Friday, May 31, 2019

Trump Relaunches Trade War With Mexico

There is a saying that “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” When it comes to tariffs, Donald Trump is a man with a hammer. Tariffs seem to be his tool of choice to (attempt to) fix any problem.

The most recent example is illegal immigration. Yesterday, President Trump threatened to impose tariffs on Mexican imports on an escalating basis. The president said that tariffs would begin on June 10 at a five percent and rise periodically to 25 percent in October unless Mexico stops “ illegal migrants” from entering the US.

Let’s think about the profound illogic of this plan for a moment. First, Mexico has shown itself to be unable to stop the migrant caravans from crossing its own southern border. We all remember the pictures of thousands of migrants streaming across bridges and overwhelming Mexican border security forces.

On the other hand, the migrant caravans were stopped cold when they reached the US border. After marching across Central American and Mexico for weeks, the majority of migrants stopped in Tijuana and waited for their turn to ask for asylum in accordance with US law.

The inability of the Mexican government to stop the caravans and to track down and detain smaller groups of migrants is a problem, but it does not seem that the problem is due to lack of trying from the Mexican government. In fact, the larger, richer, better-equipped US government has the same problem when confronted with migrants traveling in small groups.

Second, how are tariffs on Mexican imports, supposed to resolve the issue? As we have established before, “tariff” is a fancy word for a tax on trade. Like any tax, such as a sales tax or tax on cigarettes or soft drinks or even increases to the minimum wage, the cost of the tariff tax is passed along to the end user, which in this case is the American consumer. When we acknowledge the reality that tariffs are taxes, Donald Trump quickly becomes one of the biggest tax increasers in American history with much of the burden falling on the American middle and lower-income classes.

Of course, Trump’s hope is that the increased cost of Mexican goods will make Americans stop buying from Mexican companies. Tariffs are intended to raise prices on American consumers, hurting them to eventually hurt foreign companies. But again, it isn’t clear that Mexico could be doing a lot to stop illegal immigration that it isn’t doing already. If there are additional steps that Mexico could take, hurting the country’s economy may not be the best way to encourage them to spend more money on border security. Damaging the Mexican economy would likely result in more illegal immigrants, not fewer. 

There is also the question of how the new tariffs will impact the president’s new US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, which has yet to be ratified. The replacement deal for NAFTA may be endangered by the president’s capricious use of tariffs to try to leverage Mexican cooperation. The real danger for the US economy is that the free trade deal will implode, resulting in higher taxes and more regulation on trade with Mexico, which is an important part of the supply chain for many American companies.

President Trump’s tweets suggest that he favors tariffs for their own sake. The protectionist president has called himself “a Tariff Man” and has repeatedly shown a misunderstanding of the economics of tariffs and international trade. He fails to accept the fact that the cost of his tariffs is being borne by American taxpayers and not multinational corporations.

There are signs that Congress, which is now reaping the bitter harvest of tariff laws that delegated too much congressional authority to the executive branch, is starting to resist the president’s tax increases. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) in the House and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in the Senate have been particularly outspoken against the president’s trade policies.

“Trade policy and border security are separate issues. This is a misuse of presidential tariff authority and counter to congressional intent,” Grassley said in a statement, adding that the tariffs “would seriously jeopardize passage of USMCA.” Grassley has suggested in the past that ratification of the USMCA be tied to the removal of tariffs, but, at this point, it is not clear that President Trump values his free trade deal more than his tariffs.

“I support nearly every one of President Trump’s immigration policies, but this is not one of them,” Grassley added.

Meanwhile, markets are roiled as a front on the trade war that was deemed quiet has suddenly flared up again. The economy has been one of Donald Trump’s top strengths and his supporters hold out hope that it will be the key to his re-election, but most of the current weakness and instability in the economy can be traced back to the president’s trade war. It is entirely possible that Trump’s insistence on interfering in international trade will weaken the economy just in time for the election.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Democrats Can Be Pro-Life In Louisiana

Can Democrats be pro-life? It turns out that they can be in Louisiana. When Pelican State legislators voted this week to pass a fetal heartbeat bill, it was the result of a bipartisan effort between Democrats and Republicans.

The Louisiana law, which bans abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected and contains no exception for rape or incest, was sponsored by a Democrat. Senator John Milkovich, who represents Shreveport, introduced the bill in the Senate while Rep. Valarie Hodges of Livingston Parish, a Republican, shepherded the bill through the House.

In the initial Senate vote, there was no Republican opposition and only Democrats voted, one for and one against the bill. Ten Senate Republicans and 13 Democrats did not vote. The final bill passed the House with overwhelming support. Republicans voted in a bloc for passage while Democrats were split almost equally.

After passage, the bill went to the governor, also a Democrat, to be signed into law. Gov. John Bel Edwards, who is the South’s only Democratic governor, signed the bill on Thursday afternoon.

In a statement, the governor said, “As I prepare to sign this bill, I call on the overwhelming bipartisan majority of legislators who voted for it to join me in continuing to build a better Louisiana that cares for the least among us and provides more opportunity for everyone.” notes that Edwards, who is rated at 100 percent by Louisiana Right to Life, is a Catholic who views anti-abortion policy and the Medicaid expansion as both pro-life policies. The paper points out that other prominent Louisiana Democrats are also staunchly pro-life.

Nevertheless, Bart Stupak, a former Wisconsin congressman who is currently on the board for Democrats for Life says that Edwards’ pro-life stance will make fundraising from the big Democrat donors difficult. “If you’re trying to raise money on the national level, it gets very, very difficult,” he said. “There will be no money. There will be no help.”

Abortion has become a litmus test for many in the party, but Louisiana Democrats have shown that they are not afraid to stand up for life. National Democrats should learn from their example and allow Democratic candidates and officials to follow their conscience on the issue.

Opinions on the abortion issue vary across the country and locking their candidates into a one-size-fits-all pro-choice position often hurts Democratic candidates who run in conservative states. Many people who would support Democrats on other issues cannot bring themselves to vote for pro-abortion candidates. If Democrats can learn to tolerate pro-lifers in their midst, the party would be stronger for its ideological diversity.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, May 30, 2019

What Robert Mueller Really Said

You have to wonder if some people holding forth on Robert Mueller’s public statement yesterday actually listened to what the special counsel said. I’ve seen people once again claim that Mueller exonerated the president, that he agreed with Attorney General Barr that there was no obstruction and that Mueller muddied the issue. None of these is true.

Mueller’s statement seemed specifically designed to counter the spin of the Trump Administration while pointing out they Russia systematically attacked the 2016 election, a fact that Mueller obviously believes is getting lost in the debate over whether Donald Trump obstructed justice. The special counsel also takes time to refute many of the allegations made against the investigation.

There are four main takeaways from Mueller’s statement:
1.      Russia launched systematic cyber attacks on the 2016 election.
2.      There was insufficient evidence to charge Americans with conspiring with Russia.
3.      There was evidence that Trump obstructed justice.
4.      DOJ policy prevented an indictment of Trump from being considered.

