Trump’s Good Picks

Now that most of Donald Trump’s nominees for significant positions in his administration have been chosen—most still needing Senate confirmation—I can say I’m pleased with a number of them. My goal today is to highlight the picks that I think are positive, the ones that offer some hope of wise counsel and prudent policies.

jeff-sessionsSen. Jeff Sessions has been tapped to be the next attorney general, the job that requires enforcing federal laws and prosecuting those who break them.

Sessions was the first senator to support Trump in the primaries, so this is his reward. From everything I know about him, he is an excellent choice for this particular task. Some have attempted to paint him as a racist, apparently because he’s a southern senator. That’s getting old, especially for someone who, as attorney general of Alabama, prosecuted the Ku Klux Klan.

betsy-devosBetsy DeVos, a proponent of education reform, school choice, and champion of parental rights in education, is slated to be the next secretary of education.

DeVos is a solid pick, someone who understands just how awful the education system has become. From what I can determine, she doesn’t believe the government is the answer for fixing it. At one point, she supported Common Core, but when she realized its true nature, she withdrew her support.

As long as there is an education department (for which there is no constitutional authority), I am glad, at least, that someone with her perspective will be in charge of it. If allowed to follow her beliefs, Christian schools and homeschoolers will have an ally.

It would be great if everyone grasped this truth:

source-of-problems

tom-priceGeorgia congressman Tom Price, an orthopedic surgeon who has consistently opposed Obamacare and has offered his own substitution for it year after year in Congress, is, hopefully, the next secretary of health and human services.

Price has been chairman of the House Budget Committee, thereby serving as a leader in attempts to control the budget.

With Price at the head of HHS, the Obamacare nightmare might be on its way out—finally.

james-mattisThe job of secretary of defense is crucial right now, given the sad state of our military after eight years of Obama. Handing it over to a general is not a bad idea, and most of the commentary I’ve read and heard about James Mattis confirms for me that he might be the answer.

Mattis’s 41 years as a Marine Corps general is filled with commendations. He led troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, and also in Kuwait during the Gulf War. Most recently, he served as head of US Central Command, in charge of all American forces in the Middle East. It would be nice to have someone at defense who understands that region. He co-wrote, with Gen. David Petraeu, the military’s counterinsurgency manual.

Obama fired Mattis from his position at Central Command without even a phone call to him. He had to learn about it from others. The fact that he was at odds with Obama’s military policy makes him even more attractive, frankly.

ben-carsonFor housing and urban development secretary, Trump has picked Ben Carson, someone who knows what it’s like to live in public housing. Many thought Carson might be chosen for HHS instead, given his medical career, but HUD is also understandable.

I like Carson personally (though I have never met him), yet I have been critical of him for his early support of Trump once he (Carson) dropped out of the presidential race. I’ve never really understood what he saw in Trump, especially after the accusations Trump leveled at him during the primaries. But I do want him to succeed in this new position.

The only caveat I have is whether Carson knows how to administer such a large bureaucracy, particularly when he appeared at first to withdraw from consideration from any position, claiming he didn’t feel qualified. Well, we’ll see how it goes. All the best, Dr. Carson. I will pray for you.

john-kellyThe ongoing terrorist threat requires a steady hand at the Department of Homeland Security. From what I’ve gathered, putting former retired Marine general John Kelly in that position gives the nation the steady hand it needs for balancing national security with our basic liberties.

Kelly served as head of US Southern Command. In addition to his experience leading troops overseas, he is known for his strong knowledge of border issues and the drug trade in South and Central America. Sadly, he lost his Marine son to an IED explosion in Afghanistan in 2010. Kelly knows what it means to suffer personally from the War on Terror.

nikki-haleyI’m glad to see South Carolina governor Nikki Haley chosen to serve as our next ambassador to the United Nations. While she has little experience in international affairs, she has impressed me with her strong conservatism and political acumen. Both qualities are needed in that post to adequately represent the US in the international arena.

scott-pruittWhile I have little knowledge of Scott Pruitt, Trump’s choice for leading the EPA, I’m heartened by what I’ve read. Pruitt, as Oklahoma attorney general, has been a strong critic of the excesses at the EPA. His detractors will say he is anti-environment, but he appears to be simply anti-extremism on environmental policy. He considers the EPA an all-too-powerful agency pursuing an ideological agenda based on what he considers dubious science. More power to him as he seeks to provide balance in this area.

