Democrat Doings

Our lame Congress—I mean “lame-duck” Congress—is giving plenty of evidence why the elections were a good thing. Let’s just consider how the Democrats are handling themselves during this session. They started off by re-electing Nancy Pelosi as their leader in the House.

Pelosi has learned nothing from the elections. She’s convinced that her party wasn’t turned out of power for its policies. This could turn into a new TV program:

If it should ever materialize, don’t expect the ratings to rival Palin’s.

Why, it may be asked, did Democrats put her back in charge? Was it her stellar leadership abilities?

Or was it more a matter of inertia? I’ve often marveled how Britain couldn’t survive without a monarch. It had one decade [the 1650s] without one, then reverted back. It’s almost as if they couldn’t imagine living without one. Is the same concept at work with the Democrats and Pelosi?

To be honest, I don’t mind that she’s still the face of the Democrat part of the House. That only helps Republicans.

Meanwhile, the House Ethics Committee finally ruled on the accusations against Charlie Rangel and found him guilty of numerous counts of unethical behavior. Of course, it only took a couple of years to get around to it. And it remains to be seen if the disciplinary action will anything more than a slap on the wrist. I’m hoping for better, but with this group, it’s hard to have hope.

Maxine Waters is next, and the latest rumor is that they have found even more damning evidence against her recently. A cleansing of the entire Congress is necessary. This is not ethnic cleansing, but it is ethics cleansing.

Well, we are getting rid of a good portion of those responsible for this fiasco. January should give rise to a Congress that is more fiscally conservative. Yet that is only the beginning. The House-cleaning must continue.

Reagan Nostalgia

I’ve spent some time in this blog this week examining the leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. My presumption is that it’s going to be one of the three who currently poll best—Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, or Mike Huckabee.

Now, someone else may sneak up on them, whether it’s Newt Gingrich, Mitch Daniels, or an entirely surprising name that no one is considering right now. But it’s not likely. Whoever it is, though, had better be principled and focused. It is never a simple task to unseat a sitting president even in bad times. The Jimmy Carter years were horrendous, yet until the week before the election in 1980, many polls still showed Reagan running behind him. The overwhelming Reagan victory in that election masks the tremendous effort it took to overcome the inertia of the American voter.

Most Republicans look back fondly on the Reagan years. In 2008, when one of the Republican primary debates was held at the Reagan Library, this cartoon appeared:

In the view of the cartoonist, none of the aspirants could match the Reagan legacy. Another one commented on the wistfulness expressed by some conservatives:

I am a great admirer of Ronald Reagan. I’ve just completed a book manuscript that I hope to get published in which Reagan is one of the two men I examine in detail. I also teach a course on Reagan and the modern conservative movement. Yet no matter how much I appreciate what he did, I refuse to live in the past. I believe other leaders exist who are prepared to provide principled leadership at this time. We just need to recognize them and allow them to fulfill the destiny for which they have been groomed.

Don’t give in to cynicism. Give God the opportunity to save a people who often don’t even know they are in need of saving.

The Huckabee Appeal

He came out of nowhere to end up in second place in the 2008 Republican primaries. No one thought he was a serious candidate; after all, how could anyone with a name like Huckabee be taken seriously? Yet, if not for a close loss in South Carolina, he might have been the nominee.

Mike Huckabee certainly has executive experience, having served as governor of Arkansas for a decade. Of all the candidates running for president in 2008, Republican or Democrat, he was the one with the greatest track record for running a government.

There were some who attacked his record as governor. Specifically, the Club for Growth, a strong free market organization, slammed him for deviations from free enterprise, citing compromises he made with Democrats. Huckabee’s response was that he was a Republican governor with a Democrat legislature, and that he was proud of his record of holding them in check. He also referred to that particular critic as the Club for Greed.

I commented in previous posts that I believe the accusations against him on that score were over the top. The Club practically had him as a close buddy with Karl Marx. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Huckabee exhibited a flair for words during the campaign, coupled with a refreshing sense of humor. He used his endorsement from Chuck Norris effectively, combining it with a touch of humor. Norris was on the campaign trail with him continuously.

After losing the nomination, Huckabee was a good soldier for McCain and other Republicans. Although he wanted to win, he didn’t descend into bitterness or manifest any hint of being a sore loser.

Shortly after the 2008 election was over, he received an offer from Fox News for a weekend television program. Huckabee has been a mainstay on the network ever since. His guests have run the gamut politically—from the expected conservatives all the way to Bill Maher. He seems comfortable dealing with everyone, no matter where they are coming from philosophically. And if anyone really doubts his fidelity to economic conservatism, a few doses of his commentary on his show should wipe out those doubts. He has come out strongly against the bailouts, the stimulus, and Obamacare.

Of course, another key component of Huckabee’s appeal for me is the fact that he is an outspoken evangelical. He even came to Lakeland, Florida, where I live, to speak on behalf of our local Woman’s Choice center, which offers the Gospel and material help for those undergoing a crisis pregnancy.

