Saturday, February 03, 2018

Worse than Watergate

February 2, 2018
James Comey, Andrew McCabe and Peter Strzok
The FISA Abuse Memo is out and now we know why the Democrats were desperate to keep its contents hidden from the public: it confirms the worst fears not just of President Trump’s supporters but of everyone concerned about the abuse of police power, government corruption, and the sanctity of our elections.
The memo shows interference in the 2016 presidential election by hostile elements within a United States intelligence agency. It wasn’t the Russians we had to worry about—it was rogue actors at the highest levels of the FBI and Department of Justice. Left unanswered is to what extent the West Wing knew about or was complicit in this gross abuse of power.
What we now know:
  1. The FBI’s case to the FISA (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Court was based almost entirely upon a partisan hit-job bought and paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. Christopher Steele, the source of the dossier, had “financial and ideological motivations” to undermine Donald Trump according to the Nunes memo. In fact, the FBI’s file records that Steele told Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr that “he was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.”
  2. Ohr’s wife was one of just seven employees at FusionGPS, the firm that was paying Christopher Steele. The personal financial relationship between the Ohrs and the dossier was concealed from the court.
  3. The FBI could not corroborate the information in the Steele dossier, calling it only “minimally corroborated” but did not disclose this fact to the FISA Court thus leading it to believe that the information in the dossier was either FBI work-product or that it had been independently corroborated by the FBI. Neither was true.
  4.  The FBI did not disclose that the source of the information which formed the basis of their FISA application was a paid political operative of the Clinton campaign and the DNC.
  5.  The FBI and the Department of Justice intentionally misled the FISA court in their applications to obtain authority to spy on Trump campaign advisor Carter Page. They did this not once, but on four separate occasions over the course of a year, including after Donald Trump was in office. The misleading applications were signed off by James Comey (three times), Andrew McCabe, Sally Yates, Dana Boente, and Rosenstein. This certainly casts the actions of each of them in a much different light. Recall that Yates was briefly the acting attorney general under Trump before the president fired her when she refused to defend the administration’s travel moratorium in court. At the time she was lionized in the media and claimed that she had to defend “this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.” Likewise, Rosenstein’s nearly yearlong failure to fulfill his legal obligation to produce a lawful charter as a predicate for the Mueller investigation which now appears, in context, to be nothing more than the continuation of the Democrat’s campaign against Trump using the FBI as willing collaborators.
  6.  Comey lied to the president about the investigation while he was FBI director.
  7.  FBI agent Peter Strozk and his mistress FBI attorney Lisa Page met with Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to discuss an “insurance policy” against Trump being elected president. We don’t yet know the names of all of those who attended the meeting.
  8.  The texts between Peter Strozk and Lisa Page contain, “extensive discussions about the investigation, orchestrating leaks to the media, and include a meeting with Deputy Director McCabe to discuss an ‘insurance policy’ against Trump’s election.”
  9.   The Nunes memo is just the beginning. There is more to come.
What we don’t know yet:
  1.   What role did Hillary Clinton play?
  2.   Was Attorney General Loretta Lynch involved with these efforts to surveil associates of the Trump campaign and, if so, to what extent?
  3.  We know that Susan Rice and Samantha Power were both involved in unmasking the names of U.S. citizens who were being targeted in this surveillance. Were they coordinating with elements within the FBI and/or the Justice Department? Were they coordinating with the DNC and Clinton campaign to give Hillary an electoral advantage?
  4.  What did Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton really discuss during their tarmac meeting in Phoenix on June 27, 2016.
  5.  Did Barack Obama know about and/or participate in a conspiracy to use the police and surveillance powers of the federal government to undermine Donald Trump and rig the presidential election? Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) wants to see Obama and Clinton’s emails.
  6. Who else was at the meeting attended by McCabe, Strozk, and Page where they discussed an “insurance policy” against Trump’s election? How often did they meet, where did they meet, and what did they discuss?
  7.  Why couldn’t the FBI, which touts its forensic expertise, locate the Strozk-Page texts but the Inspector General did it in two days?
  8. What is the “insurance policy” Strozk and Page discussed? Is that a reference to the conspiracy itself?
  9. To whom in the media did the FBI leak information about their Trump spying? How long and how extensive was this disinformation campaign.
  10. What discussions took place among Justice Department resisters about refusing to obey Trump’s direction as president?
We now know that almost every accusation leveled against the president with regard to so-called “Russian collusion” actually reflects the actions of what amounts to a cabal of Democratic Party operatives working with FBI and Justice Department fellow-travellers.
Among other things, it has become clear that Rod Rosenstein must resign. He was either complicit in the conspiracy to mislead the FISA Court or he was too dumb to see what was happening. Either way, he’s demonstrated criminality, incompetence, or both and needs to go.
The picture painted by the Nunes memo is one of federal law enforcement officials who believe they are a wholly independent power, accountable to no one but themselves, and able to pick winners and losers in elections.
Based on what we know now, the conspiracy to undermine candidate Trump and later to destroy President Trump may have been limited to the Justice Department and FBI. That would be bad enough—and a serious threat to representative government striking, as it does, at the efficacy of our elections—but it may also have extended to the West Wing where U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power and National Security Adviser Susan Rice, at a minimum, used “national security” as a rationale to insert themselves into the election. This must also be the subject of investigation. And what of Ben Rhodes and his vaunted media echo chamber? It seems to have played a role as well. How many journalists either were duped or were complicit?
Nearly 50 years ago, the Watergate scandal forced a president from office. The Left thought it could do it again. But the Nunes memo—and the millions of documents and hundreds of hours of interviews behind it—makes clear that rogue elements within the FBI and Justice Department broke the law in an attempt to use the police power of the United States government first to throw the election to Hillary Clinton and then to destroy the presidency of Donald Trump.
This cannot stand. There must be consequences. And they must be swift, public, and severe.

