Members of the Department of Defense know the importance of handling classified information. It is ingrained in us before we even begin our jobs through various forms of entry-level training, annual requirements, and certifications designed for program access. Many government offices designate specific personnel, called security managers, to ensure all personnel meet these requirements. Such accountability exists to teach and remind government workers of their important responsibility: the government and people of the United States have decided to trust these certain employees with sensitive information, and these workers must be responsible with that information. The secrets entrusted to them, in many cases, involve specific information about people, places, and methodologies that are classified in order to protect American lives.
In many ways, the responsibility to handle classified information responsibly is a lot like operating a vehicle. Government workers know that the information they possess has a specific use, and they understand their responsibility to “stay between the lines” and ensure the information doesn’t fall into the hands of America’s enemies. Being casual or reckless with this information would put others in danger in a manner comparable to a person operating a vehicle while intoxicated. And just as ignorance is no excuse for driving under the influence, it is inexcusable for any government worker to claim lack of awareness when it comes to handling classified information.
And yet this is exactly the excuse, combined with an attempted cover-up, that Hillary Clinton has utilized to salvage her political career. In a video released by Reason.com this fact was made succinctly and abundantly clear. The video contrasts Clinton’s words against FBI Directory Comey’s, showing the obvious disparity in their stories. Undeniably, the FBI proved that Clinton and her staff violated security requirements, lied about their egregious mistakes on record, and tried to cover up those mistakes. To the average worker this negligence seems comparable to a person driving a vehicle while intoxicated, and then trying to hide the DUI reports and fain ignorance after being caught.
The FBI and Department of Justice refused to prosecute Clinton in this case based on a “lack of criminal intent.” The reasons for Clinton’s actions, however, are abundantly clear to anyone working in a similar capacity. Her excuse of “convenience” masks an obvious inner belief that Clinton and her staff believe themselves to be above the law. Why should security requirements apply to someone at such a high level of government? Why should formalized computer-based training, routine memos, and bureaucratic accountability apply to the busy, important people running entire agencies? Why should America’s leaders of government answer to the same rules made for entry-level positions?
Such thinking no doubt led Clinton and her staff to bypass routine security protocols in order to focus more exclusively on the major tasks and decisions at hand. But in doing so, the former head of the Department of State violated the pledge she as a government worker made to uphold the United States Constitution. This oath was designed to bind her to the rule of law and ensure that Clinton understood that no amount of power gave her the authority to violate the established will of the people. As John Adams claimed, adherence to this principle of the Constitution is the only assurance we the people have to maintain a “government of laws and not of men.”
Hillary Clinton knowingly and willfully violated this sacred trust. Despite her claims to the contrary, the FBI proved that her negligence was dangerous and put Americans’ lives in danger. Like Richard Nixon and numerous morally deficient leaders before her, Clinton chose to serve her own interests instead of those of the American people as she violated necessary and important statutes. The difference is that in previous cases the American people have been outraged by such blatant inequity in government, but in Clinton’s case we are going to elect her for it.
In many ways Jesus Christ had more effect on civilization that any other person in history. Regardless of what one may believe about his alleged divinity, few would argue the notion that Jesus made a powerful and profound mark on history. The effects of his life continue to this day, as Jesus remains the main character in the most widely read book in the world. Christianity, the religion that considers him the Son of God, continues to be the largest on the globe. A positive outlook of Jesus’ life spans even this faith as the Qur’an explicitly names Jesus as a “great prophet” and “blessed messenger of God” worthy of perpetual esteem.
Despite this profound influence on history, Jesus rarely focused on accumulating power and prestige for himself. Instead of articulating ways to gain worldly fame, Jesus valued outsiders and the poor as he preached about the importance of the soul. He closely examined the inner beings of every person he interacted with, and in many cases Jesus exposed previously hidden motivations for their actions. As a result he taught his followers to value people, places, and things in a manner very different than the rest of the world.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Jesus’ interpretation of a poor widow’s offering (Mark 12 and Luke 21). The gospels claim that Jesus was at the temple of Jerusalem when he observed an unnamed widow giving two small copper coins to the offering. Instead of dismissing this negligible offering as worthless, Jesus prized it and praised the woman’s sacrifice. He specifically contrasted this seemingly minuscule gift with the large sums of money donated by other temple-goers. Jesus claimed that the widow’s offering was worth more than theirs as he boasted that she had “put in more than all the others.”
