The Campaign Show

This presidential campaign is certainly a show, if nothing else. I do believe it is something else, however; most of the GOP candidates are at least addressing the issues. But we have had our fair share of strange moments.

When’s the last time the supposed frontrunner for one party was being investigated for federal offenses, the kind that could land a person in prison? The FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s personal e-mail server handling top-security matters and the manner in which she enriched her family through a phony charitable foundation has become increasingly serious.

In her last debate with the other erstwhile Democrat challengers, Hillary uttered words that were immediately applied to her by many:

Too Big

The irony seems to have been lost on her. What is particularly galling is that Gen. David Petraeus, for a lesser violation, is being singled out for possible reduction in rank and prison time. Can anyone say “double standard”?

Change Your Name

What’s really funny—in the sense that anything about this can be labeled as funny—is that a man who should be merely an also-ran in this race, Bernie Sanders, is picking up momentum:

Feel the Burn

Sanders, an outspoken socialist (as opposed to the rest of the Democrats who don’t want it to be known that they too are socialists), is ahead of Hillary by double digits in the New Hampshire polling and is about even in Iowa. This is not the way Hillary’s shining path to the nomination was supposed to happen:

Close-Up

The Republican side of the race has attracted even more attention, thanks to the Trump circus. The media just can’t seem to help themselves:

Pied Trumpeter

Trump has taken advantage of the failed leadership in the Republican party to attract a devoted following, so devoted, at least in his estimation, that they will never desert him no matter what he says or does. As he infamously joked a few days ago, he could shoot someone on a public street and his supporters would still vote for him. As I commented in yesterday’s post, the saddest part of that statement is that it’s probably true for a significant segment of his loyal fans.

Yet when his rhetoric is analyzed without bias, there isn’t really much “there” there. Is it possible that may change in the upcoming debate on Thursday?

More Serious

Nah.

National Review & Trump (Cont.)

Donald Trump at DordtI want to revisit the important message of National Review‘s issue “Against Trump,” but first I want to make sure no one missed a statement Trump made while speaking Saturday at Dordt College, a Christian Reformed institution in Iowa.

Attempting to be funny, Trump commented that his supporters are so loyal that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue in New York and shoot somebody and still not lose his voters.

According to an eyewitness account, the joke fell short—some muffled laughter and a good number of people shaking their heads. I don’t know what bothers me more, that Trump would say such a thing or that he is probably correct about a sizable segment of his supporters.

I echo the concern of one evangelical commentator who concluded, “There is something deeply disturbing about a candidate who would say this . . . and Evangelicals who would support him.”

Back to National Review.

I hope my readers will take the time to wade through the articles in this latest issue, both the official editorial and the various essays from individual contributors.

Some have already criticized NR on various grounds. The most common ones I’ve seen have been based on perceived inconsistencies with positions NR has taken in the past. I argue that is irrelevant; one must look at the present topic—Donald Trump’s candidacy—and judge on its merits alone.

While there may be some critiques based on the issues themselves, I have yet to see them; the focus seems to be that NR has unfairly trashed the frontrunner.

Against TrumpThere is no room in this post to quote extensively from the varied views of Trump that are expressed in the “Against Trump” collection, so I will limit myself to excerpts from what I believe is a factually based and cogent presentation in the main editorial.

The editors at NR begin with their main thesis:

Trump is a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP in favor of a free-floating populism with strong-man overtones.
The editorial then proceeds to effectively undercut Trump’s immigration policy and his woeful lack of understanding of America’s foreign policy crises, noting that he
casually suggested a few weeks ago a war crime — killing terrorists’ families — as a tactic in the war on terror. For someone who wants to project strength, he has an astonishing weakness for flattery, falling for Vladimir Putin after a few coquettish bats of the eyelashes from the Russian thug. All in all, Trump knows approximately as much about national security as he does about the nuclear triad — which is to say, almost nothing.
Calling Trump “the most poll-obsessed politician in all of American history,” the editorial continues,

Trump has shown no interest in limiting government, in reforming entitlements, or in the Constitution. . . .