Trump Triumphs with Release of House Intel Memo

February 2, 2018

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The House Intelligence Committee memo on abuse of power by the Federal Bureau of Investigation appeared just after 12:00 p.m. Eastern time, and American political life never will be the same. The House Republicans make a persuasive if not prima facie case that senior FBI officials used a fake dossier paid for by the Democrats to get a court order for electronic surveillance of the Trump campaign. If the charge sticks, America will have a real-life instance of the sort of scenario found in pulp thrillers—a rogue intelligence agency operating in the darkness and abusing its power to manipulate elections.

Senior FBI and CIA officials (as well as a number of prominent Democrats) accused Trump of endangering national security by releasing the memo. This recalls the old Soviet-era joke about the Radio Yerevan listener who calls into ask whether it’s a crime to call Brezhnev an idiot. The answer: “Yes, because it’s a state secret.”

This is political plutonium.

Here are the basic facts:

Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the U.S. counterintelligence service cannot surveil American citizens without a court order. The FBI obtained such a warrant in October 2016 to eavesdrop on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page.

The evidence that FBI presented to the FISA court came from the now infamous “Steele Dossier,” an amalgam of Russian-supplied rumors collected by a former British intelligence agent that among other things claimed that Trump had engaged in perverse acts with Russian prostitutes.

The Steele dossier was compiled at the behest of the Washington consulting firm Fusion GPS, and paid for by the law firm Perkins Coie on behalf of the Democratic National Committee. In other words, it was a political hit job paid for by Trump’s opponents. The FBI concealed this information when applying for the FISA warrant.

The memo adds, “The Carter Page FISA application also cited extensively a September 23, 2016 Yahoo News article by Michael Isikoff, which focuses on page’s July 2016 trip to Moscow. This article does not corroborate the Steele dossier because it is derived from information leaked by Steele himself to Yahoo News….Steele has admitted in British court filings that he met with Yahoo News—and several other outlets—in September 2016 at the direction of Fusion GPS [the firm paid by the Democrats to get dirt on Trump]. Perkins Coie [hired by the Democratic National Committee] was aware of Steele’s initial media contacts because they hosted at least one meeting in Washington, D.C. in 2016 with Steele and Fusion GPS where this matter was discussed.”

In other words, the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign paid for a pile of inflammatory rumors about Trump, which it then sold to the press. The FBI—in full knowledge of this—then took the press reports to a court as “evidence” to obtain permission to surveil the Trump campaign.

Apart from the payment he received for the hit job, Steele told a top Justice Department official in September 2016 that he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.”

Without the Steele dossier, no American court would have allowed the FBI to wiretap a presidential campaign. The memo states, “[then] Deputy Diretor McCabe testified before the [House Intelligence] committee in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought…without the Steele dossier information.”

There is more in the terse four pages of typescript, but that’s the gist of the matter.
Earlier in the day, President Trump tweeted, “The top leadership and investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigation process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans – something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago.”

The United States is spending over $57 billion a year on intelligence. In response to the September 2011 terror attacks and other threats, it has created vast, overlapping and reduplicative bureaucracies that by their nature are remote from central oversight and difficult for the House and Senate intelligence committees to monitor. They have fostered the careers of thousands of senior civil servants whose advancement depends to one extent or another on being on the right side of politics.

Angelo Codevilla, a top staffer at the Senate Intelligence Committee during the Reagan years, observes that the intelligence services have vast powers to cover up their own errors.

No foreign intelligence service could learn anything from the House Republicans’ memo except that the FBI retailed the mercenary inventions of a retired British spook and concealed the provenance of its information. Some may consider it dangerous to expose senior officials of America’s counterintelligence service as political hacks and fools. They needn’t worry. America’s adversaries have been well aware of this for a long time.

