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“Every Time He Opens His Mouth”: Trump Veep Contender General Michael Flynn Can’t Stop Pissing Off Conservatives

Before he disappears from sight as a national political figure when Donald Trump names someone else as his vice-presidential choice, let us pause for a moment of awe at the utterances of former general Michael Flynn, who somehow manages to dig himself into a deeper hole every time he opens his mouth.

First and most famously, Flynn eliminated himself from serious consideration for a spot on the national ticket by going on a Sunday show and, via an incoherent ramble, appearing to endorse a woman’s right to have an abortion.

The next day, Flynn tried to recover by labeling himself a “pro-life Democrat” whose mother was an anti-abortion activist, but then wandered back into a swamp by suggesting the Supreme Court had for the time being resolved the issue. Then he made matters infinitely worse by saying that people who viewed the abortion issue as the most important priority for America should just stay home and let others decide the election.

And then, for his encore, Flynn allowed as how he was fine with same-sex marriage, deploying his signature clean and concise talking style:

“On the gay issue, hey, you know what, if people love each other, Jesus, I mean, come on,” Flynn told San Diego KOGO radio’s Morning News. “I’m not afraid of it. That’s my point. And I’m not afraid to tell you what I believe in.”

This statement was made at roughly the same time the Republican convention Platform Committee was beginning to approve a notably homophobic expression of GOP principles.

Flynn also commented about his position on abortion, saying it doesn’t matter that he has previously said women have a right to choose whether to have an abortion.

“I mentioned it yesterday, I’m one of these people that I don’t like, on the abortion issue, it’s not something that—I’m very uncomfortable talking about it. I’m not gonna kid you. It’s a very uncomfortable thing. I think, that, it’s a legal issue. Definitely a legal issue. It’s been decided upon by our Supreme Court.”

In case anyone out there is in doubt about this, let me be plain: Anyone joining a Republican national ticket has to be solidly and unambiguously in favor of outlawing virtually all abortions. Yes, some wiggle room is allowed over the tiny number of abortions performed in cases where pregnancy is caused by rape or incest, but that’s absolutely it. And nothing offends social conservatives much more than suggestions that their issue should be subordinated to others. Indeed, their primary grievance with the GOP is that its leaders do exactly that far too often.

To be clear, these are people who believe, or at least claim to believe, that legalized abortion is an ongoing American Holocaust and that same-sex marriage is an attack on the fundamental wellsprings of Western civilization. So no, these are not “legal issues” to them, or “divisive” topics to be put on the back burner.

Now, it’s fashionable this year, as in most years, to contend that the Christian right is a spent force in American politics, and maybe this time, unlike all of the other times, the prophecy is correct. But, for the moment, the people who say abortion is genocide or that gay people defy all of the laws of God and nature absolutely have the power to blow up Donald Trump’s convention and wreck his slim chances of becoming president. I’m guessing Trump was never serious about Michael Flynn as a running mate or he would have dispatched someone to make sure the man knew what to say on very basic ideological litmus tests like abortion policy. Once the actual veep is announced, poor Flynn can stop digging and go back to being a national-security adviser to Trump, if he hasn’t made himself so toxic that even that kind of role becomes impossible.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, July 13, 2016

July 14, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, GOP Vice President Candidate | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“May Have Peaked Too Early In Iowa”: Ted Cruz Is Losing His Mojo At The Worst Possible Moment

When Ted Cruz became the first Republican presidential aspirant to formally announce his candidacy in a March 2015 speech at Liberty University, he was generally considered a very long shot (oddsmakers initially rated him the sixth-most-likely nomination winner, with 16-1 odds). He was too young and too inexperienced (with the same Senate tenure as Barack Obama had in 2008, which Republicans had never stopped citing as disqualifying), had made too many enemies among his colleagues, and was pursuing too narrow a constituency in a very crowded field. He was mostly bumping along in the single digits in polls of his primary target, Evangelical-rich Iowa, until well into the fall of last year. And he had to overcome a very formidable assortment of rivals for Evangelical and movement-conservative votes.

In retrospect, Cruz’s accomplishment in getting to the eve of the caucuses as the putative second-place — or possibly first-place — finisher has been pretty remarkable. Two rivals for the Evangelical vote had deep roots and a record of victory in Iowa: 2008 winner Mike Huckabee and 2012 winner Rick Santorum. Cruz outorganized both of them and snagged the Christian-right endorsements that helped them forge their winning coalitions. The longtime governor of his own state, Rick Perry, had major Christian-right street cred of his own, and experience in Iowa. Cruz outlasted Perry, who later endorsed him. Scott Walker was an early favorite to win Iowa, in part because of an alleged deep affinity with Evangelicals. Cruz outlasted him, too, and also outlasted Bobby Jindal, the smartest guy in every room, who made Evangelicals his obsessive target. And Cruz endured a brief but massive boom of Evangelical support, in Iowa and nationally, for Dr. Ben Carson. He’s also become the de facto second choice of libertarian-leaning Republicans pending the likely early demise of Rand Paul’s once-promising campaign. Like every other candidate, Cruz has been intermittently challenged and marginalized by Donald Trump, but through most of the invisible primary Cruz has handled that better than anyone else.