I am going to include selected portions of the statement in the following article. As always, I encourage everyone to go straight to the source. Mueller’s statement is less than 10 minutes long and is available for viewing on YouTube. You can also read the transcript here. I recommend reading Mueller’s full report as well.

Russian intelligence officers who are part of the Russian military launched a concerted attack on our political system. The indictment alleges that they used sophisticated cyber-techniques to hack into computers and networks used by the Clinton campaign. They stole private information and then released that information through fake online identities and through the organization WikiLeaks. The releases were designed and timed to interfere with our election and to damage a presidential candidate. And at the same time as the grand jury alleged in a separate indictment, a private Russian entity engaged in a social media operation where Russian citizens posed as Americans in order to influence an election.

Mueller stresses that Russian interference with the election went far beyond buying social media ads. They included computer hacking and dissemination of stolen data. As discussed in other indictments and the full version of the Mueller report, Russian activities also included cyber attacks on state and local election infrastructure such as voter databases and companies that build and write software for voting machines. The Russian attacks go far beyond any known previous attempts to interfere in our elections. They are also very different from Barack Obama’s support for an Israeli group that opposed Benjamin Netanyahu in the 2015 Israeli elections.

Mueller’s statement contradicts claims that there was no underlying crime and that the investigation was a waste of time. The crime was a concerted attack on a foundation of the American Republic.

That is also a reason we investigated efforts to obstruct the investigation. The matters we investigated were of paramount importance. It was critical for us to obtain full and accurate information from every person we questioned. When a subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation or lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of their government's effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable.

The order appointing me special counsel authorized us to investigate actions that could obstruct the investigation.

Mueller here provides the justification for the obstruction investigation. Even if there were no crime, obstruction could still take place because investigators were legally trying to determine whether a crime had taken place or not. In this case, crimes did take place and others were indicted and convicted even if President Trump was not.

The document appointing Robert Mueller authorizes him to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,” which would include Trump himself, and “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation,” as well as other matters within the jurisdiction of the special counsel law, which specifically includes “perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses.” Rosenstein’s instructions to Mueller are available online here.

This volume includes a discussion of the Trump campaign's response to this activity as well as our conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy.

Mueller does not say that there was “no collusion.” He says that evidence to prosecute collusion was “insufficient.” This implies that evidence of collusion did exist.

And as set forth in the report, after that investigation, if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.

This is not, as many Republicans claim, a statement that there was no obstruction. This is the opposite. Mueller is saying that if the president was innocent he would say so, but there is evidence against him so he cannot be exonerated.

It [the full report] explains that under long-standing department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that, too, is prohibited.

A special counsel's office is part of the Department of Justice, and by regulation, it was bound by that department policy. Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider. The department's written opinion explaining the policy makes several important points that further informed our handling of the obstruction investigation. Those points are summarized in our report and I will describe two of them for you.

Mueller explains here that he could not indict the president due to Justice Department policy even though he found evidence that crimes were committed. Essentially, the Justice Department view is that prosecuting the president is illegal under the Constitution. My own opinion is that the framers of the Constitution, who had just fought a revolution to free themselves of rule by a king, did not intend to place the president above the law.

Regardless, Mueller next explains why he investigated obstruction if an indictment of the president was “not an option” from the beginning.

First, the opinion explicitly permits the investigation of a sitting president because it is important to preserve evidence while memories are fresh and documents available. Among other things, that evidence could be used if there were co-conspirators who could be charged now.

And second, the opinion says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.

First, the investigation was to preserve evidence for possible prosecution of co-conspirators. Second, the evidence could be used in an impeachment trial.

And beyond department policy, we were guided by principles of fairness. It would be unfair to potentially — it would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of the actual charge.

So that was Justice Department policy. Those were the principles under which we operated.

Mueller then reiterates that his decision was guided by DOJ policy. He also states that it would be unfair to accuse the president of a crime when he would not have a trial that could be used to clear his name.

At one point in time, I requested that certain portions of the report be released and the attorney general preferred to make — preferred to make the entire report public all at once and we appreciate that the attorney general made the report largely public. And I certainly do not question the attorney general’s good faith in that decision.

This is a reference to the leaked letter in which Mueller took Attorney General Barr to task for mischaracterizing the special counsel report in his public summary. Mueller requested that certain portions of the report be made public. Barr elected to release a redacted version of the report. Mueller seems satisfied with this.

Now, I hope and expect this to be the only time that I will speak to you in this manner. I am making that decision myself. No one has told me whether I can or should testify or speak further about this matter.

Mueller does not intend to make further public statements. He says that this is his own choice and not a decision by the Justice Department or President Trump.

There has been discussion about an appearance before Congress. Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report. It contains our findings and analysis and the reasons for the decisions we made. We chose those words carefully and the work speaks for itself. And the report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.

While Mueller does not rule out congressional testimony, he says that he will not provide further public information. As I advised above, if you want to know more, read his report.

These individuals who spent nearly two years with the special counsel's office were of the highest integrity.

This counters claims by President Trump and other Republicans that the investigators were corrupt.

And I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments, that there were multiple systemic efforts to interfere in our election. And that allegation deserves the attention of every American.

Mueller closes by again stressing the fact that the United States was the subject of a campaign of cyber attacks in 2016. If steps are not taken to defend against similar attacks, it is likely to happen again next year. At some point, aggressors are likely to penetrate election defenses and find the ability to manipulate vote totals. As Mueller said, this should be alarming to every American, even if you happen to like the outcome of the last election.

Originally published on the Resurgent

China Raises Stakes In Trade War With Rare Earth Mineral Threat

China fired new shots in the trade war with simultaneous moves to halt soybean purchases from the US and a threat to restrict the supply of rare earth minerals used in the production of technology products such as mobile phones, electric vehicles, and smart weapons. American agriculture has already been hit hard by the trade war, but the threat to companies that import rare earths could spread the pain to the larger economy. The warning included a phrase that the Chinese used just prior to two separate wars in the past.

Bloomberg reported this morning that Chinese state purchasers have stopped goodwill orders of soybeans that began earlier this year as a resolution to the trade talks seemed close. China is the world’s largest buyer of soybeans and the country’s orders from US farmers had dropped from 6 million tons per month in early 2018 to almost nothing after the onset of the trade war. The obliteration of American soybean exports has required the Trump Administration to subsidize farmers for their trade war losses.

Even more alarming is the warning that comes from the People’s Daily, a Chinese state-controlled newspaper. In an opinion piece reported by CNN and others, the paper said, “At present, the United States completely overestimates its ability to control the global supply chain and is due to slap itself in the face when it sobers up from its happy, ignorant self-indulgence.”

“Will rare earths become a counter weapon for China to hit back against the pressure the United States has put on for no reason at all?” the article asked rhetorically. “The answer is no mystery.”

