The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Thursday, May 13, 2021

It’s Thursday, May 13, 2021.

I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

A Continual Soap Opera in National Politics: The Ouster of Liz Cheney and the Future of the Republican Party

Distortion field of the current American media moment means that it’s very hard to tell sometimes what is a big story and what is not really such a big story. It’s actually hard in many cases to say, “We’re going to be telling our grandchildren about this” when, on the other hand, it might be forgotten by dinnertime.

The story about the ouster of Liz Cheney as the chairman of the House Republican conference is neither something we’re going to be telling our grandchildren or something that will be over at dinnertime. It’s somewhere in between those two polarities. It’s not exactly clear where. But one thing that is clear is that the mainstream media is telling us right now this is the biggest story imaginable. In reality, it’s not as big a story as appears, but it does point to the fact that there is a continual soap opera in national politics.

That’s an interesting development, by the way, not that politics is a soap opera. That was undoubtedly true in ancient Greece, in ancient Rome. But the soap opera going right into the living rooms of average American homes, that is something new, especially on a daily basis, if not an hourly basis. And it’s due to two huge developments before we even turned to what took place amongst the Republicans in the House Conference. Those two big developments begin with the cable TV news revolution. That revolution goes back, particularly not only to the development of CNN. You can look at the 1980s as the vast explosion of the influence of CNN. But beyond that in the 1990s, the development of rival cable television networks, news networks, with the ambition of giving Americans a constant stream, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, a political news and commentary. When those networks began, the emphasis was upon news. Every one of those news networks, trying to prove themselves legitimate in terms of news. And the background to that was the three big television networks of broadcast television and its golden age: ABC, CBS, NBC.

The cable news networks are trying to say, “We’re doing journalism just like that.” No, that’s very old, very outdated, and almost forgotten in the cable news world because now it is almost exclusively commentary. Political commentary that doesn’t depend on any of the old rules of broadcast journalism, or for that matter any of the rules of journalism whatsoever. Now it’s pretty much political commentary, 24/7. And the dynamic of that political commentary has to be something salacious, interesting, fascinating, otherwise, Americans are going to tune it out, turn it off. And there goes the advertising. There go the ratings. We can’t let that happen. So you also have to bring in a situation of conflict, and that conflict is how often group identified. Grouping between the left and the right. Looking at Fox News and some of the other internet alternatives. It is very much from the right in-group solidarity.

When you’re looking at CNN and MSNBC, it’s basically the same thing. CNN, over the course of the last five years, moving itself from what it had declared to be a commitment to the political middle, to what can only be described as the political left. But here’s what’s interesting. If you look at the news story, the current news of a session on the ejection of representative Liz Cheney as the chairperson of the House Republican Conference. Well, what’s interesting is that virtually all the news sources agree this is a huge, huge story. Fox thinks it is a great thing. MSNBC and CNN are telling you what is the fall of civilization as we know it. In reality, again, this is not that big a news story. At least it’s not going to be for long. And the operation of politics as politics is what is behind it.

The Republican Party right now, by a slim margin, the minority Party in the House of Representatives has four basic leaders. The majority Party, by the way, has to begin its leadership with the Speaker of the House. But the Republicans right now are in the minority, hoping very quickly to get back into the majority position. But right now, you’re looking at four officers. First of all, the Republican party leader in the House, that is California representative Kevin McCarthy. The second-ranking position is the Republican Whip. And the Republican Whip right now is representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana. The third ranking position is the chairman of the Republican Conference. And that was the position that, until yesterday morning, was held by Wyoming, Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney. The fourth position is the chairman of the Republican policy committee.

