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RealClearPolitics - Articles - Cal Thomas





Last Build Date: Wed, 28 Jan 2009 00:30:32 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2009
 



Our Need to Revive

Wed, 28 Jan 2009 00:30:32 -0600

The Obama "stimulus" plan is a $1 trillion gamble more suited to Las Vegas than Washington. It bets the economic vitality of future generations on the belief that money from Washington would jumpstart the economy. Generally, one jumpstarts a car when the battery is dead, but America's "batteries" (its people) are not dead. The vehicle has stalled because too much government meddling and loss of personal responsibility has flooded the engine. More meddling will not revive the U.S. economy anymore than holding down the accelerator on a flooded engine will start a car.

Republicans might enjoy more credibility when calling for individual responsibility had they behaved differently during the years they controlled Congress and/or the White House. There are initial signs they may again be finding their voice and embracing the beliefs that once brought them to power for the announced purpose of downsizing government and "upsizing" opportunity.

House Republican Leader John Boehner appeared on "Meet the Press" Sunday and said: "Government can't fix this. We can't borrow and spend our way back to prosperity. But what we can do is provide incentives to businesses and families to reinvest in our economy." This is classic Republican doctrine, but while President Obama has promised to consider GOP ideas, don't look for him to embrace this one. To do so would mean opposing his liberal congressional leadership, which wants increasing numbers of Americans dependent on government in order to maintain the party's hold on power.

Have you read the proposed stimulus plan (www.readthestimulus.org)? Because government intends to spend your money (now borrowed from foreign governments, but paid for later with higher taxes), you had better read it. Don't let the length (334 pages) deter you. Especially notice comments by other readers who know they must foot the bill.

Here are just four of many examples: $1 billion for the ultimate in community organizing to create "employment opportunities for low-income and unemployed persons." When the money runs out, if it ever does, will those people have real jobs in a business or service industry, or will they have government jobs that require more money in the future? A board to oversee the spending would get $14 million and $800 million would go to Amtrak, which has not been able to sustain itself, despite $29 billion in government subsidies. There are millions included for contraceptives and the abortion industry, which are unrelated to job creation.

In The Washington Post last Sunday, there was a picture of Pennsylvania Avenue in 1885. The stores and hotels in the picture no longer exist. They weren't bailed out. They closed or became something else.

We are experiencing economic difficulties because we thought we could live outside our means - as individuals and government - forever. We falsely believed that home values would constantly escalate along with our stock portfolios. More than a stimulus, we need the lessons that wrong decisions and failure bring. Let the house of cards collapse and let's start over with those economic principles that have worked for every generation that has embraced them.

SunTrust Bank is running a TV commercial that speaks of "solid foundations" and "helping you get and stay on solid ground." It speaks of back to basics and no more keeping up with the Joneses. That's the right attitude, not subsidies that encourage risky financial behavior.

We used to take care of each other. Returning to that ethic would do more than revive the economy. It would revive us.




Bush's Exit Interview

Thu, 08 Jan 2009 00:38:31 -0600

President Bush compares the fighting between Hamas and Israel in Gaza to what occurred in Iraq after the toppling of Saddam Hussein: "As this young democracy [Iraq] was taking hold, terrorists, suiciders, killers did what they thought was necessary to shake the will of the people ... to stop the advance of a free society. And yet, over time the Iraqi situation has gotten better and democracy is beginning to take hold." The president remains optimistic that a Palestinian state can be created that will live in peace with Israel: "The definition of a state was being negotiated by [Israeli] Prime Minister [Ehud] Olmert and [Palestinian] President [Mahmoud] Abbas." I ask him if the Palestinians in Gaza did not express their will by electing Hamas to lead them? He acknowledges they did, "in a relatively close election. But just remember, that vote wasn't on whether or not it was going to be war or peace. That vote was on who best can provide health and education. And I view that vote as a repudiation of the previous Fatah leadership, as well as a vote that said we are sick and tired of corruption, nontransparency, and we expect to be treated better." The president is convinced that the way to defeat the "propaganda" coming from the extremists is to create free societies and "better efforts on our part to clarify what our position is." I still think this ignores a fundamental and doctrinal difference between the West and Islam. They believe we are prisoners of secularism and hedonism and that they are truly free within the bonds of Islam. But we move on. Mr. Bush defends himself against a charge by a member of the Republican National Committee that he has behaved like a "socialist" because of his massive bailout spending. He says he still believes in less government spending, but when Henry Paulson, secretary of the U.S. Treasury, and Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, tell him that if he doesn't act, the result will be worse than the Great Depression, "You can sit there and say to yourself, 'Well, I'm going to stick to principle and hope for the best, or I'm going to take the actions necessary to prevent the worst.' " He says the bigger deficit about which Americans should worry is the one he tried, but failed, to fix: Social Security and Medicare. The president disagrees with his former secretary of state, Colin Powell, who has said Republicans should abandon the social issues, if they want to win again. "I have ... been a strong ... defender of the culture of life. And I believe that's an important part of our party's future. I will be the first to concede that laws change only after hearts change." And yet he clearly believes that a GOP committed to conservative social values can help change hearts and, thus, laws. President Bush suggests Barack Obama will soon find he must shift some of his positions from campaign rhetoric, particularly on the Bush doctrine of pre-emption: "I think the new administration will take a sober look at the world in which we live and come to the conclusions necessary to protect the homeland." Do attacks by Democrats like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid bother him? Mr. Reid last Sunday called Mr. Bush "the worst president in history." In the closest he comes to rebuking his critics, Mr. Bush says, "I believe there's a way to conduct ourselves in public life without resorting to name-calling. And ... so I won't. I tend to ignore that." He chalks up criticism to his "doing things" and having "an active agenda." President-elect Obama has not asked him for advice, but Mr. Bush is "impressed by his demeanor and impressed by his love of his family. And I told him I'd be available after the presidency if he cared to ask my opinions. ... He's going to have to choose whose voices are most credible, as he sorts through these different issues that he'll face." President Bush says he hasn't decided whether he will deliver a farewell address. He will, however, write a book. He regrets not tackling immigration reform before Social Security reform. Saying he h[...]



