Lighting the Way

The good news continues. The Democrat Senatorial Campaign Committee has pulled back from many of the ads they were going to run on behalf of Mary Landrieu in Louisiana for the runoff election. Apparently, they think it’s not worth the cost. She will undoubtedly be leaving her Senate seat and returning to the private sector.

Also, an update on what I reported yesterday. I had written that the GOP now controls 2/3 of the state legislative bodies. That number is now 70%. So, if you stop and think about the political trend of the country, it is encouraging. Republicans now have the majority in Congress, 2/3 of governors, and 70% of state legislative chambers. If that’s not a wave, what is it?

There’s only one roadblock for a complete turnaround, and it resides in the White House, where the president has infamously said he has a phone and a pen, and he will act unilaterally—something he pretty much repeated in his press conference on Wednesday. Yet most of the voters on Tuesday repudiated that message:

Pen & Ballot

This penchant for acting like he is the government must end. The government established by the Constitution did not authorize the president to be a king, let alone behave as if he has some kind of divine right to do as he wishes, regardless of the other branches of the government and the desires of those for whom the government operates—the people. The message should be clear to him:

New Paperweight

The issue is whether he is listening or even cares to listen. One commentator opined last night that it might be that Obama doesn’t truly grasp what took place on Tuesday, and may not get the full message until he is forced to deal with a Republican Congress beginning in January. I’m not sure that’s the case; I’m more inclined to think he knows what has happened, but just stubbornly refuses to submit to it.

Word is out that he resents having been put on the back burner by his party during the campaign. Little good it did them; the voters still knew who is responsible for our current mess:

Thank You Cards

But one election is not our salvation politically. The nation remains in critical condition spiritually. Government isn’t, and never will be, our savior. Unless we turn things around spiritually, we’re still going the wrong direction:

Handbasket

I pray Republicans will accomplish what they can within the limits of what government is ordained by God to do, and within the constraints of constitutional authority. That by itself, though, will not be enough. The root of our problems has never changed: the sinfulness of man. We must address that with the Gospel if we ever hope to move the nation in a new direction.

Ultimately, it won’t be government that turns things around; it will be the Christians in society. We need to remember that Jesus called us the salt and the light. We need to be vigilant to preserve the good in our society and to provide light on the path toward righteousness and true Biblical justice.

Real Scandals, Legitimate Investigations

Economic SpeechThe Obama administration has found its latest theme. We’re hearing it from spokesperson Jay Carney and the president himself. Carney dismisses all questions about the plethora of scandals plaguing the administration, saying they are “fake” and “phony” scandals generated by the Republicans. President Obama yesterday, in what he billed as a major economic speech, but which most viewed as his typical campaign speech, belittled Republicans for standing in the way of economic progress and wasting the country’s time with all the attention on make-believe scandals. His exact words were “With an endless parade of distractions, political posturing, and phony scandals, Washington has taken its eye off the ball.”

Well, first of all, Mr. President, you are Washington. You have been the chief executive for nearly five years; for the first two years of your presidency, you had control of both houses of Congress. What did you do with that advantage? Obamacare, which is a wholesale disaster, and a massive stimulus bill that only stimulated government spending. The American workforce, during your tenure, has lost 7.8 million people (those are the ones who couldn’t find jobs and gave up); new workforce dropouts have outnumbered new employees by 237 to 1. Most of the new jobs added have been part-time, not full-time.

And you blame the Republicans?

About those “phony” scandals: let’s look at the facts.

Benghazi

It’s been nearly a year since that horrible event. Testimony has shown massive incompetence and an equally massive coverup connected with that incident. We now also know that survivors of the attack have been coerced into signing nondisclosure agreements and bullied into not testifying before Congress. What is the administration trying to hide? Calls for a special committee to deal with it exclusively are rising, and justly so.

IRS

Evidence is now overwhelming that the intensive investigation of conservative groups and stalling on their tax-exempt statuses was politically motivated. No longer is there any credibility that this was the work of a few rogue agents in Cincinnati. Testimony has established that it was directed from the top of the IRS in Washington, and that a political appointee, William Wilkins, who is chief counsel for the agency, was intimately involved. This same man met with the president on April 23, 2012; his boss, then-IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman, met with administration officials on April 24. The next day, April 25, Wilkins sent out more guidelines for how to handle tax-exempt applications from conservative groups. While this is still not absolute proof of collusion with the Oval Office, it comes awfully close. It’s hardly a “phony” investigation, particularly since it affected the operation of these groups in the 2012 campaign and provided a boost to Obama’s reelection bid.

There’s also the absurd waste of money on parties, etc. It’s a culture of corruption.

This Just In

DOJ

Where to start? Fast and Furious? Failure to prosecute Black Panthers who intimidated voters at a polling place? Confiscation of reporters’ phone records? Accusing James Rosen of Fox of being a criminal co-conspirator for asking questions? Funding protests against George Zimmerman? Overall racial bias in its operations? Eric Holder should be terminated as attorney general.

NSA

This one’s a little more nuanced. We do need, in my opinion, a capability to track terrorists that includes spying on their phone calls. However, what we don’t need is a blanket coverage of all American citizens, even if it’s only storage of records and nobody sees them right now. The potential for tyranny is blatant. This can become a mechanism for unprincipled politicians to get back at those who disagree with them. The NSA’s program must be limited to finding genuine threats against the nation. The House yesterday considered a bill that would have guaranteed those limits; it just barely failed to pass, and may be revisited in the near future. Above all, we must be sure our rights, as enunciated in the Bill of Rights, are not abridged.

