The Christian Right's Impact on American Politics

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Never Underestimate the Willingness of a Republican to Lie (Aug 04)

A lot of lies have been circulating though our nation's news media lately, but in this article we'll primarily examine the impact of religious lies. On both sides (Democrat and Republican) there are many who claim (and perhaps even believe) that "God is our side" and that those on the other side are "evil". One right-wing columnist, Ann Coulter, even referred to the Democratic Convention in Boston as "the Spawn of Satan." How do we sort all this out? Jesus Christ answered that in Matt 22:35-40 (NKJ)

Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said to him," 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' "This is the first and great commandment. "And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."

So, according to Jesus (and many others), to REALLY follow God one must seek and follow the TRUTH as it pertains to HIS commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus also made it clear in his Good Samaritan parable that from God's point of view, we must NOT place restrictions on our definition of "neighbor." So how do Republicans and Democrats tend to "stack up" from this point of view?

Well, to begin with, as amply documented on websites like www.truthout.org, www.misleader.com, and this website (www.onesalt.com), the leaders of the Republican Party and the Bush Administration tend to lie A LOT! They've made it clear that they have no qualms at all about using BIG LIE propaganda tactics for political gain. One of George W. Bush's most commonly used propaganda tactics is to boldly claim to be doing the OPPOSITE of what his Administration is actually doing (I call those bold-faced lies). The so-called "People of Compassion" theme at the Republican Convention today and today's claim by President Bush that "we are involved in a war that we did not start" are further examples of such bold-faced lies. By demonstrating how little regard they have the truth, George W. Bush and his Republican friends have clearly been violating the first of the two fundamental commandments that Jesus described as essential for following God. And yet Bush and his friends continue to use God's name in vain by claiming or implying that they are representing God while uttering such lies.

No doubt instances can be found where leading Democrats may have lied or misled as well. But in terms of frequency at least, their lies have been like a snow flurry compared the intentionally created BLIZZARD of lies generated by Republicans.

Now, regarding God's second essential commandment which is to love our neighbors as ourselves, lets examine the Democratic agenda first. www.slate.com recently published an article called "The running mates stump speech minus the bromides" in which Mr. Suellentrop boils down John Edwards's portrayal of the Democratic Party's plans for the future to the following main points:

* raise the minimum wage;

* spend more money on: early education, public schools, child care, afterschool programs, and salaries for teachers in the communities where they're needed;

* raise taxes on: companies that take jobs overseas; individuals who make more than $200,000 a year;

* reduce taxes for: small businesses that create jobs in communities with high unemployment; individuals through a $1,000 tax credit for health care and a $4,000 tax credit for college tuition (in addition to promising four years of tuition to individuals who perform two years of public service);

* improve health care by: making the congressional health-care plan available for purchase by all Americans; covering all children; allowing prescription drugs to be imported from Canada; and allowing the government to use its bulk-purchasing power to negotiate lower drug prices from pharmaceutical companies;

* reform labor laws by: swiftly and severely punishing employers that violate labor laws; banning the hiring of permanent replacements for strikers; "make card-check neutrality the law of the land";

* fight the war on terror by: strengthening alliances to help "get terrorists before they get us";

* improve the situation in Iraq by: improving our relations with allies so that NATO will agree to get involved; keeping Iran and Syria from interfering; and getting "others involved in reconstruction besides Halliburton."

