Will Scalia’s Legacy Be Honored?

News of the death of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia stunned the political world over the weekend. Scalia, a stalwart defender of the Constitution, will be sorely missed, especially in this era of constitutional ignorance and/or apathy. His firm conviction that one must look to the Founders’ words and their original meaning kept the Court from straying more often than it did.

Nominated to the Court by Ronald Reagan and confirmed by the Senate unanimously, Scalia was considered a legal giant, a towering intellectual who knew how to skewer foolish and unconstitutional Court rulings with a biting wit in his many dissents.

Meeting with Scalia

When Reagan nominated Scalia, he said this of him:

Reagan Quote-Scalia

His death was a graduation for him personally, as he was an outspoken Christian believer. He is far happier right now than all of us he left behind.

Yet his death, at this time, opens a political debate that has ramifications for the future of this nation. President Obama would love to place another justice on the Court who reflects his personal philosophy of progressivism, which ignores constitutional limitations on the federal government.

To be clear: he has the right to nominate. To be just as clear: the Senate has the right to reject any nominee he puts forward. Will the Republican majority in the Senate show some backbone this time and not allow another progressive on the Court? They are showing signs of a growing spine. We will see.

Scalia’s death was announced just a few hours before the Republican presidential debate in South Carolina. At the beginning of the debate, all joined in a respectful moment of silence.

Unfortunately, with Donald Trump on the stage (who was the only one not even to close his eyes during that moment of silence), the air of respect soon vanished.

I won’t go into a blow-by-blow description of what took place at the debate, except to say it would have been a genuine debate without the circus atmosphere created by Trump.

February 2016 SC DebateHis favorite word of the night was “liar,” aimed constantly at Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz, and mostly in response to their accurate accounting of his liberal beliefs and attitude of personal insults. Trump interrupted continually, attempting to disallow other candidates from completing their sentences. As I watched, even I, as someone who has always considered Trump to be a rude, crude joke of a candidate, could hardly believe how low he sank in this debate.

In all the commentary afterwards, very few have voiced what I saw, but Stephen Hayes came closest when he referred to Trump as unhinged. He was, quite often, out of control emotionally. Any other person running for this nomination who acted like that would be considered poison politically, yet Trump and his supporters somehow consider his manner justified.

He was the most unpresidential man on the stage. Yet he leads the polls.

Even fewer commented on what else I saw: the calmness of Ted Cruz while Trump berated him as the greatest liar he had ever known. Frankly, I was impressed that Cruz could keep his cool throughout the tirade. In my opinion, that’s the kind of character trait I want in a president.

I will admit to being discouraged that a narcissist who, under normal circumstances, would be dismissed as a serious candidate, is on the cusp of becoming the Republican nominee for president.

What’s wrong with this electorate?

I’m reminded of a passage of Scripture that I hope doesn’t truly describe where we are as a nation—a passage that deals with what it will be like as the Second Coming approaches. We’re told by the Apostle Paul in the little book of 2 Thessalonians what will transpire with the ascendance of the Antichrist, who will deceive people “because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.” He continues,

For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.

Is that where we are now? I don’t know. I sincerely hope not. But there certainly is a lot of deception taking place and a lot of voters who seem to want to be deceived.

Will Antonin Scalia’s legacy of faithfulness to God and to the rule of law be honored this political season, or will we instead take another step into spiritual chaos and darkness?

Trump: The Vulgar & the Crude

I listen to a lot of commentary about the current campaign for president. Over and over, I hear everyone saying this election is all about anger. More often, lately, I’m hearing the refrain that Trump is ahead because voters like his expressed anger and are planning to vote for him even though he doesn’t share their views on policies.

That’s what disturbs me most. Isn’t it supposed to be about the right policies?

For Christians, it should be even more foundational: right policies carried out by the person who best represents those policies in his own life. Yet Donald Trump can be vague or contradictory about his beliefs and prescriptions and say the most outrageous things without denting his support materially.

