media

Trump Rejects Portrait of Chaotic White House in Attack on Media

Deal W. Hudson
February 16, 2017

(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump rejected portrayals of chaos in his administration and claimed “incredible” progress in his first four weeks in office, lashing out at media organizations he said, “will not tell you the truth.”

Trump opened a snap news conference on Thursday with a 25-minute tirade in which he pointed to the stock market’s performance as evidence of his early accomplishments and said news organizations work “for the special interests and for those profiting off a very, very broken system.” The president has faced a slew of reports since the weekend that his administration is reeling over disclosures about Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser Trump dismissed on Monday.

“I’m here today to update the American people on the incredible progress that’s been made the last four weeks since my inauguration,” Trump said. “I see stories of chaos. It’s the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.”

“There’s zero chaos,” he said later.

He said that a Rasmussen poll found that he had 55 percent approval — Gallup’s most recent tracking poll found he had 40 percent support — and said: “the stock market has hit record numbers, as you know.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was at 20,584 as of 1:24 p.m. in New York; it had not hit 20,000 before this year.

“To be honest I inherited a mess,” Trump said. “It’s a mess. At home and abroad.”

Trump made a number of misstatements. He said for the third time in two days that he had won 306 Electoral College votes in his election. The correct number was 304. He called it “the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan,” when in fact his predecessor, Barack Obama, won 332 electoral college votes in 2012 and 365 in 2008.

Asked about the discrepancy, Trump said he meant that he had won the most of any Republican candidate since Reagan. Told that former President George H.W. Bush had won more, Trump said, “I was given that information. I have seen that information around.”

He also claimed that “jobs are pouring out of the country.” Unemployment was 4.8 percent in January, up a tenth of a percentage point from December, according to the first employment report of Trump’s presidency. Fewer Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week.

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Getting Beyond the Spite

Published December 1, 2001
DEAL W. HUDSON

Pro-life efforts rarely make the front page, much less above the fold. In fact, it seems the only time pro-life demonstrations make the evening news is when a handful of abortion activists peddle their pitch to sympathetic media ears across the street from our crowd of protestors.

It took the events of September 11 to put death back in the headlines. This time it wasn’t the death of the unborn but the ghastly, tragic death of thousands who also did not deserve to die.

A trauma of this magnitude is bound to teach us much about ourselves—to expose the strengths and weaknesses of individual and corporate character. Most of what we have learned about ourselves, about our much-derided, decadent culture, has been a welcome surprise: the long-ignored courage and sacrifice of our police, firemen, and armed forces, along with the deep generosity of a philanthropic nation ready to help those who lost friends and family.

But not all the reports have been so edifying. There have been disappointments as well. For example, we have all heard rumblings through pro-life communities, both Protestant and Catholic, that America got what it deserved for harboring a culture of death. Some have said that the towers of the World Trade Center were symbols of America’s godlessness, of its greed, its gross commercialism, and its trade in baby-killing.

Other pro-lifers have complained about the volume of public grief over the events of September 11: How can we lament so loudly, they ask, when nothing is said about the unborn?

You may be thinking these comments are from a radical fringe. They are not. They began shortly after September 11 with the televised statements of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and have persisted in spite of the subsequent apologies of those two men.

In these attitudes—revealed suddenly by the flash of an immense tragedy—we can see one reason why the pro-life movement has reached an impasse: It has come to suffer from spite. Such comments suggest that a passionate protest against one form of evil has led some pro-lifers to begrudge the grief of those who suffer from another. Obeying the gospel admonition to “love thy enemy” is difficult. Hating the enemies of life infuses the pro-life message with an unfortunate bitterness.

Don’t get me wrong—I understand how and why these thoughts and feelings can arise. Year after year, we watch children die. They die in the name of love and happiness; they die in the name of equal rights and freedom. How can we not get angry, or be tempted to spite? How can we not pray for the moment when this truth is revealed to all who deny it, who scorn it, laugh at it?

Because children continue to die in this way, all other causes of death seem to pale in comparison. In other words, how can anyone be upset with terrorism when abortion goes on and on?

Those who aim the highest will always face the greatest of spiritual temptations—in this case, the temptation to pride and envy in the cause of defending life. Could anything but pride exploit the September 11 disaster as proof of a given cause, even the pro-life cause? Is it anything but envy that begrudges mourning the thousands who died in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the four downed airliners?

