Sunday, December 31, 2023

Name it! We are experiencing a refugee crisis, not a border crisis.

I recently wrote that the GOP's case against Biden's domestic policies is all based on lies. Since then Republicans have found it increasingly difficult to scare-monger about issues like inflation and crime. But images like this are ramping up the salience of the so-called "border crisis." 

Let's be clear about what is going on here. Note that migrants are "waiting for overwhelmed border agents to process them" and that Eagle Pass is a port of entry on our Southern border. Taken together, we know that those thousands of migrants have voluntarily presented themselves to Border Patrol at a port of entry (as the Biden administration requires) in order to seek asylum. 

The first steps in that process are to undergo a background check and participate in a "credible threat assessment." The latter is designed to determine if there is a “significant possibility” they will face persecution on “account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion” if they return to their home country. 

Those who fail to pass this initial step (about 25%) are immediately subject to deportation (ie, from May-September 2023, over 253,000 individuals were removed or returned to 152 countries). Those who pass are released (often to family and/or NGO's) to await their day in court - which can take up to four years due to the current backlog of cases. Those procedures are all codified in the Refugee Act of 1980 - which passed the Senate unanimously and the House on a vote of 211-195.

The numbers tell the story of what is happening today.
  • As of October 2022, there were more than 7.1 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela around the world. Approximately 1.8 million Venezuelans have gone to Colombia and 1.3 million to Peru. U.S. Border Patrol encounters with Venezuelans increased 15,164% between FY 2020 and FY 2022.
  • U.S. Border Patrol encounters with Nicaraguans increased 7,604% between FY 2020 and FY 2022.
  • U.S. Border Patrol encounters with Cubans increased 2,143% between FY 2020 and FY 2022.
  • Between FY 2020 and FY 2022, U.S. Border Patrol encounters increased 560% for Haitians, 465% for Salvadorans, 397% for Hondurans and 383% for Guatemalans.
It is time we named this for what it is. We don't have a "border crisis" in this country. We are in the midst of a "refugee crisis." As Stuart Anderson wrote:
Criticism of the increase in Border Patrol encounters has implied that individuals would not come to the United States if U.S. immigration policy were sufficiently harsh. However, the countries from which people are seeking refuge have experienced economic and political upheavals. These upheavals or continuing violence and repression have created a large number of refugees.

What images like the one in the tweet up above tell us is that, as a country, we are woefully unprepared to deal with the refugee crisis we are facing. But once we've correctly identified the problem, we can compare and contrast the solutions proposed by Democrats and Republicans.

Fist of all, not many people know that the first bill President Biden sent to Congress on January 20, 2021 was a comprehensive immigration reform bill. 

The legislation modernizes our immigration system, and prioritizes keeping families together, growing our economy, responsibly managing the border with smart investments, addressing the root causes of migration from Central America, and ensuring that the United States remains a refuge for those fleeing persecution...The bill creates an earned path to citizenship for our immigrant neighbors, colleagues, parishioners, community leaders, friends, and loved ones—including Dreamers and the essential workers who have risked their lives to serve and protect American communities.

Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) has introduced similar legislation.

Meanwhile, in order to address the backlog of asylum hearings, President Biden has added 302 judges to immigration courts (a 54% increase) and has done several things to address the refugee crisis directly.

Migrants in northern and central Mexico can use a government phone app, known as CBP One, to try to secure an appointment to enter the U.S. at a port of entry along the southern border. The U.S. is distributing roughly 1,000 appointments per day...

Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan and Venezuelan migrants also have the option of flying to the U.S. if U.S.-based individuals agree to financially sponsor them. The Biden administration's program allows for up to 30,000 of these arrivals per month.

Biden's supplemental budget request for aid to Israel, Ukraine, and the refugee crisis included funding for additional border patrol officers, asylum officers, and immigration attorneys, as well as detention beds, non-custodial housing and cutting-edge detection technology. Demonstrating that they're not interested in actually solving the refugee crisis, Republicans rejected that request. 

In a subsequent piece I'll fact-check the lies Republicans are telling about this issue and demonstrate that they're not only proposing procedures that won't work - they also want to dismantle the Biden administration efforts that ARE working. 

Friday, December 15, 2023

When Trump left the White House, the Brennan dossier disappeared

Today CNN reporters dropped a bit of a bombshell.

A binder containing highly classified information related to Russian election interference went missing at the end of Donald Trump’s presidency, raising alarms among intelligence officials that some of the most closely guarded national security secrets from the US and its allies could be exposed, sources familiar with the matter told CNN...

The binder contained raw intelligence the US and its NATO allies collected on Russians and Russian agents, including sources and methods that informed the US government’s assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to help Trump win the 2016 election, sources tell CNN...

The Russian intelligence was just a small part of the collection of documents in the binder, described as being 10 inches thick and containing reams of information about the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia.

I want to focus on the part of the binder that contained "Russian intelligence" because I'm pretty sure that I know the source of that material. In the past, I've referred to it as the "Brennan dossier." Here's what Greg Miller wrote in his book The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy (emphasis mine)

In the months leading up to the 2016 election, senior [CIA] officials held a series of meetings...seeking to make sense of disconcerting reports that Moscow had mounted a covert operation to upend the U.S. presidential race.

By early August, the sense of alarm had become so acute that CIA Director John Brennan called White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. “I need to get in to see the president,” Brennan said, with unusual urgency in his voice.

Brennan had just spent two days sequestered in his office reviewing a small mountain of material on Russia…There were piles of finished assessments, but Brennan had also ordered up what agency veterans call the “raw stuff” — unprocessed material from informants, listening devices, computer implants and other sources. Clearing his schedule, Brennan pored over all of it...

Brennan’ to the White House was driven by...extraordinary intelligence that had surfaced in late July and reached deep inside the Kremlin, showing that Putin was himself directing an “active measures” operation aimed not only at disrupting the U.S. presidential race but electing Trump.

Some of the material Brennan reviewed probably came from our allies, as The Guardian reported back in 2017.

GCHQ first became aware in late 2015 of suspicious “interactions” between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents, a source close to UK intelligence said. This intelligence was passed to the US as part of a routine exchange of information, they added.