Patriotism

So, in summary, these are not “fake” or “phony” scandals pursued for purely partisan purposes. The investigations are legitimate. The administration knows they are legitimate; they are the ones creating the distractions they so piously bemoan. They know where these investigations will lead, and they fear the backlash. As they should.

Madison’s Montpelier

James Madison 1Having toured Jefferson’s Monticello on Tuesday, it only made sense to visit the home of his compatriot, James Madison, which he called Montpelier. There are many accomplishments to attribute to Madison and, in my opinion, he holds a higher place of honor than Jefferson in the saga of the Founding.

Madison attended the College of New Jersey—now Princeton—and studied under its president, John Witherspoon, a clergyman who arrived from Scotland prior to the Revolution. Witherspoon is called by some “The Man Who Shaped the Men Who Shaped America” because he tutored so many early political leaders as well as ministers. They include one president [Madison], one vice president, thirteen governors, three Supreme Court justices, twenty senators, and thirty-three congressmen. Witherspoon also was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Madison learned much from his mentor and applied it to the science of government. As a result, when he showed up at what we now call the Constitutional Convention, he had thoroughly studied the history of representative governments and came prepared to offer his plan for the reformation of the Articles of Confederation, which weren’t workable. The heart of his plan became the new Constitution, thereby earning him the title of “Father of the Constitution.” He even kept detailed notes on the debates, writing in shorthand, then later transcribing the notes into fuller accounts. Those were eventually published as Madison’s Notes on the Constitutional Convention, a foundational piece of American history.

He engineered the Bill of Rights through the Congress and then out to the states for ratification. During Jefferson’s presidency he served as the secretary of state, and succeeded Jefferson as president for two terms. The greatest challenge of his tenure was the War of 1812, which, although there were a number of problems and a humiliating sacking of Washington, DC, by British troops, the nation emerged stronger than before and Madison still popular. Later, he worked alongside Jefferson to establish the University of Virginia, becoming its second rector.

A few years after his death, his wife, Dolley, had to sell Montpelier. It changed hands multiple times before the DuPont family bought it in 1901. Throughout the twentieth century, the DuPonts made alterations to the original mansion. It looked like this only a decade or so ago:

Montpelier 1

While beautiful, it was not the Montpelier of Madison. A complete renovation began in 2000, dedicated to returning it to how it looked when Madison lived there. That renovation is complete now, so this was the first time I was able to visit it as Madison saw it. It has the classic early Virginia architecture once again:

Montpelier

It was a delight to walk through the rooms knowing this was now the genuine Madison home. I wish I could share some photos of the interior, but photography wasn’t allowed inside, as with most historic homes. But I definitely felt the spirit of Madison in the place. Now that it has been returned to its pristine condition, I urge everyone who can to visit. If you have a love for or fascination with America’s early history, you won’t be disappointed.

More from the Virginia Declaration of Rights

Yesterday I highlighted some of the key concepts in the Virginia Declaration of Rights, written by George Mason in 1776. Mason also included some interesting phrases in that Declaration. When you get to the end of it, he offers some memorable comments.

For instance, Section 15 says, “That no free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people, but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue, and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.”

I like that one. Why? First, it concentrates on character. Mason is saying that liberty is not automatic; rather, to achieve it and to maintain it, the people must have certain character qualities. Second, he refers to fundamental principles. The only way to stay on course is to remember the basic truths that govern the universe. Too many politicians—and the general public—today don’t even think about principles. They seek political advantage, not truth.

He then added Section 16, which states, “That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other.”

This section is a recognition that a state-approved religion is unacceptable. Civil government has no business setting up an official religion that all people must follow. Our relationship to God is outside the purview of state power. We must follow our conscience in that relationship, and no one else can be our conscience on that matter. Now some may think Mason was pushing for religion to be removed from the public square, but that was never his intent. Notice the final part: each person has a duty to practice “Christian” love toward others. Mason fully expected that Christianity would be the bedrock faith of the nation, and he expected individuals to act like Christians in their relations to others.

As I said in yesterday’s post, these Founders understood government. I’ll add this today: they understood it better than most of our current crop of legislators, executives, and judges. When I was working on my doctoral degree in history, I was always amazed by the attitude of professors who believed that we know so much more than people from 200 years ago.

No, we don’t.

The Virginia Declaration of Rights

This month commemorates the writing of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, largely the effort of a neighbor of George Washington’s. While Washington was trying to piece together a continental army in 1776, others were busily constructing constitutions for the states that were ready to break from Britain.

That neighbor was George Mason. Drawing on a rich British heritage as well as newer developments in the colonies, Mason concocted a list of rights that set a standard for the era. Thomas Jefferson, up in Philadelphia at that time working on a declaration of independence, looked to Mason as one of his inspirations, and was receiving information from the Virginia convention that was finalizing the new Virginia constitution.

What did Mason include in his Declaration of Rights? He clearly spelled out:

  • Inherent rights cannot be surrendered by any compact
  • Government power derives from the people
  • Oppressive government may be altered or abolished
  • The branches of government need to be separated
  • It is essential that there be due process of law and jury trials
  • No excessive bail or fines
  • No cruel or unusual punishments
  • No general search warrants [meaning the government cannot simply ransack one’s home looking for whatever]
  • Freedom of the press will not be restrained
  • A militia is essential to liberty

Some of these might look familiar. As I said, Jefferson drew from them, and the Bill of Rights that was later added to the Federal Constitution mirrored some of these concepts.

These were not backward people. They understood what makes government work and what constitutes tyranny. We should continue to study them and learn from them.