Huckabee hasn’t indicated that he is up for another run, yet the polls consistently show him as one of the top three contenders among Republicans. If he does decide to go for it again, evangelical voters may have a difficult choice to make between him and Palin. It would be far better if that vote remained undivided. Huckabee has a certain appeal, but can it overcome the vibrancy that seems to follow Palin wherever she goes? That question will be answered if he chooses to mount a challenge.

The Palin Effect

Yesterday, I reviewed what I consider to be the second-tier contenders for the Republican presidential nomination. Those in the top tier deserve a more in-depth look. Today, I focus on Sarah Palin.

There can be little doubt that Palin creates the most excitement overall among the Republican base. A recent poll shows that 79% of Republicans have a positive impression of her, a higher approval number than any of her other competitors for the nomination. Her selection as McCain’s running mate in 2008, and her superb speech at the Republican convention, connected her to many Republican voters in an unprecedented way.

Democrats were frantic at first. What could they do to counter this apparent popularity that threatened to overwhelm the uniqueness of their own presidential candidate? Through a combination of their own machinations, the help of a compliant media, and backbiting within the Republican camp, they crafted a narrative that seemed credible to many voters: Palin was a lightweight, an anti-intellectual outsider from the hinterlands who was out of her depth.

Interestingly, there is an increasing sense two years later that the one we elected to the presidency is the one who is actually out of his depth, but perceptions can be difficult to shake.

Once the campaign ended, Palin found herself inundated by frivolous ethics complaints in her home state, a not-so-concealed attempt to undermine her credibility further. As a result, she resigned from the governorship because she could no longer concentrate on her duties—the bogus charges took most of her time.

The pundits declared her political career over. After all, who could mount a genuine presidential run after only 2 1/2 years as a governor?

Palin has fought back effectively. She began with her autobiography, Going Rogue, which was a runaway bestseller. I read it and spent three days reviewing aspects of it. If you are interested in those posts, go to January 1, 2, and 4 of this year in the calendar on the right sidebar.

Then she set up a Facebook account. Now, normally such accounts are just for keeping in touch with friends and not used for substance. She changed that. Her postings have run the gamut of political commentary and stances on issues. Many have noted that they are substance-heavy quite often. This has been her challenge to critics, to show she is not the lightweight they imagined.

On top of that, she accepted an offer to be a Fox News commentator, so she now appears on the top-rated cable news channel on a regular basis. Again, this allows her a platform to say what she thinks and keep both her name and her face before the voters. Fox even set up a special broadcast booth at her Alaska home, so they can draw upon her commentary while she is there.

In the recent elections, she actively endorsed and campaigned for numerous candidates who matched her criteria for wanting to reverse the Obama agenda. She has been a favorite of the Tea Party movement. A large percentage of the candidates she endorsed won their races, thereby enhancing her image within the party even more.

There are a number of establishment Republicans, though, who are wary of her, just as they are of the Tea Party itself. She’s not one of their number, not part of the “Club.” For me, that’s a plus.

She’s also done something else unique: she’s the star of a new show on The Learning Channel called “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.” The first episode aired this past Sunday. I watched it, and was impressed with the production qualities and the ease with which Palin handled herself on camera. She came across as someone comfortable with who she is, and not at all apologetic about her background and the culture in which she was raised. The debut airing broke all records for TLC with 5 million viewers. Apparently, there is an intense interest out there to learn more about her.

As I watched, I was concerned about one thing in particular: does she really have a handle on raising her children? I don’t mean to be judgmental in the wrong sense, but I was struck by how daughters Piper and Willow seemed to ignore her instructions. Willow, in particular, seemed to be in full teenage mode, acting like she was perpetually bored and wanting to do anything but be with her family. Now, is this something put into the script for dramatic effect or is it the reality? A slight warning here: what does it profit a woman if she gains the world and loses her own family? I’ll be interested in seeing if this attitude continues in the remaining episodes.

By the way, I know how difficult it is to raise children, so I’m not offering this as a censure, but merely as an observation.

There was a political cartoon that appeared shortly after Palin’s convention speech in 2008. I’ve reached back into the archives to show it to you:

Is it prophetic? We’ll have to wait to find out.

Looking to 2012

The 2010 congressional and gubernatorial elections have barely passed, yet the speculation for 2012 has begun in earnest. Although some of that speculation can be found on the Democrat side, it would take a political earthmover to remove Obama as the candidate.

Interestingly, two Democrat pollsters, Doug Schoen and Pat Cadell, have urged the president to remove his name from contention in the upcoming election. I don’t think he’s going to take that suggestion seriously. Others continue to harbor hope that Hillary Clinton will reenter the fray. That’s highly unlikely at this point. Again, only an unforeseen event of significant magnitude could create that option.

The more serious pondering is on the Republican side. There are numerous names floating around as the potential nominee. High on everyone’s list are the three who seem to dominate the early polls among Republican voters: Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee. A second tier of candidates includes Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Then there are Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, South Dakota Senator John Thune, and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who, I believe, who comprise another—and lower—tier.

