MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning! Washington’s impeachment drama. We’ll talk about what’s new, what’s not, and whether the hearings are changing minds.
NICK EICHER, HOST: That’s ahead on Washington Wednesday.
Also today, World Tour with Africa correspondent Onize Ohikere.
Plus, 30 years ago, the people of the former Czechoslovakia rejected communism, but that freedom has not meant spiritual renewal.
CURT MOBLEY: After the Berlin Wall came down, there was a slight movement towards understanding religious freedom, but from the early eighties on…church attendance has consistently gone down in Czech Republic.
And WORLD founder Joel Belz on how profoundly ignorant some politicians are about the foundations of American freedom.
REICHARD: It’s Wednesday, November 20th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!
REICHARD: Up next, Kent Covington has today’s news.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Vindman, Volker testify on Day 3 of public impeachment hearings » Several more witnesses testified Tuesday on day three of public impeachment hearings.
Former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker distanced himself from the White House. He said while others saw a push to have Ukraine investigate a company with ties to the Bidens as a political play, he did not see it that way at the time.
VOLKER: In retrospect, I should have seen that connection differently. And had I done so, I would have raised my own objections.
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman also appeared. He’s the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council. Vindman said he was on the line during President Trump’s July phone call with the president of Ukraine. He described his reaction when he heard Trump ask his Ukrainian counterpart to launch a corruption probe.
VINDMAN: Frankly, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. There was probably an element of shock that maybe in certain regards my worst fear of how our Ukraine policy could play out was playing out.
National security official Tim Morrison also testified, at the request of Republican members. He previously told lawmakers he did not believe the president did anything illegal.
MORRISON: I feared at the time of the call on July 25th how its disclosure would play in Washington’s political climate. My fears have been realized.
Several more witnesses are slated to testify today—including U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.
House passes short-term funding bill » Meantime on the House floor, with a Thursday deadline looming, lawmakers passed a stopgap spending bill to avoid a government shutdown.
The continuing resolution keeps prior spending levels in place and funds the government through December 20th.
It passed on a vote of 231 to 192. Most Republicans opposed it, including Arkansas Congressman Steve Womack. He said the short-term bill again does nothing to address a trillion-dollar deficit and a $23 trillion debt.
WOMACK: And yet the question today is will we just kick the can down the road to right before Christmas.
Most Democratic members said effectively the same thing: I don’t like it—but I’m voting for it.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer called the bill “an admission of failure.”
HOYER: We lack the will to compromise. We lack the will to work together. We lack the will to do the American people’s business on time.
But he said the alternative of shutting down the government is worse.
The Senate is expected to move quickly on the legislation. An administration official has reportedly signaled that the president will sign the bill if the Senate sends it to his desk.
White House hopefuls set to face off in Atlanta » Democratic candidates will face off in Atlanta this evening—in the fifth major presidential debate of the year.
A total of 10 contenders have participated in every debate so far. Eight of them will be on stage tonight. But two of them will not. Former HUD secretary Julian Castro did not have the poll numbers needed to qualify this time and former congressman Beto O’Rourke has dropped out of the race.
But Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and billionaire Tom Steyer both made the cut.
The Washington Post and MSNBC are co-hosting the debate. It begins at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.
Taliban frees American, Australian in prisoner swap » The Taliban freed two hostages on Tuesday—one of them an American citizen. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin has more.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: After three long years in captivity, American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks are heading home.
That after U.S. and Afghan officials negotiated their release in exchange for three top Taliban figures.
King and Weeks were abducted in 2016 outside the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul, where both worked as teachers.
In a statement Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hopes the prisoner exchange is a signal that cooperation is possible and the Afghan war may soon be over.
Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin.
COVINGTON: I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: Henry Olsen joins us with insight on the House impeachment hearings. Plus, spreading the gospel in the Czech Republic. This is The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD: It’s Wednesday, the 20th of November, 2019. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Well, Mary, tomorrow’s Nashville! It’s The World and Everything in It Live. Now we just got word some more of our colleagues will be there in person.
Some of the voices you recognize from this program: Trillia Newbell will be there, and George Grant, too!
REICHARD: The party’s just getting bigger! And I see we’ve got Dan Darling for Culture Friday. He’s with the organization that’s hosting us, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
EICHER: A few seats are left so if you are in Nashville tomorrow night, we’d love to meet you. The event is free, but you need to reserve your seat. Just go to worldandeverything.org, hover over the “engage” tab, then click on “live events.” You can register there.
REICHARD: Worldandeverything.org. Can’t wait.
