About That Crowded Republican Presidential Field

Have you checked the Republican presidential field lately? The announcements are coming at a regular pace now. Rick Santorum and George Pataki made it official this week. There are still a good number of potential candidates who have yet to make their announcements, but it’s obvious they are in the running as well—Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and John Kasich, for example.

Is it a good thing to have a field this crowded?

That Many

Opinions differ. There are pluses and minuses. On the plus side, this shows that there is a hunger on the Republican side to replace Obama. Very little of that hunger came to the forefront in 2012, and we were not given as many choices. At the very least, this provides an opportunity for each of these candidates to make their case. And in a primary, that is important. We need to listen closely to what each one is saying, look at their records, and make the best possible decision as to whom to support.

So, I rejoice in a wide-open field such as this because it is not limited to whomever the party bigwigs think ought to be the nominee.

The down side, of course, is that it will be hard to focus on the messages because there are so many. In my opinion, some of these candidates don’t have a chance at all and shouldn’t even be running. Too many are trying to grab the “social conservative” mantel and that vote will be split, possibly opening the way for another “squishy” middle-of-the-road nominee who has fewer real convictions about limited government, religious liberty, and the cultural divide in the country.

My protestations, though, are not going to stop anyone from jumping into the fray. I have my favorites at the moment, but I’ll refrain from naming them. I also have some I fervently hope never get the nomination. Again, I’ll stop short of pointing them out right now. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you probably won’t be surprised which of these candidates are on which list.

One thing is for sure—they will have to roll up their sleeves and get to know the people who will be voting in the caucuses and primaries. Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina will have a major impact on who will be able to go forward and who will have to drop out. Voters may even get a little tired of the constant attention from those seeking their support.

Just a Candidate

The process is now well underway. The field will be narrowed by the end of this year, even before the Iowa caucuses, I believe. By early 2016, we will be down to just a few, and the choice will be made before we go into the summer. I pray for the most consistent candidate—consistent with Biblical and constitutional principles—and the one who will actually follow through on what he/she says. Faithfulness to one’s word is central to my support. Integrity cannot be compromised.

Moral Courage . . . & the Lack Thereof

At first, I was grateful that more states were taking a stand for religious liberty. No one expected the firestorm that has resulted. It has become a “gay-rights” agenda item. Whoever would have thought that our First Amendment guarantee of “free exercise of religion” would attempt to be undermined in this manner? Aided and abetted, of course, by a media sympathetic to the homosexual New Totalitarians. Suddenly, this is more important to the media than real threats:

Threat

Disappointing as this may be, I expect it from the activists and their media allies. What is more disappointing is the lack of moral courage being exhibited by Republican governors on this issue. Mike Pence, in Indiana, and Asa Hutchinson, in Arkansas, both have histories of moral courage.

Asa HutchinsonI’ve never met Governor Pence, but I have met Governor Hutchinson, back in 2000, when he was a congressman. He was one of the House Managers who argued for Bill Clinton’s removal from office during the impeachment trial. I interviewed him for my book Mission: Impeachable. I know he is a committed Christian, and I honor him for his stand for Christ. I just wish he would now extend the kind of courage he displayed back in the Clinton impeachment trial to the current controversy.

This has become a witch hunt. Have you been following the account of a small pizza shop in Walkerton, Indiana? Most people don’t know where Walkerton is, but I do. It’s just a few miles from my hometown. I have relatives—a grandmother and an uncle—who are buried in the Walkerton cemetery. It’s a very small town, just above 2000 people, but is now embroiled in this controversy without ever intending to be.

A reporter, seeking out some business somewhere that might “discriminate” against homosexuals, entered Memories Pizza in Walkerton and asked the owner if she would serve homosexuals. She is a dedicated Christian—there are even Scripture verses on the walls of the business—and she said she would serve pizza to anyone. Her only reason not to do so would be—hypothetically, of course, since this has never happened—if a homosexual couple wanted her to cater pizzas for their wedding.

Memories PizzaWhat happened? News stories popped up everywhere about this “hateful, bigoted” business. One headline blurted outright that the business would not serve homosexuals, which was a complete distortion of what the owner said. Notice the misleading statement in the photo on the left: “Restaurant Denies Some Service to Same-Sex Couples.”

