Thursday, May 25, 2017

Debt ceiling battle heats up again

Think that confrontations over the debt ceiling left town with the Obama? You might want to think again.

“I urge you to raise the debt limit before you leave for the summer” [on July 28], Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday according to the Wall Street Journal. Mnuchin said that he prefers a clean increase without conditions.

In response, the House Freedom Caucus released a statement opposing a clean increase. “The U.S. federal government is drowning in debt, yet continues to spend into oblivion on the backs of future taxpayers,” the statement said. “We have an obligation to the American people to tackle Washington’s out of control spending and put in place measures to get our country on the right fiscal course.”

The Freedom Caucus adopted a three-fold position on the issue. First, they categorically oppose a clean increase. Second, the group agrees that the debt ceiling should be address by Congress before it recesses for the summer. Finally, the statement demands “that any increase of the debt ceiling be paired with policy that addresses Washington’s unsustainable spending by cutting where necessary, capping where able, and working to balance in the near future.”

The government reached the debt ceiling imposed by Congress in March. Since then, the Treasury Department has been using cash conservation methods to keep the government operating. The shuffling of funds is a temporary solution that typically is only viable for a few months.

Previous estimates indicated that congressional action on the debt limit would need to be taken by late September or early October. Earlier this week, budget director Mick Mulvaney told Politico that the date might come sooner than expected.

“My understanding that the [tax] receipts, currently, are coming in slower than expected and you may soon hear from [Treasury Secretary Steven] Mnuchin about a change in the date,” Mulvaney said before the House Budget Committee.

The US national debt currently stands at $19.9 trillion. The House Freedom Caucus and other Republicans fought the Obama Administration on the debt ceiling several times during the past eight years. In exchange for increasing the debt limit, the GOP was able to win some concessions on spending from Obama and the Democrats. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Manchester bombing shows danger of homegrown terror

The terrorist bombing of the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester has intruded on the discussion of walls and travel bans in the United States. The unpleasant truth about terrorists is that it is too late to keep them out. They are already here.

The Manchester bomber was reported to be Salman Abedi, 22. According to The Telegraph, Abedi was born in Manchester to parents who immigrated from Libya. He was a British citizen who was educated locally in British schools and had only become radicalized recently.

The problem is the same in the United States. Many of the terrorist attacks carried out against Americans over the past few years were committed by American citizens. One of the first instances of homegrown terrorism was the 2009 Fort Hood massacre in which Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan, a native of Virginia, murdered 13 people and wounded 32 others. Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the San Bernadino terrorists, was a natural born US citizen. His wife was a Pakistani national who had entered the country legally. Omar Mateen, the terrorist who attacked Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, was born in California. Many other terrorist attacks were also carried out by self-radicalized Muslims who were native-born US citizens.

A common denominator in many attacks is that the terrorist was the son of immigrant parents, but this is not true in all cases. For example, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, who shot up a army recruiting office in Little Rock in 2009, was born Carlos Bledsoe to a family of Tennessee Baptists. Likewise, Zale Thompson, who attacked NYPD officers with a hatchet in 2014, was a convert to Islam.

Building a border wall or enforcing a travel ban will not protect Americans from terrorists who are also Americans. In the age of the internet, sermons of radical clerics like Anwar al-Awlaki and terrorist propaganda from groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda are easily accessible online. Potential terrorists can become indoctrinated and plan attacks from the comfort of their own homes without training or direction from group leaders in the Middle East.

If citizenship is an “unreliable” indicator of terrorism, as a Department of Homeland Security report said last February, how can authorities identify and stop terrorists without simply waiting for them to strike? Security forces have several good options at their disposal to find and stop terrorists before they have a chance to kill.

First, jihadi websites provide a means for radical preachers and recruiters to cross borders easily. They should be monitored and/or shut down. Terrorist websites that attempt to incite terrorism or show propaganda videos of terrorist killings should be fair game for cyberattacks to take them offline. When jihadi websites are up and running, valuable intelligence might be gained if counterterrorism officials can determine who they are talking to. When prospective terrorists in the United States can be identified, they can be singled out for additional scrutiny.

There are valid civil liberty concerns about government surveillance, but constitutional freedoms don’t apply to foreign nationals broadcasting messages from outside the United States. Freedom of religion and freedom of speech don’t include the right to incite violence.

