Perspectives; Thoughts; Comments; Opinions; Discussions


The Unspoken Warning in the Durham Report: American Self-Government Is Collapsing



Peter Strzok

Author John Daniel Davidson profile




Yesterday in these pages Margot Cleveland rightly noted that the most damning finding in the 306-page report from Special Counsel John Durham is not necessarily the FBI’s scandalous Crossfire Hurricane investigation of the Trump campaign in 2016, but that the egregious abuses of power detailed in the report cannot be remedied “absent a curing of the corrupted hearts and minds of law enforcement and intelligence agencies.”

For all the FBI’s blatant partisanship, its disregard of exculpatory evidence, and its outright deception to secure FISA warrants on Trump campaign associates, writes Cleveland, “what should terrify the country is not the catalog of malfeasance the special counsel recited — for mistakes and even gross failures can be corrected — but that Durham warned of corrupted hearts and minds, unfaithful to the people and their Constitution.”

For his part, Durham didn’t recommend any changes to FBI guidelines or policies, because no amount of reform will be sufficient if the people in charge feel free to disregard guidelines and policies whenever they see fit to do so. As such, wrote Durham, “the answer is not the creation of new rules but a renewed fidelity to the old. The promulgation of additional rules and regulations to be learned in yet more training sessions would likely prove to be a fruitless exercise if the FBI’s guiding principles of ‘Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity’ are not engrained in the hearts and minds of those sworn to meet the FBI’s mission of ‘Protect[ing] the American People and uphold[ing] the Constitution of the United States.’”

Durham is right, as is Cleveland. The abuse of power laid out in the report is terrifying, not just because what the FBI undertook in 2016 amounted to an attempted coup, but because it’s unclear how to prevent it from happening again. Indeed, we saw the same kind of abuse of power at play in 2020 when active and former CIA officials saw fit to interfere in the election by soliciting signatures for a letter designed to quash the Hunter Biden laptop story. There is every reason to believe that these kinds of abuses will happen again in 2024, and in every future presidential election. 

As I wrote earlier this week, such abuse in our law enforcement and intelligence agencies represents a mortal threat to the republic, and we should understand the Durham report in that light.

But Durham’s damning indictment of the DOJ and FBI goes beyond those particular agencies, and indeed beyond the federal government. That people like former CIA Director John Brennan and former FBI Director James Comey, along with the entire cast of villains and liars in the Durham report, rose to positions of such power, and then proceeded to abuse that power by arrogating to themselves the right to decide who should be president — a right that belongs solely to the American people — says something about the state of our republic.

What it says is this: We have produced, and are still producing, a totally corrupt elite bereft of any sense of “Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity,” to say nothing of moral virtue or the common good.

Put bluntly, an elite like that makes self-government in a republic of free citizens impossible. It also means that the elite will work to corrupt ordinary Americans, eroding their respect for the rule of law and fidelity to the Constitution. As the elites go, so eventually the entire country goes.

Seen in this light, the Durham report should be understood as a dire warning about the fate of our country. John Adams issued a similar warning when he penned his famous line, that “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” George Washington did the same in his farewell address when he said, “’Tis substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.”

The founders knew what we seem to have forgotten: Without a virtuous people, without citizens and leaders who believe in objective moral truth and understand themselves to be bound by it, we cannot be a free people, and we cannot sustain a republic. Laws alone, to say nothing of guidelines and policies, are not enough to support and sustain self-government. You need citizens who will respect and uphold the law, and leaders who actually believe in the principle of self-government — something our current crop of leaders clearly rejects.

Without a morally virtuous citizenry, the founders also knew we would eventually become a society not of free men and women, but of slaves to a tyrannical regime. That’s the real warning embedded in the Durham report. The corruption of the FBI, the CIA, and the entire federal intelligence community, which led to the Russia-collusion hoax and almost took down Trump’s campaign, and then his presidency, cannot be fixed with new rules and policies. It’s a moral failing, moral corruption, and it can only be fixed by a spiritual renewal in America, by a return to — let’s be honest — a civic culture shaped and guided by Christian moral virtue.

It’s easy to look at the Durham report and conclude that the problem is just with a handful of bad apples in the federal intelligence agencies. But the rot goes much deeper than that. People like Comey and Brennan and the legions of corrupt agents and bureaucrats under them were produced by an American society that has lost its way, that has become unmoored from the morality that sustains our system of government and inculcates virtue in our citizenry.

New rules and regulations won’t be enough. Nor will it be enough to defund or disband the FBI. Unless we rediscover the moral virtue necessary for self-government, we will descend, bit by bit, into tyranny. And one day we will look back at the Durham report and understand that it wasn’t just an indictment of the FBI but an indictment of us all — and a harbinger of the end of our republic.

John Daniel Davidson is a senior editor at The Federalist. His writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Claremont Review of Books, The New York Post, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter, @johnddavidson.


As Moral Relativism Replaces Christian Values, Americans Will Suffer More Mass Shootings



angry protesters march with signs
The devolution of American society began when moral relativism supplanted biblical truth in education, government, and eventually the family.

Author Kathleen Bustamante profile



The devolution of American society began when moral relativism supplanted biblical truth in education, government, and the family. Beginning in the late 1940s with the Supreme Court’s Everson v. Board of Education ruling and onward, our government and educational system have turned their backs on absolute truth to embrace Marxism, which aims to remove Christianity from all spheres of society.