EICHER: Alright, well it’s time now for Washington Wednesday.
For only the third time in U.S. history, we are witnessing public impeachment hearings.
At issue here is the relationship of President Trump and his administration and the government of Ukraine. Initially, House Democrats said that requests for an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son amount to a quid pro quo, because at the same time the White House withheld military aid authorized for Ukraine.
But Democrats are positioning it differently, now accusing President Trump of bribery. Here’s Congressman Adam Schiff. He chairs the Intelligence Committee.
SCHIFF: This is a story about an effort to coerce, condition, or bribe a foreign country into doing the dirty work of the president—investigations of his political rival… the fact that they failed in this solicitation of bribery doesn’t make it any less bribery.
Meantime, Republicans argue the aid was only temporarily held and then released without Ukraine ever announcing the investigation. They say Democrats’ probe is a sham, designed to overturn the 2016 election results. Congresswoman Elise Stefanik:
STEFANIK: As we saw today, he is making up the rules as he goes. He did not let Republicans put forth any unanimous consents. He did not let us control our own time—Republican members’ time. I think I was interrupted about six times throughout the hearing. So this is just more of the ridiculous abuse of power that we’re seeing from Adam Schiff.
Polling out this week found about 70 percent of Americans are paying attention to the proceedings, but two-thirds say they can’t imagine anything that would change their minds about it.
And as for timing: House Democrats are holding multiple hearings per day in hopes of voting on articles of impeachment before Christmas. But a trial in the Senate could stretch well into 2020.
That, of course, is an election year. And, oh by the way, the Iowa caucuses loom on February 3rd—an avalanche of primaries follow soon after. That will pose a logistical problem for the six Democratic senators running for president.
Republican Senator Joni Ernst literally danced a jig when a Politico reporter asked her about that on Monday. “I feel so badly for them,” she deadpanned.
Lots to discuss today with political analyst Henry Olsen. He’s a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a Washington Post columnist.
Henry, good morning!
EICHER: Let’s start with the public testimony we’ve heard over the last week, which largely is testimony already given behind closed doors, with the damaging parts leaked out. Anything strike you, now that we can hear it all?
OLSEN: So far, I haven’t seen anything that surprised me. I’ve seen recitation of what had been leaked earlier, but no smoking gun moment or no emotional exchange that captures the imagination.
So I think what we’re going to find as polls come out over the next couple of days is that people who don’t like Trump were persuaded that this is earth-shattering testimony and people who do like Trump will say why did they preempt my soap operas?
EICHER: Republicans have frequently pointed out that Democrats have relied on a lot of second-hand information. In law, that’s hearsay. But yesterday that changed with the testimony of witnesses who were on the phone call with the Ukrainian president. Does that change anything?
OLSEN: So far, no. Because I think a lot of people are just tuning this out, that this is—we’ve had three years of incessant braying about Trump and I think for most people this isn’t so significantly different that it’s going to cause them to change their opinion about Trump. So Trump’s job approval ratings have held up. They took a quick dive after this came out and they bounced right back up again into their general range.
And I just think that the Republicans and the president have been good at messaging to their base, hey, nothing to see here. Pay no attention. And they’re largely not wrong.
EICHER: A moment ago I mentioned how Democrats have shifted their rhetoric away from quid pro quo to bribery. Easier to understand, apparently, as your paper reported, it polls better. But do you think they can prove it?
OLSEN: Well, I think it polls better, but it’s also less obvious. Most people, when they think of bribery, think of cash. They don’t think of can you do an investigation that may or may not turn up dirt.
I think one thing the Democrats have successfully obscured that I think Republicans and Trump will do more to bring out is they’re actually—what’s been said is, hey, can you look into this? Not, can you find the stuff that Biden did? Or, we know he’s guilty. And I think it’s very hard to say that somebody is bribed when there’s actually nothing of value that the briber receives in return.
EICHER: I mentioned your newspaper, The Washington Post, and I want to also mention your most recent column on this impeachment inquiry, you did say that you didn’t think all this is changing minds. And more than that, you mentioned your ability, as you said, to “see when the fix is in and, boy, is it ever in for Trump.” Do you still think so?
OLSEN: Absolutely. There’s no chance that the Democrats are going to not impeach him. They’re not interested in finding exculpatory evidence and most, if not all, the members on the committee have already said they think he should be impeached and, you know, you listen to Chairman Schiff’s opening and closing statements and it’s not a question of what we are finding, it’s he’s always concluding with dilenda Trump est, you know. Trump should be destroyed because of what we already know.
