Trump’s Questionable Picks

My previous post was full of praise for a good number of Trump’s cabinet nominations. Proper analysis, though, requires honest scrutiny of picks who may not be as praiseworthy. There are a few.

It took a while for Trump to make a choice for secretary of state, and everyone was waiting for that crucial decision. The job is always considered one of the most significant, as it bears the responsibility of representing the administration to other countries.

Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, has been chosen to be the next secretary of state. That nomination, though, has already come under fire. The biggest concern for many is the close ties Tillerson has developed with Vladimir Putin.

Russia, in the Putin era, has not been America’s friend. It is an ally of Iran, which has lately reconfirmed its desire to wipe Israel off the map. Russia also has been the most visible backer of Syria’s despotic leader Bashar Assad.

With accusations of Russia’s attempted interference in our presidential election (pretty well established, but not necessarily something that influenced the outcome), Tillerson is a controversial pick.

I have that concern as well. Yet my concerns run deeper.

As head of the Boy Scouts of America, Tillerson led the charge to open the organization not only to boys who claim to be homosexual but to homosexual leaders, thereby changing the entire direction of the Boy Scouts. ExxonMobil also is a prominent donor to Planned Parenthood, apparently unfazed by the 300,000-plus babies who are murdered each year with the help of that organization.

I was gratified to see Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, come out firmly opposed to Tillerson’s nomination. Perkins had visibly lined up the FRC in favor of Trump during the election.

Some will say that those criticisms shouldn’t be part of this process, that the job of secretary of state won’t get Tillerson involved in those issues. That’s not necessarily so. When dealing with other nations, all kinds of policies may be on the table. I don’t want someone with Tillerson’s views representing this nation.

Less controversial, but also questionable, are the nominations of Steve Mnuchin for secretary of the treasury and Wilbur Ross for secretary of commerce.

Mnuchin was Trump’s national finance director for the campaign. He is a lifelong Democrat who spent seventeen years at Goldman Sachs, eventually becoming a partner in the firm.

What’s amazing to me is that for many of Trump’s most fervent backers, Goldman Sachs is the epitome of all evil. Trump himself attacked the firm during the campaign and loved to link Ted Cruz to it because Cruz’s wife, Heidi, used to work there.

Yet I hear crickets now from those who think Goldman Sachs is the focus of evil in the modern world. Trump wants a former Goldman Sachs partner running the treasury department and no one who vilified the firm earlier has publicly criticized the move.

Let’s be honest. Trump never really believed Goldman Sachs was all that bad. He was merely manufacturing outrage to get votes.

What bothers me most about this is the propensity of the most dedicated Trump backers to give him a pass for things they would loudly condemn if others did them. This is close to a cult of personality. Haven’t we had enough of that these past eight years?

Mnuchin may be a fine secretary of the treasury. I will give the benefit of the doubt, but his record certainly bears scrutiny.

Wilbur Ross, the secretary of commerce designee, is another lifelong Democrat who is an outspoken critic of free trade, which is Trump’s position also. Personally, I favor free trade, so I’m at odds with Trump’s views on that from the start.

As someone who has spent his career buying up and restructuring failing companies, Ross does have vital experience to offer if he truly knows how to bolster commerce in that way. But Trump has another reason for choosing him.

Trump owes Ross a lot. His relationship with Trump goes back decades. Ross helped Trump keep control of his failing Taj Mahal casino in the 1990s by persuading investors not to push out the real estate mogul.

What? Trump, the expert businessman who is great at all he does, needed to be bailed out? Balloon punctured.

Those are the most questionable of Trump’s cabinet picks. All of the ones I’ve highlighted, both positive and negative, over these last two posts, require Senate confirmation. Tillerson, in particular, may face some rough sledding, but Senate Republicans may feel like they have to give Trump what he wants at this point.

There are other appointments Trump has made that don’t have go through the Senate confirmation process. I will deal with those in another post.

The Cruz Reversal

ted-cruzSo now Ted Cruz has said he will vote for Donald Trump. He didn’t go so far as to say, when asked pointedly, that Trump is fit to be president; in fact, he deflected that specific question and went in a different direction in his answer. In his heart, I think he still knows Trump is unqualified for the office.

I had hoped the day wouldn’t come when Cruz would bow the knee to a con man. I remember all so clearly Cruz’s comments on May 3, the day Trump secured the nomination and the Republican party threw away its heritage.

