Pondering the President’s Policies

Some random thoughts today about the recent highlights of the Obama administration.

The Iran deal looks like it’s going through. This is the latest in a long line of great deals brokered by this president:

Really Bad Deals

Our president’s dubious accomplishments have spanned both the foreign and domestic realms, as the above cartoon shows. The economy has been moribund for his entire tenure in office, with a falling unemployment rate masking the fact that the labor force participation is at its lowest ebb in decades. More Americans than ever are on food stamps, etc. While a president’s policies need to have time to work, one can be excused for wondering why 6+ years hasn’t caused a turnaround.

No Idea

Then there’s this: fifty intelligence analysts have officially complained that their intelligence briefings have been altered by someone somewhere in the administration. While they have been brutally honest in detailing the rise of ISIS and other threats, the White House has been downplaying those threats all along. Again, one might be excused for wondering how that could happen without the approval of the man at the top:

Intelligence Briefing

Then there’s the other side of Washington dysfunction:

Do-Nothing Congress

If only things would change in Congress, there might be more confidence in the federal government. Even if Obama resists Republican efforts to reverse course, the public would be better informed as to the true nature of the problems we face.

Gleanings from the Second Debate

I loved the setting of the second Republican presidential debate: the Reagan Library with Air Force One in the background. I was there almost a year ago; it’s an impressive place.

Fourteen Republican U.S. presidential candidates (L-R), U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, former New York Governor George Pataki, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, U.S. Senator Rand Paul, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, Dr. Ben Carson, businessman Donald Trump, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, former CEO Carly Fiorina, Ohio Governor John Kasich and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie pose before the start of the second official Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, United States, September 16, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson - RTS1HC6

Not as impressive was how CNN conducted the debate. Jake Tapper, the moderator, attempt to be the whole show; the other two questioners, when allowed a stray question or two, were no more than window dressing, virtually non-existent.

It also became evident from the very start that Tapper’s goal was to create as much divisiveness, bitterness, and “good television” as possible by trying to make everyone attack Donald Trump. For CNN, this was just a moment to try to relive its glory years when people actually watched this news channel rather than Fox News.

Overall, reaction to CNN’s ploy has been largely negative.

But enough about CNN. My aim today is to provide whatever analysis I can of the candidates. Let’s get Trump out of the way first, since he has been the headline grabber now for weeks.

His petulance showed immediately. Upon getting his first question, he decided instead to turn to Rand Paul at the far end of the line and tell him that he didn’t deserve even to be on stage with everyone else because of his low poll numbers.

What did that have to do with anything substantive? It was Trump being Trump, annoyed because Paul has been one of his most vocal critics, and he will never let a criticism go without response. His thin skin won’t allow it.

I’m not a Paul supporter, but this was patently unpresidential and rude. Paul’s rejoinder was that Trump was revealing his “sophomoric” attitude. I couldn’t agree more. Perhaps I might change the word to “juvenile” or “childish.”

The most cringeworthy moment was when Trump attempted to walk back his insult of Carly Fiorina’s face by shouting into the microphone that she really is beautiful. The only reaction from the assembled crowd was a groan because it was so obviously a fake comment. Fiorina, for her part, didn’t even look at him and retained her dignity.

Beyond that, when one looks at whatever Trump offered as substance, one might ask, as in the old Wendy’s commercial, “Where’s the beef?” No specifics on foreign policy except to say that he will get along with everyone and will be respected. Putin, apparently, will be so overwhelmed with Trump’s personality that all Russian aggression will cease. I seem to remember that being Obama’s approach in 2008.

Trump wasn’t any better on domestic policy. All we can do is believe grandiose promises that everything will be great once he’s in charge.

Unscientific polls afterwards indicate he was the runaway winner of the debate. Those are the kinds of polls that Ron Paul always won. I don’t recall his presidency.

