All Aboard the Hypocrisy Train

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

To the astonishment of…no one…Mitch McConnell announced within hours of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that a nomination from President Trump to fill the seat “will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.” No surprise here. The Republicans wouldn’t consider an Obama nomination eight months before the 2016 election, but they’re determined to get Trump’s a month and a half before the 2020 election. Shameful. Embarrassing. Partisan nonsense. No one should be proud of this. Mitch McConnell needs to go.

It is not just Mitch McConnell, though. John Thune, the Majority Whip, echoed his leader, saying, “As Leader McConnell has said, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the U.S. Senate.” Not wanting to be left out, Texas senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn promptly jumped on board Mitch McConnell’s hypocrisy train. According to the Texas Tribune, Cruz announced on Friday that an “urgent confirmation” was needed. In an opinion piece for FOX News on Sunday, Cruz insisted that Trump “must nominate a successor next week and…the Senate must confirm that successor before Election Day.” His reasoning? It is why the American people elected President Trump and a Republican Senate, there is historical precedent, and, given the possibility of a contested election in November, America cannot be left with an eight-member Supreme Court.

A few thoughts here…

First, using George Washington’s election-year nominations as an example doesn’t even really count. His two nominations in 1796 were both confirmed the very next day. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both made election year appointments too, and their nominations were confirmed within a week. But politics have changed so drastically since then that those examples cannot really be considered fairly.

In an article published last month in the National Review, Dan McLaughlin made the same point, insisting both that “History supports Republicans filling the seat,” and that doing so “would not be in any way inconsistent with Senate Republicans’ holding open the seat vacated by Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016.” Really? Let’s see…

McLaughlin makes the same point that Cruz did, citing “twenty-nine times in history” when there has been an election year or lame duck session appointment. He names Washington, Adams and Jefferson. Then he mentions Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln nominated Salmon Chase as Chief Justice, to replace Roger Taney, on December 6, 1864. Four things about this appointment are noteworthy. First, it is a real historical travesty that Roger Taney was ever on the Supreme Court, given his decision in the Dred Scott case. Second, Chase was confirmed the same day that Lincoln nominated him, beating even the quick confirmation that Washington received for his nominees. Third, as I mentioned, Lincoln appointed Chase on December 6. The election took place in November, and Lincoln won. Given that as far as anyone knew at that time Lincoln would be president for another four years, any delay would have been pointless. Fourth, however, and perhaps most importantly for this discussion, Taney died on October 12, 1864—four days shy of one month before the election. But Lincoln did not appoint Chase until two days shy of one month after the election. If Cruz, McLaughlin and Company want to use Lincoln as a precedent, it is not one in their favor.

McLaughlin also points out Ulysses S. Grant as an example. But, like Lincoln, Grant appointed Ward Hunt to the Supreme Court during an election year, but after the election—he appointed him on December 3; it was after Grant had already won re-election; and Grant appointed Hunt to replace Samuel Nelson, who retired from the Supreme Court on November 28, 1872, twenty-three days after the election—meaning that there was no vacancy prior to the election, and the appointment was not during a lame duck session.

Taft’s nomination was in February of the election year. Wilson’s were in January and July of the election year. Hoover’s was in February of the election year. FDR’s was in January of the election year. These would have been terrific precedents in support of Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016, but they do not do much to help McConnell and friends in this instance.

Oddly, McLaughlin claims “Dwight Eisenhower did it” but he didn’t. Eisenhower made appointments in 1955 and in 1957, but not in 1956, which was the election year.

LBJ nominated two in June of an election year and both were withdrawn–one due to a filibuster of the nomination to move Abe Fortas to Chief Justice, and the other because Homer Thornberry had been nominated for the Associate Justice position Fortas would have been vacating. Ronald Reagan nominated Anthony Kennedy one year before the 1988 election, but he was confirmed in February of the election year–by a Democratically-controlled Senate. (And any true conservative now wishes that the Democrats would have declined!)

Second, the Republicans put themselves in the position they are now in. President Obama nominated Merrick Garland in March 2016. That means Obama still had 20% of his term remaining. But the Republicans refused to even consider the nomination; they wouldn’t even allow it to come to a vote. Even if Trump were to make a nomination tomorrow, he has only about 7% of the current term remaining. Outside of Washington, Adams and Jefferson, there has never been a nomination made later than July of a presidential election year and before the election, with one exception. That exception was Millard Filmore’s nomination of Edward Bradford on August 16, 1852—and there was no action taken by the Senate. So, Cruz’s appeal to historical precedent falls woefully flat. Even John Tyler, who nominated three men a total of five times in the first six months of 1844 quit in June and did not act again until after the election, when he tried twice more in December.

The bottom line is that if Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans would have allowed the Garland nomination to proceed in 2016 this would be a completely different situation. But they did not, and now they find themselves faced with waiting or becoming guilty of obscene hypocrisy…and I think we all know which they are going to choose.

