"A government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take away everything you have."

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Obama by the Numbers!

Check out this fascinating list of statistics relating to the Obama economy. Of course, statistics can be easily manipulated one way or another, depending on your point of view. But I think these numbers are pretty damning for the president, and I like the fact that each statistic is backed up by a link to the source. This information could be useful next time you are discussing politics with an Obama supporter!

A little wisdom from the 18th century

"The statesman, who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capital, would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which could safely be trusted, not only to no single person, but to no council or senate whatever, and would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it."

~Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations, Vol. II (quoted in Basic American Government by Clarence Carson)

Monday, January 30, 2012

If I Were a Florida Primary Voter Tomorrow...

Tomorrow is the Florida GOP presidential primary. The race has turned into a heated contest between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, with Rick Santorum and Ron Paul lurking in the background, hoping to become spoilers. Florida has a much larger and more diverse voting population than the states that have previously voted, and its primary is winner-take-all, meaning that its results will doubtless be critical in determining the party's presidential nominee.

If I were a Florida primary voter, I would cast my vote for Mitt Romney. The fact that I have come around to supporting Romney is a bit surprising even to me, as I opposed him back in the 2008 presidential primary when many conservatives were supporting him against McCain. As recently as a few months ago, I was deadset against him being the nominee. Even now, unlike many of his fans, I am fully cognizant of his weaknesses, both with regard to his conservative credentials and his electability. He is far from a perfect candidate and far from a slam-dunk against Obama.

My support for Romney boils down to two key points: I believe he is the only candidate left in the race capable of defeating Obama, and I believe he is essentially a decent man, a competent executive, and a reasonably conservative politician who would be an acceptable Republican nominee.

Two of Romney's three remaining competitors fail on both points listed above. I believe Ron Paul is a highly unelectable candidate, for reasons I listed in a previous post, and I also find his positions on certain issues (primarily related to his views on foreign policy and the war against terrorism) to be unacceptable policy positions for our party's nominee.

Newt Gingrich, who is apparently the nominee of choice for many influential conservatives including Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh, likewise fails on these two points. Gingrich's personal negatives are high, especially among independents and women, and he consistently polls much worse than Romney in nationwide and state-by-state matchups against Obama. Many of the qualities that make him appealing to GOP primary voters -- his bombthrowing rhetorical style, his tendency toward grand but controversial ideas, his open contempt for the media -- are likely to be liabilities in a general election.

In addition to Gingrich's obvious electability issues, I find his personal character and past leadership to be deeply lacking. Anyone who believes that personal integrity and morality is key to effective leadership should have grave concerns about a President Gingrich. Not once, but twice, Newt Gingrich committed adultery and divorced his wife in order to marry his mistress. Other ingredients in these sordid affairs were delinquent child support payments by Gingrich, the fact that both of the first two wives were suffering serious health problems at the time he was cheating on them, and allegations by his second wife that he wanted an open marriage. It is especially distressing to me that so many Christian conservatives seem indifferent to these character flaws, and the hypocrisy of "values voters" voting in such large numbers for Gingrich in South Carolina is certainly not lost on non-Christians.

Of course, Gingrich's adulterous behavior is far from his only character flaw. His ego appears to be nearly as big as Obama's, and his leadership style is erratic and undisciplined. Although he deserves great credit for leading the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994, he proved to be an ineffective Speaker of the House and was forced out of leadership by his own party after only two terms. Few of his former colleagues have endorsed him, and many of them, including Tom Coburn, Tom DeLay, and Bob Dole, have sharply criticized him as a bullying egomaniac who was perfectly willing to sacrifice principle for power. (See this link for an example from Coburn's 2003 book.) His lobbyist connections to Freddie Mac, his criticisms of Congressman Paul Ryan's plan to tackle entitlements, his recent socialist-style attacks on Romney's business background with Bain Capital, and his past positions on federal health care mandates, climate change, and amnesty for illegal immigrants -- all of these things call into question Gingrich's claim that he is the conservative alternative to Romney. If we are going to sacrifice electability to get the most conservative candidate, we should at least make sure that the less electable candidate we are selecting is a principled and consistent conservative! It seems to me that the perception that Gingrich is more conservative than Romney is based far more on style than on substance.

