By Charlie Johnston
Appeasement is provocative to dictators. It merely encourages them to push harder and intimidate more. Ronald Reagan insisted that we would attain “peace through strength.” When he did so, the left and the media all accused him of being a warmonger – and shrieked that we were “all going to die.”
Any adult who has paid any attention whatsoever since the lead-up to World War II should know that appeasement only inflames and encourages tyrants. The leadership of Vladimir Lenin in the old Soviet Union made it formal internal policy. They would intentionally push further and further until they felt steel resistance, then take what they already had and push in another direction.
It used to be that the media and the left would start shrieking “we’re all gonna die” whenever a conservative took forceful, decisive action against an opponent or terrorist. With Donald Trump, the shrieking goes on whatever he does. If he is restrained, they cry we are all going to die because he is not forceful enough. If he gives tough talk – or tough action – it is that we are all going to die because he provoked the people that were threatening or killing our people in the first place.
Tough action took a hit when former President George W. Bush expanded it to nation-building. In the Middle East, at least, that got us into some ugly quagmires. Most everyone now treats it as an article of faith that nation-building is an exercise doomed to failure and pretends that they have always believed this. I supported the nation-building efforts of Bush. I thought the effort to bring liberty to a nation was a noble effort, and a universal good. Had it worked, it would have given real stability to the region and gained some valuable allies. It had worked spectacularly with Japan and Germany after World War II. My first real misgivings about it came when there was such crowing about successfully holding elections in these nations. Elections are the residue of liberty, not the substance. A commitment to a bill of rights and the rule of law is the substance. In 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany after his party won huge gains in the elections of 1932. By emphasizing elections without first securing a commitment to basic human rights under the rule of law, we put the cart way before the horse. In the fanatical cauldron that is the Middle East, I suspect we would have failed even had we put the horse before the cart, as whoever has power tends to use it to oppress opponents rather than on behalf of the whole nation. Nonetheless, it is irritating to see people who were far more hawkish than I ever was now pretend that they opposed it from the start.
Some of the more moderate Never-Trumpers are wise enough to acknowledge Trump’s good results. They insist, however, that he is doing it all by the seat of his pants with no over-arching strategy. They are a bunch of arrogant know-nothings. At this point, it is pretty clear what Trump’s policy is. He will talk tough and is glad to match a tyrant’s bluster with his own. If you hurt or kill American citizens, he will strike hard, fast and in a way that draws real blood. Then he will give you an off-ramp, if you will take it. It is both elegant and effective. So far, he has done it consistently and with surgical precision. Opponents now know pretty well what his red lines are, that he will hurt them badly if they cross them, that he is not impressed with their tough talk – which he will match with his own, and that if they stay away from his red lines, he is willing to negotiate and work with them. Frankly, that promotes a predictability and stability in world affairs that makes America safer.
We have had a lifetime to learn and see that tyrants are encouraged by appeasement to mount new provocations. Trump has developed a disciplined policy that kicks back without drawing us into quagmires. Let’s leave the shrieking about how we’re all going to die if we defend ourselves to the left, the media, and feckless religious conferences. (Christian organizations were not always feckless: we once had a muscular Christianity that would instigate nothing but robustly finish any fight that others started. We will have that Christianity again within my lifetime.)
I am flabbergasted that, in the last few weeks, officials on the left and in the establishment media have been all but openly siding with the terrorists against America. How anyone can consider this a good look for them is beyond me. I think this year will very much be the beginning of the ballad of the ordinary man in our politics and culture. It is one thing to argue that victims should not be able to defend themselves – but to apply this philosophy to the entire nation and the west in general is culturally suicidal. To then lionize and celebrate the very people that kill and plot the killing of fellow Americans is to beg to be shown the exit by ordinary Americans who are tired of seeing their sons and daughters killed – and the media lionizing their killers.
The elite anti-American classes got a warning shot across their bow with Ricky Gervais’ opening monologue, torching Hollywood pretensions, at the Golden Globe awards. It follows J.K. Rowlings’ refusal to bend the knee to transgender lobbyists. Neither of these folks are conservative by a long shot. This should tell the insane left that not only ordinary people, but some of their own fellow travelers are getting fed up with the nonsense. Self-awareness, though, is not a trait among shrieking leftists. Their bill will come due this year.
You probably know that on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020, a Ft. Worth judge ruled that Cook Hospital could pull the plug on baby Tinslee Lewis. Within an hour of the ruling, I received an email from Jim Graham, president of Texas Right to Life (TRTL), that the Lewis family would appeal the decision and that TRTL would be right beside them. The very next day, the 2nd Court of Appeals agreed to hear the case and ordered Cook Hospital to continue treatment until the appeal has been heard and decided on.
Tinslee’s mother, Trinity, has been through an exhausting and challenging roller-coaster through these battles, but is determined to fight for her daughter’s life. Trinity maintains that the hospital has exaggerated the downsides of Tinslee’s condition, has refused procedures that would make it safer to transfer Tinslee elsewhere, and intimates that the hospital has made up some things out of whole cloth. Having been intimately involved in three such battles previously, that is behavior that I have seen consistently before. Once a hospital committee decides you should die, they are as creative as Adam Schiff in making up reasons why, regardless of whether those reasons have any relation to the truth.
