Source: Fox News

The Jolt: On God, the devil, and Donald Trump

Over the weekend, the man who remains secretary of energy reported that he has assured Donald Trump that the president was indeed “the Chosen One.”

Rick Perry was also queried by Fox News about his role as one of three amigos in the current Ukraine saga, but given his membership in the Cabinet, his theological views are also important. Said the former Texas governor:

“God has used imperfect people all through history. King David wasn’t perfect. Saul wasn’t perfect. Solomon wasn’t perfect. “And I actually gave the president a little one-pager on those Old Testament kings about a month ago.

“I said, ‘Mr. President, I know there are people that say – you said you were ‘the Chosen One. I said, ‘You were.’ I said, if you’re a believing Christian, you understand God’s plan for the people who rule and judge over us on this planet in our government.”

A Fox News host assured us that Perry believes God to be bipartisan, and that He also chose Barack Obama as a good fit to lead the country from 2009 to 2017.

Perry’s more secular message was twofold. First, the interview was a signal that he had no plans to roll on Trump in the ongoing U.S. House inquiry into the president’s alleged pay-to-play scheme aimed at the president of Ukraine -- i.e., trading dirt on Joe Biden in exchange for $400 million in military aid.

Secondly, Perry was explaining to white evangelical Christians – yet again – why they need not worry about the occasional revelation that Trump has feet of clay.

Theologically speaking, one of the better Twitter reactions came from Erick Erickson, who has put in some seminary time:

“It isn't a controversial opinion to say God chose Trump. It's scriptural. God ultimately gives us our leaders. He also gives us plagues. But God put Obama into leadership and then Trump. He also sends locusts and turns rivers to blood.”

In other words, we have the free will to think of Donald Trump as either a King David or a swarm of locusts. Erickson expounds on the topic this morning in a post on The Resurgent.

In fact, if you want to worry about the state of evangelical Christianity as it engages American politics, the video clip that should concern you was posted on YouTube last Thursday. It was an interview of the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of Billy, by Salem Radio Network host Eric Metaxas.

The pair declared that, not only can one support President Trump and remain godly, but opposition to the president has satanic origins. (Note to Alan Abramowitz at Emory University: This strikes us as the highest form of “negative partisanship” your past research has outlined.) A rough transcript:

Metaxas: “It’s a very bizarre situation, to be living in a country where some people seem to exist to undermine the president of the United States. It’s just a bizarre time for most Americans.”

Graham: “I believe it’s almost a demonic power that is trying.”

Metaxas: “I would disagree. It’s not almost demonic. You know and I know at the heart it’s a spiritual battle.”

Graham: “It’s a spiritual battle. If you look at what the president has done, just for our country. Regardless of whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, unemployment is at the lowest in 70 years. More African-Americans are working, more Latinos are working, more Asians are working – more everybody is working.

“We have an economy that’s just screaming forward.”

Graham then engaged in a little prosperity reasoning:

“Here’s what that does for churches, for Christians. That means more people are working, so there’s more people tithing and giving to the churches.

“There’s more money for missions. There’s more money for your building programs. All of this is because Donald Trump said he was going to turn things around and make America great again….”

The worried reaction from Peter Wehner at The Atlantic: 

Graham and Metaxas appear to believe that they, along with Donald Trump, are part of a holy crusade to rid the world of evil, wickedness, and demonic powers. What they are saying in their interview is that you either stand with them, or you stand with the forces of Satan.

There is no middle ground.

This mind-set is not new, but it is dangerous. Among other things, it leaves no room for the democratic virtue of compromise—after all, how can you compromise with those animated by demonic powers?—or epistemological humility. It makes learning from others who hold different views almost impossible. It also treats critics of Trump, Christian and non-Christian alike, not as fellow citizens but as agents of Satan.

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Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin couldn’t have been more blunt: “As Governor Kemp finalizes his thoughts on whom he should select to replace Sen. Isakson, we have two words for him: Doug Collins.”

With her statement Monday, Martin’s group became the latest conservative organization pushing Kemp to appoint the four-term congressman over business executive Kelly Loeffler or some other candidate. 

