Pelosi, Trump, & Reagan–Oh My!

Democrats are in disarray. They need assurance that they are on track for the future. Their leaders are in the business of reassuring them that what happened in the 2010 and 2014 congressional elections and the 2016 presidential election are all anomalies. Don’t worry, they’re told, the leadership knows what it’s doing.

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As if to prove to themselves that’s the case, Democrats in the House have given Nancy Pelosi another victory–she’s been chosen as their leader again, despite all those electoral disasters.

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Some in the party find that incomprehensible; they need to find some excuse for how it happened.

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Meanwhile, congratulations on her victory come from one unexpected source:

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Yes, Republicans are on a roll, and Donald Trump has a new approach that no other president has ever tried:

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I have mixed feelings about that approach. While I love having the media shut out on occasion, the constant tweet flow from the president-elect doesn’t come across as presidential to me. It would be much better, of course, if he were more restrained in his comments, but that’s probably not in the offing.

For instance, tweeting that flag burners should be punished either with prison time or loss of citizenship runs counter to the First Amendment. Now, he can get away with saying such things simply because the majority of Americans (myself included) deplore that action. It’s insulting to the nation that gives everyone the opportunity to express disagreement. Destroying the flag is an act of ingratitude, and it is supremely juvenile.

Yet it’s a political winner for Trump. Our anger over the brazen act “trumps” concern for the First Amendment.

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But anytime we minimize the First Amendment, we are treading on dangerous ground.

Trump also is congratulating himself over keeping Carrier in Indiana rather than having the company move some of its activity to Mexico.  Again, this is a mixed bag. One can be glad those jobs were saved, yet how is this different from the crony capitalism that Trump supporters supposedly deplore? Giving one company a break that other companies in the same field don’t get is the ultimate in having the government choose winners and losers.

Trump is now embarking upon what he calls a “Thank You Tour,” holding rallies ostensibly to thank his supporters. I listened to part of his first rally. I’m sorry, but to me it sounds more like a “Trump Ego Tour.”

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Oh, no, there you go, Snyder, just Trump-bashing again. No, that’s not my aim. As I’ve said, I will give him credit when it is due, and I do hope for the best. I’m pleased with a number of his cabinet appointments. I’ll write about those sometime next week, I presume, once a secretary of state is chosen.

But I’m looking for something else in him—humility. You see, I’m old enough to remember Ronald Reagan, the president who never took credit for anything, but always thanked God for blessings and praised the innovative nature of the American people. He gave credit to both God and the people for the economic revival in his day, not to himself. Trump is always bragging about the credit he deserves. That’s not the Reagan spirit that I seek.

I have a paperweight I purchased at the Reagan Library with one of my favorite Reagan quotes engraved upon it. It reads as follows:

There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.

That can be true of Donald Trump also. For the sake of the nation, I pray he will begin to understand that truth.

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.

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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:

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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.

Debating My Conservatism

I’m going to begin this blog today with what some might consider an audacious comparison, but I hope you won’t misunderstand. In the current political climate, I find myself feeling kind of like how the apostle Paul must have felt when his apostleship was questioned. He had to provide a list of his bona fides to the Corinthians to show that he was the genuine article.

That is strange to Christians today because we take Paul’s word as authoritative. Yet in his lifetime he had to defend himself from accusations of being inauthentic.

No, I’m not like the apostle Paul in my ministry, neither in my effectiveness nor in the type of direct experiences he had with Christ. So let’s lay aside any thought that I am trying to say that.

However, I, like Paul, practically feel constrained to prove my bona fides now that I am opposed to Donald Trump’s candidacy. To some critics of my position, I appear as a pseudo-conservative, perhaps even a closet supporter of Hillary Clinton.

Perish that thought immediately, please!

I have been a conservative long before many of you took your first breath. From the first vote I ever made (I won’t give the year—it will come across as ancient history to some readers) I have always supported the Republican candidates, not only at the national level, but in all state and local elections as well.

I was defending conservatism in the liberal atmosphere of my master’s and doctoral programs at very liberal institutions.