“We advise the U.S. side not to underestimate the Chinese side’s ability to safeguard its development rights and interests. Don't say we didn't warn you,” the article adds ominously.

An additional statement on Wednesday from the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic planning agency, was more specific. Quoting an unnamed official, the statement said, “If anyone wants to use the products made from rare earths exported by China to contain and suppress the development of China, I think ... the people of China will not be happy.”

Rare earths are a series of 17 metals that tend to occur near each other in nature. The Rare Earth Alliance notes that due to their “unique magnetic, luminescent, and electrochemical properties, these elements help make many technologies perform with reduced weight, reduced emissions, and energy consumption; or give them greater efficiency, performance, miniaturization, speed, durability, and thermal stability.”

The minerals are not especially rare, but they are difficult to mine safely. China has about a third of the known deposits but controls about 90 percent of the world supply because of low labor costs and lax environmental regulations.

There is only one rare earth mine in the United States and it accounts for one-tenth of one percent of world production per CNBC. James Litinsky, co-chair of the investment group that owns the mine, explained that the rare earths mined in California must be shipped to China to be refined because there is no refining capacity elsewhere in the world. Litinsky said that the concentration of rare earths in other parts of the United States is not economical for mining.

Rare earths are important to national security as well as to the consumer economy. An interagency report to President Trump last year pointed out that the minerals are used in a variety of defense-related items including “lasers, radar, sonar, night vision systems, missile guidance, jet engines, and even alloys for armored vehicles.” Two-thirds of defense contractors imported rare earths with the vast majority coming from China.

The report also noted that China has worked to build a monopoly in the sector. The authors pointed out that “China has strategically flooded the global market with rare earths at subsidized prices, driven out competitors, and deterred new market entrants,” indicating that President Trump’s focus on the aluminum and steel industries has possibly been misguided. China has already embargoed export of the materials in a 2010 dispute with Japan.

CNBC also pointed out the baggage that comes with the phrase, “Don’t say we didn’t warn you.” The Chinese government used the same phrase in just before launching conventional wars against India in 1962 and Vietnam in 1979.

While China is unlikely to launch a military attack on the United States, the use of a phrase with specific military history underscores the seriousness with which the Chinese view the trade war. In a few short weeks since President Trump imposed heavy new tariffs on Chinese goods and launched attacks on Chinese technology company Huawei, China has fired back both with its own tariffs and increasingly bellicose rhetoric. A deal with China on trade seems less and less likely as both sides ratchet up protectionist measures and tensions.

President Trump is so far standing firm. This morning the president told reporters, “China would love to make a deal with us. We had a deal and they broke the deal. I think if they had it to do again, they wouldn’t do what they did.”

“The tariffs are having a devastating effect on China,” Trump claimed.

Tariffs are also having a devastating effect on American farmers. If China follows through on its threat to embargo rare earths, the effect could be devastating for technology companies and defense contractors. The pain from the trade war could hit both consumers and national security.

While China is feeling the pain as well, China’s authoritarian leaders are no doubt acutely aware of the American political calendar. China does not have to withstand a long-term trade war with the United States. They only have to ratchet up the pain level for American farmers, a prime Trump constituency in 2016, and consumers and then hold out until November 2020.

Originally published on the Resurgent

Rebel Republican Amash Gets Standing Ovation At Town Hall

In his first public meeting since making his claim that President Donald Trump obstructed justice and committed impeachable acts, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) received a warm welcome from his constituents. Attendees at a town hall meeting in Grand Rapids gave the congressman what Politico called “a hero’s welcome” that included several standing ovations and lots of praise, even from those who disagreed with him.

Amash had scheduled one hour for the town hall, but the meeting lasted two hours. In that time, Amash defended his support for impeachment, defended his record, and criticized the leaders of both parties, including President Trump. Amash also explained that he is still a Republican because it is difficult to get on the ballot as an independent candidate.

Most of the attendees seemed happy with Amash, with many taking selfies with the congressman. There were exceptions, however. One woman wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat said that she was disappointed in Amash and could no longer support him, prompting boos from the audience. Amash ultimately had to tell the crowd to be respectful.

Another woman, identified as Anna Timmer, told Amash, “I’ve changed my position on you. You’ve spent the last two years failing to do your job, which is to directly represent the popular will of your constituents.”

“That’s not my job … my job is to uphold the Constitution,” Amash answered.

“Those are not mutually exclusive,” Timmer replied.

Others in the audience were warmer toward Amash. One woman told him, “I don’t agree with many of your stances, but I applaud your courage and your morality that seems to be lacking in [Washington]. So thank you.” The comment drew cheers from the crowd.

As a point of fact, Amash is one of the most conservative members of Congress. Despite his libertarian leanings, he has an 87 percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union, a 90 percent from Conservative Review, and a perfect 100 from Freedom Works. His record of backing Trump is mixed per FiveThirtyEight. He has voted with Trump 92 percent of the time in the 116th Congress but only 54 percent of the time in the last Congress. He is a founding member of the Freedom Caucus, a group that recently denounced him.

What angers the president’s supporters is that Amash has deviated from the Republican line that Mueller’s report found “no collusion, no obstruction.” Earlier this month, Amash publicly announced that the conventional wisdom was wrong and that the president had in fact committed impeachable acts.

In another tweetstorm yesterday, Amash charged that Attorney General Barr “deliberately misrepresented key aspects of Mueller’s report and decisions in the investigation, which has helped further the president’s false narrative about the investigation.” In the subsequent tweets, Amash, who is a lawyer, laid out a specific case against Barr.

Meanwhile, Amash has already drawn two primary challenges from establishment Trump supporters. One, Jim Lower, a state representative, said of Amash, “His conduct is completely unacceptable.”

Others, including Amash, say that it is the president’s conduct that has been unacceptable. “It doesn’t matter to me that some people won’t support me,” the congressman said. “You have to do the right thing regardless.”

Amash also said, “A lot of people think I’m right about the Mueller report. They just won’t say it. A lot of Republicans.”

His Republican primary race seems likely to become a referendum on whether voters agree with his stance or not. If Rep. Amash wins re-election after going toe-to-toe with the Trump and being opposed by a self-described “pro-Trump” Republican, it could signal a very bad election year for Republicans.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Mueller: Indicting Trump Was ‘Not an Option’

In a public statement today, Special Counsel Robert Mueller said that the investigation into Russian meddling in 2016 presidential campaign and the ancillary investigation into possible obstruction of justice were both justified “in order to find truth and hold wrongdoers accountable.”

Mueller said that there were “numerous efforts emanating from Russia to influence the election.” Mueller added that there was “insufficient evidence” of a “broader conspiracy” involving the Trump campaign.”

Mueller added again that “if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime then we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination that the president did commit a crime.”  This underscores the fact that the president was not exonerated.

Mueller cited “longstanding Justice Department policy” that president cannot be indicted while in office, calling the possibility “unconstitutional.”

“Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option that we could consider,” Mueller said.

Mueller said that he wanted the report to be seen as his testimony and that he was would not testify further by his own choice. He added that the wording of the report was chosen carefully and that he would not add any new public information in testimony to Congress.

He also said that he believed that Attorney General Barr acted in “good faith” in disclosing the report.

In his closing, Mueller underscored the fact that Russia had attacked the election, a point that the Special Counsel obviously believes should receive more attention. “There were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election and that allegation deserves the attention of every American,” Mueller said in closing.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Southern Baptist Attendance Fell To Its Lowest Point In 30 Years

The Southern Baptist denomination fell to its lowest point since 1987 per the evangelical group’s Annual Church Profile. The statistics show that the number of Southern Baptists fell to 14.8 million in 2018. This was the first year that Southern Baptists numbered fewer than 15 million since 1989.

Baptisms fell by three percent in 2018, which was a slower pace of decline than the nine percent drop from 2017. Weekly attendance fell by just under half a percent to 5.3 million and the number of Southern Baptist churches declined by 88 to 47,456.

The report was not all dark. Four states, Minnesota, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin posted double-digit growth in the number of congregations and giving increased by $82 million to a total of $11.8 billion. The sharp rise in donations is likely due to the good economy and congregants tithing based on larger incomes.

Still, the falling number of members and baptisms is alarming for Southern Baptist leaders. “Heartbreaking to see these ACP declines. We must do better as Southern Baptists. God help us,” said Adam Greenway, president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

As I wrote this weekend in “The Laodicea Church Is Now,” the decline of the Southern Baptists, the denomination to which I belong, is part of an across-the-board decline of organized religion in the United States. Evangelical denominations are following the Catholic Church and mainline protestant denominations in withering as the “religious nones” rise sharply.

The reasons for the decline are many. Several years ago, we were members at a thriving Southern Baptist church in Georgia that it would have taken an FBI investigation to determine was Southern Baptist. This “community church” did not identify as Southern Baptist because so many people had been alienated by other Baptists throughout the years that the pastor and deacons considered public association with the Southern Baptist brand to be a stumbling block in spreading the gospel.

The denomination has been famous for its teetoler preaching on alcohol and other aspects of pop culture. One Southern Baptist church that I belonged to split over a requirement that Sunday School teachers sign a pledge to abstain from alcohol. A Southern Baptist ban on dancing was the subject of the 1984 movie, “Footloose.” Southern Baptists even launched an ineffective boycott of Disney in 1997 over the company’s “anti-Christian and anti-family direction.”

A few months ago, I wrote about our search for a new church following a move. What we found as we visited many Southern Baptist churches was that quite a few were unprepared for visitors and lacked the programs that church-seekers are looking for. In some cases this is due to resistance to change from older members (ask any pastor about the phrase, “We’ve never done it that way before”) or that the members view the church more as a social club than an evangelical outreach organization. Very few churches seem to have any organized plan for outreach and are waiting on members of the community to find their way into the pews instead. This is increasingly unlikely in today’s society with its multitude of distractions.

The modern church’s political mission is also to blame. It seems to be no coincidence that the Southern Baptists peaked in the 1980s when Jerry Falwell entered politics with his Moral Majority. The shift of focus from soul-winning to political power likely raised walls between churches and about half the country who were being implicitly called immoral if they disagreed with Falwell.

Southern Baptists are a denomination that is run from the bottom. There is no head of the Southern Baptist church that is equivalent to the pope. Instead, churches send delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention each year. The problem with this system is that when the public sees Southern Baptist leaders, it no longer sees men like Billy Graham and Russell Moore. Today, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, Jr., and Robert Jeffress are identified as Southern Baptist leaders. The pro-Trump message of these men often drowns out the gospel message of their denomination.

Franklin Graham, son of the apolitical Billy Graham is an unabashed Trump supporter. On Sunday, Graham tweeted out a partisan call for prayer, saying, “I don’t believe any president in the history of this nation has been attacked more than Donald Trump… If he succeeds we all benefit, but if his enemies are allowed to destroy him and pull down the presidency it will hurt our entire nation.”

Likewise, Jerry Falwell, Jr. was an early supporter of Trump in 2016. The backing of the Liberty University president enabled many Christians to look past Trump’s past and behavior to support the serial adulterer and foul-mouthed candidate.

Robert Jeffress, the pastor of Dallas First Baptist, has made news time and again, not for spreading the gospel, but for his adulation of President Trump. In 2017, the choir at Jeffress’ church sang a “Make America Great Again” hymn while earlier this year Jeffress himself attacked evangelicals who do not support the president, saying, “Let me say this as charitably as I can. These ‘Never Trump’ evangelicals are morons. They are absolutely spineless morons, and they cannot admit that they were wrong.” It is hard to find a more explicit message that if you aren’t sold on Trump, you aren’t welcome at church.

While people like these do not represent rank-and-file pastors of Southern Baptist churches, they are the public face of the church to much of the country. When paired together with local church members who present a legalistic and unfriendly view of the denomination, it is no wonder that seekers are going elsewhere. Or nowhere.

As Jesus said to John the Revelator, many Southern Baptists have lost their first love, that of the gospel message, or have diluted it with an unpopular and divisive political message. If the denomination wants to turn its decline around, it should return to the tactic that made it successful in the first place: going outside the church walls to spread the Biblical message of Christ’s love and forgiveness.

A declining number of Bible-believing Christians is not going to change American culture from the top down. Whether on abortion or the content of movies and television shows, pursuing political victories as a minority is destined to fail and hurt the church in the process. Instead, churches should focus on changing the culture from the bottom up by changing people through Jesus.

Originally published on the Resurgent

Monday, May 27, 2019

Remembering American Sacrifices In Victory, Defeat, And Forgotten Wars

Memorial Day is the day set aside to remember those lost their lives as part of the American military. In this generation, we have become acquainted with the tragic losses in the War On Terror. Almost two decades after the September 11 attacks, most Americans know someone who has served in Iraq or Afghanistan. These conflicts have cost the lives of an estimated 7,000 American soldiers. Countless others have been maimed or suffer the emotional effects of PTSD.

Yet, as costly as the War On Terror has been, other wars have been even more bloody and have had an even greater impact on American society. In Vietnam, a war which lasted longer than the War On Terror, the Veterans Administration puts the total death toll at 58,220 American soldiers. The death toll for the Korean conflict, a war which technically is still ongoing, was 36,574. More than 400,000 American servicemen died in World War II and in World War I, a conflict in which America only fought for two years, more than 115,000 US soldiers died. In the Civil War (more appropriately called the War Between the States), a total of almost half a million Americans were killed.

In addition to taking the miraculously low casualty rates of the War On Terror for granted, we also take for granted that the US military today, as the best in the world, will come out on top despite strategic missteps by leaders in Washington. Our technology, from drones and smart bombs to protective body armor, gives American soldiers an important advantage over our foes. It wasn’t always that way.

