briefing, Albert Mohler

Monday, June 22, 2020

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

It’s Monday, June 22, 2020. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

Signs of a Society Shutting Down: A Mass Exercise in Self-Delusion in Seattle Turns Deadly

Self-delusion is unhealthy at any level, but the larger the context, the larger the level, the sadder the spectacle of self-delusion becomes. Just consider ground zero right now in that lesson from the city of Seattle. In that city, on the 8th of June, the local police abandoned an entire precinct in the face of protesters who were declaring an autonomous zone. They later named it the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone or CHAZ, but even more recently have renamed it CHOP, the Capitol Hill Occupied Protests.

We discussed the emergence of this so-called autonomous part of the city of Seattle some days ago in The Briefing, including the fact that they declared themselves autonomous not only from the Seattle police, not only from the local government there, the city and the county, not only from the state of Washington, but from the United States of America—putting up signs as you entered the zone, “You are now leaving the United States of America.”

Now, as you look through American history, that kind of experiment has never ended well. It harkens back, especially to some of the radical protests of the 1960s. You can declare yourself to be autonomous, but that doesn’t make you autonomous. There is no way that long-term either the city of Seattle, or the state of Washington, or the United States of America is going to allow part of the heart of one of America’s cities to depart the United States of America, but it does tell you something about the actual goals of many on the political left in the United States.

As you look at what is now called CHOP, or the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, it becomes very clear that it is a rather generalized assemblage of just about every cause from the left, including what amounts to anarchism. Indeed, as you’re thinking about the very definition of anarchism, that is the ideology opposed to all government structures, it looks like this is a live experiment. As I said on The Briefing days ago, this will not go well and it certainly will not end well.

The national media have been running all kinds of articles indicating that this is something of a cute development or it legitimate protest. You might concede the fact that there are legitimate issues about which someone would protest in the city of Seattle, but Seattle’s one of the nation’s most liberal cities in one of the nation’s most liberal states to begin with. We’re talking about another pattern and that is that many of the most radical protests in the United States in recent weeks, have taken place and what have historically been some of the most liberal cities in the United States.

Over the weekend, the dark side of what could happen in that Capitol Hill Occupied Protest was made clear with the shooting. The shooting to death of a 19-year-old man and the fact that Seattle Police and fire authorities were prevented or frustrated from even getting access to the victim.

As Mike Carter reports for the Seattle Times, “Seattle police homicide and assault detectives are investigating an early morning shooting in the Capitol Hill Protest Zone, known as CHOP, that left one person dead and another in critical condition.” Now one of the issues I pointed to when we talked about this Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, or what’s renamed CHOP, as we talked on The Briefing is the fact that one of the issues that has to be confronted in any civil society is the reality of violent crime.

It’s one thing to talk about nonviolent crime, crime against property, we’re seeing plenty of that, but when it comes to crime against persons or violent crime, it’s moral insanity to say that you’re going to resist the law enforcement and even the rescue authorities, but that happened. It’s not just potential now, it is actually happened.

Mike Carter, again reporting for the Seattle Times there locally tells us, “Seattle police said a 19-year-old man was pronounced dead at Harbor View Medical Center. A second man, suffered life threatening injuries. Police have not identified the victims.”

Now remember that all of this actually began when protesters there in Seattle demanded that the police shut down the precinct there, they did. The East Precinct is now largely boarded up. Now, you asked the question, what happens when the entire precinct is boarded up and the police surrender and abandon the territory? Well, you have part of that answer in this headline news story.

The Seattle Times continues, “The empty precinct building now boarded up and covered with graffiti has been the hub of the ongoing occupation of the area, which includes Cal Anderson Park, one block West and across the street from the precinct.” Seattle Police in a post Saturday on its blotter said, “Officers attempted to respond to a report of shots fired inside the protest zone, but the officers were met by a violent crowd that prevented officers safe access to the victims.”

Body camera video released subsequently to the news tells us that protesters were heard yelling at the officers, “Put your guns down and get out of here.” The Seattle City Fire Department, responding as an EMS crew, along with fire equipment to the report of the shooting and victims attempted to go into the area, but according to the Seattle Fire Department policy, it cannot enter the area without police protection.

The police arrived, the police and the fire authority staged their effort together, but they were met with resistance even as they assured the crowd, they were only trying to get to the victims to help. The fire department later reported, “Officers were later informed that the victims, both males, have been transported to Harbor View Medical Center by C-H-O-P.” Remember that’s Capitol Hill Occupied Protest medics.

