Category Archives: Politics

State of the President

So, another State of the Union address tonight. The last time I watched Bush give this speech, he convinced me that Saddam Hussein was acquiring nuclear material and that an invasion of Iraq was justified. Bush knew he was at the least stretching the truth, if not outright lying. He lost my trust then, and has done nothing to regain it.

I haven’t watched a State of the Union since, and pay scant attention to any of Bush’s speeches. I’ll skip tonight’s speech, too. I’d rather go play table tennis.

Besides, he’s in “legacy preserving” mode. Which is a futile endeavor. I’ve said for a long time that Bush is the worst president of my lifetime. He’s quickly plunging toward being one of the worst presidents of all time. Fortunately, just two more years.

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Thoughts on Martin Luther King Day

I just came across a really great post on the Internet Monk blog called, “Five Reasons I Don’t Like MLK Day.” The author, Michael Spencer, is actually a big fan of Martin Luther King, and you see his admiration throughout the post. But he makes some really good points. For instance, he doesn’t like the fact that it’s become an African-American holiday, instead of an American holiday (after all, President’s Day isn’t a caucasian holiday).

Anyway, it’s a great post. And it’s worth sticking around for the comments, too.

My brother Rick also wrote about MLK Day on his blog.

I’ve been rather indifferent about the holiday, perhaps because I know so few African-Americans. But after seeing the “I Have a Dream” speech on Sunday at church, and after reflecting on it this week, I’ve realized how worthy this holiday is.

I’ve also tried to analyze my tangled thoughts on race. I spent my first nine years in an all-white town with a racist reputation (Huntington, Ind.). Then we moved to Pennsylvania, where Dad taught in an all-black urban school (including during the riots following King’s assassination). Meanwhile, in my suburban elementary school, we had one black student in my fourth-grade class: Keemie Hampton. I remember her name, when I can’t remember the names of any other classmates, which is interesting. She was a nice girl who acted just like all of the white girls; she just had a different skin color. I have memories of some derogatory comments guys made about her because of her skin color, but not in her presence. Still, while I don’t recall any blatant racism among my classmates, I’m sure Keemie has different memories.

Then we moved to Arizona, to a minority-free town (Lake Havasu City). And then, as I entered my junior year of high school, we settled into our first pastorate in Pixley, Calif., a multi-racial town. What an eye-opener. My first day of school, upon leaving the bus at the end of the day, I found myself surrounded by a group of blacks as one of them (a skinny guy I actually might have been able to take) tried to pick a fight with me, and all the other blacks egged us on. I managed to escape unscathed, but it certainly implanted some enduring impressions in a mind which, until then, was pretty much a blank slate when it came to racial issues.

I quickly changed buses. I still rode with blacks and hispanics and Filipinos and Portuguese and other ethnics (including white Oakies and Arkies), but I never felt threatened again.

We had a full-court basketball court in back of the parsonage, and I regularly played with local blacks and Hispanics. Race was never an issue in those games; ability was what mattered, and I could hold my own just fine. Plus, they appreciated that we let them use the court, and they were generally respectful of our property.

Our church had a team in the summer basketball park league. One night I seriously outplayed Duane, partly because he was half-drunk (I could clearly smell the wine as he tried to guard me), and he took offense. After the game, he came at me with a crowbar, and none of my church friends were around. I looked to Duane’s brother, Alvin, for help (we played on the high school team together), but he just looked away, and I knew I was on my own against a bigger, stronger guy who was going psycho. I still don’t know what kept Duane from swinging the crowbar before I got in the Toyota and drove away. It scared the daylights out of me.

After two years in that town, I carried away a lot of negative thoughts regarding people of other races–not racist thoughts, per se (I’ve never considered myself racist), but some definite baggage. Maybe some of those “first impressions” are still with me. These thoughts have been on my mind this week.

But despite all of that, I can admire the necessary, late-coming changes which occurred in America as a result of Martin Luther King’s incredible leadership.

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Bayh, Clinton, Obama, Edwards, and the World

Indiana is blessed with two really good Senators, Richard Lugar (Republican) and Evan Bayh (Democrat). Both show much wisdom and independent thinking regarding foreign policy. Evan Bayh would make a strong candidate for president if he could win his party’s nomination, which he can’t, because he’s too conservative to survive the primaries. He tested the waters last fall and decided no.

