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.


David A. Holland








The Biggest, Under-Reported News Story of 2015

Media Self-Censorship

In the 1850s and ’60s, courageous writers exposed readers to the horrors of slavery and the Abolitionist Movement was born.

In the early 1900s, Upton Sinclair pulled back the curtain and gave America a horrifying look at the meat-packing industry, triggering a public outcry that produced significant reforms.

In the same era, other journalists, who Teddy Roosevelt admiringly dubbed “muckrakers,” went undercover to expose other festering societal cancers to the light of day.

Fast-forward to 2015. As I pointed out in this blog post, journalism is largely dead.

Today the the entire news gathering, news reporting apparatus in the United States is wholly dedicated not to keeping the powerful accountable but rather keeping liberals/Progressives in power and advancing the liberal/Progressive agenda.

Some journalists now take talking points directly from the White House. Many others participate in large email listservs that allow them to shape coverage and therefore shape narratives. (See the JournoList Scandal for example)

Media bias doesn’t just manifest in the way stories are covered. It’s most insidious manifestation is in the way certain stories are ignored (see: Benghazi/Hillary/”What difference, at this point, does it make?”)

The American deaths and heroics at Benghazi, and the subsequent government cover-up, was the most underreported story of 2013. So what about this last year—2015?

That would be the explosive exposé by The Center for Medical Progress of Planned Parenthood’s gruesome harvesting and marketing of baby parts. Over the course of six months in 2015 the courageous group released  a series of videos of clandestinely taped conversations with various Planned Parenthood officials.

The released videos included:

Planned Parenthood Uses Partial-Birth Abortions to Sell Baby Parts

Second Planned Parenthood Senior Executive Haggles Over Baby Parts Prices, Changes Abortion Methods

Planned Parenthood VP Says Fetuses May Come Out Intact, Agrees Payments Specific to the Specimen

Human Capital – Episode 2: Inside the Planned Parenthood Supply Site

Human Capital – Episode 3: Planned Parenthood’s Custom Abortions for Superior Product

Top Planned Parenthood Exec: Baby Parts Sales “A Valid Exchange,” Can Make “A Fair Amount of Income”

Planned Parenthood TX Abortion Apprentice Taught Partial-Birth Abortions to “Strive For” Intact Baby Brains

“PROFIT” – Planned Parenthood’s Illicit Moneymaking From Baby Body Parts

“HARVEST” – Planned Parenthood’s Custom Abortions for Better Baby Parts

In a fairer, more just world the content these videos would have unleashed a firestorm of media attention so ferocious that Planned Parenthood would have been fully defunded and no donor this side of Josef Mengele would have given it a penny.

Obviously, that is not the world we’re living in. The mainstream media completely ignored the first few videos. In fact, the first time most of the major news outlets even acknowledged the existence of the bombshell exposé is when Planned Parenthood issued an official response.

The truth about Benghazi could not be suppressed. Americans are finally learning the truth. Hopefully the horrifying truth about Planned Parenthood’s barbarism will not stayed buried either.

However, as I write, Planned Parenthood, with deep pockets from fat-cat donors and taxpayer dollars, is suing The Center for Medical Progress.

Deconstructing the Appeal of Donald Trump

Trump O

He’s boorish. He’s inarticulate. He’s graceless, crass and ego-maniacal. He seems to believe insults like loser, clown and scum, are adequate substitutes for a cogent policy argument.

Historically he has been more ideologically aligned with Democrats than Republicans and has had lots of nice things to say about Hillary Clinton over the years. He doesn’t seem to understand why universal healthcare is a bad idea, or to have any intellectual curiosity about conservative ideas. And . . .

Donald Trump is the frontrunner to be the Republican nominee for the White House.

Most longtime observers of the American political scene were expecting the Donald Trump fad to have passed by now. It hasn’t. He continues to outpoll all other contenders for the Republican nomination by a substantial margin.

I laid out some thoughts about Trump’s appeal in a previous post but would like to expand upon them now.

