Category Archives: Politics

A Look at 11 Presidents on This President’s Day

L-r: Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon.

L-r: Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford.

On this Presidents Day, I wanted to look back at all of the presidents during my lifetime, starting with Dwight Eisenhower. I wanted to say something positive about each of them. My strong belief is that every one of these presidents has served with the right motives–to advance the United States of America. They have all worked hard in the best interests of my country, and I respect them all. I despise how, today, we demonize our presidents. I despise the way so many Americans show open contempt for these public servants, and the way media pundits feed that contempt. It’s disgraceful, and it’s not the way I was raised.

So I wanted to keep it positive.Yes, there is plenty to criticize about each of these men. They are all flawed men. But that is not for today, President’s Day. Today, I want to honor them. So here goes.

Dwight Eisenhower. I was born in the middle of Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency. Bob Gates notes in his book that from the end of the Korean War until Ike’s presidency ended in 1961, not a single American soldier was killed in action. This from the allied commander of the biggest war in history. He was a warrior, but didn’t relish taking military action–he knew the costs. That impresses me. Lately, historians have been taking a new look at Ike’s presidency with great appreciation for what he accomplished and his demeanor as president. I think Ike would have been a fascinating president to observe (had I not been in diapers).

John F. Kennedy. I wasn’t yet politically aware during Kennedy’s presidency, so I wasn’t paying attention to him during his presidency. However, it’s clear that he brought new energy to the country. I’m so impressed by his challenge to land a man on the moon, and return him safely, within 10 years. That was an enormous goal. But he believed in the capabilities of America enough to issue the challenge, and the country rose to it. He also advanced the cause of civil rights, despite plenty of opposition from his own party.

Lyndon Johnson. Johnson knew how to get things done. As Senate Majority Leader, he was recognized as a master at gathering the necessary votes. He knew how to schmooze, how to work the phones, how to twist arms. Bill Clinton, also, is recognized as a master politician in this way. But from what I’ve read about him, Johnson was the true master of the artform. He also passed the Civil Rights Act, and famously said that he had just given Republicans the South for the next generation. He was correct–Democrats switched over to the Republican Party, and they still control the South. But Johnson knew this was the right thing to do, and he was willing to pay the political price. That is so very commendable.

Richard Nixon. Nixon, of course, is a tragic figure in many ways. But I think he was always on track regarding what was best for the country, and he seemed to be able to see around the curve. He dealt skillfully with China and Russia, opening opportunities for later presidents. He took strong action regarding the energy crisis, back when OPEC was becoming dominant; for instance, he instituted the national 65 mph speed limit. Perhaps nobody since has been as strong on the foreign policy front. In his post-presidency, he cranked out a number of books which added thoughtful takes on important issues.

Gerald Ford. Ford was the first presidential candidate I voted for…and that was one of only three times my candidate lost. President Ford had a shortened presidency, and his main job was just holding the country together. But he did that, and such will be his legacy. Pardoning Nixon was not a popular move, but I think it was the right move and enabled healing to come to the country after a shattered presidency and a disastrous war. He was a good man, a moral man, a man of integrity and character, and he was respected by everybody in Washington. He was exactly the right man for that unique time.

L-r: Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush.

L-r: Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush.

Jimmy Carter. I always viewed Carter as having a genuine, thoughtful Christian faith not much different from my own. If I sat down to talk with him about my faith, we would be on the same page. And I felt he represented Christ well while in office, and certainly while out of office. He is often mocked for his “malaise” speech, but I don’t think the criticism is fair. I remember hearing that speech and thinking at the time, as a college student, “He’s exactly right. That’s what is happening in the country.” I deeply respect his post-presidency activities, from Habitat for Humanity, to monitoring elections all over the world, to meeting and negotiating with tyrants. I found Carter to be admirable in so many ways. He was also an example for my life, modeling how a Christian can have a strong sense of social justice–and even be a Democrat at the same time. Largely through Carter, I came to realize that many Democratic Party issues are Christian issues. He gave me much to think upon.

Ronald Reagan. Reagan brought a heightened sense of dignity to the White House, setting the stage for every president since (for instance, always wearing a suit in the Oval Office). His sense of humor was tremendous, and he used it skillfully. He had a sense not so much for what he wanted to accomplish as president, as he did for what he wanted America to be. In many ways during the 1980s, America conformed to the image of Ronald Reagan.

