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Papal and presidential pressures

End-of-August news: Rome, Caracas, New York, Washington

Papal and presidential pressures

Cardinal Archbishop Emeritus Theodore McCarrick greets Pope Francis in 2015. (Jonathan Newton-Pool/Getty Images)

“He knew from at least June 23, 2013, that McCarrick was a serial predator. … Pope Francis must be the first to set a good example for cardinals and bishops who covered up McCarrick’s abuses and resign along with all of them.”

That’s from a statement Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò released on Aug. 26, attaching the pope to accusations that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former Washington, D.C., archbishop, had sexually abused seminarians. The New York Times twisted itself into a pretzel in covering this story: The Times applauds homosexuality and Francis’ liberalism, dislikes celibacy and cover-ups, and was obliged to report that the pope, in a late evening press conference on Aug. 26, did not deny Viganò’s charge.

The Times showed more sympathy for Venezuelans who wanted the resignation of their country’s president, Nicolás Maduro. What was once the richest nation in Latin America now has extreme food shortages, and in late August those fleeing his failed socialist regime found the exodus growing even more difficult. Rioters in Brazil drove hundreds of Venezuelan refugees back over the border and burned their makeshift camps.

Residents of the border town of Cúcuta, Colombia, haven’t responded to massive border crossings with violence, but many say they can’t absorb more refugees into the already-strained region. Residents want outside help but are reluctant to have the United Nations officially declare a refugee crisis: That could lead to the establishment of refugee camps lasting for years.

Meanwhile, a handful of candidates in the U.S. midterm elections are touting the utopian promises of democratic socialism. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., brought fresh popularity to the idea during the 2016 presidential election, and New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has found instant fame with her recent primary win running on a socialist platform.

Richard Drew/AP

Maduro (Richard Drew/AP)

Democratic socialists say comparing them to Maduro isn’t fair, since they aim to make changes through free and fair elections. But Venezuelans freely elected former President Hugo Chávez, largely based on his promises of a vast welfare state that quickly turned socialist and has now crumbled under his successor. Now, Venezuela’s money is worth so little that its highest use is in handbags made entirely out of bolívars, worth 0.0004 of a penny on Aug. 24.

The New York Times seemed truly enthusiastic only in calling for one very unlikely resignation: Donald Trump’s. “Congress, Do Your Job” read one Times headline after a dramatic hour in the afternoon of Aug. 21: As former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight felonies in New York City, a jury near Washington was convicting former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on eight criminal charges: bank fraud, tax fraud, failing to disclose foreign bank accounts.

How should we wade through that swamp? Two pundits whose names ended in Z saw it differently: Politically liberal Alan Dershowitz said, “Trump appears to be guilty of political sins, but not federal felonies or impeachable offenses.” Politically conservative Norman Podhoretz wrote seven times in one column that Trump “committed a felony.”

(The issue involves Cohen paying off women to stay quiet about two possible Trump extramarital affairs, including one with a porn star: Trump has denied both.)

Some conservative evangelicals are OK with the present but worried about the future. On the plus side, many are satisfied that President Trump has honored his campaign promises regarding judicial appointments and done what he can on abortion (not much, given the Senate’s recalcitrance). On the minus side, it’s clear that leftists using Trump as a community organizing device have also been gratified: Their armies are motivated and growing.

What will happen down the road? Are we building a city on a hill, to use the term that Puritan John Winthrop brought to America and President Ronald Reagan popularized in the 1980s—or are we slouching toward Venezuela? Donald Trump’s particular unpopularity among new and future voters is troubling. One poll showed 82 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds who identify with Republicans saying they “want another Republican to challenge President Trump for the party’s nomination in 2020.” Another poll showed most younger Americans sympathizing with socialism.

The last youthful twitch toward socialism came in the 1960s and 1970s, as Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon propelled many to favor what they were against. Ronald Reagan’s skill as a public educator stopped that movement: His firm exhortation and gentle humor appealed to the best in us. Today, it’s not surprising that young people instructed for years in public schools, left-dominated colleges, and propagandizing media will repeat what their instructors have taught them. But to avoid a Venezuela-like debacle, we need admirable leaders who can explain how private enterprise serves the public.

By the way, we try in WORLD to keep a balance of positive and negative news, and we’re sorry that this issue has lots of negatives. We’re praying for a better September.

Marvin Olasky

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. His latest book is World View: Seeking Grace and Truth in Our Common Life. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

Marvin Olasky

Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the political beat and other topics as national editor for WORLD Magazine. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.