Immigration & Honest Deliberation

I’ve held back on writing about the immigration debate going on right now in Congress. There are a number of reasons why I’ve been reluctant to engage the topic until now, but it really comes down to the desire to hear as much as possible from both sides before saying anything publicly. Once a comment is made, it’s hard to pull it back; I strive to never have to regret what I write in these blogs.

The need for some kind of immigration reform is pretty much acknowledged on both ends of this polarizing debate. The fact that we have more than 11 million illegals living in the country has to be dealt with somehow. I understand the desire of so many to escape their situations where they came from, and that the US seems to be a beacon to them, holding the promise of something better. That’s why America has been an immigrant magnet throughout much of its history.

I kept hoping this debate would be illuminating; it’s turned out to be anything but that. Frankly, I’m distressed by the rhetoric on both sides. Those in favor of the current comprehensive bill before the Senate have accused those who oppose it of being anti-immigrant or even racist. That last charge is always the last resort of the demagogue. Well, for some, it’s the first resort; they wrongly presume it never gets old.

Those who line up against the proposed bill say it simply repeats the mistake of the 1986 act that promised real border security but never delivered. They then accuse the proponents on the Republican side of kowtowing to the Hispanic vote. Senators like Lindsey Graham have provided fodder for that accusation with his comments on how Republicans will become a permanent minority if they don’t support this bill. Political pandering is as old as politics itself, but statements such as those make this appear to be wholly political rather than for the good of the nation. Opponents also warn that there are other voters out there as well:

Voter Never Forgets

What I desire is a solution that ensures the border is not a sieve while simultaneously treating immigrants with compassion. Does compassion, though, mean those who crossed over illegally should have a promise of citizenship? Why do those who favor the bill hold out citizenship as the endgame? Why are illegal immigrants, in effect, being rewarded for breaking the law in the first place? I’m not saying we should deport them; what I’m saying is there should not be what has been termed “a path to citizenship” for those who showed no respect for the law. No one is owed citizenship. It’s not a natural right.

Let’s go back to what the Founders had to say about immigration. What we find is actually rather surprising. They said little about it, comparatively. For most of the first century of American government under the Constitution, there were no immigration laws. Why not? Because all the emphasis was on citizenship, which is where the Founders put their emphasis. Immigrants were welcome, but the road to becoming a citizen had rules. One had to follow those rules and show respect for the laws to be part of this society. And the nature of those immigrants was such that they sought to fit into the already-existing culture. Oh, and they didn’t get any government benefits: no free healthcare; no free education; no welfare of any kind. They were on their own to fail or succeed based on their personal character.

We have since introduced monetary incentives to cross the border illegally. A veritable treasure house awaits. We also now have the threat of international/Muslim terrorism, which can take advantage of a leaky border:

 One Reason

We’re told by those in favor of the current bill that it effectively secures the border. Opponents disagree; they say it is amnesty first, with a promise of border security eventually—that the bill is all rhetoric and no action—that we’ve been down this road before. From what I’ve been reading, I would have to say their point is well taken.

What’s wrong with securing our borders first? Why not have a “results-oriented” bill that documents a 90% effectiveness in sealing that border before dealing with the rest of the problem? Without a secure border, the problem continues and grows larger. Why try to do everything in one monstrous bill? Why not break this into stages?

What we are witnessing this week is Obamacare revisited. Remember when Nancy Pelosi said we had to pass Obamacare to find out what’s in it? This huge immigration reform bill, along with a supposed border security amendment, is almost the same size as Obamacare. Harry Reid is attempting to rush it through the Senate this week, not allowing senators to fully digest it first. Real debate over the particulars—which includes a lot of pork, apparently—is not allowed. Vote first, find out what you voted for afterwards.

Even if I could support this current bill, I could never support the way in which it is being rammed through. It’s unconscionable.

No bill becomes a law without the consent of both houses of Congress. Once the Senate circus is over, the House will have its chance to show the country that honest deliberation is not dead.

The Worst-Case Scenario

Yesterday I laid out four election-night scenarios, from worst-case to best-case. I didn’t really believe the worst-case would come to pass, but it has. We will now have four more years of a president who seeks to, in his words, transform America. For the next two years, he will still have a Senate on his side. Only the House stands between us and his plans. At the very least, Obamacare in all its ugliness will now be implemented, along with the inherent threat it poses to religious liberty. We will continue our march toward that fiscal cliff so many have warned about. Our culture will drift even further from a Biblical basis unless we can turn it around.