On that day, after Trump incredibly floated the absurd idea that Cruz’s father was somehow implicated in the JFK assassination, Cruz said this (and I will quote at length):

This man is a pathological liar. He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth. And, in a pattern that I think is straight out of a psychology textbook, his response is to accuse everybody else of lying. . . .

The man cannot tell the truth, but he combines it with being a narcissist. A narcissist at a level – I don’t think this country’s ever seen. Donald Trump is such a narcissist that Barack Obama looks at him and goes, “Dude, what’s your problem?” Everything in Donald’s world is about Donald. . . .

I say pathological because I actually think Donald, if you hooked him up to a lie detector test, he could say one thing in the morning, one thing at noon, and one thing in the evening, all contradictory, and he’d pass the lie detector test each time. Whatever lie he’s telling at that minute, he believes it. . . .

The man is utterly amoral. Morality does not exist for him. . . .

donald-trump-3Donald is a bully. . . . Bullies don’t come from strength, bullies come from weakness. Bullies come from a deep, yawning cavern of insecurity. There is a reason Donald builds giant buildings and puts his name on them everywhere he goes. . . .

Donald will betray his supporters on every issue. If you care about immigration, Donald is laughing at you. And he’s telling the moneyed elites that he doesn’t believe what he’s saying, he’s not gonna build a wall – that’s what he told the New York Times, he will betray you on every issue across the board.

I couldn’t agree more with Cruz’s words on that day. So what has changed?

Cruz says he has forgiven Trump for the insults and innuendoes about his wife and father. As a Christian, I certainly appreciate that Cruz has chosen not to allow bitterness to dominate. However, it is instructive to note that Trump has never acknowledged doing anything wrong, has not even uttered one word of regret for his lies, and acts as if Cruz owes him an endorsement, despite Trump’s despicable actions.

Trump now heaps praise on Cruz for having been a formidable challenger. In his mind, are they now best buddies? Hardly. If Cruz were to say something critical tomorrow, Trump would respond with his typical “loser” designation and say that he will find someone to run against Cruz in his next Senate race.

So why did Cruz make this endorsement? Theories abound. He himself says it’s because Hillary must be stopped and this is a binary election. In other words, the same old tired reasons given by every Republican who has capitulated to the Trump nomination. At least he’s not Hillary.

Never mind the future of the Republican brand; it has now morphed into the Trump brand.

So, I ask: Has Cruz really changed his mind about Trump’s acceptability as the nominee? Or did he not really mean the things he said back in May? Or is he more concerned about his own political future?

From what I’ve read from more than one source, Texas Republicans have been putting on the pressure and major donors have threatened not to support Cruz in his Senate reelection bid.

If that’s the real reason, I am simply sad because it will mean that another man has succumbed to the desire to maintain political office at the expense of principle.

Cruz has undermined his biggest supporters with this Trump endorsement. When he talks about principle and constitutionalism from now on, many will take it with that proverbial grain of salt.

I won’t judge Cruz too harshly at this point. One bad decision does not override everything good a man has done. But neither will I immediately respond to a call to arms for a 2020 presidential bid. He will have to earn my support all over again.

An Evangelical Scarlet Letter?

Increasingly, there is pressure on those of us who have always identified with the Republican party but who cannot bring ourselves to support Donald Trump to lay aside our objections and come together for the sake of unity. And to stop the ultimate horror: Hillary Clinton.

Many who were quite verbal in their detestation of Trump early on (such as former Texas governor Rick Perry) have done a complete 180, now saying he’s just marvelous. Perry, who had said Trump was “a cancer on conservatism,” “a barking carnival act,” and who called Trumpism “a toxic mix of demogoguery, mean-spiritedness, and nonsense that will lead the Republican party to perdition,” later said he would love to be Trump’s VP choice.

poll-numbers

Ah, principle! It’s so ennobling.

I can’t go there.

There are so many reasons why I cannot that it has become difficult to encapsulate them in one simple blog post. One of the first impressions I had of Trump when the primary debates began was his simple-mindedness, his elementary-level vocabulary, and his complete lack of knowledge on issues of utmost importance.

forrest-trump

Forrest Gump, though, was likeable and never had an insulting, rude bone in his body. Not so Donald Trump.

tip-top-shape

His constant personal attacks on the other Republican candidates were legion. The ones that stay with me the most, of course, are those on Ted Cruz, who received the full treatment because he was the greatest threat to Trump’s ascendancy.