To understand the stubbornly resilient levels of support for Donald Trump, it’s necessary to view it as a braided rope with five strands. Those strands—the good, bad and ugly—are:

  1. Celebrity
  2. Novelty
  3. Immigration Frustration
  4. Politician Fatigue
  5. Strongman Appeal

Allow me to briefly unpack each of these strands.



Donald Trump has been a household name since the 80s. His television shows The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice have been fixtures in living rooms for 12 years.

As I pointed out in my previous post, name ID is a huge component in political polling. Of course, you would be hard pressed to find a person in this country who hasn’t heard of Donald Trump. But it goes deeper than mere name recognition.

We live in a celebrity worshiping culture. For many people, celebrities are viewed as the demi-gods of our age—a smarter, better brand of human being. They’re not, of course. But it doesn’t change the fact that Miley Cyrus has nearly 25 million people following her on Twitter.


For a certain segment of the culture, novelty is a big selling point. People who rarely if ever vote will turn out for the novelty candidate. Former professional wrestler Jessie “The Body” Ventura became the governor of Minnesota with only about 36% of the vote in a three-way race—in large part on the strength of novelty appeal. (See: Franken, Al)

Immigration Frustration

climbingborderfenceAs I mentioned in that previous post, Trump has tapped into a deep, powerful current of frustration among regular Americans about illegal immigration. Much of Trump’s traction derives from his tough, unapologetic, refreshingly un-PC proclamations about how illegal immigration is weakening our nation.

Following the Paris massacres by Islamic extremists, Trump gave voice to what millions of Americans were saying around water coolers. Namely that it’s madness to import, en masse, tens of thousands of refugees from Islamic nations without careful screening.

He was mocked relentlessly in the press and by the standup comics, but millions across the nation silently nodded in agreement.

Politician Fatigue

The plain-speaking, tough-talking non-politician candidate from the world of business always has appeal for a significant segment of the populace (See: Perot, Ross). Conservative voters in particular are sick to death of sending men and women who say the right things to Washington, only to see them turn into spineless compromisers the moment they start drinking the inside-the-beltway water. (See: Ryan, Paul)

Trump—undiplomatic, unnuanced, blunt, pugnacious, profane—is the anti-politician. Most office seekers weigh every word carefully, so as to avoid offending prospective donors and/or voters—most of whom are hearing of them, and from them, for the very first time.

Trump-the-billionaire, on the other hand, has nothing to lose, thrives on negative attention, and therefore says, unfiltered, whatever pops into his head. And exasperated Americans, weary of watching their great nation dismantled piece by piece by left-wing know-nothings, are eating it up.

StrongMan Appeal

chavezOf all the factors driving Trump’s appeal, this is perhaps the most troubling to me. History reveals that in times of crisis or societal disintegration, people are prone to clamor for a powerful, even brutal, figure—the strongman—with a iron will to put things back in order.

It’s not at all surprising that Trump has spoken admiringly of Vladimir Putin in recent days. Putin’s repeated reelection to the highest offices in Russia and that nation’s steady drift toward dictatorship is a classic example of the appeal of the strongman.

Putin follows a long line of democratically elected leaders who steadily morphed into tyrants while in office, including Erdoğan, Chavez, Peron, Pinochet, Mugabe and many others throughout history. Both Hitler and Mussolini were elected fair and square.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not predicting that a President Trump would be a new Hitler. I’m merely pointing out that Trump is benefiting from the kind of populist unrest that tends to get men elected who have no business leading a nation.

Trump and Social Conservatives

I’ve been mystified to see numerous evangelical leaders fawning over Trump over the last few months. Make no mistake about it, he is no friend of social conservatives. He is, however, a consummate salesman. Neither his private life nor his public statements give us any reason to believe he gets, at any level, the principles that animate us. His occasional attempts to speak the language of faith on the campaign trail have been at once comical and condescending. Naked pandering.

In a fairer world, the following nine-minutes of pure, unfiltered Donald Trump would have destroyed his candidacy—disqualifying him in the minds of all but the lowest common denominator voters.

