. And it shows.”

But “being the Church” requires taking on certain practices, and ceasing to do other practices. For most of us, it cannot be simply continuing to do what we’re doing now, and hoping for the best. To be clear, we aren’t Pelagians; we don’t believe that we can perfect ourselves. Any good thing that happens within ourselves is by the grace of God. But certain practices make us more open to that grace, and more resilient within that grace. And certain institutions make it more possible than others to live that grace-filled life in community. You’ll see what I mean more fully when the book comes out.

Father Stephen Freeman adds:

The true and ever-present Benedict Option remains whether anyone thinks about it as such or not. It is the long, slow, patient work of acquiring the virtues (theosis) by actually living the fullness of the Tradition as we have received it. It’s success is not for us to know or to foresee.

Go to Church. Say your prayers. Teach your children. Shop less. Share your stuff. Keep the commandments as we have received them. Pray for the grace to suffer well. Help those around you who are suffering. There is no need to wait for someone else to do it.

There is nothing more I can say to this than, “Amen and amen.”

Well, there is something more I can say to this, and I’m saying it in a book that, inshallah, will be published in February. I would appreciate your prayers as my editor and I are in the final round here. My health is not so hot.

Trump’s gonna Trump. Hillary’s gonna Hillary. We can’t stop any of that. What we can do is take the Benedict Option, because really, for faithful Christians, there is nothing else.

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How Ted Cruz — Ted Cruz! — Saved His Honor

He put the shiv in tonight (Rich Koele /
He put the shiv in tonight (Rich Koele /

Erm, has that ever happened before? A major speaker at a national party convention pointedly refusing to endorse its nominee? That’s what Ted Cruz did tonight. I do not like Ted Cruz one bit, but I think this is going to serve him well in the long run. Let me tell you why.
Here’s a small but telling point, via ABC News:

Cruz’s wife, Heidi, was seen leaving the arena when the booing started getting very loud. Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli told ABC News that he escorted Heidi Cruz out of the convention hall because “it was volatile and the Trump folks were physically approaching and confrontationally yelling,” he said via text.

“People behind her were getting very ugly, and physically approaching her and Raphael, and it was not a pretty situation,” Cuccinelli told ABC. “The decision was instantly made to not talk to media and get immediately out of the arena.”

“People from my own delegation were physically approaching her while yelling at her. So, I physically moved media out of her way, and got in the way of my own delegation so she could clear by and get out of the arena,” he said.

That’s so Trump. And so is that lunatic prosperity preacher with his Hail-Caesar benediction, and then the crackpot Ben Carson, telling the convention audience (and the folks watching from home) that Hillary Clinton is in league with Lucifer. A Christian friend in DC wrote me to say:

I was listening to both that opening prayer last night and the remarks by Carson, and the first thing I thought was, Oh (*%$%, this is going to make the radical Left redouble their efforts to go full steam ahead on a lack of reasonable compromises for religious organizations. This isn’t even an appeal to be “winsome” — it’s just not strategic or even true. It makes reasonable arguments– of which there are many — impossible!

At least in my world…

It’s like the Trumpified GOP allowed Salon’s caricature of what Christians are to take the stage and broadcast their insanity to a national television audience.

You know what else is really Trumpy? This, via the Washington Post:

Over the convention’s first two nights, a growing number of Republicans called for Hillary Clinton to be imprisoned. One of Trump’s advisers called for her death. The unprecedented tenor for a national political convention has prompted dismay in some corners of the GOP and even launched a Secret Service investigation into a New Hampshire state representative who said Clinton should be shot by a firing squad.

At least three speakers called for the presumptive Democratic nominee’s imprisonment. “Lock her up!” the convention crowd shouted repeatedly on both nights, a chant not heard before at nominee Donald Trump’s rallies.

On Wednesday evening, the chants continued — echoed onstage.

“Lock her up!” Florida Attorney General Pamela Bondi, her state’s top law enforcement official, said. “I love that.”

