American Politics: Stranger Than Fiction?

I want journalism to be insightful and devoted to finding truth. That is the ideal, but it seldom is achieved. Those without historical context seem to think that there was a time when journalism was balanced and fair. As a historian, I can debunk that. From the first decade of the nation, in the 1790s, through the Civil War, newspapers were financed by one political party or another. Balance was in short supply.

Later, we got sensationalistic journalism that helped push us into the Spanish-American War. The 20th century has seen liberal/progressive “journalism” dominate. Sometimes, when the media attempts to shape the news, it gets some blowback, as the recent CNN woes indicate.

The Left nevertheless continues its crusade to remake our thinking as a nation, and media outlets like CNN and MSNBC cater to its peculiar logic:

Conservatives have tried to counter that Leftist perspective. Fox News became the favorite source for many conservatives because it allowed views to be expressed that were ignored in other outlets.

Then came Donald Trump, and a number of Fox programs (primarily the opinion-oriented ones) jumped on his bandwagon, promoting and excusing him no matter how indefensible his actions.

It’s becoming an old story now that Trump gets himself into unnecessary controversies through his tweeting. Even conservative cartoonists are calling him out for lowering the dignity of the office he holds:

He’s not exactly a role model:

Yet no amount of criticism dissuades him; he continues to create turmoil. His almost-paranoid obsession with hitting back at those with whom he disagrees is a major stumbling-block to doing his job, and it’s hurting the GOP’s agenda.

Is this where we are now?

We’re reaping the consequences of the seeds we have sown for many decades. We’re replacing the Biblical worldview and seeing the sad results.

I write about politics and government all the time, but I want it clearly understood that I don’t look to them for any kind of temporal salvation. Without the Biblical undergirdings, the system goes astray. While I continue to believe in the need for Christians to work in the political sphere, only an internal heart change based on Biblical principles will lead us back where we need to be.

Let Fox Be Fox Once Again

Today’s post will be tinged with sadness—sadness over some loss of trust in what was, and still can be, the best news organization in the nation.

Two decades ago, I received my news primarily through CNN and MSNBC. Fox was not yet on my cable system. Both CNN and MSNBC leaned left, but there were enough sensible people, at least a hint of balance, that I could reasonably watch them.

Fox News LogoI was delighted when Fox News finally became a staple on every cable system; my first experience with Fox on a regular basis came in 2001 when I moved to the northern Virginia region.

It was truly a breath of fresh news air. For the first time, my beliefs—Christian and conservative—were treated with respect. I never expected a channel that mirrored me precisely, but Fox was a source I could trust better than those other two options, and both CNN and MSNBC shifted even more to the left during this time.

I still make Fox my “go to” network, my default, so to speak. Yet this election cycle has punctured its vaunted image of being fair and balanced. No, it hasn’t become a left-wing clone of those other two channels; it has, though, via a number of its on-air hosts, veered dangerously close to becoming a cheerleader for Donald Trump.

Now, I realize that commentators comment, and they are perfectly free to say what they think, but the obvious bias for Trump appearing on far too many of its programs has made watching Fox much less appealing than before.

I’ve always loved Fox and Friends in the mornings. The hosts are witty, yet serious about the kinds of issues I am serious about. Lately, though, some of the coverage has become cringeworthy, particularly when Trump is allowed to phone in his views nearly every day and is not challenged on anything he says.

Eric BollingThe Five always has been an interesting exchange from hosts with varying angles of thinking, but Eric Bolling, who sits right in the middle, has become such a Trump sycophant that he is now difficult to watch. His Saturday program on the economy used to have a place for Michelle Fields, the reporter manhandled by Trump’s chief of staff, but once that incident occurred, Bolling banned her from returning. The excuse is that now she can’t be objective. If so, why does that standard not apply to Bolling as well?

As an aside, one of The Five‘s co-hosts, Greg Gutfeld, noted on the program how the Trump issue is dividing the network. Someone needs to listen to him.

Sean HannityThe Fox evening lineup has constantly demolished its competition. Now I see Greta Van Susteren and Sean Hannity practically panting at the opportunity to highlight Trump. Greta gave him a full hour last night; Hannity is doing the same tonight. Two nights in a row? Really?

To be fair, Hannity has also hosted Cruz a couple of times, and he complains that Cruz has not been open to more interviews. Yet his affection is so clearly for Trump that it oozes out of every pore. The Cruz people say they have no real desire to appear on Hannity’s program again because he has resorted to using Trump talking points. I noticed that in the last interview he did with Cruz.

