Trump’s Good Picks

Now that most of Donald Trump’s nominees for significant positions in his administration have been chosen—most still needing Senate confirmation—I can say I’m pleased with a number of them. My goal today is to highlight the picks that I think are positive, the ones that offer some hope of wise counsel and prudent policies.

jeff-sessionsSen. Jeff Sessions has been tapped to be the next attorney general, the job that requires enforcing federal laws and prosecuting those who break them.

Sessions was the first senator to support Trump in the primaries, so this is his reward. From everything I know about him, he is an excellent choice for this particular task. Some have attempted to paint him as a racist, apparently because he’s a southern senator. That’s getting old, especially for someone who, as attorney general of Alabama, prosecuted the Ku Klux Klan.

betsy-devosBetsy DeVos, a proponent of education reform, school choice, and champion of parental rights in education, is slated to be the next secretary of education.

DeVos is a solid pick, someone who understands just how awful the education system has become. From what I can determine, she doesn’t believe the government is the answer for fixing it. At one point, she supported Common Core, but when she realized its true nature, she withdrew her support.

As long as there is an education department (for which there is no constitutional authority), I am glad, at least, that someone with her perspective will be in charge of it. If allowed to follow her beliefs, Christian schools and homeschoolers will have an ally.

It would be great if everyone grasped this truth:

source-of-problems

tom-priceGeorgia congressman Tom Price, an orthopedic surgeon who has consistently opposed Obamacare and has offered his own substitution for it year after year in Congress, is, hopefully, the next secretary of health and human services.

Price has been chairman of the House Budget Committee, thereby serving as a leader in attempts to control the budget.

With Price at the head of HHS, the Obamacare nightmare might be on its way out—finally.

james-mattisThe job of secretary of defense is crucial right now, given the sad state of our military after eight years of Obama. Handing it over to a general is not a bad idea, and most of the commentary I’ve read and heard about James Mattis confirms for me that he might be the answer.

Mattis’s 41 years as a Marine Corps general is filled with commendations. He led troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, and also in Kuwait during the Gulf War. Most recently, he served as head of US Central Command, in charge of all American forces in the Middle East. It would be nice to have someone at defense who understands that region. He co-wrote, with Gen. David Petraeu, the military’s counterinsurgency manual.

Obama fired Mattis from his position at Central Command without even a phone call to him. He had to learn about it from others. The fact that he was at odds with Obama’s military policy makes him even more attractive, frankly.

ben-carsonFor housing and urban development secretary, Trump has picked Ben Carson, someone who knows what it’s like to live in public housing. Many thought Carson might be chosen for HHS instead, given his medical career, but HUD is also understandable.

I like Carson personally (though I have never met him), yet I have been critical of him for his early support of Trump once he (Carson) dropped out of the presidential race. I’ve never really understood what he saw in Trump, especially after the accusations Trump leveled at him during the primaries. But I do want him to succeed in this new position.

The only caveat I have is whether Carson knows how to administer such a large bureaucracy, particularly when he appeared at first to withdraw from consideration from any position, claiming he didn’t feel qualified. Well, we’ll see how it goes. All the best, Dr. Carson. I will pray for you.

john-kellyThe ongoing terrorist threat requires a steady hand at the Department of Homeland Security. From what I’ve gathered, putting former retired Marine general John Kelly in that position gives the nation the steady hand it needs for balancing national security with our basic liberties.

Kelly served as head of US Southern Command. In addition to his experience leading troops overseas, he is known for his strong knowledge of border issues and the drug trade in South and Central America. Sadly, he lost his Marine son to an IED explosion in Afghanistan in 2010. Kelly knows what it means to suffer personally from the War on Terror.

nikki-haleyI’m glad to see South Carolina governor Nikki Haley chosen to serve as our next ambassador to the United Nations. While she has little experience in international affairs, she has impressed me with her strong conservatism and political acumen. Both qualities are needed in that post to adequately represent the US in the international arena.

scott-pruittWhile I have little knowledge of Scott Pruitt, Trump’s choice for leading the EPA, I’m heartened by what I’ve read. Pruitt, as Oklahoma attorney general, has been a strong critic of the excesses at the EPA. His detractors will say he is anti-environment, but he appears to be simply anti-extremism on environmental policy. He considers the EPA an all-too-powerful agency pursuing an ideological agenda based on what he considers dubious science. More power to him as he seeks to provide balance in this area.

