Where There’s Fire, There’s Fury

There sure has been a lot of attention given to this new book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. Cable news and online sites don’t seem to get enough of it.

Author Michael Wolff has created a firestorm of sorts with his account of what those who work in the Trump administration have told him about their boss. Bottom line is that they think he’s somewhat off his rocker.

Or did they say the things he says they said? That’s what has created an equal firestorm as some of those he quoted and/or paraphrased have now branded the quotes as false, inventions of a man who simply wants to embarrass and take down a president.

Where is the truth?

I really don’t know.

As an academic, I want everything sourced/documented in the most detailed way. My goal in any writing I have done is to ensure that readers can trust what I’m quoting. By those standards, Wolff’s book is apparently deficient. Perhaps that’s what publishers want—sensationalism to sell the books, not unimpeachable accuracy.

Even some journalists who are not exactly Trump fans have criticized Wolff. Some have pointed out factual inaccuracies that bring into question the integrity of the work as a whole. Didn’t the publisher have any fact-checkers assigned to this volume?

Wolff does note that he can’t vouch for the accuracy of everything people told him; he claims to be simply reporting what they said and it’s up to the reader to figure out how true those statements might be.

Truth is particularly suspect when one of your major inside sources is Steve Bannon, a man who comes across to me as someone who’s out to puff up Steve Bannon more than anything else. Principled is not an adjective I would use to describe him.

All the attention to the book and to Bannon’s alleged comments in it has led him down an apology path. One wonders how sincere his apologies are when it is obvious he is now in a tentative position with respect to his tenure at the Breitbart news [?] site.

Trump has denounced Bannon, as he always denounces anyone he believes has betrayed him. So it seems a trifle phony for Bannon now to sing praises to his former boss.

My personal opinion about the book is that it is a mixture of fact and fiction and that it’s difficult to know which tidbit is which.

As as result, I have no compelling desire to read it; I have better things to read.

However, as Jonah Goldberg has noted, the reason it can gain some credibility is that it depicts a president that some of us think we already see. It doesn’t surprise us if all of what is said might be true.

How should one respond to a book that depicts one as unfit for the office of the presidency? I can remember the 1980s when journalists attempted to paint a portrait of Ronald Reagan as some kind of a dumb jock that others were leading around by the nose because he had no idea what was going on.

How did Reagan respond to accusations of that type? With jokes about himself, not attacks on the attackers. He defused the charges by self-deprecating humor. Americans saw a man who could laugh at himself, not take himself too seriously, and they readily dismissed the highly partisan, distorted caricature presented by the journalists.

How has Trump responded? On Twitter, of course. Here’s the verbatim tweet, in case you missed it:

Throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames. I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius….and a very stable genius at that!

First, let me say that if you have to defend yourself, the best way might be through humility. But that seems to be foreign territory for Donald Trump. When you have to assert that you have “mental stability” and that you are “like, really smart,” you have undermined your credibility from the start.

Trump then brags about all his successes (proof that he is “like, really smart”), ending with the modest comment that “smart” is not a strong enough term—no, he’s a genius—no, make that “a very stable genius”—thereby accomplishing the opposite of what he intended.

That tweet only gives credence to the accusations that he is an ego-driven, arrogant yet insecure man-child, who can’t control his reactions. I’ve commented many times that he too often comes across as juvenile; this tweet could be the apex of his juvenile behavior.

The first half of this post will alienate The Resistance, which aims for impeachment. The second half will anger Trump supporters who think he truly is a genius. My goal was not to anger anyone but to be fair and balanced in my assessment.

The book is most likely a travesty that doesn’t deserve much credibility, yet Trump has to stop being his own worst enemy if he doesn’t want the book to gain credibility.

The Old Testament prophet Malachi might have penned this warning to both sides in our current controversy, and the words seem to fit the fire and fury motif:

“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them.

May we take that warning seriously.

Our Predictable President

Everything I predicted yesterday about the State of the Union speech came to pass. It’s not that I’m some kind of great predictor; it’s that this president is so predictable.

The speech was mostly recycled from previous speeches. The tone was the same as previous speeches as well—supremely arrogant. It takes a lot of hubris to declare you’re going to veto a bunch of bills while simultaneously lecturing Congress on how to work with others.

It takes equal hubris to claim that Obamacare is actually lowering costs and that the slight uptick in the economy is due to your policies when all you have done is obstruct the economy. The workforce is at its lowest ebb since the days of Jimmy Carter. The falling gas prices stem from private industry, not the government’s policies.

