On Political Courage

Here’s a thought. What if, at the Republican convention next week, the powers-that-be allowed a secret ballot to choose the nominee? What if the delegates truly had the freedom to vote according to what they believed best for the party and the country instead of being pressured by their political leaders to fall in line with Donald Trump?

Would that secret ballot vote be different than the public one? If so, what would that say about those delegates? What would it say about their adherence to principle? What would it say about their personal character? Where are the spines? Where is courage when it is needed?

History affords us examples of courage in voting. One comes readily to mind for me. President Andrew Johnson was brought to the Senate for an impeachment trial in 1868. The Republican party at that time, which controlled the Senate, sought to remove him from office over disagreements in policy.

Edmund RossIt would take a two-thirds vote for that removal. Everyone knew the vote would be close, and one Republican senator, Edmund Ross of Kansas, would not commit to voting for removal. No one knew exactly what he might do.

Two days before the first vote, Ross had received a telegram from his home state that read, “Kansas has heard the evidence, and demands the conviction of the President.” It was signed by “D. R. Anthony, and 1,000 others.” Ross responded,

I do not recognize your right to demand that I shall vote either for or against conviction. I have taken an oath to do impartial justice . . . and I trust I shall have the courage and honesty to vote according to the dictates of my judgment and for the highest good of my country.

Not to be outdone, Mr. Anthony and his “1,000 others” retaliated. “Your telegram received. . . . Kansas repudiates you as she does all perjurers and skunks.”

The roll call began. Ross had been warned by fellow Radical Republicans that a “no” vote would end his political career. When his name was called, Ross stood and quietly cast his vote—for acquittal. His vote effectively ended the impeachment proceedings.

Some newspaper editorialists decided that Ross could best be compared to Benedict Arnold, Jefferson Davis, or Judas Iscariot. As predicted, his political career did end swiftly; he lost his reelection bid.

In a letter to his wife one week after his momentous vote, Ross declared,

This storm of passion will soon pass away, and the people, the whole people, will thank and bless me for having saved the country by my single vote from the greatest peril through which it has ever passed, though none but God can ever know the struggle it has cost me.

Where are the Edmund Rosses in the current Republican party? Where is the courage needed to stop the most foolish nomination in the party’s history?

Donald & Hobbes 1

Donald & Hobbes 2

We need to be looking out for the nation instead. It’s time for real principle to come to the forefront.

The Most Dispiriting Presidential Election in My Lifetime

Let me dream, please. In my dream, I see Hillary Clinton so tarnished that the Democrats decide they can’t really offer her up as their nominee. I see a party that finally comes to the realization that a woman who can’t be trusted with official documents should never be president.

Also in my dream, I envision a Republican party that actually looks at the platform it just created and shakes off the spell put on it by the Trump circus, acknowledging that he is no more than a Democrat in Republican clothing. In that dream, the delegates come to their senses and deny him the nomination next week at the convention. They will turn, instead, to someone who really believes in the stated goals of the party.

Now, back to reality.

Donald Trump is doing what he can to head off a delegate revolt by readying his announcement of his VP running mate, supposedly tomorrow. He’s been vetting people, doing things like asking for their tax returns—you know, the very thing Trump himself refuses to release. Of course, if he had his first choice for VP, it would be an unconventional pick:

Vice

In the running, presumably, are Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie, and Mike Pence. Gingrich is smart, but his personal reputation is almost as smarmy as Trump’s. Between them, they would be the first team to “boast” of six marriages, three apiece. Gingrich led the Republicans to victory in the 1990s, then fell from grace and had to resign from Congress. This is a positive choice?

Christie was my next-to-the-last choice during the primaries, second only to Trump. He’s not that different from Trump in personality, and he also wouldn’t be wedded to the platform.

Pence has a solid background as a conservative stalwart and Christian man with principles, but he’s let those principles slip in some startling ways lately, particularly with his rather spineless action in backing off the religious liberty bill in Indiana. Although he endorsed Cruz in the primary, it was a tepid endorsement, again betraying a disturbing trend toward loss of principle. In my view, Pence would be lowering himself to attach himself to Trump. He needs to regain his reputation.

