ABOUT FACE: “A Turn So As To Face The Opposite Direction”*
As I watched and listened to Bill Maher joust with Ben Shapiro Friday night, my confusion dissipated. I finally gave into the obvious. For more than two years I struggled to comprehend how Trump’s disciples, including so-called disciples of Christ, and Trump could have leached themselves together, how they and the nominal Republican leadership in Congress justify their seemingly unapologetic, abject hypocrisy and ever deepening depravity and dishonesty, their flouting express constitutional canon and black letter law, willingly forfeiting independence and breaching oaths of office, and endorsing governance by open graft and corruption. I naively resisted believing it, but it’s actually quite simple.
They are willing if not eager to compromise a few of their lesser mores, here and there and anywhere necessary (and to keep their jobs), for the outcomes that are of most consequence to them. For Shapiro, it was cutting taxes and moving the Supreme Court further to the right (presumably to overturn Roe, keep and strengthen Citizens United, reintroduce marriage and related inequality, maintain racially and politically skewed elections, among others). They once championed those lesser mores if only because it gave them fodder to attack their political opponents. They have decided the opportunity is ripe, however, to move on to the ends that warrant their Machiavellian compromise of all means — moral, constitutional, lawful, civil — that could impede. And it didn’t take them long to make the shift.
They have no need to explain or justify. They simply don’t give a shit. Power and control is their morality. It has become meaningless to call out the GOP by propping it against its self-proclaimed historic role as a refuge, defender and exemplar of liberty for the world to see; as preserver of the U.S. constitutional system of separation of powers and insurer of accountability to the people on whose behalf its elected leaders purport to serve; as defender and espouser of the rule of law and protector of the integrity of criminal investigative and prosecutorial agencies and institutions; as champion for America’s standing in world affairs and guarantor that the United States continues as the most respected country in the world, a country that seeks, and keeps, the friendship of all peoples from all nations; as advocate for shrinking the national debt and living within means; as adherent to the oaths of office its elected officials take to protect and defend the Constitution.
That might have something to do with George Will’s and Steve Schmidt’s defections and renuciations.
In February 2018 I posted Had the Republican Platform 2016 Been Written Today It Would Be Interpreted Largely As Parody. If written today, it would be laugh-out-loud, knee-slapping comedy:
A few quotes from that post reveal the GOP’s and this administration’s about face on what the GOP once gave at least as lip service to “conservative” issues:
Under A Rebirth of Constitutional Government, We the People, the PLATFORM boasts:
“We are . . . the party of the Constitution, the greatest political document ever written. It is the solemn compact built upon principles of the Declaration that enshrines our God-given individual rights and ensures that all Americans stand equal before the law, defines the purposes and limits of government, and is the blueprint for ordered liberty that makes the United States the world’s freest and most prosperous nation. We reaffirm the Constitution’s fundamental principles: limited government, separation of powers, individual liberty, and the rule of law. We denounce bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism, ethnic prejudice, and religious intolerance. Therefore, we oppose discrimination based on race, sex, religion, creed, disability, or national origin and support statutes to end such discrimination. As the Party of Abraham Lincoln, we must continue to foster solutions to America’s difficult challenges when it comes to race relations today. . . .”
“Our Constitution is in crisis. . . . The current Administration has exceeded its constitutional authority, brazenly and flagrantly violated the separation of powers, sought to divide America into groups and turn citizen against citizen. The President has refused to defend or enforce laws he does not like, used executive orders to enact national policies in areas constitutionally reserved solely to Congress, made unconstitutional “recess” appointments to Senate-confirmed positions, directed regulatory agencies to overstep their statutory authority, and failed to consult Congress regarding military action overseas. He has changed what John Adams called ‘a government of laws and not of men’ into just the opposite.”
“Democrats in Congress have enabled, supported, and defended each of these breaches. They have applauded the President’s efforts to do an end-run around Congress and stymied Republican efforts to restrain executive lawlessness. . . .”
“Our most urgent task as a Party is to restore the American people’s faith in their government by electing a president who will enforce duly enacted laws, honor constitutional limits on executive authority, and return credibility to the Oval Office. We need a Republican president who will end abuses of power . . . by the White House itself. Safeguarding our liberties requires a president who will respect the Constitution’s separation of powers, including the authority of Congress to write legislation and define agency authority.Americans also deserve a president who will speak for our nation’s history and values, not apologize for them to our enemies*.. . .”
The rule of law is the foundation of our Republic. . . . We believe in the constitutional checks and balances . . . .”