George H. W. Bush. President Bush didn’t seem to harbor ill feelings toward people–about things they said about him, or things they did. He was a genuinely nice guy. I greatly admire the relationship he and Bill Clinton have developed. Bush 2 seems to have inherited a lot of his father’s spirit. I also admire the way he conducted the Gulf War, and how he built an international coalition. He respected the roles of everyone around him and let them do their work. He kept his hands out of his son’s presidency, yet maintained his role as father–and by all appearances, he and Barbara were astoundingly good parents. Above all of these other presidents, George H.W. Bush was a humble man.

Bill Clinton. Clinton is the type of person who, when he enters a room, takes over the room. He has an out-sized personality, the type of person who is energized by meeting lots and lots of people–shaking hands, interacting with people, etc. Coupled with that is a stellar intellect and political skills that are off the charts. Since I’m a communicator, I admire people who can communicate well. Clinton knows how to explain things clearly. All the evidence shows that he’s a superb father. And as a Christian, I rejoice that despite his escapades, he salvaged his marriage. As an ex-president, he has done extraordinary work through the Clinton Initiative. He has redeemed himself in my eyes, and I view him as a national treasure.

George W. Bush. George Bush, like his father, is a good man. I believe he’s a man of integrity and good moral character. Bush governed largely by instinct, as he will admit, and for that you want a person of integrity and character. In his second term, when things weren’t going well in our wars, he implemented the surge against the advice of his political advisors, and it turned out to be the right move. He also marginalized Dick Cheney, his right-hand man, and in his place listened more closely to Condi Rice and Bob Gates. This accounts for some of the positive things that occurred during that second term. Cheney continually urged Bush to pardon Scooter Libby for his involvement in outing CIA operative Valerie Plame, but Bush refused. Good for him. As an ex-president, Bush has been absolutely exemplary–perhaps mostly by not doing anything. He has been very gracious toward his successor, and has steadfastly avoided doing anything to get in his successor’s way.

11-obama160Barack Obama. Obama is a deeply thoughtful person, as is clear from his two books, “Dreams of My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope” (both of which I’ve read). In the latter, he wrestles with numerous policy issues, showing me clearly that he had made himself highly informed on a number of crucial issues. I loved the vision he set forth, and the mindset he showed toward dealing with complex issues. I think it has served him well in dealing with the military (who invariably want more men and equipment), and in dealing with Republican Congressman whose top goal was to deny him re-election, and who have continually thwarted him. I feel he has shown much restraint, though his level of frustration must be out of this world. It must also be frustrating to be opposed by so much of the Christian community, and to be labeled continually as a Muslim, when in fact he has clearly articulated his faith in Christ several times. It angers me, the way Christians have demonized him. And yet, he keeps his cool, showing himself to be wise beyond his years. I also greatly admire his role as a father and husband. He has nothing to be ashamed of there.

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Dan Coats, Please Release Me

dancoatsA while back I signed up for the e-letter from Sen. Dan Coats, whom I’ve voted for every time he has run for office. But he has turned out to be the same type of do-nothing, oppose-everything Republican Senator as everyone else. He hits all the predictable Republican talking points. A big disappointment to me.

Many times, I have used the “unsubscribe” link to get removed from the e-letter list, but I keep getting it. The latest edition just arrived. There is a “Contact Me” link, but it goes to a dead page. Congressional competence in action.

How much effort should I put into getting my name off his list? Not much. I’ll just keep hitting the DELETE button when the unwanted e-letter shows up. He won’t, after all, be in office forever.

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Burning Bridges to NonChristians

Wow, this is a tremendous article by Ed Stetzer. Much for me to take to heart. A few excerpts:

“Statistically, the unchurched lean heavily Democrat. So—and I know it’s just me talking crazy now—if you want to reach the unchurched, maybe constant Facebook/Twitter posts about how stupid Democrats are might be a bad idea….Christians are often unnecessarily burning bridges on the altar of political partisanship.”

“It may be an appropriate missional decision to voluntarily restrict your own freedom to constantly blurt about politics, in order to reach your neighbor who holds a different view.”

