By Charlie Johnston
It has been a challenging week. Last Sunday I had one of my periodic neurological episodes. When it happens, my mind gets fuzzy, my head gets sweaty, the pain spikes terribly, and I get nauseous. Not pleasant, but I was about two months overdue – and I kind of look forward to it, for if I stay quiet, it seems to reset me to renewed vigor within a week. Beyond that, the news of the last week kept me poised between baffled wonder and furious anger. Best to get a little perspective when such fundamental things are taking place and being revealed.
We seem poised at the edge of a fulcrum. For all my seasoned analytical acuity I remain, at heart, a somewhat naïve optimist. That is why the events of the last week shocked me to my core.
I was not surprised at what the Nunes Memo – and then the less-redacted Graham-Grassley criminal referral revealed about devastatingly serious and criminal misconduct at the highest levels of government. The evidence had already compellingly shown that top levels of the justice and intelligence communities had conspired to rig the 2016 presidential election for Hillary Clinton. Then, failing that, the criminal conspiracy morphed into the only serious coup attempt in American history. It didn’t start as a coup attempt. It began as an effort by smug elites in the deep state to ensure that Donald Trump did not become president. Once it failed, the conspirators realized they had committed a myriad of felonies they never expected to be exposed – and could go to prison if it came out. So they mounted a coup attempt, with a phony “Russian collusion” investigation against Trump. They probably got the idea to use that as the spear point because that is precisely what Democrats and Clinton had actually done: colluded with Russian agents to try to guarantee Trump would lose. None of this surprised me. The evidence started pointing in that direction last March. It had been slowly being confirmed more tightly every month since – and the very efforts of the FBI and Justice Dept. to stonewall Congressional inquiries solidified that theory’s credibility. In the last few weeks, the documentary evidence has made it indisputable fact. What shocked me was the reaction among Democrats, the legacy media, leftists, and Never-Trumpers to the mountain of evidence.
I came of age in the Nixon years, working for the Republican Congressman, Robert McClory, who wrote the Third Article of Impeachment against Nixon. I am no stranger to partisan wrangling, but I was proud that, on fundamental issues, we are Americans first and partisans second. It made me a little misty that, when the choice was between honor at the cost of sure losses in power for a time, my then-party chose honor despite the cost. The long-term health of the republic required it…and they stood up for America. Not a single Democrat of any prominence has stood up for America in this hideous scandal, a scandal multiple orders of magnitudes greater than Watergate ever approached. It horrifies me that there are no honorable men, no patriots, left in the Democratic Party. But that is all I can conclude. Astonishingly, they argue that corrupting the courts, using slimy political opposition research to open investigations, making up lies and smears, perverting government offices and using raw official power to harass and take down opponents is no big deal – a ‘nothingburger’ – at least, I presume, if the opponents are conservatives.
They lie and manipulate in astonishingly brazen fashion. Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking minority member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence routinely tells lies that he knows will be revealed as lies within days – and when they are exposed, he just glibly jumps on to the next lie, trusting that a compliant legacy media will not hold him to account today for what he just said yesterday. His trust is not ill-founded. He is not alone: the entire Democratic caucus lied that Trump’s tax plan would raise almost everyone’s taxes – when they knew it would lower the taxes of over 80% – and that that truth would be revealed within a month. But they told the lie anyway. I guess they were hoping their histrionics might tank the bill and then they could posture as the saviors of the people. But it passed – and more evidence, bonuses and raises showered out like candy at Christmas, showed them to be rank liars. Even in their lies, they set up methods of manipulation. For example, they falsely claimed that the Nunes Memo would endanger national security by revealing intelligence sources and methods. The carefully vetted Nunes Memo did no such thing, as was proven when it was released. The Democrats voted unanimously to keep it from being released. After it was released anyway, they set about writing their own memo. The Republicans voted unanimously to approve releasing it – under the same strict vetting process the Nunes Memo went through. The Democrats cried that the Republicans were trying to suppress their memo – because they insisted it go through the same vetting. Even more perniciously, the Democrats have reportedly embedded actual intelligence sources and methods info in their memo, not because (presumably) they actually want to disclose such things, but to force Pres. Trump to redact those passages, which will allow them to claim he censored them. Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said that you can tell what the Democrats are doing because it is always what they accuse Republicans of. That has been right in almost every particular. It is cynical and dishonorable – but this last week has shown the Democrats have nothing left but the raw will to power. They get away with it because the compliant legacy media has abandoned any pretense of journalism to aggressively support the progressive agenda, facts and truth be damned.
