The Campaign Begins

No primaries have taken place yet, but everyone knows the 2016 campaign has begun. Over the weekend in Iowa, where the first test will occur about this time next year, a parade of Republican presidential hopefuls took to the stage at the Freedom Summit to share their vision for what America should be and how they would handle the transition away from the Age of Obama.

Scott Walker Freedom SummitAccording to the reports I’ve read, the two standouts from the event, which was largely attended by the most conservative of the Republican electorate, were Texas senator Ted Cruz and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. Everyone expected Cruz to go over well with the crowd; they didn’t know what to predict about Walker. Yet the courageous governor, who has made reform after reform in a state that isn’t known for its conservative politics, and who survived a recall election as well as winning re-election, surprised many. He was both forceful and personable.

Some who were calling Walker the Dark Horse of this campaign are thinking he may be in the top tier after all. This is all very early, of course, so all prognostications are tentative. Everyone realizes that just one misstep can spell disaster for any candidate. Ask former Texas governor Rick Perry about that.

Two notable no-shows for the event were Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush. You can judge whether that was smart or not.

On the Democrat side, however, there is no race whatsoever. Yes, Joe Biden makes noises occasionally; Elizabeth Warren, senator from Massachusetts with virtually no government experience, is the darling of the radical radicals (I use that term because it’s really rather difficult to distinguish anymore the difference on the Left), but I don’t see that happening. Do you think the rest of the country might also hesitate to put another inexperienced person at the helm after what we’ve seen the last 8 years?

So, barring a physical problem (and some have speculated there may be one), Hillary Clinton will be the Democrat candidate.

Old Maid

One could say she’s experienced, to be sure. But how successful has she been? Her chief claim to fame, while not necessarily a claim to competence, is that she was First Lady during her husband’s reign. But what did she really accomplish in that role? It’s hard not to acknowledge the only reason she has the press she does is because of who she is married to.

As a senator, no one can point to any landmark legislation she championed, and again, the reason she even won that seat was due to Bill Clinton’s coattails among Democrats.

Then there was her stint as secretary of state, with the infamous “reset” button with Russia and the whole Benghazi fiasco, blaming it on an internet video and sending the poor man who made it to prison. What a sterling resumé.

King of Hill

Then there’s her laughable comment that she and Bill were broke when they left the White House. She’s also expressed deep concern for income inequality while simultaneously raking in huge amounts herself for paltry speeches.

Hillary Income Inequality

If universities complaining about costs want to pay her those princely sums, that’s their call, but it’s pretty foolish.

Already the polls show she is far ahead of any Republican challenger in a general election. That, though, is primarily a name-recognition factor. She’s shown in the past she can be a terrible campaigner. If Republicans choose, for once, a strong, articulate candidate who stands on principle, that fluffy lead can vanish. And if the electorate doesn’t lose its mind again, there is hope.

President Hillary Clinton (you don’t know hard that was to write) is not inevitable.

Needed: A Republican Spine

The new legislative session is underway. President Obama, even before any piece of legislation was introduced, already indicated his staunch position of using the veto for nearly everything a Republican Congress wants to pass. Should that be considered a preemptive strike?

The president doesn’t like the idea that Congress can have a say in things. That pesky Constitution just keeps getting in his way. His “Reagan Moment” is slightly different than the original:

Tear Down This Wall

The Republicans, meanwhile, had their own little scrape within: an attempt to deny John Boehner the Speaker’s chair. It didn’t succeed, and I knew it wouldn’t. Many on the Right are so disgruntled with Boehner that they almost can’t stand the idea of his continuance in that position.

Personally, I would like a different congressional leader as well—in a perfect world. However, the opposition to Boehner was disorganized and doomed from the start. It takes more than being a conservative firebrand to be put in charge. One also needs the organizational skills and the ability to project a vision and create unity. None of the challengers had those qualities, apparently. What’s even more interesting is that Boehner’s voting record is more conservative than some of those challengers.

Speaker Boehner, though, seems to have gotten the message, both by the election results and the abortive attempt to remove him. He allowed conservatives to shape the legislation to overturn Obama’s executive amnesty. It passed the House and is now before the Senate. The House also passed, with significant Democrat support, the Keystone pipeline bill. Both bills will probably be subject to a presidential veto, and it will be difficult to override the vetoes. What that does, however, is put Obama on the record as opposing measures that many Americans want to see made law.