In case you have suffered from a type of political amnesia brought on by partisanship, let me remind you of a few of those. First, he questioned Cruz’s status as a natural-born citizen, despite the fact that Cruz’s mother was an American citizen and the fact that the law declares anyone born to at least one American citizen is a natural-born citizen as well.

This wasn’t Trump’s first time using this conspiracy theory. He was one of the leading proponents who questioned Obama’s birth. Now, I know many on the conservative side of the political spectrum still want to beat that proverbial dead horse, but it truly is dead.

Even Trump had to admit that a few days ago . . . sort of:

born-in-hawaii

Those in the know realize he was pressured into accepting it publicly by his advisors, but he continues to hint that it was purely a political move. What a surprise.

Did he ever apologize to Cruz for that foray into political manipulation? Right. Donald Trump apologizes for nothing.

He has never apologized for pushing a false story about Cruz having many affairs (never mind The Donald’s own personal life), nor for attacking Heidi Cruz (claiming he will “out” her for some deep, dark secret) and allowing a horrid photo of her to be placed alongside his model wife (third one, if you are counting—maybe more to come), nor for intimating that Cruz’s father was somehow involved with the JFK assassination.

And then he expects Cruz to endorse him?

I could also go into how he has taken positions contrary to traditional conservative policy; conservatives who used to oppose those positions now suddenly find them delightful because their nominee is proposing them.

excellent-shape

Ah, principle. It’s so ennobling.

Wait a minute. Didn’t I already say that?

In my view, those of us who will not vote for Trump are the ones holding more firmly to what the Republican party says it believes.

lost-my-party

Erick Erickson, a staunch voice against Trumpism, wrote an essay the other day that he entitled “Reconsidering My Opposition to Trump.” At first glance, that would lead someone to think he has now capitulated. Not the case.

The essay begins with a serious indictment of Hillary Clinton, ending with the words, “In short, I see the election of Hillary Clinton as the antithesis of all my values and ideas on what fosters sound civil society in this country. Further, she should be in jail.”

Then why not support Trump? While he goes into a lot of detail why even the threat of Hillary will not move him away from being anti-Trump also, these paragraphs get to the heart of it for me:

More importantly, while I think Hillary Clinton will do long term damage to the country, I believe Donald Trump will do far more damage to the church, which must be my chief priority. A Clinton Administration may see the church besieged from the outside, but a Trump Administration will see the church poisoned from within [emphasis mine].

I see it happening even now. This past Friday I debated the merits of Trump and sat next to a Christian who argued that because God chose sinners, we should choose Trump. She argued that a bunch of other Presidents were terrible, immoral people so we should be okay with Trump. She argued that God chose Abraham, Samson, and David, so we should choose Trump.

I do not recall John F. Kennedy writing books bragging about his affairs. I do not recall Bill Clinton telling a television audience he wanted to have sex with his daughter.

How far a Christian must fall to justify the low morals of one man by tearing down the reputations of others in sometimes exaggerated manners. And I do recall God choosing Abraham, Samson, and David and all of them repenting of their sins. That repentance stands in studied contrast to Donald Trump who has three times said he never had to ask for forgiveness and only recently said his advance of the church, if he is elected, might be the only thing that gets him into Heaven.

My priority is the same as Erickson’s. I want the Christian witness to the world to be consistent. Support for an openly immoral man who sees no need for repentance undermines that witness. By the way, it also doesn’t help Donald Trump. When he sees all those evangelicals lining up on his side and extolling his virtues, how will he ever be brought to repentance? Fervent evangelical support may have the opposite effect and ground him ever more firmly in his sin.

Potential short-term political gain must be subordinated to long-term promotion of the kingdom of God. I’m afraid that Christians who tie themselves too closely to Trump will, figuratively, have to walk around later with a scarlet letter emblazoned on their Christian witness.

Unity?

Unity. That’s what it’s all about, right? All of us who are sickened at the thought of a Hillary presidency have to board the Trump train for the sake of unity. And if people like me, who oppose Trump for president, don’t hop on board, we are the problem and will be blamed for a Trump loss in November.

As I’ve said countless times, and will repeat again, any Trump loss in November will be due to Donald Trump himself and those who mindlessly followed him into his own personal fever swamp.

Evidence? It abounds.

Let’s look at what has occurred since the Republican convention.

Donald Trump Addresses GOP Lincoln Day Event In MichiganFirst, Trump refuses to let go of any comment by anyone that is the least bit critical of him, and continues to fire back regardless of the consequences. In politics, you take the heat and go on. Trump will not do so; instead, he creates bigger issues because he is so thin-skinned.

