Misleading or Incompetent?

Last night during the debate, at 10:15, when the President was doing his indignant act saying it was “offensive” to suggest he or anyone in his administration would deliberately mislead the American people about the attack in Benghazi, I tweeted:  “If you didn’t mislead you were ignorant #debate.”

Alana Goodman asks the right questions:

>Obama and the “T” Word « Commentary Magazine

Why, if the president immediately knew Benghazi was a terrorist attack, did he fly to Las Vegas for a fundraiser the very next day? Why didn’t he inform UN Ambassador Susan Rice before she went on the Sunday shows and blamed the attack on the anti-Islam film? Why didn’t he tell his own spokesperson, who insisted days later that “We have no information to suggest that it was a preplanned attack…And while the violence is reprehensible and unjustified, it is not a reaction to the 9/11 anniversary that we know of, or to U.S. policy”? Why did the president himself go on “The View” nearly two weeks later, and — when asked point-blank whether Benghazi was a terrorist attack — say that “well, we’re still doing an investigation” and “it wasn’t just a mob action”?

Who Would Jesus Deport

Today, the first of May, there were protest all over the country against Arizona’s new immigration law.  One protestor was carrying a sign  “Who Would Jesus Deport?” What if it said “Who Would Jesus Marry?”  (I mean by this not get married to but whose marriage would he preside over.)  Can you image the outrage?

The Left welcome Christian principles and arguments when they support, or they think they can be used to support, the things they agree with like homosexuality, immigration, the environment, and care of the poor.  They don’t seem to have any problem at all suggesting that governments should encode such principles into law.

At a blog I recently stumbled across and really like, the author, Wes Ellis, posted a prayer for humility regarding immigrants.  I liked it, and have no problem praying it in agreement with the him.  However, it implied to me that he thought Christian charity on this point should be the rule of law, so I posted a comment:

Amen, by which I literally mean, I agree and beseech God with you. I do, however, believe there is a distinction between the Church Universal and national policy.

As Christians, the true Jews, the command in Leviticus 19:34 is also commanded of us: “The alien who resides among you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.” Likewise Hebrews 13:2: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

This is how the Church should act, and pray.

That does not mean God’s left hand, the State, does not have an obligation to protect its citizens or enforce the laws, nor does it mean Biblical commands given to God’s people should be encoded into immigration policy.

To which he replied: “I don’t think God’s left hand would work in opposition to his right…”

This is loaded with all kinds of implications for Church/State relations, most of which the Left would condemn if used to support a conservative viewpoint.  It almost sounds like he supports a theocracy, like Israel was when God gave them the command in Leviticus.  Besides, nothing I wrote even implied that I thought God works at cross-purposes with Himself.

I think that we should be Christ to immigrants, and we should call on our government to create just policies. But those just policies have to take into account justice for the citizen. Forget popular sovereignty; only God is sovereign, and He established the US government (whether they know it or not) to govern US citizens.

Concerning the roles of the State in the Two Kingdoms, Luther argues that government is “First, established [by God] to provide order and maintain the peace. Second, it must wield the sword with justice and according to the statues and laws of the nation.” ((http://www.servetus.org/en/news-events/articulos/ensayo240206.htm“)) No government has ever been the source for God’s redemptive, social transformative work. That’s not its function. That is the task of His Church.

In an interview in 2004, N. T. Wright addressed this kind of thinking:

“I’ve sometimes hypothesized, what if someone were to say to Paul: ‘Well, according to your principle of love, all God’s people should share their possessions with one another. Therefore, some of us in the church think that we should help this process on the way by going into our neighbors’ houses and helping ourselves to whatever we fancy, thus liberating these objects from the spurious idea of possession.’ You can imagine someone might say, ‘Well, some of us believe in theft and others don’t, so let’s not judge one another.'”

As long as we have legitimate laws, the State has to enforce them. As a Christian I will minister to a resident alien, but I will not hire him or help him get here.  I simply do not see how my ministering to anyone obligates me to support a particular governmental policy.  Are we to just open the borders then?

