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Friday, February 29, 2008

The GOP Candidate Selection Process is Broken

The GOP Candidate Selection Process is Broken

Well, John McCain is the de facto Republican nominee for President of the United States, perhaps the first Republican nominee for President that is not the clear choice of the majority of Republicans in the United States. The result is that Republicans in general, and conservatives in particular, are very unhappy with their nominee.

It was an almost bizarre selection process beginning with a caucus state, Iowa, that almost never votes for the Republican candidate for President in the general election. From there, the process moved on to New Hampshire where McCain won a plurality on the basis of support from Independents, while losing the Republican vote.

Based on late primaries after all the serious candidates have dropped out, McCain may indeed wind up with a majority of Republican votes, but the fact is he won the nomination only because of a deeply flawed nomination process.

The Republican Party needs to dramatically overhaul the selection process so that Republicans, not Independents, not Democrats, or any other group selects their nominee. Republicans need to remember that they are a private party and those who are active in the party should be the ones who select their nominees at the local, state and national level. 

McCain may win, but the likelihood is that like Tom Dewey, Richard Nixon (1960), Gerald Ford, and George H.W. Bush, his liberal approach will go down in flames in November. That’s the reality of Republican politicsModerate (read liberal) Republicans who are a "me too" shadow of their Democratic opponents lose. In contrast, those who firmly advocate and cling to conservative principleslike Ronald Reaganwin.

When the GOP allows the selection process to go forward in a way in which candidates who are the minority choice of the Republicans become the nominee, they are courting disaster. It’s time for a return to the tried-and-true convention process where Republican Party loyalists (in this private organization) select nominees who are conservative in principle and winners in November.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Good First Step

A Good First Step

John McCain’s speech to CPAC (the Conservative Political Action Conference) was a good first step in his effort to win back conservative support. Even though he "stacked" the CPAC audience with supporters, conservatives are now clearly willing to listen to what he has to say.

There’s no mistake about it, John McCain is no conservative. Just calling yourself a conservative or saying over and over that you were a "foot soldier for Ronald Reagan" doesn’t make you a conservative.

John’s leadership of the effort to expand the bureaucracy through McCain-Feingold clearly shows that he is not a legitimate heir of either Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan. The man does not understand how a free society works. 

His other liberal efforts including the McCain-Kennedy bill to grant amnesty to illegals, his brief flirtation with the idea of running with John Kerry, his repeated votes against tax cuts, and his "Gang of 14" blockage of getting good, constitutional judges approved does not indicate any form of a grounding in conservative principles.

Nevertheless, conservatives can see the wisdom of sticking with moderates under certain circumstances. They took a step backward and supported Nixon in 1968, they supported Ford in 1976, and they supported Bush (41) in 1988. Being patriots first, conservatives saw these candidates as being better than their opponentsand they were.

John McCain can have conservative support for his campaign, but he does not have it yet. There is time. He needs to reiterate his commitment to making the Bush tax cuts permanent, securing the border, appointing judges who will uphold the Constitution and other conservative initiatives.

But even more than this, John McCain must select a young, forthrightly conservative running mate if he wants conservative support. No off-again, on-again conservative will suffice. His running mate must be an articulate, firmly grounded, young conservative. Short of such a selection, the John McCain campaign is doomed to failure as have many other moderate Republican candidates.

John McCain’s selection of a running mate will be the moment of truth. Who he chooses will determine whether his campaign fails or succeeds. He holds his destiny in his hands.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir

            My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir

When Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas, was recently interviewed he was asked how he prepared to render a decision on any case before him. He replied with an explanation that should serve as a model for any judge. Basically, he said that he begins by trying to clear his mind of any preconceived notions or prejudices that might lead him to consider the case with an outcome in mind. Then, he proceeds to review the appropriate portions of the United States Constitution that might be applied to the case. After that, he has research completed on contemporaneous documents that were written by the writers of the Constitution seeking further illumination. And, of course, he reviews previous decisions that may have been similar to the case under consideration.

While I have paraphrased his response, what a beautiful, logical, simple, and fair approach to deciding cases before him! Is this not the very essence of what we expect from a judge at any level? If every judge took this response, it wouldn’t matter if they were conservative, liberal or whatever, and justice would be done.
Alas, that’s not the case, but at least we have a man of noble character on the US Supreme Court in the person of Clarence Thomas. And his recent book which I just finished is a beautiful and touching tribute to his grandfather, Myers Anderson, who taught him that it was more important to have good character, to work hard and honestly, and to be forgiving, than it was to succumb to lesser instincts.

The book is called a memoir, and it is, but it is also a testimony to the character and faith of a man who many think could be justified in being angry and getting even. But, "My Grandfather’s Son" is not that kind of book. It’s a book about his love for his family, his love for his country, and his Christian faith. Clarence’s life, like all lives, has been filled with challenges and disappointments, but few have endured the bitter hatred and vicious lies he faced with such patience.