Over the next six months, until summer 2016, a number of western agencies shared further information on contacts between Trump’s inner circle and Russians, sources said...

The alleged conversations were picked up by chance as part of routine surveillance of Russian intelligence assets. Over several months, different agencies targeting the same people began to see a pattern of connections that were flagged to intelligence officials in the US.

Miller and his colleagues at the Washington Post documented what happened next.

Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried “eyes only” instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.

Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race.

But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.

As the latest CNN report noted, this was the intelligence that informed the "government’s assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to help Trump win the 2016 election." 

When former Attorney General Bill Barr initiated the Durham investigation, an attempt was made to blame the so-called "Russian hoax" on Brennan. As an example, here's what Margot Cleveland wrote about that at The Federalist:

The evidence suggests that the CIA and intelligence community—including potentially the intelligence communities of the UK, Italy, and Australia—created the contacts and interactions [between Russian agents and the Trump campaign] that they then reported to the FBI as suspicious…

These are the questions Barr and Durham should be asking themselves to arrive at the bottom line: Were the Russia connections contrived by the CIA, and was Brennan the plotter-in-chief hoping to prevent a President Trump—or to destroy him later?

In the end, Durham came up with nothing on Brennan - so he simply smeared Hillary Clinton in a not-so-veiled attempt to blame her for the whole thing. 

Today we learned that when Trump left the White House, the Brennan dossier - with all of its raw intelligence data - disappeared. Nine months later, the CIA was reporting that a concerning number of U.S. informants were being captured and executed. We can only hope that the two events are not connected.

For his part, Brennan - who served under three different presidents - made his views about Trump's relationship with Putin perfectly clear back in 2018.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

J.D. Vance is the one who has advocated for "open rebellion" against the United States

As a recovering therapist, my brain is still hard-wired to wonder about the motivations behind the absurd behavior of MAGA politicians. So when Sen. J.D. Vance all of the sudden is garnering headlines for doing things like raging against diversity initiatives or smearing Ukrainian President Zelinsky, I think that perhaps he's gotten jealous of all the attention the Republican chaos agents in the House have garnered lately. A sure-fire way to rouse the MAGA troops is to push the boundaries of extremism. So Vance is basically saying "Look at me! I can be a chaos agent too!"

But one of the other actions Vance took lately caught my eye. He wrote a letter to AG Garland and Sec of State Blinken demanding answers regarding a recent Washington Post op-ed that he said suggested "open rebellion" against the United States.

The article in question was written by NeverTrump Republican Robert Kagan, an opinion columnist at the Washington Post. The rather lengthy piece was focused on documenting the fact that the odds of an American dictatorship in the next few years are pretty good - given the possible election of Donald Trump. Near the end, Kagan devotes two paragraphs to a couple of options he thinks we'll have as citizens if he's right - both of which he dismisses as unlikely or ineffective. Here's the one Vance focused on:

Resistance could come from the governors of predominantly Democratic states such as California and New York through a form of nullification. States with Democratic governors and statehouses could refuse to recognize the authority of a tyrannical federal government. That is always an option in our federal system. (Should Biden win, some Republican states might engage in nullification.) But not even the bluest states are monolithic, and Democratic governors are likely to find themselves under siege on their home turf if they try to become bastions of resistance to Trump’s tyranny.

Personally, I didn't think that Kagan's article was based on solid reasoning - including that paragraph. But what I could have done is write a response documenting my own thoughts. That is what civil discourse in this country ought to look like.

That's not what Vance did. In his letter he accused Kagan of advocating for "secession, treason, and (likely) political violence," demanding that DOJ open an investigation.

Beyond the fact that such an investigation would take direct aim at free speech, I would remind Senator Vance that his MAGA colleagues in the House have openly called for secession.

But the real reason all of this caught my eye was the blatant hypocrisy. As a reminder, here's what Vance said during an interview with Jack Murphy, head of the Liminal Order men’s group.

“I tend to think that we should seize the institutions of the left,” he said. “And turn them against the left. We need like a de-Baathification program, a de-woke-ification program.”...

“And when the courts stop you,” he went on, “stand before the country, and say—” he quoted Andrew Jackson, giving a challenge to the entire constitutional order—“the chief justice has made his ruling. Now let him enforce it.”

Vance wants Republicans to "seize the institutions of the left," and implement a "de-woke-ification program." If the courts get in the way, he'd basically tell them to f*ck off. 

I know that it has become rather banal these days to point to Republican hypocrisy. But as long as I still have a voice, I'm determined to call out J.D. Vance for the fascist he's proven himself to be. He has no business lecturing anyone about "open rebellion" against the United States! 

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Trump wants us all to remember that he bragged about committing sexual assault

I am glad that so many people (and some journalists) are beginning to call Donald Trump out for the fascist dictator he's promising to be if re-elected. But I don't feel the need to do that myself. That's because, like many of you, it's not news to me.

I've known it since: 

  • he called for the execution of five innocent young Black men in 1989 before they even stepped foot inside a courtroom. 
  • he peddled the racist birther lie about Barack Obama - this country's first African American president.
  • he launched his presidential bid in 2016 by calling Mexicans rapists and criminals.
  • he bragged about being able to sexually assault women. 

All of that happened BEFORE he was elected in 2016!

Last night,  Trump indicated that he doesn't want us to forget that last one. 

The former president bizarrely tried to put a profound new spin on his infamous 2016 “grab ’em by the pussy” scandal at a gala for the New York Young Republican Club in New York City on Saturday evening, suggesting that his handling of the fallout (so he’d been told) transcends even the courage of war heroes...

“We had a meeting when it was looking bad,” he said, describing the scandal as one of many “inescapable situations,” and recalling how he’d been urged to drop out of the race just weeks before the election.

“But you know, the next day, or very shortly thereafter, we had the debate… I went onto that stage just a few days later, and a general, who’s a fantastic general, actually said to me, ‘Sir, I’ve been on the battlefield, men have gone down on my left and on my right, I stood on hills where soldiers were killed, but I believe the bravest thing I’ve ever seen was the night you went onto that stage with Hillary Clinton after what happened, and then that woman asked you the first question about it, and [you] said ‘locker room talk.’”

