The Coolidge Legacy

Yesterday was the anniversary of Calvin Coolidge’s death in 1933. It passed by most people. In fact, if you were to ask a random one hundred people who Coolidge was, I’m afraid only a very few would be able to give an informed answer.

Calvin Coolidge, president of the United States from 1923-1929, brought character to the forefront of American politics. Vice president under Warren Harding, he had the presidency thrust upon him when Harding died suddenly. Upon first hearing the news, Coolidge and his wife immediately knelt by their bed and prayed. He was then sworn into the office by his own father in his boyhood home in Vermont where he was visiting.

Harding’s administration was in the throes of a number of scandals at the time, with the most infamous being Teapot Dome. Coolidge made sure the various investigations went forward and that the guilty were punished. He restored confidence in the government.

His entire tenure in office was a period of prosperity for the nation. Part of the reason for that was his philosophy of limited government and economic liberty. He acted on principle and did his best to keep the federal government under control.

Coolidge won election in his own right in 1924, and since he only completed a year and a half of Harding’s term, nearly everyone expected him to run again in 1928 and win without any trouble. Yet Coolidge declined to do so. He explained more fully in his post-presidential memoir why he made that decision, and his explanation reveals the heart of the man.

It is difficult for men in high office to avoid the malady of self-delusion. They are always surrounded by worshipers. They are constantly, and for the most part sincerely, assured of their greatness. They live in an artificial atmosphere of adulation and exultation which sooner or later impairs their judgment. They are in grave danger of becoming careless and arrogant.

If only more politicians had that perspective, we would be in better shape as a nation.

Although Coolidge gained the reputation of being a man of few words, whenever he did speak, he was eloquent.

Samuel, Daniel, & Character in Public Office

On this election day, a few thoughts from Scripture.

samuelSamuel, the prophet and judge in Israel, upon his retirement from his post, did what most politicians today would call an uncharacteristic—and politically dangerous—thing. He gathered the leaders of the people together and made this announcement:

“Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these, I will make it right.”

What a dangerous proposition, asking everyone if they could point out anything in his life that was dishonest during his entire time in public service. Can you imagine anyone doing that now? The accusations, true or false, would fly. Yet here is how the people responded:

“You have not cheated or oppressed us,” they replied. “You have not taken anything from anyone’s hand.”

Samuel said to them, “The Lord is witness against you, and also His anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.” “He is witness,” they said.

How wonderful to come to the end of a high position in society and be able to walk away with a clear conscience, to have lived a life that testifies to integrity in all matters. How wonderful . . . and how rare.

The prophet Daniel lived in exile in Babylon and in the Persian kingdom after Babylon fell. He gained high government positions through his talent and integrity. The new Persian king recognized what a treasure he had in Daniel. The book that bears his name records,

Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.

At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.

His integrity so angered them that they had to set a trap and find him guilty of continuing to worship the Lord after they tricked the king into making a law that no one was to petition any god but the king for thirty days.

The penalty for breaking that law was to be thrown into the lions’ den.

daniel-in-lions-den

We all know the end of that story, as God protected Daniel and brought judgment on his persecutors instead.

The examples of Samuel and Daniel show us what it can be like when people are devoted to God and won’t allow their integrity to be compromised. There can be such people in public office. Our task is to put those kind there as much as humanly possible.

These examples tell us that character does matter in government and that it should matter to those of us who choose government officials at all levels.

That’s all I have to say about that. I think that is sufficient on this election day.

On Political Courage

Here’s a thought. What if, at the Republican convention next week, the powers-that-be allowed a secret ballot to choose the nominee? What if the delegates truly had the freedom to vote according to what they believed best for the party and the country instead of being pressured by their political leaders to fall in line with Donald Trump?

Would that secret ballot vote be different than the public one? If so, what would that say about those delegates? What would it say about their adherence to principle? What would it say about their personal character? Where are the spines? Where is courage when it is needed?

History affords us examples of courage in voting. One comes readily to mind for me. President Andrew Johnson was brought to the Senate for an impeachment trial in 1868. The Republican party at that time, which controlled the Senate, sought to remove him from office over disagreements in policy.

Edmund RossIt would take a two-thirds vote for that removal. Everyone knew the vote would be close, and one Republican senator, Edmund Ross of Kansas, would not commit to voting for removal. No one knew exactly what he might do.

