Who’s Responsible?

A man goes to a baseball field and shoots up the place where congressmen and their staffers are practicing for a charity baseball game. First, he asks one of the congressmen who is leaving whether the ones practicing are Democrats or Republicans. Glad to hear they are Republicans, whom he has castigated on social media and seeks to wipe off the face of America, he opens fire, spraying the field and wounding four; one congressman remains in critical condition.

The man who perpetrated the crime finally is taken down by police and dies shortly after at the hospital. Then the blame game begins.

Who is responsible for what this man did? Since he was a socialist and a follower of Bernie Sanders, is Sanders to blame? After all, Sanders has said some pretty harsh things about Republicans. Since the man hated Trump so much, perhaps Trump is the one who should be responsible because he “triggered” the man with his policies?

What’s the Biblical position?

Personal responsibility is an overwhelming theme in Scripture. We are responsible for the choices we make in life. No one forces us to make those choices. There can be influences upon us, things that push us in a certain direction, but when it comes down to choosing, that’s all on us.

There were influences on the man who decided to target Republicans. Some of those influences were way over the top in bitterness and hatred. There are people who are saying Republicans want everyone to die because they want to take away their healthcare. That’s one of the middle-of-the-road accusations. I won’t repeat the worst ones.

Yet those were influences only; he had to decide whether to follow through on them with a terrible deed. He died in his own sins; he’s responsible for what he did, regardless of what others said that might have egged him on.

However, there remains some culpability whenever anyone descends into hateful diatribes. God holds them accountable for that.

There is a difference, though, between vicious, hateful speech and truth-telling. As Christians, we are to speak the truth in love and we are called, as far as it depends on us, to be at peace with all men.

What’s the difference between truth-telling and hateful speech? Are we never, in our truth-telling, allowed to point out the real nature of certain philosophies and/or individuals who promote those philosophies?

Did I sin in numerous blogs when I disagreed with virtually everything Barack Obama stands for and how he conducted himself? Am I sinning now when I take Donald Trump to task for his character?

Have you ever looked carefully at Matthew 23? It’s a fascinating chapter wherein Jesus takes on the Pharisees in no uncertain terms. As you peruse that chapter, you find Him saying the following about them:

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

Was Jesus over the top when He referred to them as hypocrites? Notice that He even said they were not entering into heaven. Was that an unjust judgment?

Further down in the chapter, He calls them “a child of hell,” “blind guides,” “blind fools,” and “a brood of vipers.”

My particular favorite is his characterization of them as “whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” They appear to be righteous but are really “full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

I gather from Jesus’s own example that we don’t have to pull our punches when pointing out sin. But here’s the catch: we can’t be hypocrites when we do so and we have to honestly seek to redeem those who are erring (check out chapter 7 of Matthew on proper judging). If we ever take satisfaction in merely telling people off and get a smug attitude about being right, then we’ve violated the spirit in which we are allowed to point out sin.

We all need to be willing to be truth-tellers, yet, at the same time, we must continually guard our hearts so that we carry it out in the proper spirit.

Each person is responsible for his/her own actions, whether in carrying out an evil deed or in using extreme language that might influence a person toward that deed.

Discernment in the Trump Era

Feelings run high on Donald Trump . . . on both sides. What I’m seeing on the Left and on some parts of the Right is practically an unthinking response to anything Trump does.

The “Resist” movement won’t rest until Trump is impeached or, as in the case of New York City’s “Shakespeare in the Park” program, possibly assassinated. The group put on a modern version of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar with “Julius” looking suspiciously like the current president. It was so blatant that big corporate sponsors have pulled out.

Certain media outlets have made Trump their focus with a constant barrage of stories, documented or not, that always put him in a bad light. Here’s looking at you, CNN, with a dishonorable mention to MSNBC.

Real journalism doesn’t rely on anonymous sources before airing “news” stories. Real journalism finds the facts first. Real journalism wants to inform, not promote an ideological agenda. But unthinking ideology is where we are today.

Bottom line: the Left, which usually is unhinged anyway, has gone off the deep end.

The antidote, for me, used to be certain talk radio hosts and Fox News, which were willing to give the other side. They provided the balance so that progressive brainwashing wouldn’t have complete sway over people’s minds.

I no longer listen to Rush Limbaugh because I believe he has allowed his principles, which he used to enunciate so clearly, to drift downstream.

Let me be clear (how often do I say that?) that I still appreciate the straight news offered by Fox. Bret Baier’s Special Report, for instance, is one program I continue to watch because I trust his journalistic integrity. Chris Wallace is another who doesn’t let an agenda drive his interviews. Neil Cavuto is willing to tell the truth no matter whom his target may be.

