Will Honest Critique Be Allowed?

I’m trying to like Donald Trump. I really am. Why does he insist on making it so difficult?

I’m not the least bit upset that he spoke with the elected leader of Taiwan. We never should have treated that nation the way we have. So, good for him on that count. Taiwan is not Iran or Cuba.

talking-to-taiwan

I’m pleased with a number of his nominations for his administration. If they are allowed to do what they believe, we will be in much better shape than we have been for the last horrendous eight years.

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But I’m still bothered.

I’m bothered that he acts like a bully toward companies that are simply trying to make the best choices given the tax atmosphere on businesses in this nation. Carrier Corp. decided to keep some of its production in Indiana after Trump and Pence talked with the company. Good for those who kept their jobs. Bad for the whole concept of free-market choices as crony capitalism triumphs once again.

Whenever you give a break to one company only, you have picked winners and made other similar companies the losers. That’s government getting in the way and doing what it should not be doing.

And when conservatives who are naturally concerned with such a violation of principle speak up, they are ridiculed for holding to principle. Don’t they know Trump is the savior? Why be so picky?

The conservative critique of what Trump did with Carrier is principled, and not the same as the Democrats’ critique:

incentives

Trump’s thin skin continues to percolate. When a union leader at Carrier dared to criticize Trump for exaggerating the number of jobs saved, that led to a typical Trump tweeting flurry that demeaned the man personally.

As David French so aptly put it, “There is no dignity, no decency, in Trump’s actions.” Even worse are some of his most ardent followers. French continues,

If you’ve been following politics in 2016, you know that if you publicly cross Trump, then Trump fanatics will immediately pile on, trying to threaten and intimidate critics into silence.

And that’s exactly what happened here: Half an hour after Trump tweeted about Jones on Wednesday, the union leader’s phone began to ring and kept ringing, he said.

One voice asked: What kind of car do you drive? Another said: We’re coming for you. He wasn’t sure how these people found his number. “Nothing that says they’re gonna kill me, but, you know, you better keep your eye on your kids,” Jones said later on MSNBC. “We know what car you drive. Things along those lines.”

The president-elect’s words have power, and when he turns that power on ordinary Americans who dare to criticize him, he’s not only abusing his office, he’s creating a target for an avalanche of scorn, vitriol, and intimidation.

But this is of course a pattern with Trump. If someone irritates him, he’ll punch back no matter their status and no matter the consequences. That’s not leadership. It’s bullying. The president-elect needs to grow up and take criticism like a man.

It’s becoming risky to ever criticize Trump. My deep concern remains what it has been all along, that this is becoming practically a cult following that will never allow an honest critique. I hope I’m proven wrong.

donald-trump-4Jonah Goldberg recently commented on this phenomenon, and I think his words deserve a hearing:

My real problem is with all the people who seem to think that any skepticism of Trump’s actions on my part can only be explained by anti-Trump bias or bitterness.

These people seem to think that the most positive, most pro-Trump spin on any new event is not only always correct but obviously so, and any skepticism about the genius of his actions is a sign of illegitimate bias. And that’s crazy.

I’ve praised Trump and I’ve criticized Trump since he was elected. Yes, I’m skeptical, but all politicians deserve skepticism, and Donald Trump more than most. And yet every day I hear from people saying that’s not good enough. “Get on board the Trump Train!” people are still shouting at me.

One must bend every position and principle to his. One must acknowledge that he is smarter than everyone. He has a plan. He’s playing chess to everyone else’s checkers. And if you don’t see that, you’re irrationally biased against him.

It’s pretty obvious to me that the irrational bias here runs the other way. If I say Trump is sometimes right and sometimes wrong and you say “Shut up! He’s a genius in everything!” an objective observer would probably think you’re the biased one.

My goal today is not to denigrate the president-elect, but if you see it that way, I want to caution you: you might be tending toward the irrationality Goldberg mentions.