With Paul and Gingrich off the table, the only other alternative to Romney is Rick Santorum. Unlike Paul or Gingrich, Santorum is an acceptable nominee in my opinion, and I could cast a primary vote for him with a clear conscience. I believe him to be a decent and devout man and a consistent conservative. Unfortunately, I also think it is highly unlikely that he could win a general election contest against Obama. Santorum's blowout Senate loss in Pennsylvania in 2006, his heavy emphasis on issues like abortion and gay marriage, his tendency to alternate between whining and bragging in the debates, and his poor showing in primary polling and voting in every state other than Iowa, call into question his ability to appeal to the broad spectrum of Republican and independent voters needed to win the White House.

That brings us back to Mitt Romney. Romney clearly is qualified to be President. His list of accomplishments include running several successful businesses, turning around a financially-troubled Olympic Commitee, and getting elected as a Republican and successfully governing a state that is usually very hostile to Republicans. These accomplishments demonstrate both an understanding of the free market and substantial executive experience. He is personally wealthy, but his wealth is largely self-made rather than inherited. From the debates I have watched, he comes across as knowledgeable and reasonably eloquent, and his answers and opinions seem consistent with conservative principles to me. His positions on the issues seem to be unchanged from 2008, when Rush Limbaugh was touting him as the presidential candidate most capable of uniting the three main factions of the Republican party (social conservatives, national defense conservatives, and economic conservatives). He appears to support the free markets and capitalism, support decreasing job-killing regulations, support developing our oil resources, oppose illegal immigration, oppose tax increases, support a strong military, and believe in American exceptionalism. There is no doubt in my mind he would sign a repeal of ObamaCare as well as most other conservative legislation sent to him by a Republican legislature. He is not as outspoken about reforming entitlements and drastically reducing spending as I would like, but he is still far better than Obama and probably no worse than Gingrich and Santorum.

Although his positions on the issues clearly seem conservative to me, he has appeal to independents and moderates because he avoids using inflammatory rhetoric, presents himself as a practical problem-solver, and was forced to govern as a centrist while governor of Massachusetts (due to the state's overwhelmingly Democratic legislature). For these reasons, he polls very competitively against Obama and is far more popular than his GOP rivals among the critical independent voting bloc.

Although Romney has been consistent throughout this campaign and his previous campaign for president in his pro-life and pro-traditional marriage positions, many Christian conservatives remain suspicious of him because of the fact that he was once pro-choice and the perception that he is a typical liberal Massachusetts Republican. I found this letter, signed by numerous social conservative leaders from the state, to be very reassuring, and I would encourage everyone who doubts Romney's commitment to traditional family values to read it. It is clear that pro-life and pro-family organizations in Massachusetts considered Romney to be a rare friend and ally. Ironically, the very fact that Romney is a Mormon -- a sore point for some evangelicals -- reassures me even further that Romney's socially conservative beliefs are probably sincere. On other policy issues too, including RomneyCare, it is easy to fault Romney for not being a perfect conservative during his time as governor, but it appears that he accomplished as much as he could given the opposition he faced. Does anyone doubt that Massachusetts would have passed a government health care law, with or without Romney?

No, Romney is not a perfect candidate. He needs to do much better at convincing the GOP base that he is a conservative and is their ally. He can come across as emotionally detached and insincere, and his upscale background can make it hard for him to connect to working class voters. He has deviated from conservative ideology significantly in the past, although the most damning quotes are all a decade or more old. He needs to sharpen his attacks on Obama in the months ahead. But overall, Romney is an acceptable nominee and the best option that I see right now, since my candidates of choice Mike Pence and Mitch Daniels chose not to run. And don't underestimate the importance of choosing a nominee who can beat Obama. Every conservative should be able to agree that Romney would be a dramatic improvement over Obama, and having a "pure conservative" nominee like Santorum is useless if it only results in four more years of the most left-wing administration our country has ever had.

It has been a divisive primary, largely because of the weaknesses of the candidates running. The voters will have a chance to speak tomorrow in Florida, and in many other states over the next couple of months. I believe that Republicans voters should and will rally around Romney as the best of the available options. Once he is the nominee, conservatives everywhere should make it their top priority to get him elected to the White House. To fail to do so would be extremely harmful to our conservative principles and our country.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The State of the Union

Here are a few random thoughts on the passing political scene (I think I stole that line from Thomas Sowell).