And his claim to be the champion of the middle class could easily be made into a comedy routine. He wishes to be perceived as a kind of hero who is taking from the privileged (who got there by oppressing others):

Obama Hood

Meanwhile, back on earth, the reality is somewhat different:

Sending Help

He tries to portray those who have succeeded as the enemies of the people. This is a typical class warfare tactic, able to fool the simple-minded in a single bound. But when he places the rich in the crosshairs, he has a loose definition of “rich”:

American Sniper

Economics 101:

Sorry

Economics, though, is something of which President Obama is woefully ignorant—or willfully ignorant.

If you didn’t approve of his speech, he might have a remedy for that, in keeping with how he currently conducts business in the Oval Office:

Peachy

Republicans to the rescue? We’ll have to wait and see.

The Rot Doesn’t Start at the Top

Have you ever felt like this: so sickened by the ocean of dishonesty, lack of integrity, and arrogance of the majority of humanity that you just want to seal yourself off from the ugliness of it all? If not for the mercy I’ve received personally from the Lord, and His forgiveness for my own past dishonesty, lack of integrity, and arrogance, I would be tempted to find a nice isolated corner of the world where I could simply let the parade pass me by.

As if anyone can find such a corner.

There’s no escape from the pervasiveness of sin in our society. For me, the two most distressing places to find sin are among those who claim the name of Christ and in those who presume to lead us politically. The first—the church—is supposed to be the light in this dark world. When we act like the world, we snuff out the light. The second—our government—is supposed to be a servant of God, carrying out His will in the public sphere. When it decides to become its own miniscule god, it does the opposite of what the real God intended.

In my study of church history, I’ve often been grieved by the manner in which so many have dishonored the God they claim to serve. As a student of the history of politics and government, I’ve been almost as dismayed by the pride of politicians who believe they are bringing us utopia and by the outright lies they offer to achieve their goals.

Our current political leader, though, has set a new standard for arrogance and deception. Just when I thought no one in public life could ever top Bill Clinton for blatant dishonesty and love of self, along comes Barack Obama.

I don’t really want to go through a litany of all the dishonest statements he’s made or the growing list of things for which he denies all knowledge or responsibility, but some cartoonists have encapsulated them for me, so I’ll let them speak:

Didn't Know

Knows Nothing

He won’t even admit when he’s been wrong. Previous presidents have taken responsibility for failures and have won back public confidence: Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs fiasco; Reagan in the Iran-Contra affair. But this president? He won’t even acknowledge that his “guarantee” that everyone would be able to keep their health insurance policies if they liked them was a complete sham. He invents a new narrative of what he “actually” meant by words that could only be taken in one way. It’s obvious he lied to get Obamacare passed into law; it’s just as obvious his overall goal is to force everyone in the country into his system eventually.

It’s difficult for me to contain the disgust I feel for this man. I’m ashamed he’s the president of my country. Yet how did he get to be that leader? He didn’t just grab the title and run with it. He convinced enough of our fellow citizens that he was their savior—and I use that word advisedly, as he has always held himself up as larger than life. I mean, who else would ever say that their election was “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal”?

I expect people with outsized egos to dominate our politics. The lure of power draws them. What’s most distressing is how easily fooled the people can be as they continue to believe the big lies:

Great Pumpkin

The rot doesn’t start at the top. It rises from the masses who are an unhealthy combination of ignorance and selfishness. At this point, there’s no excuse for ignorance about Obama or his agenda. The selfishness at the root of it all—we want the goodies government promises—can only be dealt with at the personal level. It’s back to the basic Gospel: recognition of our sinfulness, repentance, acceptance of the forgiveness offered through the Cross, and the development of a renewed mind so we can see the world more clearly—through the principles found in Scripture—and not be fooled again.

Humility Is the Key

One of the devotional classics is The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. There is some historical dispute as to whether he is the actual author or just the compiler of this fifteenth-century aid to living the Christian life. Of course that’s not what really matters; it’s the substance of the book that counts, and substantive it is.

As I was reading through some excerpts yesterday, one stood out to me because it took aim at my profession—education. There is a tendency for those of us who have climbed the ladder to that supposed top rung to begin to believe we are the knowledge elite. Pride in our scholarly attainments is a real temptation, particularly when those attainments are essential if we are to rise in the ranks. Right now I’m serving as the chair of the committee in my university that evaluates those attainments and decides which professors deserve to be promoted in rank. There’s certainly nothing wrong with showcasing achievement because God has called us all to be excellent. Excellence deserves to be rewarded. Yet we must always guard against the arrogance that may accompany that excellence. If arrogance wins out, we have lost excellence in God’s eyes.