“An endless stream of calling people fools or liars–people who your neighbor voted for–just does not make sense for the Christian….The end result is another stumbling block for those we are trying to reach.”

“I want my unchurched neighbors (who are statistically more likely to be Democrat) to know they are welcome in my home and my church, and that I do not hate them or the president for whom they voted.”

“I suggest we tweet thinking more about Jesus and less about politics. That’s just basic Christian prioritization.

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The Art of the Smackdown

Louise Gohmert at a Tea Party rally.

Louise Gohmert at a Tea Party rally.

Last night on NBC News, I heard one of the best political put-downs ever. It came from John McCain. It was so understated and so brilliantly delivered that I almost missed it. But when I replayed it in my head, I laughed out loud.

During a speech at the Values Voters Summit last week, Congressman Louise Gohmert, a Republican from Texas, insinuated that McCain was an Al Qaeda supporter. Brian Williams asked McCain about that.

McCain responded in a very even, casual tone: “On that particular issue, sometimes comments like that are made out of malice. But if someone has no intelligence, I don’t view it as being a malicious statement. You can’t respond to that kind of thing.”

It was brilliant. Zing!

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The Senseless Trucker Shutdown

truckers-dc

Can anyone explain the purpose of the “Truckers Ride for the Constitution” thing in Washington DC? Truckers want to circle the beltway for three days, slowing down traffic and angering tens of thousands of local people. The publicly state their goal as “shutting down Washington.” They want to tie up traffic for the citizenry.

Isn’t that called anarchy?

Okay, “anarchy” is a stretch, I admit. Though anarchy does involve purposely creating disorder and confusion.

How does this rally support for the Constitution? How does this further their goal of ending Obamacare? If truckers came to Fort Wayne to do this, I can guarantee that plenty of Tea Party supporters trying to get to work would be upset.

I just don’t see the point of this protest. As reported in the Washington Post: “At one point, according to the Virginia State Police, four commercial vehicles slowed traffic to 15 mph after the drivers rode side-by-side across all four northbound lanes of I-495 in Virginia.”

That’s not taking a stand for the Constitution. It’s just irritating people of all political stripes who have places to go. Senseless tactics.

Do they really think Obama will say, “Oh, truckers are blocking all lanes of the Beltway. Can’t have that. I guess I’ll just have to repeal my healthcare program.”

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The Hastert Rule and Government Gridlock

boehner_angle_ap_img-e1365704694792

I really despise the Hastert Rule, also known as the “majority of the majority” rule. It’s named after former Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert, but Newt Gingrich started it during the 1990s.

The Hastert Rule basically means that unless a majority of the Republican Congressmen favor something, it won’t come up for vote. That prevents bipartisan bills, whereby a group of Congressmen from both parties cobble together a majority of Congressmen to get something passed.

So, let’s say 100% of Democratic Congressmen favor something, and 49% of the Republicans favor it. That means, potentially, that 75% of Congressmen favor the bill. Theoretically, they represent 75% of the American people.

BUT, they need 51% of Republicans for the bill to come to a vote. So, even though Congressmen overwhelmingly favor the bill, John Boehner won’t bring it to a vote. Complicating the situation currently are other dynamics, whereby, within the majority, you seemingly need a majority of the Tea Party Congressmen to pass something. I don’t quite understand why the Tea Party members have so much power.

Nancy Pelosi, the only Democratic Speaker since the 1990s, didn’t follow the Hastert Rule. John Boehner himself has violated it several times. But for the most part, it rules the day. And it helps make government even more dysfunctional. Thank you, Republican Party, for this wonderful contribution to American politics.

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The Tea Party is Playing Games with My Money

teaparty

At the end of the Bush presidency, we had that big market crash. I remember meeting with our investment guy and learning that my 401K had lost tens of thousands of dollars. Same with Pam’s retirement funds.

Well, since then our funds have steadily climbed back up–not to where they were, but they’ve been doing well. I know, the right-wing pundits tell us the economy is terrible terrible terrible under Obama. All I know is, our funds have been rebuilding, and we’re pleased.

But that could all come crashing down–again–next week. For our funds, and for your’s, too.

