Show 084 – The Cuisine of Slovenia

In honor of our new First Lady, we celebrate the cuisine of Slovenia and discuss what’s next in America with an unprecedented and unpredictable President Trump waiting to take office. Our guest is copywriter and marketing expert Jared Kessler.

Show 083: The Cuisine of Wonderland

The Political Bistro is back! (At least for one week.) Friend of the show, Jack Greer was in town, the GOP convention was going on, so we thought, why not? Hoping to be back on a more regular schedule and back on broadcast radio again soon, but until then, enjoy, as Mark, Steve, Shelley, and Jack go “down the rabbit hole” and discuss the GOP convention and other oddities.

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Course 1: Cocktails anyone? Unidentified bottles of liquid with a label that says DRINK ME.

Course 2: Tea and your choice of crumpets with orange marmalade or hot buttered toast

Course 3: Roast turkey with onions, magic mushrooms, and sneeze-inducing ground pepper.

Course 4: Choice of….
1. Pineapple custard with treacle
2. Cherry tarts
3. Un-birthday cake
4. Cake with EAT ME spelled out in black currants on top.

As always, playlist available on our YouTube channel.

Hillary Clinton’s Nomination is not Indicative of Success

“I’m so excited! Finally, a woman is the presidential nominee of a major party in America! I get choked up just thinking about it! Now we can tell little girls they can be ANYTHING they want to be!”

This is a deeply tragic statement and has nothing to do with the political views or reputation of the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee. Were this statement referring to the most upstanding, moral woman in the world, it would be, perhaps, only slightly less tragic.

I’m not going to say these are the worst of times or that the nation or world is going to hell in a handbasket. We’ve certainly seen more strife in the course of world history than what is happening now, but things could certainly be a lot better. And the real tragedy isn’t the lack of character of the two presumptive presidential nominees; it’s the character of the nation, for the candidates we elevate are only reflections of the national zeitgeist.

We’ve always been able to tell little girls they can be anything. Certainly, at some point, someone told Mrs. Clinton that she could be president. Perhaps that wasn’t when she was a little girl, but the fact remains that the idea always precedes the reality. If we tell ourselves that the reality must precede the idea, not only are we being illogical, we’re halting any progress.

In 1867, just shy of five years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and two and a half years after the end of the Civil War, while the South was still very much a slave culture, a woman named Sarah Breedlove was born. Sarah’s mother died when Sarah was only five and her father left her orphaned just a few years after that. She was abused by her brother-in-law and later widowed at the age of 20; not the makings of a success story and certainly not the sort of privileged childhood Mrs. Clinton had, but Breedlove worked hard and from “the cotton fields of the South… to the washtub… to the cook kitchen” she rose to being the head of a multi-national hair product business that employed tens of thousands of women and was later eulogized as the first female self-made millionaire in America.

Now, while Breedlove was unquestionably motivated, she didn’t do all of this on her own. No one ever does. In particular, she had her second husband and business partner, cheering her on the whole way. To have told 7-year-old Breedlove or even 20-year-old Breedlove that she’d one day rise to such heights would have seemed ludicrous. Even if she’d been a white woman born into better circumstances, her success would have seemed quite unlikely in those days, but that didn’t stop her or those around her telling her she could succeed. The fact that there had never been a woman who had achieved what she did, didn’t matter either.

And the list goes on: Sally Ride, the first American woman in space; Nellie Tayloe Ross, the first female governor in the U.S., elected in Wyoming in 1924, just four years after suffrage; Oprah Winfrey, born to a single mother and raised in rural poverty. More importantly, one could argue, are the millions of unsung heroines who make the world a better place every day, be it one classroom, one community, or one household at a time and against the odds.

Little girls can grow up to be anything they want but if we’re waiting for one of them to achieve some certain status before we can tell the rest that it is possible, it will never happen. Furthermore, if we wait until something is achieved before we begin telling our children that that thing is achievable, how does that further progress? Accomplishment without risk is no accomplishment at all.