Both the Texas Atty. Gen. and the Gov. have sought to bring the 10-day law back to the drawing board, to protect patient’s rights or to get the current oddity that is Texas law declared unconstitutional. More than a few media outlets have started to notice that something strange is going on in Texas. As vigorously as it protects new life, it reserves to itself (or to its hospitals) the right to impose death sentences on the innocent later in life. The questions here are not over a particular case, but who should decide; the patient and his family or a bureaucratic board that has no familial connection to the patient – and how long should a hospital give a family to find alternate care if it decides it will no longer provide care.
One unintentionally comical upshot since this story has gone national is that Ft. Worth Bishop Michael Olson offered last week to help the Lewis family, “in seeking compassionate and appropriate care for her in a Catholic health care facility.” It is ironic because Olson was the driving force in getting the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops (TCCB) to support the law taking such decisions out of the hands of family in the first place. Bishop Olson is also feeling the heat of an effort to canonically remove him by people in the Diocese. Almost 2,000 people have given individual mandates seeking his removal. I hope the Bishop has, um, gotten religion, as it were. We’ll see. Meantime, it is thanks to TRTL that Tinslee and her family have a fighting chance.
Every day, I hear from people complaining of some offense to the faith that Pope Francis has given. In all candor, I don’t pay a lot of attention anymore. I have come to accept that the question, “Is the Pope Catholic?” is no longer rhetorical – and that, for good or ill, this thing is going to play out until all God intends from it is accomplished.
I do find it deeply offensive that the Pope cannot seem to disagree with other Catholics without mocking them in an ugly fashion. On the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe last month, the Pope called efforts to get Mary declared Co-Redemptrix “foolishness.” The late Anthony Mullen, founding head of the Flame of Love Movement in the United States, painstakingly explained to me the rationale behind this proposal, which he firmly advocated. Despite this, I am unsold on this proposition, while respectful of those who advocate for it. (I may very well be wrong. St. Thomas Aquinas was not sold on the concept of the Immaculate Conception. So better men than me have been wrong before). For the life of me, though, I cannot figure out why the Pope would be dismissive and insulting to some of the most committed, faithful Catholics in the Church.
On the other hand, I do not think the Pope deserved the opprobrium he got for slapping the hand of a woman who grabbed his arm on New Year’s Eve. The video shows she nearly jerked his arm out of its socket. That would make anyone a bit cranky, I think.
As you all know, I am not sympathetic to the view that Pope Emeritus Benedict’s resignation was invalid. As I have said before, public actions that were accepted by those responsible at the time are not made invalid by technical deficiencies. It happens all the time – and the proper time to litigate such perceived deficiencies is at the time the action is being approved or rejected. The main caveat on this is that it does not apply when evidence is later uncovered that fraud was involved. If those who wanted to declare the conclave invalid focused on the actions of the St. Gallen Mafia, I think they would be onto something serious. Cardinals are forbidden from scheming before a conclave to get a pre-determined outcome. Once a conclave begins they, of course, engage in politicking, for that is how all public decisions are ultimately made. But forbidding factions before a conclave is an important way to leave room for the Holy Spirit in their deliberations. Scheming beforehand IS the sort of scandalous fraud that could invalidate a conclave.
This jumped to mind as I read one of the most incredibly absurd arguments I have ever seen on the subject. Br. Alexis Bugnolo, a leading advocate of the idea that Francis is not legitimately elected, actually argues that, “Anyone who appeals to anything which Pope Benedict said before or after Feb. 28, 2013, to explain that the Renunciation means the renunciation of the papacy, or of the petrine munus, or of the power of governance IS IMPLICITLY AFFIRMING THAT POPE BENEDICT IS STILL THE POPE AND THAT THE RENUNCIATION WAS INVALID.”
This crosses the line from tendentiousness into sheer moon-bat stuff. By this logic, Richard Nixon is still President of the United States because he said he was resigning on Aug. 9, 1974. That is proof positive that he never resigned. (Sarcasm alert). I have deep sympathy for all who are trying to navigate the deep offenses this Pope often makes against the faithful – but I sure wish all those who are trying to find their way would endeavor NOT to sound like Adam Schiff assuring us he has absolute proof that Donald Trump colluded with the Russians. A little temperance and prudence go a long way to making a case – and the lack of it discredits the case you are trying to make.
My boycott of the National Football League is over. Colin Kaepernick and his ilk have been completely discredited, even if they do get off a yelp every now and again. I reckon I will never watch it as frequently as once I did, but I am enjoying the playoffs this year.
Thing is, though, I have key friends and organizers in all but five NFL cities, so no matter who plays who, some of my friends are going to be happy and some are going to be disappointed. So I keep my preferences in each game to myself – except for my loyalty to the Chicago Bears and the Denver Broncos. And also, as I have an enthusiast in the front office of the Kansas City Chiefs, I can publicly root for them – which comes in right handy this year.
A dear friend wryly asked me what the favorite Christmas Carol is in mental institutions. Grinning broadly, he said, “Do You Hear What I Hear?”
I laughed – but it did hit close to home 😉