Bill O’Reilly has been more balanced overall than Greta and Hannity, but even he seems to enjoy those Trump visits in a chummy kind of way. Yes, he has been better at challenging Trump on occasion, but he never gets to the bottom of the Trump falseness the way he seeks to do with others.

Megyn KellyThe only bright spot of complete integrity with respect to coverage of Trump is Megyn Kelly, and you know she is being a genuine journalist just by Trump’s obsession with her and his ongoing Twitter war demeaning her publicly.

Kelly is to be commended for not allowing Trump to dictate her coverage. She is now, for me, the only fresh air on the network’s evening lineup, and the only one I trust to bring a fair and balanced perspective. She has shown class by not responding to Trump in kind even while suffering his Twitter barrage of insults. She has shown herself to be the most professional of all the hosts.

Cruz has an hour with Kelly this evening. I can understand why his team chose her for this. She has never refrained from asking him the tough questions, but she has allowed him to answer without being interrupted by another Trump talking point.

Let me add here that when Fox hosted Republican primary debates, I think the network shined. All the candidates were treated equally and all were asked the hard questions they had to know how to answer if they went to the general election. So kudos on that front.

So, where am I on my view of Fox? It’s a mixed bag at the moment. As I said at the top, this commentary is tinged with sadness. I want Fox to be a trusted source. I sincerely hope it can restore its former image. I will continue to watch as much as I can, but the remote control can easily change to something else if Trump adulation becomes more than I can stomach.

Let Fox be Fox once again.

Cruz & Trump: The Obvious Contrast

I sincerely hope tomorrow’s blog can be on a different topic, but since there was a townhall last night on CNN, I feel I must make a few comments on that. It was a three-hour event with the first hour a Q&A with Ted Cruz, the second with Donald Trump, and the third with John Kasich. I watched the first two hours, frankly because I considered the Kasich hour to be unnecessary. I don’t mean that as anything mean-spirited, but simply as a matter of fact. He has no viable road to the nomination.

Regular readers are already more than aware of my views on those other two candidates. Last night only strengthened those views. Cruz was sharp, clear on the issues with real specificity, and presidential in tone and manner.

Trump was his usual self—brash, accusing, blustery, non-responsive to most questions because he has little depth of understanding of the issues, and generally boorish and unpresidential.

I thought the contrast between the two was so obvious that I cannot fathom how any thinking person could possibly opt for the latter.

CNN TownhallI also watched the people in the background, sitting behind the candidates. Their reactions to Cruz seemed to indicate appreciation and agreement with his comments; reactions to Trump were the shaking of heads (back and forth, not up and down), rolling of eyes, sour looks, and lack of enthusiasm for most of what he had to offer.

When one questioner asked Trump if he had ever had to apologize for something, he couldn’t think of anything. Amazing.

Scott WalkerThe Wisconsin primary is next Tuesday. Cruz now has the endorsement of Gov. Scott Walker, who will be campaigning with him until then. He has the support of the popular radio hosts. If you have followed the campaign closely, you know that when Trump was interviewed by two of them, it didn’t go well with him. He actually hung up on one of them.

This looks like a Cruz victory in the making. What with Trump’s ongoing antics and now the arrest of his chief campaign operative for battery toward a woman reporter, I’m hoping that we are now seeing the beginning of the end for this woebegone candidacy, a candidacy that never should have been attempted in the first place.

But wait, you say, what about all the delegates he has won? How can Cruz overcome that? If Cruz takes Wisconsin, it could be a harbinger of bad times for Trump, bad enough to eventually deny him the needed delegates for the nomination.

I’m all for a contested convention; in that atmosphere, after the first ballot, if Trump doesn’t get the nod, everything shifts in favor of Cruz after that. Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride. But perhaps a successful one.

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.

Hillary the Winner?

I didn’t watch last week’s Democrat debate. As I said at the time, I have better things to do than watch five socialists argue about how to destroy America even more. I also could have given you their answers to every question ahead of time.

From the analyses of that debate that I’ve read and heard ever since, I don’t regret my decision to spend my time more usefully. I do believe, though, that the debate did accomplish one thing for CNN—it reestablished that network’s old identity from back in the Bill Clinton years:

Clinton News Network

In one way, it’s kind of nice to know that there are things you can count on in life—that there are “constants” on which you can depend.

Hillary’s makeover as she attempts to draw away Bernie Sanders’s corps of socialists, communists, anarchists, etc., remains in full swing. We’re not supposed to ask, though, about the blatant hypocrisy of her new rhetoric:

Dropping Out

Hillary has been a Wall Street Occupier for most of her life—on the other side. She has been quite comfortable there, siphoning off their cash for herself for years.