Those are Trump’s choices that I favor the most. I will follow up in another post with ones that I consider more questionable.

My Prayer for Republicans

Things have not been going very well for Donald Trump ever since he became the presumptive nominee. Starting with his railings against the “Mexican” judge in the civil suit regarding his so-called Trump University, through the Star of David controversy, his berating of Republican senators who are skeptical of his nomination, and his plummeting poll numbers, it’s understandable why there is a growing movement to stop the Republican party from committing suicide at the convention next week.

Make Trump Great Again

You would think Trump would have learned a few lessons along the way on how to get along with people, but that’s not his character. He can be quite charming in person, we’re told, but there’s little evidence of that charm in his public dealings. Narcissists can get along with people if they believe that will work to their advantage, but if rebuffed, they fall back into their self-centered pattern and denigrate anyone who is perceived not to be completely on “their” team.

Giddyup Loser

During the primaries, Trump continually lashed out at the other candidates for taking money from “special interests” and loudly proclaimed he was self-funding. That claim has been pretty well debunked by now as a lot of the money he spent went into his own enterprises, to be reimbursed later.

Now he has done a complete 180, demanding that the GOP get out there and find donors for him. From accounts I’ve read, he is rather inattentive to this himself and expects others to do that job for him.

Self-Fund Me

Perhaps he can get some advice from another candidate who knows how to raise funds—someone who has been the recipient of a lot of Trump money in the past:

Last Million

GOP operatives are also beside themselves when they look at the lack of organization in the Trump camp. Everything seems to be in disarray. Here’s where that narcissism comes into play again:

Trusted Circle

Why doesn’t he at least find some of those great graduates of Trump University to help out?

Trump U Grads

One of my favorite comic strips of all time was Peanuts. Those classic strips are still run daily on the GoComics site. Lately, they have been showcasing some political campaigning strips. They seem so relevant today.

Campaign Strategy

That’s kind of where some Republicans seem to be right now. They don’t really want to vote for Trump but feel like the alternative—Hillary—is so bad they are down to the last person on earth in this election season.

We even have some Trump supporters telling those of us who cannot vote for him that we are ensuring a Hillary victory. Sarah Palin, for instance, has called people like me a traitor. Yes, she used that very word. Mike Huckabee is scolding us and demanding that we get on board with Trump. Ben Carson is a full apologist for him, even though he sometimes has to admit there’s very little “there” there.

I’m no traitor. I won’t be scolded into doing something that goes against what I believe in. I’m sincerely hoping that Republicans will do the right thing next week:

Wide-Open Convention

That is my prayer.

Last Night’s Miami Showdown

The Republican debate in Miami last night was a substantive event, especially for Cruz and Rubio. They ran rings around Trump when it came to knowledge of policy while he repeated his tired old lines about how everything in a Trump presidency will be “great” and how he will ensure that all the deals he will make will be “good.” Thesaurus anyone?

Trying very hard to look presidential, Trump refrained for the first time from interrupting the others (except for one swipe at Cruz). That actually allowed a genuine debate to take place.

March Miami Debate

For Rubio, this may have been the last gasp, and he took advantage of it, having his best debate ever. He was relaxed and confident, at ease in his home territory and schooling Trump on the problems with Cuba, in particular.

Cruz turned in a fine performance—solid, steady, and knowledgeable, as always. He may have stumbled a couple of times when appealing to people to join his campaign as the only one that can beat Trump. Not that he wasn’t correct, but it was a departure from the issue orientation of the evening.