Besides which, Chrisian principles of love and hospitality apply to all Christians in all places at all times.  So, should Christians in Japan, say, try to make the government relax its strict immigration policy?  Are all governments everywhere supposed to encode our beliefs into law?  Even in Iran, say?  Did Jesus intend His commands to His Church to be imposed on all people through the State?  Sure sounds like exactly what the Left is always accusing the Right of wanting.

When I protested his characterization of my comments, Mr Ellis clarified: “If God is in solidarity with the poor and with immigrants, and the government passes a law that is unjust toward immigrants, then God would be ‘cross-purposing’ himself.”

First, God does not stand with the poor and with immigrants, per se, in and of themselves.  He makes it sound as if just by virtue of stepping aross a border, even if done so illegally, even if done so with the intent to commit crimes, that somehow God stands with and for them, collectively, as a group, automatically.

Nor does it follow that because God clearly does have a heart for the outcast, the poor, the sick, the broken, the marginalized and oppressed that anytime a government passes a law that may not be equitable and just He is either working at cross-purposes with Himself or He is not really sovereign over the State.

It’s a flawed conclusion from an equally flawed premise.

Capture or Kill, War or Crime

In a “Washington Post” story today it was reported that under President Obama there are more targeted killings than captures in counter-terrorism efforts.  Senator Bond (R, Mo) says: “Over a year after taking office, the administration has still failed to answer the hard questions about what to do if we have the opportunity to capture and detain a terrorist overseas, which has made our terror-fighters reluctant to capture and left our allies confused.”

I’m confused too.  If terrorism is going to be treated by this administration as a crime rather than an act of war, and if those captured are going to be treated as criminals rather than enemy combatants, then isn’t it a crime, the crime of murder, to just kill them without a trial?  Let me get this straight.  We kill them so that we don’t have to worry about Mirandizing them and finding a place to hold a trial if we capture them?

How long can we maintain this kind of cognitive dissonance?  If the Left wants to try G.W. Bush for war crimes, does that mean we would try President Obama for murder?

Defending Polanski Badly

In a  story this morning in “The Los Angeles Times,” Patrick Goldstein defends Roman Polanski on some empty specious grounds.  Basically he thinks that since it’s been so long, the victim has forgiven him, prisons are over-crowded, CA is having financial trouble, and Mr. Polanski has experienced tragedy in his life that he should be released.  He seeks to deflect anticipated criticism by saying ” In the coming weeks, the Polanski affair will no doubt become a tabloid sensation, with op-ed moralists, excitable bloggers and the Glenn Becks of the world noisily weighing in on the propriety of his possible prosecution.”

His own piece is exactly that, an excitable, noisy instance of op-ed moralism.  Comparing Polanski to Jean Valjean, Mr. Goldstein seeks to make a moral equivalence between stealing bread to feed one’s family and drugging a 13 year old with Champagne and Quaaludes before raping her. He offers only non sequiturs in Mr. Polanski’s defense. To take each in turn:

The tragic events that befall a person have no bearing on the disposition of the unrelated crimes he commits (e.g. his childhood and the murder of his wife). A victim’s forgiveness is a pure and wondrous thing, but for the public interest the state has an obligation to ensure that certain laws are enforced. Image a mother shot by her son. Her last words, said to a police office who arrives at the scene and said in the presence of multiple witnesses, are: “Please do not put my son in jail. I forgive him.” The state must still prosecute. Prison overcrowding is a real public policy and societal problem in need of a solution, but that solution must come primarily from legislation and it must be broad in scope as it addresses classes of crimes. One can not use it to argue for the non-prosecution of one specific case.