So point to Hillary Clinton as someone who achieved her goals if you must (although I can name a thousand women more deserving of emulation than she is), but don’t let her success be the marker for our daughters. Whether she wins or loses her bid for the presidency she should not be the reason they strive for their goals. In fact, regardless of her political views or character, the arc of her life, which could best be summed up as her pursuit to become the first female president of the United States, should not be lauded. Instead, we should be teaching our daughters, lo, all of our children, to strive for something much bigger than that. While anyone can be “the first (fill in the blank: woman, black, Asian, Hispanic, gay, etc.)” anything, it is not the census form box we check that matters, but what we do with the opportunities we’re given. I’d much rather that my children grow up to be the best janitors or convenience store clerks they can be than senators or CEOs without integrity.

Boycotts, Bathrooms, and the Boss

bruce_springsteenThis past Sunday, Bruce Springsteen was scheduled to play a concert in Greensboro, NC. He canceled the concert, citing opposition to the recently passed HB2, the “bathroom bill”, which he labeled discriminatory against the transgendered community.  Three weeks ago, Disney and several other companies, state governments, and individuals threatened to boycott the state of Georgia if Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill with similar legislation. He folded to the pressure and vetoed that bill. In 2010, a similar boycott of the state of Arizona was launched in opposition to SB 1070, a bill which strengthened immigration laws.

Never mind that the people boycotting these states haven’t read or don’t understand what’s in these bills. If they did, they might stop hyperventilating and calling everyone they disagree with bigots. Let’s assume for a moment the bills that liberals cite as their reasons for boycotting entire states are really as horrible as they say. Their boycotts are ineffective.

In fact, boycotts, in general, are ineffective. Greenpeace and other groups called for a boycott of Exxon following the Valdez oil spill. Here in my home state of Washington, Exxon gas stations disappeared fairly quickly. But not for long. And my guess is, even while Exxon signage was “gone”, the company itself was probably still raking in bucks from Washington. And now, of course, ExxonMobil is the largest oil company in the world.

Even sanctions, legally enforced boycotts of entire nations, are not nearly effective as supporters claim. Tin-pot dictators are very adept at illegally funding their dictatorships and sanctions typically hurt the masses much more than they hurt the leaders. (Not that I’m saying we should do away with sanctions; they still have their place, are much more effective than voluntary boycotts, and do help to stifle the flow of funds to said dictators. Besides, regardless of sanctions, money rarely gets to the masses anyway in third-world states. There’s always another Ferrari to buy for Uday or Kusay, after all.)

Yes, for the most part, boycotts are nothing more than feel-good endeavors that help buoy the self-righteousness of the boycotter, and may, at best, make the company being boycotted look up for half-a-second until the next squirrel races by for the masses to follow. (“Oh, look! Monsanto!”)

And boycotting an entire state, at least voluntarily, i.e. not through sanctions, is the most ineffective boycott of all because it is near impossible to boycott an entire state in today’s interconnected world. You want to boycott North Carolina, Mr. Springsteen? Okay. Better make sure none of your millions find their way through a Bank of America account. And no sleeping on a Sealy mattress tonight. That Hanes undershirt you’re wearing? Scrap it. Same with the Burt’s Bees you just put on those talented lips of yours. All those “evil corporations” are headquartered in North Carolina. And you’d better cancel that upcoming tour stop in Italy as well. They still don’t even recognize gay marriage!

And what about Disney? Certainly no small potatoes compared to yesterday’s rock star. They’re one of the largest media companies in the world and spend millions of dollars on production in the state of Georgia every year. Disney threatening to boycott Georgia certainly made Governor Deal’s decision to veto HB 757 a bit easier but it wasn’t the deciding factor I’m sure. And if it was, he’s clearly not adept at making deals. I would have played chicken with the Mouse. Again, a squirrel would have run by in a matter of months and Disney would have been back to filming all sorts of movies and TV shows in the home of the Falcons (and herein ends the animal references). Curiously, Disney didn’t seem to have a problem distributing Force Awakens, which was filmed in the United Arab Emirates, a nation that actually murders people for simply engaging in same-sex activities. (To be fair, I’m not sure where they come down on transgendered bathroom use.)

So, we’ve established liberals boycott because they want to feel good about themselves. They’re also notorious hypocrites so that argument falls on deaf ears. But what about hurting those you’re aiming to help?

Liberals love to point out the evils of sanctions because, as mentioned above, they disproportionally fall on the backs of the downtrodden masses.  And an argument can be made that engaging with one’s foe will do more than stonewalling him. This is even more so the case when one’s foe is not a bloodthirsty dictator. I know liberals love to equate murderous thugs like Kim Jong Un and “evil Christian bigots” like those at Focus on the Family or Chick-fil-A, but if they actually took a moment to listen to Jim Daly or Dan Cathy, they’d realize there’s actually quite a bit of difference.