Let’s go on now to the real candidates. The field, of course, is much too large. How to begin? How about Mike Huckabee’s comment later that he felt like he was waiting in line at the DMV? Huckabee and Scott Walker received the least time to speak than all the rest, yet they are two of the governors who have shown how to be an executive.

Life isn’t fair, right?

Rather than go down the long list and say something about everyone, I would like to provide my view that only candidates with strong conservative/Christian principles be allowed to participate in the next debate. I know, that’s a pipe dream. But given complete dictatorial power, I would immediately suspend the campaigns of Paul, Kasich, Bush, and Christie (and Trump, of course).

Half the Candidates

Ben Carson I put in a special category. He is a wonderful man, thoroughly Christian, with whom I would love to sit down and talk and enjoy his presence. However, I don’t see him as the next president. His answers on minimum wage and foreign policy, for example, are not clearly thought through; I just don’t believe he is ready to be president. Few successful neurosurgeons can make that leap, no matter how pure their intentions and impeccable their character.

For me, that leaves, in alphabetical order, Cruz, Fiorina, Huckabee, Rubio, and Walker. I would love to add Bobby Jindal to that list if he ever breaks out of the lower tier.

Ted Cruz was forceful, as always, and principled in his answers. I don’t doubt his commitment to constitutional concepts and his bravery, shown by his willingness to buck the system and tackle his own Republican leadership. The only down side to Cruz, for me, remains his rather speechified way of talking, as if every answer is an invitation to go into speech mode. I would prefer someone who comes across as more human and less robotic.

Carly Fiorina certainly benefited most from this debate. She was sharp, knowledgeable, and courageous. Many commented that, at times, she seemed to be the real adult in the room. She was the anti-Trump, full of specifics and well informed on all the issues. Regardless of what happens in the future, I will always fondly remember her masterful takedown of Planned Parenthood and the complicity of Democrats in supporting its atrocities.

She was eloquent in her defense of the unborn in a way that few have been. Some have questioned her real views on abortion, but I don’t see how anyone can have said what she said—and with the kind of vehement conviction with which she said it—without her pro-life stance being genuine.

I agree with others who have concluded that she was the standout speaker of the night. Whether that translates into the presidency is still another matter.

Mike Huckabee was, as usual, an effective communicator. I was particularly pleased that he came out and said he would definitely have a litmus test for judges. He called out the hypocrisy of the Democrats who say they have no litmus test when, in reality, they would never vote for a pro-life nominee or anyone with even a hint of constitutional principles.

Huckabee was strong in his condemnation of the Iran deal and how the consequences of that deal can lead to the destruction of Israel and undermine the security of America. He deserves to be heard.

Marco Rubio was, like Fiorina, well versed on the issues and effective at communicating his views, particularly on foreign policy and national security. Even though he damaged himself with conservatives by his dalliance with the Gang of Eight immigration reform plan, he clearly knows we need to tackle that problem, and I believe he has learned a lesson about attempting some sort of comprehensive plan.

The weakest part of Rubio’s evening was his defense of his voting record in the Senate. He’s missed votes, he said, because nothing would have been accomplished by being there since the measures he would have voted for were doomed anyway. My response is that he was elected to represent, so he should be there as the representative of his (my) state whenever possible.

Finally, there is Scott Walker, the candidate who was given the least amount of time to speak. Many have now written Walker off since he doesn’t come across as strong in these forums as others. I think that’s a mistake.

Walker was better this time than in the first debate, but he had to try harder to be heard. He is the only candidate who has come up with specific plans to replace Obamacare and reform the federal government unions. Tapper never asked about those; he was interested only in controversy.

I refuse to dismiss Walker because he has an outstanding record as governor of Wisconsin. He not only has manifested courage in standing up to opponents who wanted to take over the Capitol building and remove him from office, but he has succeeded in getting his reforms through his legislature. In other words, he has been an effective governor.

If conviction and competence were the only factors that Republican voters were to consider, Walker would be the nominee.