I wrote a book on the Bill Clinton impeachment that gives the House Managers’ side of the story when I realized that the media had no desire to give them any credibility. My concern over media bias is longstanding.

book-cover-1My academic research has focused on conservatism and how it plays out in society. For evidence, I give you my book published last year on Ronald Reagan and Whittaker Chambers.

Further, I teach a course on Chambers and another on Reagan and the development of modern American conservatism. I do that in order to educate students in that history so they can have a degree of balance in their intellectual life, knowing that if they proceed into graduate studies, they need a firm foundation as they tackle the worldview they will be given there.

So I take a back seat to no one with respect to my foundational conservative beliefs.

This is all background for what I want to say about the first presidential debate, and I trust this will be my final comment on that.

While I had little desire to watch this debate, I’m glad I did. It only magnified what I already think and feel about the options offered us this year.

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Trump’s advocates were hoping he would be such a change agent in this kind of format that he would take Hillary off her game. That didn’t happen, primarily due to his juvenile behavior.

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What I’m beginning to see now on social media and from pro-Trump commentators is a resort to conspiracy theories as to why he didn’t perform well. Hillary got the debate questions ahead of time. Her people sneaked a folder filled with who-knows-what to Lester Holt. She gave Holt little signals so he would know it’s time to help her out.

What a bunch of baloney (you may use that academic term anytime you need it). Hillary didn’t need any conspiracy to help her; she had Trump.

He lost this round big time. His advisors implicitly admit it. They are openly talking about how they have to change strategy for debate #2. You know, things like “prepare for the debate.”

Don’t succumb to the conspiracies. Face the facts.

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What distresses me most about this election cycle is the loss of intellectual integrity and the reactionary mood emanating from what I had hoped was a well-grounded, principled conservatism. Anger, fear, and personal attacks on those who continue to oppose the descent into constitutional nihilism has saddened me.

I’ve been accused of self-righteousness because I won’t board this Trump Train. I’ve been told I’m supporting Hillary simply because I find both candidates abhorrent. Am I really pro-life? Am I even a Christian if I can’t find the wherewithal to be on Trump’s side?

I’ve done my best not to accuse fellow believers who are planning to vote for Trump of not being Christian. Yes, I’ve laid out my reasons for why I think that’s a bad move, based on the Biblical principles I’ve taught for many years. But I do not question their faith nor will I ever castigate them for their vote. It’s not personal. I hope they will continue to be my friends.

After this first debate, what is the mood of the country?

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Trump might win, although I think that less likely than a Hillary victory. If he does win, I will pray earnestly that he will turn out better than I thought. Be prepared, though, to be bitterly disappointed.

Integrity

I talk a lot about principles. After all, look at the title of this blog. The word means a lot to me. It’s the same with a related word: integrity.

integrityHow is integrity defined? I like this definition:

Adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.

I like that it incorporates principle in the definition and that honesty, morality, and ethical conduct are all included.

This is what God looks for in men and women, especially those who seek to be placed in a position of trust, whether in a marriage, a business, a ministry, or a political office.

book-cover-1When I wrote my book about Ronald Reagan and Whittaker Chambers, it was a joy to do so because my two subjects were men of integrity.

As I point out in the book, their visions of the future differed. Reagan was the eternal optimist, believing that freedom was the wave of the future because men would listen to the promptings of God’s spirit and respond accordingly. Chambers, however, didn’t have much faith in the soundness of character in the general public. He was much more pessimistic about the future.

Yet even though they maintained different expectations, they nevertheless were men who could be trusted. Those who knew them knew they could count on them to be faithful to what they believed and that their word was their bond.

So my book is not primarily a book about politics, but about character. I encourage you to get a copy if you haven’t already and read about men of genuine integrity.

I decided to investigate what the Scriptures have to say about integrity. Some references stand out. Here are some examples:

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Shouldn’t this be our guide whenever we are faced with a choice for placing a person in a position of trust? If those who are put forward as our primary choices in a political season are both lacking in this quality, is it integrity on our part to go ahead and vote for one of them anyway?

David, in Psalm 26, makes a plea to the Lord in these words:

Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.

Examine me, O Lord, and try me; test my mind and my heart.

May that be our prayer also. May integrity be paramount for us as we go forward in our lives, and may we never stray from that path.