Now is the time for showing a compassion that isn’t reserved for only one group of victims, no matter how large, no matter how innocent. Many souls have been shaken in the wake of this tragedy. The witness of the Church must be heard without the dissonant voices of pent-up frustrations and resentful “I-told-you-so’s.”

The concern for innocent life can be a new common ground for evangelical outreach. It’s an opportunity for Americans to hear the gospel without spite or bitterness. The pro-life community surely has a large enough heart to embrace the suffering of those who have rejected its pleas.

Understanding “Incivility”

Deal W. Hudson

Published October 25, 2010

Is the religious right uncivil? Conservatives Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner think so. In a joint Huffington Post column titled “The Success and Failure of the Religious Right,” they argue:

The language and tone of the religious right have often been apocalyptic, off-putting, and counterproductive. “Just like what Nazi Germany did to the Jews,” said Jerry Falwell, “so liberal America is now doing to evangelical Christians.” In 1994, a conspiracy-mongering video promoted by Falwell associated President Bill Clinton with drug dealing and murder.

Such melodrama, or hysteria, is good for fund-raising, but bad for American politics. It makes a civil political conversation impossible, and does a disservice to the cause of a Christian witness to society.

Gerson and Wehner’s complaint is rooted in a concern about being politically effective. They realize, correctly, that the occasional rude or crazed outburst from a religious right leader has led to a loss of credibility affecting the entire movement.

While that’s true, it’s nevertheless unavoidable. Those men and women of faith who are drawn into politics to fight for the endangered values they believe in do so because they’re passionate about combating evil. I’ve always found it surprising that anyone would expect only calm and rational discussion from large groups of citizens who are outraged by the murder of unborn children, the destruction of the institution of marriage, government attacks on religious liberty, and the pervasive takeover of education by postmodern multiculturalists.

Further, I’ve yet to see a successful political movement that wasn’t fueled by a considerable amount of passionate outrage. That was true for Obama in 2008, and it will be the same for the GOP in the upcoming election. Passion is like fuel – sure, you can waste it unproductively, but at the same time, you can’t drive a grassroots movement without it. Nor can you control it from the perch of a Washington, D.C. think tank.

The next time you hear someone complain about the religious right’s (or even the Tea Party’s) so-called lack of civility, I would suggest you say something like this: “Of course they speak with passion – they’re concerned about losing the character of the country they love, and are outraged that the core values that once guided our nation are being ignored.”

I’m not entirely unsympathetic to issues of civility – after all, I was raised to be gentlemanly and courteous in all circumstances and was told these qualities should belong to every man. But I quickly noticed three things: First, those who note the rudeness of their political opponents seemed oblivious to the same behavior displayed by their allies.

Second, the “incivility” charge is almost always used against conservatives, and rarely against those on the political Left.

And third, the “incivility” charge is too often used as an excuse to shut down discussion. This has become particularly obvious in the pro-life debate. Having lost the public argument, abortion supporters resort to characterizations of those who oppose abortion as angry, extreme, and violent.

They miss the mark all around. For example, those pro-lifers who carry pictures of aborted fetuses on the street are not being uncivil, even if their methods may not be effective. These pictures only appear uncivil to those who don’t want to be reminded of what it means to be “pro-choice.”

In the case of pro-life leaders, given the substance of their concerns, I am often surprised not by their “incivility” but by their restraint and observance of public decorum. Leaders such as Rev. Frank Pavone, Marjorie Dannenfelser, Doug Johnson, and, among the episcopate, Archbishop Charles Chaput are always calm and compelling witnesses to the truth about the most controversial issue in politics.

No doubt, there is a genuine civility problem in our culture – the evidence is everywhere: the popularity of reality TV, foul rap and pop lyrics, the explosion of Internet porn, and the vulgar texting habits of our teenagers. But these sources of cultural corruption are generated not by political passion but by a deliberate and cool-headed plan to generate profit by appealing to our most sordid impulses.

Maybe that’s the problem Gerson and Wehner should be worrying about.

Why Does the Media Hate the Church?