TV review: Netflix's 'Ozark' is dark, addictive

July 21, 2017
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Justin Bateman and Laura Linney
If you live in St. Louis, chances are you have feelings about Lake of the Ozarks.
Maybe it's where your family always went when you were growing up, where you learned to boat and water ski, and where you take your own kids today.
Maybe you don't go, but you've heard about Party Cove, drunken boating, nudity crackdowns and a general frat-house atmosphere. Or you see the place from a distance as the "Redneck Riviera," where summer tourists mingle uncomfortably with a year-round population of overall-clad locals.
St. Louisan Bill Dubuque has known Lake of the Ozarks all his life and worked there as a teenager. He loves the place. But beyond the sun and fun, he imagines the lake as a place to hide, a place that might hold secrets.
The result is "Ozark," arriving Friday on Netflix and telling a grim and addictive story of greed, bad decisions and desperate measures inspired by desperate straits.
Jason Bateman stars as Marty Byrde, a Chicago money manager who has been dabbling with laundering money for a Mexican drug boss (Esai Morales).
Found out, panicked, he seizes on an idea he had previously dismissed: to move the whole operation to Lake of the Ozarks, a spot where the sprawl and coves and immense coastline may provide uncharted opportunities.
Bateman strikes the right mixture of guilt, terror and glib intelligence to make us reluctantly root for him. As his wife, Wendy, Laura Linney goes for spunky over sympathetic, and gets sympathy in the process. A standout is Julia Garner as Ruth Langmore, the young but formidable matriarch of a family criminal enterprise.
"Ozark" doesn't put a pretty face on the community of locals, some of whom do treat camouflage as "a primary color." But almost everyone turns out to be smarter, or at least craftier, than the Byrds expect. The newcomers are the freaks in this tale of fish out of water, flopping frantically to survive.
"Ozark" won't be for everyone. It is graphically violent, with strong sexual content and language that lands it a TV-MA rating. The plot runs from dark to darker.
But there are also flashes of humor, and the Byrdes are well-developed as characters from the beginning. Their plight, and the path they find themselves on, is twisty enough to hold interest, but laid out clearly enough to keep viewers from feeling hopelessly lost.
How people who love Lake of the Ozarks will respond to the show can't easily be predicted. But remember, if the scene doesn't look quite right, that's not Missouri at all. "Ozark" was shot almost entirely in Georgia.