I like what he says in the January 15, 2007, issue of The New Yorker, in an article that mostly looks at the foreign policy views of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards. Bayh says:

“You just hope that we haven’t soured an entire generation on the necessity, from time to time, of using force because Iraq has been such a debacle. That would be tragic, because Iran is a grave threat. They’re everything we thought Iraq was but wasn’t. They are seeking nuclear weapons, they do support terrorists, they have threatened to destroy Israel, and they’ve threatened us, too….There are those kinds of tough steps that occasionally involve the use of force. Lots of Americans wonder whether we Democrats have that in us.”

The section about Hillary Clinton was impressive; her foreign policy knowledge is quite deep, and she has no trouble saying “I don’t know.” The Obama section seemed so-so. And then I was impressed with what John Edwards had to say. His basic view on Iraq is that it’s time to leave. He says:

“My view of Darfur is, we’ve done nothing but yap. We–as a lot of American families can tell you–we’ve done a lot more than talk in Iraq. And I think you just reach a place where you have to say, ‘We’ve done our part, and now it’s time for them to step up to the plate.’ You can’t police places forever.”

While the other Democrats cite counterterrorism as a top priority, Edwards emphasizes universal health care, ending poverty, and combatting global warming. I really like that. His heart is where my heart is. But I wish he had more high-level government experience, and I don’t think he can get his party’s nomination. Plus, uh, I’m supposed to be a Republican. I keep forgetting that.

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Jesus and the American Revolution

I was reading in Titus 3. Verse 1 says, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient…to be peaceable and considerate.” Other New Testament passages say similar things, including Jesus’ own words. And it got me thinking, again, about the American Revolution.

Did God prompt the American Revolution? Was he pleased when we declared war on King George? I think not. But I’m really puzzled about this, because I also think that until recent years, America has been used by God as a light to the nations. So the implication is that for God, the end justifies the means. And obviously, that’s not the case. Thus my befuddlement.

The traditional view is that the Revolutionary War was, somehow, a religious cause fought in the name of Christ. A holy cause to create a Most Favored Nation for God. Or something like that. People like James Kennedy and other Jesus-Created-America advocates talk as if the Founding Fathers all held a prayer meeting, and God spoke to them and said, “Verily verily I say unto you, go overthrow the British.” That may be the majority view among my fellow United Brethren.

But I can’t see Jesus being in favor of the war. What were our grievances? There was the “taxation without representation” issue–a matter of an unfair political process. The Jews in New Testament times had that problem. There was the forced billeting of soldiers in private homes. The Romans no doubt did similar stuff, in addition to making you carry their backpacks for a mile whenever they wanted. And those early God-fearing Americans feared that the English might inflict on us some of their liberal anti-slavery nonsense. Those Colonials wanted to keep their slaves, just as today’s conservatives insist on keeping their assault rifles.

The Revolution didn’t meet any criteria for a “just war.” The revolutionaries already possessed plenty of freedom to pursue life, liberty, and happiness, but wanted more of the liberty part than any citizens had ever been accorded. So they went to war, and they won. I’m a beneficiary of that.

What’s more, what those Founding Fathers did next–create a democracy with religious freedom and so many characteristics which all countries should have–showed incredible wisdom, vision, and principle. The Constitution they put in place provided the foundation for America’s later greatness.

But does the end justify the means? I can’t possibly accept that God prompted and favored the Revolution, because the idea directly violates Scripture. Romans 13 is very clear in stating that the American Revolution was not something God would sanction: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established….Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. Unless it’s the American Revolution, in which case it’s okay.” Oops, I added that last line.

God doesn’t violate his own rules. How could he tell us to be subject to rulers and authorities, and then say, “Okay, we’ll make an exception in this case. Nobody should have to pay this much for tea.” Jesus would not have signed the Declaration of Independence, and he would have reprimanded Simon the Zealot for picking up John Hancock’s pen.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my country. I believe we’ve been enormously blessed by God. I’m just puzzled. Because Scripture indicates that God would have been saddened when we violated Scripture by going to war against our rulers. And he is no doubt further saddened that, instead of showing repentance for what was clearly an unbiblical course of action, we continually give him credit for somehow inspiring the war and leading us to victory. And yet, once the deed was done, God got behind us as our biggest supporter.

Or did he? Is America’s greatness more a product of a model governmental system, vast national resources, Judeo-Christian values, and a high percentage of God-fearing citizens (at least early on), than a product of God’s blessing?

There’s a big picture which I suspect only God can see.