President Trump should absolutely make the nomination. Indeed, doing so could even help the Republicans in the November election, and he has every right to do so. But the Senate should not act on it. In fact, acting on it could well come back to bite McConnell and friends. As Russell Berman wrote last Friday in The Atlantic, “A number of Republican senators have already said they’d want to fill a Supreme Court vacancy while Trump is still in office. But McConnell would need the votes of 50 out of his 53 members to allow Vice President Mike Pence to break a tie (assuming all Democrats voted against Trump’s nominee), and the numbers may not be on his side.” In reality, Berman was being kind. Republican senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski are already on record opposing a confirmation at this stage, and just about everyone knows that Mitt Romney is not going to support Donald Trump on this one.

Ironically, McLaughlin states in his article, “Norms are crucially important. If parties cannot trust that the other side will abide by established norms of conduct, politics devolves rapidly into a blood sport that quickly loses the capacity to resolve disagreements peaceably within the system.” He’s right, of course—only he is not right in the way that he thinks he is. He thinks history is on his side, and that that Senate should act to confirm. As we have seen, though, he is wrong about that. The norm of conduct that the Republicans established in 2016 is simple—no confirmation during an election year. No amount of foaming at the mouth or attempting to stretch historical precedent to fit their narrative will change that. The Republicans set the precedent, now they need to follow it. If they do not, they will have only themselves to blame when the tables are turned—which eventually they will be—and when voters express their displeasure—which at least some will.

Additional irony for the fire – since 1981, the only SCOTUS nominee to be appointed and confirmed within the amount of time that is available now before the November election was Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Image credit: Gage Skidmore, with the conductor cap added by Jason Watson.

Love Wins

Unless you live under a rock you have been already been inundated by news stories, blog posts, Facebook status updates and tweets about the Supreme Court’s decision last Friday making homosexual marriage legal in the United States.I could comment at length on the decision itself, and perhaps at some point I will. In reality, most of what I would say has already been shared in this space before in my warnings about the slippery slope we are on and where that will lead once we step onto it. With Friday’s ruling I believe we have stepped fully onto that slope–not gingerly or cautiously, but jumped on with both feet. As we slide down that slope we will pick up momentum and there is, sadly, no telling what kind of condition we will be in when we come to a crashing stop at the bottom.

Perhaps the most common hashtag over the past few days has been this one: #LoveWins. I have no idea how many times it has been tweeted or otherwise posted around social media but I suspect it would be in the millions. President Obama and Vice President Biden both tweeted it. Hillary Clinton tweeted it with instructions on how to get a free bumper sticker from her presidential campaign that features the word HISTORY in the ubiquitous rainbow color scheme of the homosexual movement. Above the bumper sticker was the headline “All love is equal.” tweeted “It’s only a matter of time before #LoveWins worldwide.” Coca-Cola was one of many companies quick to embrace the ruling and be sure everyone knows that they celebrate the decision, and Facebook made it possible for uses to place a rainbow-colored overlay over their profile pictures in a show of support.

The problems here are almost innumerable, so I am not going to get into many of them. Let me just say this briefly. The definition of marriage, and the redefinition of marriage by SCOTUS, has nothing to do really with love. Love is both an emotion and a decision, and it is something that many people feel and have toward many other people. Whether or not someone loves someone else is not the only necessary ingredient for marriage. (Indeed, one could argue whether or not it even is a necessary ingredient, but that is a completely different conversation). That “love” seems to be what everyone is celebrating with this decision is part of that momentum with which we are hurtling down the slippery slope toward a high velocity collision at the bottom. If marriage will be based and defined solely on whether or not people love each other than we have–as I have warned repeatedly before–obliterated any grounds on which we could now restrict marriage to a man and a woman, two men or two women. How could we now say that if a man and three women love each other they cannot be married? How can we say that if an adult and child love each other they cannot be married? If someone claimed to be in love with a dog, how could we not allow that person to marry that dog? Anyway, enough on that; it is not really my point here today.

What troubles me most of all about the #LoveWins mess is that it distorts what love really is. I will not delve too deeply into that right now either, though. Instead, I want to focus on the fact the love won a long, long time ago. Actually, Love won, and God is Love. In the beginning, God created humans with a free will. If I were God, I would have seriously considered nixing that idea I think, particularly since God’s omniscience means He was well aware of what we would do with that free will. That free will led to Eve yielding to Satan’s temptation, Adam following her lead, and the sin nature that each of us is now born with. That free will God gave us paved the way for every sin we have ever committed, every decision we (collectively) have made to reject God completely or to reject His instructions and guidelines periodically or consistently. It was because God loves us that He gave us a free will; He would rather be loved by those who have chosen to love and follow Him than by legions of human robots who have no choice but to love and obey.

