No Swamp Draining Here

At the end of last week, the Congress and the president gave us an “omnibus spending package,” not a true budget, because we don’t do those anymore. They’re apparently too hard to negotiate. The tab on this “package” was $1.3 trillion.

We are supposed to be happy that this happened because it avoided a government shutdown. But let’s be honest: the government never really shuts down even when a shutdown is declared.

Republicans promised, if given control of both the executive and legislative branches (which they now have), that they would restore fiscal sanity. Democrats have no concept of fiscal sanity, but Republicans ought to. Talk, though, is cheap. It’s easy during a campaign to make promises. Much too easy.

It’s not just the spending itself that’s so bad, but also the sad truth that organizations like Planned Parenthood are continuing to receive taxpayer funding, despite all the pledges that they would be cut out from government support.

I know as well as anyone that you rarely get everything you want in a bill and that compromise is the name of the game, but why does every compromise seem to be so one-sided?

Planned Parenthood, by the way, was one of the sponsors (along with a number of other garden variety progressive and anti-Christian organizations) of the weekend’s so-called March for Our Lives protest.

“Planned Parenthood” and “respect for the sanctity of life” should never co-exist in the same sentence. Concern for the children? Really? After being responsible for more than 300,000 abortions per year?

Back to the spending package.

Yes, the Republican leadership in Congress deserves no small amount of disdain on this issue. There were standout negative votes in the Senate—Ted Cruz (whom I supported for the Republican nomination for president), Mike Lee, and Rand Paul among them. But, as usual, they were in the minority.

I’ve heard a lot of criticism of Congress on this from the most ardent Trump supporters, but no bill becomes law without the presidential signature. First, Trump supported it; then he tweeted he might veto it; a few hours later he signed it, citing the increase in military spending as apparently the most important feature.

If you are disgusted over the passage of this bill, and if you want to be a credible critic, you must be willing to acknowledge that Trump was just as much a part of this particular area of the “Swamp” as anyone else. Some, however, will go to almost any lengths not to admit that.

I never bought into the Trump rhetoric about “Draining the Swamp” because I knew he has spent his entire life in his own personal swamps, both in business and in his personal life. I knew it was merely campaign talk, not intended to be transferred over to actual governing.

So his decision to go along with this doesn’t surprise me at all. I think it’s time, though, for those who were surprised and/or disappointed to wake up and face reality: the Swamp will never be drained with either Trump or the current Republican leaders setting the agenda.

May Integrity Be Our Guide

Does anyone remember when Republicans thought deficits were a bad thing? Somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind, I can recall that the Obama spending was going to ruin the country.

Now, not so much, apparently.

Republicans, under the leadership [?] of Sen. Mitch McConnell, have joined hands with Sen. Chuck Schumer’s Democrats to pass a budget that continues to blow the roof off the deficit.

We’re over $20 trillion and still counting. But don’t worry, both parties are coming to our rescue.

I used to believe that Republicans were sincere about reducing spending. Ah, for those good old days when I could rest assured that there were adults in the Congress.

I don’t wish to overstate, as there are conscience conservatives who stand for principle, but it’s becoming painfully obvious that they are a distinct minority.

And all that talk about defunding Planned Parenthood? Well, talk is, as they say, really, really cheap. Sometimes satire sites get it absolutely right, as the Babylon Bee did the other day. Check it out.

Please know that I take no pleasure in pointing out all the hypocrisy. It’s disheartening, and I do continue to pray for the Christians among our representatives to come forward and stand with integrity. They have a hard job, I know.

Meanwhile, this exhortation seems appropriate:

The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity. Proverbs 11:3

Seeking Truth

Conservatives in general, and Christian conservatives in particular, are looking at a couple of events from yesterday and rejoicing. I’m pleased as well, but my pleasure at what transpired isn’t of the ecstatic variety.

Yes, the House finally passed something that would begin to peel back the onerous Obamacare, and yes, I do understand that sometimes you must do things in stages. From what I’ve read, the House bill does reduce funding to Planned Parenthood substantially. What puzzles me is how this works with the recent, atrocious budget bill that doesn’t touch that funding at all.

The mixed message is, well, mixed.

I would like to believe that stage one in the Obamacare repeal and replace will actually be followed by the promised steps two and three. Forgive me, though, if my faith is weak; when it comes to Republican promises, seeing is believing, unfortunately.

Then there was that executive order Trump signed that supposedly protected religious liberty. If you look at it with some degree of scrutiny, it appears to be more symbolic than real.

First, it directs the IRS to be more flexible. Are we really going to trust IRS Director John Koskinen, the protector-in-chief and prevaricator-in-chief from the Obama years, to follow this directive?