It is also necessary to develop a network of friendly Muslims to report radicals who use American mosques as recruiting centers. Some radical mosques have been hotbeds of terrorism in both Europe and the United States. For example, Fort Hood terrorist, Nidal Hasan had attended the same mosque in Falls Church, Va. as two of the September 11 hijackers. The imam was Anwar al-Awlaki, a New Mexico-born al Qaeda spokesman, who was killed by a drone strike in Yemen in 2011. Religious freedom should be respected, but a balance needs to be struck between tolerance for Muslims and disregarding dangerous and violent teachings.

Rather than a travel ban, authorities should closely monitor people who travel to terrorist hotspots. For example, the Tsarnaev brothers, the Boston Marathon bombers, traveled to Dagestan, a Russian republic riddled with Islamic terrorism, but the FBI and counterterror agents never pieced together the available information to identify the men as a threat. Dagestan, formerly called Chechnya, is not on the list of countries subject to the travel ban. As American citizens, the Tsarnaevs would not have been prevented from reentering the US even if it had been.

An additional method for preventing terrorism is the use of sting operations. FBI stings, in which agents play the role of terror group handlers for prospective terrorists, have led to numerous arrests in recent years. The targets of the stings are often homegrown, lone wolf radicals whose posts on social media have caused concern. Some critics argue that the stings are entrapment, but the tactic is an important one for rooting out radicals who might otherwise be invisible until too late.

Finally, the immigration system should be reformed to tackle the problem of people who enter the country legally and then overstay their visa. Far more illegal immigrants overstay their visas than cross the Mexican border. According to the Department of Homeland Security, hundreds of thousands of visitors to the US stay illegally and there is currently no effective system to track and deport them. No one knows how many might be radicals.

The face of Islamic terrorism has changed since September 11. Attacks by foreign operatives who infiltrate into a country to carry out hijackings or bombings is increasingly rare due to heightened security at airports and borders. The next step is to address the threat of US citizens who have joined the radicals. Finding and stopping homegrown radicals is difficult, but it isn’t impossible.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Young voters are deserting the GOP in droves

Young voters have never been a strong demographic for the Republican Party. The group was one of the core areas of support for Barack Obama and conventional wisdom has held for years that young voters trend liberal and then become more conservative as they get older. A recent study from Pew Research disputes the conventional wisdom and has alarming news for the GOP.

The Pew study included several surveys of voters of all ages over a 15-month period from December 2015 through March 2017. The survey found that about one in ten voters from both parties switched parties at some point during the 2016 election season. The numbers were similar for all age groups across party lines with one exception.

Almost half (44 percent) of Republicans aged 18-29 left the party at some point during the campaign. About half (21 percent) of these young Republicans returned by March, but 23 percent still identified or leaned Democrat two months into the Trump presidency.

“What makes these figures even more striking is the stability of nearly every other age group within both parties,” Republican pollster Kristin Soltis Anderson writes in the Washington Examiner. “On the Democratic side, roughly three-quarters of their voters stuck with the Democratic Party through and through – including those younger voters who supposedly felt so disillusioned with the Democratic Party over the treatment of Bernie Sanders.”

The leftward movement of young Republicans was partially offset in 2016 by the rightward movement of older voters. About a quarter of Baby Boomer Democrats left the party with 14 percent still identifying as Republican in March 2017.

“These voters no doubt played a large role in the success of Trump in states and counties with many ‘Reagan Democrats’ who were drawn to the GOP with Trump's message,” Anderson says.

Nevertheless, Anderson sees long-term problems for the GOP. “The half of young Republicans who wobbled or left the party altogether were die-hard enough to be on board with the GOP all the way through the moment that Trump sat well atop the primary polls,” she says. Young Republicans who deserted the party to Barack Obama, because of the government shutdown or due to the party’s early embrace of Trump were already gone by December 2015 when the survey started.

Current trends suggest that young voters are also not becoming more conservative as they get older. Anderson pointed out in a separate column that both Generation X and Millennial voters are moving more to the left as they age.

“The Boomers got more conservative, Gen X got a little more Democratic, and over the last 10 years, the millennials got more liberal,” Anderson says. “It's not just that Democrats have held a consistent advantage over the GOP with this generation (and they have – by massive margins), it's that the proportion calling themselves liberal Democrats has increased substantially since the 2012 election.”

Demographic trends are not written in stone. The shift of young voters to the left is not foreordained for upcoming elections, but business-as-usual conservative politics will not win the group to the Republican Party. It will likely require an earthshaking event or a politician with a special connection to younger voters.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Infowars claims to have White House press passes

 Infowars says it is going mainstream, at least as far as the White House press pool is concerned.