More importantly, God’s love is so great that when sin did separate us from Him He decided to send His only Son to pay a penalty we could never pay–a perfect, sinless blood sacrifice on the cross at Calvary. When Jesus Christ was crucified, paying for your sins and mine, when He was buried and rose again, conquering sin, death, hell and Satan, love won. Satan cannot win. He still fights on with dogged determination but even knows how the story ends. Our understanding of love from a human perspective is distorted, perverted and skewed by selfish desires and the pursuit of pleasure and happiness. God IS Love, and His love is unfathomable. We can understand it enough to appreciate it and accept it, but the realities of its scope and depth and breadth are incredible. I have addressed this here before as well, and it would be easier for to you just read God’s Love Is than for me to restate what I think has already been well articulated. What I want to leave with here is this: Yes, Love Won, but not on Friday when five people in black robes decided to redefine marriage. Love Won over two thousand years ago when Jesus Christ died, was buried and rose again. Love Won from the moment God spoke the universe into existence. The approval of a redefinition of marriage to allow homosexuals to marry is not evidence of love; rather, it is evidence of the workings of Satan and of man’s desire to remake truth to fit his own wants and whims. Despite our best efforts to ignore, change or destroy His Truth, God’s Truth and God’s Love are the same today as they have always been and as they will always be. Not because of the SCOTUS decision, but in spite of it, Love Wins.

“It’s just criminal behavior”

As a native of Maryland and someone who has enjoyed many days in the city of Baltimore, I feel I have a closer feel for the violence and idiocy on display there over the past few days than I have had to other violent protests like the one that took place in Ferguson, Missouri. Knowing the city provides a more real appreciation for what is happening, even if it makes no less sense. Rarely have I ever taken to this space to point out something on which Barack Obama and I agree, but in this instance we do. In a report on CNN Wednesday the president was quoted as saying that police officers and police departments need to be held accountable–and that is true. He said police departments need to build up trust in the communities they serve, and that it true, too. (I would add that it is equally true that we need to teach young people to respect those in law enforcement, not to fear or disrespect them). More importantly, though, President Obama said that the rioting in Baltimore is “counterproductive.” He went on to say, “The kind of violence, looting, destruction that we saw from a handful of individuals in Baltimore, there’s no excuse for that. That’s not a statement, that’s not politics, that’s not activism, it’s just criminal behavior.” Quite right.

What too few people seem to understand is that there is nothing even remotely synonymous about the riots, violence and destruction taking place in Baltimore and free speech or serious efforts to reform potentially dangerous practices in a police department. Breaking the law is no way to bring about reform within law enforcement. Destroying property accomplishes nothing, especially when it is the property of a business or private individual. Looting and robbing accomplishes nothing. Smashing police cars and attacking police officers accomplishes nothing. All this behavior does is demonstrate a stupidity on the part of the rioters. If these individuals are so easily whipped into a frenzy that they will shatter windows, run out of a store with stolen merchandise, light fires, throw rocks and more, these are individuals who have zero sense of self control or discipline. They behavior demonstrates exactly why law and order is needed. There are enough cameras going off in Baltimore these days–whether security cameras, cell phone cameras or honest-to-goodness cameras in the hands of both journalists and private citizens–that dozens of offenders should be able to be identified. Every one of them should be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. This kind of behavior is ” counterproductive…it hurts communities that are already suffering,” Obama said.

Sadly, Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake served only to add fuel to the fire. She originally stated that those who wanted to destroy should be given space to do so, according to various reports. Fox News reports that a law enforcement source has informed them that Rawlings-Blake gave a stand-down order early on in the rioting. If that is true, she should be impeached at the earliest possible opportunity for violating her oath of office and acting counter to the responsibilities she holds as the mayor of the city. Oddly enough, she then called the rioters “thugs” in later statements…but has since backed down from that and apologized for using the term. On Tuesday she recanted that statement and said, “We don’t have thugs in Baltimore. We have a lot of kids that are acting out, a lot of people in our community that are acting out.” While that is true–people are acting out–the term “thug” fits. and Merriam-Webster both define thug as “ruffians”–and ruffians are bullies or brutal persons. People who start smashing windows, lighting fires and throwing rocks are absolutely bullies and ruffians.

Interestingly, multiple news sites are reporting that “thug” is the new “N-word.” That is ridiculous; groups cannot hijack the English language because they are offended by a word. If a word is an accurate descriptor of a person, a people group or behavior, we cannot allow that group to stand up and say “you cannot call me that, it is offensive.” How absurd is it that the same people who are smashing, lighting, throwing and screaming are also whining about the word being applied to their behavior? How stupid is it that people who are breaking the law are complaining about the label being put on their actions? We would laugh in derision if someone convicted of robbery were referred to as a “thief” and complained about it. There are many–of various racial backgrounds–who celebrate and promote the “thug” image in rap and hip-hop music. They have no ground to stand on when the word they are glorifying in their words and play acting is applied accurately to real behavior.

