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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Election Day 2008

In Politics on November 4, 2008 at 6:52 am

Feel free to share any good election day stories in the comments as well.

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A Prayer for Our Next President

In Politics on November 3, 2008 at 2:00 am

Reading some on the monarchy of Israel this weekend, I came across Psalm 72, a coronation prayer for the heirs of King David's line (beginning with Solomon). Do yourself a favor and read the passage through in its entirety – it's both beautiful and bold in its request for success in the task of ruling God's people well.

Yes, I know we here in America are not a theocracy as Israel was then, but the humility and hope of this passage needs to apply to any leader, especially the one our democracy will elect President later this week. Regardless who wins, pray that God would bend his heart even now in the direction of Psalm 72, for as the first verse reminds us, justice and righteousness in our leaders can only come from God.

 1 Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to the royal son!
 2 May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice!
 3 Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness!
 4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the children of the needy,
and crush the oppressor!

 5 May they fear you while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations!
 6 May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth!
 7 In his days may the righteous flourish,
and peace abound, till the moon be no more!

 8 May he have dominion from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth!
 9 May desert tribes bow down before him,
and his enemies lick the dust!
10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands
render him tribute;
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
bring gifts!
11 May all kings fall down before him,
all nations serve him!

12 For he delivers the needy when he calls,
the poor and him who has no helper.
13 He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life,
and precious is their blood in his sight.

15 Long may he live;
may gold of Sheba be given to him!
May prayer be made for him continually,
and blessings invoked for him all the day!
16 May there be abundance of grain in the land;
on the tops of the mountains may it wave;
may its fruit be like Lebanon;
and may people blossom in the cities
like the grass of the field!
17 May his name endure forever,
his fame continue as long as the sun!
May people be blessed in him,
all nations call him blessed!

18 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.
19 Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory!
Amen and Amen!

20 The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended.

The What and Why of How I’m Voting on Tuesday

In Politics on November 1, 2008 at 7:29 am

In response to my previous post about bonding with Barry, a friend emailed to ask how I see things differently from Obama. Here’s his question:

“What do you disagree strongly about? I’m genuinely curious, meaning, your answers could shape my opinion because I value your insight. I’m probably going to vote for him, mostly because of how much I feel/think about McCain and I do not believe Palin would be qualified to take over the Presidency if need be. I’m still open to voting for a third option candidate though.”

As I had planned to write an endorsement post anyway, here it is. Please understand: my attempt here is not to try to aggressively convince anybody one way or the other; I’m just responding honestly to the question. I’m honored some might actually care what I think, so for what it’s worth, here’s where I stand (note: if you’re interested, here’s where Megan stands).

Full disclosure: I consider myself a “little c” fiscal/social conservative with libertarian leanings. I’m registered as a Republican and I voted for Ron Paul in the primary. Reluctantly, I’m planning to vote for the McCain/Palin ticket on Tuesday, though if Ron Paul were running as a third-party candidate, I would vote for him again for the same reasons as before.

As mentioned in my previous post, I very much appreciate Obama’s intellect and inspiration, not to mention his youth and energy. For me, the experience (or lack thereof) of either Obama as President or Sarah Palin as Vice- is a moot point; no candidate is ever ready to be President. Even for John McCain or Joe Biden, executive office will be very different from their legislative roles in the Senate, so we’re going to get a novice regardless of who wins.

Having said that, my biggest concerns in this election have less to do with the candidates’ experience and more to do with their ideology on the following:

  1. the size, function, and presence of government in our lives
  2. the balance of power divided among the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives
  3. the interpretive bias and make-up of the Supreme Court

Obama’s governmental approach borders on (if not crosses over into) pure socialism, with the government playing an even larger, more active, and omnipresent role than even it is right now. Unfortunately, government grew enormously under George Bush in the past eight years, but not all growth was intentional; I think of 9/11, two wars (one of which we should never have entered), and huge natural disasters as surprises rather than strategies to grow government. Obama’s policies, however, call for calculated government expansion, which doesn’t line up with my libertarian leanings.

Would McCain do any better on the government question? I don’t know, especially when I have rarely heard him talk much about cutting spending, which is a major key to keeping government small. I do believe, though, that McCain’s default ideology as to the purpose of government lends itself to less government more than Obama’s does, so on that basis, I have to vote for McCain.