He continues to criticize Ted Cruz and won’t back off on the stupid accusation that Cruz’s father is somehow implicated in the JFK assassination.

He takes umbrage at a Muslim father speaking at the Democrat convention criticizing him. Keep in mind this was the Democrat convention. Of course they will line up speakers to criticize him.

In this case, though, the parents lost their son in Iraq. Now, whatever the truth is about the father—even if he should happen to be someone who ultimately favors Sharia law, or whatever—Trump’s reaction was again supremely stupid. You simply don’t rant against parents who lost their son in service to the country. From what I’ve read, the son lost his life when he ordered his fellow soldiers to stay back while he investigated; he died doing so, putting his fellows first.

That kind of decision needs to be respected, no matter who the parents are. Trump turning it into a “cause” only cheapens Trump. He somehow can’t see that.

A whole slew of stupidity manifested itself yesterday. Trump tells a woman to remove her crying baby from his rally after first trying to say he loves babies. I’ve watched the video without any editing. He came across as a fool and someone who really, despite what he claims, doesn’t like babies.

A veteran gave Trump his Purple Heart. Trump jokes that he always wanted one but didn’t expect to receive it this way. Just a joke, right? Watch the video, please. He again comes across as “this is all about me, not thee.” He doesn’t honor the man who gave it to him; he turns the focus on himself—as always—because in Trump World, all that matters is Donald Trump.

Then, because Paul Ryan and John McCain criticize him for his comments over the Muslim parents’ dead son, he now says he doesn’t endorse them for reelection.

Some of my readers may respond with joy over that because of dislike of both Ryan and McCain. But regardless of what you think of those men, isn’t Trump supposed to be unifying the party now? What does he do instead? He creates greater division. This is so bad that even Reince Priebus is upset. It takes a lot to get him upset with Trump.

Mike Pence has had to do more damage control than any VP candidate in history. I would feel sorry for him except for the fact that he signed up for this voluntarily. Did he understand what he was getting himself into?

Fireman Pence

How bad is it getting? I watched Fox News’s The Five last night, a show that reflexively defends Trump no matter what. Except for last night. Only Eric Bolling was willing to find an excuse for Trump’s antics. The others, especially Dana Perino, were critical. Perino practically said Trump was stupid and she seemed to be fed up with trying to defend him. She says she can offer no more advice on what he should do because he obviously won’t listen to anyone. Her disgust with Trump was all over her face.

Reports coming from inside the Trump campaign paint a picture of an organization almost in chaos, with people beside themselves trying to rein him in unsuccessfully.

I am more and more convinced that Trump’s supersized ego—one that has been allowed to grow throughout his life without any serious barriers—has made him a very disturbed man, both mentally and emotionally.

Beyond that, I’m not even sure he has the brain power to think clearly and rationally. He is stuck in his middle school vocabulary, with constant repetition of words and phrases (great, terrific, terrible, nasty, loser, etc., etc.) and has the emotional stability that goes along with boys at that level of maturation.

Trump's Brain

Am I aghast at the thought of a Hillary Clinton reign of error and terror? Absolutely. The trouble is that I’m equally aghast at the thought of a Trump ascendancy.

I’m in the minority in conservative circles right now. I’m apparently in the minority in evangelical circles also. That’s okay. I’ve been in this position before. My goal remains the same: speak the truth as God gives me the light to see the truth; emerge from this fiasco with my integrity intact.

Pray for our nation.

Chambers, McCarthy, & Trump

An interesting question was posed to me yesterday by a former student, wanting to know what Whittaker Chambers might think of Donald Trump. I gave him my short answer but then decided it would be perhaps insightful to provide a fuller one here today.

For those of you unfamiliar with Chambers, here’s a short synopsis of his life.

Chambers at DeskWhittaker Chambers, in the 1920s, became a member of the Communist party because he saw it as the hope of a world filled with destruction after WWI. At one point, he was ushered into the communist underground movement where he helped place communists in government positions to influence policy; he also served as a liaison between those officials and underground leaders, to whom he passed on information stolen from the government.

He soured on communism in the late 1930s as he saw the fruit of Stalinism: the purges of faithful party members, in particular. He had to go into hiding to protect his family, emerging later as a writer for Time magazine, eventually becoming one of its senior editors.

After WWII, Chambers appeared before a congressional committee and told all he knew about the underground subversion taking place. One of the men he fingered in the underground was Alger Hiss, a top State Dept. official. When Hiss denied the accusation, it became front-page news.