Will Republicans in Congress continue to chip away at the Obama legacy? It will take real leadership based on principle:

Human Spine

Then, over the last weekend, we got the news that Mitt Romney might be running again. I made it clear last time around that he was not my choice, but that I had no real option but to support his candidacy—it was the only possible way to remove Obama from office.

Although I think Romney is a nice person, I’ve never trusted him to be consistently principled in a conservative philosophy of government. I still have a hard time believing he got the nomination after being the face of Romneycare in Massachusetts, which was the model upon which Obamacare was based. The now-infamous Jonathan Gruber was the architect for both.

If Republicans go for the squishy middle once again in 2016, I predict failure once again. This will be Romney’s third attempt for the presidency. If he falls short this time, does that mean he’ll finally stop trying?

Romney 2036

After a while, one tends to become a joke.

Whom should the Republicans nominate in 2016? Well, my thoughts on that will have to wait. We’re not close enough yet to know for sure who’s really serious about running. But when we get to that point, I promise I won’t stay silent.

Return of the Phony “War on Women”

Politicians from all countries throughout all ages have lied. That’s nothing new. Neither is it unexpected. The power that comes with political position brings all latent arrogance/pride to the surface more easily perhaps than other professions. While lying is pandemic (one of the Ten Commandments forbids giving false witness), some politicians have taken the practice to a higher level.

Take the Obama administration and the Democrats as a whole, for example (you knew I was going there, right?). To what lengths are these people willing to go to maintain power? Harry Reid, on the Senate floor in the last election cycle, flatly stated that Mitt Romney hadn’t paid taxes in ten years. It was patently false, but that didn’t stop him from declaring it. President Obama refuses to acknowledge one smidgen of corruption in the IRS affair. Everyone, including the president himself, knows that’s a whopper.

One of the biggest lies promoted in the previous presidential election was that the Republicans were waging a war on women. The proof? Why, they didn’t want to pay for contraception for everyone. A “poor” Georgetown law student who would soon be a lawyer raking in more money than most people ever see, was being discriminated against.

They now have decided that’s still a winner. The phony “War on Women” has been resurrected:

Falsely Claim

Also in circulation is the discredited statistic that women only make 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. That has been debunked on both the Right and the Left; it doesn’t take into account many other factors. Yet that hasn’t stopped Obama from making it the basis of his latest accusations:

Not a Myth

It’s rather embarrassing to trumpet a war on women using this approach when one’s own White House pays women less than men. Well, change that—this administration isn’t embarrassed by anything, not even loss of credibility:

Credibility Gap

Remember when Romney made a remark about having binders full of women? Although everyone knew what he really meant by that comment, the Democrats made a joke out of it, and used it as further evidence that women were on the periphery of Republicans’ interests. Perhaps there’s a better application of that phrase now:

Binders

The hypocrisy and outright lying on this issue is so blatant, I’m sure the mainstream media will pick up on it very soon. Sure. The same media that avoided reporting Obama’s remark about having visited all 57 states is not about to start being honest now. The rest of us are the ones who have to disseminate the truth. We need to be faithful in that task.

Summarizing the Scandals–Thus Far

My goal today is to attempt a summary of the three controversies swirling around the presidency right now. I can’t promise to include everything that ought to be included, but I do hope to make sense of it all. If you’ve been too busy to follow all the details, perhaps this can help pull it together. In the spirit of Watergate, I’ve decided to put a “gate” on each one. As far as I’m concerned, they more than deserve that “honor”; each one is far worse than the original.