The comments of the mayor of Baltimore, the behavior of the thugs in the streets and the objections of those feigning offense at the word “thug” are not the only examples of stupidity on display in this mess, unfortunately. The dean of the University of the District of Columbia Law School, Shelley Broderick, apparently felt compelled to get her foolishness into the mix, too. She has informed the students at the law school that they can defer their exams if they go to Baltimore to work with those involved in the rioting because it will be good training for their futures and because it is essential to provide legal assistance to those involved in the “police accountability movement.” I am not making that up, either–that was her term for the rioting, thuggery and lawlessness on display in Baltimore. It is difficult to imagine how we will be able to move past the uncivilized and barbaric behavior that seems to be the initial reactions of those set on fanning the flames of racial unrest in the United States when those who are entrusted with training the next generation of lawyers are referring to criminal behavior as a “police accountability movement.”

I should point out that for each of the incredible examples of lunacy described above there are many other people demonstrating cooler heads, common sense and an appropriate grasp of reality. These are the people who need to be heard, who need to be followed and who need to be encouraged. If there was any police brutality or inappropriate treatment of Freddie Gray then that needs to be investigated and dealt with; those responsible, if anything happened that should not have, need to be held accountable. Sadly, dealing with that will have to be put in the back burner while the chaos in Baltimore is quelled and cleaned up. Stupidity itself is not a crime in the United States, for which we should all be grateful, but when that stupidity results in behavior that is actually criminal, we need to call it what it is and treat it accordingly.

The State of the Union

In my last post I explained the very serious problem that is the United States’ position on abortion. Unfortunately, there were a few other problems with Mr. Obama’s State of the Union address, too.

Just a few minutes into the address the President said, “It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come.” I see two issues there. One, it really is not up to us. It is actually up to Someone much bigger than “us”, whether you mean any of “us” individually or the collective “us”. Mr. Obama’s comment reminds of something we have probably all heard in commencement addresses, when the speaker tells the graduates, “You can be anything you want to be. Whatever you put your mind to, you can do.” Well, not really. We hear it all the time, but deep down we all know it is just not true. There are some things that, no matter how much we might want to, just will never be. It is at our own peril that we ignore the fact that God is big and we are small, that He is omnipotent and we most definitely are not, that He knows tomorrow and we usually have a hard time figuring out today.

The other problem I see with the “up to us” statement is that we do not know who “us” is. “Us” usually refers to the collective “we.” But “we” have made it clear time after time that we do not want homosexual marriage and we want very strict limitation on abortion. The courts, however, have not seemed to care in the least what matters to “us” in those instances. If by “us” President Obama means the elected officials who were sitting in the House chamber when he delivered that speech, we should all be very afraid.

I confess I do not know what he may have been referring to, but Mr. Obama also said that “we’ve seen…our deficits cut by two-thirds.” Really? What deficits might those be, pray tell? According to the Office of Management and Budget, the U.S. national debt was $10 trillion at the end of the George W. Bush administration. It is now over $17 trillion. How might we have added $7 trillion dollars to the debt during Obama’s administration while simultaneously reducing the deficit? According to the Congressional Budget Office numbers, 2013 was the first year of the Obama administration in which the annual national debt increase was not higher than it had been in any previous administration. Even the 2013 increase was lower only than the last year of the Bush administration; it was still higher than the other seven Bush years. And while the total budget deficit did go down for three consecutive years from 2011 to 2013, the 2013 numbers were about half of the 2009 numbers, not one-third. These numbers are not difficult to find, Mr. President; why not just tell us the truth?

Mr. Obama played the clanging cymbal of the minimum wage increase during his address, too. He challenged the members of Congress to support a family on less than $15,000 a year if they are unwilling to raise the minimum wage. I have explained at length in this space before why a minimum wage increase is not the panacea those who support it seem to think it is, so I will not go into that here. Suffice it to say that the minimum wage is supposed to be exactly that–the minimum. No one should stay there indefinitely. Neither was it ever intended to provide for the support of a family.

Mr. Obama also commented that “we stand united with people around the world who’ve been targeted by terrorists, from a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris.” With all due respect, Mr. President, sending Secretary of State John Kerry to Paris with James Taylor to sing “You’ve Got a Friend” is probably not what the French people have in mind when they hear us say we “stand united” with them.

Despite all of the above, the most troubling thing about Barack Obama’s address other than his silence on the right to life was this gem: “And no challenge, no challenge, poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change. 2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record.” Really? The National Climactic Data Center does claim that 2014 was the warmest year across global land and ocean surfaces since anyone started keeping records in 1880, but there are so many ways to spin this information it is not even funny. Ignore the fact that I do not think climate change is much of a problem at all; even if it is, is it really the greatest threat to future generations? I doubt it, though I suspect ISIS appreciates being overlooked.

It’s important to know what the President has to say. It is equally important, though, to check your facts. All may not be as it seems.

The Weakest Link

On Tuesday, President Obama delivered the annual State of the Union address to Congress and the nation. As presidents (almost always) do, Obama proclaimed the state of our union to be strong. However, his address, regardless of whatever else you may think of it, also proved a prime example of the proverb about the weakest link: a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, it says. If that is true–and I think we have all seen ample evidence in our lives that it is–then the state of our union is actually quite fragile. Let me tell you why.