He’s becoming bolder with his vulgarity, using crude and obscene language in his public appearances; yet, astoundingly, I still hear some Christians defend him.

Cartoonists have not let Trump’s use of language go unnoticed:

Make America Grate

Rebuttal

Well, that’s just our culture now, some may respond. Sadly, that may be true. But do I want a president who caters to that kind of culture? Do I want a leader of this nation to be brazenly awash in that culture? Trump’s whole manner lends itself to the further breakdown of a culture that used to operate within a Biblical framework—at least publicly. There are few obstacles now to a completely degraded public “conversation.”

Trump Report

Challenged on his use of foul language by Greta Van Susteren on her Fox program, Trump answered, “I’m very capable of changing to anything I want to change to.”

Exactly.

The electorate this time around seems to have fallen to that dreaded “lowest common denominator.” One commentator, assessing both the Trump (get angry!) and Sanders (get free stuff!) campaigns, describes it this way:

Those who believe that politics is little more than personal psychodrama played out on a grand stage might be closer to the truth than usual this election cycle. Neither Trump nor Sanders, despite their claims, is ushering in a revolution. They are ushering in a politics more petty, vulgar, and low—more animated by voters’ base inclinations—than any in recent memory.

If New Hampshire is any indication, voters are not about anything so high-minded as constitutional government or national security or racial justice or even “hope and change.” They’re about me getting mine, by hook or by crook. Free college, free health care, and winning.

This election is the Gollum-cry of the masses: WE WANTS IT.

I wish I didn’t have to say I agree with this assessment, but I do.

There is still time for us to come to our senses. That’s my fervent prayer.

What to Think of New Hampshire?

The New Hampshire Republican primary last night had some poignant results, some of which might be lost on those delirious over a Trump win. New Hampshire was Trump territory: allowing independents to vote as Republicans, a state described by some as one of the least evangelical in the nation. The state motto is “Live free or die.” As more than one commentator tweeted last night, after the Trump triumph, New Hampshire voters chose the “or die” part.

Democrats, faced with the choice of an outright socialist and a covert one with possible criminal charges hanging over her head, revealed their hearts by endorsing the former.

Sanders-Trump

Back to the Republicans.

Yes, Trump outdistanced everyone. Here’s the rest of the story, though. The vote was the death knell for at least three candidacies: Christie, Fiorina, and Carson. If they continue, it will not be because there is any credible hope they can win the nomination. Christie went back to New Jersey afterwards to talk with his people. A formal withdrawal from the race is expected soon.

Reports are that Carson will be talking with Ted Cruz on Thursday. There’s speculation about the reason for that meeting. We’ll see.

Kasich came in second, but this will be the high point of his campaign. He practically lived in New Hampshire for months and couldn’t win. Watch the media; he will be its darling until the South Carolina results later this month, but it won’t matter. He doesn’t have the organization on the ground anywhere else to even hope for a win.

Rubio, after his fifth-place finish, which had to be a major disappointment, in his concession speech acknowledged that his debate performance led to the poor showing. He vowed that won’t happen again, but one has to wonder now if his moment has passed.

Bush has to be disappointed with the result, especially since he spent $35 million on ads, etc., to get his message across. He came in fourth, not exactly inspiring, especially given the fact that Cruz beat him for third, even though he spent only about $800,000 total. Here’s another way of looking at it:

Money Per Vote

For me, Cruz is the one to watch if Trump is to be stopped. Cruz knew from the start that New Hampshire was not winnable, so he didn’t waste his funds on a hapless effort. What’s surprising is that he did so well comparatively, given that he not only spent less than everyone else, but also didn’t spend time either. He held fewer events in New Hampshire than the others. Yet he still came in third.

Why is that significant? He heads into more friendly Cruz territory now, and with the demise of Bush and Rubio–and the burnt-out comet of Kasich—he is now the one man standing. He won Iowa, despite what Trump says. He has a well-organized campaign in all the upcoming states. If his people do as well in South Carolina and throughout the South as they did in Iowa, he could very well emerge with the largest delegate total in the end.

