Archive for the ‘ Politics & Government ’ Category

Not Even a Pretense of Civility

David French has an excellent article posted today in National Review detailing the unseriousness of Democrat opposition to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The teaser at the top reads:

The sordid spectacle that opened Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings put the lie to left-wing laments about the decline of civility in American politics.

I agree with the basic premise that civility is in decline—one might legitimately call it a “collapse”—and that we are at a point where reasoned discourse is virtually at an end.

Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing has only proved to highlight that lack of civility. And when civility does on occasion peek through the tortured screams of protesters and the antagonistic attitude of Democrat senators, it is like that brief breath of fresh air we all crave.

French continues: “We hear a lot about norms these days. We live in a time when alleged pre-existing norms of decency, civility, and respect are being cast aside for the sake of ‘winning.’ The ends justify the means, and a dignified loser is just that: a loser.”

It didn’t matter who Trump nominated for the Court; the decision was made beforehand to call that person a hatemonger, racist, toady, etc., etc. Yet, as French notes, that’s hardly the Kavanaugh persona:

Before I continue, let me remind you that Kavanaugh is the opposite of a norm-violating, civility-straining, Trumpist jurist. He is the very definition of a GOP-establishment lawyer. He would be a front-runner for a SCOTUS nomination in any Republican administration. He is not only solidly within the mainstream of originalist legal thought, he’s so respected across the aisle that Elena Kagan hired him to teach at Harvard Law School.

In other words, throughout his career, Kavanaugh has helped maintain norms rather than violating them. He’s the living embodiment of the kind of person — and the kind of politics — that Democrats now claim they miss in the age of Trump.

Right from the start of the hearing, Democrat senators demanded that the hearing be adjourned. Why? Well, they needed to see more documents. You know, documents that they weren’t really going to read with an open mind anyway. French points out the absurdity and hypocrisy of the claim:

The pretext was one of those eye-glazing Washington debates over document production, in which senators who’d already vowed weeks ago to vote against Kavanaugh claimed they couldn’t possibly evaluate him properly based on the hundreds of thousands of pages they already had (including more than a decade of judicial opinions). They instead absolutely needed every scrap of paper he ever touched, so . . . what? They could cast a more emphatic no vote?

I think one cartoonist captured the Democrat approach rather convincingly:

And then the craziness of the Lunatic Left surfaced with the outraged cry that a woman lawyer, Zina Bash, sitting behind Kavanaugh was flashing a “white power sign,” which, if you look closely was simply her hand resting on her arm and her finger touching her thumb. Oh, the horror!

French clears up this phony charge:

For those wondering, Zina Bash is one of the more respected and talented young conservative lawyers in Washington. As her husband — John Bash, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas — explained on Twitter, she’s Mexican on her mother’s side and Jewish on her father’s side. Her paternal grandparents are Holocaust survivors, and she was born in Mexico. So, no, it’s not remotely credible to believe she was flashing a white-power symbol.

Those facts didn’t deter the online left, though. The claims kept spreading until they turned into an instant left-wing version of the legendary Pizzagate conspiracy —unsupported by any meaningful facts yet fervently believed by thousands.

As if that wasn’t sufficient, there was the father of a student killed at Parkland who showed up determined to do his part to derail Kavanaugh. How do we know? He tweeted about it beforehand.

Then there was Snubgate, the claim that Kavanaugh deliberately refused to shake the hand of a father of a slain Parkland teen. The man, Fred Guttenberg, approached Kavanaugh in the scrum during a break in the hearing, he stuck out his hand, security approached, and Kavanaugh turned away. . . .

Almost instantly, this momentary encounter was transformed into an intentional, crass snub of a grieving father by an evil, uncaring judge. Guttenberg went on CNN and made an unsubstantiated claim that Kavanaugh not only intentionally snubbed him, but personally asked that he be removed.

A complete stranger walked up to the judge in a hearing disrupted by multiple protesters, security moved in immediately, and Kavanaugh was supposed to do . . . what, exactly? Push aside security to engage with the man, despite not knowing who he is?

The angry activists in the room, who apparently have their own PR firm currently fishing for media interviews for those who created shrill outbursts, were particularly abhorrent. French notes the double standard:

Let’s be clear, had angry Tea Party protesters caused the same scale of disruption at a Democratic hearing, news outlets would be shaking their heads at the dangerous lack of respect for a dignified nominee. Instead, all too many folks think this is what democracy looks like: serial attempts to exercise an incoherent, screaming heckler’s veto.