President Obama, as he has done repeatedly throughout his administration, championed the rights of all “people groups” in his SOTU address. The “last pillar of our leadership,” Obama said, is “the example of our values.” What do those values include, according to Mr. Obama? Respecting human dignity, speaking out against “deplporable anti-Semitism,” “rejecting offensive stereotypes of Muslims,” defending free speech and advocating for political prisoners. It also includes “comdemn[ing] the persecution of women or religious minorities or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.” And why do we do these things? “We do these things not only because they are the right thing to do but because, ultimately, they make us safer.”

Really? In many cases, I would say that’s true, but there is a glaring exception to Mr. Obama’s position.

He went on to state that, “As Americans, we have a profound commitment to justice.” For that reason, he said, it is time to shut down the terrorist prison on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Keep in mind, of course, that the detainees at Gitmo are suspected or convicted terrorists.

Several paragraphs later, President Obama stated that Americans “live the idea that we are our brother’s keeper, and our sister’s keeper.” Then, a few lines later, “[A] better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears.”

What we do not see in any of this rhetoric is any acknowledgement of the unborn. We respect human dignity, the president said, but apparently not the dignity of the unborn. We deplore anti-Semitism and reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims (as we should), but evidently we neither deplore nor reject the notion that a woman has the right to kill an unborn child in her womb. We condemn the persecution of women or religious minorities or homosexuals, but we allow and even champion the “right” of a woman to dispose of another human being if that human being’s birth or temporary occupation of a uterus is inconvenient. We are committed to justice, yet somehow that means closing a prison that houses dangerous terrorists while permitting the murder of unborn children. We are the keepers of our brothers and sisters, but evidently only after they have left the womb; until then, they’re out of luck. Our “basic decency” does not include defending the right to life.

The President’s only mention of abortion was when he said this: “We still may not agree on a woman’s right to choose, but surely, we can agree it’s a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows….” Of course we can agree that is a good thing! Yet the fact that those numbers are at all-time lows (if they are; I have not checked the numbers) does not, by any means, negate or excuse the fact that we still murder a million unborn children every year. According to the Guttmacher Institute’s July 2014 fact sheet on abortion, “Half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion” and “Twenty-one percent of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion.” This is not okay!

Just a few paragraphs from the end of his address, President Obama said, “I want our actions to tell every child, in every neighborhood: your own life matters, and we are as committed to improving your life chances, as committed as we are to working on behalf of our own kids.” In fact, Mr. Obama is not committed to improving the life chances of children at all. He may be committed to improving the chances they have in life, and he may desire to see today’s children have wonderful opportunities during their lives, but his commitment does not begin until the child leaves the womb.

As long as abortion is legal in the United States–as long as we are willing to, as a nation, defend and embrace the “right” of a woman to kill her unborn child–the state of our union will never truly be strong. When we refuse to defend the sanctity of life, we undermine everything else we claim to stand for. The United States’ position on abortion is truly its weakest link.

Listening to the Other Side

Back in May Janie B. Cheaney wrote a piece for WORLD entitled “The debate is never over.” I was reminded of it yesterday when I wrote about Amanda Marcotte’s rant against those who hold to the position that unborn babies have a right to life. Cheaney began her column by quoting Barack Obama’s assertion that the debate over the Affordable Care Act “is over.” She went on to explain why that assertion was false and also why the tactic of declaring a debate to be over in the midst of that very debate is a tried-and-true, although entirely un-American, strategy.

I am not going to elaborate on Cheaney’s comments about Obamacare; you can find and read her column if you’re interested. But she made a point near the end of her piece that pertains to Obama’s declaration in the ACA, to Marcotte’s declaration on abortion, to many evolutionists’ declarations on creation and to any other debate in which either side tires of the debate and simply decides to say, “It’s over. I win.” Here is what Cheaney writes…

The nation that began with shouting and guns has–with one notable exception–developed a talent for settling disputes without guns, though always with shouting. Violent argument in pursuit of reasonable law is what we’re all about. But as dead set as we are on our own opinions, we must make room for listening and responding to what the other side actually says. “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13). In this country, debate is seldom over. If and when that day comes, what will really be over is the United States.

Cheaney’s point is that the United States is built around the idea that opinions and beliefs should be freely and passionately argued in the pursuit of law. Those on either side of the political spectrum who would rather just tell the other side to shut up and then declare victory are not only attempting to become philosophical bullies, they are undermining the very essence of what it means to be American. So rarely do we stop to think about what it would be like to be on the other side! Amanda Marcotte would never suggest the debate is over if the law of the land currently prevented abortion. Barack Obama would never have declared the debate to be over if Congress had voted to de-fund Obamacare. Evolutionists would never declare the debate to be over if every school board in the country decided that creation would be taught in the classroom as well as the theory of evolution. That’s the way bullies work, though; as long as they are the biggest, baddest, toughest and meanest it’s their way or the high way. Let someone bigger and badder some along, though, and their position instantly does a one-eighty. So I would ask Mr. Obama, Ms. Marcotte and others to kindly recognize that the debates are not over.