There is nothing substantive in this executive order; it is primarily show. It doesn’t do a thing to protect, say, a Christian florist or baker who seeks to stand by his/her conscience. But apparently it’s enough to make Christian conservatives rejoice publicly and declare Trump as our political savior.

I’m not trying to be exclusively negative here. The Gorsuch appointment to the Supreme Court is a relief. So far, he hasn’t “grown” and morphed into a swing vote, never knowing which direction he will go.

The House healthcare bill is a start toward the proper goal, but it still has to get through a divided Senate. Republicans walk a tightrope there, so nothing has solidified yet.

What about that wall?

Trump is one to make big promises. He loves the adoring crowds who roar with approval at everything he says, so he keeps saying more. Never mind that a lot of what he says is pure hype. Lately, he’s been saying some rather interesting things:

Those quotes certainly put him in the same league with those esteemed presidents, don’t they?

I know many of Trump’s loyalists don’t mind that he backtracks, or that he can be startlingly inconsistent, but it does bother me because principles matter. I’m still concerned that he refuses to release his taxes; all other presidents of late have done so. By refusing, he continues to fuel speculation on how he handles his own finances.

Lest you think that I’m being unbalanced in my criticisms of Trump, let me offer something to help balance it out:

For some reason, the media never cared about all the things Obama didn’t release.

My point today is to caution you not to become unbalanced yourself. Weigh each new law, executive order, and nomination in the scale of honesty and integrity. Don’t make a judgment too precipitously. Make sure you know what is real movement forward and what is not.

Seek out truth above all.

Principles, Courage, & the Budget

A budget vote is coming. I’ve done my best to read both sides of the debate on what the Republican Congress has come up with this time. Yesterday, VP Pence was on the Rush Limbaugh program proclaiming it’s a win for the president, primarily because it increases defense spending.

Well, I’m glad it does that, given the various global crises we face: ISIS, Iran, North Korea, just to name the most prominent.

But what about the rest of this $1 trillion bill?

It continues to fund Planned Parenthood, that vile organization that has created a modern holocaust.

It continues to send money to sanctuary cities that are thumbing their noses at any type of curtailment of illegal immigration. Why should they be rewarded?

Some extra money is in it for border security, yet there is no mention of anything even remotely connected to Trump’s promise of a wall (not that I think he ever really believed in that long of a wall in the first place).

We’re told we must support this budget to keep the government running until September, then the Republicans in Congress will finally get down to business on what they said they would do.

The main reason why they don’t seem prepared to fight for anything substantive at this point is fear that they will be blamed for a government shutdown. That’s always the fear, and fear appears to drive their decisionmaking.

As a historian, I do understand that you can’t always get everything you want in legislation. Yes, there are compromises to be made. But how about compromises that don’t sacrifice basic principles such as the inherent value of human life? Allowing the funding of Planned Parenthood is a participation in murder. When will Republicans draw a line that cannot be crossed?

The litany of excuses grows:

  • We only have one house of Congress; how can you expect us to get anything passed?
  • We have Congress, but not the presidency, so anything we send to the White House will only get vetoed
  • We have Congress and the presidency, but we don’t have a 60-vote majority in the Senate to get what we want

If they were ever to get that 60-vote majority in the Senate, I’m almost convinced the argument will be that they don’t want to be portrayed in the media as heartless, so they will have to bow to what the Democrats want in order to be liked.

Whatever happened to principles? Why has spinelessness become the Republican fallback position?

In that interview that Pence did with Limbaugh, the host’s frustration came to the forefront in these words:

Okay, but why then is the president now suggesting a budget shutdown in September or October? If it’s no good now, why is it good then?

You guys were sent there to drain the swamp. There’s a clear Trump agenda that just isn’t seeable. It’s not visible in this budget, and some people are getting concerned that there’s more concern for bipartisanship and crossing the aisle, working with Democrats, than there is in draining the swamp and actually peeling away all of the roughage that is preventing actually moving forward here on so many of these issues that affect people domestically.

I’ve been a critic of Limbaugh ever since he jumped on the Trump Train with apparently no reservations, but he’s voicing a very important concern here, and he’s right to do so.

I’m reminded of this quote from Whittaker Chambers in Witness:

Men have never been so educated, but wisdom, even as an idea, has conspicuously vanished from the world.

I would add that principles and courage have dissipated along with wisdom.

Trump’s Questionable Picks

My previous post was full of praise for a good number of Trump’s cabinet nominations. Proper analysis, though, requires honest scrutiny of picks who may not be as praiseworthy. There are a few.