I’m not going to conclude that we are living in the most dangerous time in our republic’s history. As a historian, I note the polarized 1850s that led to the Civil War. However, I am seeing the same kind of vitriol, unwillingness to speak to the other side civilly, and outright hostility that marked the 1850s.

We should be concerned. Very concerned.

Political Saviors & Benevolent Government

Sometimes being a history professor is painful, in the sense that one has such an overview of what has happened before that it becomes painful to watch us repeat the same old follies. I communicate that to history majors with this cartoon:

What ancient folly are we currently experiencing?

Of course, it’s worked so well wherever it has been tried:

And now, in the person of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrats have their new “star.” This happens periodically, whenever either party thinks it has found a political savior:

Fortunately, we have the news media to help us think through all controversies intelligently:

Well, maybe not.

Place not your trust in political saviors or promises of utopia through “benevolent” government. There is only One we can trust for the future.

An Epiphany: I’m a Liberal, Not a Conservative

I received an epiphany a couple of days ago. I discovered that I’m not a conservative, but a liberal. From whence did this epiphany emanate? It was solemnly declared by a certain conservative columnist (who will go unnamed because I don’t wish to focus on individuals but ideas). His column was all about the need to purge everyone from the conservative movement who continues to raise issues about the conduct of Donald Trump.

His comments go far beyond mere purging; he says conservatives must call those traitors to the cause what they really are: liberals. The tone of the article was rather angry.

Now, I don’t wish to imply that he named me specifically. I’m not well known and prefer to stay that way. He focused instead on individuals like Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a man I admire for his willingness to speak truth to power (yes, that’s a cliché, but please allow its use here for my purposes). Ignore Sasse’s 90% conservative voting record; he’s not a real conservative; it’s all a head fake.

You see, we now know, as a result of the insight from this conservative columnist, that Ben Sasse is really a liberal. And since I agree with most of what Sasse says about the president, I must be a liberal as well.

As you might guess, it came as a shocking revelation to me that I am, in fact, a liberal. I didn’t realize I had been fooling people for so many years.

So, it’s now time to throw out everything I’ve written and everything I’ve done in political circles for the past thirty-plus years because it was all a lie.

For instance, my first book, a spiritual biography of Noah Webster, based on my doctoral dissertation, must have been the result of all those years being influenced by my liberal professors.

The book merely talks about this Father of Early American Education as a conservative of his day who believed that government had to be based on the rule of law and that character was a cornerstone of good government.

And all of Webster’s talk about how education is not our societal savior and how grand schemes of government control over education will not lead to utopia? Well, I only included those things because I was writing about this old reactionary guy. My hidden agenda was to promote modern liberalism, undoubtedly.

My second book, which deals with Biblical principles and how they should apply to all of society, and particularly to government, must have been a ruse also. After all, when those principles are explained in the book, I keep coming to the conclusion that they seem to support conservative concepts.

But, great deceiver that I am, I only promoted those ideas because I’m actually a Deep State mole seeking to undermine the conservative movement from within. Finally, someone has caught me in my great deception. How will I ever live this down? I’ve been found out.

And what to make of book number three? You know, the one that examined the impeachment of Bill Clinton? Why on earth did I interview all thirteen of the House Managers—Republicans all—to provide them with a forum where they could give their side of the story and explain to all who might read this volume exactly why they felt they had done the right thing?

Again, this must have been part of a plot to mislead true conservatives as to my beliefs and character. What better way to make them think I’m “one of them” than by inserting myself into the controversy on the conservative side? Not only that, but I was clever enough to make it appear that I agreed with those House Managers that President Clinton ought to have been removed from office.

Why did I go to such great pains to conceal my real convictions? Well, I’m a liberal, not a conservative. That’s the real reason for sure.

Then came the penultimate misdirection—my book on Ronald Reagan and Whittaker Chambers. I spent so many years reading everything both men had written only because I had to make sure my cover wouldn’t be blown.

If you look carefully, though, you can see I tripped up now and then. I actually allowed criticism of both men on certain points, which certainly gives away that I’m not a true conservative because criticism like that cannot be allowed.

