Obama, Iran, Clinton, & Trump–Oh, My!

That Iran “deal” is back in the news. Normally, a deal has something good for both sides, but Iran is walking away with the store while we pretend that it will now keep its word not to develop nuclear weapons for a few years.

The deposit of $400 million to Iran by a cash payment, a move that was carried out secretly by the Obama administration, has showcased once again the empathy our current president has for a terrorist state because it is Muslim.

Night Depository

Well, we owed it to Iran, we are told, but it was interrupted by the Islamic Revolution of 1979. You remember, the revolution that took Americans hostage in their own embassy? And that new government at the time wasn’t exactly the one we were dealing with all along, now was it?

We’ve had a long history of not negotiating with terrorists. What has changed?

Don't Negotiate

What makes this secret cash payment even more disreputable is that the four hostages Iran recently released were done so, apparently, only after this money arrived by plane. One of those hostages, pastor Saeed Abedini, has said that his plane, which was to take him back to freedom, wasn’t allowed to take off until another plane arrived. One filled with cash?

Well, maybe I’m being too cynical. Maybe I should just believe what I’m told by my president.

Coincidence

Ransom

Tribute

After all, he has such a fine history of telling us the truth:

Not a Ransom

This is par for the course, though, for Democrat politicians:

Huge Sums

We are about to follow the most radical administration in American history with what may be the most corrupt. If only Republicans had gotten their act together this year rather than decide to throw a temper tantrum:

Eminently Beatable

We have sown. We are now reaping.

Lewis, Education, & Not Losing Heart

Abolition of Man Quote #3Another academic year approaches. I will begin my 28th year of teaching full-time at the college level. As I contemplate this new beginning (every new teaching session feels like a new beginning to me), I reflect on how C. S. Lewis understood education. His Abolition of Man is key to his understanding, but one can also get some insight from his letters to Americans. Those are the letters I know best after delving into them for my upcoming book. As I was picking and choosing what to share from those letters in the book, I included some of Lewis’s poignant comments on education.

Warfield Firor

Warfield Firor, an esteemed surgeon at Johns Hopkins, was a long-time correspondent with Lewis. Firor and Lewis met face-to-face in Oxford once and Firor was a guest at an Inklings meeting. When he returned to America, their correspondence deepened into many subjects, one of which was education.

One of Lewis’s letters to Firor was devoted to a critique of education, at least the way it was being carried out at that time. What is most interesting about this particular letter is that it contains sentiments about education that one might not expect from such an esteemed scholar. While Lewis certainly believed in high standards (witness the testimony of those he tutored), he also saw a bad trend in the early years when children needed more time to be children.

He was deeply concerned that education had turned into more of a competition, even of a ruthless nature. While competition itself was not evil, he told Firor that children needed time to be children. Why, he complained, did one’s entire childhood and the college years always have to be a constant exam preparation? Was this really good for the children? What kind of nation would this produce psychologically, morally, and spiritually?

Vera GebbertIn a letter to another regular American correspondent, Vera Gebbert, Lewis remarked on the deplorable state of education in both England and America, opining that both countries offered very little in the way of a solid education. He was fortunate, he told her, that his father had sent him to a private tutor after his own miserable experiences at schools.

In his very next letter, in response to her information about the kind of school her son was attending, he again took aim at the way English schools were being run, devoid of a real understanding of education. The educational authorities seemed to think that spending money on better facilities would guarantee a great education, but Lewis pointedly remarked that genuine education in the hands of a very good teacher could take place in a ramshackle building, while the best facilities in the world could never make up for the tutelage of bad teachers.

I loved reading that last remark from Lewis. I’ve always maintained that real education doesn’t take as much funding as people think. Apart from paying teachers what they are really worth (I won’t get into that right now), fancy buildings, while wonderful, don’t guarantee good education. A devoted, enthusiastic teacher does.

I’ve rarely wavered in my enthusiasm for teaching, even during some of the roughest patches of my life when discouragement threatened to overwhelm. To all teachers out there, especially those who seek to imbue their students with a love of learning that comes directly from the heart of God—don’t lose heart yourselves. I always come back to this Scripture in Galatians:

For whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. . . . Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

May weariness never overtake you. May the Lord lift you up and encourage you on this path. You will reap what you have sown.