Frankly, I don't have the words to describe how much of a low-life you have to be to say that. The man doesn't just want us to remember that he was BRAGGING about committing sexual assault. He wants us to think that he has the courage of a war hero for calling it "locker room talk."

The person who did have the words for this vile man was Michelle Obama - who gave this speech in New Hampshire a few days after the Access Hollywood tape was released. I share it here in case there's anyone out there who needs a reminder.

I was literally moved to tears by that speech. She talked about how all of this was affecting us as women.
This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior, and actually bragging about kissing and groping women, using language so obscene that many of us were worried about our children hearing it when we turn on the TV...

It is cruel. It's frightening. And the truth is, it hurts. It hurts...

And all of us are doing what women have always done: We're trying to keep our heads above water, just trying to get through it, trying to pretend like this doesn't really bother us maybe because we think that admitting how much it hurts makes us as women look weak.

Maybe we're afraid to be that vulnerable. Maybe we've grown accustomed to swallowing these emotions and staying quiet, because we've seen that people often won't take our word over his. Or maybe we don't want to believe that there are still people out there who think so little of us as women. Too many are treating this as just another day's headline, as if our outrage is overblown or unwarranted, as if this is normal, just politics as usual.

But, New Hampshire, be clear: This is not normal. This is not politics as usual. This is disgraceful. It is intolerable. And it doesn't matter what party you belong to — Democrat, Republican, independent — no woman deserves to be treated this way. None of us deserves this kind of abuse.

I don't know about you, but I needed to hear that in 2016 - and I needed to hear it again today.

But Michelle didn't stop there. She also had some words for the men in our lives (emphasis mine).

I can tell you that the men in my life do not talk about women like this. And I know that my family is not unusual. And to dismiss this as everyday locker-room talk is an insult to decent men everywhere.

The men that you and I know don't treat women this way. They are loving fathers who are sickened by the thought of their daughters being exposed to this kind of vicious language about women. They are husbands and brothers and sons who don't tolerate women being treated and demeaned and disrespected.

Michelle tried to warn us all back then. Too many people didn't listen. Now the man who bragged about committing sexual assault wants us to remember just how cruel and disrespectful he can be. He thinks that makes him some kind of courageous hero. It actually makes him a vile human being worthy of nothing but contempt.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Conservative white men are allowed to call America sinful. Black preachers...not so much.

At about the same time that Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson was talking publicly about obstructing justice, he sent out a fundraising email.

It's fine with me if an individual thinks that America needs more God. But Johnson is attempting to raise money for Republicans as Speaker of the House - not for a church or ministry. In that context, WTH does me mean when he talks about "returning America to God's good graces?"

Beyond that question, I'd like to highlight a few lines from this email.
I fear that America may be beyond redemption...

I fear God may allow our nation to enter into a time of judgement for our collective sins...

America needs to recognize that we have much to repent for if we want to avoid the judgement we so clearly deserve...

That's pretty standard fare for Christian nationalists (aka, MAGA Republicans) these days. And as Tim Miller noted, it's also pretty standard fare for Johnson, who said this not too long ago:

We are at a civilizational moment. The only question is: Is God going to allow our nation to enter a time of judgment for our collective sins which his mercy and grace have held back for some time or is he gonna give us one more chance to restore the foundation, to return to Him?

In an absolutely brilliant move, Miller compared that sentiment to something Rev. Jeremiah Wright said that came close to toppling Barack Obama's candidacy in 2008.

The government gives [citizens of African descent] the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law, and then wants us to sing “God Bless America.” No, no, no. Not “God Bless America”; God Damn America! That’s in the Bible, for killing innocent people. God Damn America for treating her citizens as less than human. 

What's striking is that both men believe that America is sinful and deserves God's judgment. In the end, both men also believe that through God, we can be redeemed. Here's what Wright went on to say:

But I’m fixing to help you one last time. Let me tell you something. Where governments fail, God never fails. When God says it, it’s done. God never fails. 
I'm old enough to remember that the entire county practically lost it's mind when they heard about Rev. Wright's sermon. Things got so bad that Obama had to give an entire speech reminding us that the story of America is all about "perfecting our union."

And yet, other than not using a four letter word, we hear the same sentiment from folks like Johnson on a daily basis.  It's almost as if conservative white men are allowed to say that America is sinful and call forth God's judgement. But Black preachers aren't. Imagine that!

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Can Republicans "moderate" their position on abortion?

One of the most important stories coming out of recent elections is that, whenever voters have a chance to weigh in about abortion, they have chosen to support a woman's right to chose. That has supposedly made Republicans think twice about promoting their extremist views. 

But as Kavitha Surana reports at ProPublica, anti-choice activists are successfully lobbying red states with abortion bans to oppose adding exceptions for rape, incest, and health risks. 

[I]n the most conservative states, Republicans ultimately fell in line with highly organized Christian groups. Those activists fought to keep the most restrictive abortion bans in place by threatening to pull funding and support primary challenges to lawmakers that didn’t stand strong.

Their fervor to protect the laws reflects a bedrock philosophy within the American anti-abortion movement: that all abortion exceptions — even those that protect the pregnant person’s life or health — should be considered the same as sanctioning murder.

 This tells you all you need to know about how far these folks are willing to go:

The Catholic Church and the anti-abortion movement also have a history of celebrating the stories of women who were willing to sacrifice their lives to continue their pregnancies.

One of the most well-known stories is about Chiara Corbella Petrillo, a young Italian woman who refused chemotherapy in 2011 for cancer on her tongue because she was pregnant. As the cancer progressed, it became difficult for her to speak and see. A year after giving birth to a healthy baby boy, she died.

Live Action, a major anti-abortion advocacy group, included Petrillo on a list of “7 Brave Mothers Who Risked Their Lives to Save Their Preborn Babies.”...

In anti-abortion circles, Petrillo has been described as a “heroine for the 21st century” and a “modern day saint.”