Death threats followed on Twitter immediately. One person even asked who would go with her to burn down the shop. The latest is that the pizza business may have to close down.

The only redeeming feature of the story thus far is that more than $50,000 has been raised to help the owner who has been unwittingly caught in this homosexual agenda/media hype trap.

Moral courage. She is showing it, and I honor her. When will the politicians do the same? The latest rumor is that there is a movement afoot within Republican circles to remove opposition to same-sex marriage from the party’s platform. My ties to the party are becoming more tenuous over time because of this tendency to go with the cultural flow and the loss of principle.

Moral courage. May those of us who say we stand on our Christian faith be the examples that others may follow, despite the threats and intimidation. God wants to work through us, but we have to give Him something to work with, don’t we?

The Republican Field: A Preliminary Analysis

Party SymbolTexas Senator Ted Cruz yesterday became the first declared candidate for president. Many others, on the Republican side, are lined up to make their declarations soon. Who are the viable candidates? Which ones have the greatest chance of turning the White House back to Republican control?

Today I’m going to run down the list of those eager to run and provide a short—and I mean short—analysis of the strengths and challenges for each one. Two caveats: I will not include those who I think have no chance at all of getting the nomination, even if I like them personally—some that I will comment on are almost in that category, but for now they are included; there are friends and acquaintances who are already publicly supporting some of these candidates, but my quick analysis will be as objective as possible. By the time I’ve finished, I hope I will have been fair to each potential candidate and I hope to still have friends.

Let’s do this in alphabetical order, to avoid the appearance of bias on my part:

Jeb Bush: has a strong track record as conservative governor of Florida; also has a lot of financial backing among establishment Republicans; his support of a path to citizenship for illegals and for Common Core will make it difficult for him to get the nomination if the party’s conservative base shows up in the primaries; if he gets the nomination, the general public may not be enthused about him simply because of his last name.

Ben Carson: man of great achievement as a surgeon; his distance from political battles has an appeal to those sick of traditional politicians; solid Christian with impeccable personal life; may draw more African Americans to the Republicans; concerns about anyone jumping from no political experience straight into a run for the presidency; has a lot to learn about foreign policy, in particular, as revealed in a recent interview; a novice at dealing with the national media.

Chris Christie: strong personality; not afraid to tackle hard tasks as governor and let people know what he thinks; concern over his basic philosophy—is he really a conservative?; alienated many with his embrace (both figuratively and literally) of Obama right before the 2012 election when seeking federal aid after massive storm Sandy; his strong personality can also be abrasive, which may be good for a New Jersey politician, but not for a general election nationwide.

Ted Cruz: another strong personality; his in-your-face tactics have thrilled many on the conservative side; he’s a very smart man with a commitment to the Constitution; also has the potential to unite Tea Party and evangelicals (some overlap there) into a unified block; should be outstanding in debate; those tactics that thrill conservatives have also alienated other Republicans he will need to unite the Party; speculation that his appeal may not extend to the general electorate.

Mike Huckabee: devoted Christian with emphasis on social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage; excellent speaker and good in debate forum; extensive executive experience as Arkansas governor; has potential just by his down-to-earth folksy manner of drawing independents to his side; opposed, though, by key groups on the Republican side like the Club for Growth, which has criticized his tax and spending policies; has been on both sides of Common Core, but now says he is opposed; also concerns about pardons for criminals when he was governor and whether his faith will repel some voters.

Bobby Jindal: executive experience as governor of Louisiana; strong opponent of Common Core and outspoken Christian; his Indian (as in India) heritage lends itself to Republicans showing they are a Party inclusive of minorities; his biggest drawback is lack of name recognition nationwide; conservative vote in primaries so split that he falls farther down in the polls.

Rand Paul: committed to less government interference in Americans’ personal lives; promotes private property and free enterprise along with his limited government appeal; may be able to bring more African American voters to the GOP; may be too libertarian for traditional conservatives on issues like marriage; those who want the U.S. to take a strong stand in foreign policy are wary of his near-isolationism and whether he is a solid enough supporter of Israel.