Under America Resurgent, Renewing the European Alliance, the PLATFORM warns:
“For the people of Russia, we affirm our respect and our determination to maintain a friendship beyond the reach of those who wish to divide us. We have common imperatives: Ending terrorism, combating nuclear proliferation, promoting trade, and more. We also have a common problem: The continuing erosion of personal liberty and fundamental rights under the current officials in the Kremlin. Repressive at home and reckless abroad, their policies imperil the nations which regained their self-determination upon the collapse of the Soviet Union. We will meet the return of Russian belligerence with the same resolve that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. We will not accept any territorial change in Eastern Europe imposed by force, in Ukraine, Georgia, or elsewhere, and will use all appropriate constitutional measures to bring to justice the practitioners of aggression and assassination. . . .”
Under America Resurgent, A Dangerous World, the PLATFORM said:
“In the international arena, a weak Administration has invited aggression. The results of the Administration’s unilateral approach to disarmament are already clear: [A] resurgent Russia occupying parts of Ukraine and threatening neighbors from the Baltic to the Caucasus . . . . We support maintaining and, if warranted, increasing sanctions, together with our allies, against Russia unless and until Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are fully restored. We also support providing appropriate assistance to the armed forces of Ukraineand greater coordination with NATO defense planning. All our adversaries heard the message in the Administration’s cutbacks: America is weaker and retreating. Concomitantly, we honor, support, and thank all law enforcement, first responders, and emergency personnel for their service.”
“Reducing the Federal Debt. Our national debt is a burden on our economy and families. The huge increase in the national debt demanded by and incurred during the current Administration has placed a significant burden on future generations. We must impose firm caps on future debt, accelerate the repayment of the trillions we now owe in order to reaffirm our principles of responsible and limited government, and remove the burdens we are placing on future generations. . . .”
Continuing its fiscally conservative position under Government Reform, Balancing the Budget, the PLATFORM ominously warns then reassures:
“The federal fiscal burden threatens the security, liberty, and independence of our nation. The current Administration’s refusal to work with Republicans took our national debt from $10 trillion to nearly $19 trillion today. Left unchecked, it will hit $30 trillion by 2026. At the same time, the Administration’s policies systematically crippled economic growth and job creation, driving up government costs and driving down revenues. When Congressional Republicans tried to reverse course, the Administration manufactured fiscal crises — phony government shutdowns — to demand excessive spending. The Administration’s demands have focused on significantly expanding government spending and benefits for its preferred groups, paid for through loans that our children and grandchildren will have to pay. This is the path to bankrupting the next generation. The Republican path to fiscal sanity and economic expansion begins with a constitutional requirement for a federal balanced budget. We will fight for Congress to adopt, and for the states to ratify, a Balanced Budget Amendment which imposes a cap limiting spending to the appropriate historical average percentage of our nation’s gross domestic product while requiring a super-majority for any tax increase, with exceptions only for war or legitimate emergencies. Only a constitutional safeguard such as this can prevent deficits from mounting to government default. Republican budgets will prioritize thrift over extravagance and put taxpayers first. We support the following test: Is a particular expenditure within the constitutional scope of the federal government? If not, stop it. Has it been effective in the past and is it still absolutely necessary? If not, end it. Is it so important as to justify borrowing, especially foreign borrowing, to fund it? If not, kill it. . . .”
Under A Rebirth of Constitutional Government, Honest Elections and the Right to Vote, the PLATFORM reassures:
“Honest elections are the foundation of representative government. We pledge to protect the voting rights of every citizen . . . .We are concerned, however, that some voting procedures may be open to abuse. . . . To guard against foreign involvement in our elections, we call for vigilance regarding online credit card contributions to candidates and campaigns. . . .”
Under America Resurgent, Facing 21st Century Threats, Cybersecurity in an Insecure World, the PLATFORM warns:
“Cyber attacks against our businesses, institutions, and the government itself have become almost routine. They will continue until the world understands that an attack will not be tolerated — that we are prepared to respond in kind and in greater magnitude. Despite their promises to the contrary, Russia and China see cyber operations as a part of a warfare strategy during peacetime. Our response should be to cause diplomatic, financial, and legal pain, curtailing visas for guilty parties, freezing their assets, and pursuing criminal actions against them. We should seek to weaken control over the internet by regimes that engage in cyber crimes. We must stop playing defense and go on offense to avoid the cyber-equivalent of Pearl Harbor. The Republican Congress has passed important legislation to advance information-sharing among entities endangered by cyber attacks. We will explore the possibility of a free market for Cyber-Insurance and make clear that users have a self defense right to deal with hackers as they see fit. It is critical that we protect the cyber supply chain to ensure against contamination of components made all over the world, sometimes in offending countries. Our own cyber workforce should be expanded with the assistance of the military, business, and hacker communities to better protect our country. . . .”
*My brother the very talented fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com
**My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed more than 500 pieces of my father’s work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his art work. The photographs of my father’s art reproduced in lastamendment.com are hers.