He considers the “real tragedy” in all of this to be that Polanski “will always, till his death, be snubbed and stalked and confronted by people who think the price he has already paid isn’t enough.” I do not think one can consider the consequences of fleeing from justice a “price” at all. Being snubbed and confronted isn’t even close to being a “real tragedy,” and I find it reprehensible that anyone can consider that not only comparable but somehow more substantial than the tragedy of being drugged and raped, even if the “real” victim is fortunate enough to be able to forgive and move on. But can we really expect more from someone who makes a moral comparison between a fictional petty thief and a real pederast and rapist?

If there is another tragedy involved in this at all, it is that a celebrity who drugs and rapes a minor can flee justice and have the media argue that this is not, now, worthy of prosecution when one of those poor people the media treats as rhetorical arguments rather than persons would have long, long ago been justly consigned to one of those over-crowded prisons, and not an inch of newsprint would have been wasted defending him. Is this what being a “watchdog” has come down to? Breathlessly lashing out at a DA in righteous indignation for prosecuting a rapist? Arguing that fleeing prosecution and staying free for years is payment enough because of snubbing?

Mr. Goldstein laments the fact that the DA doesn’t seem to have better things to do with his time. One might wish that reporters had better things to do with theirs.

Related Stories: Dodgy Old Men, Amy Davidson, “The New Yorker”

Stephanopoulos Blinked

Rarely do the press actually ask President Obama any hard questions, but yesterday on ABC’s “This Week” George Stephanopoulos actually did.  He challenged President Obama’s support of the individual mandate within health reform legislation as a tax.  Obama was having none of it.  Here’s a relevant part of the transcript.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That may be, but it’s still a tax increase.

OBAMA: No. That’s not true, George. The — for us to say that you’ve got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase. What it’s saying is, is that we’re not going to have other people carrying your burdens for you anymore than the fact that right now everybody in America, just about, has to get auto insurance. Nobody considers that a tax increase.

People say to themselves, that is a fair way to make sure that if you hit my car, that I’m not covering all the costs.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it may be fair, it may be good public policy…

OBAMA: No, but — but, George, you — you can’t just make up that language and decide that that’s called a tax increase. Any…

STEPHANOPOULOS: Here’s the…

OBAMA: What — what — if I — if I say that right now your premiums are going to be going up by 5 or 8 or 10 percent next year and you say well, that’s not a tax increase; but, on the other hand, if I say that I don’t want to have to pay for you not carrying coverage even after I give you tax credits that make it affordable, then…

STEPHANOPOULOS: I — I don’t think I’m making it up. Merriam Webster’s Dictionary: Tax — “a charge, usually of money, imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes.”

OBAMA: George, the fact that you looked up Merriam’s Dictionary, the definition of tax increase, indicates to me that you’re stretching a little bit right now. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have gone to the dictionary to check on the definition. I mean what…

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, no, but…

OBAMA: …what you’re saying is…

STEPHANOPOULOS: I wanted to check for myself. But your critics say it is a tax increase.

OBAMA: My critics say everything is a tax increase. My critics say that I’m taking over every sector of the economy. You know that.

Look, we can have a legitimate debate about whether or not we’re going to have an individual mandate or not, but…

It most certainty is a tax increase.  “The Wall Street Journal” has a good analysis of this, but rather than follow through Stephanopoulos pulled his punch.  The key part of the exchange was here:

OBAMA: George, you — you can’t just make up that language and decide that that’s called a tax increase.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I — I don’t think I’m making it up. Merriam Webster’s Dictionary: Tax — “a charge, usually of money, imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes.”

OBAMA: George, the fact that you looked up Merriam’s Dictionary, the definition of tax increase, indicates to me that you’re stretching a little bit right now. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have gone to the dictionary to check on the definition.

At this point, Stephanopoulos should have said: “No, Mr. President.  The fact that I looked it up indicates that I am not just ‘making up the language,’ as you said,  but that I am using the word correctly.”  Instead Stephanopoulos blinked and put it off on Obama’s critics and gave the President an out that allowed him to once again mischaracterize his political opponents.