With regard to the balance of power, the fact that an Obama win would most likely lead to a Democrat-led White House, Senate, and House of Representatives runs against what I understand the desires of the Founding Fathers to be when they framed the Constitution. Obama might be capable enough in the Oval Office, but the current leadership of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi in the Senate and House respectively has been atrocious in terms of partisanship played, meaningful legislation passed, and record-low ratings of Congress in general.

Would all this improve if all three leaders were of the same political party? One could argue it might by streamlining Congressional votes with no fear of Presidential vetoes, but again the ideology driving their thinking on moral issues like stem cell research, gay marriage, and continued protection of the unmitigated right to abortion (to name a few) becomes the bigger issue for me. Just because legislation might speed through the House, Senate, and White House does not make it good legislation. I can’t do much to affect the House and Senate at this point, but I can cast a vote that might affect the White House; thus, I will be voting for McCain.

Legislation is one thing; legislation’s interpretation in our highest courts is another. If you were to ask me who the ten most powerful people in our United States government were, my answer would be the President and our nine Supreme Court justices. Of these ten, the President (who serves a maximum of eight years) appoints members of the Court (who may serve as many as 30-40 years). At this point in history, the next President may have the opportunity to appoint as many as three justices to life terms in the Supreme Court, which could significantly shift the ideological make-up of the court in an enormous way.

The difference between justices who would interpret the law independent of their own views and those who would impose their own philosophies upon the document they are sworn to uphold is vitally important to the rule of law. Why? Because the next decade is going to play host to an onslaught of judicial decisions on a myriad of ethical questions pertaining to definitions of life, death, marriage, human rights, and religious freedoms. I do not want judges jettisoning the concept of original authorial intent when interpreting the law; I want judges sensing their responsibility to it. Conservative Presidents tend to appoint candidates more constructionist than activist in their understanding of their Supreme Court role, so I will be voting for McCain.

In reading through this, some could argue I am voting against Obama rather than for McCain. The critique is valid, but not invalidating. We vote for and against all kinds of things in our daily lives – what authors to read (or not read), what talking heads to listen to (or not listen to), what principles to live by (or not live by) – and this Presidential vote is no different. We all must make decisions, and rare is the one that isn’t comprised of a hybrid of reasons for and against.

Thus, for the ideological reasons listed above, I will be voting against Barack Obama and for John McCain for President of the United States of America on Tuesday. If you’ve yet to decide and are asking for my counsel, I would urge you to do the same.

(Note: It’s been almost a year since I wrote Poli-Sigh: Political Views of the Younger Generation for byFaith magazine. It’s interesting to read the piece a year later, days away from the election. If you didn’t get a chance to read it the first time, take a look.)

Bonding with Barry

In Politics on October 30, 2008 at 12:44 pm

Anybody watch Obama’s infomercial Wednesday night? It was a whole family kind of deal at our house. I thought it was well-done and engaging, and Obama was as eloquent as ever.

I really like Obama as a person (or perhaps more accurately, as a personality), and marvel at how someone to whom I so enjoy listening is also someone with whom I so strongly disagree (more on the “how than the “what,” though that wouldn’t be true for all issues).

I think we could be friends, Barry and me. We’d disagree, but we could be friends.

The Problem with Neo-Conservativism

In Politics on October 10, 2008 at 11:32 am

David Brooks hits the nail on the head as to what’s wrong with the neo-conservatism of the past decade (and why John McCain is going to lose the election in November):

“Once conservatives admired Churchill and Lincoln above all — men from wildly different backgrounds who prepared for leadership through constant reading, historical understanding and sophisticated thinking. Now those attributes bow down before the common touch.”

I’m not trying to simplify this election into one big class warfare; the Republicans are already doing it. Who have McCain’s “scare” ads targeted this fall? The under-educated audiences who will be afraid of them. Who is Sarah Palin recruiting to send her to Washington? The “Joe Sixpacks” and “hockey moms” of America.

