Gleanings from the Second Debate

I loved the setting of the second Republican presidential debate: the Reagan Library with Air Force One in the background. I was there almost a year ago; it’s an impressive place.

Fourteen Republican U.S. presidential candidates (L-R), U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, former New York Governor George Pataki, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, U.S. Senator Rand Paul, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, Dr. Ben Carson, businessman Donald Trump, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, former CEO Carly Fiorina, Ohio Governor John Kasich and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie pose before the start of the second official Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, United States, September 16, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson - RTS1HC6

Not as impressive was how CNN conducted the debate. Jake Tapper, the moderator, attempt to be the whole show; the other two questioners, when allowed a stray question or two, were no more than window dressing, virtually non-existent.

It also became evident from the very start that Tapper’s goal was to create as much divisiveness, bitterness, and “good television” as possible by trying to make everyone attack Donald Trump. For CNN, this was just a moment to try to relive its glory years when people actually watched this news channel rather than Fox News.

Overall, reaction to CNN’s ploy has been largely negative.

But enough about CNN. My aim today is to provide whatever analysis I can of the candidates. Let’s get Trump out of the way first, since he has been the headline grabber now for weeks.

His petulance showed immediately. Upon getting his first question, he decided instead to turn to Rand Paul at the far end of the line and tell him that he didn’t deserve even to be on stage with everyone else because of his low poll numbers.

What did that have to do with anything substantive? It was Trump being Trump, annoyed because Paul has been one of his most vocal critics, and he will never let a criticism go without response. His thin skin won’t allow it.

I’m not a Paul supporter, but this was patently unpresidential and rude. Paul’s rejoinder was that Trump was revealing his “sophomoric” attitude. I couldn’t agree more. Perhaps I might change the word to “juvenile” or “childish.”

The most cringeworthy moment was when Trump attempted to walk back his insult of Carly Fiorina’s face by shouting into the microphone that she really is beautiful. The only reaction from the assembled crowd was a groan because it was so obviously a fake comment. Fiorina, for her part, didn’t even look at him and retained her dignity.

Beyond that, when one looks at whatever Trump offered as substance, one might ask, as in the old Wendy’s commercial, “Where’s the beef?” No specifics on foreign policy except to say that he will get along with everyone and will be respected. Putin, apparently, will be so overwhelmed with Trump’s personality that all Russian aggression will cease. I seem to remember that being Obama’s approach in 2008.

Trump wasn’t any better on domestic policy. All we can do is believe grandiose promises that everything will be great once he’s in charge.

Unscientific polls afterwards indicate he was the runaway winner of the debate. Those are the kinds of polls that Ron Paul always won. I don’t recall his presidency.

Let’s go on now to the real candidates. The field, of course, is much too large. How to begin? How about Mike Huckabee’s comment later that he felt like he was waiting in line at the DMV? Huckabee and Scott Walker received the least time to speak than all the rest, yet they are two of the governors who have shown how to be an executive.

Life isn’t fair, right?

Rather than go down the long list and say something about everyone, I would like to provide my view that only candidates with strong conservative/Christian principles be allowed to participate in the next debate. I know, that’s a pipe dream. But given complete dictatorial power, I would immediately suspend the campaigns of Paul, Kasich, Bush, and Christie (and Trump, of course).

Half the Candidates

Ben Carson I put in a special category. He is a wonderful man, thoroughly Christian, with whom I would love to sit down and talk and enjoy his presence. However, I don’t see him as the next president. His answers on minimum wage and foreign policy, for example, are not clearly thought through; I just don’t believe he is ready to be president. Few successful neurosurgeons can make that leap, no matter how pure their intentions and impeccable their character.

For me, that leaves, in alphabetical order, Cruz, Fiorina, Huckabee, Rubio, and Walker. I would love to add Bobby Jindal to that list if he ever breaks out of the lower tier.

