Archive for the ‘ Book Reviews ’ Category

The Citizenship Question

Sen. Lindsey Graham [of all people] has come forth to address the issue of the children of illegal immigrants becoming citizens. The way the law is currently understood—erroneously, I might add—any child born within the United States, to any immigrant, legal or illegal, is automatically a citizen of the United States. Some immigrants do come into the country as the due date approaches, give birth here, and then use the status of their child, a so-called “Anchor Baby,” to remain here.

We are told this is the result of the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. All amendments must be viewed in context and interpreted according to original intent. The Fourteenth Amendment was one of the post-Civil War amendments dealing with the ex-slaves. All that was intended by it was to ensure that no Southern state would take rights away from these ex-slaves. That’s why the wording was as follows:

All persons born … in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens.

How do we know the original intent was to apply to ex-slaves only? We have the word of the very man who wrote this particular clause. He was Michigan Senator Jacob Howard. As author Thomas West writes,

It appears, however, that the citizenship clause of the Fourteenth Amendment has long been misunderstood. Edward J. Erler points out that the author of the clause, Senator Jacob Howard, emphatically stated that those “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States “will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners” or “aliens.” In other words, the Fourteenth Amendment was never intended to grant automatic citizenship to American-born children of foreigners, and the Supreme Court erred in 1898 when it ruled otherwise. (The Court never ruled that American-born children of illegal aliens are citizens, although that too is current federal policy.)

I realize that original intent doesn’t mean a whole lot to many judges anymore, but if we are to be faithful to the amendment’s original purpose, we must cease the practice of making citizens of anyone born on American soil. No new amendment is necessary. The one we have will do nicely.

I do highly recommend West’s book. It’s called Vindicating the Founders, and it deals not only with what the Founding Fathers thought about immigration, but also race, women, property, voting, and welfare. I use it in my American Revolution course, and it proves to be quite enlightening for most students.

Meanwhile, back to the topic: so when you hear politicians claiming that children of immigrants, legal or illegal, are automatically citizens, realize they don’t understand the Constitution they are supposedly upholding. And when you hear that something else must be done to reverse this policy—well, that might be necessary, given the times, but it shouldn’t have to be. The original intent of the amendment is quite clear historically.

Highly Recommended

In the past few weeks, while writing a book, keeping up with this daily blog, posting on Big Government, teaching a class every Sunday, and continuing to watch over the department I chair at the university—I actually read a couple of books, too. I’d like to recommend them.

Back in January, I wrote about a novel called Deadline by Randy Alcorn. It was thought-provoking and decidedly Christian in its philosophy. You can go back to January 9 to see that review. I’ve now completed that trilogy; I can say without hesitation that the second and third books are just as good, and perhaps even better.

Dominion takes readers into the world of gangs and racial animosities. It does so through the eyes of its protagonist, a black newspaper columnist still struggling with the discrimination of his upbringing, yet rejecting the liberal welfare state as the answer. He’s also groping his way toward a genuine relationship with God after the disillusionment of the “prosperity gospel” he had adopted.

His sister has been killed and he pushes for answers, sometimes in appropriate ways, other times with questionable tactics. His heart has gone cold, but he has to deal with the spiritual questions that intrude into his mind, as well as their application to the city and neighborhood where he lives. It’s a theological, social, and political combination that makes readers grapple with their own attitudes and reactions to injustices.

Deception, the final offering in the trilogy, is written in the first person, through the eyes of a detective who is trying to unravel the mysteries surrounding a murder that seemingly has no answers. The detective has recently lost his wife and carries a grudge against a God who won’t stop people from doing evil. Again, readers are drawn into a theological question that has very practical ramifications for life.

Alcorn uses a technique in all three books that is unique, at least in the books I’ve read to date: he intersperses the action on earth with the experiences of those who have died and have entered into heaven. His ideas of how heaven operates is fascinating. On a couple of occasions, he also takes us down to hell to see what it’s like for a character who has rejected the love of God.

Sound too preachy? Perhaps a little too fanciful? If I were reading this review and hadn’t experienced the books myself, I can see where you might think so. Believe me, though—both books are rooted in earthy reality. Alcorn’s gift is to combine the gritty, seamy side of life with spiritual concepts and make heaven more real than what takes place on earth.

I highly recommend both books, but you might want to read Deadline first to maintain the continuity of the characters and follow their development.