Regardless of whom Trump chooses, that person will have one major job: having to defend Trump’s artless statements and actions the rest of the way, often being put in the position of defending the indefensible:

Shovel-Ready Job

Hillary has recently received the coveted Bernie Sanders endorsement, which isn’t going over too well with those fanatical Sanders supporters:

No Establishment

Whichever candidate wins, the inauguration will be a grand joke on us all:

I Do

Nightmare Inaugural

If you follow the latest developments closely, you know that Trump has now said he wouldn’t mind the Republicans losing control of the Senate—he likes the idea of being a free agent.

He’s also initiated a lawsuit against a former campaign senior consultant, Sam Nunberg, for allegedly outing ousted campaign manager Corey Lewandowski for having an affair with campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks. Nunberg also alleges that Trump set up a fake company for the campaign and misused the funds in that company. Stay tuned for more on that.

This has got to be the most dispiriting presidential election in my lifetime, and that’s saying a lot, considering we’ve suffered under two Obama elections. For the first time, the Republicans are not offering a viable candidate, if indeed Trump escapes the convention intact.

Is this really the best America can offer?

Uncle Sam's Head Bag

Divine intervention is sorely needed. I cannot vote for either of these two people. I have to put my complete trust in God’s mercy.

Clinton-Trump: Real Moral Equivalence

Historians and political scientists have used the term “moral equivalence” to describe things they hold to be about the same morally. I’ve taken them to task on some applications of the term. For instance, I see no moral equivalence historically between a power-hungry, genocidal Soviet Union and a United States that attempted to defeat totalitarianism and free people from tyranny. The Cold War was not the result of moral equivalence but of a communist regime declaring its goal of dominating the world.

I’ve also rejected all along the idea that there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the Democrat and Republican parties, regardless of how often I’ve been disappointed by how Republicans let down their supporters. Publicly, the party platforms couldn’t be more at odds on issues like abortion and marriage. That divide also can be seen in the majority of elected officials: Democrats don’t win the nomination of their party if they are pro-life; Republicans risk losing support if they stray from pro-life.

This election is changing the argument I’ve always made against a false moral equivalence. By nominating Donald Trump, Republicans have take a big step away from their platform; by endorsing him, many Republican officeholders have declared that his character and views don’t matter, even if they ultimately destroy what the party has stood for historically.

Trump-ClintonWith Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton now the presumptive nominees, there is a moral equivalence that comes to the forefront. Trump’s latest foray into foolishness (the “Mexican” judge controversy) has some Republicans now backing away from outright support, for which I’m glad. However, his many antics—which won’t change because he won’t change—are highlighting just how reprehensible he is.

Here is the real moral equivalence: there is no difference in character and/or temperament, and I’m not at all convinced there is any real difference in policy. Trump’s character is not trustworthy, so I don’t believe the promises he makes now.

Some cartoonists are making this same point.

Meet the Authors

A number of cartoonists seem to be making the comparison on the foreign policy side:

Joker-Mediocre

How Bad

Trusty Server

Democrats are thrilled that Trump is the Republican nominee because they believe he is eminently beatable—and they are right. However, to extend the moral equivalence argument further, when they really stop and think, they realize they have just nominated the most eminently beatable person in their party:

Ha

They have to come to grips with just whom they have made the image of their party:

History Made

In the same way, many Republicans are coming to grips with what they have done:

Leap of Faith

Yes, moral equivalence is an appropriate term for what we are experiencing now.

Giving Bernie His Due

I feel bad for focusing so much on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I’ve given short shrift to the other candidate still in the race—Bernie Sanders. Since today’s primaries may be Sanders’s last hurrah, I’m now going to make up for this oversight.

Bernie’s candidacy is historic. It reminds me of a particular historical era that I lived through long ago (unfortunately, though, it wasn’t in a galaxy far, far away):

Take Party Back

Never have we had a candidate who is so proudly and vocally associated with the failed philosophy of the twentieth century as Bernie Sanders:

Comrade

I’ll give Sanders credit for not hiding what he really is, unlike the current occupant of the White House and his Democrat opponent in the primaries. He is fiercely loyal to a system that has never worked, and he has energized a significant portion of the Democrat base to follow him, zombie-like, into the failed economies of the past. Well, not all are in the past; we have a wonderful example today of what Sanders’s policies would do for us. And if his supporters are genuine, they should want to live in such a place:

Moving to Venezuela

Sanders rails against the evils of capitalism and extols the wonders of such socialist havens as Venezuela, where people are rioting over not having food and other necessities. If we put Sanders in charge, he will make sure those evil capitalists will be held in check:

Not Right

Of course, if we really desire Bernie’s outcomes for our society, there is another way to get them:

Sanders-Meteor

What is it that attracts people to his philosophy? Ignorance? Greed? Loss of historical perspective? Downright stupidity? I think we might be able to check all of those boxes, but resentment over what others have and the desire to take it from them is probably at the top of the list.

