Our Nation’s Political Health

Fair and balanced. I’m using that phrase today to make it clear that I am doing my best to be impartial in my analysis. An honest critique should always be acceptable to those who value honesty.

Let’s start with the Democrats.

They have been in an almost-insane froth ever since the election, convinced that Hillary should have been the easy winner and that only some kind of massive corruption could be responsible for the loss.

They have focused, along with their media allies, on Russian influence on the election despite the complete lack of evidence that even one vote was tampered with and that no amount of influence from Russia made any difference.

They are a party bereft of anything beneficial to offer America, choosing instead to promote abortion, same-sex marriage, and other moral aberrations (not to mention their pervasive “progressive” socialism).

Some of their more fanatical adherents believe there is only one solution:

If successful, of course, that would give us President Pence. Maybe they haven’t thought through their strategy carefully, as that would put a more principled conservative in charge.

The Russia thing should have gone away by now if not for the foolishness of Trump and his family. Trump Jr. jumped on the opportunity to meet with a Russian who said he had dirt on Hillary and could help tilt the election toward his dad.

Anyone with any political sense at all would have avoided all such contacts; in fact, anyone with any moral sense at all would have reported the invitation to the proper authorities. Russia is not our friend.

It is an established fact that the meeting took place. The rationale for why it is no big deal is that it didn’t really offer anything of value to use against Hillary. So intent means nothing?

More than one political cartoonist picked up on that cookie jar theme:

Again, to be fair and balanced, the media had an entirely different level of interest in this fiasco than in previous ones:

But that still doesn’t erase the fact that Trump Jr. did a very stupid thing, thereby opening up the inquiry further. The whole Russia probe is partly responsible (only partly, though) for the inertia we see on the policy front:

The other reasons for inertia lie with Republican timidity in Congress (a topic to be covered in an upcoming post) and with Trump’s own unwillingness to concentrate on what is more important than his own ego. He may be willing to sacrifice everyone just to make sure he comes out ahead:

Why do I say that?

Just look at how he treats people in his own administration. He hired Anthony Scaramucci as his new communications director against the advice of his top-level officials (but apparently with the approval of his family) without informing Sean Spicer, the man who has been burdened with carrying the communications load for a president who keeps changing his rhetoric and undermining Spicer’s efforts.

Spicer resigned, and one can understand why. Scaramucci’s task will not be easy; he may be favored right now, but one false step can change that.

Scaramucci, by the way, is on record as pro-abortion, pro-same-sex marriage, and pro-gun control—a funny way to help promote the conservative agenda.

Trump has now begun lashing out against Jeff Sessions, his attorney general, for recusing himself from the Russia investigation. Sessions did the right thing with his recusal, but Trump is angered by the decision. I predict Sessions will be forced out shortly, despite the fact that he was the first senator to endorse Trump and has been loyal through all of Trump’s antics.

Shouldn’t loyalty go both ways?

One of the rumors circulating is that Trump may replace Sessions with Ted Cruz. My advice? Senator Cruz, don’t ruin your future by agreeing to join this circus.

Reports now indicate (and I’m not relying on “fake news” sources for this) that Trump’s entire cabinet is in turmoil over the way he is treating Sessions, as they wonder who will be the next to be thrown under the proverbial bus. Secretary of State Tillerson, by all accounts, is ready to throw in the towel, frustrated by how Trump family members’ views have priority over his with respect to foreign relations.

Both Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon are now apparently on the hit list, despite the fact that they are not exactly on the same page. All that matters is complete loyalty to the president regardless of what he does.

In short, this appears to be an administration in administrative chaos, caused by the super-thin-skin of the man in charge.

Thus far, one key individual has escaped Trump’s attempt at public humiliation:

How long that will last is anyone’s guess.

Both Democrats and Republicans seem to be dysfunctional. This does not bode well for our political health.

