Trump: Lessons Learned?

At first, it appeared that Trump had this president thing all figured out. He was quick out of the block to undo many of President Obama’s unconstitutional actions. He was signing executive orders right and left.

Then came indications that maybe he’s still enmeshed in on-the-job training. While I agree that his executive order regarding immigration was within his authority and had the right intent—ensuring we aren’t importing terrorists—the rollout was bungled. People were caught in it who shouldn’t have been; Trump didn’t get ahead of the narrative so that the opposition, both Democrats and the media, couldn’t use it as a cudgel.

A misstep, to be sure.

Then when a federal judge put a stay on the order and it went to the Ninth Circuit Court, commentators were quick to note that Trump’s advocates in the court weren’t apparently top-notch. The Ninth Circuit upheld the stay.

It’s easy to criticize that particular court because it has a history of tacking to the political Left. No other circuit has had so many of its decisions reversed by the Supreme Court. It would have more credibility if it actually followed law rather than its own political ideology.

Trump, throughout this controversy, did what he always does so well: go to Twitter to denounce and insult. That’s not a tactic designed to win over the opposition.

Now we have the Mike Flynn fiasco. When Flynn was picked to be National Security Adviser, I was not entirely on board. Whenever I saw him offering commentary, I had reservations about his approach and his temperament. Yes, he seemed to understand the Islamist threat, but he also seemed far too cozy with Russia, which mirrored Trump’s attitude.

Flynn resigned late Monday night over reports that he hobnobbed with the Russian government prior to taking office. There is no law against that, but there was concern about what he was promising the Russians. Personally, I think it’s good to start talking with foreign governments when a national security official is about to take on that duty.

However, Flynn attempted not only to hide what he had done; in addition, he lied to VP Pence about it, making Pence an unwitting liar when he defended Flynn publicly.

That is inexcusable. As we always hear, the coverup is often worse than the original offense.

So Flynn is gone, undermining another of Trump’s boasts that he will surround himself with the best people. Flynn was not one of those “best” people.

Some report indicate that Trump is surprised by the resistance he is experiencing and is trying to figure out how to handle it. I know, we never can tell if such reports are genuine or fake in this heated environment, but I don’t have trouble believing this one. Trump is used to having his way, and he probably thought that being president would make it easy to get done what he wants to get done.

Welcome to the real world, President Trump. It’s time to get this under control. Will he learn his lessons?

Trump’s First Days

Donald Trump’s first days in office have been filled with controversies—some genuine and created by him, others phony and played up by the usual suspects. Continuing my pledge to be fair and balanced in my comments on how Trump is doing, let’s begin with the phony ones.

Because of his executive order that started the ball rolling on reversing Obamacare, we now hear hysterical rantings about how all the poor will lose their healthcare. Not so. A large portion of Obamacare enrollments, it seems, have swelled the number of people on Medicaid. Obamacare itself has done little to ensure everyone is covered. Its primary achievements have been astronomical deductibles and premium hikes for those forced into it.

If Republicans can unite on how to dismantle this foolishness, everyone will benefit, rich and poor alike.

Trump’s overturning of Obama’s unconstitutional executive orders is one of the most positive and rational things he is doing. May it continue.

The Left is also apoplectic over the immigration EO Trump signed over the weekend. There are things wrong with the way it was implemented, hitting green-card residents and others who were previously approved to be in the country. Particularly painful were the stories that highlighted Christian families being sent back as well as an Iraqi interpreter who has worked on behalf of America for a decade. That misstep has been officially corrected by new DHS head John Kelly, who has come out publicly stating it doesn’t apply to those kinds of people.

Neither did this new EO specifically target Muslims. It only kept in place the Obama policy toward seven of the fifty Muslim-majority nations, the ones most likely to harbor terrorists.

I have a hard time understanding criticism of a policy that simply requires vetting and caution before allowing certain people into the country. Open-borders advocates accuse anyone who is concerned about terrorists using immigration to infiltrate and attack us of being without compassion. I wonder how many of those advocates leave the doors of their homes unlocked at night, welcoming whoever wants to come in for whatever reason?

Yet Trump is being castigated as a racist/bigot/fill-in-the-blank-with-your-favorite cliché. Keep in mind this would have happened with any Republican taking over the presidency. Trump, though, with his penchant for stirring the pot unnecessarily, has lowered the point at which professional leftists boil over.

Another of Trump’s EOs that is excellent is the one that reinstated the so-called Mexico City Policy, which bars international non-governmental organizations that perform or promote abortions from receiving US government funding. I give him praise for that.

Lost in the flurry of hysteria over the immigration edict are others, both good and/or questionable.