Benghazigate

  • The killing of four Americans, including our ambassador, on 9/11/12 is the only one of these controversies that cost lives. That, in itself, makes it the worst of the three. There are three stages of this controversy:
    • Prior to the attack: Security measures were far below standards in a country on the verge of chaos and infiltrated with radical Muslim groups. Repeated requests for added security were either ignored or rejected by the State Dept. Some reports also indicate that we may have been using Libya as a center for a gun-running operation to Syrian rebels, many of whom are also radical Islamists.
    • During the attack: On-the-ground communications gave us a blow-by-blow description of what was happening in real time. Those whose lives were in danger asked for help. Two former Navy Seals rushed to the scene and again sought help from the military. There was help available, and as a team was assembled and ready to go their aid, they got a “stand down” order that, according to Gregory Hicks, the top diplomat in Libya still alive, greatly angered the colonel in charge of the troops. Due to that order, no aid came and the Seals were killed after a stalwart defense. Who gave the “stand down” order? No one is claiming responsibility.
    • After the attack: Now we know that the decisionmakers, from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama, had information right from the start that implicated radical Islamists. They chose to edit all mention of terrorism out of the infamous talking points that UN ambassador Susan Rice used to go on Sunday news programs. They uniformly blamed some obscure anti-Islam video on the Internet for causing this attack. None of the documentation that has been revealed thus far provides any rationale for blaming that video, yet even President Obama, two weeks later, was using it as the cause in a speech to the UN. Despite assurances that those responsible would be dealt with, no one in Libya has ever been charged; yet the man who produced the video was rounded up and jailed, and he remains there to this day.
    • It’s hard not to believe the accusations that this has been a coverup from day one. Added to the despicable nature of this coverup is that it occurred during the campaign as a way of ensuring another Obama term.
    • More whistleblowers may be forthcoming. Not one person who was in Benghazi who survived this attack has ever said a word about what occurred. Are they under a gag order from this administration? Are they being intimidated in some way?

IRS-Gate

  • Last Friday, in anticipation of the release of an inspector general’s report, the IRS official in charge of the Exempt Organization Division, Lois Lerner, issued an apology for how the agency had targeted conservative groups for at least two years, holding them to near-impossible standards before allowing them to be considered tax exempt.

    • Ever since that admission, there have been daily reports of how these organizations were subjected to harassment. Any group seeking tax exemption that included “Tea Party,” “patriot,” limited government,” or any similar wording in their names became a target. This was a scorched-earth attempt to defund these organizations and to limit their effectiveness as the 2012 presidential election neared.
    • It also has come to light that donors to Republicans, particularly donors to Mitt Romney, were singled out for audits. This went beyond donors to other tax-exempt organizations that exhibited support for Romney. The most egregious example was the auditing of the Billy Graham Association after Rev. Graham vocally supported a defense-of-marriage law in North Carolina and then had favorable things to say about candidate Romney.

    • President Obama claims he knew nothing about this until he read the news accounts. Right. As if the president of the United States relies on the media for his information. Then he asked for the resignation of the acting commissioner of the IRS, who, it turns out, was planning on retiring in a couple of months anyway. He further says the IRS is an independent agency over which he has no direct control. Really? It is under the Treasury Department, which is run by Obama’s secretary of the treasury. He has direct oversight. Any claim to the contrary is invalid.
    • In a particularly strange and tone-deaf move, Sarah Hall Ingram, who served as commissioner of the office overseeing tax-exempt organizations, has now been tabbed to lead the IRS enforcement of Obamacare. What could possibly go wrong?
    • Then, yesterday, Obama announced his appointment of Daniel Werfel to take over the IRS. Who is Werfel? A current White House budget official. In other words, let’s hire the fox to guard the hen house.

AP-Gate

  • The Justice Department secretly got access to two months’ worth of telephone conversations between reporters for the AP and whomever they might have contacted for their stories. Ostensibly, this was done for national security reasons—that the AP endangered national security by releasing a story about a successful effort to thwart a terrorist attack in Yemen.

    • Now we know that there was no longer a threat by the time the AP released its story. It had worked with the administration to sit on it for five days prior to release. Reports now indicate that the offense, if that be the right word, was in releasing it before the administration had the opportunity to boast about its successful operation. There was no national security threat at all at the time AP made the decision.
    • This is a clear First Amendment issue (as is the IRS controversy), and the media, which has always sided with Obama, is showing signs of alienation from him for the first time in five years.
    • Both Obama and Attorney General Holder say they have no knowledge of what occurred. Obama says, rather implausibly, that the White House doesn’t know what its own Justice Department is doing; Holder says he earlier recused himself from the operation, although he doesn’t recall just when he did so and has nothing in writing to prove it.