The legacy media has spent the last few weeks eagerly trying to suppress the documentary evidence revealing this coup attempt – and the evidence that the collusion narrative they have so eagerly plied for over a year is a complete fraud. Meantime, the media has spun relentlessly, trying to make it no big deal when they can’t fully suppress the documentary evidence. I understand the impetus: these revelations reveal the media to be comprised of fools and clowns rather than superior (or even marginally competent) intellects. This is a consequence of having chosen, back in 2008, that they would no longer be content to try to be accurate chroniclers, but instead fully partisan activists. Such are the consequences when the weak and the stupid try to impose their will. Yet even with the hideous embarrassment involved, one would think there would be some vestigial sense of honor and decency among at least some in the legacy media. One would be wrong – and this one is shocked that there are no vestiges of honor and decency left in the establishment portion of the Fourth Estate.
In their will to power, the Democrats and the legacy media abandoned all respect for facts, evidence and logic. What they did well is sell themselves as the ‘cool kids’ of modern culture. It takes actual work and dedication to actually be smart and informed. It takes nothing but attitude to suck up to – and believe yourself to be – one of the ‘cool kids.’ A whole swath of the population now bathes itself in unearned self-esteem, sneering at those who actually do the work to be well-informed and smart. As the revelations have piled up, I have seen a multitude of commenters on websites and social media, lacking an argument, sneer at someone, “You should watch something besides Fox (or Faux) News.” In my private daily briefing, I survey information from a multitude of sources, including conservative sites such as National Review, Townhall, The Federalist, The America Spectator and the Wall Street Journal editorial page. I also survey information from the legacy media, including all the alphabet networks, the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune. You know what the difference between Fox News and the Legacy Media is? When checked against documentary evidence, about 85% of Fox’s contentious assertions prove accurate. The legacy media’s most contentious assertions mostly turn out to be an amalgam of malicious rumors, intentional ignorance, raw suppression of hard facts that contradict their narrative, and bald-faced lies. It is as if, after giving an erudite talk on astronomy based on hard science, the ‘cool kids’ sneered, “You rube…why don’t you try the astrology page of the National Enquirer to get some REAL information on astronomy.” I agree with the best quote Peggy Noonan ever came up with: I am sick to death of being condescended to by my inferiors. The problem for the ‘cool kids’ is that, this time, the evidence is so mountainous and compelling that they are going to be exposed for the malicious and empty vessels they are. They don’t have to remain that way. They can lose the attitude and actually become well-informed. But it will take a lot more work than just sucking up to their favorite late-night comedian or snarky low-information anchor.
Then there are the Never-Trumpers, ostensible ‘conservatives’ who are so offended by Trump’s style that no evidence of conservative accomplishment will stop their fiery hatred for him. I am not talking about the ‘conservatives’ at legacy media outlets. A hard and fast rule is that any nation whose name begins with, “The People’s Republic of…” is NOT a republic at all. So it is with such ‘conservatives’ at legacy media outlets: they are just stealth leftists trying to bamboozle actual rank-and-file conservatives. I am not even talking about Bill Kristol, founder of the Weekly Standard and leader of the Never-Trump movement: I knew fully a decade ago that if it ever got to a real, principled fight, Kristol would be the first ‘conservative’ out the door and collaborating with the left. He has always been a Vichy conservative. But it has disheartened me to see such serious, intellectual conservatives as Jonah Goldberg and Kevin Williamson become so unhinged by their white-hot hatred for Trump that they can barely speak of anything else and will not credit him for anything. Those two, a few years ago, were among my four or five must-read columnists. Now, I check in every couple of weeks to see if the fever has abated. Sadly, it has not. And they have become utterly dishonorable in their opposition, trying to spin any accomplishment into a failure. They have become unreadable. The occasional forays to check to see if they have anything to say other than how very much they hate Trump are painful and embarrassing. It has reinforced in me the certainty that you must not give in to raw hatred, for it will consume you and destroy the good you once did, while eating away your honor.