“What had been a disdain for liberal intellectuals slipped into a disdain for the educated class as a whole. The liberals had coastal condescension, so the conservatives developed their own anti-elitism, with mirror-image categories and mirror-image resentments, but with the same corrosive effect. Republicans developed their own leadership style. If Democratic leaders prized deliberation and self-examination, then Republicans would govern from the gut.”

Sure, I like the idea of so-called “normal” (or “more normal”) people going to Washington on our behalf, but has conservatism come to this kind of intellectual-less existence? If so, let’s vote and get the election over (though I think it’s over already).

Conservative or Liberal, Republican or Democrat, populism can only go so far.

It’s the ideas, stupid.

Thoughts from 4 Miles Away

In Places & Spaces, Politics on October 3, 2008 at 6:01 am

It takes me about 12 minutes to drive from our house to Washington University, so it was semi-surreal watching the Vice-Presidential debate held here in St. Louis Thursday night. I thought both Joe Biden and Sarah Palin did well, but would give a slight edge to Palin for holding her own (though little more) on the issues and for better connecting personally with the viewer. Biden seemed much more distant and on the defensive (at least in the first half of the debate – he kicked it in toward the end), which seemed to play well to Palin’s “pit bull” personality.

The frustrating thing about national debates for me is that FactCheck can’t keep up in real-time as to the factuality of what each candidate is saying at every level of detail. While I consider myself a fairly informed citizen, I don’t have time to sift through and memorize voting records. Facts aside, both candidates (Palin especially) came off too “politician-y” in dodging some questions, but when you consider all that they had to cover without making any major gaffes, I suppose that’s to be expected.

That’s my two cents. What did you think?

Bailing on the Bailout

In Humanity, Politics, Thought on September 30, 2008 at 7:30 pm

I haven’t written too much about the current financial crisis/bailout/circus of late, partly because I’m still trying to figure it all out, and partly because I’ve written before about the problem of big government handling anything. While I love being right, I hate being redundant.

I was not in favor of a bailout, yet assumed it was going to pass, only to be somewhat surprised it didn’t (at least as of Monday). My mentality and situation mirror those of my friend, Clay, with whom I’ve exchanged an email or two about all this. He writes:

“I don’t have a lot of capital in this game, so I can be pretty free and easy with my opinions. I could be labeled a constrained visionist (a la Sowell) and have a core belief, a faith, that the free market system (process belief) is better able to sort this out than Hank and Ben (unconstrained, result-oriented action).  If I have to bet my (lack of) wealth on anything, I’ll take the market over Bush any time.”

I’ve always thought of myself as a free-market guy, too, though Robert T. Miller’s A Conservative Case for the Paulson Plan gave me pause to think on it a few days back:

“Are you an economic conservative who thinks that the government should intervene in the market only when markets fail and it is efficient for the government to act? Then you should support the bailout plan because what we are seeing in the credit markets is probably the most serious market failure that will occur in our lifetimes. Are you an economic conservative who thinks the government spends too much and the national debt is too high? Then you should support the bailout plan because the government will likely make money in the long run and so reduce the deficit. The intelligent conservative position here is to support the bailout.”

Then this morning, I confess I almost drank the bailout Kool-Aid when my usual voice-of-reason hero, New York Times columnist David Brooks, criticized the Congress as being leaderless in their “no” decision regarding the proposed bailout:

“This generation of political leaders…have failed utterly and catastrophically to project any sense of authority, to give the world any reason to believe that this country is being governed. Instead, by rejecting the rescue package on Monday, they have made the psychological climate much worse….The only thing now is to try again – to rescue the rescue. There’s no time to find a brand-new package, so the Congressional plan should go up for another vote on Thursday, this time with additions that would change its political prospects.”

Hmmm.

Later this afternoon, however, I came across Jeffrey Miron, senior lecturer in economics at Harvard and one of 166 academic economists who signed a letter to congressional leaders last week opposing the bailout plan. In a special to CNN, he wrote a commentary titled “Bankruptcy, not bailout, is the right answer,” saying:

“The obvious alternative to a bailout is letting troubled financial institutions declare bankruptcy. Bankruptcy means that shareholders typically get wiped out and the creditors own the company. Bankruptcy does not mean the company disappears; it is just owned by someone new (as has occurred with several airlines). Bankruptcy punishes those who took excessive risks while preserving those aspects of a businesses that remain profitable.”

