It’s 1981 in America Again

Watching the news and social media over the last week or so produced a strange, non-specific sense of deja vu in me. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until I saw some teeth gnashing and garment rending on Twitter about President Trump stabbing Big Bird in the heart with rusty scissors.

That’s when I realized I’d seen this movie before . . . back in 1981 in the opening months of Ronald Reagan’s first term.

Reagan ran on rebuilding our national defense and cutting the size and reach of the national government. He’d even promised to eliminate the recently created Department of Education—established by Jimmy Carter to help the teacher’s unions strengthen their grip on the nation’s education policy.

As History shows, Reagan proved unable to keep that or most of his other promises related to shrinking the ever-expanding super-state. In fact, with Democrats in charge of both houses of Congress throughout most of his two terms, the best Reagan could manage was to slow the rate of growth.

But that didn’t keep the liberal media and political opposition from depicting him as a heartless fiend who delighted in oppressing widows, orphans, the poor, and the homeless.

To hear the wailing and caterwauling, one would have been forgiven for believing Reagan was personally running from hospital to hospital unplugging preemie infant incubators and cackling hysterically, twirling a long black moustache, as he shoved widows out of the second story windows of their homes.

Those “Reagan budget cuts” became a one-size-fits-all phrase for attributing to Reagan every individual hardship or hard luck story anywhere in the world. Each evening’s newscast featured the most pitiful story the reporters could dig up.

Every item about a layoff, flu epidemic, tornado, and pothole became an opportunity for some man on the street to condemn “them damned Reagan budget cuts.”

Which brings us to this week, wherein I made the mistake of taking a peek at Twitter. In a few short minutes I found literally scores of things like this:

Now, Donald Trump is no Ronald Reagan. My reservations about Mr. Trump are well documented in previous posts.  Nevertheless, 36 years later, this is a pure repeat of 1981.

Of course, this is a propaganda war, and facts don’t really matter. Even so, the facts about Sesame Street are:

  • Mr. Trump’s proposed budget—which has to be approved by the House and Senate—cuts funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.
  • The NEA, on the whole, is an appalling boondoggle-y waste of taxpayer money.
  • Yes, the NEA used to help fund creation of new Sesame Street episodes. But that’s done by HBO now. PBS only runs old episodes of SS.
  • So NEA cuts will likely have no effect on production of Sesame Street. But even if they did, corporate America or the billionaire liberal funders of our weekly protests could easily fund it out of spare pocket change.
  • The licensing for Sesame Street characters is essentially a money printing machine.

Pause to consider the irony of the outpouring of liberal outrage here. The folks at Sesame Street allowed themselves to be acquired by a premium cable channel that the poorest Americans cannot see. But it’s Mr. Trump who is evil-personified for cutting the budget of the ridiculous NEA.

As I said, what we’re witnessing is a propaganda war against Mr. Trump’s efforts to restore some fiscal sanity and boundaries to national government spending; and restore our neglected defensive capabilities in an increasingly dangerous and volatile world.

Celebrities are doing their part. Here’s the spectacularly wealthy author Stephen King taunting the elderly people ands shut-ins who voted for Trump concerning (grossly misleading false) reports of cuts to the federal “Meals on Wheels” program:

 

This is despicable. Sadly, it would probably never occur to a Progressive like Mr. King that some patriotic older Americans might not vote based purely on what most benefits them personally. Or that some of the few surviving members of the “Greatest Generation”—who grew up during the Great Depression and weathered the rigors of World War II—might just care more about their nation’s future than their own comfort.

Or that they might understand what few liberals seem to grasp—that it’s better when local charity is funded at the local level, where there is more accountability and less opportunity for waste and graft.

Unfortunately, King’s mockery isn’t the worst of it. Here’s Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof, yesterday:

Dear God in heaven. If there is a more reprehensible form of political argumentation than the above, I don’t know what it is. There has been an ongoing human tragedy unfolding in Yemen for a couple of years now, but until yesterday, the only people who seemed to care were a handful of conservative groups.

It’s not wrong to care about tiny Udai above. On the contrary, it’s essential. What’s wrong is  choosing to care only when you can use him as prop to score points against your political “enemy.”

