Immediately upon the release of the Mueller Report and its eponymous author’s tepidly dry, hyper-qualified, squeamish defense, I knew we were finished. I knew that nothing short of angry, full-throated outrage would save it in its presentation, and instead we got the diametric opposite. All those months that turned into years were eradicated in a single afternoon. We needed an Al Pacino to present the case and instead we got Wally Cox. Robert Mueller could have been Beethoven, but instead of with the New York Philharmonic, he premiered the Ninth Symphony on a kazoo.
But now I’m not so sure any longer. I underestimated the enemy, I think. I think the kind of ignorance we are up against is not so easily assailed. Had Robert Mueller pounded the table instead of meekly tapping it, Mueller’s message would have still been received the exact same way. We underestimate how easy it is for some to believe that black is white and up is down. We forget we are dealing with a new Republican cult of death.
Contrary to what some people on our side are saying these days, believe it or not the Mueller Report was a thundering triumph, an unequivocal condemnation of the Trump campaign and its illegal activities. It was in fact so damning a condemnation of Donald Trump and his people that it actually led directly to some of them going to jail. Yet we as a nation and a people are so cowed by the ceaseless barrage of lies, whataboutisms, misdirections, distractions and petty equivocations by the monster that the Republican Party has turned into, that many of us have come to regard the Mueller Report as if it were a lot of much ado about nothing. The Mueller Report was in fact all the evidence and reason we needed to send Donald Trump and his pirate ship of criminals out of the White House and straight into the nearest prison.
Part of the reason it didn’t happen is because so many of us have fallen for Republican propaganda. The Republicans used it all those years, and they continue to use it, because it is so effective. It is effective because they believe it. They believe it because they believe they are commissioned by God, no less, and where exactly does one go to begin to dispute God?
We should therefore heed the voice of Frank Schaeffer. He alone was present at the misbegotten birth of this monster and has survived to tell the story with his sanity intact. Schaeffer grew up in a “fever pitch, right wing evangelical home.” It was Frank Schaeffer’s father, Francis Schaeffer, who inspired a generation of evangelicals to enter politics as the righteous defenders of the unborn in the early 70s. It was they who, as the younger Schaffer puts it, worked to “make abortion the litmus test of acceptable policy for evangelicals.” Frankie, as he was called then, was his father’s “nepotistic sidekick back in those days as a young man who had been groomed to take over his ministry.”
“That brings us to something that is going on today when you look at Attorney General William Barr,” Schaeffer proclaims in a recent online vlog, “who is busy trying to muddy the legal waters around the impeachment process against Donald Trump. William Barr is a far right Roman Catholic conservative activist, a Roman Catholic first and an American second, a right wing ideologue first and someone who has sworn to uphold the Constitution second.”
Schaeffer is declaiming against Barr’s interpretation of the DOJ Inspector General’s report on the investigation into the Donald Trump presidential campaign. Barr rejects out of hand the DOJ IG’s findings, that the FBI’s investigation was completely warranted and entirely free of political bias.
“He [Attorney General Barr] gave a speech at Notre Dame University that was passed over by much of the mainstream media until quite recently,” Schaeffer says. “But I knew exactly what was going on and called him on it at the time. And in that speech he talked about nefarious dark forces of secular liberals and humanists who were trying to undermine Judeo-Christian values … and this page is ripped directly from the writings of my father Francis Schaeffer, who in his last book, ‘A Christian Manifesto,’ called for the violent overthrow of the U.S. government if it did not change its policy on abortion.”
It is, of course, impossible to reason with a person who gets their mandate directly from God. It is made particularly difficult when any rationale that springs directly from science or an enlightened education is mistrusted as “the wisdom of the world” and considered inferior, even suspect, next to divine inspiration.
“I would say to some of my liberal friends who grew up in secular households,” Schaeffer continues, “you have no idea how serious these people are. And when you see someone like William Barr doing what he is doing you have to understand this is an issue of religion, not of politics.”
Schaeffer warns that this evangelical cult of death looks forward to war, it hopes for conflict in the Middle East, it eagerly awaits the destruction of the earth because those are the very things that presage the return of Jesus Christ to earth. It isn’t enough, presumably, for them to wait to die and go to heaven any more: they want to screw up our planet and send us to hell first.
Millions of people think this way right now, and they have at last co-opted a government that is ready to follow them into this madness. This is how ignorance combined with arrogance looks. It isn’t merely that all the evidence in the world will not change their minds, it’s that they neither believe nor trust anything that contradicts their narrative, no matter how compelling or logical it may be. “To understand this moment in history,” Schaeffer adds, “we have to understand there has been a civil war launched against the American state by religious fanatics who are using a fool named Donald Trump to achieve their ends.”
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.