Her statement pointed out, like others, that Loeffler donated to a pro-Mitt Romney super PAC in 2012 but nothing to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. (She’s since given at least $100,000 to support his re-election.)

“Appointing Ms. Loeffler to the U.S. Senate wouldn’t just be promoting a liberal to replace a conservative, it would make a mockery of those who cast votes for Sen. Isakson, Gov. Kemp, and President Trump,” she said. 

Meanwhile, over at InsiderAdvantage, Phil Kent notes that when Loeffler was considering a U.S. Senate run in 2013, for the seat eventually won by David Perdue, she “expressed a wide spectrum of conservative views ranging from the repeal of Obamacare and control of illegal immigration to a pro-life position.” Yet Kent adds this:

But that was then, and this is now. As the governor continues to bide his time in making an appointment, opponents of Collins and Loeffler are attacking one another– especially on social media. If the governor is going to maintain Republican unity going into 2020, when the president and Perdue are also running for re-election, he must make up his mind soon. 

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The political arm of the Republicans in the U.S. Senate are using sharp language to describe Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff: “Liar.” But the GOP group can’t point to any outright falsehood from the contender. 

The National Republican Senatorial Committee last week fired off a tweet claiming that Ossoff “lied about his resume” and “lied about his national security clearance.” 

When asked for proof, the group’s spokesman pointed to a Washington Post fact check from the 2017 special election that delved into whether Ossoff inflated his credentials. Except the piece didn’t describe a lie. 

Instead, it questioned whether he is “pushing the envelope” by referencing his five years of experience as a national security staffer in Congress in the same sentence as he mentioned his top secret security clearance. From the story: 

“He appears very careful to not connect the two elements in one sentence, but his statements and ads might leave an impression that the 30-year-old held a security clearance for longer than five months.”

It concluded:

We take a reasonable-person approach here at The Fact Checker. Would an ordinary viewer understand that Ossoff’s clearance was for less than half a year? Not very likely. Moreover, declaring himself a “senior national security staffer” is also a bit too much résumé puffery.

Republicans leveled a similar attack against Ossoff in 2017, prompting his campaign to issue a timeline of when he got the clearance. At the time, we could find no evidence that he made false claims about how long he had the status.

***

Our AJC colleague Rodney Ho has a piece out on Stacey Abrams’ new venture: She’s developing a TV show for CBS based on her 2004 book “Never Tell” about a linguistics professor and investigative journalist who team up to solve crimes.

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A bill decriminalizing marijuana was approved by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee last week. U.S. Rep. Doug Collins voted “no” on the bill, criticizing Democrats’ on the process if not the policy itself. Collins said there are alternative proposals that he supports.

“The bill is nearly devoid of bipartisan support and it fails to address many critical issues surrounding the cultivation, distribution, sale and use of marijuana,” Collins, R-Gainesville, said.

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019, or MORE Act, would remove marijuana from the federal government’s list of controlled substances, require federal courts to expunge previous convictions for certain marijuana offenses and authorize a 5% tax on marijuana sales.

Considered to be the first time a congressional committee passed legislation to legalize marijuana nationally, the panel voted 24-10 to approve. The two Georgia Democrats on the panel -- U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath of Marietta and U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson of Lithonia -- supported the bill.

Johnson is listed as a bill cosponsor. McBath said she supported the MORE Act to encourage more research on the therapeutic uses of marijuana so that additional states can decide if they want to legalize the drug. 

The bill is now eligible for a vote on the House floor. However, even if it is approved in the chamber the U.S. Senate is unlikely to take it up.

***

Two watchdog groups have combined forces and created a third entity focused on the state Public Service Commission.

The Georgia PSC Accountability Project said it will start by publishing videos explaining why more citizen oversight is needed at the PSC, a state body of five elected members that decides what Georgians pay on their energy bills. Lobbyist gifts and campaign contributions to PSC commissioners will also be monitored and publicized.

The project is a joint initiative by the Georgia Conservation Voters and the Georgia Ethics Watchdogs. Their announcement came on the same day the PSC held a public hearing on Georgia Power’s request to increase its rates.

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The Morning Jolt will not be published on Thursday and Friday. We will return to our regular schedule on Monday, Dec. 2.

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