In Commuting Blago’s Sentence, Trump Pardons “The Swamp”

In 2008, then Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was charged with bribery, wire fraud, attempted extortion, and racketeering. Soon after, he was impeached and removed from office.

His most famous corruption scheme, of course, involved his attempts to sell Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat. Many of us remember the FBI’s audio-recordings of him using some pretty colorful language while trying to broker the deal. Those soundbites received a huge amount of media airtime, especially on Fox News where folks like Sean Hannity had a field day playing them back to back with Obama’s earlier political endorsement of Blagojevich. Blago’s other charges included his shaking down of multiple individuals… including a children’s hospital executive of all people.

Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald referred to Blago’s criminal adventures as a “political corruption crime spree,” and in 2011, the former governor was convicted on 17 counts. While prosecutors sought a sentence of 15 to 20 years (citing “extensive corruption in office”), the judge in the case decided on 14 years — the length of which had been upheld through subsequent appeals, including all the way to the Supreme Court.

By any objective standard, Blago was a poster-child for American political corruption — the very epitome of “the swamp” we’ve heard so much about in recent years. And our legal system, at multiple levels, seemed to agree.

But something changed in 2018, after the Supreme Court rejected Blago’s appeal. His wife Patricia turned up on Fox News programming to put forth an appeal of her own — this time to the President of the United States.

As some may remember, Blago had a bit of a relationship with Trump, having oddly competed on Trump’s NBC reality show, Celebrity Apprentice, as he awaited his trial. Since winning the presidency, Trump had also been on the receiving end of lots of praise from Blago in interviews from behind bars. Patricia worked to tighten that relationship, in her appearances on Trump’s favorite television network, by drawing comparisons between her husband’s legal woes and what the president was going through with the Russia investigation.

“I see that the same people that did this to my family,” Patricia told FNC’s Martha MacCallum in one of those interviews, “the same people that secretly taped us and twisted the facts and perverted the law that ended up my husband in jail, these same people are trying to do the same thing they did to my husband, just on a much larger scale.”

Her efforts proved promising. Trump was soon in front of cameras saying that he was “thinking very seriously” about commuting Blago’s sentence.

“I thought he was treated unbelievably unfairly…” Trump said of Blago. “And it was the same gang—the Comey gang and all these sleazebags—that did it.”

In reality, James Comey wasn’t even working in government at the time, and didn’t become the director of the FBI until two years after Blago’s conviction.

Regardless, earlier this week, Trump commuted Blago’s sentence, shortening it by six years. He offered the below explanation:

“He served eight years in jail, it’s a long time. I watched his wife on television. I don’t know him very well; I’ve met him a couple of times… He was on for a short while on Apprentice years ago. Seems like a nice person, don’t know him, but he served eight years in jail, a long time he had to go, many people disagree with the sentences. He’s a Democrat; he’s not a Republican.”

Trump, again, falsely claimed that James Comey was behind the prosecution, and called Blago’s sentence “a tremendously powerful ridiculous sentence.”

How compelling.

Now, it should be noted that U.S. presidents are afforded the legal right to pardon, or commute the sentence of, anyone they want to, and at any time they want to. They don’t need a reason, and they aren’t required to explain themselves.

It’s also true that past presidents have pardoned and commuted the sentences of people who’ve done worse things than Blago.

But one big takeaway here is the effective neutering of the notion that President Trump has any interest at all in “draining the swamp,” the phrase he and his supporters often use when describing the president’s alleged anti-corruption crusade.

It was a laughable theme when it was used to defend Trump’s illegal delay of defense funding to Ukraine, and it’s a laughable theme now.

There is no serious argument that Blago is innocent of what he was serving time for. And despite Trump’s claims to the contrary, next to no one familiar with our legal system believes that Blago’s sentence was overly harsh for the very serious corruption-related crimes he was convicted of.

As Tom Rogan of the Washington Examiner wrote, Blago is “one of the mosquitolike corrupt officials who suck the blood out of democracy.”