It took a while for Trump to make a choice for secretary of state, and everyone was waiting for that crucial decision. The job is always considered one of the most significant, as it bears the responsibility of representing the administration to other countries.

Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, has been chosen to be the next secretary of state. That nomination, though, has already come under fire. The biggest concern for many is the close ties Tillerson has developed with Vladimir Putin.

Russia, in the Putin era, has not been America’s friend. It is an ally of Iran, which has lately reconfirmed its desire to wipe Israel off the map. Russia also has been the most visible backer of Syria’s despotic leader Bashar Assad.

With accusations of Russia’s attempted interference in our presidential election (pretty well established, but not necessarily something that influenced the outcome), Tillerson is a controversial pick.

I have that concern as well. Yet my concerns run deeper.

As head of the Boy Scouts of America, Tillerson led the charge to open the organization not only to boys who claim to be homosexual but to homosexual leaders, thereby changing the entire direction of the Boy Scouts. ExxonMobil also is a prominent donor to Planned Parenthood, apparently unfazed by the 300,000-plus babies who are murdered each year with the help of that organization.

I was gratified to see Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, come out firmly opposed to Tillerson’s nomination. Perkins had visibly lined up the FRC in favor of Trump during the election.

Some will say that those criticisms shouldn’t be part of this process, that the job of secretary of state won’t get Tillerson involved in those issues. That’s not necessarily so. When dealing with other nations, all kinds of policies may be on the table. I don’t want someone with Tillerson’s views representing this nation.

Less controversial, but also questionable, are the nominations of Steve Mnuchin for secretary of the treasury and Wilbur Ross for secretary of commerce.

Mnuchin was Trump’s national finance director for the campaign. He is a lifelong Democrat who spent seventeen years at Goldman Sachs, eventually becoming a partner in the firm.

What’s amazing to me is that for many of Trump’s most fervent backers, Goldman Sachs is the epitome of all evil. Trump himself attacked the firm during the campaign and loved to link Ted Cruz to it because Cruz’s wife, Heidi, used to work there.

Yet I hear crickets now from those who think Goldman Sachs is the focus of evil in the modern world. Trump wants a former Goldman Sachs partner running the treasury department and no one who vilified the firm earlier has publicly criticized the move.

Let’s be honest. Trump never really believed Goldman Sachs was all that bad. He was merely manufacturing outrage to get votes.

What bothers me most about this is the propensity of the most dedicated Trump backers to give him a pass for things they would loudly condemn if others did them. This is close to a cult of personality. Haven’t we had enough of that these past eight years?

Mnuchin may be a fine secretary of the treasury. I will give the benefit of the doubt, but his record certainly bears scrutiny.

Wilbur Ross, the secretary of commerce designee, is another lifelong Democrat who is an outspoken critic of free trade, which is Trump’s position also. Personally, I favor free trade, so I’m at odds with Trump’s views on that from the start.

As someone who has spent his career buying up and restructuring failing companies, Ross does have vital experience to offer if he truly knows how to bolster commerce in that way. But Trump has another reason for choosing him.

Trump owes Ross a lot. His relationship with Trump goes back decades. Ross helped Trump keep control of his failing Taj Mahal casino in the 1990s by persuading investors not to push out the real estate mogul.

What? Trump, the expert businessman who is great at all he does, needed to be bailed out? Balloon punctured.

Those are the most questionable of Trump’s cabinet picks. All of the ones I’ve highlighted, both positive and negative, over these last two posts, require Senate confirmation. Tillerson, in particular, may face some rough sledding, but Senate Republicans may feel like they have to give Trump what he wants at this point.

There are other appointments Trump has made that don’t have go through the Senate confirmation process. I will deal with those in another post.

The End Is Near

I’m at the point with this election that I would just like to ignore it the rest of the way. My initial plan was to do so and say that today’s blog would be my final word on it. Tempting as that is, I will . . . reluctantly . . . continue to offer comments until that fateful day when the decision is made. Never in American history have the two major options been so awful.

sorry-candidates

If this election doesn’t deter the next generation from believing that government service can be an honorable profession, I don’t know what will.

negatives

As I’ve said before, I’ve looked forward to the day when I could vote to deny Hillary Clinton the presidency. In last night’s debate, she couldn’t have been more clear that she sees the Supreme Court as the enforcer, not of the Constitution, but of the progressive agenda. She also made it clear (in case anyone had any doubt) that she believes in abortion on demand, defending Planned Parenthood’s atrocities with all her breath.

How can I not vote against her?

Many Christians this morning are lauding Donald Trump for what they think was his strong pro-life stance in the debate. I acknowledge that those were the strongest statements he has made yet on the subject, but how heartfelt were they?