This story exemplifies the central place that Jesus gave to inner conviction and steadfast virtue. As Christ explained, the widow exhibited faith not because of the monetary impact of her gift but because she was giving from poverty and trusting God with her livelihood. In this story Jesus showed that true virtue could be found in an unlikely person having seemingly little to no effect on the larger world.
The ethics that Jesus taught in this story were profound but not unprecedented; in fact many previous scriptures had demonstrated God’s value of intention, belief, and virtue. The Bible as a whole exudes the same focus, as the passages below make clear:
“All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But the LORD weights the motives.” – Proverbs 16:2
“I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.” – Jeremiah 17:10
“…for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." – 1 Samuel 16:7
What the attentive reader finds throughout the Bible, then, is a God who desires to move past the exterior and into the very center or spirit of human beings. While He does acknowledge the importance of results, the God of the Bible makes it clear that what He values most is the intention to do what is right, both in ends as well as in means.
This notion of soul-centered ethics is particularly important because so much of our contemporary lives seem to be dominated by alternative considerations. In American politics especially, effects-centric ethics seem to reign supreme. Leading political networks preach a message that casts inner motivation, mindset, and methodology as worthless if they don’t produce the desired effect. A “wasted” action in their estimation is one that doesn’t produce result in their goal. Accordingly our modern mindset would likely be the first to argue against the widow in Matthew and Luke; our worldview would claim that her paltry contribution had a negligible impact on the temple’s budget and did little good for anyone including herself.
The problem with Christians falling into this type of thinking is that it can easily lead us to compromise our moral standards. We can become so focused on achieving a desired end state that we become willing to adopt any kinds of means to get there. We will soon find ourselves justifying decisions we would never make otherwise, as we use non-Biblical moral justifications like “the ends justify the means” or “we must choose the lesser of two evils.” Such decision-making leads us away from the virtue to which Christ calls us and into a moral calculus of vice, something the Bible specifically warns against.
The decay of morality along these lines is evident in the modern Christian left as many liberal Christians continually disregard scandal after scandal from Hillary Clinton. Despite her repeated lies, distortions of the truth, and willful manipulation of the political process, Clinton’s defenders continue to look past her disqualifications. The most common argument they offer is that her mistakes pale in comparison to Donald Trump’s equally glaring weaknesses. In many liberal Christians’ minds, offering support to a corrupt candidate is justified because of the effect it will have in preventing the Republican from winning the White House.
Unfortunately, this election season many Christian members of the right have been equally guilty. Despite observing ethical failings that would cause them to immediately decry a Democratic opponent as unqualified, many Christian leaders have twisted their ethical centers into pretzels to try and justify voting for Trump. Their argument is always the same: the effect of not voting for Trump outweighs the suspect decision of aligning American Christianity with a morally deficient candidate. Whether it’s to secure conservative Supreme Court justices or prevent another Clinton White House, the same Christian leaders who long emphasized the importance of character in politics now seem to be the quickest to dismiss it for the sake of a potential victory.
Christian ethics, we must remember, involves a wholesale rejection of these effects-centric calculations and compromised standards. As evident in the case of the widow, Jesus believed that the value of our decisions could not be judged solely by results. In the widow’s case it was her faith and commitment to do what was right, regardless of worldly value, which gave her offering its value. As Jeremiah 17:10 makes clear, God looks not only at the end state of our goals but the entire process of our decision-making in judging us. He considers the “results of the deed” only after “searching the heart,” “testing the mind,” and giving “according to [a person’s] ways.” To focus exclusively on a desired effect, and accept any means necessary in the process, is to invite vice into the equation.
In the coming weeks many God-fearing, devout Christians will be casting their votes in the US presidential election. My hope and prayer is that every one of us would examine our innermost selves and deepest convictions before we make our decision. I pray that we would each take time to consider the morality of the candidates in addition to the effects we want to achieve by electing them. Ultimately, I pray that we would each consider the example we are setting for others, and ask ourselves questions such as these:
Is it courage or fear that motivates me to choose a candidate?
Am I calculating my vote based on what others might do, or am I following my conscience regardless of the election’s results?
Am I maintaining steadfast virtue and integrity, or am I compromising my standards in the hopes of winning an election?
Am I allying myself with someone shameful in the hope of achieving something good?