To shorten the story considerably, all I’ll say is that Chambers was proven correct, Hiss went to prison, and Chambers then wrote a masterful autobiography entitled Witness, which came out in 1952. It is one of my all-time favorite books.

Joe McCarthy 2Sen. Joe McCarthy is infamous for trying to root out the communist conspiracy in the early 1950s. Nothing wrong with that, except McCarthy seems to have been motivated more by personal glory than principle. He also was not a man of towering intellect like Chambers. Neither did he have the inside knowledge Chambers did.

Naturally, McCarthy sought to have Chambers on his side publicly. Yet Chambers declined to join in his crusade. Why? It had to do with the character of the man.

In letters Chambers wrote to William F. Buckley, the dean of the modern conservative movement in America, he laid out his concerns—even fears—of what McCarthy might do inadvertently to undermine genuine anti-communism.

Odyssey of a FriendIn one of those letters, responding to Buckley’s queries as to why he wouldn’t come out in support of McCarthy, Chambers replied,

One way whereby I can most easily help Communism is to associate myself publicly with Senator McCarthy; to give the enemy even a minor pretext for confusing the Hiss Case with his activities, and rolling it all in a snarl with which to baffle, bedevil, and divide opinion.

That is why I told Senator McCarthy, when he asked me to keynote his last Wisconsin campaign, that we were fighting in the same war, but in wholly  different battles, and that the nature of the struggle at this time enjoins that we should not wage war together.

I do not think that the Senator really grasps this necessity. For it is more and more my reluctant opinion that he is a tactician, rather than a strategist; that he continually, by reflex rather than calculation, sacrifices the long view for the short pull.

While Chambers obviously wanted much of what McCarthy wanted—the exposure of the communist threat—he didn’t see McCarthy as the man to accomplish this.

In that same letter to Buckley, Chambers expressed his deepest fear:

All of us, to one degree or another, have slowly come to question his judgment and to fear acutely that his flair for the sensational, his inaccuracies and distortions, his tendency to sacrifice the greater objective for the momentary effect, will lead him and us into trouble.

In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that we live in terror that Senator McCarthy will one day make some irreparable blunder which will play directly into the hands of our common enemy and discredit the whole anti-Communist effort for a long while to come.

Chambers was prophetic. That’s precisely what happened. McCarthy ultimately went too far with his accusations and fell from his lofty perch politically. Ever since then, anytime a conservative sounds a warning about socialism/communism, critics on the Left have been able to sound the alarm of “McCarthyism.” The senator dealt a deadly blow to intelligent concerns about subversion.

So what about Trump? What would Chambers think if he were here today? Of course, we are dealing with a hypothetical, but we do have Chambers’s own words and feelings about someone who could be disastrous to a good cause. That’s how I see Trump.

Looking again at Chambers’s comments, I can see Trump in many ways. Just as McCarthy was not a principled person, but rather someone out for his own notoriety, so is Trump, in my view. He has no solid principles; he is no conservative; he has little knowledge of constitutional government.

Then there are the tactics. Chambers criticized McCarthy for being merely a tactician, not a strategist, someone who went for the short-term advantage rather than having a long-term goal. Trump again.

Chambers questioned McCarthy’s judgment, his flair for the sensational, and the inaccuracies and distortions in his comments. I see Trump there as well.

Finally, there was Chambers’s biggest fear, that McCarthy would do more damage to the cause in the long run and discredit real anti-communism that knew what it was talking about. I believe Trump will cause great damage to conservatism in our day. People will associate him with that ideology, despite the fact that he is a man of no particular ideology himself. He is merely a narcissist looking for a way to advance himself.

If Trump doesn’t change (and that’s highly unlikely), and he wins the presidency, we may, in the future, hear the alarm of “Trumpism” just as readily as the Left has used “McCarthyism” for the last six decades.

If Chambers were alive today to see what’s transpiring, there is no way I believe he would be a Trump enthusiast. Rather, he would be on the front lines sounding a proper alarm, fearful that conservatism will be undermined by support for Trump.

As an addendum, Ronald Reagan’s son, Michael, has stated that he doesn’t believe his father would have jumped on the Trump train either. From everything I know about Ronald Reagan, I have to agree. Although Reagan called for unity in the Republican ranks, he always wanted that unity to be based on principles.