Friday, February 02, 2018

What Pastors Could Learn From Jordan Peterson

By Alistair Roberts
January 27, 2018
(Photo: Phil Fisk for The Observer)
Last night, along with a few online friends, I watched this debate on the meaning of life between William Lane Craig, Rebecca Goldstein, and Jordan Peterson, hosted by Wycliffe College. While watching it, and reflecting upon Peterson’s work more generally (about which I’ve written in the past), I was struck by some of the lessons that preachers can learn from Peterson. Several of the people I was watching with gave thoughts of their own, some of which I have incorporated into this post.
1. People are longing to hear true and weighty words. Peterson is someone who takes truth extremely seriously, treating it as a matter of the deepest existential significance. Telling lies will lead you to perdition. He first came to international attention through his resistance to Canada’s Bill C-16 and his opposition to compelled speech in relation to the pronouns used for transgender persons. What animated Peterson on this issue was not opposition to some supposed transgender agenda so much as the more general principle of truthful and uncoerced speech.
Listening to Peterson speak (the video above being an example), one of the most striking things to observe is how carefully he weighs his words, the way he manifests his core conviction that words matter and that the truth matters. People hang on his words, because they know that he is committed to telling the truth and to speaking words by which a person can live and die. The existential horizons of life and death are foregrounded when someone speaks in such a manner.
We live in a society that is cluttered with airy words, with glib evasions, with facile answers, with bullshitting, with self-serving lies, with obliging falsehoods, and with dishonest and careless construals of the world that merely serve to further our partisan agendas (‘truth’ merely becoming something that allows us to ‘destroy’ or ‘wipe the floor with’ our opponents in the culture). In such a context, a man committed to and burdened with the weight of truth and who speaks accordingly will grab people’s attention.
Christian pastors should be renowned for such truth-telling, for their commitment to speaking as if their words really mattered and for the courage to say what needs to be said, even when it is unpopular. This requires taking great care over one’s words. Weighty words are harder to speak. It also requires refusing to speak on many issues. When you weigh your words more carefully, you realize that you do not have weighty words to speak on many matters. The more easily you are drawn into unconsidered or careless speech (social media affording many traps here), the less value people will put on your words. The more seriously you take the truth, the more cautious you will be in your speech.
Even when Christians do speak the truth, we so often speak it glibly and lightly, as those who aren’t putting weight on our words. We have polished answers to objections, platitudinous counsel, and tidy theological frameworks, but possess no gravitas because our hearers regard our words as little more than a showy yet hollow fa├žade. Declarations of the profoundest doctrines trip off our lips as if they weighed nothing at all. We can become more exercised about a recent piece of pop culture than about Christian truths by which we can live and die. Our speech is superficial and shallow, conveying no recognition of the seriousness of handling the truths of God and our responsibility for the lives of our hearers. Much of what Peterson is saying is not new at all, but is familiar to anyone who has been around for a while. The difference is that Peterson is declaring these things as if they really mattered, as if in his speech he is actually reckoning with reality in all of its power, scariness, and danger. This wakes people up.
2. People need to hear voices of authority. As I argued in my recent post, when someone speaks with authority, people sit up and pay attention. Our society has tended to shrink back from authoritative words, as such words threaten people’s autonomy (‘who am I to tell you what to do, man?’). Speaking authoritatively seems to shame, judge, and make claims upon people, all of which are anathema to contemporary individualistic society. However, carefully spoken words of authority can be life-giving. They can give direction and meaning to people who are lost, hope to those in despair, light to those in darkness, and clarity to those in doubt. People desperately need to hear wise and loving words of authority from people who know what they are talking about, rather than being left without authority or harangued by leaders without the depth of character to speak the words they utter.
Peterson is, for a great many young men in particular, the father they never had. He is someone prepared to speak into their situation with a compassionate authority. His authority is not an attempt to control them or to secure his own power over them, but functions to direct them towards life. He isn’t wagging his finger at them, but is helping lost young people to find their way. People instinctively respond to such authority. Such a fatherly authority is rare in our society, but many people are longing for it. This is the sort of authority that pastors can exemplify and by which they can give life and health to the lives committed to their care.
3. People need both compassion and firmness. It is striking how, almost every time that Peterson starts talking about the struggles of young men, he tears up. This recent radio interview is a great example:
Peterson’s deep concern for the well-being of young men is transparently obvious. Where hardly anyone else seems to care for them, and they are constantly pathologized and stifled by the ascendant orthodoxies of the culture, Peterson is drawn out in compassion towards them. He observes that such young men in particular have been starved of compassion, encouragement, and support. There is a hunger there that the Church should be addressing.
However, Peterson’s compassion is not the flaccid empathy that pervades in our culture. He does not render young men a new victimhood class, feeding them a narrative of rights and ressentiment. Rather, he seeks to encourage struggling young people—to give them courage. He tells them that their effort matters; their rising to their full stature is something that the world needs. He helps them to establish their own agency and to find meaning in their labour.
People notice when others care about them and respond to them. However, far too often our empathy has left people weak and has allowed the weakness and dysfunctionality of wounded and stunted people to set the terms for the rest of society. Peterson represents a different approach: the compassionate authority of mature and wise persons can shepherd weak and lost persons towards strength, healthy selfhood, and meaning. Pastors can learn much from this.
4. People are inspired by courage and a genuine openness to reality. Peterson exemplifies existential struggling with and openness to a real and weighty reality. By contrast, cowardice, acedia, a shrinking back from reality into the safety and comfort of our ideological cocoons, and a preoccupation with shallow theoretical games are largely characteristic of the existential posture of both the society and our churches. You won’t have real experience without courage and openness to a real reality, yet so much of our lives involve childish squabbling and ironic posturing about a reality in which we have little deep personal investment.
Pastors need to display such courage and openness to reality, as these traits beget the experience that will give their words weight. The example of such a pastor will also lead people into true life, rather than just sealing them off from struggling with suffering, sin, questions, and reality more generally. If you lack courage and openness to reality, your teaching will often also serve to close people off from reality, to dull their questioning, to soundproof their lives against the voices that might challenge or unsettle them, to rationalize and facilitate their shrinking from the world. Too many pastors are concerned to reinforce a pen in which they secure their flocks, rather than to protect and minister to them as they undertake their perilous pilgrimage through the vale of shadow.
We should also consider the relationship between preachers and congregations here too. We often lack manly and courageous preachers because we ourselves are so cowardly. We don’t want to be unsettled and challenged. We want messages that are reassuring, comforting, pleasing, and convenient, rather than messages that call us to action, effort, responsibility, or present us with difficulty. There are many with a hunger for courageous engagement with reality and truth and a disgust with people who shrink back from it into palliating falsehoods. Unfortunately, when they look at the Church, they mostly see the latter.
5. Being a student of human nature matters. Peterson stands out from many scholars in the humanities and social sciences because he is attentive to people. Far too much scholarship in the humanities and social sciences treats human beings primarily as conceptual constructs or as lab rats. Particularly in the social sciences, one witnesses an over-reliance upon scientific methods for understanding and measuring human beings. However, Peterson reveals that there is no substitute for understanding human natureand that, in attempting to understand human nature, there is no substitute for paying close attention to many people. Much social science attempts to understand human nature as if from without, while a wise student of human nature will exhibit a knowledge of human nature from within.
Something that makes Peterson stand out from many of his critics is that Peterson has countless hours of attentive listening to and engagement with clients in practice and is expert at noticing. Through such clinical engagement, Peterson has been attentive to human nature as it functions from within. He has learned much about what makes human beings tick, how they find meaning, how things can go wrong in their lives, and how people can be restored to well-being. As a practitioner, he notices things that reigning ideologies train us not to notice, not least the differences between the ways that men and women tick. As an attentive student of human nature and experience, Peterson is well able to speak into people’s experience with a wisdom, insight, and authority that those who merely devote themselves to books, theories, and experiments lack.
Once again, pastors have much to learn from this. Many pastors are narrowly focused upon Scripture and theology. However, the pastor is responsible for human lives and he must be a diligent student of them. Pastoral visitation and counselling is not only an important part of a pastor’s general duty, but is also a necessary part of his preparation for preaching. In approaching such visitation and counselling, the pastor shouldn’t merely be concerned to dispense his wisdom and advice, but must also be concerned to grow in his own knowledge, to learn new lessons for himself. As pastors devote themselves to learning about human nature and experience, they will be better able to speak powerfully and truthfully into it. The opportunity and responsibility to learn from close and sustained attention to human nature and experience are afforded to a pastor to a rare degree. If a pastor will dedicate himself to this, he will become much more effective and powerful in his teaching.
6. A compelling presentation of truth is enough to get people’s attention. Peterson doesn’t speak as an entertainer. He doesn’t use flashy audio-visuals. He isn’t relentlessly up-beat. He doesn’t give people a comfortable and affirming message. He isn’t young and hip. He often speaks at great length and makes heavy demands upon his listeners’ attention spans. He tells people about their responsibilities, and downplays messages about their rights. He says a lot of things that challenge and discomfort his audiences. And yet people still flock to hear him and have their lives turned around by what he has to say.
Many contemporary churches have carefully diluted the Christian message to make it more palatable to prevailing cultural tastes. Pastors speak like entertainers, salesmen, and self-help gurus. Yet Peterson is a self-help teacher who speaks like a preacher! There is a great deal more actual engagement with Scripture in many Peterson lectures than there is in the average Joel Osteen sermon. Even though he is far from an orthodox Christian, Peterson’s lectures are full of references to Christ, to God, to hell, to evil, to redemption, and to other themes that display the power of the Christian message to illuminate the meaningfulness of the world. Peterson speaks with a genuine urgency and passionate intensity, displaying his conviction that the lives of his audiences depend upon his presentation of the truth.
In this Peterson provides a salutary reminder to the Church that preaching need not be considered a dying medium. Done well, preaching can speak into people’s lives with a force that few other forms of speech can achieve. Yet in seeking to recover the importance of preaching, preachers could also learn much from Peterson’s attention to humanity, his compassion, his gravitas, his concern for truth, his care over his words, his courage, and his authority. If Peterson can so powerfully resonate with certain fragments of Christian truth, how powerfully could a full-bodied presentation of Christian truth speak into the disorientation of contemporary society?