As you can see, for the most part, these proposals are oriented toward full-filling God's commandment of love our neighbors as ourselves. History has shown that the Democratic Party tends to deliver fairly well on such promises. On the other hand, many Republicans (including the present Bush Administration) have tended to limit their definitions of "neighbor" to Americans only, or more particularly, wealthy Americans only. Bush's tax breaks have primarily benefited the wealthiest 2 percent of our nation. As recorded in the movie "Fahrenheit 9/11", Bush himself admitted that they are his "base." On the international scene, although Bush has claimed to be concerned about bringing "freedom and democracy" to the Iraqi people, he has in fact dishonestly engineered the killing or maiming of tens of thousands of Iraqis (and the killing or maiming of thousands of Americans as well). More than a year has past since Bush's invasion of Iraq, and it has become clear now that all he has suceeded in creating is a continual state of war and anarchy throughout most of country. These are NOT the kind of things a true representative of God would do! Clearly, Bush has NOT been putting his faith in God's guiding principles of truth and love. If he were, he would be promoting establishment of the rule of law rather than relying on the often self-defeating (and Satanically inspired) concept that "might makes right."

So, given the fact that Bush and his friends have lied so often and engineered the killing or maiming of so many people, why are nearly half of our nation's likely voters still indicating support for Bush? There is, of coure, the commonly recognized tendency for people to become more gullible when subjected to stresses like the 9/11 tragedies, but there are two other more fundamental reasons.

1. For the past decade or so, most of our news agencies have negligently failed to hold our nation's politicians (other than Bill Clinton) accountable for the truthfulness of their statements. The present war in Iraq is just one of many tragedies our nation has suffered or will suffer because of this lack-of-concern-for-the-truth attitude in our news agencies. Even now, most of our news agencies are still letting Bush get away with BIG LIES like his claim that he has "made America and the world safer" [from terrorism] while in fact hardly a day goes by now in which one or more Americans aren't killed or maimed for life by terrorist activities that have resulted directly from decisions made by George W. Bush! And as anyone can see from reading the news (airplanes downed in Russia, busses blown up in Israel, market places blown up Iraq, Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan, etc.), Bush's policies have accomplished NOTHING to make it safer for the rest of the world either. If anything, they have probably contributed to an INCREASE in the frequency of terrorist attacks world-wide. As for "attacks on our homeland" are concerned, even the Bush Administration admits that it can happen any time now and that in fact such attacks are being planned. Do you really feel safer?

2. Also, for the past three decades, America's so-called "Christian Right" organizations (a.k.a. "evangelicals", "fundamentalists", etc.) has been drumming up donations by inspiring fear and falsely claiming to represent God while teaching violations of God's commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. As I have shown in earlier articles on this web site (www.onesalt.com), "Christian Right" preachers have also been using God's name in vain by claiming to represent Him while teaching instead various doctrines of the ideology of "national sovereignty." Furthermore, they have promoted wars (the war in Iraq) and international anarchy by opposing the rule of law as embodied in the United Nations and the International Criminal Court. Then they have the nerve to promise their followers that they will be scooped up to "meet Christ in the air" (a.k.a. the "Rapture") just before the consequences of the international anarchy that they have been promoting finally hits home and wipes out the rest of us. Some of them even seem to be looking forward with glee to the "destruction of most of mankind followed by the Second Coming of Christ." God's commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves is conspicuously missing from such teachings. But that doesn't seem to bother them, and they have gotten away with it by teaching their followers to put their faith in the authority of "religious experts" rather than relating God's guiding principles of truth and love to what they can see and hear with their own eyes and their own ears. Millions of American voters have been conditioned by their right-wing religious leaders to "blindly" put their faith in the opinions of "religious experts" and symbols of authority (like the President) no matter how dishonest they may be. That's why so many of them still support Bush. The "Religious Right" leaders themselves have been supporting Bush because he promises to send tax dollars in their direction, and because he CLAIMS (perhaps dishonestly) to side with their anti-abortion and anti-gay "shield issues."