On the Protestant side, the movement Speaker Mike Johnson is most closely aligned with - Christian reconstructionism - includes this in their statement on "The Christian Worldview of the Family:"

We affirm that every human being begins life from the moment of conception; that the zygote, embryo, and fetus should therefore be entitled to full protection of law (Psalm 139:14,15; Jeremiah 1:5; Exodus 21:22-25); that killing the zygote, embryo, or fetus through abortion or any other form of violence is murder; that removal of the zygote, embryo, or fetus from the womb is justified only when leaving the child inside the mother would cause death for both mother and child; that the Church should encourage research to improve the chances of survival for a baby so removed; and that no baby should be deprived of nourishment or necessary medical care after birth for any reason (Deuteronomy 5:17).

We deny that either the mother, the father, the civil government, or any other person or institution has a moral right to decree the death by abortion of any child for any reason, be it social, economic, psychological, etc.

For these folks, any abortion from the moment of conception is murder - unless continuing the pregnancy would cause the death of BOTH the mother and fetus. That's as extreme as it gets. 

When Republicans attempt to moderate their position on abortion, these are the folks that are determined to stop them. 

Saturday, November 25, 2023

What you need to know about Speaker Mike Johnson: He's a Christian Reconstructionist

Now that the media has had some time to dig into Speaker Mike Johnson's past, most of the coverage has focused on his involvement with the so-called "culture wars," like his position on abortion, LGBTQ+ rights, and what Christian nationalists refer to as "religious freedom" (ie, freedom for me, but not for thee).

While those are important, it is wrong to suggest that the Speaker's extremist views are limited to those issues.  In order to fully understand Johnson, we must recognize the theological tradition with which he is most closely aligned: Christian Reconstructionism.

It developed primarily under the direction of Rousas Rushdoony, Greg Bahnsen and Gary North and has had an important influence on the Christian right in the United States. Its central theme is that society should be reconstructed under the lordship of Jesus in all aspects of life. 

Way back in 1987, Bill Moyers introduced us to the Christian reconstructionist movement in a series titled "On Earth as it is in Heaven."

Christian Reconstruction and God's Law from on Vimeo.

When Johnson says that we can read the Bible to understand his position on ANY issue, he's aligning his politics with Christian reconstructionism. That shouldn't come as a surprise since the organization he worked for prior to his political career - the Alliance Defending Freedom - has always maintained ties to Christian Reconstructionism.

As Moyers pointed out, the founder of this movement was Rousas Rushdoony. John Sugg summarized his views succinctly.
Rushdoony, who died in 2001, articulated a doctrine called “presuppositionalism.” All issues are religious in nature, he posited, and people don’t have the right or the ability to define for themselves what’s true; for that they must turn to a literal reading of the Bible...

At the heart of Rushdoony’s argument were two biblical passages. Genesis 1:28 commands men to have “dominion” over “every living thing.” And in Matthew 28:18-20, the “Great Commission,” Jesus commands his followers to proselytize to the world. Thus was born dominion theology...Adam and Eve broke their covenant with God, and Satan seized dominion. Christian Reconstruction claims it has a reconstituted covenant with God and the right to a new dominion in his name.

In this worldview, the mandate for Christians is not just to live right or to help their neighbors: They are called upon to take over or eliminate the [Satanic] institutions of secular government.

That is why, for reconstructionists, "there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government." All institutions are either "biblically based" or satantic. 

Katherine Stewart wrote that "Rushdoony drew on two traditions that would prove essential in understanding the genesis of today’s Christian nationalist movement. The first was the proslavery theology of America’s antebellum preachers. The second was the economic libertarianism that took root in reaction to the New Deal."

Rushdooney was particularly influenced by the pro-slavery theology of Robert Lewis Dabny who argued that opposing slavery was “tantamount to rejecting Christianity.” After the Civil War, Dabney, who referred to democracy as “mobocracy,” took up the cause of his “oppressed white brethren of Virginia and neighboring states to the south.”

Their oppression consisted in, among other things, having to pay taxes to support a “pretended education to the brats of black paupers.” These unjustly persecuted white people, as Dabney saw it, were also forced to contend with “the atheistic and infidel theories of physical science.”

Christian reconstructionists like Johnson have never embraced democracy and have traditionally rejected the idea of paying taxes to support the education of "those people."

Any of that sounding familiar?

Julie Ingersoll's book, "Building God's Kingdom," is an account of the history and goals of the Christian reconstructionist movement. She provides an important key to understanding them:

Christian Reconstructionists argue that the Bible must govern every aspect of life. In their framework, known as “jurisdictional authority” or “sphere sovereignty,” God delegates biblical authority to three distinct, and severely limited, spheres of “government.” There is family government, ecclesiastical (church) government, and civil government, each with its own authority and sphere of legitimate influence.

So, for example, in this view, education is entirely within the purview of the family government, not civil government. Reconstructionists believe public education and even regulation of private education by the civil government violates biblical law.

Similarly, because Reconstructionists believe that economic activity is a function of the family’s call to dominion, economic regulation by the government is considered unbiblical—a fundamental tenet of what is known as biblical economics.

We've seen how those views are being embraced by the movement to defund pubic education - primarily in red states. But reconstructionists also have very detailed views about taxes and government spending. Here is what Gary North - Rushdooney's son-in-law - wrote about that.

There is no discussion in the Bible of the proper limits of taxation. Taxation should therefore be discussed in terms of achieving other biblical goals and enforcing other biblical principles.

The supreme biblical goal of taxation is to finance a civil government that is incapable of doing more than the Bible says it should...The state should be limited in a way analogous to the limits placed on the king in Deuteronomy 17. So, the biblical goal of modern politics is to shrink the state -- all branches -- to levels consistent with the biblical concept of civil government: negative sanctions only. The welfare state must be de-funded.

Taxation therefore should be discussed, above all, in terms of limiting the expansion of the state, especially the central government.

With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that one of the first things Johnson did as Speaker was to tie Israeli military aid to defunding the ability of the IRS to go after wealthy tax cheats. We haven't even begun to see how bullish he's going to be on defunding the entire social safety net.

There is no area of modern life that isn't covered by the "biblical worldview" of Christian reconstructionists. At the Coalition on Revival, they have documented the "Christian worldview" on government, law, family, economics, education, charity, social action, business, art, science, medicine, and psychology. If you want to know what kind of policies we're likely to see from the Republican Speaker of the House, feel free to skip the Bible and go directly to the source.

Friday, November 17, 2023

"Toxic masculinity isn't shielding us from danger. It's the reason we're not safe."