In every case, Obama has tried to have it both ways: he knew nothing, yet don’t worry, he’s fully in charge and everything’s going to be fine.

Let’s just say I’m not all that assured. When George Bush was president, you may have disagreed with some of his decisions, but at least you knew what he had decided and that he took responsibility for his actions. The Obama presidency has been a study in opposites:

These controversies have only begun. They have not played out, and won’t very soon in spite of the administration’s desire to put them to rest. Don’t be surprised, either, if a few more get added on to these three. The arrogance of this president and his minions practically guarantees it.

Free Stuff

Mitt Romney, when asked what went wrong on his march to the White House, remarked that Obama promised more free stuff to the voters. That remark brought criticism from some Republicans who believe that if the message is framed properly, conservatism can win over many of those voters. I think they’re both right. Yes, the right candidate who can communicate the conservative message can still win a national election. Yet, at the same time, Romney was correct in pointing out that Obama promised things that conscientious Republicans cannot promise, and that a slim majority of the electorate was won over by those promises, false as they are.

Michael Ramirez, one of our most astute political cartoonists, captured this unwholesome attitude expertly in a couple of his recent cartoons:

All these promises come at a time when nearly every politician of whatever party recognizes we are facing what has been termed a “fiscal cliff.” On January 1, if nothing is done to prevent it, tax rates will go up, driving the economy deeper into the doldrums. The only genuine way to fix the problem long-term is with spending cuts—no amount of added revenue from the taxpayers’ pockets can overcome the staggering debt we now have. Yet Obama and his party are still acting like they’re having a party:

What his supporters fail to realize is that it’s not the “rich” who are going to bail us out; in fact, the burden is going to fall on everyone. If Obama were totally honest about where he’s taking us, this is what he would say:

How many of his voters were led astray by the media? It’s hard to say. But the chorus in favor of the president’s reelection coming from the mainstream media was overwhelming. It had to have some effect. Only one lone voice stood out from the pack:

If we don’t experience a near-collapse as a society in the next four years, it will be only by the grace of God.

The Election: An Analysis

I spent a good part of my day yesterday culling through analyses of the election in preparation for my talk to a local Republican club last night. But I did more than just gather information; I prayed as I gathered, seeking to know how the Lord wants me, and all Christians in particular, to respond to the results. In today’s post, I’m going to share what I told that group. Tomorrow, I want to address the perspective Christians should have on what has transpired.

Election Results

Obama won nearly every swing state, which was a shock to most prognosticators, myself included. The popular vote was 50-48 in Obama’s favor, but he received about ten million fewer votes than in 2008. Romney underperformed also, receiving nearly three million fewer than McCain did. The great opportunity for Republicans to take the Senate dissipated; not only did they not retake it, but they lost two seats, despite the fact the Democrats had more seats to defend—nearly 2/3 of the races. The House stayed in Republican hands, but even there they lost a few seats. The lone voice for some sanity in Washington, DC, is slightly weakened.

What Does This Election Say about the Electorate?

 We are a severely divided people. The split is almost even, but that masks the downward trend away from a Christian culture. Consider that Obama won without any agenda for a second term, that experiencing the worst economic time since the Great Depression made no difference, and neither did the massive national debt nor Obamacare, which will now surely be fully implemented. Astonishingly, some polls indicated that voters trusted Obama more with handling the economy than Romney, and that 53% still blamed Bush more for the current state of the economy.

One exit poll (I don’t recall where this was asked) sought to measure the impact of Hurricane Sandy on voters. In that poll, 42% said Obama’s response to the hurricane—interrupting his campaign to “take care” of the emergency—was an important factor in their vote for him; 15% said it was the most important factor. What exactly did Obama do besides get a wonderful photo op out of it? Yet these voters “felt” good about his response, so much so that it either solidified their vote or caused them to change it. All too often in politics, perception rules even when it doesn’t comport with reality. These people were voting primarily on emotion, not principle.

In Ohio, the majority approved the government auto bailout. Of that majority, 75% voted for Obama, believing the false narrative the Obama campaign fostered that Romney was a coldhearted vulture capitalist who would have let GM fail completely.  These voters were not thinking about the good of the nation as a whole; they were focused entirely on their own well-being. In this case selfishness won over principle.