Friends, Colleagues, Former Students–Lend Me Your Ears

I am going to make a concerted effort next week to turn to other subjects in this blog, but for today, I feel compelled to make a heartfelt appeal to those I count as friends or colleagues, and to a multitude of former students of mine who appear to be supporting Donald Trump.

Please lend me your ears. I come not to praise Trump, but to expose him.

But I’m sure you already know that.

Donald Trump at DebateWhen Trump first announced his candidacy, which seems like an eon ago, I immediately viewed it as a joke. After watching his debate “performances,” that view only strengthened. Nothing he has done since has changed my mind, despite the fact that he is now the Republican nominee. The joke is now on us.

My first real indication that something was going terribly wrong was when I went to speak to a Tea Party group here in Florida. This was in early February, prior to the vote in Iowa’s caucuses. The group conducted a poll of its members and Trump won by an astounding margin. The man who spoke right before me was a Trump surrogate who assumed everyone was on his side, and judging by the response, he was correct.

Frankly, I was stunned.

Since the Indiana primary, it now seems as if nearly everyone in the Tea Party and/or 9/12 movements in my area has come out enthusiastically for Trump.

Book Cover 1In January of this year, I spoke to a large gathering of Republican women from across the state. My talk, which was about my book on Reagan and Whittaker Chambers, went over so well that I was besieged afterwards with invitations to come speak to various local Republican clubs.

That has not yet happened. Neither was I invited to speak to our local club this summer, even though I always have done so in recent years. I understand. My vocal opposition to Trump makes that rather untenable.

One of my regular readers, a man who has been active in Republican circles in another state but who also has chosen not to endorse Trump, wrote to me and said he has never felt so isolated from fellow Republicans and that he has been treated pretty much as an outcast.

I’ve also noticed that a good number of friends, colleagues, and former students who used to “like” my blog posts regularly have fallen strangely silent lately. Of course I know why; they have decided to back Trump, even though many, I’m sure, have come to this decision with deep reservations.

If you are part of that group, let me tell you that I do understand your frustration with the way things are. I’m also interpreting your silence as a measure of respect for me, not wishing to publicly come out against my position.

The most bothersome thing to me is that most of us all want the same thing, but we disagree on how to achieve it. Rest assured, your difference of opinion on Trump doesn’t sever our relationship, but it does sadden me.

Why? Well, in the case of former students, in particular, I had hoped that all I’ve taught so fervently these past decades would help ground you in principles. I’m not saying you aren’t principled—you continue to stand firm for all those things we believe in with respect to the rule of law, religious liberty, the proper type of education, etc.—but you somehow think that Donald Trump will protect and preserve what we all cherish.

That’s where I think you are violating your principles.

I’m especially disturbed by those who would say I am part of the establishment, and that’s why I oppose Trump. Good heavens, would anyone who really knows me say anything like that? I ask you, who is in bed with the “establishment” right now? Isn’t it Trump himself? Didn’t the “establishment” cut off all opposition to his nomination? Why are you now siding with the very people that have so angered you all these years?

After the Republican convention, an organization called Conservatives Against Trump came out with a statement that accurately conveys where I stand and why.

Against Trump 3

Let me share some of those comments.

The statement makes it clear that the goals of this group are what “we” have always encouraged: limited government, religious liberty, freedom of speech, the sanctity of life, and a strong national defense. It goes on to note,

We see no small irony in the fact that the Republican Platform Committee produced one of the most deeply conservative platforms in modern electoral history, but nominated a candidate who has taken positions contrary to its central tenets. Donald Trump is a contradiction to most everything the Party states as its core beliefs.

Abdication of principle is not the problem of those who oppose Trump; that abdication is found within the party that nominated him.

Then there is this reminder of where Trump has stood on policy and his previous political commitments:

Trump begins as a liberal Republican, arguably more liberal than any other Republican presidential candidate in recent memory. He repeatedly praises Planned Parenthood. He has donated significant money to liberal politicians – including Hillary Clinton.