Now here’s a very interesting question. It’s an urgent question. What would’ve happened if the victim who died had had immediate access to the kind of trained emergency support and if those personnel had been able to help him, might this story have turned out quite differently?

Now, just to summarize all of this, we’re told that the shooting took place within the Occupied Protest or the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, and a 19-year-old young man who had just graduated from high school days before had died. Another young man was injured with what were described as life threatening injuries, but the locals who are in control of this supposedly autonomous zone did not cooperate with police authorities. Police authorities basically at this point, do not know even the nature of the crime, but let’s be clear, a crime took place. A teenager was shot and killed.

Let’s be clear about this, the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone is not and never has been autonomous. It might be now renamed as an Occupied Protest, much like Occupied Wall Street years ago in New York City, but the reality is it may be occupied, but it is still a part of the responsibility of the civic authorities there in Seattle and of law enforcement officials of the state of Washington. Of course, it is still under federal jurisdiction.

What’s going on right now is an exercise in trying not to state the obvious because it would be politically inflammatory. The obvious is, there is no such thing as an autonomous zone in the city of Seattle, but all too real is the fact that the East Precinct of the police is now willfully abandoned and boarded up covered with graffiti.

Whether we recognize it or not, this is just one sign of a society that is getting ready to shut itself down. We’re looking at the reality of the fact that the politics are now so incendiary and so many of the moral concerns are now so urgent, that we have a breakdown in basic understanding of what government is to fulfill in the responsibility of its jurisdiction.

It’s one thing for people to play at politics, declaring an autonomous zone. It’s another thing for shots to be fired and for a young man to be dead. The moral stakes are now far higher and impossible to deny, but you’ll notice, a lot of political authorities right now are continuing to try to deny the obvious.

By the way, one other issue. As you look at the Occupy Wall Street Movement years ago in New York City, it was done in the name of the marginalized and the oppressed in the United States. Even as the Occupy Wall Street demonstration was underway and even as it was being done in the name of the oppressed, it turned out then and in subsequent research, that most of the young people involved in the protest were not from any kind of oppressed demographic whatsoever. As a matter of fact, they were overly represented by people who were basically rather well-educated wealthy kids and young people and they could afford to protest for that length of time.

It’s unclear exactly what is going on now in Seattle, but the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations began to break down at least in part because of the inherent anarchy of the movement. It dissipated and lost its message and energy, but the other big issue that played an incalculable role was the advent of cold weather in the city of New York. This is the beginning of the summer in the city of Seattle. It’s not likely that weather is going to play much of a part for quite a while in resolving this issue. It’s actually going to be up to human beings, including the elected authorities and the police authorities there in Seattle. The big question is, are they up to the job? Do they even want the job?

Part II

Abortion in the Age of a Global Pandemic: Headlines in Both the U.S. and Europe

Next, I want to turn to the issue of abortion in the context of COVID-19. It’s not because I have put the issue of abortion in that context, but because these two stories do. One in the United States, in the state of Tennessee, the other as we were looking at the situation in Europe. First, let’s go to Tennessee.

In that state on Friday, as the day came to an end, the state legislature adopted what The Tennessean, and that’s the Nashville major newspaper, described as a wide ranging abortion restriction bill that had once been believed to have been scrapped for the year. It’s also part of Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s legislative agenda.

Well, what happened? As the Senate session was coming to an end, it adopted the abortion restriction bill by a vote of 23 to 5. That’s an overwhelming vote again, 23 to 5. It took place after midnight on Friday morning, 12:30 AM. As the story tells us, this particular bill bans abortions after the point that a fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks. It also outlaws the procedure of abortion, A, if the doctor knows that the woman is seeking an abortion because of the child’s sex or race; B, if the doctor knows the woman is seeking an abortion due to the diagnosis of down syndrome; or C for juveniles in custody of the department of children’s services, including removing the current option to petition a judge for permission. Again, this as was reported over the weekend in the Nashville Tennessean.

The big issue here is that Tennessee now joins the other states that have adopted a fetal heartbeat restriction bill on abortion. In the state of Tennessee, that means that abortions could effectively be ended as early as six weeks into gestation, but as you might expect, the lawsuits are already in play. By the time the day had ended on Friday, Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, and what the Tennessean and described as other abortion rights groups had filed lawsuits.

I mentioned the context that COVID-19 because the article in the Tennessean and other coverage indicates that at least some of the opponents of the bill, that means the supporters of abortion, claimed that it was wrong and unfair of the Tennessee legislature to adopt this legislation in the context of COVID-19 while the state capitol was largely closed to the public.