I feel like I’ve been writing forever here. I don’t claim any special insight that others haven’t offered, but I hope my thoughts will spark a fresh perspective for some who read these words.

May God extend His mercy to our distraught nation once again as we move forward to make what might be the most crucial political decisions in the history of this nation.

Clinton’s Fading Star

Hillary Clinton is probably delighted with all the attention Donald Trump is receiving, allowing her troubled campaign to fly under most people’s radar. But not mine.

Hijacked

If you have been out of the Hillary loop for a while now, let me update you. The investigation into her e-mail server continues apace, and despite the protestations, it is a potential criminal investigation. Not only did she conduct official government business on a personal server, but it is now obvious she lied about the e-mails having nothing to do with national security.

Further, she wants everyone to just trust her that she turned over everything relevant to her time in office, and we are to ignore that she deleted more than 30,000 of those e-mails, ostensibly because they were personal.

Yes, she is getting more attention, but she’s trying very hard to spin that attention into something positive.

Lot of Attention

Polls are revealing the consequences of her actions, even among Democrats:

What Difference

As in 2008, her party support is losing steam:

Not Again

The Joe Biden camp is giving off some rather huge hints lately that he is considering a run after all. Of course, there is a segment of the political world that would love that:

Editorial Cartoonists

So, Democrats, here are your choices: a probable criminal (whether or not the evidence can be found now after all the “scrubbing”—this is a tried and true Clinton practice), an old Vermont socialist, or someone who will provide excellent fodder for the political cartoonists with silly comments and weird behavior.

All things being equal, this should be a golden opportunity for Republicans—if they don’t blow it again.

Unfair Debate?

Fox Debate ModeratorsThe conspiracy theories about the first GOP debate abound, mostly centered on the questions posed by the moderators. I’ve read that Fox was conspiring with Jeb Bush or with the GOP establishment or with the Democrats or with . . . well, you fill in the blank.

In my view, Chris Wallace, Megyn Kelly, and Bret Baier did a valuable service for all the Republican candidates on that stage. They made them come up with answers to some hard questions that they will have to face throughout this campaign. In one instance, there was some unfairness, but not where you may think. I’ll come back to that.

The first question of the debate, in my view, was a masterstroke and unquestionably fair. Asking the candidates to pledge support for the eventual nominee and not to run on a third-party ticket that would ruin the chances for that nominee was essential. Was it targeted at Donald Trump? To be sure. But he’s the one who has been hinting all along that he might bolt and do the third-party thing if he’s not nominated. Putting him on the spot to make a public declaration was a significant moment.

That he refused to take the pledge was quite informative. And if you listened carefully to his answer, he was pretty much saying he has no respect for any of the other candidates. When asked later when he became a Republican, he never gave a straight answer to the question.

Donald Trump at DebateTrump was not singled out. Each candidate was confronted with either controversial statements made in the past or with views that he would have to defend. Only Trump, afterwards, went into whining mode, accusing the moderators of being “unfair.”

As is his habit, he let fly with the “loser” designation freely; during the debate, he also loved to use the word “stupid” with regularity, always referring to almost anyone in the government with whom he disagreed.

When the Frank Luntz focus group afterward revealed that he had lost significant ground with them, he attacked again, having his people call the group a “setup” designed to derail him.

Further, he descended upon Twitter to unleash other comments, specifically calling Kelly a bimbo and saying Fox should fire Charles Krauthammer, who had the audacity to say that the debate was the beginning of the end for Trump’s run for the White House.

Scott Walker GOP DebateNow, let’s contrast Trump’s responses with how Scott Walker handled what I consider an uninformed, misleading question. When Kelly challenged him with being out of touch with 83% of the country on abortion because he didn’t include a “life of the mother” exception, he stayed calm and answered directly, correctly noting that there was no need for that dichotomy—either kill the baby or let the mother die—because there are all kinds of ways to keep the mother alive during a crisis pregnancy.