He wants the government to run health care. He opposes entitlement reform. He supported the Obama stimulus spending plan, the auto bailout and the banks bailout. He opposes free trade agreements. Trump is much closer to the Democratic Party than the Republican. He is a man whose deepest creed is himself.

It continues with commentary on his character, which should be a primary concern of all real conservatives, and Christian conservatives in particular:

Donald Trump Addresses GOP Lincoln Day Event In MichiganThis pretend Republican has preyed on misunderstandings, ignorance, and sometimes violence and rank bigotry. He has been vulgar, coarse, demagogic, and cruel. He has mocked disabled people, lauded dictators, and insisted that military leaders would follow his lawless orders should he attain the Presidency. He has been slow to condemn racists – the very reason the Republican Party was founded. He has praised torture as a form of punishment and promised to extend retribution to the innocent.

4.1.1But what about the Supreme Court? Even if everything else I’ve said about Trump is true, we can’t let that slip through our fingers, can we?

Some of our fellow conservatives have argued that the Supreme Court vacancy compels them to vote for Trump. We respect them and their reasoning, but we do not agree. We do not trust that Trump would appoint a good Justice or, if he does, would fight for a conservative jurist against an adversarial Senate.

The statement correctly notes that the Supreme Court is only one part of the government and that a Trump presidency would probably be just as disastrous to the whole concept of our government as a Hillary presidency:

Furthermore, we would be gambling on a good Supreme Court nomination at the price of constitutional integrity – and this coming from a Republican President leading a party that prides itself on originalist jurisprudence.

We do not trust Donald Trump to bow to the authority of the Constitution or the laws of Congress. He is running on a platform of strength and action, and our Constitution was formed to hobble not just quick lawmaking, but the very kind of strongman governance Trump embodies, despite the angry clamor from a justifiably frustrated electorate.

The antidote is not to seek a “strong man” who will force everything to go the way he perceives it should. Recall Trump’s words at the Republican convention when he said only he can solve the problems of the nation. Really? That’s been the attitude of a steady stream of dictators throughout history.

So what is the solution?

The antidote is to put forward leaders who will appeal to our reason and virtue, not our instincts and vices. We are committed to the principles of the Republican Party, not because they belong to the Party but because we believe they are right and just. We are conservatives before we are Republicans.

We believe that politics is about the art of the possible. We have often been in a position of supporting the lesser of two evils. But Donald Trump appeals not to our better angels but to our baser instincts.

Constitutional RepublicThe statement then ends with the following declarations:

We will not compromise core principle for the sake of Party allegiance.

We will not allow vulgarity to stand in the place of virtue.

We will not allow Trump to be the face of the nation to the world – not with our votes.

We will not sit by idly and allow conservatism to be hijacked by a man who shares none of the values of Reagan and Lincoln.

We will support conservative candidates down-ballot.

We will vote our conscience because we believe such a vote is our right and duty as citizens and is never wasted — whether that be voting for another conservative candidate or a write-in.

We will continue to speak out on issues important for our nation. We will seek to impact the newest generation of voters and educating them on the Constitution, the role of faith, family, and freedom as the basis of limited government.

I am in agreement with every one of those declarations. I appeal to all of you—friends, colleagues, and former students—please rethink your support of a man who is just as much a threat to our government and our culture as the horrible candidate put forth by the Democrats.

It’s time to see Donald Trump for what he really is, not for what you hope he will be.

Unity?

Unity. That’s what it’s all about, right? All of us who are sickened at the thought of a Hillary presidency have to board the Trump train for the sake of unity. And if people like me, who oppose Trump for president, don’t hop on board, we are the problem and will be blamed for a Trump loss in November.

As I’ve said countless times, and will repeat again, any Trump loss in November will be due to Donald Trump himself and those who mindlessly followed him into his own personal fever swamp.

Evidence? It abounds.

Let’s look at what has occurred since the Republican convention.

Donald Trump Addresses GOP Lincoln Day Event In MichiganFirst, Trump refuses to let go of any comment by anyone that is the least bit critical of him, and continues to fire back regardless of the consequences. In politics, you take the heat and go on. Trump will not do so; instead, he creates bigger issues because he is so thin-skinned.

He continues to criticize Ted Cruz and won’t back off on the stupid accusation that Cruz’s father is somehow implicated in the JFK assassination.