His obsession is with “winning,” regardless of the means — a spirit that is anathema to the ordered liberty that conservatives hold dear and that depends for its preservation on limits on government power.
What about Trump’s success as a businessman? NR tackles that as well:
Trump’s record as a businessman is hardly a recommendation for the highest office in the land. For all his success, Trump inherited a real-estate fortune from his father. Few of us will ever have the experience, as Trump did, of having Daddy-O bail out our struggling enterprise with an illegal loan in the form of casino chips.
Trump’s primary work long ago became less about building anything than about branding himself and tending to his celebrity through a variety of entertainment ventures, from WWE to his reality-TV show, The Apprentice. His business record reflects the often dubious norms of the milieu: using eminent domain to condemn the property of others; buying the good graces of politicians — including many Democrats — with donations.
The editors’ other concern, along with the damage a Trump presidency would do to the nation at large, is what it would do to conservatism:
If Trump were to become the president, the Republican nominee, or even a failed candidate with strong conservative support, what would that say about conservatives?
The movement that ground down the Soviet Union and took the shine, at least temporarily, off socialism would have fallen in behind a huckster. The movement concerned with such “permanent things” as constitutional government, marriage, and the right to life would have become a claque for a Twitter feed.
William F. Buckley-YoungIn its concluding paragraph, the editorial summons the spirit of its founder, William F. Buckley, who began the enterprise in the 1950s with the declaration that NR would be voice standing athwart history yelling “Stop.”
Some conservatives have made it their business to make excuses for Trump and duly get pats on the head from him. Count us out. Donald Trump is a menace to American conservatism who would take the work of generations and trample it underfoot in behalf of a populism as heedless and crude as the Donald himself.
National Review earned the typical Donald Trump treatment for its views, as he labeled it a dying magazine. When Glenn Beck, over the weekend, came out in support of Ted Cruz, Beck, according to Trump, was overseeing a failing enterprise with his media venture. Anyone who dares criticize “The Donald” receives that treatment. Both National Review and Glenn Beck should bask in his rejection. Not everyone receives such a badge of honor.

National Review’s Trump Critique

Against TrumpNational Review, the flagship conservative magazine founded in the 1950s by the late William F. Buckley, has taken a bold stand against the candidacy of Donald Trump. In its new issue, NR has assembled a bevy of conservative commentators and activists who give their reasons why Trump would be a disaster for political and cultural conservatism.

Trump, of course, was quick to respond with his typical response when criticized by anyone—NR, in effect, is a loser. It’s a “dying paper,” he thundered.

The Republican National Committee also was quick to respond. NR was slated to be a co-sponsor for an upcoming February debate. It has now been disinvited. Hmmm, I thought the establishment opposed Trump.

I have been a regular reader of NR since the 1970s. I don’t always agree with every article, primarily because there are various strands of conservatism represented. That’s actually one of its strengths: it draws from every avenue of conservative thought, and even when I disagree, I am given something to think about.

Whittaker Chambers was an editor of NR back in the late 1950s. Ronald Reagan loved to read it. I still do.

Some criticize NR as too neo-conservative or whatever, but it really represents all positions within conservatism.

Against Trump 2Rich Lowry, the editor, appeared last night on The Kelly File on Fox to explain the rationale for this strong stand. He was joined by three of the contributors to the magazine’s Trump critique. None of them can realistically be considered “establishment.” Someone like Brent Bozell, head of the Media Research Center, who also appeared, has fought the conservative fight against the “establishment” all of his life. Any criticism of him or others like him has no credibility on that ground.

Regular readers of this blog know my opposition to a Trump nomination. Let me quickly catalog my reasons:

  • I don’t believe Trump’s recent conversion to conservatism: he has historically been on the liberal side of most policy issues;
  • Specifically, he never has had a problem with abortion, even to the point where he has said he thinks his sister, a pro-abortion judge, would be a great Supreme Court justice; last week, he hinted that former senator Scott Brown, a pro-abortion Republican, would be a wonderful vice president in his administration;
  • He has no real issue with same-sex marriage;
  • He has no understanding of Christian faith, and no matter how much he says he will protect religious liberty, I have no faith in his promises;
  • If you listen to any of his speeches, you will find that they are rambling and fairly incoherent, focused primarily on fanning emotions—the very definition of a demagogue;
  • His constant personal attacks on others, candidates or otherwise, betray a thin skin and a lack of character that would further demean the office of the presidency;
  • He is absolutely full of himself, constantly referring to how much of a winner he is, how much money he has made, and how only he can deal with others.

I could go on, but I promised a quick overview.

I agree with NR’s critique that he is no conservative; neither is he in any way a genuine Christian believer, based on his many comments that provide evidence of only a vague type of understanding of the Christian faith.