But I’ve been greatly disappointed with some of the other Fox programs. I stopped watching Sean Hannity long before the last campaign. Intellectual depth was in short supply. Now he’s basically a shill for Trump regardless of what Trump does.

Then there’s the Fox and Friends morning show. It was always a favorite of mine because the hosts are very likeable and Christian views have been respected on the program. Those two factors remain. Yet I can hardly stand to watch it now because it’s one long commercial for how grand and glorious Donald Trump is.

I hope you’re getting my point—I disagree with blind loyalty no matter which side of the political spectrum.

Here’s the difference, though: I’ve come to expect ideological blindness from the Left; it’s how they naturally operate. What’s new, ever since the Trump Bandwagon has appeared, is the same type of blindness on the Right. And that is deeply disturbing.

An essay on the Red State site yesterday laid out the problem very well. Responding to someone who tweeted that principles are only a means to an end, the writer countered,

Principles are not a means to an end. Principles are those things you believe to be fundamentally true. If you can easily set them aside in order to attain a goal, they weren’t principles so much as they were postures. If your moral compass is only something you use to gauge what you can probably get away with, it’s not really a moral compass.

Those of us who have tried to maintain balance on the person and actions of Donald Trump, praising him when he does something right and drawing attention to those things he does that are damaging, are now being accused of disloyalty. I see it differently, and the writer of that essay does as well:

I do think that for people who once claimed to be outraged by the immoral antics and low character of certain Democrats, the morally superior choice is to apply the same standard to your own party.

It’s the only rational choice, unless you’re someone who really doesn’t know the difference between postures and  principles or who thinks political expedience is more important than telling the truth.

If you don’t think Trump is his own worst enemy, you may not be paying close attention:

And if you haven’t noticed the near-chaos within his administration—constant rumors of Trump’s disapproval of his people, threats of firing, general incompetence in running the executive branch—it’s time to remedy that inattention.

While I’m concerned about what has happened to conservatism in the Trump Era, I’m even more distressed about what I see in the evangelical community. I’m witnessing far too many Christians who are willing to turn a blind eye to Trump’s faults and automatically rush to his defense no matter how foolish he has been.

God calls us to discernment.

We are not to be tribal loyalists who willfully shield our consciences from unpleasant truths about our president.

We are called instead to be the conscience of the nation. We abandon that calling when we refuse to call out sin and/or incompetence on our “side.”

My goal ever since Trump won the election has been to support him whenever I can and to critique him honestly when he goes astray from a principled foundation.

Trump needs us to critique him because we are not the ideologically driven Left. He needs to hear from those who want him to succeed. Our honesty and integrity is crucial for the future of our nation.

Evangelicals, please heed this call.

Tweeterdumb

One of my main objections to the Trump nomination during the primaries last year was his character. I feared that as president he wouldn’t be able to control himself because he had never manifested self-control in his life. Whatever Trump wanted to do, Trump did, regardless of the consequences.

I was told by many not to worry about that since he would be surrounded by people who could rein him in. So how’s that going?

My fears have been realized over and over again. Trump’s thin skin gives his emotions dominance over his behavior. While there are many instances of this in his actions, the way he gets into trouble most often is through his tweets.

His Twitter account, which many have urged him to shut down (to no avail) is his way of getting back at anyone who crosses him. He claims it’s his way of getting his message out to the public, frustrating the mainstream media. Yet there’s very little substance in most of his tweets; the majority are varying levels of personal invective toward individuals or groups that either oppose him or are not fully on the Trump Train.

And they sometimes fan the fires of a controversy that would have died off if only he could let things go. That’s not wise; it’s an exercise in foolishness that undermines any good he might presume to do.

By the way, the political cartoons I’m using are not from the fevered brains of progressives; these cartoonists are conservatives who see the damage he is doing to the conservative brand.

Sometimes, Trump is just dead wrong on the facts. The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, after the recent terrorist attacks, told the people that they were going to see more police and military on the streets, but not to be alarmed by that since they were there for protection.

What did Trump do? He tweeted the following: “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!'”

That comment ignored the context of the statement completely. Yet when it was pointed out to Trump that the “no reason to be alarmed” wording was related to the increase of security, he doubled down on his misinformed earlier tweet by sending out another one: “Pathetic excuse by London Mayor Sadiq Khan who had to think fast on his ‘no reason to be alarmed’ statement. MSM is working hard to sell it!”

I hope to be very clear here. I’m no fan of this Muslim mayor of London who has shown himself at odds with common sense in combating terrorism. Neither am I a fan of the mainstream media that seeks to destroy the Trump presidency. But in this case, Trump was obviously wrong.

