Archive for the ‘ Politics & Government ’ Category

The Palin Pick

Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin
Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin

When John McCain chose Alaska Governor Sarah Palin yesterday to be his running mate, I was delighted. I had done some research into her credentials when her name first popped up as a possibility weeks ago, and I had hoped she would be chosen.

In the adult class that I teach at my church, I had outlined, prior to the Florida primary in January, my guidelines for choosing a candidate to support. I would like to share those.

First, is the candidate a genuine Christian?

Most claim to be Christians, but we have to look deeper. From all accounts, Palin is a convinced evangelical whose faith informs all aspects of her life.

Second, are the candidate’s policies consistent with Biblical principles?

From pro-life to limited government to property rights to the right of self-defense to energy independence, she is on target with what I believe are the policies that flow from a Biblical worldview. I may not agree with everything she promotes, but the essentials are solid.

Third, what type of experience does the candidate have and how much?

Already she has been criticized by the Obama campaign as not ready for the office. They need to be careful here. Such attacks invite comparisons with Obama himself. She has been in elected office longer than he has. She has executive experience as a mayor and governor; he has none. She is currently in charge of the Alaska National Guard; he has never had such a responsibility. The vice president is part of the executive branch; it is executive experience that she brings.

Fourth, does the candidate manifest Christian character?

Palin’s reputation is one of intense integrity. She has fought against the corruption in her own Alaskan Republican party and won. She ousted a sitting governor and has dismissed a number of officials who have betrayed their public trust. She says that people should never forget that a public servant is exactly that–a servant, not a lord or master. For her stance, she has alienated many in her own party, but she is doing what she considers morally right rather than politically expedient. Much also has been written about her new baby, born earlier this year. She knew ahead of time that her son would be a Down Syndrome child, but she considers it a privilege to be his mother; abortion was never an option for her. I am impressed by her character.

Fifth, can the candidate effectively communicate principles and policies?

We will find out as the campaign progresses, but if what I have already seen in video interviews and in her short introductory speech yesterday is any indication, she will be an excellent spokesman for the principles we need to believe in and the policies that should follow from those principles.

A final word: Sarah Palin will be attacked vigorously in the coming weeks. She needs the prayers of all those who want Biblical principles to be at the foundation of our society.

No Longer Biden My Time

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

I said in a previous post that I would come back to Sen. Joe Biden. I would like to do so now in relation to Clarence Thomas, who has been the subject of my last two postings.

When Thomas went through his confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court, Biden was chairing the Judiciary Committee. Prior to the hearings, he seemed very courteous, promising Thomas that he would make him feel comfortable by giving him some easy questions at first, so he could relax in the hearings. Thomas expected that to be the case, since Biden had promised. When the hearings began, however, he immediately hit Thomas with a supposed quote from a speech Thomas had given that seemed to indicate that he [Thomas] was in favor of restricting property rights. Thomas wrote in his autobiography, “Instead of the softball questions he’d promised to ask, he threw a beanball straight at my head.”

Thomas was beside himself trying to recall how he ever could have said such a thing. During a break, the lawyers helping him searched for that speech, found it, and showed him the wording. Biden had taken everything out of context, ignoring the two sentences that immediately followed that quote, which made it quite clear that Thomas did not agree with restricting property rights. That’s when he first realized what he was dealing with, and that some people will do whatever is necessary to twist your words and besmirch your reputation. His opinion of Biden sank. He now understood “the dangers of trusting the hypocrites who ‘pretend to be your friend’ while secretly planning to do you wrong. Now I knew I’d met one of them: Senator Biden’s smooth, insincere promises that he would treat me fairly were nothing but talk.”

Later, Biden called Thomas to tell him he had decided to vote against his confirmation. “Judge, I know you don’t believe me,” Biden said, but he then promised he would be Thomas’s “biggest defender” regarding his character. Thomas’s response in his autobiography says it all:

He was right about one thing: I didn’t believe him. Neither did Virginia [Thomas’s wife]. As he reassured me of his goodwill, she grabbed a spoon from the silverware drawer, opened her mouth wide, stuck out her tongue as far as she could, and pretended to gag herself.

This same Sen. Biden, of course, will be speaking this evening at the Democratic National Convention, accepting the nomination of his party as the vice-presidential candidate. If you listen to him, the stories Thomas relates should not be far from your mind.

Obama's View of Clarence Thomas

Obama at Saddleback Forum
Obama at Saddleback Forum

I posted about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, whom I greatly respect, as a prelude to commenting on Barack Obama’s response to Rick Warren at the Saddleback Forum. When asked which current Supreme Court justice he would not have nominated, Obama immediately, without hesitation, chose Thomas. He claimed it was because Thomas was not really prepared for the job, as well as his basic disagreements with his judicial philosophy.

As others have noted, for Obama to use lack of experience as a basis for his answer is rather ironic. Clarence Thomas first worked as a lawyer for the Attorney General of Missouri, then with the Monsanto Company. He spent most of the 1980s in the Reagan administration as director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before being appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. He had a well- developed judicial philosophy grounded in original intent of the Constitution.