Those who read this blog know I cringe at the thought of a Trump nomination. For those trying to make a comparison between Trump and Ronald Reagan, I have only one reaction: if you can make that comparison, you don’t understand who Reagan was.

On the Democrat side, the curiosity that is Sanders will now wade into states that Clinton people think she has sewed up. It will be interesting to see what happens. And there’s always the real possibility of a criminal indictment. Would even that persuade Hillary to drop her candidacy? Ego probably won’t permit it.

The last thing I want to see is a Trump-Clinton general election. I freely admit that would be the most depressing sight in my lifetime. The bright side is that if it occurs, I will be driven even closer to the Lord for comfort and guidance.

May God have mercy on us all.

And on the Democrat Side . . .

I’ve spent more time analyzing the Republican field than the Democrat. Of course, one reason is that there’s really no “field” on the Democrat side, but it has become more interesting. This was supposed to be a Hillary coronation, but it hasn’t quite worked out the way she expected.

I admit I never thought Bernie Sanders would get any traction anywhere. Maybe I was living in a dream world where I never imagined that even in the Democrat party an outspoken socialist would be a threat to Queen Hillary. Keep in mind that Sanders has not run as a Democrat for many years; he has preferred the title of “independent.”

Yet here he is as a possible nominee in a party he eschewed. One thing you can say for him is that he is consistent: as an avowed socialist, he is promising the sky—free this, free that, free everything:

Slackers Like Me

The little secret that his followers don’t understand of course is that nothing is free; somebody is going to pay for all of that, and that somebody is the rest of us who aren’t getting those freebies.

Hillary, realizing the threat, has become even more outspoken as a progressive. Those who know her (and the party as a whole) aren’t surprised by this; she’s always been a progressive but hasn’t been quite this open about it for fear of losing votes. Now, in a tight race, she feels she has to pull out all the stops.

What all of her rhetoric about the evils of Wall Street hides is just how tied in to Wall Street she is. Where does she receive much of her financial support? Reports show exactly where:

Definition of Progressive

Why the Sanders surge? Could this have anything to do with it?

Slow Speed Chase

I freely admit I would love to see Hillary (and Bill) finally get what they deserve. The FBI seems poised to recommend indictment. If the Obama Justice Department—a misnomer if ever there was one—declines to prosecute, she could still get the nomination. With that hanging over her, she should be easier to beat. If Sanders gets the nomination, America would have finally bottomed out if he is elected, but I believe he would be even easier to overcome.

The key now is whether Republicans are wise in their selection of a nominee or whether instead they will turn to Donald Trump. A Trump-Clinton or a Trump-Sanders race would be the worst of all possible scenarios because no matter who wins, the nation would lose.

The Twitterer-in-Chief Demands a “Do-Over”

I had planned to write today about the results of the Democrat caucus in Iowa, the one where Hillary declared victory over Bernie Sanders by virtue of six miraculous coin tosses. Well, that was the plan.

Donald Trump 3Then Donald Trump did what he does best, thrusting himself back into the limelight. After slightly more than 24 hours of relative silence in which the electorate was lulled into the illusion that he had accepted the judgment of Republican caucus-goers, he unleashed a barrage of tweets accusing Ted Cruz of having stolen the victory from him.

The Twitterer-in-Chief is now demanding that the results of the caucus be nullified and another vote be taken. That’s patent nonsense, of course. Nothing is going to be nullified; there will not be a “do-over” for Trump’s sake.

What has so ruffled Trump this time? What is behind his assertion that Cruz deliberately stole a Trump victory?