And he refuses to acknowledge he was wrong, making matters even worse.

Again, this comes back to character, or the lack thereof. It also makes one wonder whether he is competent to handle the office he’s been given.

There have been other times when his surrogates have explained him to the public, only to have him tweet something that contradicts what they have said. Being on the communications team for this president must be one of the hardest jobs in Washington.

There is a growing sense that this administration has few accomplishments it can point to. Of course, the rest of the Republican party has played a part in that as well, but that’s for another post. Besides Neil Gorsuch (who has yet to be tested) and a few Obama executive orders being axed, what has this administration done compared to what Trump promised?

If you’ve taken the time to analyze Trump’s tweets, you will find they follow a clear pattern. Someone came up with a handy aid for how Trump tweets. I thought I would share it with you.

You’re welcome.

Lest I be misunderstood, I don’t want Trump to fail on the matters that concern me most: religious liberty, abortion, and government regulations. If he fulfills his promises on those issues, I will be pleased. Yet he is his own worst enemy, and his lack of emotional control may well be his undoing.

It’s well past time to get his act together. I’m simply not confident that he can do so.

A Plague on Both Your Houses

“A plague on both your houses,” Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet. While the Trump-Comey drama is not one of star-crossed lovers—indeed, there is little love to go around—the phrase is apt. Neither Trump nor Comey comes out of the Senate committee hearing yesterday with full credibility intact.

There is no hero here, but there was enough detail offered to make the plague comment applicable.

First, James Comey.

What to think of him? People who know him well say he is a man of integrity. If that’s so, why did he go before the public last July, lay out all the reasons why Hillary Clinton ought to be prosecuted, and then decline to do so?

He says now it was due to the problem he perceived with Loretta Lynch, reigning attorney general at the time, who told him to tone down the Hillary investigation and who met with Bill Clinton on that infamous airport tarmac while the investigation was going on.

Somehow, in Comey’s mind, to maintain the FBI’s independence, he had to drop the Hillary “matter” (the word Lynch wanted him to use publicly rather than investigation).

Democrats loved him in July.

Then in October, the dreaded October Surprise surfaced when he announced the investigation was opened again due to new information. Democrats squealed, Hillary lost, and they and she have used that incident to prop up the accusation that Comey lost the election for her.

Republicans loved him in October.

Once Trump took office, the Russian influence investigation began to circulate in the liberal media: the newest reason offered as to why Hillary lost. Tensions rose between Trump and Comey over that. Eventually, Trump fired Comey.

Democrats rejoiced over that, hoping it meant the FBI was on to something about Trump and Russia. Comey’s testimony, they enthused, would bring him down for good.

After yesterday’s revelations, their enthusiasm has dampened. The Russia allegations thus far cannot be tied to Trump or his top campaign officials. Gloom descends on Democrat headquarters.

Comey made it clear in his testimony that Russia definitely did try to interfere with the election, but he also made it clear that the investigation couldn’t connect anything to Trump (except for the ongoing Mike Flynn dramedy) and no votes were tampered with. The tally was accurate.

Of course, most Americans probably came to that conclusion long ago.

Now for the Trump side of the plague on both houses.

While firing Comey was his right as president, it was outstandingly foolish, and Trump has become adept at doing outstandingly foolish things, thereby making everything worse for himself.

Rather than abide by the official explanation for why Comey was fired—one that came from the adults in his administration—he opted instead to have an interview with NBC in which he said the firing had to do with the Russia probe.

All that accomplished was the appointment of a special counsel to look into all these matters. Again, the administration adults came out with a statement that declared this a good step in that it would finally put to rest the accusations.

Trump couldn’t let that stand. He tweeted that the appointment of the special counsel was an outrage, calling it “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.” Next time, maybe you shouldn’t be so restrained, Mr. President. Use some hyperbole instead.

Not settling for stirring the pot with that one, he then offered this tantalizing tidbit:

James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!

Comey commented yesterday in the hearing, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes!” He believes they will back up his accusations of what Trump said to him in their meetings.

So, now we have a special counsel, primarily because Trump couldn’t leave things alone and had to vent like a juvenile who wants the last word.

Comey was not reticent with his view on Trump’s honesty. In the hearing, he proclaimed that Trump is a liar, and that he took extensive notes on their conversations in order to document what Trump said.

The first major accusation is that Trump cleared the room of everyone else one day except for him and Comey, and then proceeded to urge Comey to end the Flynn investigation because Flynn is a good man. Comey says he didn’t follow that presidential wish.

