“May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us in all our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.” —George Washington (1790)
IN TODAY’S EDITION
- 50 years ago, the astronauts of Apollo 8 issued a special message.
- Shutdown theater is organized political optics.
- Daily Features: On the Web, Columnists, Headlines, Memes, Cartoons, Opinion in Brief, and Short Cuts.
- Featured Analysis: U.S. Departs Syria, Mattis Departs Pentagon
At the end of each year, I ask my editors and staff to take leave between Christmas and New Year’s Day in order to be with their families. Moreover, I want each of our team members to step back from the rigors of relentless daily deadlines so that they can begin January with a fresh perspective.
As always, I’ll remain on the wall with our Managing Editor, Nate, keeping watch for any mischief from the adversaries of Liberty. And our News Editor, Jordan, will be updating our Top Headlines section and Columnist/Opinion pages every day, and our regular editions will return on January 2nd.
Pro Deo et Constitutione — Libertas aut Mors
Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
Mark Alexander, Publisher
The Patriot Post
It was December 24, 1968, 50 years ago this upcoming Christmas Eve, that astronauts on the first manned space mission to circle the Moon transmitted a message that provided hope and encouragement for hundreds of millions of people back on planet Earth.
It had been a tumultuous year in America and around the world, and their message provided a great sense of unity and peace — a message that’s applicable today and for all eternity.
Apollo 8’s crew, Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders had launched their historic and dangerous flight on December 21. It took them 68 hours to travel 240,000 miles to the Moon, but their reward was spectacular. They became the first humans to orbit another celestial body, to see the bleak far side of the Moon, and to witness a stunning “Earthrise,” photographs of which provided the first human look back at our own planet.
On that Christmas Eve, people around the globe watched the grainy televised images recording Apollo 8’s view of the Moon’s surface below them. On their ninth lunar orbit, Borman began their television transmission with an introduction of the crew. Each gave their perspective on the Moon’s surface, with Borman describing it as “a vast, lonely, forbidding expanse of nothing.”
Then, unexpectedly, the astronauts began reading the Creation account from Genesis.
William Anders: “We are now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you. ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, "Let there be light.” And there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good. And God divided the light from the darkness.’“
James Lovell: "And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.’ And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.”
Frank Borman: “And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas. And God saw that it was good.”
Commander Borman finished the broadcast, saying, “And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you — all of you on the good Earth.”
It was 2.5 hours later that the crew began a critical burn from the far side of the Moon, out of contact with mission control. This burn had to be carried out with absolute precision in order to put the astronauts back on a track to leave the Moon’s gravitational force and begin their return to “the good Earth” on Christmas Day. That burn went exactly as planned, and upon reacquiring contact with Mission Control, Jim Lovell’s first words were, in his humorous style: “Please be informed: There is a Santa Claus.”
Merry Christmas and God bless all of you!
What a difference 24 hours can make. Early yesterday, it appeared that Democrats had won a surprising victory with the Senate’s passage of a stopgap spending bill that did not include any funding for President Donald Trump’s long-demanded border wall. It looked as if Trump had finally capitulated to the Democrats, with the White House indicating that he would sign the legislation.
However, then came the unexpected twist. Trump called a seeming “last minute” meeting with Republican House leadership that concluded with outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan stating, “The president informed us that he will not sign the bill that came up from the Senate last evening because of his legitimate concerns for border security.” What then transpired could best be described as Trump calling the bluff of incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
In last week’s on-camera Oval Office wall brawl between Trump and Democrat leaders Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer, the following argument over wall funding occurred:
“If I needed the votes for the wall in the House, I would have them in one session — we’d be done,” Trump insisted.
“Well, then do it. Do it,” Pelosi said. “You will not win. The fact is you do not have the votes in the House.”
“Nancy, I do,” replied Trump.
“Well,” she taunted, “then let’s take the vote and find out.”
And then yesterday happened. House Republicans proved Trump correct, as they voted to insert $5.7 billion in funding for the border wall into the bill. Now the legislation heads back to the Senate as talk of a (meaningless) government shutdown looms.
This is classic Trump: He intentionally presents an image of chaotic, spur-of-the-moment decision-making that has everyone’s heads spinning. But there’s a method to his madness. He was elected to shake things up in Washington, and indeed the centralized power structure has been shaken.