In the same way as Rubio gave a lesson on the Cuban dictatorship to Trump, Cruz showed the frontrunner that a senator with a sharp legal background knows more about trade and tariffs than the supposed successful businessman. The Frank Luntz focus group gave Cruz a 100 on their dials when he explained how he would deal with the corrupt Washington establishment.

Cruz also scored with his impassioned support of Israel and the foolishness of being neutral between Israel and Palestinian terrorists. Trump then declared that he was the greatest supporter of Israel on the stage—without any corroborating evidence other than having Jewish friends and relatives. It was kind of humorous, in a sad way.

I’ll even admit that Kasich was better than usual, less annoying overall. But even if he wins his home state of Ohio, that will be the high point of his campaign.

Although Trump did put on a more presidential veneer, his constant air of superiority never diminished. It’s just so hard to watch that demeanor without wanting to shake the man and remind him he’s only a human being, not a mini-god.

And he apparently couldn’t help himself when he decided to step on Ben Carson’s news, to be broken today in a press conference, that he will support Trump. He couldn’t wait to allow Carson to make that statement first; he announced it in the debate.

So Ben Carson, whom Trump basically accused of being a child abuser, has no problem forgiving him for such comments, yet somehow can’t forgive Cruz for what overeager supporters did in Iowa?

Carson, the one who constantly called for civility in the campaign, is now endorsing the chief proponent of incivility?

I’ve always respected Carson, but this endorsement, following on his unwillingness to accept Cruz’s apologies, has diminished the man considerably. I hope he will eventually see the error of his ways.

Will this debate have any effect on Tuesday’s primaries? Will it give Rubio the surge he wants in Florida? Will Kasich hold off Trump in Ohio? Will Cruz be able to grab the huge delegate pool in North Carolina (larger even than Ohio’s)?

We await the results. The future of the republic may depend on what transpires next week.

The Twitterer-in-Chief Demands a “Do-Over”

I had planned to write today about the results of the Democrat caucus in Iowa, the one where Hillary declared victory over Bernie Sanders by virtue of six miraculous coin tosses. Well, that was the plan.

Donald Trump 3Then Donald Trump did what he does best, thrusting himself back into the limelight. After slightly more than 24 hours of relative silence in which the electorate was lulled into the illusion that he had accepted the judgment of Republican caucus-goers, he unleashed a barrage of tweets accusing Ted Cruz of having stolen the victory from him.

The Twitterer-in-Chief is now demanding that the results of the caucus be nullified and another vote be taken. That’s patent nonsense, of course. Nothing is going to be nullified; there will not be a “do-over” for Trump’s sake.

What has so ruffled Trump this time? What is behind his assertion that Cruz deliberately stole a Trump victory?

Here are the facts as I have been able to ascertain them:

  • During the caucus, a Ben Carson staffer, innocently I’m sure, gave out a garbled message about what Carson would be doing. He would not be going to New Hampshire at this time but would be returning to Florida, then go to DC for the National Prayer Breakfast.
  • CNN then ran with this message, interpreting it as a signal from the Carson campaign that he was on the verge of dropping out of the race. I’ve viewed the video of the CNN talking heads. They definitely gave that impression.
  • Someone in the Cruz campaign picked up on CNN’s false report and began to spread the word, urging Carson backers to now switch their vote to Cruz.
  • The Carson people then strenuously denied that he was leaving the race and blamed the Cruz people of deliberately misleading voters.
  • When the dust cleared, Cruz publicly apologized to Carson for what had happened, saying it was not anything his campaign had orchestrated but was an inadvertent slip-up.

Enter the sound and fury of Donald Trump. Again. As always. It’s all he ever has to offer.

Cruz won, he asserted, because of this illegal ploy. He had to remove that first tweet because of the word illegal—it could have led to legal trouble for him. But he didn’t back down. Because of what happened, he thundered, Cruz got enough Carson voters to deny Trump his deserved win.