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The Democrats Take Control

I’m pleased with the election results. Republicans weren’t doing anything with their control of the House, and had given in to corruption and laziness and yes-man behavior for the White House. So, I say, “Off with their heads!” As a Republican, I’m ashamed of their arrogance and inaction. Wanting the Democrats to take charge is like wanting the Babylonians to conquer Israel…which, as it turns out, was what God wanted to happen.

Now it will be fun mocking Nancy Pelosi and rest of the liberal, disorganized Dems as they take over the House. They have no idea what they’re going to do, as opposed to the Republicans, who were united only in what they were not going to do–which is, be responsible legislators. The Dems will at least be earnest.

And the investigations will be fun and helpful and, in my view, necessary for our democracy. This time next year, we’ll be fully engulfed in hearings on the Tom Foley scandal, Halliburton, CIA torture factories, and general what-the-heck-is-happening-in-Iraq hearings. Republicans deserve to be put on the spot, and they will be…by grandstanding Democrats eager for the spotlight. The hearings will make us mad. But they’ll be good for the country. Sort of. Or maybe not. We’ll see.

I am glad that (so it looks) the Republicans retain control of the Senate. The Senate is, for the most part, a higher calibre of people, more classy and thoughtful than the messy House.

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My Trip to the Voting Place

It’s no fun living in a bulletproof Republican district. While epic wars rage in other parts of the country, all is tranquil in northeast Indiana. I’ve seen very few political ads, and the charges candidates throw at each other are pretty lame, the political equivalent of, “The other night, my opponent didn’t eat his broccoli,” countered by, “Well that’s nothing. My opponent got a C- in eighth-grade English.” Nasty, nasty stuff.

When I voted this morning, I was surprised to see several state-wide seats up for grabs, including a US Senate seat. I thought this was the year free of Senate races, but no, there was Richard Lugar’s name on the ballot. Lugar has been a senator since the Pleistocene era, and I like him. But he obviously took our district for granted, and figured he would save his campaign funds for other districts. Likewise for other state-wide seats.

For probably half of the positions on the ballot, the Republican candidate had no opposition. That stinks.

I said previously that I wouldn’t vote for Mark Souder, our Republican congressman, but I wouldn’t necessarily vote for his opponent. Well, I did vote for his opponent. Initially, he may have fantasized about pulling a huge upset, but I can’t imagine that lasted long. For most of the campaign, he exerted energies exuding false optimism, rallying troops in a doomed cause, convincing people to contribute money to a sinkhole, and generally playing the role of sacrificial donkey for the Democratic party. I gave him points for effort and general pain and anguish, and voted for him. This can only be described as an act of irresponsible, cynical citizenship on my part.

I like the new voting machines.

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This Republican Hopes for a Democratic Congress

I, personally, hope the Democrats take the House back. I will cheer if they do. (I won’t be disappointed if they also sieze the Senate, but I’d rather they didn’t.) The Republicans have shown themselves to be unworthy and incompetent, and have given in to corruption. Let the Democrats take over until they’re corrupted (it probably won’t take as long).

With Republicans controlling both houses of Congress, we’ve lost any checks and balances. Which is why George Bush hasn’t used a veto to stop pork-barreling or anything else. The Republicans in Congress and the Republicans in the White House just give each other whatever they want. If the Democrats are in charge, Bush will finally begin using his veto power, and Congress will finally start pushing back with more than token resistance.

Plus–I gleefully welcome some Congressional investigations. The word is that Nancy Pelosi has warned her colleagues that she doesn’t want the House to become a courthouse. But some investigations will occur, and they will become political circuses with lots of self-righteous Democratic grandstanding (not unlike the eight tedious years–eight years!–of Clinton-era Republican hand-wringing over Whitewater). But I say to the Dems, “Go to it!”

I want to see Congressional investigations on some issues where I feel the Bush Administration has shown itself to be incompetent, unethical, and occasionally evil. Issues like how my beloved country embraced state-sponsored torture, the Abramoff scandal, declaring ourselves exempt from the Geneva Conventions, sinful tax cuts for the rich. And I want bright spotlights on the whole Iraq War Debacle, for which history will rightfully shame Bush.

I want heads to roll. Republican heads. And since that’ll only happen if Democrats wield the sword, I’m all for it. God often used pagan nations to discipline Israel, so I’m okay with using Democrats to discipline Republicans (since Republicans utterly refuse to discipline their own, unless they trail off-message or are powerless, low-level pawns).

