Even though Michael Gerson is a Republican, he isn’t pulling any punches when it comes to the ethics of the administration of President Donald Trump.
Gerson, a columnist with The Washington Post, will talk about politics under Trump with James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic, at 2 p.m. Monday in the Hall of Philosophy. The conversation, titled “Five Things Everyone Should Know about Politics in the Age of Trump,” kicks off the interfaith segment of Week Eight’s theme, “Media and the News: Ethics in the Digital Age.”
“(Gerson) has been a part of a valuable camp of writers over the last few years trying to bridge the gap between what are ongoing conservative principles and also the values of his faith, which he takes very seriously, and the emerging direction of the Republican Party under Donald Trump,” Fallows said.
Fallows will interview all five guest lecturers this week and said he is excited to speak in-depth, especially at Chautauqua Institution, about a topic he has written about for years. The renowned journalist — Fallows has won the National Magazine Award and the American Book Award — first came to Chautauqua about 25 years ago with his family and has returned repeatedly since.
Although he has written about the intersection of politics and ethics for decades, Fallows said he is excited to learn from the guest speakers, some of whom are more focused on faith and others on politics, like Gerson. According to Fallows, Gerson’s lecture will likely be the most overtly political of the week.
Neither Fallows nor Gerson are strangers to the challenges of the White House. Gerson spent six years as former President George W. Bush’s chief speechwriter and Fallows spent two years in the same position for former President Jimmy Carter.
Gerson is also known for his strong Christian faith. In 2005, he was named by Time as one of “The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals In America” and he most recently co-authored a book titled City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era.
Lately, Gerson’s columns have focused on how these two topics — politics and faith — intersect, with a focus on the Trump administration. Some of the topics have included how a values-free philosophy has hurt the U.S. State Department and how the investigation into Russia’s meddling has shown that the administration has no conscience.
“It has been particularly strange to hear religious conservatives claim that the character of leaders doesn’t count,” Gerson wrote in his July 13 column in The Washington Post. “But the character of a president leaves an imprint on everyone around him.”
Both Fallows and Maureen Rovegno, associate director of the Department of Religion, said they thought Gerson was the right person to address the week’s topic. Rovegno recalled that Gerson had been a strong contributor the last time he spoke at Chautauqua in July 2012.
While Fallows has some questions prepared, he said he is ready to let Gerson and the other speakers lead the conversation. He said that there are no doubts about Gerson’s credentials as someone who takes religion — and its connection to conservative political values — seriously. They will hopefully be able to get to the bottom of some of Fallows’ more challenging dilemmas.
“The larger question, I think, that people want from this moment in national history — and this week’s exploration of it — is, essentially, ‘Is there any hope?’ ” Fallows said.