I would think that all points along the political spectrum should agree with the ones that apply a five-year ban on lobbying by those currently serving in the administration and a lifetime ban on foreign government lobbying. Let’s applaud those.

The most questionable action, though, is Trump’s decision to shake up the personnel on the National Security Council. He removed the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from attending the meetings. Um . . . how are they not involved with national security?

The coup de grace was then to place Steve Bannon, his chief political strategist, on the NSC instead. Huh? I haven’t heard a good explanation for those moves yet.

Trump also says he will name his nominee for the Supreme Court this week, possibly even today. Rumors had it that Neil Gorsuch was the probable pick, a man who seems to be solid in all areas; some even say he would be better than Scalia in some ways.

Now there are new rumors that Thomas Hardiman may be the top choice. From what I’ve read, Hardiman, while considered conservative, has never been tested on hot-button issues like abortion. After so many evangelicals voted for Trump based on his promise to place someone on the Court who can be trusted on that issue, Hardiman could turn out to be a major disappointment. Trump’s sister, a pro-abortion judge, has spoken out in favor of Hardiman.

Potential problem here? Another David Souter or Anthony Kennedy? We don’t know. Gorsuch or Hardiman? We’ll find out very soon.

The one major positive, however, that all conservatives can point to as the new administration gets underway is this:

For that, I am grateful.

Common Sense on Refugees

America has always been the most accepting of nations with respect to immigrants. The doors have almost always been open wide. In the early years, there were no immigration restrictions at all. The real restrictions only applied to citizenship. Immigrants could come over, but if they wanted the privileges of citizenship, they had to meet certain requirements.

The period from approximately 1890-1917 was unprecedented in history as those teeming masses descended upon a country that held greater promise than what the immigrants could expect in their homelands.

After WWI, some restrictions were placed, but only in the manner of percentages from certain countries as concerns about the changing demographics came to the forefront, but compared to the rest of the world, we remained the “golden door” of opportunity.

So I have great sympathy for those who wish to flee persecution and find a safe place here. Yet wisdom must accompany that sympathy. This is, in a sense, a new world we are now confronting. Some of our leaders, though, don’t see it that way:

Huddled Masses

Most of those seeking to enter America are most assuredly not terrorists, but, as we now know in the Paris attacks, some of those involved with those attacks smuggled themselves in disguised as genuine refugees. Concern over the nature of this new immigration is sensible:

Refugee Roulette

A bipartisan bill has recently passed the House and is going to the Senate. It is not a drastic, xenophobic bill at all, but merely an attempt to tighten the vetting process. President Obama now finds himself fighting not only Republicans but many in his own party:

Where'd Everybody Go

Harry Reid already has threatened to filibuster this bill in the Senate. That’s to be expected from Harry Reid. Will enough Democrats abandon his sinking ship and come to their senses, allowing this bill to be sent to Obama’s desk? He will certainly veto it, yet there is a good chance his veto will be overridden this time.

Common sense needs to prevail here. “Common sense” and “Democrats” are not terms that automatically go together. May they be reunited in this case.

Immigration Reform Again?

President Obama has given notice that his next priority is to return to immigration reform. Not sure the Congress will agree with that priority, but he’s going to push for it. There’s no question something needs to be reformed, even if it’s just enforcing the laws already in place, but conservatives are wary of the Senate-passed bill that they say is nothing more than amnesty. While it gives lip service to securing the border first, it doesn’t really accomplish that. They foresee greater problems unless the border is secured before we even consider anything else:

Secure the Border

I believe that concern is legitimate. Another concern is the path to citizenship that will allow those who broke the law to get here to be voters eventually. Some argue that Hispanics, in particular, will be more conservative in their voting habits, but I don’t think that’s a cogent analysis. They’re going to be far more apt to vote for the party that promises everything while requiring little:

Electing Democrats

Meanwhile, the media and the Democrats will paint those who want to be more cautious and who believe in the rule of law as hard-hearted, mean-spirited, narrow-minded [have I captured the most prominent of the clichés?] bigots/racists. It’s all part of the strategy for “winning” the politics of the situation:

Just a Bigot

It would be nice for any upcoming debate to be focused on the merits of the proposed policy rather than ad hominem attacks on the personal character of those who oppose the comprehensive package being promoted. It would also be highly unlikely. The attack dogs are just waiting to be loosed, and the media will play their game.

Pray for common sense to prevail, which would include upholding the rule of law.

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.

Rubio in Lakeland: The Message

I had the opportunity yesterday to hear Sen. Marco Rubio speak at an event in Lakeland, Florida, where I live. I’ve been a Rubio supporter from the beginning of his quest to become a United States senator, and have always appreciated his direct approach whenever I’ve heard him speak. This was the third time I’ve heard him in person, but given his high-profile stance on immigration reform, and the storm of criticism he’s faced from his fellow conservatives, I was particularly interested in how he would handle that issue in his talk. I’ll get to that.