Ted Cruz was forceful, as always, and principled in his answers. I don’t doubt his commitment to constitutional concepts and his bravery, shown by his willingness to buck the system and tackle his own Republican leadership. The only down side to Cruz, for me, remains his rather speechified way of talking, as if every answer is an invitation to go into speech mode. I would prefer someone who comes across as more human and less robotic.

Carly Fiorina certainly benefited most from this debate. She was sharp, knowledgeable, and courageous. Many commented that, at times, she seemed to be the real adult in the room. She was the anti-Trump, full of specifics and well informed on all the issues. Regardless of what happens in the future, I will always fondly remember her masterful takedown of Planned Parenthood and the complicity of Democrats in supporting its atrocities.

She was eloquent in her defense of the unborn in a way that few have been. Some have questioned her real views on abortion, but I don’t see how anyone can have said what she said—and with the kind of vehement conviction with which she said it—without her pro-life stance being genuine.

I agree with others who have concluded that she was the standout speaker of the night. Whether that translates into the presidency is still another matter.

Mike Huckabee was, as usual, an effective communicator. I was particularly pleased that he came out and said he would definitely have a litmus test for judges. He called out the hypocrisy of the Democrats who say they have no litmus test when, in reality, they would never vote for a pro-life nominee or anyone with even a hint of constitutional principles.

Huckabee was strong in his condemnation of the Iran deal and how the consequences of that deal can lead to the destruction of Israel and undermine the security of America. He deserves to be heard.

Marco Rubio was, like Fiorina, well versed on the issues and effective at communicating his views, particularly on foreign policy and national security. Even though he damaged himself with conservatives by his dalliance with the Gang of Eight immigration reform plan, he clearly knows we need to tackle that problem, and I believe he has learned a lesson about attempting some sort of comprehensive plan.

The weakest part of Rubio’s evening was his defense of his voting record in the Senate. He’s missed votes, he said, because nothing would have been accomplished by being there since the measures he would have voted for were doomed anyway. My response is that he was elected to represent, so he should be there as the representative of his (my) state whenever possible.

Finally, there is Scott Walker, the candidate who was given the least amount of time to speak. Many have now written Walker off since he doesn’t come across as strong in these forums as others. I think that’s a mistake.

Walker was better this time than in the first debate, but he had to try harder to be heard. He is the only candidate who has come up with specific plans to replace Obamacare and reform the federal government unions. Tapper never asked about those; he was interested only in controversy.

I refuse to dismiss Walker because he has an outstanding record as governor of Wisconsin. He not only has manifested courage in standing up to opponents who wanted to take over the Capitol building and remove him from office, but he has succeeded in getting his reforms through his legislature. In other words, he has been an effective governor.

If conviction and competence were the only factors that Republican voters were to consider, Walker would be the nominee.

I feel like I’ve been writing forever here. I don’t claim any special insight that others haven’t offered, but I hope my thoughts will spark a fresh perspective for some who read these words.

May God extend His mercy to our distraught nation once again as we move forward to make what might be the most crucial political decisions in the history of this nation.

The Deeply Flawed Candidate

The Hillary Clinton coronation is off and running. In her recent swing through Iowa in her campaign van, she kept talking (whenever she would deign to speak to anyone) about how she is the champion of the average American. She demonstrated this by stopping at a Chipotle in Ohio on her way to Iowa, where she spoke to no one—she wasn’t even recognized by the employees.

When she arrived in Iowa, her van parked in a handicapped spot, as if she had no need to follow the rules. But, of course, she is a Clinton; those rules don’t apply to her. There is a great discrepancy between the image she is trying to promote and the reality of who she is:


Wherever she went, she castigated those who make too much money—you know, all those CEOs who are taking advantage of you. Never mind that she makes more than most of those CEOs. You’re not supposed to pay attention to that:

Speech a Week

She avoided the media, yet those in the mainstream media don’t seem to care. They have already made their choice for 2016, and it’s quite obvious:

Match Hasn't Started

If the media were to be truly honest about her, this is the kind of report you would see:

Campaign 2016

Her views on CEOs are not the only views that are extreme. Speaking out in support of Common Core, she actually said that education is “the most important, non-family [emphasis mine] enterprise” in the country. Education is a “non-family” enterprise? No, Mrs. Clinton, it is the most family-centered enterprise that exists. Parents are the ones responsible for the education of their children, not the state. But, you know, it takes a village. I’m trying to remember—who said that once and wrote a book about it?