Those are Trump’s choices that I favor the most. I will follow up in another post with ones that I consider more questionable.

Willful Ignorance: Never a Safe Space

Nice to know that neither Obama nor Biden will make an appearance at Castro’s memorial. I don’t think that’s because they wouldn’t like to do so, but the backlash just might be greater than they wish to handle.

Most people, outside of the press, aren’t exactly in mourning that the dictator is dead. Some have very good reasons not to feel particularly sad about it.

in-mourning

The Castro legacy is not hard to discover:

castro-skulls

As I said in a previous post, I don’t believe Castro went to meet His maker. Rather, he went to meet his lifelong mentor:

hell-o

Meanwhile, on American university campuses throughout the nation, ignorance about communist atrocities in history continues apace:

taking-a-selfie

We’ve allowed those hallowed halls of higher education to become state nurseries:

bubble-u

Willful ignorance is never a safe space.

Election Fallout Continues

Bill Clinton and Gary Johnson at the Presidential Election ForumThe Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, has figured out a way to get more “green.” Raising funds for election recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania has given her more publicity than anything she did during the campaign. Since there’s no possible way a recount gives her the presidency, and because she doesn’t really care that much about Hillary Clinton, her reasons for pushing this, many people believe, are purely monetary.

She will say, of course, that the goal is election integrity, but the chance of reversing the vote total in any of those states is infinitesimally small. I’ll go with the money and publicity angle.

The Clintons’ fortunes have definitely taken a downturn with the election result. I wonder what all those donors to the Clinton Foundation are thinking now?

refund

The lucrative speaking business for the Clintons may take a hit. Does anyone think Hillary is going to pull in six-figure fees now?

clinton-mart

Even though Trump has said he won’t pursue prosecution of Hillary (thereby breaking a promise to his followers and fidelity to the rule of law), the FBI’s investigation into the Clinton Foundation continues. Will justice ever be done?

The Democrat party overall is in disarray. That doesn’t bother me. Only one person seems to have landed on his feet, though undeservedly:

survivor

Obama’s policies (and arrogance) combined with Hillary’s corruption (and arrogance) have led to this electoral disaster. They have no one to blame but themselves.

Meanwhile, Trump is in the process of choosing his cabinet and other key advisors. A number of his nominees are very good; a few are questionable. I’m still of the opinion that putting Mike Pence in charge of running the country is the best option:

big-decisions

Whenever Trump does something right, I will back him. Whenever he goes off the rails, I will point that out. My goal is to be scrupulously fair to him. I won’t be a critic just for the sake of criticism, but neither will I promote him when he violates the oath of office.

Once all of his key nominations have been made public, I’ll provide an assessment of those individuals.

It’s not just a cliché to say that I am praying for the best for our country.

Castro’s Legacy

fidel-castroLast Friday, the sane portion of the world rejoiced at the announcement that Fidel Castro had died. His death doesn’t immediately change anything in the island prison of Cuba; brother Raul is still in charge. Yet there is a psychological lift, at least, knowing that the primary perpetrator of the miseries of the Cuban people finally left the scene of the living.

Castro has his acolytes on the political left who praise him and who mourn his passing. They try to make everyone else believe that when the dictator Batista was ousted, Castro brought relief to an oppressed people. Nothing could be further from the truth.

che-fidelExecutions and harsh imprisonments of his political enemies have been the hallmark of the Cuban experience under the Castro regime. He, along with his chief lieutenant, Che Guevara, murdered approximately 73,000 Cuban citizens; some say the actual number is closer to 100,000.

