A Word of Wisdom from the Past

A voice from the American past has a message for us today. His name was James Garfield, who was elected president in 1880. Four years earlier, on the centennial anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Congressman Garfield—who also was an ordained Disciples of Christ minister—offered this sage insight in a speech commemorating American independence:

Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave, and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature. …

If the next centennial does not find us a great nation … it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces.

In short, the Congress, and the government as a whole, are, in the words of a common cliché, merely a reflection of the people who put them in power. If our current Congress is corrupt, we have only ourselves to blame. If the presidency has been debased by class-warfare ideology, again we have to point the finger at ourselves.

Will we learn our lesson after what we have endured the past three years? The 2010 congressional elections show some promise that we have, but we’ll have to wait until November 2012 to know for sure.

The Authentic Black Man?

It’s really kind of funny to hear some critics say Herman Cain is not an authentic black man like Obama. Let’s compare.

  • Obama was from a mixed marriage; he had a white mother. He was raised, essentially, by his white grandmother. Cain’s all-black parents raised him themselves with his father working three jobs to make ends meet.
  • Obama went to a fancy prep school in Hawaii, then on to Columbia and Harvard. Cain attended his local segregated school, then went on to all-black Morehouse College. He later got a master’s degree from Purdue, which is good, but not at all Ivy League.
  • Obama has never held a private sector job, unless you count his time as a community organizer; yet that “job” was totally political in its orientation, and he was eased through the Chicago machine into state politics. Cain had to overcome racial obstacles on his own, taking charge of his life and moving up the ladder one step at a time. He entered the private sector after his stint in the navy and was eminently successful. The “pick yourself up by your own bootstraps” story come to life.

Here’s another difference between the two black leaders:

While Cain is touting his plan to remake the tax system and move toward the Fair Tax, Obama is busy using the taxpayer money for really important purposes:

Cain—the self-made man. Obama—the elite, privileged man. Yes, there is a difference. And let’s please forget all this talk about being authentically black. Racial politics must end. When are we finally going to judge a man not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character? Sound familiar?

Principles & Honor

I spoke last evening at the Winter Haven, Florida, 9/12 Project meeting. For those who are unfamiliar with the organization, it began after the 2008 elections with the expressed purpose of educating citizens on the kinds of principles and values that formed the bedrock of our nation and our government. This organization is performing a valuable public service, and I heartily endorse its goals. They are the same goals I have maintained throughout my twenty-two years of teaching at universities. We are an ignorant people, by and large, and it’s time we once again grasped the essence of the republic that was created over two hundred years ago.

I had spoken to this 9/12 group two times previously. The first time I gave an overview of progressivism and how it has led us astray from constitutionalism; the second time was an examination of the principles that made Ronald Reagan’s presidency successful. Last night I focused on the Clinton impeachment of more than a decade ago, and what we should learn from that sad episode. Drawing from the book I wrote back in 2001, Mission: Impeachable–The House Managers and the Historic Impeachment of President Clinton, I concentrated on the reasons the House Managers gave for prosecuting the president at that time. In the face of public opinion polls that showed 67% of the electorate didn’t want Clinton removed from office, and in the teeth of a Republican-dominated Senate that had no stomach for this endeavor, these House Managers risked the wrath of both to make the case for removal.

Why did they do it?

I interviewed all thirteen of those House Managers and found a fairly consistent rationale. They were concerned primarily about the importance of upholding the rule of law in our society. What does that mean? Simply that no one, not even a president, can set himself up as above the law. Everyone must be held accountable for their actions.

Intertwined with that concern were two others: constitutionality [the need for checks and balances in the government] and the character issue, given how Clinton disgraced the high office he held. Many of those congressmen I interviewed were up front with their Christian convictions, which provided the strength to go forward and do what was right even when the public opposed them.

My conclusion in the book is that the Managers acted on principle and deserve to be honored for their attempt. As one of them stated, we need to put principle above expediency, honor above incumbency. The application for our day, a decade later, is obvious.

I thank the 9/12 group for giving me the opportunity to share. I trust I helped fulfill the goals of the organization. May they continue to thrive and attract others to the cause.

More from the Virginia Declaration of Rights

Yesterday I highlighted some of the key concepts in the Virginia Declaration of Rights, written by George Mason in 1776. Mason also included some interesting phrases in that Declaration. When you get to the end of it, he offers some memorable comments.

For instance, Section 15 says, “That no free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people, but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue, and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.”

I like that one. Why? First, it concentrates on character. Mason is saying that liberty is not automatic; rather, to achieve it and to maintain it, the people must have certain character qualities. Second, he refers to fundamental principles. The only way to stay on course is to remember the basic truths that govern the universe. Too many politicians—and the general public—today don’t even think about principles. They seek political advantage, not truth.

He then added Section 16, which states, “That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other.”

