Where I Come From & Where I Am Today

I’ve been musing the past few days on the roots of my political and/or governmental philosophy. Why am I where I am today in my understanding of what’s best for the governing of this nation?

I wasn’t raised in a home that taught me what I now believe, so it’s not a matter of merely copying what my parents thought. In fact, I grew up thinking the Democrats were the party to support.

I was conservative as far as I understood what conservatism was, but didn’t grasp the drift taking place in that party. I thought that because I was sympathetic to the civil rights movement, I was a good Democrat.

Liberal-ConservativeIt took a conversation in college with someone knew the difference to show me I was truly a conservative in outlook and that my views lined up better with the Republicans. That actually surprised me.

Yet I didn’t just follow the advice of that person blindly. I began to investigate what I should believe and why. Two factors guided my thinking: my growing Christian faith and the influence of certain writers I was beginning to enjoy reading.

First, I began to learn about Biblical principles and how they should be applied to society, including government. Those principles continue to guide me today.

William F. Buckley Holding BookSecond, two periodicals honed my thinking in accordance with those Biblical principles: National Review and The Freeman. The first offered witty and insightful commentary on the current political scene, and I greatly admired William F. Buckley, the founder of the magazine; the second grounded me in free-market concepts.

When I decided to pursue my doctorate in history, I was in a time of uncertainty spiritually. I was searching to see if anything else could fill that void. My professors, generally speaking, were far more liberal than I, and some of the reading I was given allowed me to test my convictions. Would they stand?

They did. I was now grounded in what liberals thought, as I expanded my understanding of both worldviews.

My advanced degrees offered no answers for life; God mercifully drew me back to Himself. Yet that pursuit of higher education did prepare me to better define what I believed and why.

My path to what I believe is not everyone’s path, by any stretch. My spiritual quest combined with my educational quest to make me what I am. It was a fascinating integration of intellectual and emotional satisfaction.

TextbooksI have been in higher education circles ever since. Seven of my years of teaching were at the graduate level; another five at a college that stressed classical education.

In my courses, I try to communicate to my students a worldview that is spiritually and intellectually sound.

I’ve always approached politics from this foundation of Biblical principles and solid reasoning from a well-grounded conservative philosophy. I don’t repent of any of this, but I do think my approach has left me a little bewildered by the politics of 2016.

As I meditate on what has developed politically over the past year, I have been astounded by what seems to me to be a devastating loss of principle in both the Christian world and the corresponding conservative world.

Donald Trump at DebateI’ve been trying to understand why this is so. You see, for me, the first time I saw Donald Trump on the stage with all those other candidates, I came away thinking that this was the biggest con of recent political history and that no one would take him seriously. Why? Because I didn’t perceive him as a serious candidate.

Trump had no command of the issues. He was an egotist who blustered, interrupted, and insulted anyone he thought was in his way. His entire history was as a liberal Democrat, and now he was trying to convince everyone he was a Republican.

I thought everyone would see through this charade. I’ve been sorely disappointed.

True, he didn’t get the majority of Republican votes in the primaries. I console myself with that fact. But once he became the nominee, so many who had previously said he was unacceptable suddenly decided he was now worth supporting, and anyone who disagreed should be shamed and guilted (is that a word?) into abandoning their principles and declaring their undying allegiance.

My entire background and training doesn’t allow me to board this train. I’m dismayed that so many others have decided to do so.

PrinciplesI’ve learned a valuable lesson, though. I have to realize that not everyone makes decisions based on principles only. Sometimes emotions carry the day. The emotion that leads some to vote for Trump now is fear—fear of a Hillary Clinton presidency.

I understand that fear. What I don’t get is why those same voters don’t see the danger of a Trump presidency as well. In my view, both are equally undesirable.

Some probably wonder why I continue to warn about Trump when it is clear that one or the other—Trump or Hillary—will be the next president. The answer is this: I’m looking beyond this election; I’m trying to keep us thinking about what comes next and whether there will be a Christian witness left to the nation after this, and whether there will be any conservative movement to build upon and salvage the disaster that is sure to come regardless of who wins this particular election.

We need to be principled people. My task, I believe, is to stay true to that calling and convince as many others as possible to do the same.

National Review & Trump (Cont.)

Donald Trump at DordtI want to revisit the important message of National Review‘s issue “Against Trump,” but first I want to make sure no one missed a statement Trump made while speaking Saturday at Dordt College, a Christian Reformed institution in Iowa.