In examining our souls in this way, I pray that we as Christians will rediscover the truth that the methodology of our decisions matters just as much as their effects. As our Savior teaches us, a truly Christian ethics leads us to do what is morally right no matter the cost.
According to German legend, the Pied Piper of Hamelin was a rat catcher who owned a magic pipe. The Piper could play his magic pipe to seduce any creature he wanted into following him. For a large fee the Pied Piper offered his services to the town of Hamelin, which was facing a terrible rat infestation at the time. The town accepted the Piper’s offer and afterwards the Piper played his magic pipe to lead the rats to a nearby river and drown them. However, upon the Piper’s return the mayor of Hamelin believed that the Pied Piper had originally caused the infestation in order to become rich. He accused the Piper of being a conman and refused to pay him. The Pied Piper retaliated by using his magic pipe to lure away the town’s children. Depending on the version of the story, the Piper enacted revenge by either killing the town’s children or holding them for ransom.
Thanks to certain Clinton campaign emails obtained by Wikileaks, we now know that the Pied Piper of Hamelin is a metaphor for how leading Democrats viewed Donald Trump. In a leaked memo entitled “Strategy on 2016 GOPers,” assistant campaign manager Marissa Astor referenced the campaign’s strategy to “elevate” certain candidates to the Republican nomination. Rather than fearing Donald Trump or his anti-establishment message, leading Democrats actually wanted the real estate mogul and television star to win the Republican nomination. They purposefully didn’t want the media or campaign to “marginalize the more extreme candidates” and instead preferred that they “take them seriously” and elevate publicity for their campaigns. Hillary Clinton and the Democrats believed that a Pied Piper nominee would prevent Republicans from gaining the board coalition necessary to win the general election.
The formula was simple. Hillary Clinton’s campaign would stimulate Donald Trump's nomination chances with extensive media coverage and lure conservatives away from mainstream, wide-appealing beliefs. A volatile candidate like Trump would exhibit personal vices and lead the Republican Party into extremist, untenable positions that would severely limit crossover appeal. By the time Republicans realized that they had been duped into an indefensible candidate, the Pied Piper nominee would feel entitled to support and seek vengeance for any questioning of his credibility. The result would be disastrous for Republicans and give Hillary Clinton the easiest possible path to the presidency. Today, with the Republican Party currently in chaos and Clinton surging weeks before the election, the situation seems to have played out to the letter of the campaign’s design.
This leaked memo means that conservatives now have proof that Donald Trump’s campaign was subsidized and favored by the same Democratic leader that Trump aims to defeat. The memo means that Trump supporters, the very same conservatives and independents who have been most vehemently anti-Clinton, have been playing into the Democrat's gameplan from the beginning. Conservatives must understand that the Clinton campaign preferred to face off against candidates with “scandals or ethical lapses” and an anti-establishment message, and of course in Trump’s candidacy they found the best possible scenario they could imagine.
This truth offers little solace or comfort amidst an election nearing its end, but it should be broadcast to the American right as a warning for the future. It is worth noting that the reason the Clinton campaign favored Donald Trump and anti-establishment candidates was because Democrats explicitly feared the message and credibility of up-and-coming establishment candidates. The “fresh ideas” of Marco Rubio, Rand Paul’s “appeal to millennials and communities of color,” and even Jeb Bush’s “concern about average Americans” were touted as threats to a Clinton victory. Establishment or mainstream candidates like Rubio, Paul, and Bush may not have promised as much immediate change as Trump, but few if any would now dispute the notion that they would have fared far better than the failing general election performance thus far.
In the future, perhaps we conservatives should take vetted candidates more seriously before we throw our support behind a Pied Piper and play ourselves right into the hands of Democrats.
Republican candidate and former military general Dwight D. Eisenhower defeated his Democratic opponent Aldai Stevenson in 1952 in an electoral landslide. The election marked a turning point in American politics as Eisenhower's victory marked the first time in 20 years that a Republican president would be residing in the White House. After over a decade of enforcement of New Deal policies and accompanying regulation, Eisenhower won the country’s support largely on his campaign promise to roll back bureaucracy and tackle widespread corruption.
