About That Private Sector Comment

It appears the president dug a pretty deep hole with his comment about how the private sector is doing fine. It always takes a few days for the cartoonists to catch up to events, but they’ve done so now. In one respect, President Obama is correct about the state of the private sector. These private sector cartoonists are doing quite well. Here’s a sampling:

Of course, the president tried to “walk it back” a few hours later, but wasn’t too successful:

Maybe that will teach him not to wing it. He definitely needs those teleprompters. The other theme he keeps stressing is that he’s not responsible for all the deficit spending the last three and one half years. He’s still blaming former President Bush. When does the statute of limitations run out on blaming others? For this president, apparently never.

A Hierarchy of Courage vs. a Partisan Political Ploy

President Obama seems to have stepped in it again. He has taken an event that should have been a uniting feature of the War on Terror—the killing of Osama bin Laden one year ago—and turned it into a partisan political ploy. A new ad has Bill Clinton—Bill Clinton, mind you—praising the courage and leadership of Obama as he made the decision to proceed with the raid that led to bin Laden’s death.

Now, I’m not going to detract from the significance of making that decision. It was the right call. But then the ad goes on to imply that the presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, might not have had the backbone to do the same. This is the Obama team at its partisan worst. When we all should be glad that a master terrorist reaped the consequences of his evil actions, we are treated instead to a glorified image of the current president interwoven into his reelection campaign:

What, in fact, did he do that anyone else in his position would not have done? As Romney quipped, even Jimmy Carter would have made the same call. There’s also no credit being given to all the groundwork that was laid by the Bush administration that led to the raid. In particular, Obama and his allies have decried the enhanced interrogation techniques that effectively provided the information necessary to make the “takeout” possible. Then there’s the SEAL Team itself, which is largely forgotten in the reelection bid. No, this is all about Obama. What’s devastating is that SEAL members are speaking out, miffed over the grandiose role being promoted for the president. One cartoonist, Michael Ramirez, has displayed his feelings about Obama’s role rather blatantly:

Obama made the right decision, but his decision was not the most courageous on that day. He was simply doing what was necessary after all the spadework had been done for him. It was the soldiers who put their lives on the line to accomplish the mission. There was a hierarchy of courage in the events that transpired one year ago today.

Location, Location, Location

I have no problem with presidents taking vacations. With modern communications technology, no president is out of touch with world events or incapable of fulfilling the mandates of the office, no matter where he may be. Therefore, I don’t criticize President Obama for taking a vacation at this time, particularly in the last part of August when Congress is in recess. But if he is not out of touch with the world at large, his choice of vacation spots reveals a different kind of “out of touch.”

Martha’s Vineyard, I’m sure, is very nice. I’ve heard it is; I’ve never been there. One reason I’ve never been there is probably because I’m not a fabulously rich liberal. The Vineyard is one of the playgrounds of the super rich, probably 90% of whom agree with Obama’s policies. That’s why when a news report said a crowd he met there wasn’t the least bit critical of him, but showed adoration instead, I was not surprised. He’s with his people; he’s in his element.

Again, he has every right to take his vacation wherever he chooses, but the choice of Martha’s Vineyard, at a time when he is calling for shared sacrifice from all Americans, is more than a little tone deaf.

Reagan usually went to his ranch outside Santa Barbara, where he cut underbrush and rode his horses. Bush had his ranch in Crawford, Texas, where he retreated for vacations. The media hated that place; it was in the middle of nowhere, with no amenities. The down-home, everyman tastes of those two presidents contrast rather sharply with the expensive tastes of the White House’s current occupant.

So, President Obama, enjoy your vacation. Just don’t be surprised if some people don’t understand your vacation choice. You know how unreasonable we are in the sticks. We’re always clinging to our religion and our guns, and we’re suspicious of anyone different than we are. Those were your words, by the way, another indication of how out of touch you might be.

Personally, I don’t own a gun, and I welcome people of all ethnic backgrounds because we are all made in God’s image. As for clinging to religion, I have to modify that also—“clinging” implies someone who is fearful and hangs on to tradition for safety’s sake. My religious faith is not a matter of fearful clinging; it’s a heartfelt devotion to the One who ransomed me from sin, death, and damnation. I’m eternally grateful.

Vacations are great. Really. And I think fewer of your fellow citizens would be critical of yours if you had any inkling of what life is like in what the elites call “flyover country.” Get acquainted. There are some reasonable people out here. Try a genuine listening tour sometime rather than a series of photo ops. Be willing to take criticism seriously instead of dismissing it outright. You might be surprised what you can learn.

