Republished with permission from Steve Schmidt
Pete Wehner is one of the very finest human beings I have ever encountered. More than any person I have ever known, he exemplifies the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount in the daily countenances of life. There is a serenity, peace and wisdom that exudes from him. It is more than admirable.
He is a writer with The Atlantic, and an extremely talented one. He served in government, but was never captured by the sewer of politics. He transcended it through a commitment to humanity and decency that defines his writings through this moment.
Pete Wehner represents grace. America needs more of it.
Disillusionment has been a constant companion of mine during my career in politics and business. It is a gateway to a collapse of belief and faith in what was once core and an opening for cynicism.
Cynicism is idealism’s cancer. It destroys it from within until there is nothing left. It is a type of necrosis that can cause destruction at an epic scale when it finds its way to power. It obliterates decency, humility and the concepts of restraint. It denies the possibility of virtue, and denigrates all that is worthy of defense, admiration and preservation.
Much of my career in politics has been spent at the contact point between political campaigns and the American political media, which is the most toxic border zone in the country — bar none. The most important political book I ever read was “The Sociopath Next Door” by Dr. Martha Stout.
We are accustomed to think of sociopaths as violent criminals, but in The Sociopath Next Door, Harvard psychologist Martha Stout reveals that a shocking 4 percent of ordinary people—one in twenty-five—has an often undetected mental disorder, the chief symptom of which is that that person possesses no conscience. He or she has no ability whatsoever to feel shame, guilt, or remorse. One in twenty-five everyday Americans, therefore, is secretly a sociopath. They could be your colleague, your neighbor, even family. And they can do literally anything at all and feel absolutely no guilt.
When it comes to politics, media and business, sociopaths are abundant.
I have spent much of my career involved in the brawling side of American politics where many of the worst characters gather. During the last eight years, I have never given one inch to Donald Trump. I have opposed him aggressively, constantly and at a significant personal cost.
Here are some of the millions of dollars worth of anonymous poster-sized mailings that were sent by the Trump Organization and its allies into my community and others across the U.S. as revenge for the role I played in his defeat.
It is nothing compared to what is coming next. The simple fact that there has never been a single news story about this egregious mailing campaign is a travesty. American citizens who legally participated in a presidential campaign were illegally targeted in its aftermath. If that isn’t news, what is?
Pete Wehner has written an important column about what is coming next. His style is different than mine, but his warning is the same. I encourage you to absorb it fully. Here is Donald Trump’s demented Führer rant that he decided to poison the country with on a day of national thanksgiving:
The above statement is more than an abomination. It is hideous, grotesque, unworthy, and utterly antithetical to the concepts of Christianity that have been strangled by political ideology and a lust for power in the name of God.
There is another The Atlantic writer with whom I had occasion to spend some time with recently named Tim Alberta, whose latest book, “The Kingdom, the Power and the Glory,” will be published on December 5, 2023.
I will read it as soon as I can get my hands on it because it will lay bear the awfulness of the corruption of this moment, and the constant blasphemy of fanatics like Mike Johnson and scores of money changers in the Temple.
There is one story that Mr. Alberta shared with me around his father’s funeral that is simply mind-blowing that will be in the book. Let’s just say that the collapse of grace, charity and decency that abounds in America is no doubt a problem for us all.
What are we going to do about it?
How should we think about this moment, not as partisans, but as Americans?
Perhaps there is a lesson from the life of a man mentioned in Pete Wehner’s warning named Michael Gerson. Michael Gerson served his country as an assistant to the 43rd President of the United States of America George W. Bush.
During his service he played an outsized role in conceiving and realizing the greatest humanitarian achievement in world history: President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). It has saved more than 25 million lives from the AIDS virus.
This wretched moment precludes the possibility that Americans can look past partisanship and understand this achievement is OURS. All OF OURS.
The gift was not from us to millions of Africans, but rather to ourselves as an expression and reminder of the power of this magnificent nation to do good in the world.
How many people are prepared to turn away from the greatest humanitarian achievement in American history because it was brought to life by President George W. Bush? How many will disdain it because of politics?
Those people are the same as Donald Trump and Mike Johnson.
PEPFAR, the greatest gift to humanity ever offered by the people of the United States, is about to be choked off by MAGA cruelty for no reason at all other than its goodness.
That’s what happens when politics is stripped of grace and decency. It is what happens before the darkness falls.
The question isn’t whether there is goodness all around us. There is.
The question is whether the American people will muster the strength to defend it. The hour is growing late.
Steve Schmidt is a political analyst for MSNBC and NBC News. He served as a political strategist for George W. Bush and the John McCain presidential campaign. Schmidt is a founder of The Lincoln Project, a group founded to campaign against former President Trump. It became the most financially successful Super-PAC in American history, raising almost $100 million to campaign against Trump's failed 2020 re-election bid. He left the group in 2021.