Seeking Truth

Conservatives in general, and Christian conservatives in particular, are looking at a couple of events from yesterday and rejoicing. I’m pleased as well, but my pleasure at what transpired isn’t of the ecstatic variety.

Yes, the House finally passed something that would begin to peel back the onerous Obamacare, and yes, I do understand that sometimes you must do things in stages. From what I’ve read, the House bill does reduce funding to Planned Parenthood substantially. What puzzles me is how this works with the recent, atrocious budget bill that doesn’t touch that funding at all.

The mixed message is, well, mixed.

I would like to believe that stage one in the Obamacare repeal and replace will actually be followed by the promised steps two and three. Forgive me, though, if my faith is weak; when it comes to Republican promises, seeing is believing, unfortunately.

Then there was that executive order Trump signed that supposedly protected religious liberty. If you look at it with some degree of scrutiny, it appears to be more symbolic than real.

First, it directs the IRS to be more flexible. Are we really going to trust IRS Director John Koskinen, the protector-in-chief and prevaricator-in-chief from the Obama years, to follow this directive?

There is nothing substantive in this executive order; it is primarily show. It doesn’t do a thing to protect, say, a Christian florist or baker who seeks to stand by his/her conscience. But apparently it’s enough to make Christian conservatives rejoice publicly and declare Trump as our political savior.

I’m not trying to be exclusively negative here. The Gorsuch appointment to the Supreme Court is a relief. So far, he hasn’t “grown” and morphed into a swing vote, never knowing which direction he will go.

The House healthcare bill is a start toward the proper goal, but it still has to get through a divided Senate. Republicans walk a tightrope there, so nothing has solidified yet.

What about that wall?

Trump is one to make big promises. He loves the adoring crowds who roar with approval at everything he says, so he keeps saying more. Never mind that a lot of what he says is pure hype. Lately, he’s been saying some rather interesting things:

Those quotes certainly put him in the same league with those esteemed presidents, don’t they?

I know many of Trump’s loyalists don’t mind that he backtracks, or that he can be startlingly inconsistent, but it does bother me because principles matter. I’m still concerned that he refuses to release his taxes; all other presidents of late have done so. By refusing, he continues to fuel speculation on how he handles his own finances.

Lest you think that I’m being unbalanced in my criticisms of Trump, let me offer something to help balance it out:

For some reason, the media never cared about all the things Obama didn’t release.

My point today is to caution you not to become unbalanced yourself. Weigh each new law, executive order, and nomination in the scale of honesty and integrity. Don’t make a judgment too precipitously. Make sure you know what is real movement forward and what is not.

Seek out truth above all.

Trump Backtracking on Religious Liberty?

The Trump Justice Department, headed by pro-life AG Jeff Sessions, is inexplicably backtracking on promises of religious liberty. Obamacare, which many of us had hoped would be gone by now, attempted to force a birth-control mandate on Christian organizations that opposed it in principle.

Trump loudly proclaimed throughout his campaign that he would be a champion of religious liberty, that the federal government would not interfere in deeply held religious beliefs. But look what’s happening now.

A district court ruled in favor of the religious organizations, which led to the Obama Justice Department (yes, I know the oxymoronic quality of that title) appealing the decision. Everyone expected the new Justice Department, led by the conservative Sessions, would drop that appeal.

It hasn’t happened. In fact, . . . well, I’ll quote from a newspaper report:

Several religious groups are dismayed and confused by the Trump administration’s move, including the Little Sisters of the Poor — a group of nuns — that fought the mandate for several years but expected an immediate reprieve under the GOP president. They believed either the Justice Department would halt its appeal in the case or the administration would seek a rules change from the Department of Health and Human Services.

East Texas Baptist University and other plaintiffs represented by the nonprofit law firm Becket are now asking the Justice Department to drop its appeal of a district-court ruling in their favor, allowing them permanent relief from the mandate.

Conservatives who oppose the birth control mandate on religious liberty grounds are bewildered by the move at a Justice Department headed by former Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., who is well known for his conservative views.

As things stand now, it appears that Justice plans to continue defending the way the Obama administration applied the birth-control mandate, said Eric Rassbach, a Becket attorney.

Continue defending the Obamacare mandate on birth control? Why on earth would this administration act like the Obama administration on this issue?

I’m willing to wait and see. My hope—giving the benefit of the doubt here—is that there is some confusion in the department that will be straightened out. Perhaps the outrage over this report will awaken them to what they are doing.

Meanwhile, I continue to offer the same caution I’ve been offering all along: don’t expect principle from an administration that is headed by a man without principle. Sometimes, he will do what is right, but one can never depend on that.