Several people I follow noted that within a few days of Mr. Trump’s election, we suddenly started seeing hand-wring-y news reports about America’s “homelessness crisis” after an eight-year disappearance. It astonishing how we had our homelessness problem solved for eight years but that it’s suddenly back with a vengeance.

Journalists have also just discovered that presidential vacations cost a lot of money, after eight years of utter obliviousness to that reality.

Again, all of this  represents a repeat of 1981 (Reagan’s election) and in some respects 2001 (George W.’s).  As I point out from time to time on this site . . . “We’ve seen this before.”

H   H   H   H   H

There is a complementary pair of assumptions underlying this hysterical resistance to cutting federal spending. One, that is pretty much an article of faith for most people today. It is:

  • If a thing is good, the national government must fund it, or even better, mandate it.
  • If a thing is bad, the national government should ban it.

At it’s heart, this brand of thinking is a form of idolatry. It assumes a powerful, centralized government can and should be:

  • the bestower of all blessings.
  • the judge of all vice,
  • the coercer of all virtue,
  • the insulator from all negative consequences from bad choices,
  • the picker of all winners and losers.

It’s messianic and utopian. The problem for the Christian is that we already know Who the Messiah is, and it ain’t Uncle Sam. Yet Government is a jealous god. (See this great essay for more on that.)

It’s 1981 again. But this time around I don’t have a full head of hair or a soon-to-be-obsolete collection of eight-track tapes.

A Quick Comment on the Oscars

Skipped the telecast but heard there was much earnest fist-shaking at the current president.

Younger viewers may be excused for assuming this is some sort of new phenomenon. For those of us with longer memories, there’s a weary familiarity:

  • These same characters said the same things about George W. Bush with the same levels of righteous ferocity. This, even though W. wasn’t all that conservative and was, by all available evidence, a profoundly decent human being.
  • And the usual suspects said similar things about W’s father—who was even more moderate and temperate than his son.
  • Of course, a previous generation of Hollywood elites mocked, derided and denounced Ronald Reagan as a war-mongering, simple-minded nutjob as well.

No, this isn’t new. Things are simply back to normal for when a Republican sits in the Oval Office. Mr. Trump may or may not be a monster (although he has filled his cabinet with competent, decent, admirable people.)

Thus, the fist shaking in Hollywood tells us nothing—other than that after an eight-year break—our nation’s actors  get to play the most coveted, most romantic role of all: That of the courageous artist “speaking truth to power.”

Dave’s Dozen: 12 Brief Observations on the News

In an effort to be less essay-y, here’s the first in a series of bite-sized comments and observations about events in the news.

1.

Mr. Trump seems to have no intention of moderating his practice of popping off on Twitter. At some point soon after the inauguration, one of these 2:00 a.m., 120-character spleen ventings  is going to trigger a market crash or major international incident. Mark my words. However . . .

2.

As regular readers of this blog well know, I’m no Trump fan. But I must admit that his cabinet appointments have been very good, in my view. If he makes a comparably good nomination to the Supreme Court, then his administration will be off to an encouraging start.

3.

The Obama Administration has used it’s final weeks in office to undermine and further isolate Israel. Here’s a big inconvenient truth . . .

As I’ve pointed out before, all conflict in the Middle East—including the ongoing horror show in Syria—is rooted in the 1500-year-old Sunni-Shiite rift. If the world’s Arabs, Muslims, and UN bureaucrats got their fondest wish and Israel ceased to exist tomorrow, that war would only intensify. With the distraction of Israel removed, Sunni and Shia would continue slaughtering one another in earnest. Imagine a hundred Aleppos.

But sure, Mr. Kerry . . . stubborn Israel is the “obstacle to peace” in the region.

3.

 

Yes, the Russians had a preferred outcome in the recent U.S. presidential election. So did the Chinese. And the French, British, Micronesians and North Koreans. In fact every rational nation-state on earth roots for a side in every U.S. presidential election, in accordance with their own national interests.

The Russians clearly favored Trump although their broader goal is simply weakening our nation by undermining public confidence in the system. The Chinese were pulling for Clinton (a sketchy relationship between the dictatorial Chinese regime and the Clintons goes way back.

That said, Mrs. Clinton lost because she was an unappealing candidate and ran a crappy, incompetent campaign. Full stop.