I have abandoned any notion that the Republicans are the “Christian party” or the “family values” party. Both parties are secular entities, and I place little hope in either. So let them trade power back and forth. Doesn’t matter a pittance to me anymore.

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Why I’m Not Voting for my Repub Congressman

My district has a fine Congressman in Mark Souder. He’s a true-blue genuine Christian, and he even attends a United Brethren church (Emmanuel Community, which I attended before Anchor started). I’ve been amazed at how refreshingly candid, non-talking-pointish, he is about what’s happening in Washington, even when his words are negative toward persons and causes which he, as a Republican, should champion. I trust him. I like him.

But I’m not voting for him this year. I won’t necessarily vote for his opponent, either. I just won’t vote to re-elect Mark Souder. There’s a principle involved which, on the one hand, can be labeled politically naive, but on the other hand could be labeled…well…principled.

I’m perturbed when blacks give a pass to the indiscretions of their leaders, such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and that crazy-lady congresswoman who doesn’t like metal detectors. I get perturbed when sports fans give a pass to the shenanigans of their favorite team or player. I get perturbed when society in general gives a pass to the charades of immoral Hollywood celebs. If we have some affinity for a person or team or cause, we look the other way. When actually, we should be holding our own to higher standards.

Republicans should carry the main responsibility for holding Republicans accountable. Thus my decision. Mark Souder entered Congress in 1994 as part of the “Contract with America” class which deified the idea of term limits. We were told they would serve three terms, then leave. And they would work for a Constitutional amendment to limit terms to 12 years max.

Well, Mark Souder served his three terms, then another three terms, and now he’s going for his seventh. So he’s already broken this “contract” with the American people of his district. He has two explanations.

  1. In 2000, his district was redistricted, so he was essentially running for election in a brand new district. And in that campaign, he made no promise about term limits. (For a majority of people in his district, like me, he’s been their Congressman since 1994.)
  2. He notes that Democracts don’t play by term limits rules, so if the Republicans left office after three terms, they would be giving away the huge advantage that incumbents have, Democrats would take over, and godlessness would reign.

I fully understand this incumbency issue. I also know Newt Gingrich and Company, being intelligent people, fully understood this consequence when they wrote the Contract with America. It’s a no-brainer. Of course this would give up the huge advantage that incumbents have. Heaven forbid that Republicans should lead by example and principle. I say: you should have counted the cost in 1994. If the cost would be too great to follow through on the Contract, then don’t put that provision in the Contract. By putting it in, knowing you wouldn’t follow through, you were merely playing cynical, manipulative games with the American people. With me. And I resent that.

And so, despite my enormously high regard for Mark Souder as a person, I will no longer vote for him. Out of principle. We need to have some Republicans who stand on principle regardless of costs. (A friend of mine, a staunch Republican, told me he wasn’t voting for Souder either, and for the same reasons, so it’s not like I’m an island of righteousness.)

Not that it will matter. Souder’s new district is pretty much a bullet-proof Republican district. He’ll get re-elected easily this year…and in 2008…and in 2010. And that’s probably good for both our district and the country. But promises are promises, and the term limits pledge is fully within his power to fulfill. So there, right or wrong, principled or (probably) stupid, I stand.

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Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer”

Over 20 years ago, a church friend told me about Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer,” a marvelous piece of satire. I found it in a small book and immediately became smitten by it. “The War Prayer” is directed at those who glory in war, and it extrapolates the effects of their prayers for battlefield victory.

“Help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended, the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring thee for the refuge of the grave and denied. For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet. We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.”

It’s a pretty amazing piece.

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Dancing in Teheran

This week’s Time magazine has a cover story about Iran, with an article about what a war with Iran might look like. Sounds like we’re definitely headed toward a confrontation. My opinion? Sure, go ahead and invade. The Iranian people will welcome us as liberators. They’ll throng the streets as our tanks drive by, showering flower petals on our troops and breaking out the wine glasses. They’ll be swinging, swaying, records playing, dancing in the street. All we need is music, sweet music. There’ll be music everywhere.

George Bush can occupy Iran, and then let the next president deal with it. As soon as he/she deals with catching Bin Laden…and leaving Afghanistan…and Iraq…and rebuilding New Orleans…and filling in that unsightly hole in the ground in The Big Apple…and fixing immigration…and health care…and global warming. Okay, our soldiers in Iran might have to wait a few years. But hey, it’s not like they’ll be in danger or anything. Meanwhile, maybe it’s time for some more tax cuts so we can do some more shopping. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

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