Another Conservative Calls Out David Barton's History

Charles C. W. Cooke is the online editor for National Review Online and recently had this to say about self-styled historian David Barton.

Generally, an individual occupying such a position with NR is not known as a liberal or even a “liberal bastard” as Glenn Beck once said about David Barton’s critics. Thus, I was interested to see such plain language aimed at Mr. Barton, a darling of some within what is left of the conservative world.
The Twitter thread is filled with polite give and take wherein Mr. Cooke doesn’t give an inch, reminding his readers that once upon a time Mr. Barton once admitted using second hand quotes without providing proper context. Even then, Barton claimed he only did what those pagan academics did.

Cooke here refers readers to Barton’s efforts to backtrack after it was discovered that some of the quotes in his book The Myth of Separation could not be located in primary sources. Barton said it was his idea to take those quotes out of his books. However, that hasn’t stopped him from using quotes that are not in primary sources or manipulating the words of certain founders to get the meaning he wants (click the links for a few illustrations).
One of the most egregious instances of academic deception was Barton’s effort to pass off a diploma mill doctorate from Life Christian University as an earned degree. He has never explained why he went to all the trouble to create a video for his Facebook and YouTube accounts, post it for one day, but then remove it the next day when I revealed that the “earned” doctorate he proudly pointed to was given to him by a school he never attended. I wonder if donor funds went to pay the fee for that piece of paper.

Some Questions about Victor Davis Hanson's Case for Trump

A week ago at National Review Online, Victor Davis Hanson made a case that conservatives should vote for Donald Trump. Hanson is clearly my better when it comes to scholarship, but I wasn’t convinced by his essay. Provoked by his article, I have some questions for anyone who wants to defend the case for Trump with Hanson’s essay.
Why does Hanson minimize Donald Trump’s statements on the Access Hollywood audio?
Instead of saying Trump described sexual assault, Hanson said Trump “crudely talked about women” and displayed “crude sexual braggadocio.” All words. Not nice words, but words. However, eleven women have now come forward to say Trump did to them exactly what he claimed he did. Trump denies any bad action but given the actions specifically described on the audio, I have to wonder why Hanson didn’t mention this.
Hanson marshals Bill Clinton’s moral failings to suggest Trump should not be disqualified due to his moral failings. If I disqualified Trump solely based on his moral flaws then this might have some weight. However, as crude as Trump is, I feel he is disqualified for additional reasons.
Why does Hanson fail to fully describe how Trump is expanding the GOP via friendly overtures to white supremacists?
Hanson says Trump should be poised for victory in part because he has:

…apparently brought back to the Republican cause millions of the old Reagan Democrats, various tea-partiers, and the working classes

Although these groups are a part of Trump’s fans, Hanson doesn’t include the white supremacists in Trump’s coalition.
When it was discovered that then presidential hopeful Rand Paul hired a member of the League of the South for his campaign, the scandal was clear and the staffer was fired. When lowly Michael Peroutka sought a county commissioner’s seat, he had to drop out the League of the South to save his campaign. Now, the Trump campaign can invite white nationalists to campaign events and the Republican National Convention with nary a scratch. Trump has made the alt-right mainstream and this doesn’t even merit a mention in Hanson’s case for Trump, save for one reference to Trump being “insensitive” to minorities.
Why does Hanson fail to account for William Buckley’s prior writing on Trump?
Hanson invokes Buckley but fails to address Buckley’s own words on Trump. Trump has not changed much since Buckley wrote a column on the subject. Furthermore, Buckley wrote about the voter’s “quiet veto”:

In other ages, one paid court to the king. Now we pay court to the people. In the final analysis, just as the king might look down with terminal disdain upon a courtier whose hypocrisy repelled him, so we have no substitute for relying on the voter to exercise a quiet veto when it becomes more necessary to discourage cynical demagogy, than to advance free health for the kids. That can come later, in another venue; the resistance to a corrupting demagogy should take first priority.

I intend to use my quiet veto in keeping with Buckley’s advice.
How can Hanson be sure that Trump will bring to power competent conservatives who will actually have influence?
Hanson seems to think we can divorce a vote for Trump from the hypothesized benefit a Trump administration will bring.

The issue, then, at this late date is not necessarily Trump per se, but the fact that he will bring into power far more conservatives than would Hillary Clinton. No one has made a successful argument to challenge that reality.

Let there be no mistake, Eric Metaxas aside, a vote for Trump is a vote for Trump. We are not talking about a meek person. Trump has shown very little willingness to be coached. He has routinely undercut his running mate on matters of policy. He is for an idea as long as he thought of it, because as he says, he has a “very good brain.”
While I must concede that Trump might appoint a few good people, I don’t believe this possibility offsets the harm to conservative principles already done and potential additional harm of a Trump administration to those principles and to the nation.
Why is Hanson willing to declare Trump and Clinton equally corrupt without seeing Trump’s tax returns?
Hanson correctly lists Hillary’s offenses and implies they are worse than Trump’s. However, Hanson doesn’t address the fact that Trump has not released his tax returns nor does he call for it. Say what you want about the Clintons, one can trace their money more easily than one can do the same with Trump’s. It is incredible that Trump will complete his campaign without the release of his returns. The fact is Hanson doesn’t know as much about Trump as he does Clinton and he is fine with that.
Why is Hanson willing to give Trump a pass on his private sector failings and his contradictory policy declarations?
Not only does Hanson have a different standard with regard to Trump’s tax returns, he also advocates giving him a pass on his behavior as a businessman. Hanson writes:

We worry about what Citizen Trump did in the past in the private sector and fret more over what he might do as commander-in-chief. But these legitimate anxieties remain in the subjunctive mood; they are not facts in the indicative gleaned from Clinton’s long public record. As voters, we can only compare the respective Clinton and Trump published agendas on illegal immigration, taxes, regulation, defense spending, the Affordable Care Act, abortion, and other social issues to conclude that Trump’s platform is the far more conservative — and a rebuke of the last eight years.

