The Obligatory Obama Update

I so much prefer using this blog to showcase positive things, highlighting people like C. S. Lewis, Whittaker Chambers, and Ronald Reagan. But I feel I must continue to offer commentary on contemporary developments, both cultural and political.

I’m going to use the blog today to do a little catch-up. Lest we forget, we still have someone residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. doing his best to transform the country. I’ve avoided making him the focus of this blog for a while, but now it’s time to provide an overview of how his national transformation is working.

I’ll let political cartoons do most of my talking.

On the Obamacare front (yes, mainstream media, it’s still a relevant issue), more bad news for the occupant of the White House. State co-ops are folding because they are going broke, premiums are rising significantly (which anyone with any knowledge of economics predicted), and all those wonderful promises of state-controlled healthcare for everyone are wilting.

Co-Ops

Coverage

Tweaks

Then there’s Obama’s about-face on putting “boots on the ground” in the Middle East, specifically Syria. Now, I’m not an advocate of sending massive numbers of US troops into that quagmire, but if you’re going to do it at all, shouldn’t you send more than fifty Special Ops soldiers? Fifty? Yes, you heard correctly. Does anyone really believe that’s going to turn the tide there? And just what tide are we trying to turn anyway? Supporting the so-called “moderates” against ISIS sounds good, but how many of those moderates are there, and can they really be trusted?

One is tempted to view this action as just for show—no substance at all.

Limited Action

Flip-Flops

Squiggle

Then there’s his executive action to release a large number of drug offenders from prison. Now, I certainly can agree that some of them may have received sentences that didn’t comport with the offense, yet there’s significant testimony that many of those being released were not simply casual users but dealers. And now they are to be sent out into the general population again.

My cynical side will show here: how many of those released prisoners will now be allowed to vote in the next presidential election? Do you think they will vote for Republicans? Right.

Employers are also not supposed to be able to investigate the criminal past of applicants as readily as before. Well, that definitely helps one person in particular:

Criminal History

You are now updated. I’ve done my duty. Tomorrow, back to C. S. Lewis.

The Chambers-Reagan Journey

Ten years ago, I had an idea for a book and began the research. I sought to compare the nearly unbounded optimism of Ronald Reagan with the more pessimistic outlook of Whittaker Chambers, the ex-communist who became front-page news when he outed Alger Hiss as an underground spy.

Chambers then wrote his autobiography, Witness, which went beyond a simple telling of a tale; it became a treatise on the downfall of Western civilization unless it would turn once again to Christian faith.

I completed writing the first draft in 2010, then searched for a publisher. I found one, but the publication stumbled over something out of the control of both the publisher and myself—we mutually agreed to terminate the contract in 2012.

The search continued, and lasted until this year when I finally found a publisher with the conviction that what I had written needed to be in print. It will be a reality now in a matter of days.

I recently received the front cover, and I was impressed with it.

Book Cover 1

It has just the right “feel” for what I wanted the cover to portray. The look is as professional as I had always hoped it would be. Then I was sent the back cover, which included excerpts from some quite eminent historians’ endorsements for the book:

Witness & the President Back Cover

Paul Kengor is a well-established Reagan scholar; George Nash is considered the dean of historians with respect to analyzing modern American conservatism; Richard Reinsch has written an excellent account of Chambers’s worldview; and Luke Nichter is co-author/editor of the bestselling book on the Nixon tapes. Luke also just happens to be one of my former students from when I taught at Regent University’s School of Government in a master’s program.

Needless to say, I am thrilled with the prospects of this publication. I’m hoping many of you will be interested enough to purchase a copy—and then a few more for your friends.

When it does become available, which will be very soon, I will let you know. May God be praised for opening this door.

2016’s Worst-Case Scenario

Joe Biden says he is out of the 2016 race, then proceeds to give a 25-minute campaign speech. Why? Commentator Charles Krauthammer thinks he is positioning himself should lightning strike Hillary Clinton in the form of a federal indictment.

Any indictment that may come will be the result of an FBI investigation into her e-mail scandal, but there are other reasons to fervently oppose a Hillary nomination, with Benghazi being a key one.

Today the House special committee investigating Benghazi will have her testify. Four Americans died in that terrorist attack that she tried to blame on a hardly seen video. When she appears before the committee, perhaps they should also have empty chairs next to her as a remembrance for the four who died.

