Saturday, December 21, 2019
Wednesday, December 18, 2019
Patriotism and the survival of our nation in the face of the crimes, corruption and corrosive nature of Donald Trump are a higher calling than mere politics. As Americans, we must stem the damage he and his followers are doing to the rule of law, the Constitution and the American character.
That's why we are announcing the Lincoln Project, an effort to highlight our country's story and values, and its people's sacrifices and obligations. This effort transcends partisanship and is dedicated to nothing less than preservation of the principles that so many have fought for, on battlefields far from home and within their own communities.
This effort asks all Americans of all places, creeds and ways of life to join in the seminal task of our generation: restoring to this nation leadership and governance that respects the rule of law, recognizes the dignity of all people and defends the Constitution and American values at home and abroad.
Over these next 11 months, our efforts will be dedicated to defeating President Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box and to elect those patriots who will hold the line. We do not undertake this task lightly, nor from ideological preference. We have been, and remain, broadly conservative (or classically liberal) in our politics and outlooks. Our many policy differences with national Democrats remain, but our shared fidelity to the Constitution dictates a common effort.
The 2020 general election, by every indication, will be about persuasion, with turnout expected to be at record highs. Our efforts are aimed at persuading enough disaffected conservatives, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in swing states and districts to help ensure a victory in the Electoral College, and congressional majorities that don't enable or abet Mr. Trump's violations of the Constitution, even if that means Democratic control of the Senate and an expanded Democratic majority in the House.
The American presidency transcends the individuals who occupy the Oval Office. Their personality becomes part of our national character. Their actions become our actions, for which we all share responsibility. Their willingness to act in accordance with the law and our tradition dictate how current and future leaders will act. Their commitment to order, civility and decency are reflected in American society.
Mr. Trump fails to meet the bar for this commitment. He has neither the moral compass nor the temperament to serve. His vision is limited to what immediately faces him — the problems and risks he chronically brings upon himself and for which others, from countless contractors and companies to the American people, ultimately bear the heaviest burden.
But this president's actions are possible only with the craven acquiescence of congressional Republicans. They have done no less than abdicate their Article I responsibilities.
Indeed, national Republicans have done far worse than simply march along to Mr. Trump's beat. Their defense of him is imbued with an ugliness, a meanness and a willingness to attack and slander those who have shed blood for our country, who have dedicated their lives and careers to its defense and its security, and whose job is to preserve the nation's status as a beacon of hope.
Congressional Republicans have embraced and copied Mr. Trump's cruelty and defended and even adopted his corruption. Mr. Trump and his enablers have abandoned conservatism and longstanding Republican principles and replaced it with Trumpism, an empty faith led by a bogus prophet. In a recent survey, a majority of Republican voters reported that they consider Mr. Trump a better president than Lincoln.
Mr. Trump and his fellow travelers daily undermine the proposition we as a people have a responsibility and an obligation to continually bend the arc of history toward justice. They mock our belief in America as something more meaningful than lines on a map.
Our peril far outstrips any past differences: It has arrived at our collective doorstep, and we believe there is no other choice. We sincerely hope, but are not optimistic, that some of those Republicans charged with sitting as jurors in a likely Senate impeachment trial will do likewise.
American men and women stand ready around the globe to defend us and our way of life. We must do right by them and ensure that the country for which they daily don their uniform deserves their protection and their sacrifice.
We are reminded of Dan Sickles, an incompetent 19th-century New York politician. On July 2, 1863, his blundering nearly ended the United States.
(Sickles's greatest previous achievement had been fatally shooting his wife's lover across the street from the White House and getting himself elected to Congress. Even his most fervent admirers could not have imagined that one day, far in the future, another incompetent New York politician, a president, would lay claim to that legacy by saying he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it.)
On that day in Pennsylvania, Sickles was a major general commanding the Union Army's III Corps at the Battle of Gettysburg, and his incompetence wrought chaos and danger. The Confederate Army took advantage, and turned the Union line. Had the rebel soldiers broken through, the continent might have been divided: free and slave, democratic and authoritarian.
Another Union general, Winfield Scott Hancock, had only minutes to reinforce the line. America, the nation, the ideal, hung in the balance. Amid the fury of battle, he found the First Minnesota Volunteers.
They charged, and many of them fell, suffering a staggeringly high casualty rate. They held the line. They saved the Union. Four months later, Lincoln stood on that field of slaughter and said, "It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced."
We look to Lincoln as our guide and inspiration. He understood the necessity of not just saving the Union, but also of knitting the nation back together spiritually as well as politically. But those wounds can be bound up only once the threat has been defeated. So, too, will our country have to knit itself back together after the scourge of Trumpism has been overcome.