I’m going to give Trump room to improve. I’m going to hope he develops some maturity when others criticize his actions and decisions. I’m still praying for the best, but I will point out when what he does is less than that.

Why is that wrong?

Reflections of a Natural Introvert

I’m an introvert. Really, I am. Whenever I inform students of that fact, they have a hard time believing it because I’m animated when I teach and love to interact with humor.

But I am an introvert.

BooksMy natural inclination is to sit in my recliner in my study, surrounded by books, and devote myself to them. Let the world go away. Give me my peace and solitude. That, and a cup of coffee, is a pleasurable way to pass the time.

I’m constantly reading. Here’s what I have going right now on my reading schedule: C. S. Lewis’s The Allegory of Love (slow going for someone who is not well versed in medieval writings); Paradise Lost (taking up a challenge because I’ve never read it and I would like to understand Lewis’s preface to it—another future reading); Jonah Goldberg’s The Tyranny of Clichés (honing my cultural analysis); Os Guinness’s new book, Impossible People (a clarion call for Christians to be thorough Christians in our culture); and another Stephen Lawhead novel (because I just love his writing).

Yes, I’m reading all of those simultaneously. When classes begin again, I’m not going to get quite as much reading done as I am now.

That natural inclination to withdraw and enjoy my own little world comes into conflict with the urge within me, planted by God, I believe, to break out of the cocoon and speak His truth.

That’s why I teach, and that’s why I write this blog. Personally, I would love to avoid all controversies. I would relish leaving politics behind, especially this year when I see no viable option for the presidency.

Yet there is this “calling.” I’ve mentioned the prophet Jeremiah before, the one who cried out to God that he didn’t want to speak anymore because he kept getting bad reactions to his words. I understand.

Take My YokeThis is what God does to (and for) us, though. He pushes us out of that place of comfort. He tells us to take up His cross and be His disciples. He never promised that we would sail through life without burdens to bear.

I know that. Some days I embrace it; other days I utter the Jeremiah complaint.

The Lord allows us to withdraw at times; Jesus did the same in His ministry. But all withdrawals are for one purpose: regaining the strength to continue the calling. Withdrawals, if done properly, are the times we draw on His reservoir of grace so that we will be the most effective witnesses of His truth that we can be.

All of my reading is part of the preparation to be what God wants me to be in that world out there. As long as I keep that perspective, and not make an idol out of those relaxed times of peace, He will be able to use me for His ongoing purposes.

That’s my reflection for today. I thank God for the time to reflect. It steels me for whatever lies ahead.

Have We Learned Our Lesson?

Let’s continue to talk about the ramifications of last week’s elections. Why? Because it’s a relief to finally have something positive to say about politics in our country. Most people understand what those elections meant. I say “most” because there are some who still just don’t get it:

When It Doesn't

The hypocrisy and self-serving nature of Obama’s response is pretty blatant. At his now-infamous press conference the day after the elections, he revealed that he isn’t changing his views on anything. And he tried the same old tired lines about how reasonable he is and how he’s oh-so-willing to work with Republicans. Well, he’s said that for six years and never followed through. The evidence?

Harry's Desk

Every time Republicans in the House sent a bill to the Senate for debate, it disappeared into a Harry Reid black hole, never to be seen again. Everyone knows this was done at President Obama’s direction. He never sought to have an honest debate about any issue and continued to say Republicans had no ideas, when, in fact, they had been brimming with ideas backed up by legislation.

His now widely ridiculed remark about how he “hears” the 2/3 who didn’t vote—more, apparently, than those who truly cared to vote and who sent the real message—again reveals his inner Barack, the One who believes the people who “really” count are all for him. The actual voters? Not so much.