Tonight I’m slated to offer an analysis of the election at a local Republican club. I need to take today to figure out just exactly what needs to be said. Rather than try to lay out in this blog today a full response to last night’s dismal results, I’m going to hold off until tomorrow. I need time to process what has occurred and offer the best diagnosis and prognosis I can.

My intent is to go beyond mere number-crunching and an examination of strategies, both successful and failed. I want to hear from the Lord today about the future of this nation and what part He wants His people to play. If you’re interested in my ponderings, come back to this blog tomorrow. Meanwhile, I’ll just leave you with this from the book of Isaiah, a verse I have used many times but which is even more apropos the morning after:

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil. Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

The Election Scenarios: Which One Will Become Reality Today?

By the end of this day—barring any legal challenges or chicanery—we should know the political landscape for the next two to four years. No one expects the House to revert to the Democrats, so that much is set even before the counting begins. But the Senate, and of course the presidency, are the real questions. Let’s examine the possible scenarios, from worst-case to best-case.

Scenario #1

Barack Obama retains the presidency and Democrats continue to control the Senate. What will this mean? We will be in the same state we are currently. The House will try to pass legislation to correct the debt Armageddon and Obamacare, but the Senate will not act on anything the House does. It will remain adamant in opposition to the Republican agenda. The Congress, in this scenario, will be as it is now—worthless. This will lead to Obama doing what he has already begun to do, which is to rule by executive orders. No amount of protest that his actions are unconstitutional will avail. With a Justice Department firmly in his control, he will be free to do whatever he wishes, thereby foisting even more government control over the lives of individuals and trampling religious liberty through Obamacare. That “signature” piece of legislation will go forward without anything to stop it. By the end of his term, the United States will be pretty much like the European states that have given themselves over to full-scale socialism. We will also be on the verge of total bankruptcy. Oh, and since Supreme Court justices have to be confirmed by the Senate, he will get to replace perhaps three of the nine currently on the bench with ideological soulmates.

Scenario #2

Barack Obama stays in as president and the Senate changes hands to the Republicans. Under this scenario, with both houses of Congress controlled by the Republicans, certain pieces of legislation aimed at undoing the Obama agenda will pass both chambers and be sent to the White House for Obama’s approval. He will approve nothing coming from a Republican Congress. The veto will become his favorite weapon. On occasion, Congress may be able to muster a 2/3 vote to override a veto, but unless enough Democrats are willing to join with Republicans against the titular leader of their party, most of the proposed legislation will go down to defeat. Then Obama will do as noted above in scenario #1: he will rule by executive orders. The only saving grace is that he might not get the justices on the Supreme Court he wants, but that’s no guarantee. Senate Republicans, on the whole, have never been known for their backbones.

Scenario #3

Mitt Romney wins the presidency, but the Senate does not turn Republican. Under the continued “leadership” of Harry Reid, stonewalling will be the rule. Romney will do whatever he can within the powers of the presidency to remedy the damage that has been created by Obama. He says he will give waivers from Obamacare to every state. That will be a step in the right direction. However, getting any genuine reform legislation through Congress will be tough, nearly impossible, with Reid as Senate Majority Leader. Romney also will have hard sledding replacing Supreme Court justices with anyone worthwhile since the Senate has to approve them. Without a Republican Senate, Romney’s achievements will be minimal.

Scenario #4

Mitt Romney sweeps into the presidency by a significant margin, thereby helping Republicans take the Senate as well. Coattails do exist. This is obviously the rosiest scenario. The real question is whether Republicans will follow through and do what’s necessary to reverse course on the last four years and will learn their lesson about squandering a majority the way they did during the Bush presidency. Conservatives have always been wary of Romney’s foundational beliefs; they will have to hold his feet to the fire, but they will have some victories to cheer whether they get everything they desire or not. Obamacare should be shelved; the national debt should be brought under control; justices who believe in the original wording and intent of the Constitution should be put on the Court; Biblical morality should be upheld. This is not necessarily guaranteed, but this is the only scenario that holds such promise.