Yes, Justice Thomas deals with his confirmation hearingsa true black mark on the record of the United States Senate. He provides intimate insights into the almost overwhelming opposition he faced. And when his opponents, especially Senators Biden and Metzenbaum, dipped into the bottom of the barrel leveling charges of sexual harassment they assuredly knew to be false, Clarence Thomas did not break. It was unbelievable behavior by men who knew better, but lacked the intellectual honesty to deal fairly and truthfully.

But, let Justice Thomas tell the tale and much more. It is a good book and one that should be read by every American. Clarence Thomas provides a role model that would serve any young man well. I commend it to you.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Case for a Creator

The Case for a Creator

After reading What’s So Great About Christianity, by Dinish D’Souza, I immediately picked up and read The Case for a Creator, by Lee Strobel (Zondervan). This is a book I had on my bookshelf for some time, but after reading D’Souza’s book, I was inspired to plunge into it and I’m glad I did. Published in 2004, this is an amazing book. I was enthralled.

Strobel started out life in a middle class home, raised by God-fearing parents who brought him up in the church. However, by the time he graduated from college and had a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, he was a committed atheist. But when his wife decided to become a Christian he couldn’t understand why. Fortunately, he had a very inquisitive and uniquely open mind. So he decided to investigate on the basis of logic, history, science, and philosophy. What he learned astounded him.

In many ways this book restates Lee Strobel’s investigation of some 30 years prior into whether cosmology, physics, astronomy, biochemistry, biology, and philosophy support the atheist’s claim that God does not exist. It is, of course, updated with interviews with current leading scientists. The book is written in the format of an investigative reporter who asks tough questions of top leaders in all the fields mentioned aboveworld renown scientists, Nobel laureates, and college professors from some of America’s top universities. 

Strobel writes in depth about topics that frankly, have been of very little interest to me, but he does so with such force and clarity that I had a very hard time putting this book down. These interviews with scientific leaders are so compelling, it’s hard not to agree with their conclusions. And some of these conclusions are amazing. Several believe that in the future scientists will become one of the leading advocates of faith.

Let me just share on a powerful excerpt from the book, pages 69 and 70:
"Allan Rex Sandage, the greatest observational cosmologist in the world—who has deciphered the secrets of the stars, plumbed the mysteries of quasars, revealed the age of globular clusters, pinpointed the distances of remote galaxies, and quantified the universe’s expansion through his work at the Mount Wilson and Palomar observatories—prepared to step onto the platform at a conference in Dallas.

"Few scientists are as widely respected as this one-time protégé to legendary astronomer Edwin Hubble. Sandage has been showered with prestigious honors from the American Astronomical Society, and the Swedish Academy of Sciences, receiving astronomy’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize. The New York Times dubbed him the 'Grand Old Man of Cosmology.'

"As he approached the stage at this 1985 conference on science and religion, there seemed to be little doubt where he would sit. The discussion would be about the origin of the universe, and the panel would be divided among those scientists who believed in God and those who didn’t, with each viewpoint having its own side of the stage.
"Many of the attendees probably knew that the ethnically Jewish Sandage had been a virtual atheist even as a child. Many others undoubtedly believed that a scientist of his stature must surely be skeptical about God. As Newsweek put it, ‘The more deeply scientists see into the secrets of the universe, you’d expect, the more God would fade away from their hearts and minds.’ So Sandage’s seat among the doubters was a given.

"Then the unexpected happened. Sandage set the room abuzz by turning and taking a chair among the theists. Even more dazzling, in the context of a talk about the Big Bang and its philosophical implications, he disclosed publicly that he had decided to become a Christian at age fifty."

You can find out why this world renown scientist decided to become a Christian when you read this powerful book. It is enjoyable reading. I urge you to get a copy and read it. It blew my mind.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What’s So Great About Christianity?

What’s So Great About Christianity?

If you haven’t read Dinesh D’Souza’s new book, What’s So Great About Christianity? (Regnery) yet, I urge you to do so. This is the first book on religion by D’Souza and it is certainly up to his past New York Times best selling standards. D’Souza has done much more than just write another book, he has taken on the atheists who are now openly attacking Christianity with books titled The God Delusion, The End of Faith, and God is Not Great, among others. In fact, after releasing this book, Dinesh has taken to the road debating the likes of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens.

This book could be called an apologetic in the historic sense of the word, i.e. apologetic meaning a defense of Christianity through reason and logic. Some theologians look down on apologetics as misguided because they argue that you can’t become a Christian through reason. They are right, of course. It is the Holy Spirit that creates faith in someone’s heart. Nevertheless, God has created a very orderly world and therefore challenges to his creation stand up to close scrutiny by both reason and logic. He is a God of order, not a God of disorder.

I won’t tell you that this new book by D’Souza is a quick read. It is not. Any book that contains an entire chapter on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant is not a quick read, but it certainly is a good and thoughtful read.

Moreover, D’Souza does an excellent job of debunking commonly held "facts" such as Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. It’s not, as it turns out. The ranks of unbelievers are growing is another canard pointed out by D’Souza. In fact, he points out that the ranks of unbelievers are shrinking. There’s more, much more in this challenging and enlightening book. You may not agree with all of it. I didn’t. But even if you don’t, you’ll find this book to be encouraging and illuminating. I commend it to you.