So, that’s what I mean by the fix is it’s not a case where this is an inquiry. This is a case where basically it’s the House treating this as the prosecution making its case.
EICHER: And, really, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, her mind was changed because back in March she was saying this is not worth it. We need to focus on our agenda—famously—and it really angered a lot of her constituents.
OLSEN: Well, I think there’s two things going. One is that the Democratic voter base has gotten more and more outraged, particularly as Trump in their eyes is the villain who keeps slipping away from their grasp.
But I think there’s also—there is something that did change with the Ukrainian situation, which is there used to be a small but significant number of people who disapproved of Trump but did not want to see him impeached. That number has shrunk dramatically. And consequently the number of people in the Democratic Party who want him impeached and removed is now at a supermajority status—well over 80 percent. And that’s something that you just can’t ignore.
EICHER: OK, final question: I know the 2020 election is still a year out, but to what extent do you think what we’re seeing now will affect what happens then?
OLSEN: You know, I think it’s all going to have a small effect. But a lot of this is being seen through the eyes of already pre-formed opinions about Trump. And so consequently, the effect is going to be relatively tiny. It’s not to say it’ll be nothing, but for the same reason that I don’t think minds are going to be terribly changed a whole lot.
It’s because this is not so different from what we’ve been hearing. We’ve been hearing about impeachment for three years. We’ve been hearing about Trump is a crook. We’ve been hearing about Trump has a temper. Trump is this, Trump is that. And this is an elaboration on that theme rather than a change of theme. And, consequently, what happens, I think, is likely to be tiny. Unless a Senate trial produces evidence that has not been unearthed. And don’t hold assume that it won’t, because it’ll be the first time Republicans control the process.
EICHER: Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Henry, thank you for your time.
OLSEN: Thank you.
NICK EICHER: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: World Tour with Africa correspondent Onize Ohikere.
ONIZE OHIKERE, REPORTER: Iranians protest over gas price hikes—We start today in the Middle East.
AUDIO: [Ali Rabiei]
The Iranian government tried to minimize ongoing anger over surprise gas price hikes over the weekend. On Monday a government spokesman said that while some protests continued—they were much smaller than the previous day.
AUDIO: [Iranians protest]
Protesters clashed with police on Saturday—a rare sight under the repressive regime. They vandalized stores and government buildings and set fire to several gas stations. The government shut off internet access across the country in an attempt to stop the protests.
At least five people have died, according to state-run media. But Amnesty International estimates the death toll to be much higher—more than 100 people.
The unrest started on Friday after the government announced a 50 percent increase in Iran’s highly subsidized gas prices. Drivers will now pay about 50 cents for a gallon of gas.
Iran has the world’s fourth-largest crude oil reserve. But recent U.S. sanctions have battered the country’s economy and driven down the value of its currency.
Protests in Iraq—Meanwhile in Iraq …
AUDIO: [Iraqi protests]
Protesters there marked the eighth week of anti-government rallies by blocking roads to the country’s main port. They also cut off access to a major oil field in the southern province of Basra.
Iraqis are angry over government corruption and a lack of basic public services. They’re also protesting Iran’s influence in Baghdad.
AUDIO: [Iraqi protester]
And on Monday some protesters took credit for inspiring the rallies in Tehran. This woman said the fire in Iraq has now spread to Iran.
Hundreds of documents leaked from Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security this week only fueled the anger. The documents published by The New York Times and The Intercept detailed the deep influence Iran has on Iraq’s government.
Iraq’s prime minister has so far declined to comment on the documents.
Sri Lanka gets new president—Next we go to Southeast Asia.
AUDIO: [Sri Lanka firecrackers]
Supporters of Sri Lanka’s new president set off fireworks in the streets of Colombo on Monday. Gotabaya Rajapaksa took the oath of office in a traditional ceremony after winning a landslide victory on Sunday.
RAJAPAKSA: The government should always set an example to the society, professionalism and efficiency should be the cornerstone of government administration.
Rajapaksa is the country’s former defense secretary. He led a brutal military campaign against the Tamil rebels. It ended the group’s nearly four decade long separatist insurgency in 2009. But the military’s tactics drew international condemnation.
Rajapaksa has opposed all efforts to open war crimes investigations. And he blamed the previous administration for dismantling the intelligence network that could have prevented recent attacks against Christians. Nearly 300 people died in Easter Sunday bombings earlier this year.
Russia and Ukraine prepare for peace talks—And finally, we end today in eastern Ukraine.
AUDIO: [Russian tanks]
Tanks and troops retreated from the war-torn region over the weekend. The Ukrainian army and Moscow-backed separatists completed the pullout in preparation for next month’s peace talks.