I (half) watched Obama's State of the Union speech this past week. I wasn't planning to do so, but my wife is teaching a government class this semester and wanted to set a good example for her students by watching it. So I sat in the room with her and listened to the speech in the background while working on other things.

The speech went on and on (over an hour I think) but never seemed to address the real challenges we face as a country. In all those thousands of words, Obama barely touched on the topic of our crippling national debt and completely ignored the vital issue of entitlement spending. In fact, the speech was filled with new spending initiatives and government "solutions." It's all business as usual for Obama. Lots of "investments in our future," which is code for government spending. And as expected, a lot of talk about everyone getting "their fair share" -- Obama is obsessed with income inequality. His only suggestion for fixing our debt problem is to make the rich pay a lot more in taxes. Never mind that the wealthiest 10% already pay pretty much all the taxes and that about 50% of Americans pay no income taxes at all. Never mind that, even if the U.S. government confiscated all the wealth of the 400 richest Americans, it would still be less than just the current year's budget deficit under Obama.

There was so much irony in the speech, for those who have been following Obama's actions as President. He talked a lot about working together for the good of the country -- ironic coming from a President who has done so much to divide us and has made zero effort to reach out to the other side of the political spectrum. He talked about Washington's failures, apparently unaware that he himself is the face of Washington and Washington's failures are his failures. He bragged about oil and gas production during his first term, even though he did everything he could to oppose it, including dramatically cutting back on federal oil and gas leases, banning certain offshore drilling, and opposing the Keystone pipeline. He complained about not being able to get quick up-or-down votes on his judicial nominees, even though he repeatedly joined his party in filibustering Bush nominees as a U.S. Senator. He praised the results of the bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler, and just a few short minutes later came down hard against bailouts. Against all evidence, he insisted that our relationship with Israel is stronger than it has ever been and that America is not in decline.

Most bizarrely, Obama's idea of an inspiring ending was to say that "this nation is great because we worked as a team. This nation is great because we get each other’s backs.” Yeah, that's great if you're describing your teenage son's soccer team. We've come a long way from "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

The Republican response, given by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, was everything Obama's speech was not -- short, concise, and focused on the important stuff. Here are some excerpts from the speech that are well worth reading:

In three short years, an unprecedented explosion of spending, with borrowed money, has added trillions to an already unaffordable national debt. And yet, the President has put us on a course to make it radically worse in the years ahead. The federal government now spends one of every four dollars in the entire economy; it borrows one of every three dollars it spends. No nation, no entity, large or small, public or private, can thrive, or survive intact, with debts as huge as ours....

We do not accept that ours will ever be a nation of haves and have nots; we must always be a nation of haves and soon to haves....

The routes back to an America of promise, and to a solvent America that can pay its bills and protect its vulnerable, start in the same place. The only way up for those suffering tonight, and the only way out of the dead end of debt into which we have driven, is a private economy that begins to grow and create jobs, real jobs, at a much faster rate than today....

The extremism that stifles the development of homegrown energy, or cancels a perfectly safe pipeline that would employ tens of thousands, or jacks up consumer utility bills for no improvement in either human health or world temperature, is a pro-poverty policy. It must be replaced by a passionate pro-growth approach that breaks all ties and calls all close ones in favor of private sector jobs that restore opportunity for all and generate the public revenues to pay our bills.

That means a dramatically simpler tax system of fewer loopholes and lower rates. A pause in the mindless piling on of expensive new regulations that devour dollars that otherwise could be used to hire somebody. It means maximizing on the new domestic energy technologies that are the best break our economy has gotten in years....

The mortal enemies of Social Security and Medicare are those who, in contempt of the plain arithmetic, continue to mislead Americans that we should change nothing. Listening to them much longer will mean that these proud programs implode, and take the American economy with them. It will mean that coming generations are denied the jobs they need in their youth and the protection they deserve in their later years.