The conspiracy site founded by talk show conspiracy monger Alex Jones is claiming that it has been issued White House press credentials. Infowars says, “In an epic blow to the mainstream media’s control of the narrative, Infowars has officially received White House Press Credentials that will allow Washington Bureau Chief Jerome Corsi to attend White House press briefings.”

Infowars Washington bureau chief Jerome Corsi backed up the claim with a tweet that pictured him in the White House press briefing room. In the tweet, Corsi said, “We have WH PRESS CREDENTIALS. I'm in WH May 22, 2017” [emphasis his].

Both Infowars and Corsi are associated with conspiracy theories and fake news. Infowars has promoted conspiracy theories about numerous topics including the Sandy Hook school massacre and the September 11 attacks. The site was also a prime instigator of the Jade Helm hysteria in 2015 in which fake news sites convinced thousands of residents of Texas that President Obama and the US military were about to declare martial law.

The Russian conspiracy to interfere with the election and help Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton seems to the be the only conspiracy that Infowars has not embraced. On several occasions, the site has published articles purporting to debunk the claims of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians as well as claims that the WikiLeaks email dumps cost Hillary the election.

Jerome Corsi, the fake news site’s new Washington bureau chief, is a good fit for Infowars. In addition to contributing to Infowars, Corsi has also been a writer at World Net Daily, another well-known fringe site. Corsi has also embraced many conspiracy theories over the years, including September 11 conspiracies and the belief that George W. Bush was about to unite the US, Mexico and Canada in a North American Union. Corsi is best known for his advocacy of the conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was not a natural born US citizen.

Other journalists disputed the Infowars claim that they were granted full press access. Trey Yingst of One America News tweeted that Corsi’s pass was a “day pass White House credential, not a permanent press pass” and noted “High school students can apply for day passes.” Mike Warren of the Weekly Standard tweeted a similar claim.

Corsi claimed in a subsequent tweet that the mainstream media was “insane.” Corsi stands by the claim that Infowars has full press credentials, saying, “WH issues weekly credentials for 3 months to start.”

Even though the Trump Administration has previously issued press credentials to the Gateway Pundit, another conspiracy site, it would be surprising if Infowars were be granted full White House press access. Infowars is one of several sites known to be under investigation by the FBI as part of the probe into Russian meddling in the election. McClatchy News reported in March that the FBI’s counterintelligence division was examining the role of Russian operatives who blitzed social media with pro-Trump stories from sites such as Infowars, Breitbart, RT and Sputnik News.

Infowars reports are as real as professional wrestling. Earlier this year, Alex Jones’s attorney in a custody dispute denied in court that Jones believed the stories that he promoted on his website and broadcasts. “He’s playing a character,” attorney Randall Wilhite said of Jones in the Austin American-Statesman. “He is a performance artist.”

The claim by Infowars and Corsi that the site has received press credentials seems to exaggerated. As Business Insider reports, the temporary pass was even issued on a day in which the president was out of the country and Sean Spicer was not giving a briefing. In essence, the story is just another piece of Jones’s “performance art.”

President Trump also has a history of promoting conspiracies. The president pushed the Obama birth certificate conspiracy for years. Trump has also endorsed conspiracy theories about vaccines, September 11 and even claimed that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination. With a history as a reality television star, Trump may have been acting as a performance artist as well. At this point, it does not seem that Trump is willing to go as far as normalizing Infowars, however. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Kim Dotcom Claims He Knew Seth Rich

Accused software pirate and internet entrepreneur, Kim Dotcom, has released a statement claiming that he communicated with murdered DNC staffer, Seth Rich. Dotcom posted the statement on his website.  

According to Dotcom’s account, he met Rich online, when a person with the handle, “Panda,” contacted him about starting a US branch of Dotcom’s Internet Party in 2014. Dotcom claims that Panda was actually Seth Rich, but does not explain how he learned Panda’s identity. Dotcom does not say if he ever met Panda or Rich in person.

Dotcom said that the referred to what he had learned from Panda when discussed WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, in a 2015 interview with Bloomberg (shorter clip here). When asked about a tweet in which he said that he would be “Hillary’s worst nightmare in 2016,” Dotcom answered, “Well, I have to say it’s probably more Julian. But I’m aware of some of the things that are going to be roadblocks for her.” When pressed, Dotcom denied that he knew specifically what Assange had planned.