Obama, by way of contrast, served in the Illinois State Senate starting in 1996, lost a bid to be a congressman in 2000, then finally was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004. Almost upon taking office in 2005, he began running for president. As has been noted by others, the number of working days he has spent in the Senate is less than 200. His background is not nearly as accomplished at Thomas’s, yet he aspires to the highest office in the land.

Let’s be serious about his real reasons for opposing Thomas: as a justice, Thomas has ruled consistently with his philosophy of original intent. This disallows judicial activism, which is the primary avenue by which Obama and fellow liberals change the country. This is how abortion became legal, and Obama wants to protect the “right” to abortion. His devotion to abortion rights is so pronounced that, while a state senator, he even voted against a bill that would have allowed medical treatment to babies born alive during an abortion procedure. I encourage you to follow this story; it has only begun to resonate and should become more of an issue as the campaign unfolds.

A Man I Respect

Meeting Justice Clarence Thomas at the Supreme Court in 1995
Meeting Justice Clarence Thomas at the Supreme Court in 1995

When people say that there are no principled men in government, I must disagree. There are men and women who are living their principles in public life.

One of the men I respect most is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. For the record, Justice Thomas does not know me personally and would not recognize me if introduced. I did meet him twice–once at the Supreme Court when the government school at Regent University took students there in 1995, and again a few years later when he came to the Regent campus to speak. As a faculty sponsor for the Federalist Society, I did once again greet him at a reception.

But I have read his recent book, an autobiography entitled My Grandfather’s Son. Once I began the book, I could hardly put it down. The story he tells–of his childhood in poverty, his anger over racism as a young man, his return to the Christian faith in his later years, and the trials of his Senate confirmation hearings–is riveting. It shows, to me, how God will use everything in a person’s life to shape and prepare that individual for a calling in this world.

Thomas has been attacked by many people because he espouses a view of the Constitution that says you don’t ignore the limitations that the document places on the authority of the federal government. But in taking the stance that he does, he is abiding by principle.

Yes, principled people are in the minority, but they do exist. Rather than promoting cynicism about government, we should be sharing the stories of those who try to apply Biblical principles such as the rule of law to society.

The Saddleback Forum

McCain & Obama with Rick Warren

I watched both hours of the presidential forum held at Saddleback Church Saturday evening. I must admit that going into it, I was not confident that the pastor, Rick Warren, would really ask the tough questions, especially the types of questions I would like to have asked. Prior to the event, Warren had commented that he was not going to focus on typical evangelical concerns such as abortion and same-sex marriage. Yet he did address those issues and sought to draw out answers from both candidates. Beyond those particular issues, he offered a broad range of worldview and policy questions that helped to flesh out what both men really believed.

This was probably the best arrangement for explaining views that I have witnessed in presidential debate history. The usual debate is an attempt to answer in two minutes or 30 seconds what might require greater explanation. In the typical debate, each person just wants to get in his talking points, regardless of the question being asked. Have you ever noticed how that works?

In this forum, Obama had to acknowledge his belief in Roe v. Wade. Asked the deeper question, “At what point does a baby have rights?” he fell back on the vagueness of how complex is the issue of when life begins. He then said that answering such a question was above his pay grade. Now, while that might sound humble, it is merely punting. He doesn’t want to grapple with that issue.

McCain, on the other hand, when asked the same question, stated without hesitation, “at the moment of conception.” In fact, he was quite impressive, I thought, in most of his answers. I say that as someone who was not thrilled with his capturing of the Republican nomination. Saturday night, for the first time, I sensed in him a little bit of Reagan, who had optimism in the future of America, and who had firmly held principles. It remains to be seen if McCain stays on track, but this forum was a good start.

Warren did an exemplary job of moderating this evening of conversation. He did not overshadow either candidate, giving them both the opportunity to say whatever they wanted without feeling rushed. As more than one of the commentators afterward said, this was the best forum for a presidential contest they had ever witnessed.

Republican? Democrat? Christian?

Are Christians supposed to align themselves with political parties? Many say that the only real Christian stance is to be unaffiliated with a party because that would be tying God to a human organization that is oftentimes corrupt. The fear is that becoming identified with a particular party will besmirch the reputation of the faith when that party does something wrong.

I understand the sentiment. I want to be known as a Christian first, an American second, and a member of a political party third. Yet, if we are to be salt and light, how can we remain aloof when there is so much at stake in our society?

I look at the platforms for the parties and I must support the one that is closest to Biblical principles. Currently, I am faculty sponsor for College Republicans. I spoke last week at the local Republican Club. The Republican platform is pro-life and generally more amenable to the morality that I wish to see prevailing in our country.

Yet I do have a former student who is now working for a Democrat at the state level. She says he is very conservative, so she can do so. I have a friend who is running for a state senate position as a Democrat. He is pro-life, pro-second amendment, and says he chose to run as a Democrat because the Republicans in his district were not open to him.

I don’t want to say that either of these friends has chosen wrongly. How will the Democratic party ever change unless people work within it to make changes? Yet I also know that the national Democratic party is solidly pro-abortion (euphemistically called pro-choice), generally in favor of homosexual marriages, and promotes economic policies that I consider to be contrary to Biblical principles. If I support those who are part of this overall platform, am I doing wrong, even though they personally are in agreement with me?

I offer this as a genuine question. I welcome your comments.