Just an interesting point to make here. The Tennessee State Capitol has been close to the public for a matter of weeks. In that number of weeks, the Tennessee government has had to be functioning, which is to say every single bill the legislature has passed since the middle of March was passed even as the capitol was closed to the public.

The reality here is that there is going to be a complaint about this kind of law. They’re going to be legal challenges, but the fact that it was adopted at 12:30 in the morning when the building was closed to the public is an illegitimate complaint, but it tells us a great deal of how the propaganda war is fought over these issues.

Not only in the United States, but also in Europe. In Europe, the lesson comes to us that it can have ongoing consequences. The New York Times days ago ran an article by Matina Stevis-Gridneff, entitled, “Corona Virus Created an Obstacle Course for Safe Abortions.” Now, even as we just look at that headline, consider what it tells us. Now, this is the New York Times an actively and even activist newspaper on behalf of abortion rights, you’ll notice the headline has a negative.

The negative is “obstacle course.” When you think of obstacle course, it is clearly putting something in the way of what rightfully ought to be done. It also has a positive angle. If there’s a negative obstacle course, then there is in the view of the newspaper, a positive. The last two words in the headline, “safe abortions.” Again, the whole headline “Corona Virus Created an Obstacle Course for Safe Abortions.”

Now you might think, as you’re thinking about the coronavirus and its deadly wake throughout much of Europe, as well as in the United States, Brazil and other nations. You wouldn’t point to something like abortion rights as being the most fundamental issue, but it is an issue and this article makes it clear. It also points to something we’re going to have to watch very carefully.

The article begins, “When a 19-year-old woman from Southern Poland decided to end her pregnancy at 18 weeks, she knew the only way to get an abortion was to rush to a neighboring European country.”

Now, why would that be true? It’s true because abortion is illegal in Poland under most circumstances. So, a woman in Poland wanting an abortion would have to travel elsewhere to a more liberal country in Europe in order to obtain the abortion under normal circumstances. COVID-19 arrived and the borders began to be closed. Again, huge issue. Pandemic is the context, but the particular focus here is that COVID-19 then represented an obstacle to safe abortion.

The word “safe” there also, very, very volatile, very morally significant. Let’s just remind ourselves that when you have that term “safe abortions,” it is profoundly not intended to be safe for the unborn baby. It is instead generally a redefinition of access to abortion in order always to widen that access.

Here’s the point we need to watch very carefully. As the New York Times reports, “France, Ireland, and England, Scotland, and Wales, and Britain, all loosened restrictions and permitted at home abortions with medication administered by prescription and the guidance of a medical professional over the phone or online.”

Bit of background here, even as Europe is in general, more socially liberal than the United States, at least the United States taken as a whole, on the issue of abortion it is the United States that is the liberal outlier. Abortion laws in the United States are far more permissive and far more pro-abortion than what you could find in just about anywhere in Europe and that includes the most socially liberal nations in Europe, where restrictions on late term abortions, restrictions on abortions, even in the last half of a pregnancy are quite common.

Also, as this article makes clear, there have been significant restrictions on medication abortions that are undertaken at home, but in the context of the pandemic we’re told that the authorities in France, Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales all loosened to their restrictions.

That’s interesting, that’s troubling, but what should be far more troubling is the fact that once this has been done, you’re ahead of me here, the activists in those nations are demanding that they remain in place even after the COVID-19 pandemic is over. That’s the pattern we need to watch.

This is the way the culture of death works. It makes advances, it takes advantage, even of something like the pandemic. It declares an emergency, it seizes new opportunities. It expands access to abortion, it redefines the terms, and then it refuses to concede any ground. Actually given the political and moral logic and the secularization of so much of Europe, it is indeed unlikely that the laws will ever be tightened or the restrictions put back in place.

Once you have the liberalization of a moral reality like this, it is almost never placed back under restriction. In the United States that is the tremendous struggle that has now consumed generations of pro-life commitment. As you think about the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and every single restriction on abortion since 1973, has been fought and won at tremendous cost and with almost incalculable energy that has been demanded.

Here in the United States as well, a context like the COVID-19 pandemic becomes a pretext for declaring that now in this country, we have to loosen restrictions on abortion. We have to make abortion even more accessible. The demands here, as well as what we have seen in Europe, is for the constant expansion of what are called medical abortions. That is abortion by the abortion pill. Those now we are told, demanded to take place at home.

Here in the United States, we saw governors and other authorities go so far as to declare in the midst of the pandemic abortion to be an essential surgical or medical service. Thus accessible, even in the context of a pandemic where some procedures that included everything from chemotherapy to heart procedures were denied as essential. That tells you the logic of the culture of death. It tells you how far, how deeply that logic has been ingrained in the United States.