At the end of the piece, Miron gets practical as to where we go from here:

“So what should the government do? Eliminate those policies that generated the current mess. This means, at a general level, abandoning the goal of home ownership independent of ability to pay. This means, in particular, getting rid of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, along with policies like the Community Reinvestment Act that pressure banks into subprime lending…The right view of the financial mess is that an enormous fraction of subprime lending should never have occurred in the first place. Someone has to pay for that. That someone should not be, and does not need to be, the U.S. taxpayer.”

That resonated with my gut sense. Why bail out a bad system? This again from Clay:

“All I know with respect to handing this Administration vast discretionary power over something of immense national importance is, ‘Once bitten, twice shy…’ The market abuses that went on came from a lack of information and transparency and a lack of timely-targeted regulation to mitigate the worst of unregenerate human nature.”

In other words, we have met the enemy, and the enemy is us – now that’s a concept I get (and a biblical one, too). True, the system was bad, but who created the system? Government leaders pandering to a constituency demanding cheap loans with little to no accountability.

I remember reading an intriguing book a few years ago by Jane Jacobs called Dark Age Ahead. Jacobs, an urbanist, argued that North American civilization showed signs of spiral decline comparable to the collapse of the Roman empire. Her thesis focused on “five pillars of our culture that we depend on to stand firm” (see the last one especially):

  • the nuclear family
  • education
  • science
  • representational government and taxes
  • corporate and professional accountability

What do you think? Have we officially arrived at Jacobs’ “dark age” in America? Are you for or against a government bailout? From my perspective, It’s time to own our mistakes and, while it might will be hard, reap what we’ve sown in the way we’ve handled our economy; God, after all, will not be mocked (Galatians 6:7-8).

What say you and why?

Don and the Dems

In Books, Politics on September 3, 2008 at 3:28 pm

Author Donald Miller has a new website and blog. Miller gave the benediction on the first night of the Democratic National Convention in Denver and, though I’m always a little leery when evangelicals cozy up to the Left (for the same reasons I get leery when evangelicals cozy up to the Right), I liked his prayer.

What I really liked, though, was Miller’s email exchange with Barack Obama.

A Funeral I’d Rather Miss

In Politics on September 1, 2008 at 7:48 am

In a comment on my previous post, Ed points out that, “Everything you’ve blogged about the political process has been ambivalent, indifferent, or mildly disgusted.”

I’ll own up to the observations. I’m weary of enduring two years of campaigning to get what we get in the end (and don’t even get me started on the millions and millions of dollars wasted in the process of running for a job that pays $200K). Regardless of who gets in, my overarching concern is that, as the size of government has grown, we are never going to get it under control, let alone cut it back. It’s the toothpaste-out-of-the-tube scenario – once it’s out, it’s out; there’s no putting it back where it belongs. From my perspective, we in America are standing in front of a sink covered in toothpaste.

I’ve yet to hear either candidate talk about cutting spending; taxes, yes, but spending, no. Even then, I wouldn’t mind spending as much if it were accompanied by head-on-the-chopping-block accountability, but that’s not inherent to the size and ethos of our government (and really hasn’t been for decades). We are drowning in debt and bureaucracy of our own making, and no one seems too intent on un-making it; we just add to it with each administration, regardless of which party is in power. At some point, however, it’s going to be time to pay the piper (and that piper’s name is China).

We are fast-approaching nanny-statedom in almost every area of our existence – international relations, national security, domestic affairs, state and local government. Why did we go into Iraq? Why are we putting up video cameras everywhere and wire-tapping anything that moves? Why is the federal government bailing out for-profit banks and businesses? Why is Congress investigating steroids in baseball? Why won’t the city of Maplewood get their inspector out of our house so we can actually live here? Because government (Democrat or Republican – it makes no difference) has become too big and too important for its own good, and we citizens are the ones who have allowed it to become so, administration after administration after administration.

John Adams wrote in 1814:

“Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.”

If we don’t use our democracy to humbly preserve itself in the name of governmental limits, we’ll all be attending the grandest of funerals in the name of the State. Color me “ambivalent, indifferent, and mildly disgusted,” but that’s a funeral I’d rather miss.