Fighting in eastern Ukraine began five years ago when Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula. At least 13,000 people died in the fighting that followed.
The peace talks begin in Paris on December 9th.
That’s this week’s World Tour. For WORLD Radio, I’m Onize Ohikere reporting from Abuja, Nigeria.
NICK EICHER: The holiday season is the most popular, by far, for marriage proposals: one in five American engagements take place in December alone.
Increasingly, it seems, proposals are becoming more and more novel—like this one in Hawaii, where Chris Garth had a question for Lauren Oiye.
AUDIO: This weekend, they caught a wave that’ll go down in their family history: Chris knelt down, pulled out a ring, and popped the question.
Here’s what you can’t see. When he knelt down, he knelt on a surfboard—while riding a wave—with his girlfriend next to him on her board.
He held out the ring case, she said yes, and then, ah, he dropped it in the ocean.
Of course, he planned for that. The one he dropped was a spare, so he didn’t bother to look for it. The real ring? He kept the real one safely on the beach.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
NICK EICHER: Today is Wednesday, November 20th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: the lingering effects of Communism.
The Berlin Wall came down on November 9, 1989. Since that time, communist governments fell, too, all throughout Europe. In the former Czechoslovakia, thousands of protesters hit the streets of Bratislava and Prague. Twenty days after the Wall fell, the communist party officially relinquished power.
EICHER: The peaceful overthrow became known as the Velvet Revolution. But while communism has been gone for thirty years, the effects of that regime remain.
Anna Johansen recently visited the Czech Republic and brings our story.
ANNA JOHANSEN: Everyone who goes to Prague has to see the Astronomical Clock. At least, that’s what Google says. Built in 1410, it’s the oldest operating clock in existence—and a prime tourist destination. Every hour, the clock chimes and tiny moving sculptures march out of the tower.
ASTRONOMICAL CLOCK: [Astronomical Clock bonging, cheering]
But to be honest, the clock is just one site in a city chock full of history. These pastel buildings, cobblestones, castle spires…they look almost the same as they would have a thousand years ago, like something out of a storybook. But life in Prague hasn’t exactly been a fairytale.
RAUS: In communism, life was hard.
This is Daniel Raus: gray haired, soft spoken, steely eyed. In 1989, he lived in what was then Czechoslovakia.
RAUS: We could not travel. We could not study what we wanted. We could not—the government was deciding many things for you and you either obeyed or they just destroyed you.
The communist government didn’t just control politics and economics. It also had a stranglehold on spirituality.
RAUS: Communism was the most atheistic system in the history of mankind.
The government didn’t shut down every church. Its approach was more subtle. It put pressure on Christians and didn’t let them work in certain fields, like education or law.
VICKY MOBLEY: You could have been discriminated against in school.
Vicky Mobley has lived in Prague for 11 years. She and her husband, Curt, work in church planting and discipleship, and they’ve heard a lot of stories about life under communism.
VICKY MOBLEY: They would make you stand up and the teacher would mock you and make fun of your beliefs in front of the class.
CURT MOBLEY: Yeah, make fun of Daniel. He believes in God. Can you believe that? Point and laugh. Yeah. They still do it in some villages, right?
VICKY MOBLEY: Yeah.
Then, November 17th, 1989. Fifteen thousand students gathered and walked the streets of Prague. They carried banners and chanted anti-communist slogans. When they gathered in the center of the city, riot police surrounded them and attacked.
RAUS: That was the day it all started. 17th of November, 1989. So that was Friday.
When Raus heard the report, he and 50 others hit the streets in a spontaneous protest. First, they stood around for 20 minutes.
RAUS: We did not know what to do. It was kind of funny, but we wanted to demonstrate that this is enough. And we are finished with communism and we, we wanted to, to proclaim it.
The protestors eventually started walking through Bratislava. And across the country, other demonstrations grew.
AUDIO: [Peter Jennings, ABC]
Eleven days later, the regime fell. But that wasn’t the end of communism’s influence.
AUDIO: [Sound of Prague street musician]
Today, the Czech Republic is busy, successful. Wenceslas Square is a popular tourist destination with street performers every hundred feet or so. The economy is solid. People are comfortable. But they’re also extremely secular. Seven out of 10 say they have no faith of any kind. But Daniel Raus points out an anomaly.
RAUS: The biggest market for amulets in, in Europe is in the Czech Republic.
People in Prague love amulets. They’re little pieces of jewelry that supposedly provide energy and protect you from danger or disease. But if you’re an atheist—you don’t believe in God or a spiritual world—why would you believe in amulets?
