Weekend Reading: June 10, 2017

Good morning and welcome to the weekend!  Every week I gather up some of the most interesting stories, videos, and books that I took in and share them with you. This started about three years ago this month (if I recall correctly), and I appreciate the opportunity to continue to have the dialogue, and hopefully, serve some of my best friends inside and outside of politics.

I feel like it’s been total Comey overload this week. That’s all the media wants to talk about, so there’s some reticence on my part to bombard you with more of the same. But I was struck by a non-political friend, Brittany T., who had caught a part of the hearing and was having trouble remembering what had actually started the whole thing in the first place. Which, is a great question!  So great, in fact, that Jay Caruso over at RedState felt that we needed a quick reminder that there was/is a legitimate investigation going on into Russian influence on the 2016 election. I am personally not yet convinced that Russians did anything to actually change the voting outcome, nor am I convinced that team Trump had any control or influence over their activities, but it’s still a legit investigation nonetheless, and not simply a conspiracy theory.

Lost in all this was the ridiculous interview of Vladimir Putin by Megyn Kelly.  I don’t think she’s that great of an interviewer – a good interviewer knows how to draw out the other person, whereas she simply assaults him with allegations. Of course, it’s hard to imagine what a good interview would look like with someone so adept at deception.

So what was the main political upshot of this week’s Comey hearing? I think it will likely be that the President’s favorability ratings dropped a few points and that partisans on both sides became more entrenched (as the Babylon Bee reported!).  None of this is likely due to anything Comey said, but due to the realization that the President seems to have played fast and loose with the truth. Yes, Comey is a “leaker” and yes he’s too slick by half (I credit Brian R. for the Uriah Heep – as in Dicken’s Heep – comparison). But Comey isn’t the President.  He isn’t leading the nation. He’s just a Washington insider and a smarmy bureaucrat.  Comey isn’t the issue. He isn’t really all that important, even, in the long-term because it seems apparent that the President in no way obstructed justice. What seems apparent is that the President simply doesn’t understand the traditional separation of powers, and the way in which that works – Check out Peggy Noonan’s column in WSJ for more on that.

Aside from the separation of powers issue, there’s also this issue of the President’s veracity. If you’re old enough to remember the Clinton days in the 90’s, you’ll recall that one of the main allegations/issues that were continually brought to bear about the character of President Clinton was that he was a serial liar. Now, we are living in days when conservatives are saying the same of Donald Trump.  This is a major issue and one I’ve brought to the fore in the past. The man is continually waging a self-inflicted war, and for those of us who’d like to see him succeed, and see the country move forward in strength and honor, it’s hard to watch at times.

Okay – isn’t that enough of Comey?  Good!  Let’s move on…sort of…

One of the things I find popping up from reading news articles and political commentary from both sides of the partisan divide is that there is a widely held sense that the country is changing. Politics are changing. Values are changing. And folks are having a hard time pinning down all the ways in which this is so, but especially and what it means for the future of our republic. If you read one thing this week, read National Review’s David French as he grapples with these issues. His headline is ‘We’re Not in a Civil War, but We Are Drifting Toward Divorce’.  Excerpt…

None of this is surprising. Our national political polarization is by now so well established that the only real debate is over the nature of our cultural, political, and religious conflict. Are we in the midst of a more or less conventional culture war? Are we, as Dennis Prager and others argue, fighting a kind of “cold” civil war? Or are we facing something else entirely?

Lots of food for thought in his piece…

Other interesting items this week included this devotional from John Piper on Proverbs 22:13. It’s titled ‘When Reason Serves Rebellion’ and was really interesting for such a short piece.  You might also want to check out R.C. Sproul’s podcast on the difference between Paradox and Contradiction, if you’ve never thought much about those two terms and how they differ, then you’ll find this enlightening and helpful.

And did you catch Al Mohler’s summer reading list?  Here it is if not.  My good friend Derek S. mentioned (rightly) that it’s extremely heavy on history – especially war history. But I think that accentuates the need to be continually reading history. I’ve especially enjoyed his recommendation of ‘The Silk Roads’. I’m about half-way through now, and really like how he’s shown the centrifugal force of trade throughout the ages, and how important (but underappreciated by Western scholarship) the east was for centuries before the gold and silver discoveries in the Americas tilted the balance of population and power in the world.

A few weeks back James K.A. Smith had a thoughtful reminder of how marriage is meant to engage the culture. He obviously wrote the piece with the thought that we’re heading into wedding season, which will be accompanied by the typical social media postings etc. How we celebrate weddings can often distort how we’re to view marriage after the wedding is over.

Two stories that involve Israel this week.  First, it was the 50th anniversary of the 6-day war. If you know nothing about this, then read up. Mohler actually had a recommendation for this I think. But I especially enjoyed ‘The Lion’s Gate’.  Here’s an excerpt from the Federalist story I linked above:

It is no small thing that during the Cold War Soviet arms were left in burning heaps on the battlefield, a blow to Communism’s prestige that foreshadowed its doom. You don’t have to believe in miracles or Providence to grasp how important it is for civilization that the state of Israel persists to this day.

Secondly, our U.N. Ambassador delivered a fever-pitch ultimatum to the so-called UN Human Rights Council which routinely delivers excoriating denunciations of Israel, while ignoring atrocities committed by (U.N.) member nations. The double standard has long been ignored (especially by the Obama administration), and its good to see Ambassador Haley speak some truth to the world on this front.

Two random stories from this week.  First, was about how the Vice-President’s wife has installed a beehive at the official residence. And second, a hilarious story from Atlas Obscura titled ‘The Great Hanoi Rat Massacre of 1902 Did Not Go as Planned’.

Books: It’s been a good year of reading thus far. I’ve taken in well over 100 books since January, but my pace has slowed in recent weeks with the final push of finishing a home renovation, and now the workload associated with summer seminary class.  You can find my book list on Goodreads here.  Currently, I’m reading David Copperfield with Kate, a massive introduction to the New Testament for seminary, and I’m almost done with Cinema Alchemist by Roger Christian. Additionally, as I mentioned before, I’m about half-way through ‘The Silk Roads’.  I put aside Eichman in Jerusalem for now after having punched my way through about 60% of it (enough to get the thrust of her observations).  As a family, we finished ‘The Tale of Despereaux’, which was a gift from our good friends the Jacksons, and was really fun. We’re now reading the second installment of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ (The Two Towers), which was not even up for debate given the vehement pleadings of my middle child.

I hope you enjoy a fruitful summer of reading!  Any good recommendations to pass along? Let me know!

Finally, I want to note the passing of Bill Todd.  Bill was a Columbus attorney and former candidate for Mayor. I knew Bill for several years and helped out on this Mayoral run in a small way. Bill was an outspoken advocate for conservative principles and truth in the public square, and he will be missed.

That’s it for now. I hope you enjoy the weekend,

PJW

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