There’s actually a fifth victim here as well:

Empty Chairs

Another cartoonist picked up on that theme rather pointedly also:

Waste of Time

For me, it doesn’t matter which of the possible candidates Democrats will offer to the public; I could never vote for any of them. Why don’t they just get it over and change the name of the party officially to the Socialist Party? Or how about the Kill Innocent Children and Sell Their Body Parts Party? The Let’s Destroy Marriage Party? You get the drift. There’s no way I can ever support what Democrats now stand for. How any Christian can give support for them is beyond my comprehension.

Then there’s the Republican side where Donald Trump continues to lead in the polls. Some, like this cartoonist, view him this way:

Trumpet

His candidacy certainly has been long on bravado, a cult of personality, and the ability to hit hot-button issues that appeal to angry voters. But he’s far from lacking substance; what bothers me the most is the substance I see.

Trump, in my view, has only latched onto a type of conservatism because it’s what will get him the nomination. He, by his own admission, has always aligned himself more with Democrats than Republicans, and now mouths conservative platitudes that I don’t really think he believes.

Ronald Reagan underwent a serious rethinking of his New Deal liberalism over a number of years, coming out of the period of rethinking as a confirmed conservative in principle. Trump is, I fear, nothing more than an opportunist jumping on a bandwagon of reaction against the Obama years.

That’s not enough. It’s also dangerous to put one’s trust in an opportunist. It will come back to bite.

His latest foray into the Loony Left’s talking points is the insinuation that 9/11 was somehow George Bush’s fault. Whatever critique we, and I, may have of Bush’s actions, anyone who even hints at his complicity in letting 9/11 happen is wandering into the fever swamps.

There were so many daily threats Bush was given that there was no way to single out ahead of time what actually happened on 9/11.

Further, Trump then asserted that if he had been president, 9/11 wouldn’t have happened, indicating that his immigration approach would have prevented it. Does he not know that 15 of the 19 terrorists that day came into the country legally? And does he really want us to believe that he would have rounded them up and deported them in the short 8-month span he would have been in office prior to 9/11?

Hitching a ride on the Trump Train will spell disaster for the GOP.

911

Can you imagine a worse scenario than what we may be facing as an election choice in 2016?

Miss Those Days

As noted above, I’ll never vote for Hillary or any other Democrat. But please, Republicans, don’t force me to vote for a third party.

Russia & the Decline of American Influence

Syria? Who cares about Syria? Iraq? Old story. Never should have gone there in the first place. Leave it alone. Let everyone in that whole region just fight it out amongst themselves since there’s no one to support anyway.

That last paragraph summarizes what a lot of people think. That’s pretty much what Donald Trump said as well. Some of the sentiment I can understand. Trying to build nations is a complicated mess when there is no practice of self-government and when there is no Biblical basis for governing.

So, yes, I understand how some people feel.

But that doesn’t erase the threat emanating from radical Islam in the region, a threat that won’t be contained there but will show up more consistently within our borders, especially if we cut and run.

Unfortunately, cutting and running seems to be the Obama administration’s policy—to the point that we have now allowed Russia to take the lead, particularly in Syria.

ISIS Strategy

Vladimir Putin’s bold move into leadership in that civil war came directly after meeting with Obama. Apparently, there was no warning he was going to intervene; he simply did so and informed us afterward. Most insulting was the directive that American planes should keep out of the way. Of course, those planes weren’t doing much anyway, given the strategy (?) for victory (?) Obama has put into operation, but the demand itself shows that Russia is now in the driver’s seat and America is an afterthought.

No matter what you think of American involvement in the region, the insertion of Russian authority should be a warning about the loss of influence America now has in the situation. Why, it’s as if no one really believes Obama’s warnings. I wonder why that might be?

Red Line

Ah, yes, that infamous “red line” he supposedly drew in the Syrian sands, which he then conveniently forgot about when Assad crossed it and used chemical weapons anyway. The term has now taken on a whole new meaning:

Russian Landing Strip

Perhaps you recall a comment Obama made during his first term when he thought his microphone was off while speaking with a Russian leader—you know, the comment that if he were to win a second term, he could then be more “flexible” in his foreign policy. Well, that certainly has come to fruition:

More Flexible

Obama’s leadership has become little more than a joke around the world, particularly with nations we should be the most concerned about:

Love That One

America doesn’t always have to put boots on the ground and be the world’s policeman, but we ought to be a major player in dealing with global problems that will come home to roost. Under our current leadership, the United States has become pretty much a laughingstock.