Attempting to be funny, Trump commented that his supporters are so loyal that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue in New York and shoot somebody and still not lose his voters.

According to an eyewitness account, the joke fell short—some muffled laughter and a good number of people shaking their heads. I don’t know what bothers me more, that Trump would say such a thing or that he is probably correct about a sizable segment of his supporters.

I echo the concern of one evangelical commentator who concluded, “There is something deeply disturbing about a candidate who would say this . . . and Evangelicals who would support him.”

Back to National Review.

I hope my readers will take the time to wade through the articles in this latest issue, both the official editorial and the various essays from individual contributors.

Some have already criticized NR on various grounds. The most common ones I’ve seen have been based on perceived inconsistencies with positions NR has taken in the past. I argue that is irrelevant; one must look at the present topic—Donald Trump’s candidacy—and judge on its merits alone.

While there may be some critiques based on the issues themselves, I have yet to see them; the focus seems to be that NR has unfairly trashed the frontrunner.

Against TrumpThere is no room in this post to quote extensively from the varied views of Trump that are expressed in the “Against Trump” collection, so I will limit myself to excerpts from what I believe is a factually based and cogent presentation in the main editorial.

The editors at NR begin with their main thesis:

Trump is a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP in favor of a free-floating populism with strong-man overtones.
The editorial then proceeds to effectively undercut Trump’s immigration policy and his woeful lack of understanding of America’s foreign policy crises, noting that he
casually suggested a few weeks ago a war crime — killing terrorists’ families — as a tactic in the war on terror. For someone who wants to project strength, he has an astonishing weakness for flattery, falling for Vladimir Putin after a few coquettish bats of the eyelashes from the Russian thug. All in all, Trump knows approximately as much about national security as he does about the nuclear triad — which is to say, almost nothing.
Calling Trump “the most poll-obsessed politician in all of American history,” the editorial continues,

Trump has shown no interest in limiting government, in reforming entitlements, or in the Constitution. . . .

His obsession is with “winning,” regardless of the means — a spirit that is anathema to the ordered liberty that conservatives hold dear and that depends for its preservation on limits on government power.
What about Trump’s success as a businessman? NR tackles that as well:
Trump’s record as a businessman is hardly a recommendation for the highest office in the land. For all his success, Trump inherited a real-estate fortune from his father. Few of us will ever have the experience, as Trump did, of having Daddy-O bail out our struggling enterprise with an illegal loan in the form of casino chips.
Trump’s primary work long ago became less about building anything than about branding himself and tending to his celebrity through a variety of entertainment ventures, from WWE to his reality-TV show, The Apprentice. His business record reflects the often dubious norms of the milieu: using eminent domain to condemn the property of others; buying the good graces of politicians — including many Democrats — with donations.
The editors’ other concern, along with the damage a Trump presidency would do to the nation at large, is what it would do to conservatism:
If Trump were to become the president, the Republican nominee, or even a failed candidate with strong conservative support, what would that say about conservatives?
The movement that ground down the Soviet Union and took the shine, at least temporarily, off socialism would have fallen in behind a huckster. The movement concerned with such “permanent things” as constitutional government, marriage, and the right to life would have become a claque for a Twitter feed.
William F. Buckley-YoungIn its concluding paragraph, the editorial summons the spirit of its founder, William F. Buckley, who began the enterprise in the 1950s with the declaration that NR would be voice standing athwart history yelling “Stop.”
Some conservatives have made it their business to make excuses for Trump and duly get pats on the head from him. Count us out. Donald Trump is a menace to American conservatism who would take the work of generations and trample it underfoot in behalf of a populism as heedless and crude as the Donald himself.
National Review earned the typical Donald Trump treatment for its views, as he labeled it a dying magazine. When Glenn Beck, over the weekend, came out in support of Ted Cruz, Beck, according to Trump, was overseeing a failing enterprise with his media venture. Anyone who dares criticize “The Donald” receives that treatment. Both National Review and Glenn Beck should bask in his rejection. Not everyone receives such a badge of honor.

National Review’s Trump Critique

Against TrumpNational Review, the flagship conservative magazine founded in the 1950s by the late William F. Buckley, has taken a bold stand against the candidacy of Donald Trump. In its new issue, NR has assembled a bevy of conservative commentators and activists who give their reasons why Trump would be a disaster for political and cultural conservatism.

Trump, of course, was quick to respond with his typical response when criticized by anyone—NR, in effect, is a loser. It’s a “dying paper,” he thundered.