I wish any Christian considering throwing his or her support to Trump would watch this video carefully. This rambling stream-of-consciousness was delivered at a rally back in November when Trump’s closest challenger was Ben Carson. Here Trump is mocking Carson’s testimony of being transformed from street thug to surgeon through the power of Christ, as outlined in his autobiography:

Clearly, the evangelical concept of redemption and change through faith—the core of Carson’s narrative—is utterly foreign to Trump.

Everything that makes Trump an ugly candidate and a awful prospective president is on display here in those nine minutes.

The Irony and Tragedy of the Trump Candidacy

The stakes in this election are extraordinarily high. After the eight-year catastrophe of the Obama presidency—which will leave our nation weaker and more vulnerable than at any time since the Carter years—it is vital that America gets skilled, savvy leadership with unswerving conservative principles.

The Republicans were blessed to be facing a deeply flawed, profoundly vulnerable Democrat candidate in Hillary Clinton. And they fielded one of the most attractive, qualified, conservative crop of candidates in Republican history.

Carson, Perry, Rubio, Walker, Jindal, Cruz, Fiorina are all intelligent, accomplished and fundamentally conservative. Of course, not all are rock solid on every single issue. The perfect candidate doesn’t exist.

But Trump’s entry into the race and the media’s all-consuming hate/love obsession with him has consistently sucked all the oxygen out of the room for the other candidates. Three great candidates—Perry, Walker, and Jindal—have all fallen by the wayside. Other campaigns are on fundraising life support.

And the self-funded Trump circus rolls on. He’s an expert marketer. But I’m not buying it.


The West’s Refugee Dilemma


In this moment of history, many of my fellow believers are arguing passionately that the nations of Europe (and the U.S., too) should continue accepting and settling every poor person who makes it to their shores. I’d like to explore that assertion but it will require a couple of long posts to do so. Stay with me. This is important stuff.


Do they make these in nation size?

A nation can choose to be a welfare state. A nation can choose to have open borders. But no nation can choose both. Not for long anyway. So observed famed economist Milton Friedman many years ago.

The validity of Friedman’s assertion is now being tested in Europe before our eyes. Friedman, math and common sense all argue:

As a nation, to provide a social welfare safety net of services for the poor AND welcome the poor of the world to your soil is tantamount to economic and cultural suicide.

As I write, refugees by the hundreds of thousands are pouring across Europe’s largely open borders and into the generous social welfare safety nets those liberal nations provide for their residents.

The British newspaper, The Independent, published the stunning data visualization below to illustrate the scale and scope of what has taken place over the last few months—and very importantly, where they’re coming from. Each moving dot represents 25 individuals.

If image doesn’t load, CLICK HERE.

One of the striking things about this map is WHERE these refugees are coming from. The narrative is the they’re all coming from Syria and Iraq where ISIS’ reign of hell is rampaging. That’s clearly no longer the case.

By October 20, the number of refugees passing through Greece had surpassed 500,000. This literal exodus indeed began as a result of the deteriorating security situation in Iraq and Syria, which in turn is a direct result of President Obama’s foolish, catasrophic withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq (as I pointed out in this blog post). But once it became clear that Europe was going to accept refugees, the flood gates opened from all over that half of the world.

Each one of those moving marks represents 25, heartbreaking individual stories. Real people, with real needs, hurts, dreams and aspirations.

However, viewed as a whole, these immigration flows create a self-reinforcing, self-amplifying cycle. Welcoming refugees triggers more and increasing refugee movement. Accept a trickle and invite a flood.

This is precisely what we saw here in the U.S. between 2012 and 2014.. As soon as the Obama Administration made it clear that underage illegals immigrants would be allowed to stay here and helped to establish residency, a tsunami of children and youth began rushing toward the Rio Grande from Central America.

As this PBS report explains, prior to 2012 an average of 8,000 children were intercepted at the border each year. Then word got out that the White House had ordered immigration officials to stop enforcing the laws on the books, especially where minors were concerned.

Many within the American Church—from Unitarians to Southern Baptists—cheered this move as a more compassionate, more humane, more Christian policy.

However, news travels fast. And the law of unintended consequences is merciless.

Minor Migrants 2014

Soon poor mothers across Guatemala, Honduras, and elsewhere were sending their unaccompanied children north, asking them to run a gauntlet of vicious narco traficantes, human traffickers, pedophiles, abusers, jungles and deserts.

