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Have you ever seen a less likely cult leader than Democratic U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, the “pencil-necked” (Donald Trump’s word), nerdy-looking current chairman of Congress’ House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence?

Me neither.

Tell that to Rep. Devin Nunes, a fellow lawmaker from California, who accused Schiff of that after the House voted 232-196  to set rules for the public phase of the impeachment inquiry against the president and to formalize its procedures. (See a video of Nunes’ speech here.)

“All [Democrats] have is the unconditional cooperation of the media to advance their preposterous narrative. If they had a real case, they wouldn’t be wasting time spoon-feeding ridiculous attacks that include defamation and slander on both current and former Republican staff of the Intelligence Committee,” Nunes said after the vote. “What we’re seeing among Democrats on the Intelligence Committee down in the SCIF right now is like a cult.

“These are a group of people loyally following their leader as he bounces from one outlandish conspiracy theory to another. And the media are the cult followers, permanently stationed outside Committee spaces, pretending to take everything seriously because they too support the goal of removing the President from office.”

One fellow Californian and Democratic colleague of Nunes’ in the House — Rep. Jackie Speiers — took stern exception. An article in Law & Crime website this week reported:

As a congressional staffer to Rep. Leo J. Ryan (D-Calif.) in 1978, Speier was shot five times and “left for dead” on a remote airstrip in South America for 22 hours while trying to help people escape the Jonestown commune built by cult leader Jim Jones. Rep. Ryan died that day and Speier now holds his congressional seat.

“Devin Nunes calling the Intelligence Committee’s fact-finding mission a cult is despicable,” Speier wrote. “I know about cults. Cults are led by maniacal narcissists who expect complete adoration and relinquishment of independent thought. I suggest Mr. Nunes look elsewhere.”

Speiers therefore understands and knows how to identify cult leaders far better than Nunes.

Indeed, the Rev. Jim Jones, founder of the Christian People’s Temple cult in San Francisco, which he transplanted into the jungle of Guayana in the 1970s, was not only a certified cult leader but a monster.

At his Jonestown compound in Guayana, Jones orchestrated the “voluntary” suicide (if cultists resisted, they were murdered) of more than 900 followers — men, women and children — after Rep. Ryan visited and it was clear he would report the group’s ominous activities to Congress and U.S. authorities.

This is what religious and political cultists often do, not, as Schiff and the Intelligence Committee are doing, which is investigate wrongdoing by the president and gather facts for public hearings. This is secular government in action.

Whining of the Republican opposition is impotent political posturing and without factual basis.

Nunes has accused Schiff and the committee of trying to pin a “manufactured crime” on the president for three years and now “continuing their bizarre overturning of the results of the last election” because they’ve decided “they don’t like the way [President Trump] talks to foreign leaders.”

Except that the final report of special counsel Robert Mueller found significant troubling evidence regarding accusations that the president and his minions “colluded” with Russian operatives during the 2016 election and obstructed justice in hiding evidence. The report, while concluding their was no legal measure to charge “conspiracy” also determined there were myriad highly unusual meetings between Trump election officials and Russians. It also found ten credible allegations of obstruction but decided to let Congress consider those because Justice Department policy appeared to disallow indictment of a president.

So, those are not “manufactured” allegations that have been disproved but ones that are still liable to engulf the president in legal accountability.

In addition, the president’s recent infamous phone conversation added high-octane fuel to the impeachment fire. A summary of the call, released by the White House, clearly shows the president trying to shake down Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to dig up dirt on Trump’s political rival Joe Biden and his son. A parade of civil servants in the diplomatic and intelligence communities privy to information about the call all corroborated to Congress in the past two weeks their consensus view of the ethically and constitutionally disturbing nature of the call.

None of this is “manufactured.”

In truth, if anyone in U.S. government could be fairly accused of being a cult leader, it’s Donald Trump. Even with all of these disturbing violations of the public trust and national security, Republicans in the House and Senate refuse to condemn the president’s irrefutably un-American behavior. The also run from news reporters or refuse to answer when asked, “Do you believe it’s wrong for a president of the United States to bully a foreign leader into digging up dirt on a political rival, by withholding military assistance already approved by Congress?”

This is shameful behavior by elected officials who swear an oath to protect the Constitution and the people of America.

And it’s not just Nunes and other sitting GOP lawmakers who are in complete thrall to their dear leader. Right Wing Watch reported that former Minnesota congresswoman and continuing Christian extremist Michele Bachmann, who also once ran for president, claims that America has never had a president with “greater moral clarity.”

On the Washington Watch TV program earlier this week, Bachmann said the impeachment process was a “pathetic joke.”

Our President … is like nobody else I have ever met in my life,” she said. “And he doesn’t scare easy and he’s gonna stare these guys down. They have no idea who they’re dealing with. He understands the difference between good and evil. We have not seen a president with greater moral clarity than this president.”

As if.

He doesn’t even seem to know the difference between right and wrong.

Nonetheless, that makes him a perfect cult leader.

Unlike Adam Schiff.


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Rick Snedeker

Rick Snedeker is a retired American journalist/editor who now writes in various media and pens nonfiction books. He has received nine past top South Dakota state awards for newspaper column, editorial,...