Two days before the first vote, Ross had received a telegram from his home state that read, “Kansas has heard the evidence, and demands the conviction of the President.” It was signed by “D. R. Anthony, and 1,000 others.” Ross responded,

I do not recognize your right to demand that I shall vote either for or against conviction. I have taken an oath to do impartial justice . . . and I trust I shall have the courage and honesty to vote according to the dictates of my judgment and for the highest good of my country.

Not to be outdone, Mr. Anthony and his “1,000 others” retaliated. “Your telegram received. . . . Kansas repudiates you as she does all perjurers and skunks.”

The roll call began. Ross had been warned by fellow Radical Republicans that a “no” vote would end his political career. When his name was called, Ross stood and quietly cast his vote—for acquittal. His vote effectively ended the impeachment proceedings.

Some newspaper editorialists decided that Ross could best be compared to Benedict Arnold, Jefferson Davis, or Judas Iscariot. As predicted, his political career did end swiftly; he lost his reelection bid.

In a letter to his wife one week after his momentous vote, Ross declared,

This storm of passion will soon pass away, and the people, the whole people, will thank and bless me for having saved the country by my single vote from the greatest peril through which it has ever passed, though none but God can ever know the struggle it has cost me.

Where are the Edmund Rosses in the current Republican party? Where is the courage needed to stop the most foolish nomination in the party’s history?

Donald & Hobbes 1

Donald & Hobbes 2

We need to be looking out for the nation instead. It’s time for real principle to come to the forefront.

Trump Meets the Evangelicals

Yesterday, 900-plus evangelicals met with Donald Trump to ask questions and try to figure out if they can support his candidacy. I know only some of the names of individuals who were present. The audience was mixed, I’m sure, in its attitude toward the presumptive Republican nominee.

Meeting with Trump

I don’t wish to unfairly criticize those who attended; in most circumstances, I too would want to have the opportunity to hear a candidate and get a better feel for him/her. Neither am I disdainful of any attempt to try to influence a candidate toward policies that I would favor as a Christian.

In most circumstances.

But this is not a typical circumstance, and the candidate is not typical either. I have followed Trump very carefully through the entire primary process, watching his manner and listening to his words. Based on what I already know about him from personal observation and a significant amount of reading with respect to his past, his business dealings, and his overall character, I would not have attended this meeting if invited.

Let me be clear: I was not invited.

There were Christian leaders there for whom I have great respect. Others present were ones for whom I have lost some respect due to their eagerness to jump on the Trump train and for their rather critical attitude toward those of us who are never going to join this misbegotten candidacy.

I have spilled thousands of words in this blog explaining my objections to Donald Trump as the Republican nominee. Let me summarize why I cannot support him.

First, his personal character is abhorrent: self-centered, vindictive toward those who criticize him, petty, insulting, willing to lower himself into whatever gutter is nearby to destroy others. His divorces and his overall arrogance toward women is another factor; the remarks he makes about women (take Carly Fiorina and Heidi Cruz, for example) are always focused on their looks. For him, that’s the measure of a woman’s worth.

6 or 7

He continues to think Planned Parenthood isn’t all that bad; he attacks the judge in the Trump University lawsuit (a clearly fraudulent university) because of his Mexican heritage; he cavalierly retweets comments from racist supporters; he expects American troops to follow his orders even if they involve the killing of women and children of the enemy; and he is a conspiracy nut, culminating in the bizarre idea that Ted Cruz’s father is somehow implicated in the JFK assassination.

His supporters within the Republican party are constantly having to say they don’t agree with his tirades; some are saying they just won’t comment on him anymore until after the election, since they are so embarrassed by him.

Campaign of Crazy

He is truly a loose cannon; one never knows what to expect next. Well, that’s not exactly true—it’s clear he’s going to continue to be a national embarrassment.

One Type

Those are my bedrock reasons for rejecting his candidacy, but those form the cornerstone for why his campaign is now such a wreck. He has no ground game ready to go; his fundraising has been nonexistent and the campaign is running on fumes financially; a lot of the money he has spent has gone to his own salary and other Trump organizations; he thinks he can just hold rallies and win the presidency; he is slated to lose big, and he will drag the party down with him, possibly losing both houses of Congress in the process.

To fix this, he fires his campaign manager. Now everything’s going to be fine, he promises. But who is really driving the campaign? There’s little an underling can do to redirect The Donald.