He takes umbrage at a Muslim father speaking at the Democrat convention criticizing him. Keep in mind this was the Democrat convention. Of course they will line up speakers to criticize him.

In this case, though, the parents lost their son in Iraq. Now, whatever the truth is about the father—even if he should happen to be someone who ultimately favors Sharia law, or whatever—Trump’s reaction was again supremely stupid. You simply don’t rant against parents who lost their son in service to the country. From what I’ve read, the son lost his life when he ordered his fellow soldiers to stay back while he investigated; he died doing so, putting his fellows first.

That kind of decision needs to be respected, no matter who the parents are. Trump turning it into a “cause” only cheapens Trump. He somehow can’t see that.

A whole slew of stupidity manifested itself yesterday. Trump tells a woman to remove her crying baby from his rally after first trying to say he loves babies. I’ve watched the video without any editing. He came across as a fool and someone who really, despite what he claims, doesn’t like babies.

A veteran gave Trump his Purple Heart. Trump jokes that he always wanted one but didn’t expect to receive it this way. Just a joke, right? Watch the video, please. He again comes across as “this is all about me, not thee.” He doesn’t honor the man who gave it to him; he turns the focus on himself—as always—because in Trump World, all that matters is Donald Trump.

Then, because Paul Ryan and John McCain criticize him for his comments over the Muslim parents’ dead son, he now says he doesn’t endorse them for reelection.

Some of my readers may respond with joy over that because of dislike of both Ryan and McCain. But regardless of what you think of those men, isn’t Trump supposed to be unifying the party now? What does he do instead? He creates greater division. This is so bad that even Reince Priebus is upset. It takes a lot to get him upset with Trump.

Mike Pence has had to do more damage control than any VP candidate in history. I would feel sorry for him except for the fact that he signed up for this voluntarily. Did he understand what he was getting himself into?

Fireman Pence

How bad is it getting? I watched Fox News’s The Five last night, a show that reflexively defends Trump no matter what. Except for last night. Only Eric Bolling was willing to find an excuse for Trump’s antics. The others, especially Dana Perino, were critical. Perino practically said Trump was stupid and she seemed to be fed up with trying to defend him. She says she can offer no more advice on what he should do because he obviously won’t listen to anyone. Her disgust with Trump was all over her face.

Reports coming from inside the Trump campaign paint a picture of an organization almost in chaos, with people beside themselves trying to rein him in unsuccessfully.

I am more and more convinced that Trump’s supersized ego—one that has been allowed to grow throughout his life without any serious barriers—has made him a very disturbed man, both mentally and emotionally.

Beyond that, I’m not even sure he has the brain power to think clearly and rationally. He is stuck in his middle school vocabulary, with constant repetition of words and phrases (great, terrific, terrible, nasty, loser, etc., etc.) and has the emotional stability that goes along with boys at that level of maturation.

Trump's Brain

Am I aghast at the thought of a Hillary Clinton reign of error and terror? Absolutely. The trouble is that I’m equally aghast at the thought of a Trump ascendancy.

I’m in the minority in conservative circles right now. I’m apparently in the minority in evangelical circles also. That’s okay. I’ve been in this position before. My goal remains the same: speak the truth as God gives me the light to see the truth; emerge from this fiasco with my integrity intact.

Pray for our nation.

The Final Balloon Drop

I have been voting in presidential elections since 1972. There have been some terrible nominees along the way, but never before has the perfect storm erupted until this year. Never before have both parties scraped the bottom of this candidate barrel so thoroughly, leaving the American people with no tolerable choice.

Yes, I know a lot of voters are choosing one of these nominees anyway, but most are doing so with grave concerns, and for good reason.

The Democrat convention is now over, mercifully. If you want a party that delights in murdering babies, this is your party. If you want a party that seeks to destroy all gender distinctions, welcome aboard. If you want a party that finds the socialist vision to be energizing, you have a home.