But yes, the major parties in our previous election gave us a choice between a candidate in bed with the Chinese and and one sympathetic to Putin. That’s a lose-lose proposition for the U.S..

Speaking of meddling in the elections of sovereign foriegn nations . . .

4.

Did you know that Mr. Obama’s campaign organization dispatched a team of his best advertising and social media gurus to Israel in 2015, in an effort to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu? They did. He failed. But he tried.

5.

The infamous “Russian Hack” of the recent presidential election was basically two compromised email accounts, those of long-time Clinton associate John Podesta and the DNC.

What most Americans don’t recall (or never heard about at all because the mainstream media downplayed it) was a massive and successful Chinese cyberattack on the actual U.S. government back in 2015.

That attack exposed reams of personal information, including social security numbers, of roughly 4 million current and former federal employees. There was no high profile expulsion of Chinese diplomats after this embarassing breech came to light.

Indeed, there was no publically disernable response at all.

Want to see something deliciously awkward? Here’s ABC White House correspondent John Karl asking Mr. Obama’s spokesman why the Russian hack was treated as a big deal while the much more serious Chinese attacks were a non-issue.

6.

For a brief history of cyberattacks on the U.S by foriegn governments, Reporter Sheryl Attkisson’s “Eight Facts of the ‘Russian Hacks‘” is most illuminating (and troubling).

7.

Back when I was convinced Hillary Clinton was going to win the election, I believed that meant a war with crazy Russia was a small but increasingly real possiblity; but that military conflict with crazy China would be unlikely. I’m convinced Trump’s surprise victory reverses that equation.

Odds of conflict with Russia lower. Odds of onflict with China, higher.

8.

Riots and looting broke out across Mexico last week when the government raised the price of gas. History reveals this is the inescapable result in any nation in which the government seizes the power to set prices and wages.

9.

Watched the Golden Globes and it confirmed what I already knew. Left-wing Hollywood is nearly delirious with secret, giddy delight at the opportunity to courageously “speak truth to power” again.

It’s been eight long years since the world’s most pampered, privileged, and coddled people could signal their virtue to one another by shaking an angry fist at the White House and wagging a shaming finger at the rest of us.

Many of these frequently use their formidible creative gifts to hack furiously at the civilizational branch upon which we all sit.

And Meryl Streep is their queen. . .

10.

NRO’s David French, on Streep’s speech, neatly encapsulates my thoughts:

“I have no particular affection for Trump, but I positively loathe the condescension, alarmism, ignorance, and self-regard of the wealthy Hollywood Left, and each of those elements was on full display in Streep’s speech.”

Please read the whole thing. French makes some very important points.

Also re: Ms. Streep . . . When you’re a Progressive and you’ve lost Piers Morgan, you know you’re on thin ice.

CryBullies and Tantrums From Sea to Shining Sea

Photo: Margorie Owens, WFAA.com

Photo: Margorie Owens, WFAA.com

For the fourth night in a row, noisy throngs of the usual suspects have marched through the streets of Dallas and other urban centers chanting silly chants:

“Hands too small! Can’t build a wall!”

Of course, we all know and fear the awesome election-voiding, mind-changing power of a wicked burn that rhymes.

The marchers in each city are almost certainly the same tossed salad of marxists, anarchists and identity politics grievance mongers who can be counted on to take to the streets every time there is a left-wing cause to promote for sympathetic evening news coverage.  And as is so often the case with these “spontaneous” uprisings, billionaire George Soros is paying the bills.

Now, I may be misreading the current situation but I get the impression that many on the Left are unhappy about the presidential election result.

They punted Hillary!!!

The bad people . . . they  punted Hillary!!!

As I’ve repeatedly pointed out, I was not, and am not, an enthusiastic Trump supporter. There were a half-dozen highly qualified Republican candidates I would have loved to have had the opportunity to support. But the major media, by focusing incessantly and exclusively on Trump during the primaries—both for ratings and in a cynical ploy to hand pick Hillary’s challenger—denied me that privilege.

The histrionics and pants-wetting by many Hillary advocates over the failure of their candidate has been one of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever witnessed. In addition to the protests, which in Portland have turned violent and destructive, we’ve had a torrent of embarrassing crazy talk from celebrities. So be it.