I find it kind of ironic that those who are excoriating Ted Cruz for not endorsing Trump forget that Reagan, who lost the nomination to Gerald Ford in 1976, spoke at that convention at Ford’s request. While delivering an impromptu speech about the need for Republican principles to win in the election, Reagan pointedly didn’t specifically endorse Ford in that speech. Neither did he campaign for him prior to the election. If that was acceptable for Reagan, why not for Cruz, who has even far more reason to decline a Trump endorsement?

Book Cover 1I have studied both Reagan and Chambers for many years. That’s why I came out with this book last year, The Witness and the President: Whittaker Chambers, Ronald Reagan, and the Future of Freedom.

If you want greater depth of understanding of both men, I heartily endorse this book (for some reason). As you dig into the thinking of both Reagan and Chambers, I hope you will come away with a greater appreciation of those who stand on principle.

I also hope you will also grasp why I have not been able to endorse Donald Trump. I want men (and women) of principle taking the lead. We have to look beyond the short-term “victory” of one election and concentrate instead on the long-term. Christian faith and conservative governance are my guidelines; I don’t want them to be denigrated by the unprincipled antics of politicians today.

About Last Week’s Convention

There are different types of Trump supporters. First, there are the angry people who just want Trump to get back at those who they perceive have created all the problems in the country. Trump will build a wall, they say, and make America great again. We believe him.

They are so confident that he is the new political savior that their faith is unshakeable, no matter what he does. As Trump himself famously stated, he could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue in New York and shoot someone and not lose their support.

I don’t write to convince those people of anything. They have stopped thinking.

Then there’s the establishment types who originally loathed Trump and still wish someone else had gotten the nomination. Yet they will support him because they are Republicans first and principled people only tangentially.

Finally, there are the true conservatives, many of them evangelicals, who would not ordinarily come near anyone like Trump but who are so afraid of a Hillary Clinton presidency that they have reluctantly pledged to vote for him. They know in their hearts he is probably reprehensible but they conclude they have no other choice; at least he might choose a good Supreme Court justice or two.

I write primarily for that last group. There remains some hope they can be persuaded that they have hitched their wagon to a leader who is going to destroy the republic in a way that Hillary cannot—by destroying the GOP itself and, in the process, undermining every moral value that Christians profess to believe.

When Ted Cruz spoke at the Republican convention last week, the Trump people and the media declared it a disaster for Cruz. Yet what did Cruz do, precisely?

First, Trump gave the invitation to speak. From all accounts, he knew up front that Cruz would not publicly endorse him. Second, Cruz gave his speech to the Trump campaign two days before he stood at the lectern to deliver it. Trump approved the wording.

Then, when Cruz told the delegates (and all watching throughout the nation) that they should not stay home on election day but go out to vote, and that they should vote their conscience and for those who uphold the Constitution, pandemonium occurred.

We now pretty well know that the boos that cascaded upon Cruz at that moment were orchestrated ahead of time. Trump’s people were prepared to initiate the booing when Cruz spoke that specific line.

What was so wrong with that? Are we not supposed to vote our conscience and uphold the Constitution?

Don't Vote Conscience

The uproar, to some extent, was the implication that voting for Trump is a vote against conscience. Well, for anyone who holds the Constitution, the rule of law, and Biblical principles paramount, I would have to agree.

Yet the wording was approved by Trump ahead of time.

Pundits have now declared Cruz persona non grata in Republican circles—never mind that he has since gone to rallies for Republican candidates and been well received. They rant that he broke his pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee.

I like what one person said about that particular complaint:

Christians need a serious primer in ethics. So many are attacking Ted Cruz because in their eyes he committed the unpardonable sin. He didn’t keep the pledge.

What they fail to understand is the nature of ethical dilemmas.
Sure it is right and proper to keep one’s pledges. It is also right and proper to defend the honor and dignity of your family.

So I ask all the Christian men criticizing Cruz, would you have any problem endorsing a man who insults your wife in front of the nation, makes your little children wonder if daddy is unfaithful to Mommy, and says your father was involved with the assassination of JFK?

Would you? If you could disrespect your family enough to endorse the lying scoundrel who made those attacks on them, then what kind of man are you?

After Cruz’s speech, Trump resurrected the conspiracy theory about Cruz’s father being in league with Lee Harvey Oswald. He actually brought it up again, despite the complete idiocy of the charge. He even praised the National Enquirer and said he couldn’t understand why it hasn’t received a Pulitzer Prize.