I would like to share what The Imitation of Christ says about this. I’ve altered and modernized some of the spelling so you won’t get bogged down in a forest of shalts, thees, thys, and thous. I hope the Lord can use this to help each of us to be careful to avoid the sin of pride in our accomplishments.

Truly, at the day of judgment we shall not be examined as to what we have read, but as to what we have done; not as to how well we have spoken, but as to how religiously we have lived.

Never read the word of God in order to appear more learned or more wise. Be studious for the mortification of your sins; for this will profit you more than the knowledge of many difficult questions. When you shall have read and known many things, you ought ever to return to the one beginning and principle. I am He that teaches man knowledge; and I give unto little children a clearer understanding than can be taught by man. He therefore, to whom I speak, shall quickly be wise, and shall profit much in Spirit.

There is a great difference between the wisdom of a man devout and taught of God, and the knowledge of a man learned and studious. Far more noble is that learning that flows from above, from the divine influence, than that which is painfully gotten by the wit of man.

If you desire to profit, read with humility, simplicity, and faithfulness; nor ever desire the repute of learning. . . . If you think you understand and know much, yet know that there be many more things that you know not. Affect not to be overwise, but rather acknowledge your own ignorance. . . . You are a man and not God.

More and more I’m impressed that humility is the key to living the Christian life as God intends it. Never am I more estranged from His presence than when I allow pride to well up inside. As I was reading the passage above, a section of Scripture came to mind. It’s from I Corinthians 1:26-29. I close with this and no further commentary, since it is a commentary in itself:

For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.

On Flags, Arrogance, & Threats

In one of my posts last week detailing the case against Obama’s reelection, I wrote about his character. The most blatant trait I believe he possesses is an ego far outside the norm. I’m certainly not the first person to comment on the perceived arrogance of the man. In some cases, his followers have taken devotion to him to an extraordinary level. A couple of months ago, some of his campaign headquarters were flying this flag:

That raised the ire of many who saw it as a desecration of the American flag. There was enough blowback that this emblem soon disappeared. Then just this last week, the following showed up on Obama’s website for admirers to purchase:

Someone apparently didn’t learn the lesson. It also has quietly been removed. But it was there long enough for at least one cartoonist to draw attention to it:

I recall nearly four years ago after Obama won the election, whenever he would speak publicly, he would stand behind a podium the likes of which had never been seen before in American politics:

That also was unprecedented. He seems to enjoy the status of the office, if not the actual responsibilities. His spokespersons say he didn’t refuse a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, but the word from Israel is just the opposite. It’s a shame to have to say I accept the word of a country other than my own in the controversy, but this administration has been anything but forthright on a number of issues. Obfuscation has become more of an art than ever. We are told Obama has avoided his daily intelligence briefings consistently, even in the aftermath of the Libyan attacks and the murder of our ambassador. Clint Eastwood’s empty chair is seeing a lot of play lately:

Just yesterday, the president was in New York City as world leaders were gathering for talks at the UN. He sent Secretary of State Clinton to meet with world leaders, but he had more pressing matters on his mind:

Yes, trolling for votes among his legion of fans was far more important. The one substantive interview he did submit to was on 60 Minutes where he, without the aid of his teleprompter, stirred up controversy once again by calling the rising tide of unrest and protests in the Muslim world simply bumps in the road, and referring to Netanyahu’s urgings to take the Iranian nuclear threat seriously as “noise” that he intends to “block out.”

Does he believe at all that there is a legitimate radical Muslim threat against the United States?

For the sake of our security, he had better start believing it. For the sake of the future of our nation, we need to put someone in the Oval Office who is a true friend of Israel and recognizes the threat. There is one out there.

May it come to pass.

The Case Against Barack Obama: Character

Yesterday I examined Obama’s roots and the worldview he received from others. Just as important in an evaluation of the man is the character he has developed over the years. Each of us is exposed to many influences that help in shaping our character, but it’s always important to recognize that they are influences only—our path is not determined; how we respond to those influences is the key. Therefore, we cannot blame anyone else for whom we have become.

I say that because in Obama’s case it would be easy to blame his father, who didn’t stay with the family. Just as easy to blame would be his mother, who pushed him away from Western values, Christianity in particular. And then there were his grandparents who introduced him to his communist mentor, Frank Marshall Davis. Obama’s formative years were filled with what I would call pernicious influences. I’m sorry he had such an upbringing, but he is still accountable for how he responded to all those influences.