And you wonder why so many of us look longingly back to the days of a real president, one who was able to exert American influence without major loss of life and while overseeing a robust economy? Yes, I’m talking about Ronald Reagan.

There is no Reagan on the horizon, but we can definitely do better than the leadership we’re stuck with now.

We can blame Obama, but who put him in the position he now occupies? It’s never been more true that a nation’s leaders are the reflection of the nation’s people—and that’s a sad development. It says something about Americans in general that should shake us to the core.

The Christian Witness to the World

Presidennt, Pope, Prime MinisterThe arrival of Pope Francis in America takes me back in my thoughts to an earlier era when a pope who grew up under communism and understood the horrors of socialist practices worked with an American president who was a Protestant (with a Catholic father) and a British prime minister who was tutored all her early years by her Methodist shopkeeper father (and who later said that C. S. Lewis was one of her spiritual mentors) to overthrow the Soviet empire.

There’s an excellent book on that subject that I can highly recommend, appropriately titled The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister: Three Who Changed the World. It details how Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II worked together, both behind the scenes and in public pronouncements, to bring an end to one of history’s most brutal and atheistic regimes.

John Paul, because he grew up in Poland and saw Soviet socialism firsthand, recognized the evil in the system and sought to free his people. Reagan spoke often and eloquently on behalf of the Polish people and his partnership with Thatcher helped undermine the Soviet economy, leading to change.

It was a wonderful example of working together for the good of all, and each of the three leaders did so from their common Christian faith.

Pope FrancisThere are things about Pope Francis that I admire: his strong defense of the unborn and his obvious compassion for the poor top that list. Other things he says are more bothersome: his lack of understanding of how the free market and business works; his insistence that climate change is an undoubted fact; his misunderstanding of the Biblical roots of the death penalty for serious crimes.

Much of what he believes, I’m sure, is the result of his Argentinian background and the type of theology he imbibed there—the incursion of some Liberation Theology that, in fact, liberates no one from sin. Yet I don’t doubt the sincerity of his Christian faith, no matter my disagreement with how he thinks it manifests itself in society.

I am not Catholic and never will be. My Biblical beliefs lead me in a different direction. But I do maintain a great desire to work with all true believers.

William PennThe Quaker founder of Pennsylvania, William Penn, wrote something that has always appealed to me. Penn had been persecuted in England and even thrown in prison at times, yet he seemed to harbor no resentment toward that Protestant Anglican establishment. Here’s what he said that I think is worth repeating:

He that suffers his difference with his neighbor about the other world, to carry him beyond the line of moderation in this, is the worse for his opinion, even though it be true. . . .

Since all of the parties profess to believe in God, Christ, the Spirit, and Scripture, that the soul is immortal, that there are eternal rewards and punishments, and that the virtuous shall receive the one, and the wicked suffer the other: I say, since this is the common faith of Christendom, let us all resolve in the strength of God to live up to what we agree in, before we fall out so miserably about the rest in which we differ.

Christians, especially in these perilous times, need to pull together and concentrate on our common faith and work to see it influence all of society. Catholics need to set aside any sense of being the only true Christian church and recognize other genuine believers. Protestants must not hold grudges toward the Catholic church for grievances, both real or imagined. We must love one another and seek to find the common ground that will protect us all from an ever-more-intrusive government. We must be public examples of the love of Christ, first toward one another, and then to the world.

Jesus said the world would know we are His followers by seeing the love we show to one another. It’s time to put that into practice now, more than ever.

Iran & Proper Perspective

Congress hasn’t given up entirely on standing up to the Iran deal. The House voted its disapproval and now the Senate leadership (?) promises to have another vote. Most believe it will come to nothing because even if they reach the 60 votes to stop the filibuster, there is no way they can make it to 67 to override Obama’s veto.

As I said in a previous posting, the sad part of all this is the Senate’s acquiescence to the terms of the debate, accepting the idea of finding 2/3 opposed to it rather than handling it as a treaty—as the Constitution requires—that needed 2/3 approval. Under those conditions, it never would have passed.

Constitutional President

If only the first scenario had played out.

This puts the Obama administration and the Democrat party in a strange position, trusting in an Iranian leadership that has publicly stated its desire to destroy Israel and seeks to eventually do the same to America:

Jolly Good Mullah

 

We’re told, of course, not to worry—this will keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons for a few years, even as news breaks that Iran has “unexpectedly” discovered new uranium sources within its boundaries that they didn’t know were there before. If you believe that . . .

