Thursday, November 20, 2008

We're Gonna Party Like It's 1999

So we are into the first few weeks of "Change We Need." Let's see:

Co-chairman of transition team: John Podesta

Chief of Staff: Rahm Emmanuel

Secretary of State: Hillary Clinton

Attorney General: Eric Holder (You'll remember him from the Mark Rich pardon)

Chief Counsel: Greg Craig

Veep's Chief of Staff: Ron Klain

Hey, Janet Reno and Robert Reich, make sure not to go on vacation without leaving a number you can be reached at in case they need you to help bring more "change" to Washington.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

And Then I Woke Up

Real life intruded for a bit. Sorry about the long absence. I'd been feeling fatigued, so I laid down and had this crazy dream that Barack Obama became the Democratic nominee for president and then he actually got elected! I know, crazy, right?

Part of the reason I haven't posted is because I've felt the need to write something long about the future of conservatism, and I just haven't had the time for a long, thoughtful post. Which has never stopped me before. (Ba-DUM-bum.) I've also wanted to do my post-mortem of the McCain campaign. But most of it has already been said by now. Still, just for the sake of posterity, I'll throw a few of my thoughts out there over the course of a post or two (or three).

First, the future of conservatism. The election did not represent some massive shift in the electorate. The race was about even until the economy tanked. People were scared about it, and Obama appeared sure-footed while McCain was anything but. Obama won 52% of the vote. That's convincing (unless, of course, 52% of the people in, say, California vote to protect traditional marriage, in which case 52% is a practically laughable, meaningless number that we should all ignore). But it does not indicate some massive ideological shift.

McCain was a lousy, non-conservative candidate who (because of that) drew almost zero help from outside 527-type groups, had the entire national media working tirelessly against him, had no clear message, ran from the same party as a wildly unpopular incumbent president, was outspent in the campaign by several magnitudes, stumbled at a crucial point when the economy collapsed--and still finished within about 8 million votes of Obama in a 300 million-person nation. And since one more than 50% is a majority, that means that there were really only about 4 million actual voters separating McCain and Obama. Flip those 4 million and the election goes the other way. Considering the stacked deck, that's amazing. I predicted, because McCain was such a bad candidate, that he'd lose 40 states. He did much better than I expected. If nothing else, it shows that the country has experienced nothing close to a sea change, no matter what the pundits say.

The fact is, this is still a center-right country. Two states that Obama won also passed marriage amendments. 62% of people in Florida --which Obama won--voted to approve a marriage amendment. Social conservative issues are still a political winner when presented well. McCain inexplicably decided to minimize social conservative issues, and he lost as a result, garnering no real fervor from his own side while failing to win any converts from the other side either. But when social issues come up for a vote, the American public in general shows itself to be socially conservative.

For instance, every single state (more than 30 of them) that has had a chance to outlaw gay marriage has done it. Think about it: why did Obama feel the need to disguise himself as a social conservative? Obama came out in opposition to gay marriage (and if you believe him on that, I have some land just west of me here in Florida...) and claimed to want to reduce the number of abortions (though Planned Parenthood and NARAL ardently supported him). Why did he present himself that way? Because he knows that the country won't vote for gay-marrying, open abortion-without-restriction loving politicians, that's why. Even on economic issues, Obama made the most headway on McCain running to his right. Obama's main economic argument was that he was going to cut more of your taxes than McCain was. And he was able to accurately criticize Republicans for being irresponsible on spending. Ultimately, I'm confident that Obama will not prove to be better on any of these scores because he's a Democrat and will do what Democrats always do. But the point is, he won by stealing essentially conservative positions from the hapless Republican candidate.

Many voices in the Republican Party are calling for an abandonment of conservatism. To which I say once again, "How about trying conservatism?" So-called "compassionate conservatism" ends up being neither, and it has been a huge failure. The mortgage mess was caused by big-government policies. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were both created by big-government policies. The extremely unpopular bailout is a big-government policy. How do these things impugn actual conservatism? The answer is: they don't. They do impugn a chunk of the Republican Party. But not conservatism. When Republicans run for the presidency as solid conservatives, they win. When they run as mealy-mouthed middle-of-the-roaders, they lose. Sure, conservatism needs to have a smile on it. Nobody wants Newt Gingrich to be president (except perhaps Newt). But presented well, conservatism is still a winning proposition.