Some have asked me if I have any favored candidate in this race. I’ve tried to hold back on making any such pronouncement as I continue to listen and investigate the field.

Realistically, only two others have a chance to derail Trump at this point—Cruz and Rubio. I would support either of these nominations. I have reservations about both men, but there is no perfect candidate. Right now, if forced to choose, I would go with Ted Cruz, but I remain open to more information.

Will NR’s opinion influence anyone? Yes, but the real question is how many. I doubt that a majority of Trump supporters or those who are leaning that way will read the NR essays, but if you are one of those, I strongly urge you to do so and carefully consider the enormity of the decision before us.

We truly are at a crossroads as a nation. Trump is not the answer to our problems; he will, I believe, only add to them.

The Cruz-Trump Debate Showdown

The races for the presidential nomination are tightening in both parties. Bernie Sanders is doing surprisingly well against Hillary Clinton. I like what one commentator said about that: “To see her struggling to overcome the challenge from a glowering grouchy grandfather socialist like Bernie Sanders tells us a lot about how far left the Democratic base has drifted.”

On the Republican side, Ted Cruz is now pushing Donald Trump in a way Trump didn’t anticipate; he doesn’t like being behind in a poll, as he now seems to be in Iowa:

Biggest Problem

Trump has spent a lot of time trying to convince Republican voters that everyone else is a “loser,” and that he is the only one who can lift America out of its doldrums. The “loser” meme is getting kind of old:

Losers

So when it looks like he might be the loser, he comes up with a new strategy: claim that Cruz might be ineligible to run because he was born in Canada. Never mind that Cruz’s mom was always an American citizen; ignore that the distinction always has been between someone born to an American citizen and someone who has to go through the naturalization process (which Cruz didn’t have to do); suggest that this could be a huge problem if he becomes the nominee; call for him to have a court decide this.

We have a granddaughter who was born in New Zealand. Her mother—our daughter—is a natural-born American citizen; her father is a naturalized citizen; our granddaughter is considered a natural-born American citizen even though she has never spent one second of her life in the United States. Ted Cruz, except for that brief, transitory period when his father took a job in Canada, has lived in the U.S. all of his life.

There should be no controversy. Trump even acknowledged in the debate last week that he decided to raise the issue because Cruz was coming up in the polls. How crass can you get?

Cruz tore Trump’s argument to shreds in that debate. It was a joy to watch.

Later, Trump got his revenge when Cruz critiqued what he called “New York values.” Now, anyone with even half a brain knew what Cruz meant: that New York in general, and the City in particular, are havens for leftist ideology. When is the last time New York went for a Republican in a presidential race? (Hint: his initials are RR.)

Cruz was quite clear that was what he was talking about. So what did Trump do? He shifted the focus from that leftist ideology that has dominated the state and talked about the way New Yorkers dug out of the rubble of 9/11 and showed great courage in the process.

No one disputes that. It was a clever political ploy, but a ploy nonetheless. It had nothing to do with what Cruz was talking about; rather, it removed the entire context of Cruz’s comments and concentrated on something that had no relation to what he was saying.

In retrospect, Cruz probably should have known Trump might do that. He also probably shouldn’t have singled out New York but the elitist, leftist ideology itself. As a result, Trump had another “victory” in the debate, no matter how deceptive.

What was truly ironic is that he accused Cruz of being insulting, as if the Trump campaign hasn’t revolved around a steady stream of insults for which he never is called to account.

Once you get past the anger Trump has been able to take advantage of, and listen to what he actually says, you discover there is very little “there” there. What we get instead is a healthy helping of hubris, grandiose promises, scanty knowledge of the issues, and a character—based on his previous political/policy views and personal life—that cannot be trusted:

Trump at Debate

Called on by Democrats to apologize for his remarks, here’s what Cruz said in response:

Ted Cruz 2I apologize to the millions of New Yorkers who have been let down by liberal politicians in that state.

I apologize to the hard working men and women of the state of New York who have been denied jobs because Governor Cuomo won’t allow fracking. Even though there had been many high paying jobs just south in Pennsylvania, New Yorkers are denied the ability to provide for their families.

I apologize to all the pro-life and pro-marriage and pro-second amendment New Yorkers who were told by Governor Cuomo that they have no place in New York because that’s not who New Yorkers are.

I apologize to all the small businesses who have been driven out of New York city by crushing taxes and regulations.