Mission Accomplished II

Wed, 26 Nov 2008 00:30:15 -0600

McCaffrey, now an adjunct professor of International Affairs at the United States Military Academy at West Point, wrote a memorandum for his academic colleagues. It concludes, "The United States is now clearly in the end game in Iraq to successfully achieve what should be our principle objectives: the withdrawal of the majority of U.S. ground combat forces ... in the coming 36 months; leaving behind an operative civil state and effective Iraqi security forces; an Iraqi state which is not in open civil war among the Shia, the Sunnis, and the Kurds; and an Iraqi nation which is not at war with its six neighboring states." While adding that the security situation is "still subject to sudden outrage at any moment by al-Qaida in Iraq" or to "degradation because of provocative behavior by the Maliki government," McCaffrey concludes that "the bottom line is a dramatic and growing momentum for economic and security stability, which is unlikely to be reversible." McCaffrey notes the sharp drop in attacks and casualties in the last two years and praises the "genius of the leadership team of Ambassador Ryan Crocker, General David Petraeus and Secretary of Defense Bob Gates." He credits these three with "turn(ing) around the situation from a bloody disaster under the leadership of Secretary Rumsfeld to a growing situation of security." While McCaffrey is cautious about the Maliki government, he adds that Maliki "clearly has matured and gained stature as a political leader since he assumed his very dangerous and complex leadership responsibilities." Provisional elections are scheduled for January 2009, district elections for mid-year and national elections sometime next December. McCaffrey says fighting is now more about politics than shooting and bombing and that Americans should "have a sense of empathy for these Iraqi politicians (who) have survived a poisonous Saddam regime and a culture of intrigue and murder from every side." While optimistic, McCaffrey's memo is filled with caveats that have much to do with America's willingness under a new president to finish the job. The Iraqi military, he says is still "anemic," lacking adequate weapons and equipment. "Their military officer corps is immensely better than a year ago -- but the bench is thin." Though the economy struggles -- (unemployment is 20 percent and under-employment is probably 60 percent, he says), the financial system is "immature," investment capital is lacking, enterprises are run with "badly maintained, outmoded equipment" and the country suffers from "brain drain" -- things are markedly better than at any time since the war started. "The markets are open. The roads are again viable. Oil and electricity (are) no longer routinely sabotaged by the insurgents and criminals. Cell phone communications, satellite TV, and radio are all operating." McCaffrey is critical of those responsible for managing the war during its early years: "It did not have to turn out this way with $750 billion of our treasure spent and 36,000 US killed and injured." Still, he says, it is critical that force reductions are conducted in a "deliberate and responsible manner," leaving "a stable and functioning state." Many still argue -- as president-elect Barack Obama does -- that we should never have invaded Iraq. But if a stable Iraq results and serves as a bulwark against terrorism and terrorist states, it may turn out to have been worth it. While much could still go wrong, McCaffrey's conclusion that gains are now "irreversible" is the most optimistic assessment since President Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln five years ago. That sentiment was premature, but if this one is correct, don't look for the current president to get short-term credit. That will go to Barack Obama for pulling the troops out. Long after any Republican can derive political credit, historians will be forced to acknowledge that freedom won and state terrorism lost in Iraq.[...]



Government Can't Do It All (Or Even Most of It)

Tue, 21 Oct 2008 00:00:00 -0600

Stossel visited New Orleans to see how government reconstruction is progressing three years after Hurricane Katrina. What he found should not surprise anyone. Huge numbers of houses remain un-repaired thanks to a bureaucracy that could serve as a plot for a horror movie called "Nightmare on Bourbon Street." The forms necessary to apply for permits to conduct any repairs or construct new buildings take 10 minutes to explain. As for the houses themselves, "Of the 314 public projects (New Orleans Mayor Ray) Nagin promoted in his 'One New Orleans' rebuilding campaign announced in January 2006, only six are complete."

Contrast that with what the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity has done: "They built 70 homes quickly," noted Stossel. "Even Nagin admitted they did what government didn't." Private enterprise has succeeded, where government has failed. Actor Brad Pitt ("Brad Pitt has done more for this community than anyone," said Malik Rahim, one of the co-founders of Common Ground Collective, a group formed in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina) and singer Harry Connick Jr. have been at the forefront of efforts to circumvent government stagnation.

Stossel asked the obvious question: If Pitt and Connick can help build dozens of new homes, why does it take government so long to follow through on its plans? Nagin explains he's made it easier for people to rebuild their homes, providing permits online at kiosks throughout the city.

Stossel visited city hall and guess what? Not one of the kiosks worked! Conclusion? Individual Americans do things better, with less bureaucracy and at less cost than the central planning collective known as government.