Once in office, Eisenhower worked with Senator Robert Taft to gather a group of top federal and state legislators as well as academic scholars to examine how his White House and the Republican Congress could go about cutting government programs. The group, known as The Commission on Intergovernmental Relations or Kestnbaum Commission, declared its purpose to be that of studying “the proper role of the Federal Government in relation to the States and their political subdivisions” and ending the “confusion and wasteful duplication of functions and administration” caused by the rapid establishment of numerous New Deal programs.
In their report the commission’s members began by recognizing the severity of the Great Depression and World War II. Given the circumstances faced at the time, the members recognized why the federal government took steps to respond strongly and quickly to these crises. However, the commission members argued against maintaining the government under such a nationally-centric system for the long term. Instead the commission members proposed that the Eisenhower administration reconsider the American founders’ original idea of embracing federalism, or split sovereignty between the states and national government. The importance of federalism, the members suggested, was that it served to balance government functions and allocate duties to the proper level.
The commission argued that clearly defined federalism is the best government system for “promoting individual freedom, mobilizing consent of the governed, providing a democratic training ground for citizens and officeholders, and permitting diverse laboratories of policy experimentation.” Rather than eliminating agencies entirely, the Kestnbaum Commission recommended that government be streamlined to the lowest levels possible in order to focus on empowering citizen involvement and responsiveness from the ground up. To enact such change, the commission offered the following simple rule:
“Use the level of government closest to the community for all public functions it can handle; utilize cooperative intergovernmental arrangements where appropriate…reserve National action for residual participation where State and local
governments are not fully adequate and for the residual responsibilities that only the
National government can undertake.”
According to the commission, Eisenhower would fulfill his campaign promise and experience success if he and his administration could find ways to marry the framework of the American founders to the current times. By leading the country back to a clearly defined federalism, Eisenhower's administration could retain national power for future emergencies while also empowering state and local government for routine tasks.
Eisenhower approved of the commission’s report and responded with the creation of an Advisory Board on Intergovernmental Relations to execute the proposal. Eisenhower also established an intergovernmental affairs office within the Bureau of the Budget, a Joint Federal-State Action Committee, and separate Congressional committees on intergovernmental relations to monitor progress. Over the course of Eisenhower's tenure, and due in no small part to these changes, public functions and federalism blossomed as his administration began to worked increasingly well with state and local governments. Together the various levels of American government cooperated to enact the nation’s first highway system, aid programs for elementary and secondary school construction and education, and effective public health, agriculture, and urban renewal grants to stimulate growth.
Gradually, however, Eisenhower’s initiative to streamline intergovernmental relations through federalism faded away. Under Lyndon B. Johnson the government unwound cooperative federalism as his administration vastly expanded centralized regulations and mandates. Eisenhower’s network of intergovernmental offices and committees were largely disbanded in order to make way for increasingly nationally-focused governance. The renewed preference for national mandates, moreover, was by no means limited to Democrats as it continued well into the 1970's and beyond. One need look no further than George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” Act to see a continued bipartisan preference for top-down mandates at work.
With a return to such national centrism, it is no wonder that Americans today feel increasingly distant and isolated from their government. The 2016 election cycle in particular has showcased increasingly vehement calls for change. On one end, Republican voters have demanded an end to career politicians and the Washington bureaucracy that seems to ignore their concerns. These demands have been met with a Republican candidate in Donald Trump who relishes his role as a Washington outsider. However, Trump’s proposed solutions thus far do not appear to be in any way similar to the type of structural change needed to redirect the system. Instead, the majority of the real estate mogul's platform tends to be focused on relaxing government regulations for businesses and cutting taxes without any alternative for restructuring government function or encouraging participatory democracy.
On the opposite spectrum, Democrats have experienced their own sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo. Many initially flocked towards a socialist candidate in Bernie Sanders who decried the present system as unjust and unfair to the working class. Following his defeat, many Democrats openly voiced their dismay at Hillary Clinton’s inability to offer a sound plan for government renewal. Clinton’s proposals have indeed focused primarily on cementing the additional mandates put in place by Barack Obama and avoiding the destruction of progress she claims a Trump administration would bring.
What is lost from both sides of the debate is a purposeful, comprehensive plan like Eisenhower’s to reestablish participatory democracy and redirect government efforts to the citizens’ level. Eisenhower’s administration proved that American governance can perform admirably when it sheds its preference for top-down solutions and personality-driven politics. The Kestnbaum Commission in particular focused on ensuring each layer of government worked well within its boundaries, and its final report explicitly stated a vision for government performing efficiently at the lowest level in conjunction with an involved populace.
