The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Thursday, September 2, 2021

It’s Thursday, September 2nd, 2021.

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

Part I

A Milestone in the Battle for Life: Supreme Court Allows Texas Abortion Law to Go Into Effect

Arthur Conan Doyle once wrote a famous Sherlock Holmes mystery in which the most important clue was not something that happened, it was something that didn’t happen. It was the dog that didn’t bark.

The big headline news for today is the fact that the Supreme Court didn’t act. The Supreme Court specifically did not act to block a bill that had been adopted now as the law of Texas that went into effect yesterday on September the first 2021, effectively putting an end to most abortions in the state of Texas. Specifically, putting an end to abortion after fetal heartbeat detection, at about six weeks of pregnancy. Now, as you’re looking at this story, it turns out to be an extremely big story. And what’s really interesting, and what essentially affirms the magnitude of this story, is that both sides in the abortion controversy recognize that this really is a huge development.

Now, what does it mean to say that the Supreme Court didn’t act? Well, it comes down to this. Those who are trying on behalf of the abortion rights movement, and specifically on behalf of abortion providers, as they call themselves in Texas, they had gone to the federal courts to try to block the Texas law. By the time the case went from a federal district court to the fifth circuit in New Orleans, the pro-abortion movement was already frustrated. Their ultimate appeal was to the Supreme Court of the United States, and the way that works is that the appeal would be directed to an individual Justice who has particular responsibility for that region of the country. In this case that would be Supreme Court, associate justice, Samuel Alito, and Justice Alito did not issue a stay. He did not block the law, and thus, it’s not just Justice Alito, it was the Supreme Court of the United States that allowed the law to go into effect.

Now let’s just stop for a moment. How big is that simple development, the fact that the law went into effect? It’s absolutely huge. As a matter of fact, it’s so huge that the abortion rights movement is in something that can only be described as shock. The left had the absolute confidence that at some point a federal court would put an injunction on this Texas bill banning its enforcement until there could be an eventual hearing and an appeal all the way to the Supreme Court. The Court did not act in that way.

Now, here’s what’s really interesting when you have this kind of case that is based upon an appeal, against this kind of law, and there’s an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, and the Supreme Court doesn’t act? Now that doesn’t tell you everything. It doesn’t tell you that the Supreme Court will eventually uphold the law. It does tell you that the Supreme Court was unwilling to use its authority to block the law. Meaning, at the very least, that the Supreme Court did not rule that this law is unconstitutional on its face. That really is massive.

It also shows you the power of the Supreme Court. It shows you the importance of the composition of the Supreme Court. Now, as we’re thinking about this, we need to look at the political context. The political context includes statements made midday yesterday by the President of the United States, a man who, by the way, throughout most of his career, tried to present himself in some sense as something short of an abortion rights zealot, but he gave that pretense up when he was running for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2019 and in 2020. And of course, now, he is the President of the United States, he is a democratic president, and he is an avid advocate of abortion rights, now virtually without any restriction whatsoever, including the fact that he advocates the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, that would require all American citizens to pay for abortion through taxpayer monies.

He has also indicated that he would support efforts to try to extend abortion rights, with federal funding by the way, all the way up until, well, frankly, the moment of birth, which is exactly what you see in the laws that have already been put into place in states such as New York and Rhode Island. But looking at the statement the president made yesterday, he described the Texas laws extreme: “This extreme Texas law blatantly violates the constitutional right established under Roe v. Wade, and upheld is precedent for nearly half a century.”

Well, put a stop sign at the end of that sentence, we need to pause and understand exactly what the President of the United States has said. We need to notice at first, what he did not say, what many in the media will act as if he did say. They will act as if the President said, and the President had rightly said, that the Texas law was a blatant violation of the text of the United States constitution. But the President didn’t say that, because it would be fundamentally untrue. He said it was a violation of what he called the constitutional right established under Roe v. Wade. Just extremely important that we understand what’s going on there.

The president was at least honest enough to say there isn’t any such right to abortion in the United States constitution, but nonetheless, it is a constitutional right, he argues, that was established under Roe v. Wade. Now, when did Roe v. Wade happen? 1776, 1789? No, 1973. The Supreme Court of the United States simply invented what was declared to be a new constitutional right to an abortion.

But now Joe Biden and the Democratic Party are arguing that this artificial right actually is so much a part of American constitutional law that it is untouchable. He goes on to make that second point when he said that the Roe v. Wade decision has been “upheld as precedent for nearly half a century.” Now here’s something to note, that might or might not even be a significant argument. It might be a significant argument if the fact it is a precedent that has stood for some time means that it has been unassailed even by legal authorities and even by members of the court. But that’s not true. The Roe v. Wade decision has been rightly assailed from the very beginning.