Today’s Surprise: I Recommend My Own Books

In the nearly two years that I’ve written this daily blog, I’ve never, to the best of my recollection (how’s that for a lawyerly term that gets me off the hook if I’m wrong?), advertised for books I’ve authored. Today, though, I would beg your indulgence, since I’ve just had a new edition of one of my books come off the presses.

I first wrote If the Foundations Are Destroyed in 1994. This is now the fourth edition of it, complete with a new cover. Why might you want it? The subtitle, Biblical Principles and Civil Government, tells you what it’s all about. I go through what I consider to be Biblical principles and how they apply to government. These form the basis of all my analyses of current government policies. So if you are a regular reader of this blog, this book will provide a window into why I believe as I do.

I have excerpted some of these concepts on the blog already as an overview. If you are interested in a preview, just click on the “Biblical Principles” category in the right sidebar. To learn more about the book and to order it, go to:

http://ponderingprinciples.com/books/itfad/.

While I’m at it, let me talk briefly about the other two books I’ve written.

I did my doctoral dissertation on Noah Webster. While writing it, I had in mind that I wanted to make it into a publishable book. That’s not always easy with a doctoral dissertation, but I made every effort to ensure the writing style was accessible to a general audience as well as scholars. I hope I succeeded.

Webster was the schoolmaster to early America. His speller and dictionary could be found in nearly all American homes. The subtitle, A Spiritual Biography, lets you know that my goal in this book was to chart the course of Webster’s thinking and worldview. At age 50, he experienced a conversion to orthodox Christian faith. How did that affect his scholarly work? The book compares the pre-conversion Webster with the post-conversion man, while offering along the way an accounting of his contributions to American life and culture. To find out more and order this book go to:

http://ponderingprinciples.com/books/webster/.

In 2001, I completed a study of the Clinton impeachment. My approach was different than any of the other books on the impeachment written at that time. I wrote it from the perspective of the thirteen congressmen—they were called House Managers—who went to the Senate to argue for Clinton’s removal from office. I personally interviewed all thirteen of the Managers in their Capitol Hill offices; this book provides their story on why they thought it was essential to go forward with these impeachment proceedings in spite of public opposition. It’s a study in character and the significance of the rule of law in society.

At the time of its publication, it was a main selection for the Conservative Book Club. Well-known author and editor of World magazine, Marvin Olasky, wrote the foreword for me. This is the only one of my books that is currently out of print (which I hope can be changed someday), but it is still available for those who are interested. For one of the limited number of new copies that still exist, you can order from this page:

http://ponderingprinciples.com/books/misimp/.

If you don’t mind getting a used copy, check out Amazon.

I don’t offer these with any expectation of becoming fabulously wealthy. My primary concern is to disseminate valuable information. I’ve promoted books by a number of authors over the past two years. I just wanted to make sure you are aware of mine as well. I hope some of you decide to add one or more of these to your library.

Book Recommendation: Dark Horse

Ralph Reed, former director of the Christian Coalition through much of the 1990s and advisor for numerous political campaigns, has stepped out to write a novel. It actually came out in 2008, but I don’t remember hearing about it at the time. I received it recently as a gift.

My initial reaction was “what is he doing writing a novel”? My second thought was “I wonder if it can possibly be any good, since he has never done this before.”

Now I know that he can definitely do it, and do it pretty well.

There’s no way I’m going to give away the plot. First of all, it would be rather difficult to trace all the twists involved. I will say, though, that it draws a sophisticated picture of what it is like in politics, both on the campaign trail and behind the scenes.

Dark Horse raises the question “What would happen given a complex array of incidents involving election fraud, personal improprieties, and a brazen terrorist attack? Would this mix of events allow an independent running for the presidency to overcome all the problems inherent with an independent campaign?”

Reed writes as a Christian, and some of his players are evangelical, but they are not plastic. They have their faults, sometimes rather blatant. The Christian analysis he brings to the novel is not artificially moralistic; neither is it awkwardly planted on top of other events. There is a natural flow of Biblical values that interacts with selfish, worldly pursuits, and that leaves the reader pondering how the characters could have been more consistent in the application of their faith.

Reed’s background serves him well. He is an insider, so he can report on the inner workings of politics. Proximity to those inner workings could cause cynicism, and while Reed does show us the seamy side, even with those who claim Christian faith as their motivation, his cynicism is measured. He holds out hope that genuine faith can make a difference.

So, if you’re looking for a good, fast read, and you are particularly interested in the world of politics, I do recommend Dark Horse. Even though it is light reading compared to a policy tome, it nevertheless makes you think about the proper way to bring faith into the public realm.