The Association of Pro-Life Physicians clarifies:

When the life of the mother is truly threatened by her pregnancy, if both lives cannot simultaneously be saved, then saving the mother’s life must be the primary aim.  If through our careful treatment of the mother’s illness the pre-born patient inadvertently dies or is injured, this is tragic and, if unintentional, is not unethical and is consistent with the pro-life ethic.  But the intentional killing of an unborn baby by abortion is never necessary. [emphasis mine]

Kelly needs to be better informed on this specific topic, but it’s one that many believe because of pro-abortion propaganda.

Walker simply stated his strong pro-life position and concluded by alluding to the atrocities of Planned Parenthood, against which he has stood as governor of Wisconsin.

After the debate, no one heard one word of whining from Walker. He praised the moderators as tough but fair, as have all the other candidates.

If Trump’s antics at this debate didn’t convince a person to stop supporting him, I don’t know what will. Yet I will continue to appeal to conservatives to recognize that he is no true conservative, and I will exhort my fellow Christian believers not to be deceived. Donald Trump is not the Christian conservative candidate we need. He is a disaster in the making.

My Debate Analysis

Last night’s primetime GOP presidential debate was energetic and revelatory, in my view. I promised yesterday I would try to assess it today, so here’s my attempt. The most efficient approach, I think, is to break it down candidate by candidate. I will not refrain from giving my opinion on each one’s performance, beliefs, and prospects. Consequently, probably no one reading this will agree with me completely, but I’ll stake out my ground anyway.

August 2015 Debate

I’ll cover them in reverse order, from lowest in the polls to highest, as they were placed on the stage.

John Kasich

He got the loudest ovation at the beginning because the forum was being held in his home state, and he apparently got a perk from the RNC to pack as many of his supporters in as possible.

Kasich bothers me. I’ve been put off by his arrogance in the past and by his superficial use of Scripture to promote government assistance. He lost me completely last night when he seemed to rejoice in having gone to a same-sex wedding. Sorry, governor, but that answer only confirmed my view of you. You are not a fighter for Biblical truth. You do not have my support.

Chris Christie

Christie is someone I wish hadn’t thrown his hat into the ring. I’ve never seen him as the torchbearer for the party or for the principles for which I stand. His heated argument with Rand Paul over the NSA was certainly gripping, and, frankly, he made good points whenever Paul didn’t talk over him. Overall, he did better than I expected, but nothing he said moved me in his direction.

Rand Paul

I believe he was one of the big losers of the debate. His argument with Christie did not showcase his temperament well as he had to be pulled back by the moderators to allow Christie to have his say. He claims to be a different kind of Republican. That’s true. But it’s not the kind I can enthusiastically endorse. While I can appreciate his concerns for privacy and government overreach (after all, I’m a small-government type myself), I have no confidence that he really understands what needs to be done for national security. That’s the first job of a president; if you don’t grasp that, you should stay in the Senate instead.

Marco Rubio

Most commentators think that Rubio did himself a lot of good in this debate. I concur. He came across as savvy, well-informed, and appropriately humorous. My only major disagreement with Rubio ever since he won election to the Senate was his participation in the Gang of 8 immigration effort. Yet I still like him. He is winsome, thoughtful, and optimistic about the future of the country. If he is the nominee, I will have no problem giving him my support, but I continue to wish he had waited a few years before attempting this political leap. I would rather have him in the Senate longer to get more seasoning. Now that he will no longer be in the Senate, if he doesn’t win the nomination, I hope he will return to Florida and run for governor. He will have my vote.