For the most part, the rage, name-calling, and foul-mouthed caterwauling that has followed Trump’s decisive electoral college victory has only served to reassure those Middle-American swing voters who now determine our national elections that they made the right choice.

By the way, I chuckled to learn today that more than half of the Democracy Now! protesters arrested in Portland last week hadn’t even voted. I’d bet a week’s pay that most of the others voted for third party candidates like Jill Stein.

Of course, if the average age of an outraged chanting hippie in the streets is 25, that means that he/she was roughly 13 years old the last time the Democrats lost a presidential election and around nine for the bitterly contested Bush vs. Gore outcome of 2000.

In other words, they have no experiential framework for putting this loss into context or perspective. What’s more, most have been taught a nonsense version of history by the educational system that is constantly reinforced through pop culture and media.

Compounding this is the liberal echo chamber they’ve lived in their entire lives—swaddled in a comforting blanket of media reassurance that they are right and righteous.

A big reason for the magnitude of the shock and awe for many is that they were so sure they were going to win. In fact, in the middle of the day last Tuesday, Hillary and her team were already popping champagne open on the flight back to New York.

Why? How? What now? Some strung-together random thoughts:

  • Liberals spent the last eight years cheerleading Mr. Obama’s steady expansion of presidential and executive branch power (executive orders, weaponizing the IRS, EPA, Justice Dept., etc.) Conservatives warned them that this is a bad idea. They cautioned that the separation of powers built into the Constitution through a delicate system of checks and balances was a vital safeguard against tyranny. Now Progressives are pooping themselves at the prospect of turning that enhanced Executive power over to someone they loathe and fear. (See Proverbs 26:27)

 

  • Over the last four years, even while middle Americans struggled through a stagnant economy that hemorrhaged real jobs while creating hundreds of thousands of new baristas, waiters, and bartenders, they:
    • Had Obamacare jammed down their throats even though clear majorities opposed it.
    • Had same-sex marriage jammed down their throats even though clear majorities opposed it (even in California, which passed a referendum on it, only to see it nullified by the courts.)
    • Then immediately saw “transgender issues” pushed to the top of the dominant media culture’s national agenda, before most of the nation had a chance to process the end of marriage as civilization has known it for millennia.
    • Saw the rule of law eroded and wages for the working poor weakened through encouragement of illegal immigration.
    • Watched professional athletes use a local issue (policing) as a rationale to disrespect and show disdain for the national anthem.
    • Spent eight years being called a racist by talking heads for expressing honest, legitimate policy disagreements with the President. (Chris Matthews, Bill Maher, The View ladies, ad infinitum.)
    • Been the focus of a constant stream of mockery, derision, and condescension out of the media capitals of Los Angeles and New York–via television, movies, and music.
    • Watched North Carolina be treated like a leprous pariah by pop stars and national sports organizations for passing a commonsense law to keep men out of ladies restrooms.

 

  • Words like racist and misogynist are important. We need them. They describe real things. Which is why it is tragically wrong to abuse them to death as the dominant media culture has done for years now. When you use the word racist as a club to silence disagreement or shame-shun decent people who simply disagree with you, you drain these words of their meaning and power.

 

  • When it became clear on election night that Donald Trump was going to win the presidency, after I picked my jaw up off my fuzzy slippers, I made the following prediction to my wife: “God help us. We’re going to see a bunch of celebrities running for president in four years.” Within 72 hours I’d heard Chris Rock, George Clooney, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as potentially interested in running. Good luck with that.

 

  • Finally, in one sense, it didn’t matter who won this election. A lot of bad things were already baked into the cake during Mr. Obama’s tenure, particularly during his second term. In fact, if you’re looking for a truly tragic election outcome, you’re late. It occurred four years ago. Everything Mitt Romney warned about during his campaign has come to pass. All of it. But he lost, in part because a critical mass of evangelicals and catholics couldn’t bring themselves to turn out for a Mormon because “magic underwear” or something.

Reminder: We Still Elect a President, Not a King

President Obama seems to be the only high-profile Dem/Lib in the nation with any sense of perspective about the Trump win.