So, regarding this spending bill, what is the endgame? It appears likely that Trump will get some funding for the border, though perhaps not the entire $5.7 billion. It may be the Senate concedes to something in the range of $1.6 billion. The important point will be that Trump opens the door to finally get funding for his wall. Once it’s opened, then it can subsequently be pushed further.
ON THE WEB TODAY
- DHS: Asylum Seekers Must Remain in Mexico to Await Approval — Trump closes a gaping asylum loophole. How long will his sanity hold up in court?
- The Right Prescription: Less Government — There are important deregulation efforts afoot that will help lower prescription-drug prices.
- Video: A Democrat Makes the Case Against Impeaching Trump — Twenty years ago, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said this about Bill Clinton.
BEST OF RIGHT OPINION
For more of today’s columns, visit Right Opinion.
- James Mattis quitting as defense secretary, citing disagreements with Trump (National Review)
- U.S. says asylum-seeking migrants to wait in Mexico (Associated Press)
- Dow drops 470 points to 14-month low in second day of big losses following Fed rate hike (CNBC)
- Trump signs and celebrates the farm bill (ABC News)
- Criminal justice bill passes House, heads to President Trump for his signature (USA Today)
- Whitaker cleared to oversee Mueller probe after ethics investigation (Townhall)
- DC-area federal government workforce continues to shrink (WTOP)
- Jack Phillips is now in court for not baking a “gender transition” cake (The Daily Wire)
- Planned Parenthood accused of mistreating pregnant employees (The Washington Free Beacon)
- Humor: Disappointed soldier was looking forward to hanging out in Syria for another 20, 30 years (The Babylon Bee)
- Policy: The preexisting-condition trap (National Review)
- Policy: DeVos rule on sexual harassment restores primacy of law (RealClearPolitics)
For more of today’s news, visit Patriot Headline Report.
For more of today’s memes, visit the Memesters Union.
For more of today’s top cartoons, visit the Cartoons archive.
One withdrawal created the Islamic State; the other was the result of defeating it.
In a decision that countered the recommendations of some of his advisers and congressional allies, Commander in Chief Donald Trump did what he said he was going to do for the last two years — withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. According to the president, “After historic victories against ISIS, it’s time to bring our great young people home!”
“We have won against ISIS,” he added, “We’ve beaten them and beaten them badly.” In doing so, President Trump hung his “mission accomplished” banner in Syria. That not only brought out the congressional critics but prompted the anticipated resignation of Secretary of Defense James Mattis, the most respected of Trump’s cabinet members — a man whose distinguished service to our nation qualified his standing as a force for stability in matters of national security.
Congressional hawks like Sen. Lindsey Graham, referring to Barack Obama’s unilateral political move of withdrawing from Iraq, warned, “I don’t think General Trump is going to do any better than General Obama.” Echoing Graham, fellow Sen. Marco Rubio called the withdrawal a “colossal” mistake that has “basically turned the country over to Russia and to an even greater extent, Iran.”
There are some comparisons but also major differences. The Syria withdrawal involves about 2,000 U.S. personnel who are largely there in advisory and training roles. Obama’s politically motivated actions in Iraq required withdrawing tens of thousands of troops who were the last line of defense against the emergence of ISIS. Trump also lacks constitutional authority to remain in Syria. More on that in a minute.
Graham’s caution that premature departure from Syria could yield undesirable consequences is noted. But Obama’s decision to withdraw from Iraq enabled the rise of the Islamic State from “JV team” to caliphate and created an epic humanitarian crisis. That caliphate may be no more, but a small portion of Syria remains under ISIS control, and as Syrian government troops clash with insurgents trying to overthrow the Assad regime, ISIS could return to fill in the void. But President Trump was adamant about making the move earlier this year and now it will be done. “Time for others to finally fight,” said the president.
One of those “others” — and among the few applauding Trump’s decision — is Russian President Vladimir Putin, who now has an unfettered hand with which to prop up Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad. “If the United States decided to withdraw its force, then this would be right,” said the Russian leader, who claimed the United States was interfering in his efforts to bring a political solution to the Syrian problem.