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Trump’s Tour de Force

February 1, 2018

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President Donald Trump delivered his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. (Credit: Getty Images / Chip Somodevilla)

Tuesday night’s State of the Union Address -- President Donald Trump’s first -- was, in the view of many clear-minded, experienced observers such as Newt Gingrich and Powerline’s John Hinderaker and Scott Johnson -- a tour de force. CBS noted a 98 percent approval rating among Republicans. By all but the most partisan critics, the President’s recounting of the successes of 2017 was impressive, even record-setting. There are numerous conservatives giving Trump very favorable comparisons to Reagan with some finding Trump’s accomplishments even more impressive than the iconic conservative leader. According to CNN, the 80-minute speech was interrupted by applause 117 times and received a 75 percent approval rating.  A major media critic, the WashingtonPost, ruthlessly trashed the speech but gave Trump backhanded praise by asking a snarky question about whether the “presidential transformation” would last.
By now, viewers are jaded by the typical SOTU guests. It’s a practice that heretofore has seemed extraneous and forced. Trump’s skillful weaving of his guests’ stories into American values and his policies was movingly impressive, gaining continuous applause throughout the speech. More importantly, the heroic stories of the guests humanized cold policy positions and revealed the president’s warm heart in a gripping way.
Rather than the typical laundry list of accomplishments, Trump’s speech wove stories and promises into the real-life experiences of Americans in 2017, including the natural disasters of hurricanes and fires, terrorist attacks, violent mass shootings, gang cruelty, and the everyday heroism of law enforcement, military, firefighters, and ordinary citizens who go far beyond duty to protect the vulnerable and perform miracles under duress.
After Trump’s stellar performance in his first SOTU address, it may be risky for his critics to disparage Trump’s presidency, especially among independent voters who are critical to Democrat’s prospect for 2018. I believe that the lasting images of the SOTU broadcast will be, first and foremost, the hero’s faces as Trump told their stories. Who can forget the face of Bronze Star-earning Army Staff Sergeant Justin Peck, the parents of Otto Warmbier, Fred and Cindy, who are still grieving the tragic death of their son at the hand of cruel North Koreans, the image of Ji Seong-ho lifting his old-fashioned crutches in the air as “testament to the yearning of every human soul to live in freedom,” or the grief-stricken faces of two couples who lost their teenage daughters to the violence of MS-13 gangs, or the radiance of the parents -- the Holets -- of an adopted baby girl of a homeless, drug-addicted mother who wanted her to have a better life. This law enforcement officer and his wife felt God calling them to take her into their family of four children. These faces were imprinted on our hearts by the skillful telling of their stories and how each responded to a critical need in the nation during 2017. Their stories highlighted the many ways one individual can make a difference and inspire others.
Other prevailing and contrasting images that will last in people’s minds are the numerous individual and collective pictures of contempt and hatred of the president shown by the Democrat minority. Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader, showed amused condescension throughout the speech. Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader, was rudely arrogant and dismissive. The Black Caucus couldn’t even smile or applaud the fact that Black unemployment is at its lowest rate ever! The Democrats were coached to not respond positively to anything Trump said throughout the evening.

