At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Trump’s Loyalty Pledge and the Curse of Rand Paul

posted by Jack Kerwick

GOP loyalists may have finally gotten their wish.

Since Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign, Republican politicians and their apologists on Fox News and in some quarters of “conservative” talk radio have been laboring tirelessly to discredit him. No effort, no tactic has been spared.

Not only have all such endeavors failed; they have doubtless fueled his meteoric rise.

Now, however, and perhaps unbeknownst to them, Trump’s Republican detractors may have succeeded in bringing about the beginning of the end of their party’s frontrunner.

Trump, you see, has officially pledged to support whomever the Republican presidential nominee happens to be.

In other words, Trump may have just visited upon himself what we may call, “the Curse of Rand Paul.”


Ron Paul, though never as accomplished at manipulating the media and garnering the numbers in Republican voter support as Trump has managed to be, nevertheless had an incredibly energetic, significant, and devoted following. Every attempt made on behalf of his fellow Republicans to besmirch Ron’s character missed their target by a mile. Except for his neoconservative enemies, Ron commanded trans-partisan respect, for it was impossible to doubt that his character was unassailable: Ron Paul was as a man of genuine conviction.

And his intellectual and political consistency, his unprecedented transparency, was of a kind that is rarely, if ever, found in contemporary politics.

But Ron would never get the GOP nomination. Thus, his son, Rand, who at least appeared, in some respects, to have not fallen far too far from the tree of his father, tried a different path.


Rand has styled himself a Republican die-hard.

Moreover, Rand has sought to out-Republican the Republicans by being the most vocal in demanding that Trump pledge unwavering loyalty to the GOP!

For the last five years or so, Rand has conducted himself as a committed Republican. However, in doing so, he’s divested himself of the quantity and quality of the support that his father elicited. No one, including and especially those voters who were disposed to support him, any longer knows what he really believes.

Today, Rand is languishing in all of the presidential polls—and his numbers continue to decrease.

The Curse of Rand Paul, or Rand’s Curse, is real. However, we should note that not every Republican politician is vulnerable to it.


Those GOPers who are unmistakably “proud” GOPers are, quite obviously, immune to Rand’s Curse. It is those whose attraction stems from their nominal affiliation with the GOP, those—like Ron Paul—who are pilloried for their steadfast refusal to privilege party over principle who are susceptible.

For many traditional Republican voters, the sight of a Republican politician throwing a wrecking ball into the heart of the GOP establishment and the Politically Correct, egalitarian ideology that it shares with its Democratic counterpart is a sight to behold. It’s like the sight of a majestic animal, a lion, say, in its natural habitat: wild, strong, free.

But once that animal is caged, it is no longer wild or free, and it has lost much of its power.


Ron Paul never lost his wildness, freedom, or strength. While he spent most of his political career as a Republican, he would never take a “loyalty” pledge to a party that he held was antithetical to the liberty that it dishonestly purported to embrace.

Rand Paul, if he ever had it, abandoned his wildness, freedom, and strength when he decided to really become a Republican.

It’s true that Donald Trump has a charisma and forcefulness that Rand lacks. Yet now that he’s taken the pledge, Trump could’ve just taken the first step toward the implosion for which his Republican nemeses have been waiting.

No one has appeared more like that untamed lion than Trump. Now, though, the lion has just agreed to enter a cage.

It’s too early to tell, but Trump may very well have just incurred the Curse of Rand Paul.


Hugh Hewitt v. Donald Trump: A “Third Rate Announcer’s” Gotcha’ Questions

posted by Jack Kerwick

Radio talk show host and moderator of the next GOP/CNN debate, Hugh Hewitt, is the latest Republican pundit—and he is a pundit, not a “journalist”—to try to trip up his party’s frontrunner, Donald Trump.

While on Hewitt’s program on Thursday, September 3, the host—who Trump now characterizes as a “third rate radio announcer”—made the following remarks to his guest:

“I’m looking for the next commander in chief to know who Hassan Nasrallah is, and Zawahiri, and al-Julani, and al-Baghdadi. Do you know the players without a scorecard yet, Donald Trump?”