Yet, Trump commuted the man’s prison time nearly in half. And for what reason? Because of a television relationship? Because Trump’s ego and persecution complex were played up to on national television?

Again, Trump had every right to spring Blago. But one can only imagine the outcry from the political right and conservative media if it had been President Obama who had done this.

A Response to 2 Secular Conservatives I Adore

In the latest edition of “The Rubin Report” podcast, two people I adore, Dave Rubin and Heather Mac Donald, dialogue about some of the great issues facing America. Interestingly, though both are secular, Dave opened the interview asking Heather about God and religion.

She began by saying that she is not conservative because of religion but because of her commitment to empirical truth. It is empirical truth that leads her to affirm, for example, “the necessity of the two-parent family” and “most traditional values.”

Heather is right that one cannot be committed to empirical truth and be a leftist (though one can be a conservative or a liberal). Left-wing assertions that men give birth; that America was founded in 1619 (when the first enslaved black was brought to the American colonies); that people can be lifted from poverty on a mass scale without capitalism; that there are no innate differences between men and women; that America is a racist nation; that women are paid less than men for the same type and amount of work because they are women; and innumerable other leftist assertions are all false.

But while a secular conservative may be committed to the two-parent family because of empirical truth, marriage and family are not “empirical truths” nearly as much as they are religious values. Few secular arguments to get married and/or have children are as compelling as religious ones. That’s why religious people are so much more likely to get married and have children.

Mac Donald said: “(P)eople who I respect enormously … whether it’s Dennis Prager or Michael Medved … are making the argument that you cannot have a moral society without a foundation of religious belief.”

That is precisely the argument nearly every founder of America made. Not all were Christ-centered Christians, but virtually every one believed that inalienable rights come from the Creator, and only from the Creator. And none (except perhaps Thomas Paine) believed that America could endure if it were to become a godless society.

Mac Donald: “Part of my resistance to this is simply I don’t find claims of petitionary prayer and the idea of a personal loving God consistent with what I see — what I call the daily massacre of the innocents. To me it’s a very hard claim to make that I should expect God to pay attention to my well-being when He’s willing to allow horrific things to happen to people far more deserving and innocent than I am. So, for me, it’s partly just a truth value. I cannot stomach what appears to me to be a patently false claim about a personal loving God.”

I agree with Heather’s premises but not with her conclusion. I have never believed that God has any reason to pay more attention to me than to any other innocent human being. And I, too, “cannot stomach” the “daily massacre of the innocents” — so much so that I have written how I find the commandment to love God the hardest commandment in the Bible.

But what I also cannot stomach is the thought of a universe in which the horrible suffering of innocents is never compensated by a good and just God: The good and the evil all die; the former receive no reward and the latter no punishment.

The problem of unjust suffering troubles every thinking believer. But the Jewish theologian Milton Steinberg offered a powerful response: “The believer in God has to account for unjust suffering; the atheist has to account for everything else.” Between the two, I would argue that the atheist’s burden is infinitely greater. And insurmountable.

Mac Donald: “(T)he idea of what started the universe — we can’t really answer that. I think to say, ‘God’ — that’s just a placeholder for ignorance. That doesn’t help.”

Maybe we really can’t answer what started the universe. But, as Charles Krauthammer, a great secular conservative, said, “The idea that this universe always existed, that it created itself ex nihilo — I mean, talk about the violation of human rationality. That, to me, is off the charts.” God, therefore, is not “just a placeholder for ignorance.” Since science can never and will never answer the question “Why is there anything?” attributing the origins of the universe to an intelligent force (which we call “God”) strikes me as the most rational explanation.

Rubin: “I might have to get you in here with Prager.”

Mac Donald: “I’d love to.”

I’d love to, too.

Mac Donald: “Where are we all headed? What is the meaning of life? To me, anybody who claims … he doesn’t find meaning in life when there is Mozart and Haydn — to invoke a Dennis Prager favorite — or Beethoven or John Milton or Aeschylus or Anthony Trollope —”

Rubin: “Or just waking up with purpose for whatever you do.”

