Archive for the ‘ Politics & Government ’ Category

Bush 41: A Man of Faith & Honor

Bush 41 is what the country started calling him once his son became president. Yet George Herbert Walker Bush was not just a number; my own research on him has led me to revise not only my evaluation of his presidency but my perception of him as a man of faith and honor.

I voted for him twice, yet I had reservations as to whether he was the best successor to Ronald Reagan. I continue to note his deficiencies as president: his walkback of the promise of no new taxes hurt him badly in his re-election bid; he also seemed to lack the kind of energy needed for that re-election. But I now believe he accomplished more than some people give him credit for: ousting the corrupt Panamanian drug lord Manuel Noriega and gathering a coalition of nations to beat back Saddam Hussein’s power grab in the Middle East are two of his greatest achievements.

Perhaps a review of his earlier life—which is being and will be reviewed all this week—will help highlight his overall accomplishments.

Bush was the youngest Navy pilot in WWII, flying 58 combat missions. On one of those missions, he was shot down and rescued by a passing US submarine. He easily could have died bobbing around in the Pacific Ocean. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery in action.

After the war, he moved his family out of New England to Texas and proved himself successful in business as director of an oil company and president of an offshore drilling equipment company.

Bush’s first attempt at elected office was as an unsuccessful Texas Senate candidate in 1964, but then he won a seat in the House in 1966; he lost another Senate race in 1970 to Lloyd Bentsen (who later ran against Bush in 1988 as the Democrats’ losing vice presidential candidate).

During the Nixon presidency, he was appointed as Permanent Representative of the US to the UN, then served as chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), beginning in 1973. That had to be one of his most difficult assignments, as he attempted to right the GOP ship in the midst of Watergate.

President Ford recognized Bush’s skills and appointed him head of US Liaison Office in Communist China, then he took over as director of the CIA in 1975. That agency now bears his name.

I knew little to nothing of Bush until the 1980 presidential primaries when he ran against Reagan to receive the Republican nomination. Admittedly, I was chagrined when Reagan chose him to be the vice presidential candidate on the ticket. I thought he was too liberal.

Reagan, though, wanted Bush to publicly agree with the strong pro-life position in the Republican platform, which he pledged to do. This struck me at the time as pure politics since Bush had not been strongly pro-life prior to that time. It may have been exactly that. Yet for the rest of his life, even after he left public office, he never backed down on that commitment. I believe it became his conviction over time.

During my sabbatical year, Bush’s Library was one of my research stops. The museum was very well done, and perusing it one day at my leisure helped me to get a better measure of the man.

I also took the opportunity to get as close to the Oval Office as I ever will.

The research I conducted during the sabbatical helped me see also the Christian faith of the man. I didn’t know how close he was to Billy Graham. I was unaware that for many summers prior to his presidency, he had Graham come to the family compound in Maine to speak to the family. Bush wanted his entire family to be instructed by Graham. To his credit, Graham chose not to preach but to conduct those sessions in the Q&A mode, which was much more effective.

It was during one of those visits that George W. Bush took a walk with Graham on the beach and began his spiritual journey to Christian faith.

When Bush 41 moved against Saddam Hussein, it was Graham that he wanted by his side—not as a political advisor, but as a spiritual counselor. Graham heeded that summons. The two were close personal friends. It was a revelation to me just how close they were for those many years.

I’m teaching a new course this coming semester that I’m calling “Religion and the Presidents,” and I’m pleased that I’m now going to be able to add one more name to the number of those whose Christian faith was genuine.

When Bush gave his acceptance speech at the Republican Convention in 1988, one of the lines from that speech (authored by Peggy Noonan, but obviously approved by Bush) has stuck with people. He spoke of the numerous non-governmental volunteer organizations throughout the nation that were performing valuable services. He called them “a thousand points of light.”

Bush didn’t believe that government was the answer to all of our problems. He looked instead to all those people, usually guided by their faith, as the better solution. I believe his life demonstrated that belief. One political cartoonist, in the wake of his death, has made the point very well.

We need more men of faith and honor. We need more George Herbert Walker Bush’s.

Elections & Integrity

Thanksgiving is now past and, thankfully, so are the elections. There was every possibility that in my home state of Florida we might see recounts go on interminably. The counties to blame for that always seem to be the same ones, election after election. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the requirement that integrity be the basis for our elections—and for those who are elected. Is that really too much to ask?

I wonder if there will ever be the kind of accountability that is needed to ensure that the voting is carried out without bias.

While the above political cartoon is fantasy (at least I trust it is), there is ample reason for questioning the integrity of some of those responsible for counting the votes. Democrats are always crying that elections are being stolen. Well, maybe they’re right, only not in the way they think:

Now that the Democrats will control the House of Representatives, a rather weird thing has occurred—Trump has given his support for Nancy Pelosi to be elected Speaker once again. There’s been a lot of head scratching going on over that endorsement.