While that doesn’t rise to the level of obstruction of justice, it still reeks of an attempt to unduly influence the course of an investigation. This may be the way Trump has operated in his business, but that’s not what’s expected in the Oval Office.

The second accusation is that Trump wanted a pledge of loyalty from Comey. The FBI is supposed to be independent in its investigations, not bowing to whatever a president wants. What kind of loyalty did Trump mean? Do whatever he’s told?

Trump’s lawyer came out later and stated that Trump categorically denies those accusations. They never happened, he says. Comey is making it all up.

Well, Comey was under oath. If it is discovered that indeed he is making it all up, he will be subject to prosecution. Does anyone really think he’s opening himself up to that?

Trump’s denial is not under oath. It’s simply a denial.

Who to believe? Is this merely a “he said, no, he said” quandary that has no resolution?

I can’t say that I have complete confidence in Comey’s integrity, and he certainly hasn’t displayed honor in all his actions. But then there’s Trump.

Does anyone recall how blatantly Trump lied during the campaign season? How he threw out whatever hints of scandal against his opponents that crossed his mind? How he insulted everyone running against him for the nomination?

If you have no problem with Trump’s history of insinuations, hints, and outright falsehoods to get what he wants, I’m not sure what I can say at this point that will make a difference.

The takeaway?

  1. Trump didn’t obstruct justice in the legal sense. There is nothing there for Democrats.
  2. The Russia probe is probably a dead end. Democrats and the liberal media are going to have to find a new narrative.
  3. Comey hasn’t exactly distinguished himself in his actions. He did leak some of his comments about Trump, he allowed Lynch to derail the Hillary investigation, and he never stood up to Trump when asked to do things he thought were wrong.
  4. An investigation of Loretta Lynch is needed; did she obstruct justice?
  5. Trump’s honesty and integrity have every reason to be questioned.

Shakespeare was right: “A plague on both your houses.”

The Obliteration of Common Sense

It was nice, first of all, to have a break from blogging while I was in England. It was also nice to write blogs when I came back that could highlight the trip rather than turning back to the political sphere right away.

That respite is now ended.

I have both an intense interest in current events and a sense of obligation to try to shed as much light on what’s happening as I can. This certainly doesn’t mean that everything I write is spot on; only time will clarify how accurate my comments are.

The one thing that has bothered me most lately is the polarization within the culture. It only manifests itself politically—it runs much deeper, based on differing worldviews.

The cultural and political Left, which are virtually identical, have gone close to insane in many cases. Trump Derangement Syndrome has obliterated whatever common sense might try to assert itself. Take the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord.

I believe Trump did the right thing. In this instance, he showed clear thinking (he wasn’t tweeting at the time). Yet how has the Left responded to his decision?

Good question.

Watch out for the rise of the oceans that will surely kill us all:

I guess elections really do have consequences:

Here’s another salient point: Obama just did this agreement unilaterally, never submitting it to the Senate for ratification. It was a treaty; the Constitution clearly states that all treaties must go through Senate ratification. He simply dismissed that “minor” detail as nonessential to promote his own ideological goals.

What terrible things are now going to happen as a result of pulling out of this accord?

Precisely.

Then there was the Kathy Griffin story dominating the news cycle for a while. Her stunt left the Left reeling, as very few of her ideological soulmates were willing to support her performance art (a nice way of describing it).

Abandoned by CNN and her usual Trump Derangement Syndrome fellow travelers, she tried an apology, but it had to be worst attempt at an apology on record, blaming the Trump family for her now-ruined career.

So, Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris agreement was common sense. The foolish and reprehensible Griffin gave plenty of reason for the public to rally to his side. One would think he could take advantage of that politically.

But he still has that Twitter account:

That particular tweet was more puzzling than anything; at least it had nothing to do with policy. If only it would have stopped there. President Trump seems determined to remain his own worst enemy. More on that in a future post.

Seeking Truth

Conservatives in general, and Christian conservatives in particular, are looking at a couple of events from yesterday and rejoicing. I’m pleased as well, but my pleasure at what transpired isn’t of the ecstatic variety.

Yes, the House finally passed something that would begin to peel back the onerous Obamacare, and yes, I do understand that sometimes you must do things in stages. From what I’ve read, the House bill does reduce funding to Planned Parenthood substantially. What puzzles me is how this works with the recent, atrocious budget bill that doesn’t touch that funding at all.

The mixed message is, well, mixed.

I would like to believe that stage one in the Obamacare repeal and replace will actually be followed by the promised steps two and three. Forgive me, though, if my faith is weak; when it comes to Republican promises, seeing is believing, unfortunately.