And furthermore, here’s something else to notice, every single precedent stands until it doesn’t. But what we have here is a classic clash of worldviews. The president went on to say, “The Texas law will significantly impair women’s access to the healthcare they need.” Okay, hold on a minute. The healthcare they need? Notice he is referring here to the willful termination, the ending of an unborn human life, in terms of a woman’s healthcare, describing that women need that healthcare.

And then he went on to say, this is very interesting. Let me read the sentence: “The Texas law will significantly impair women’s access to the healthcare they need, particularly for communities of color and individuals with low income.” Now, why would that be put in? Well, for one thing, because it’s political signaling, but there’s another aspect to this and that gets to the logic of the pro-abortion movement. And by the way, I don’t mean this as a partisan comment. It’s just an objective fact. It is now the orthodoxy of the Democratic Party in the United States, and that is this, that a right to abortion is not a functional right, if there is anyone who can’t afford it or who is inconvenienced trying to get it.

And so the argument here is that, and you’ll notice the bringing of race into this situation, communities of color and individuals with low incomes, they might not have the same opportunity as others to get on a plane and fly to, say, California for an abortion, therefore, what we have here is an inequity and an injustice. There you see how those particular issues function, particularly on the political left, but also just understanding how those issues now function in the American political conversation.

The president ended his comments by saying this. “My administration is deeply committed to the constitutional rights established in Roe v. Wade nearly five decades ago, and will protect and defend that right.” Again note, the President began and ended by referring to abortion as a constitutional right, but in perhaps an inadvertent honesty, admitted in both cases that it’s not in the constitution, but rather, it was invented, he says established, in the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973. Now, as I said, at this point, the big issue is what the Supreme Court did not do and that is big news. That can change. But at this point it is big news, and for that matter, it is very good news.

Part II

Elections Have Consequences — and the Supreme Court is One of Those Consequences

But next, this particular development reminds us to take a closer look at the importance of the composition of the Supreme Court. We often speak of liberal and conservative justices. And there are those who say, you shouldn’t talk that way because these are not to be partisan or ideological posts, but of course they are that way, which is why every intellectually honest person refers to the liberal justices, counting them basically right now as three. And the conservative justices, counting them as six.

And one of the things we now know about the Supreme Court is that you can predict where the court itself is likely to come down. What the vote is likely to be, how individual justices are likely to rule on so many of the most current and controversial questions, simply by whether or not the president who nominated that justice was a Democrat or a Republican. All six of those classified as conservative members of the Court were appointed by Republican presidents. Justices rightly identified as liberal were nominated to the court by Democratic presidents. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out the pattern.

And by the way, the reason the left is now so angry with the Supreme Court is because they have three justices, not six. Everything would be different if those on the left had six justices rather than three. It’s a matter of math. But here’s where we need to note something that I observed on Tuesday night. It was a tweet, that is a posting on Twitter, by Norm Ornstein, who is senior fellow emeritus of the American Enterprise Institute, a prominent Washington intellectual who’s been watching the Court and Washington politics for a very long time.

On Tuesday night, he issued this tweet: “As we wait for the Supreme Court, for some reason, I am thinking of Jim Comey’s letters.” Now some of you get that and some of you don’t. Here we had Norm Ornstein saying, “As we’re waiting to see if the Supreme Court is going to block this Texas abortion law,” he says, “for some reason, I’m thinking of Jim Comey’s letters.” Who was Jim Comey? James Comey was the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Why this tweet? It is because in the final weeks leading up to the 2016 presidential election, the director of the FBI undertook one of the most controversial actions ever taken by an FBI director. He issued a letter to Congress indicating that he was reactivating the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails, and the scandals that had been attached to those emails.

Hillary Clinton went on just a matter of days after the issue of the Comey letter to lose the election to Donald Trump. Now, that meant that so many on the left basically said that the FBI director had deep-sixed, had torpedoed the democratic nominees campaign. Looking at this tweet, it’s easy to understand exactly what Norm Ornstein was seeking to say. He says, “As we’re waiting for the Supreme Court,” he’s saying, “It could have been different if Hillary Clinton had been elected President of the United States.”

Now that’s a fair argument, but it’s also important we recognize what that argument means. That argument means that of the current nine justices of the Supreme Court, three of those justices, totalling 1/3rd of the justices, were nominated by the winner of the 2016 presidential election, President Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States. Three. Now if Hillary Clinton had been elected President of the United States, it would have been Hillary Clinton who had nominated three to the Supreme Court.

