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.

Eric Metaxas’s Trump Bible

Eric MetaxasChristian author, speaker, and radio talk show host Eric Metaxas has become a leading evangelical voice in our day. He entered the national consciousness with a direct message a couple years ago at the National Prayer Breakfast.

I was deeply impressed by his book Amazing Grace, which painted an inspiring portrait of British statesman William Wilberforce, the man who successfully led the fight against slavery in the British empire.

Mextaxas also gave a stirring and insightful message to the Oxbridge Conference a year ago, an event sponsored by the C. S. Lewis Foundation. I was not there in person, but the YouTube video is available, and I highly recommend it.

When Mextaxas speaks, he mixes serious commentary with a wry sense of humor that carries his points well. That sense of humor has surfaced lately in his responses to Donald Trump.

When Trump declared the Bible was his favorite book but then wouldn’t (or couldn’t) come up with a single verse that had impacted his life, Metaxas developed what he calls “The Trump Bible.” He has been posting an ongoing series of verses in the way that Trump might want them to appear in Scripture.

Keep in mind that humor only really works if it is close enough to the truth to make you see the connection. Metaxas has mimicked Trump’s language so superbly that it’s not hard to hear him saying these things. Here is a sampling of what Metaxas offers as portions of “The Trump Bible.”

And Jesus went out into the desert. But he should’ve invested in hotels there. I mean, I’m killing it in Vegas. A LOT of money.

Love covers a multitude of sins. Sure. But you’d be nuts not to get a prenup. I mean, c’mon.

Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” And David said, “No, YOU are the man!” And they high-fived each other. It was fabulous.

Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old, but even young she was nothing to look at, so you can just imagine.

You’ve heard it said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” but I say unto you, that’s lousy negotiating. Why break even?

Moses saw that the bush was on fire but was not consumed, because, face it, the bush was low-energy.

I know a man who was caught up into the third heaven… Who’m I kidding? You knew it was me, right?

Paul? He’s ok…but I like missionaries who don’t get shipwrecked and jailed!

Nebuchadnezzar was the best. I mean, he built a giant golden statue of himself. He is an inspiration to me.

“Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus replied, “Again with the gotcha questions?”

On the other hand what did John the Baptist really do? Announced one Messiah? One? Are we serious?

I’m also glad to see at least one cartoonist has caught on:

Trump Bible

Humor. Sometimes it makes the case better than a serious critique.

America’s Jeremiah Moment

From the heart today. Well, everything I write is from the heart, but this one is burning within. I have been doing my best to warn conservatives—and Christian conservatives, in particular—about giving any aid, verbal or otherwise, to the candidacy of Donald Trump. Some of you, I’m sure, are tired of hearing my warnings.

No one has responded to my warnings with anger, I don’t believe, yet I’m still astonished by people I certainly love and respect giving room to Trump in the sense that they seem to enjoy his braggadocio and politically incorrect comments.

Yes, we do need someone with courage to speak up. We need those kinds of people in government at all levels. My concern, though, is that we are confusing Trump’s self-aggrandizement with Biblical courage.

In my spirit, I’m coming to the place where I believe America is now experiencing its Jeremiah moment. We are at a crossroads in a way we never have been before. The Obama administration has openly advocated the killing of unborn children, has led the way in the destruction of marriage, has done its best to destroy the economy, and has put America in a weakened position around the world.

What is needed at this critical juncture is not a man who brags about how much money he has made, who claims to be smarter than everyone else, and who strikes back at any criticism by calling his critics names: losers, stupid, third-rate journalists, bimbos, etc.

JeremiahRather, we need a chorus of Jeremiahs throughout the nation calling people to repentance and humility—the very last things one would associate with Donald Trump.

Jeremiahs are not usually treated well. The Biblical Jeremiah got on people’s nerves; they kept telling him to be quiet, don’t stir up trouble. Yet he continued on, despite his own inner desire to stop. There was a fire from God in his bones that wouldn’t allow him to back off.

Jeremiah’s message was dire, but if you look closely, his main theme was that the nation needed to humble itself before God. Only through a humility that led to genuine repentance would Judah have any hope for the future.

That’s where America is right now. Our only hope is in a thorough repentance that begins with God’s own. Those who call themselves Christians must see clearly now as never before. We can’t let ourselves be caught up in a reactionary attitude that gives credence to any politician who makes us feel better because he “fights back.”