Perhaps that’s because he is more keenly aware than almost any living person of the limits of presidential power in our system. (Of course, he spent the last eight years trying to find ways around those limits.)

See, for example, this:

“Obama expresses frustration on Guantanamo Bay: ‘I have not been able to close the darn thing'”

On Lion Ted

Lion Ted

What follows is the inevitable violation of my pledge not to speak of Donald Trump again prior to the election. (You called it, reader Ted.)  I’m about to do so only in the context of responding to some requests I’ve received to share my thoughts about Sen. Cruz’s non-endorsement speech at the Republican Convention last week.

But first, as is often the case with me, a little historical context . . .

In February of 1988, two candidates were locked in a heated battle to be the Republican nominee for President. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole  mounted a serious challenge to Vice-President George H. W. Bush’s plans to succeed Ronald Reagan in the White House.

Dole had massive momentum coming out of a strong win in the Iowa caucuses and heading into the New Hampshire primaries. Bush, the sitting vice-president and consensus favorite, had come in a distant third in Iowa. (Do you recall who finished second? Pat Robertson!)

Suddenly, New Hampshire became a must-win for for the stumbling Bush campaign. Not surprisingly, Bush went negative—attacking some of Dole’s past Senate votes throughout the New Hampshire primary. When the votes were tallied on February 16, 1988 Bush won New Hampshire by nine points.

In an inteview with NBC News later that night, Tom Brokaw asked a clearly dissappointed Dole if there was any thing he’d like to say to Bush.

Cranky Bob

Stop lying about me. And get off my lawn.

Dole groused, “Tell him to stop lying about my record.”

{Cue the sounds of a record needle being dragged across a record; men gasping in horror; women fainting; and the media shifting into high dudgeon mode.}

Dole’s testy use of the word “lying” became an instant scandal. Political historians widely view this as the moment Dole lost his chance to become president.

For days afterward, media headlines and office watercooler chatter revovled around the question of whether Dole’s cranky use of the “L” word revealed that he didn’t have the temperament or character to be President of the United States.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Only seven presidential elections ago, simply saying your opponent was lying disqualified you for the White House in this nation because you were clearly some sort of loose cannon.

That was then. Now . . .

The new Democrat nominee just narrowly avoided a federal indictment in the middle of the primary but instead was only declared to have been “extremely careless” bordering on “gross negligence” with national security secrets.

And, as I noted here, the Republicans just nominated a man who uses boasts and insults as a substitute for arguments and schoolyard taunts in place of reasoned rebuttals.

In response to critiques of his policy positions, he reflexively resorts to crass mockery of his oppenent’s appearance or name. A few examples from the primaries:

  • Lyin’ Ted; “liar, crazy, or very dishonest” (Ted Cruz)
  • Little Marco; “this little guy”; “total joke artist” (Marco Rubio)
  • “this low energy guy”; “a loser”; “a pathetic figure”  (Jeb Bush)
  • “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?” (Carly Fiorina)
  • “ran him out of the race like a little boy” (Lindsay Graham)
  • “a spoiled brat without a properly functioning brain” (Rand Paul)
  • “should be forced to take an IQ test” (Rick Perry)
  • “pathological”; “a sick puppy”; “incapable of understanding foriegn policy” (Ben Carson)
triumph

Winning. You can’t spell Triumph without Trump.

In other words, “lying” may the most gracious, temperate thing Mr. Trump said about any of his opponents in the primaries. And it worked. Running as Triumph: The Insult Comic Dog cost him nothing. Two weeks ago the Republian party made him their standard bearer.

Keep in mind, Mr. Trump has shown little interest in wooing or reassuring the sizable portion of the Republican base that supported Ted Cruz.

On the contrary, three weeks before the convention, Trump was still dragging out the “Lyin’ Ted” smear in front of the microphones out on the campaign trail.

That’s right. With the nomination already sown up and Cruz out of the race, Trump was still using precious media minutes—not to criticize Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama—but rather to jab a stubby thumb in the eyes of Cruz’ voters one more time.

I was flabbergasted when I saw it. I literally couldn’t believe what I was seeing. This has to be some old footage, I hoped. Nope.

In a moment in which a rational candidate should be seeking to reassure and woo and the supporters of his most successful rival, Trump was going out of his way to rub salt in their wounds.