Monday, February 4, 2008

John McCain

                                        John McCain
Since Senator McCain is now the presumptive front runner for the Republican Presidential nomination, he deserves a second look.

I’ve made it clear that I’m not a McCain fan. Why? Is it because I had a run-in with the Senator more than 20 years ago? No, not really. It was a bad experience, but frankly I was treated much worse by then-Senator John Ashcroft, who I still respect as a committed conservative.

I honor John McCain for his valiant and courageous service to our country as a Naval Aviator and POW. I’m told by my good friend, who was himself a POW, that John McCain was one of the worst treated POWs because his father was, at that time, CINCPAC commander. He was also one of the most injured POWs. He is a hero in my book, but that alone doesn’t automatically qualify him to be President of the United States.

I appreciate the fact that he supported Ronald Reagan for President and supported him as a member of Congress. I’m sure the fact that then-Governor Reagan worked to free our POWs was part of the reason for John McCain’s support. If I had been a POW, I would have appreciated those efforts. Regardless of his reason, I appreciate his past support of Ronald Reagan, but John McCain has proven he’s no Ronald Reagan.

McCain-Feingold is exhibit number one. It expanded the size of the federal bureaucracy known as the Federal Election Commission. It limited free speech for individuals like you and me. It strengthened the power of the mainstream news media. It strengthened the power of the unions. It was a law that no reasonable conservative would have supported and certainly would never have co-sponsored. 

So why did John McCain back such a bill? There are two reasons. First, he was caught up in the Keating Five scandal which revolved around five members of Congress who have received financial favors from Charles Keating (Lincoln Savings and Loan) in return for legislative votes that benefited Mr. Keating and Lincoln S&L. The co-sponsorship saved John McCain’s political bacon.

But it’s also a lesson in John McCain’s political philosophy. He may be a conservative in his mind, but John McCain is always willing to sacrifice any principle to save his hide or advance himself politically. What’s good for John McCain is his primary political philosophy.

And then there’s McCain-Kennedy, a bill that calls for amnesty for illegal aliens. He now says he wouldn’t vote for his own bill and that the borders must first be secured, but the truth is that a McCain presidency means a "path to citizenship" for illegal aliens. You can bank on it.

McCain-Lieberman is yet another bill where McCain teams up with a liberal Democrat to impose a "Global Warming" tax on Americans. Any honest scientist will tell you that it is yet unproven that global warming exists and if it does, it is highly questionable that it is caused by humans. It is a documented fact, CO2 levels started increasing before the industrial revolution, therefore, statements that humans are causing global warming is suspect at best. In reality, global warming is a scientifically unsettled issue. Taxes and other economic changes such as John McCain seeks would without a doubt damage our economy for the long term and limit your freedom and mine.

It’s also hard to forget (or swallow) John McCain’s vote against the Bush tax cuts. I simply can’t imagine Ronald Reagan opposing tax cuts, can you? What kind of a conservative opposes tax cuts? When you can decide what to do with your hard earned dollars, that expands your individual freedom. When the government decides what to do with your dollars through taxation, your personal freedom is limited.

And what about John McCain’s leadership of the so-called "Gang of 14" that derailed efforts by the Bush White House and conservatives in Congress to circumvent the unconstitutional road blocks being thrown up by Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, et. al. to approving conservative judges? Just what kind of a conservative would do that?

More recently, there’s John McCain’s comment that while he would be willing to nominate judges like Roberts and Scalia to the US Supreme Court, he would not nominate someone like Alito because he wears his "conservatism on his sleeve." Translation—I don’t like Alito because he was active in the conservative Federalist Society. Just what makes you think that Senator Compromise would appoint conservative judges and be willing to fight the very same people he is so anxious to co-sponsor liberal bills with? Don’t bet on it.

If John McCain wants to prove he’s a conservative he can do so. Just say this: "I was wrong on McCain-Feingold. I was wrong on McCain-Kennedy. I was wrong on McCain-Lieberman. I was wrong on the Gang of 14. I was wrong on the Bush tax cuts. I was wrong to oppose drilling for oil in Alaska."

When John McCain does that we will know that he is now indeed a conservative. But don’t hold your breath.

There are other problems with John McCain. When he was first elected to the US Senate I was told that he was nearly kicked out of the Republican Senatorial Caucus. The reason was an out-of-control temper, his personal attacks, and language that would make a sailor blush. In fairness, I’m told that he now has his temper under control and his language has improved.

But John McCain has also shown himself to be capable of personal arrogance. When he was unable to convince the airlines to give him a nonstop flight from convenient Reagan National Airport (instead of Dulles National Airport a few miles further out), he put a hold on construction of the underground transportation system, thus inconveniencing tens of thousands of travelers just to suit his own needs.

The bottom line is that John McCain is not a conservative, he’s willing to change positions to advance himself politically, and he has some very bad personal failings. I have to admit that I have some bad personal failings, but then again, I’m not running for President of the United States. Because Senator McCain is not a conservative, because he has flip-flopped on issues, because his arrogance scares me, I won’t be voting for John McCain this year. I hope you’ll think long and hard before you do either.