Ted Cruz

I love Cruz . . . and I don’t love him. I know that sounds weird. He believes pretty much everything I believe and can articulate those beliefs well. His Christian faith appears to be genuine, and he has a deep concern for abiding by the Constitution. So what is my problem? I’ve listened to a number of his speeches and always come away with at least some distaste for his manner of speaking—a little canned, perhaps, too calculated to get applause lines. I’m also not convinced he can convince a large segment of the electorate to vote for him. He answered all the questions very well last night, and many have pointed to him as one who gained by his participation in the debate. I won’t argue with that. I wish him all the best. My final judgment is suspended, but if he wins the nomination, I’m on his side.

Ben Carson

The moderators lost him for a while, and he had a wonderful comeback about that. In fact, his good humor and thoughtfulness last night was refreshing. His comment about how being a brain surgeon has made him look at what really makes people valuable—what’s on the inside, not the color of one’s skin—was superb. And everyone is commenting on his hilarious closing statement about how he once took out half a brain, but that someone must have beaten him to it in Washington. He is a good man. I like him a lot. Yet I don’t think someone normally should jump from no political involvement at all to being president. Despite the current theme that there are too many career politicians (with which I agree), some experience is essential before taking on the rigors of that top spot.

Mike Huckabee

I have considered Huckabee’s campaign this year to be a well-intentioned but doomed enterprise. I thought he had a better shot in 2012 when he declined to run. That assessment may be true, but last night showed the classic Huckabee ability to speak with conviction and humor. As the Frank Luntz focus group revealed after the debate, Huckabee was the biggest surprise to them, and he won over a number of them who had considered him not in the running. His strong Christian convictions, especially on abortion and the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, were extraordinary. He has a folksy manner of speaking that can touch the heart and make one rethink a position. He should not be counted out.

Scott Walker

I have a strong preference for Walker. He is one of the most battle-tested politicians in the nation, having had to fight the public-sector unions in Wisconsin continually since his election as governor. He survived a recall election, and won reelection, despite the entire national Democrat party’s attempt to unseat him. Further, he has succeeded in turning Wisconsin around, showing that a Republican can win in a blue state without sacrificing principle. His calm demeanor makes people think he is not exciting enough, but I agree with one commenter afterwards who said that if we make “exciting” our goal, we will miss out on Walker’s amazing talents. Last night, he was solid on every answer he gave, and handled the “gotcha” abortion question very well. I was impressed with the substance of his answers, yet he did not get the audience’s enthusiastic responses the way some others did. He is still my preferred candidate because I look at principle and effectiveness, not superficial excitement. All that said, he would benefit by showing more emotion and having a few more comments like the one when he said that Russia and China probably know more about Hillary’s e-mails than we do. I hope others will look past the external and see the solidity within.

Jeb Bush

If we are to judge a candidate simply for how well he does on a stage and whether he looks presidential, Bush is fine. However, there are issues that come to the forefront that keep me from wanting him as the nominee. He tried to explain his approach to education, saying that his Common Core support is not the same as wanting the federal government to take over. I believe he is mistaken; as Rubio effectively commented later, there is a natural tendency for the federal government to insist on its way in education matters. If Bush doesn’t think that will happen, he is naive.

The worst answer, though, was his attempt to explain why he sat on the board of the Bloomberg Foundation as it poured millions of dollars into Planned Parenthood. He claimed not to know about that, and touted his pro-life credentials when he was governor of Florida. As true as that last part is, I find it incredible that he would then ally with Bloomberg’s agenda. If he is telling the truth about not knowing the agenda, then that’s a further reason for doubting his ability to discern good and evil. For these reasons, I cannot support his candidacy.

Donald Trump

Walker-Trump-BushHe may not lose his staunchest supporters after this performance, but I don’t see him picking up others in their right minds. Trump lost it right from the start, in my opinion, when he was the only one on the stage who refused to pledge to support the eventual nominee and not make a third-party run. The groans from the audience were palpable. In essence, he said that unless he is the nominee, there is no one else he respects enough to support.