As anyone who has read my expose of Trump’s history of supporting Democratic politicians and their causes knows well, I am not a Trump-phile. But neither do I suffer from the Trump-phobia that has obviously seized his detractors, particularly his neoconservative Republican nemeses among politicians and the media punditry class alike.


Perhaps this explains why I can differentiate the reality of what transpired here from the spin that Hewitt and his defenders from The New York Times to Hewitt’s employer, Salem Communications, are laboring feverishly to put on this episode.

To be blunt: Trump is right and Hewitt is wrong: The latter did indeed blast the former with “gotcha’ questions.”

First, we must be truthful: Hewitt is as “establishmentarian,” as conventional, a Republican as John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Mitt Romney, the Bushes, etc.

Hewitt has been an enthusiastic, indeed, an ecstatic, cheerleader for George W. Bush’s wars to rid the world of “Islamists” by “democratizing” the Middle East—regardless of the incalculable costs in treasure and blood that such military-led crusades continue to exact for tens and tens of thousands of human beings, both here and abroad.


The “war on Terror”—the war on an abstraction—can only be a war without end. War is the crisis par excellence, and since a war on an abstraction promises to be a war in perpetuity, this “war” is a dream come true for proponents of Gargantuan Government everywhere.

The Iraq war proved to be a disaster of catastrophic proportions. Yet Hewitt has failed to express any regret, not just for having supported it, but for supporting it as zealously as he has.

So, it stands to reason that Hewitt, being the John McCain of media talking heads, aches just as badly for Trump’s downfall as McCain himself.

Second, to those who (incredulously) object that this first point is just speculation on my part, let’s rewind just a couple of months to what Hewitt himself was saying before Trump, astonishingly, began providing him with remarkably generous supplies of access.


While on Meet the Press, Hewitt was direct. When asked whether he thought that Trump had “the temperament” to be president, Hewitt replied: “No, no he doesn’t.”

Though he initially blamed both the moderators of the Fox/GOP debate and the candidates for having neglected discussion of important issues, Hewitt immediately proceeded to single out Trump for having “stepped on a lot of important stories.”

When on Sean Hannity’s television show, Sean asked Hewitt: “Hugh, as I know, you’ve been a bit of a critic of Donald Trump.” Without hesitation, Hewitt conceded the point: “Yeah.” He then immediately followed up by saying that of all the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, both of the present and of yesteryear, Trump is “the only one about whom it is likely a Broadway musical will be made.”


Trump, Hewitt declared, “is vastly entertaining.”

However, his tremendous support among Republican voters, Hewitt assured Hannity and his viewers, “won’t last.”

On another appearance of Meet the Press, Hewitt made the same “prediction” to Chuck Todd. When the host asked him if he wasn’t just “wishing” Trump’s vast support “away,” Hewitt, unsurprisingly, insisted that he was not.

Of course, anyone who’s in the least familiar with the media generally, and media coverage of politics specifically, knows all too well that when partisans in the media feign objectivity by either “describing” or “predicting” events, they are doing their best to determine the outcomes that they desire.


Hewitt, in other words, was as uninterested in expediting Trump’s implosion by way of his remarks as Charles Krauthammer was when he told audiences moments after the first Republican debate that Trump’s performance that evening spelled his imminent demise.

Hewitt is no different from any other neoconservative Republican in wanting Trump around just long enough to boost the ratings of their television and radio programs. His question was indeed a “gotcha” question.

Third, though Hewitt is adamant that he wasn’t trying to trap Trump, it certainly says something that figures as politically, professionally, and ideologically disparate as Rand Paul and CNN’s Senior Political Analyst, David Gergen, certainly believed he was.


Even more telling, Rand Paul has by now established that he is nothing if not an erstwhile critic of Trump. Yet while speaking with Sirius XM, Paul asserted: “I also do think that running through a list of every different Arabic name and asking somebody to respond to them is maybe a little bit of a game of ‘gotcha.’”

Candidates should certainly know the difference between Hamas and Hezbolla, Shiites and Sunnis, etc. But as for throwing out names of specific Arabic terrorist figures—not heads of state, mind you, but more obscure names of ever changing terrorist organizations—Paul concluded that “some interviewers like to play this game.”