The main themes of our nation's so-called "Christian Right" are basically themes of selfishness and irresponsibility rather than God's commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. They've led their followers to believe that God will somehow approve of their selfishness and irresponsibility (but in some cases, only if they send money). These themes of selfishness and irresponsibility have permeated the Bush Administration as well. This can be seen by Bush's emphasis on "tax cuts" (a bold appeal to selfishness), his practice (despite the teachings of Jesus Christ) of defining people as "enemies" and them attempting to kill them, and his general refusal (and the refusal of many in his Administration) to accept responsibility for the screw-ups and misdeeds that have occurred under their command--screw-ups and misdeeds that in many cases were a predictable result of their own decisions and policies. They refuse to accept responsibility for the lies that led to our present war in Iraq, for the policies and practices of torture by personnel who were under their command, and for the numerous intelligence failures that enabled 19 terrorists armed only with box cutters to destroy New York's Trade Center and a portion of the Pentagon. In spite of all of the screw-ups, misdeeds, and mutual irresponsibility demonstrated within the Bush Administration, the Republican leadership still has the audacity to dishonestly claim that the apparently "dimwitted" George W. Bush is a "strong and steady leader."

In 1999, George W. Bush said, "My goal, should I become the president, is to keep the peace", and in his first debate in New Hampshire, he said "I intend to do so by strengthening alliances, which says, 'America cannot go alone.' Well, George certainly flip-flopped on those particular points, and all of us will be paying the price of those flip flops for many years to come. Which is worse? A person like John Kerry who flip-flops occasionally but at least tells us the truth as to why he did so? Or a person like George W. Bush whose Administration has flip-flopped on most the claims and promises he has made since be began running for President in 1999--but who attempts to maintain an appearance of "steadiness" by LYING about what his Administration has actually been doing?

Am I saying that ALL Republicans are "intellectual lemmings" who are willing to believe and repeat ANYTHING that their Republican leaders tell them? No, not really. But it does appear to be that way. I have no doubt that MANY Republicans are well aware that some of the points they are making are untrue, but they have no qualms about using such points anyway, because they believe that by doing so, they may help Bush get reelected (i.e. as far as they are concerned, "the end justifies the means"). Under George W. Bush's "leadership", MANY Republican activists, government personnel, and military personel of all ranks have lost their integrity, acted dishonerably, and pretty much dishonored America for the rest of this decade at least.

So, which side do YOU believe is more closely aligned with God's will as described by Jesus Christ?

(one grain of salt)

PS. I have decided to attach the following article "That Would Machiavelli Do? The Big Lie Lives On" by Thom Hartman which further describes BIG LIE propaganda tactics and why they have proven to be so successful so far, even in the United States.

What Would Machiavelli Do? The Big Lie Lives On
By Thom Hartmann
Thursday 26 August 2004

There is nothing new about the Swift Boat ads.

German filmmaker Fritz Kippler, one of Goebbels' most effective propagandists, once said that two steps were necessary to promote a Big Lie so the majority of the people in a nation would believe it. The first was to reduce an issue to a simple black-and-white choice that "even the most feebleminded could understand." The second was to repeat the oversimplification over and over. If these two steps were followed, people would always come to believe the Big Lie.

In Kippler's day, the best example of his application of the principle was his 1940 movie "Campaign in Poland," which argued that the Polish people were suffering under tyranny - a tyranny that would someday threaten Germany - and that the German people could either allow this cancer to fester, or preemptively "liberate" Poland. Hitler took the "strong and decisive" path, the movie suggested, to liberate Poland, even though after the invasion little evidence was found that Poland represented any threat whatsoever to the powerful German Reich. The movie was Hitler's way of saying that invading Poland was the right thing to do, and that, in retrospect, he would have done it again.

The Big Lie is alive and well today in the United States of America, and what's most troubling about it is the basic premise that underlies its use. In order for somebody to undertake a Big Lie, they must first believe Niccolo Machiavelli's premise (in "The Prince," 1532) that the end justifies the means.

Hitler, after all, claimed to have based everything he did on the virtuous goal of uniting Europe - and then the world - in a thousand-year era of peace, foreshadowed in the Bible. If you believe that a thousand years of peace is such a noble end that any means is justified to reach it, it's a short leap to eugenics, preemptive wars, torture of dissidents and prisoners, and mass murder.