The Republican National Committee also was quick to respond. NR was slated to be a co-sponsor for an upcoming February debate. It has now been disinvited. Hmmm, I thought the establishment opposed Trump.

I have been a regular reader of NR since the 1970s. I don’t always agree with every article, primarily because there are various strands of conservatism represented. That’s actually one of its strengths: it draws from every avenue of conservative thought, and even when I disagree, I am given something to think about.

Whittaker Chambers was an editor of NR back in the late 1950s. Ronald Reagan loved to read it. I still do.

Some criticize NR as too neo-conservative or whatever, but it really represents all positions within conservatism.

Against Trump 2Rich Lowry, the editor, appeared last night on The Kelly File on Fox to explain the rationale for this strong stand. He was joined by three of the contributors to the magazine’s Trump critique. None of them can realistically be considered “establishment.” Someone like Brent Bozell, head of the Media Research Center, who also appeared, has fought the conservative fight against the “establishment” all of his life. Any criticism of him or others like him has no credibility on that ground.

Regular readers of this blog know my opposition to a Trump nomination. Let me quickly catalog my reasons:

  • I don’t believe Trump’s recent conversion to conservatism: he has historically been on the liberal side of most policy issues;
  • Specifically, he never has had a problem with abortion, even to the point where he has said he thinks his sister, a pro-abortion judge, would be a great Supreme Court justice; last week, he hinted that former senator Scott Brown, a pro-abortion Republican, would be a wonderful vice president in his administration;
  • He has no real issue with same-sex marriage;
  • He has no understanding of Christian faith, and no matter how much he says he will protect religious liberty, I have no faith in his promises;
  • If you listen to any of his speeches, you will find that they are rambling and fairly incoherent, focused primarily on fanning emotions—the very definition of a demagogue;
  • His constant personal attacks on others, candidates or otherwise, betray a thin skin and a lack of character that would further demean the office of the presidency;
  • He is absolutely full of himself, constantly referring to how much of a winner he is, how much money he has made, and how only he can deal with others.

I could go on, but I promised a quick overview.

I agree with NR’s critique that he is no conservative; neither is he in any way a genuine Christian believer, based on his many comments that provide evidence of only a vague type of understanding of the Christian faith.

Some have asked me if I have any favored candidate in this race. I’ve tried to hold back on making any such pronouncement as I continue to listen and investigate the field.

Realistically, only two others have a chance to derail Trump at this point—Cruz and Rubio. I would support either of these nominations. I have reservations about both men, but there is no perfect candidate. Right now, if forced to choose, I would go with Ted Cruz, but I remain open to more information.

Will NR’s opinion influence anyone? Yes, but the real question is how many. I doubt that a majority of Trump supporters or those who are leaning that way will read the NR essays, but if you are one of those, I strongly urge you to do so and carefully consider the enormity of the decision before us.

We truly are at a crossroads as a nation. Trump is not the answer to our problems; he will, I believe, only add to them.

Standing Athwart the Culture Yelling “Stop!”

What is left to say about our president that I already haven’t said in this blog? I’ve done my best to be honest and forthright about his radicalism, both culturally and politically, yet I don’t feel I can stop and say, “Well, that about covers it; on to the next topic.”

Actually, I do make a conscious effort not to make Obama the subject each day, but he keeps on doing things that force me to focus on him again. His choices for when to interject himself into the news, for instance, are always worthy of comment:

Obama Speaks Out

And we would all be hearing a whole lot more all the time about his many attempts to destroy political enemies, if not for the connivance of the press corps to avoid mentioning such embarrassing episodes:

Confidentiality

Richard Nixon was an amateur in these matters compared to Obama, yet the former was driven from office while the latter gets virtually no pressure from those who like to call themselves the “watchdogs” over politicians. They’re more like well-trained poodles.

The latest fiasco is also the most dangerous and foolish, simultaneously—the pending deal with Iran.

Have you noticed that Obama seems to have less difficulty working with terrorists who continue to chant “Death to America” even while he’s speaking with them than with Republicans in Congress?

Finally

Then, when one member of the press goes off the rails and actually questions Obama’s lack of concern for the American hostages who are still being held by Iran, he becomes sarcastic and does his best to demean the reporter publicly. No one likes to have a complete “cave” pointed out:

Keep the Hostages

The only place where there is any rejoicing over this “deal” is in Iran:

Hard Bargain

The ultimate insult to the Congress is that the deal is going to be presented to the United Nations first, to get its approval to lift all sanctions. This is just another example of Obama’s utter contempt for America’s Constitution. He’s a Citizen of the World in his heart, not the United States.