Time to Touch the Third Rail

We create our own problems. Case in point: Social Security. The original intent was to ensure solvency for those who could no longer work because of age, disability, or loss of a husband. Worthy intention, to be sure. But I’m always reminded of a book I read once with the title Beyond Good Intentions. The thesis of the book was that good intentions do not necessarily lead to good policies. In fact, quite often the policies undermine the original intent. That’s what’s happening with Social Security.

FDR signed this into law back in 1935. It was one of a multitude of programs in the New Deal that had no basis in constitutional authority. That was mistake number one. It was built on the philosophy that the private sector could be milked to create a welfare state. Mistake number two. It didn’t take into account longer life spans in the future [knowing the future is usually rather difficult, don’t you think?] and the mushrooming number of individuals who would one day be claiming the benefit. Mistake number three.

What began as a program where one recipient was funded by approximately thirty people paying into the system inexorably degenerated into a bankrupt debacle. For the first time, this past year, more funds were going out of the system than were coming in. Needless to say, this can’t go on forever. But few are the politicians who wish to touch this “third rail” of American politics—they risk losing their political lives.

President Bush tried to make a minor modification to Social Security by proposing that individuals should be able to designate a small amount of their “contribution” [how’s that for a euphemism—forced to make a contribution—I thought contributions were voluntary] into some stock, if they chose to do so. The third rail struck again. Cries of “you’re taking away our Social Security” rent the air.

Let me be clear: since the government made the promise, no matter how unconstitutional it was, it has to fulfill the promise. We have poured our “contributions” into this monstrosity all our lives, so we should get some of it back. I learned, though, how the system worked when my dad died in 2004. While he was still alive, both he and my mom were receiving Social Security checks. After he died, she lost hers, since she was only allowed the larger of the two.

That would never happen if the money were truly yours. Don’t believe the lie that you have a trust fund set aside just for you.

Something has to change; we are at the breaking point. But instead of tackling the problem at its root, we settle for tinkering with the edges of it.

Now is the time for political courage. Who will show the way?

Blindness & Misplaced Empathy

The Arab Spring, so beloved by the media, is closer to the Islamist Ascendancy. Western blindness, as I’ve noted before, keeps us from recognizing the reality. In Egypt, the crowds listen to an imam who calls for the killing of all Jews. The streets erupt with jubilant agreement. Where are the reports of this? What is taking place in the Islamic world is the rise of the jihadists who want to kill us all. If you don’t think that’s the case, you’re not paying attention.

That’s why I’ve written so many posts with quotes from Mark Steyn’s America Alone. He gets it. Steyn comments,

If this were World War One, with their fellows in one trench and us in ours facing them over some boggy piece of terrain, it would be over very quickly. Which the smarter Islamists have figured out. They know they can never win on the battlefield, but they figure there’s an excellent chance they can drag things out until Western Civilization collapses in on itself and Islam inherits by default.

What’s the nub of the problem?

Meanwhile, we fight the symptoms—the terror plots—but not the cause: the ideology. The self-imposed constraints of this war—legalistic, multilateral, politically correct—are clearer every day. “Know your enemy,” they say. They know us very well. Do we know them at all?

Steyn wrote those words in 2005, back when we had an administration that had a better handle on the problem [although Bush also gave too much credit to Islam as a “religion of peace”]. What do we face today with Barack Obama in the White House?

He may have made the final decision to take out Osama bin Laden, but that was merely one action against an individual responsible for running a terror network. Does he really understand the immensity of this network? Does he understand and not care? Where are his sympathies? Take a poll of the Israeli people, and you have your answer.

Blindness is one thing; empathy for those who seek to commit genocide is something else.

Stupid Is As Stupid Does?

I want to go on record as admiring former President Bush for not showing up at Ground Zero the other day when invited by President Obama. What it means is that Bush is not a narcissist—he doesn’t live for his own glory. He will be there on 9/11 this year to commemorate that fateful day ten years ago, but he didn’t use the death of bin Laden to crow about his own greatness.

As for President Obama …

For someone who talks about not “spiking the football,” he seems to be doing a bit of end zone celebrating. He also talked on 60 Minutes about how the time watching the operation go down was the longest of his life. Please—it’s not really all about you.

A number of sources within the intelligence community have pointed to the enhanced interrogation techniques as one of the keys for getting the information that ultimately led to finding bin Laden. Yet what is this administration doing? Attorney General Eric Holder is still moving forward in an attempt to prosecute those who conducted those interrogations.

To quote Forrest Gump: “Stupid is as stupid does.” I think I’m finally beginning to understand that phrase; I’m seeing it in action.

The Appropriate Response to the Death of bin Laden

I’ve had a couple of different questions directed at me after the news of Osama bin Laden’s death. Let me use my post today to give my perspective on these questions.