Hand to heaven, the thought passed through my mind that Trump doesn’t really want to win. That his fragile, insatiable ego is enjoying the attention but doesn’t want the headaches, responsibilities, or constraints of actually governing. (And that was before I saw this!)

“The Speech”

Which brings us to Ted Cruz and his now infamous speech before the Republican National Convention. As you probably know, Cruz’s decision not to endorse Trump, and to close his address with the words, “Vote your conscience,” enraged many, disappointed others, and bewildered the rest.

Cruz was booed off the stage and instantly vilifed for being “self-serving” and “selfish.” He “betrayed” his party. He was “cowardly.” It was a cold “political calculation” designed to advance his own personal interests rather the interests of the party and the nation.

Every word of this is nonsense on stilts—but that last bit most of all.

Cruz was most likely setting fire to any future national aspirations with that speech, and he knew it.

No, the move most in alignment with Cruz’s self-interest and future political prospects was to bow to party pressure, hold his nose, and endorse the bloviating, know-nothing gas-bag clearly troubled individual. The next-best, next-least-career-damaging option for Cruz was simply to stay home, as Ohio governor John Kasich did.

Cruz took neither of these path-of-least-resistance options. In my view, he took the path of honor. Allow me to explain.

Keep in mind that the RNC, with Team Trump’s approval, invited Cruz to speak in a prime time slot. Keep in mind that all were given copies of his speech in advance.

Also keep in mind that during the primary campaign, Mr. Trump saved his nastiest and lowest smears for Cruz. (Yes, I know all political campaigns turn ugly and run negative ads. I’m not naive. But Trump’s attacks on Cruz were orders of magnitude beyond the pale.)

They are legion. But two of the most egregious of these were Mr. Trump’s repeated references to a nutball conspiracy theory that Ted Cruz’s father, a devout evangelical Christian, played some role in the assassination of JFK.

Even worse was Mr. Trump’s approving retweet of a rabid Trump fan’s side-by-side comparison of Cruz’s wife, Heidi, with Melania Trump, a former model, featuring a particularly unflattering shot of Mrs. Cruz:

Trump-TweetBy the way, for the record, here’s a couple of more-representative samples of Heidi Cruz’s grotesque visage. Brace yourself:

heidi-cruz 2

Heidi Cruz

I warned you.

Yes, we’ve come a long way since 1988. Today, being the kind of candidate willing to say, “my wife is so much hotter, so vote for me” actually works with a large swath of the American electorate.

What a time to be alive.

My point is that Ted Cruz’s non-endorsement speech at the RNC had absolutely nothing to do with selfishness or self-promotion, and everything to do with family honor.

That’s right. Honor. An old-fashioned and nearly extinct concept in our postmodern era.

In other words, I believe Cruz chose to walk into a no-win situation simply because being a loyal husband and son means more to him than being a successful politican. Isn’t this at the heart of the explanation he offered in a meeting with the Texas delegation the very next day?:

“I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father. That pledge [to support the Republican nominee] was not a blanket commitment that if you go and slander and attack Heidi, that I’m going to nonetheless come like a servile puppy dog and say thank you very much for maligning my wife and maligning my father.”–Sen. Ted Cruz

Why not take him at his word? It’s just too simple for many to grasp. Most in our dying culture are too jaded and cynical to believe a politician can choose principle over self-promotion. But there it is. And it is perfectly consistent with the way Cruz has handled himself since entering the Senate.

Before announcing his candidacy for president, Cruz was already one of the most unpopular figures in Washington precisely because he stubbornly refuses to play the game. Former Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn was like this, but Cruz is Coburn on steriods.

It is clear to me that Ted Cruz is constitutionally incapable of compromising his principles to advance his own interests—of “going along to get along.”

Frankly, I’m really not interested in hearing complaints about Cruz from any person who has ever whined about how all politicians abandon their values once they get to Washington, and put career advancement above their principles.

Here is one who didn’t, and it seems to be wildly unpopular.

Running to the Left

As I write here in the days immediately following the Democrat’s convention, Mr. Trump displays much more interest in wooing Bernie Sanders voters than courting skeptical conservatives like me. This speaks volumes about Trump’s ideology (or lack thereof.)