On Sarah Palin

In Politics on August 30, 2008 at 10:51 pm

Like most of the country, I’m still trying to figure out what I think about John McCain‘s pick of Alaska governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate. While it’s way too early to draw any real conclusions, here are a couple of thoughts on the matter:

Initially, I felt what Joseph Bottum at First Things called a “nervous joy” at the audacity of the Republicans deciding to forego playing it safe with Mitt Romney or some other stuffed shirt and choose a little-known (but likable and seemingly accomplished) woman in Palin. On the heels of the Democrats’ big shindig in Denver, I couldn’t believe the Republicans had a chance to keep the race even close (let alone interesting), nor did I think they would actually take it if they happened to think of one. But to come up with and take a chance implies risk, and as I processed the selection more, I confess some nervous doubts have surfaced.

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air has a good summary of rebuttals to many of the arguments the Left has already thrown at Palin, and I can go along with most of them easily enough. I do, however, find myself wondering with James Fallows on his Atlantic Monthly blog how long-term-looking McCain’s choice really was:

“The image to have in mind is not Dan Quayle: a person with quite a bit of grounding in national issues who was added to the ticket in an attempt to jazz it up. Always and only the comparison should be with Clarence Thomas — with this one interesting difference. Thomas was a shrewd choice not simply because his race made it more complicated for Democrats to oppose him but also because, once confirmed, all evidence suggested to conservatives that he’d be the kind of Justice they were looking for. In Palin’s case, this seems to be a choice that looks forward to Election Day, and not one day beyond that.”

Choosing Palin certainly makes McCain much more viable as a conservative candidate for the election, but it also highlights his age vulnerability as President. Maybe I’ve read one too many quotes about Palin being “one heartbeat away from the Presidency,” but let’s be honest: McCain at 72 in 2008 sure seems a lot more frail than McCain at 64 in 2000; if elected, I don’t think he’ll make it two terms, either due to a decision he makes or one his body makes for him. The result would be Palin becomes President, but it sure would be nice if she had at least a few years as Vice before that happens. This, in my mind, is the biggest risk of the gamble.

So far, at least, I like who Palin seems to be, as well as what she has seemed to get done in Alaska. It will be interesting to see what the media dig up on her (so far the worst seems to be the “TrooperGate” situation and a less-than-flattering basketball picture from the late-70s). I am interested as to if/how the whole “Sarah Palin is not the mother” rumor resolves, but since Palin seems as upright as she seems sharp, I find it hard to believe she would try to sneak that one by McCain and the national media.

Who will I vote for? My libertarian leanings (among other things) won’t allow me to jump on the Obama/Biden train – too much smoke and socialism there. Will I vote for the McCain/Palin ticket? Probably. Will I do so confidently? Confidently enough, I suppose, assuming nothing significant changes between now and November. Rest assured, regardless of who wins the election, God is not going to be surprised by the outcome, and that’s peace enough to avoid worrying about politics that will barely be a footnote in His story.

Thoughts?

Sobering Up

In Politics, Writers on August 29, 2008 at 5:56 am

Maybe I’m just suffering from a DNC hangover, but apparently I’m not the only one. You have to read David Brooks’ column in the New York Times today. It’s a little cynical for him, but see if you can spot some truth in and among the overstatement. Here’s his opening paragraph:

“My fellow Americans, it is an honor to address the Democratic National Convention at this defining moment in history. We stand at a crossroads at a pivot point, near a fork in the road on the edge of a precipice in the midst of the most consequential election since last year’s ‘American Idol.’”

Read the rest here.

Summarizing on a Saturday

In Education, Politics, Seminary, Sports, Westminster on August 23, 2008 at 11:31 am

I recognize the past week has been less than impressive in terms of original content. Here’s an attempt at righting that wrong:

1. As I see it, the selection of Joe Biden as Barack Obama‘s running mate makes a lot of sense…in the short term. Biden personifies age and diplomacy more than Obama does, and his infamous tongue will serve well in swatting away John McCain‘s attacks, thereby letting Obama do what he does best in focusing on the positive. Long term, though, the Democrats are going to be stuck after eight years, as no one’s going to elect Biden because of his age, and I don’t think even Hillary will be in the picture by then (though I still wouldn’t count her out in this race – stranger things have happened).