The Cruz campaign is in fine financial shape and has a very clear path to the nomination with the big breakthrough planned for the so-called “SEC primary” on March 1.

But it’s possible he’s losing his mojo at the worst possible moment.

Even before Thursday night’s Fox News debate, there was talk that Cruz might have “peaked too early” in Iowa. Cruz narrowly led the Donald in the typically very accurate and influential Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll released on January 13. But since then the polling has shown slippage for Cruz, generally attributed to a combo attack from Trump on Cruz’s Canadian birth and from the Branstad family (Terry, the six-term governor, and son Eric, the ethanol lobbyist) on his opposition to special treatment of the corn-based alternative fuel by the federal government. Even more ominously, third-place candidate Marco Rubio, the favorite of both the Republican Establishment and of many conservative Evangelical leaders, was beginning to creep up on Cruz in Iowa polls amid a major spending spree on TV ads by the Floridian.

Then came Thursday night’s debates, where Cruz was almost universally deemed the worst performer and perhaps (depending on your assessment of the impact of Trump’s absence) the big loser. Two particularly damaging moments were his trapped look when confronted with videos of his past statements seeming to support legalization of undocumented immigrants, and a shot of Terry Branstad chortling as Cruz struggled to explain his position on ethanol. And it didn’t help the nerves of Team Cruz that Frank Luntz’s post-debate focus-group report for Fox News was practically a Rubio rally.

If the debate does move caucusgoers, it may not be reflected in late polls (e.g., the final RegisterBloomberg poll that will be released Saturday night) that were in the field before the event. More likely, the caucuses will remain a test of the turnout strategies of Trump, with his effort to expand participation deep into marginal voting segments, and Cruz, with his state-of-the-art organization focused on the most likely caucusgoers.

If Cruz wins, the debate stumble will be forgotten instantly. If he finishes second, and particularly a weak second, chins will be stroked and lost opportunities will be weighed. And if he somehow finishes behind Rubio, his candidacy is in very big trouble. Any way you look at it, it’s been a long, strange trip for a freshman U.S. senator who would finish dead last in a poll of his colleagues.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, January 29, 2016

January 30, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Iowa Caucuses, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“St. Joan Of The Tundra”: The Inevitability Of Palin’s Endorsement Of Trump

Notwithstanding the howls of pain and rage from supporters of Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin’s decision to endorse Donald Trump for president makes perfect sense when you think about what she has distinctively represented in the Republican Party. Yes, she’s a “conservative” in the sense of standing for maximum confrontation with Democrats and constantly accusing the party Establishment of acts of betrayal. But no, there’s nothing particularly ideological — or, for that matter, intellectual — about her approach to politics or issues. She represents almost perfectly the passion and resentment of grassroots cultural-issues activists. When John McCain vaulted her into national politics, she was known for two things other than her gender: She was a “walk the walk” role model for the anti-abortion movement, thanks to her small child Trig, and she had taken on the “crony capitalist” GOP Establishment in Alaska and won. Thus she was a fellow “maverick” with Christian-right street cred and a “game-changing” identity.

The remarkably widespread belief that Palin lost the 2008 presidential election for her party is even more far-fetched than the hope that she could win it. And so the many fans she made in that campaign developed — with a lot of help from Palin herself — a deep resentment of all of the Democrats, Republicans, and media elites who belittled her. In a very real sense, she was the authentic representative of those local right-to-life activists — disproportionately women — who had staffed countless GOP campaigns and gotten little in return (this was before the 2010 midterm elections began to produce serious anti-choice gains in the states) other than the thinly disguised contempt of Beltway Republicans. And after 2008 she generated a sort of perpetual motion machine in which her fans loved her precisely for the mockery she so reliably inspired.

Unfortunately for those fans, St. Joan of the Tundra was never quite up to the demands of a statewide — much less national — political career. So she opportunistically intervened in politics between books and television specials and widely broadcast family sagas, mostly through well-timed candidate endorsements. It’s striking, though not surprising, that Palin is now endorsing the nemesis of one of her most successful “Mama Grizzly” protégées, South Carolina’s Nikki Haley, on the turf of another, Iowa’s Joni Ernst.