David Gergen told Anderson Cooper: “…I must say, traditionally…that when reporters have asked candidates, you know, who’s the head of this African government or that African government, what’s the difference between Tajikistan and Pakistan…those are regarded as ‘gotcha’ questions.” This is “an old trick,” Gergen said, “and those are ‘gotcha’ questions.”


Gergen added that Hewitt’s “roll call…of terrorist leaders in the Middle East” is not “the standard.” Most “foreign policy experts” probably “don’t know all those names.”

Trump’s inability to speak to Hewitt’s “roll call” of Middle Eastern terrorists did not, and will not, diminish the Republican frontrunner in the least.

However, like Megyn Kelly, another GOP hired gun who attempted to undermine Trump with a tabloid-esque question at the debate at which she was supposed to be a moderator but wound up shooting herself in the foot, Hewitt does threaten to diminish himself by way of such transparently dirty tactics.

Trump is a rock star now, it’s a presidential election cycle, and because she was determined to get personal with him, Megyn Kelly, Fox’s “It Kid,” is now out in the cold, indefinitely denied passage on the Trump train.

Hewitt may very well find himself there as well.



Trump and the GOP’s Election Cycle Talking Points

posted by Jack Kerwick

During every presidential election cycle, both Democratic and Republican talking heads trot out the same tired conventionalities that they predictably use to promote their preferred candidates and undermine those whom they dislike.

Given the Big Bang that is Donald Trump’s candidacy, the political props posing as species of reason have been particularly visible this time around. Let’s look at some of them, and how they’ve been used in connection with Trump.

Candidate X lacks the experience to be President.

The old argument from experience (or inexperience) is patently disingenuous. And notice, it’s always and only the other guy’s candidate who allegedly suffers from a deficit of experience in regard to the office of the presidency.


Yet the cold hard truth is that no one who hasn’t already been President of the United States has the requisite experience for this office.

To be more exact: That an individual has been the CEO of a company; established a business empire; served in the military; or served as a US Senator or Congressman does not in the least qualify that person for the presidency.

However, neither does the fact that a candidate has years of experience governing a state bestow eligibility.

That’s right: There is no parity between governing a state of 8 million residents, say, and governing a country of well over 300 million.

None of this, of course, is meant to imply that such backgrounds are disqualifiers. What it does mean is that the only way to acquire the requisite experience for the presidency is by being the President.


The presidency is not unlike any and every other activity in this regard: Knowledge and skill—i.e. experience—comes from practice.

There is one other fact that exposes this phony argument for what it is. The argument from experience would have us think that the President is like the Wizard of Oz, a lone individual who spins ideas from his own noggin and effortlessly imposes them upon the world.

But no one knows better than those who tirelessly appeal to this argument that nothing could be further from the truth, for the truth is that every president is surrounded by an army of advisers.


Candidate X is “too extreme.”

“Extremism” is one of those catch-all charges that mean nothing other than that the accuser dislikes the person against whom he hurls it.


When some version or other of it is used against Trump—as it is leveled against him incessantly—it is particularly perplexing. And it is even more preposterous when his Republican opponents brand their party’s presidential frontrunner with this label.

Notice, because of, say, his remarks on illegal Mexican immigrants, the Mexican government, and his desire to build a wall along the southern border for which he’ll make Mexico pay, Trump’s GOP critics treat him as “divisive,” as too immoderate—too “extreme.”

This is rich for more than one reason.

For starters, Trump’s popularity continues to soar precisely because large numbers of Americans agree with him. In stark contrast, over the last decade, Republicans suffered dramatic reversals of fortunes exactly because large numbers of Americans have disagreed, and disagreed vehemently, with them over their party’s positions on, among other issues (including immigration), the Iraq War.


Yet Trump is the “extremist,” the “polarizer,” the “divider.”

Trump’s critics blast him for comments that he’s made about some brown people—even though Trump never so much as laid a finger on anyone. At the same time, his Republican (and Democrat) objectors are responsible for launching a war on false premises that, besides costing Americans trillions of dollars and the lives of thousands of her children and thousands more crippled, has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of brown people—men, women, and children—throughout the Middle East and the destruction of their communities.