Against Greed

This basic selfish instinct is captured perfectly in this classic Calvin and Hobbes cartoon:

Bigger Piece

Once Sanders officially loses the Democrat nomination, he can continue to stay in the news cycle if he decides to run as an independent. That would cause quite a commotion in the Democrat ranks, the equivalent of the angst currently being experienced by Republicans.

Run, Bernie, run?

No Trump Train for Me

Come on, Snyder, get on board the Trump Train. We’re going all the way to the White House, so don’t you want to take whatever meager credit you might get for being part of the Team? Besides, if you don’t get on board, we’ll blame you if we lose. You wouldn’t want that, now, would you? We’ll make you responsible for Hillary’s presidency, and you’ll never be able to live that down.

Yes, the pressure builds. But it doesn’t change my mind because I’m not tied to a political party or any political savior. I wanted Ted Cruz to be the Republican candidate. If, though, Cruz should come out tomorrow as a full-throated supporter of Donald Trump, I would not follow him into that swamp.

Just as I’m not following Republican leadership into the moral morass known as Trumpism.

Stephen HayesStephen Hayes, in the Weekly Standard, wrote some poignant words yesterday that speak for me. As he described Trump’s campaign as a “con,” he took aim at all those Republicans now lining up at the train station, hoping for a good seat:

Three months ago, most GOP officeholders and conservative opinion leaders understood Trump to be an ignoramus and a boor, a vain reality-television star and a longtime donor to Democrats who had built his candidacy on the kind of progressive populism most of them had spent their careers fighting.

Today, many of those same Republican elected officials and prominent conservatives are hailing Trump as the future of their party and the ideological movement it houses and excoriating anti-Trump conservatives who hold to the same position they took just a few weeks ago.

And in case you’ve missed what Trump has done since he has become the presumptive nominee, Hayes provides a detailed breakdown:

In the time since he effectively captured the GOP nomination, Trump has doubled down on his slanderous claim, borrowed from the National Enquirer, that Ted Cruz’s father helped Lee Harvey Oswald months before the JFK assassination; refused to apologize for attacking Heidi Cruz’s looks, once again calling her “fair game”; picked a fight with David Cameron, leader of America’s longest-standing ally; distanced himself from his own tax plan; recommitted himself to releasing his tax returns and then declared defiantly that those returns are his private business and would not be released; backed off his proposal to ban temporarily entry to the United States for Muslims and then reiterated his support for such a ban; and, finally, lied on national television about a 1991 audio recording in which he created a fake persona—”John Miller,” a made-up spokesman played by Trump himself—for an interview with a gossip magazine, in order to boast about his virility and his virtue.

Pick and choose your favorite out of that list. The most abhorrent are the accusations against Cruz’s father and Trump’s continuing claim that Heidi Cruz was “fair game” for his team’s attacks on her. The silliest, and in some ways the most insightful, gambit was his attempt to say he wasn’t the fictional “John Miller” or “John Barron” when he publicly admitted he was years before.

I think if Trump had his way completely, his administration might look something like this:

Dream Team

All through this campaign season, I kept hoping that Republicans would come to their senses. It didn’t happen. We went from one inconceivable scenario to another:

No Way

I don’t want a Hillary presidency. It might destroy the country. I don’t want a Trump presidency. It might destroy the country.

That’s where I stand, and that’s why I won’t vote for either one. I’m not boarding the Trump Train—not now, not ever.

Trump, Integrity, & the Lack Thereof

Donald TrumpNo, Donald Trump is not a racist because he is concerned about illegal immigration. Neither is Donald Trump a fascist because he believes radical mosques ought to receive greater scrutiny. Those are not the reasons I don’t favor him as the Republican nominee for president. I have deeper reasons.

I’ve written before about what I consider to be Trump’s iffy conversion to conservative policy positions, his supreme arrogance with respect to how much money he has, his assurances that all will be right with the world because he’s so good at making “deals,” and his demeaning attitude toward any other candidate who threatens his poll numbers.