Related Stories: Obama’s Media Offensive, Karl Rove, “The Washington Post”

Steyn on Kennedy (or Why I Tend to Be Non-Progressive)

In general I would like to change the overall tenor of my blog away from the more polemical, reflections on the news-of-the-day, culture war sort, but something Mark Steyn recently wrote about Edward Kennedy summed up a lot of things for me.   Steyn is acerbic, clever and hilarious, the closest living writer we have to a Twain (in his journalism and travelogues (not fiction)).  I have debated with myself for years if an H.L. Mencken (whom I love though I don’t share his worldview) style of rhetoric and writing is appropriate for a Christian.  At one time I read a lot about Muggeridge, though I have only dipped into him, and have the sense that he may have pulled it off.

Steyn wrote: “If a towering giant cares so much about humanity in general, why get hung up on his carelessness with humans in particular?”  While I really do find that I tend to adopt mediating political and theological positions, though that does not make me a moderate, I am a thorough orthodox Nicene Christian with strongly held beliefs, and though I dislike hubris on either side, I tend to believe political conservatism (for all its faults, failures and excesses) tends to do less harm to humanity.  Basically it’s a slower descent on the road to hell.

Steyn’s quote above nails it for me.  Progressives care deeply about the Poor, and less about the poor.  They are more concerned with Environmentalism than they are the environment.  They love Humanity and hate man.  Jesus Christ was the opposite.  His life and ministry showed an unparalleled concern for concrete humans, and His death showed that that deep care was extended to all Humanity.  This is the arrow of love–it moves from the particular to the general–and without that focus on the concrete, historical person before you; that is, our neighbor, we can not truly exhibit compassion for humanity.

We see this in 1 Timothy 3.  An overseer should be gentle, temperate, faithful, self-controlled and hospitable, among others, all qualities that relate to specific, real, tangible human beings we are in family or community with.  We find an awful lot in Scripture about how to treat persons and not so much about how to treat peoples.  We find almost exclusively teachings on how individuals should relate to individuals and how communities of faith should relate to individuals (e.g. Matthew 18:15-17).  I can not think of a teaching off-hand that deals with our responsibility to our neighbor, family or community mediated through the government, unless it’s Jesus’s teaching to reconcile with another before it lands in court, suggesting, at least, that judicial intervention is a valid and necessary, if undesired, process.

It’s interesting to me that Jesus, Paul and Peter all addressed our obligations to the government, especially when the government they were referring to would be intolerable to us today, as long as it wasn’t in conflict with our obligations to God.  Nowhere I am aware of do they delineate the obligations of government to the individual or the individual’s obligation to other individuals through the government.

Don’t get me wrong; I cherish representative democracy even if it is “the worst form of government except all those others” (Churchill) which contains the “seeds of its own destruction” (Robert Welch) ((No I am not a member of the John Birch Society and know very little about it)), and ours is sliding into an insidious individualism with a destructive bent towards self-gratification and consumerism.  However, nothing we can do will remove the consequences of original sin.   When we try to “fix” problems, especially on a grand scale, we tend to make them worse–the more grand the proposed solution the less grand the outcome.

So, I tend to be generally more conservative politically and more radical (in the sense of the Sermon on the Mount, not French Revolution) personally. Conservatism should be about conservation (and I should say I tend to an older pre-Reagan conservatism, one that at one time would have embraced thinkers like Wendell Berry), and the best way to conserve is to plant.  If democracy does indeed contain within itself the seeds of its own destruction, as all human Babels must, then at least it takes longer for the weeds to flourish because there are just so many vibrant, beautiful plants growing.

Governments do indeed have positive roles to play; some problems (e.g. toxic waste, highways, defense, education) need resources, regulations and direct intervention, but governments deal with people in the aggregate and abstract, and this leads to care for Humanity and carelessness towards humans.  It creates a situation in which people can advocate for health care as a positive right while denying life to millions.  Medical treatment guaranteed to the sick by governmental legislation is not as  legitimate a function of government, if at all, than protecting the innocent or defending those who can not defend themselves.  Because the unborn have been abstracted to fetuses, we have decided they are not human and have no rights.  The first right a government should protect is the right to life.  Even liberty itself comes after that!