Mac Donald: “Exactly … trying to do the best you can do. I don’t find life meaningless for one second.”

Haydn began every manuscript with the Latin words “in nomine Domini,” “in the name of the Lord,” and ended his manuscripts with the words “Lauds Deo,” “Praise be to God.” I would ask Heather and other secular conservatives: Do you or don’t you identify the steep deterioration of the arts with the death of God and religion? Is a secular society capable of achieving artistic achievement equal to that which was accomplished in tribute to God?

As for meaning, you — and I — may find meaning every day in trying to do the best we can do, or in great works of art. But, as I know you will agree, that does not mean life has any ultimate meaning. If there is no God, we are nothing more than self-conscious stellar dust. And stellar dust has no meaning.

We really need to continue this dialogue. In the meantime, for what it’s worth, I want to say to both of you, who do so much for our country, God bless you.

Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His latest book, published by Regnery in May 2019, is “The Rational Bible,” a commentary on the book of Genesis. His film, “No Safe Spaces,” came to theaters fall 2019. He is the founder of Prager University and may be contacted at


Last Updated: Monday, Feb 17, 2020 09:15:18 -0800

Barr the Door

The most important man in President Trump’s life right now is William Barr, the Attorney General of the United States.  Yet, Mr. Trump may not understand that. However, the hate-Trump media brigades certainly do.

If Mr. Barr were to turn against the President, his re-election chances would be damaged. Significantly.

That’s because William Barr is a tough, honest prosecutor who is trying to uphold the crucial constitutional mandate of “equal justice for all.”  That means a corrupt media is not the dispenser of justice, nor is a sitting President who may have a personal agenda.

The latest controversy over Roger Stone, accompanied by presidential tweets, has put the Attorney General in a tough spot.  Mr. Stone was convicted of lying to authorities about his role in seeking damaging information against the democrats during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The sentencing recommendation from Justice Department prosecutors is seven to nine years in a federal penitentiary.  On average, a convicted rapist in this country serves four and a half years in prison so you know something is amiss.

Almost immediately, President Trump tweeted his outrage – targeting the prosecutors.  A short time later, four of them quit. That caused great joy and a spate of anonymous-sourced articles in The New York Times and The Washington Post, two organizations that are devoted to injuring President Trump.

Caught in the middle of the chaos is William Barr who then told ABC News that Mr. Trump’s tweeting about active criminal cases makes it hard for the AG to do his job.

Whereupon Fox Business Channel anchor Lou Dobbs questioned Barr’s “loyalty.”

But an attorney general’s loyalty is to his oath to uphold the constitution, not to any human being and that includes politicians who sometimes defy the human description.

So, now, the President and the Attorney General are, well, let’s use the word “unsettled.”

The ridiculous side of all this is – it didn’t have to happen.  All President Trump had to do was wait until Roger Stone is sentenced and then issue a pardon.  Presto, Mr. Stone could go bowling with you that very night.

But waiting is not Donald Trump’s style, confrontation is.  If you read my book “The United States of Trump,” you know the President always relishes the fight.

But a battle with William Barr is not like the dustup with the weak former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  Barr is not a man to be pushed around and he does not want his professional reputation sullied.  The crucial Durham investigation into federal corruption is underway and President Trump would be well advised to stay out of all Justice Department business and let those chips fall.

Mr. Trump should also understand that the national media is heavily invested in diminishing AG Barr because it fears what the Durham investigation might bring.  The President would be foolish to help his enemies marginalize William Barr, who could expose disturbing FBI corruption that damaged Donald Trump.

Finally, President Richard Nixon tried to manipulate the Justice Department and that finalized his demise.

History can repeat itself.

Why Private Speech Doesn’t Tell Us About a Person’s Character

Very few things I have said have elicited as much negative attention as this: What people say in private tells little, if anything, about their character. Left-wing critics have had a field day mocking me (mockery is the left’s substitute for argument), but even some religious conservatives have taken issue with me (without the mockery) — don’t I know that it is precisely how we act in private that most clearly reveals our character?