Radical Extremists

And the nominee promises to complete what Barack Obama has begun:

Finish the Job

Hillary Clinton practically boasts that she will be Obama’s third term. That’s supposed to help her? Donald Trump thinks Hillary herself will lead to his triumph:

Trump Card

Any other year, with any other Republican candidate, that would be the case. Not necessarily this time. Ever since the Republican convention, Trump has been busily undermining himself, providing lots of opportunities for the Republican establishment to distance itself from him while still trying to say we should vote for him. Even his own VP pick, Mike Pence, has had to come out and try to explain away Trump’s foolish talk.

It’s also becoming even more obvious the kind of supporters Trump has outside of this country:

Trump Hearts Putin

Sorry, but I don’t find that encouraging.

Where does this leave the American people?

Both Conventions

Oh, Joy

Each convention ended with the traditional balloon drop. A more non-traditional balloon drop might have been more appropriate:

Final Balloon Drop

And rather than an election season where one can be enthusiastic about a candidate’s positive achievements and promises for the future, we are left instead with this:

Pros & Cons

I keep ending my blog posts with this comment because it gets to the root of how I feel: May God have mercy on us as a nation.

Looking for Some Good Reads?

Planets in PerilI have some book reviews for you today.

I’ve been expanding my reading of books about C. S. Lewis. Some of my earliest reading of Lewis was his Space Trilogy: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. I’ve been aware of David Downing’s analysis of these novels, Planets in Peril: A Critical Study of C. S. Lewis’s Ransom Trilogy, for quite some time; I finally got around to reading it.

Every Lewis fan has a favorite in this series. Downing does a fine job of interlacing all three of the books, drawing from each of them in every chapter. He uses the thematic approach: Christian vision; elements of classicism and medievalism; portraits of evil; the concept of the spiritual pilgrimage.

While he obviously is deeply appreciative of what Lewis offers in these books, his analysis is exactly that: a critique that doesn’t lend itself to hero worship. He points to what he believes are the positives and negatives of the writing. Needless to say, the positives outweigh the negatives.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read the trilogy over the years. Downing’s book is one of those I will have to re-read as well.

Looking for the KingI also was intrigued by another of Downing’s books, Looking for the King: An Inklings Novel. How, I wondered, was he going to incorporate real people into the novel? He follows the quest by an American doctoral candidate to find whatever evidence he can of the truth behind the King Arthur legend.

The author accomplishes his goal. He keeps the narrative focused on the American scholar while bringing the Inklings in as valuable aids in his quest. I agree with Marjorie Lamp Mead of the Wade Center in her recommendation for the book:

David Downing’s homage to C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams succeeds masterfully. This is a beguiling and enjoyable read—laced throughout with romance, wry humor, and questions of eternal consequence.

Toward the GleamAmazon always attempts to point you to other books similar to the one you are buying. When I purchased Looking for the King, I was intrigued by one of the options, Toward the Gleam by T. M. Doran. I had never heard of this author or his works, but after reading the synopsis, I thought I would try it. I’m glad I did.

Doran does the same thing Downing does, including the Inklings in a novel that centers around a mysterious book that an Oxford professor finds and attempts to translate. It purportedly tells of an ancient civilization that no one knows existed. Is it fact or fiction? Why does having this book put the professor’s life in danger?

We are taken into the Bird and Baby pub for conversations with Lewis and Owen Barfield. Other characters that grace the pages are G. K. Chesterton and Winston Churchill. Doran’s method of introducing them is rather unique, though. He never gives the full name, only a first name. So you have to be someone “in the know” to recognize them.

The biggest twist, however, is the identity of the main character, which is never explicitly expressed, but as you read, you slowly come to the knowledge of who he is. I won’t give it away.

I was so delighted with this novel that I’m going to have to try another Doran book very soon.

One more.

At the recent Lewis conference I attended, I saw another book that I had recently put in my Amazon wish list, so I decided to get it, primarily as what I hoped would be a good read on the plane home. I was not disappointed.

CalledCalled: My Journey to C. S. Lewis’s House and Back Again by Ryan Pemberton is not the travelogue the title might indicate. Rather, it is a very personal story of struggle in finding God’s will in one’s life. It’s the true story of a young American man who studied at Oxford, hoping to find God’s specific calling on his life.

Along the way, Pemberton not only became president of the Oxford C. S. Lewis Society, but actually lived in the Kilns for a year while completing his degree. Although not a novel, it has all the qualities of one as you wonder where the next twist in his life will take him and whether he will ever know for sure to what God is calling him.