In the statement, Dotcom declined to give further details, saying “my full statement should be provided to the authorities and I am prepared to do that so that there can be a full investigation.” Dotcom asked for “a guarantee from Special Counsel Mueller, on behalf of the United States, of safe passage from New Zealand to the United States and back” if he is required to come to the US to present his evidence. Dotcom is currently fighting extradition from New Zealand to the US, where he faces charges of money laundering, racketeering and wire fraud.

The family of Seth Rich rejected Dotcom’s claims and pointed out that he had provided no evidence to substantiate his claims. “The Rich family is tired of having to respond to accusations,” a spokesman for the family said in a statement. “The burden of proof is on Mr. Dotcom to either prove he has evidence or face the consequences of damaging Seth’s good name and creating more emotional hardship on a grieving family. The family is not going to entertain his ridiculous, manipulative and completely non-credible statements.”

Originally published on The Resurgent

True facts about Seth Rich
It has been less than a year since the murder of Seth Rich. In that short time, the story of his murder has taken on a life of its own. Like the murder of John F. Kennedy, it has already difficult to separate fact from fiction in the tragic case of Seth Rich.

Seth Conrad Rich was a 27-year-old native of Omaha, Nebraska who worked for the Democratic National Committee as the Voter Expansion Data Director. His job there entailed working on a computer applicationto help voters find their local polling place.

On the morning of Sunday, July 10, 2016, Rich was walking home in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, D.C. At 4:19 a.m., police patrolling the area heard gunshots and used Sharp Spotter, a system that uses acoustics to determine to direction of shots, to locate the scene of the attack.

Multiple sources say that Rich was still alive when police arrived at the scene, which was only a block from his house. He had multiple gunshot wounds and there were signs of a struggle. Early reports, such as this one from a local CBS affiliate, state that Rich was alive and conscious when he was taken to the hospital where he died a few hours later. Police have never revealed whether he was able to provide information about his killer.

Other early reports do support the claim that none of Rich’s personal items seemed to be missing. The local NBC affiliate quoted Rich’s mother, Mary, who said, “There had been a struggle. His hands were bruised, his knees are bruised, his face is bruised, and yet he had two shots to his back, and yet they never took anything. They took his life for literally no reason. They didn't finish robbing him, they just took his life.” Rich’s father, Joel, also confirmed to the Washington Post that nothing was taken.

The New York Daily News reported on July 11 that police had said that there was no indication of robbery, but that attempted robbery had not been ruled out as a motive for the attack. Joel Rich said that he believed that Seth had attempted to fight off his attacker before he was killed.

Many of the sources also point out the high crime rate in the neighborhood where Rich was killed. NBC’s Channel Four pointed out that robberies using guns were up 12 percent in the Metro Police Fifth District and that seven people had already been killed there in addition to Rich that year. The New York Daily News noted that armed robberies had doubled in Bloomingdale over the previous year.

Almost two weeks after Rich’s murder, on July 22, the first dump of Democrat emails from WikiLeaks was posted. Even as the emails were posted, there was immediate speculation that the source of the emails was of Russian origin. The date range of the first DNC hack was from January 2015 through May 2016, about two months before Rich’s murder. A second trove emails stolen from John Podesta was dumped by WikiLeaks beginning on October 7, 2016, three months after Rich’s death.

The conspiracy theories seemed to have started within days of the murder. On July 13, a conspiracy site called cited a Kremlin intelligence report that said that Rich was preparing to meet with FBI agents in order to testify against Hillary Clinton. The story reports that the FBI agents were really a “hit team” that was then “captured yesterday after a running gun battle with US federal police forces just blocks from the White House.” There were no reports of captured hit men or “running gun battles” in other sources.

The WikiLeaks angle to the story came several weeks later. WikiLeaks founder and accused rapist, Julian Assange, appeared on Dutch television on August 9, almost a month after the murder, and hinted that Rich was the source of the pilfered emails, although he never expressly stated any connection with Rich.

The same day, WikiLeaks offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of Rich’s murderer. The District of Columbia Metropolitan Police had previously offered a $25,000 reward. Other individuals, including Rich’s brother, have offered additional rewards.

On May 15, 2017, a private detective named Rod Wheeler told a local television news reporter that he had evidence that Rich had contacted WikiLeaks before his death. Two days later, Wheeler retracted his claims. NBC News reported that Ed Butowsky, a Dallas businessman and Breitbart contributor, hired Wheeler to investigate the murder on behalf of the Rich family. Butowsky initially denied being connected to Wheeler, but eventually admitted his involvement to CNN. A spokesman for the family said that Wheeler had showed them no evidence to support the allegations that Seth had contacted WikiLeaks.