I did, however, conceal most of my liberalism by writing things that would be considered commendatory about both Reagan and Chambers. This, obviously, is the height of all my deceptions in these varied books. I fooled everyone—because I’m a liberal, not a conservative.

Well, what about my teaching? Students have been fooled for thirty years as I kept hidden from them my true beliefs. And that work I did for the Christian Coalition back when it was a real force to be reckoned with? Pure subversion.

And then there’s this blog I’ve written for ten years. Can you possibly understand how difficult it has been for me to pretend every time I write a post that I’m really a conservative? The pressure has, at times, been nearly unbearable.

Okay, that’s enough.

The conservative columnist who wrote what he did has dealt with us once and for all—we are liberals in conservative clothing, undermining real conservatism.

Yet, I see it differently. Those of us who are willing to critique President Trump, not only for past indiscretions but for the manner in which he conducts himself in the presidential office currently, are actually attempting to save conservatism.

We see the kind of conservatism espoused by that columnist as more of a tribal allegiance—shall I say nearly a cult of personality—that has little to do with principled conservatism.

Our goal is to conserve conservatism, hoping that when the Trump Era finally comes to an end, that there will still be a movement devoted to the Constitution and the concept of the rule of law, and that considers character as a bedrock necessity for good government.

John McCain: A Reflection

John McCain died on Saturday evening from an aggressive brain tumor. His death was announced not too long after the family informed the public that he had decided to stop the cancer treatments.

McCain, in some ways, was a controversial senator, not always in agreement with the Republican party in which he served. That’s why he earned the nickname of a “maverick.”

I have no problem with mavericks as long as they are standing on the principles they espouse and are doing so with integrity.

Often, I disagreed with McCain on specific policy issues, but in my many years of watching him, I rarely disagreed with the manner in which he carried himself. Many who are commenting on his death have said something similar: he was a gentleman respected by others in the Senate even when they opposed his latest vote.

No one can adequately analyze John McCain without spending some time remarking on his time as a POW during the Vietnam War. His plane was shot down, he was captured, beaten, and nearly died. When the North Vietnamese discovered that he was the son of an American admiral, they sought to use him for propaganda purposes, promising to release him.

So McCain could have been freed from that camp if he had chosen. Instead, he refused to be used for propaganda and also felt it would be wrong for him to receive special treatment that the other POWs wouldn’t get.

That angered his captors even more, and the beatings became worse than before. Yet McCain suffered it all willingly.

Five years he spent in that horrid camp. He didn’t come home until after the Paris Peace Accords in 1973. President Nixon met with him to show his appreciation for what he suffered.

Some people think that if a man is captured in war, he is not a hero. I reject that categorically.

Others will point to his divorce after his return and chastise him for that. I agree that he wronged his first wife. It’s also instructive, though, that later, when asked if he had any regrets, he cited his divorce. Whether that was a true repentance or simply a regret, I cannot know, yet one wants to give the benefit of the doubt to anyone who will publicly acknowledge a moral failure like that.

His nomination for the presidency in 2008 was ill-timed, coming as it did on the heels of the bank bailout and recession blamed largely on Republicans. Although McCain was not my candidate of choice for that nomination, I had no problem supporting him in the campaign. I don’t have to agree with everything a candidate does. In McCain, at least I saw someone who sought to halt the oncoming Democrat onslaught.

And he was solidly pro-life.

What about McCain’s faith? Was he a Christian? An article by Ed Stetzer and Laurie Nichols on Christianity Today International‘s website states the following:

McCain was a man of faith and talked about his faith when he had little, and quietly practiced when he had much. He has been attending North Phoenix Baptist Church for years. His experiences might have pushed him away from God, but he quietly engaged there at the church. When Rick Warren asked what being a Christian meant to Senator McCain, he replied, “It means I’m saved and forgiven.”

My sincere hope is that this testimony is real and that McCain is now with his Savior.

It’s only right to take the time today to honor the service of John McCain.

By the Bible or the Bayonet?

Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) was a Dutch lawyer, scholar, theologian, and author. His most noteworthy work, The Law of War and Peace, made him famous as the foremost authority on the law of nations, which we now tend to call international law.

There is a statement attributed to Grotius that I wish I could document as actually emanating from him, but I haven’t found the source. I’ve read some of his Law of War and Peace, and the statement certainly sounds like something he might say. If anyone knows for sure if he said it, or if not, who did, I would welcome that information.