At the same time, though, I would like to ask those of us on the other side of those arguments–myself included–to remember the same thing. We have to be willing to listen to and respect the positions of those who disagree with us if we want them to listen to and respect us. We do not have to agree with them. We do not necessarily even have to be willing to compromise with them. But we do have to be willing to listen and to show respect if we want the same in return. No, we do not have to welcome Ms. Marcotte’s potty-mouthed insults, and certainly we could insist that we will listen only if she is respectful in her speech and tone, but we must all remember that we have to be willing to show respect if we expect to receive it. Mr. Obama and Ms. Marcotte and others may not see it that way but, if anything, that is all the more reason for us to listen and show respect to them. After all, the Golden Rule does not say “do unto others as they do unto you.” No, it says, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Quite a difference, isn’t there?

High crimes and misdemeanors

I have mentioned in this space on more than one occasion that President Obama has committed impeachable offenses since taking office. Apparently many in the South Dakota Republican party agree with me. Last Saturday, at their state convention, they passed a resolution calling for the House of Representatives to impeach the president. Following several paragraphs beginning with “Whereas” (in official resolution form), the resolution ends, “Therefore, be it resolved that the South Dakota Republican Party calls on our U.S. Representatives to initiate impeachment proceedings against the president of the United States.”

This resolution did not pass by a wide margin; the vote was 191-176. So close was the vote that the voice vote proved inconclusive, forcing a county-by-county roll call vote. Sadly, twenty of the state’s counties had no delegates at the convention. Whether their presence would have made a difference in the outcome of the vote I do not know, but I consider it a bad sign when nearly one-third of the state’s counties did not send delegates to the convention.

South Dakota, thanks to its small population, has only one member of the House of Representatives, Rep. Kristi Noem. While Noem is a Republican, she does not agree that impeachment is the way to go. Her spokesperson, Brittany Comins, said, “The congresswoman currently believes the best way for Congress to hold the president accountable is to continue aggressive committee oversight and investigations into the administration’s actions like the ongoing VA scandal, the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS, Benghazi, and the recent Taliban prisoner exchange.” With respect to the congresswoman, I would have to disagree. The committee oversight seems to be doing little if anything to effect any change in the way that the Obama administration goes about its business. While the committee oversight process is an appropriate part of the checks-and-balances in the U.S. federal government, when it proves ineffective it is necessary to take stronger action. Thus far I would have to put the effectiveness of the congressional committee oversight of the Obama administration on par with the effectiveness of U.N. sanctions on power-hungry dictators.

David Wheeler, a delegate to the convention from Beadle County, opposed the resolution, saying, “I believe we should not use the power of impeachment for political purposes. By doing this, we would look petty, like we can’t achieve our political goals through the political process.” The reality, however, is that the impeachment is not about politics or political goals. If it were, I would absolutely not be in favor of impeachment. Impeachment should absolutely not be used for vindictiveness or pettiness or as a means of achieving political objectives. President Obama, however, has broken the law and has violated his constitutional oath of office. These are grounds for impeachment.

I do not know if anything will come of this resolution or not. Frankly, I tend to doubt it. It seems Rep. Noem is not likely to act on it, and I doubt any other House members are going to pay much attention to a resolution passed by the South Dakota State Republican Convention. However, I commend those at the convention for their willingness to take a public stand and call on the House to exercise its constitutional prerogative–and duty–to impeach a president who has indeed committed high crimes and misdemeanors.

Wrong time, wrong place

Just to prove I am an equal opportunity critiquer (and yes, I did just make up that word), today I am going to offer some criticism of one of the conservative right’s most revered figures, Dr. James Dobson.

On May 1 Dobson used the platform of the National Day of Prayer to criticize President Barack Obama. If you read this blog you are well aware that I am not opposed to criticizing President Obama when appropriate. Furthermore, given that this space is my own personal blog, I can say whatever I want here. Anyone who wants to read it is welcome to and anyone who would rather not is welcome to skip it. Dr. Dobson has plenty of vehicles for sharing his thoughts about the president, and I am not opposed to the fact that he criticized Obama or even, actually, what he said. Dr. Dobson, however, chose an inappropriate time and venue to make his comments.

According to the National Day of Prayer’s own web site, “The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation. … It stands as a call for us to humbly come before God, seeking His guidance for our leaders and His grace upon us as a people.” The site goes on to state that the National Day of Prayer unites “Americans from all socio-economic, political and ethnic backgrounds in prayer for our nation.” Quite simply, the National Day of Prayer is to be a non-partisan event wherein political differences are put aside so that those from anywhere along the political spectrum who believe in the God of the Bible can join together in seeking His wisdom, guidance and blessing for America. The National Day of Prayer is intended to be, in a word, nonpartisan.

During his remarks this year, however, Dr. Dobson said, “Before [Obama] was elected, he made it very clear that he wanted to be the abortion president. He didn’t make any bones about it, that this is something that he was really going to promote and support. And he has done that. And in a sense, he is the abortion president.”