So why do I continue to write about our president? Even if it does no good, there needs to be an ongoing witness to the truth.

I’m reminded of a conversation William F. Buckley had with Whittaker Chambers back in the mid-1950s when he was trying to bring Chambers aboard as a contributor to his new magazine National Review. Here’s how Buckley described what transpired in that talk:

Whittaker Chambers 1A year before National Review was founded, I spent an evening with Whittaker Chambers, and he asked me, half provocatively, half seriously, what exactly it was that my prospective journal would seek to save.

I trotted out a few platitudes of the sort one might expect from a twenty-eight-year-old fogy, about the virtues of a free society. He wrestled with me by obtruding the dark historicism for which he had become renowned. Don’t you see? he said. The West is doomed, so that any effort to save it is correspondingly doomed to failure. . . .

But that night, challenged by his pessimism, I said to him that if it were so that providence had rung up our license on liberty, stamping it as expired, the Republic deserved a journal that would argue the historical and moral case that we ought to have survived: that, weighing the alternative, the culture of liberty deserves to survive.

So that even if the worst were to happen, the journal in which I hoped he would collaborate might serve, so to speak, as the diaries of Anne Frank had served, as absolute, dispositive proof that she should have survived, in place of her tormentors—who ultimately perished. In due course that argument prevailed, and Chambers joined the staff.

Even if, ultimately, we don’t win the argument with the culture, it is imperative that the argument be made. For me, it’s a matter of being faithful to what God has called me to be—one of those voices standing athwart the culture yelling “Stop!”

Only when there are enough voices doing so, and enough courageous individuals who will act on what they are saying, will we have any hope of successfully challenging the spirit of this age.

The All-Out Assault on the Family

Confession time. Until a couple days ago, I had never heard of Melissa Harris-Perry. That’s because I don’t watch MSNBC. I have better things to do with my time than spend it on a network that has been shown, via reputable studies, to be little more than a shill for the Obama administration. Yet my attention was drawn to comments made by Ms. Harris-Perry, who apparently is a weekend host for one of MSNBC’s programs.

According to Rich Lowry of National Review, “MSNBC runs sermonettes from its anchors during commercial breaks. They are like public-service announcements illuminating the progressive mind.” In this case, Harris-Perry devoted 30 seconds to berating our society for not spending enough on public education. In the process of her remarks, she stated,

We have never invested as much in public education as we should have because we’ve always had kind of a private notion of children: your kid is yours and totally your responsibility. We haven’t had a very collective notion of these are our children. So part of it is we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to whole communities. Once it’s everybody’s responsibility and not just the household’s, then we start making better investments.

I see. Does anyone hear the echo of “it takes a village”? We’ve been down this road before with Hillary Clinton. I’m sorry, Ms. Harris-Perry, but children are the responsibility of their parents, not the whole community. The whole community did not give birth to them; they came into this world via their parents. To me, it’s amazing how brazen the Left has become; they can say nearly anything publicly now and expect no backlash. Well, they got one this time. Back to Rich Lowry, who wonders how this slipped past those who decide what airs on this channel:

Her statement wasn’t an aside on live television. She didn’t misspeak. The spot was shot, produced, and aired without, apparently, raising any alarm bells. No one with influence raised his or her hand and said, “Should we really broadcast something that sounds so outlandish?”

The problem, of course, is that compared to what’s already in the public sphere—same-sex marriage is a prime example—statements like this don’t appear so outlandish anymore.  Some on the Left now seem to be competing for the title of “most shocking idea of the week.” Lowry again, exposing the progressive mindset, puts it this way:

As the ultimate private institution, the family is a stubborn obstacle to the great collective effort. Insofar as people invest in their own families, they are holding out on the state and unacceptably privileging their own kids over the children of others. These parents are selfish, small-minded, and backward.

What we are witnessing, be it via abortion, same-sex marriage, or the “it takes a village” mentality, is an all-out assault on the family. If they get their way, family, as defined Biblically and traditionally in our culture, will be no more. The word will lose all meaning since it can mean anything. This is one of those battles that must be fought; we cannot plead weariness or bow to the trend because it seems inevitable. Victories come by the hands of those who remain firm and strong, and we are called to be both.

