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Monthly Archives: March 2008

This title of this article was written more carefully than you may have guessed.

I could have asked, “Is John McCain conservative?”  But to phrase the question in that way would have given it a different meaning; it would have inquired whether conservatism is one of McCain’s personal attributes.  I think that if the question had been posed that way, one would have to answer “no, John McCain is not by nature a conservative person.”  What I’m saying is that I think that McCain is a person with a generally progressive outlook on life and a radical view of a few issues who has adopted conservative positions on important issues because in most cases his principles supercede his personal proclivities.  I see McCain as something of a mirror image to Bill Clinton in this respect – Clinton of course being a political liberal with very old-fashioned (even backward) personal attitudes about womens’ rights, race relations, and political power.

John McCain

Getting back to the original topic of this article…I consider that by inserting a one-letter word (a) we can change the question from whether conservatism is one of McCain’s attributes to whether McCain is a member of the conservative movement in government, and the answer becomes a resounding “Yes.”  McCain is not only a member of the conservative movement, he’s been an effective and dependable leader.

McCain supports enough conservative causes (pro-life, traditional marriage, strong military, lower taxes, smaller government) that his credentials as “a conservative” are beyond doubt.  His legislative voting record is rated as highly conservative by political organizations at both ends of the spectrum, and his colleagues in the US Senate see him as a strong and consistent leader in the conservative movement.

In view of his history of public service and his credentials as a man of conservative principles, I announce my endorsement of John McCain today.  I’m going to vote for McCain in the general election in November, and I hope that you will, too.

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One more reason to like Mike Huckabee…

Huckabee was on Joe Scarborough’s show the other day, and Scarborough brought up the controversy surrounding Barack Obama and his pastor (or retired former pastor) Louis Wright.  Scarborough, it seems, was looking for a statement of righteous indignation from Huckabee, but the Huck man would have none of it:

“It’s interesting to me that there are some people on the left who are having to be very uncomfortable with what Louis Wright said, when they all were all over a Jerry Falwell, or anyone on the right who said things that they found very awkward and uncomfortable years ago. Many times those were statements lifted out of the context of a larger sermon. Sermons, after all, are rarely written word for word by pastors like Reverend Wright, who are delivering them extemporaneously, and caught up in the emotion of the moment. There are things that sometimes get said, that if you put them on paper and looked at them in print, you’d say “Well, I didn’t mean to say it quite like that.”

Scarborough asked Huckabee to assess the potential political consequences of the Obama/Wright situation, and got this response:

“I don’t think we know. If this were October, I think it would have a dramatic impact. But it’s not October. It’s March. And I don’t believe that by the time we get to October, this is gonna be the defining issue of the campaign, and the reason that people vote.

And one other thing I think we’ve gotta remember. As easy as it is for those of us who are white, to look back and say “That’s a terrible statement!”…I grew up in a very segregated south. And I think that you have to cut some slack — and I’m gonna be probably the only Conservative in America who’s gonna say something like this, but I’m just tellin’ you — we’ve gotta cut some slack to people who grew up being called names, being told “you have to sit in the balcony when you go to the movie. You have to go to the back door to go into the restaurant. And you can’t sit out there with everyone else. There’s a separate waiting room in the doctor’s office. Here’s where you sit on the bus…” And you know what? Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder and resentment. And you have to just say, I probably would too. I probably would too. In fact, I may have had more of a chip on my shoulder had it been me.”

I’m tempted to give Huckabee an attaboy, but I won’t because these temperate and thoughtful answers aren’t the result of political calculation or cleverness.  This is just Huckabee being his own decent and rational self, and for that he doesn’t deserve our congratulations; he deserves our respect and admiration.

One struggling small townIt’s time for Americans to recognize the value of our small cities and towns, and to take steps to help the people who remain outside of our large cities to see fair value for their work; rewards for their investments.  Our small towns are the strong, silent type – providing resources and contributing to the prosperity of our country while making little noise and asking for little in return.

It’s critically important that we help our small towns and rural areas to grow and flourish.  For too many generations we Americans have been neglecting our country cousins, leaving the countryside more desolate and unpopulated with each generation.  It’s true that some towns have survived, even prospered, but usually at the expense of the surrounding countryside and surrounding communities.

This isn’t a desperate last call to action.  There are still a lot of busy little towns in America and a lot of people who appreciate the advantages of the un-city lifestyle.  But as farms continually consolidate and grow larger and as many towns are either stagnant or shrinking, the population of the American countryside is becoming more sparse and prospects for those who live there are becoming more bleak.  The economies of these tiny towns and small cities are dependent on a variety of factors, but the biggest and most common is agriculture.

Farmers have been doing well the last couple of years, and we need to see to it that doesn’t change.  The advent of ethanol-based fuels for our vehicles and the general increase in commodity prices have been good for farmers and those whose livelihoods are dependent on the farm economy.  This is a trend that ought to continue.

Unfortunately, infrastructure projects have passed small-town America by for far too long.  Roads and bridges are in disrepair, schools are consolidating and closing, the information superhighway is bypassing far too many of America’s byways.  Local governments are hard-pressed to meet the needs of their communities, and diminishing populations result in fewer financial resources available to meet those needs.