The odd thing is that Trump is not the most volatile or provocative president by a long shot. He is a much milder iteration of Andrew Jackson, a president rated by most historians as near-great, despite his volcanic temperament. Lefties often sneeringly ask how religious conservatives can possibly support a man with a past as occasionally sleazy as Trump’s. That is an easy one: confronted with a sleazy progressive like Clinton who overtly wanted to destroy religious liberty, force nuns to provide contraception and abortion coverage; punish bakers, florists and other small businesses for refusing to participate in same-sex ‘marriages;’ and destroy conscience rights for doctors and other medical professionals and a man with a dicey past who promises to protect those fundamental liberties, I am under no obligation to support those who want to destroy me to avoid hypocrisy. Period. Beyond that, I think Trump is undergoing a transformative deepening of faith. I saw some evidence of that, personally, before the election. I think Melania has had a good influence on him. I know, personally, that he really prefers the quality of serious evangelical Protestants and orthodox Catholics around him. He’s still Trump – all bold colors and no pale pastels – but I think his respect for American tradition has become reverence. I have come to admire him even when I don’t admire his most volcanic eruptions. I think he is a flawed, but good, man, finding his way – and that we are all better for it.
Many people are unnerved about the convulsions in the stock market this last week. I have been expecting a serious correction. I hope this one does not degenerate into a silly panic. The reality is that the stock market has been propped up by paper clips and rubber bands for almost a decade – mainly by accounting tricks to keep it looking good. In the process, it became seriously over-valued. During the Obama years I was much more concerned by the erosion of the fundamentals in the economy than the performance of the stock market. Unemployment rivalled that of the Great Depression – and counting tricks were used to mask that. To call productivity anemic in those years would be to profoundly overate it. Real gains in the stock market must roughly mirror national productivity. The more-than-doubling of the national debt created massive fundamental pressure on the economy. Fortunately, real unemployment is tumbling and real productivity is booming. Those fundamentals may help us weather some serious headwinds in the economy that we will have to face. Obamanomics put us in a box canyon. To continue to keep interest rates and inflation low would keep the economy stagnant and unemployment extremely high. But to actually give the economy fuel for growth had serious perils of its own. Right now, fully an eighth of federal revenues are required merely to service the interest on the debt. Even small increases in interest rates could cause that to skyrocket. Meantime, China is the biggest holder of paper on the American debt. If China quit buying or called the debt, we would be in deep trouble. To have given our most serious geo-political adversary such control over our financial health is horrific. While America is finally experiencing real growth rather than accounting acrobatics, if we are to avoid a deadly serious setback, we MUST dramatically cut back government spending. I am far less concerned about the volatility of the stock market this last week than I am about the massive increases in spending incorporated in the budget deal. If even Republican officials do not know how perilous the massive debt is, we will not avoid a major economic collapse.
Then there is the Vatican. In a year of many disheartening moments, this last month was the most disheartening of all. The Vatican’s effort to get Chinese Bishops who have endured 70 years of persecution and oppression, jail and chains, to step aside in favor of ‘bishops’ appointed by the atheist communist party, is a betrayal of Judas-level magnitude. The Pope is not infallible in matters of diplomacy or administration – and boy, the Vatican seems determined to prove it with this one. When the head of several pontifical academies declares that “…right now, those who are best implementing the social doctrine of the Church are the Chinese,” as Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo did last week, I cannot help but wonder whether it is pure malice or sheer ignorance. The Church I signed up to does not include forced abortions, vivisection of religious dissidents, selling their organs for profit, and jailing political opponents, just to name a few common Chinese atrocities, as part of its social doctrine. The dispute over the child-abuse enabling Bishop appointed in Chile is too ugly for me to talk about right now.
My daughter, after a long period of addictive substance abuse, has been sober for a year. She is happy and grateful to have left that darkness behind her. A few months ago, in the course of a conversation in light of her dawning re-awareness of the world around her, she suddenly asked me what in heaven’s name is going on with the Church. I chuckled and told her that nothing has changed from the things I taught her as a girl: right is still right, wrong is still wrong, and this will pass. Keep doing what she is doing. She sighed with relief and said, “I thought so, but I figured I better check.”
Everything is coming to a head. God would have spared Sodom for as few as 10 righteous men. In Judges 7, Gideon was preparing to face the vastly superior Midianites with 32,000 men. But God wanted to demonstrate His supreme power, so 22,000 of the men were given leave to quit the field. God thought that even 10,000 were too many for the decisive show of His sovereignty He intended. So a test was set up that left only 300 men on Gideon’s side. With those 300 men under Gideon’s command, God routed the Midianites completely. God intended that there be no room for the Israelites to think they had delivered themselves, lest they become as proud, haughty and impious as the Midianites themselves.
Everything is coming to a head. The battle is in God’s hands. Let us all endeavor to be counted among His 300.