The US initially supported Castro’s revolution, but then came to realize the mistake. Castro aligned himself with the communist vision and developed tight ties to the USSR. I won’t recount the Cuban Missile Crisis here, but a crisis it certainly was back in 1962. The world was on the edge of nuclear war over it.

Castro admirers point to what they believe is an unblemished record of healthcare and literacy on the island. According to Humberto Fontova, that is a fiction:

For the record: In 1958, that “impoverished Caribbean island” had a higher standard of living than Ireland and Austria, almost double Spain and Japan’s per capita income, more doctors and dentists per capita than Britain, and lower infant mortality than France and Germany – the 13th-lowest in the world, in fact. Today, Cuba’s infant-mortality rate – despite the hemisphere’s highest abortion rate, which skews this figure downward – is 24th from the top.

So, relative to the rest of the world, Cuba’s health care has worsened under Castro, and a nation with a formerly massive influx of European immigrants needs machine guns, water cannons and tiger sharks to keep its people from fleeing, while half-starved Haitians a short 60 miles away turn up their noses at any thought of emigrating to Cuba.

In 1958, 80 percent of Cubans were literate, and Cuba spent the most per capita on public education of any nation in Latin America.

Yet for many, this is a paradise that would be even better if not for the evil US, which, until the Obama administration, placed a trade embargo on Cuba. Yes, it’s all the fault of those nasty capitalists.

President Obama’s statement after Castro’s death said nothing about the suffering he inflicted. Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, outdid even Obama with his eulogy of the totalitarian tyrant.

justin-trudeauTrudeau expressed “deep sorrow” at the world’s loss of a murderous thug. Castro was, in Trudeau’s fawning words, “a legendary revolutionary and orator” who made “significant improvements” to healthcare and education (never mind all those books Cubans weren’t allowed to read). Castro, opined Trudeau, had a “tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people”—except for those he killed, of course—and they, in turn, had “a deep and lasting affection” for their dear leader.

Trudeau’s eulogy was so gag-worthy that a bevy of phony Trudeau eulogies popped up on social media over the weekend. Here are a couple of my favorites:

“Mr. Stalin’s greatest achievement was his eradication of obesity in the Ukraine through innovative agricultural reforms.”

“A quiet loner with a quick wit, Osama Bin Laden inspired tremendous advances in air transportation security methodologies.”

I have my own parting thought on Castro’s demise: “No, Fidel Castro did not go to meet his Maker. He went elsewhere.”

Obama’s Crumbling Legacy

Even though I didn’t want Donald Trump to be president, I didn’t want Hillary Clinton either. So I’m going to have to live with the results of the election. One of the most satisfying aspects of those results is the absolute rejection of nearly everything Barack Obama has tried to do.

Amazing, isn’t it, how he now talks about the need to work together. Must have something to do with the potential loss of his “landmark” legislation inaccurately called the Affordable Care Act.

ready-to-work

“Compromise” has now become a word he’s willing to use. Don’t get too excited, though; his application of the word might not be the same as yours:

compromise

After eight years of working so hard to fundamentally transform America, he’s a little alarmed about all that work being for naught:

obama-legacy

I recall something in the Scriptures about building on sandy foundations. You can look it up.

Democrats, meanwhile, have discovered that they are rudderless, having tied themselves to a cult of personality for so long. What are they to do?

navigate

Frankly, if they remain rudderless, I won’t mind.

One of their biggest cries of anguish stems from the fact that Hillary lost the electoral vote while winning the popular vote. They tried that ploy back in 2000; it won’t get them any further this time around.

Why did Hillary win the popular vote? Is it because she was more popular nationwide, or is it due to an overwhelming popularity in California and New York? There’s a reason why the electoral college is still the better way to choose a president—it doesn’t allow for a few large states to determine the winner. Smaller states still have a proportional say in who the nation really wants.

