The Trump Chronicles, Volume 137; The Justice Chronicles, Volume 36, The Election 2020 Chronicles, Volume 6: Thoughts on Impeachment, Removal From Office, and Where We Go From Here

I began this blog and called it “my thoughts and musings” knowing that I’m interested in politics. Blessed by growing up twenty five miles south of Washington D.C. my school field trips took me to the Smithsonian, the Capitol, and Arlington National Cemetery.

But most importantly I grew up reading the The Washington Post. A month after my 12th birthday we read about a burglary at the Watergate Hotel.

It’s a long story but let me edit it here: In 1972 President Nixon ran for reelection against North Dakota Senator George McGovern. While President Nixon’s reelection campaign appeared to be a lock, he demanded that his campaign dig up dirt on his opponent.

President Nixon named his reelection campaign the Committee to Reelect the President. They called it CRP but it quickly took on the acronym CREEP. The committee tried several things to upset the McGovern campaign and most of them either didn’t happen or didn’t work. On the night of June 17th several people working for CRP were arrested in the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate Hotel

Nobody believed President Nixon either planned or knew about the break-in but within a few days it became clear that he used his office to ensure nobody would connect the break-in to his campaign. He directed several people to bribe those under arrest to plead guilty and shut up. By 1974 his actions became public and he resigned because he knew he would be impeached and removed from office.

It was different time. President Nixon resigned after Senators from his own party told him that they couldn’t, in good conscience, vote to acquit him. They recognized that their obligation to their country mattered more than their obligation to their party.

Fast forward to 2020. Like President Nixon, our current President Trump used his office to illegally advance his reelection. Both believed that his reelection would benefit our nation and anything they did in advance of their reelection would benefit our nation.

The fact with President Trump are clear: he threatened to withhold aid to Ukraine unless its President announced they were investigating Presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Only this time Republicans aren’t recognizing that they have an obligation to their country. They aren’t recognizing they have an obligation to their constituents or the Constitution.

Clearly their only obligation lies in their job security. The Trump administration has made it clear that any Republican who doesn’t support him is disloyal and will pay the price. And he will be acquitted because Republican senators are afraid to cross him.

I pray we can survive this President

We Still Miss Those Who Flew on the Challenger

On this day 34 days ago many of us gathered around a television set to watch a horrific event. That morning the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch and all seven astronauts died. That day we lost:

At the time I was the Director of Religious Education at All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas, Virginia. It was ordinary morning until my secretary Edye McIntyre (1928-2008) got a call and expressed her grief. When I heard the news my first reaction was: “Oh no, not with the teacher.” It was a hard day.

We humans have always felt the need to explore. What’s over those mountains? What’s across that sea? Can we reach the moon? Can we reach other planets or galaxies? Let’s try.

All attempts put us in danger but we explore nonetheless.

Thirty four years later let us honor these brave Americans whose sacrifice made our exploration better. And let us honor the teacher, and all those teachers who have inspired us.

Auschwitz, 75 Years Later

Today, January 27th, we commemorate the day in 1945 when Soviet troops liberated the most famous of the Nazi’s concentration camps, Auschwitz. From 1940 to 1945, 1,100,000 men, women, and children were murdered. Most were Jews, but the Nazi’s also murdered Roma (Gypsies), political prisoners, and gays. It’s important to remember them too.

Seventy five years out it’s easy to parrot the phrase “Never again” but that’s not enough. This genocide didn’t begin with the opening of Auschwitz, it began much earlier and “never again” commands that we challenge and call out antisemitism before it becomes the norm, before it becomes acceptable.

Germany after World War I was a mess. Not only did they lose the war, but they were forced into poverty by England and France who demanded crushing reparations.

A few years into this an Austrian who fought for Germany as a lance corporal saw an opportunity. His name was Adolf Hitler (1889-1945). He decided that the real source of German suffering wasn’t the Treaty of Versailles but the Jews.

He was a brilliant communicator and was able to convince much of his adopted country that if they could only get rid of the Jews their future would be bright. He was raised Catholic and used a longstanding myth that the Jews killed Jesus Christ to make antisemitism reasonable to Christians. It worked.