Principles and Christian character remain the cornerstones for good government. Without them, it’s like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get.

Political Honesty: Not an Oxymoron

Oxymorons are words that don’t ordinarily go together—they come across as inherently contradictory. The classic is “jumbo shrimp.” I’ve always liked “congressional ethics”; others prefer “military intelligence.” I held an oxymoron contest one year with students. The co-winners were “study lounge” and “intense apathy.”

Why am I pondering oxymorons this morning? It has to do with the recently failed GOP healthcare fix. It wasn’t really a fix because it left the infrastructure of Obamacare largely intact, fixing virtually nothing, thereby qualifying as an oxymoron in practice.

Those within the GOP who stood firmly against this oxymoron are now being castigated by their fellows. Blame is being cast on the Freedom Caucus for undermining the Trump presidency. They are being told they have to back the president on everything he supports regardless of their own personal views on the efficacy of a proposed bill.

Personally, I’m grateful for those who held to principle, seeing that this bill was not better than what we currently have in Obamacare, and that it could actually be worse in that it undermines more than a temporary resident of the White House—it undermines conservative governing policies.

Yes, President Trump took his lumps with this one, but that’s fine. When you push something wrong, you deserve some lumps.

As is his usual practice, he now distances himself from a failure because . . . well, he simply doesn’t fail. It’s always someone else’s fault.

Here’s where the title of today’s blog comes in. We are in dire need of political honesty, a term that shouldn’t be an oxymoron. What I’m seeing now from some Republicans and/or supposed conservatives is an attempt to shift blame rather dishonestly.

Paul Ryan is the culprit, you see, not Donald Trump. He is the RINO who came up with this failed approach to repeal and replace; Trump is blameless.

Well, I certainly agree that Ryan followed a bad path here. Why he was willing to compromise the pledge Republicans made to wipe out Obamacare is discouraging, to say the least. Yet it’s time for political honesty on the part of those who are excusing Trump.

The president was just as much on board with this failure as Ryan was, yet Trump’s most stalwart defenders refuse to acknowledge it. How do they look past his open advocacy for the proposed bill? How do they ignore that his self-appointed proxy, Steve Bannon, went to the Freedom Caucus and told them they had no choice but to vote for this bill?

After the bill went down to inglorious defeat without even a vote, he was all aTwitter, ranting against those who held to principle. Now he’s saying he can get a better deal working with Democrats.

Right. Can you imagine what kind of compromise would come from that?

Donald Trump owns this just as much as Paul Ryan. But don’t tell AlwaysTrumpers that. They have become blind and deaf to his shortcomings.

He’s now trying to change the subject.

He’s the captain, regardless of what his defenders want us to believe. If you are upset at Ryan and see nothing amiss in what Trump did with this phony bill, political honesty is missing. If Ryan is to blame for it, so is Trump.

Please stop the dishonesty. Don’t be a walking oxymoron.

By the way, Democrats are playing this as a win, but let’s keep one thing in mind.

We’re all losers with Obamacare. It’s time for a genuine repeal and a principled plan for replacement.

Obamacare, Reality, & Leadership

Yesterday was supposed to be the big vote on the Republican bill to repeal (?), replace (?), revise (?), surrender on (?) Obamacare. It didn’t happen. Now today  is supposed to be the big day.

What’s the problem? Republicans can’t agree on whether this proposed bill does much of the above, and that has led to this impasse. This is a mess; it certainly doesn’t indicate competent leadership.

The most conservative House members say it leaves the essence of Obamacare in place; the majority of House Republicans blame the conservatives for blocking the best opportunity to reverse the Obamacare train wreck. Who is right?

I understand the strategy the GOP leadership says it is following: a three-step plan to eventually rid ourselves of this monstrous error. However, I don’t blame anyone for having doubts that the other two steps ever will occur. Yes, there are political realities, but if you campaign on a complete repeal and then do something less than that, you open yourself up to charges of hypocrisy.

And that’s what many conservatives are now charging the leadership with: rank hypocrisy.

Then, to make matters worse, we have Trump coming out and saying, in effect, either vote for this or else. I’ve also heard the voices of Republicans chastising conservatives because we all must get behind our president even if you don’t like this bill—even if you think it’s a joke.

As if the most important thing is to support President Trump above all else, regardless of what you believe about his policies (or his temperament or public accusations against anyone who dares oppose him).

I’m all for the Trump presidency being successful. I’m not for the attitude, “My way or the highway,” to repeat the cliché currently being bandied about.