Think about that. At a national political convention, the mob routinely demands the imprisonment of the opposition candidate. And worse:

She should be “swinging from the rafters” — a reference to hanging, said Susan Reneau, an alternate delegate from Montana, in an interview in Cleveland. Reneau said she blamed Clinton and her handling of government emails for Islamic State attacks in Paris, Belgium and Istanbul.

“Hillary has jeopardized everyone,” Reneau said. “It’s not even fair to call this her Watergate — Watergate was peanuts by comparison.” She was wearing a black button that said “Hillary for Prison” on her jacket. Outside, vendors said those buttons were selling mainly to women.

Al Baldasaro, a Republican state representative in New Hampshire and an adviser to Trump on veterans issues, said that “Hillary Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason” on “The Kuhner Report,” a conservative radio show hosted by Jeff Kuhner. Trump chose Baldasaro to stand behind him at one of the most combative moments of his campaign, a news conference at which he defended his handling of money raised for veterans groups.

On Wednesday, Baldasaro stood by those comments in an interview with radio station WMUR. He said the death penalty was appropriate for Clinton’s handling of government emails. “As far as I’m concerned, it is treason, and the penalty for treason is the firing squad — or maybe it’s the electric chair now,” Baldasaro said.

What disgusting people. That Trump advisor is calling for the execution of a presidential candidate, and is unapologetic about it. Is this really the kind of country we want? Is this the kind of people we want to be?

Look, I think Hillary is a crook now, and would be a crook if she got into the White House. But still. Good Lord. How, exactly, do we protest against repulsive remarks like those made in USA Today by black commenter Tavis Smiley, in which he called on the nation to respect and understand the oppression that drove black men to assassinate police officers (“How many more disaffected black men have to self-radicalize before we take their claims seriously?”) if Trump advisers are calling for the murder of Hillary Clinton?!

Who would have thought that Ted Cruz, of all people, would uphold moral conscience and basic human dignity at the Republican National Convention?

Let me give you some incredibly sobering reading. It’s a piece from the New Yorker about Tony Schwartz, the man who ghostwrote Trump’s breakthrough 1980s book The Art Of The Deal. Every word in it rings true to the man we have seen on the campaign trail this past year. Here are some excerpts:

“Trump has been written about a thousand ways from Sunday, but this fundamental aspect of who he is doesn’t seem to be fully understood,” Schwartz told me. “It’s implicit in a lot of what people write, but it’s never explicit—or, at least, I haven’t seen it. And that is that it’s impossible to keep him focussed on any topic, other than his own self-aggrandizement, for more than a few minutes, and even then . . . ” Schwartz trailed off, shaking his head in amazement. He regards Trump’s inability to concentrate as alarming in a Presidential candidate. “If he had to be briefed on a crisis in the Situation Room, it’s impossible to imagine him paying attention over a long period of time,” he said.

In a recent phone interview, Trump told me that, to the contrary, he has the skill that matters most in a crisis: the ability to forge compromises. The reason he touted “The Art of the Deal” in his announcement, he explained, was that he believes that recent Presidents have lacked his toughness and finesse: “Look at the trade deficit with China. Look at the Iran deal. I’ve made a fortune by making deals. I do that. I do that well. That’s what I do.”

But Schwartz believes that Trump’s short attention span has left him with “a stunning level of superficial knowledge and plain ignorance.” He said, “That’s why he so prefers TV as his first news source—information comes in easily digestible sound bites.” He added, “I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.” During the eighteen months that he observed Trump, Schwartz said, he never saw a book on Trump’s desk, or elsewhere in his office, or in his apartment.


This year, Schwartz has heard some argue that there must be a more thoughtful and nuanced version of Donald Trump that he is keeping in reserve for after the campaign. “There isn’t,” Schwartz insists. “There is no private Trump.” This is not a matter of hindsight. While working on “The Art of the Deal,” Schwartz kept a journal in which he expressed his amazement at Trump’s personality, writing that Trump seemed driven entirely by a need for public attention. “All he is is ‘stomp, stomp, stomp’—recognition from outside, bigger, more, a whole series of things that go nowhere in particular,” he observed, on October 21, 1986. But, as he noted in the journal a few days later, “the book will be far more successful if Trump is a sympathetic character—even weirdly sympathetic—than if he is just hateful or, worse yet, a one-dimensional blowhard.”