Of course, his most adamant followers/adoring fans will look upon this as a brilliant move because she is perhaps one of the most polarizing figures on the political scene. I’m not so sure he’s really all that astute. I think he just likes strong people. Witness his affinity for Chinese leaders, Kim Jong Un of North Korea, and the Saudi royal family.

But I digress.

The new Democrat House might make the illegal immigrant crisis even more alarming.

Meanwhile, a lot of Democrat hopefuls are lining up to run for president in 2020. The latest poll of potential Democrat candidates is rather interesting:

Frankly, I don’t look forward to 2020. My distaste for politics grows. That doesn’t mean I’m not interested in what will develop, but my interest is on the governing side—I believe deeply in good government based on Biblical principles and will always be advocating for that.

It’s the seamy politics I’m not fond of. As a historian, I know that seamy politics has been with us in all eras, but all of our new technology—round-the-clock cable news, social media, etc.—while good in itself, has only provided a platform for the seaminess to become more evident.

Oh, for integrity and principles in our politics! When I see someone who models that, I will vote for that person.

Florida in the Limelight . . . Again

I didn’t live in Florida in 2000 when the nation was focused on the presidential recount. I was one of many who found it simultaneously concerning and amusing. There was a photoshopped meme at the time that I still use in class.

Along with that one, I share this:

It’s funny, but now that I live in Florida, I would really like to see my state not be the focal point once more when it comes to election miseries. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Of course, not all of Florida can be blamed for this. My county apparently knows how to count votes. Broward County? Well, not so much. And the supervisor there, Brenda Snipes, can credibly be accused of having what one might call a “slight” slant toward Democrat hopefuls.

Oh, I believe in counting every vote—every legitimate vote. I hope I, and countless others, can be excused for wondering how legitimate this current recount really is.

Gov. Rick Scott, seeking to be the next senator, seemed to have a clear victory over incumbent Bill Nelson, but this recount has narrowed his lead from 50,000+ to less than 15,000. For the record, such a drastic change is unprecedented in recount history, leading to a strong charge of some kind of fraud being perpetrated. Knowing what I do about Democrat tactics, please allow me to be one of those who has, shall we say, grave suspicions about the integrity of this recount.

All that is not to say that Democrats haven’t made gains nationally this time around. They now will control the House of Representatives. While not exactly an overall Blue Wave, to say this is negligible is to deny reality.

Are there any other optimistic signs?

What might this portend for 2020?

I’m being facetious, as I think cartoonist Ramirez is also. Yet I do believe that Republicans need to take seriously what this election means. Many suburban voters abandoned the party, allowing the House to fall to Democrats. Races that should have been won going away were extremely close. There is reason to believe a major factor is perception of the man who currently sits atop the Republican establishment.

Election Fallout, Trends, & the Christian Witness

There are different layers to the midterm elections. We can look at the superficial results—who won, who lost—we can analyze what this means for the near future politically, but we also need to look at the long-term trends.

On the surface, we see kind of a wash where Democrats took over the House while Republicans have increased their numbers in the Senate. What this means is that Nancy Pelosi and crew will use their power position to begin an unending series of investigations of whatever they deem corruption.The new chair of the Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, is already more than hinting that he will seek to impeach newly confirmed Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh.

In other words, prepare for the ongoing circus. No vote for impeachment in the House, though, will ever be favorably received by the Senate, nor should it be. Any impeachment attempt will fail.

By keeping control of the Senate, the Republicans can go forward with the appointment of more judges who will, hopefully, have respect for the Constitution. And that’s no small thing.

In my state of Florida, the Republican candidates for governor and senator won, despite what the polls showed. Ron Desantis will be the new governor and our current governor, Rick Scott, will now be in the Senate. Both victories were razor-thin, but they were victories nonetheless.

The Scott win throws out Democrat Bill Nelson, who had thought he could be senator for life. The Desantis triumph keeps Florida from going into the pit, as his opponent, Andrew Gillum, was a Bernie Sanders acolyte.

Nearly all the polls showed Nelson and Gillum winning, which makes one wonder about polls (as if you weren’t already wondering about them).

Neighboring Georgia escaped the same fate as Republican Brian Kemp narrowly edged out Stacey Abrams, who, as a state legislator, had voted to confiscate guns, and who was running a race based quite a bit on race.

So, at least for now, conservatives can breathe a kind of sigh of relief. The barbarians have not yet broken through some of the walls.

But the trends are not optimistic. Florida and Georgia nearly going the Bernie Sanders route? Ted Cruz having a scare in Texas before pulling out a late win there? Many state legislatures and governorships switching to Democrat control? That reverses the Republican wave of state gains over the past decade.