The stance makes Putin a strange bedfellow with some GOP lawmakers. Sen. Rand Paul, who declared, “I am happy to see a President who can declare victory and bring our troops out of a war. It’s been a long time since that has happened,” also remarked that Trump was simply making good on a campaign promise. Meanwhile, fellow Sen. Mike Lee gently chided Graham, insisting that this Syrian withdrawal is not just “the opposite of an Obama decision,” but it reverses an unauthorized action. “Congress has never declared war, or authorized the use of military force in Syria,” Lee correctly noted. “We shouldn’t be there anyway.”
Lee’s view was echoed by National Review’s David French, a veteran of Iraq. However, while French argues that the 2002 AUMF often used as justification for forays into the Middle East “is not a catch-all provision designed to authorize force against any jihadist force, anywhere, for all time,” French and his NR cohorts would have preferred that Trump secure permission from Congress to remain in Syria rather than leave the situation for Russia and other outside players to resolve.
Yet Syria may be the tip of the iceberg. A “major withdrawal” of troops from Afghanistan — our longest battle of the Long War — may also be in the offing.
Which brings us to the release of Secretary of Defense James Mattis’s retirement letter. His February departure was deemed “sudden” in media reports but wasn’t unexpected by insiders, who noted it had been “on the board” for two months. Whatever the case, the SecDef’s sentiment — “because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours … I believe it is right for me to step down from my position” — showed obvious frustration with the president. “This isn’t just retiring. This is quitting in protest,” opined frequent Trump critic Susan Wright.
Perhaps. Or perhaps as with most things Trump, some of the “chaos” is actually planned.
One year hence, at which time our nation will be heading into a presidential election year, the American defense landscape could be radically different than the one we’ve come to accept for the last several years. A new secretary of defense will be overseeing a military that’s focused less on directly fighting the Long War and perhaps retrenched away from the Middle East for the first time in decades. In any case, the effects of Trump’s announcements will continue long after he leaves office.
OPINION IN BRIEF
Erick Erickson: “Jesus could have been a conman surrounded by other conmen. They, in turn, were willing to die to keep the con going and got others to die keeping the con going. Or there is something else. Dozens claimed to be the Christ, but only Jesus is remembered and worshiped as the Christ. Why? Perhaps because it is true. I, however, cannot convince you of more than that the historic evidence for his existence and the willingness of many to die for him is true. But if I am right, you can ask Jesus yourself. Take to your knees and embrace the wonder of this season. Cry out to Jesus, be still and listen. Merry Christmas.”
The BIG Lie I: “The president is doing everything that he can to shut the government down.” —House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
The BIG Lie II: “The administration is now deciding they will make an assault on poor people in America. … Why at Christmas would you take food out of the mouths of the American people?” —Nancy Pelosi
Non Compos Mentis: “I firmly believe the [Constitution] permits indicting a sitting president, but if DOJ disagrees, indicting his children, the Trump Org & Foundation for their roles in wrongdoing is a great alternative — or addition.” —Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks
Dezinformatsiya I: “[Trump] has taken full credit for things that he doesn’t deserve full credit for because a lot of this stuff gets set in motion before, and a lot of it is about the end of the Obama presidency. He then has to take full blame for it when in the second two years of his presidency, after his policies have had more time to kick in, the economy is doing worse.” —New York Times columnist Frank Bruni
Dezinformatsiya II: “He rode the Obama economy for the first part of the presidency. He’s still riding it!” —CNN’s Don Lemon
Speak of the devil: “I’d say we’re in for contentious times and for too many rules, too many constricting mandates and probably too much spending.” —California Gov. Jerry Brown
Alpha Jackass: “It is repugnant to me and astonishing to me that during Christmas, I like to call it the holiday season to be inclusive, but during Christmas the majority always wants to just call it Christmas, a time in which we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, a Jesus Christ who had to flee for his life with Mary and Joseph. Thank God there wasn’t a wall that stopped him from seeking refuge in Egypt. Thank God that wall wasn’t there, and thank God there wasn’t an administration like this or he would have too perished.” —Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) (Evidently, he’s never heard of King Herod.)
And last… “The reason a secure border wall has not been — and may not be — built is not apprehension that it would not work, but rather real fear that it would work only too well.” —Victor Davis Hanson
Join our editors and staff in daily prayer for our Patriots in uniform — Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen — standing in harm’s way in defense of Liberty, and for their families. We also humbly ask prayer for your Patriot team, that our mission would seed and encourage the spirit of Liberty in the hearts and minds of our countrymen.
Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
Nate Jackson, Managing Editor
Mark Alexander, Publisher