A Democrat dream would look like this:

without-electoral-collegeExcept for Texas, this method of choosing the president would almost always guarantee a Democrat victory. As usual, the Founders knew better.

The Election: Positives & Negatives

We avoided one national disaster last night, but we may have created another one. Yes, I know that will sound like sour grapes to some of you, but while I am glad for one result, please forgive me for not being elated with the other. Let me explain.

The Positives

Positive #1

clintonsThe long national nightmare known as the Clintons may now have ended for good. No one who puts Biblical principles and constitutional government at the foundation of life in America can be unhappy about that.

Having endured eight years of Bill, another eight with Hillary at the helm would have been practically unendurable. Everything I hold dear would have been attacked from the highest office in the land, so seeing her come crashing down is extremely gratifying.

The only thing that would make this picture complete is to now see an indictment for all she has done to undermine national security. If that should ever appear imminent, though, as long as Barack Obama is in office, she will probably receive a preemptive pardon. You see, he would be implicated as well.

So, yes, I am relieved that we can now dismiss that artificial family from national politics.

Positive #2

obama-arrogant-lookThe result was a repudiation of the Obama years. Americans fed up with his goal of “transforming” the nation into his own image said a loud “stop!”

The damage of the last eight years will not be undone easily. The culture continues to decline overall. Only a fresh infusion of a vibrant Christian witness can make the difference and reverse some of what has transpired. It remains to be seen if the Christian community any longer has that vibrancy or whether it has sold out to politics.

Positive #3

senate-chamberRepublicans maintained control of both houses of Congress. While this doesn’t guarantee that Obamacare is doomed or that the Supreme Court will now be in the hands of constitutionalists, it at least offers a reprieve from progressive activism—if they know how to use their majority. That’s always the big question.

Having a numerical majority is one thing; using it wisely is another entirely. The track record is decidedly mixed. The one excuse they won’t have anymore is that they don’t have the White House.

Positive #4

Republicans continued to dominate in the state-level elections. From what I’ve learned thus far, they increased their control in a number of states. This, and the control of Congress, was what I was hoping for. We still have a federal system, so not everything is supposed to emanate from Washington, DC. Republican control in a majority of the states offers hope.

The Negatives

Negative #1

Donald Trump Addresses GOP Lincoln Day Event In MichiganDonald Trump is now the president-elect. Winning the election last night doesn’t change who he is. I voted third-party and don’t repent of that vote. I continue to believe that he is unfit for the office that he now will occupy.

My concerns won’t go away. He is the supreme egotist who can’t handle any perceived insult. Will he now conduct a purge of anyone who wasn’t solidly in his camp?

He is blatantly immoral. Christians who think he has changed are going to be disappointed. All this talk about his being a “baby Christian” who only needs to grow in the faith is naive. In order to grow in the faith, one must have the faith first. There is no indication that he does.

constitutional-marriageAs I’ve said countless times, don’t depend on him to advance any agenda that puts pro-life or traditional marriage as a priority. He won’t fight for Supreme Court nominees of that ilk and he already has a propensity for letting everyone decide what they want to do with sex/gender issues.

Put not your trust in his promises.

His knowledge of issues is narrow and superficial. We need to hope that those who surround him have a better grasp of reality than he does.

Trump’s vision (such as it is) of America is not at all grounded in an understanding of constitutional limitations on the executive power. Will he decide to use his own executive orders to accomplish what he wants?

He is no conservative. He has no real understanding of the intellectual basis of conservatism and why it is essential for how governing should proceed.

I still consider him to be borderline emotionally unstable; who knows how that will manifest itself in his administration? Anyone who promotes crazy conspiracy theories, as he has done countless times, is not to be trusted.

Negative #2

Many who voted for Trump did so out of anger and frustration. It’s interesting that many who voted for him don’t really like him. Exit polls reveal that. They just couldn’t stand the prospect of a Hillary presidency. He enters the presidency as one of the most unliked and/or despised winners in American history.