Another issue was campaign finance reform, which has come back to bite its chief promoter, Sen. John McCain. It is a maze of incomprehensible regulations. Stossel displayed the Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulation book, which contains nearly 500 pages of small print set in double columns. For effect, he taped the pages together and then stretched them out on the Giant's football field. The pages "spanned the whole field and halfway back."

He showed people who ran afoul of the law by placing signs in yards in opposition to an annexation ballot initiative. It's a head-shaker. Another example: Ada Fisher, a retired doctor, ran for Congress in North Carolina with an all-volunteer staff. The FEC imposed a $10,000 fine on her because she somehow violated their rules. She noted that even "reform" laws are designed to help incumbents stay in office. Stossel said the extremely high re-election rate of members of Congress remains the same as it was before "reform," which was promoted as a way to open up the system to more challengers.

Stossel used a visual metaphor to demonstrate why government regulations stifle individual initiative, leading to dysfunction. He visited a skating rink where people managed to go in the same direction and at about the same speed without instructions from anyone. Then he introduces Brian Boitano, a former Olympic skater, who begins telling some skaters they are going too fast and others too slow and shouting other commands. Chaos results. The moral? "Intuition leads us to think that complex problems require centrally planned solutions, but political decision-making is rarely the answer. Life works best when we govern ourselves."

Both John McCain and Barack Obama are asking us to trust them to "fix" what is wrong in Washington. One would make things worse, but neither would have the power to make things much better. That would take cooperation. Politicians promote faith in themselves, though such faith has proven to be misplaced. They want the power. The worst thing the public can do is to give one party unchecked power with no restraints.

If Obama wins and Democrats expand their congressional majorities, especially to a filibuster-proof advantage in the Senate, this will be to our collective detriment.




Blaming the Jews (Again)

Thu, 16 Oct 2008 00:00:00 -0600

"Bush was so afraid of a snafu and of upsetting Israel that he gave the whole thing a miss," Jackson told Taheri. "Barack will change that, because, as long as the Palestinians haven't seen justice, the Middle East will remain a source of danger to us all. Barack is determined to repair our relations with the world of Islam and Muslims," Jackson said. "Thanks to his background and ecumenical approach, he knows how Muslims feel while remaining committed to his own faith."

What could this mean? Jackson, who is in denial about the enormous progress in Iraq (he still maintains the war is lost and that toppling the monster Saddam Hussein was an "illegal act"), is sending a message of some sort. Is it a message he hopes will undermine Obama, because he is jealous that Obama has replaced him as America's most famous black leader? What does he mean when he speaks of Obama's "background"? Obama has maintained he is not now, nor has he ever been, a Muslim, which most people accept. So what is Jackson getting at?

And what could he possibly mean by claiming the Palestinians have been denied justice? By their leaders, certainly they have. Palestinians could have had their own state a long time ago. They were offered one in 1948 and in years since, but their leaders have made no secret that they want not just part of the land, but all of it, thereby eliminating Israel.

What about justice for the Jews? Apparently that doesn't count with Jackson, who once called New York City "Hymietown." Why wouldn't Jackson support Israel, the region's only democracy, with a second -- Iraq -- headed in that direction? Why does Jackson see Israel and its elected government as inferior to Arab dictatorships and a Palestinian leadership that slaughtered those who wanted to cut a peace deal with Israel long before recent elections put the terrorist group Hamas in charge?

With Jackson, determining motive is not difficult. Jackson is out for Jackson and his interests above all others and all else. Jackson has been cozy with the Muslim world for years. He has been on the receiving end of their contributions for his political campaigns and various organizations.

There is nothing wrong with any Arab or Muslim individual or organization properly donating to a legal entity for whatever political purpose the individual or group wishes to support. But many Arab-Americans have made no secret that their quest for political power is intended to change U.S. policy toward Israel, which can only lead to its destruction. And the destruction of Israel is issue number one for most of the radical Muslims in the world, coming just slightly ahead of the destruction of America.

In the matter of repairing our relations with radical Arabs and Muslims, there is only one way to do that from their perspective and that is to sell out Israel. Obama, says Jackson, "knows how Muslims feel." Really? Does he know that in their sermons, their media and textbooks they recruit the young as suicide bombers, accuse Jews of causing AIDS, and all the world's other ills, and teach that their God wants all Jews (and Christians, which presumably would include the "useful idiot" Jesse Jackson) dead? How does one empathize with such thinking?

Has Jesse Jackson exposed something about Barack Obama that those committed to voting for him should know before the election? It would seem so and Obama ought to be asked about it. The media should not allow him to get away with less than a forthright response.




The End of "We the People"