But, okay, okay, let’s go even further and assume they’re right and everyone who voted for North Carolina’s HB2 and everyone who voted for those people are really hate-filled homophobes that want to send every transgendered person in the state to a re-education camp where they’ll be thumped by Bibles 24/7. Are these the same people who would attend a Bruce Springsteen concert? Actually, yes. Unlike liberals who would rather stand in a downpour than take an umbrella from someone with whom they disagree, those of us on the right can separate the fact that good music can be made by people with whom we disagree politically and our entire outlook on life isn’t going to be defeated by listening to a little Born in the U.S.A. Heck, even Ronald Reagan used it as a campaign theme for a while until Springsteen threw a fit over that because, again, “tolerant” liberals simply can’t tolerate things like that.

But I’ll go yet one step further. Let’s say that those supporting HB2 would never be caught dead at a Bruce Springsteen concert and the whole audience agrees with Bruce. That only makes the argument stronger. Refusing to play a concert in a state that has policies you disagree with doesn’t hurt the people with whom you disagree, it hurts the people with whom you agree and those you seek to help.

If Bruce Springsteen and his followers want to change the political tide in North Carolina, the best thing he could have done is play his concert in Greensboro and, between songs, give a heartfelt plea to those in attendance to rally for the cause. Who knows, maybe a few folks not in his camp may even have been persuaded.

And with Disney and Georgia, assuming that bill hadn’t been vetoed, Disney’s impact could have been even greater. I’m assuming that the majority of the people in the entertainment industry were opposed to Georgia’s religious freedom bill, so how much better would it have been to put money in those people’s pockets by filming in Georgia; money that could have gone on to elect people who are more amiable to Disney’s views?

So, liberal boycotters (and conservative boycotters for that matter), be the change you want to see in the world! Engage! You’re sure to change more views from inside the state than screaming at it from the outside, even if you can scream as loud as Bruce Springsteen.

Cross posted at AmericanThinker.com.

Show 081 – The Cuisine of the Dominican Republic

Tonight your Maitre d’ Mark Griswold and your sommelier Jacques Greer celebrated the cuisine and culture of the Dominican Republic and spent most of the evening debating Trump and whether he would be the better choice over Hillary should it come to that.

Chris Christie, Jeff Sessions and Saruman the White

saruman-christopher-lee-300x159In the epic novel, Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien, there is a group of wizards sent down from on high to combat the forces of evil by inspiring the people of Middle-Earth. They are led by Saruman the White, a good and decent wizard but, like all of us, one with a soul that can be tempted by evil.

In the beginning, Saruman, it can be argued, is just being pragmatic. He seeks power not because he is evil, but to defeat evil itself in the form of the Dark Lord Sauron. But, in the end, the power he seeks is too intoxicating and he is overcome by the very evil he vowed, whether just to others or to himself as well, to destroy. It is a story as old as time and one which will be repeated until the end of time.

Politics is, first and foremost, the study and practice of human interaction and humans, being the imperfect beings that we are, are faced with imperfect choices. We are faced with supporting a bloodthirsty dictator in some far off country, but only because he’s less bloodthirsty than the militant jihadi terrorist he’s keeping at bay. We joke about having to choose between the lesser of two evils when we go to the ballot box every November; a joke we tell ourselves is a joke because the truth can sometimes be far more real than we’d like to admit.

And politicians tell themselves that their choice to support a particular piece of legislation or to join forces with another politician they often disagree with, while on its face may seem abhorrent, is in the end, a choice made for “the greater good.” After all, “if I don’t vote for this bill, a far more harmful bill may be passed or, worse yet, I could lose my bid for re-election and the other guy, who is far worse, will win.”

These rationalizations are just that; rational. In a world of imperfect choices what a wide-eyed idealist sees as irrational is, in fact, the only rational choice. But as the decent among us are forced to make decisions that are increasingly indecent, we continue to rationalize those decisions to the point that we can forget what the decent thing was to begin with. Sometimes the means can justify the ends.  It is an imperfect world after all so there are very few pure actions we can take anymore, if we ever could. But what we must never forget is that those actions are, in fact, impure and we may very well be sacrificing our souls for what many may deem the greater good. (It’s why so many soldiers are haunted by PTSD; the greatest sacrifices they must make are often not physical or even mental, but spiritual.) More importantly, we must not forget that the closer we get to the power we once sought to destroy, the more and more we mirror that power.