I apologize to the millions of unborn children, many African-American and Hispanic, whose lives have been taken by politicians who relentlessly promote abortion on demand with no limitations.

I apologize to all of the African-American children who Mayor de Blasio tried to throw out of their charter schools that were providing a lifeline to the American Dream.

I apologize to the people of New York who are offended when the New York Daily News lambastes anyone who prays for victims of violence.

I apologize to the people of faith who are ridiculed and insulted by the New York media.

And I apologize to all the cops and the firefighters and 9/11 heroes who had no choice but to stand and turn their backs on Mayor de Blasio, because Mayor de Blasio over and over again stands with the looters and criminals rather than the brave men and women of the law.

It was an eloquent “apology,” and one that I wish more Republicans had the courage to issue.

The Hillary Predicament

Hillary Clinton is in trouble, although she continues to laugh off her troubles as some kind of vast right-wing conspiracy. On the purely political front, she’s behind Bernie Sanders in the polls in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

Bernie Sanders??? That has to be humiliating.

The reasons have to do with the lack of enthusiasm by Democrats for someone so flawed to be their candidate. Other polls show that Americans think she is a liar (Benghazi, e-mails, etc.) and her own base considers her a sellout to Wall Street.

So what did she promise to focus on recently? UFOs.

UFOs

Actually, that might be a pressing issue for a certain segment of her base, seeing as how they have a tenuous relationship with reality.

Here’s the reality, though: the FBI has now expanded its investigation into her potential criminal actions via the e-mails and inappropriate use of the Clinton Foundation as a funnel for personal enrichment while serving as secretary of state.

One cartoonist drew a parallel with the news that North Korea had developed an H-bomb.

Other H-Bomb

For the first time, there is serious talk about a possible criminal indictment. If the FBI says she should be indicted, will the Obama Justice Department follow through? Most dismiss the idea, but there isn’t a whole lot of love between the Obama and Clinton devotees. Perhaps they would prefer Sanders as the most ideologically “sound,” from their perspective.

Hillary’s go-to guy, husband Bill, may be too flawed himself to be of much help now. His tawdry past is becoming an issue, as well it should be. Can he really be considered a plus for her this time around?

Break Glass

If she should somehow survive this and Republicans do the unthinkable, this is what we will face in the general election:

Snake Eyes

Not a pretty prospect.

Trump, Integrity, & the Lack Thereof

Donald TrumpNo, Donald Trump is not a racist because he is concerned about illegal immigration. Neither is Donald Trump a fascist because he believes radical mosques ought to receive greater scrutiny. Those are not the reasons I don’t favor him as the Republican nominee for president. I have deeper reasons.

I’ve written before about what I consider to be Trump’s iffy conversion to conservative policy positions, his supreme arrogance with respect to how much money he has, his assurances that all will be right with the world because he’s so good at making “deals,” and his demeaning attitude toward any other candidate who threatens his poll numbers.

I’ve also been put off by his undisciplined manner of speaking that has led to making some truly absurd statements, none of which have yet come back to derail him, but should have.

His latest claim is demonstrably false, yet many of his conservative supporters are making excuses for him once again. Let me quote Trump—his words unaltered—earlier this week:

Hey, I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.

Now, there certainly were Muslim extremists in America who rejoiced over 9/11. That’s not the point. Trump is claiming that he saw, with his own eyes, “thousands and thousands” in Jersey City “cheering” as the buildings fell.

Only one problem: there is no video of any such rejoicing by those thousands in that city. No Jersey City official can back him up. The current governor, Chris Christie, has no recollection of this. In fact, no one saw it. Why? Maybe it’s because it never occurred. By continuing to insist that it did, Trump has put himself in some rather disreputable company:

That Never Happened

Jim Geraghty of National Review wrote yesterday that when he called Trump out on this falsehood, Trump supporters sent him videos of what they said was evidence of Trump’s truthfulness—Muslims celebrating 9/11. The problem? The videos were of Palestinians rejoicing in Jerusalem. Geraghty was amazed how they never even bothered to check where that celebration took place. For those with Geography Deficit Disorder, Jerusalem is not Jersey City.

Then there’s been a rush to defend Trump because of a Washington Post report from September 18, 2001, that his supporters say validates Trump’s remembrance. That report stated,

In Jersey City, within hours of two jetliners’ plowing into the World Trade Center, law enforcement authorities detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops while they watched the devastation on the other side of the river.