Tue, 14 Oct 2008 00:00:00 -0600

The court majority bought the legal pabulum served up by attorneys for the plaintiffs that denying same-sex couples the right to marry is akin to once prevalent laws prohibiting interracial marriage, as well as laws that discriminated against women for certain jobs and relegated blacks to "separate but equal" schools and other public venues. Writing for the majority, Justice Richard N. Palmer revealed his acceptance of the liberal doctrine of a "living Constitution" constantly in need of updating in keeping with the times: "...our understanding of marriage must yield to a more contemporary appreciation of the rights entitled to constitutional protection." Using such a standard, if the "understanding" of the endowed rights of blacks were to devolve to a pre-civil rights-era acceptance of black inferiority, would Justice Palmer argue that blacks would then have to give up their rights in order to serve "contemporary appreciation"? And what else would Justice Palmer and his three colleagues allow to be determined by contemporary whim? Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, accused the majority of behaving like "robed masters" and "philosopher kings." He added, "This is about our right to govern ourselves. It is bigger than gay marriage." He is correct, of course, but such notions are beginning to fade as more of us either don't care, or are willing to trade a ruling class -- in this case the courts -- for individual freedom and the right to shape societal norms and mores from the bottom up, not the top down. Connecticut becomes the third state -- Massachusetts and California are the others -- to sanction same-sex marriage. California has a measure on its November ballot, Proposition 8, to reverse a state Supreme Court ruling and preserve marriage between men and women. An indication that the objectives of the gay rights movement go far beyond what any two individuals wish to do with each other can be seen in what California has tried to impose on heterosexuals wishing to marry. According to Focus on the Family's Citizen Link Web page, some county clerks exchanged the words "bride" and "groom" on marriage licenses for "Party A" and "Party B." One clerk rejected the application of Rachel Bird and Gideon Codding because they wrote in the traditional designations for themselves. It took a lawsuit by the Coddings, decided in their favor on Oct. 3, for the state to back down on its "Party A" and "Party B" requirement. Couples will now be allowed the "option" to designate themselves however they wish. Under an Obama administration, it is not far-fetched to see the day when liberal federal judges decide that religious organizations must lose their tax exemptions should they refuse to employ homosexuals or others they regard as engaging in deviant behavior. Court challenges against those who believe homosexual behavior is sinful seem to be occurring with greater frequency. According to Citizenlink, The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association in New Jersey, which is affiliated with the United Methodist Church, "lost part of its property tax exemption for refusing to allow a same-sex civil union ceremony to be conducted on its property." The state is also investigating the organization after it was charged with violating New Jersey's nondiscrimination statutes. New Jersey has a religious exemption law that is supposed to protect churches and religious organizations, but it hasn't in this instance, which raises questions about their effectiveness. The aim of the gay rights lobby is to destroy all remnants of biblical values and societal norms. Gay rights advocates will take their agenda to federal courts as soon as sufficient numbers of liberal judges are there to give them what they want. Watch them vote in overwhelming numbers for Barack Obama. He is their future. This election is, among other things, about the future of the majority and whether we want this c[...]



Round Two: Boring

Thu, 09 Oct 2008 00:20:00 -0600

Listening to the questions (and the answers) was like watching TV poker. A questioner made a bid on, say, the mortgage crisis or health care. What will the candidates do for me? Obama would make a bet that his proposal was best and McCain would raise him. Inexplicably, McCain called for a reduction in federal spending as one way to begin fixing the spiraling economy, while he simultaneously proposed $300 billion in new spending to bail people out of mortgages they cannot afford. Do we need "real estate agent" added to the growing list of things government does not do well?

In none of the questions from the "undecideds" (or answers from the candidates) was there a suggestion that people should do more for themselves and be encouraged and rewarded (lower taxes?) for making right decisions. In none of the answers was there a challenge for Americans to rise above their circumstances and rebuild what might have gone wrong in their own lives. We left accountability and personal responsibility at Oprah's altar long ago. There is no better example of our entitlement mentality than on an Oprah show a few years ago when she gave cars to women who needed them, only to have some of the recipients complain that they had to pay a tax on the vehicle. They thought Oprah (or General Motors) should have paid the tax on their free car.

To ask people to take charge of their own lives is now deemed "insensitive" and "uncaring." The government is your keeper, you shall not want.

Did anyone detect a hint of optimism in anything the candidates said? Why didn't McCain, especially, list the number of economic downturns and recessions that America has overcome? Why didn't he mention the sharp drop in the stock market after 9/11 and note how it came roaring back? It was the same with the savings and loan debacle in the late '70s and early '80s. This is America. We always come back. If you can't make it here, you can't make it anywhere; shining city on a hill; bootstraps; we shall overcome. Rather than wallow in misery (and those who lived through the Great Depression would have gladly swapped places with us if they'd had a time machine), modern politicians too often indulge the indolent and self-absorbed.

McCain missed a grand opportunity to call Obama's tax-and-spend plans "voodoo economics" (or would someone call that "racist," as House Banking Committee Chairman Barney Frank has called those who questioned Fannie Mae's loans to minorities whose income and credit worthiness would have disqualified them for loans in more fiscally responsible times?).

Why didn't McCain challenge Obama's promise to cut taxes for the middle class? As Jack Kemp and Peter Ferrara wrote in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal, 20 percent of the middle class pay only 4.4 percent of all federal income taxes, while the bottom 40 percent of earners pay no taxes at all. To say that only "the rich" should pay more and that those who pay little or no taxes should get a check to make things "fair" is George McGovern redistributionism, even socialism. That economic model was soundly rejected in 1972 and in subsequent elections. McCain should propose ways to allow more people to become rich. We should reject Obama's plan to penalize those who have worked hard to become well off. That's real fairness.

Individual initiative, risk-taking, an entrepreneurial spirit and optimism are what built and have sustained America through many challenges over the last 232 years. Government can't produce those qualities in any of us. We must produce and renew them in ourselves. Maybe we'll hear some of that in the third and final debate, but with both candidates largely repeating what we've heard before, I'm not looking for vision, or soaring and substantive rhetoric.




Catholics & Abortion (Again)

Tue, 07 Oct 2008 00:00:00 -0600

A group calling itself Faithful Catholic Citizens" (FCC) has produced two powerful television commercials, which are running in Iowa and soon, it hopes, in heavily Catholic Pennsylvania. Both spots begin with a confrontational question: "Are you truly Catholic" and follow with a sound bite from "Meet the Press" in which Speaker Nancy Pelosi asserts that Catholic teaching on abortion has been inconsistent. "Utterly incredible," Cardinal Edward Egan is then quoted as saying about Pelosi's statement, which is followed by one from the late Pope John Paul II, who called abortion "(the) deliberate killing of an innocent human being." And then comes a reference to Sen. Barack Obama on the abortion issue from Rick Warren's forum in August at which Obama said that knowing when life begins is "above my pay grade."