We know that in the first half of 2014, roughly 60,000 minors actually made it to U.S. soil. What we will never know is how many did not make it. How many died along the way? How many were pressed into child labor or into the service of the drug cartels?

Accept a trickle and invite a flood.

Here’s a hard truth. Those who, with the best of righteous intentions, advocate for governmental acceptance of the trickle must own their responsibility for the deaths caused by the flood.

Of course, American liberals never, ever take responsibility for the catastrophic unintended consequences of their poorly thought out do-gooding. But my fellow Christians and I should. But back now to Europe . . .

Today many of the same voices of faith are saying the governments of Europe must accept and care for every Middle Eastern and African immigrant that arrives on their shores. They are explicitly claiming that it is the “Christian” thing to do and that governments ought always do the Christian thing.

In other words, many people believe the governments of Europe should put on a giant WWJD bracelet. But is that true?

I believe it is both possible and necessary to distinguish between what an individual Christian should do and what the government of a nation-state should do. Not only is it possible—it’s vital.

I know this sounds heretical, but a government can’t be a good Christian. And I don’t believe it should try.

I’ll explain in my next post.

The Logic of “Equality”


To achieve equality of outcome among all people (as opposed to equal opportunity) the government must keep us from failing.

To keep us from failing requires preventing us from making bad choices.

To keep us from making bad choices requires eliminating choice.

This is the inescapable logic of egalitarianism and the reason why all socialist projects end in totalitarianism and oppression.


Our President is the King of Horrible Ideas


So embarrassing.

In his ongoing quest to make Jimmy Carter’s one catastrophic term seem like a four-year festival of victory, awesomeness and genius, the current occupant of the White House just continues to come through.

This week we read that the President thinks it would be a grand idea to make voting compulsory. Washington Post: President Obama endorses mandatory voting.

“Other countries have mandatory voting,” Mr. Obama said at a town hall-style event in Cleveland, Ohio, citing places like Australia. “It would be transformative if everybody voted — that would counteract money more than anything.”

The president continued, “The people who tend not to vote are young, they’re lower income, they’re skewed more heavily toward immigrant groups and minorities . . . There’s a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls.”

Perhaps. But there’s certainly a reason some folks desperately want them at the polls. One party/ideology benefits greatly when the easily bamboozled and bribed vote in larger numbers. One party/ideology thrives on convincing the gullible that they can have free stuff with other people’s money and that we’ll never, ever run out of other people’s money.

One party/ideology benefits when the mal-educated, the unassimilated and the uninformed show up at the polls. (In related news, we also learned this week that only 35% of adult Americans can name all three branches of government.)

For some time it has been an unquestioned article of faith among left-liberals that when more people vote, better government results.


Pardon me. Could you kindly direct us to the nearest polling place?

“Faith” is the wrong word here because faith holds fast where there is merely no sensory evidence. Liberals hold their belief—that pure democracy will somehow produce good outcomes for “the common people”—in the face of mountains of contrary evidence.

The word for this is delusion.

There is a reason Mr. Obama cited only Australia in support of his argument. Actually his precise words were, “Australia and some other countries . . .” So, who are those “other countries?” Below is a map of all the nations of the world that have already embraced Mr. Obama’s grand idea of compulsory voting:


Ahhh, Latin America, bastion of stability and corruption-free government. And we see you over there North Korea!

Australia is the only one in this group that isn’t either an economic basket case, a liberal-fascist dictatorship or both. Funny how the President didn’t point to all the excellent government the citizenry is enjoying in Thailand or the Democratic Republic of Congo in his remarks.

Many other countries have tried mandatory voting in the past—usually during some fascist-dictator-y phase in their past—but have since abandoned it. They learned the hard way that idiots tend to vote for idiotic politicians.

Governor Ventura

A former Minnesota governor.

Senator Franken

A current Minnesota Senator.















Nevertheless, this president’s banana republic-ification of America continues apace. And we have a whole new generation of potential voters who get their news from Jon Stewart.

Oh, and San Francisco wants to lower the voting age to 16 because . . . Democracy!