This issue, of course, originally arose as a result of what then-reality TV host Donald Trump said in private to then-“Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush in 2005. I thought then, as I do now, that people greatly overstated the importance of the remarks — because they were made in private.

In order to understand why private remarks usually mean nothing, we need to make two critical distinctions: between private and public, and between speech and actions.

Here are the four categories:

1. Private speech.

2. Private actions.

3. Public speech.

4. Public actions.

The last three are very important and, therefore, reveal a person’s character. But what we say in private is not important. Why? Because it doesn’t necessarily affect anyone (except potentially the person hearing us).

This is so obvious that it is depressing that it needs to be spelled out. It shows how small a role reason, especially moral reasoning, plays in many people’s lives. We live at a time when what people feel substitutes for thought and reason. In the infamous “Access Hollywood” case, most people feel repulsed by what Trump said, and for most of them, that suffices to determine Trump’s character.

So, then, allow me to spell this out.

Does what you say to your therapist, which is obviously in private, reveal your character? No one believes so. If a faithful married man were to tell his psychiatrist that he often fantasizes about having sex with women other than his wife — and for that matter, wishes he could grab women by their genitalia — would that reveal what type of person he is? If a woman, after years of taking care of her elderly mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, were to tell her therapist or a close friend that sometimes she wishes her mother would die, would that tell us anything about the woman’s character?

Ironically, the answer is yes — but in a completely different way than most people think. If people say something ignoble in private but don’t act on what they say, that shows good character, not bad.

To cite another example, then-President Richard Nixon was taped making private comments about his dislike of many Jews. When this was revealed, people who hated Nixon used those tapes to label Nixon an anti-Semite. But it was Richard Nixon as president who Israeli leaders credited with saving Israel during the Jewish state’s 1973 war (the Yom Kippur War) with Egypt. Two years ago, Haaretz, Israel’s leading left-wing newspaper, wrote: “Nixon stands out among presidents for taking the boldest risk for Israel: a much-needed arms airlift during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. … Preoccupied by Watergate and mired in Vietnam, and against the advice of his Jewish adviser, Nixon risked a new war with the Soviets to save Israel. Nixon ‘made it possible for Israel to win, at some risk to his own reputation and at great risk to the American economy,’ historian Stephen Ambrose said.”

A similar situation existed regarding former President Harry Truman. According to biographers David McCullough and Merle Miller, in private, Truman often used the word “kike” when talking about Jews (for example, he referred to New York City as “kike town” in a letter to his wife). That is the Jewish equivalent of the N-word, a word he also often used in private. Yet it was Truman in 1948 who, against the pleas of the entire State Department, was the first world leader to recognize the new state of Israel, and who, as president, racially integrated the U.S. armed services.

Actions (and public speech) matter, not private speech.

Maybe Truman and Nixon didn’t like Jews. As a Jew, I don’t give damn what you think about Jews. I only care about how you treat Jews. Most evangelicals believe I cannot go to heaven because I do not accept Christ. But evangelicals are not only among my closest friends; they are, by far, the Jews’ best friends today. That’s what matters to me. I don’t judge people by their theology any more than I judge people by their private statements. Fools judge people by their theology and their private statements.

One more question for those who believe private speech tells us all we need to know about a person’s character: Do thoughts tell us all we need to know? And if not, why not?

Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His latest book, published by Regnery in May 2019, is “The Rational Bible,” a commentary on the book of Genesis. His film, “No Safe Spaces,” came to theaters fall 2019. He is the founder of Prager University and may be contacted at


Last Updated: Monday, Feb 10, 2020 17:40:45 -0800

Should Republicans Boost Sanders to Help Trump?

A number of reports have recently come out describing a rather interesting strategy from Republican political operatives in upcoming primary states. They’re encouraging GOP voters to vote for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in open primaries.