"Don't be misled," continue the ads, "Know the church. Know the truth." (View both ads at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ww7Rv_KjGDM.)

Is abortion "intrinsically evil" and "a non-negotiable issue for Catholics," as FCC President Heidi Stirrup asserts? If one is a Catholic and subscribes to the belief that the interpretation of Scripture and moral truth is the responsibility of the pope and the apostolic bishops, then one would have to say, "yes;" and when faith and politics conflict, a politician should be required to choose one or the other.

Some Catholic politicians have tried to have it both ways. They have even tried to gain favor among their fellow Catholics by noting their strong opposition to capital punishment, which puts them in an oddly inconsistent position. Such Catholic politicians favor preserving the lives of convicted murderers, but choose to do nothing when they have the power to stop, or at least curtail, the killing of the innocent unborn.

While I am not a Catholic, it seems more than inconsistent to take such a position. One chooses one's denomination, just as one chooses one's political affiliation. No one forces another to become a Catholic and no one requires one to become a Democrat, or Republican. Judicial nominees have been denied confirmation based on their membership in clubs that excluded blacks and Jews. But now we may be about to elevate two men to our highest offices who would deny civil rights to African American babies (who are aborted disproportionately to other races), one of whom seeks the votes of his fellow Catholics.

Two years ago, Pope Benedict XVI reiterated the church's "non-negotiable" issues: "Protection of life at all stages, from the moment of conception until natural death; recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage; the protection of the rights of parents to educate their children."

Obama and Biden oppose at least two of these (they claim to be against same-sex "marriage," but for "civil unions"). Whether the TV ads change any minds may be problematic. Catholics who are enamored with "change" and the belief that government is the primary instrument of God, rather than the church, in carrying out His will -- and who have ignored church teaching on profound moral issues -- are unlikely to be swayed by further appeals to become "truly Catholic." But if only a few see where an Obama-Biden administration would take the country on moral issues, in a close election that might be enough.




Pulpit Bullies

Tue, 30 Sep 2008 00:23:00 -0600

The release might have added, "and just as many in some African-American churches do today, but without the pressure by the IRS, which many white conservative churches and institutions feel." Clearly a double standard exists as to how the law is applied (see the political pronouncements of Reverends Jeremiah Wright, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, as three of many examples).

The law restricting political language from the pulpit is of rather recent vintage. Until 1954, election sermons could be heard on the first Sunday in November, or virtually any other time, without invoking the wrath of government. That changed when then-senator Lyndon Baines Johnson offered an amendment to restrict nonprofit organizations, including churches, from endorsing or opposing political candidates. The amendment passed and has been part of the IRS code ever since.

If one takes the position that the political life of the country is a fit subject for sermonizing -- whether the subject is poverty, abortion, or low behavior in high office -- then the First Amendment should certainly prevail over efforts to categorize and, thus, restrict free speech. The early colonial sermons were filled with righteous indignation and some indignation that was anything but righteous, but people were free to make up their own minds as to whether their pastor was speaking for God, or if he had more temporal concerns.

Before this type of "Berlin Wall" between church and state is torn down, however (and Johnson had his own political motives for erecting it), those who favor freeing pastors from political purgatory have some higher obstacles to overcome.

The first obstacle is what Scripture teaches about a Christian's relationship to the state. In one of the best-known passages, Paul the Apostle writes, "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established." (Romans 13:1) Is defying the law, no matter what political motivations were behind it, submitting to such authority, or opposing it?

Obstacle number two has to do with the reason people attend worship services. It is not, or should not be, in order to pledge allegiance to a party, candidate or earthly agenda. One can spend inordinate amounts of time on that subject simply by watching cable TV, or listening to talk radio, or reading the newspapers. No matter how hard they try to protect the gospel from corruption, ministers who focus on politics and politicians as a means of redemption must minimize their ultimate calling and message. The road to redemption does not run through Washington, D.C. Politicians can't redeem themselves from the temptations of Washington. What makes anyone think they can redeem the rest of us?

This pulpit rebellion also presumes that congregants lack a worldview or knowledge about candidates and politics that only a pastor can address. In my church, we have many highly educated people, Republicans and Democrats, who would not take kindly to the pastor discoursing on politics anymore than they would accept legal or medical advice from their auto mechanic.

The law has done churches a favor, however inadvertent, by protecting most of them from the downside of electioneering, but a strong constitutional challenge would most likely overturn it. The flip side would be whether the politicians would then allow churches to maintain their tax-exempt status.

Whether the law is repealed, or not, churches and ministers would do better to keep their attention focused on the things above, rather than the things below, because politics can be the ultimate temptation and pollute a far superior and life-changing message.




Judgment Day

Thu, 25 Sep 2008 00:00:00 -0600

Some history is important. It was pressure from the Carter and Clinton administrations that forced Fannie and Freddie to grant more high-risk loans to people who otherwise would never qualify. They mostly wanted to promote not only new home ownership numbers, but also more home ownership in the minority community. That was a noble goal, but the cost turned out to be too high.