Here are the facts as I have been able to ascertain them:

  • During the caucus, a Ben Carson staffer, innocently I’m sure, gave out a garbled message about what Carson would be doing. He would not be going to New Hampshire at this time but would be returning to Florida, then go to DC for the National Prayer Breakfast.
  • CNN then ran with this message, interpreting it as a signal from the Carson campaign that he was on the verge of dropping out of the race. I’ve viewed the video of the CNN talking heads. They definitely gave that impression.
  • Someone in the Cruz campaign picked up on CNN’s false report and began to spread the word, urging Carson backers to now switch their vote to Cruz.
  • The Carson people then strenuously denied that he was leaving the race and blamed the Cruz people of deliberately misleading voters.
  • When the dust cleared, Cruz publicly apologized to Carson for what had happened, saying it was not anything his campaign had orchestrated but was an inadvertent slip-up.

Enter the sound and fury of Donald Trump. Again. As always. It’s all he ever has to offer.

Cruz won, he asserted, because of this illegal ploy. He had to remove that first tweet because of the word illegal—it could have led to legal trouble for him. But he didn’t back down. Because of what happened, he thundered, Cruz got enough Carson voters to deny Trump his deserved win.

After all, Trump is a winner. He never loses. If you don’t think so, just ask him. The only way he could ever lose is by trickery, deceit, and an outright conspiracy.

Here’s what I think about this episode:

  • First, someone in the Carson campaign has to take the blame for an ambiguous message that could be misinterpreted. In fact, one reporter questioned Carson yesterday on that very point, but Carson wouldn’t acknowledge the role of his own staffer in starting this mess.
  • Second, the main culprit here is CNN, running with a non-story and leading viewers to believe the Carson campaign was over. As Bill O’Reilly commented last night about this, CNN demonstrated extremely sloppy journalism. Neither have they apologized for the false reporting.
  • Third, those in the Cruz campaign who picked up on the false story were too quick to try to capitalize on it. They should have gone to greater lengths to verify it before using it to attempt to get Carson voters to switch.
  • Finally, regardless of the mess, neither Carson nor Cruz should have to fire anyone. Carson’s person never intended to mislead; Cruz’s followers were too quick to take advantage of the report. But there was nothing illegal, criminal, or dastardly in what they did. It was bad judgment.
  • Here’s another “finally”: Trump would not have won regardless. He was out-organized by the Cruz team. It was a well-earned victory.

Trump also said that the reason we can’t believe anything Cruz says is because he was born in Canada. *Sigh*

I’m coming to the view that Donald Trump exhibits a particular strain of emotional instability that would be disastrous in the presidency. His constant stream of invective toward anyone who crosses him or who exposes his hubris should be a worry for his erstwhile supporters. Should a president resort to a continual assault of Twitter taunts and accusations? How presidential is that? What does this say about his character?

I’m also getting closer to believing that if he loses the nomination, Trump, to salve his bruised ego, will bolt the Republican party (as he has done a few times in the past) and run an independent campaign. If that happens, the false conservatism he is trying to display now to win Republican voters, will disappear, and he will say what he really thinks about policy, which will be decidedly liberal.

Donald Trump is a train wreck waiting to happen. If the Republican party attaches itself to him, it will be seriously damaged when that wreck occurs.

Iowa Lessons

What does Ted Cruz’s Iowa win mean? What are his prospects going forward?

Cruz Iowa Caucus

First, Cruz’s top finish tore up the conventional wisdom on a few fronts. In a state dependent on ethanol subsidies, he stood firm against them and won anyway. Lesson: you don’t have to change your principles to get votes.

Second, the record turnout was supposed to benefit Trump; instead, Cruz beat him by four points and received the largest number of votes in the history of the Republican Iowa caucus.

Third, organization trumps (sorry about that) media glitz and big rallies. Celebrity does not equate to victory.

Fourth, personal pique that leads one to withdraw from a debate will not endear one to voters. Trump hurt himself badly with his arrogant decision to avoid being questioned by Megyn Kelly.

Going Home

Of course, an Iowa win doesn’t carry over to a state like New Hampshire, which is next in line. Cruz benefited from the large number of evangelicals who attended the caucus, estimated to have comprised 64% of all caucus-goers. New Hampshire is more secular. At this point, no one expects him to win in the state, but they are looking to see if Iowa provides enough of a bump that he will do better than expected.