Believing that the end justifies the means is the ultimate slippery slope. It will ultimately kill any noble goal, because even if the goal is achieved, it will have been corrupted along the way by the means used to accomplish it.

In fiction, it's the story of Mary Shelley's good Doctor Frankenstein's attempt to conquer mortality, of Darth Vader's misuse of the Force, and of the tragic consequence of the inquisitive Dr. Jeckyll's attempt to understand good and evil going tragically wrong when, as Robert Louis Stevenson notes, he wrote, "I had gone to bed Henry Jekyll, I had awakened Edward Hyde."

In real life, it's the story of the many tinpot dictators around the world who quote Jefferson while enforcing a brutal rule, of power industry executives pushing for lax mercury rules to "help the American economy," of the legion of lobbyists who work daily to corrupt democracy in the good name of GMOs, pharmaceuticals, and the insurance industry (among others).

Gandhi, Jesus, and Buddha all warned us about it, as did Tolstoy, Tolkien, Hemmingway, and Kafka.

Be it "small sins" like Nader getting into bed with Republicans to get on state ballots, or "big sins" like George W. Bush repeatedly asserting that he had to invade Iraq because of WMDs and because Saddam "threw out the weapons inspectors" (something Saddam never did - inspectors were removed by Clinton in 1998 and by Bush in 2003), trying to accomplish a "good" by using the means of an "evil" like a Big Lie inherently corrupts the good.

Now the Bush campaign and its allies are encouraging a new series of Big Lie techniques to assail John Kerry's Vietnam War record. With a smug assurance of damage done to the enemy, George W. Bush refused to address specifically the misrepresentations in the ads, and called for "the end of all 527s," a goal he cynically knows unachievable in this election cycle.

Defenders of the Bush campaign are overrunning the media, trying to imply equivalence between the Swift Boat ads and the many "attack" ads run by anti-Bush 527 organizations over previous months. But the Bush campaign has never disputed the truthfulness of charges against him (loss of jobs, ruinous Iraq policy, environmental despoliation, etc.) in previous 527 ads.

Thus, there is no equivalence between the MoveOn (and other) ads and the Swift Boat ads, moral or otherwise. Truths and issues - however unpleasant - cannot be weighed on the same scale as lies and character assassination, explicit or implicit.

This is why the Kerry campaign is not complaining about attacks per se - those are to be expected in politics - but about Big Lie techniques used in these particular attacks. Techniques, interestingly enough, that have an uncanny resemblance to character smears used by the Bush family against Michael Dukakis in 1988, against Ann Richards in 1994, against John McCain in 2000, and against Max Cleland in 2002.

Lee Atwater, on his deathbed, realized that the "ends justifies the means" technique of campaigning he had unleashed on behalf of the Bush family was both immoral and harmful to American democracy.

"In 1988, fighting Dukakis, I said that I 'would strip the bark off the little bastard' and 'make Willie Horton his [Dukakis'] running mate,'" Atwater said. "I am sorry for both statements: the first for its naked cruelty, the second because it makes me sound racist, which I am not. Mostly I am sorry for the way I thought of other people. Like a good general, I had treated everyone who wasn't with me as against me."

But Atwater's spiritual and political prot?, Karl Rove, soldiers on. Big Lies are emerging from Bush allies with startling regularity, and old Big Lies are being resurrected almost daily, most on right-wing talk radio.

The most alarming contrast in the election of 2004 isn't between the conservative Bush and liberal Kerry. It's between those who will use any means to get and hold power, and those who are unwilling to engage in the Big Lie.

History tells us that, over the short term, the Big Lie usually works. Over the long term, though, the damage it does - both to those who use it, and to the society on which it is inflicted - is incalculable.

Thom Hartmann (thom at thomhartmann.com) is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk show. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People: A Call To Take Back America," and "What Would Jefferson Do?: A Return To Democracy.

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Last modified on Tuesday, August 31, 2004