Eavesdropping solved the interview problem, but it presented a new one. After hearing Trump’s discussions about business on the phone, Schwartz asked him brief follow-up questions. He then tried to amplify the material he got from Trump by calling others involved in the deals. But their accounts often directly conflicted with Trump’s. “Lying is second nature to him,” Schwartz said. “More than anyone else I have ever met, Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true, or at least ought to be true.”

Still more:

In his journal, Schwartz wrote, “Trump stands for many of the things I abhor: his willingness to run over people, the gaudy, tacky, gigantic obsessions, the absolute lack of interest in anything beyond power and money.” Looking back at the text now, Schwartz says, “I created a character far more winning than Trump actually is.” The first line of the book is an example. “I don’t do it for the money,” Trump declares. “I’ve got enough, much more than I’ll ever need. I do it to do it. Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.” Schwartz now laughs at this depiction of Trump as a devoted artisan. “Of course he’s in it for the money,” he said. “One of the most deep and basic needs he has is to prove that ‘I’m richer than you.’ ” As for the idea that making deals is a form of poetry, Schwartz says, “He was incapable of saying something like that—it wouldn’t even be in his vocabulary.” He saw Trump as driven not by a pure love of dealmaking but by an insatiable hunger for “money, praise, and celebrity.” Often, after spending the day with Trump, and watching him pile one hugely expensive project atop the next, like a circus performer spinning plates, Schwartz would go home and tell his wife, “He’s a living black hole!”

Read the whole thing.

Ladies and gentlemen, your Republican nominee. Your Republican Party. Your America, 2016.

UPDATE: My colleague Daniel Larison disagrees that Cruz behaved honorably. In the light of day, I think he’s right about that: I don’t believe Ted Cruz does anything from an honorable point of view. It’s all naked self-serving calculation. Nevertheless, I still believe it’s going to be to his advantage in the long run to have refused to board the Trump train — even if Trump wins in November. Then again, that may be a worthless judgment, because I think that next to Donald Trump, Ted Cruz is the least principled major Republican politician.

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St. Marshall McLuhan, Ora Pro Nobis


Holy Myrrh-Bearers Ukrainian Catholic Church in Swarthmore, PA, which broadcasts live what’s going on at the altar behind the iconostasis, did not get the memo. Is this a thing in Eastern Rite Catholic churches? I’ve never seen it before. It is beyond shocking to Orthodox eyes.

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The Impotents

So, the other day, an axe-wielding Afghan teenage refugee maniac starts swinging at people on a German train. He wounded four people before police shot him dead. Police searching his living quarters found a hand-painted ISIS flag.

What’s the response from some German authorities? This:

Local authorities are calling for classes on Islam to be brought in at schools across the country after a radicalized Muslim youth attacked passengers on a train with an axe on Monday.

“It is appropriate to bring in classes on Islam in state schools or schools overseen by the state,” Gerd Landsberg, head of the association of local councils, told the Rheinische Post on Wednesday.

In this way the state can gain more control over the upbringing of Muslim youths, Landsberg said.

On Monday evening, an attacker whom investigators believe was a 17-year-old refugee from Afghanistan, seriously wounded four people with an axe and is reported to have shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) several times.

Terror group Isis later released a video in which the youth made threats in Pashto while holding a knife.

Senior figures in the church had already called at the end of May for Islam classes to become compulsory at schools.

The head of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, said that religious education was the best way to immunize Muslim youths against the dangers of Islamist fundamentalism.

Where would Germany be without the wisdom and leadership of Senior Figures In The Church? But seriously, this kind of thing is why the German commenter here who blogs under the name German Reader is so hostile to the church in his country.

I spoke with a French friend this week, asking him what his take on the situation in his country is, post-Nice. It was extremely grim. He reports that the country is very much on edge, spiritually exhausted, and losing faith in the authorities’ ability to protect them. The problem of radicalization of France’s large Muslim population is overwhelming. He predicts violent conflict in the near future. And he has bought a gun for protection.