This is perhaps the most perplexing portion of this case. If we cannot use Trump’s past to guide us, then what can we use? The platform? Trump’s statements? If so, which statements? The one where he said we should criminalize a woman for an abortion or the one where he said we shouldn’t? Should we believe, against all common sense and that nation’s stated policy, that Mexico will pay for the wall? Should we believe Trump when he said a single payer plan is a good idea or when he declares Obamacare is a disaster?
Why does Hanson talk Trump foreign policy risk without mentioning Russia?
It certainly appears that Trump has a thing for Putin. He seems to think Russia is helping with ISIS. Trump’s attitude toward Russia is troubling and worth at least some mention from someone trying to make a case that Trump is less dangerous than Clinton. I would want to have this be front and center in any case for Trump.
In fact, there was a significant difference between Trump and Clinton on Russia during the last debate. To me, Clinton seems to have the better read of what Russia is up to and I don’t think the U.S. should trust Russia in Syria or the Ukraine.
By the time I get to this question, it seems to me that one must minimize a lot of very important values to get to the case for Trump.

Eric Metaxas: We Need Virtue in Our Leaders and We Must Vote for Donald Trump

Thanks to Kathryn Jean Lopez at National Review for asking Eric Metaxas how he reconciles his call for public virtue with his support for Donald Trump. It still doesn’t make sense to me but at least the contradiction is exposed and obvious.
I addressed Metaxas’ alarmism in a post earlier today. In today’s NR post, Lopez asked Metaxas if leaders need to display virtue. Metaxas said “generally, yes.” Then Lopez brings the money to the table:

KJL: Does that automatically suggest one cannot vote for one Donald J. Trump?
METAXAS: Not only can we vote for Trump, we must vote for Trump, because with all of his foibles, peccadilloes, and metaphorical warts, he is nonetheless the last best hope of keeping America from sliding into oblivion, the tank, the abyss, the dustbin of history, if you will. If you want to know how bad things are in America, and how far we have gone, read the previous sentence aloud over and over.

Donald Trump is our “last best hope?!” He will keep us from the abyss? These sentences don’t tell me how bad things are in America but they do indicate the seriousness of Metaxas’ apocalyptic fever.
If the answer to America’s problems is in his new book, where in his book does he recommend anti-virtue? He argues against himself. He says we are at the abyss and to fix this, we must recapture faith which leads to virtue which leads to freedom. However, he then argues Republicans should acquiesce to Donald Trump’s nomination which brings us someone who:

  • praises Putin and thinks a friendly meeting with Kim Jong-un is a good idea
  • advocates torture for combatants and death to civilian families
  • declares a judge to be unfair because of his heritage
  • wants to deport 11 million people
  • limits the freedom of the press
  • singles out an entire religion for discrimination
  • rationalizes Trump University, other business misadventures too numerous to mention, and his obvious lack of preparation to be president

In the interview, Metaxas claims that Hillary is so bad that the nation will not survive her. To me, this shows a stunning lack of historical perspective. Hillary is not blameless by any means but there is no comparison which places Trump in the category of America’s last best hope.
If Trump is America’s last best hope, then Metaxas needs to withdraw his book because there is absolutely nothing in it we need. 
Instead, we need GOP delegates to have a Bonhoeffer moment at the convention. They are not bound to vote for the worst choice. I recently saw Thomas Jefferson quoted in a Weekly Standard article on this very point. In 1810, Jefferson answered a question posed by John Colvin about deviating from observance of the law:

A strict observance of the written law is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to the written law, would be to lose the law itself, with life, liberty, property and all those who are enjoying them with us; thus absurdly sacrificing the ends to the means.

Sure, it would be a long shot to contest the primary results, but it would not be impossible. In this case, doesn’t virtue demand it? Trump is not now the nominee. What would Bonhoeffer do? Give up? Give in?

Eric Metaxas: Things in America Are as Bad as During the Revolution and the Civil War

Promoting his new book, If You Can Keep It, Eric Metaxas told National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez that things are pretty bad right now.

America is in an existential crisis no less serious than the one we faced in the Civil War. Or the crisis before that, when our nation came into being in the Revolution. For the first time in a century and a half we are facing the imminent vanquishing of the republic, except there is no John Bull or Johnny Reb to fight against. We are being hollowed out silently from within by termites — and a hollow, brightly painted shell called “America” will soon exist where America once stood.

Can he really mean that?
There is strong disagreement among citizens about issues like abortion, gay marriage and gun control, but war has not broken out. Even with the harsh political season, we are hardly at the point of civil war.
I went to church last Sunday. I plan to go again this Sunday. No government thugs came anywhere close to my house of worship. I have exercised the same freedoms this week in my small town that I have all my life. All over the nation, lots of people exercised their freedom to do things I disapprove of but those actions did not stop me from doing what I believe to be right.
I don’t think things are as good as they could be. I think extremism on the left and right is a problem and the polarization of the society has increased. I believe the far left and far right should be held responsible for this. I could go on about this.
Currently, I worry that the GOP nominee Metaxas plans to vote for — Donald Trump — is eroding civility and virtue. I worry that his candidacy is a cancer on the GOP and political process. If anything, Metaxas is complaining about how bad things are but he supports a person who is helping to lead us there.
I think reminders to live virtuously are valuable. Human nature being what it is, I believe we need to be reminded of our values so his appeal to us to live virtuously is fine as far as it goes. However, Metaxas’ pitch is eroded by doomsday fear mongering, the historical errors in the book. and his advocacy for a presidential candidate that simply can’t be emulated in the manner he advocates in his book.