Police also told the Washington Post that Rich’s computer and email had been examined and that there was no evidence that he was connected to WikiLeaks. A former law enforcement official with knowledge of Rich’s laptop told NBC News, “It never contained any e-mails related to WikiLeaks, and the FBI never had it.”

Still, the rumors keep coming. The Russian embassy tweeted on May 19 that Rich was the “WikiLeaks informer” and accused the US media of ignoring the truth about his murder. At about the same time, Kim Dotcom, a European hacker fighting extradition to the US from New Zealand on money laundering, racketeering and wire fraud charges, claimed to have known Seth Rich as the WikiLeaks source.

District of Columbia Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Kevin Donohue recently told NBC’s local affiliate that Rich’s murder was still under investigation, but that there was no truth the WikiLeaks rumors. “This is a robbery that ended tragically. That’s bad enough for our city, and I think it is irresponsible to conflate this into something that doesn’t connect to anything that the detectives have found," Donahue said. "No WikiLeaks connection.”

If Rich’s murder is still unsolved, the mystery of the DNC hacking is not. In January 2017, the Director of National Intelligence released an unclassified version of a report detailing the unanimous assessment of the American intelligence community that the Russian government was behind the cyberattack. The assessment echoed the findings of CrowdStrike, a private cybersecurity firm retained by the DNC.

In the case of John Podesta’s emails, investigators have identified a fraudulent email that urged Podesta to click a link and change his password. Podesta did so and compromised his email password as a result. This sort of breach is known as “phishing.”

Time reported in January that the CIA had even identified the individual Russian officials who had passed the stolen emails to WikiLeaks. The report said that the information followed a “circuitous route” to WikiLeaks so that Assange could plausibly deny Russian involvement.

At this point, there are a few basic problems with the conspiracy theory that Seth Rich was the source for the stolen Democratic Party emails. First, Rich was murdered before WikiLeaks published the emails. Second, the DNC’s internal investigation pointed to the Russians, not an internal leaker, as the source of the breach. Third, US counterintelligence has identified the real perpetrators of the theft, the Russian government. Most importantly, there is not a shred of evidence that ties Rich to WikiLeaks other than unsubstantiated innuendo. There is not even evidence that Rich had access to the emails that ended up the hands of WikiLeaks.

Conversely, it would be logical for the Russians and WikiLeaks to implicate the conveniently dead Rich in the leak to distract attention from the real culprits. Intelligence agencies agreed that the Russian covert operation that interfered with the election seemed to be partly to sow chaos and partly to help Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton. Even with Trump in the White House, Vladimir Putin seems to relish causing chaos and doubt about the US government.

Rich’s family, who have the most to gain in seeing their son’s killers brought to justice, reject the conspiracy claims. Rather than embracing the conspiracy, the family released a statement that called upon the conspiracy theorists to stop defaming their son’s reputation and distracting attention from the real killers. “We are a family who is committed to facts, not fake evidence that surfaces every few months to fill the void and distract law enforcement and the general public from finding Seth's murderers,” the statement said.

“It's sad but unsurprising that a group of media outlets who have repeatedly lied to the American people would try and manipulate the legacy of a murder victim in order to forward their own political agenda,” a spokesman for the family told Business Insider. “I think there is a special place in hell for people like that.”

Originally published on The Resurgent

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Republicans and the problem of moral relativism

During the presidential campaign, a major theme of Donald Trump’s campaign was the corruption and bad judgment of Hillary Clinton. Trump frequently referred to “Crooked Hillary” and promised to “drain the swamp” of Washington, D.C. Trump’s supporters were enraged by the lies and crony capitalism emanating from Foggy Bottom and thrilled to the promises of reform.

Then came the last two weeks.

The president summarily fired the director of the FBI, admitted on national television that the firing was at least partly due to the Russia investigation, and then was alleged to have told visiting Russian diplomats that Director Comey was a “nut job” and that getting rid of him relieved “great pressure.” On top of that, government sources charged that President Trump relayed classified information on an “ad hoc” basis.

Suddenly everything seemed to change with even casual supporters of the president. The battle cry changed from “drain the swamp” to “Hillary was worse.” In other words, the pro-Trump argument has shifted from the claim that he is a reformer who can clean up Washington to the claim that his actions are not any worse than the actions of the woman he called “Crooked Hillary” or President Obama. Talk about lowering the bar.