Whatever the pundits say, don't forget that at the end of the day, people elected a guy who said he was going to cut their taxes, curb federal spending, reduce the number of abortions, and opposes gay marriage. How exactly does this prove the death of conservatism?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Morning After

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

There will be plenty of time for criticism later (like, say, later today). But the people have spoken strongly, and they want Barack Obama to be the 44th president of the United States.

I believe in this system even when I don't like the outcome. For eight years, I've watched disgustedly while the far left says of George W. Bush, "He's not my president!" That's a sub-American position that I refuse to wallow in.

Barack Obama will be my president. I will mostly disagree with him. I wish it were someone else. But for better or for worse, he is now our representative to the world, and because I love my country, I want him to do well. If he's doing well, the country is likely doing well.

Because of that, my family and I are praying for President-elect Obama. We pray that he will have wisdom and strength to do a very difficult job. We pray that his eyes will be opened to the horror of abortion. We pray that he will lead justly and righteously. We pray that God might perhaps use Obama's election to finally heal some of the deep racial fissures that still divide this country. We pray for his protection and safety, as many would wish to do him harm.

I woke up feeling great today. Not because the election went my way, but rather because, in a sense, all elections go my way. The reason for this is that my God is an un-elected God, and He does not change with the winds of public opinions. He sits above all earthly rulers and authorities, and indeed He is their very creator. He builds up and He tears down. He raises up empires and overthrows them. He installs presidents and he removes them. In the words of the great Westminster Confession of Faith, "God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass." The president's authority is only a delegated authority--it's given by God, and God can take it away whenever He sees fit:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. (Romans 13:1)

The sovereign God is bringing about exactly what He intends to bring about. It may well be that He is executing judgment on our nation. He would certainly be just to do so. But in any case, the world (and our nation) is right on track toward the purpose He's established for it. There is no politician who gets in the way of that.

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will. (Proverbs 21:1)

So on this day after Barack Obama's election, I rejoice. Not because I think he's the best man for the job (though I will be praying for him nonetheless), but because God is God, and He is good. Everything--everything--He does is for the good of His people.

Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! I will praise the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets the prisoners free;
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

The LORD will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the LORD!
(Psalm 146, ESV)

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Case For McCain

I've already voted here in Florida, and I cast my vote for John McCain. McCain is far from my ideal candidate, which I've detailed in this space ad nauseum. But ultimately, I cast my vote for him with a clean conscience. Following are my three major reasons (only the first of which really matters). I'd particularly like to communicate these to confused evangelicals who are considering casting an Obama vote tomorrow.

1. McCain is solidly anti-abortion, while Obama is the most radically pro-abortion presidential candidate in history.

I am proudly, unapologetically a one-issue voter. To compare any other issue to the abortion holocaust is to engage in a breathtaking moral equivalence. It is not a viable Christian option to say, "Well, I disagree with Obama on abortion, but I agree with him on taxes [or whatever]." You cannot draw a moral equivalency between the wholesale eradication of human lives and other issues. To do so is to demonstrate one's self to be a moral midget. You can get away with this (indeed, it's expected) if you are a secularist, but it is not an option for a Christian. Imagine saying in 1860, "Well, I agree with Abraham Lincoln on the slavery issue, but I agree with the pro-slavery candidate John C. Breckinridge on taxes." You don't settle that with an eenie, meenie, miney, moe. As Doug Wilson has aptly said, abortion is the big E on the moral eye chart. If you don't get that one right, your eyesight can't be trusted on anything.

Many have been duped by Obama's simple assertion that his policies will lead to fewer abortions. It's just a flat-out lie, which is easily enough discovered by anyone wishing to dig an inch below the sound bite. Obama said in one setting that he views a baby as punishment that a pregnant girl shouldn't have to suffer, analogous to a sexually transmitted disease. The fact is that Obama has assured Planned Parenthood that he will immediately institute the "Freedom of Choice Act" (or FOCA) which will repeal almost all local restrictions on abortion. Michael New has crunched the numbers and determined that this would likely result in an immediate increase of about 125,000 abortions a year. How long would the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have to go on to kill that many people? If you are willing to overlook this issue, you need to take a serious look at where things stand between you and God.