The moral erosion proves obvious in a recent Barna poll that found, “Millennials are significantly less likely to believe in the existence of absolute moral truth or that God is the basis of all truth.”

The study also noted that “Millennials have less respect for life, in general,” and that “they are less than half as likely as other adults to say that life is sacred. They are twice as likely to diminish the value of human life by describing human beings as either ‘material substance only’ or their very existence as ‘an illusion.’”

Millennials’ disregard for life or morality should not come as a surprise. The decreasing number of young Americans who attend church regularly hear from pastors who may not preach biblical truth. A study by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University found that only 51 percent of America’s evangelical church pastors hold a biblical worldview. 

Armed with this data, I am thankful that recent shootings like those at The Covenant School in Nashville and the school shooting in Uvalde do not occur more frequently.

Gun-control advocates, the media, politicians, and my friends on social media urge increased gun restrictions as the solution to the problem, pointing to Europe and Australia as the golden standard for gun control. Yet, a 2018 New Zealand Herald article showed that despite tighter gun restrictions in these countries, shootings have occurred more frequently than Americans realize.

In 2022, for example, a gunman killed two and wounded seven people in Denmark, a country with some of the strictest gun laws in Europe, before authorities apprehended him and held him for psychological testing. The article, along with anti-firearm advocates, suggests increased psychological testing as the next solution now that radical gun-control policies have failed.

Not many in Western society honestly address the origin behind increased psychological problems. Western countries increasingly lean on modern mental health mantras rather than dealing with the heart of the matter.

For centuries, firearms have been a standard tool for hunting and home defense in America and Europe. So why the escalation of gun-related massacres throughout the United States and the West over recent decades? Again, I pose the heart of the issue: Moral relativism has replaced the truth of God’s Word.

As a college writing professor, I read and hear the anti-American and anti-Christian propaganda to which my students have been exposed their entire lives. Basic biblical truths such as “treat others how you wish to be treated” and “love your neighbor” have been replaced with mantras like “treat others with kindness unless they offend you” and “love yourself.”

How can a society that raises children devoid of the Christ-centered teachings of Christianity expect anything besides massacres at the hands of miserable, self-centered, and horribly confused individuals like the Uvalde and Highland Park shooters?

Gun Control to Mask Moral Decline

Seven years ago, I attended an active-shooter training hosted by the campus safety department at the community college where I taught in Portland, Oregon. I will never forget the cautionary advice shared by one of the presenters.

“In the event of an active shooter situation, don’t bother calling campus police. Instead, call 911,” he advised. “Campus police at this college are unarmed, so we won’t be able to ensure your safety. Although it will take the local police department much longer to respond to a campus shooting, they will eventually be able to take down a shooter if the need arises.”

Baffled, I asked why campus police are expected to perform their duties unarmed. He explained that several years prior, a college board member felt distressed about campus police carrying firearms. After a swift vote by the board, my safety as well as the safety of my students and colleagues would be jeopardized henceforth.

After the training, I stayed behind to ask the officer his opinion regarding faculty arming themselves on campus. He encouraged me — off the record, of course — to carry concealed for my own safety and for the safety of my students. That college, like most academic institutions across the country, proclaims itself to be a gun-free zone.

A 2019 CNN article documented 10 years of school shootings, and the majority occurred in gun-free zones. A 2019 study conducted by the Crime Prevention Research Center found that in schools across the U.S. that reportedly allow teachers to carry guns on campus, no deaths occurred as a result of shootings between 2000 and 2018.

Neither the problem nor the solution to school shootings has any correlation with guns or mental health problems that can be treated with medication and therapy, as many scholars and pundits contend. Rather, the problem stems from our nation’s replacement of biblical truth with moral relativism.

A Symptom, Not the Cause

As a writing instructor for 16 years, I examined thousands of essays, gaining an unusual window into the lives and experiences of my Millennial and Gen Z students. Like an airline passenger who shares intimate details with a stranger, knowing he will never see that passenger again, many of my students confide personal musings and revelations in their writing.

A surprising number of essays I read unwrap students’ deep suffering related to childhood sexual, physical, or emotional abuse. Some of my students suffer the scars of drug- or alcohol-addicted, neglectful parents. Some students are only a few months clean and sober themselves. Several are homeless. And over the past decade, they write increasingly about gender confusion.

I have detected a common theme throughout their stories. Each of these unique souls is in search of something specific, a need inherent in every human. The agonizing part is that an ancient moral and religious tradition understands their needs, but they do not.

Instead of the moral relativism they have been fed from kindergarten through college, they need to hear truth. Not the “find your own truth” nonsense propagated by educators, Hollywood, and hosts on “The View,” but rather the age-old truth found solely in the Word of God.

The solution is clear: Churches must put away social justice-centered and seeker-friendly sermons and return to expository teaching. Parents must roll up their sleeves and remove the responsibility of parenting from educators and the media by doing the hard work themselves. And voters must stop expecting the government to fix a problem created by sinful humanity.

Instead, we must repent and ask God to point our nation to truth.

Kathleen Bustamante is a freelance writer and former college writing instructor. Her writing has appeared in the American Spectator, the American Conservative, the American Thinker, Real Clear Religion, and James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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