Justice or Redemption?


Just a couple of additional clarifying (hopefully) thoughts about my previous post on theologically conservative Christians’ accelerating embrace of the term social justice.

First, note the qualifier in the sentence above—“theologically conservative.”

The fact is, theologically liberal Christians have been waving the social justice flag for more than 100 years. For example, I recently read a fascinating book published in 1917 titled, A Theology for the Social Gospel. The author, Walter Rauschenbusch, was a key figure in the Progressive – Social Gospel movement in the United States at the turn of the last century.

In it, he frankly admits that it’s impossible to reconcile the Christian faith’s traditional, atonement-centered theology with his and others’ to desire build the Kingdom of God on earth through governmental power and institutional reform—or in the modern liberal vernacular, through seeking “justice.”

So he concludes that orthodox Christian theology must evolve . . . i.e., be “expanded and readjusted.” From the opening page . . .

We have a social gospel. We need a systematic theology large enough to match it and vital enough to back it. [This] book offers concrete suggestions on how some of the most important sections of doctrinal theology may be expanded and readjusted to make room for the religious convictions summed up in ” the social gospel.”

In other words, if your preference for how the Kingdom of God manifests on earth doesn’t line up with the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith, instead of adjusting your preferences you simply endeavor to reinvent the faith.

The spiritual descendants of the Social Gospel justice-seekers are very much with us today in the Progressive/Liberal (theologically and politically) segment of the evangelical world.

This impulse to reshape Christian doctrine to fit a preferred socio-politico framework is on display in recent books like Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity and Tony Campolo’s Red Letter Christians. As with Rauschenbusch 100 years earlier, these leaders recognize that our stubborn devotion to a Gospel that is first and foremost about transformation of broken people, rather than the transformation of broken social systems, is the primary obstacle to establishing the Kingdom of God as they understand it.


Man’s fall broke two things—Man and Creation.

Jesus’ work opened the door to the restoration (redemption) of both, but in a specific order. Redeemed people first. Then the restoration of the created order . . .

For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:19,20)

Like the well-intentioned Social Gospel crusaders of a century ago, today’s Social Justice seekers turn this order on its head. They seek to roll back the effects of the curse on individuals–poverty, oppression, addiction, abuse–by healing creation (or the macro-order within it). This is precisely why any conversation with a justice-minded person about poverty, crime, or racism invariably turns to “root causes.”

And the identified root is almost always something “systemic.” (Systemic inequality of wealth distribution, systemic racism, systemic sexism, etc.)

capitalismIf the ills that must be cured are “systemic” rather than rooted in the brokenness of individuals, then the only logical solution becomes reform or replacement of the “system.”

By the way, this is why the favorite target of social justice seekers— both secular and liberal Christian—is the economic system known as Capitalism.

In reality, the Kingdom is revealed on earth from the bottom up–one redeemed person at a time. Yet a focus on social justice seeks manifestation of the Kingdom from the top down–by endeavoring to heal the systems and institutions of society. Viewing the world’s ills through the lens of justice (as currently defined by many young believers–See my previous post) makes every problem a “fairness” problem instead of a brokenness problem.

Justice-minded efforts to heal the pain of individuals by reforming/replacing systems invariably require concentrating immense power and control in the hands of an enlightened, benevolent few. This never ends well. Ever.

Why? Because people are broken. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. And the law of unintended consequences is a merciless “B”-word.

Yes, as God redemptively heals my individual brokenness He frees me to be generous to the poor with the money He has entrusted to me. But this is very different from my voting—in the name of justice and fairness—to use the coercive, life-destroying power of the State to force my neighbor to be generous, whether he wants to or not.

We currently live in a land of people that love to be generous with other people’s money. But as Margaret Thatcher once rightly observed about socialism, “. . . eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

At the same time, as God redemptively heals my individual brokenness and the brokenness of many other individuals around me, we begin to see the systems in which we participate experiencing redemptive transformation as well. Call it systemic redemption.