It’s absolutely so that everyone should contribute to our national recovery, including of course the most affluent among us. There are smart ways and dumb ways to do this: the dumb way is to raise rates in a broken, grossly complex tax system, choking off growth without bringing in the revenues we need to meet our debts. The better course is to stop sending the wealthy benefits they do not need, and stop providing them so many tax preferences that distort our economy and do little or nothing to foster growth....

As a loyal opposition, who put patriotism and national success ahead of party or ideology or any self-interest, we say that anyone who will join us in the cause of growth and solvency is our ally, and our friend. We will speak the language of unity. Let us rebuild our finances, and the safety net, and reopen the door to the stairway upward; any other disagreements we may have can wait.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

My Thoughts on Ron Paul

I started writing a blog post about Ron Paul a few weeks ago, when he was a threat to win the Iowa caucus. I never got a chance to finish it, but I decided to revisit the topic after reading the link A.K. posted on the blog earlier today. I'm a little hesitant to write too much about Ron Paul, because my opinions about him put me at odds with a lot of people I care about, including family members. But during this GOP primary season, he has made himself pretty hard to ignore, and I have to be honest about what I think.

First of all, I must say that I agree with Ron Paul on many issues -- some of which are well expressed by the Voddie Baucham article linked in the previous post. I do believe that Paul is a sincere Christian and a highly principled politician who holds the Constitution in high regard. I agree that he is the most committed of all candidates currently running for political office to dramatically cutting federal spending and controlling the burgeoning power of the federal government. While I think Paul may be overly obsessed with the Federal Reserve, he does raise valid concerns about its manipulation of currency. (A.K. is far more knowledgeable about this topic than I.) And I like his emphasis on individual liberty. However, although I probably agree with him on more issues than I disagree with him, I consider the areas of disagreement to be important enough and the degree of those disagreements to be sharp enough that I absolutely could not vote for him in the Republican primary. I would vote for him in a general election against Obama, but that is not saying much because I would vote for my cat over Obama as well.

Let me present, as best as I can, the reasons why I could not vote for Ron Paul in the Republican primary.

1.His position on terrorism. He believes that non-U.S. citizens, including enemy combatants, are entitled to the same constitutional rights as U.S. citizens. He believes that Guantanamo Bay should be shut down and that the foreign terrorists currently being held there should be brought to America and tried in civilian courts, rather than military tribunals (much like Obama and Eric Holder!). He does not believe the government should be permitted to use any kind of enhanced interrogation techniques on captured terrorists, even if it could lead to information that will prevent terrorist attacks and save lives (as it has). He opposes the Patriot Act, which I believe provides vital intelligence-gathering tools to the government to foil terrorist plots. I do not believe these anti-terrorism measures are unconstitutional, and I previously linked to some excellent articles by Andrew McCarthy related to these topics that explain why they are not unconstitutional.

In fact, Paul has repeatedly expressed his opinion that the U.S. brought the 9/11 attacks on itself -- at least to a certain extent -- by its foreign policy decisions, a view which both minimizes the sheer evil of terrorism and demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of radical Islam which underlies 9/11 and other attacks. According to Eric Dondero, a long-time former senior aide, Paul "was opposed to the War in Afghanistan, and to any military reaction to the attacks of 9/11.... He expressed no sympathies whatsoever for those who died on 9/11, and pretty much forbade us staffers from engaging in any sort of memorial expressions, or openly asserting pro-military statements in support of the Bush administration." Dondero says that Paul was planning to vote "no" on the resolution authorizing force in Afghanistan, but changed his mind at the last minute, perhaps realizing that a no vote would be political suicide. Paul even questioned our recent killing of Osama bin Laden. I believe that Ron Paul's position on terrorism would put our country in grave danger from radical Islamic terrorism -- in violation of his most fundamental duty as Commander-in-Chief which is to keep our country safe from foreign enemies.

2. His anti-Americanism. Ron Paul always seems to rush to the most negative judgment about our country and our involvement in the world. In the presidential debates, he has parroted left-wing lies about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, such as calling them "blood for oil" and
"wars of occupation and aggression" and saying we declared "war on 1.2 billion Muslims." He accused the Americans who justifiably spoke out against the Islamic Center near Ground Zero of being Islamophobic, saying that "neo-conservatives never miss a chance to use hatred toward Muslims to rally support for the ill conceived preventative wars."