Abandoned by his father, raised by a white mother and grandparents, he can be excused perhaps for feeling out of place and in need of an identity. That’s probably why he created a fantasy image of his natural father. So in one sense he had a deep need for affirmation as a person. Yet, simultaneously, he was really quite the child of privilege. He never lacked for anything materially. He went to a private high school in Hawaii, then on to Columbia and Harvard later. Those are hardly the credentials of someone who is a hardship case. He even became editor of the Harvard Law Review despite no real writing accomplishments of his own. Many have raised the question of just who paid for all this education, but he has not been forthcoming with that information, and his college records have remained sealed.

By his own admission, he was an active drug user in his youth. There’s also no indication he ever had to work hard at any job to help pay for his expenses. All the privileges he received, along with an active imagination about a heroic father, compensated for his loss of identity. He determined to be part of black America even though he lived primarily in a white family and society. This apparently gave his life meaning.

As I noted yesterday, he became a convinced Marxist by the time he went to college, and also latched on to his father’s anti-colonialism, which made him anti-establishment, anti-Western civilization, and even anti-American since it was part of that civilization.

Because everything seemed to be handed to him on the proverbial silver platter, he became self-righteous and arrogant, traits that made it easy for him to slide into the role of political messiah in 2008. He never really discouraged his adoring followers to consider him as simply another flawed human being. After all, as he stated, his election would be the starting point for the lowering of the oceans and the healing of the planet. No lack of self-confidence there. He also proclaimed that we [kind of a royal “we”] were the ones “we” had been waiting for. As if all of history revolved around the coming of the new messiah. The media should have showcased this arrogance, but instead has become his chief enabler, ignoring the fact that the emperor has no clothes and inventing “scandals” for anyone who dares offer a critique of the One.

Since he has been in office, other traits have come to the surface. Even those around him comment that he is aloof. He doesn’t form relationships with anyone outside his own little circle of confidants, all of whom seem to bow to his every whim. He doesn’t even develop solid relationships with congressional Democrats. It’s almost as if they are beneath him and not worth the time. And as for Republicans . . . well, that’s a non-starter. He will talk about compromise, but never do it, and then blame the Republicans for being obstructionists.

Many have commented on his thin skin; he bristles at any hint of disrespect. Often, he is petty, and lets it show publicly. Two examples. First, when he was making overtures to Republicans about budget compromises, he decided to make a speech and invite Paul Ryan to be there. So there was Ryan, sitting in the front row, I believe, and Obama then turned his rhetorical guns on the Ryan plan for getting the nation out of our deficit mess. Ryan, to his credit, took the verbal assault calmly.

But the more famous example was during one of his State of the Union addresses, when he criticized a recent Supreme Court decision as the justices were sitting right in front of him. It was an attempt to humiliate them in the national spotlight. No president has ever used this important address to berate the court while they were honoring him with their presence. The term “mean-spirited” is not too strong for his actions in both of these cases.

I firmly believe Obama is a classic narcissist. He lives to please himself and won’t take any responsibility for anything that goes wrong. The economy? Nearly four years after George Bush has left the office, Obama continues to blame him for the current problems. And his penchant for not paying sufficient attention to his day job—president of the most powerful nation on earth—is becoming painful to watch. He spends an inordinate amount of time playing golf, attending fundraisers, and partying with celebrities. But he seems to get away with it since we are a nation apparently hooked on the celebrity culture. It seems to be hard to get his attention lately:

The most baffling aspect of all this, to me, is that polls show people find him likeable. Reagan was likeable, as even his detractors admitted; Obama is not. He’s the epitome of the anti-Reagan. His arrogance, aloofness, and narcissism are deadly in a leader. And where is he leading us? That will be the subject of the next two posts.

Obama, Arrogance, & the Media

I’ll pick up again with Rick Santorum’s book tomorrow. Today, I need to catch up a little on some excellent political cartoons that take aim once again at one of our president’s most captivating traits—his arrogance. I’ve mentioned previously his bold step in appointing people to positions without congressional approval even though Congress was not officially in recess. That story is not over, and the cartoonists are doing their part to ensure it stays active:

That same cartoonist sees a similarity between the Obamas and a French historical couple:

And then there are some of Obama’s supporters—otherwise known as the media—consistently coming to his rescue. Did you see the new Newsweek cover?

Why are Obama’s critics so dumb??? Well, at least this magazine has left hypocrisy aside and has come out of the closet—again. Another cartoonist has been quick to use that one:

That’s how the mainstream media views those of us who aren’t enamored with socialistic failures. If that bothers you, good. Let it show in November.