You're Fired

He has become so poisonous to the party that a new threat to his nomination is bubbling: an attempt to deny him the necessary votes at the convention. His actions have pretty much destroyed Republican party unity:

GOP Unity

So add to moral degenerate the appellation of incompetent.

And I haven’t even addressed the problem of his knowledge of issues, a deficit that led him to avoid a direct debate confrontation with Cruz one-on-one. He would have been massacred intellectually.

David French wrote an excellent piece a couple of days ago as this meeting with evangelicals loomed. It is an appeal we need to hear and heed:

American Evangelical Christianity does not exist for the purpose of placing one or two decent judges on the Supreme Court. It — along with its Catholic and Orthodox counterparts — represents the body of Christ on this earth. It is a flawed vessel, to be sure, but its moral witness is still of incalculable worth.

He concluded the article with this warning:

Evangelical leaders: If you back Trump, for the rest of your days, you will be forced to live with having had a hand in fracturing our nation on the basis of race, discarding the sanctity of marriage, and scorning honesty itself — all for the chance, the remote chance, that Trump will make one or two decent Supreme Court picks. You will be selling your integrity for the most meager of returns. . . .

Christians have had to take tougher stands in darker times before. They do so in other nations today. This decision, by contrast, should be easy. Trump is not worth your consideration or even one moment of your time. Let others bend the knee.

But . . . but . . . that means a Hillary presidency! Let’s be honest, it’s probably going to be a Hillary presidency anyway. Republicans have chosen the absolute worst nominee available; a number of others who were on the stages with Trump would have been locks to put away the worst Democrat candidate in that party’s history. Choosing Trump has now made that unlikely.

I’ve said it before and will say it again: don’t blame those who cannot, in conscience, support Donald Trump. The blame for this upcoming fiasco lies in the laps of those who became lapdogs for Trump.

Christians, to maintain their witness to the world of integrity, honesty, and moral character, should walk away from Trump. If they don’t, they will forever be linked to his sordid legacy.

My doctoral dissertation was on Noah Webster, widely considered America’s first schoolmaster. His Speller taught generations how to read; his 1828 Dictionary was unique, not only in its being the first produced by an American, but in its Biblical basis. Webster’s illustrations for words included Biblical citations and short homilies on the significance of some key words. His influence in early America was great.

Noah Webster Books

I’m highlighting him today because he offered insight to his generation when it came to choosing political leaders. His words are timeless; they apply to our current situation.

“In selecting men for office,” Webster urged, “let principles be your guide. . . . Look to his character as a man of known principle, of tried integrity, and undoubted ability for the office.”

To ignore lack of principle and integrity in a candidate is to violate the sacred trust given to us as citizens:

When a citizen gives his vote to a man of known immorality, he abuses his civic responsibility; he not only sacrifices his own responsibility; he sacrifices not only his own interest, but that of his neighbor; he betrays the interest of his country.

Webster continued: “If rulers are bad men, it is generally the fault of the people.” After all, who puts men of depraved character in office? We can too often be deceived by them, he notes, but often we vote them in simply because they belong to “our” party. Here’s how he framed it:

Noah WebsterThey choose men, not because they are just men, men of religion and integrity, but solely for the sake of supporting a party [emphasis mine]. This is a fruitful source of public evils.

But as surely as there is a God in heaven, who exercises a moral government over the affairs of this world, so certainly will the neglect of the divine command, in the choice of rulers, be followed by bad laws and as bad administration.

I trust you know why I chose to emphasize that one phrase in the quote above.

By 1837, Webster was becoming distraught by what he was seeing in the culture and politics of his nation. He wrote to a friend,

Principles, sir, are becoming corrupt, deeply corrupt; & unless the progress of corruption, & perversion of truth can be arrested, neither liberty nor property will long be secure in this country.

And a great evil is, that men of the first distinction seem, to a great extent, to be ignorant of the real, original causes of our public distresses. Many of our greatest men are making vigorous efforts to remove present evils, but not an effort is made to correct the radical cause of our political calamities.

Webster’s concern in 1837 should be our concern today. Our principles have been corrupted; integrity is discounted; truth is being perverted. Yet we don’t address those fundamental issues. Instead, we rally to someone who either promises free stuff or who pledges to build a wall.

Webster’s prescription for the ills in our society is a return to Biblical principles and integrity of character. I agree with that prescription. That’s why I will never vote for anyone who lacks the very rudiments of those qualities. That’s why I will not vote for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, or Donald Trump.