The one person who’s looming over the story more than any other isn’t actually Liz Cheney. It is Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States. And if you’re watching any of those news networks, you’re likely to be told that the defining issue in this story is support for or lack of support for Donald Trump. And in particular claims that the former president has made about the illegitimacy of the 2020 presidential election. Is that true, or is that false? Well, it is certainly true that Liz Cheney though, the third-ranking Republican in the House Caucus has put herself outside the approvals zone of the former president. She voted for his second impeachment. And she has made numerous statements, numerous speeches in which she has basically sought to make the identity of Donald Trump, the big decision-maker about the future of the Republican Party, and she is decidedly negative. That is to say, she wants to free the Republican Party from any tie to or commitment to or if she had her way memory of Donald J. Trump.

On the other hand, you have the Democrats who have all of a sudden decided that because of the very same thing, Liz Cheney is now their hero, then that’s one of the most ironic developments. It also shows you that political hypocrisy just is written into the entire system because the Democrats actually have no respect for Liz Cheney whatsoever. They have even less respect for her father, the former vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney, who served eight years as vice-president under President George W. Bush. As a matter of fact, as you look at Democrats today, you need to recognize that that party hates Dick Cheney, the former vice president, even more than the party hates the former president he served, George W. Bush. The mythology of the democratic party and of the mainstream media is that Dick Cheney was the dark force, the Dark Lord behind the passive George W. Bush. George W. Bush, basically driven, especially when it came to war in Afghanistan and war in Iraq and a general foreign policy known as neo-conservatism.

The mythology is that George W. Bush was basically controlled by Dick Cheney, the Dark Lord in the White House. Thus, for the democratic party, Dick Cheney is the Sith Lord, and his daughter is Liz Cheney, and they have followed a similar trajectory. Both of them basically came into American public life, holding the at-large position, the singular House position in the State of Wyoming. Dick Cheney also proceeded his daughter as the third-ranking Republican leader in the house as the chairman of the House Republican conference. Dick Cheney held that position from 1987 to 1989. After that, he became the United States secretary of defense under George H. W. Bush and then vice president of the United States under Bush 41, son Bush 43. That is president George W. Bush. The Cheney family is extremely well known in Washington. And even before he became secretary of defense, Dick Cheney served as the chief of staff to then-President Gerald Ford.

When you talk about the party establishment and the Republican party, the Cheney family is very much a part of that establishment, a part of the very established furniture in the room of the Republican leadership. And that explains why Liz Cheney, who was only elected to Congress in 2017, nonetheless, was elected to this third-ranking Republican position in leadership just two years later in 2019, but it didn’t last long. But there’s a big dynamic behind this story. And that is that the Bush dynasty. That is the dynasty, not only of President of George H. W. Bush, Bush 41, and then President George W. Bush, Bush 43, but also Prescott Bush, Republican Senator from Connecticut, the father to president 41, the grandfather to president 43. You’re talking about a very long, very lionized Republican leadership tradition. You’re looking at the fact that the Bush dynasty would very much like to be rid of any memory of the Trump dynasty or at least the Trump presidency.

As the media would have it, one of the big struggles in the Republican party right now is between the old Bush dynasty and its vision of Republican identity and the modern Republican party heavily influenced by Donald Trump. But actually, on the ground, there isn’t much of a contest. The fact is that the Republican party was reshaped between the exit of George W. Bush in 2009 from the White House and the emergence even of Donald Trump in 2016. If the party hadn’t been changed fundamentally Donald Trump couldn’t have happened. But it was changed fundamentally.

And one of the things you have to recognize is that it changed in part, out of a sense of loss during the presidency of George W. Bush and especially the nation mired in war in Afghanistan and Iraq. And Bush also having committed himself to policies if more conservative than his father, still much out of step with where the Republican party was headed during the years of Barack Obama, as president. At least part of what’s going on in the story about Liz Cheney is that in a very genetic way, she represented an attempt by the Bush Cheney and the old Republican establishment to regain public profile and perhaps leadership in the party.