Incidentally, this catastrophic foreign policy decision Trump opposed.


But Trump neither harms nor, much less, kills anyone, yet it is he, and not his critics, who is the “extremist” of sorts, the “racist,” the “polarizer,” the “divider.”

Candidate X is not really a Republican or “conservative”

Obviously, this accusation has been leveled at Trump with all of the fury with which his critics have charged him with being an “extremist.” And for more than one reason, there can be no question that this allegation is just as bogus and just as hypocritical coming from them as is the latter.

First, when Trump’s Republican critics claim that he’s not a “conservative,” they mean to imply both that they are conservatives and that Trump is really a “liberal” Democrat.


Their rhetoric notwithstanding, the first implication is patently false: Trump’s GOP rivals and detractors are most decidedly not conservative. The Republican Party is every bit as much a champion of Big Government and the Politically Correct ideology that it’s been used to promote as is its counterpart (To anyone who takes issue with this judgment, I pose one simple challenge: I defy you to identify a single government program, let alone an agency or department, that Republicans have cut. I’ll even be generous and allow you to go all the way back to the Reagan years. I guarantee that you can’t do it).

And as I’ve shown, Trump’s detractors among his rivals in the presidential contest are hardly conservatives. On most, virtually all, issues—immigration, social engineering (both here and abroad), war, affirmative action, tax increases, government spending, socialized medicine, the criminalization of drugs, NSA spying, etc.—their talk aside, they have proven themselves to be indistinguishable from Democrats.


Second, Trump certainly has a checkered record that lends itself to the charge that he’s more of a “liberal” Democrat than anything else. But as I’ve just noted, the histories of his Republican opponents are at least as checkered on this score and, truth be told, probably worse in some respects.

At any rate, Trump hasn’t spent years and decades manipulating voters into thinking that he was a “conservative” only to repeatedly betray those voters upon getting elected and reelected.

Finally, and most tellingly, Republican “experts” and commentators are forever preaching to the hayseeds that compose the base of their party that only those candidates that can appeal to “moderates” stand a chance of being elected to the presidency. Though they never say as much, what this means is that only “moderates,” or those who are perceived as “moderates,” can get elected.


And what this in turn means is that only “liberal” Republicans, or those who are perceived as “liberal” Republicans, can get elected.

Take note: By Trump’s Republican critics’ own lights, the objection that Trump is really a “liberal” Republican contradicts their objection that he is an “extremist,” for if he really is a “liberal” Republican, then, by their reasoning, he is the “moderate,” the one politician who can “reach across the aisle!”

If they’re not careful, in their desperation to discredit Trump, his Republican critics will only discredit themselves—if they haven’t already.




Thinking Seriously About the Virginia Murders

posted by Jack Kerwick

On the morning of August 26, Vester Lee Flanagan, a former employee of WBDJ, shot and murdered WBDJ TV’s Alison Parker and Adam Ward on live television. He shot a third person, Vicki Gardner, who Parker was interviewing. Fortunately, the latter will survive.

Just as fortunately, the gunman is now dead (Too bad, though, that his fatal bullet wound was self-inflicted).

The 20th century philosopher Hannah Arendt maintained that there was a connection between the “inability to think” and morality. Upon observing Adolph Eichmann during his trial, she was stunned by two facts: The first was that Eichmann, in spite of being responsible for great evil, wasn’t particularly demonic or wicked at all, and, secondly, he was incapable of thinking beyond the stock phrases, clichés, and conventionalities available to him.


In other words, Eichmann was not unlike the vast majority of human beings.

Yet this “curious, but quite authentic, inability to think” accounts for much evil in the world. The reason for this is not difficult to grasp. Morality requires judgments about good and evil, right and wrong, and sound moral decision-making demands informed, critical judgment. Moreover, in making moral judgments, we must be sure to honor particulars as such even while we evaluate them in light of general rules and principles.

In beholding the chatter over the Virginia shootings, one is struck by how many otherwise (presumably) intelligent people are seized by the inability to think.