Stephen HayesStephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard then wrote an article provocatively titled “Donald Trump Is Crazy, and So Is the GOP for Embracing Him.” Hayes notes, with regard to the innuendo concerning Cruz’s father,

The Kennedy assassination is one of the most heavily investigated events in the past century. Cruz’s father was not implicated. There is no evidence to support claims that he was ever in the presence of Lee Harvey Oswald or had a role in the Kennedy assassination. And scholars who have studied those events have said without qualification that Cruz wasn’t involved. But Trump peddles his nonsense anyway.

Yet where is the outrage over Trump’s nonsense? Hayes continues,

Either Trump believes Rafael Cruz was involved or he’s making the implied accusation in a continued attempt to discredit Cruz’s son. In either case, this isn’t the behavior of a rational, stable individual. It should embarrass those who have endorsed him and disgrace those who have attempted to normalize him.

The degree of this normalization is stunning. The Republican nominee for president made comments Friday that one might expect from a patient in a mental institution, the kind of stuff you might read on blog with really small print and pictures of UFOs. And yet his remarks barely register as news. There are no condemnations from fellow Republicans. His supporters shrug them off as Trump being Trump.

Hayes further recounts other Trump craziness: peddling the theory that Antonin Scalia was murdered; that thousands of Muslims rejoiced in the streets of New Jersey on 9/11; the whole birther episode with Obama (sorry, folks, but I never believed that one).

When Trump went on Alex Jones’s radio program, he praised that 9/11 Truther who claims a 98% chance that the Twin Towers were brought down by controlled bombings perpetrated by the US government—that Bush was behind it all. What did Trump comment about Jones? “Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down.”

Really? Is this the man who deserves the vote of evangelicals who say they put Christ first in all things?

And what about the Republican party as a whole? It used to be the party of Biblical morality, pro-life, in favor of traditional families, etc. Yes, I know that the official platform states all those things, but the convention itself promoted the opposite in many ways. A “proud gay” man speaks and receives a standing ovation. Trump promises to be, in effect, a better president for the LGBT “community” than Hillary.

Trump’s acceptance speech didn’t even offer a cursory comment about the GOP’s pro-life position. Donald Trump Jr. has even stated that he doesn’t see what the big deal is about abortion; the Trump family is working to excise all those “social issues” out of the GOP.

On top of that, Trump sounded like the proponent of big government solutions. Or that he himself was the solution for all our problems. He is a total narcissist. In a Trump administration, the era of small constitutional government would be over.

This was a Republican convention?

Caboose

Hillary Clinton does not deserve the presidency. She ought to be in prison. Donald Trump does not deserve the presidency. He ought to be kept far away from any levers of political power.

Some of my readers have complained that I am aiming too much at Trump. Why not make Hillary the target? Do a search on my blog site. You should be satisfied that I’ve clearly laid out over the years the case against her.

Why focus on Trump? Because I’m appalled at the collapse of principle in those who should know better. I’m still hoping against hope that I can say something to help right this ship. We need to look beyond the 2016 election and try to salvage what has been best in the Republican party. That is my goal. And if that party is now beyond saving, I pray a new party will arise to take its place.

We should never sacrifice principle and long-term goals for the sake of short-term, unprincipled actions. Nominating Donald Trump is a short-term, short-sighted, unprincipled action that will be just as disastrous as another Clinton presidency.

Celebrity “Conversions”: The Trump Report

In my decades as a Christian believer, I’ve witnessed a number of claims about celebrities who recently became Christians. In my early years, each claim was very exciting, as it seemed to show how God’s mercy reaches to everyone no matter how morally depraved they have been.

Then I would expectantly wait for their lives to be changed and their testimony to be life-changing for others. Most of the time, I have been disappointed; they seemed to continue on their former path, albeit with some vague language about God that might not have been there previously.

Let me be clear: There were some reports that were accurate; some lives were changed, so I’m not discounting all such stories of conversion. However, I have become skeptical of most of these reports based on what has transpired over the years.

James DobsonThe latest celebrity “conversion” was made public a couple of days ago by Dr. James Dobson, who passed on the word that he heard from someone else that Donald Trump recently gave his life to the Lord. Now, I’ve always admired and respected Dr. Dobson, so I’m not trying to undermine all the good work he has done or the word of his testimony out of some kind of disrespect. Yet you can color me more than a little skeptical of this news.

One of the things that bothers me most about modern evangelicalism is the tendency to call someone a Christian on the basis of some kind of mental assent to the deity of Jesus or for having prayed a prayer to “accept” Jesus.