2016 Is Not a Replay of 1980

So we now have the notes the FBI took when they interrogated Hillary Clinton about her e-mail server. What have we discovered? She is adept at blaming her staff for everything and protesting that she doesn’t “recall” almost anything having to do with training on how to handle sensitive documents.

This is after having signed forms that testified she knew the specifics of how to handle such documents. What comes across is that she is playing the “I just don’t get all this technology” card in an attempt to escape prosecution (which the Justice Department at the behest of the FBI has allowed her to do).

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And we’re supposed to believe this baloney. It’s about as surreal as it can get. Has there ever been a presidential candidate who has been exposed as this corrupt before?

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Yet she may be our next president.

With Donald Trump putting illegal immigration back in the news with his foray into Mexico and his speech on the topic afterwards, one might want to ask Hillary (if anyone is allowed to ask her anything) what her stance is on the subject.

Ready to Assimilate

I’ve read parts of the transcript of Trump’s speech and seen excerpts. While there are points in the speech with which I agree, I still can’t stand his attitude. This is the moderate Trump?

Earlier in the day, he was all sweetness and light with the Mexican president. Later, in the speech, he threw out the red meat to his followers, sounding like the “old” Trump. One thing his followers might have missed, though, is that he didn’t say what he would now do with those currently living here illegally. Wasn’t the big deportation thing one of the main reasons he amassed such rabid support at the start? Now he’s backing down on it (which only makes sense) and very few of his supporters seem to have a problem with his flip-flop on an issue that they considered a cornerstone.

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He’s been all over the place, trying to come up with something that can be called a genuine policy. He’s done the same with abortion in the past. He’s totally unreliable.

Back in 1980, we were in the throes of the Carter administration. That led to a revival of common sense under Ronald Reagan. Some people are seeing a historical parallel in that we are in dire straits similar to what we experienced under Carter, and that another Reagan is waiting around the corner. Here, though, is where the parallel breaks down.

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Donald Trump is no Ronald Reagan and 2016 is not a replay of 1980. Sadly.

Chambers, McCarthy, & Trump

An interesting question was posed to me yesterday by a former student, wanting to know what Whittaker Chambers might think of Donald Trump. I gave him my short answer but then decided it would be perhaps insightful to provide a fuller one here today.

For those of you unfamiliar with Chambers, here’s a short synopsis of his life.

Chambers at DeskWhittaker Chambers, in the 1920s, became a member of the Communist party because he saw it as the hope of a world filled with destruction after WWI. At one point, he was ushered into the communist underground movement where he helped place communists in government positions to influence policy; he also served as a liaison between those officials and underground leaders, to whom he passed on information stolen from the government.

He soured on communism in the late 1930s as he saw the fruit of Stalinism: the purges of faithful party members, in particular. He had to go into hiding to protect his family, emerging later as a writer for Time magazine, eventually becoming one of its senior editors.

After WWII, Chambers appeared before a congressional committee and told all he knew about the underground subversion taking place. One of the men he fingered in the underground was Alger Hiss, a top State Dept. official. When Hiss denied the accusation, it became front-page news.

To shorten the story considerably, all I’ll say is that Chambers was proven correct, Hiss went to prison, and Chambers then wrote a masterful autobiography entitled Witness, which came out in 1952. It is one of my all-time favorite books.

Joe McCarthy 2Sen. Joe McCarthy is infamous for trying to root out the communist conspiracy in the early 1950s. Nothing wrong with that, except McCarthy seems to have been motivated more by personal glory than principle. He also was not a man of towering intellect like Chambers. Neither did he have the inside knowledge Chambers did.

Naturally, McCarthy sought to have Chambers on his side publicly. Yet Chambers declined to join in his crusade. Why? It had to do with the character of the man.

In letters Chambers wrote to William F. Buckley, the dean of the modern conservative movement in America, he laid out his concerns—even fears—of what McCarthy might do inadvertently to undermine genuine anti-communism.

Odyssey of a FriendIn one of those letters, responding to Buckley’s queries as to why he wouldn’t come out in support of McCarthy, Chambers replied,

One way whereby I can most easily help Communism is to associate myself publicly with Senator McCarthy; to give the enemy even a minor pretext for confusing the Hiss Case with his activities, and rolling it all in a snarl with which to baffle, bedevil, and divide opinion.