I don’t know Chris Christie, Jeff Sessions, or the scores of evangelical preachers who have endorsed Donald Trump. I’ll assume that their motives are pure even if I believe their actions aren’t. Maybe they all believe that the GOP has become so watered down ideologically that the only way to save this country is to “shake things up”. Maybe they think the greatest threat to this nation is an influx of immigrants, be they terrorists or simply folks seeking to “take our jobs.” Maybe they view Trump as the inevitable candidate and believe we must get behind him now so we can take down the greater “evil” that is Hillary Clinton. All of these arguments have at least some merit to them and that’s exactly what makes them so dangerous.

At the end of World War II we dropped a pair of atomic bombs on Japan. All but the most naïve or ideologically stubborn believe that was the best course of action. Had we not, the war would have continued on for months, if not years, and resulted in far more death on the side of not only the Allies but the Japanese as well. Somewhat counterintuitively, dropping “the bomb” was the humane thing to do. But in doing so, the “collateral damage” done to tens of thousands of civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki may have been the least egregious. The Cold War was anything but cold and the nuclear age remains with us, perhaps even more dangerous now with actors like Kim Jong Un and the Ayatollahs on the world stage. Was the Manhattan Project worth it? Probably. After all, if we, the “good guys” hadn’t invented “the bomb” the Communists would have been left to march freely across the rest of Europe and the rest of the world. But despite the threat that we curtailed because we went nuclear first, we must never forget that the genie we let out of the bottle can never be put back again.

And so it is with Trump. Forget that his claims of conservatism or Christianity are laughable (or at least they were until he started winning primaries). The man is just far too dangerous. In our desire to defeat Hillary Clinton or the lukewarm politicians in the Republican Party, we are employing a nuclear option that can never be undone and, hear me now, believe me later, will not defeat the opponents of the true conservatism that we all seek to defeat, but only embolden them after the Republican Party is left decimated by the mockery it has become with Trump at the helm.

So we have a choice. We can refuse to give in to our temptations to seek the “One Ring” that gives us the immense power to destroy the Dark Lord Sauron, whatever threat, real or imagined that may be; or we can stand with the light, however dim it may seem (and I do agree that it pales in comparison to what it once was or should be).

Pragmatism is important. In fact, in the game of politics, it may be the most important. But it is not so important that we must sacrifice our ideals completely in order to “make a deal,” especially a deal with a man like Trump, so utterly devoid of character and full of narcissism that he feels no need to seek forgiveness from God and threatens to sue anyone who dares insult him.

End lobbying? Might as well ban pencils to prevent misspelling words

It seems that, of all things political, lobbying and campaign finance raise the most ire among “the American people.”  They point out that “if we could just get money out of politics,” problems of corruption and the new “golden rule” would largely vanish.  They might be right, but the solution, in this case, is worse than the problem.

The U.S. Supreme Court rightly ruled in Buckley v. Valeo (1976) and later Citizens United (2010) that money is a form of political speech and thus protected by the First Amendment.  The case is even clearer with lobbying.

The main problem with lobbying is that most people have no idea what it is.  They envision K Street folks dressed in $2,000 Brooks Brothers suits, pitching ideas that benefit only Wall Street over $200 lunches at Charlie Palmer Steak.  Certainly this happens, and certainly it is a bit grotesque.  But what those beating the anti-lobbying drum the loudest always forget is that they themselves are lobbyists, too.  Or at least they are any time they send an email, make a phone call, or march on the Capitol steps.

The widespread use of term “lobbying” dates back to the Grant administration, when Grant, oftentimes enjoying a cigar and brandy in the lobby of the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., would be approached by people asking him to push forward this or that policy and often “helping” him in the decision-making process by buying him additional cigars and snifters of brandy.  It seems, in many ways, we haven’t evolved much from those days.  That can be discouraging – that is, until one really begins to think about it.  Gaining access to our elected officials is easier than ever, what with technology the way it is.  And it bears repeating: every time we send an email, we’re lobbying.  Sure, some will say that’s different from the paid lobbyist representing the “special interest” group or corporation.  But it’s different only in orders of magnitude.