George T. Conway III is an attorney in New York. Steve Schmidt is a political strategist who worked for President George W. Bush, Senator John McCain and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. John Weaver is a Republican strategist who worked for President George H.W. Bush, Senator John McCain and Gov. John Kasich. Rick Wilson is a Republican media consultant and author of "Everything Trump Touches Dies" and the forthcoming "Running Against the Devil: A Plot to Save America From Trump and Democrats From Themselves."
Tuesday, December 17, 2019
From: Axios <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Tue, Dec 17, 2019 at 11:37 AM
Subject: Axios Alerts: Trump sends letter to Pelosi railing against impeachment
Monday, December 16, 2019
PASSERSBY AT Claremont United Methodist Church look at its Nativity scene depicting Jesus, Mary and Joseph separated in cages. "We don't see it as political; we see it as theological," the lead pastor said.
It didn't surprise the locals when Claremont United Methodist Church unveiled its annual outdoor Nativity scene this month. In keeping with its spiritual leanings and activist traditions, this was no tender Christ-child-in-the-manger tableau.
Instead, Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus had been separated and locked up in individual chain-link pens, topped by barbed wire fencing.
What shocked people in this suburban Los Angeles County college town was what happened next: An image of the scene posted online by the Rev. Karen Clark Ristine ricocheted across the country. Propelled by social media, it was showcased by virtually every major media outlet and drew a mix of outrage and applause.
The Nativity scene was intended to reflect the plight of immigrants and asylum seekers whose families were separated on our southern border — a process many in the church consider a moral abomination.
"We don't see it as political; we see it as theological," Ristine told Times reporter James Queally. But tens of thousands of people around the U.S. didn't see it that way.
The image has sparked a heated national debate about spiritual boundaries and moral commitments. Its caustic tenor online reflects the state of dialogue in this country today: warped by political divisions, riddled with gratuitous insults and sabotaged by self-righteousness.
The pastor's initial Facebook post was shared more than 24,000 times and drew more than 14,000 comments. Responses ranged from the grateful to the profane.
The church was lauded for taking a bold and compassionate stand on one of the country's most divisive issues. " It's a perfect comparison. Some people just don't want to hear or see the truth. In my world there are no 'illegals.' Thank you for your courageous and profound statement ," wrote one woman in Beverly Hills.
And the church was slammed for inserting politics into what should be an innocent season of goodwill. " May the Heavens send fire to take down your church when it's empty, " one self-identified Christian wrote, adding a praying hands emoji.
And as everything seems to do these days, the debate ultimately morphed into a referendum on Donald Trump, replete with ugly memes disparaging immigrants and promoting white supremacy.
The venom the image generated shook the church community — particularly given the fact that Claremont Methodist has for several years celebrated Christmas with unconventional Nativity scenes built around social justice themes.
In its first departure from the Nativity norm in 2007, Joseph and Mary were a modern homeless couple on a ghetto street. The next year the Holy Family was depicted as war refugees in bombed-out Iraq. In 2009, they were Mexican migrants, halted by the U.S. border wall. In 2010, Mary was an African American woman holding her infant, alone in a prison cell.
Since then, the church has moved beyond Christmas liturgy to take on LGBTQ issues and racism — including one Nativity scene with no Holy Family but two same-sex couples and the label "Christ is Born," and another featuring Joseph and Mary huddled over their baby, a hoodie-clad Trayvon Martin with blood streaming from his chest.
Those drew some backlash. But nothing like this.
Suddenly the 60-year-old church with 300 members became a national poster child for a progressive spiritual movement recognizing the political dimensions of religion.
I understand the discomfort some people feel when the innocent image of the Nativity is recast to spotlight troubling moral issues.
We tend to look at Christmas — the Christmas in our mind, not the one unfolding at the mall — as a respite from the rigors of real life. We turn down the news, turn up the Christmas music and try to cling to the holiday's essential meaning: Hope. Peace. Goodwill. Joy to the world.
We don't want to disturb our cookie baking and home decorating with graphic reminders of the cruelty unfolding in our country, on our watch. We don't want to think about the wrong being done to strangers in our name.
When I look at those caged Nativity scenes, I can't help but feel a sense of shame. My prayers seem puny; my guilt unearned yet unassuaged.
It's uncomfortable, but that's what these Nativity scenes are intended to do: Disturb us enough that we don't let holiday trimmings obscure the need to act against the unjust and inhumane.
Claremont Methodist isn't the only church, now or in the past, to recast the classic Nativity scene to bring political issues to the fore.