When a middle-class, middle-aged Frenchman decides it’s time to buy a gun out of fear of what’s coming next, you know things are bad. Maybe if France only had mandatory Islam classes in its schools, that would take care of everything. Has no one thought to ask Senior Figures In The French Church for their advice?

Via Ed West, who says:

UPDATE: Via The Daily Mail, here’s a transcript of the video the dead terrorist left behind:

I am one of the soldiers of the Islamic Caliphate, and I am going to conduct an attack in Germany.

It is about time to stop you from coming to our homes, killing our families, and getting away with it.

Our apostate politicians have never tried to stop you, and Muslims have never been able to fight you back or even speak against what you do. But these times are gone now.

With the Islamic Caliphate now instated in Iraq, the Levant, Khorasan, Libya and Yemen, its soldiers will be able to attack and slaughter you in your homelands, and they will take your nations as homes and military bases for them.

They will also target you wherever you are, in every village, city or airport. And I here warn you, that the Islamic Caliphate is now powerful enough to target your parliaments, and I am the proof of how powerful it became.

I have been living with you all the time while planning an attack that will be stronger than the Paris attacks that continue to horrify you to this day.

I will keep fighting you as long as I am alive, I will slaughter you with this knife, and I will decapitate you with an axe.

And to the Muslims all over the world, I say: ‘How long are you going to remain that passive. The Islamic Caliphate is now well established, so this is the time to declare your loyalty to the Caliph Abu Bakr Al Baghdady, and to migrate to Khorasan as well as the other Islamic State cities.

‘There are also Islamic State cities all over the world, so if you can’t go to the Levant (Sham), then start killing all of the apostate armies in your countries.’

He was not known to habituate the local mosque in Germany. Plainly, adding Islam classes to German school curricula would nip this kind of unpleasantness in the bud. (/sarcasm)

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GOP Bourbons On Bourbon

Possible 'Republican media personality' in secret meeting to plot future of post-Trump GOP (Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley/Shutterstock)
Possible 'Republican media personality' in secret meeting to plot future of post-Trump GOP (Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley/Shutterstock)

This nonsense has a lot to do with why Donald J. Trump owns the Republican Party today. It’s a report from … well, check out this excerpt:

Toward this end, last week I was privileged to participate in a small gathering of influential conservative and libertarian leaders who came together for three days to imagine a “more evolved” version of right-wing politics. The group included distinguished author Charles Murray, Republican gay rights activist Margaret Hoover, and anti-tax icon Grover Norquist. Also present were prominent libertarians, right-leaning political scientists, and numerous Republican media personalities. And while we did not reach a clear consensus on the “future of the right,” we did find remarkable agreement around the potential for a revitalized center-right coalition that could offer a viable alternative to unprincipled right-wing populism.

“Republican media personalities”? Tonstant Weader fwowed up. More:

By the end of the three-day meeting, many were optimistic that a fresh kind of conservative and libertarian politics will rise from the ashes of Trump’s impending loss. The group was excited by the possibility of a new American right that could be “radically innovative and radically inclusive.” We agreed that a key strength of the right is found in its championing of entrepreneurial innovation and the values of personal and economic liberty. And this same spirit of creative innovation can be used to craft positive proposals for market-based healthcare reform and a meritocratic immigration policy.

Despite polls that show large-scale Republican support for Trump, after Hillary Clinton’s likely victory, conservatives will come to realize that they need a more moral (while simultaneously less moralistic) form of Republican politics. This post-Trump soul-searching can accordingly lead to a new coalition of business people, libertarians, progressive conservatives, and even market-friendly Democrats who are worried about the left’s move toward Sanders-style socialism and its intensifying identity politics.
By freeing itself from the backward-looking concerns of nativists, Tea Partiers, and some religious conservatives, this emerging center-right coalition could embrace political issues currently owned by the left—issues such as income inequality, environmentally friendly energy policy, immigration reform, and even a conservative plan for affordable health care.

I know! Let’s get behind Jeb Bush again!