Seventy five years ago, when we learned the horrors of the Holocaust, antisemitism became unacceptable in most quarters. But every year since then we’ve seen antisemitism become more and more acceptable. In August of 2017, at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, we heard, to our horror, the phrase: “The Jews Will Not Replace Us.”

This was part of a larger campaign called “Unite the Right.” Our President, when asked about this campaign, claimed that there were “very fine people on both sides.”

He’s wrong. Fine people aren’t white supremacists. Fine people aren’t anti-Semites.

If we want to ensure there will never be another Auschwitz we need to call out antisemitism when it begins, not when it becomes deadly.

Reflections on Yosemite and birthdays

I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted. Alas, when I retire I can give more content.

Nancy and I just returned from our annual pilgrimage to Yosemite National Park. Twenty years ago we learned of a program called Chefs’ Holidays and we’ve been attending ever since.

There’s much to enjoy there: it’s a beautiful park with incredible views and it’s cold enough to see snow. The elevation of Yosemite Valley (4000 feet) gives us a taste of true winter and hiking on the valley floor can’t be replicated at home.

Oh yes, and then there’s the food. Yosemite invites famous chefs to cook and teach. Nancy loves the cooking demonstrations and often brings home recipes that we enjoy at home. The last night of our stay we attend a 5 course dinner (with wine). Normally we’re seated at a table with four other couples and we enjoy meeting new people. This year we sat at a table of four with just one other couple.

It was magical. The other couple (Chris Kenward and Steve Sosnowski) made us laugh and enjoy the meal better than we expected. We hope to see more of them.

We also got to share breakfast and lunch with our niece Katie and her boyfriend Nate.

The only thing we missed was the birthday of Nancy’s dad. Last year we celebrated his 100th birthday recognizing that none of us is promised our next. I’m pleased to report that on the 23rd he celebrated his 101st.

The next day he was invited to St. James Academy, the catholic school attached to his parish. The students not only celebrated his birthday, they all wrote notes to him to thank him for his support of their school.

We don’t know how much longer God will allow us to enjoy him, but in the years and decades after he is gone his support will continue to bear fruit.

It might be selfish to ask for a 102nd but count me selfish.

The Election 2020 Chronicles, Volume 5: And the Field Narrows

Yesterday we learned that California Senator Kamala Harris ended her campaign for President. As a resident of California I have mixed feelings about this. I believe she has represented us well in the Senate but I wished she had spent more time as our Senator. The Democratic race for 2020 is crowded and it’s a given that good candidates would be pushed aside.

I don’t know who will win the nomination next summer but I pray it’s a Democrat who will win in 2020 and 2024. I hope Kamala either finds a place in the next administration or runs in 2024. She has my support.

The Election 2020 Chronicles, Volume 4: The Democratic Field Begins to Winnow

We Democrats didn’t expect to lose the 2016 election. I spent most of the fall of 2016 telling people that there was no way Donald Trump would defeat Hillary Clinton and we didn’t need to worry about being led by a narcissistic sociopath. I was wrong.

Given that it’s no surprise that several democrats are clamoring to make certain he isn’t reelected. I know this makes people nervous as we democrats have a habit of circular firing squads and they fear that we won’t all unify behind whoever wins the nomination.

I don’t think that’s true. I speak for myself, but I think I speak for others, when I say that I care for nothing more than returning sanity and empathy to 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue. Anyone who is running for the democrat nominee will get my vote.

That said, I recognize that at some point some candidates need to understand that they have no path to the nomination and should step aside. Earlier this month Beto O’Rourke suspended his campaign. He famously ran against Texas Senator Ted Cruz and nearly won. But his Presidential campaign simply didn’t get traction. I liked him and his platform and I wish him well.

I also hope he doesn’t walk away from public service.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 136: We Have Betrayed the Kurds Again

From the middle of the 20th Century we’ve seen conflict in the Middle East. As Americans we’ve often looked through the lens of Israel and their Arab neighbors. But the Middle East is more complex.

Eight years ago, in 2011, a civil war broke out in Syria. Any conflict in this part of the world complicates easy answers and I wrote about this conflict here.

I described the war as having three sides: President Assad, revolutionary Syrians, and Isis. The United States supported Syrians who wanted to overthrow Assad and we allied ourselves with the Kurds. The Kurds are an ethnic group in the Middle East.