Then there’s her consistent position on abortion, which she considers something that should never be limited. Rand Paul, one of the declared presidential candidates on the Republican side, recently challenged DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz if she, and the Democrat party as a whole, really believes it is right to abort a near-term child that could weigh as much as seven pounds. Her answer was, in short: yes. That is the mentality of the entire Democrat party leadership now, and fully reflects Hillary’s position.

Not Viable

The latest controversy (there are always controversies surrounding the Clintons, usually of their own making) is the donations given to the Clinton Foundation by foreign countries and corporations in exchange for preferential treatment when Hillary was secretary of state. A new book on that subject is being released in a couple of weeks. The New York Times got an advance copy and is already pointing out the problems. That’s the New York Times, mind you—a source that normally will give every benefit of the doubt to progressive politicians.

Republicans should not be afraid to challenge her. She is not royalty who will automatically be swept into the White House. She is a deeply flawed person and candidate. They should be chomping at the bit to take her on:

Ready for Hillary

Whoever the Republicans choose must be steadfast in principle and able to communicate those principles effectively. That kind of candidate will be far more appealing to the average voter than a scandal-plagued Hillary.

Media Distortion & the Christian Response

Last week I wrote about the main problems I see in the church today, and why Christians aren’t making as much of an impact on the culture as we should be. I wanted to be sure we understand that’s where the greatest blame lies. We must always examine ourselves before pointing fingers elsewhere.

Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy, but there are other times when deliberate distortion of Biblical positions and those who espouse them takes center stage. Unfortunately, that is happening quite often now in the media, both the entertainment variety and the supposedly unbiased news media.

When 90% of those involved in the major networks and newspapers rarely go to church, let alone actually believe the Christian faith, what can one expect but bias? Those in our society who believe in nothing more than themselves or who have no clear belief system will be heavily influenced by the distorted presentation of Christians and Christian beliefs in the news. This has come into focus, in particular, on the “gay rights” issue where anyone who holds to Biblical morality is deemed hateful.

This approach carries over to all conservatism in America. Nearly every conservative stance is questioned in a way liberal positions never are—with the exception of Fox News—and it’s a double treat for the media if the conservative who is being attacked is also an evangelical. The over-the-top bias during the last election cycle was worse than ever. Stories that should have been extremely significant were relegated to irrelevance if they could in any way be a detriment to Obama’s reelection.

In fact, one might say, without too much critique even from the Left, that the media was pulling for an Obama victory:

Now, we can bemoan this unfair treatment and complain about the bias—which I am doing and will continue to do—but that can never be the last word. Christians—and conservatives overall, to the extent conservatism retains its Christian moorings—have to expect to be portrayed unfairly. We are bringing the light of God’s truth to a sinful world; people steeped in their sinfulness don’t like to be told they are wrong. Do we need this reminder directly from Jesus?

This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

We also have this “promise” from the apostle Paul:

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

Some promises are not as welcome as others. Yet Paul didn’t stop there. After informing his disciple Timothy what to expect, he proceeded to give him instructions on what he should do about this state of affairs:

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Paul didn’t leave Timothy with a negative. He encouraged him to move forward with what he knew to be the truth, to keep teaching, reproving, correcting, and training his hearers. I plan to follow the same sage advice, and I hope my readers will be edified by my continuing efforts.

Tearing Away the Veil

Sometimes the veil is torn away and we can see the deep and wide chasm that exists in our society. A comment Santorum made the other day has served as the catalyst for showcasing the dichotomous thinking that dominates our culture. The media are in an absolute apoplectic fit over his all-too-true statement that Obama’s theology masquerades as Biblical theology, and that the president’s worldview is decidedly other than Christian.