Why does this concern me so much? Just look at how radical the Democrats have become. This is certainly no longer the party of Truman and JFK. This isn’t even the party of George McGovern in the 1970s. We thought he was radical; he might not even get nominated today.

The deepest concern for me is the spiritual. Democrats have all but abandoned any pretense of caring about Christian beliefs and morality. Wherever they have the upper hand, they will attempt to force into compliance those who disagree with their vision of the perfect society.

For all the talk on the Left of the fantasy of some kind of right-wing theocracy, the truth is more on the side of a totalitarian state of the Left:

  • You will promote abortion regardless of your religious beliefs;
  • You will accept homosexuality and same-sex marriage as normal or lose your business;
  • You will become social justice warriors or face retribution by being stigmatized as racist, sexist, and whatever other “ist” our fertile imaginations will conjure up.

That is not society I wish to see. The only consolation, and it is real, is that the Christian message will be shining in the darkness.

If we are faithful to that message.

Let me end with a Scripture that just came to mind. Jesus, speaking to the Pharisee Nicodemus, after that most famous of all passages about how God so loved the world, ends with these words of stark truth:

And this is the verdict: The Light has come into the world, but men loved the darkness rather than the Light, because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come into the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever practices the truth comes into the Light, so that it may be seen clearly that what he has done has been accomplished in God.”

We should always expect resistance to God’s message of love because that same message points out people’s sins. They will never like that. Therefore, we need to be prepared for evil people acting out of the evil that exists in their hearts. Yet when they do, our task is to continue to offer God’s redemption from evil.

We are to love even our enemies.

About Those Midterm Elections

Midterm elections mercifully come to an end tomorrow evening. That means we will be spared from the constant barrage of criminal charges against one’s political opponent. Although I’m no longer surprised by the extremely nasty nature of most political ads, I think they’ve raised the nasty factor a few notches this year.

I don’t needs ads anyway. My voting decisions are not based on ads that I know are designed to mislead. My vote is based on the principles that I believe are necessary for government to function the way God intended.

Despite my personal disappointment that Republicans have chosen the wrong man to be the public face of the party, I continue to believe that voting for Democrats will promote not only a government, but a society, hostile to Biblical principles and the morality that should naturally follow those principles.

The Democrat platform has drifted increasingly toward an affirmation of concepts that are not only opposed to Biblical principles but that have a track record of proven incompetence and failure.

That’s not the man I would follow.

Democrats also need to think through the logic of their positions more carefully.

Marxism is not simply a different point of view. History reveals it to be, in its very nature, a movement toward totalitarianism. You must agree or you will pay the penalty. What should we expect if Democrats don’t do as well as they hoped in these midterms?

Be prepared for a level of incivility and outright violence that will take most people by surprise.

How should Christians respond if this occurs?

Be on the alert. Stand firm in the faith. Be men of courage. Be strong. Do everything in love. I Cor. 16:13-14

Notice how one can be firm, courageous, and strong while simultaneously carrying ourselves in love toward others. That’s the goal. That’s God’s way.

Birthright Citizenship & Executive Orders

President Trump has thrown the political world into a tizzy. In itself, that’s nothing new; he seems to delight in doing so rather regularly. The latest instance is his suggestion that he can end birthright citizenship by issuing an executive order.

I’ll come back to that assertion shortly, but first, let’s look at the issue itself.

The idea that anyone having a child born in the United States automatically makes that child an American citizen has been judged constitutional by our federal courts. The controversy now centers on illegals giving birth. Are those children American citizens if their parents entered the country in opposition to the country’s laws?

All of this stems from the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. How about some historical context here?

The 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments were all added to the Constitution at the conclusion of the Civil War, and all were concerned with slavery and the condition of former slaves. The 13th abolished slavery; the 15th gave former slaves the right to vote. The 13th never caused controversy after the fact; the 15th suffered from attempts to limit that right to vote, but those attempts were eventually banned.

It’s the 14th’s statement about citizenship that is the focus of our current debate. The actual language of the amendment is this:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

The first thing to consider is that it was written in the context of ensuring that former slaves were not excluded from citizenship. It was the antidote to the infamous decision in the Dred Scott case in 1857, a decision that upended previous American experience by saying that no black person is or ever was a citizen of the United States. That was at odds with the many free blacks who always considered themselves citizens and had even voted in elections.

That was the main reason for the 14th Amendment: to correct that false belief promulgated by the Dred Scott decision. That is the historical context.

Another part of the historical context is to consider the words uttered on the Senate floor by the author of the amendment, Sen. Jacob Howard, who, in 1866, clarified what was intended by the citizenship clause. Howard stated,

This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons.