True Truth

I’ve just finished reading a novel by Randy Alcorn entitled Deadline. I’d heard of Alcorn previously and was told he was good, but now I can say from personal experience that the recommendation was accurate.

Alcorn has an ability to write from a thoroughly Biblical perspective about the reality of heaven while simultaneously reflecting the reality of earthly life. I won’t make this a review of the plot of the book or of his writing style, but I do want to provide an excerpt that struck me as wondrously concise in its description of the unreality of the “broad way that leads to death.”

In this excerpt, an angel is explaining to a man newly arrived in heaven just what the problem is with the majority of mankind. I love how he expresses it. This excerpt may seem a little long, but if you patiently read and meditate on it, I believe you will grasp its value.

You come from a world where truth is obscured, shrouded, reinterpreted. The father of lies dominates, and the world order has become built around lies, which are mistaken for truths because the majority believe them, as if the universe were a democracy and truth subject to a vote. Men choose to believe certain things because they find them flattering, comfortable, and popular. But truth is seldom any of these. . . .

Men take their favorite lies and make them sound grand and noble by calling them “truths.” But they cannot be truths, because they have been invented by men, and men have no power over truth. Truth by its nature prevails, and lies by their nature wither in truth’s eternal fire. Every untruth, every half-truth, every pretense—no matter how fashionable and widely believed—shall be shown for what it is, declared a lie in the sight of all men for all time. . . .

Heaven and hell are the high stakes that give meaning to life on earth. Man denies the stakes are real. He says all life’s roads lead to the same place, and that therefore it makes no difference which road men choose. But the truth remains the truth, unimpeded by the lie. The roads lead to very different places, opposite places, to infinite joy or infinite misery, to unimaginable glory or unimaginable tragedy. That is why a man’s choice of roads could not be more important. . . .

In the darkness, men can shine flashlights on a sundial and make it tell any time they want. But only the sun tells the true time. The flashlights are the changing and fleeting opinions of men. The sun is the eternal Word of God. Only God makes truth. Men either discover it or fail to discover it. They either interpret it rightly or interpret it wrongly. But they have no power to make truth or change it. For truth is no man’s servant. Ultimately, the truth must become each person’s friend or his enemy, his master or his judge.

May God’s truth prevail in your life.

Going Rogue, Part III: The Palin Political Philosophy

When Palin’s book first came out, I remember Rush Limbaugh commenting that it was a great book on public policy. Others who commented on his comment took him to task for seeing something in the book that wasn’t there. At least that was what they said. Now that I’ve read it for myself, I can say that Rush was correct.

No one disputes that the book is primarily autobiographical. The intent clearly is to reintroduce Palin to the public from her perspective rather than through the lens of her critics. Yet a significant part of who she is pertains to what she believes. Throughout her account, she offers insight into her governing philosophy, whether as a town council member, mayor, or governor. In each case, she is consistent in what she believes and how she attempts to govern.

Then, at the end of the book, after all the trials of the campaign and the false ethics complaints that led her to resign her office, she spends time laying out more clearly her foundational principles.

She calls herself “an independent person who had the good fortune to come of age in the era of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.” She realizes that politcal labels get attached to individuals, so she decides to call herself a Commonsense Conservative.

Upon what is her Commonsense Conservatism based? Palin says, “I believe in a few timeless and unchanging truths, and chief among those is that man is fallen. This world is not perfect, and politicians will never make it so. . . . I am a conservative because I believe in the rights and the responsibilities and the inherent dignity of the individual.” This means

We don’t trust utopian promises from politicians. The role of government is not to perfect us but to protect us—to protect our inalienable rights. The role of government in a civil society is to protect the individual and to establish a social contract so that we can live together in peace.

On economics, she sees cycles of booms and busts that are natural, given man’s fallen condition. Then when government steps in to “help,” things only get worse.

It’s easy to promise free medical care and a chicken in every pot. It’s more difficult to explain how we’re going to pay for it all and to explain why social programs that were supposed to help the poor have ended up hurting them, becoming unsustainable financial liabilities for all of us. Ronald Reagan was the last president to really explain this to us.

Palin refers to Reagan continually. She’s obviously influenced by him and wants to see the nation return to his way of thinking. This, of course, wins points with me.

President Reagan used to speak of reducing the federal government. Now some Republicans barely bat an eyelash when helping create whole new federal bureaucracies. Today if you ask, “Why exactly do we need that federal program? Can’t we do without it?” people will look at you as if you’re from outer space—or perhaps from Alaska.