Even if you agree with Dobson’s comments–and as I said above, I do–it is clear based on the description of the National Day of Prayer that this was neither the time nor the place for Dobson to make this statement. If the gathering is truly supposed to welcome those from all political backgrounds this is an offensive statement. California Democratic Representative Janice Hahn walked out of the gathering because of Dobson’s remarks. To my knowledge she is the only one who did so, and Dobson seized on this fact to legitimize and defend his remarks.

According to an article on, Dobson “told [FOX News’ Megyn] Kelly that, in his speech, he wasn’t only referencing Obama, but was also talking about people’s response to the mandate and abortion, in general. ‘It’s very difficult for people who aren’t part of the sanctity of life movement to understand just how intensely we feel the issue of the killing of babies.'” I feel intensely about the killing of babies, too. There is probably no issue on which I feel more intensely. But the National Day of Prayer is not the place to make the remark Dobson made and, try though he might, there is no way to interpret his remarks to mean anything other than a direct attack on Barack Obama.

Hahn told Roll Call, “We have this annual, national day of prayer, which is supposed to bring the whole country together to pray for our nation, and typically you put politics aside and you come together. Dr. Dobson just absolutely violated that, and I really think he did damage to what we try to do up here in Washington, D.C.” I may have never said this before and may never say it again, I don’t know, but I agree with Rep. Hahn.

Dobson told Megyn Kelly, “One person chose to walk out, as far as we know, and that’s what everybody focuses on. But the people who were there were with me 100 percent, because they also believe in the sanctity of human life.” If it is not hyperbole that is an incredibly bold assertion to make. I find it difficult to believe that Dobson knows what everyone in the room thinks about the sanctity of life. Even if he did, and even if everyone in the room not only defends the sanctity of life but believes that Obama is the “abortion president,” it was still not the right time for Dobson to make his statement.

In April, when the National Day of Prayer was highly criticized for being a “searingly sectarian event” that promoted evangelical beliefs, John Bornschein, the vice chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, said that the event was nonsectarian and was “purely about prayer and praying for our leadership and asking for God’s wisdom and blessing over our leaders.” That is indeed what the event should be. As Rep. Hahn said, however, James Dobson “hijacked” the event to promote his own views. There are plenty of ways in which the sanctity of life could have been supported and defended without specifically attacking the president. If Dobson wanted to go after the president specifically he could have followed up on his comments at the event with additional comments later on, adding the attack on Obama. After all, it is not as if Dobson has ever had a hard time attracting media attention.

Do Christians need to take a public stand in defense of the sanctity of life? Absolutely. They must not do it, though, at events that are advertised and promoted as being nonsectarian and nonpartisan. This is deceptive, inappropriate and, in my opinion, harms the testimony of the Church.

Endangering American Lives

Though it may be hard for some of you to believe I actually do not seek out opportunities to blast President Obama. Regardless of how seldom I may agree with his political agenda I believe that it is my responsibility as a follower of Christ to respect and pray for the president. I also believe, however, that the citizens of the United States have a responsibility to hold our elected officials responsible for their actions and to expect that they follow the law.

Unless you live under a rock you know that the United States recently traded five al-Qaida and Taliban operatives for U.S. Army soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held captive in Afghanistan. This trade is troubling on many levels in my mind and in the minds of many others. Senator Lindsey Graham reportedly commented on the trade by saying, “The five terrorists released were the hardest of the hard-core.”

Other concerns include the fact that Bergdahl allegedly walked away from his unit in Afghanistan and sought out the Taliban, who gladly took him prisoner when their paths crossed. Bergdahl was held captive for five years and I certainly am not going to suggest that that is insignificant or was in any way deserved. However, there are allegations that he taught bomb-making techniques to the Taliban while he was being held. All the way back in 2010 the Daily Mail reported that Bergdahl was ” training Taliban fighters bomb-making and ambush skills” and, according to one of his captors, had converted to Islam and had taken a Muslim name.

Several of Bergdahl’s platoon mates have publicly stated that Bergdahl should absolutely not be called or considered a hero because he voluntarily left his unit and six U.S. soldiers died looking for him. “We all served together and we were all in it together over there and he broke that bond by leaving us,” Army Sgt. Josh Korder said on NBC’s TODAY show. Interestingly, the TODAY web site has a survey allowing readers to vote yes or no as to whether the U.S. trade for Bergdahl was the right thing to do. Fully 85% of the more than 16,000 voters have responded “no.” Not all that long ago the United States Army shot deserters. It still imprisons them. It certainly has not traded high level military prisoners in order to get deserters back.

Ultimately, it is none of the above–troubling though all of that is–that is the biggest problem. The biggest problem, and the one that should alarm every citizen if the United States, is that President Obama broke the law in the Bergdahl swap. U.S. law requires the president to give Congress thirty days notice before releasing any prisoner from Guantanamo Bay, where the five prisoners traded for Bergdahl had been held. President Obama did not do that. Apparently Obama informed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid but that was all. Neither Speaker of the House John Boehner nor Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein were informed in advance. On Tuesday Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken called Feinstein to apologize, Feinstein told reporters.