Today, we mainly remember the victories from American history. We often hear the roll call of names where the US was victorious, often at great cost: Saratoga, Yorktown, Gettysburg, Midway, Normandy, Iwo Jima, Inchon, Khe Sanh, Tora Bora, Baghdad.

No less important are the disasters that the American military has suffered throughout our history. The American Republic almost ended many times before the British surrendered at Yorktown and then again a few years later when the redcoats burned Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812. The Confederacy came within a whisker of tearing the Union apart not long after that as the great Generals Lee and Jackson routed the Union army time and again.

Pearl Harbor is remembered as the greatest military catastrophe of American history, but it is far from the only disaster to befall the US military. The attack on Hawaii was only the tip of the iceberg as the Japanese ravaged American and British outposts in the Pacific. The fall of Guam, Wake Island, and the Philippine Islands is largely forgotten today as is the Bataan death march in which Japanese captors mercilessly marched American and Filipino POWs into captivity with thousands dying along the way.

A few years ago I read Rick Atkinson’s great Liberation Trilogy that covers the American campaigns against the Nazis and was surprised to discover the extent of the military disasters suffered by the United States on the road to Berlin. The Battle of Kasserine Pass was a disaster in which the US Army lost 300 dead, as well as 3,000 missing and another 3,000 wounded. More than 1,300 Americans were killed or wounded in a failed attempt to cross Italy’s Rapido River in January 1944. Sometimes the victories were worse than the defeats. When the US Army performed an amphibious landing at Anzio in Italy, the fighting eventually cost 7,000 killed and 36,000 wounded or missing over a five-month period.

There are also thousands of Americans who died in small, unknown conflicts that are largely forgotten by history. Max Boot’s “The Savage Wars of Peace” is the definitive history of these undeclared wars that have been waged going back to the earliest days of our nation. From the shores of Tripoli in Jefferson’s day to the Moro Rebellion in the Philippines and the 20th century interventions in Latin America, American soldiers have gone where their Uncle Sam sent them and many never returned.

A few years ago, a friend in my hometown noticed a Memorial Day marker on the town square that honored Private DeWitt Rucker, who gave his life in what was designated as the “MPE” with no explanation. After some online detective work, we found that Pvt. Rucker was a Buffalo Soldier, a black cavalryman, who accompanied Gen. “Black Jack” Pershing on his attempt to capture the Mexican bandit Pancho Villa in 1916, the Mexico Punitive Expedition. In a story detailed on my blog, we learned that Rucker died in the Battle of Carrizal, Mexico on June 21, 1916. This tragic encounter with Mexican cavalry is all but forgotten, along with Pvt. Rucker and the other 11 Americans and 30 Mexicans killed that day.

Our country and the world as we know it today was forged in the blood of American patriots. Without their sacrifice, the world would be a very different place today. Even the soldiers who gave their lives military defeats or seemingly pointless battles helped to shape the world as we know it. Often, failed battles bought time for other forces to organize or taught lessons that ultimately led to victory. Without the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of American soldiers, today's world would be dominated by Russia and China, if not Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

America’s wars could never have been won without the sacrifices of our veterans, but, as you read the military histories and memoirs of the people involved, it becomes apparent that although they may have enlisted for patriotic reasons or been conscripted by the draft, once in combat, soldiers often reported fighting for a different reason. Once on the line, soldiers often find themselves fighting for their buddies, the other men in their unit. Sometimes, the fear of letting down their buddies was worse than the fear of death.

This may be what leads soldiers to lay down their own lives. It is not only for love of country but for the guy in the foxhole next to them, for the airman sitting beside them in the cockpit, for the crewmates on their ship. The bond between people have faced combat and death together is strong.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
   Originally published on the Resurgent

Saturday, May 25, 2019

What Georgia And Alabama Voters Think Of Their New Abortion Laws

The new laws restricting abortion in Alabama and Georgia made a big splash in the news over the past few weeks. Since the laws were passed there have been numerous polls showing that voters nationally oppose the measures. Of course, the new laws won’t affect most Americans so I wondered what the citizens of Alabama and Georgia who will actually live under the laws, assuming they are allowed by the courts to take effect, thought of them.

When you look for polls of Georgia and Alabama voters about the new laws, it’s quickly apparent that few have thought to check the opinion of local voters. In March and April, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution surveyed Georgia voters about the fetal heartbeat bill that was pending in the legislature at the time. The poll found that Georgia voters were closely split on the bill, with 43 percent in favor and 48 percent opposed. In addition to the plurality of total voters, opponents of the bill also felt more strongly about it. Thirty-nine percent were strongly opposed while 25 percent strongly supported the legislation.

On the larger question of abortion, 70 percent of Georgia voters opposed overturning Roe v. Wade, however, only 22 percent said that abortion should be legal in all cases. Voters who oppose all abortions were also a minority at 10 percent. The majority of voters supported legal abortion with restrictions. Thirty-five percent said it should be legal in most cases and 25 percent said it should be illegal in most cases.

There does not seem to be any recent public polling of Alabama voters available about the abortion law. Earlier this month, Planned Parenthood released details of a 2018 poll by ALG Research, a Democratic polling firm, that showed results similar to the AJC poll of Georgia voters.

In the poll, slightly less than a third of Alabamans supported positions that were consistent with the state’s new law. Sixteen percent said that abortion should only be permitted when the mother’s life is in danger and 15 percent said that it should be banned outright.

Again, most voters took a moderate position with 49 percent favoring restricted abortion. Twenty percent said that abortion should be legal in most cases while 29 percent said that it should be allowed only in limited cases, “such as rape, incest, or when the woman’s life is endangered.” Only 16 percent favored unrestricted abortion.

The lion’s share of support for the laws is from Republicans, who Morning Consult recently found support the measures by a 57-31 percent margin. Even among Republicans, however, there is widespread support (45 percent) for exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother. These exceptions are notably lacking from the Alabama law.

The bottom line is that passage of the laws was a principled stand for pro-life principles by state Republicans, but it wasn’t a popular stand. Even at home, the new restrictions are outside of the mainstream. This is particularly true of the Alabama law.  

When a party goes against public opinion to force through legislation that is popular with the base, but unpopular with voters at large, it often leads to a backlash. This raises the possibility that Republican legislators will pay a political price for their votes next year, even if courts strike down the new laws before they even take effect.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, May 24, 2019

Democrats Lack Votes To Force Pelosi To Impeach

There has been a lot of talk about a possible impeachment of President Trump lately, but it appears to be just talk. New comments from a key Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee indicate that Democrats who favor impeachment are far short of the votes to force Speaker Pelosi to take up the issue.

In an interview with a Yahoo News podcast, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) said that about 40 House Democrats now support impeachment. Cohen added that about 90 percent of Democrats on the Judiciary Committee would support impeachment. Nevertheless, with a Democratic caucus that numbers 235, the uprising against Speaker Pelosi’s decision to focus on the upcoming election rather than impeachment is too small to force a policy change.