The people of the United States ought to recognize that for more than two hundred years now, our farms and small towns have been pouring horsepower and brainpower into the national economy and helping to drive the success and prosperity of this country.  Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has correctly observed that a country that can’t produce its own food and manufacture its own arms isn’t really free.  I would add that a country of empty frontiers and ghost towns isn’t really prosperous, no matter how wealthy and luxurious its cities appear to be.

“Judge not, lest ye be judged.”

It’s one of the best-known and most popular sayings of Jesus Christ, partly because it sounds so biblical, and partly because it’s such a useful retort for anyone who doesn’t want his behavior evaluated by others.  But what does it really mean?

As any first-year Bible student learns, the first key to understanding a passage is in evaluating the passage in context.  Understanding when and why the speaker said what He said, and reading what He said before and after what He said, can help us to more fully understand what He meant.

Here’s the context: Jesus is on a roll – He’s in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, described by the NIV Study Bible commentary as “the first of five great discourses in [the book of] Matthew.”  He’s just finished one of the most beautiful rhetorical flourishes in all of literature (“…do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own”) and he’s beginning a new course of thought.  The statement from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 7, verses 1-5, as it appears in the NIV (New International Version) is as follows:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

So what does it mean?

First of all, it must be noted that Jesus was no ordinary street preacher.  His rhetorical skills were fantastic, and His philosophical point of view was so at odds with the paradigm that he helped to revolutionize Western thought, not to mention world religion.

Secondly, it’s worth mentioning that Jesus wasn’t (as far as we know) responding to a specific situation, as He so often did.  Instead He was giving a long discourse on lifestyles and attitudes.  He was speaking of the way that we ought to live, and explaining why.

The passage itself contains no admonition against judgement.  That’s obvious when one considers the last sentence (…then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”)  But it is a warning.  It’s an admonition that judging others will result in closer scrutiny of your own faults, and a not-too-veiled warning about the possible consequences.  It’s also clearly a call to the hearer or reader to clean up his own act, because a clear conscience gives him a better platform for evaluating and judging the world around him.

What does this all have to do with Eliot Spitzer?  Eliot Spitzer judged others; he found them to be errant in their behaviors, and he prosecuted them.  And he didn’t stop there, to quote the Wall Street Journal, he “made his career by specializing in not just the prosecution, but the ruin, of other men.”  Ironically, Governor Spitzer prosecuted those associated with prostitution with a particular gusto.  And his destruction of others makes his own fall all the more painful.

It is perhaps a great pity that Spitzer’s humiliation and cleansing will probably leave him better qualified to deal with the similar problems of others, as Jesus suggested.  But by then we will have discarded him.

What is the great principle at stake here?  There are several:

  1. Judgement is not a bad thing, but it can be a very dangerous thing for one who stands in judgement.
  2. Sympathy is in short supply because most people have no use for it until they need it themselves.
  3. Redemption isn’t an easy thing to achieve, partly because of what must precede it (conviction) and partly because of what often prevents it (pride).  But once granted, redemption is a great gift that can facilitate even greater achievements.

A California court has ruled that parents must be credentialed in order to educate their own children at home.  In its decision, the Second District Court of Appeals stated that “parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children.”

What does this mean?  In a practical sense it means that parents without teaching and counselling certificates will be breaking the law if they keep their children out of school and teach them at home.

In an ideological sense it means that the California courts system has decided that children are the property of the government, and parents are merely tools of the government, responsible for providing a government-approved education.

This decision affects not only the 166,000 homeschool children of California; it could have a chilling effect on homeschooling nationwide, which is a shame.  A disproportionate number of brilliant American children come from homeschooling families, and the standardized test scores of these children are also higher than those from public schools.  In addition to personalized teaching from a teacher who loves them, these children also benefit from one-on-one attention from a teacher whose motivation is greater than money or continued employment.

Ironically, the website of the San Francisco Chronicle has reported that 5.5% of California’s public schoolteachers lack the same credentials being cited as so important in this decision.

The Governator

To his credit, California’s usually liberal Republican governor has spoken up in support of the overwhemingly conservative homeschooling community, saying this: “This outrageous ruling must be overturned by the courts and if the courts don’t protect parents’ rights then, as elected officials, we will.”

Mike HuckabeeAs Republican voters go to the polls in Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, and Vermont tomorrow, I hope they’ll remember  which candidate wanted to debate for them, and which one chose to serve barbecued ribs to reporters instead.

Mike Huckabee challenged John McCain to a debate before March 4, and the Values Voter coalition came through in the clutch, arranging for a debate hall and inviting both McCain and Huckabee, as well as Rep Ron Paul to participate in a March 3 debate event.

After Governor Huckabee had accepted the invitation, Senator McCain said that he had a prior commitment and begged off.  His prior commitment turned out to be a barbecue dinner for reporters, at which he apparently did nothing more than slop cole slaw and ribs onto the trays of impartial journalists.

It’s true what the Dallas Morning News published in an editorial on Sunday March 2: win or lose, a vote for Mike Huckabee is a good investment in the Republican party’s future.