According to a report in TIME the swap occurred over the objections of members of the Pentagon and the intelligence community who had serious concerns about the dangers of releasing the five men. The explanation for the swift action in making the trade that was offered by National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden is absurd. Frankly, I think Ms. Hayden should have been embarrassed to make the statement. Here’s what she said:

Delaying the transfer in order to provide the 30-day notice would interfere with the Executive’s performance of two related functions that the Constitution assigns to the President: protecting the lives of Americans abroad and protecting U.S. soldiers. Because such interference would significantly alter the balance between Congress and the President, and could even raise constitutional concerns, we believe it is fair to conclude that Congress did not intend that the Administration would be barred from taking the action it did in these circumstances.

Therein lies no small part of the problem with the Obama Administration: it believes that it has the right to “conclude” whatever it wants about what Congress intends and to play fast and loose with the law when following it would get in the way of the president doing what he wants.

It stretches my imagination to contemplate how waiting thirty days for Congress to be notified of the swap in accordance with the law could possibly jeopardize the lives of Americans abroad or U.S. soldiers, particularly given that Bergdahl had already been held for five years. A further concern is that the U.S. did not make this swap with another sovereign nation but with a terrorist group. The reality is that making this trade put the safety of Americans abroad and U.S. soldiers at risk but communicating clearly to the world that the United States is willing to negotiate with terrorists and even to make a five-for-one trade in order to get back a deserter. If we’ll trade five major terrorist prisoners for one deserter what will the asking price be for an actual military hero? Or a diplomat? What about for the families of U.S. officials serving abroad?

At the end of the day, despite the rationalizations and press conferences and defenses of their actions, the Obama administration both violated the letter of the law and the spirit of the Constitution. The president takes an oath to serve, protect and defend the Constitution. No matter how revisionist you may want to be in your reading or interpretation of it, there is no way to make that fit with breaking the law or endangering American lives.

Artificial Minimum

I have made it a point in my teaching career to explain as clearly as I possible can to students in history, government or economics classes why increasing the minimum wage is not the panacea everyone thinks that it is. Much to my delight a student I taught nearly fifteen years ago recently told me that she has never forgotten that lecture! Unfortunately, far too many other people have forgotten–or have never bothered to understand–the principle.

An article in the March 8, 2014 issue of WORLD Magazine entitled “Wages of federalism” asserts that as many as seventy-five percent of Americans “support some form of minimum wage increase, according to various polls.” The article goes on to state that Democrats insist that a minimum wage increase would be “a lifeline and a no-brainer for poor workers in this election year, arguing that the extra spending money could be a deficit-free economic stimulus.” That assertion is, of course, a bunch of baloney. The notion that increasing the minimum wage will either improve employment numbers or provide workers with “extra spending money” is ludicrous. The suggestion that raising the minimum wage would be a “deficit-free economic stimulus” is as accurate as suggesting that we can fix the economy by printing more money.

I had the opportunity to see a first-hand example of the foolishness of this suggestion during a recent family trip to the Grand Canyon. Before entering the park from the south rim entrance we stopped at a McDonald’s in Tusayan for breakfast. The cost for my family of four to eat breakfast at that McDonald’s was approximately $40. Those are New York-like prices. And I assure you, we were not stuffing ourselves; we each ordered very basic breakfasts–such as a sausage and egg McMuffin and orange juice. Interestingly, as I was standing off to the side waiting for our order to be ready I noticed a framed piece of paper hanging on the wall. It was an explanation from the restaurant as to why their prices were so high. The reasons given included the suggestion that the cost of having items delivered to that location were higher than normal delivery costs (an assertion about which I was more than a little skeptical) as well as the statement that because housing is so limited and expensive in the Tusayan area the McDonald’s provides housing for its workers. This is a perfect example of why increasing the minimum wage creates as many problems as it solves. Quite simply, when minimum wage goes up the employer’s costs go up. When employer’s costs go up they pass the increase on to the customers. Therefore, if minimum wage is increased companies that pay employees minimum wage will either cut employees or increase prices to compensate for the added expense. All of a sudden any “increased buying power” resulting from the wage increase is gone because the cost of everything has gone up!

According to the WORLD article even the “traditionally liberal” Bill Gates has spoken wisely on this issue, telling an interviewer on MSNBC, “It’s not as simple as just saying, ‘Let’s raise the wage.'” The Congressional Budget Office has projected that President Obama’s proposed increase to the minimum wage would cost 500,000 jobs!

The reality is that a free market economy will create its own minimum wage, though that may well look different in different regions, at different times of the year and/or for different jobs. If companies offer wages that are too low no one will do the work. If they set prices too high no one will purchase the good or service. Leave the free market economy alone and it will eventually work it out on its own; there is seldom any good that will come from creating an artificial minimum.