Amidst all the news coming out of the war in Israel/Gaza, the story of Vivian Silver is the one that caught my attention. 

Silver moved from Winnipeg to Israel in 1974 and was a longtime member of Women Wage Peace and other organizations campaigning for peace in the region.

She was dedicated to denouncing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians; she had fought against the blockade of Gaza, in place since 2007, and would pick up Gazan children at the border to drive them to Israeli hospitals.

Vivian was killed by Hamas during the October 7 attack. I suspect that the people who murdered her didn't know who she was, but I'm also not convinced they would have cared. That's because nothing we've seen from Hamas (or Netanyahu) indicates they share Vivian's goal of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. As a matter of fact, a case can be made that women like her pose the greatest threat to the aims of both Hamas and Netanyahu. 

The organization Vivian was involved with, Women Wage Peace, is the largest grassroots peace movement in Israel, including over 45,000 members. Here's their mission statement:

Women Wage Peace is a broad, politically unaffiliated movement, which is acting to prevent the next war and to promote a non-violent, respectful, and mutually accepted solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the active participation of women through all stages of negotiations.

Recently Women Wage Peace began a collaboration with Women of the Sun, their sister organization for Palestinian women.  Just last year, Haaretz interviewed its directors, Reem Hjajara, Maram Zoual, and Layla Sheikh. About the collaboration, Hjajara says:

[I]f we can talk about our experiences, we can discuss the most difficult questions. We want the Israeli women to know what our lives are like under the occupation. I want them to know that the army uses Deheisheh [a Palestinian refugee camp] as a training camp, and that there are always soldiers there. We’re always afraid.”

She starts to cry and takes out her phone, showing me a shocking photograph of the bloody body of a young man lying on the street. “My son’s best friend in Deheisheh [Fadi Mohammad Ghattas] was recently killed by the army. He had been in our house only a few days before; he was a son to me,” Hjajara says.

“I want Israeli women to understand what it means when they send their children to the army,” adds Sheikh. “I know you love and want to serve your country, and that you believe you are protecting yourselves. But I want you to know what it means to us when you put guns in the hands of your children.”

As if in anticipation of the next question, Hjajara addresses Palestinian terror and extremism. “Settlers and soldiers attack Palestinians and some people break,” she says. “Our children do not feel they have a future and they’re depressed. Many commit suicide, and some of them hate so much that they attack Israelis – which is a form of suicide...

Hjajara concludes that she is excited about the [collaborative events with Women Wage Peace], but worries about her son. “He did believe in peace, but now, since he lost his friend, I don’t know what he thinks. He stays in the house and cries, and doesn’t eat or sleep. There is too much anger and sadness inside of him.

“Like most Palestinians, he wonders when his turn to be killed will come. That is why we must talk to each other and make peace, so mothers – both Palestinian and Israeli – won’t mourn their children anymore.”

Women from the two groups came together last year to issue a "Mothers' Call." Here's the opening statement:

We, Palestinian and Israeli women from all walks of life, are united in the human desire for a future of peace, freedom, equality, rights, and security for our children and the next generations.

All of that happened before the Hamas attack on October 7th and the Israeli assault on Gaza. Now Vivian is dead and God only knows the fate of Reem, Maram, and Layla. Why? 

As Amanda Marcotte wrote, it all boils down to the lie that toxic masculinity will keep us safe (emphasis mine).

Feminists have long detailed how it's wrong to equate masculinity, especially toxic masculinity, with safety. For instance, the myth of chivalry is constructed around the idea that men need power over women in order to protect us. But, as feminists point out, what we're being "protected" from is male violence that only exists because men have so much power over women...Toxic masculinity isn't shielding us from danger. It's the reason we're not safe.
If the last few weeks have taught us anything, it's that Netanyahu can't keep Israel safe and Hamas can't keep Palestinians safe. If we want peace, it's time to listen to the mothers.

Thursday, November 9, 2023

The direct line from Ronald Reagan to MAGA Republicans

I readily welcome the Republican NeverTrumpers into the ranks of those of us who are determined to protect our democracy from the MAGA Republicans. We need every vote we can get and I actually admire the courage it takes to put country over party.

But every now and then I see one of them harkening back to "the good old days" when Ronald Reagan led the GOP. As long as they do that, they'll never really understand what happened to their party - assuming it was simply Trump who came along and ruined a good thing.

The truth is that there is a direct line from Ronald Reagan to most of the politics that birthed the MAGA movement and put Trump in the White House. If a healthy Republican Party is ever going to emerge out of the ashes (I'm still pretty skeptical), they are going to have to grapple with the fact that these four issues from the Reagan presidency are what led to the GOP becoming the MAGA party.


In contrast to the bombastic racism of Trump, Reagan employed a more subtle (i.e. dogwhistle) approach. For example:

He kicked off his run as 1980’s Republican presidential nominee with an appearance at the Neshoba, Mississippi county fair, where he professed his commitment to states’ rights...Neshoba county was infamous for the 1964 Freedom Summer murders of civil rights activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, and appeals to states’ rights have long been used to justify southern states’ refusal to enact civil rights measures. By touting himself as a states’ rights candidate near the site of one of the nation’s most famous hate crimes, Reagan offered voters a racism that was both obvious and unspoken.

Other dogwhistles included constant references to things like "welfare queens" and "strapping young bucks using food stamps to buy steaks."

Similar to Nixon's "Southern Strategy," the purpose of Reagan's dogwhistles was to send a signal to racist white people that the GOP had their backs. Thus, Reagan continued the policy of marrying the Republican Party to racists - paving the way for Trump.

Christian Nationalists

Prior to the late 1970's, white evangelical Christians had pretty much stayed out of politics - at least in any organized way. But in 1979, Jerry Falwell and Paul Weyrich founded the Moral Majority. The kick-off event was a conference for religious leaders in August 1980 - less than three months before the presidential election. Speakers at the Dallas event included Pat Robertson, James Robison, Jerry Falwell, Paul Weyrich, Phyllis Schlafly, and Tim LaHaye. 