Now, what’s interesting there, as you might say, if you really are a watcher of things related to the Supreme Court, “Now wait just a minute, because President Obama had appointed Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, and had Hillary Clinton been elected, she would have just renominated Merrick Garland. So, you could score that one for Obama rather than Clinton.” No, you couldn’t, because the Democratic Party had moved so far left between the time that Barack Obama as President had nominated Merrick Garland to the Court, to the time that Hillary Clinton was nominated, the Democratic Party had shifted so far that Hillary Clinton would not say that if elected she would renominate Merrick Garland. Instead, that nomination likely would have gone to someone, even to Merrick Garland’s left.

So, just do the math. I mean, Norm Ornstein’s doing the math. He’s lamenting the math. He suggesting that it could have been, otherwise, that pro-abortion forces could have gone to bed on Tuesday night absolutely confident that the clear liberal majority on the U.S. Supreme Court would never let that Texas law go into effect. But there wasn’t a clear liberal majority on the Supreme Court, there was a conservative majority, and that does make a huge difference.

Elections have consequences. The election of a president of the United States has massive consequences. The future direction of the Supreme Court is one of the most important to those consequences. What Norm Ornstein was saying, wistfully was, that he wishes America could go back and write history a new, but we should be very thankful that as we look at the Supreme Court, we are looking at how history turned out, not how it might’ve happened in make-believe.

Part III

China Says “America Myth Down.” President Biden Says “Incredibly Successful.” Continued Humiliation After Afghanistan Evacuation

But next, we need to go back for a moment and consider other lessons that we are learning from the experience in Afghanistan. Now, one of the things we simply have to note is that sometimes we are looking at a simple denial of reality, and that’s what took place when the President of the United States made his comments on Tuesday describing the American, the humiliating evacuation from Afghanistan, as “an extraordinary success.”

Now, one of the things we need to note is that President Biden faces a massive credibility crisis, and he has caused for the entire United States of America a massive credibility crisis. More on that in just a moment. His personal credibility crisis has a great deal to do with the fact that the words that condemn him are his own. It was President Biden, who earlier in his administration had said that the American withdrawal would be orderly. He went on to say, “You’ll see no such sites as what took place in the 1970s in the American evacuation of Saigon.” That turned out to be true only in the sense that some of these pictures, some of these images, were actually worse.

Even in the days, leading up to this evacuation, the president had assured America that these kinds of scenes would not happen, and then the president said two things which understood rightly are contradictory. The president has repeatedly made these two statements recognizing what could only be described as the cognitive dissonance of saying both of them. He says on the one hand, “We foresaw every possibility, we made every calculation, we made no mistakes in our understanding of how this should happen.” The second statement is, “No one could have foreseen just how soon the Afghan government could have fallen.” Well you can’t claim that you had foreseen everything and left nothing out, and then come back and say, “We were surprised.” Actually, the point is this, you can’t say, “We weren’t surprised,” and then answer in the next question, “We were totally surprised.” It’s one or the other. It can’t be both.

Of all the words, both Americans and those around the world, might’ve expected the president of the United States to use in reference to the American evacuation from Afghanistan, you wouldn’t have expected the words “extraordinary success,” but those were the words uttered by the president. And it’s interesting to note in political terms that members of his own party are in active retreat from the president’s statement, from the words he chose, and from the decisions that he made.

Now, we should also acknowledge that it is likely true that a majority of Americans would no longer support a costly and lengthy American involvement in Afghanistan. It is also true that the historians will be arguing about Afghanistan and the American involvement for a very, very long time. But the issue is that it is almost impossible to believe that there will be any lengthy debate over whether or not the American evacuation was disastrous and humiliating. It was both, and you do not need historical space to understand that.

Furthermore, the President had assured Americans that no one would be left behind, that the American evacuation of both Americans there in Afghanistan, and those who are the friends of America trying to get out, that no one would be left behind. But we now know that tens of thousands of Afghanis were left behind, and now we also know that something like 100 to 200 Americans who wanted to get out were also left behind when the American transport plane left the nation. We’re now looking at the undeniable reality that many Americans were left behind, and there are countless more Afghanis who were the friends of the United States who were also left behind. Every single one of them has a life that is now endangered. That’s probably most true of the Afghans who cooperated with American military forces, but it’s true of anyone who has now left in the grip of the Taliban.