“Everyone” who watched the debate has declared her the winner, the inevitable nominee, the unquestioned frontrunner. Well, she has good reasons to be running fast; the facts are catching up to her:

Frontrunner

If she is the nominee, she not only will have to somehow cover up her own misdeeds, but she will have to answer for the myriad misdeeds and the results of the current administration, of which she was a vital part. E-mails may be the least of her troubles:

Back to the E-mails

I actually hope Hillary Clinton is the Democrat nominee. It would be hard to find a worse campaigner or one with more baggage. If Republicans are smart (a big “if”) they have a golden opportunity here. Wouldn’t it be nice to relegate the Clintons to history once and for all?

Hillary, Biden, & Trump–Oh, My!

I understand there’s a Democrat presidential debate this week. Forgive me if I’m not really interested in watching it. I have more important things to do than listen to five socialists argue about how to destroy the country even more.

The presumed frontrunner for the Democrats, Hillary Clinton, has a lot on the line. A bad performance—because let’s be serious, that’s all these debates are—may throw her erstwhile supporters into an even greater panic than what they’re currently experiencing. I’m sure, though, that her friends at CNN will do all they can to make her seem presidential and inevitable.

Sinking Poll Numbers

There’s also one person missing at this debate, one who is standing by just in case, watching Hillary disintegrate:

Crumbling

Of course, she also has her loving husband to turn to for comfort and encouragement:

Cheer Up

Let’s be real: the eventual Democrat nominee will be either Hillary or Joe Biden. The first may be indicted for offenses that send others to prison; the second is a national embarrassment with a long history of verbal gaffes and a mean streak toward Republicans that knows no bounds.

Either choice, in normal times, ought to lead to an overwhelming Republican victory. Republicans, however, have to step back from the Trump cliff first if they are to have any hope of winning the general election.

Beat Donald Trump

Will Republicans regain their moral backbone or will they enhance their sad reputation as the “stupid party”? The Iowa caucuses are still almost four months away; there’s time to reverse course and make a wise decision.

Gleanings from the Second Debate

I loved the setting of the second Republican presidential debate: the Reagan Library with Air Force One in the background. I was there almost a year ago; it’s an impressive place.

Fourteen Republican U.S. presidential candidates (L-R), U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, former New York Governor George Pataki, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, U.S. Senator Rand Paul, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, Dr. Ben Carson, businessman Donald Trump, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, former CEO Carly Fiorina, Ohio Governor John Kasich and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie pose before the start of the second official Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, United States, September 16, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson - RTS1HC6

Not as impressive was how CNN conducted the debate. Jake Tapper, the moderator, attempt to be the whole show; the other two questioners, when allowed a stray question or two, were no more than window dressing, virtually non-existent.

It also became evident from the very start that Tapper’s goal was to create as much divisiveness, bitterness, and “good television” as possible by trying to make everyone attack Donald Trump. For CNN, this was just a moment to try to relive its glory years when people actually watched this news channel rather than Fox News.

Overall, reaction to CNN’s ploy has been largely negative.

But enough about CNN. My aim today is to provide whatever analysis I can of the candidates. Let’s get Trump out of the way first, since he has been the headline grabber now for weeks.

His petulance showed immediately. Upon getting his first question, he decided instead to turn to Rand Paul at the far end of the line and tell him that he didn’t deserve even to be on stage with everyone else because of his low poll numbers.

What did that have to do with anything substantive? It was Trump being Trump, annoyed because Paul has been one of his most vocal critics, and he will never let a criticism go without response. His thin skin won’t allow it.

I’m not a Paul supporter, but this was patently unpresidential and rude. Paul’s rejoinder was that Trump was revealing his “sophomoric” attitude. I couldn’t agree more. Perhaps I might change the word to “juvenile” or “childish.”

The most cringeworthy moment was when Trump attempted to walk back his insult of Carly Fiorina’s face by shouting into the microphone that she really is beautiful. The only reaction from the assembled crowd was a groan because it was so obviously a fake comment. Fiorina, for her part, didn’t even look at him and retained her dignity.

Beyond that, when one looks at whatever Trump offered as substance, one might ask, as in the old Wendy’s commercial, “Where’s the beef?” No specifics on foreign policy except to say that he will get along with everyone and will be respected. Putin, apparently, will be so overwhelmed with Trump’s personality that all Russian aggression will cease. I seem to remember that being Obama’s approach in 2008.