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., listen to President Donald Trump's State of the Union address.

The Democrat’s sour-faced contempt went far beyond their hatred for Trump. It was embarrassing to see the Democrats disrespecting God, the flag, patriotism, good ideas, and great accomplishments that benefit and enrich the lives of many Americans, and, indeed, they revealed haughty hatred toward the democratic process itself. Trump’s speech was full of bipartisan outreach to the Democrats. Most notably, he offered several important compromises on DACA, but the Democrats still scowled and continued to refuse to applaud. It became very apparent that any compromise on DACA will be a no-win position from every perspective -- rejected by the Democrats and loathed by conservatives. To add insult, the media cried foul over pre-speech leaks that the speech would be bipartisan; they were blind to any Trump compromise or outreach to the other side of the aisle.
A screen shot of Democrats glued to their phones during the speech showed their scorn for decorum and provided a shameful example of their intentionally inappropriate behavior at an event of national significance and disparaged a tradition that should be a bipartisan celebration of America and the annual accomplishments empowering the American Dream.
The Washington Post, again, in disparaging the speech, wondered which would prevail: “the Teleprompter Trump or the Twitter Trump.” They make a valid, but minor, point. While I think 80 percent of Trump’s tweets are clever and strategic politics of the kind that won him the election, a small percentage of them provide fodder for his critics, especially those in the media, to focus on seeming pettiness and political blunders. I cannot imagine living with the kind of incessant and pervasive attacks the Democrats are using against the president, his wife, and his family. He is labeled as thin-skinned for his penchant of hitting back whenever he is criticized but to withstand such an avalanche of nonstop assaults requires the toughness of a rhinoceros’ hide.
I hope that he will be able to rise above such attacks in 2018 and use Twitter effectively as he has shown a talent for doing on occasion. As Trump has pointed out, those hypocritical attackers hugged him, asked for money, and sucked up to him when he was a NY billionaire rather than the president. Now, identity and so-called “resistance” politics prevents them from respectful conduct at a traditional ceremony celebrating our nation’s annual achievements. Notably, Trump used the word “we” and referred to his administration far more often than he used the word “I.” That single distinction is a key to bipartisanship and cooperation among the various agencies and branches of government. It also, I hope, signals a maturity in the job that will help the president avoid the kind of rhetorical missteps that have sometimes overshadowed his major accomplishments during his first year in the presidency.
As he begins his second year in the highest office of our land, Trump shows promise of becoming a great president and fulfilling the hopes of all of us who voted for him because Hillary Clinton was definitely not an option and he seemed strong and independent enough to “clean the swamp,” keep his promises, restore the American Dream, and respect America’s traditional Judeo-Christian values enough to “Make America Great Again.” The list of his accomplishments in his first year in office -- most fulfilling campaign promises -- is (to use current lingo) awesome! Wonder of wonders, who would have thought it possible that a politician might actually do what he said he would do during an election campaign -- in spite of having unprecedented obstruction from the “Resistance” critics and the “Never-Trumpers” in his own party. Surprisingly and illogically, nothing in the constant revelations of Hillary Clinton’s hypocrisy, blunders, untrustworthiness and even possible serious crimes over the years seems cause for “Resisters” and “Never-Trumpers” to reevaluate their preferred choice of Hillary over Trump in the 2016 elections.
My undergrad and graduate degrees are in rhetoric, public address, debate and communication. I served as a Presidential Speechwriter for Bush 41. I have analyzed and written numerous presidential addresses -- both historical and contemporary. Trump’s First State of the Union is one of the best I’ve ever seen, both in content and delivery. In contrast, the Democrats’ behavior in the audience may be the most reprehensible I’ve ever seen. 

The Politics of John Ford’s Cinema

His early films lean left, but his Navy service seems to have changed him. He remains an enigma.

By Kyle Smith
January 31, 2018

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John Ford at John Ford Point, Monument Valley

A piece of John Ford family apocrypha has it that when a relative got off the boat from Ireland, a man asked him whether he’d like to be a bus conductor and wear the fine uniform that went with it. Sure, said the immigrant, and soon found himself in a uniform all right: Union blues, at the Battle of Shiloh. So incensed was he by this turn of events that he defected to the enemy and became a hero fighting for the Confederacy.

The contrarian streak was the essence of John Ford, the only man to win the Academy Award for Best Director four times — no one living has done it more than twice. Perhaps his most acclaimed movie, The Searchers, received no Oscar nominations but now is frequently called one of the greatest films ever made. His collaborator Henry Fonda dubbed Ford “a son of a bitch who happens to be a genius.”