2. He's not Obama.

Granted, this has seemingly been McCain's entire strategy, and I'm not sure that it's strong enough to win a national campaign, especially considering that Obama has been the beneficiary of an entirely, utterly uncritical media for the last several years. But it is still a powerful point in McCain's favor. Obama is the most radically leftist candidate to ever sniff the presidency, and the nation is perhaps one day from sweeping him into office. He's already been endorsed by al Qaeda and communist quasi-dictator Hugo Chavez.

Obama's life and career have been intimately intertwined with characters like Jeremiah "God damn America" Wright, William "I don't regret setting bombs" Ayers, and former PLO spokesman Rashid Khalidi. He lied when pledging to stick to public financing of his campaign. He threw the elderly white grandmother--who raised him--under the bus (calling her a "typical white person") in an attempt to defend the indefensible Jeremiah Wright. When defending Wright became too politically cumbersome, Obama threw Wright under the bus too. Just this past week, he also threw his Kenyan aunt (who even gets a mention in his memoir!) under the bus, in his relentless drive to the presidency. There soon won't be enough buses for all the people Obama wants to run over. And we're about to elect this guy president.

3. McCain is a genuine hero, while Obama is a complete neophyte.

Sarah Palin, quite properly, reminds voters that "only one person in this race has actually fought for you."

In the wake of the sad suicide of the author David Foster Wallace, I was reading some of his work online, which includes this piece [WARNING: graphic language--adults only] written in 2000 for Rolling Stone magazine about the first McCain presidential campaign. Reading the graphic description of McCain's treatment in Vietnam, I found myself actually brought up short for some of the harsh things I've said about McCain in the past. After being shot down,
He was delirious with pain for weeks, and his weight dropped to 100 pounds, and the other POWs were sure he would die; and then after a few months like that after his bones mostly knitted and he could sort of stand up they brought him in to the prison commandant's office and offered to let him go. This is true. They said he could just leave. They had found out that McCain's father was one of the top-ranking naval officers in the U.S. Armed Forces (which is true — both his father and grandfather were admirals), and the North Vietnamese wanted the PR coup of mercifully releasing his son, the baby-killer. McCain, 100 pounds and barely able to stand, refused. The U.S. military's Code of Conduct for Prisoners of War apparently said that POWs had to be released in the order they were captured, and there were others who'd been in Hoa Lo a long time, and McCain refused to violate the Code. The commandant, not pleased, right there in the office had guards break his ribs, rebreak his arm, knock his teeth out. McCain still refused to leave without the other POWs. And so then he spent four more years in Hoa Lo like this, much of the time in solitary, in the dark, in a closet-sized box called a "punishment cell." Maybe you've heard all this before; it's been in umpteen different media profiles of McCain. But try to imagine that moment between getting offered early release and turning it down. Try to imagine it was you. Imagine how loudly your most basic, primal self-interest would have cried out to you in that moment, and all the ways you could rationalize accepting the offer. Can you hear it? If so, would you have refused to go? You simply can't know for sure. None of us can. It's hard even to imagine the pain and fear in that moment, much less know how you'd react.

But, see, we do know how this man reacted. That he chose to spend four more years there, in a dark box, alone, tapping code on the walls to the others, rather than violate a Code. Maybe he was nuts. But the point is that with McCain it feels like we know, for a proven fact, that he's capable of devotion to something other, more, than his own self-interest.
Frankly, we no longer deserve a president with this kind of honor, but maybe God will be merciful and give us one anyway.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama has been groomed for the presidency since when, as a callow Illinois state senator, he was anointed to give the keynote address to the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Then, after being elected to the U.S. Senate that same year, he spent 143 days in session, at which point he felt he was now sufficiently prepared to become president of the United States and launched his campaign. His entire national political career has been shorter than only the time McCain was imprisoned after refusing a dishonorable release. Obama's own running mate admits Obama is completely untested and unproven, saying during the primary campaign that "the presidency is not something that lends itself to on-the-job training." And more recently (and famously), Biden predicted that other nations would try to take advantage of Obama's manifest inexperience.

I have no problem with someone who sees the two-party system as in need of drastic reform and decides to vote for a third-party candidate. I understand that and have flirted with it myself. But for a professing Christian to cast a vote for Obama displays either a naivete, an almost willful ignorance, or a hardening of heart that should be cause for deep concern. I pray that Christians will not participate in the national blindness that has befallen us. You will someday account for your vote (or your failure to vote) before a just and holy God. Think about that before you pull the donkey lever just because you think Obama's got some good ideas about tax rates.