But that then gets us to the big story. And a part of our responsibility is to figure out what the big story is. Is the big story the fact that Liz Cheney is out because she wouldn’t join in the big lie of the Trumpians? Well, there’s certainly something to that. But truth be known, most of the Republicans in Congress, regardless of their public pronouncements have at least at some point, given an indication that they don’t believe the 2020 election was fundamentally stolen. But at the same time, they recognize that the Republican party in 2021, and certainly pointing toward the future, is considerably more populist than it ever was in the recent past and far more populist than would ever have been envisioned during either President George W. Bush, not to mention President George H. W. Bush. It’s a very different party. Donald Trump has had a lot to do with defining that party both by bringing new voters in and by redefining the policy positions of the party, again, in a far more populist direction.

The Republican Party is a party trying to figure out its future. And indeed, one of the issues that has to deal with is figuring out its future vis-à-vis, the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. Trump clearly intends to be a part of that future definition of the Republican Party. It is not at all clear whether he intends to be a candidate once again in the presidential election of 2024. Everyone on the Republican side, certainly Republican leaders understand that the big issue right now is the 2022 midterm elections. And Donald Trump will have a lot to do with that, even though he will not be on the ballot. He’ll have a lot to say with who is on the ballot and what the issues are. No question about that. And the Republican Party cannot win without President Trump’s voters going to the polls. But here’s the big issue.

The fact is that the central role of the third-ranking party member in the Republican leadership is to build Republican Party unity and a common strategy to win in the next election, whether or not it is a presidential election year or a midterm election. Every two years, the parties face the American people in one way or another. Liz Cheney’s responsibility as chair of the Republican conference was to build party unity and to build that unity around a common message. The problem is her message was wildly out of step with the rest of her party. The fact is that that’s not tenable under any circumstance, even though the Democrats are saying, “Look, this is a party that’s now demanding that everyone fall in line with Donald Trump.” The fact is that it really comes down to the fact that the Democrats wouldn’t tolerate for 10-minutes a leader in their own caucus who was standing over against the messaging of her own party.

That’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen in Britain, not going to happen in France, not going to happen in the United States, not going to happen among Democrats or Republicans, not going to happen in the past, not going to happen in the present or the future. You can count on it. Take it to the bank. It is really, really interesting, by the way, to watch what’s going on on the left right now in the Democratic Party because there are now two people it’s not sure what to do with. The one of them is Liz Cheney. And so you see articles, you see interesting statements being made by leading Democrats about her courage and bravery, yet they’re the very same people who despise every political position that Liz Cheney has ever stood for. And who will no doubt very quickly be saying very horrible things about her.

It’s opportunistic right now for the political left to act like Liz Cheney is their heroine. The fact is she is not. She won’t remain so. And the same thing, interestingly, is true on a broader canvas for former President George W. Bush, who has come back into the nation’s political conversation on issues, including immigration. The fact is that many amongst the Democrats, especially speaking in the news media would have you to think that they would welcome a resurgence of the Bush clan. And the return to what they would say would have been the bipartisan consensus that would have included, say, a Biden and a Bush on so many issues. But the fact is that the Republican parties now moved far beyond that era. And you see some very interesting things happening in the mainstream media, such as people castigating themselves and each other for all of a sudden saying nice things about George W. Bush because they then had to come back and say, “Remember all the horrible things that he did.”

Judged over the view of history, George W. Bush was a conservative president. No question about that. On many issues, such as pro-life issues, he was arguably more conservative than his father. He also, in office and out of office, has a very different personality than his father, whom he consistently honored. But the fact is that the entire Bush dynasty is now out of step with the Republican party headed in a more populist direction. That observation is not even a matter of any kind of disrespect to the former president. It’s just a reality of the fact we’re living in a very different political age. One last observation on this, Liz Cheney arranged for a prominent photographer who had been involved in the Ford administration to be with her yesterday to track the events because she believes they are historic. What does that signal? Well, it signals the fact that it’s really unlikely that your grandchildren are going to be sitting down for a news special 40 years from now about that day that Liz Cheney was ejected as the third-ranking leader in the House Republican Caucus.