I Hear You

Commentator Jonah Goldberg has some salient points to make about the one-note Obama presence at this news conference:

But as Obama droned on and on in that press conference on Wednesday, it felt like a horrible realization was washing over the Johnny Bravo Fan Club [the White House press corps]: Obama’s grown stale. Johnny Bravo has a shelf-life. There was Obama prattling on and on about how he had a mandate, he heard the voice of the non-voters, the GOP has an obligation to do what he wants, he did nothing wrong, blah blah blah. It was all so tone deaf and otherworldly and—most of all—it was so unfathomably boring. As I joked on Twitter, he could have seamlessly segued into reading the instructions for how to change the toner cartridge on a Xerox machine and the audience might not have noticed.

Maybe I’m wrong. But it kind of feels like Obama is a karaoke singer who doesn’t realize someone unplugged the machine. He’s out their belting out his golden oldies and no one is tapping their toes any more.

Thomas Sowell, the black conservative commentator and scholar, also has weighed in on the meaninglessness of Obama’s reign and offers a warning for those who were fooled by him and his promises. If you were fooled once, why would you fall for a second false scenario?

Sowell Quote

The all-important 2016 election now looms large. Have we learned our lesson?

Military Ballots and Political Correctness

I would hate to omit some stories in the rush of election coverage, but there is one that is directly related to the upcoming elections that should make anyone wonder what’s going on. Of all the people who should be allowed to vote, those serving in the armed forces overseas, particularly in Afghanistan, should have top priority. They are literally the front line of defense against terrorism.

Yet two of our largest states, New York and Illinois, missed deadlines for sending troops their absentee ballots. In New York, some counties, including New York City, even missed an extended deadline. In Illinois, they graciously extended the number of days for a postmarked ballot to be returned—by one day.

Is this merely incompetence or is there something political going on here? It is assumed that most soldiers vote Republican, and those two states are controlled by Democrats. Yet I can also easily believe that gross incompetence is the culprit. Either way, this is atrocious.

We’ve already seen in the past week how subservient to Islamic pressure the media is—Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar storming of the set of The View in protest of Bill O’Reilly’s comment that Muslims were behind 9/11, and the firing of Juan Williams by NPR. Well, we must not be Islamophobic, right?

I mean, who wants to be unsophisticated and mean-spirited? Certainly not the mainstream media. Who can blame serious citizens for seeking information elsewhere?

There are so many more options now. The proliferation of media sources is one of the best developments of the past few decades. No longer are we held hostage by an elite that fashions the news in its own image. Some things actually do get better with time.

More Liberal Facism

The theme of Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism just received another confirmation yesterday. In the book, he argues that liberals aren’t really all that liberal.

Classic liberalism believed in liberty; modern liberalism, which often goes by the name progressivism, is anything but devoted to liberty. Rather, it imposes a uniformity of thought that none dare challenge without consequences.

So what happened yesterday to further authenticate his theme? Well, a bona fide liberal stepped over a political correctness line and lost his job.

Juan Williams, who works worked for National Public Radio (NPR), and who also offers commentary on Fox News, apparently committed a cardinal sin—he actually admitted he sometimes had feelings of concern about Muslims when he’s on an airplane.

Here are the exact words Williams used on the O’Reilly Factor:

I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.

He went on to say that no one can blame all Muslims for the actions of the extremists, but it was too late. His employers at NPR fired him because his comments were “inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices.” What standards might those be? Never criticize Islam? Follow the prescribed line or else?

Now, I’ve never been a huge Juan Williams fan. I disagree with him probably 75% of the time. But he’s getting better; I used to disagree with him 100% of the time. Either he’s mellowed or I have. All that is beside the point, though. While NPR has the right to hire and fire whomever they wish, they have no right to be dishonest about the reasons. He didn’t say anything inconsistent with true journalistic standards, which is what they are claiming. He simply ruffled their politically correct feathers. It’s also come out that they hated the fact he also had a gig on Fox, a network that NPR loathes.

Of course, NPR is paid for by the American taxpayer. Where in the Constitution do we find any authority to fund a means of mass communication? Why is my money being used to promote a political philosophy with which I disagree?