Among the second tier, Daniels has a solid reputation for fiscal sanity, as Indiana has done well on his watch. He did make a statement, though, that social issues need to take a back seat at this time. Personally, I’m bothered by anyone who wishes to separate the two. Can he reintegrate the economic and the social? They really do belong together, and he needs to understand that issues such as abortion and marriage are the glue that binds social conservatives to the Republican party.

Pawlenty served well as governor of Minnesota. Perhaps his greatest strength is that he was able to win and govern as a conservative in a state that’s well known for its liberalism. Not many politicians can claim that type of success. I have heard as well that he is an evangelical Christian, which is a key factor in my calculations. The one knock against him is that he’s not very exciting. On the one hand, being exciting is no barometer by which to gauge a person’s effectiveness as a leader. Yet it is true that the candidate will have to energize the voters. Can Pawlenty do that? The verdict is still out.

Gingrich was the leader of the Republican takeover of Congress back in 1994. He’s always been full of ideas and can be an electrifying speaker. He’s articulate and always focuses on the positive, pointing Republicans toward a future of economic growth. Lately, he’s also been more outspoken about his newly revived faith, having recently become a committed Catholic. As many commentators note, though, there is a lot of baggage with Gingrich. On the political side, he is sometimes considered a “bomb-thrower,” as his comments have led to problems in the past. Then there’s the fact that he’s abandoned two wives. His third wife, to whom he has been married for the past decade, had an affair with him while he was Speaker and still married to wife number two. Even if he has repented of that, can he really be trusted to stay the course morally with that kind of track record? It’s a genuine concern, as personal morals can undermine the best political agenda.

Barbour, Thune, and Santorum are long shots, but you never know in this atmosphere. Yet most of the attention belongs—rightly, I believe—on the top three: Palin, Romney, and Huckabee. I want to take time to evaluate them carefully in separate posts. That will be my goal for the rest of this week.

O'Donnell & the Tea Party: Getting Republicans' Attention

A new heroine has emerged from the Tea Party movement, and her emergence has establishment Republicans in shock.

Christine O’Donnell was not supposed to win the Delaware Republican primary for the open Senate seat. It was foreordained that “moderate” Mike Castle was the heir apparent. Castle’s “moderate” positions included voting against the pro-life cause and for the bailouts and stimulus packages. Yet O’Donnell stunned everyone with a classic come-from-behind victory that most politicians never experience.

Her path to victory in the general election will be steep, but she’s used to that. It’s obvious that her primary win was in part fueled by endorsements from Sarah Palin and Sen. Jim DeMint. Just as significant as the win itself was the enthusiasm of voters in the Republican primary. The numbers who voted were far beyond anything in Delaware history. Could that be a harbinger of success in November?

There are some Republicans who are going to have to come to grips with the activists who populate the Tea Party. You would think they would welcome them. Will they catch on to the bonanza they’ve been handed or retrench and turn back to their old ways?

I’m hoping they will finally realize what a gift they have received. Of course, for those who try to sail through politics without firm convictions, the presence of the Tea Partiers is a personal threat.

Republicans in Name Only [RINOs] are in trouble. A massive turnaround in the membership of Congress is possible—to an extent never seen before. There are indications; polls are one indicator. Another might be how Democrats are framing their reelection bids:

This potentially could be one of the most fascinating Novembers ever.

Alaska, Florida, and Forfeiting One's Soul

I’ve waited a while to comment on the Alaska Republican Senate primary. Virtually no one gave Joe Miller any chance of unseating incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski. Yet the inconceivable actually occurred. The race was close, and the win was razor thin, but a win it was for Miller, who is much more conservative than Murkowski and allied with the Tea Party.

Sarah Palin, from the outset, gave her support to Miller. The Murkowski family has owned Alaska politics for some time; Palin is the one who defeated Frank Murkowski, the incumbent governor, in an earlier primary a few years ago. Could it be that the dynasty is dead?

Sen. Murkowski has been fueling rumors that she’s not necessarily finished with this race. She is toying with two possible scenarios: one, as the candidate for the Libertarian Party; two, running as a write-in. Either possibility could spell defeat for Miller, if not victory for Murkowski. In other words, she is considering acting as the spoiler in the race.

For someone like me, who lives in Florida, this has a familiar ring: a Republican incumbent who assumed an easy victory turning to an independent bid for a seat. Is Murkowski trying to be the new Charlie Crist? Perhaps she should check on how that’s working for him. The latest poll shows Crist ten points behind Marco Rubio, the Republican whose popularity drove Crist from the Senate race to begin with.

For some people, letting go of political power is unthinkable. It’s as if they would have no real life without it. Actually, I feel sorry for that type of person. Life is more than politics, and if that is what gives you an identity, you are to be pitied.

I’m reminded of this poignant comment:

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will he give in exchange for his soul?

Life is found in Jesus Christ, not in any glories or positions of authority we achieve in this world.