Principles, Courage, & the Budget

A budget vote is coming. I’ve done my best to read both sides of the debate on what the Republican Congress has come up with this time. Yesterday, VP Pence was on the Rush Limbaugh program proclaiming it’s a win for the president, primarily because it increases defense spending.

Well, I’m glad it does that, given the various global crises we face: ISIS, Iran, North Korea, just to name the most prominent.

But what about the rest of this $1 trillion bill?

It continues to fund Planned Parenthood, that vile organization that has created a modern holocaust.

It continues to send money to sanctuary cities that are thumbing their noses at any type of curtailment of illegal immigration. Why should they be rewarded?

Some extra money is in it for border security, yet there is no mention of anything even remotely connected to Trump’s promise of a wall (not that I think he ever really believed in that long of a wall in the first place).

We’re told we must support this budget to keep the government running until September, then the Republicans in Congress will finally get down to business on what they said they would do.

The main reason why they don’t seem prepared to fight for anything substantive at this point is fear that they will be blamed for a government shutdown. That’s always the fear, and fear appears to drive their decisionmaking.

As a historian, I do understand that you can’t always get everything you want in legislation. Yes, there are compromises to be made. But how about compromises that don’t sacrifice basic principles such as the inherent value of human life? Allowing the funding of Planned Parenthood is a participation in murder. When will Republicans draw a line that cannot be crossed?

The litany of excuses grows:

  • We only have one house of Congress; how can you expect us to get anything passed?
  • We have Congress, but not the presidency, so anything we send to the White House will only get vetoed
  • We have Congress and the presidency, but we don’t have a 60-vote majority in the Senate to get what we want

If they were ever to get that 60-vote majority in the Senate, I’m almost convinced the argument will be that they don’t want to be portrayed in the media as heartless, so they will have to bow to what the Democrats want in order to be liked.

Whatever happened to principles? Why has spinelessness become the Republican fallback position?

In that interview that Pence did with Limbaugh, the host’s frustration came to the forefront in these words:

Okay, but why then is the president now suggesting a budget shutdown in September or October? If it’s no good now, why is it good then?

You guys were sent there to drain the swamp. There’s a clear Trump agenda that just isn’t seeable. It’s not visible in this budget, and some people are getting concerned that there’s more concern for bipartisanship and crossing the aisle, working with Democrats, than there is in draining the swamp and actually peeling away all of the roughage that is preventing actually moving forward here on so many of these issues that affect people domestically.

I’ve been a critic of Limbaugh ever since he jumped on the Trump Train with apparently no reservations, but he’s voicing a very important concern here, and he’s right to do so.

I’m reminded of this quote from Whittaker Chambers in Witness:

Men have never been so educated, but wisdom, even as an idea, has conspicuously vanished from the world.

I would add that principles and courage have dissipated along with wisdom.

Trump: Lessons Learned?

At first, it appeared that Trump had this president thing all figured out. He was quick out of the block to undo many of President Obama’s unconstitutional actions. He was signing executive orders right and left.

Then came indications that maybe he’s still enmeshed in on-the-job training. While I agree that his executive order regarding immigration was within his authority and had the right intent—ensuring we aren’t importing terrorists—the rollout was bungled. People were caught in it who shouldn’t have been; Trump didn’t get ahead of the narrative so that the opposition, both Democrats and the media, couldn’t use it as a cudgel.

A misstep, to be sure.

Then when a federal judge put a stay on the order and it went to the Ninth Circuit Court, commentators were quick to note that Trump’s advocates in the court weren’t apparently top-notch. The Ninth Circuit upheld the stay.

It’s easy to criticize that particular court because it has a history of tacking to the political Left. No other circuit has had so many of its decisions reversed by the Supreme Court. It would have more credibility if it actually followed law rather than its own political ideology.

Trump, throughout this controversy, did what he always does so well: go to Twitter to denounce and insult. That’s not a tactic designed to win over the opposition.