The end of World War I redrew the map of Eastern Europe and the Middle East and the Kurds hoped they would be recognized as the nation of Kurdistan. Unfortunately that didn’t happen (and if you want to read an excellent book on this I recommend Paris 1919). The Kurds found themselves living in parts of Eastern Turkey, Northern Syria, and Western Iran, and Western Iraq.

In 1991 the United States invaded Iraq to counter Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Then President George H.W. Bush encouraged Iraq’s population to rise up and overthrow Saddam Hussein. The Kurds in northern Iraq did just that. But once the United States forces liberated Kuwait we pulled out, and Saddam Huessin turned his guns on those who followed President Bush’s encouragement. Saddam Hussein used poison gas to slaughter the Kurds.

Fast forward to Syria. When the United States decided to support Syrians who wanted to overthrow Assad we also decided to support the Kurds who populated Northern Syria and opposed Assad. This troubled Turkey because the Kurdish population in Eastern Turkey have wanted independence since 1919. Some of the Kurds formed a terrorist group called the PKK in the 1970s. Since then Turkey has viewed all Kurds as possible members of the PKK.

So here’s the question: Is there overlap between the PKK and the Kurds in Syria who wish to overthrow Assad? Turkey is clear: these aren’t two groups, but one. Allow the Syrian Kurds any encouragement and they will use their power to fight against Turkey. Frankly, I haven’t found proof of this, and not for lack of trying.

And now enter President Trump. On October 7th he tweeted that we are pulling our troops out of Syria. I imagine he thought this would be seen as a good thing as he has often promised to keep out people safe.

It didn’t happen like he thought. The Kurds have (once again) been good allies. In addition to fighting against Assad’s troops they have also successfully rounded up and imprisoned members of Isis. But now the Kurds need to pull out of guarding the members of Isis and fight the Turks.

The freeing of Isis fighters makes us less secure, but it also reminds the Kurds that the United States is not trustworthy.

Going forward the Middle East will continue to be a volatile place. I don’t think it’s in our best interest to become an isolationist nation and pretend that what happens in other parts of the world don’t matter (and I hope that 9/11 makes my point). Our retreat from Syria does nothing more than make us less safe and tell the Kurds that only idiots believe promises made by the United States.

The Justice Chronicles, Volume 35: Who Can We Discriminate Against?

Every year the Supreme Court begins its term on the first Monday of October. This year’s docket promises to be important as the Court has accepted several important issues.

I don’t wish to discuss all of them in this post but one of the cases caught my attention. The Supreme Court agreed to decide on whether employers have the right to fire employees who they find to be gay, lesbian, or transgender. The Court consolidated a few cases and I wish to look at two of them: Bostock v. Clayton County and Harris Funeral Home v. EEOC.

Gerald Bostock worked in Clay County, Georgia as a child welfare service coordinator from 2003 to 2013. Mr. Bostock was a gay man but this wasn’t known to his employer until 2013 when he joined a gay softball league. Even though his job performance reviews were positive, when his orientation became know he was fired.

In Michigan Anthony Stephens worked for R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes. After many years of employment, Anthony told his employer that he intended to transition to a woman and be known as Aimee Stephens and was fired.

The Court will decide on a specific point: The 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination because of sex. At the time this was assumed to cover only employers who refused to hire women. At the time we knew little of sexual orientation and virtually nothing about men and women who chose to change or merge their sexual identity.

The Court needs to decide whether or not sex discrimination includes gay or transgender Americans. Supporters claim that the 1964 Act includes those who will suffer discrimination in the future. Opponents claim that it protects only straight women who wish to work at jobs reserved to straight men.

Those who know me know that I hold a progressive view of the law. Decisions made today affect future generations in ways that we can’t imagine. And that’s good.

I’ve written about this before but the decision in 1967 of Loving v. Virginia prohibited the ban on international marriage. Before that several states ruled that men and woman of different races couldn’t marry.

In the 50 years since then we’ve needed to confront another marriage issue: can adults of the same sex marry, and can those who wish to change their sexual identity be accepted?

I’m all in with the belief the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects both Mr. Bostock and Aimee Stephens and the Court should find in their favor.

