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Stock Market Swoons, Government Shutdowns, and the Alleged Wives-Beater in the White House

Thursday saw another four-digit drop in the Dow Jones average, another government shutdown after negotiations broke down on a budget-busting compromise bill no one liked, and the news still had to find room for another scandalous exit from President Donald Trump’s administration.
White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned his post after Britain’s Daily Mail reported that his two ex-wives allege he physically abused them, various media found corroborating police reports and court orders as well as an ex-girfriend with similar tales, and the first ex-wife released a picture of herself with the black eye she alleges he gave her, which ought to be scandalous enough. Worse yet, the media also reported that White House officials had long been aware that the allegations were the reason the Federal Bureau of Investigation never gave Porter the security clearance required to deal with all the classified materials that a White House staff secretary routinely handles.
Even if you’re the sort of die-hard Trump supporter who figures that the women probably had it coming, and give credit to any administration officials who were so bravely politically incorrect as to agree, you have to be unsettled by the national security implications. Apparently there are several high-ranking White House officials who also can’t pass security clearance muster, including top presidential advisor and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, who’s still the point man for China despite FBI warnings about his personal and business ties to a Chinese operative and still in charge of negotiating Middle East despite no apparent qualifications for that tough job, so it seems to be an ongoing problem. You can still rightly point to Hillary Clinton’s undeniably sloppy mishandling of classified material when she was Secretary of State, which is one of the many valid reasons she’s not the President of the United States, but that won’t solve the more pressing national security problems.
Most people will have a problem with the White House’s apparent tolerance of wife-beating, too, and Porter’s departure won’t help with a widespread public perception that Trump is a sexist pig. There’s also talk about how it reflects on White House chief of staff John Kelly, who a couple of days ago was vouching for Porter’s “high moral character” despite being aware of the FBI warnings about why they’d denied a security clearance, and whose spokesman later explained he wasn’t fully aware of the situation until the black eye picture was published. Kelly came into the White with a pristine reputation as a four-star Marine General, but he’s been criticized on the left for comments deemed racist and sexist, and by Trump for his assurances to the congressional hispanic caucus that Trump had “evolved” in his thinking about various immigration issues, and there’s speculation he’ll be one of the next to leave the Trump administration with a more sullied reputation.
The government shutdown might yet prove as short-lived as last month’s, and the market swoon might yet prove a much-needed correction on the way back to prosperity, but another scandalous example of the Trump administration’s crudity and incompetence won’t help with either situation.

— Bud Norman

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A Resurrection Correction

With all due respect to Dave Barry, Art Buchwald, Paul Krugman, and the other notable newspaper humorists who have plied the trade over the ages, the most reliable source of a good chuckle to be found in the American press has always been the corrections column of The New York Times. The latest howler ran on April Fool’s Day, aptly enough, and humbly acknowledged that “An earlier version of this article mischaracterized the Christian holiday of Easter. It is the celebration of Jesus’s resurrection from the dead, not his resurrection into heaven.”
This glaring mistake has already prompted considerable ridicule from the more conservative commentators, including one who was also reminded of the old joke about a man so stupid that he did not know what Easter is, but we feel obliged to say a forgiving word for the reporters who made the error and those fabled layers of editors at America’s putative paper of record who failed to correct it. Such astounding ignorance of the most basic tents of Christianity is quite common these days, and no longer confined to that highly-educated segment of the society from which the Timesmen are drawn.
The smart set seems especially prone to such obliviousness, though, which is a shame. Even if you regard Christianity as so much superstitious nonsense a familiarity with the religion is still necessary to understand the western civilization that it has done so much to form over the past couple of millennia. Aside from the enduring wisdom of the scriptures, which is widely acknowledged even by those who don’t buy into the supernatural aspects, the Bible is required reading for anyone who wants to appreciate much of the greatest art, literature, cinema, and all the other cultural forms that the educated once aspired to learn, as well as the beliefs that informed the founding of our system of government, and it’s even needed to understand the common idioms of the language. Another famously funny New York Times correction ran after a reporter quoted President Barack Obama’s allusion to the “Tower of Babble.”
Such high-placed ignorance of Christianity also has an unfortunate effect on the country’s politics. Too many people assume that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are all the same Abrahamic hooey and thus fail to see the essential differences in the faiths, making a sensible debate about Islamist terrorism impossible even within the State Department. Traditional notions of morality that are associated with Christianity, such as disapproval of out-of-wedlock births, are casually dismissed as archaic even if their social benefits are well documented. A widespread public ignorance of religious beliefs is often exploited to portray people with longstanding beliefs rooted in a philosophy of love as hateful bigots, and even to force secular notions of morality on religious institutions.
Still, the Times’ lack of familiarity with Easter and other arcane aspects of Christianity is not surprising. The schools will no longer teach about the Bible even as an important literary and historical document, partly for fear of pesky litigation from those who are absolutists about the separation of church, partly because they prefer to preach the gospel of global warming, and except for that big hit series on cable the entertainment industry seems to have given up on the Biblical epic. About the only place to learn about religion is a church, and as any Times reader knows only the very low-brow go there.

— Bud Norman