Now we have the Mike Flynn fiasco. When Flynn was picked to be National Security Adviser, I was not entirely on board. Whenever I saw him offering commentary, I had reservations about his approach and his temperament. Yes, he seemed to understand the Islamist threat, but he also seemed far too cozy with Russia, which mirrored Trump’s attitude.

Flynn resigned late Monday night over reports that he hobnobbed with the Russian government prior to taking office. There is no law against that, but there was concern about what he was promising the Russians. Personally, I think it’s good to start talking with foreign governments when a national security official is about to take on that duty.

However, Flynn attempted not only to hide what he had done; in addition, he lied to VP Pence about it, making Pence an unwitting liar when he defended Flynn publicly.

That is inexcusable. As we always hear, the coverup is often worse than the original offense.

So Flynn is gone, undermining another of Trump’s boasts that he will surround himself with the best people. Flynn was not one of those “best” people.

Some report indicate that Trump is surprised by the resistance he is experiencing and is trying to figure out how to handle it. I know, we never can tell if such reports are genuine or fake in this heated environment, but I don’t have trouble believing this one. Trump is used to having his way, and he probably thought that being president would make it easy to get done what he wants to get done.

Welcome to the real world, President Trump. It’s time to get this under control. Will he learn his lessons?

Will Honest Critique Be Allowed?

I’m trying to like Donald Trump. I really am. Why does he insist on making it so difficult?

I’m not the least bit upset that he spoke with the elected leader of Taiwan. We never should have treated that nation the way we have. So, good for him on that count. Taiwan is not Iran or Cuba.

talking-to-taiwan

I’m pleased with a number of his nominations for his administration. If they are allowed to do what they believe, we will be in much better shape than we have been for the last horrendous eight years.

not-brain-surgery

But I’m still bothered.

I’m bothered that he acts like a bully toward companies that are simply trying to make the best choices given the tax atmosphere on businesses in this nation. Carrier Corp. decided to keep some of its production in Indiana after Trump and Pence talked with the company. Good for those who kept their jobs. Bad for the whole concept of free-market choices as crony capitalism triumphs once again.

Whenever you give a break to one company only, you have picked winners and made other similar companies the losers. That’s government getting in the way and doing what it should not be doing.

And when conservatives who are naturally concerned with such a violation of principle speak up, they are ridiculed for holding to principle. Don’t they know Trump is the savior? Why be so picky?

The conservative critique of what Trump did with Carrier is principled, and not the same as the Democrats’ critique:

incentives

Trump’s thin skin continues to percolate. When a union leader at Carrier dared to criticize Trump for exaggerating the number of jobs saved, that led to a typical Trump tweeting flurry that demeaned the man personally.

As David French so aptly put it, “There is no dignity, no decency, in Trump’s actions.” Even worse are some of his most ardent followers. French continues,

If you’ve been following politics in 2016, you know that if you publicly cross Trump, then Trump fanatics will immediately pile on, trying to threaten and intimidate critics into silence.

And that’s exactly what happened here: Half an hour after Trump tweeted about Jones on Wednesday, the union leader’s phone began to ring and kept ringing, he said.

One voice asked: What kind of car do you drive? Another said: We’re coming for you. He wasn’t sure how these people found his number. “Nothing that says they’re gonna kill me, but, you know, you better keep your eye on your kids,” Jones said later on MSNBC. “We know what car you drive. Things along those lines.”

The president-elect’s words have power, and when he turns that power on ordinary Americans who dare to criticize him, he’s not only abusing his office, he’s creating a target for an avalanche of scorn, vitriol, and intimidation.

But this is of course a pattern with Trump. If someone irritates him, he’ll punch back no matter their status and no matter the consequences. That’s not leadership. It’s bullying. The president-elect needs to grow up and take criticism like a man.