[Jesus] tried again. “How can I picture God’s kingdom? It’s like yeast that a woman works into enough dough for three loaves of bread—and waits while the dough rises.” (Luke 13:20,21)

Let me close by adding that most of the excellent Evangelical humanitarian and anti-human trafficking organizations that have recently adopted social justice as a key part of their missional vocabulary are indeed attacking the world’s pain at the individual level. They are bottom-up redeemers   . . . which is precisely why I wish they’d stop using the term social justice to describe their goals.

Mr. Obama’s Legacy, Part 2: The Demise of the Fourth Estate & the Death of Journalism

journo text bookI owe my vast and demanding readership a follow-up to my previous post about the long-term legacy of the Obama presidency. You’ll find the Part 1, “The Weaponizing of the Federal Bureaucracy” here.

Prior to the 1970s, Journalism students in America’s colleges and universities were taught a code of ethics that demanded objectivity in their reporting. It was understood that reporters and writers would have viewpoints and biases, but that they had a professional responsibility to keep their opinions out of their writing and to set their biases aside when reporting the news. No, this was never perfectly achieved but it was the ideal to which professionals aspired and the standard to which they were held.

Students were also taught that journalists played a vital role in American democracy–namely, keeping the government accountable and keeping the citizenry informed about what their government was up to. They inherited a tradition from Enlightenment Europe that viewed the press as a “Fourth Estate”–and therefore a pillar of civilized societies.

Americans understood that one of the key traits distinguishing the great Western democracies from totalitarian states and banana republics was a press that was free, able and willing to challenge the government.

Sure, guys like Walter Cronkite were ideological liberals. But the point is, Cronkite and his generation cared about being perceived as objective. He didn’t allow the mask to slip until late in his career and life.

All of that began to change when the maoist hippie protesters and campus sit-in organizers of the sixties became the adjunct professors of the seventies and the tenured professors or deans of the eighties.

Once these “Progressives” were solidly in control of of the nation’s “J Schools” (and the rest of Liberal Arts departments for that matter) they began turning out a new kind of journalist with a new sense of mission.

These new reporters no longer saw their mission to be informing the public of the facts (whatever those facts might be) and holding government officials accountable (no matter which party might be in power.)   This new generation of journalists very consciously viewed themselves as a force for societal transformation.


Sam and Helen: The Reagan Years

As the battle lines of the”culture wars”  formed (especially after 1973’s Roe v. Wade), this new breed of journalists picked a side.

This made advancing a set of agendas the primary mission of reporters, rather than objectively reporting events. And advancing agendas required actively helping one political party’s candidates and hindering the other’s. It also meant moving the electorate to the left.

All of this was accomplished subtly but powerfully through the reporter’s and editor’s power to decide what is “news” and what isn’t. To choose which questions to ask and which to leave unasked. And to choose who is questioned and who is left alone.

This wave of reporters were already well up the ranks of the nation’s news organizations by the time Ronald Reagan took the oath of office in 1981. Some older reporters sensed the shift and threw themselves into the agenda-driving fray.

As long as Republicans were the party in power, reporters and editors could continue to plausably claim they were continuing to fulfill their independent and objective watchdog role. But with the election of Bill Clinton, that claim became harder to square with reality .

Such claims became laughable when Barack Obama got his party’s nomination and the Republican nominee, the moderate John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. The news media’s advocacy became an powerful asset for the Obama cause–and an unsurmountable obstacle for Team McCain.

After the election, the country’s most incompetent and corrupt administration since Warren G. Harding’s benefited from a news media and liberal blogosphere that saw its sole job as running interference for President and his allies in Congress.

In the early days, the agenda-mongering in the press was uncoordinated and non-orchestrated. It succeeded organically because of a shared world view — everyone pretty much agreed with everyone else. But that all changed with Mr. Obama’s candidacy and presidency.

In 2007, liberal blogger Ezra Klein quietly formed a GoogleGroups message board called “Journolist” and began inviting other influential liberal Journolist-logoreporters, writers, bloggers, and academics to join. Ultimately the list grew to more than 400 of the nation’s key journalists working at most of the elite media outlets. The secret network allowed leftist journalists to coordinate messaging and strategy.