The keynote address was given by Reagan, who began his remarks by saying "I know this is non-partisan, so you can’t endorse me, but I want you to know that I endorse you." He sounded a lot like the new House Speaker Mike Johnson when he said that if he were shipwrecked and could read only one book the rest of his life, he would choose the Bible because “all the complex questions facing us at home and abroad have their answer in that single book.”

Observers referred to this event as a "marriage ceremony between Southern Baptists and the Republican Party." Eventually that evolved into a marriage between Christian nationalists and the GOP.

Democratic Policies are Socialist

In 1961, before beginning his political career, Reagan gave a speech suggesting that Medicare was socialized medicine that would lead to a dictatorship.  That one goes way back to the days after the Civil War.

White southerners did not want Black men voting, they said, because formerly enslaved people were poor, and they would vote for leaders who promised to build things such as roads and hospitals. Those public investments could be paid for only with tax levies, and most of the people in the South with property after the war were white. Thus, although the infrastructure in which the southern legislatures were investing would help everyone, reactionaries claimed that Black voting amounted to a redistribution of wealth [ie, socialism] from white men to Black people, who wanted something for nothing.

In the name of preventing socialism, Reagan cut taxes, reduced regulations, and slashed spending on social programs.

In 2018, Trump's White House Council of Economic Advisors issued a report dubbed "Congressional Democrats Want to Take Money From Hardworking Americans to Fund Failed Socialist Policies.” The 72-page report used the word "socialism" 144 times.

Government is the Problem

Perhaps the most insidious Reagan legacy is his insistence that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."

Of course, he used that idea as justification to cut taxes, spending, and regulations - making it a self-fulfilling prophecy. Republicans have been banking on that one for decades. Way back in 2011, Mike Lofgren told us how this works for them.

A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress's generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.

We've recently witnessed massive disruption by MAGA Republicans in the House, as well as attempts to sabotage institutions like the courts and the Department of Justice. All a MAGA politician has to do is utter the words "deep state" and their supporters salivate at the idea of our "evil government." 

But take a moment to think about what it means for the people to view government as a "them," not "us." It makes us victims of government rather than citizens in a democratic republic. As Barack Obama said in 2012: "As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It's about what can be done by us, together through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government." One of the more powerful ways that Republicans undermine our democracy is by insisting that government is "them," not "us."

There you have it - four ways that Reagan prepared the way for MAGA Republicans. I will continue to be pessimistic about our politics until the GOP starts to wrestle with freeing themselves from this legacy.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

The GOP's case against Biden's domestic policies is all based on lies

When Republican politicians aren't talking about foreign policy or culture wars, they basically have a four-point critique of President Biden's domestic policies.

  1. Inflation is out of control due to government spending
  2. Violent crime is on the rise because Democrats are soft on crime
  3. Climate change policies are stifling U.S. oil production
  4. Biden's open border policies are creating a surge of illegal immigrants

 Every one of those is based on a lie. So let's take just a moment to unpack them.


The Federal Reserve has traditionally targeted an inflation rate of 2% as optimal. We are currently approaching that goal.

The idea that government spending is driving inflation is the excuse Republicans use in their attempt to gut the social safety net. What they don't want to talk about is the fact that the major contributor to deficits are tax cuts - especially for the wealthy. History shows us that it is Republicans who drive up deficits and Democrats bring them down.

Here's what Biden has done on the far.

When it comes to the economy overall, perhaps there's no better summary of Bidenomics than this: Violent Crime

The FBI recently released statistics on crime for 2022 (emphasis mine).
Homicides and violent crime overall decreased in the United States in 2022, according to FBI data released Monday...After killings climbed in both 2020 and 2021, murder and manslaughter both fell by 6.1 percent in 2022, and the violent crime rate nationwide declined 1.7 percent.
For some context, here's what that data looks like over time:

Domestic Oil Production

The latest report in October indicates that we're at an all-time high.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration reported that American oil production in the first week of October hit 13.2 million barrels per day, passing the previous record set in 2020 by 100,000 barrels. Weekly domestic oil production has doubled from the first week in October 2012 to now.

Open Border

Republicans constantly refer to "Biden's open border" policies. But I dare you to find even one of them who's willing to state what they mean by that. Here's why (emphasis mine):
By using the term "open border," conservatives...are suggesting that anyone can get into the U.S. without much hassle. But the reality is that the southern border is more fortified than it's ever been.

Since 1992, the U.S. has quadrupled the number of Border Patrol agents — from less than 5,000 to nearly 20,000 today.

Barriers, walls, and fences have been erected along portions of the 1,951-mile U.S.-Mexico border, in addition to new Border Patrol outposts and high-tech surveillance systems.

The Border Patrol regularly breaks border arrest records, highlighting the difficulty of entering the country illegally.

What no one seems to want to talk about is that there has been a significant change in the migrants crossing our southern border over the last few years. It's true that the number who are "apprehended" is at an all-time high. But look a bit deeper and here's what you find:

The number of migrants from countries other than Mexico has soared
In November 2022, a majority of the migrants encountered at the border (63%) were from countries other than Mexico and the Northern Triangle region.

Some of the biggest increases in encounters have involved people from Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Peru and Venezuela.

Up above I put the word "apprehended" in quotation marks. That's because it is a bit of a misnomer. The majority of these migrants are not crossing the border illegally. They are seeking asylum, so they present themselves to border security voluntarily. That is NOT illegal.

The right to seek asylum was incorporated into international law following the atrocities of World War II. Congress adopted key provisions of the Geneva Refugee Convention (including the international definition of a refugee) into U.S. immigration law when it passed the Refugee Act of 1980...

To be granted asylum, one must meet the definition of a refugee. However, international law recognizes that the refugee status determination process can be lengthy and complex. Therefore, asylum seekers should receive certain protections before a state has officially recognized them as refugees.
Those who want to live in the reality-based world (rather than the lies we're hearing from the GOP) should be asking two questions:
  1. What is driving this influx of refugees?
  2. Is our system for dealing with asylum seekers adequate? It's clear that the answer to that question is "no." So what needs to change?

There you have it. Every GOP critique of Biden's domestic policies is based on lies. We can count on the fact that they will repeat those lies and mainstream media will let them get away with it. Our only recourse is to speak the truth to as many people as possible. 