2. If McCain chooses Mitt Romney, I think he’s done. The two don’t even like each other, and both bolster the “rich, white guy” stereotype that unfortunately marks the Republican party. Maybe this is why Romney is actually a VP possiblity – it sends a message to the conservative base that McCain really is one of them – but that’s not going to be too motivating to moderates and undecideds weary of the stereotype. Picking Romney doesn’t seem very much of a maverick move for the Maverick, but I’m not sure who else in the Republican party would be. How about Ron Paul?

3. With the Olympics finishing up tomorrow, I have mixed feelings about these Games in China. My hope is that, through all the interaction with other countries and greater exposure to democracy, something would stir in China that, down the road, would bring real change to the lives of her citizens. My fear, however, is that any such seed will be rooted out, no thanks to the softened stance of mainstream American journalists (particularly NBC, who patronizingly broadcasted the Games) and the IOC‘s UN-like oversight of the whole spectacle in general. It will be interesting to see what comes of the investigation of China’s women’s little girls’ gymnastics team, and what the world’s response will be to the verdict (if indeed any is given).

4. I register for fall classes at Covenant this coming week, and then start the following Tuesday. I wish I had a little more of a breather between my summer course and the beginning of five new hours this semester, but I don’t get to vote. If all goes well, I should finish a master’s in theological studies in May of 2009 (that’s this coming spring!) and a master’s in educational ministries in May of 2010. Neither is that far away, but it still feels like miles to go before I sleep, as these folks must similarly feel.

5. Speaking of sleep, I have an uncanny ability to get some. I swear I was asleep twenty seconds after my head hit the pillow every night this week. My co-teacher, Larry Hughes, says I must have a clear conscience; I assure him it’s just that I’m tired.

6. I really like my classes at Westminster, and boy howdy, is it ever easier doing this the second time around. Whereas the first year seemed so much like walking in the dark and trying to teach something along the way, this year would seem to be the one in which I really figure out what exactly I’m teaching and the best way to teach it. I’ve got a great schedule, some cool kids (ones I’ve had and ones I haven’t), and I’m pretty pumped about taking bigger steps this year toward being a great teacher.

7. The new header above is not final. My friend, Kent, is playing with a couple design ideas after some feedback I gave him on the one above, so I should have the final one up soon. Hang with me.

I’ve got pictures and smoke detectors to hang, a few books to finish, and some email to catch up on this weekend, so I’ll wrap it up. If you’re still around, thanks for reading.

Obama’s Rainbow Tour

In Politics on July 25, 2008 at 8:44 am

Barack Obama, who, as a “citizen,” recently addressed 200,000 Germans (and the world) from the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, is the new (choose the best answer):

A) Ronald Reagan

B) Winston Churchill

C) John F. Kennedy

D) Eva Peron

I’m going with D. The buzz emanating from Obama’s trip reminds me of the chorus from “Rainbow Tour” (re-written here for effect) from the musical Evita:

“Let’s hear it for the Rainbow Tour 
It’s been an incredible success 
We weren’t quite sure, we had a few doubts
Would Obama win through? But the answer is yes”

Make no mistake: Obama is a rock star. Watching footage provided by his entourage (i.e. all major news network anchors), I couldn’t help but feel sorry for John McCain, who, in follow-up stories to Obama’s trip, seemed old and more out-of-touch with anyone under the age of 70 than I’ve seen him. What an image contrast, which – rather than international experience – is precisely what Obama is trying to highlight to the world in making his trip half-way around it.

Somebody in the Obama camp knows precisely what he or she is doing, positioning Obama as Churchill to McCain’s Parliament; as Kennedy to McCain’s Nixon; as Reagan to McCain’s Bush. But all the positioning in the world doesn’t work without a personality to position. Luckily for the Democrats, Obama – not Hillary Clinton – may turn out to be the real Eva Peron of the Party.

It’s Hard to Soar Like an Eagle When You’re a Turkey

In Family, Holidays, Places & Spaces, Politics on July 5, 2008 at 7:59 am

In case you didn’t know, Founding Father (sounds like a band name) Ben Franklin thought the turkey should be our national bird instead of the eagle. (I first learned this when I was doing the show 1776 – I played Richard Henry Lee – back in 1990 at the Jacksonville Theatre Guild.)