Democrats would love to blame the Bush administration for a disaster they mostly helped to create. But, according to the White House, as early as April 2001, the administration warned that the size of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was "a potential problem," because "financial trouble of a large (government-sponsored enterprise) could cause strong repercussions in financial markets, affecting federally insured entities and economic activity." As recently as June of this year, President Bush asked Congress to take the necessary measures to address growing foreclosures. "We need to pass legislation to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac," he said. In July, Congress passed reform legislation, but it was too late.

It is an affront to the nation that some of the people who brought on the crisis (and financially and politically benefited from the status quo) were asking the questions at the Banking Committee hearing. They should have been in the witness chair. Dodd said the crisis was "entirely foreseeable and preventable." Then why didn't he try to prevent it? He should have been answering questions about the PAC contributions he received from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, (according to opensecrets.org, he's the Senate's no. 1 recipient of campaign contributions, $133,900, Barack Obama is no. 3, $105,849), his sweetheart Countrywide Financial mortgage rate and whether they influenced his inattentiveness to the growing mortgage crisis.

If the public wants real reform, it will penalize the people and the party that failed to provide it. Voters can do more than "throw the bums out." They can throw these bums out and replace them with freshmen Republicans who will take office with a reformer's zeal and rebuild the government's financial house before the Potomac fever virus infects them. With John McCain and Sarah Palin already committed to reform (as opposed to Barack Obama's nonspecific "change"), the combination of a new Republican administration and a Republican Congress that has been chastened by its defeat in the 2006 election and imbued with a new zeal to change the way Washington works, could produce a revolution that would have made our Founders proud.

Polls show many congressional races are tightening. But while Democrats are bragging about increasing their numbers and producing a "veto-proof" majority, can the public trust that those who gave us the problem can provide the solution?

McCain and Palin ought to do more than ask voters to elect them. They should call for a complete house cleaning in Washington and ask voters to give them the mop. Real reform won't come with a Republican White House and a Democratic Congress. And it surely won't come with an all-Democratic government. While Republicans could have done much more when they held a congressional majority under a Republican president, they now swear they have learned their lesson. With the public engaged as never before, even Republicans wouldn't be able to get away with business as usual this time.

Let the revolution begin! Judgment Day should come on Nov. 4.




The Main Event

Tue, 23 Sep 2008 00:20:00 -0600

McCain's challenge is to expose Obama as naive in his approach to the evils that confront us without appearing condescending. America very much likes the idea of a person of color becoming president, if for no other reason than to serve as partial propitiation for our individual and collective sins against blacks. McCain's job is to project a view that he, too, favors the idea of a black president, just not Obama.

Obama negotiators persuaded the debate commission to choose foreign policy as the first debate topic; apparently thinking it could hang the unpopular President Bush and the Iraq War around McCain's neck. McCain negotiators agreed to the topic switch.

McCain must sell the idea that this war is not limited to a single state, or even two states, but is worldwide, ideological, religious, viral and dangerous. Proponents of radical Islam cannot be negotiated with because there is nothing we have that they want, except our heads. McCain should pound Obama on his immature promise to sit down with the world's dictators and talk to them. Even Hillary Clinton properly ridiculed that notion during the primaries. McCain could sound bite Obama to political death just on Clinton's critique's of him, though that can cut both ways, as much was said against McCain by his Republican challengers.

There may be no bigger nut case on the international scene than Mahmoud ("there are no homosexuals in Iran") Ahmadinejad, who has brought his crackpot opinions to the United Nations this week. Would McCain take military action without congressional approval to destroy any nuclear weapons Iran develops? His answer is both forceful and cautious: "I would make sure every option is explored before I would explore military action (and) I would make sure that if I contemplated that action, I would be in consultation with the leaders of Congress." He said he thinks, "It's very clear that if the Iranians acquire nuclear weapons, it's not only a threat to the state of Israel, but it's also incredibly destabilizing to every (state) in the region."

There is a difference between consultation and seeking authorization for war, as the Constitution mandates, and Obama might score points by pointing that out, though McCain's rejoinder might be that given the toxic polarization in Washington it is less likely he could count on a Democratic Congress to make an apolitical decision.

What about his running mate, who has been stingy with interviews and other media exposure since her selection, is she getting a crash course in foreign policy prior to the Oct. 2 vice presidential debate? McCain laughs and then expresses confidence in "Sarah": "Joe Biden is very experienced and very knowledgeable. The difference is in their worldviews. Joe Biden wanted to divide Iraq into three different countries, clearly an unworkable solution. Joe Biden thinks it's patriotic to raise people's taxes. That's different from my definition and Sarah's definition of patriotism. ... I think Sarah will more than hold her own because she has the right grounding ideals and worldview. She also understands far better than Joe Biden one of our outstanding national security challenges and that is energy."

The New York Times reported Sunday that the Obama camp is looking for ways to make McCain angry. That could backfire, especially if he gets angry for the right reason (as Reagan did in New Hampshire in 1980. ... "I paid for this microphone.").

In Friday's debate, I'm going with McCain on substance; Obama on eloquence and I hope that many of those who have virtually worshiped Obama will see the real light.




Lessons from the Puritans

Thu, 18 Sep 2008 00:00:00 -0600

While the media and politicians blame the usual suspects, greed, like illicit sex, is not held in copyright by either party or political persuasion.

Barack Obama partially and predictably blamed the Bush administration, but it was the policies of the Clinton administration (as detailed in the Sept. 15 issue of Investors Business Daily) that sowed the seeds for the subprime mortgage collapse.