Rick Perry: has been a strong governor of Texas for many years; takes stand on the rights of states to oppose federal government interference; on his watch, Texas has become one of the freest states in the Union; in his personal life, he is a committed Christian with Biblical values; unforced errors on his part in 2012 debates destroyed his chances that year; many are concerned he won’t be able to get past that history; many also feel that electoral success in Texas won’t translate into the same nationally.

Marco Rubio: he has many positives: excellent and inspiring speaker, solid conservative basis for his political philosophy, devoted Christian, defender of Israel and for strong foreign policy stance; hurt himself with the base when he supported a comprehensive immigration plan, but has since backed off that approach; has potential to attract voters with his enthusiasm and youth, but getting the nomination after his immigration false step may be daunting.

Rick Santorum: superb personal story and committed Christian; runner-up in the primaries in 2012; works best as an underdog who is too easily dismissed; can appeal to the blue-collar voters with his emphasis on reaching out to the common man; main problem is how to overcome the more charismatic appeal of other candidates and the feeling that his time has passed.

Scott Walker: has come from the back of the pack to surprise the establishment; at or near the top of the polls at the moment; has shown great courage and determination as Wisconsin governor with his unyielding stand against the public sector unions; the state has prospered under his leadership and he has withstood a recall attempt by Democrats; winning three elections in the past four years is quite an achievement in a traditionally Democrat state; Christian who could unite evangelicals, Tea Party, and establishment; has to overcome charges of flip-flopping on some issues; will need to establish foreign policy credentials.

Well, there you have it, my first thoughts on the potential candidates. I’ve tried to be as fair and impartial as I can, pointing out positives and negatives, at least from my perspective. Let us pray (and I mean that literally, not just as some pious phrase) for the right person to rise to the top, for the sake of our nation’s future.

Cartoon Potpourri

This will be my last blog post until the new year, so let me leave you with a plethora (look it up) of political cartoons to help tide you over. Whenever you need a cartoon fix over the next couple of weeks, just come back here.

Let’s begin with a man who has made real news this year, probably the most honest man who has worked with the government (at least until he was put before a congressional panel to testify):

Architect

In the Senate, the Democrats gave the terrorists an early Christmas present:

Future Interrogation

And here’s one person’s creative idea on illegal immigration:

Sound Immigration Policy

Just kidding.

Of course, at the center of all things political is this man who has become a legend in his own mind, particularly on Biblical knowledge:

It Does Now

I must also add one for a political party that somehow manages to turn a major win into no advantage whatsoever:

Too Quickly

I have a number of cartoons that deal with the government’s lack of ability to do almost anything effectively:

Urge

Love Govt Work

Functional Government

Finally, I offer the true spirit of the season from our cultural masters:

Faith-Based

May we never succumb to that spirit. May the birth of Christ—and everything that flows from that—be the essence of your Christmas.

The Virtual Reality of Obamaworld

Have you noticed that in the fantasyland known as Obamaworld, everything in the country has never been better? We’re constantly assured our president has directed us onto a new course that will achieve social justice and peace throughout the world. After all, he did win a Nobel Peace Prize, so that must mean he has guided us into this New Age.

Virtual Reality

However, those of us who are not living in his fantasyworld can see things more clearly. We realize he won that Nobel Peace Prize all on promises, not achievements. We see an economy that has never recovered, with more people dropping out of the workforce and on government assistance than ever before.

We witness the attempt to take over the healthcare industry—not very successfully at that, as Obamacare is now losing enrollees. We watch as he tries to overturn Biblical morality. We worry about the lack of influence our nation has in the world since his ascension to office, and we are now face to face with an increased terror threat.

No, this reality is nothing like the virtual reality our president lives in. We see disaster looming, made worse by a subservient media that tries to cover for him:

Lap Dog

As the elections approach, most predict a Republican Senate majority. That’s hardly a lock, though, as some Republicans seem to be playing it safe. That’s how elections are lost historically. Neither has the Republican party developed a national strategy; it seems to be relying on Obama-fear for victory.

Not wise.