As Geraghty correctly notes,

Police questioning “a number of people” after reports of celebrations is not the same as “thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down”, an event that Trump contended was televised and was “well-covered at the time.”

It’s time to be honest: Trump was shooting from the lip when he made his statement. There is no truth in what he said. What bothers me even more than Trump’s lack of integrity is the willingness of those who should know better to defend the indefensible.

Trump is taking the Republican party for a ride, and it’s more than a little scary to me.

Political Minefield

Trump may win the nomination. Trump could conceivably win the presidency. While anything would be better than a Hillary Clinton presidency, a Trump victory might be the second worst scenario because he could bury Republicans once and for all.

Suicide Vest

I know there are some in my readership who would like to see that happen. However, going forward something would have to replace the Republicans in order for Democrats not to become ultimately triumphant. Can we reasonably expect a Phoenix to rise out of the ashes of the utter destruction of the Republican party?

Some people, I fear, are far too optimistic that a pure, undiluted conservatism grounded in Biblical principles will come to the forefront. While I would welcome that development, there is the basic truth that all political parties are coalitions of different groups with different emphases. Currently, Christian conservatives still have a strong voice within the Republican party. I’m not yet ready to surrender that voice.

Meanwhile, I will continue to warn Christians, conservatives, and particularly Christian conservatives, to beware the Trump mystique. His penchant for saying whatever he wants, his unwillingness ever to admit to a mistake, and his basic lack of integrity should be more than enough to move us toward a better candidate.

2016’s Worst-Case Scenario

Joe Biden says he is out of the 2016 race, then proceeds to give a 25-minute campaign speech. Why? Commentator Charles Krauthammer thinks he is positioning himself should lightning strike Hillary Clinton in the form of a federal indictment.

Any indictment that may come will be the result of an FBI investigation into her e-mail scandal, but there are other reasons to fervently oppose a Hillary nomination, with Benghazi being a key one.

Today the House special committee investigating Benghazi will have her testify. Four Americans died in that terrorist attack that she tried to blame on a hardly seen video. When she appears before the committee, perhaps they should also have empty chairs next to her as a remembrance for the four who died.

There’s actually a fifth victim here as well:

Empty Chairs

Another cartoonist picked up on that theme rather pointedly also:

Waste of Time

For me, it doesn’t matter which of the possible candidates Democrats will offer to the public; I could never vote for any of them. Why don’t they just get it over and change the name of the party officially to the Socialist Party? Or how about the Kill Innocent Children and Sell Their Body Parts Party? The Let’s Destroy Marriage Party? You get the drift. There’s no way I can ever support what Democrats now stand for. How any Christian can give support for them is beyond my comprehension.

Then there’s the Republican side where Donald Trump continues to lead in the polls. Some, like this cartoonist, view him this way:

Trumpet

His candidacy certainly has been long on bravado, a cult of personality, and the ability to hit hot-button issues that appeal to angry voters. But he’s far from lacking substance; what bothers me the most is the substance I see.

Trump, in my view, has only latched onto a type of conservatism because it’s what will get him the nomination. He, by his own admission, has always aligned himself more with Democrats than Republicans, and now mouths conservative platitudes that I don’t really think he believes.

Ronald Reagan underwent a serious rethinking of his New Deal liberalism over a number of years, coming out of the period of rethinking as a confirmed conservative in principle. Trump is, I fear, nothing more than an opportunist jumping on a bandwagon of reaction against the Obama years.

That’s not enough. It’s also dangerous to put one’s trust in an opportunist. It will come back to bite.

His latest foray into the Loony Left’s talking points is the insinuation that 9/11 was somehow George Bush’s fault. Whatever critique we, and I, may have of Bush’s actions, anyone who even hints at his complicity in letting 9/11 happen is wandering into the fever swamps.

There were so many daily threats Bush was given that there was no way to single out ahead of time what actually happened on 9/11.

Further, Trump then asserted that if he had been president, 9/11 wouldn’t have happened, indicating that his immigration approach would have prevented it. Does he not know that 15 of the 19 terrorists that day came into the country legally? And does he really want us to believe that he would have rounded them up and deported them in the short 8-month span he would have been in office prior to 9/11?

Hitching a ride on the Trump Train will spell disaster for the GOP.

911

Can you imagine a worse scenario than what we may be facing as an election choice in 2016?

Miss Those Days

As noted above, I’ll never vote for Hillary or any other Democrat. But please, Republicans, don’t force me to vote for a third party.