From both the Right and the Left, Santorum is being taken to the verbal woodshed for breathing such heresy, and for introducing a theological element into the presidential race. Apparently, they don’t believe there is any connection between ultimate reality and politics. I beg to differ.

In fact, he was correct. Obama’s worldview is in direct opposition to a Biblical worldview. Now, Santorum came out later and said that he didn’t mean to imply Obama wasn’t a Christian personally, merely that his worldview was inconsistent with standard, orthodox Christian theology. The only criticism I have of anything Santorum said was that later statement. Of course, as a presidential candidate, one must be careful not to alienate everyone by declaring your opponent a non-Christian, particularly when the “One” is touting his Christianity as often as he has been recently.

However, I’m not running for president, and I will say what Santorum cannot: Obama’s so-called Christianity is not the real thing. His view of Christ and salvation are not Biblical. He is caught up in a spiritual deception, but he’s not a victim—it is of his own making, by his own free will.

Naturally, this will be an ongoing point of attack from Santorum’s challengers. Ron Paul is already saying that social issues should be off the table. Mitt Romney has nothing to run on besides being a businessman, so he doesn’t want anything to do with moral values. Gingrich has so much baggage that he will probably avoid the same, except for disparaging Santorum for standing up for Biblical foundations in society.

In the current field, only Santorum has the lifestyle that reflects a Biblical worldview. For that, I respect him, and I pray for his success.

By the way, new polls show he has a commanding lead in both Texas and Oklahoma. These go along with a big lead in Ohio and a consistent lead in Michigan. That last one is still in play because Romney will be pulling out all the stops there. If Romney loses one of his “home” states, he’s in big trouble.

Romney should be running away with the nomination: he has the money, the organization, the backing of the Republican establishment. But he doesn’t have the hearts of Republican voters. Santorum is filling that vacuum.

Santorum: Big-Government Guy?

Romney won the Nevada caucuses on Saturday. It was another blow to Gingrich’s hopes. Paul’s libertarian message played fairly well there, which is to be expected in a state where even prostitution is legal. That’s also the reason why Santorum didn’t do well. His solid Christian message apparently is out of sync with Nevadans’ worldview. He’s going into friendlier territory now, though. Polls show he currently leads the field in Missouri, Minnesota, and Ohio, which are all coming up very soon.

One of the attacks on Santorum from those with whom I normally agree is that he is a big-government conservative. It is true he has voted, on occasion, for some things I wouldn’t have, such as No Child Left Behind. To his credit, he now says that vote was wrong, and he wouldn’t do so today. At least he can admit when he voted wrongly. Are you listening, Mr. Romneycare?

What exactly is Santorum’s view of the role of the federal government? He answers specifically in his book It Takes a Family:

Conservatives see “the village” as, well, the village: the local community, with the family at the center of it. We believe that only strong families can improve the lives of individuals, especially children, and make for healthy communities. In our view, the real village elders are the parents, the ministers, the Girl or Boy Scout leaders, the grandmothers who sit on their porch watching the neighborhood kids at play, the youth baseball coaches. It is these village leaders who are really generating social capital, first in the family, and then in the community. The liberals have it exactly the wrong way around.

The villages elders [of the liberal stripe] believe in top-down because they believe in the supposed goodness of the central government and the Bigs—and, I think, because they distrust families and local communities. They think the federal government is fairer, more just, more trustworthy, even more moral, than families and local community groups with their “parochial” and “provincial” concerns. I believe in bottom-up, however, because I believe in the power of the natural family and the mediating organizations that support it.

He then explains the concept of subsidiarity, a word more common in Catholic circles than Protestant, but one that should be more widely known and understood:

Only when a “lower”—i.e., smaller—level of society is manifestly incapable of handling a problem may a “higher” level legitimately intervene. And even then, the “higher” level may only intervene to supplement, not displace, the function of a lower level. When you want the Bigs, led by the federal bureaucracy, to run the village—as liberals do—you have completely inverted the principle of subsidiarity.