It’s becoming risky to ever criticize Trump. My deep concern remains what it has been all along, that this is becoming practically a cult following that will never allow an honest critique. I hope I’m proven wrong.

donald-trump-4Jonah Goldberg recently commented on this phenomenon, and I think his words deserve a hearing:

My real problem is with all the people who seem to think that any skepticism of Trump’s actions on my part can only be explained by anti-Trump bias or bitterness.

These people seem to think that the most positive, most pro-Trump spin on any new event is not only always correct but obviously so, and any skepticism about the genius of his actions is a sign of illegitimate bias. And that’s crazy.

I’ve praised Trump and I’ve criticized Trump since he was elected. Yes, I’m skeptical, but all politicians deserve skepticism, and Donald Trump more than most. And yet every day I hear from people saying that’s not good enough. “Get on board the Trump Train!” people are still shouting at me.

One must bend every position and principle to his. One must acknowledge that he is smarter than everyone. He has a plan. He’s playing chess to everyone else’s checkers. And if you don’t see that, you’re irrationally biased against him.

It’s pretty obvious to me that the irrational bias here runs the other way. If I say Trump is sometimes right and sometimes wrong and you say “Shut up! He’s a genius in everything!” an objective observer would probably think you’re the biased one.

My goal today is not to denigrate the president-elect, but if you see it that way, I want to caution you: you might be tending toward the irrationality Goldberg mentions.

I’m going to give Trump room to improve. I’m going to hope he develops some maturity when others criticize his actions and decisions. I’m still praying for the best, but I will point out when what he does is less than that.

Why is that wrong?

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.

The Adult on the GOP Ticket

Last night’s VP debate was very instructive, or at least it should be if anyone is listening to the lessons offered there. Mike Pence made a great case for himself being the presidential candidate and Tim Kaine did a fantastic impression of Donald Trump with his constant interruptions and overall boorishness.

vp-debate-2016

While thinking about how I would summarize what I saw, I read Erick Erickson’s wrap-up and discovered that he has already hit all the high points of what would be my summary. For instance, he begins by saying,

Mike Pence won the debate. The only people who dispute this are aggressive partisans. He won, in part, by coming across as the reasonable adult in the room with a calm demeanor and in part by pretending Donald Trump did not exist.

Pence had a tough job going in: trying to defend Trump’s outrageousness and lack of character. He did the best he could by ignoring the attacks Kaine made on the top of the ticket. In his pre-political life, Pence was a talk-show host and his comfortable manner in the public eye showed through clearly. In some ways, he reminded me of Ronald Reagan and his ability to communicate both ideas and warmth.

Erickson continued,

Mike Pence showed his command of issues, his ability to deflect criticism, and his likability. He defended conservative values in ways Donald Trump never could. He was an outstanding, articulate spokesman for life issues. He finally denounced a Russia that his running mate praises.

He then offered this interesting solution to the GOP’s problem and a prediction:

If the GOP could reverse the ticket, they should. Trump, no doubt, is going to passively aggressively attack Pence because Pence outclassed Trump in every way.

He ends his commentary with this bit of reality:

The only major hangup for 2016 is that when the pollster calls tomorrow, he is not going to ask about Kaine and Pence. He is going to ask about Clinton and Trump and that is still a proposition Donald Trump cannot win.

Throughout this campaign, many voters have had this reaction:

better-candidates

Well, at least one of the four fits the description of a better candidate. Too bad he’s not running for president.

How’s this for a hope? Pray for a Trump win, to be followed immediately by a Trump impeachment and removal from office, thereby putting Pence in the White House for at least the next four years.

Sounds like a wonderful dream-come-true to me.

Unity?

Unity. That’s what it’s all about, right? All of us who are sickened at the thought of a Hillary presidency have to board the Trump train for the sake of unity. And if people like me, who oppose Trump for president, don’t hop on board, we are the problem and will be blamed for a Trump loss in November.