While a revolt by 40 congressional Democrats is unusual, Speaker Pelosi has a long history of keeping a tight rein on her caucus. She is a shrewd politician who has had much luck controlling her party’s representatives than recent Republican speakers.

Nancy Pelosi has said numerous times that she opposes impeachment unless there is overwhelming bipartisan support. She echoed that opinion again yesterday, telling reporters, “The president’s behavior in terms of his obstruction of justice... yes, these could be impeachable offenses. If we can get the facts to the American people through our investigation, it may take us to a place that is unavoidable in terms of impeachment or not. But we’re not at that place.”

Thus far, only one Republican, Justin Amash, has announced his support for impeachment. With a Republican majority in the Senate, Pelosi would want to see support from significant numbers of Republican senators before she moves in the House. So far, that has not happened.

As I predicted last year, Nancy Pelosi is unlikely to enter into a battle over impeachment that she cannot win. Although the House would certainly vote to impeach, Donald Trump would survive a Senate vote and might well emerge from the process stronger.

President Trump senses this as well and seems to be attempting to goad Democrats into impeachment with increasingly obstructive behavior with respect to House investigations. The unpopular president likely hopes that impeachment would be even more unpopular and would salvage his hopes for re-election.

The speaker intends to have it both ways. Although beating Trump in the election is far more likely than impeaching him, Pelosi will keep up the pressure on Trump by trolling him incessantly and keeping the impeachment option on the table. The president typically takes the bait and fires back at her barbs, making him look erratic and unhinged, as he did this week when he stormed out of an infrastructure meeting with Democratic leaders after three minutes.

If unforced errors like that one continue, the Democrats won’t need to impeach Trump. Voters will send him packing next year.

Originally published on the Resurgent

Drunk Pelosi Video Is a Fake

If you happen to see a video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stammering through a press conference as you make your rounds through social media, be aware that the video is a fake. The video of Pelosi at a press conference was altered to make it appear as though the speaker was stammering and repeating herself. Accompanying descriptions often claim that she was intoxicated when she gave the remarks.

None other than Fox News is on record with a description of the fake news video’s origins. Fox reports that the three-minute clip was from a speech yesterday at the Center for American Progress in which Pelosi described President Trump’s angry exit from a meeting with Democrats about infrastructure. Per Fox, the video was uploaded to Facebook on a page called “Politics WatchDog.” At press time, the video is still posted on the page and has 2.4 million views. Similar videos have been removed from YouTube and Twitter.

Fox cites the Washington Post, saying that the video was apparently “slowed down to 75 percent from the original speed and that her pitch was also manipulated in order to present her under the influence.”

“It is striking that such a simple manipulation can be so effective and believable to some,” Berkeley computer science and digital forensics expert Hany Farid told the CNN. “While I think that deep-fake technology poses a real threat, this type of low-tech fake shows that there is a larger threat of misinformation campaigns -- too many of us are willing to believe the worst in people that we disagree with.”

A separate fact-check article by Politifact notes that unaltered audio is available from C-SPAN and is noticeably different than the audio accompanying the video, which has “more slurred and lisping than the one on C-SPAN.”

The original altered video posted to Facebook is captioned, “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on President Trump walking out infrastructure meeting: ‘It was very, very, very strange.’” The clip closes with Pelosi saying that the meeting with Trump was very strange.

In a subsequent post, Politics WatchDog seemed to acknowledge that the video was fake, saying, “Just for the record [sic] we never claimed that Speaker Pelosi was drunk. We can’t control what the people in the comments think. It’s a free country. For your information [sic] we are not a conservative news outlet.”

The fake nature of the page is also apparent by a poll that the group posted which asks, “Should the Pelosi video be taking [sic] down?” Legitimate news sites rarely leave obvious grammatical errors uncorrected.

A spokesman for Pelosi told CNN, “We're not going to comment on this sexist trash.”

Yesterday, President Trump tweeted a different video of Pelosi that had also been altered under the caption “PELOSI STAMMERS THROUGH NEWS CONFERENCE.” This video, which was originally aired on Fox News’ “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” strings together a series of the speaker’s flubs in a speech. Although altered through selective editing, this video does not appear to be digitally manipulated.

While I am no fan of Speaker Pelosi and don’t agree with her policy prescriptions, I do value truth over blatant lies, even when they are about the opposition. The “drunk Pelosi” video is an example of the worst inclinations of the right-wing media. The fact that some conservatives and Republicans actually believe that the video is authentic is a far worse reflection on the right than the doctored video is on Mrs. Pelosi.

Fake news remains a real problem, as do blatantly false attempts at character assassination on both sides. Remember, kids, when surfing the internet, if it seems too stupid to be true, it probably is. However, in this day and age, you should probably check the source just to be sure.

Originally published on The Resurgent

May Ends Early In The UK

British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that she will step down from her role as leader of the Conservative Party on June 7. May has presided over six months of failed negotiations with parliament for passage of a Brexit deal to leave the European Union. In her speech, she conceded that a new leader is needed to complete the deal. Britain is scheduled to leave the EU on Oct. 31.

“I feel as certain today as I did three years ago that in a democracy, if you give people a choice you have a duty to implement what they decide,” May said, as quoted by Politico. “I have done my best to do that,” she added. “I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal. Sadly, I have not been able to do so. It is and will always remain a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit.”

May said that she will remain on the job until a new leader is selected, which means that she will still head the government when President Trump visits the UK next month. Unlike the long American presidential election process, the process to select a new leader will begin the following week and will be decided quickly.

The leading contenders to replace her Michael Gove, currently environment secretary and another member of the Conservative Party, also called the Tories, Boris Johnson, a conservative member of Parliament and formerly foreign secretary, and Dominic Raab, a Conservative and former Brexit Secretary.

The next prime minister will face the difficult task of bringing together a sharply divided country in time to pass a Brexit deal. A Brexit with no deal would mean that Britain leaves the EU with no agreements in place. This would have a number of effects that could severely curtail travel and trade between Britain and EU countries. The effects on Britain’s economy could be devastating. Many members of Parliament want to keep close ties with the EU, but the Brexit Party, led by populist Nigel Farage, prefers a hard Brexit with no deal to maintain relations.

"A lot depends on whether they are serious about no-deal,” said former Brexit Secretary David Davis. “If we go at this properly and say we are going to do this properly, in my judgment the Brexit Party will step back because this is a real, serious existential moment for the country.”

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, May 23, 2019

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Trade War

The tariffs designed to protect American steel and aluminum have led to lower prices. 

It has been a year since President Trump placed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum to protect American producers. Since then, the import taxes have not worked as expected. Rather than driving up the price of the metals and boosting the stock prices of the companies that produce them, prices of both aluminum and steel have declined in the past year. The same is true of the stock prices for steel and aluminum companies.