After all, Trump is a winner. He never loses. If you don’t think so, just ask him. The only way he could ever lose is by trickery, deceit, and an outright conspiracy.

Here’s what I think about this episode:

  • First, someone in the Carson campaign has to take the blame for an ambiguous message that could be misinterpreted. In fact, one reporter questioned Carson yesterday on that very point, but Carson wouldn’t acknowledge the role of his own staffer in starting this mess.
  • Second, the main culprit here is CNN, running with a non-story and leading viewers to believe the Carson campaign was over. As Bill O’Reilly commented last night about this, CNN demonstrated extremely sloppy journalism. Neither have they apologized for the false reporting.
  • Third, those in the Cruz campaign who picked up on the false story were too quick to try to capitalize on it. They should have gone to greater lengths to verify it before using it to attempt to get Carson voters to switch.
  • Finally, regardless of the mess, neither Carson nor Cruz should have to fire anyone. Carson’s person never intended to mislead; Cruz’s followers were too quick to take advantage of the report. But there was nothing illegal, criminal, or dastardly in what they did. It was bad judgment.
  • Here’s another “finally”: Trump would not have won regardless. He was out-organized by the Cruz team. It was a well-earned victory.

Trump also said that the reason we can’t believe anything Cruz says is because he was born in Canada. *Sigh*

I’m coming to the view that Donald Trump exhibits a particular strain of emotional instability that would be disastrous in the presidency. His constant stream of invective toward anyone who crosses him or who exposes his hubris should be a worry for his erstwhile supporters. Should a president resort to a continual assault of Twitter taunts and accusations? How presidential is that? What does this say about his character?

I’m also getting closer to believing that if he loses the nomination, Trump, to salve his bruised ego, will bolt the Republican party (as he has done a few times in the past) and run an independent campaign. If that happens, the false conservatism he is trying to display now to win Republican voters, will disappear, and he will say what he really thinks about policy, which will be decidedly liberal.

Donald Trump is a train wreck waiting to happen. If the Republican party attaches itself to him, it will be seriously damaged when that wreck occurs.

The Media vs. the Truth

Journalists can do a lot of good if they take their calling seriously. I’m certainly in favor of trained journalists who understand the need for fairness in reporting. But what do we get when most journalists are schooled in a university atmosphere of progressivism and either cynicism or outright hostility toward traditional Christian beliefs and/or cultural and political conservatism?

We get what has happened to Ben Carson recently—an all-out attempt to destroy an individual who doesn’t fit the progressive mold. In Carson’s case, from the mainstream media’s point of view, he is such an anomaly that he must be taken down.

A black Christian conservative, in their world, cannot exist, and if such a person does exist, he must not be allowed to succeed. Nothing must stand in the way of the progressive agenda, so while journalists mouth the platitudes of their profession—objectivity, etc.—the reality is something else:

Conjoined Twins

And if there’s nothing bad to report, they will create something themselves:

Pant on Fire

Nothing that they have “uncovered” about Carson’s past has any credibility, yet they somehow find a way to ignore another candidate with the greatest history of lies and corruption imaginable:

Media Trash

Did anyone in the mainstream media follow up on the whoppers Hillary has told about Benghazi, for instance—even before a congressional committee? No, they were too busy concentrating on really important matters:

Lies

Carson, to his credit, fought back, boldly contrasting the treatment he has received with the kid gloves used against Hillary and Obama. I love this picture that has been finding its way around social media:

Ben Carson Congratulations

It’s not just Carson, of course, and the attacks don’t come solely from “professional” journalists. Carly Fiorina has had to counter the snide comments from the ladies women on “The View” who decided to attack her personally. She handled them quite well:

Fiorina on the View

I applaud the steadfastness demonstrated by both Carson and Fiorina in the face of this onslaught. For the sake of truth, those who foster the politics of personal destruction must not be allowed to go unanswered.

Carson, Islam, & the Constitution

Ben CarsonBen Carson says he wouldn’t support having a Muslim for president and the politically correct world explodes in outrage. He says Islam and the American Constitution are at odds and he’s decried as some kind of constitutional ignoramus.