Currently, Democrats are amassing more funds for their candidates than Republicans are. Now, some of that may be due to reluctance on the part of some conservatives to donate to the party establishment. We’ll see. The money total is not everything; voter intensity is crucial, and Republicans are more intent on voting right now than the Democrats, who have been trying to get their base on board. Will it work?

Firing Up Base

Of course, after these November elections, we’re already in the race for the presidency. Is Hillary Clinton a lock for the Democrat nomination? Who can challenge her? Joe Biden? Seriously? Has anyone been paying attention to his verbal gaffes over the years? How about just in the past week? I think she can waltz to this nomination.

Joe

If Republicans aren’t careful, the nation may be stuck with this image for years to come:

American Gothic

The image actually gives me a chill. That’s all we’ll need for a complete meltdown. The virtual reality would continue under this regime.

It’s time to reaffirm Biblical principles and support individuals who stand firm on those principles.

The Power Grab

President Obama’s pledge to act unilaterally, ignoring Congress, to do what he deems best for the country, even has Democrats nervous. Many who are running for reelection are also running just as quickly away from their ties to Obama. Up until now, the main reason for their scramble to disassociate themselves from their leader has been the disaster known as Obamacare. That hasn’t changed, but now his unprecedented power grab has provided another reason for their angst.

Even normally sympathetic news sources are finding it difficult to avoid his previous statements on this issue, and the stark hypocrisy involved:

When I'm President

Of course, if they had been more objective all along, they wouldn’t be so surprised by this latest maneuver; it’s become his trademark.

All of this wouldn’t be as bad as it is if there were a real opposition party that knew what it was doing. Republicans often talk like an opposition, but when it comes to acting, they have a habit of falling short and acting out of political expediency instead:

Go Left

Their unwillingness to fight as a unified force only accelerates our plunge over the fiscal cliff. They have to get their act together:

How They Practiced

Meanwhile, the president goes about his task of remaking America. He is a legend in his own mind:

By Executive Order

Do those other faces look a trifle dismayed? They should.

Challenging the Status Quo

As I write my post this morning, the Senate is poised to pass a budget deal crafted by Republican Paul Ryan and Democrat Patty Murray. It is being hailed in some quarters as a sign of bipartisanship and progress, but is it really? I listened to Ryan explain why this is a good deal—no tax increases;  return of some sequester cuts to the military; deficit reduction down the road. I’ve listened to the critique of the deal—it includes more spending now and those reductions are far down the road, thereby increasing the deficit in the short run; no guarantee that a future Congress will keep this deal when the spending is set to go down; military veterans taking a hit on their pensions, even those who were wounded in action; no one else in the federal government affected in the same way as these veterans because their pensions remain untouched, so this once again penalizes those who lay their lives on the line for us.

When I first heard it explained, I hadn’t yet known about the downside of the bill. I wonder how many of those in the House of Representatives who voted in favor of it—the majority of Republicans included—really understood the ramifications. Were they hearing all the facts ahead of time?

New Budget Deal

Now, I know one overriding reason why many Republicans jumped on board with this, even some who have steadfastly resisted bills like this in the past—they are nearly petrified by the political fallout of another looming battle over the budget for which they will get blamed if we have another government “shutdown,” better described as a “slimdown.” One has to wonder why this deal would look so good to them if not for that fear. Surely, by now, they should realize they can’t trust the Democrats to uphold their side of the bargain:

Deficit Reduction

There are good people on that side of the debate who say that by putting this budget mess aside, we can concentrate on stopping Obamacare by offering an alternative. I hope so. Yet the Republican leadership doesn’t seem to be able to create unity around one solid proposal. It’s time for genuine leadership to emerge. This deal, in my view, does nothing to allay the major concerns going forward:

Budget Compromise

I, and many others out here in the hinterlands, are seeking bold leadership that will challenge the status quo. Yes, I understand political realities, but those realities will never change until courage comes front and center.

As a historian, I try to draw lessons from our past. I recall that Ronald Reagan was despised by the Republican party establishment back in the 1970s. They said he wasn’t realistic, he was too confrontational, too conservative to be elected. He went on to win two smashing victories, revived the economy, and forced the Soviet Union to the bargaining table, which eventually led to the downfall of the Evil Empire. The establishment was wrong then, and it is wrong now.