Many remember a time when some thought it would make our lives easier if nobody of different races wanted to marry, but didn’t happen and they needed to accept something they didn’t like. A few decades later these same people were told to not only accept interracial marriage but also accept same sex marriage (or “marriage equality”) and it was a bridge too far.

And many of those who disapprove of marriage equality or transgender status point to a few passages in the Bible.

Well, I read the same Bible and have come to different conclusions: I’m all in with the belief that God is Love and we are called to love each other in a way that goes beyond our understanding. Others are all in with the belief that we are called to follow rules, especially those that make us comfortable.

But here’s my problem: seeing the Bible as a set of rules doesn’t respect the fact that we are adults. Children are supposed to be obedient and adults are supposed to be faithful. Adults should read Scripture recognizing that the authors lived in a place and a time where they dealt with certain realities.

Those who wrote the books we now recognize as Scripture had no concept of different races (though they probably had an understanding of different skin shades) or different sexual orientations. But they did have a concept of a God who loves all of us. The fact that God did not explicitly bless interrational or same sex marriages in the Bible doesn’t mean that God condemns them.

But today we recognize that we live in a world with different skin colors and different orientations. We live in a world where some of us choose to transition from what the Bible says to what the Bible means.

If we believe that God is Love and demands us to love each other, can we look beyond skin color and sexual orientation? I hope so.

And I hope the Supreme Court agrees with me.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 135: Words Matter Mr. President. Your Words Matter

In a previous post I lamented the fact that President Trump shows little or no respect for his office, and does not see himself as a public servant but instead as the undisputed head of the United States

Time and again he has shown recklessness and a lack of sensitivity, but in the last few weeks he has reached a new level. We recently learned that in July the President spoke with the President of Ukraine and many of us heard that our President held up aid that Ukraine needs until they investigate charges of corruption by Joe and Hunter Biden.

As I said a last week this renewed calls for the President to be impeached and removed from office (you can read this here.

We’ve come to expect irresponsible rhetoric from him, as when he referred to the free press as the “Enemy of the People.”

But he called those who gave information to the whistleblower “almost a spy.” He demands to know the identity of this person for a confrontation. He has accused California Representative Adam Schiff of treason.

But a few days later the President ratcheted up to an even more dangerous level. Last weekend he read that evangelical pastor and Fox News contributor Robert Jeffress suggested that if the President were impeached and removed from office it would lead to “a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.” It was irresponsible for the pastor, but much worse when the President retweeted it.

It’s well known that the President isn’t a student of history, but those of us who are find this chilling. At the end of the Civil War when the Confederates surrendered at Appomattox Court House there was talk that instead of laying down their guns, the Confederate Army should “head for the hills” and begin a guerilla war that would make Union occupation impossible. Confederate General Robert E. Lee stopped it. You can read an excellent article here.

Simply put, our President feels that anyone who opposes him is a traitor and those who support him should take up arms. Already this is being taken up by armed militias.

We are a nation that cares deeply for our future, being led by a man who cares only for himself.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 134: Props to the Whistleblower

It’s been quite a week and there’s lots to unpack. In my last post I suggested that we need to reconsider impeachment, even if probably won’t lead to the Senate removing the President from office.

None of this would have happened had not a civil servant (the whistleblower) read the transcript of a phone call. Our President, never one to care about anyone other than himself, has called this civil servant almost a spy and suggested he (or she) committed treason.

The Republican response is no more responsible. They claim that since the whistleblower was not on the call, anything he says is hersay and this needs some unpacking.

When someone testifies in a court of law, he (or she) can only testify to what he saw or heard. For example, if I witness a robbery I can testify to that. But I can’t testify that I overheard someone tell another person that he committed the robbery. That’s hearsay.

But here’s the problem: the whistleblower isn’t testifying: he’s reporting. His report doesn’t claim there was a crime or an impeachable offense, only that there might be something that bears a look.

Let me draw a parallel from my own life: because of my job as a hospice chaplain I’m known as a “mandated reporter” for elder abuse. If I see or suspect abuse I’m required by law to report it to the authorities. Nobody gets in trouble for what I report and all it means is that someone will investigate.

That’s what the whistleblower did. He reported his concerns to the Office of the Intelligence Community Inspector General.

Stay tuned. More later.