Is this where we are today?

Is it any wonder why people get tired of politics?

Yet we cannot retreat and live in our own little bubbles. We cannot evade our responsibility to take these issues seriously and contribute what we can to the discussion.

For Christians, that’s what Jesus’s “salt and light” comments are all about, and no matter how dismayed we are over our politics and our culture at large, if we retreat, what then?

Get Rid of the “Precious”

The “Replace Obamacare Saga” continues. Critics of the whole idea of getting rid of this failed policy don’t really get it yet:

I’m not sure, though, that enough Republicans get it either:

The problem, as I see it, is that too many of the Republican leaders, and the guy in the White House, remain committed to the idea that the federal government has the authority to dictate healthcare. Republicans want to tinker with the Obamacare disaster, but they haven’t really grasped the fact that the government both shouldn’t and can’t succeed in this endeavor:

No matter how much Trump railed against Obamacare during the campaign, he persisted in promising that the government would make sure everyone is covered. Well, isn’t that what Obama promised? What’s the difference?

Why not free up the system and get the government out of it? Well, says the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the new Republican plan will throw a lot of people off health insurance. What it doesn’t take into account is that many of those are the ones who were forced to get the insurance in the first place. Maybe now they might opt out.

But that would be called liberty . . . and we certainly don’t want that. The Nanny State must be upheld.

Republicans, hear this message, please. Rid yourself of the “Precious.” Throw that Ring into the fires of Mordor once and for all.

Once that is accomplished, perhaps peace and common sense will prevail in the American Shire.

GOP-acare?

Any study of American history will show that our system of government requires some compromise. Rarely does anyone get everything desired in legislation. The rule of thumb should always be whether one has concocted a principled compromise or has succumbed to a compromised principle.

As I look at the GOP replacement plan for Obamacare, I’m trying to figure out which type of compromise this one may be. Frankly, I’m far too busy at the moment to delve into all the inner workings of the new plan, but I have tried to keep up with reactions to it. Most conservative groups, it seems, are anything but overjoyed with this particular compromise.

To be fair, we must realize that Obama put into operation something that might be hard to extricate ourselves from completely at first:

Most legislative monstrosities created by “progressives” are like that:

I’m sure there was a lot of debate on how to proceed:

Republicans were bold in passing a total repeal when Obama was president, but how much of that boldness was phony, based on the reality that he would veto anything they passed anyway? They could look principled while not having to deal with the results of their actions. Not so any more.

To all of you who thought Trump was going to go all out and force repeal, you might have missed something: out of his mouth also came the assurance that the federal government would make sure everyone is covered.

Now, how does that square with total repeal?

Let’s be honest here: Trump was saying whatever sounded good; he had no real concept of how to dump the Obamacare fiasco and set up something else. He just wanted to get elected.

So what approach have Republicans settled for?

Good luck with that.

Conservative critics of the new GOP-acare point to the penalty that still remains for those who allow insurance to lapse, while still maintaining that the individual mandate has been eliminated. If you continue to be fined for not having insurance, isn’t that an individual mandate?

One cartoonist expresses how many conservatives are feeling:

Meanwhile, I’ll try to be one of those who offers this reminder: the Constitution says nothing about the federal government having the authority to legislate on the matter of healthcare—at all.

Why not try that and see how the market might meet the need? Naw, too scary.

Scarier than what we have now?

Obamacare Repeal?

The disaster known as Obamacare is still with us. Mind you, it’s more like a corpse than a living thing, with insurance companies abandoning it on a regular basis. But it’s still here and must be dealt with. Democrats may defend it, but that’s only because it’s their own creation. It’s more than the typical train wreck; it’s more like . . .

So the disaster is now in Republican laps to figure out what to do, although Democrats will issue warning after warning about trying to do anything to change it or replace it.

Obamacare defenders are out in force at townhall meetings, trying to shout down any attempt to repeal and replace. Much of it seems to be an organized and well-funded effort to intimidate. Republican congressmen and senators have to be prepared for that intimidation:

Making promises in a campaign has always been easy; attempting to fulfill them isn’t quite as simple sometimes. Obamacare is a prime example:

Republicans have this habit of making a sweeping promise, then can’t agree on how to carry it out. That seems to be what’s happening again. I do understand the complexity they are dealing with, but I also understand how those who have elected Republicans to do their job can get frustrated with them.

While we need to be patient to ensure that the Obamacare dismantling is handled properly, it definitely must be dismantled. Any backtracking on that basic belief by elected officials will be an outright betrayal of the voters.