And these “special interest” groups wouldn’t even form if it wasn’t for the widespread interests of the people behind them.  Health care is a massive lobby, but only because most people in America are concerned by rising health care costs.  And while lobbying in some areas has become a way to make money off the taxpayer by taking advantage of loopholes, is it really the fault of the corporation?  If someone was handing out hundred-dollar bills and you knew someone was going to get them, wouldn’t you stand in line, regardless of how those bills were acquired, and especially if the person handing them out said it was all legit and not only your right, but your duty to accept them?  It’s a game, to be sure, but these days, sadly, you either play the game or get left behind.

So there’s a problem.  I assume those calling for the end to lobbying aren’t calling for the end of all citizen interaction with their legislators so I’ll give them that.  But if that’s the case, where do we draw the line?  The problem with creating more and more rules is that they almost always create more and more loopholes.  Do we say no one is allowed to be paid for lobbying efforts?  Well, then, only the truly rich would be able to lobby, for even a group of working mothers getting together to encourage lawmakers to strengthen drunken driving laws would be at a loss.  They could send emails, sure, and many of them do.  But if they wanted to devote their full time to it, or even just one person’s full time to it, they’d have to start raising money.  Everyone’s got to eat, after all.

Truly, the biggest reason lobbying has become such a massive industry is because of the massiveness of government.  Up until the federal government went after Microsoft with an anti-trust lawsuit, Microsoft didn’t have a government affairs division and spent little, if any, money lobbying government.  After being targeted by the Clinton Justice Department, Microsoft quickly realized that government isn’t just going to leave you alone.  No one is allowed to sit the game out.  So they ponied up and went into the lobbying business.

So what to do?  The answer, as it almost always is, lies in less government, not more.  The only reason corporations employ teams of lawyers to navigate the legislative waters is that these waters are so treacherous and hard to navigate.  Let’s take Indian Reservations as an example.  Tribes spend millions of dollars lobbying all levels of government for all sorts of things.  Maybe they want to run a casino or hunt whales in an area where it is otherwise illegal.  Maybe they want to mine for natural resources.  Maybe they’ve started a tribal business and want tax breaks.  Of course, there are other groups that don’t want to see this happen.  Maybe they are anti-gambling, or wish to protect sea mammals or trees.  Maybe they’re business owners who believe they should be receiving the same tax breaks as the Indians.  Now, instead of creating the Bureau of Indian Affairs and a massive Reservation system across the nation to pay attention to this particular “special interest,” why not just remove government from the decision making process altogether?  Make gambling either completely legal or completely illegal.  Institute a flat tax for every person or corporation.  Quit fiddling around the edges of the law to carve out special favors for your lobbyist friends, and watch how quickly those “friends” disappear.

We shouldn’t be blaming the lobbyists for showing up to the trough every time Senator So-and-So dumps a fresh load of slop into it.  They’re just doing what any of us would do.  No, instead, we should be blaming Senator So-and-So for taking our money and giving it to those we feel don’t deserve it.  (And funny how those we feel don’t deserve it are usually the ones whose policies we disagree with.)

Lobbying is nothing other than our freedom to ask our legislators to do something we think will benefit the nation (or us personally if we are short on morals).  Giving money to those legislators who we think are doing the most good in order to ensure that others hear about their acts and thus re-elect them is also nothing other than our freedom to do with our earnings what we see fit.  If our legislators are not acting in the best interest of the nation, then it is the fault not of the system we’ve instituted, but of the legislators themselves.  Outlawing lobbying to prevent corruption makes as much sense as outlawing guns to prevent murder or pencils to prevent spelling errors.

Cross posted at AmericanThinker.com.

Reagan was a RINO!

This latest piece of mine was posted at AmericanThinker.com yesterday. In reading the comments there, I realize that either AT readers have a very poor grasp of sarcasm (and blind loyalty to Trump) or I was not clear enough about the title of the article being sarcastic. Make no mistake; I do not believe Reagan was a RINO. I believe knee-jerk purists that would rather cut off their noses to spite their faces than win an election would call Reagan a RINO were he running for president today.