But in many respects, the Trump campaign is the presidential campaign Palin herself might have aspired to run if she had the money and energy to do so. Her famous disregard for wonky facts and historical context is but a shadow of Trump’s. His facility with the big and effective lie can’t quite match Palin’s, who after all convinced many millions of people in a Facebook post that the Affordable Care Act authorized “death panels.” And both of them, of course, exemplify the demagogue’s zest for flouting standards of respectable discourse and playing the table-turning triumphant victim/conqueror of privileged elites.

Conservatism for both Trump and Palin simply supplies the raw material of politics and a preassembled group of aggrieved white people ready to follow anyone purporting to protect hard-earned threatened privileges, whether it’s Social Security and Medicare benefits or religious hegemony. So it’s natural Palin would gravitate to Trump rather than Cruz, who’s a professional ideologue but a mere amateur demagogue. The endorser and the endorsee were meant for each other.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, January 19, 2016

January 20, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Sarah Palin | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Episcopals Now Second Class Christians”: Anglicans Demote Episcopalians As Global Christianity Gets More Polarized

The Anglican Communion effectively banished its American branch, the Episcopal Church, for three years last week because of disputes about same-sex marriage. That rift is just the surface of a much deeper division, reflecting the polarization of Christian life in the 21st century.

The Anglican Communion, which began as the Church of England under Henry VIII, is now a global network spanning 165 countries. There are about 85 million Anglicans in the world, including about 2 million Episcopalians mostly in the U.S. As of this week, however, those Episcopalians are second-class Anglicans: Members cannot vote in any Anglican Communion decisions on church doctrine and cannot represent the communion in any interfaith bodies. Essentially, for three years, Episcopalians are Anglicans without any standing in their own church.

The suspension took place at a meeting of “Primates,” the archbishops and other leaders representing the 44 constituent Churches of the Anglican Communion. The reason for suspension came last June when the Episcopal Church removed doctrinal language defining marriage as between a man and a woman, and authorized marriage rites for same-sex couples. While it’s still up to individual churches whether to solemnize same-sex unions, but the vote formally allowed them to do so.

According to the Primates, these actions were improper because the Episcopal Church acted on its own. “Such unilateral actions,” the Primates said in their official statement, are “a departure from the mutual accountability and interdependence implied through being in relationship with each other in the Anglican Communion.”

According to some Episcopal leaders, that is bunk. National church bodies routinely make doctrinal decisions on their own. (Some Anglican Churches still do not ordain women, for example.) What this is really about is homosexuality—and what that is really about is what kind of church the Anglican Communion is today.

The answer, for decades now, is a divided one.

Until the 19th century, the Anglican Church was—as the name implies—basically British, and headed officially by the British monarch. With the spread of the British Empire, however, came the spread of Anglicanism to all corners of the world. By the end of the century, the contemporary Anglican Communion came into being, including not only the Churches of England, Scotland, and Ireland, but also the Episcopal Church and churches in “provinces” across the world.

Two major developments created the schism facing the church today: the liberalization of the Episcopal Church, and the growth in power and numbers of African, Asian, and South American ones.

George Washington was an Episcopalian. So were Madison, Monroe, FDR, and seven other presidents—11 in total. And in the 19th and 20th centuries, the Episcopal Church was perhaps the leading Christian denomination in America.

During this time, Episcopalianism embodied American propriety and upper-class values—conservative but reasonable. J.P. Morgan, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush. Prim church services, without the Catholic “smells and bells” but with the decorum and hierarchy. V-neck sweaters, pearls, and country clubs.

That began to change in the civil rights era. African American parishes had been around since the 1850s, but often separate but (un-)equal. In 1958, the Episcopal Church’s General Convention passed a resolution affirming “the natural dignity and value of every man, of whatever color or race, as created in the image of God.” Over the objections of Southern leaders, the church began to take sides in the civil rights struggles of the time.

The change was gradual and uneven, but by the end of 1970s, liberals had the upper hand, and conservatives had mostly left, often to join the newly minted Christian Right, made up largely of evangelicals, Baptists and Catholics. Women were ordained as priests in 1976, and as bishops in 1989. Prim church services started to loosen up. By the 1990s, the Episcopal Church had changed from the starchy denomination of Rockefeller Republicans to a smaller denomination of (mostly) liberals.

At the same time, the rest of the Anglican Communion was changing radically, with adherents in the Global South coming to outnumber those in Europe and North America. The churches in British Commonwealth countries emerged in different social contexts, with different values, and different (often hostile) relationships to liberalism. Moreover, they found themselves competing with evangelical inroads, conservative (until two years ago) Catholicism, and Islam, with the most pious-seeming religious tradition often “winning.” For all these reasons and more, the emergent Anglicanism of the Global South was a far more conservative Anglicanism even than the old Episcopalianism, let alone the new one.

The watershed moment came at an important Anglican conference in 1998, when theological conservatives from Africa, Asia, and Latin America defeated the liberals on a key vote: homosexuality.