However, I’ve decided that even if Grotius didn’t write this, it’s so good that it needs to be shared. As I tell my students, if he’s not the author of this thought, then I’ll claim it for myself.

Here’s how it begins:

He knows not how to rule a kingdom that cannot manage a province; nor can he wield a province that cannot order a city; nor he order a city that knows not how to regulate a village.

Notice the progression. The concept is that one should not be given a greater realm of authority if he cannot handle a lesser realm. One must prove himself at a lower level before being granted more responsibility.

The statement continues:

Nor he a village that cannot guide a family; nor can that man govern well a family that knows not how to govern himself.

The principle keeps getting extended downward. Yet how many men and women in our day, particularly in politics, are awarded by the people with high office when they cannot even govern themselves?

Shall I insert here Senator Ted Kennedy, who drove a car off a bridge and swam away while the woman with him in the car (not his wife) was left to drown? The people of Massachusetts, in their electoral wisdom, made him a senator for life. Should that have been?

You would think the statement might end where I’ve already ended it, but it goes even further:

Neither can any govern himself unless his reason be lord, will and appetite her vassals; nor can reason rule unless herself be ruled by God, and be obedient to Him.

Will and appetite refer to desires/emotions—they need to be servants to one’s reason. Desires and emotions cannot drive one’s actions. Yet even reason, as we know, can go astray. Autonomous human reasoning is a mini-god itself. Therefore, our reason also has to submit to God and His loving rule.

I call this the principle of self-government, and I’ve devoted a chapter to it in my book, If the Foundations Are Destroyed: Biblical Principles and Civil Government.

Proverbs 16:32 tells us, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.”

There have been many “great” men in history, at least by standards other than God’s. On the outside, they may look like “winners,” but God looks at the heart.

A society with Biblical self-government at its roots, and that looks to place people in positions of civil authority whose lives reveal that self-government, will be a society substantially free from oppressive rules and regulations. Only a people not self-governed under God will turn to a strong civil government to hold themselves in check.

In truth, the people of a nation receive the type of government that their level of self-government deserves. What does this say about modern America? After all, our representatives, from local officials to congressmen to the president are merely a reflection of us.

One more quote—this one documented.

Robert Winthrop (1809-1894), who served as speaker of the House of Representatives and also as a senator, gave an address to the Massachusetts Bible Society in 1849. What he said in that address is a fitting conclusion to the thoughts I want to share today:

All societies of men must be governed in some way or other. The less they may have of stringent State Government, the more they have of individual self-government. The less they rely on public law or physical force, the more they rely on private moral restraint.

Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled, either by a power within them, or by a power without [outside] them; either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or the bayonet.

May we be controlled by the Word of God and show ourselves worthy of self-government.

Rejecting God-Ordained Reality

As a Christian, I believe what Scripture tells me about mankind—that sin abounds. Even if I were not a Christian, the testimony of man’s sinfulness is everywhere, and that, in itself, should be enough to convince anyone of the truth of what Scripture says.

Sin is heinous. It’s also stupid. Its stupidity manifests itself in many ways. Some would not call what I’m about to highlight “sin,” but I insist it is because anything that goes against God’s created order stems from man’s rebellion against Him.

I’m about to begin another academic year. Thankfully, I don’t teach at a university that has succumbed to the erasure of God-ordained truth. I don’t have to worry about this, for instance:

Man, woman, he, and she are still allowed where I teach. The God-ordained reality remains as a cornerstone of my university’s culture.

The environment is one of God’s gifts to us. We are to be stewards of this gift. Yet, even something as good as the environment can replace God in people’s estimation; they can sometimes turn it into a mini-god of its own. This results in some rather silly concerns:

If there is a problem with toxic waste, let’s take care of that. But to place so much blame on straws??

The media often considers itself another one of those mini-gods. It can create its own reality, promoting what it believes to be true while ignoring God-ordained truth. Self-defense is a basic human right given by God. Yet some would seek to overthrow such common sense and replace it with their own version of reality. The media’s role, all too often, is as a filter against reality:

As is obvious, false worldviews bleed over into politics rather easily. Principled arguments in favor of one position or another would be the reasonable, God-ordained way of figuring out the best policies. There is another way, however, that dominates our politics, and it’s based on pure selfishness of personal gain:

Accuse anyone you don’t like of racism—as one example—and you can “win.” When “winning” is everything, and you have no scruples with regard to how you “win,” you actually lose. Tossing aside principles is not the God-ordained way to live.