The Constitution established subsidiarity; it’s called federalism. His overall philosophy of governing is consistent with both the Constitution and the Biblical basis for how a society should operate. The only ones who could conceivably be upset over it are liberals and libertarians, albeit for different reasons. Since I am neither, I am comfortable with Santorum’s position.

My Quandary

I’ve traveled a circuitous route to get to the place where I am today in deciding whom to support in the Republican primary. I began with an interest in Bachmann, but soon concluded she didn’t have the experience for the job. I then turned to Perry for a brief while, hoping he would be the political “savior,” but that soured for me pretty quickly, particularly after a few debates. Herman Cain came on my personal radar after I was his table companion at a Republican event. I liked his attempt to get us to a fair tax. When he imploded over what I still think may have been false accusations, I toyed for a while with the idea that Gingrich could be the man. But then I took a fresh look at Santorum and came away impressed with his foundational understanding of principles of government and society based on a Christian worldview. That’s where I am today, and next Tuesday, I will cast my vote for him in Florida’s Republican primary.

Some may ask why I cannot go for Ron Paul, since he mirrors my constant calls for a return to constitutionalism. The reasons are many, but they boil down to two: his doctrinaire libertarianism and his foreign policy. Paul would have no problem with a state allowing abortion and same-sex marriage; I want an amendment to the Constitution protecting innocent human life and one clearly defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Those are God’s standards for society, and I argue they should be national in scope. On foreign policy, he really doesn’t grasp the threat of Islamic radicalism. I don’t believe we would be safe on his watch.

That leaves the two frontrunners, Romney and Gingrich. What’s my beef with them? Let me be as specific as I can for each one.


  • A new book, Mitt Romney: An Inside Look at the Man and His Politics, written by a fellow Mormon, tells how Romney followed the advice of a pollster who said he could never win elective office in Massachusetts as a pro-life candidate. So he abruptly switched to pro-choice in his run for the Senate against Ted Kennedy. Both in that race and in the later gubernatorial race, he did his best to go to the left of his Democrat opponent. There is a viral video making the rounds of Romney pledging to uphold Roe v. Wade and a woman’s “right to choose.” Another video shows him saying that a minor seeking an abortion without her parents’ consent can go to the courts to get permission. It’s not that he has made a conversion to pro-life; in fact, he started out that way and changed to pro-choice for purely political reasons. Now he’s pro-life again, and I believe the reason is once again political.
  • When the Massachusetts Supreme Court simply declared it was irrational not to allow same-sex marriage and told the legislature it needed to rectify the situation, Romney didn’t even wait to see what the legislature would do but took the lead in personally granting 189 marriage certificates to same-sex couples. He didn’t have to do that. It wasn’t mandated. So now when he says he’s opposed to same-sex marriage, why should we trust him?
  • He still has the albatross of Romneycare hanging on him. Only Santorum has had the courage to take him head-on on this issue. His plan was a precursor for Obamacare. It has the identical individual mandate. It rests on the same philosophy. As I’ve said before, how can he credibly attack Obamacare when he refuses to acknowledge the wrongness of his own plan? And just in the past few days, comments from one of his advisers indicate he really doesn’t expect to repeal the entire Obamacare monstrosity after all, no matter what he has promised on the campaign trail. Can he really be trusted to keep his word?