It is not progress to medically treat a person with the flu in the same hospital where an unborn baby is deprived of her life and where another baby is born and another is operated on in the womb.  (While most abortions are done in specialty “clinics,” there are still hundreds of hospitals that perform them, and even if they were not, it’s not progress to treat those who were born while killing others. The hospital was a useful, but unnecessary, comparison.)  Yes, of course, I think the conditions which drive some women to abortion need to be addressed.  That’s why we adopted two older, special needs children out of the public adoption system after they were removed from their mother.

Desipte what Obama said in his address before Congress on September 9th, don’t be fooled into thinking that if we get a national public option we won’t eventually get tax-payer funded abortions.  They already have them in Canada.

Render unto Caesar, but love your neighbor.

Congressmen: Help Us to Help You

Years ago talk of term limits was all the rage when discussing the restoration of American democracy.  I think it’s time to bring such talk back.  Much of the current economic crisis can be laid at the steps of the Capitol building, but we keep electing them over and over.

Just this morning on the way to take the kids to school I heard on NPR that Obama  is definitely going to nominate NH senator Judd Gregg as commerce secretary.  Of course this speculation has been in the news and the hold up was that Gregg did not want his seat to go to a democrat.  Apparently they worked out a deal because both NRP and the AP are reporting this morning that:

Nevertheless, it’s all but certain Lynch will choose a Republican, probably Bonnie Newman. She is a veteran of the Reagan White House who served as Gregg’s chief of staff during his House tenure. Under such a plan, Newman would not run in the 2010 election for the Senate seat. [emphasis added]

NPR added that the reason Newman would not run in 2010 was so that a democrat would have a chance!

If incumbency is such a powerful force that in 2 years time a person would have a lock on a seat–which is basically what happens each time a new person is elected to the House–then we have a problem, and that problem must be part of the nature of democratic elections.

Perhaps there’s some political mechanism embedded into the very structure of democratic elections the way certain people have biological mechanisms which predispose them to addictions.  I don’t know, but it is a political fact that elections advantage the incumbent.

It’s also self-evident that the temptations inherent in power are so strong that few are ever able to resist them for long.  From Richardson to Geithner to Daschle it is clear that we won’t have change in this administration; we won’t have reform.

We can’t because just as the addict becomes controlled by his addiction the politician becomes controlled by a self-interest to remain in power.

Meanwhile, we have Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger who safely crash lands–or should that be crash floats?–a plane into the Hudson and then calls the library to tell them he can’t return the book on professional ethics he had borrowed.

That’s the kind of person we need in office, but it would be wrong to leave him there long.   Human nature is such that no one can avoid corruption, even in a decent and well-structured system.

Many of our elected representatives are honorable, decent women and men who go into politics with a genuine and noble desire to serve the people.  We owe them gratitude and honor (in the same way we owe it to the men and women in uniform), but we rarely give it because they overstay their welcome.  But, just like those who go into combat need respite and relief–and still will never fully heal emotionally and spiritually even if they are never wounded–so our elected representatives need to be helped by relieving them of the temptation to power.

Someone who day after day exposes himself to a toxin for the good of others can not walk away if that toxin is compelling and addictive.  George Washington was able to do it, but he was the exception who proves the rule.  The rest of them need our help.  They can not do it themselves.

We need a Constitution amendment.  Congress has to propose it.  “Ay, there’s the rub.” They have to commit political suicide, and just like with Hamlet it may be  “a consummation Devoutly to be wished,” but the dreams that may come when they have shuffled off their political coils give them pause.  And so, “That makes calamity of so long a [political]  life.”

There must be enough of a grassroots outcry that they are forced to deal with their addiction.  We need a national intervention for their sake and ours.