We currently have a revived trend toward the false religion of Marxism. Yes, I called it a religion, and for good reason. Although Marx rejected God, he still had his own god—himself. He claimed to be working for the common man, yet was not acquainted with too many of them. He spent most of his time immersed in his own thoughts in libraries. He never really had a long-term job or provided for his family; he sponged off of others his entire life.

Yet for many today, he is an icon. They still try to fashion their politics around his vision, but often without any real understanding of God-ordained reality.

Bottom line: man wants to reject God and his ways, and always sets up his own mini-gods (all false). The consequences are all around us.

The Socialist Delusion

Have you noticed how much more popular socialism has become lately? At least among young people? One of the problems of youth—and I was once one of that number (as unlikely as that may seem to some of my readers)—is that it’s so easy to jump on whatever seems to be a new bandwagon, especially one that holds out promises that will take care of every social ill one sees.

The first thing to keep in mind is that social ills are always with us. Second, the lack of historical knowledge and economic knowledge is rampant, particularly among the young. The idea that one can put the government in charge of the means of production and distribution of goods and everything will be wonderful is a belief that crashes on the rocks of sound theory and practical experience.

Yet youth are not being given much sound theory and they have no foundation in experience to counter the false ideology of socialism they are being fed.

This latest round of “socialism is great, it’s the future” seems to have started in earnest with Bernie Sanders running for president in 2016. He should know better; after all, he’s not one of those youthful idealists. He’s just someone who never has come to grips with the litany of socialist failures.

Now we have the newest “star” in the socialist panoply of mini-gods and -goddesses: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who ousted a Democrat regular in the primary and is now easily going to be elected to Congress from her liberal NYC district. She’s everywhere on the talk shows claiming that socialism will cure all ills. She even said that adoption of socialist policies will save money because there will be fewer funerals.

Huh?

She’s being roundly mocked for her lack of economic understanding. Many wonder how she can be so ignorant when she received a bachelor’s degree in that very subject. Well, ignorance of economics can be found in economics departments at universities also.

She also seems pretty ignorant of foreign affairs whenever questioned about that. In one sense, I feel sorry for her simply because she is displaying so much of her ignorance, yet she undoubtedly believes she is one of the truly enlightened.

Sanders recently came up with a healthcare plan that will cost approximately $32 trillion over the next decade. He disputes that figure, but socialists always do. They try to sell the American people on the idea of some kind of free lunch, but we need to be wary of anything deemed “free”:

You might have noticed that both political cartoons used the newly promoted phrase “democratic socialism” as the key. After all, if something is democratic, it must be fine, right?

Yes, it sounds nicer, but the end is still the same—it hits you right in the face.

The failures of socialism abound, yet whenever anyone points that out, we’re usually told that isn’t real socialism and that “real” socialism hasn’t been tried. Tell that to the citizens of Venezuela, one of the potentially richest nations on the globe now feeling the full effects of the socialist revolution imposed on them by the Chavez-Maduro governments:

The typical response is then to point to Europe, particularly the Scandinavian countries that are supposedly the prime examples of the glories of socialist policies. Yet, upon closer inspection, we see that even though places like Sweden and Norway have extended government benefits beyond the usual, they haven’t really excised the true engine behind their economies:

Private enterprise continues to provide the impetus for whatever prosperity exists. Countries like Sweden have, in recent years, had to cut back on what the government provides because that approach is fast becoming too expensive and hurting the economy. So, no, those are not socialist paradises.

Yet what are the Democrats now doing? They are moving steadily toward becoming publicly what I think they’ve been all along—a socialist party. And they seem to think that’s a winning formula for the next election cycle.

What started as limited government intervention into the economy in Democrat ranks has bloomed into full-blown euphoria over what government can do. It may come back to crush them if they’re not more prudent:

They may, after the fall congressional elections, be asking themselves this question:

I found a meme a while ago that sums up my opinion on this pretty well:

And as a Cubs fan since 1961, I can’t stop until I share this:

May we learn from history.