Trump wasn’t any better on domestic policy. All we can do is believe grandiose promises that everything will be great once he’s in charge.

Unscientific polls afterwards indicate he was the runaway winner of the debate. Those are the kinds of polls that Ron Paul always won. I don’t recall his presidency.

Let’s go on now to the real candidates. The field, of course, is much too large. How to begin? How about Mike Huckabee’s comment later that he felt like he was waiting in line at the DMV? Huckabee and Scott Walker received the least time to speak than all the rest, yet they are two of the governors who have shown how to be an executive.

Life isn’t fair, right?

Rather than go down the long list and say something about everyone, I would like to provide my view that only candidates with strong conservative/Christian principles be allowed to participate in the next debate. I know, that’s a pipe dream. But given complete dictatorial power, I would immediately suspend the campaigns of Paul, Kasich, Bush, and Christie (and Trump, of course).

Half the Candidates

Ben Carson I put in a special category. He is a wonderful man, thoroughly Christian, with whom I would love to sit down and talk and enjoy his presence. However, I don’t see him as the next president. His answers on minimum wage and foreign policy, for example, are not clearly thought through; I just don’t believe he is ready to be president. Few successful neurosurgeons can make that leap, no matter how pure their intentions and impeccable their character.

For me, that leaves, in alphabetical order, Cruz, Fiorina, Huckabee, Rubio, and Walker. I would love to add Bobby Jindal to that list if he ever breaks out of the lower tier.

Ted Cruz was forceful, as always, and principled in his answers. I don’t doubt his commitment to constitutional concepts and his bravery, shown by his willingness to buck the system and tackle his own Republican leadership. The only down side to Cruz, for me, remains his rather speechified way of talking, as if every answer is an invitation to go into speech mode. I would prefer someone who comes across as more human and less robotic.

Carly Fiorina certainly benefited most from this debate. She was sharp, knowledgeable, and courageous. Many commented that, at times, she seemed to be the real adult in the room. She was the anti-Trump, full of specifics and well informed on all the issues. Regardless of what happens in the future, I will always fondly remember her masterful takedown of Planned Parenthood and the complicity of Democrats in supporting its atrocities.

She was eloquent in her defense of the unborn in a way that few have been. Some have questioned her real views on abortion, but I don’t see how anyone can have said what she said—and with the kind of vehement conviction with which she said it—without her pro-life stance being genuine.

I agree with others who have concluded that she was the standout speaker of the night. Whether that translates into the presidency is still another matter.

Mike Huckabee was, as usual, an effective communicator. I was particularly pleased that he came out and said he would definitely have a litmus test for judges. He called out the hypocrisy of the Democrats who say they have no litmus test when, in reality, they would never vote for a pro-life nominee or anyone with even a hint of constitutional principles.

Huckabee was strong in his condemnation of the Iran deal and how the consequences of that deal can lead to the destruction of Israel and undermine the security of America. He deserves to be heard.

Marco Rubio was, like Fiorina, well versed on the issues and effective at communicating his views, particularly on foreign policy and national security. Even though he damaged himself with conservatives by his dalliance with the Gang of Eight immigration reform plan, he clearly knows we need to tackle that problem, and I believe he has learned a lesson about attempting some sort of comprehensive plan.

The weakest part of Rubio’s evening was his defense of his voting record in the Senate. He’s missed votes, he said, because nothing would have been accomplished by being there since the measures he would have voted for were doomed anyway. My response is that he was elected to represent, so he should be there as the representative of his (my) state whenever possible.

Finally, there is Scott Walker, the candidate who was given the least amount of time to speak. Many have now written Walker off since he doesn’t come across as strong in these forums as others. I think that’s a mistake.

Walker was better this time than in the first debate, but he had to try harder to be heard. He is the only candidate who has come up with specific plans to replace Obamacare and reform the federal government unions. Tapper never asked about those; he was interested only in controversy.

I refuse to dismiss Walker because he has an outstanding record as governor of Wisconsin. He not only has manifested courage in standing up to opponents who wanted to take over the Capitol building and remove him from office, but he has succeeded in getting his reforms through his legislature. In other words, he has been an effective governor.

If conviction and competence were the only factors that Republican voters were to consider, Walker would be the nominee.

I feel like I’ve been writing forever here. I don’t claim any special insight that others haven’t offered, but I hope my thoughts will spark a fresh perspective for some who read these words.

May God extend His mercy to our distraught nation once again as we move forward to make what might be the most crucial political decisions in the history of this nation.