The intent behind Trump’s protective tariffs was to drive up prices. Increased costs are a feature, not a bug, of protectionism. In theory, the taxes on imports will make foreign products more expensive and allow domestic producers to raise prices and reap more profits in turn. That is not what happened.

In reality, steel prices spiked in the months after the tariffs were implemented and then crashed in late 2018 before rebounding slightly over the past couple of months. Overall, the trend has been slightly downward since the beginning of 2018.

The story is similar for aluminum prices.  There was a spike in April 2018 followed by a long decline to a current price level that is lower than pre-tariff prices.

The slump also applies to stock prices. Steel producers US Steel and Nucor both have stock prices that are far lower than their highs from last spring. The same is true of aluminum producer Alcoa.

So, what happened? The answer seems to be found in decreasing demand. As you may remember from Econ 101’s price curves, as prices go up, demand falls. Fewer goods are sold as prices rise higher.

CNN points out that expectations of rising prices and possible supply problems led to a glut of orders in 2018. This surge in demand led to the price spike last summer and helped steel companies post nice profits.

When faced with rising prices and demand, the steel producers did the logical thing. They boosted production in order to maximize their profits. Some mills reopened and others added capacity, which led to about 9,000 new steel jobs, which reportedly cost American consumers about $900,000 each. Production in the first quarter of 2019 increased by approximately 1 million tons over the same time last year.

That’s when another economic law kicked in: the law of supply and demand. The increased steel output led to another glut, this time in supply. As steel inventories piled up, prices fell drastically.

“We observe that supply exceeded demand ... over the last six months," UBS analyst Andreas Bokkenheuser said. “This explains the corresponding 25% price correction.”

There were other reasons for softening demand as well. Steel purchasers had built up their own inventories, expecting possible interruptions in supply. When those interruptions never materialized, purchasers slowed new orders while they worked through their inventories.

The Fabricators and Manufacturers Association also notes that “steel’s major end-use markets, construction and automotive, show signs of slowing compared to last year.” This softening demand may be due to the trade war’s effects on other manufacturers who use steel and aluminum as a component in their products. Other buyers are watching prices and keeping inventories lean as they prepare to place orders when the price finds a bottom.

Despite the falling prices, US steelmakers are still adding capacity. Per CNN, both US Steel and Nucor are spending billions on projects that will add a combined 2.6 million tons of production capacity in coming years. If other factors remain the same, the new capacity could drive prices even lower. Investors who would have preferred dividends and stock buy-backs voted on the investments in new capacity by selling off stocks.

With the new investments, the American companies will be more dependent on continued tariffs to protect them from foreign competition.

“We're among the lowest-cost producers. We're extremely competitive if we're operating on a level playing field. But there is massive overcapacity of steel from China, multiples of US capacity, and it's heavily subsidized by the government. That's led to a very distorted global market for steel,” said Kevin Dempsey, senior vice president of public policy for the American Iron and Steel Institute. “If we lifted the all the tariffs, I think we'd see another flood of imports.”

That is already happening. President Trump announced this week that he would lift tariffs from Canadian and Mexican imports. The US imports far more steel and aluminum from these two North American neighbors than it does from China and the rest of the world.

The bottom line is that the tariffs have failed to protect the steel and aluminum industries and, ironically, have left them more vulnerable than they were before. Steel producers invested their windfall in more capacity which will be of little use in a market with declining prices. As competition from foreign imports returns, the future of American steel and aluminum companies appears to be difficult.

 Originally published on The Resurgent

Women Consider Adoption ‘More Emotionally Painful’ Than Abortion

The Atlantic recently ran a piece on adoption versus abortion. While most conservative outlets and readers focus on the money quote, a subtitle that reads, “Some American women see giving up their babies as more emotionally painful than terminating their pregnancies,” the excerpt doesn’t do the article justice and really doesn’t reflect the tone of the article.

The implication from the blurb is that many women choose abortion over adoption because they are self-centered and would rather inflict pain on an unborn baby than to go through the process of pregnancy and suffer emotional pain themselves as a result. That was my initial reaction, but then I actually read the piece by Olga Khazan, which turned out to be quite interesting.

Preconceptions are shattered almost immediately when Khazan points out that, while rates for both adoption and abortion have fallen in recent decades, births to unmarried children have risen. This suggests that, rather than making a choice to abort over placing their baby up for adoption, many women are choosing to become single parents. As single-parenting has become more socially acceptable, more women have decided to keep their babies rather than allow them to be adopted.

While this does contribute to the welfare state since children of single-parent families are more like to be raised in poverty, it is a better choice than abortion. It also works against the declining birthrate in the United States, which is another longterm problem that needs to be addressed.

Khazan cites the Turnaway Study of women who were denied abortions between 2008 and 2010. Of 956 women interviewed, 161 went on to give birth, but only 15 chose adoption. Khazan doesn’t say, but presumably, the remainder had successful abortions on subsequent attempts.

The study found that when women were denied an abortion, usually for financial reasons or lack of access, they often considered adoption. Fourteen percent of mothers who were denied an abortion considered adoption in the weeks following their abortion attempt, but ultimately, only nine percent decided to adopt. Most of those who carried the baby to term simply decided to raise the child themselves.

On the other hand, none of the mothers who aborted had any interest in adoption. The authors of the study wrote, “Adoption was often ruled out because they felt it was not right for them, because their partner would not be interested, because they had health reasons for not wanting to carry to term, or because they believed there were already enough children in need of homes.”

While the mother’s health might preclude an adoption, the other reasons relate more to the fact that the baby was an inconvenience. For example, having children already has nothing to do with putting a different child up for adoption but does raising children while pregnant is more difficult.

The study did find that mothers who chose adoption were satisfied with the choice but that it was very traumatic initially.

“Uniformly, the birth mothers experience grief after placement,” said Gretchen Sisson, a sociologist at the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health research group of the University of California at San Francisco. “It’s a very hard choice and one that a lot of women are not interested in making. By the time they are delivering the child, women feel bonded to their pregnancies and their children.”

One study participant said, “I had too many feelings for her to give [her] to someone I barely knew.”

These types of comments underscore the truth that unborn babies are living human beings, a fact denied by many in the pro-choice camp. Nevertheless, most mothers inherently understand that the child inside them is just that: a child.

Khazan also cites a small study performed by Sisson on mothers who placed their children up for adoption between 1962 and 2009. In the study, she wrote, “Rarely was adoption the preferred course of action; it emerged as a solution when women felt they had no other options.” Most of the women interviewed described their experience with adoption as “predominantly negative.” Khazan notes that this may be because most of the participants were involved in closed adoptions where no contact was allowed between the birth mother and the adopted child.

Finally, Khazan cites a third study which does lend credence to the money quote cited above. A 2008 study found that a quarter of women considering abortion found adoption to be too emotionally distressing. “Respondents said that the thought of one’s child being out in the world without knowing whether it was being taken care of or who was taking care of it was more guilt-inducing than having an abortion,” wrote the authors.