No, this means she plans a political future for herself, for which she sees this new identity and branding as very, very important. So stay tuned. Liz Cheney doesn’t intend to leave your television screen.

Part II

China is Growing Old Before it Grows Rich: What Should We Learn from This Trend in China?

But next, let’s change the scene from the Republican conference in the US House of Representatives to the international picture in particularly looking at China. Just to remind yourself, 1949 in particular, the communist revolution that brought the Maoist regime to power, the Communist Party to power, in the world’s then most populous nation come to understand what that means as now you have a totalitarian state under communist control that is wedded to the powers of big high technology, including such things as facial recognition software. Understand that when you’re looking at China right now, you’re looking at a totalitarian regime, more totalitarian, not only in ambition but in ability than any previous regime ever. The Nazis as a fascist regime, the Soviets as a communist regime, neither of them had anything like the modern technology and surveillance state that China has now put in place.

And furthermore, even though it is the essence of a totalitarian regime to try to exercise total control, even invading the private institution of life, such as the family, and invading the private decisions of family life. The fact is that China is the worst actor in the history of humanity. So far as we know, and with new technology, it is certainly more deadly than any regime in human history. By the way, the background to this is also that China is now declaring itself a major competitor to the United States for world hegemony and influence. The Wall Street Journal reported just yesterday the fact that in 2016, a National Security Council memo to President Trump indicated that the goal of China, its aspiration, “is manifestly not to settle for a balance of power with the United States. It is to achieve hegemony over its neighbors and the Western Pacific.”

Moreover, this “goal of hemispheric supremacy” isn’t the whim of President Xi Jinping. And he’s been leader of the Chinese Communist Party since 2012, quote,” “It stems from Party aspirations going back decades, Xi is merely accelerating the timeline.” So, in other words, what you have here is the unfolding, the spooling out of the basic ambitions of the Chinese totalitarian government, going back to 1949. It now sees its opportunity on the world stage, but there’s a huge problem. You may see many headlines indicating that China’s economy is likely to eclipse the economy of the United States, or at least its buying power and economic influence within something like the next decade or two decades. But there’s a problem for China and reaching that goal. And it comes down to a very interesting sentence. China is growing old before it grows rich. China’s goal, the goal of the Chinese Communist Party had been to raise China’s economy from the ashes of the 1960s into a modern financial engine. A modern monetary and economic engine that would promise the Chinese people wealth.

And certainly in China in recent decades, you have seen a significant increase in wealth, an increase in technology, an increase in the economy writ large, but here’s the problem. China is growing old faster than it is growing rich. And that’s got to be a huge problem because old and rich do not go together demographically. If you get rich first, you might afford to be able to get old. But if you get old first, you’re never going to get rich as a society. And right now you see the headlines, several of them coming barreling at us just in recent days, indicating that China is now having to deal with a drop in births that is stunting its growth and stunning and frustrating its leadership. Sui-Lee Wee of the New York Times reports, “China’s population is growing at its slowest pace in decades, with a plunge in births and a graying workforce presenting the Communist Party with one of its gravest social and economic challenges.”

The details come down to this in summary, “Figures from a census released show that China faces a demographic crisis that could stunt growth in the country, the world’s second-largest economy. China has long relied on an expanding and ambitious workforce to run its factories and achieve Beijing’s powers, its dreams of building a global superpower and industrial giant.” “An aging slow-growing population, one that could even begin to shrink in the coming years, threatens that dynamic.” Now, indeed it does. And as we have seen on The Briefing, a decline in birth rate actually threatens every major economy around the world these days and that includes the United States. And the United States is not in the kind of dire position that China’s in. But the fact is that you are looking at declining birth rate all over the world in the modern age. Now, a part of the reason for that, by the way, is the modern age.