Which scenario do I think will play out today? My analysis of the current state of the race tells me it should be either #3 or #4. I see #3 as more likely, but you never know what can happen when people pray and work for what they believe in. And a lot of people have been doing both. May the Lord give us another opportunity to correct the mistakes we have made. A little divine intervention would be very nice.

The Lord spoke through the prophet Jeremiah these words:

“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Yes, I know that was a word for ancient Israel, but it is a principle—a general truth—that can apply to us today. May it be so.

 

Let Us Not Lose Hope

We can be too cynical at times when we see politics at work and how politicians carry out that work. It’s easy to spot the ego-driven characters who are all too often attracted to the limelight and who are only in the political world for their own advancement. This cynicism expresses itself in frustration, particularly directed at Congress. How often have you heard someone say, “Let’s just throw all the bums out and start over”? That’s stereotyping. It doesn’t take into account the many public servants who are doing their jobs for the right reason. I’m happy to say that I have a congressman who fits the description of what a congressman is supposed to be. Dennis Ross, a first-term representative from the Lakeland, Florida, area, was swept into office in the election of 2010 as part of the repudiation of the emerging Obama agenda. It was an honor to have him come speak to the faculty, staff, and students of Southeastern University this past Tuesday.

Ross, whose Christian faith is foundational to his desire to be involved in politics and government, shared his personal story with those who came to interact with him. He spoke of the failures he experienced in his younger years and how those failures were absolutely essential for learning the lessons he needed to learn about life. Failures, he told them, are what lead to future successes. If government attempts to shield people from all failure, we never understand the real meaning of success.

I served as the moderator for the event. After he gave his background, I asked him a series of questions on what might be considered hot-button issues for Christians. How should a Christian view national security issues? Is pacifism the Biblical requirement or can we defend ourselves? Is there such a thing as a just war? What about poverty? How should it be handled—via government or primarily through the church and other voluntary organizations? How can a Christian legislator combine compassion with the necessity for upholding the rule of law when it comes to illegal immigration? Is it moral to have as much debt as we currently do in our nation? How can that debt be reduced? Ross provided solid answers for each of these inquiries.

Then I turned it over to the audience to let them ask whatever questions they might have for the congressman. I have to admit I wondered if there would be enough questions to fill the remainder of the time. I was already formulating some additional questions of my own, just in case. I needn’t have worried. There was an active interest in hearing more from Rep. Ross on a number of issues. The questions just kept coming. When I called a halt to the proceedings, there were still students lined up with more questions. Dennis graciously stayed after the meeting to address those questioners personally.

All in all, this encounter between a congressman and his constituents was a positive experience for everyone, and it showed how politics is supposed to work. I hope those who attended left with a little less cynicism in their hearts and lot more appreciation for the difficult task that awaits anyone who enters the political fray. My heartfelt thanks to Dennis Ross for being what we need to see more of—a role model.

The nice thing for those of us who count Rep. Ross as their congressman is that he is running unopposed for reelection. He will continue to represent the Lakeland area. His devotion to constitutionalism and his Christian faith will be in the Congress for at least another two years; my hope is that he will be there for many more after that.

As we anticipate the election in less than two weeks, we need to pray for principled leaders such as Dennis Ross to come to the forefront. We need to vote for such men and women and not despair. A passage of Scripture comes to mind that applies quite well; it contains a warning but also offers us a promise:

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

Head to the polls this year with confidence that no matter what happens, God has some of His people in positions where they can do much good. Even when we don’t see it, God is working in and through those who are committed to Him. Despair needs to be banished from our hearts and replaced with hope.

Tax Cuts & the Fiscal Cliff

Let’s return to fiscal news today. Are you aware that the Bush tax cuts—you know, those awful tax breaks that benefit only the wealthy—are due to end in January? If that happens, we will all find out soon enough that they actually were a benefit for everyone. Democrats play politics with this, seeking to extend them only for the “non-rich.” That posture is intended to portray them as for the middle class. What they don’t tell you is that the “rich” include about 900,000 small businesses who, if these cuts aren’t extended, will have to lay off workers. Now, who is this really going to hurt? Republicans, on the other hand, are calling for the cuts to remain in effect for everyone. Trying to get this through Congress, though, will never happen as long as Harry Reid and his gang control the Senate:

Democrats are attempting to woo the moderate Republicans to their side on this plan, but thus far Republicans are holding firm—for good reason:

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that these tax cuts can’t apply to almost half the population. Why?