John McCain wants more regulations. What McCain should be demanding is an investigation, especially of those members of Congress who failed to provide oversight. It also wouldn't hurt to recommend more self-control and an embrace of the Puritan ethic of living within one's means.

Modern Western culture has been built on the success ethic, which says the acquisition of material wealth produces happiness and contentment and that the value of a life is to be measured not by one's character, but the size of his bank account, the square footage of his home, the cost of his clothes and the cars in his garage. The Puritan Thomas Watson addressed this notion when he said, "Blessedness ... does not lie in the acquisition of worldly things. Happiness cannot by any art of chemistry be extracted here."

Christianity Today magazine noted in a 1988 article, "The Puritan Critique of Modern Attitudes Toward Money": "American culture has been strangely enamored of the image of 'the self-made person' -- the person who becomes rich and famous through his or her own efforts. The idea of having status handed over as a gift does not appeal to such an outlook. Yet the Puritans denied that there can even be such a thing as a self-made person. Based on an ethic of grace, Puritanism viewed prosperity solely as God's gift."

The writer might have added that prosperity should not be seen as an end, but a means. Throughout Scripture, people are warned that money is a false god that leads to destruction. Wealth is best used when it becomes a river, not a reservoir; when it blesses and encourages others and does not solely feed one's personal empire.

The modern business ethic seems to be to make as much money as possible, but with little purpose for making that money other than to enhance the wealth and status of those who make it. No wonder Paul the Apostle wrote that "the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil" (1 Timothy 6:10). It isn't money itself that is evil. Money, like fire or firearms, can be used for good or ill, depending on the character of the person who possesses it. But money can be worshipped with as much fervency as that golden calf in Moses' time. In Dow we trust!

Part of our problem is a failure to distinguish between needs and wants. Until the last century, most people were familiar with the Puritan ethic of living within one's means. The Gilded Age in the late 19th century demonstrated the folly of rapacious living, yet the Roaring Twenties generation had to learn the lesson anew from the Great Depression.

When the Forbidden Fruit was handed to Adam and Eve, they were allowed the moral choice to accept or decline. I know people who have refused to feast on the money tree. They live simply, within their means, and seem far more content than those who are trying to horde their wealth while clinging to the ladder of "success," terrified to let go. That isn't real living. The Puritans rightly saw that as covetousness.




Generation Gaps

Tue, 16 Sep 2008 00:00:00 -0600

Given that McCain has plucked her from relative obscurity, will she feel confident enough to tell a President McCain things he may not want to hear? There are already some issues on which Palin disagrees with McCain, such as global warming, drilling in ANWR and stem cell research. How hard would she push her own beliefs? The last vice president to experience a large age gap between himself and the president was Dan Quayle, who was two weeks shy of his 42nd birthday when he was sworn in in 1989. President George H.W. Bush was 64. Their 22-year gap is close to the 28-year difference between McCain and Palin, but unlike the McCain-Palin relationship, Quayle had known his running mate for a number of years before he was selected. Quayle also had experience as a senator and congressman. Quayle's youthful looks and exuberance at being selected invited the media to mock him, which they never tired of through his four years in office. In a telephone conversation, I asked Quayle if he thought Palin could deliver her own straight talk to McCain. He said, "I believe she can. She is strong and not reluctant to express her opinion." Asked whether he thinks Palin is prepared to be vice president, Quayle said, "By January 20, she's going to have a lot more knowledge than she has today. Every single day she will gain valuable experience working with John McCain." Quayle also said every criticism leveled at Palin was leveled "almost verbatim at me." He said, "People who supported us were called by the media and our opponents 'dumb' and 'mean-spirited.'" He added, "The liberal media are scared of effective conservatives." Recalling the "running battle (Michael) Dukakis and I had for two weeks in 1988," Quayle said, "I just hope they continue to go after her." He noted that when Dukakis kept attacking him, Dukakis' poll numbers declined. The left is getting desperate. It thought this election was in the bag for Barack Obama and his legions of extremist acolytes, such as ACORN, MoveOn.org, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers. Now, with some polls showing the public is paying attention and may not be as enamored with Obama and his far-left ideas and associations as in the early days of the campaign, when it was seduced by his rhetorical skills, people may be experiencing buyer's remorse. The New York Times, which is declining in circulation, revenue and influence, is raging against the dying of its once bright light. On Saturday, it carried an editorial and two columns critical of Palin. On Sunday, there were two anti-Palin columns and one attacking McCain for "Making America Stupid." The week before, the Times carried five anti-Palin stories on its front page. The left-leaning Huffington Post carried the rant of a blogger named Michael Seitzman. He mocked Palin for mispronouncing nuclear ("nucular," she pronounced it, which is better than Jimmy Carter's "nuk-e-yer"). Seitzman proceeded to call anyone who likes McCain, Palin and President Bush "an idiot ... mentally ill, mentally disabled, or mentally disturbed." Name-calling is the final refuge of the desperate. This has been the Left's view of the Right since the Right decided it would no longer roll over and accept whatever the Left wanted to do. Anyone who doesn't agree with the Left's belief in higher taxes, bigger government, less personal responsibility and the use of the courts as a cultural wrecking ball is, by definition, qualified to be institutionalized. The Left is concerned that all of its work to create a liberal version of "The Stepford Wives" may be unraveling. It doesn't know how to handle Sarah Palin, but that's OK. It has become increasingly clear that Sarah Palin knows how to handle them.[...]