Friday, November 3, 2023

Why Speaker Johnson rejects democracy

Since Republicans elected Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) to be Speaker of the House, most of the media has been scrambling to provide us with some background on who this man is. We've learned that he is fully embedded in the Christian nationalist movement, meaning that he embraces their anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ rights positions. 

But to really understand the new Speaker, it is important to look a little deeper. We know, for instance that he claims that his world view is based on the Bible. But what does that mean? 

A good place to start is this clip from a panel discussion at the Louisiana Right to Life Forum in 2013. 


Quoting the founders, Johnson talks about the twin pillars/the foundations of the republic: religion and morality. He then claims that we are being led - from the [Obama] White House on down - to erase all of our moral codes.

It's important to note that Johnson's views on this align perfectly with Opus Dei Catholics, like former Attorney General Bill Barr - who gave a speech at Notre Dame in 2019, where he said this:
From the Founding Era onward, there was strong consensus about the centrality of religious liberty in the United States.

The imperative of protecting religious freedom was not just a nod in the direction of piety. It reflects the Framers’ belief that religion was indispensable to sustaining our free system of government.

Barr went on to explain why religion (which he referred to as Judeo-Christian) was "indispensable" (emphasis mine).

By and large, the Founding generation’s view of human nature was drawn from the classical Christian tradition.

These practical statesmen understood that individuals, while having the potential for great good, also had the capacity for great evil.

Men are subject to powerful passions and appetites, and, if unrestrained, are capable of ruthlessly riding roughshod over their neighbors and the community at large.

No society can exist without some means for restraining individual rapacity...

In short, in the Framers’ view, free government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious people – a people who recognized that there was a transcendent moral order antecedent to both the state and man-made law and who had the discipline to control themselves according to those enduring principles.

Johnson echoed those remarks while rejecting the whole idea of democracy. 

In Johnson's worldview, the majority of people in a democracy are like wolves - dangerous. So the founders set up a constitutional republic based on biblical principles of what a civil society is supposed to look like. IOW - to tame the wolves. 

According to Johnson, everything started going downhill in the 1960s. 

The idea of blaming things like school shootings on the 60s is pretty standard fare for Republicans. But what Johnson suggests is that our only options are to embrace the "founder's natural law philosophy" (more on that later) or "moral relativism."

The bottom line is that, according to the new House Speaker, if we don't accept his "biblical world view," we are incapable of being moral human beings - making us dangerous. That is the giant us/them divide that is driving the apocalyptic visions on the far right these days.

These clips also provide a glimpse into how Johnson's "biblical world view" plays out in terms of policies. We'll revisit that one later. For right now I'll just say that Speaker Johnson is free to believe whatever he wants to believe and support whatever policies he prefers. But what he is NOT free to do is to suggest that anyone who disagrees with him is incapable of being a moral human being and poses a danger to society. 

Instead, perhaps he could learn a thing or two from what President Obama said to Notre Dame graduates in 2009.

Hold firm to your faith and allow it to guide you on your journey...Remember, too, that the ultimate irony of faith is that it necessarily admits doubt. It’s the belief in things not seen. It’s beyond our capacity as human beings to know with certainty what God has planned for us or what He asks of us. And those of us who believe must trust that His wisdom is greater than our own.

And this doubt should not push us away from our faith. But it should humble us. It should temper our passions, cause us to be wary of too much self-righteousness. It should compel us to remain open and curious...And within our vast democracy, this doubt should remind us - even as we cling to our faith - to persuade through reason, through an appeal whenever we can to universal rather than parochial principles, and most of all through an abiding example of good works and charity and kindness and service that moves hearts and minds.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

"The aim was to assassinate any chance for peace"

For days now I've wanted to write something about the events in Israel. But I knew that the first thing I needed to do was listen and learn. As I did so, I got mired in the complexities of the situation and fearful about the consequences. Nevertheless, I'd like to share a few thoughts.

More than anything else, the image above captured my sentiments. That is because my sympathies lie with the people of Israel and Gaza, not their leaders - both of whom have shared a similar goal. Let's start with Hamas.

I encourage you to take a few minutes to listen to the interview Christiane Amanpour conducted with Yuval Noah Harari.

At about the 2:00 mark, he begins to explain why this attack from Hamas is different. He noted that they targeted civilians and wanted people to see the atrocities. Why? "It was psychological warfare not only to spread terror, but to sow seeds of hatred that will ensure this terrible conflict will go on for generations...Hamas, since its foundation, never accepted the existence of Israel and never accepted any attempt at peace. The aim was not just to destroy Jewish communities, but to assassinate any chance for peace."

Negotiations towards some kind of peace between Israel and the Palestinians have always been premised on the idea of a "two-state solution" - something that Netanyahu rejected. That led him to align himself with Hamas.
For years, the various governments led by Benjamin Netanyahu took an approach that divided power between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank — bringing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to his knees while making moves that propped up the Hamas terror group.

The idea was to prevent Abbas — or anyone else in the Palestinian Authority’s West Bank government — from advancing toward the establishment of a Palestinian state.

I highly recommend reading a piece by Zach Beauchamp titled "Benjamin Netanyahu Failed Israel" that outlines the Prime Minister's approach. 

...Netanyahu has intentionally propped up Hamas rule in Gaza — seeing Palestinian extremism as a bulwark against a two-state solution to the conflict.

“Anyone who wants to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state has to support bolstering Hamas and transferring money to Hamas,” the prime minister reportedly said at a 2019 meeting of his Likud party. “This is part of our strategy — to isolate the Palestinians in Gaza from the Palestinians in the West Bank.”

For those skeptical that this was actually Netanyahu's plan, at least one of his confidants said it publicly. 

Because qualifiers in these kinds complex situations are important, I agree with how Beauchamp ended his piece.
To be clear: I am not...saying that Netanyahu, in place of Hamas, bears moral responsibility for Hamas’s horrifying atrocities against civilians.

What I am saying is that Netanyahu’s a terrible one. It is both morally indefensible and strategically counterproductive. It is no concession to Hamas, nor legitimation of its violence, to recognize this reality.

What we CAN say is that Hamas and Netanyahu shared a similar goal: to assassinate any chance for peace. Now we seem headed for war, with neither side having an actual end-game in sight. 

God help us!

