briefing, Albert Mohler

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

It’s Wednesday, April 29, 2020. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

Life—And Politics—Goes on: Joe Biden Picks Up Endorsements from Key Democratic Women as Heat Turns Up on Sexual Assault Allegation

Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, politics goes on. In one sense, it goes on and on. Looming before us is the November general election. The Constitution of the United States calls for four year terms for both the president and vice president of the United States, and of course, every two years in a national election, we elect the entire membership of the House of Representatives and about a third of the United States Senate. State-by-state, there are other important races as well. No one knows right now how the voting is going to take place in November, state-by-state or nationwide. And furthermore, right now, no one really knows how to conduct a political campaign, not to mention the presidential campaign in the midst of a pandemic. To say it’s unprecedented is simply to repeat the obvious. But at the same time, even if the predicament is obvious, it’s not at all obvious how politicians can do politics, and how candidates can run for office.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is now the all but inevitable Democratic nominee for 2020. But at this point, he’s basically isolated to his basement because he doesn’t hold any political office at present. He’s a former vice president. There is nothing for him to do when it comes to the active government except for the political campaign, he’s trying to maintain his visibility. Evidence of that came this week with two endorsements, both of them from prominent women in the Democratic Party. Both of them tell us something of the story of modern politics in the United States.

On Monday, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Representative Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman from the San Francisco area, in California, she endorsed the former vice president. You might think that Nancy Pelosi, who is at this point the holder of the most important constitutional office held by a Democrat nationwide, you might think that her endorsement would be really, really big news. But it’s really not for two reasons. First of all, the endorsement came late in the process. She only endorsed Biden once he became the inevitable nominee of the Democratic Party. That’s perhaps to be expected, the Speaker of the House would not be expected to jump in the middle of a fractious political campaign in the primaries. But nonetheless, if you look at the major newspapers in the country, for example, The New York Times, in the print edition, buried her endorsement to the bottom of an interior page of the front section. That is to say The New York Times didn’t think it was big news. No, great surprise. But it’s also not big news for another reason. You are looking at the Democratic Party trying to coalesce around it’s inevitable nominee, but there’s something else going on that is big news.

But hold on, there was a second endorsement. It came just a day later. Yesterday, the former United States Secretary of State, and the United States Senator, Hillary Clinton, also former First Lady, and of course the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, she also actively endorsed Joe Biden. So on Monday, Nancy Pelosi. On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton. What’s going on here? Well, the big story isn’t that either Clinton or Pelosi endorsed Joe Biden at this stage. The big news would have been if they had not done so.

The big news is actually something else. The news is that the Democratic candidate desperately needed these two women, these two women in particular, to endorse him at this particular time. Why? Well it is because the heat is being turned up in the accusations of sexual assault against him made by a former staffer by the name of Tara Reade. The mainstream media has done its utmost to try to bury the story, and as we noted on The Briefing days ago, the fact is that there is a gross exercise of hypocrisy going on here, and the hypocrisy starts with the former vice president himself. “Believe the woman,” was exactly what he said, indicating that when the media had jumped on the story of an accusation against, then Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, that Kavanaugh should stand down from the nomination process until there was a full investigation. And the point made then by the former Vice President Joe Biden is that the woman is to be believed until her story is rendered, not credible, or at least not applicable to whatever might be the process—nomination, election, you name it.

But the rules changed when Joe Biden, now accused himself, isn’t saying, first of all, “Believe the woman,” and he isn’t telling himself to stand down from his campaign. No, he’s pressing on. Am I making any judgment whatsoever about the accusations it gets the former vice president? No, pointedly, I am not. I have no special access to any kind of evidence. I do have access, as do all of you, to the press coverage and to the unfolding story, and to the fact that what we are seeing here is the mainstream media doing when it comes to Joe Biden, exactly what it did not do when it comes to Brett Kavanaugh. That is to say it is holding back from the story saying that it doesn’t have enough information. You could put it the other way and say that the press is not doing in the case of the former vice president, what it did do in the case of Brett Kavanaugh, now Justice Kavanaugh, and that is offering a full assault upon him by every means imaginable, making it front page news day after day after day.

And at least some of the mainstream media understand that there is a basic hypocrisy here. One of the major leaders of The New York Times tried to explain this, that is the behavior of his paper, with respect to Joe Biden as contrasted with Brett Kavanaugh. But his explanation actually raises far more questions than he answered. Julie Bykowicz of The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article with the headline, “Leading Democrats Stand Behind Biden After Sexual-Assault Allegation.” As Bykowicz tells us, “Prominent Democrats, including some women thought to be on Joe Biden’s running mate shortlist have lined up behind the former vice president in the month since Tara Reade, a former Senate staffer made public an allegation he sexually assaulted her once in the 1990s.”