Rubio’s theme was the future of the Republican party. What must Republicans believe and do to regain momentum? He stated at the start that the party had to be true to its beliefs and not just do whatever would bring short-term political gain. Republicans, he said, had to remain principled.

His message had three parts as he charted the course for Republican ascendance:

  1. Be the party of strong national defense. America invites trouble when it is weak. While we cannot get involved in a multitude of foreign escapades, we have to be strong and vigilant to protect ourselves. There will be times when we have to intervene overseas to stave off a threat; we must be ready to do so when necessary.
  2. Be the party of upward mobility. He took dead aim at the misrepresentations of Republicans, noting you can’t allow the opposition to define you—that definition will always be a lie. While Democrats focus on being envious of the rich, Republicans, he urged, should concentrate on showing the way for raising people up and allowing them to succeed. Instead of tearing down the rich, congratulate them, and move as many people as possible into that category. Republicans should be the party that is truly for the downtrodden, offering a path for them to get out of their situation rather than blaming those who have done better. He extolled the nature of America and the vision of a shining hill (without using those exact words) that was reminiscent of the Reagan approach to inspiring people.
  3. Be the problem-solving party. This is where he spoke on immigration. He took on the critics, but in an earnest, thoughtful way. He stressed that our current immigration system is already amnesty. We hardly know who or where those eleven million illegals are. There is no system for tracking them. Four million of them came here legally, but overstayed their visas, and our current system provides no accountability for finding them. Rubio freely acknowledged the proposed plan, of which he became the public voice, is not all it should be, but he sees it as an improvement on what passes for an immigration policy now. He is open to strengthening it, admitting that border enforcement has to be one of the keys, and that it’s difficult to trust the present administration with carrying out any meaningful enforcement. He got involved, he said, because someone has to take the initiative to begin the process for changing the status quo. He stressed that Republicans have to be the courageous party, willing to tackle the hard problems and provide viable solutions.

Some have accused Rubio of being naïve, of not realizing he is being “used” by the Democrats on this issue. Maybe, but I got the impression he’s gone into this with eyes wide open, understanding the political risks. If his input can push immigration policy in a more positive direction, he will have performed a public service. We’ll have to see how that turns out ultimately. Rush Limbaugh, for one, now senses that Rubio’s influence might be more than his critics have been willing to believe.

Overall, his message to the audience was that simply criticizing Obama is not enough. He believes the voters are souring on Obama’s policies, and that when the next presidential election arrives, they will be looking for alternatives. If Republicans don’t offer genuine alternatives, they will lose again. Therefore, Republicans need to be the party of alternatives.

Rubio handled himself well. He was poised and clear in his message. The message is sound. Are Republicans listening?

Losing Our Minds–Part III

Common sense and a knowledge of history both favor allowing “new blood” into a society, particularly those who will work hard, obey the laws, increase productivity, and increase the moral fiber of that society. Immigration has been good for the United States. All of us currently living here—including the Native Americans—are descendants of immigrants. Never in the history of the world has a country been so inviting of new people, and from diverse backgrounds.

I have to say all that first because there is a false narrative floating around that those who are concerned about illegal immigration are somehow anti-immigrant. While there has always been a streak of nativism in American society, compared to most countries, we are remarkably receptive to newcomers. Concerns are not based on racism, or any other “ism” you may wish to impose upon one’s motives. What we have experienced over the past few decades is a deliberate flaunting of reasonable laws for entry into a nation. Of course, there is an incentive for many who are not of the hard-working variety:

Other nations are far more restrictive when it comes to immigration and the bestowal of citizenship. If you want to become a Swiss citizen, good luck. If you enter illegally into Mexico, you will suffer harsh penalties; it is a felony in that country. Yet those who push for ignoring our immigration laws spend all their energy attacking the United States as uncaring and tyrannical. Pure bunkum.

For me, the common sense rationale for some type of immigration rules focuses first and foremost on national security. We need to know who is crossing the border. A porous border allows terrorists free access; a porous border permits a flood of drug dealers and other criminals to invade. How many deaths and other violent crimes are the result of our lax security?

Yet many politicians, primarily of the Democrat stripe, show almost no concern for these threats. The politics of it is easy to understand: they hope to convert immigrants into citizens quickly, seeking to increase their voters. How do they know those immigrants will vote for them? Refer back to the previous cartoon.

In Obamaworld, border security is not a priority:

How’s this for a workable compromise?

Right.

I’m not opposed to immigration reform, but it must be based on securing the borders first. Anything less than that is irresponsible. Anything less than that is another example of losing our minds.