Debunking Charlie Kirk on Trump as Lenten Hero
Charlie Kirk, founder and president of Turning Point USA, wrote an op-ed for Breitbart News on March 16. In time for Lent, its theme was Trump is a Jesus-like hero, a particularly solitary figure abandoned by everyone but the truly courageous. It is a crude act of Christian nationalism that is common for Kirk.
This theme is disturbing in itself. But first, some fact checks of what Kirk wrote.
“… a Bill that declared as unconstitutional the President’s National Emergency Declaration to fund a border wall.”
H.J.Res. 46 is not technically a bill, but a joint resolution, though “there is no real difference between a joint resolution and a bill,” according to the Senate website. Both categories of legislation have to pass through Congress and be signed by the president, though the resolution doesn’t become law.
“They did what is in their nature to do. They did nothing.”
The “they” here is Congress, specifically the GOP-controlled Congress from 2017–2019. It also seemingly includes the Democrat-led House from January until now. Kirk claims that these two groups “did nothing” to secure the southwest border.
In fact, in February, three weeks after a government shutdown ended, a $333 billion spending bill Congress approved and the president signed included “$1.375 billion for 55 miles of new fences along the border in Texas…” But this was “far short of the $5.7 billion Trump had sought for 234 miles of steel walls,” according to The Washington Post.
The Post points out also that “the final number for border barriers is also less than deals that were on the table last year.”
In 2018 the GOP-led Congress approved a $1.3 trillion budget that “included $1.6 billion for some projects at the border…. “ but “none of that can be used toward the border wall promised during the presidential campaign,” according to Politifact.
Politifact points out that a Customs and Border Patrol news release “highlights a 20-mile replacement of primary vehicle barrier in Santa Teresa, N.M.; replacement in San Diego of 14 miles of outdated steel plate barrier with a bollard structure; replacement of at least two miles of border barrier in Calexico with 30-foot bollard wall; and four miles of bollard wall in El Paso.”
Kirk also make an odd claim that the president “did not place his own Party in the position of having to shut the government down while they controlled both Houses of Congress.”
Kirk implies the president didn’t pursue legislation or funding that would force the GOP to vote against it. This is an odd and factually inaccurate argument, based on the budget deal the GOP and the president signed before the Democrats took over the House. But now that the Democrats control the House, Trump can pursue those bills and funding and force a shutdown “on” the Democrats.
Yet also Kirk blames the GOP-led Congress for “doing nothing” yet paints Trump as polite enough to not force the “do nothing” Congress to look bad by voting against his wishes. So Kirk would have the GOP-led Congress do nothing rather than vote against the President but then Kirk attacks the lack of action. Head-spinning sycophancy there.
Also, in advocating for the need for the emergency declaration, Kirk commits a fatal flaw: he admits Trump’s run-around of Congress. “For two years the President had a majority in the House and in the Senate and tried to rely on them to cooperate in getting our border secured,” Kirk wrote.
Trump has in fact declared a national emergency because he did not get what he wanted from Congress. Kirk seemingly accepts this flaw because he can use it to attack the 12 GOP senators who voted to terminate to the president’s declaration.
Whether the declaration is legal or constitutional, it would seem from Kirk’s own words that the emergency is not real because no president would wait two years to declare it if it was indeed an emergent situation.
“Americans feel border security is a really big problem and they are willing to spend money to address it.”
To make this claim, Kirk relies on some rhetorical sleight of hand. First, like Trump, Kirk conflates “border security” with “border wall.” Kirk links to a Daily Caller summary of polls on this issue and my subhead is Kirk’s summary of those polls. [I’m not linking to the DC story on purpose. You obviously can find it through Kirk’s article.]
The Daily Caller did the same conflation, though expanding that unethical sleight of hand move to conflate those two subjects with immigration. The Daily Caller wrote: “An Associated Press poll taken just before the shutdown shows that border security is among the top five concerns for the American people.”
But the AP poll named the top issue “immigration.” In its “top line” summary, it lists the category as “Immigration/border wall/DACA.” The poll pointed out the significant differences in partisan answers in other polls: “For example, a December poll by CNN found that 78 percent of Republicans and just 8 percent of Democrats supported building a border wall.”
This same misstatement by the Daily Caller also happens when it speaks about a Gallup poll. The Daily Caller wrote “a recent Gallup Poll — seen as the gold standard in polling — also reported that border security had moved into the top-two concerns for Americans just after the 2018 midterm elections.”
But the Gallup summary and its poll category said “immigration.”
The Daily Caller then cites a Economist/YouGov poll where according to the DC “a whopping 62 percent of Americans view illegal immigration” as either a “very serious problem” or a “somewhat serious problem.”
First, again, this poll is not about border security. Second, the poll gave respondents a scale of choices as the Daily Caller said. But 40 percent said “very serious problem” and 22 percent said “somewhat serious problem.”
And on the very serious responses, the poll showed the partisan divide not mentioned by the Daily Caller: “73 percent of Republicans, 38 percent of independents and 15 percent of Democrats agree.”
The poll did ask about one aspect of “border security.” It asked “Do you favor or oppose building a wall along the US-Mexico border to try to stop illegal immigration?” 45 percent opposed, 43 percent approved, and 12 percent were “not sure.”
The poll also asked what the president and Congress should do about the the government shutdown. The answer that received the most votes with 40 percent, winning by 16 percent: “President Trump should just accept the $1.6 billion Democrats had already agreed for border security.”