The next paragraph, “Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Kamala Harris of California and former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, have all said that they respect women making such allegations and take them seriously. But they haven’t wavered in their support for Mr. Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, whose campaign has strongly denied the allegations.”

Now, once again, let’s assume that we don’t know anything in terms of privileged information about the accusation. But we already know that the pattern, when it comes to Joe Biden of press coverage and political pressure, is almost diametrically the opposite of what we saw in the case of Brett Kavanaugh. And especially when it comes to statements coming from prominent Democrats, and in particular, prominent Democratic women. That brings us back full circle to the two endorsements that were made this week by the two most prominent, it can be argued, Democratic women in the United States.

But there are other issues related to those endorsements that become interesting. When it comes to the endorsement made by Speaker Pelosi, even Democrats understand that her main priority is not electing Joe Biden as President of the United States. Her main priority, you could also say her job within her party, is to try to preserve the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. Disaster in the view of Nancy Pelosi isn’t so much tied to the presidential election as to the congressional elections, every single one of them, district by district. With that in mind, Nancy Pelosi is believed to be one of those national Democrats breathing some sigh of relief that Joe Biden and not Bernie Sanders, the independent Vermont Senator who’s an avowed democratic socialist, is going to be the 2020 Democratic nominate, at least it certainly looks that way. When it comes to the down ticket damage that would have been caused by a Sanders candidacy, there is no doubt the Nancy Pelosi will sleep much better between now and the election knowing that Bernie Sanders will not be the nominee. But that points to something else. The biggest concern to the Speaker of the House is that there could be a down ticket problem when it comes to Joe Biden. She has to hope that all of these allegations go away quickly and there are those in the media who are trying to follow the very same playbook.

When it comes to the endorsement by Hillary Clinton, who lost the 2016 election, in the Electoral College to President Donald Trump, the issue is a little more complicated. Hillary Clinton, like Joe Biden, doesn’t hold any public office at present. But the big issue about Hillary Clinton is understanding that she goes down in history, yes, as the first woman to win a major party presidential nomination. She also goes down as a candidate who was not elected president of the United States. And furthermore, there are two other issues related here. One is the fact that her voting base tends to be overwhelmingly female and rather older. She doesn’t have the traction when it comes to even younger females who are expected to vote overwhelmingly, especially young single females, for the Democratic ticket.

Hillary Clinton might not have much impact when it comes to the electorate in that sense. But the big issue would have happened if Hillary Clinton had not endorsed Joe Biden, and that’s not what happened. She did give the endorsement. The big political impact is that Joe Biden is able to say this week, even with the accusations heating up, look, the two most famous Democratic women in the United States have now endorsed me. But of course, when it comes to the say most famous Democratic women in the United States, it may well be right now that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Congresswoman from New York, is actually better known amongst many in the United States than even the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.

But speaking of the heat being turned up on the former vice president concerning the sexual assault allegation, just a couple of very interesting developments. One is video in which a woman called into the Larry King show years ago, speaking of her daughter having experienced a sexual assault by a prominent member of the United States Senate, seeking help and advice. Tara Reade has identified that woman as her mother. Then yesterday, USA Today reported that a neighbor of the accuser of the former vice president recalled that Tara Reade had mentioned to her the nature of the alleged assault, back when she says the assault had taken place. The issue there is the fact that in this kind of accusation, the fact that some contemporaneous communication was made to others by the accuser at the time of the alleged event, or near that time, that adds credibility to the charges, at least adding the credibility that would lead to a further investigation.

One sign of a certain kind of turn in the public conversation about this as the fact that Peter Beinart of the City University of New York, a prominent colonist and observer writing at The Atlantic, has released an article arguing that the former vice president should release his Senate papers. As Beinart says the release of those papers may not reveal anything, but they might also reveal something of importance to the accusation and the public consideration of the accusation against the former vice president.

Beinart also interestingly tells us that in 2012, that was the very year that Barack Obama and Joe Biden were reelected as president and vice president of the United States. The vice president who had served decades in the United States Senate transferred to the University of Delaware most of his Senate papers. And, it was said at that time that the papers would be open to scholarly investigation and to the public two years after the former vice president left office. Beinart then writes, “Biden left the vice presidency in January 2017. And January 2019 came with no papers released. Then on April the 24th 2019, “the day before Biden announced his presidential campaign, the university revised the schedule.” Beinart continues, “The papers would now remain sealed until December 31, 2019, or until two years after Biden retires from public life, whichever came later.” Of course that phrase, “retires from public life,” is not a legally definable term at all.