Obama promised more goodies that Romney did. Rush Limbaugh nailed it, I believe, when he commented that Romney’s recipe was the traditional route to success called hard work, whereas Obama took the government-will-take-care-of-you path:

In a country of children where the option is Santa Claus or work, what wins? And say what you want, but Romney did offer a vision of traditional America. In his way, he put forth a great vision of traditional America, and it was rejected. It was rejected in favor of a guy who thinks that those who are working aren’t doing enough to help those who aren’t. And that resonated.

When Romney proclaimed that Obama was the candidate of “free stuff,” the voters took him at his word and grabbed for the “stuff.”

We witnessed a populace more concerned about free contraception than the taking of innocent lives through abortion. We saw three states vote in favor of same-sex marriage [if Washington eventually did so—I don’t have the final word on that] and the election of the first openly homosexual senator, Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin.

The maxim that so many conservatives want to believe, that we are a center-right nation politically, has been proven shaky, if not false. I already questioned that; now we have more evidence that we are more center-left and that the real definition of “moderate” in American politics is “liberal.”

What Does This Election Say about the Republican Party?

Republican turnout was not as high as anticipated. We can legitimately debate the specifics of how the Romney campaign was run—not forcefully combating the false images; expecting the bad economy to carry him to victory by itself; avoiding the ripe topic of Obama’s Libyan foolishness; the adoption of the play-it-safe mentality that worked so well for President Thomas Dewey in 1948 [?]—yet those are tactical questions only. The real issue is what the party is willing to stand for. What is its soul?

American conservatism—which is not the same as the Republican party, but ought to be—is a three-legged stool: economic liberty, moral values based on the Biblical worldview, and commitment to a strong national defense. Romney enunciated the first, hinted at the third, and only vaguely accepted the second. He always has been weaker on abortion and homosexuality, and much of the mainstream Republican establishment agrees with him on those issues. Some Republicans tolerate those evangelicals in their midst because they form a key foundation for political victories, but they don’t really like them.

So what will the party become in the post-2012 age? Will it swing toward a tepid middle-of-the-road philosophy or offer a stark contrast to the statist and antichristian stance of the Democrats? As Grover Cleveland noted after losing his reelection bid in 1888 when he rejected the advice of his advisors to change his political views on one issue: “What is the use of being elected or reelected unless you stand for something?”

To those who say a Biblically based, conservative message will not work, I say it depends on the messenger. There is a way to communicate truth and its application to policy that can win over people. They key is finding the principled politicians who can convey that message effectively. We had some principled politicians this time around—Akin in Missouri, Mourdock in Indiana—who lost due to their verbal stumbles. What the Republican party needs are articulate leaders who can guide those who are open to hearing the truth about how government is supposed to work.

What Does This Election Tell Us about the Future of America?

As I watched the tragedy unfold Tuesday evening, and I came to the realization that Barack Obama will be president for four more years, a profound sadness enveloped me. Some of you know I have a book manuscript that compares the optimism of Ronald Reagan with the pessimism of Whittaker Chambers. I want to be a Reagan optimist, but I admit, by nature, I’m more of a Chambers pessimist. I always need a reason for optimism because I know the human condition too well: sin/selfishness dominates this world. In a letter to a friend, Chambers wrote this in the early 1950s:

On one side are the voiceless masses with their own subdivisions and fractures. On the other side is the enlightened, articulate elite which, to one degree or other, has rejected the religious roots of the civilization—the roots without which it is no longer Western civilization, but a new order of beliefs, attitudes and mandates. The enemy—he is ourselves. That is why it is idle to talk about preventing the wreck of Western civilization. It is already a wreck from within.

Is this true? How far gone are we? While I believe Reagan had good reasons for his optimism in the 1980s, can we say the same today, or has the cultural transformation gone beyond the point of no return? Is there really such a point or is it possible to turn this around? The culture has changed; that much is undeniable. We are undergoing what one commentator calls a “tsunami of secularism.”