The pro-Trump right isn’t the only faction that has shifted. The anti-Trump left has also flip-flopped on a number of issues from resetting relations with Russia to whether James Comey should be fired. In fact, it has been both amusing and disheartening to watch my pro-Trump friends and liberal friends shift 180 degrees in their political views.

This really isn’t new. Liberal dogma often shifts with the changing winds of who is in office. As a case in point, consider their support for Bill Clinton’s war against the Serbs and attacks against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The Democrat Party became anti-war after many of its members voted to authorize George W. Bush to use military force and against Saddam and then became pro-war again when President Obama decided to hesitantly intervene in Libya.

It isn’t new for Trump Republicans either. It was only under Donald Trump that Republicans came to support tariffs over free trade, increased infrastructure spending, a childcare entitlement, universal healthcare, and higher taxes. The party of the Trump Republicans supports Donald Trump when he calls for the US to end nation building and put America first, but also applauds when he launches a symbolic, ineffective, one off strike on Syria and then moves on to other issues. The double standard of Trump supporters, especially those who professed to be Christian, was readily apparent in the campaign as well.

When Democrats shift with the prevailing winds on issues, conservatives like to call them “hypocrites.” When the shifting party is one that claims to be Christian and moral, another phrase applies as well: “moral relativism.”

Moral relativism is essentially situational ethics. Rather than believing that something is objectively right or wrong, regardless of the circumstances, moral relativists believe that an act, such as firing a subordinate who is doggedly pursuing an investigation, for example, can be right or wrong depending on the circumstances. Or depending on does it.

At one point, President Trump himself openly took this line of defense, exclaiming on Twitter, “With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special counsel appointed!” As a parent, I hear this tweet in my children’s voices as they whine, “He/she didn’t get in trouble when she did it!”

Does anybody really think that Republicans would not throw a screaming hissy fit if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama had fired James Comey as he was investigating Hillary’s private server? If a Democrat had referenced “the email thing” in the firing, most conservatives would be calling for his or her impeachment… if not their heads. There are a myriad of other instances, such as considering halting press briefings or jailing reporters that Trump supporters either justify or dismiss out of hand.

How about if a Democrat president had revealed classified information to the Russians? Before you answer, think back to how some conservatives accused Hillary of treason for discussing nuclear response times in one of the presidential debates.

A pro-Trump friend recently posted the video of President Obama telling Putin lackey Dmitry Medvedev, “This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.” The same friend is totally unconcerned about the myriad of links to Russia and Putin surrounding the Trump campaign.

The Trump supporters seem to discount anything negative about the president as “fake news” even when the Trump Administration openly acknowledges the truthfulness of the information. Michael Flynn admitted to lying about communicating with the Russians and was fired for it. President Trump acknowledged in tweets that he gave information to the Russians. Sean Spicer did not dispute New York Times claims that Trump told the Russians that Comey was a “nut job” whose investigation put “great pressure” on him. The fake news label used by the president gives his supporters the excuse they need to rationalize or deny his bizarre behavior.

In moral terms, it is like the excuse that you gave your parents that [insert forbidden behavior here] is okay because “everyone else is doing it.” Your mother probably answered that with the quip, “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?”

If Hillary and Obama are corrupt, does that mean it’s okay if Trump is corrupt too? Do we want a corrupt Republican or do we want something better? If you’re a Republican who excuses Trump and argues against holding him accountable, then you don’t want to drain the swamp. You just want to fill it with snakes of a different stripe.

In Christian terms, right and wrong are objective, not subjective. That applies to politics as well. If it is wrong for Barack Obama to fire the FBI director to impede an investigation (and it is, just so there is no question), then it is equally wrong for President Trump to do so. If national security is harmed by Hillary Clinton leaking classified information to the Russians, then the same standard applies to Donald Trump. If it is wrong for Hillary and Obama to insult their political opponents, then ditto for President Trump.

When the Republican defense of Donald Trump is “Hillary did it too,” they have already lost the argument for reform. At this point, the argument is merely a partisan squabble over whose corrupt politician should be at the national helm.

At some point, many Republicans will realize that Trump’s behavior is too outlandish, too corrupt for them to support. Meanwhile, a majority of conservative activists, many of them professing Christians, who spent the last eight years talking about the need to stand up for principles, are now twisting themselves into knots trying to justify the words and actions of a man whose words and actions are totally inconsistent. The Trump partisans seem to be standing up for a person, rather than principle.

Originally published on The Resurgent