Part III

Amy Klobuchar Withdraws from Consideration as the Democratic Candidate for Vice President

Next, on the political front in the United States, much is likely to be clarified in the next several days, certainly in the next several weeks, one of the most interesting issues to be clarified is going to be who will be the running mate for Joe Biden on the Democratic ticket. Biden is now the almost assured Democratic nominee for president and it is the responsibility of the presidential nominee to choose a vice presidential running mate.

It hasn’t always been so in the United States. At one point, the vice president was the candidate who received the second largest number of votes. That turned out to be quite politically non-feasible. Thus, the vice presidency as we know it now is tied to the party affiliation of the president. They run as a ticket. With the president and the vice president as nominees together, but that also means that every four years there is at least on the side of one party an open question as to who that vice presidential candidate will be.

In the course of trying to close the gap with Senator Bernie Sanders, the Democratic socialist independent, who was running for the Democratic nomination and at one point was the front runner, Joe Biden declared that if he gained the nomination, he would choose a woman as his running mate. He did that in order to gain political points in the democratic party, but even some in the party were quite concerned that he had cut off the potential of half of the party and its leadership for that vice presidential nomination.

That in what’s expected to be a close race against the Republican nominee, President Donald Trump, and with several so-called swing states very much in play. By saying that he would choose only a woman, making that a pledge, the former vice president effectively boxed himself in, but now he has found himself boxed in by events.

The events have to do, of course, with the increased concern about racial justice in the United States. In a particular way, driving the logic of his own party, which had already been driving itself to the left. Now the open demands in the party are for the former vice president to choose not only a woman, but an African American, a black woman as his running mate.

That reduces the list of those available to him significantly. The former vice president has said that he hopes to make his decision by the 1st of August. That’s now just a matter of something like six weeks, the clock is ticking. The vetting process as it is called, is going on right now, but it has also itself become a bit public and even more complicated.

All this was made clear on Thursday evening as one of the women, in this case, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, who was herself at one point a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination announced that she would be withdrawing from consideration. The Senator went on not only to declare that she had called the vice president to withdraw, but also she put him on notice declaring that, “He should at this moment, choose an African American woman as his running mate.”

There’s a lot more going on here then the media may tell you. For one thing, Amy Klobuchar was considered far too moderate for many on the liberal wing of the party now in ascendancy. Furthermore, she, like we should also point out, California Senator Kamala Harris had served previously as a prosecutor. Prosecutors have to prosecute crimes and right now any prosecutor is going to find himself or herself right in the center of controversy, especially in the Democratic party.

Given the fact that so much of the attention in the United States has been directed at Minnesota and in particular to Minneapolis and St. Paul, and especially since in Minneapolis, it was the killing by a police officer of George Floyd that led to the greatest urgency in recent months. Amy Klobuchar was effectively no longer useful to the Biden campaign, but it’s also interesting that she effectively put the vice president in the squeeze here saying that, “In this circumstance, he should choose an African American woman as his running mate.” That’s going to make it tremendously difficult for the former vice president to do anything other than that.

In any event, there are also some primaries, some extremely interesting primaries. It turns out right now, the most interesting of those primaries may well be in New York and in the state of Kentucky. You don’t often put those two together, but that’s how it is and we’re going to be watching both in days to come.

Part IV

U.S. Senate Confirms Judge Justin Walker to Important D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals

Also, as last week came to an end, a very important vote in the United States Senate to confirm U.S. district court Judge Justin Walker to be the newest judge of the DC Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals. That is the court that is most influential in the United States, second only to the Supreme Court of the United States. It has been historically the court that has produced the most important roster for presidents to choose from in the course of making nominations to the Supreme Court itself.

In recent weeks, we’ve discussed Judge Walker for his role in ruling against the mayor of the city of Louisville on an issue of restricting worship in the context of the pandemic. We should also consider the fact that the 51–42 vote was basically a party line vote. Only one Republican did not vote for Judge Walker. That Republican is Maine United States Senator Susan Collins, who is herself in a very tight race for reelection in a not so conservative state. That is the state of Maine right now on the American political map.

This final issue just reminds us again of the importance of the courts. We’ve talked a lot about that in recent days and sometimes lamentably so. But the reality is that the courts matter, those who sit on those courts matter, and the sole authority of the president of the United States to make these nominations matters. Also, the composition of the United States Senate, which has the power of advice and consent and must confirm those nominations. That also is made here abundantly clear.

Elections, have consequences and the stage is set for the election of November 2020 in the United States to have consequences we will know as soon as the results are in.

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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