Rx for Republican Revitalization

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 00:00:00 -0600

"I think the Republican Party needs to stand for reform," he says, "within the context of our ideology, which is limited government." Bush thinks too many institutions are stuck in "the '50s, '60s, or maybe '70s. They're not relevant in 2008." He mentions job training. "We have billions of dollars of job training programs, but world and corporate structures have been radically altered. ... If you walked into a job training center now, it may not have Formica, or a '70s look, but it would have a '70s feel in terms of the services being provided ... same thing with education and health care, entitlement programs, common sense environmental policy. There should be a zeal for reform. And I'd look outside Washington for those models, typically led by governors."

Bush wants to revive the model of the Grace Commission used by Ronald Reagan to eliminate wasteful and unnecessary government programs. "Some states -- and Florida is one of them -- have sunset reviews. Why can't every (federal) government agency be sun-setted?" This, he says, would allow people to ask if the program or agency is necessary and "I think it would generate enormous enthusiasm outside of Washington."

One issue on which Jeb Bush believes Republicans dropped the ball was Social Security and Medicare reform. "I was disappointed that the Republicans didn't rally around (the president)," he says. It wasn't just Democrats being opposed to it. I think it was the gutless nature of a lot of Republicans in Congress. This was the beginning of what I saw as the demise. When they had a chance to unite behind the president to advance a solution to this ticking time bomb, some did, but many blinked." Still, he thinks that because his brother touched the notorious third rail and didn't blink, it will be easier for a new president to enact meaningful and necessary reform of Social Security and Medicare.

Bush thinks whoever wins the presidential election will have an opportunity to institute reforms, though he says McCain would be the better reformer. "Senator Obama hasn't proved himself capable yet to take on one of his core constituencies. His is an orthodox candidacy wrapped in an unorthodox campaign. The veneer is amazingly new and eloquent, but he won't upset one of his core constituencies of the Democratic Party and people are becoming aware of it."

Jeb Bush, the brother of one president and the son of another, is proud of both men. And he thinks history will treat Bush 43 far better than opinion polls do now: "I think when people look back on this period they are going to admire his resolve and they're going to say he was right. They'll also say that after Sept. 11, 2001, there was the feeling that it was the first of a series of attacks on our country and it didn't happen. That is a heck of an accomplishment (and while) no credit will be given now, in the long run he will get credit for it."

Jeb Bush says he has no "burning desire" to be president and didn't "before, during" and now after being governor. History, however, has a way of igniting such desire and his day may yet come. He could very well be the next member of the "Bush dynasty" to become president.




Reaching Across the Aisle

Tue, 09 Sep 2008 00:20:00 -0600

Where are principles in this? Why aren't conservatives arguing in favor of the superiority of their ideas rather than attempting to win "Miss Congeniality" awards from liberals? Republicans who practice politics of conciliation too often get their heads handed to them. Recall President George H.W. Bush who reached out to then-Speaker of the House Jim Wright at Bush's Inauguration in 1989, promising unity, harmony and compromise. Wright's smile revealed he knew that Bush could be had and that Mr. "Read My Lips, No New Taxes" seemed more intent on keeping his promise to be a nice guy than he was in keeping his promise not to increase taxes. When Bush compromised with Democrats and signed-off on a tax hike, it doomed his re-election chances. Bipartisanship should not be an end, but a means. Instead of talking about populating his administration with Democrats and Independents, John McCain should be listing the problems he intends to solve and the way he intends to solve them. Only then should he recruit Democrats and Independents who agree on the problems and his proposed resolutions. A national telephone survey by Rasmussen Reports (www.rasmussenreports.com), posted Aug. 27, finds that just 9 percent of likely voters give Congress positive ratings, while 51 percent say it's doing a poor job. This is an issue McCain should embrace. Harry Truman made the Republican "do-nothing Congress" an effective campaign issue in 1948 and while lightning rarely strikes twice in politics, McCain might consider a similar tactic. Rather than just pledge to invite Democrats and Independents to serve in his administration, he should promise to seek out those Democrats and Independents who agree with him on six big issues. Each one wouldn't have to agree on all six, but each could be placed in positions where he or she could work in concert with, instead of against, a McCain administration. Such a strategy could divide the more conservative Democrats from their liberal congressional leadership. Democrats managed to gain their congressional majority in 2006 by running more moderate and conservative candidates than liberals. If the new members of Congress want to keep their seats, they would support McCain on the important things. Those six big issues should be (1) Defense/Terrorism (Sen. Joe Lieberman, who understands both would be a fine secretary of defense), (2) Immigration. Let's effectively seal the border, make English-speaking Americans of those who are here illegally and then get about the business of legally admitting more highly-skilled and educated immigrants who could do more than slap up wallboard and mow our lawns, (3) Education. We wouldn't need to import so many highly skilled workers if we produced more of them in America. School choice, which emphasizes the student instead of teachers' unions, is the place to start. Feature testimonies from the parents of poor minority students to shame Congress into "letting our people go" from failed monopolistic government schools, (4) Health insurance. Make it national instead of parochial. Why can you buy car insurance and it's good in any state, but health insurance is good only in the state in which you buy it? Competition would lower costs, making it available to more people, (5) Energy independence. Both parties know we need to be free of most foreign oil. Let's get a man-on-the-moon project going and do it, (6) Social Security and Medicare reform. McCain can start by using the 1997 Bill Clinton-Newt Gingrich agreement, which, according to U.S. News & World Report (www.usnews.com), was never implemented due to the Monica Lewinsky scandal. I am sure McCain can find Democrats and Independents who believe [...]