Another factor in New Hampshire is that one doesn’t have to register as a Republican to vote in the Republican primary. I have never understood the logic of that. It should be the committed Republicans who choose their own nominee, not voters who don’t plan to vote for the Republican in the general election.

What will New Hampshire do? Will the Iowa results make them rethink the support Trump seems to have in the latest polls? Or will they be swayed more by his rhetoric of getting things done?

Need a President

I think we’ve been down that road already. How’s that working out?

Evangelicals & Trump: Decision Time

So Donald Trump is not going to be present at tonight’s debate. He says Fox News doesn’t treat him fairly. Never mind that he has been omnipresent on their evening programs ever since he announced his candidacy. Last night, he was on The O’Reilly Factor—that’s after he declared he was boycotting the debate because Fox is so unfair.

This stems from that question Megyn Kelly asked him at the first debate. He’s never forgiven her; apparently it has become a point of bitterness for him. Of course, all Kelly did was remind him of the derogatory words he had publicly used to describe women. No one is allowed to remind The Donald of his rude and demeaning behavior.

He then demanded that Fox exclude Kelly from this upcoming debate; Fox refused, so Trump will be a no-show.

Not Fox News

Fox was right in not bowing to his demand. No candidate, no matter how important in his own mind, should be allowed to dictate who is permitted to question him. He may have forgotten that there are other candidates on that stage as well and that he is not the whole show—but that would be foreign to his character, I fear.

I’ve provided in previous posts a litany of the reasons why I do not support Trump. I won’t go into as much detail today, but I would like to address those in the evangelical community, where I also reside spiritually and philosophically.

I continue to be saddened by the number of adherents Trump has accumulated among evangelicals. The latest endorsement, coming from Jerry Falwell Jr. of Liberty University, has prompted the most head-shaking from evangelicals who see the dangers of a Trump nomination.

This is not a denunciation of my fellow believers but an appeal.

When you provide credence to a candidate who has boasted of having sex with a large number of women, many of them married, how is that a testimony to the Gospel you want to promote?

When you ignore the steady stream of diatribes emanating from Trump in his Twitter world, describing anyone who disagrees with him or takes him to task for his views as bimbos, losers, jerks, etc. (I won’t grace this post with some of the more vulgar terms he has used), how does that help point others to a Savior who tells us to be lights in this dark world?

When you promote a man who would love to put his pro-abortion sister on the Supreme Court, would offer the vice presidency to a pro-abortion Republican, who would have jailed Kim Davis over her objection to issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and who has no problem overall with same-sex marriage, how are you at the same time promoting Biblical morality?

I’ll stop there, even though there are many other issues I could raise.

It has been terribly dismaying to read all the defenses of Trump from those who say they have put Jesus Christ first in their lives.

In this latest eruption over the debate, Trump, I believe, has simply displayed his basic nature: bitterness, lack of forgiveness, massive ego, and sense of entitlement.

Trump is used to getting his way on everything. He did so in business; he has been masterful at manipulating a compliant media. When he doesn’t get his way, as with the Fox debate, he resorts to rather childish behavior, reacting the way a child might when he picks up his marbles and goes home when others don’t do what he wants.

One cartoonist has a suggestion on how to set up the stage for the debate tonight:

Trump High Chair

Trump and his supporters might consider that suggestion mean-spirited. It might cause a new round of Twitter denunciations. Sadly, it captures the essence of how Trump has been acting.

Let me say this now, prior to the choice of a Republican nominee: if Donald Trump is the nominee, I don’t see how I can fill in that little oval next to his name in the general election. I know. I’ve always counseled people to hold their noses and vote for a bad nominee because the alternative is worse. However, when both choices are equally bad, what then?

Evangelicals need to go before the Lord, earnestly seeking His mind and His heart, as we help make one of the most momentous decisions for this republic in our lifetime. May God guide us and lead us to His wisdom.