Part II

Contrary to His Own Claim, Kentucky’s Andy Beshear Is Not Done with Divisive Issues: Governor Vetoes Pro-Life Bill

But next, as we’re looking at the continuation of politics with vast worldview implications in the midst of a pandemic, we have to turn to developments right here in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. At the end of last week, the Democratic Governor of Kentucky Andy Beshear vetoed a bill that had been passed by the General Assembly that would have accomplished at least a couple of things. In the first place, it would have transferred authority to the attorney general of the state to make many decisions related to the regulation of abortion clinics, especially in the context of the government’s ruling that there should be no nonessential or elective surgeries undertaken in the context of the pandemic. Another portion of the bill would have required physicians and others attending at a birth to do everything reasonable to save the life of a baby born alive.

Caroline Kelly reporting for CNN tells us, “Democratic Kentucky Governor Andrew Beshear vetoed a bill on Friday that would have allowed the Republican Attorney General to potentially restrict abortion access during the coronavirus outbreak as well as requiring doctors to try to preserve the life of any infant born alive following an attempted abortion.” The next paragraph, “Beshear said in a veto message that he had done so, ‘Because existing Kentucky law already fully protects children from being denied lifesaving medical care and treatment when they are born.'” And as CNN says, that points to similar bills that have, in the words of the governor, “Been struck down as unconstitutional in the majority of states in America when challenged.”

The most amazing statement made by the Kentucky Governor is this: “I’m just not doing divisive issues right now. We’ve got to defeat this coronavirus.” That echoed a statement the governor had made earlier in the week in which he said, “I’m done with politics,” continuing, “We all have a duty to fight the coronavirus.” No doubt we all do have a responsibility to fight the coronavirus. But when it comes to the Democratic Governor of Kentucky, it just isn’t honest to say that he’s done with politics and it certainly is not honest for Governor Beshear to say that he vetoed the bill coming to him from the legislature because, “I’m just not doing divisive issues right now.”

The state’s legislature had approved the bill and sent it to the governor for signature. Vetoing the bill is a political action. He’s not done with politics. And furthermore, he did exactly what voters in Kentucky had every reason to expect him to do because Beshear has been publicly supportive of abortion rights. He was backed by prominent national abortion rights organizations. He has associated himself not only with those who claim they’re merely protecting or advocating for abortion rights. He even had a campaign fundraiser that was hosted by an abortionist. Again, we’re looking at how the press and the pro-abortion movement tries to say, “We’re not pro-abortion, we’re just for women’s rights, reproductive health and freedom,” and you go down the list. But the fact is, when you hold a fundraiser hosted by one who owns an abortion clinic, you’re pro-abortion.

The governor also knew that the General Assembly cannot constitutionally reconvene at present, so for a while, his veto will stand. There’s also a basic evasiveness when the governor said, “Current law already protects any child born alive.” But that raises a fascinating issue. If this law wouldn’t add anything to current statutory law, then why would you veto it? Why would you even oppose it? And it comes down to the fact that the abortion rights movement will not abide any restriction on abortion whatsoever.

Part III

Fact Checking the “Fact Checker” Column: The Moral Insanity of the Democratic Party's Support of Late-Term Abortion

And when it comes to that issue, there’s an even bigger story looming before us on the nation’s horizon. This one has to do with statements made by President Donald Trump at a campaign rally back before the shelter-in-place orders, on March 2nd of 2020. The president said, “Virtually every Democrat candidate has declared their unlimited support for extreme late-term abortion, ripping babies straight from the mother’s womb right up until the very moment of birth.”

Salvador Rizzo, writing The Fact Checker column for The Washington Post looks at the statement made by President Trump and says that it deserves three “Pinocchios,” that is to say it is more untrue than true. But I say, let’s take a closer look at what the president said and let’s take a closer look at the reality behind what the president was describing here. After Rizzo says he’s talking about the facts, he says this, “Most abortions are performed in the earlier stages of pregnancy.” Let’s stop here. True or false? That’s true.

Let’s move on. “About 1% happen after the fetus reaches the point of viability.” In short, said Rizzo, “The president is describing something that rarely happens and that no Democrat is calling for anyway.” Now that’s just evasive. When you think about the hundreds of thousands of abortions performed every year in the United States, then you are looking at 1% representing thousands of abortions in the United States that are late-term.

So Rizzo says it rarely happens, but we are talking about something that happens thousands and thousands of times every year in the United States, late-term abortion. You’re going to hear from the abortion rights movement over and over again, “That represents only 1% of abortions.” What they need to be heard as saying is the acknowledgement, “Oh yeah, that represents a full 1% or so of abortions.” That’s thousands of abortions.