It’s the producers in society who are being targeted:

And presiding over all this is a man who has expressed hostility toward those producers and has no grasp of how an economy works:

I’ve always enjoyed good oxymorons. Here are some appropriate ones for today:

Obamacare & the Future of a Once-Free Society

Obamacare isn’t necessarily here to stay. Some states, like Texas, are refusing to accept it. Republican governors overall are waiting to see what happens in the election. Done deals are not always done deals. Yet the federal government is in full battle array, planning to take over one-sixth of the American economy. The price tag, according to new estimates, is now triple what we were told at the beginning. On top of all that, the IRS is now in charge of enforcing it since the Supreme Court, in its supreme wisdom, has declared it a tax. This really is a burgeoning monstrosity.

Yet as the Obama administration gears up for the implementation of the program, it might discover some speed bumps:

Many doctors are contemplating retirement if this does go into operation [no pun intended]. No matter how bureaucratic the current healthcare system may be, and despite complaints we all have about how it is managed, we haven’t seen anything yet. If you feel like you’re just a small cog in a big machine now, wait until Obamacare is in full swing:

Republicans in Congress are telling the American people where they stand on it. Even though they knew it wouldn’t pass in the Senate, the House held a vote this past week on repealing the act, and it passed. Democrats consider it a mere political ploy, but I guess that’s because they really don’t believe the other side of the aisle has a deep philosophical disagreement with the whole approach. Of all the Democrats’ objections to repealing the law, the least compelling one might be this:

Yes, politics was a factor in holding the vote, but the political aspect was a statement to the American people of where the GOP stands on the issue. Many Republicans rightly fear that Obamacare tips the balance for the future of the country in a direction that will make us no different than the failing economies and governments of Europe. They fear it will alter the very character of the nation, and those fears are not without foundation:

We’ve taken far too many steps away from constitutionalism and toward unhealthy dependence on government over the years, starting with FDR’s New Deal through LBJ’s Great Society to Obama’s nebulous Hope and Change. To me, the choice is clear: either roll back this infringement on liberty, both civil and religious, or share the fate of other nations that have followed this foolish path.

The Inside Story of the Impeachment of President Clinton

Last week I talked about two of my books that I encouraged you to read. I have one more, then I’ll go on to more current events again, starting tomorrow.

The saga of the Clinton impeachment needed to be told from the inside. That’s why when the impeachment proceedings ended in 1999, I decided to contact the thirteen House Managers who had argued before the Senate for the removal of Bill Clinton from office. They all received me graciously, I interviewed each one, and they gave me their side of the story. Why did they pursue this quest when public opinion polls said they should not? Even Republicans in the Senate tried to discourage them.

Why did they move forward and not heed the voices that were telling them to stop? It can be explained quite simply: they were acting on principle; they believed that no one, not even the president of the United States, is above the law. Everyone must be held accountable for their actions.

They were pilloried in the press for pursuing this goal; they were called self-righteous and holier-than-thou, yet they persevered. Ultimately, they were unsuccessful, but they were not bowed; they knew they had done their duty.

This book allows them to tell their stories. Each manager has a chapter devoted to him. You’ll meet the manager whose sterling reputation with his colleagues was never the same again when he undertook this task. Another manager was from Arkansas, Clinton’s home state; would he suffer politically for taking part in this effort? Still another represented part of Hollywood. How could he survive his role in the impeachment proceedings? In fact, he lost his next election, but he never regretted his actions; he put principle above incumbency.

Mission: Impeachable—The House Managers and the Historic Impeachment of President Clinton was a Main Selection in the Conservative Book Club back in June 2001. C-SPAN taped me talking about the book, and that taping appeared a number of times on C-SPAN2. It also led to a number of radio interviews, including the Janet Parshall program.

Frankly, I’m quite proud [in the proper Christian way] of this book and encourage those of you who want to know more about the impeachment and/or congressmen who understood the importance of standing for principle in politics to read it. There are important lessons for us all.

The book is out of print now, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t available. You can go to either Amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com and get a used copy; prices and conditions of the copies will vary. It may be out of print, but its thesis is never out of date.