I’ve also been put off by his undisciplined manner of speaking that has led to making some truly absurd statements, none of which have yet come back to derail him, but should have.

His latest claim is demonstrably false, yet many of his conservative supporters are making excuses for him once again. Let me quote Trump—his words unaltered—earlier this week:

Hey, I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.

Now, there certainly were Muslim extremists in America who rejoiced over 9/11. That’s not the point. Trump is claiming that he saw, with his own eyes, “thousands and thousands” in Jersey City “cheering” as the buildings fell.

Only one problem: there is no video of any such rejoicing by those thousands in that city. No Jersey City official can back him up. The current governor, Chris Christie, has no recollection of this. In fact, no one saw it. Why? Maybe it’s because it never occurred. By continuing to insist that it did, Trump has put himself in some rather disreputable company:

That Never Happened

Jim Geraghty of National Review wrote yesterday that when he called Trump out on this falsehood, Trump supporters sent him videos of what they said was evidence of Trump’s truthfulness—Muslims celebrating 9/11. The problem? The videos were of Palestinians rejoicing in Jerusalem. Geraghty was amazed how they never even bothered to check where that celebration took place. For those with Geography Deficit Disorder, Jerusalem is not Jersey City.

Then there’s been a rush to defend Trump because of a Washington Post report from September 18, 2001, that his supporters say validates Trump’s remembrance. That report stated,

In Jersey City, within hours of two jetliners’ plowing into the World Trade Center, law enforcement authorities detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops while they watched the devastation on the other side of the river.

As Geraghty correctly notes,

Police questioning “a number of people” after reports of celebrations is not the same as “thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down”, an event that Trump contended was televised and was “well-covered at the time.”

It’s time to be honest: Trump was shooting from the lip when he made his statement. There is no truth in what he said. What bothers me even more than Trump’s lack of integrity is the willingness of those who should know better to defend the indefensible.

Trump is taking the Republican party for a ride, and it’s more than a little scary to me.

Political Minefield

Trump may win the nomination. Trump could conceivably win the presidency. While anything would be better than a Hillary Clinton presidency, a Trump victory might be the second worst scenario because he could bury Republicans once and for all.

Suicide Vest

I know there are some in my readership who would like to see that happen. However, going forward something would have to replace the Republicans in order for Democrats not to become ultimately triumphant. Can we reasonably expect a Phoenix to rise out of the ashes of the utter destruction of the Republican party?

Some people, I fear, are far too optimistic that a pure, undiluted conservatism grounded in Biblical principles will come to the forefront. While I would welcome that development, there is the basic truth that all political parties are coalitions of different groups with different emphases. Currently, Christian conservatives still have a strong voice within the Republican party. I’m not yet ready to surrender that voice.

Meanwhile, I will continue to warn Christians, conservatives, and particularly Christian conservatives, to beware the Trump mystique. His penchant for saying whatever he wants, his unwillingness ever to admit to a mistake, and his basic lack of integrity should be more than enough to move us toward a better candidate.

Hillary, Biden, & Trump–Oh, My!

I understand there’s a Democrat presidential debate this week. Forgive me if I’m not really interested in watching it. I have more important things to do than listen to five socialists argue about how to destroy the country even more.

The presumed frontrunner for the Democrats, Hillary Clinton, has a lot on the line. A bad performance—because let’s be serious, that’s all these debates are—may throw her erstwhile supporters into an even greater panic than what they’re currently experiencing. I’m sure, though, that her friends at CNN will do all they can to make her seem presidential and inevitable.

Sinking Poll Numbers

There’s also one person missing at this debate, one who is standing by just in case, watching Hillary disintegrate:

Crumbling

Of course, she also has her loving husband to turn to for comfort and encouragement:

Cheer Up

Let’s be real: the eventual Democrat nominee will be either Hillary or Joe Biden. The first may be indicted for offenses that send others to prison; the second is a national embarrassment with a long history of verbal gaffes and a mean streak toward Republicans that knows no bounds.

Either choice, in normal times, ought to lead to an overwhelming Republican victory. Republicans, however, have to step back from the Trump cliff first if they are to have any hope of winning the general election.

Beat Donald Trump

Will Republicans regain their moral backbone or will they enhance their sad reputation as the “stupid party”? The Iowa caucuses are still almost four months away; there’s time to reverse course and make a wise decision.