But then in another statement, Rizzo writes this: “The president is describing something that rarely happens and that no Democrat is calling for anyway.” Well, that’s an interesting statement, “that no Democrat is calling for anyway.” Well, let’s just say right up front, no Democrat is calling for last minute late-term abortions. What they have been doing is vetoing, when they hold the presidency, and voting against when they’re in the House and in the Senate, any limitation upon late-term abortion. So what we’re seeing here is a shifting of the ground in order to confuse the reader about the reality.

Right after Rizzo says that, he writes, “Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren,and some others who competed in the presidential primary said they favored having no restrictions on abortion.” In other words, they weren’t calling for late-term abortions, but they were demanding laws that would allow late term abortions. And the president is right, right up until the moment of birth. We have now seen legislation exactly like that adopted in states such as New York. The next sentence, “Now the only Democrat left in the race is former Vice President Joe Biden, who does not take such a sweeping position.” He writes, “Biden supports abortion rights and says he would codify into statute the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade and related precedents.”

Well, actually, the former vice president himself represents a transformation on the abortion issue. He had claimed throughout his Senate career that he was personally pro-life, but he did not favor pro-life policies because he did not believe that he should enact his own convictions when it comes to the abortion issue, but rather should preserve a woman’s right to an abortion. Now at the most fundamental level, that is moral insanity. Nonetheless, he got away with it for decades, but at the same time, now you’re not going to hear the former vice president say anything negative about abortion at all. Just try to find any negative statement about abortion at all. He can’t make such a statement because it would run afoul of the majority energy in the entire Democratic party.

The Democratic Party is trending so far left on the abortion issue that most Americans don’t recognize it has actually been on the far left for a very long time. For evidence of that, just go back to 1995, 1997, and 2003. What’s crucial there? There were efforts to ban what is known as partial birth abortion. That is not only an abortion right up until the moment of birth, it represented the most horrifying procedure you can imagine, in which a baby was born partially and then its life was intentionally terminated by the use of an instrument that penetrated the baby’s body and then the baby was born dead, even as it had been born partially alive.

Republicans in Congress pressed for legislation that was sent to then-President Bill Clinton in 1995 and in 1997. Just do the math, that’s 20 plus years ago, and President Clinton vetoed both of the bills. Later, in the year 2003, Congress again passed the legislation and it went to the desk of then President George W. Bush, who signed the bill into law. Its constitutionality was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in the Gonzales vs Carhart case of 2007. It remains, right now, the law of the land.

Now keep that in mind when you consider the fact that we were told that Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and “some others who competed in the presidential primary” said they favored having no restrictions on abortion. Hillary Clinton, then a Senator, voted against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Bernie Sanders, then a Senator, now a Senator, voted against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Joe Biden, then a Senator, now the likely 2020 Democratic nominee, voted for the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. But you’re likely to see that he will run as far from that historic vote as he possibly can, in order not to run afoul of the current orthodoxy of the Democratic Party.

But another line in Rizzo’s supposed Fact Checker column in The Washington Post says this, “But even before Biden surged, Trump’s attack line was seriously flawed, some experts said. That some Democrats support abortion rights doesn’t mean they support extreme late-term abortions.” Now the use of the phrase, “Some experts said” is a signal that we certainly want to know who those experts are. One of them evidently was Katie L. Watson, a professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine who responded to the column in an email, “That’s like saying everyone who supports the second amendment support school shootings.” By the way, that is a ludicrous example. But she went on to say, “Abortion, until the moment of birth, does not exist. It’s a boogeyman abortion opponents have created to frightened voters and derail rational conversation about constitutional rights. Nobody ‘supports’ it and nobody does it. No patient ever asked a physician to end her pregnancy the moment before birth, and no physician would agree to do it.”

Except of course the obvious historic fact that no one on the Democratic Party side seems to want to face, or at least to point to, and that is fact that so many in their party, including the former Democratic President of the United States, Bill Clinton and his wife, then a United States Senator in 2003, opposed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. It comes down to the fact that they opposed a bill that would have effectively made illegal infanticide. But that takes us back to New York. Don’t say Democrats don’t support it. Democrats have now put such a policy into law. And don’t act like, when you have candidates who say there should be no restrictions on abortion, that that is not support for abortion. That’s moral insanity. And don’t claim that no one is doing this because the statistics bear out the fact that someone is doing this, killing babies at the very last point of their development in the womb.

But in conclusion, just look out for this logic and when you see it or hear it, recognize it for what it is. When someone says, “We shouldn’t make this illegal because no one’s doing it,” and you know they are doing it, then you need to smell a rat, and in this case, a very deadly rat.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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