Arguably, the split we saw last week is just a later stage of the process begun 18 years ago. Homosexuality is the catalyst but not the only contentious issue. To liberals, the Episcopal Church is moving into the 21st century, setting aside Biblical fundamentalism and responding to how people actually live their lives. But to Anglican conservatives, the Episcopal Church has lost its way, moving toward a mushy universalism that downplays Christian exclusivity in favor of pluralism, and takes liberal positions on abortion, LGBT equality, and other hot-button issues.

Perhaps the great open question in American religion is whether liberal denominations like Episcopalianism have a future or not. (As Jack Jenkins at ThinkProgress noted, Presbyterianism—Donald Trump’s denomination—is even more liberal than the Episcopal Church, and Presbyterian leaders have frequently criticized Trump’s positions on immigration and Islam.) American Christianity in general is in a period of steep decline, and mainline Protestant denominations—plus white, non-Hispanic Catholics—are declining the most.

We are moving toward a religiously polarized America. Thirty percent of Americans between the ages of 18-29 profess “none” as their religious affiliation, while at the other extreme, around 35 percent of Americans subscribe to a resurgent ultra-fundamentalist evangelicalism. (77 percent of those evangelicals believe we’re living in the End Times.) Mainline Protestants, once the dominant religious group in America, are now just 18 percent of the population. Episcopalians are less than 1 percent.

To the extent religion continues to provide a source of inspiration, community, purpose, and ethical motivation in people’s lives, liberal Christianity should have a lot to offer, seeing as it provides those things without preposterous beliefs, divisive social mores, or fire-breathing sermons. And it does, to many. But even though 92 percent of Americans say they believe in God, they seem uninterested in expressing that belief in moderate, reasonable churches.

The American religious landscape, then, resembles the Anglican Communion as a whole. On one end, a shrinking number of religious liberals, and at the other, a fierce religious conservatism. In coming apart at the seams, the Anglican Church looks a lot like us.

 

By: Jay Michaelson, The Daily Beast, January 17, 2016

January 19, 2016 Posted by | American Communion, Marriage Equality, The Episcopal Church | , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“Oh Please!”: Huckabee Peers Up At Cruz In The Polls, Attacks Him For Lack Of Hysteria On Marriage Equality

In one of the more, er, interesting Invisible Primary diversions of the holiday season, on Wednesday Politico‘s Mike Allen tried to win the morning with a breathless report that Texas senator Ted Cruz told a private “moderate” fund-raising audience in sinful New York that rolling back marriage equality would not be a “top-three” priority. Allen found out about this shocking indiscretion via a “secret tape” sent to him by a shocked witness.

Truth is that in the same breath Cruz folded the fight against marriage equality into his “top priority,” which he describes as “defending the Constitution.” He also reminded listeners that he has long favored letting the states set marriage policies, as they generally do subject to constitutional conditions.

Not to put too fine a gloss on it, Mike Allen manufactured a “controversy” out of this nothing-burger of a quote, presumably because it could get the recently high-flying Cruz in trouble both with Christian Right activists ever alert to their issues sliding down the priority list, and with Republican voters concerned with “authenticity.” Cruz, you see, has always raised suspicions that he’s a sort of an Elmer Gantry figure, a slick Ivy Leaguer pulling the wool over the eyes of the Folks.

Personally, I think such charges have it backwards; if anyone’s getting zoomed by Ted Cruz, it’s the sophisticates who think he would be a regular old-school Republican if elected president. But that’s probably because I’ve spent a lot of time listening to the apocalyptic ravings of his favorite warm-up act and father, the Reverend Ted Cruz.

So far the only fallout from the Cruz/Allen “scandal” is the understandable reaction of Mike Huckabee, who is peering up at Ted Cruz in the poll rankings and wondering how he lost his long-established conservative evangelical base in Iowa to a Cuban-American. According to (naturally) Politico, Huck rose to the occasion:

“Conservatives are being asked to ‘coalesce’ around yet another corporately-funded candidate that says something very different at a big donor fundraiser in Manhattan than at a church in Marshalltown,” Huckabee said in a statement released by his campaign Wednesday afternoon. “Shouldn’t a candidate be expected to have authenticity and consistency, instead of having to look at a map to decide what to believe and what to say?”

Cruz’s answer to the “top-three” question may have struck a chord with Huckabee because the former Arkansas governor has issued his own “top-three” statement, allowing as how he’ll fold his presidential campaign if he doesn’t get one of those legendary three tickets out of Iowa. That will only happen over Ted Cruz’s dead (political) body, so no wonder Huck’s trying to take him down.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, December 24, 2015

December 28, 2015 Posted by | Evangelicals, Marriage Equality, Mike Huckabee | , , , , | 1 Comment

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