As she analyzes the bailouts and stimulus bills that have heaped unprecedented debt on the country, she responds,

Our massive interventions in the economy today haven’t “fixed” anything; instead, we’re rewarding a few large firms for being irresponsible. We’ve told them they’re “too big to fail”; we’ve told them that the bigger they are and the more trouble they get themselves into, the more likely the government will be to bail them out. . . .

The lesson in all of this is that we can’t abandon free-market principles in order to save the free market. It doesn’t work that way. The cure only makes the disease worse.

Palin stresses energy independence, and from her background and experience with Alaskan resources, believes that America can achieve this. She also stands strong on doing what is necessary to win the War on Terror. For her, this is not simply a criminal activity to be dealt with by the courts.

With her stalwart prolife views and Christian moral precepts, her principled position on the free market, her pro-military, pro-strong-America stance, and her ability to communicate these concepts, generating enthusiasm among the grassroots conservative movement, Sarah Palin is probably the first politician since Ronald Reagan who has the potential to unite all factions of conservatism.

Will she do so? If she does what she says everyone must do—follow the leading of the Lord in all areas of life—she may be the person who can achieve this.

I encourage everyone who has taken the time to read these three posts to do the same with Palin’s book. Examine it for yourself and determine in your own mind if my analysis is correct.

Going Rogue, Part II: Politics of Personal Destruction

The Palin Family Became a Target

Some reports on Palin’s book made it seem as if she spent the majority of the time complaining about the treatment she received from the press, the Democrats, and operatives within the McCain campaign. In fact, all she did was chronicle what actually took place during the campaign and afterwards. She points to actions that she considers unfair, foolish, and indefensible, yet she doesn’t turn it into a diatribe against her opponents. She is analytical about it, not resentful.

It was Bill Clinton’s apologists who originally coined the term “politics of personal destruction,” accusing Republicans of trying to oust him by pointing out his moral failings. Well, in his case, there was a case.

Until Sarah Palin got the nod for vice president, she was admired by nearly everyone. No one accused her of any wrongdoing. Democrats in Alaska appreciated that she took on corruption within her own party. But once she was on the ticket, all that changed.

The Accusations Even Focused on Baby Trig

Her family was a target; some even fantasized that newborn Trig, the Down Syndrome baby, was actually her daughter Bristol’s child, and that Palin was lying about being his mom.

Suddenly, she was no longer the efficient administrator, but a dumb “Caribou Barbie,” according to some commentators. Her first interview, with Charlie Gibson of ABC, took on the nature of a stern civics teacher challenging her knowledge of the world.

All of that is well known. How does Palin handle it in the book?

While she doesn’t pull any punches about her feelings over the maltreatment, her faith shines through. There is an inherent optimism in Palin that mirrors Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Reagan suffered through many of the same accusations: he’s dumb, he’s lazy, he’s a simpleton. He refused to respond in kind; Palin follows in his footsteps.

She quotes David Horowitz, a former radical-turned-conservative, who notes that the political left uses the rules enunciated by activist Saul Alinsky—make accusation after accusation until something sticks; overwhelm the target with so many accusations that he/she gives up. That is how Palin was treated after the campaign. She hoped to return to her gubernatorial duties as before, but opponents without any credibility raised ethics issues one after the other, overwhelming her staff with all the paperwork needed to answer them. Every one was debunked, but the Palins were left with $500,000 in legal expenses because of this onslaught.

Incidentally, Saul Alinsky was a big influence on two prominent politicians: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. They have used his techniques as a foundation for their political success.

I can hardly imagine the stress all of this placed on her family, and on her personally. Yet her attitude in the book is that you cannot expect to escape such trials. It’s the nature of politics, so you simply must face it and move forward. Even as she eventually decided to resign the governorship [because no real work could be done due to these tactics], it was not a retreat in her mind; it was, instead, a “reloading.” She was eager to see what new doors God might open.

Many commentators wrote her political obituary after her resignation. She acknowledges that, and even says it may preclude her from further political office, but she took that action believing it was right, regardless of the political consequences.

Sarah Palin’s persona in Going Rogue is that of an open, honest, down-to-earth woman with whom everyday Americans would feel comfortable. Her responses to the personal attacks are admirable. That is one of the key things I look for in a potential leader. It goes back once again to character. And she has it.

Well, it’s one thing to possess an enviable character and to be able to handle whatever life throws at you, but anyone who harbors the least ambition for higher political office must also have a clear philosophy of government. What is Palin’s philosophy? How is it revealed in the book? That will be the subject of my third, and final, part of this review.