One of the questions is ancient—not new at all—dealing with the concept of a “just war.” There has been a strand of Christian thought that rejects the idea that any war is just. This viewpoint, normally labeled pacifism, says it is always wrong to take up arms regardless of the situation. We are supposed to let God be the one to carry out any necessary vengeance, according to this philosophy. Mennonites, Amish, and Quakers are the strongest in this belief.

While I can respect their desire not to hurt another human being, this view is not Scriptural. When Jesus said to turn the other cheek, in context, He was saying not to return an insult for an insult. But didn’t Jesus allow His persecutors to kill Him rather than strike back? Yes, but He had a specific purpose; He was on a mission to lay down His life for all.

Throughout the entire Old Testament, God commanded His people to defend themselves, and He even used them militarily to destroy some civilizations that had completely defiled themselves with child sacrifices and other horrors. In the New Testament, he told a soldier to continue in his job. Wouldn’t that have been the perfect opportunity to declare he should walk away from the military?

One of the biggest problems I have witnessed in those today who espouse this view is that they posit a moral equivalence between opposing sides. In other words, they don’t seem to think that one side is actually more evil than the other, and they equate mass murder of innocent civilians (September 11, 2001) with a legitimate response to exact justice upon the evildoers. Our move into Afghanistan to take out the Taliban who were harboring Al Qaeda was the proper response of a government tasked with the responsibility of protecting its people. That’s the primary purpose of government. What took place late Sunday evening was not the murder of innocent civilians (in fact, no one else was hurt at all) but the carrying out of a justice supported by Scripture.

I might add here that when Quakers ran the government in colonial Pennsylvania, they refused to protect their citizens from cruel attacks by Indians who sought to kill all the settlers. Because of their pacifist approach, the attackers were emboldened; the Quakers eventually had to relinquish control of the government so others could take that governmental responsibility seriously.

The other question raised had to do with the celebratory mood of crowds in New York City and Washington, DC, among other places. Was it unseemly to rejoice in the streets over bin Laden’s death? Was this a Biblical response? How do we manifest a true Christian spirit over this outcome?

First, I presume that many of the revelers were not there out of any Christian conviction. Personally, I cannot conceive of going into the streets to dance and cheer over this. Some of that may be my personality. I’m rather subdued outwardly. However, I can rejoice inwardly that bin Laden is dead. I won’t condemn others who show their joy more openly, but we do have to be cautious. I would urge Christians to make sure their response is measured and appropriate. We should be leaders in manifesting gratitude and humility even when rejoicing over a victory in the war on terror.

Here’s where that foolish moral equivalence again rears its head.

Some have said that the street celebrations over bin Laden’s demise are no different than what has taken place in Islamic nations when terrorist acts are successful.

The difference is vast: they celebrate when innocent people are killed; we celebrate when killers are killed.

They rejoice over towers plummeting to the ground with thousands trapped inside; we rejoice when the mastermind of that evil receives his due.

Not long ago, some Palestinians sneaked into an Israeli settlement and murdered a family, cutting their throats, and even beheading an infant. The Palestinian streets erupted in jubilation over the act; people were even handing out cookies to the celebrants. Please don’t try to convince me that our response to bin Laden meeting his Maker is equivalent to that moral depravity.

Before closing, I’d like to make a comment or two about Obama’s role in this. First, I must say that he acted properly in giving the go-ahead to the operation. For that action, I am grateful.

Also, the announcement he made had elements of rhetoric that were nearly inspirational; someone penned a good speech for him. Yet buried in the middle of that speech was a comment that rankled. I’m not sure how many caught it. He deliberately made a point to say that when he took over the Oval Office, he called in Leon Panetta, his CIA director, and told him that finding bin Laden was now the highest priority. Some may think I’m reading something into this, but to me it came across as if this were practically a new idea, as if the Bush administration had never seriously crossed that bridge or made such a commitment.

Pardon me, but that came across as rather smug and self-important. He said nothing about the previous administration’s efforts to capture the Al Qaeda ringleader. Yet now we know that the trail to bin Laden began in 2007, not under the new administration. It simply took nearly four years to complete the scrutiny and come to a place of certainty that led to action. I think the president needs to publicly recognize his predecessor’s achievements. That will be hard for him, I know, but it’s a reality, and he should show gratitude for those who came before him in this struggle.

That would require humility of course, which has been sorely lacking in this president. He could use a little tutorial from Ronald Reagan, who famously noted,

There’s no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.

Reagan always had that attitude, never taking credit for himself for the achievements of his administration, but constantly praising the American people for their character and initiative. The current White House needs to recover that spirit.