To truly make America great again, and to be stronger together, we as Americans must first define what these terms mean. They cannot simply mean a partisan preference for an outsider or a politically-aligned leader; if that is their only significance then we will continue to experience frustration with our government's structure. "Greatness" for Americans must mean breaking loose of Washington’s obsession with national centrism in both business and politics, and "strength" must be found in government working in active collaboration with its citizens. As the Kestnbaum Commission proved, successful and responsive government can exist in the form of cooperative federalism that purposefully balances public functions and elicits citizen involvement.
In following the founders' model as well as the precedent laid by the Kestnbaum Commission, we too can make America great by ensuring that our political strength originates not simply from our government working on behalf of its citizens -- but in active collaboration with us as well.
For nearly a year, hardline Trump supporters and members of the so-called “alt right” have labored tirelessly to defend the vulgar words and precarious political positions of the reality TV star and real estate mogul Donald Trump. They have argued that America’s current political system, which relies heavily upon the power of representative government and centralized federal power, casts aside any serious concern for the wellbeing and perspective of ordinary Americans. They have claimed that Donald Trump, admittedly an unorthodox candidate, is the leader America needs to wreak havoc upon a corrupt system that manages to find ways to excuse the incompetence and corruption of the likes of Hillary Clinton. They delight at the prospect of this ‘bull in a China shop’ wrecking havoc upon the decadent establishment of big government and big business based out of Washington, D.C.
But on Friday the bull got too wild for the taste of almost anyone. The release of Trump’s 2005 remarks on his way to a soap opera appearance, dated as they were, have now sunk the campaign to a new low. It isn’t simply that Trump’s words are “lewd,” “vulgar,” or examples of “locker-room talk” as much of the press initially reported. If that were simply the case, Trump’s surrogates might actually feel emboldened by them. Donald Trump’s bashing of political correctness has in fact been a major source of his appeal.
These remarks, however, are different in that they cross a very serious line. In the exchange Trump is heard not only boasting about infidelity and the access he has to various women. He goes further, actually defending sexual assault and his choice to ignore the importance of consent. The deplorable nature of this dialogue is most evident when Trump states, in regards to making intimate moves towards unsuspecting women, that “I don’t even wait.” In no locker room, politically un-correct rant, or parallel universe anywhere are such remarks those of a man who should be President of the United States.
As a result the anti-establishment candidacy of Donald Trump is now in danger to its very roots, and it has everything to do with the link between power and sexual assault. As any sexual assault prevention course will tell you, sexual assault begins with one person having particular strength, power, or leverage over another. The perpetrator, possessing a strong sexual desire for the victim, loses any regard for the interests and rights of others. He or she becomes consumed with desire, and then abuses the power they have in acting without consent.
This is particularly relevant and damaging to Donald Trump because his entire candidacy is built upon his presumed ability to wrestle power from the corrupt. Trump argues that he is a patriot who can be trusted with the office of the presidency since he will always keep the interests of ordinary Americans in mind. Unlike the Clintons, whom he casts as the embodiment of corruption, Trump claims a personal resiliency to the temptations of corruption. Donald Trump is different, he and his supporters say, because he is a traitor to the Washington establishment and an elixir to America’s woes.
But now we know better. Behind closed doors Donald Trump is just as much an abuser of his celebrity status as Bill Clinton. As as the video shows Trump has clearly not had the interests of the women he encounters in mind; how then can he be trusted without the entire citizenry? Trump in fact purposefully talked about trying to seduce a woman to commit infidelity against her husband, and then he bragged about the access his celebrity status gave him. This is not the character of a patriot; it is the character of a man who will use power for his own gain and satisfaction.
Consequentially, GOP leaders now face what may be the darkest days in the history of the Republican Party. They are forced to recognize that their chances of winning the 2016 presidential election with Trump are over, and that they now have even bigger issues to face. The GOP will soon decide its moral future and soul by determining exactly how much tolerance its leaders have for blatant misogyny and defense of sexual assault. Amidst such chaos, Republican leaders like Reince Priebus, Paul Ryan, and Mike Pence will gradually move away from electoral calculations and more towards conviction of their own hearts. For what decent and honorable man, when considering his own family, can in good conscience conjure up any argument for what he has seen and heard besides complete and utter disgust?