Various groups across our great nation have many traditions. Latino families may celebrate their daughters’ quinceañera. Marathoners may travel to Boston or New York. Hippies may attend a myriad of outdoor festivals, from Burning Man to Banaroo. And Republicans, or should I say a subset of Republicans, engage in a quadrennial event referred to by some as the conservative litmus test, or the circular firing squad, in which they enjoy comparing their chosen Republican presidential candidate to Ronald Reagan and comparing every other Republican candidate to Karl Marx (or possibly Groucho Marx). The length of this festival of futility usually runs from late November in the year preceding a presidential election and can end as late as the first Wednesday in November of the following year if the Democrat ends up winning the general election.

Republicans did this in 2008, when the party nominated “that RINO” John McCain (Lifetime ACU rating of 82.13) instead of the “true conservative” Mitt Romney. They did it again in 2012, when the party nominated “that RINO” Mitt Romney instead of the “true conservative” Rick Santorum (or maybe it was Rick Perry; the consensus among firing squad members is still out). And Republicans have trotted out the tradition once again. This year the “Establishment” candidate (aka the “RINO foisted upon us by the RNC”) seems to be either Marco Rubio (who, along with Ted Cruz, is the only candidate beating presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and the one beating her by the greatest margin) or Jeb Bush.

Besides citing things like the “Gang of Eight,” “RomneyCare,” and “McCain-Feingold” during this period, these “true conservatives” pine over their memories of the 1980s and that gold standard of conservatism, President Ronald Reagan.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m a huge Reagan fan. I don’t know any self-proclaimed Republican who isn’t. And, by and large, Reagan was quite conservative. But, were he to run today, it’s quite possible he’d have already gone the way of Lindsey Graham and George Pataki. Why? Well, let’s just imagine some of the things today’s “true conservatives” may bring up about Reagan were he making the rounds:

“Reagan is pro-gay-rights!” He vigorously opposed the 1978 Briggs initiative [CA Proposition 6], which would have banned homosexuals from teaching in public schools.
“Reagan is pro-abortion!” Six months into his term as governor, he signed the Therapeutic Abortion Act, which led to a rise in abortions in California from 518 a year to an average of 100,000 during his last two years in office.
“Reagan is pro-tax!” He raised taxes more than $1 billion during his term as governor.
“Reagan is pro-illegal immigration!” He signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act while president, which led to a rise in illegal immigration.
Reagan is a RINO (Republican in Name Only). He didn’t join the Republican Party until 1962, before then being an ardent supporter of FDR and the “New Deal.”
I raise these points about Reagan not to sully his good name and memory, but simply to point out that you can take nearly anyone and cherry-pick from his record to make him look liberal.

Besides being just poor form and inaccurate, chastising one Republican candidate over another is just bad politics, for when the nominee is eventually named, it leaves him open to attack not just from the jaundiced views of the Democratic nominee herself, but through the proxy of his supposed ally, maybe even his VP nominee. (Anyone remember all that footage of Biden commenting on Obama’s shortcomings?)

So Republicans should keep their eyes on the prize. Any one of their candidates would be vastly better for the conservative cause than Clinton or Sanders (with the possible exception of Donald Trump). Any Republican who doesn’t believe that needs to take an honest look in the mirror and ask himself: what would Hillary do with ISIS and Iran? What would she do with taxes? (Even if you believe that Rubio would be feckless in the face of a proposed tax-hike bill from a Democrat-controlled Congress, isn’t it logical to assume that Clinton would do even worse?) Whom will she appoint to the Supreme Court?

The choice is clear. As conservative activist and founder of the Leadership Institute Morton Blackwell is quick to point out, “Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.”

And if Reagan were alive today, I am fairly certain he’d pull out at least one of his old standards. “That person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally, not a 20-percent traitor.”

Form a Committee!

Oilman T. Boone Pickens has jumped into the political fray once again.  Like many of us, he’s fed up with the current political climate and dearth of “qualified” candidates for president.  So he’s got a revolutionary new idea.  We (he?) should put together a “bipartisan screening committee that vets presidential candidates like we do anyone else applying for a job.”  Capital idea, T.  (Or do you prefer to be called Boone?)  As you point out, the current system of picking a leader is more akin to Reality TV than the hallowed system our forefathers envisioned.  (Or is it?  I’d have to double check but it seems it’s been quite some time since we had politicians literally shooting each other or beating each other with their canes on the floor of Congress.)