That is why I told Senator McCarthy, when he asked me to keynote his last Wisconsin campaign, that we were fighting in the same war, but in wholly  different battles, and that the nature of the struggle at this time enjoins that we should not wage war together.

I do not think that the Senator really grasps this necessity. For it is more and more my reluctant opinion that he is a tactician, rather than a strategist; that he continually, by reflex rather than calculation, sacrifices the long view for the short pull.

While Chambers obviously wanted much of what McCarthy wanted—the exposure of the communist threat—he didn’t see McCarthy as the man to accomplish this.

In that same letter to Buckley, Chambers expressed his deepest fear:

All of us, to one degree or another, have slowly come to question his judgment and to fear acutely that his flair for the sensational, his inaccuracies and distortions, his tendency to sacrifice the greater objective for the momentary effect, will lead him and us into trouble.

In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that we live in terror that Senator McCarthy will one day make some irreparable blunder which will play directly into the hands of our common enemy and discredit the whole anti-Communist effort for a long while to come.

Chambers was prophetic. That’s precisely what happened. McCarthy ultimately went too far with his accusations and fell from his lofty perch politically. Ever since then, anytime a conservative sounds a warning about socialism/communism, critics on the Left have been able to sound the alarm of “McCarthyism.” The senator dealt a deadly blow to intelligent concerns about subversion.

So what about Trump? What would Chambers think if he were here today? Of course, we are dealing with a hypothetical, but we do have Chambers’s own words and feelings about someone who could be disastrous to a good cause. That’s how I see Trump.

Looking again at Chambers’s comments, I can see Trump in many ways. Just as McCarthy was not a principled person, but rather someone out for his own notoriety, so is Trump, in my view. He has no solid principles; he is no conservative; he has little knowledge of constitutional government.

Then there are the tactics. Chambers criticized McCarthy for being merely a tactician, not a strategist, someone who went for the short-term advantage rather than having a long-term goal. Trump again.

Chambers questioned McCarthy’s judgment, his flair for the sensational, and the inaccuracies and distortions in his comments. I see Trump there as well.

Finally, there was Chambers’s biggest fear, that McCarthy would do more damage to the cause in the long run and discredit real anti-communism that knew what it was talking about. I believe Trump will cause great damage to conservatism in our day. People will associate him with that ideology, despite the fact that he is a man of no particular ideology himself. He is merely a narcissist looking for a way to advance himself.

If Trump doesn’t change (and that’s highly unlikely), and he wins the presidency, we may, in the future, hear the alarm of “Trumpism” just as readily as the Left has used “McCarthyism” for the last six decades.

If Chambers were alive today to see what’s transpiring, there is no way I believe he would be a Trump enthusiast. Rather, he would be on the front lines sounding a proper alarm, fearful that conservatism will be undermined by support for Trump.

As an addendum, Ronald Reagan’s son, Michael, has stated that he doesn’t believe his father would have jumped on the Trump train either. From everything I know about Ronald Reagan, I have to agree. Although Reagan called for unity in the Republican ranks, he always wanted that unity to be based on principles.

I find it kind of ironic that those who are excoriating Ted Cruz for not endorsing Trump forget that Reagan, who lost the nomination to Gerald Ford in 1976, spoke at that convention at Ford’s request. While delivering an impromptu speech about the need for Republican principles to win in the election, Reagan pointedly didn’t specifically endorse Ford in that speech. Neither did he campaign for him prior to the election. If that was acceptable for Reagan, why not for Cruz, who has even far more reason to decline a Trump endorsement?

Book Cover 1I have studied both Reagan and Chambers for many years. That’s why I came out with this book last year, The Witness and the President: Whittaker Chambers, Ronald Reagan, and the Future of Freedom.

If you want greater depth of understanding of both men, I heartily endorse this book (for some reason). As you dig into the thinking of both Reagan and Chambers, I hope you will come away with a greater appreciation of those who stand on principle.