Deal W. Hudson
Published March 31, 2010

It’s sad to watch the New York Times and the Washington Post, along with MSNBC, attack Benedict XVI. The story they concocted over the past few weeks, with the help of retired Bishop Rembert Weakland about Rev. Joseph Murphy, is risibly tenuous.

These once-great newspapers trivialize themselves by publishing front-page stories making obvious their chronic disregard of the Catholic Church and, especially, the Pope. Nothing else but a kind of seething hatred explains their willingness to ignore the canons of credible reporting and comment.

The Church’s staunchest defender in this country is Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, who has been countering this latest attack from the first blow. Donohue calls the New York Timesstory on Father Murphy the “last straw,” but no doubt there will be more straw to ignite Donohue’s flaming pen. (And it won’t be from the pages of the Summa Theologiae, which its author deemed as “so much straw” in the hours before his death.)

I asked Donohue, and a number of other experts, the question, “Why does media like the New York Times and the Washington Post hate the Church and the Pope – what’s the source of the animus?”

Donohue replied, “As I said in today’s New York Times op-ed page ad, it stems from three issues: abortion, gay marriage, and women’s ordination. So, when they can nail the Church on promiscuity, they love it. The goal is to weaken the moral authority of the Church so it won’t be as persuasive on issues like health care.”

Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard, agrees the media wants to weaken the Church. He echoes what his friend the late Bob Novak used to tell me about the mainstream media; it is “the most secular, liberal group in the country. The Catholic Church stands for everything you and I believe (though I’m not a Catholic) and for practically nothing the media likes. But the media cannot ignore the Catholic Church because it is so strong, popular, and enduring. That leaves the media one avenue of attack: Jump on any mistakes or scandals involving the Church and don’t let go.”

Another Evangelical friend of Catholics, Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, wrote to me that the “lamestream media hates the Pope because he exemplifies the vibrancy and relevance of orthodox faith in today’s society, which many in the press find either alien or deeply troubling.” Reed also views the media as alarmed that for the “once divided Evangelicals and devout Roman Catholics, the Pope is a symbol of a faith-based constituency the media views as hostile to modernity and values-neutral ‘tolerance.’”

Some responses to my question were brief and to the point. Bishop Robert F. Vasa of Baker, OR wrote saying, “Deal, Jesus told us it would happen: John 15:18-19. Looking the passage up I found: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (NIV translation).

Another quotation from Scripture came from the founder of Wallbuilders, David Barton, who cited Romans 1: 28-30 to describe what happens to those who directly reject belief in God. “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant, and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil. . . . (NIV translation).

The philosopher Francis Beckwith, a recent convert to the Catholic faith, located the source of the media’s hatred in “the narrative of secular liberalism.” “The media doesn’t want to acknowledge that Catholics even have an “intelligent” point of view,” he explained. “This is why they don’t assess arguments, they seek out scandal in order to demoralize opposition. Given its status as an unquestioned first principle, secular liberalism can not allow a divine foot in the door.”

Russell Shaw, who used to deal with the press on a daily basis as communication’s director of the bishops’ conference, also thinks, “The people in charge in those places are secularist ideologues who believe they possess the right answers.” Shaw is not particularly sanguine about the outcome of the struggle: “It would be nice to think there’s a happy ending to this story, but I doubt it. Somebody’s got to win in the end.”

The recurring theme in the answers I received was that of two powers, two opposing moral viewpoints, competing for influence. The secular power of the media detests the traditional moral teachings of the Church but does not confront it directly, preferring coverage of scandal to argument. As Jim Bopp, Jr., general counsel to National Right to Life, wrote to me, “The Pope and the Church are the strongest force making people accountable to traditional moral requirements. It therefore must be destroyed by any means necessary, even though liberals are soft on pedophilia, they are prepared to condemn the Catholic Church for not dealing harshly with them.”

The poet Matthew Arnold wrote in “Dover Beach” about loss of faith that left us on a “darkling plain/Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight.” In this round of attacks on Benedict XVI we are witness to just such a scene. But, as Francis Beckwith reminded me, the Pope knows how to defend his faith. “This scares the crap out of the mainstream media, since it upsets the narrative: only dumb, ill-informed, people disagree with us. The narrative must be sustained at all costs, even if it means engaging in wicked defamation.”