It actually makes some political sense because Trump is running to Hillary’s left on a number of issues—among them national defense, trade, and a couple of other issues. In other words, a number of Trump positions are more in line with the left-wing Bernie voters than than conservative Cruz fans.

Me? I’m with Lion Ted.

I plan to vote my conscience. I’ll try to explain what that looks like in an upcoming post. (Just as soon as I figure it out.)

Some Random Strung-Together Independence Day Thoughts

1861 Flag Sky

Captive people long to be free.

After several generations of freedom, free people start longing to be taken care of:

  • To be insulated from risk.
  • To be immune from the consequences of their own bad choices.
  • To have somone else look after their neighbor so they don’t have to.
  • To be generous with other peoples’ money instead of their own.

A people can never be both free and taken care of.

Free people gradually trade their freedom for false promises of security and comfort.

The impulse to craft a governmental solution to every human ill is a religious impulse. It’s messianic at the root.

Big government is a false messiah. It promises utopia, heaven on earth, but can never deliver on those promises.

Freedom means equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome.

Real freedom means freedom to fail, pick yourself up, and start again.

 

One Final Word on Trump and This Greek Tragedy of an Election

 

Steve_Buscemi_Armageddon 2

In a climactic moment in the movie Armageddon, a team of drilling experts valiantly attempting to save planet earth from complete annihilation has everything that can possibly go wrong, do so.

When it seemingly becomes clear that the entire universe is conspiring against the success of their noble efforts to save the world, the team member played by Steve Buscemi looks in awestruck wonder at the FUBAR-ity of it all, and the enormity of the tragedy they’re about to witness, and mutters:

“It’s a g#######d Greek tragedy.”

That profane line of dialogue has come to mind on numerous occasions as this election year has rolled along.

What a difference a year makes. A year ago I was optimistic that after eight long, heartbreaking years of watching a great nation intentionally weakened; her standing in the world diminished; and her blood-bought liberties eroded;  we had our best opportunity in decades to put a conservative statesman in the White House. (It’s been since 1980 since we had one of those.)

On one hand, the Democrats were set to put forth the weakest, most flawed, most beatable group of candidates since 1968. Old, tired, corrupt, extreme, unlikable and white.

On the other hand, the Republicans boasted one of the most impressive crops of candidates in living memory. Young, intelligent, articulate, proven and ethnically diverse.

Then came Trump. And everything instantly went to hell.

Early on I dashed off a few thoughts in posts titled, “On Donald Trump,” and “Deconstructing the Appeal of Donald Trump.” This will be my final post on him.

It now seems clear that one of two scenarios is inevitable:

  • Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination and loses to Hillary Clinton in the general election.
  • Or some sort of brokered convention snatches the nomination from Trump with the result of alienating a significant swath of vital Republican voters.

Either outcome puts Hillary Clinton in the White House for eight more years of calamity for America. The only wildcard that might avert this Trump-caused catastrophe is a multi-count federal indictment of Hillary between now and November. Not likely (although appropriate.)

The Enigma of Evangelical Attraction to Trump

In a non-Armageddon-like universe, Ted Cruz would have owned the Evangelical vote. But here in Bizzaro world, he hasn’t. Instead, large numbers of Christians have cast their vote for a profane casino-owning huckster who boasts about the proportions of his genitalia in televised presidential debates.

Christian leaders like Jerry Falwell, Jr., FBC Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress, Beni Johnson (wife of Bethel’s Bill Johnson), and numerous others are vocally endorsing and defending a man who thinks personal insults like “loser” and “clown” are an adequate substitute for cogent policy arguments.

He has not once given objective listeners a reason to believe has has thought deeply or read seriously about a single issue important to Christians or conservatives.

In recent weeks, Mr. Trump has doubled down on his promise to “force Mexico to pay for a border wall.” (He can’t. Of course, he knows that. He’s just betting that you and I don’t.)

He has suggested that as President he’d  make China assassinate North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. (Uh, again, no.)

He talks about the presidency the same way liberals and children do, as if the office conveys god-like power. Again, he doesn’t really believe any of this. It’s marketing.

In an email to his subscribers, liberal comedian Louis C.K. recently had a word of warning and advice for conservatives. “He is not one of you. He is one of him . . . He is playing you.”