Born February 1, 1894, the cantankerous, self-mythologizing enigma is sometimes derided as a Hollywood reactionary. But he was an avid New Dealer who made the most potent left-wing message movie of all time, cheered on the IRA, and supported the Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War. He pushed back against the blacklist — his FBI file labeled him a “fellow traveler” — but then joined the right-wing Motion Picture Alliance, an ally of the House Un-American Activities Committee. As late as age 70, he told a reporter he was a Democrat, although he had voted for Barry Goldwater. Among Hollywood liberals, he’d call himself a “Maine Republican,” the state of his birth being one that voted for a Democratic presidential candidate only once in the century between the Civil War and the Great Society and where Herbert Hoover beat FDR by a 13-point margin in 1932. In the final years of his life, which ended in 1973, he worked on a hawkish Vietnam documentary even as he privately confided he didn’t see the point of the war.

This month is an excellent one to consider Ford’s legacy: Seven of his features and his Oscar-winning short documentary The Battle of Midway will be airing on TCM in February. (He was a commander in the Navy during that battle; while making the film, he was wounded twice, for which he received the Purple Heart.)

Ford’s pre-war films lean left, especially the melodramatic pro-IRA film The Informer (1935) and the magnificent The Grapes of Wrath, whose vision of a New Deal brand of collectivist action against the forces of capital and cruelty has never been more eloquently realized on screen than in the climactic “I’ll be there” monologue given by Fonda as Tom Joad. Ford won an Oscar for both of those efforts as well as for his last film before the war, the Welsh family drama about a coal-mining community How Green Was My Valley (1941), which makes the case for unionization. Ford accepted many assignments just to stay employed, but in his more considered works, he was nursing a theme of community, of citizens banding together against such oppressive forces as the English and capitalism. Honest citizens are driven to extremes, even to crime, by these dehumanizing external pressures, and at the end of Grapes of Wrath, Tom Joad, who has been forced to kill to survive, essentially leaves his body and becomes one with the American landscape, a secular angel of progressivism sworn to fight injustice.

Ford’s service in the war (he was also under fire for six weeks in North Africa, ran around China with OSS founder Wild Bill Donovan, and went ashore at Normandy a few days after D-Day) seemed to alter his political balance. Shaken by what he’d been through, he decamped to England and went on one of his occasional despairing drinking binges, some of which knocked him out of commission for weeks at a time.

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Jimmy Stewart, John Ford and John Wayne

Ford was a longtime fabulist given to describing his life as more exotic than it was; he claimed falsely to have been born in Ireland, that his birth name was Sean Aloysius O’Fearna, to have been a soldier in World War I, and to have served “before the mast.” Even his tombstone repeats a lie; he wasn’t born in 1895. But that’s in keeping with the summa of his deconstructionist 1962 Western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance — “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

In fact, Ford had gone to Hollywood the summer he graduated high school and remained there until the war, but pride in his service record added a crucial new element to his character (he kept many impeccably tailored uniforms on hand and rose to the rank of rear admiral of the Navy Reserve). Now his films reconsidered community through a conservative lens. External forces — notably the opposition in the Indian Wars and World War II — continue to bedevil the protagonists, but the sense of victimization fades, replaced by a stern code of honor, duty, and loyalty. Individuals don’t save the community by dissolving into it but by stepping forward manfully to be counted.

Ford’s pet project for after the war, filmed while he was still on active duty, was They Were Expendable, his fee for which he spent building a recreation camp in Los Angeles for vacationing troops. Though patriotic, it’s shrouded by the sense of doom that dogged the months following Pearl Harbor. The actor Ford discovered when he was a prop boy and USC law student, John Wayne (whom Ford now endlessly razzed for not serving in the war), plays a Naval officer whose P.T. boats are pressed into service as speed bumps to slow down the Japanese while the enemy roars through the Philippines after Pearl Harbor.

Ford moved on to the Wyatt Earp film My Darling Clementine (1946), in which a weary resignation to subdue the lawless forces of the West with civic virtue displaces the genre’s usual freewheeling sense of adventure. Such films, argued conservative professor John Marini of the University of Nevada, Reno, were “an artistic response to the intellectual triumph of progressivism,” setting out to celebrate rather than denigrate the past, in heroic terms of virtue and vice. Ford showed “the fragility of the family and the necessity of the rule of law for its support and defense on behalf of the community.”

Ten years later came Ford’s most unsettling film, The Searchers, an exacting Western adventure whose ambiguity was far ahead of its time: “Be careful deciding what it means,” wrote critic David Thomson of its famous final shot, when Wayne’s Ethan Edwards has taken a journey through racism and savagery to restore order but stands on a threshold because he “is not fit or ready to enter the house again.”

Ethan spends most of The Searchers trying to locate and kill his kidnapped niece Debbie (Natalie Wood) because she “ain’t white anymore,” having been raised by Comanche since she was a small child. By the end, he has regained a moral compass and cradles the rescued girl in his arms. To the extent Ethan embodies, as Garry Wills has written, the “original sin” of our country, his return with Debbie suggests redemption. The Searchers is an uneasy experience, but ultimately it reconfirms an ideal American vision in which indomitable individualists can tame both the frontier and themselves.

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The famous closing shot of The Searchers

— Kyle Smith is National Review’s critic-at-large.