But neither America nor Israel have a real reason to be concerned, right?

Relax

Well, maybe it just depends on one’s perspective. That perspective can be sharpened, though, by events:

Perspective

President Obama tells us we are safer now. There are others who don’t see it that way:

Patience

As someone who lived through the Reagan years and saw him deal with other nations through strength, what I’m witnessing now is a truly sad spectacle:

Great Nation

The difference couldn’t be more stark.

A Historian’s Perspective on Bad Times in American History

I don’t think there’s really any disagreement about how pessimistic the majority of Americans are about the future. Currently, all the polls reveal that pessimism.  As I survey the scene—the spiritual/moral, political, and cultural aspects [what does that leave?]—I have grave concerns as well. I’d like to offer a historian’s perspective.

Since I teach American history, I have a more in-depth knowledge of what has transpired previously. I can imagine myself transported back into earlier eras and think about how I might have felt about current events at those times. Bad moral climates, disunity, and devastating government policies have cropped up throughout our history.

If my life had spanned the late colonial and revolutionary era, for instance, I would probably have been quite distressed over the state of affairs. The colonies had declared independence, and it was a thrilling prospect, but the progress of the war was anything but thrilling.

George Washington was often near despair over the inability of the Congress to pay his troops or provide for their needs. Thousands deserted during events such as Valley Forge. There was talk of meekly bowing to the British because all hopes for the future now appeared to be delusional. Even after achieving independence, the new states didn’t seem to want to work together; the entire national governmental structure was on the verge of collapse.

If I had experienced the 1790s, I would have been shocked by the vitriol that spewed forth daily in some of the newspapers, particularly those that accused Washington of wanting to set himself up as king. The French Revolution, which took place at that time, was one of the bloodiest episodes in all of history, and many in America were hailing it as a magnificent development. I would begin to question the wisdom of the electorate and wonder if this fledgling country could survive its first decade after the Constitution.

Later, during the War of 1812, our military defenses were so disorganized that the British actually burned Washington, DC, including the president’s house and the Capitol. Their troops were ravaging the countryside, destroying everything in their path without any effective countermeasures. What a low point for a nation.

Then there’s the Civil War and the decade that led to it. Passions were so heated in Congress that representatives started bringing their weapons with them into the House and Senate for protection. Slavery, by this time, had become entrenched. The Founding Fathers had hoped to eliminate it, but now the South was proclaiming it to be a positive good from God.

The nation split; more than 620,000 died in the war that followed, the highest tally for any American war. Bitterness remained for years afterward [you can still see its remnants today].

The Progressive Movement, after the turn of the twentieth century, introduced more government involvement in people’s lives and decided that the Constitution was an outdated document that had to be reinterpreted. Woodrow Wilson, a racist and a eugenicist, took the presidency. The eugenics movement sought to limit who could have children; only the “best” should reproduce. This movement formed the cornerstone of Nazi policies in Germany later.

Wilson moved the country down the path that led to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s—the fulfillment of progressive dreams as the government took charge of getting the nation out of the Great Depression. FDR’s policies were so dismally foolish that the Depression continued until WWII. If I had lived during those decades, I would have mourned the loss of Biblical principles and constitutional limitations. The reigning ideology tossed out the concept of the rule of law. Now, anything could happen.

I did live during the 1960s and 1970s. It was not pleasant. First was LBJ’s Great Society, which could be described as the New Deal on steroids, followed by the rancor of the Vietnam War, then Nixon’s Watergate fiasco, and finally, the debilitated presidencies of Ford and Carter. The economy was in the tank, the worst since the Great Depression. Along the way, we also concluded that innocent children in the womb could be murdered.

I say all of this to make this point: there have always been bad times. Quite often, those who believe in Biblical morality and constitutionalism have come to the edge of despair. Yet we are still here. There is still hope to turn things around. We survived the disunity of the Revolution and the Civil War. We overcame the disgrace of the burning of the nation’s capital. Calvin Coolidge reversed Woodrow Wilson’s policies and Jimmy Carter brought forth Ronald Reagan.

Will the disaster that is the Obama administration become a footnote in our history that will bring forth another resurgence of sanity, or have we turned a corner and lost our way forever? That page in our history has yet to be written. We are the ones who will write it. If we take our responsibility seriously, hope remains.