It’s true. And it’s disappointing to find a significant number of my fellow evangelicals either blissfully unaware of that fact, or bafflingly indifferent to it.

It feels like a tragedy. A Greek tragedy.

An Open Letter to Sarah Palin

Dear Sarah,

Palin BookIt’s been almost six years since my colleague Stephen Mansfield and I researched and wrote our book about you—The Faith and Values of Sarah Palin.

We wrote it in a publishing environment in which nearly all profiles of political personalities were either hagiographies crafted to praise them to the heavens; or hit pieces hoping to make the target look like the spawn of a love connection between Josef Mengele and Caligula.

Both types of books lie in the space somewhere between PR and propaganda.

That is not the kind of book we were interested in writing. To their credit, Frontline Books allowed us to write a thoughtful, objective exploration of your faith journey and worldview from an unapologetically Christian and conservative perspective.

We weren’t out to promote you. Nor were we out to tear you down. We were neither fanboys nor haters.

In a season in which many were speculating about whether you might choose to run for the presidency in 2012, we were out to give open-minded readers the fairest, most sensitive understanding possible of what shaped you and what drives you. Or, as the title promised—your faith and values.

In researching your life, words, and actions we found much to admire, and I believe this comes through in the book. For me, three of your strengths stood out as being especially impressive and praiseworthy.

u-s-constitutionThe first was your tenacious and passionate commitment to constitutional constraints on the power of government. We described the way you consistently pointed to Alaska’s constitution as a candidate; and we cited numerous instances in which you courageously stayed true to those principles while in office.

You have always seemed to understand that fallen, fallible, corruptible, humans require iron-clad restraints of constitutional limitations when they exercise political power.

The second was your seemingly clear understanding that our nation had too many individuals and corporations gorging themselves at the government trough. In numerous speeches you’ve rightly pointed out that the welfare state fosters dependence; and that when corporations and whole industries become recipients of taxpayer money, it results in something very unhealthy for our republic.

Thirdly, we admired your unapologetic commitment to Christian values and the pro-life cause.

palin-trumpAll of which makes your recent endorsement of Donald Trump not only disappointing but baffling. And I’m not the only one struggling to reconcile your ethusiastic cheerleading for Mr. Trump with the principles you’ve articulated and lived in public over the last ten years.

In an effort to solve this mystery, numerous cynics have opined that you, after several years of declining relevance, have tossed aside your principles for an opportunity to share a very bright spotlight once again.

I’ll not try to guess your motive. I personally think presuming low motives of those with whom we disagree is a very low and nasty form of argumentation. Even so, it is one of Mr. Trump’s favorite devices—along with name calling, crass insults, and schoolyard taunts.

I will say that it is highly ironic that your joining yourself to the traveling Donald Trump circus coincides with two events that the old, principled Sarah Palin would have found worthy of cheering.

The first is Ted Cruz’s refusal to bow his knee and kiss the ring of the Corn Growers Lobby in Iowa. In the past, most conservative candidates campaigning in Iowa have felt it necessary to toss their principles aside and pander to the powerful corn grower/ethanol industry. But not Cruz. Cruz is standing on principle even though it is almost certainly damaging his prospects in strategically important Iowa. (Mr. Trump, on the other hand, is in full blown pander mode, praising ethanol subsidies left and right.)

The Sarah Palin I used to admire would have found some nice things to say about Mr. Cruz’s courage.

Secondly, only one presidential candidate was present in snow-buried Washington, D.C. at the annual March for Life event a few days ago to show solidarity with the pro-life movement.

Carly Fiorina stood before a throng of pro-life activists and sent a message out to the pro-abortion activists who show up and try to shout her down at every campaign stop:

“You can scream and throw condoms at me all day long.  You won’t silence me. You don’t scare me. I have battled breast cancer. I have buried a child. I have read the Bible. I know the value of life.”

That’s the kind of full-throated, warrior-woman battle cry that used to earn an “amen” and an “atta girl” from you. But it didn’t. It couldn’t.

It could not because you’ve hitched your wagon to the wrong horse. And I can’t help but find that sad. You’re better than this.

Respectfully,

David A. Holland