Lyon-griswold-brawl

But I do have to ask, who gets to serve on this brilliant committee of yours? Who elects the electors, so to speak?  And I will assume that, by “recommend” you actually mean “recommend” and that the decisions of this committee are in no way binding on the electorate as a whole so I’ll leave that dystopian thought alone.

And therein lays the rub.  Like I said, capital idea.  The only thing is, you’re about 227 years too late to the game.  Sure, your ideal committee may be considerably smaller than the committee known as the registered voters of the United States, but the fact remains, we have a vetting process.  And our vetting process, unlike many other nations, is more thorough than most.  We all like to bemoan the seemingly endless campaign season but would a two-week campaign like they have in France, or even a three-month campaign like they recently had in Canada (it’s usually shorter than that) really be more preferable?  Maybe folks would pay more attention, but I doubt it.  If the press and the people can’t properly vet a candidate in two years, I don’t see how they’re going to do it in two months.  Politicians are masters at obfuscation and the less time they have to obfuscate the better for them and the worse for us.

And as to your smaller committee, provided its decision is not legally binding, we already have those too.  Sure, most of them are not bi-partisan like you call for, but what the heck does bi-partisan even mean anymore?  People tend to coalesce around single issues; tax policy, foreign policy, guns, “family values”, the environment, etc.  I’d like to think most of us are intelligent enough not to be single-issue voters but most of us also tend to hold one issue above all others regardless of party.  So we join forces and form committees like the League of Women Voters or the Conservative Political Action Committee or the Americans for Tax Reform.  Then most of us tend to coalesce around the two biggest committees; the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee.

So maybe I shouldn’t call it such a capital idea after all, Boone.  Or perhaps it is best to quote Winston Churchill’s famous line about democracy being “the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Pickens ends his idea with a challenge for readers to come up with something better.  What have I got?  Well, like Reagan said in his landmark speech of 1964, “there is a simple answer – not an easy answer – but simple.”  And that answer is education, both in reason and in morality.  Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying the founders gave us “a republic, if you can keep it.”  John Adams stated that “our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

The apparent decay of our nation rests at no one’s feet but our own.  We cannot blame our politicians.  We cannot blame the faceless bureaucracy as comforting and convenient as those scapegoats may be.  We turn out the first Tuesday of November every year to elect leaders from among us.  Any of us can run and because of this “experiment” started more than two centuries ago we alone are responsible not only for the triumphs we face, but also for the failures.

So I agree.  Form a committee, but not one to recommend a president.  Instead, form a committee to raise our children up with knowledge, wisdom, and morality.  Form a committee to help the struggling family buy groceries, then invite them over to your home for Christmas Dinner and share something so much more important than food; your table and your love.  Form a committee to help the kid struggling with his civics homework and tutor him after school every Tuesday.  Form a committee to plant a tree or clean up a park.  Form a committee with your neighbors and promise to watch over each other’s homes when you are away.  Form a committee to be that shining city on a hill that Christ spoke of in his Sermon on the Mount.  Be an example; for change happens not from pontificating and the passage of laws, but from example.  We will never legislate our way to peace and prosperity.  The only way to reach these hallowed ends is through personal action.  We do this, we form not just committees but communities that serve as moral and reasonable examples for the rest, it won’t matter much who our president or other political leaders are for we will be the leaders of our own destinies.  And we need not even wait until next November for our election is today.

Cross posted at AmericanThinker.com.

In Defense of Barack Obama

Mark Driscoll, the often controversial pastor of Seattle-based Mars Hill Church, posts on his Facebook page today: “Praying for our president, who today will place his hand on a Bible he does not believe to take an oath to a God he likely does not know.”

I’m not a fan of Obama by any means and if I had to make a judgment about his faith in the Lord I’d be apt to agree with Driscoll. But that’s just it. I don’t have to make a judgment about Obama’s faith in the Lord. In fact, not only do I not have to make that judgment, I’m not supposed to. The New Testament is filled with verses against judgment, Matthew 7:1-5 one of the most widely quoted.

This doesn’t mean that we can’t point out evil deeds when we see them. It doesn’t mean that we can’t try to guide fellow Believers, or even unbelievers, toward righteousness. It also doesn’t mean that we should be so full of Grace that there is no room left for Truth.