WebsterNoah Webster was a man of his time, but the ideas he fostered are based on the Book that applies to all men at all times. If you wish to know more about Webster, his views, and his influence during his lifetime, my book, Defining Noah Webster: A Spiritual Biography, is available. You can find it on Amazon right here.

We are faced with virtually no good choice in this coming presidential election, so let’s keep in mind that government is not our savior. There is only one Savior. Our responsibility is to be faithful to Him and maintain our integrity. Stand for righteousness, then stand back and see what God will do.

Doing Away with Childish Thinking

“All politicians are the same.” “We need to fire all of the bums.” “There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the parties.” “We need someone outside of politics to lead us.”

Those are the refrains I’m hearing constantly. They stem from anger and frustration with the current mess. I agree that we currently have a mess. Yet I don’t use those phrases. Why not? I find them to be emotionally driven, intellectually lazy comments.

Christians, in particular, need to forego superficial analyses like those. Do we really believe that every last congressman, senator, and governor is a bum? Should we throw out every person in government simply because we don’t like the overall direction of the country?

If we do, we will lose a lot of principled people as well. We will lose many whose experience with the system can make them effective. Novices may arrive en masse with no idea of how to make things happen. How is that an improvement?

And when we lump everyone together into the stereotype of “the crooked politician,” we are condemning the innocent along with the guilty. Christians are to judge each person on an individual basis, just as God does. The kingdom of heaven consists of individuals who have submitted to the Lordship of Christ.

Are we saying there are no such individuals in our government?

Righteous JudgmentWe are to judge, to be sure. That’s what I’m doing with these comments also. But our judgment is to be an honest one, not merely a flip statement that condemns everyone involved with politics.

Look carefully at the Republican candidates for president. Can you not find even one who has a record of achievement in politics based on principle? If you say you cannot, I would have to respond that you are not taking enough time to investigate the field.

Another problem is that we—and this applies to Christians also—are drawn to celebrity and other outward forms of “strength.” Instead, we should concentrate on personal character in the candidates, not their ability to be bombastic and anti-establishment.

We should examine what they have accomplished, not whether they know how to get attention or use catchy phrases. Neither should we be impressed by anyone who descends into juvenile behavior in response to criticism.

It seems that with every approaching election, I, and others, say that this one could be the most crucial of all. Is that the case for this next round of elections? If so, we need to be sober in our judgments and choose as wisely as possible.

“When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child,” notes the apostle Paul. Then he says, “When I became a man, I did away with childish things.”

It’s time to stop acting like petulant children. It’s time to be men and women of principle and sound judgment. Truly, the fate of the nation depends on that. Christians are to be the salt of the earth. When we speak and act like everyone else, we are useless.

Trump & the Loss of the Conservative Mind

I’ve witnessed a myriad of political delusions in my lifetime: the Kennedy administration as Camelot; the Great Society; Jimmy Carter as the outsider who will redeem us from Vietnam and Watergate; high approval ratings for Bill Clinton despite all the scandals and gross immorality; the belief that Barack Obama is a great healer, uniter, and messiah. All of these, though, were delusions in the general public primarily.

What I’m seeing now—and finding it difficult to swallow—is the delusion on the conservative side of politics when it comes to Donald Trump. Normally clear-eyed commentators are throwing away all their practiced discernment in a foolish rush either to support Trump for the Republican nomination or at least to defend what he says and ignore his history.

It’s truly dismaying to hear Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Ann Coulter—just to name a few—rally to Trump’s side. Websites that I have relied upon for unfiltered information about the culture and politics are doing the same.

Is this the equivalent on the Right of the mania for Obama on the Left in 2008?

Donald Trump, in my view, is not presidential material. First, his character precludes giving him the respect that is due any president. His massive ego, far more evident than in any other candidate (with the possible exception of Hillary Clinton), should, in itself, be a disqualifier.

Losers

Those who have spent so much time criticizing the moral character of the Clintons and Obama are now trumpeting Trump? How sad.

Then there’s his suspicious “conversion” to conservative beliefs, all, it seems, within the past few weeks as he decided to jump into the field as a Republican candidate. Has the collective memory of the conservative movement self-destructed?

My Record

For Trump, I get the feeling that winning the presidency is just another in a long line of trade deals.

Acquisitions

Consider this post a plea for conservatives to regain their political acumen based on true limited government philosophy and Biblical principles of character. Return from the wilderness, please, and reestablish your reputations as trusted sources for sound reasoning.