While there is a proper place for anger and frustration, neither makes for a positive vision of the future. The national mood is dark, the culture is still on a downward spiral, and Donald Trump is not the solution.

Negative #3

christians-politicsMany sincere Christians have so thrown their lot in with Trump that it will be hard to disentangle themselves from him when he goes off the reservation. I continue to be deeply concerned that the Christian witness has suffered and will suffer more by our connection with him. Only time will tell how great that damage may be.

Too many Christians have followed the siren song of self-appointed prophets who have declared Trump to be God’s anointed. Be careful. While I do believe God can use the Nebuchadnezzars of this world for His purposes, I’m not going to rush into some silly confidence that Trump’s election is God-ordained.

People made this choice, not God. He may use the choice, and I pray He will, but don’t saddle Him with whatever Trump may do; that will only stain God’s reputation in the eyes of an unbelieving world when he disappoints—as surely he will.

So where does that leave me? Relieved that Hillary Clinton won’t be the president. Concerned that Donald Trump will be. We must remain vigilant and not go off into some fantasyland about how wonderful things will be from now on.

The battle is ongoing.

Anger, Bitterness, & an Election

Of all the consequences of this presidential election, the one that dismays me most is the rupture between those who have been friends and allies in a cause. It has happened in the political/cultural conservative camp in general and among conservative Christians also. The latter is the more grievous.

Some are now questioning whether the breach that has been created can ever be healed. I believe it can be, but I don’t know if it will.

angerI have been distressed from the start of the campaign, in the primaries, as I’ve witnessed so much anger being expressed through support for Donald Trump. It’s as if he became a magnet for many who have been so frustrated with the developments in the Obama years.

I understand that frustration. More has changed negatively in the last eight years than in previous decades combined. But it’s always a sign of danger when anger drives actions. It’s very dangerous when anger becomes the primary determinant in voting. When emotions control the mind, we usually go astray.

The Scripture deals directly with that problem. In James 1:20 we’re admonished,

But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

When we give vent to our anger, we may think we are doing God’s will, but James’s caution should remind us that He has a better way.

Anger that is allowed to fester goes one step further into a bitterness that spreads its malignancy to others, as the writer of the book of Hebrews, chapter 12, warns us:

Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.

The first piece of instruction in that passage is that we are to do whatever we can to maintain peaceful relations with all. Shouldn’t that be especially true of brothers and sisters in Christ?

Second, there is a stiff warning about sanctification in the Christian life: without it, we may be cut off from the Lord. That, by itself, should stun us into being careful in our words, actions, and reactions.

bitternessThen the writer focuses on what he calls a “root” of bitterness. If bitterness does take root in our minds, it has the natural tendency to see all things through that bitterness. Not only will it affect our very souls but it will infect the lives of others.

The Biblical message is clear on this issue. Probably the best overall teaching on this is found in Ephesians chapter 4, in which the apostle Paul says,

Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.

screwtape-lettersPaul recognizes that anger is natural and not necessarily wrong; after all, God gets angry. However, one can be angry without the anger leading us into sin. There is a line that can be crossed, but must not be. When we cross it, we are giving Satan a playground of his own; it allows him the opportunity to destroy lives. For a quick refresher on that, I recommend C. S. Lewis’s masterful work, The Screwtape Letters, which exposes exactly how the hellish realm seeks to lead Christians on the wrong path.

Here’s the end of Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 4:

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

There are times we are to speak forcefully about something, but it must always be in love. We can share our hearts about the issues we face in this nation, but we must never allow even the most earnest sharing to descend into name-calling and/or false accusations against another.

We are to speak the truth, and it can be with energy and urgency, but it cannot be spoken in anger, and we simply cannot let bitterness take over.

Perhaps we all need to check our spirits today. What are we communicating and how are we communicating it?