It’s time to get back to basics—abide by the limits placed on the national government by the instrument the Founders created to guide us as a nation. Restore constitutionality.

Islam and Political Correctness

Is rational discussion at an all-time low? Has political correctness gotten so out of control that no one is allowed to criticize Islam? One might be excused for thinking so after the temper tantrum on The View Thursday. Why anyone would watch The View is beyond me, but sometimes it does have a guest who challenges the liberal worldview.

It was Bill O’Reilly’s turn Thursday to cause the ladies to nearly faint from shock. In a discussion that led to O’Reilly saying that most people don’t want that Ground Zero mosque to be built, he reminded his hosts that it was Muslims who killed nearly 3000 Americans on 9/11.

You would have thought he had uttered something akin to “Adolf Hitler was a nice guy.” The response was immediate and frantic. How dare he say Muslims were responsible for 9/11? He should have added the word “extremists” to be clear. Now, if they had said that in a normal tone, perhaps he would have clarified. Instead, they huffed and they puffed and two of the hosts, Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar (both known for antagonistic comments about Christians), walked off the set.

As O’Reilly later commented on his own show, when Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941, we didn’t refer to the attackers as extremist Japanese. We merely identified the group responsible. The same is true when we say that Muslims attacked the United States in 2001. Obviously, not all Muslims did so, but the statement is accurate. A group fueled by Islamic beliefs committed those acts. That is the truth, and we should be allowed to say so.

I’m continually amazed—almost amused—by some people’s nearly rabid fear that we are offending Muslims. How many American Muslims have been attacked by the general population? How many have died by rampaging mobs enraged by the events of 9/11? Right.

Yet around the world, reactions against any word of criticism toward Islam can yield spontaneous riots. I know there are moderate Muslims, but they seem to be rather silent. Afraid, perhaps, of reprisals from their “brethren”?

I believe Islam is a false religion. Yet I don’t attack Muslims. What I seek is to lead them into the truth of a relationship with God through Christ, the Son of God. I want to see them enter into the only kingdom that will last forever.

There are two types of diversity. The first comes from God, and is represented by the many variations within the human race, whether of skin color or whatever other natural differences one wishes to mention. God is a God of variety.

The other type of diversity wants to celebrate differences that are not natural, but the result of differing beliefs. You have to be more careful with this type of celebration:

Some differences can be lethal.

The Economy and November

Yesterday, I let the cartoons do most of the talking, specifically on the really ludicrous statements coming from this White House regarding the “recovery.” While I don’t want to overwhelm you with cartoon after cartoon, there are just so many flooding the Internet right now on that specific topic. Take this one, for instance:

Note the calm demeanor of the president, while Uncle Sam is rattled—literally. Then there’s this one:

The image here is a president who is clearly out of touch and more focused on his free time. I’m hoping that the patient [the American economy] isn’t really quite as far gone as depicted.

This out-of-touchness [may I coin a term?] has given Democrats the jitters. They’re getting scared as the midterm elections approach. One of the best columns I’ve read on the current state of the Democrats in light of the upcoming elections comes from Jonah Goldberg. You can find his cogent analysis here. Goldberg recounts a conversation one Democrat congressman had with the president, reminding him of how the Republicans took over Congress back in 1994 due to unpopular policies being pushed by Bill Clinton:

Convinced that his popularity was eternal, Obama responded by saying, yes, but there’s a “big difference” between 1994 and 2010, and that big difference is, “you’ve got me.”

The funny thing is, Obama might have been right. Because things might be much worse for Democrats in 2010 than they were in 1994 — and the big difference might well be Barack Obama.

You need to read the entire article. It’s well worth it.

Meanwhile, there is a sense of doom hanging over the Democrats:

Those who feel that doomsday is approaching may be correct. Personally, I hope they are. The nation will be the beneficiary.