This section is a recognition that a state-approved religion is unacceptable. Civil government has no business setting up an official religion that all people must follow. Our relationship to God is outside the purview of state power. We must follow our conscience in that relationship, and no one else can be our conscience on that matter. Now some may think Mason was pushing for religion to be removed from the public square, but that was never his intent. Notice the final part: each person has a duty to practice “Christian” love toward others. Mason fully expected that Christianity would be the bedrock faith of the nation, and he expected individuals to act like Christians in their relations to others.

As I said in yesterday’s post, these Founders understood government. I’ll add this today: they understood it better than most of our current crop of legislators, executives, and judges. When I was working on my doctoral degree in history, I was always amazed by the attitude of professors who believed that we know so much more than people from 200 years ago.

No, we don’t.

For By Your Words …

I appreciate the opportunity I have to share my thoughts in this blog. I’m also grateful for the open door to contribute to the Big Government site, which I’ve done on numerous occasions now. In both instances, my goal is to speak truth, recognizing that no one has a handle on all truth. I believe what I write is truthful, as I seek to base it on Biblical principles, yet I can never claim to possess comprehensive truth—that eludes all men during this temporary stay on this old earth. There will be a time, though, when that will change. The apostle Paul declares,

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully …

So, for now, I must acknowledge limitations, but that doesn’t mean Christians never should speak forcefully. We’re told,

Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them. … All things become visible when they are exposed by the light.

There are a lot of unfruitful deeds of darkness in our world. If I can point to those as a warning, I will do so. One of the best ways to do it is through humor, which is why I use cartoons rather freely. I want to shine a light on hypocrisy, false ideologies, and deceptions, and expose them for what they are.

There is a way to do this … and then there is another way that’s neither Christian nor effective.

I wrote a piece for Big Government this week that highlighted the possibility that President Obama might be able to be defeated in 2012. I don’t hide my desire for that defeat because I believe that what he promotes is unbiblical and destructive to the nation. There are many others who agree with me on that, but some of them lack the proper spirit of disagreement.

I’m referring specifically to the comments on my latest Big Government posting. If you take even a few minutes to scan them at that site, you can be disheartened by the crudeness, vehemence, and bitterness that dominates. The commenters aren’t attacking me; in fact, most agree with my view, but the spite that emanates from many of them is rather sickening.

Now, I know not to expect too much from a comments section on any blog. The opportunity to vent is a great attraction for those who are angry. But it does grieve me to read some of this bile. Jesus, the One who is truth, noted,

For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. … But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

I always want to keep in mind this Scriptural admonition:

Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. … Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. … Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

Those words apply to us all.

Honesty: Another Casualty of This Administration

Politics is not known overall for its forthrightness, but there are different levels of dishonesty. Some administrations have hidden certain facts from the American people for the sake of national security—sometimes bogus, but other times essential. I have no problem with the latter.

Other administrations have practically cornered the market on being disingenuous. While I didn’t expect any real answers from Elena Kagan last week in her Supreme Court confirmation hearings, I was more perturbed than usual when she was asked if her legal philosophy was progressive and she responded:

Let’s be honest for a moment, please. Does anyone really believe that answer? Anyone who thinks that was a forthright statement has no grounds for ever being considered a credible analyst. Kagan is a convinced progressive who will do her best to overturn the Constitution even more than it is currently being subverted.

Then there was this big announcement from the president that we are now in the “Summer of Recovery.” Oh, please. This is another in a long line of dishonest pronouncements.

I am enjoined by my faith to respect government. I will do so. I have the utmost respect for the institutions set up by the Constitution. I have the utmost respect for the Constitution itself. I will respect the Supreme Court, the Congress, and the office of the President. That’s not the same, though, as having respect for those who hold those offices. Some people do not deserve respect.

We have an opportunity this November to restore a higher degree of honesty in our government. I would like Independence Day to have more meaning next year.

The Incredible Shrinking President

Watching President Obama these past few weeks, I must say I’m surprised by how ineffective he has become. Not that I mind. I’m one of those people who doesn’t want his plans to succeed. You see, if he succeeds, the nation doesn’t.

He used to have star power. Every Democrat wanted to be connected to him. Now it’s completely the opposite. His endorsement in primaries has turned into poison for the candidates. His attempts to bribe candidates he doesn’t want in the races have all the earmarks of true Chicago politics. As the trail comes back directly to him, he adopts a “Who, me?” persona.

More voters seem to be wising up as they assess his character and capabilities. Some are beginning to see through the rhetoric and understand what he’s really saying.

His attempt to communicate with the American people with his first Oval Office address earlier this week appears to have fallen flat. That’s not just my evaluation. Commentators on both the left and the right were critical of it, albeit for different reasons. The overall effect, though, was to diminish him even further in the eyes of the electorate.

He is taking on Jimmy Carter proportions—not where any president wants to be. While not all problems can and should be laid at the feet of whoever happens to be president, people will judge whether any president is responding adequately to the problems he faces. How is Obama measuring up?

Well, it’s too early to make that judgment, but unless he changes course, reverses his policies, and begins to acknowledge the limits of the government, both constitutionally and practically, he may soon deserve the title.