I also hope you will also grasp why I have not been able to endorse Donald Trump. I want men (and women) of principle taking the lead. We have to look beyond the short-term “victory” of one election and concentrate instead on the long-term. Christian faith and conservative governance are my guidelines; I don’t want them to be denigrated by the unprincipled antics of politicians today.

No, Mr. Trump, You Are Not Ronald Reagan

Reagan-TrumpIn an attempt to legitimize Donald Trump’s candidacy in the eyes of conservatives, both Trump and his supporters like to say that his metamorphosis politically into a Republican is the same as Ronald Reagan’s. This is a comparison that doesn’t survive even the most casual scrutiny.

The only similarity is that both were Democrats. I would argue that Trump, essentially, still is a Democrat, but masquerading as a Republican. A fuller treatment of that thesis may be forthcoming. For today, though, let’s examine the supposed Reagan-Trump connection.

Ronald Reagan was raised in a Democrat household; he voted for Franklin Roosevelt in each of FDR’s election victories. After WWII, Reagan spoke out forcefully against the rise of fascism, for which his liberal audiences cheered. Yet one fateful day, when he ended a speech saying that if he ever found out that communists were a real threat to the nation, he would speak out just as forcefully, his speech before a liberal audience ended in silence. No applause this time.

Reagan had to reconsider his views and eventually realized that American liberalism, resident in the Democrat party, had a strong streak of sympathy for the socialist worldview.

General Electric TheaterDuring the 1950s and into the early 1960s, Reagan worked for General Electric and hosted its weekly television program. GE at that time was a bastion of conservative economic principles that spread the free-market philosophy among it workers nationwide. Reagan studied those economic principles seriously for the first time in his life and became convinced they were right.

So, to shorten the story somewhat, let’s just say that over a period of nearly two decades, Reagan carefully rethought all his former positions and came out a convinced conservative in his understanding of the Constitution, of the limitations on government, and in defense of economic freedom. He later added a strong stance against abortion when he belatedly realized that a bill he signed as governor of California opened the door to abortion on demand. Again, this was the result of careful study of the issue.

Donald Trump’s avowed conversion to conservatism doesn’t follow such a path. As late as 2008, he was supporting Hillary Clinton for president. Just a couple of weeks ago, he publicly stated that being conservative is not what matters; we just need to fix the country. Well, I would argue that the country cannot be fixed except through those exact conservative principles that he says aren’t all that important.

Trump’s assertion that he is now a conservative doesn’t pass the test. He claims a Reaganesque switch on abortion, yet continues to say that Planned Parenthood does some really good things. He would also like to see the abortion language in the Republican platform softened.

Do you really trust this man to defund Planned Parenthood and to appoint Supreme Court justices that will uphold the Constitution? You have more faith than I do.

There’s also the matter of both Reagan and Trump having been divorced. Trump’s people love to make that comparison. They say there is no difference. I beg to differ.

Trump’s divorces were entirely at his instigation. His obsession with beautiful women (I refuse to use his terminology about what he seeks) has led him twice to discard a wife so he could marry someone else. His entire attitude toward women, evidenced by his lurid language that he doesn’t mind using publicly, is an affront to common decency.

Reagan, Jane Wyman, Maureen, & MichaelWhat about Reagan’s divorce? He married actress Jane Wyman in the early 1940s. They began a family; he wanted it to stay that way. The divorce was not of his doing; he fought against it but lost. Wyman chose to leave him, not because he was unfaithful [he wasn’t] but because she had apparently tired of his political participation, among other reasons. She also had an affair with one of her co-stars in a movie at that time.

Wedding 3-4-52Reagan was devastated by the divorce and hit a low point in his life over it. When he remarried a few years later, it was a marriage that lasted the rest of his life—more than fifty years.

Does anyone really think Donald Trump was devastated over his divorces? Does anyone really believe he would be faithful to one woman for more than fifty years?

Is there anyone with even half a brain on this planet who truly accepts the superficial reasoning that dares to compare Donald Trump with Ronald Reagan?

I’ve outlined the many reasons I cannot support Trump in other posts, so I won’t repeat them all here. My goal today is to try to put to rest the silly attempt to equate the principled Reagan with the unprincipled Trump.

He who has ears to hear, please listen.