For those unfamiliar with the term, an “open primary” is a primary election that doesn’t require participating voters to be affiliated with the political party whose candidates they’re voting for. In other words, someone can vote in a Democratic primary even if they’re not a Democrat.

South Carolina will be the first open primary state in this year’s presidential nomination schedule, with others falling later.

While there are Republican primaries in these states as well, President Trump is popular enough with GOP voters not to spawn any serious competition for the party’s nomination. Thus, the idea is that Republicans and pro-Trump independents should cross over on primary night and vote for the Democratic candidate least likely to beat Trump.

And according to people like Greenville GOP chairman Nate Leupp (and several other Republican leaders in South Carolina), Sanders would pose the easiest challenge for our president in the general election (due to Sanders’ extremely far left policies). So in Leupp’s view, Republicans should vote for him in the state’s primary.

If this strategy sounds familiar, you might recall that Rush Limbaugh called on his listeners to do something similar in 2008. The talk-radio host referred to his plan as “Operation Chaos,” and urged Republicans to vote for Hillary Clinton in order to keep her competitive against Barack Obama, who was gaining momentum in that year’s nomination battle. The idea was to wear down the eventual Democratic nominee… mentally, physically, and financially.

Some prominent conservatives, however, don’t like the idea of Operation Chaos 2.0 in the year 2020. The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro is one of them, and he recently addressed the issue on Twitter:

I think Shapiro makes some sense, especially in how Republicans should be careful what they wish for. After all, are they sure that Sanders would be Trump’s most easily defeated opponent?

Personally, I’m not convinced.

Bernie Goldberg recently wrote a good column on this topic, in which he points out that Sanders shares many of the very traits that made Donald Trump a successful presidential candidate. The populist rancor; the stoking of the grievance culture; the personality cult… In our current political environment, all of it plays to Sanders’ advantage.

And if the popularity of Donald Trump with Republican voters has proven anything, it’s that — in today’s America — not even members of the “fiscally conservative” party are concerned with the cost of big government and our country spending astronomically beyond its means. With Trump on track to add even more to the national debt than President Obama, it’s safe to say that the Tea Party ship has sailed (“sunk” is perhaps a better word).

So, with fiscal sanity no longer a political issue, is it really all that hard to imagine that someone like Bernie Sanders, a you-only-live-once candidate who promises that the U.S. government will pick up the tab for just about every major personal expense in people’s lives, could become our president?

Being that the “Democratic socialist” from Vermont leads Trump in just about every national poll (and has since the beginning of his 2020 run), it’s tough to deduce that the country is scared to death of socialism.

Still, Nate Leupp thinks he has the right game plan. “Bernie Sanders is the most socialistic, liberal candidate running in the Democratic presidential preference primary,” he told a local paper, qualifying his position.

This begs a question. If a Sanders presidency is indeed the worst-case scenario for America, why on Earth should Republicans help him get within a single election of occupying the Oval Office?

If Republicans and conservatives are so terrified of a socialist becoming our nation’s top executive, and America turning into a socialist country, wouldn’t they want to do everything they electorally could to make sure someone like Sanders never even gets as close as the nomination? Wouldn’t they want to put out a wildfire long before it ever reaches their doorstep?

With that in mind, it seems to me that a much better strategy would be for Republicans and conservatives (including those who aren’t all that high on Trump) to cast an open-primary vote for whoever they think is the least nutty Democrat on the ballot.

Sure, the easy joke is that they’re all nuts. But there are clearly differences between people like Sanders and people like Amy Klobuchar. If the choice is ultimately a “binary” one (as many on both sides insist), wouldn’t it be a good thing for the choices in the general election to be as least dreadful (and the outcome as least consequential) as possible?

From a truly conservative, anti-socialist perspective, that course of action would seem sensible…not for the sake of Trump but for the sake of the country. And as an independent conservative who lives in an open-primary state, perhaps I’ve just talked myself into following that course.

But if you think I’m wrong, please let me know why. I’m open to being persuaded otherwise.