So I don’t write my warnings about Trump out of any kind of spite toward him personally or just because I’m on my own little hobby horse. I’m truly fearful of what a Trump presidency would bring. I fear it would be no better than a Hillary Clinton presidency, and I don’t think God will bless either choice.

I will continue to write and express my deepest concerns. I will attempt to do so in a redemptive manner, not merely offering denunciations. But the truth needs to be spoken. Our reception of that truth needs to lead us all into a personal examination of our faith and the kind of response God now requires.

This is our Jeremiah moment. How will we respond?

A Weird Campaign Season

This has been a weird campaign season. On the Republican side, no one expected the rise of Donald Trump to the top of the pack. As for Democrats, everyone anticipated a Hillary coronation. She, however, has been her own worst enemy.

Front-Runner

At first, most commentators, myself included, fully expected her to weather the storm simply because she is a Clinton, and Clintons always get away with their misdeeds.

Robs Bank

But lately, with the Democrats themselves in a panic over her obvious hubris, blatant lying, and possible criminality, they are desperately seeking an alternative that isn’t Bernie Sanders.

So what do they come up with? An extension of the Obama presidency in the person of VP Joe Biden. This is the best they have? I can see his soul-stirring message already:

Campaign Slogan

He’s also been called a human gaffe-machine (and possible serial-groper). At the very least, he would be entertaining. Unfortunately, if he is the candidate, the media will allow him to do and say almost anything, in contrast to how they will treat whoever the Republican candidate may be. Here’s one scenario:

What a Character

I, of course, shudder at that scenario, for the many reasons I’ve outlined in previous posts. Let me summarize once again:

Trump's Changed Mind

Wouldn’t it be better if the Republicans nominated a genuine Republican conservative this time? A self-aggrandizing opportunist is never the answer.

The Trump-McCarthy Parallel

I admit to being amazed at the support Donald Trump seems to be getting, not only from what might be called “movement conservatives,” but more specifically, from evangelical Christians. One article indicates that he is the leading candidate among that latter group. I don’t know for sure if that’s true, but if it’s even close to the mark, it’s astonishing.

Donald Trump 2I won’t go into detail again (see a previous post) on why I do not support Trump’s candidacy, but I can offer a short summary: supreme arrogance (he says he’s never asked God for forgiveness for anything; constant boasting about how rich he is and how smart); other personal character traits (favorite words being “loser” and “stupid”; resorting to twitter jibes on an adolescent level toward those who criticize him); and his recent “conversion” to conservative policies.

On that last point, some have tried to compare his change to conservatism to Ronald Reagan’s. I’ve studied Reagan in some depth and know that his worldview changed over time as a result of intense study and grappling with foundational philosophical issues. I’m not convinced that is the case with Trump; neither do I trust him to remain true to what he now says he believes.

In fact, he’s rather mixed up on some things: he claims to be for repealing Obamacare, yet says a universal, government-run healthcare system is workable in some countries. He doesn’t quite say why he considers it unworkable here. Perhaps he really doesn’t. Perhaps, were he to attain the presidency, we might be subject to another failed promise from a politician.

Joe McCarthyI’m also seeing a historical parallel with another situation. Back in the early 1950s, Sen. Joe McCarthy made a big splash as a crusader against communism. He was bold and brash and developed a large following. Many in conservatism at the time saw him as the leader against the establishment and flocked to his bandwagon. Yet he was little more than an opportunist, seizing on a hot topic that he did not really grasp clearly.

As evidence for this conclusion, I turn to Whittaker Chambers, a genuine champion of liberty who left the communist underground, gave his witness to Congress, and suffered publicly for doing so. Yet he succeeded in unmasking the underground movement, with the climax being the conviction of Alger Hiss—who had been his compatriot in the underground and then became a top State Department official—for perjury.

McCarthy wanted to tie his crusade to Chambers. They met. Chambers came away with some rather pointed comments about the senator. In a letter to William F. Buckley, Chambers summarized McCarthy’s approach in this way: “Senator McCarthy’s notion of tactics is to break the rules, saturate the enemy with poison gas, and then charge through the contaminated area, shouting Comanche war cries.”