Time to step back and breathe. As many have noted, he made the quite valid point that anyone who is devoted to Sharia law as the basis for one’s personal life and for how a society should operate is not in sync with the government established under our Constitution.

A truly devout Muslim does follow Sharia law, and anyone who believes that law should have priority over the laws of this nation under the Constitution clearly should not be in high office, president or otherwise.

ConstitutionYes, the Constitution does not place a religious test on officeholding. Yes, anyone, Muslim or whatever, is free to run for president or Congress. We have at least one Muslim congressman right now. But anyone who tries to change our constitutional republic via Islamic law is sabotaging the very nature of the republic.

Under Islamic law, you can forget about religious liberty. You can forget about quite a few of our liberties. They would no longer exist. Therefore, I know that I would oppose any individual running for office who would want to move the country in that direction.

All of this, though, was more of a “gotcha” question than anything. How many Muslims are currently running for president? Right. The question was designed simply to trip up Carson and try to make him into a bigot.

Carson should have been more clear what he meant in his original statement, but since then he has come out and clarified, saying essentially what I have just written. I commend him for not bowing to the hollow cries of outrage and for sticking to the truth about the nature of Islam and the nature of our constitutional republic.

Now, let’s get on to the real issues.

About That Call for Civility in Political Discourse

There are some statements made by politicians and political activists that I hesitate to comment on, particularly when they are distasteful and/or include wording I wouldn’t ordinarily want to highlight in a blog devoted to Biblical principles. Yet there are times when I feel somewhat forced to say something. This is one of those times.

Two recent rants come readily to mind. The first emanated from Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California. In a speech just over two weeks ago, she railed against the Tea Party. Her precise words?

As far as I’m concerned, the Tea Party can to straight to hell.

Well, the positive side, I guess, is that she at least believes there is such a place. Or am I giving her too much credit for simply using typically inflamed rhetoric?

Civility is breaking out all over the place. Indiana congressman Andre Carson, about a week after Waters’s outburst, did his best to leave her heated rhetoric in the dust with the following analysis:

Some of these folks in Congress would love to see us [African Americans] as second-class citizens. Some of them in Congress right now of this Tea Party movement would love to see you and me . . . hanging on a tree.

This was a broadbrush swipe at a movement whose primary goal is to call the nation back to financial common sense. I’ve been around the Tea Party. I’ve spoken to these groups. Nothing I have ever seen or heard from them smacks of the least bit of racism. Yet when called upon to reflect on his statement and to consider whether he had gone too far, he said he would not take back his words.

Then there was Teamsters president James Hoffa, at a Labor Day rally where President Obama took the stage moments after Hoffa said the following about Tea Party/Republican members of Congress:

Let’s take these sons of bitches out and give America back to an America where we belong.

I have to give credit to a political commentator in the Los Angeles Times who responded in this way:

Let’s assume for a moment, that the son of the still-missing Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa, who was taken out somewhere once never to reappear, was not suggesting the enthusiastic union crowd start dating tea party members. The living Hoffa’s statement doesn’t seem to quite fit Democrat Obama’s past pleas for and promises of a new civility in the nation’s political discourse.

Does anyone recall the feigned outrage over Sarah Palin’s map of America that showed certain districts “targeted” in the 2010 congressional elections. Does anyone recall how she was unjustly blamed for the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson last January? And finally, do we remember all the pious calls for civil discourse pouring from the lips of Democrat politicians? Well, I never took them seriously from the start. And now their hypocrisy is clearly revealed for all to see.

It is not hate speech to disagree publicly with this president’s policies. It is hate speech to tell one’s political opponents to go to hell, to threaten to take them out while using vulgarities to describe them, and to accuse them of wanting to lynch a race of people when there is no evidence of any such desire.

I agree with a call to civility in political discourse. But it can’t be one-sided. Both sides have to adhere to it.