Democrats Boo America

By Ann Coulter
January 31, 2018

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President Trump delivers the State of the Union address on Tuesday.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Unlike the president, I don't call everything "incredible," but Trump's State of the Union address was incredible, beautifully delivered. (This guy could have a future in television!)

As proof, I cite every single media outlet bitterly complaining after the speech that, as MSNBC's chyron put it: "TRUMP FAILS TO MENTION RUSSIA'S ELECTION MEDDLING IN STATE OF THE UNION."

He did not address the elephant in the room!

A lot of people don't like Trump, but no one was thinking that. It's only an elephant in your room, media. This is the very definition of solipsistic.

What did they want him to say? "I confess!"? Then they would have complained that the speech was all about him. There would be five Mueller deputies going over the speech, line by line.

If that's all they got, it was a great speech.

The media claimed that Trump tricked them into reporting that his address was going to be bipartisan -- and then double-crossed them by delivering a "divisive" speech.

To be sure, there were a few partisan flourishes, galling to both sides.

Points Liberals Hate:

-- "Beautiful clean coal";

-- The end of Obamacare's individual mandate;

-- Keeping Guantanamo open; and

-- Firing useless government employees working for the Veterans Administration.

Points Conservatives Hate:

-- Amnesty;

-- Pointless wars; and

-- Any policy Trump mentioned when the camera flashed to Ivanka.

Altogether, these partisan remarks consumed about seven minutes of an 80-minute speech.

The bulk of Trump's address celebrated:

-- A booming economy;

-- Companies bringing jobs home;

-- Low black unemployment;

-- The flag;

-- The national motto;

-- God;

-- Rebuilding roads and bridges;

-- Law enforcement;

-- The life of a child born to an opioid addict;

-- The military;

-- Veterans; and

-- Getting the best immigrants we can. 

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., listen to President Donald Trump's State of the Union address on Jan. 30. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
I'm trying to imagine FDR opposing any of that. But according to today's Democrats, those issues are "divisive." (Calling the president a "racist" 2 million times a day -- that's not particularly divisive.)

Democrats have apparently decided that the magic of immigration-created demographic transformation means the future is theirs! They no longer have to worry about middle-of-the-road voters, independents, undecideds -- or really any Americans at all.

The entire party has embraced Harvard law professor Mark Tushnet's advice (offered back when he thought Trump was going to lose): "The culture wars are over; they lost, we won. ... F*ck Anthony Kennedy." (No asterisk in the original.)

Drawing on his family's mystique, Rep. Joseph Kennedy III delivered the Democratic rebuttal while standing in an auto body shop in front of a broken-down car. The only thing missing was a wet girl in the back seat, seaweed in her hair, desperately scratching at the windshield.

To drive home the point that the Democratic Party is not a moribund carcass with nothing but memories, next year Chelsea Clinton should give the response. Then Hillary, followed by Amy Carter.

Kennedy began by unironically denouncing privilege and celebrity. (As everyone knows, Democrats cannot STAND celebrity!) He then devoted the lion's share of his speech to the Democrats' pet issues: transgenders and foreigners. This is a party so completely insulated from the concerns of normal people that it is now dedicating itself to exotic micro-issues.

Kennedy said:

"As if the parent who lies awake terrified that their transgender son or daughter will be beaten and bullied at school is any more or less legitimate than the parent whose heart is shattered by a daughter in the grips of an opioid addiction."

Once Middle America is reminded that Trump hasn't done anything to address the bullying of transgenders, they'll come to us in droves!

To be fair, the Democrats haven't cared about Middle America for years and are frankly relieved they no longer have to pretend to like losers in flyover country. Their No. 1 priority is dragging in more and more foreigners to vote for them.

Kennedy repeated a slogan from the anti-Trump rallies: "Build a wall and my generation will tear it down." We shouldn't have borders. In fact, it's crazy to have borders!

If JFK could have been brought back to life to see this speech, he would have instantly had young Joe committed to a mental institution.

The Kennedy scion compared the civil rights of African-Americans to the (non-existent) rights of foreigners, assuring viewers that the Democrats are dedicated to protecting everyone, regardless of "the color of your skin" or "the country of your birth."

Being an American means nothing to these citizens of the world. 

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U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy, D., Mass., delivers the Democratic response to the State of the Union speech, Jan. 30, 2018.

He denounced the Trump administration for ignoring the "promise" we apparently made to the 7 billion people who are not Americans. How dare we arrogate to ourselves the right to decide "who makes the cut" and becomes our fellow citizen?

Incidentally, which grandee decides who "makes the cut" at the celebrity V.I.P. rooms at Democratic conventions?

Transgenders and foreigners are specialty hobbies, like building ships in a bottle or urban cheese-making. It's as if the big thinkers of the party ran into someone at Burning Man:

What are you working on?


Oh, that sounds interesting. Can I join you?

Normal American: How about good-paying jobs and putting food on the table?

This is what the Democratic Party has become -- a group of utterly decadent coxcombs, with no concept of economic insecurity and no interest in finding out.