Journolist offered the Obama administration a power to dispense preferred talking points and suppress unflattering news narratives that must have made Vladimir Putin envious . Of course, Team Obama happily accepted.

The existence of this group explains why, to the this day, Mr. Obama looks like he’s been slapped in the face with a wet mackerel on those rare occasions a reporter dares to ask him a hard or embarrassing question.

When the existence of Journolist leaked out, it was hastily shut down, but it has almost certainly been reconstructed in a stealthier way. In a broader sense, journalists now view themselves as righteous soldiers in the culture wars, fighting with the tools at their disposal to shape public opinion and make sure the “right” people get elected.

Sure there are a few exceptions — throwbacks to the earlier breed of objective journalist. ABC’s Jake Tapper comes to mind. But these are rarities. Real journalists generally don’t get promoted, or, if one slips through the system, don’t stay employed.

The most recent example is CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson, who tended to ask tough questions about the Obama administration’s Solyndra boondoggle, the Fast and Furious gun walking scandal, and Benghazi. Her pursuit of the Benghazi story was the last straw for her colleagues at CBS. She was instructed to play ball. She refused and resigned.  

No, the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama in 2008 didn’t cause the death of journalism. But it finally exposed the truth that the corpse was cold.

Mr. Obama’s Legacy – Part 1: The Weaponization of the Federal Bureaucracy

There are so many terrible and tragic things about the current U.S. administration that it’s easy to get lost in the blizzard of incompetence, corruption and wrongheadedness.

Nevertheless, I think that when we look back on Mr. Obama’s eight years two things will stand out as being the most destructive to the long term health and well-being of our society.

1. The Weaponization of the Federal Bureaucracy

2. The Abdication of the Fourth Estate (i.e., The Death of Journalism)

I’ll elaborate briefly on the first of these two toxic legacies here, and will address the second in a subsequent post.

1. The IRS scandal has tended to get lost in the myriad of outrages and derelictions of the last six years. But it is by far the most troubling and is the poster child for a broader disease that has metastasized and spread into many branches of the government.  And it received zero attention from the major news outlets–except, of course, for Fox News. (More on that in Part 2 of this post.)

Destroyer of Hard Drives

Lois Lerner

The U.S. tax system is ostensibly a “voluntary” one–meaning that we’re all basically on the honor system to report all our income and not lie about the deductions to which we’re entitled. To make this work in the face of fallen human nature, we have invested the IRS with the awful power to turn the lives of cheaters inside out. Indeed, few government agencies have the power to destroy a person’s life so completely and with such impunity as does the Internal Revenue Service.

This is why the unfolding revelations of systematic targeting of conservative organizations  and individuals for audits and denial of tax-exempt status should send a chill down the spine of every American who cares about freedom and the future of this republic. The fishy missing emails, suspiciously destroyed hard drives, and the astonishing lack of backups all reek of a cover up.

Early in his presidency, Mr. Obama joked in a speech about having his enemies audited. The under-reported, under-investigated story of entrenched career employees with liberal Democratic sympathies using the terrible power of the IRS to thwart conservative organizations and harass conservatives is a huge one.

These events should have every investigative journalist in the county crawling all over the Executive Branch asking questions and citing “unnamed sources.” And they would if any of this happened under a Republican Administration.

But it’s not just the IRS. From the very beginning of this administration we have seen a ruthlessly effective marshaling of the federal bureaucracy to attack, obstruct and shackle small-to-medium sized businesses and strengthen Big Labor.

This has been accomplished through regulation and draconian enforcement of murky laws across several Executive Branch agencies–including OSHA, the NLRB, the EPA, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), various divisions of Eric Holder’s Justice Department,  and the rest of the alphabet soup that comprises the federal bureaucratic labyrinth.

Back in the waning days of the Bush 43 administration, a chorus of Democrats and liberal Bush critics accused Attorney General Alberto Gonzales of “politicizing the Justice Department.” These ultimately proved to be a bogus claims.

In retrospect, perhaps the liberal critics of Bush were simply engaging in what the psychologists call projection.

When the voters gave them the opportunity in 2008, they weaponized the federal bureaucracy.

Ramirez cartoon