Two years ago, a Catholic church in a Boston suburb made mass shootings part of its Nativity theme. This year it features the infant Jesus floating on water littered with plastic bottles, as the three wise men try not to drown. "God so loved the world," it says. "Will we?"
And across the country, Protestant churches in Oklahoma, Illinois and here in Los Angeles are being praised and pilloried for Nativity scenes that use fences to cast Jesus, Mary and Joseph as mistreated modern-day immigrants.
"People say, 'You're just making a political statement, keep politics out of church,' " said the Rev. Keith Mozingo, pastor of Founders Metropolitan Community Church near downtown L.A. "But this is not a political statement. It's a humanitarian voice.
"We can't believe that people are coming here seeking asylum and we're putting them in cages … and taking children away from parents who go months without knowing where their children are. I can't believe this is America," he said. "That's unconscionable to me."
This is the second year that his church has displayed the Holy Family in cages. He was braced for pushback, but there's been very little, he said. A few conservative parishioners were outraged and will no longer attend, and a handful of ugly phone calls have come in.
"But for the most part, people understand; this is part of our commitment," Mozingo told me. His church is rooted in the LGBTQ community. "We're a very diverse congregation. … There are no outsiders here."
But even here, some are wrestling with the feeling that however well-intended the gesture may be, it is hijacking a holy season to promote a secular agenda.
"This is such a sad situation and my heart breaks for those separated," one of Mozingo's Facebook followers wrote. "However, I think this display is so disrespectful to our Lord and Savior. Perhaps you could share this message in a different way."
Mozingo said he understands the sentiment. He remembers his Pentecostal family's reverence for the Nativity scene he'd help his mother set up every year.
"But if this causes a negative reaction, I'm OK with that," he said. "At least they're forced to think about it. … I've done what I'm supposed to do. Now let the Holy Spirit do what he's going to do."
Theologians suggest there is something about the classic Nativity scene that tends to conjure a sense of the sacred, even in people who aren't overtly religious. It's considered one of the central images of Christianity, as potent a symbol as the Crucifixion.
That's what makes the Nativity feel untouchable to some — and like the perfect vehicle for a message to others.
Even the Vatican has gotten in on the act. Three years ago, its Nativity display included a small dinghy and figures from a Maltese fishing village, to represent, the Vatican said, "the realities of migrants who in these same waters cross the sea on makeshift boats to Italy."
For Mozingo, reminding people about the need to act against the wrongs of the world trumps whatever divisiveness the new Nativities might breed.
"It's not about who's in office and what party they are," he said. "From a moral point of view, from a spiritual point of view … I can't imagine in what world this is OK.
Friday, December 13, 2019
By Kim Willsher
PARIS — When the French get angry, the world gets wind of it.
For the last week, bus and train drivers have been on strike, paralyzing the public transportation system. Police officers, teachers, civil servants, hospital staff and many other workers have joined in protests over President Emmanuel Macron's plans to reform the country's complex pension system.
Demonstrations in France are nothing new. Every Saturday for more than a year, French people of all ages and from all walks of life from all areas have donned high-visibility yellow vests to demonstrate their general unhappiness.
Even before the "yellow vest" movement, which started in November 2018 as pushback against proposed fuel tax hikes and exploded into the expression of a general sense of injustice, disgruntled farmers would regularly rumble up the highways in tractors to dump perfectly edible vegetables on the steps of the French Parliament, or truckers would launch an "Operation Escargot," driving at a snail's pace to block major roads.
Puzzling as it may seem in a country that appears to have so much going for it — fine wines, haute cuisine, high fashion and roughly 1,000 different cheeses — the French are Les Misérables. As author Sylvain Tesson told France Inter radio recently: "France is a paradise inhabited by people who believe they're in hell."
Economist Claudia Senik, a professor at the famous Sorbonne University, has studied the French malaise and believes it dates to the 1970s and the end of the "Trente Glorieuses," the 30 postwar years when France boomed.
"It's linked to the way the French view the world and their place in it. They have high expectations about the quality of life, freedoms and many values driven by the French Revolution and this sets a high benchmark for satisfaction," Senik says. "They look back at a golden age when France made the rules of the game, and now we are just another smallish country forced to accept and adapt to rules."
In her research paper, "The French Unhappiness Puzzle," Senik found that even when they leave France to live elsewhere, they take their gloominess with them, suggesting it is not France but being French that makes people unhappy.
"I was surprised to discover that since the 1970s the French have been less happy than others in European countries, much less happy than you'd have thought, given their standard of living, lifestyle, life expectancy and wealth," Senik says. "It's a problem of culture, not circumstance. It's the way they feel, their mentality."