According to Howard, citizenship does not apply to foreigners/aliens and those who are representatives of other countries residing in America as ambassadors, etc. In my reading of the statement, I see a distinction between that particular class of foreign representatives and the general connotation of foreigners and aliens. Wouldn’t an illegal alien fit into that latter category?

I realize there can be differing interpretations. That’s why I wouldn’t mind having this debate be open and free, and even submitted to the courts for further clarification.

Now, on to the president’s assertion that he can do his own personal clarification on the issue.

He cannot.

No executive order from any president can undo a constitutional amendment and/or the courts’ decisions based on that amendment. If Trump were to try to undo this precedent merely by the wave of the magic wand of Executive Order, he would not accomplish his purpose—it would immediately be challenged and go directly to the courts.

His goal in making this pronouncement appears to be purely political, an attempt to rally the base as the midterm elections draw near. While that may be understandable politically, it is nonsense constitutionally.

Here’s where I must challenge my conservative colleagues: if you decried how Obama misused executive orders (and I was one of the decriers), you must be consistent and apply that reasoning to Trump’s proposed use of this particular executive order.

If you excuse what Trump proposes as legitimate, you have tossed away your integrity and have decided that constitutional principle no longer matters as long as a president you support resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

On the substance of this birthright issue, I agree that the original intent of the 14th Amendment has been skewed. However, the old cliché remains true: two wrongs do not create a right.

I’m actually glad that the nation might be led into a debate on whether children born to illegals have the privilege of citizenship, but that debate needs to go forward in the constitutionally prescribed manner, not by a phony application of a presidential executive order.

Socialism: A Principle-Based Critique

Conservatives speak out against socialism, and I am glad they do. Often, though, the critique is too much on the surface. I wish more conservatives would base their critique on solid Biblical principles.

While I agree that socialism simply is unworkable and has never shown any indication, in any nation, of being the engine that brings prosperity, my critique is more fundamental.

Defining socialism is important. The definition that I think is most appropriate is when the government controls all the means of production and distribution of goods. That can be by outright nationalization of all industries or by regulating them in such a manner that they, in practice, are no longer truly private—the ostensible owners can’t really make the decisions they wish because the government has intervened and interfered on every level.

Where does my critique begin? It starts with the belief that God has created each individual in His image, which includes the abilities to reason and to make decisions in life.

The second principle is that God seeks to lead us into maturity by teaching us how to govern our own lives—under His laws and guidance. He wants us to grow up and be able to know, without someone always standing over us, what those right decisions are.

Third, if that principle of self-government is correct, the natural extension is that we are to make our own economic decisions also. If government makes all those decisions for us, we never learn how to be accountable in that arena. We can never graduate from God’s School of Accountability if the government takes over our lives.

That’s why I believe that limited government and a free market are the ideals. That’s why I believe that capitalism is the source of genuine prosperity.

Can capitalism go wrong? Every human endeavor dependent on sinful men can go wrong. But it can go very right as well. Socialism, meanwhile, is inherently wrong because it violates all those principles I just described.

I said socialism hasn’t worked anywhere. I can give the former USSR and its satellite states as a prime example: 70-plus years of abject failure.

Nations like Sweden, which are often used as shining examples of socialism, have never outlawed private ownership of businesses; the government has simply tried to use the prosperity that stems from those businesses to finance a welfare state. if you haven’t noticed, there is now trouble in that nation trying to maintain its high level of social welfare. As Margaret Thatcher so famously stated (and I paraphrase)—socialism always runs out of other people’s money.

Venezuela is the latest tragic example, where people are searching garbage cans for food, and where hordes of its citizens are now voting with their feet, leaving their native land—a land that was once the richest in all of South America. The late Hugo Chavez, the dictator who began this disaster, was the instigator of this move away from reason, and let’s be honest: it was also a play for complete control over his people and maximum power for himself.

He didn’t live long enough to witness the full fruit of his warped ideology, but his people have lived with the consequences ever since.

Young Americans seem rather taken with socialism. I believe it’s because they don’t really have an understanding of it. They seem to think it’s some newfangled theory that no one has ever tried. Take Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the new darling of the socialist agenda in the Democrat party. She actually seems unaware of the many failures. She somehow thinks we can pay for everything she wants to make “free.” She is woefully educated.

Her rapt audience is a sad combination of the ideologically blind and the gullible, both of whom are devoid of solid principles:

Democrats are counting on those young voters in the upcoming midterm elections. For some reason, they seem to want to remake America in the image of Venezuela.

Maybe this is the argument they need to make to convince people to vote for the socialist agenda:

Meanwhile, we need to speak out on these principles: man is made in the image of God; God expects us to grow up and mature, making our decisions based on His truth; we are to learn accountability by making our own economic decisions.

And the system that these principles all lead to is capitalism.

May those principles be re-established.