Then there was that executive order Trump signed that supposedly protected religious liberty. If you look at it with some degree of scrutiny, it appears to be more symbolic than real.

First, it directs the IRS to be more flexible. Are we really going to trust IRS Director John Koskinen, the protector-in-chief and prevaricator-in-chief from the Obama years, to follow this directive?

There is nothing substantive in this executive order; it is primarily show. It doesn’t do a thing to protect, say, a Christian florist or baker who seeks to stand by his/her conscience. But apparently it’s enough to make Christian conservatives rejoice publicly and declare Trump as our political savior.

I’m not trying to be exclusively negative here. The Gorsuch appointment to the Supreme Court is a relief. So far, he hasn’t “grown” and morphed into a swing vote, never knowing which direction he will go.

The House healthcare bill is a start toward the proper goal, but it still has to get through a divided Senate. Republicans walk a tightrope there, so nothing has solidified yet.

What about that wall?

Trump is one to make big promises. He loves the adoring crowds who roar with approval at everything he says, so he keeps saying more. Never mind that a lot of what he says is pure hype. Lately, he’s been saying some rather interesting things:

Those quotes certainly put him in the same league with those esteemed presidents, don’t they?

I know many of Trump’s loyalists don’t mind that he backtracks, or that he can be startlingly inconsistent, but it does bother me because principles matter. I’m still concerned that he refuses to release his taxes; all other presidents of late have done so. By refusing, he continues to fuel speculation on how he handles his own finances.

Lest you think that I’m being unbalanced in my criticisms of Trump, let me offer something to help balance it out:

For some reason, the media never cared about all the things Obama didn’t release.

My point today is to caution you not to become unbalanced yourself. Weigh each new law, executive order, and nomination in the scale of honesty and integrity. Don’t make a judgment too precipitously. Make sure you know what is real movement forward and what is not.

Seek out truth above all.

Principles, Courage, & the Budget

A budget vote is coming. I’ve done my best to read both sides of the debate on what the Republican Congress has come up with this time. Yesterday, VP Pence was on the Rush Limbaugh program proclaiming it’s a win for the president, primarily because it increases defense spending.

Well, I’m glad it does that, given the various global crises we face: ISIS, Iran, North Korea, just to name the most prominent.

But what about the rest of this $1 trillion bill?

It continues to fund Planned Parenthood, that vile organization that has created a modern holocaust.

It continues to send money to sanctuary cities that are thumbing their noses at any type of curtailment of illegal immigration. Why should they be rewarded?

Some extra money is in it for border security, yet there is no mention of anything even remotely connected to Trump’s promise of a wall (not that I think he ever really believed in that long of a wall in the first place).

We’re told we must support this budget to keep the government running until September, then the Republicans in Congress will finally get down to business on what they said they would do.

The main reason why they don’t seem prepared to fight for anything substantive at this point is fear that they will be blamed for a government shutdown. That’s always the fear, and fear appears to drive their decisionmaking.

As a historian, I do understand that you can’t always get everything you want in legislation. Yes, there are compromises to be made. But how about compromises that don’t sacrifice basic principles such as the inherent value of human life? Allowing the funding of Planned Parenthood is a participation in murder. When will Republicans draw a line that cannot be crossed?

The litany of excuses grows:

  • We only have one house of Congress; how can you expect us to get anything passed?
  • We have Congress, but not the presidency, so anything we send to the White House will only get vetoed
  • We have Congress and the presidency, but we don’t have a 60-vote majority in the Senate to get what we want

If they were ever to get that 60-vote majority in the Senate, I’m almost convinced the argument will be that they don’t want to be portrayed in the media as heartless, so they will have to bow to what the Democrats want in order to be liked.

Whatever happened to principles? Why has spinelessness become the Republican fallback position?

In that interview that Pence did with Limbaugh, the host’s frustration came to the forefront in these words:

Okay, but why then is the president now suggesting a budget shutdown in September or October? If it’s no good now, why is it good then?

You guys were sent there to drain the swamp. There’s a clear Trump agenda that just isn’t seeable. It’s not visible in this budget, and some people are getting concerned that there’s more concern for bipartisanship and crossing the aisle, working with Democrats, than there is in draining the swamp and actually peeling away all of the roughage that is preventing actually moving forward here on so many of these issues that affect people domestically.

I’ve been a critic of Limbaugh ever since he jumped on the Trump Train with apparently no reservations, but he’s voicing a very important concern here, and he’s right to do so.

I’m reminded of this quote from Whittaker Chambers in Witness:

Men have never been so educated, but wisdom, even as an idea, has conspicuously vanished from the world.

I would add that principles and courage have dissipated along with wisdom.