Raus has his own theory about that. He cites philosopher and writer G.K. Chesterton.
RAUS: Chesterton once said, that if you stop believing in God, it does not mean that you are believing in nothing. It means that you are believing in anything. And Czechs are quite a good example of this because they are able to believe in really absurd stupidities.
Curt and Vicky Mobley agree with that.
VICKY MOBLEY: It is weird—there’s a lot of superstitions and there’s a lot of spiritualism. You know, where people are trying to find out some way to connect with another part of their lives.
She says if you ask someone, “What do you think happens when we die,” they’ll tell you they haven’t really thought about it. Not many people have even a basic understanding of religion.
CURT MOBLEY: After the Berlin Wall came down, there was a slight movement towards understanding religious freedom, but from the early eighties on…church attendance has consistently gone down in Czech Republic.
It’s an uphill climb for the Mobleys. But they’re used to investing without immediate return.
CURT MOBLEY: Nobody believes you until 10, 15 years later, you’re still a Christian. Then they go, Oh, what’s going on there?
The Mobleys go to a little church in the Zizkov neighborhood.
VICKY MOBLEY: It’s just called Zizkov Cirkev Braterska, which means church of the brothers.
It’s only a couple of miles from the Astronomical Clock, but this place is off the beaten path. No tower…no massive crowds. There are a hundred, maybe a hundred and twenty people here on a regular basis.
AUDIO: [Czech singing]
The Mobleys just finished running an evangelistic English camp, something they do almost every year. This time, one person professed faith in Christ. And that was encouraging…because usually it’s zero. So although it’s slow, the church is growing—little, by little, by little.
AUDIO: [Sound of American worship song]
For WORLD Radio, I’m Anna Johansen reporting from Prague, Czech Republic.
MARY REICHARD: Today is Wednesday, November 20th. You’re listening to The World and Everything in It from WORLD Radio. Good morning to you! I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. One part of freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment is that churches are exempt from taxes.
It’s the principle that there is no surer way to destroy the free exercise of religion than to tax it. It reinforces a healthy separation between church and state.
So when former presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said he’d pull the rug out from under religious institutions, that got WORLD founder Joel Belz’s attention.
JOEL BELZ, FOUNDER: The question came from CNN reporter Don Lemon at an October 10th forum on gay rights. It was straightforward: “Do you think religious institutions like colleges, churches, charities—should they lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage?”
O’Rourke was immediate and explicit in his response:
O’ROURKE: Yes. [applause] There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone, or any institution, any organization in America, that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us. And so as president, we are going to make that a priority, and we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.
O’Rourke’s response was so radical that even Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg dissented from it. Buttigieg, a practicing homosexual, said—quoting now—“The idea that you’re going to strip churches of their tax-exempt status if they haven’t found their way toward blessing same-sex marriage—I’m not sure he understood the implications of what he was saying.” End quote.
O’Rourke’s later effort at “clarification” served to show what the former Texas congressman really thinks on the subject. During an MSNBC interview, he said—quote—“The way that you practice your religion or your faith within that mosque or that temple or synagogue or church, that is your business, and not the government’s business.”
O’Rourke should have stopped right there. But he didn’t. He went on—quote—“But when you are providing services in the public sphere, say, higher education, or health care, or adoption services, and you discriminate or deny equal treatment under the law based on someone’s skin color or ethnicity or gender or sexual orientation, then we have a problem.” End quote.
O’Rourke’s understanding of “religious freedom” seems to involve whatever activity is carried on inside a “religious building”—but little else.
Any American who takes his religious faith seriously should be glad that O’Rourke has now withdrawn from the race.
Loss of tax-exempt status isn’t the end-all of bad things that could happen to religious nonprofits. Most of the charitable giving I’m familiar with is motivated by a love for an organization’s mission, not tax benefits. But it’s not an immaterial issue, especially for large donors.
Loss of exemption also carries likely threats of a different sort: Academic institutions could lose accreditation and charities could have to pay local property taxes and sales taxes.
Note well that these huge and financially ruinous obligations are not immediately likely. But the fact that a mainstream candidate can so glibly and dogmatically propose such a change is cause for appropriate concern.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Joel Belz.
NICK EICHER: Tomorrow, an update on how things stand in Syria now that U.S. troops have a new mission.
And, we’ll introduce you to our Daniel of the Year.
That and more tomorrow.
I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard.
The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio.
WORLD’s mission is biblically objective journalism that informs, educates, and inspires.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
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