What it does mean is that we should not judge what is in a man’s heart, and that is especially true if we’ve never even met the man. Perhaps if Driscoll was Obama’s pastor and had met with him on a regular basis he’d have come to a different conclusion. Or maybe not. But at least he’d know the man. As it stands, all Driscoll knows about Obama is what he reads in the news. And regardless of what sources Driscoll is reading, none of them are ever going to paint a full picture of what is in Obama’s heart.

Furthermore, acknowledging the fact that Obama has pushed for legislation which is clearly not Biblical, Obama’s secular actions may not be betraying his religious convictions. Case in point, I believe that abortion is a sin but I have also come to realize that making it illegal is not the best way to eliminate it. I also believe that Christ is the One True path to Salvation but that doesn’t mean I want to form a Theocracy. Doing so, in fact, would not only be bad policy from an earthly perspective, it would also be blasphemous.

I’m opposed to Obama because I am opposed to big government. I don’t have all the answers to the problems that plague society. In fact, I have so few of them that I don’t want to make those decisions, especially at the federal level. I think they’re better left to local officials or, better yet, the individual. But maybe Obama does have all the answers (all evidence points to the contrary; I’m just playing Devil’s advocate, pardon the phrase). Maybe if everyone did rally behind Obama and give him unlimited power we’d all be riding rainbow-powered unicorns and feasting on gumdrops and gingersnaps. Not something I want to try and I’m 99.99% sure it wouldn’t work, but the important thing isn’t whether I think it will work or not. The important thing is whether Obama thinks it would work.

If Mark Driscoll or I were to sit down with Obama for a completely candid conversation and learn that Obama agrees that none of his legislation will work and he’s only pushing it as part of a Machiavellian power grab so he can proclaim himself dictator and enslave the people, then I’d say Driscoll is right on the money. Obama is evil, doesn’t believe in the Bible and doesn’t know God. But if we were to sit down with Obama and learn that he really thinks everything he’s doing is helping to make the nation a better place, then I’d have to say that Driscoll is dead wrong. Certainly a good, Christian argument for ObamaCare and other social programs can be made; that we have a moral duty to take care of the least amongst us. It’s an argument I happen to agree with on its surface; I just don’t believe that the federal government (or any government, for that matter), should be the arbiter of that decision; that we’re given free will by God and it is up to us at an individual level to choose whether we help the poor or not.

And from a public relations angle, Driscoll’s post couldn’t have been worse. It’s probably safe to say that a large majority of folks who attend Mars Hill didn’t vote for Obama but there’s a reason that pastors don’t run for election and that the topic for the Sunday Sermon isn’t decided by a Gallup Poll. Pastors can and should speak to the issues of the day. I think it was completely justified for the Catholic Church to speak out against the contraceptive mandate or gay marriage initiatives. It has Biblical text clearly and definitively backing up those views. On the matter of Barack Obama though, the Bible is silent. (Yeah, yeah, for some folks Obama is the Second Coming and for others he’s the Anti-Christ. but those are fringe beliefs and not clearly backed up by Scripture.)

By bringing politics to the pulpit, Driscoll has alienated the very people he should be reaching out to (in the sense that I’m guessing he believes voting for Obama wasn’t the most righteous decision one could make). Jesus didn’t go around preaching to the folks He knew were already destined for Heaven. No, He spent His time with the tax collectors and the prostitutes. And while He was truthful about the sinfulness of their behavior, He always led with Love and Grace. I seriously doubt Jesus would have been impressed by Mark Driscoll’s post this morning and I’m guessing that Jesus’s Facebook page wouldn’t have carried those words either, even if Jesus knew that Obama wasn’t a Believer.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean I think Mark Driscoll is preaching some wayward Gospel or that he doesn’t know God. I’m going to take him at his word that he is a follower of Christ and believer of the Bible. We all struggle with sin and that is why we should always be very careful when pointing out the faults in others. Again, it is our duty as Christians (and humans, for those of us who aren’t Christians) to point out the shortcomings in others just as we wouldn’t stand idly by if a friend had a problem with alcohol or was cheating on his wife. But when we do counsel others we must do so gently, with Grace, and with the spirit of the Lord, for it isn’t we who will bring them to salvation (or Salvation), but the Holy Spirit.

Pastor Driscoll, I pray that we may all continue to valiantly fight in our struggle against the sins which are of greatest presence in our life; be we pastors, bloggers or politicians. Go in Grace and go in Peace, my Brother.