Chambers at DeskThese heavy-handed tactics were of deep concern to Chambers, who wrote:

I know he thinks this is a superior technique that the rest of us are too far behind to appreciate. But it is repetitious and unartful, and, with time, the repeated dull thud of the low blow may prove to be the real factor in his undoing. Not necessarily because the blow is low, or because he lacks heart and purpose, but because he lacks variety, and, in the end, simply puts the audience to sleep.

He tried not to come to a rash judgment, but concluded, “It is more and more my reluctant opinion that he is a tactician, rather than a strategist; that he continually, by reflex rather than calculation, sacrifices the long view for the short pull.”

What worried him the most was the damage McCarthy would do over time:

In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that we live in terror that Senator McCarthy will one day make some irreparable blunder which will play directly into the hands of our common enemy and discredit the whole anti-Communist effort for a long while to come.

Chambers was correct: McCarthy stumbled on his own arrogance and ignorance; his actions discredited anti-communist efforts to this day.

Personally, I have those same fears about Donald Trump. Everything Chambers said about McCarthy looms in my mind when I hear Trump speak, and I am concerned that his nomination, let alone his possible election as president, may be the death knell for true conservatism, and Christians who currently look past his character failings will one day regret their willful blindness.

There are some who say that God doesn’t need a committed Christian to accomplish his purposes, that He can use someone who is terribly flawed and not in touch with Him to carry out His will.

I understand that position. God does work in all situations. He did use Nebuchadnezzar to carry out His judgments on His people of Israel. But that was for the purpose of punishment for sin. Frankly, He has a lot of politicians to choose from if He is ready to unleash His judgment on America. Trump is not unique in that sense.

Since when do we deliberately choose a spiritual renegade over a committed Christian man or woman who is seeking to do His will? Those men and women do exist, and some are running for president right now. Why would we throw our support behind someone who is more egocentric than anyone else in the political realm?

I don’t want to have to defend myself before God after making a choice like that. I’m going to give my vote to someone who at least has a heart for righteousness and the God who defines what is and is not righteous.

If Trump is the Republican nominee, we may be destroying whatever remains of principle in that party. If he should ever be elected president, we may see in that office someone who is a combination of Nebuchadnezzar and Joe McCarthy. He may be the channel for God’s judgment, but I will not willingly go that route. I still want to help save America.

My musings in this post will not be accepted by all, I know. But I hope you will, at the very least, avoid being caught up in an emotional appeal and will take some time to reflect on the concerns I have expressed here. May the Lord have mercy on us all.

Trump & the Loss of the Conservative Mind

I’ve witnessed a myriad of political delusions in my lifetime: the Kennedy administration as Camelot; the Great Society; Jimmy Carter as the outsider who will redeem us from Vietnam and Watergate; high approval ratings for Bill Clinton despite all the scandals and gross immorality; the belief that Barack Obama is a great healer, uniter, and messiah. All of these, though, were delusions in the general public primarily.

What I’m seeing now—and finding it difficult to swallow—is the delusion on the conservative side of politics when it comes to Donald Trump. Normally clear-eyed commentators are throwing away all their practiced discernment in a foolish rush either to support Trump for the Republican nomination or at least to defend what he says and ignore his history.

It’s truly dismaying to hear Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Ann Coulter—just to name a few—rally to Trump’s side. Websites that I have relied upon for unfiltered information about the culture and politics are doing the same.

Is this the equivalent on the Right of the mania for Obama on the Left in 2008?

Donald Trump, in my view, is not presidential material. First, his character precludes giving him the respect that is due any president. His massive ego, far more evident than in any other candidate (with the possible exception of Hillary Clinton), should, in itself, be a disqualifier.

Losers

Those who have spent so much time criticizing the moral character of the Clintons and Obama are now trumpeting Trump? How sad.

Then there’s his suspicious “conversion” to conservative beliefs, all, it seems, within the past few weeks as he decided to jump into the field as a Republican candidate. Has the collective memory of the conservative movement self-destructed?

My Record

For Trump, I get the feeling that winning the presidency is just another in a long line of trade deals.

Acquisitions

Consider this post a plea for conservatives to regain their political acumen based on true limited government philosophy and Biblical principles of character. Return from the wilderness, please, and reestablish your reputations as trusted sources for sound reasoning.

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.