While I try to avoid such clichés, I agree with the critique of what some have called “easy believeism,” or “cheap grace.” The entrance into the kingdom of God comes at a cost. Yes, Jesus paid the price for salvation at the cross, but there are conditions we must meet before He accepts us.

First, we must recognize our sins. This goes beyond some facile statement that says, oh, yes, we’re all sinners, so I must be also—sure would like to go to heaven so I’ll admit that I’m a sinner, too.

Frankly, an acknowledgement of sin must go deeper than that. There needs to be a corresponding sense of guilt and remorse over how one has destroyed what God intended for good. There must be a great desire to turn away from sin and seek a life that pleases God in all ways.

Repentance 2Second, that desire to turn away from sin has to be manifested in a thorough repentance. The word means a total change of thinking about God and oneself. It means that from now on we earnestly want to serve Him supremely and not our own selfish interests. It means we dethrone ourselves and put God exactly where He belongs as not only Savior, but also as Lord—the One who has the right and the authority to tell us how to live.

Third, we then turn to the cross of Christ and see that He humbled Himself on our behalf and took the penalty of sin for us. The love manifested through the life and death of Jesus should then break down our rebellion and lead us into a life in which we are constantly figuring out how best to follow Him and please Him in all ways.

When those steps occur, salvation is real. Anything less is a superficial mental agreement to certain doctrinal statements without any real impact on the relationship with God or how we live. Unless those steps occur, we are still in our sins; nothing has been accomplished except stark hypocrisy.

How are we to know if Donald Trump has experienced a genuine conversion? Dr. Dobson cautions us to realize that a baby Christian doesn’t change overnight. Well, I agree up to a point. Yes, a new Christian has a lot to learn and needs to continually grow in the faith. But, as the apostle Paul noted, when a person is in Christ, he becomes a new creation.

That means that the motivation for life changes right from the start. There should be evidence immediately that something has happened. A true conversion signifies that the person now has a new humility and purpose; it’s now all for God’s glory, not his own.

Donald TrumpHere are some ways that Donald Trump can convince me he has undergone a genuine Christian conversion:

  • His hubris will come to an end. He won’t be bragging about how great he is, how wonderful he always has been, and how he is the answer for everything that’s wrong with America.
  • He will finally acknowledge that he has sinned greatly in the past and has now gone to God for forgiveness for those sins.
  • Specifically, he will apologize publicly for the many things he has done in this campaign that impugned others: his disparaging comments about Carly Fiorina’s face; his conniving to plant stories about Ted Cruz being a serial adulterer; his despicable depiction of Heidi Cruz in a photo that compared her to his own wife; his mocking of a disabled reporter by imitating his disability; his manipulative ways to undermine opponents, particularly in his silly questioning of Cruz’s American citizenship and his attempt to link Cruz’s father to the Kennedy assassination.
  • He will stop throwing out a constant barrage of personal insults via Twitter, and instead will try to point people to the faith he now has taken to heart. [Note: after writing this, I became aware of a number of snarky tweets Trump sent out about conservative commentator George Will, who announced he was leaving the Republican party because of its embrace of Trump—no change yet in Trump’s responses to people who go against him.]

If he were to do all of these things, I would be more inclined to believe a conversion has taken place. Even then, because he is in the midst of a presidential race in which he knows he needs the support of the evangelical community to have any chance of winning, I would still have my suspicions that this could all be more manipulation.

Judging OthersI can hear the voices already, putting forth the usual objection: judge not that you be not judged. Well, when you say that, aren’t you judging me?

Check out that passage again if you haven’t done so recently. It’s found in Matthew 7. The context makes it clear that judgment is supposed to take place, but only after ensuring that one isn’t being a hypocrite.

Jesus also said in that same chapter that we would know by the fruit of a person’s life whether he is genuine or not. That requires some judgment, doesn’t it?

I’m also reminded of a verse in the fifth chapter of the book of Hebrews, in which the author tells us, “Solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”

We are to be a discerning people. That means we don’t accept everything we hear without first examining all reports through the lens of Scriptural truth.

Let me be clear again: I would welcome the news that Donald Trump has done a 180-degree turn via a real recognition of sin in his life, a true repentance from that sin, and a sincere faith in Christ that will transform his every thought and action from now on.

I’m just not going to believe it until there is adequate evidence for it. I urge fellow Christians not to blindly accept this news without testing it first. Love is not synonymous with naivete.