Hurricane Harvey made landfall on Saturday, and is still doing damage. This unprecedented storm could have 3-4 more days to dump rain on the Houston area – up to 50 inches in some areas!
However, even headlines about Harvey have not been enough to make people forget all of the maneuvering that the Trump Administration did on Friday.
Donald Trump apparently thought Harvey would dominate the airwaves so he could do some things relatively unnoticed – like pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio, just as he warned he would do in a tweet not long ago. Political technicians call Friday’s ploy a “news dump.” In this case the president was using human tragedy for political gain. When asked about it, former RNC Chair Michael Steele said, “I can’t figure out crazy anymore.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer took to Twitter to accuse the President of using the storm as “cover,” and described that choice as, “So sad, so weak.”
The story of Arpaio’s pardon would not go away, despite the hurricane. The conservative Washington Examiner, for example, published a very critical editorial under the headline, “Trump, once the law and order candidate, embraces lawless disorder with Arpaio pardon.” The editorial board of the Arizona Republic, Arizona’s biggest newspaper, declared that, “Donald Trump’s pardon elevates Arpaio once again to the pantheon of those who see institutional racism as something that made America great.”
If the administration is hoping everyone eventually forgets about all of this, it does not look like Arpaio is going to help out by fading away. Despite being 85 years old, and having been thrown out of office by the voters of Maricopa County, he says he’s considering running for office because, “I think I’ve got a big political message to get out.” If John McCain’s senate seat comes open, it would not be a surprise to see “America’s Toughest Sheriff” make a run at it.
Why talk about this stuff?
It was a beautiful week last week in Pennsylvania. School is about to start. The church is ramping up to do great things. Why talk about Trump and some discredited racist sheriff from Arizona?
Here is one reason, as The Atlantic pointed out. Arpaio was not convicted of an ordinary crime, but of deliberately disobeying a federal court order and lying about that; but beyond that, during the litigation that led to his conviction for criminal contempt, he hired a private detective to investigate the wife of a federal judge hearing a case against his office.” Judges protect the rights of everyone in the United States – for a while yet. As Jesus followers, we are especially concerned for those who have no voice and few rights: the poor and oppressed – especially when the national sin of racism is prominent.
Another reason: Everyone in the news is teaching us, whether we are listening carefully or not. We are getting an idea of who we are from how our leaders act, even our children are learning about life from them. The news lets us know where we are now, and even more, it helps us discern where we need to go.
Right now, we are being led poorly and we need to go another direction. In all dire situations, in all times, the church needs to show where everyone needs to go. We never need to rely on elected officials to show us the way, but especially now, the leaders of the church should lead us to become an alternative to the madness. Trump is a big wind knocking down things that took a long time to build, and he, like Harvey, hits the poorest the hardest.
Here’s a final reason to listen to the news. Leaders need to listen. That means church leaders, parents, teachers, bosses, everyone. Trump is not listening. He is a textbook on lack of integrity. We need to take note. People may be briefly flummoxed by a narcissist, but they often figure out what’s going on. Even if they don’t fight back directly; they find ways to stop the process. So we will see where this all ends up. But, to be sure, a poor leader is bad for everyone. Beware! If you have responsibility, you need to wear it well. And don’t we all have some responsibility we should be taking seriously?