As I’ve said countless times, and will repeat again, any Trump loss in November will be due to Donald Trump himself and those who mindlessly followed him into his own personal fever swamp.

Evidence? It abounds.

Let’s look at what has occurred since the Republican convention.

Donald Trump Addresses GOP Lincoln Day Event In MichiganFirst, Trump refuses to let go of any comment by anyone that is the least bit critical of him, and continues to fire back regardless of the consequences. In politics, you take the heat and go on. Trump will not do so; instead, he creates bigger issues because he is so thin-skinned.

He continues to criticize Ted Cruz and won’t back off on the stupid accusation that Cruz’s father is somehow implicated in the JFK assassination.

He takes umbrage at a Muslim father speaking at the Democrat convention criticizing him. Keep in mind this was the Democrat convention. Of course they will line up speakers to criticize him.

In this case, though, the parents lost their son in Iraq. Now, whatever the truth is about the father—even if he should happen to be someone who ultimately favors Sharia law, or whatever—Trump’s reaction was again supremely stupid. You simply don’t rant against parents who lost their son in service to the country. From what I’ve read, the son lost his life when he ordered his fellow soldiers to stay back while he investigated; he died doing so, putting his fellows first.

That kind of decision needs to be respected, no matter who the parents are. Trump turning it into a “cause” only cheapens Trump. He somehow can’t see that.

A whole slew of stupidity manifested itself yesterday. Trump tells a woman to remove her crying baby from his rally after first trying to say he loves babies. I’ve watched the video without any editing. He came across as a fool and someone who really, despite what he claims, doesn’t like babies.

A veteran gave Trump his Purple Heart. Trump jokes that he always wanted one but didn’t expect to receive it this way. Just a joke, right? Watch the video, please. He again comes across as “this is all about me, not thee.” He doesn’t honor the man who gave it to him; he turns the focus on himself—as always—because in Trump World, all that matters is Donald Trump.

Then, because Paul Ryan and John McCain criticize him for his comments over the Muslim parents’ dead son, he now says he doesn’t endorse them for reelection.

Some of my readers may respond with joy over that because of dislike of both Ryan and McCain. But regardless of what you think of those men, isn’t Trump supposed to be unifying the party now? What does he do instead? He creates greater division. This is so bad that even Reince Priebus is upset. It takes a lot to get him upset with Trump.

Mike Pence has had to do more damage control than any VP candidate in history. I would feel sorry for him except for the fact that he signed up for this voluntarily. Did he understand what he was getting himself into?

Fireman Pence

How bad is it getting? I watched Fox News’s The Five last night, a show that reflexively defends Trump no matter what. Except for last night. Only Eric Bolling was willing to find an excuse for Trump’s antics. The others, especially Dana Perino, were critical. Perino practically said Trump was stupid and she seemed to be fed up with trying to defend him. She says she can offer no more advice on what he should do because he obviously won’t listen to anyone. Her disgust with Trump was all over her face.

Reports coming from inside the Trump campaign paint a picture of an organization almost in chaos, with people beside themselves trying to rein him in unsuccessfully.

I am more and more convinced that Trump’s supersized ego—one that has been allowed to grow throughout his life without any serious barriers—has made him a very disturbed man, both mentally and emotionally.

Beyond that, I’m not even sure he has the brain power to think clearly and rationally. He is stuck in his middle school vocabulary, with constant repetition of words and phrases (great, terrific, terrible, nasty, loser, etc., etc.) and has the emotional stability that goes along with boys at that level of maturation.

Trump's Brain

Am I aghast at the thought of a Hillary Clinton reign of error and terror? Absolutely. The trouble is that I’m equally aghast at the thought of a Trump ascendancy.

I’m in the minority in conservative circles right now. I’m apparently in the minority in evangelical circles also. That’s okay. I’ve been in this position before. My goal remains the same: speak the truth as God gives me the light to see the truth; emerge from this fiasco with my integrity intact.

Pray for our nation.