Though Franklin argues his point with John Adams in the show, the actual documentation of his thought comes from a letter he wrote to his daughter 18 months after the Great Seal (featuring an eagle) was adopted by Congress on June 20, 1782. An excerpt:

“For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

…For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America…He is besides, though a little vain and silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

I’m with Franklin on this one, and I did my best imitation of said turkey – especially the “vain and silly” part – in response to my kids’ desire insatiable and bloodthirsty lust to find and watch a fireworks show – any fireworks show – last night. Megan and I were tired (I’d taken the girls for a two-hour hike around Powder Valley conservation area in the afternoon, and we’d just had a nice meal and three-hour visit with our friends, the Sargents, in the evening, which was a perfect lead-in to an early bedtime). Thus, I tried to appease the ladies with a few televised versions of all things pyrotechnic from New York and Boston.

This seemed to work for a while, until someone in the neighborhood had the gall to shoot off a few live rounds two blocks over.The sound, of course, lured the girls outdoors, but unfortunately for them (and me – remember, it’s all about me), they heard more than they saw, resulting in incessant begging and whining to go somewhere – anywhere – to see the fireworks. I knew then that any hope of ending the evening without conflict was over, as they’d already had their baths and Megan had already taken a catnap since we got home. Worse yet, Daddy was going to be the bad guy, and not even Will Smith would be able to save this Independence Day.

I know, I know: not only am I a terrible father, I am also a terrible American. I should be shot and hung and forced to watch C-Span. I get that. But I’m a turkey; I’m not an eagle. I don’t relish the whole let’s-blow-up-millions-of-dollars-worth-of-fireworks-to-prove-ourselves-a-great-nation mentality. It’s too flashy; it’s too easy. Sure, I love the music and the marches that go with them, but I would love those anyway. I don’t need fireworks to appreciate great music.

I didn’t wear red, white, and blue on the Fourth of July – not in protest, but because we’re packing and trying to settle into a neighborhood to make a long-term investment in a local community. I’m lucky to find a fresh pair of whitie-tighties these days, let alone something red, white, and blue.

I’m a turkey, I tell you; I’m not an eagle.

I don’t need to be front row at a Live on the Levee (or what’s left of it) concert or capitalize on any one of a jillion July 4th sales going on around the city to make the most of the holiday. Sure, we have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” but I seriously doubt Thomas Jefferson was thinking too specifically of over-done corporate sponsorships and blowout Fourth of July sales when he sat down to write King George to let us go.

I don’t want to fight traffic and attend some big July 4th event. Instead, I very much like the idea of walking around the neighborhood mid-morning, noticing the lack of traffic, and being grateful that most folks get a day off and can be home. Not only is the freedom to do something a great thing, but freedom to not do something is often even better, especially if you can do (or not do) it with those closest to you.

I’m a turkey, remember; I’m not an eagle.

Yes, I take pride in our country and am grateful for our freedoms (even when I wonder sometimes about what freedom protects). No, I’m not waiting for us to become a perfect nation to merit a “legitimate” celebration (though I recognize my idealist tendencies and how they can sometimes come across). And yes, we’ll make things up to the girls today when we (in good American fashion) buy their affections by taking them to a movie this morning (courtesy of Megan’s folks).

But I don’t know if I’ll ever change my turkey ways. I suppose you could cry fowl with regard to my thinking and tell me to hang it on my beak, but to do otherwise would just not be true to my inner bird.

Gobble, gobble.

Who Needs Curriculum When You’ve Got New York?

In Marriage, Politics, Westminster on March 18, 2008 at 10:43 am

Last Monday, I started a unit with my ethics classes on the seventh commandment (“You shall not commit adultery”). For those watching the news cycle of late, you know that last Monday was the beginning of the whole Eliot Spitzer downfall and, as of yesterday, the disclosure of sexual dalliances by his replacement, David Patterson.

The events of the past ten days have made for some timely case studies with my students in our discussions of marriage. That said, I’ll be interested to get their responses tomorrow to this article in today’s New York Times that (once again) writes off such indiscretions as nothing more than naturalistic determinism.