On paper, the French have few reasons to be gloomy: They enjoy free and universal access to an enviable health system ranked first by the World Health Organization, free schools and universities, a maximum 35-hour workweek, six weeks' annual vacation, paid parental leave and an enviable welfare safety net.
Despite the recent strikes, the pension system is comparatively generous: Retirement age is 62, but many workers in the public sector, including train drivers, can retire much earlier, some in their early 50s. It is not all milk and honey: Unemployment is high, especially among the young, and those in the countryside claim — rightly — that rural regions are being "desertified," abandoned by medical professionals and companies.
Christian Malard, foreign news director at one of the state TV channels, France 3, has described his compatriots as "whiners" and declared in an interview that "complaining should be a national sport."
"French melancholia is a puzzling paradox," says Matthew Fraser, an Anglo-Canadian professor at the American University of Paris. "After three decades in France, I have wondered many times how a nation so spoilt, famous for their joie de vivre , are always so bloody miserable?"
Fraser says understanding this misery means looking into the French soul. "The French are philosophically pessimistic. In Anglo-Protestant culture, we are optimistically turned towards the future, driven by the goals of progress and material gain, emboldened by a conviction that anything is possible," he says. "French culture, by contrast, is cynical, fatalist and essentially pessimistic. Anglos live in a 'yes' culture; the French inhabit a 'no' culture.
"Americans consult life coaches with the goal of self-improvement. It's goal-oriented and based on a positive outlook," he says.
"The French see a psychiatrist for a lifetime and never feel their deep-seated troubles have been resolved. French melancholy is inscribed in literature and art. Voltaire satirized optimism in his classic 'Candide.' Later, French existentialism made nihilism fashionable," Fraser adds.
Anne-Elisabeth Moutet is French, but seems happy enough, perhaps because she was educated abroad and has spent time in the United States.
"Is this just one article? I think it needs a series," she jokes.
Moutet, a Paris journalist and political commentator, says the French suffer from "tall poppy syndrome."
"Life is pretty good here and there are a great deal of things the French take for granted that either people in other countries don't expect or that cost money," she says. "The French don't appreciate that.
"In the U.S. you can face bankruptcy if you are ill and don't have health insurance, but when you are not sick you're having fun," she says. "In France you don't have to pay for education or health, but if you say you are happy and prosperous someone will come and cut you down to size. Original thought is not encouraged, tall poppies are not encouraged.
"France is not a 'yes, we can' civilization, it's a 'no, we can't.' We have a saying: If you want to live happily in France, live hidden," Moutet says.
This existential crisis, however, has a serious side. In 2014, a study by the country's National Drug Safety Agency found 32% of French took antidepressants, sleeping pills or other mood-altering medication on a regular or occasional basis.
France's public health authority suggested 7.2% of French adults had attempted suicide at some point and the WHO puts France 17th on its list of suicide rates by population , 10 places higher than the U.S. and well above Iraq (165th), Somalia (141st) and Afghanistan (137th).
The Well-Being Observatory, which carries out quarterly surveys of 2,000 French households , says its research shows French people are most depressed when they are asked about the future. Fewer than 10% are optimistic about prospects for the next generation, and around the same number do not believe their standard of living or finances will improve.
Senik suggests one root of French melancholy is the country's rigid education system that she says fosters intense competition to be the best, leaving the rest to feel inferior, creating unrealistic expectations and fostering distrust and envy. "It doesn't build self-esteem or self-confidence," she says.
In his new book, "Delicious French Unhappiness," Denis Olivennes writes that France has become a "society of mutual detestation."
"The French model, the strong feeling of a common identity culture, is finished. Everyone thinks their neighbor has it better than them and so we all have this intense social resentment, jealousy and mistrust," he writes.
This French happiness paradox is exemplified by the current unrest: Various polls suggest a majority support the need for pension reform, but a majority also support the strikes.
Senik says striking and protesting may be a French cliche, but it is a way for her compatriots to exert their identity and reject the dull homogenization of globalization.
A colorful example of this is the mustachioed sheep farmer José Bové, who famously took a chainsaw to a McDonald's restaurant under construction near Millau in southern France in 1999 and became an instant national hero.
Bové, and his supporters, saw the fast-food chain as the epitome of junk food, nefarious American influence and the horrors of globalization. At the time, as now, France was one of McDonald's biggest markets outside the United States.
Philippe André, a cheerful Frenchman living in Paris, laughs at the contradictions.
"If the French were logical ... well, they wouldn't be French," he says.