Look, there’s no doubt that this is where institutional conservatism post-Trump is going to want to go, because that’s where the money is. They despise “nativists, Tea Partiers, and some religious conservatives,” though how they think they’re going to win elections by being Jeb! is a mystery. All their friends hate the same people, so hey, what’s not to like? It would be interesting to know where they draw the line between religious conservatives they can live with, and those they can’t, but I’m pretty sure that those who haven’t been tamed on the religious liberty question are going to be on the outs.

If this column is indicative of the lessons the leadership class of the GOP has learned from the Trump revolution, then they bloody well deserve him.

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Erdogan’s Coup Against Liberty

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of Turkey (Drop of Light /
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of Turkey (Drop of Light /

While we’re all knotted up over Trump family oratory, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is busily purging the Turkish state and civil society of all suspected opposition:

Meanwhile, the Turkish government crackdown widened on Tuesday to include the education sector and government departments.
Turkish media announced that:

15,200 teachers and other education staff had been sacked
1,577 university deans were ordered to resign
8,777 interior ministry workers were dismissed
1,500 staff in the finance ministry had been fired
257 people working in the prime minister’s office were sacked
Turkey’s media regulation body on Tuesday also revoked the licences of 24 radio and TV channels accused of links to Mr Gulen.

The news came on top of the arrests of more than 6,000 military personal and the sackings of nearly 9,000 police officers. About 3,000 judges have also been suspended.

The man is clearly using this opportunity to thoroughly and completely Islamize his country and turn it into a one-party dictatorship. He is also threatening to bring back the death penalty so he can use it against alleged traitors.

I wonder if all the democrats who took to the streets to protest the coup and support Erdogan are rethinking things.

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Trump’s Deserved Moment of Triumph

a katz/Shutterstock
a katz/Shutterstock

I get this. I really do. It’s mostly how I feel, though the one consolation I take from this debacle is that genuine creativity may emerge out of Trump’s destruction of the old GOP. It’s a small bit of comfort, but I’ll take what I can. If Marco Rubio or any other of the GOP bunch were being nominated now, I would not be excited at all, or even interested. I prefer that to being freaked out by the prospect of a Trump presidency, but I would prefer to have someone to vote for, instead of against.

But then, I’ve wanted that for years.

Because I’m feeling contrarian, I want to give Donald Trump his due in this, his hour of triumph. He pulled off something that nobody imagined he would do. I remember watching him give a political speech for the first time — my first time watching him, I mean. He was addressing a big crowd in Mobile. I watched the thing nearly gape-mouthed. I could not believe the crudeness, the chaos, and the idiocy of the speech. This won’t go anywhere, I thought, but it’s going to be fun watching him implode.

I laughed a lot at Donald Trump back then. Who’s laughing now?

Here’s Tim Stanley, writing from Cleveland for The Telegraph. Excerpt:

A year ago, Trump was a joke. A media circus. A novelty. We assumed – I assumed – he was in it for the giggles. I thought he’d drop out like he’d down twice before. I thought his total lack of experience, his profanity and his recklessness would count against him in a primary among conservatives. But the very nature of conservatism has changed.

It was likely the rise of Sarah Palin in 2008 that made this possible – a candidate who suggested there was a choice to be made between intellectualism and common sense, and who inspired deep devotion among those who identified with her. Folks don’t identify with Trump in the same, personal way as they did with the hockey mom from Alaska. How can they? He flies everywhere in a private jet and has a model as a wife. But his issues did strike a chord. The Wall cut through.

Trump didn’t just defy the establishment. He defied what we thought for years were the outsiders: the ideological conservatives who hitherto cast themselves as the rebels. By beating Ted Cruz, Trump actually ran an insurgency against the insurgent. He demonstrated that what people wanted wasn’t something more ideologically pure – as Cruz assumed – but something that was totally different.

That is one big positive we can take from this campaign. If Trump can win when challenging the Republican position on trade and war, maybe someone in the future can win while challenging their positions on other things.

Yes, this.

Donald Trump did, in fact, beat the hell out of the GOP Establishment. But let’s also note here that the GOP Establishment beat itself. If you haven’t yet, check out conservative writer Matthew Sheffield’s evisceration of the Republican Industrial Complex. It was e-mailed to me by a Republican friend who until fairly recently was part of that world, and knows about it intimately.