Politics That Make You Go “Hmmm”

In Politics on March 3, 2008 at 9:14 am

In light of the primaries tomorrow (supposedly a dead heat), two questions keep floating through my head. First, why has Clinton‘s campaign been so poorly run (especially since January)? The second is, in light of number one, why is Obama not set to run away with the primaries tomorrow (and the democratic nomination as a result)?

Any theories?

Ron Paul for President

In Politics on February 3, 2008 at 10:47 am

In light of Super Tuesday this week (on my 37th birthday, no less), I feel compelled to own whatever influence I may have in the blogosphere and endorse the candidate I believe would be the best choice for America. After months of discussion and thought, the candidate I will be voting for (both this Tuesday and in November) will be Ron Paul.

In my analysis, Ron Paul best lines up with my understanding of what a democratic society organized under limited government for the defense of its citizens should be. I appreciate his commitment to the sanctity of life, affirm his support for greater parental rights in education (whether private, public, or homeschool), and say “yea and amen” to his principled Constitutional approach to lead by virtues instead of values.

If there’s an issue on which I see things differently from Ron Paul, it is immigration, not because I am opposed to secure borders or visa enforcement, but because I do not see how, realistically and practically speaking, some degree of amnesty for those already in the country will not need to be part of a true solution.

That said (and despite my doubts he can actually win in the media-driven, money-grabbing extravaganza known as our democratic process), my hope in going out on a limb here is to simply share my perspective, encourage you to engage in your own process, and, if you’re looking to align yourself with someone who’s voting for Ron Paul, to be one to give you permission to do so.

Ron Paul for President in 2008.

My Concession Speech

In Politics on January 30, 2008 at 12:56 pm

On the heels of Florida (and as John Edwards and Rudy Guillani are in the process of doing), I’ve decided to end my candidacy for President of the United States of America.

Unlike my opponents’, mine was a campaign almost exclusively of substance rather than style, of message rather than media circuses (or “circi,” as they should be called). I’m proud to say I dealt with the issues put before me in as honest and straightforward way as I could. Even in conceding defeat, I believe this does and should mean something.

Granted, if I had to do it again, I would consider spending some money to actually get the word out about what I said, as well as have held a press conference (or at least written a press release), but all that’s in the past now; I’m moving forward.

I trust that you, my faithful following, can move forward as well. Though I’ve been asked (at least by my wife) who I would endorse in the wake of my candidacy withdrawal, I feel it’s too early to extend my support just yet. I need time to process all that’s gone on this past year, to reconnect with my family, and to figure out who I’m for in the Super Bowl. Once those needs are met, I might have something for you.

As I close, let me just say thank you to those who believed the impossible – that is, that someone with no experience, no money, and no political affiliation could make a difference in this race. Thank you to those who dared to believe that our democratic process could work, that the grassroots of middle America could produce change, and that the privilege of serving in the public realm could be a privilege rather than a perk.

I heard you, friends – all six of you – and I believe that we as a nation have been the better for it. Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

Debate of the Union

In Politics on January 28, 2008 at 10:41 pm

Well, we watched President Bush give his final State of the Union address tonight. I would agree with those pundits who called his speech “realistic” – not a lot of new stuff or language to complicate things, which is probably why he sounded confident this evening.

It’s obvious Mr. Bush is staking any and all historical evaluation of his presidency on the outcome of things in Iraq, but it’s going to take years for clarity to come in that situation. In the meantime, get ready for a slow and steady lameduck fade in the face of a still wide-open presidential election as the current Debate of the Union continues.

In general, I experienced much of the same cynicism induced by last year’s speech (maybe a little more when W. was signing autographs for members of Congress). I would like, however, to present a very special award for the lamest Democratic response in American history to Kathleen Sebelius, governor of Kansas. If our military efforts in Iraq fail, perhaps she could bore the terrorists to death.

Thoughts?

Does Vegas Have a Line on This?

In Marriage, Politics on January 24, 2008 at 10:06 am

I can’t decide if Bill Clinton is trying to save the nation or his marriage by working so hard to get Hillary elected. Anybody got odds on them lasting if she loses?