Conservative Critique of a Conservative Editorial Comment

National Review, that bastion of conservative thought, startled many this week, myself included, with an editorial that basically wrote Newt Gingrich out of the Republican nomination, and hinted strongly at a Romney endorsement. Many have critiqued that editorial—I think for good reason—but none has done so as excellently as one of NR’s own contributors, Andrew McCarthy.

You can find the critique here: http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/286053/gingrich-s-virtues-andrew-c-mccarthy?pg=1

It’s a little lengthy, but well worth reading. I urge you to carefully consider what he says. It’s not an endorsement of Gingrich, nor any of the other contenders, but it effectively undercuts the rationale used in the NR editorial.

 

Is This Romney's Time?

In the 1960s, there was a Romney who was a successful businessman, who was a popular governor of Michigan, and who ran for president—unsuccessfully. His name was George. He had a son who also became a successful businessman and governor of a state—Massachusetts—and who ran for president as well—unsuccessfully.

Thus far, Mitt Romney has followed almost precisely in his father’s footsteps. Prior to his political career, he was best known for taking over a scandal-plagued Olympics committee in 1999, and turning it into a world-class Winter Olympics program in 2002. His ability to do that helped ease him into the world of politics.

Using the prestige earned by his Olympics management, he won the Massachusetts governorship in 2002. He declined to run for a second term, setting his sights instead on the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.

He attracted a lot of support from conservatives, particularly economic conservatives, not only for his time as president of the Winter Olympics Committee, but also for his background as CEO of a private equity investment firm. In fact, he won the endorsement in the primaries of the conservative magazine National Review, which lauded him on its cover.

As I watched the primaries unfold, I wondered why he was getting so much support from such staunch conservatives. His views on abortion kept changing over time, and he had set up a healthcare plan in Massachusetts that many see as a state version of Obama’s plan. Romney says he opposes Obamacare, and I don’t doubt his sincerity about that, but he has a lot of explaining to do as his Massachusetts plan has followed the same trajectory of increased costs that Obama’s legislation is beginning to manifest. Some people are wondering, “What’s the difference?”

This political cartoon from a few years ago poses the same question with respect to Hillary Clinton’s proposal back in the 1990s:

While it seemed he might have the inside track for the 2008 nomination, he stumbled in almost all the primaries, much to the chagrin of his supporters who felt he was the most qualified of all the candidates. When he pulled out of the race, economic conservatives were crushed. But why they were so crushed is a mystery to me when I consider what he did to healthcare in Massachusetts.

So, on policy issues, let’s just say I’m not convinced he’s all that solid. One of the complaints against him is that he sometimes seems rather opportunistic, willing to change his views to get ahead.

I have to bring up one more point. It’s a sore point, and will undoubtedly open me up to charges of bigotry [the accusation of choice these days]. He is a Mormon, and I hold steadfastly to the belief that Mormonism is not Christian. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is not simply another Christian denomination; it is an entity unto itself. And, in my view, it is a rather strange entity in its doctrine. Individual Mormons, it is true, often lead lives of strict morality [which is good for the nation], yet the foundation for what they believe is far afield from the Biblical understanding of the nature of Jesus Christ and how salvation occurs.

Some will say, well, what does that have to do with governing? I would rather not place someone into a high office in the land whose religious beliefs are based on what I perceive to be a great deception. This does not mean I hate Mormons. On political matters, they are usually quite conservative, and we can agree on what needs to be done with respect to government. Yet, on spiritual matters, I have to disagree, and religious beliefs do form the foundation for everything else we believe as individuals and as a nation. Personally, I would want to limit Mormon influence in our society.

As I said, I realize this opens me to charges of intolerance, but I submit that is not the case, at least in the manner most would think. I do not think God wants us to tolerate error, yet He always wants us to reach out to those who are in error and be willing to share His truth. We are to love, not disdain or reject, those who have followed a wrong spiritual path.

If it came down to a stark choice—Romney or Obama—there would be no hesitation on my part. Obama’s worldview is so blatantly anti-Christian, and the policies he promotes are so unbiblical, that I could never wish another four years of his administration upon us. In such a circumstance, Romney would have my vote. I just hope I won’t be reduced to those options.

There is no question Romney is running again; his team is already together and moving ahead. In that respect, he is ahead of nearly every other potential candidate. Will he have what it takes to win this time? Personally, I am more comfortable with either Sarah Palin, the subject of yesterday’s post, or Mike Huckabee, the subject of tomorrow’s.