Revealingly, yet unsurprisingly, before any details regarding this outrage were known, the usual suspects on the left were decrying, not the murderer, but some abstraction they call “gun violence,” while calling for more “gun control.” And, along with some Republicans, they wasted not a moment in drawing from the Zeitgeist’s inventory of stock concepts in depicting this as a “mental health” issue.


Equally unsurprisingly is that the left has not (as of yet) spoken to the racial dynamic involved in this double murder: Not only was the killer black and his victims white, but Flanagan left behind a 23 page “manifesto” in which he explicitly identifies his sense of racial victimization as a premiere reason for his actions. He as well purports to have been victimized because of his homosexual orientation.

Let’s dare to do the unthinkable and actually think about this.

First, the notion that this double murder was “caused” by “gun violence” is patently offensive. It’s offensive to the victims, certainly, and even to the victimizer.


Alison Parker, Adam Ward, and Vicki Gardner were shot with a gun. They were shot by Vester Flanagan, a man who could’ve killed them in any number of other ways, or chosen not to kill them at all. We divest individuals of their humanity, their uniquely human, indeed, divine-like moral agency, when we ignore the reasons for their actions while instead attributing the latter to such impersonal “causes” as “gun violence” or “mental health.”

Our penchant for citing “studies” of one sort or the other doubtless proves politically and ideologically convenient, but such scientific (and pseudo-scientific) references constitute a black hole insofar as they swallow up the individual.

Second, allusions to “gun violence” and “mental health” are especially pernicious inasmuch as they obscure the evil nature of the deed being explained. To see just how egregious an offense this is, consider some analogies.


Imagine if, while discussing the Holocaust, we spoke about “gas chamber violence,” or while discussing Islamic State mass beheadings, we talked instead of “machete violence.” Or suppose that discussions of the lynching of blacks were peppered with references to “rope violence.” None of this would sit well with decent human beings, for it is clear, or at least it is thought that it should be clear, that such descriptions miss entirely that which is fundamental to the phenomena being described—the perpetrators responsible for these wicked deeds.

The perpetrators deserve to be recognized for the moral agents that they are, and their victims deserve an honest account of their fates.

Or imagine if we spoke of militant Islamic terrorist murderers, Nazis, and Klansmen, not as evil or wicked people, but as those in need of “treatment” for “mental health.” This too, you can bet anything, wouldn’t fly with most folks today. The reason is clear enough: If these notorious murderers are in need of “mental health treatment,” then they are sick.


But if they are “sick,” then they are to be pitied and made well, not condemned and punished. A mentally “unhealthy” person no more deserves blame, contempt, and punishment than does a physically unhealthy person.

To repeat: Either a person is evil or he is “mentally ill.” He can’t be both. Either his actions are evil, or they are symptoms of an illness. They can’t be both.

The reason that we would recoil from language suggesting that Nazis, Klansmen, and ISIS militants were “mentally ill” and/or that their murderous actions were a function of some abstraction or “root cause” is that once we enter this verbal territory, we leave morality behind.  The language of “causes” is the language of science. The language of morality is the language of good and evil, right and wrong.


The verdict is clear: Three innocent people were shot, and two are now dead, because one man, Vester Flanagan, freely chose to shoot them.

None of this, of course, is meant to deny that environment influences our choices. To be sure, our political environment today, and that particular strain of racial resentment and envy that currently finds expression in the Black Lives Matter movement, doubtless got inside Flanagan’s head. His “manifesto” revealed as much.

But here’s where things get really murky for the left:

If, as the left is forever assuring us, America is a land of incorrigible “white supremacy” and “racism”—if, in other words, “racism” is “institutional,” “systemic,” “structural;” if, as the left insists, “racism” is the greatest of all evils; and if, as the left further maintains, whites are never eligible to judge whether blacks who cry “racism” are sincere or not, then it would seem that one conclusion follows:

Vester Flanagan, who claims to have been the victim of racial oppression, acted justifiably in gunning down three white people who, by virtue of being white, belonged to the oppressor class.

Thinking is hard.



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