The Republicans are threatening to not extend the debt limit unless certain demands are made. Obama’s “gun to the head” metaphor is totally appropriate. “Unless you defund Obamacare, we’ll shoot the economy.” Some of the more irresponsible and ignorant Republicans are even saying that the debt limit is no big deal–that the US can forego paying its bills, and that the US credit rating can drop, and the economy will continue on just fine.

Tell that to my retirement account next week. Tell that to me after, again, Pam and I lose loses thousands and thousands of dollars of value because of Republican irresponsibility.

Thank you, Tea Party. Thank you, Ted Cruz.

I have no–zero, zilch, nada–patience for the Tea Party. Not so much a problem with their goals as with their attitude of all-or-nothing. They will never be satisfied.

A couple years ago, Obama and Boehner agreed to a deal that would have cut the deficit by 5 trillion. But when Boehner took it back to the House, the Tea Party wing killed it. They wanted more. This past Sunday, Boehner admitted to George Stephanopolous that he and the Senate had reached a deal some weeks ago that would have averted the government shutdown. But then they added defunding Obamacare, and now here we are. Boehner no doubt took the deal back to the House, and the Tea Party wing killed it, again.

It doesn’t matter what kind of a deal is reached with the President. The Tea Party will not be satisfied. They’ll always want more, and unless they get absolutely everything they could possibly want, they’ll be afraid of being accused of compromising.

It reminds me of anti-abortion legislation during the 1980s, when pro-life Congressman wouldn’t settle for compromises on abortion. I heard a very upset pro-life Congressman from that time say something like this: “We could have saved hundreds of thousands of babies, but the hardliners wouldn’t settle for anything less than saving ALL babies. And the result–we didn’t get anything. We should have saved the hundreds of thousands NOW, and then continued working to save the rest.”

The all-or-nothing mentality never works in divided government. It’s about compromise, about give-and-take. But that’s the mentality of the Tea Party.

And it’s why, sometime after next week when the US defaults on its debt, Pam and I will loses thousands and thousands of dollars of value in our retirement accounts.

Oh–and so will you. Even if you’re a big Tea Party supporter, you will lose, too.

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Healthcare.gov is Sick

I’m still unable to login to my account (assuming it was successfully created) at Healthcare.gov. Today I had some error messages I hadn’t seen before, so maybe that is progress. I think CNN should begin sending out a Breaking News Alert every time somebody successfully signs up for insurance. Just so we know it’s possible.

Healthcare.gov’s motto: “We’re not shutdown, but might as well be.”

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30 Kramers

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Two great political analogies during the “Winners and Losers” segment of the October 5 Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live.

Seth Myers said pf John Boehner having to deal with his Tea Party Congressmen: “You’re like Seinfeld if there were 30 Kramers.”

Co-anchor Cecily Strong then said of the problems on the Healthcare.gov website:
“You can’t campaign on the fact that millions don’t have healthcare, and then be surprised that millions don’t have healthcare. How can you not be ready? It’s like 1-800-FLOWERS getting caught off guard by Valentines Day.”

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Long Before Ted Cruz, Giants Walked Among Us

C25790-16A

kemp-dole

I identified as Republican most of my life. However, the Tea Party base now rules the day, and moderates like me are persona non grata. Of late, even John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Tom Coburn are being blasted as not pure enough.

I think of all the remarkable Republicans I’ve admired, or at least respected, over the years. Some were true giants.

Howard Baker.
Mark Hatfield,.
Richard Lugar.
John Danforth.
Orrin Hatch.
Alan Simpson.
Lamar Alexander.
Bob Dole.
Elizabeth Dole.
Ben Nighthorse Campbell.
Ronald Reagan.
John Ashcroft.
James Baker.
Rudy Guiliani.
Nancy Kassebaum.
William Cohen.
Warren Rudman.
Pete Wilson.
Dan Quayle.
Nelson Rockefeller.
George HW Bush.
Colin Powell.
Barry Goldwater.
Arlen Specter.
Phil Gramm.
Gerald Ford.
Richard Shelby.
Olympia Snowe.
Jack Kemp.
Kay Bailey Hutchison.
John Connolly.
George Romney.
Dwight Eisenhower….

I miss those folks.

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