A couple of interesting observations here. For one thing, you have people around the world taking note, as I said, both our friends and our enemies, as we’ve talked about this. Beijing, the communist regime in China, has been crowing about its pleasure in seeing America humiliated. With the scene of the last American air force plane leaving Afghanistan, a spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry said, “American myth down. More and more people are awakening.”

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal was reporting that Islamist and radical groups all over the world were sending congratulations to the Taliban for their total victory over against the United States of America in Afghanistan. As the journal reported, “The group has received congratulations from Islamist movements around the world, including those that Washington classifies as terrorist.”

But before we leave the issue of Afghanistan, we need to recognize that there is a moral demand, a moral responsibility, that falls upon the United States of America, regardless of the arguments about whether or not America should have stayed in Afghanistan as long, or conducted military operations as we did, the reality is we have endangered the lives of many Afghanis and others by leaving them in Afghanistan. That is a moral burden that America must recognize. It is a moral responsibility that America must, one way or the other, fulfill, or the disaster in Afghanistan is going to become an even larger human and moral disaster. And rightly, the reputational damage to the United States of America will be even more significant.

Part IV

Actor Ed Asner, a Paragon of Liberalism in Hollywood, Dies at 91

But finally, for The Briefing today, we look again at the power of popular culture and what we learn about how Hollywood operates and how it extends its influence throughout the United States, in ways we might not always recognize. The stories that Americans watch, the television programming, the movies, the music that Americans hear, the storylines that interest Americans, the videos, all the rest, all this becomes a part of the reach of popular culture into not only American homes, but into American hearts in American minds.

Now, interestingly, almost all of the major media reported the death just days ago of Ed Asner, a major Hollywood actor who died at age 91. Now the reality is that this is a generational headline, in the sense that many Americans of a certain age will think of Ed Asner and immediately go to the Mary Tyler Moore Show, or to the show that was simply known as Lou Grant. More on that in a moment. But there are younger Americans who, even if they didn’t recognize Ed Asner’s face, would certainly recognize his voice as the most dominant voice in movies, such as Up and Elf.

Ed Asner was a fixture in Hollywood, but it wasn’t always so. He was 40 years old and described as a journeyman actor, that is to say, he didn’t have any stable part, when he was chosen as one of the central cast members of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, that ran from 1970 to 1977 on CBS. The Mary Tyler Moore Show was itself a hallmark in cultural change in the United States, focusing on Mary Tyler Moore as a single professional, a character, in the twin cities of Minnesota, and focusing upon her life and the ensemble cast that had been arranged around her in order to get a picture of America in the 1970s, but not just a picture of America as it was, but a picture of America as Hollywood wanted it to become.

Any way you look at it, Ed Asner was a classic character actor and one of great talent. In the very first episode of the Mary Tyler Moore show, he, representing the head of the newsroom, receives Mary Tyler Moore as a new news staffer. Looking at Mary Tyler Moore, Ed Asner as Lou Grant said, “You’ve got spunk.” He then paused and added, “I hate spunk.” That became one of the iconic lines of American television in the 1970s.

But interestingly, Ed Asner then became the star of his own show known as Lou Grant, the character from the Mary Tyler Moore show. But the Mary Tyler Moore Show was a comedy. Lou Grant was a drama. At this point, Ed Asner in the character of Lou Grant represents the only character to become famous to Americans in a comedy to then shift to a dramatic program.

In Hollywood, Ed Asner was known as an actor’s actor, and he was later elected the President of the Labor Union, for Hollywood Actors, the Screen Actors Guild, and his liberal activism was given full voice and full platform, especially in the 1980s during the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

Here’s the irony. Ronald Reagan, as an actor, had been President of the Screen Actors Guild. If you want to understand the cultural bookmarks in the United States, you can look at two actors who both served as the presidents of the Screen Actors Guild. Ronald Reagan, President of the Screen Actors Guild during the 1950s and Ed Asner, President a generation later. One, a conservative who grew more conservative in that role, and the latter, a liberal who grew more liberal in that role.

But one of the things we need to note is that Ed Asner represented what Hollywood had become, and is even now more becoming, and that is a liberal bastion where conservatives who at one point could be not only featured in films, but even elected President of the Screen Actors Guild, are now extremely rare on the ground. So rare, that in many cases, you can’t even find one. At least you can say you never had to wonder where Ed Asner stood. His last book published in 2017 was entitled The Grouchy Historian: An Old-Time Lefty Defends Our Constitution Against Right-Wing Hypocrites and Nutjobs. You can’t say he held back his words.

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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