I can hear the voices now: just accept him at his word; he’s on our side; he will appoint the right justices to the Court; the country will be saved.

I would like to believe him, but he remains, to me, utterly unbelievable. He’s performing his part to try to win votes. He’s succeeding with many Christians who desperately want Clinton defeated. Yet I still cannot support him.

First, even if he were to nominate a solid person for the Court, that person would have to get past the Senate. It will take 60 votes to allow the vote to go forward. That, in itself, would be slightly on the miraculous side. It also would require that President Trump go all out for such a nominee. I don’t think he would do so. He’s the dealmaker who will put out a good nominee knowing that person won’t make it, then give the Democrats the kind of nominee they will accept.

If you think Donald Trump will save the Court, I think you are being fooled.

It’s not just that. I look at the total package. Trump is a mess. I’ve written often about his personal morality, or lack thereof. Based on his character and his overall history, do you really think that all those women coming forward now to tell their tales of how Trump foisted himself on them are lying?

Trump is a walking massive ego. He thinks he can do whatever he wants, not only with women, but in every area of life. He, like Hillary, thinks he is entitled. When he says those women have to be lying because they aren’t attractive enough to get his attention, what does that say about him? In other words, if they were attractive enough, he would go right ahead and do what they are accusing him of.

He is truly reprehensible. Why any woman would vote for him is beyond me.

who-needs-them

His advisors have come up with plans to “drain the swamp.” Sounds good. Who’s going to drain the Trump Swamp first?

He continually attacks and demeans anyone who isn’t 100% on board his ego. I understand why Paul Ryan encouraged Republicans running for Congress to do whatever they feel is necessary to win their races, even if it means distancing themselves from the top of the ticket.

The only thing that’s going to stop Hillary’s drive to continue Obama’s transformation of America is a Congress that says “no.” It’s essential that Republicans maintain control of both chambers. Trump is a drag on that effort.

down-ballot

If Republicans lose the Congress, I will lay the blame on Trump.

Polls show, at this point, that Trump’s unpopularity has not yet dragged everyone else down with him. Voters appear to be making the distinction between him and other Republicans running for the House and Senate. Will that be the case on election day?

Prediction: Hillary Clinton will be the next president. That won’t be caused by people like me who cannot stomach Trump; it will be caused by the candidate himself. Almost any other Republican who ran in the primary would have trounced a candidate as corrupt as Hillary. Only Trump could possibly have lost to her.

I won’t vote for Donald Trump. I will, however, vote for every other Republican on my Florida ballot. President Clinton (oh, how I never wanted to hear those words again) needs to be challenged on every policy on every level.

end-is-near

Let’s just hope it’s not the end in the wrong sense. The end of this election season would be gratifying; the end of the nation not so much.

Planned Parenthood’s Pure Evil

If you are looking for examples of pure evil in our society, look no farther than Planned Parenthood. What could be more evil than killing innocent children in the womb and then selling the body parts for profit? It’s not wise to invoke the Hitler comparison too often as it should be used only for the most vile practices. In this case, however, the comparison is appropriate.

So when an undercover camera crew entices Planned Parenthood officials to admit to their horrific practices, and we are given undeniable proof of their depravity, what comes of it? The major news networks do their best to ignore the videos and the organization that carries out the exposé, the Center for Medical Progress, is the one having to pay the legal penalty. That’s what has happened in Harris County, Texas, which includes the city of Houston.

Judicial Target Range

The county’s investigation of the videos led to no indictments for Planned Parenthood officials; instead, the prosecutors decided to indict those who made the perfidy of Planned Parenthood public.

David DaleidenDaniel Daleiden, from the Center for Medical Progress, now faces charges for using a fake driver’s license and attempting to solicit the purchase of baby parts.

I understand the legal issue of using a fake driver’s license, and perhaps he ought to answer for that, but let’s keep some things in perspective here. What is worse, using a fake license to uncover the horrid truth about Planned Parenthood or the horrid truth itself?

And being indicted for soliciting the purchase of body parts? Does anyone really think Daleiden was actually going to do so? Why was he singled out and not the organization that does the selling?

Daleiden says he will not do any kind of plea bargain. He believes he should be exonerated for bringing to light the true nature of Planned Parenthood. I agree. The next investigation needs to be of the Harris County prosecutor’s office.

Planned Parenthood is a blight on America. Not only does its flow of federal funding need to be stopped immediately, but steps should be taken to shut down every Planned Parenthood facility in the country. That would be the first step in atoning for the atrocity of abortion that we continue to allow.