While it seems barbaric and wrongheaded – and more than a little reminiscent of Nazi Germany – to kill an unborn baby because you are concerned about its wellbeing, this statement again cuts against the claim that a fetus is not a human being. If an unborn baby is nothing more than a lump of cells then there is no reason to be concerned about whether it will be taken care of in the future.

If I go that far, I’m attached. I cannot just give my baby away to someone,” said the unmarried, 24-year-old mother of two who was considering abortion over adoption.

Khazan also points out that neither pro-choice nor pro-life counseling centers are doing a good job of selling expectant mothers on adoption. According to the National Council for Adoption, the referral rate to adoption agencies is only about one percent.

While Khazan’s article is not pro-life by any means, she is objective enough to confront some uncomfortable truths. “Rightly or wrongly, very few women who desire abortions actually see adoption as a favorable alternative,” she writes, but adds, “The reason the women don’t choose adoption is not great for the pro-choice side, either. Some of these women report feeling bonded with their fetuses, or at least too attached to give up the resulting baby. That’s an inconvenient point if you feel that a fetus is nothing more than a collection of cells and that what happens to it before viability is basically immaterial.”

If the pro-life movement wants women to see adoption as a viable alternative to abortion, there is a lot of work to be done. Crisis pregnancy centers could do a better job of informing women about adoption and there should be more methods through which the mother can stay involved in the child’s life if she chooses. This may help to reduce the emotional stress of giving a child away. Campaigns should also be undertaken to make the public see adoption as a positive choice and spouses should be encouraged to support women who want to carry their children to term and place them with adoptive parents.

One of the most difficult problems to overcome is the fact that abortions can take place in secret while carrying a baby to term is difficult to conceal. Many women probably choose abortion to keep others from ever knowing that they were pregnant in the first place.

In the end, Khazan’s article contains both good news and bad news for the pro-life movement. Rather than attacking the messenger or ridiculing the women who choose abortion over adoption, we should learn from their experience and tailor the pro-life message to address their concerns.

The only way to resolve the national issues that divide us is to talk to each other and find common ground. Olga Khazan may be a pro-choice advocate, but I applaud her for looking past the rhetoric to find out what mothers on both sides of the issue think.
 Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Why Justin Amash Is Right About Impeachment

Justin Amash has generated quite a stir with his comments about President Trump having committed impeachable offenses. Most Republicans and many conservatives are distancing themselves from his tweets, but I believe that Amash hit the nail on the head.

If you’ve read the Mueller report, or even if you read about only the most reported-upon sections of it, you know that Mueller’s team did not find “nothing.” While Mueller did not find a criminal conspiracy with the Russians, he did find numerous undisclosed contacts between the Russians and the Trump campaign as well as a pattern of deception about those contacts. Even more alarming, Mueller found that the president did attempt to obstruct justice. Mueller’s pointed note that Trump could not be exonerated should be translated to read that the president obstructed justice but could not be prosecuted under DOJ policy.

From all this, what the president and his supporters have gleaned is “no collusion, no obstruction.” In reality, the findings against Trump are much more serious. Despite “no collusion,” the president showed himself to be dishonest with the American people about his dealings with a foreign power in his attempt to cover up negotiations for a Moscow Trump Tower that were ongoing during the campaign. The president has demonstrated a habit of attempting to cover up anything potentially embarrassing such as the meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya in the New York Trump Tower as well as defying legal requests from Congress for his tax information. While the lies weren’t illegal because the president did not lie under oath (as some of his staffers did), it underscores the fact that Donald Trump is fundamentally dishonest and cannot be trusted by the American people.

What was illegal were the president’s attempts to undermine the Russia investigation. Some, such as Ben Shapiro, say that the law requires either successful obstruction or an underlying crime to be criminal. There are many others on the right, including Judge Andrew Napolitano and former prosecutor Renato Mariotti, who disagree. In fact, hundreds of federal prosecutors say that Trump would have been indicted if he had not been president.

In his tweet thread, Amash, who is himself an attorney points out that there were underlying crimes uncovered by the Mueller investigation but that obstruction of justice does not require the investigation to have found a crime.

As Amash points out, the president could not have known for certain what Mueller’s team would find. It was entirely possible that some members of the campaign could have been Russian agents without Trump’s knowledge. It is also possible – because it actually happened – that Mueller’s investigation would uncover other crimes.

Add to Mueller’s findings the president’s attempt to undermine the will of the voters and Congress by declaring a national emergency. David French explained in February why Trump’s national emergency violated existing law, calling it “contemptuous of the rule of law.” This is a far cry from the party that attacked President Obama’s circumvention of Congress on DACA and that spent years pointing out that the House, not the president, held the purse strings of government.

We are left with no criminal conspiracy and no prosecutable obstruction because the DOJ has a policy against indicting a sitting president. That’s quite a difference from “no collusion, no obstruction.” Unconstitutional abuses of power add to the mix. There obviously was wrongdoing by the president that deserves some sort of penalty. The options on the table are for the DOJ to amend its policy, to indict Trump after he leaves office, impeachment, or a congressional vote of censure.

Amash is also correct that the Constitution’s “high crimes and misdemeanors” do not require the commission of a crime. The Constitutional Rights Foundation points out that the original meaning of the phrase, as the framers would have understood it, included both criminal acts as well as noncriminal offenses with the “common denominator… that the official had somehow abused the power of his office and was unfit to serve.”

In Federalist No. 65, Alexander Hamilton wrote that impeachable offenses are “those offences [sic] which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or in other words from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”

Donald Trump’s actions fall under the categories of abuse of power, even if one does not acknowledge that they were criminal on their face. In the best case scenario, the president directed his subordinates to undermine a federal investigation. This is a clear breach of the public trust.

The most palatable option for Republicans should be a censure vote. It would acknowledge that the president acted improperly and hopefully restrain him in the future. Unfortunately, loyalty to Trump is now a litmus test in the GOP. Republican congressmen cannot vote for censure without incurring the wrath of both the party’s base and the president.

With most Republicans unwilling to follow Amash’s lead, most GOP officials are stuck with the additional option of whistling the tune “no collusion, no obstruction” as they tiptoe past the graveyard and pretend nothing is wrong. The problem with following this option is that the media and Democrats are holding up Trump’s misbehavior for voters everywhere to see. I’ll wager that presidential ads next year will quote the Mueller report verbatim. Polls show that Mueller is more trusted than Trump even after two years of vicious Republican attacks and that Mueller’s findings changed few minds about Trump.

If Republicans choose to ignore Donald Trump’s misdeeds out of either misguided loyalty to the president or an affinity for his policy, then it will be up to voters to hold both the president and the Republican Party accountable. Ideally, Republican voters would oust Trump in the primary, but if not, it appears that general election voters will be up to the job.

Originally published on The Resurgent