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Newsweek says Biden is to blame for rise in violent extremism

Less that two weeks after Donald Trump suggested that General Mark Milley (former Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) should be executed, Newsweek published an article titled "Donald Trump Followers Targeted by FBI as 2024 Election Nears." Here's the point they're trying to make:

The revelations that some Trump supporters are being specifically targeted by the FBI fits with accusations from among them that the Bureau has them in its sights and is the political tool of a repressive deep state in Washington, D.C., bent on preserving the hold of the political establishment at the cost of democracy.

In the end, they suggest that President Biden into blame for the rise in violent extremism.

The senior intelligence official who works at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said Biden's rhetoric on domestic terrorism could goad his opponents into taking more extreme action—particularly those who have now lost their faith in elections or believe the system is rigged against them.

"So we have the president increasing his own inflammatory rhetoric which leads Donald Trump and the Republicans to do the same, which influences the news media, which influences the rhetoric," he said.
Just in case you haven't heard, in the run-up to the 2020 election, Newsweek took "a marked radical right turn" and is now dedicated to supporting so-called "National Conservatives." As such, they've become part of the right wing news echo chamber. So it's no surprise that the piece cited above has been picked up by The Federalist, Red State, Laura Ingraham, and many other right wing publications.

Weeding through the entire Newsweek article it becomes clear that the data they are reporting doesn't support the narrative they're trying to sell (ie, "the FBI's data shows a dip in the number of investigations since the slew of January 6 cases ended"). 

But the focus has been on the fact that in October 2022, the FBI created a new sub-category of "anti-government, anti-authority violent extremists," which they defined as: "individuals motivated by a desire to commit violence against those with a real or perceived association with a specific political party or faction of a specific political party."

So the FBI included violent extremists who target people because of their political party. But Newsweek and the other right wing publications turned that into the FBI is targeting Trump supporters for their politics. Do you see what they did there? 

The truth is that we have a Republican presidential candidate who in recent months has suggested that the Chair of the Joint Chiefs should be executed, warned of death and destruction if he's charged with a crime, declared that the FBI, Department of Justice, and Democratic Party collectively comprised a “cancer” that was killing the country, suggested that shoplifters should be shot, and promised to investigate news organizations for their "country threatening treason." 

As a result of this kind of rhetoric, the New York Times reported that since the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago for classified documents last August, threats against federal law-enforcement employees and their families have increased by 300 percent. And let's not forget that it was Trump supporters who, at his direction, stormed the Capitol on January 6th amid cries of "Hang Mike Pence."

But according to Newsweek, it is Biden's warning about the danger of violent extremism that is to blame and the FBI is "weaponizing" the government by targeting Trump supporters merely for their politics. 

I remember the days when I'd see these kinds of lies and assumed that eventually the truth would become clear - proving that the purveyors of propaganda were wrong. But the gulf between right wingers and reality is so enormous now that I've had to accept that a day of reckoning isn't going to come. All I can do is hold fast to the truth and work to ensure that enough of us are doing so to defeat the liars in the long run.

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

What members of the Trump administration are saying about their former boss

John Kelly, who was Donald Trump's chief of staff, recently weighed in on his former boss with what might be the most damning statement a member of a former administration has ever issued about a president. I'm going to quote the whole thing because it covers a lot of bases.

A person that thinks those who defend their country in uniform, or are shot down or seriously wounded in combat, or spend years being tortured as POWs are all ‘suckers’ because ‘there is nothing in it for them.’ A person that did not want to be seen in the presence of military amputees because ‘it doesn’t look good for me.’ A person who demonstrated open contempt for a Gold Star family – for all Gold Star families – on TV during the 2016 campaign, and rants that our most precious heroes who gave their lives in America’s defense are ‘losers’ and wouldn’t visit their graves in France.

A person who is not truthful regarding his position on the protection of unborn life, on women, on minorities, on evangelical Christians, on Jews, on working men and women. A person that has no idea what America stands for and has no idea what America is all about. A person who cavalierly suggests that a selfless warrior who has served his country for 40 years in peacetime and war should lose his life for treason – in expectation that someone will take action. A person who admires autocrats and murderous dictators. A person that has nothing but contempt for our democratic institutions, our Constitution, and the rule of law.

There is nothing more that can be said. God help us.

Of course, as a former General in the Marine Corps, Kelly is particularly disgusted with Trump's contempt for the military. In expressing that, he confirmed several reports that had been dismissed by the former guy and right wing media. So yes, a President of the United States called fallen soldiers "suckers" and "losers" - refusing to visit their graves in France.

But even more damning is that Kelly described Trump as someone who "has no idea what America stands for and has no idea what America is all about." He concluded his remarks by saying that the former president "has nothing but contempt for our democratic institutions, our Constitution, and the rule of law."

Coming from Trump's former chief of staff, these are not partisan critiques. They're from someone who spent countless hours with the president and obviously has nothing but contempt for the man. 

Kelly isn't the first member of the Trump administration to criticize his former boss in this manner. Cassidy Hutchinson, who was an aide to former chief of staff Mark Meadows, recently said, "I think Donald Trump is the most grave threat that we will face…to our democracy in our lifetime and potentially in American history."

Former secretary of defense, Mark Esper, said that Trump is “unfit for office. … He puts himself before country. His actions are all about him and not about the country. And then, of course, I believe he has integrity and character issues as well.”

Another former secretary of defense, James Mattis, wrote in 2020 that "Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership."

John Bolton, who served as National Security Advisor, called Trump a "danger for the Republic," and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson referred to him as a "f*cking moron."

It might be possible to dismiss one or even two of these critiques as having something to do with sour grapes. But the chorus from former members of the Trump administration is pretty resounding. These people spent a lot of time "up close and personal" with the president and they're warning the American public about the danger their former boss poses to the country. 

Many of us have known this about Trump since he first announced his run for the presidency years ago. But this is the guy a majority of Republicans still support as their nominee for 2024. Frankly, that boggles my mind when the sirens warning us about him aren't simply blaring loudly. They're coming from inside the previous administration. 

"With fear for our democracy, I dissent."

My title is how Justice Sonia Sotomayor concluded her dissenting opinion to the Supreme Court case granting presidents criminal immunity for...