Pemberton is a fine writer; he allows you into his life and thinking during his Oxford days—all the doubts, fears, and satisfactions. By the end of the book, you, too, have experienced all those same doubts, fears, and, ultimately, satisfactions.

I recommend Called and now wonder what Pemberton will do if he chooses to write a second book. How will he make it the equal of his first? I wish him well.

So, those are my four recommendations this week. You can be sure when my book, America Discovers C. S. Lewis, comes out in a few weeks, I’ll have another one to recommend.

Review of “Hillary’s America”

Yesterday I went to see Dinesh D’Souza’s new film, Hillary’s America. I saw his previous two—2016: Obama’s America and America: Imagine the World Without Her—and all three, from my perspective, are superbly written, visually effective, professionally produced, and timely for an age living in deception.

My personal favorite is the second, America: Imagine the World Without Her, but the new Hillary film is very significant as well.

Hillary's America

Hillary’s America has two goals: trace the “hidden” history of the Democrat party; reveal the character of Hillary and the disaster we would be facing should she become president. D’Souza makes his point well on both fronts.

For me, there is no hidden history of the Democrats. I teach much of what D’Souza documents in the film. I’m sure some of my students are surprised when I show them that it was the Democrats who pushed Native Americans out of their lands, that it was the Democrats who defended slavery and segregation, and that for most of our post-Civil War history, at least until the 1960s, the majority of black Americans voted Republican.

D’Souza lays out the stark difference between Democrats and Republicans in the history of race relations in America. His documentation seems to be solid; this is not simply a partisan Republican diatribe against Democrats. As a historian, I recognized immediately the quotes used in the film (many of which I use in class also) and can say he is not using them out of context.

Goal #1 achieved.

When he then takes aim at Hillary Clinton, he again effectively uses her own words and those of her mentors (Saul Alinsky, for example) to show how her views developed and what she has become. Making the long story very short, I can say that anyone walking away from this movie thinking Hillary would be a fine president wasn’t really listening.

Goal #2 achieved.

The movie makes ludicrous the assessments of Hillary’s supporters (read: Barack Obama) that she is more ready than anyone in American history to assume the mantle of the presidency:

Most Accomplished Candidate

D’Souza clearly shows how the Clintons have always used whatever means available to promote themselves and take advantage of others. This time around, they had the DNC to act as their bouncer, making sure that Bernie Sanders never had a chance:

Crooked Ones

Not that I wanted Sanders to be the nominee, mind you, but the Clinton machine is far worse.

Then there was Bill’s sappy speech about what a great love affair their marriage has been. Is there anyone out there who really believes a word of that?

Met a Girl

They have a political marriage, pure and simple. Well, maybe not so pure. Did you notice what Bill left out of his speech?

Late Nineties

ImpeachableIn case any of you have forgotten, you can still get my book, Mission: Impeachable, on Amazon. It’s out of print now, but there are used copies available. It would be a great refresher course if you weren’t paying attention in the late nineties or you weren’t old enough to have experienced it firsthand.

As D’Souza shows, deception has been the hallmark of everything the Clintons have done. There’s no reason to believe that would change in another Clinton presidency. She definitely would be Obama’s third term, and she would be just as deceptive and as much of a liar as he has been over the past seven years. She could even use his slogan, albeit with a slight alteration:

Deceive

And who knows what else will come to light after she is elected?

Other Shoe

This brings me to the only weakness of Hillary’s America. D’Souza offers as a solution voting for the Republican candidate. Oh, how I wish I could! If only the Republicans had chosen a Republican for their nominee!

Prior to Trump’s nomination, I was really looking forward to this election because I knew that Hillary’s baggage was so great that she was eminently beatable. Now, instead, we are given the choice between two crime figures instead of one crime figure and a true conservative.

I agree with D’Souza: Hillary Clinton should never be president. Unfortunately, Donald Trump is no better. A film could be made about his life and dealings and, I’m sure, it would be just as damning.

So, thank you, Mr. D’Souza, for pointing out what we need to know about Democrats in general and Hillary in particular. However, this time around, your solution is no solution at all.