The fact that the modern age has brought developments such as contraception and birth control now widely available, but it’s not just that. In China efforts of birth control have taken on a draconian deeply evil sense with state coercion. Its one child only policy going back to the 1970s ruled that it was a criminal act for a married couple to have more than one child. It was an effort to try to stop what was then feared as the out-of-control population growth. But you’ll notice it led to not only a decrease in the birth rate with China’s totalitarian government telling parents how many children they could have but in order to bring an actual reduction about, China turn to forced abortions, forced sterilization and even infanticide. And even where the government didn’t officially order or conduct the infanticide, the forced abortion, and forced sterilizations, it created a social system in which that would inevitably happen often under the control local party officials.

It was inhuman. It was a direct subversion and contradiction of human dignity, and it was a regime of death. But China still is a regime of death. Make no mistake. Sui-Lee Wee wrote another article just published yesterday afternoon in the New York times about China wanting to boost births but wary of losing control. Here’s the problem. If you’re a totalitarian regime, then you’ve got to try to be the most totalitarian totalitarian regime ever. If you lessen up on any part, if you accept anything as outside the total control, then you weaken the claims of the regime.

And that means even the intimate decisions made by a husband and a wife about having children. In a panic about his demographic free fall, China had said just a matter of a few years ago that couples could have two children without facing criminal sanctions, but that’s not going to be enough because the Chinese people are now in the habit of not having children and it turns out that is a very hard habit to break.

Part III

The Eradication of Religion in China: Why Religion Is the Great Enemy of a Totalitarian Regime

But as we’re speaking about the deadly nature of this regime, let’s keep in mind another front-page article in the New York Times, very important. This is big news. And by the way, it takes big, international news sources such as The Times, in this case, to follow report on investigate and give us this kind of story. Here’s the headline: “China is forcing birth control on Muslim women in Xinjiang.” This is the province of China.

We’re talking about the Uighur people who are indeed being targeted with genocide by the Chinese Communist Party. This has meant forced sterilizations. It has meant concentration camps. It has meant an effort to try to reduce the births amongst the Uighurs. They are a Muslim people there in this province of China. And now, this article in the New York Times on the front page tells us that China is using the power of its totalitarian regime to force birth control on these Muslim women.

The Times report tells us this, “While the authorities have said the birth control procedures are voluntary interviews with more than a dozen Uighurs, Kazakh, and other Muslim women and men from Xinjiang, as well as a review of official statistics, government notices, and reports in the state-run media, depict a coercive effort by the Chinese Communist Party to control the communities’ reproductive rights.” Now notice something else there. Notice the phrase, the communities’ reproductive rights. There you see the worldview of the secular media that reduces everything to a matter of rights. What’s missing here is the larger context of the Christian worldview, an absolute right, an absolute wrong. According to this report, if we Uighurs had “too many children or refuse contraceptive procedures, they face steep fines or worse detention in an internment camp.”

“In the camps, the women were at risk of even more abuse. Some former detainees say they were forced to take drugs that stopped their menstrual cycles. One woman said she had been raped in a camp, quote.” To rights advocates and Western officials. The government’s repression in Xinjiang is tantamount to crimes against humanity and in large part because of the efforts to STEM the population growth of Muslim minorities.” But as we must bring this edition to The Briefing to end, the New York Times noticed this incongruency: “The campaign in Xinjiang is at odds with a broader push by the government since 2015 to encourage births, including by providing tax subsidies and free contraceptive removals.” Yes, you caught the irony. You caught the incongruity. This is a China. The future of which is now endangered by a falling birth rate and an aging population. But where they could actually have a growing birth rate and a younger population, they are instead responding with genocide.

Why? Because the Chinese Communist Party hates one thing more than it hates a future with a falling birth rate. And that is a future with a birth rate of more people who might have a higher allegiance to anything other than the Chinese Communist Party and as a message that Christians have better here, even as in this case, this targeted genocide is against the Uighur Muslims there in China. A totalitarian regime knows who its enemy is, and its enemy is anyone who believes that there is anything above the power of the totalitarian regime and such a regime basically makes itself an official idolatry. And make no mistake, every single idolatry turns itself into a culture of death. And now we see it made plain in China.

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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