He then showed a lot of pettiness over the questions being asked of him (which he repeated after the debate, calling them “unfair”). Excuse me, sir, but everyone on that stage was put on the spot for former comments, views, etc. If you were upset by having some of your comments highlighted, you need to ask why there were so many to be highlighted. He was bombastic, insulting, and distinctly non-presidential. In other words, he showed up as himself.

The Luntz focus group afterward savaged him, and the majority began the evening on his side. It was an astounding turnaround. If his poll numbers rise after this debate, it might signal the end of the Republic.

I haven’t said anything about the pre-debate debate, the one showcasing those who didn’t make it into the top ten. The overwhelming consensus is that Carly Fiorina came out of that one in sterling fashion, making the case that she should be in the top tier. I was able to watch the first two-thirds of that debate, and from what I saw, I can say I was impressed with her also. Yes, she deserves more attention. She is knowledgeable, an effective communicator, and strong on principle. I welcome her rise and hope to see it reflected in the polls.

Overall, this debate was illuminating. As I said at the start of this rather long analysis, I don’t expect everyone to like what I’ve said about some of the candidates, but I hope I’ve given some ground for rethinking the viability of the men (and woman) who are telling us they should be the Republican nominee.

A Debate, Not a Circus, Please

Tonight is the night: two Republican debates because there are so many candidates running for the presidential nomination that it would be too unwieldy to have them all on the stage at the same time. It’s rather unprecedented.

Wide Shot

One hopes there will be a robust discussion of vital issues and the audience will get a better feel for who has the character, the right principles, and the experience to take on the progressive agenda and win. Then there’s the other possibility:

Out of Time

There’s also the circus surrounding one of the candidates:

Parking Space

May this, instead, be a valuable time for Republican voters to assess the credentials of all seventeen of the candidates. Let’s leave the circus atmosphere behind.

Tomorrow, I’ll do my best to offer an evaluation of what transpired.

Trump? We Should Know Better

I will attempt today not to vent my frustration but to have a calm, rational post about Donald Trump. For the past six-plus years, I’ve been distressed with the foolishness of the American voter overall for putting Barack Obama in the White House. That distress is almost equaled by the possibility of Hillary Clinton returning to that address. Yet almost as frustrating is the boomlet for Trump among potential Republican primary voters.

You all should know better.

Trump’s meteoric rise in the polls is astounding, to be sure. When asked why they support him, many are saying it has nothing to do with the issues but merely admiration for someone who speaks his mind so boldly.

Nothing to do with the issues? Is that how Republicans display their political/governmental knowledge?

Supporting a candidate should be based on two things: where he/she stands on the issues; the character of the individual.

Trump is a new convert to all the “right” side of the issues for voters angry with the path this nation is on under Obama. As I noted in a previous post, he historically has been pro-abortion, in favor of a government-imposed healthcare, soft on illegal immigration, etc., etc.

On the character side of the ledger, his many divorces, his superficial Christianity (which is the same as a non-existent Christianity), his tendency to say whatever just happens to enter his brain, and his incessant boasting about his wealth and his intelligence should send warning signals to all. He reminds me of the central character in this old tale:

Humpty-Trumpty

When the fall comes, it will be disastrous.

I’m particularly distressed over evangelical Christians rushing to Trump’s side. Where is the discernment that is sorely needed for this upcoming historic election? Bruce Jenner (yes, I’m still using his real name because he is still a man regardless of his protestations to the contrary) says he is a Republican. Does that mean those of us who take Scripture seriously should look the other way because that puts him “on our side”?

Dream Ticket

A dream? No, more like a nightmare.

Then there’s Trump’s not-so-subtle insinuation that he had better get this nomination or else:

Be Nice to Me

If that should happen, we will have to endure another four to eight years of radicalism in the White House.

I sincerely hope the Republican electorate awakes from its stupor and begins to see more clearly. The outrage over the Obama years and the weak Republican leadership in Congress should not drive us to commit intellectual suicide. Voting primarily on emotion will be our downfall.