We need to rebuild our foundations as a society, but it must begin with a return to the Biblical worldview, which will then lead us back to principles—the general truths that must undergird a society. If that happens, we will then see a renewed commitment to constitutionalism and the rule of law. Only by taking these steps will we be able to restore what has been lost.

I agree with Reagan when he said, “I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing.”

What are Christians to do? How are we to respond to this election? I’ll try to deal with that tomorrow.

The Election Scenarios: Which One Will Become Reality Today?

By the end of this day—barring any legal challenges or chicanery—we should know the political landscape for the next two to four years. No one expects the House to revert to the Democrats, so that much is set even before the counting begins. But the Senate, and of course the presidency, are the real questions. Let’s examine the possible scenarios, from worst-case to best-case.

Scenario #1

Barack Obama retains the presidency and Democrats continue to control the Senate. What will this mean? We will be in the same state we are currently. The House will try to pass legislation to correct the debt Armageddon and Obamacare, but the Senate will not act on anything the House does. It will remain adamant in opposition to the Republican agenda. The Congress, in this scenario, will be as it is now—worthless. This will lead to Obama doing what he has already begun to do, which is to rule by executive orders. No amount of protest that his actions are unconstitutional will avail. With a Justice Department firmly in his control, he will be free to do whatever he wishes, thereby foisting even more government control over the lives of individuals and trampling religious liberty through Obamacare. That “signature” piece of legislation will go forward without anything to stop it. By the end of his term, the United States will be pretty much like the European states that have given themselves over to full-scale socialism. We will also be on the verge of total bankruptcy. Oh, and since Supreme Court justices have to be confirmed by the Senate, he will get to replace perhaps three of the nine currently on the bench with ideological soulmates.

Scenario #2

Barack Obama stays in as president and the Senate changes hands to the Republicans. Under this scenario, with both houses of Congress controlled by the Republicans, certain pieces of legislation aimed at undoing the Obama agenda will pass both chambers and be sent to the White House for Obama’s approval. He will approve nothing coming from a Republican Congress. The veto will become his favorite weapon. On occasion, Congress may be able to muster a 2/3 vote to override a veto, but unless enough Democrats are willing to join with Republicans against the titular leader of their party, most of the proposed legislation will go down to defeat. Then Obama will do as noted above in scenario #1: he will rule by executive orders. The only saving grace is that he might not get the justices on the Supreme Court he wants, but that’s no guarantee. Senate Republicans, on the whole, have never been known for their backbones.

Scenario #3

Mitt Romney wins the presidency, but the Senate does not turn Republican. Under the continued “leadership” of Harry Reid, stonewalling will be the rule. Romney will do whatever he can within the powers of the presidency to remedy the damage that has been created by Obama. He says he will give waivers from Obamacare to every state. That will be a step in the right direction. However, getting any genuine reform legislation through Congress will be tough, nearly impossible, with Reid as Senate Majority Leader. Romney also will have hard sledding replacing Supreme Court justices with anyone worthwhile since the Senate has to approve them. Without a Republican Senate, Romney’s achievements will be minimal.

Scenario #4

Mitt Romney sweeps into the presidency by a significant margin, thereby helping Republicans take the Senate as well. Coattails do exist. This is obviously the rosiest scenario. The real question is whether Republicans will follow through and do what’s necessary to reverse course on the last four years and will learn their lesson about squandering a majority the way they did during the Bush presidency. Conservatives have always been wary of Romney’s foundational beliefs; they will have to hold his feet to the fire, but they will have some victories to cheer whether they get everything they desire or not. Obamacare should be shelved; the national debt should be brought under control; justices who believe in the original wording and intent of the Constitution should be put on the Court; Biblical morality should be upheld. This is not necessarily guaranteed, but this is the only scenario that holds such promise.

Which scenario do I think will play out today? My analysis of the current state of the race tells me it should be either #3 or #4. I see #3 as more likely, but you never know what can happen when people pray and work for what they believe in. And a lot of people have been doing both. May the Lord give us another opportunity to correct the mistakes we have made. A little divine intervention would be very nice.

The Lord spoke through the prophet Jeremiah these words:

“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Yes, I know that was a word for ancient Israel, but it is a principle—a general truth—that can apply to us today. May it be so.