This is also a good time to return to Tucker Carlson’s great Politico piece from January, talking about how the failure of the Republican Industrial Complex created the opening for Trump. Key excerpt:

American presidential elections usually amount to a series of overcorrections: Clinton begat Bush, who produced Obama, whose lax border policies fueled the rise of Trump. In the case of Trump, though, the GOP shares the blame, and not just because his fellow Republicans misdirected their ad buys or waited so long to criticize him. Trump is in part a reaction to the intellectual corruption of the Republican Party. That ought to be obvious to his critics, yet somehow it isn’t.

Consider the conservative nonprofit establishment, which seems to employ most right-of-center adults in Washington. Over the past 40 years, how much donated money have all those think tanks and foundations consumed? Billions, certainly. (Someone better at math and less prone to melancholy should probably figure out the precise number.) Has America become more conservative over that same period? Come on. Most of that cash went to self-perpetuation: Salaries, bonuses, retirement funds, medical, dental, lunches, car services, leases on high-end office space, retreats in Mexico, more fundraising. Unless you were the direct beneficiary of any of that, you’d have to consider it wasted.

Pretty embarrassing. And yet they’re not embarrassed. Many of those same overpaid, underperforming tax-exempt sinecure-holders are now demanding that Trump be stopped. Why? Because, as his critics have noted in a rising chorus of hysteria, Trump represents “an existential threat to conservatism.”

Let that sink in. Conservative voters are being scolded for supporting a candidate they consider conservative because it would be bad for conservatism? And by the way, the people doing the scolding? They’re the ones who’ve been advocating for open borders, and nation-building in countries whose populations hate us, and trade deals that eliminated jobs while enriching their donors, all while implicitly mocking the base for its worries about abortion and gay marriage and the pace of demographic change. Now they’re telling their voters to shut up and obey, and if they don’t, they’re liberal.

It turns out the GOP wasn’t simply out of touch with its voters; the party had no idea who its voters were or what they believed. For decades, party leaders and intellectuals imagined that most Republicans were broadly libertarian on economics and basically neoconservative on foreign policy. That may sound absurd now, after Trump has attacked nearly the entire Republican catechism (he savaged the Iraq War and hedge fund managers in the same debate) and been greatly rewarded for it, but that was the assumption the GOP brain trust operated under. They had no way of knowing otherwise. The only Republicans they talked to read the Wall Street Journal too.

On immigration policy, party elders were caught completely by surprise. Even canny operators like Ted Cruz didn’t appreciate the depth of voter anger on the subject. And why would they? If you live in an affluent ZIP code, it’s hard to see a downside to mass low-wage immigration. Your kids don’t go to public school. You don’t take the bus or use the emergency room for health care. No immigrant is competing for your job. (The day Hondurans start getting hired as green energy lobbyists is the day my neighbors become nativists.) Plus, you get cheap servants, and get to feel welcoming and virtuous while paying them less per hour than your kids make at a summer job on Nantucket. It’s all good.

Apart from his line about Mexican rapists early in the campaign, Trump hasn’t said anything especially shocking about immigration. Control the border, deport lawbreakers, try not to admit violent criminals — these are the ravings of a Nazi? This is the “ghost of George Wallace” that a Politico piece described last August? A lot of Republican leaders think so. No wonder their voters are rebelling.

Read the whole thing. Let it sink in that Carlson wrote this before a single vote had been cast in the GOP primaries.

This year, and this week, in Republican Party politics and in American conservatism has been about nothing but moral, intellectual, and institutional decadence. It did not happen because of Donald Trump. Donald Trump emerged because the institutions were rotten. It is an almost Shakespearean twist that Roger Ailes is being defenestrated from atop the Fox News empire even as Trump receives his crown in Cleveland.

Trump didn’t steal the Republican Party. It was his for the taking, because the people who run it and the institutions surrounding it failed.

When Trump loses in November, maybe, just maybe, some new blood and new ideas will rebuild the party.

And if he wins? We will have far bigger things to worry about than the fate of the Republican Party. We will be forced to contemplate the fate of the Republic itself.

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