  • While he can talk a good talk, I have serious doubts that he is willing to walk his talk. Why? The many reports about how he carried out his speakership in the 1990s—from those who were with him in Congress—gives one pause. Testimony from reputable legislators such as Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Santorum himself paint a picture of a man with an outsized ego who was more than willing to break the pledges in the Contract with America for political gain.
  • He lost the confidence of his fellow Republicans in the House, and thereby lost his speakership. He resigned from the post [and from Congress itself] when he realized he wouldn’t be reelected their leader.
  • Like Romney, Gingrich supported the individual mandate in healthcare, advocated policies to fight man-made global warming [when its existence is doubtful], and toyed with cap-and-trade legislation. And, like Romney, he supported the TARP bailout.
  • His tactics in attacking Romney have come from the Left, using the same arguments Obama will undoubtedly use about greed, “vulture” capitalism, and now even accusing Romney of being anti-immigration. These smack of political opportunism and deliberate misrepresentation. Of course, Romney is not innocent on this point either.
  • His moral failings are an open book. Yes, I believe in redemption. I hope he has experienced it. But it becomes difficult to defend a man and promote him for the highest office in the land when he has that kind of background.
  • He is a superb speaker, but also one who may doom himself one day with his unrestrained commentary. As Santorum noted, do we want a nominee who may embarrass himself and the entire party with his loose tongue?

This is my quandary: what to do if Santorum cannot win—and his chances are slim at this point. I will have no option but to vote for whoever wins this race because Obama is far worse than either Romney or Gingrich, and his party stands for ideas repugnant to a Biblical worldview.

Some Republicans are hoping for a stalemated primary season where no one receives the majority needed to clinch the nomination. That would mean the convention would later make the choice. While this would be a potential problem for party unity and might project to the electorate an image of a party in disarray, it could be worth it in the end. If a brokered convention can provide a nominee with a minimum of baggage and an ability to communicate the conservative message effectively, we will all be better off. It worked in 1880 when James Garfield got the nod and won the general election. Could it work again?

Foolish Reasoning?

New Hampshire went for Mitt Romney last night. Not exactly a surprise. He owns a home there; he’s pretty much been campaigning there since the 2008 election. And New Hampshire is not Iowa. Approximately 26% of New Hampshire residents have no religious affiliation whatsoever, which is above the national average. Further, the primary process allowed anyone to participate as a Republican, even if just for a day. That’s why Romney could rack up a substantial score, as a number of moderate Democrats undoubtedly crossed the line this time. That also explains Paul’s second-place finish, as he, because of his foreign policy stance, attracted what I call the Dennis Kucinich wing of the Democratic party to his banner.

My concerns about Romney have not been assuaged over time. What concerns?

What is also bothersome is the spin the media places on the win. Due to his razor-thin “win” in Iowa [it more accurately could be called a tie with Santorum] and now his victory in New Hampshire, some are concluding the race is over. I do understand the psychology of that, but it doesn’t necessarily comport with reality. New Hampshire sends a whole twelve delegates to the Republican convention. Twelve. Out of more than two thousand.

Additionally, South Carolina, the site of the next primary, is not New Hampshire. In some ways, it comes closer to resembling Iowa in its perspective. New Hampshire should not, by any stretch of logic, be considered the final say on the nominee.

I continue to believe that Romney could lead the Republican party in an entirely wrong direction should he become the standard-bearer. They’ve tried his type of candidate before—anyone remember President Dole or President McCain? What the party really needs is a stalwart on conservative principles who also can reach out to what have been termed “Reagan Democrats.” I personally believe that person is Rick Santorum.

But the odds are that Republicans will mess it up again by their erroneous assumption that only a moderate can beat Obama. To me, such reasoning is foolishness, and it will hurt them in the long run more than they realize.

Having said all that, I now find myself in the somewhat strange position of defending Romney from some of his critics, namely Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, and Rick Perry. The tack they’ve taken lately—accusing Romney of destroying lives through the company he ran previously—comes right from the Democrat playbook. In fact, some of the rhetoric being used against him aligns more with the Occupy Wall Street Movement/Fiasco than with sound economic principles. This smacks merely of political opportunism, pushing a populist message that they hope will reverse the course of the nomination process in their favor. For Gingrich, there’s also the flavor of revenge for what Romney’s minions did to him in Iowa.

The two candidates who did not pile on with this discreditable ploy were Paul and Santorum. They maintained integrity in this matter.

What’s it going to come down to?

Ultimately, regime change is the goal. I just want it to occur with solid principles and with someone I can trust.