Kirk seemed to attack those reading poll results and “confusing” polling questions when he wrote this: “The polls on the border and the building of a wall can be confusing when looked at as independent parts of a whole because depending upon how the question is asked, journalists and pundits can cite scripture for their purpose and draw differing conclusions.”
With this move, Kirk tries to cover his own sins. It is clear Kirk doesn’t draw accurate conclusions or even name the polling questions accurately.
This entire claim also echoes what Kirk wrote at the beginning of the op-ed: “… any elected government leaders other than President Trump, are willing to stand up for the beliefs and intentions of a majority of Americans.” We can assume here that the “beliefs” and “intentions” are the importance of border security and the desire to build a border wall.
Kirk is wrong to claim that the “majority of Americans” support building that wall. According to January 2019 Gallup poll, “Sixty percent of Americans oppose major new construction of walls along the U.S.-Mexico border — the goal behind President Donald Trump’s budget showdown with Democratic leaders that led to a record 35-day partial shutdown of the federal government.”
Here is the results with a previous poll:
“[Trump] has been the subject contrived criminal investigations that have seen the use of law enforcement agencies turned into Tammany Hall type machinery.”
The key fact error here is “contrived.” Kirk has long derided the Mueller investigation, echoing Trump’s “witch hunt” and “presidential harassment” false statements. Here with an adjective that can be defined as “deliberately created rather than arising naturally or spontaneously” Kirk errors again. The investigation into Russia election interference arose because of statements and actions by Trump campaign operatives that predated the Mueller investigation’s legal opening, actions and statements that raised the eyes of the FBI. Such an investigation then rose “naturally” from the suspicions about those actions.
For those who don’t know “Tammany Hall” was “the name given to the Democratic political machine that dominated New York City politics from the mayoral victory of Fernando Wood in 1854 through the election of Fiorello LaGuardia in 1934.” It is best known for “charges of corruption levied against leaders such as William M. “Boss” Tweed.” Tweed’s corruption included “a variety of schemes, such as faked leases, unnecessary repairs, and overpriced goods, to launder hundreds of thousands of dollars of city funds,” along with “voter fraud and rigged elections.”
In the end, “Boss Tweed was brought down in large part by an expose by the New York Times and Harper’s political cartoonist Thomas Nast, who were investigating the large scale of corruption among the city’s political officials. Despite their efforts, they were largely unsuccessful until the election of 1871, when the public began to turn on Boss Tweed and the Tammany Hall machine.”
As usual, Kirk is trying to rhetorically reverse labels thrown at Trump back onto the Mueller investigation, and more broadly, the Democratic party.
Tweed has many similarities to Trump — hiring friends, voter suppression, fraud by campaign officials, and of course, emoluments.
Trump, Jesus, and the Association Game
Kirk calls the 12 GOP Senators who voted against the president’s emergency declaration the “gang of 12.”
But he also frames his entire op-ed in terms of the Christian gospel story of the last week of Jesus and the defection of his 12 disciples.
Here are the references to the gospels by Kirk:
12 Republican Senators (does that number sound at all familiar in the context of Lent?)
In the end, they all forsook him and fled.
We have the classic plotline of one solitary figure standing up against a unified threat. In traditional literature, the story usually ends tragically.
Kirk is implicitly saying that Trump is Jesus. Others have used different biblical figures to describe Trump. In short, those others paint Trump as a “vessel” for God. Kirk takes a short but important leap to Trump as Jesus, who was also a kind of vessel.
But the biggest link between Jesus and Trump is how Kirk ties both to Lent. Kirk says that the purpose of “giving up something for Lent” by Christians is to “focus on their faith and bring them nearer their God.” Kirk is giving up for Lent “the hope that any elected government leaders other than President Trump, are willing to stand up for the beliefs and intentions of a majority of Americans.”
So then the question is: how does this lack help Kirk focus his faith and bring him closer to Trump as the Jesus figure?
Kirk makes it clear his act of hopelessness — or discouragement over the courage of other US political leaders — fosters a focus on the hope of Trump. Kirk writes: “Is anybody ready to join me in giving up? Fortunately, the President isn’t giving up. He is going to veto…”
Then throughout Kirk’s focus on Trump’s “sacrifice” and the “tremendous adversity” the president has faced, Kirk sees all the sacrifice and adversity in his own “political” life. That focus helps us to see that Kirk’s last sentence is directed at others but also himself: “Have the courage to keep fighting.”
A focus on Trump as Jesus and his courage helps Kirk grow closer to Trump as Jesus and helps Kirk gain more courage.
The final association between Jesus and Trump is the hero. Kirk sees both as heroes because both heroically sacrificed themselves for their disciples. And not just those who believe in them, but the “whole world.”
This is why to Kirk saving America equals salvation in the religious sense. Saving America will only happen when a certain type of person is elected: “If this most recent rebuke of the President in the Senate doesn’t make clear to all Americans that the answer to our problems isn’t just to elect more Republicans, I don’t know what else can… We don’t need more “R’s” in elected government and we certainly don’t need more “D’s.” What we need are more “C’s,” as in courage.”
In the Christian gospels and scriptures, the “elect” can be a small number or it can be a big number. Kirk here is implying it can be a democratic majority.
This is Christian nationalism at its clearest.