Worst of all, there is evidence that he sympathizes with "9/11 truthers," people who believe that the 9/11 attacks were an inside job carried out by the U.S. government. While Paul has long associated with crazies who believe this, the link here shows a recent video of Paul answering a question from a supporter about "why [he] won't come out about the truth about 9/11," an obvious reference to "truther" conspiracy claims. Paul's response? "Because I can’t handle the controversy, I have the IMF, the Federal Reserve to deal with, the IRS to deal with, because, no, because I just have more-too many things on my plate. Because I just have too much to do." It seems obvious to me that Paul agrees with the truthers, but he won't come out and say it because it would be too controversial. And Paul apparently has been greatly influenced an old friend named Lew Rockwell, whose libertarian website has published some incredibly nasty things about the U.S. military (see this post for an example).

3. His foreign policy beliefs. Ron Paul believes that we should dramatically cut funding for our military and withdraw our troops from all their bases and locations around the world (everywhere from Germany to the Korean border). He has publicly stated that our country faces no threat from Iran and believes they have a perfect right to acquire nuclear weapons. He is against all trade sanctions, even with countries like Iran and Cuba.

Quoting Dondero again, Paul is "most certainly Anti-Israel, and Anti-Israeli in general. He wishes the Israeli state did not exist at all. He expressed this to me numerous times in our private conversations. His view is that Israel is more trouble than it is worth, specifically to the American taxpayer. He sides with the Palestinians, and supports their calls for the abolishment of the Jewish state, and the return of Israel, all of it, to the Arabs." These claims are consistent with everything I have heard him say relating to Israel. While I agree with Voddie Baucham that the U.S. is not obligated to always agree with Israel, I think we should recognize Israel as virtually the only country in the Middle East that shares our democratic values and stands side-by-side with us against terrorism. Dondero also said that Paul "strenuously does not believe the United States had any business getting involved in fighting Hitler in WWII. He expressed to me countless times that 'saving the Jews' was absolutely none of our business." This is also a believable claim about Paul, since such a view is common in radical libertarian circles.

4. His slanders against fellow Republicans. During a recent campaign speech in Iowa, Paul said that immediately following the 9/11 attacks, "there was glee in the (Bush) administration, because now we can invade Iraq." This is a nasty slander against Bush that is entirely contradicted both by the shock, horror, and anger exhibited by Bush and his top aides following the attacks, and also by the fact that the war in Iraq did not start for well over a year after 9/11. Paul also recently appeared on the Jay Leno show, where he accused Michele Bachmann of hating Muslims simply because of her mainstream Republican beliefs about Iran and terrorism, and suggested Rick Santorum also hated Muslims and gays. He wants to be accepted and respected as a legitimate contender for the Republican nomination, but he shows little respect for his fellow Republicans. His loyalty to the party he wants to represent is questionable at best, since he left the party once before to run as a third party presidential candidate, and has not ruled out doing so again this year.

5. His support for the legalization of drugs. I am somewhat open to the idea of legalizing comparatively harmless drugs like marijuana, but Paul supports the legalization of all drugs, even hardcore ones like heroin, crystal meth, and cocaine. While the war on drugs has been costly for the U.S., I believe that it would be more costly for these dangerous and highly addictive drugs to be legal and readily available. Paul has even suggested that U.S. policy on this issue deliberately targets African-Americans for tougher sentences and therefore is racist -- a charge that would seem to be more at home in a Democratic debate than a Republican one.

6. His utterly unrealistic candidacy. Ron Paul supporters disagree with me, of course, but I believe that it is virtually impossible for Paul to be elected to the presidency. If, through some scenario almost impossible to imagine, he were to win the GOP nomination, he would split the party, since more than 60% of Republicans in polls say that he is an "unacceptable" nominee. The Left, which has been pretty nice to him so far, would turn on him with a vengeance and viciously attack him for all kinds of out-of-the-mainstream comments and votes. Remember those old racist newsletters published under Paul's name in the 1990's and Paul's disapproving comments about the Civil Rights Act? We'll be hearing a lot more about those things, courtesy of the media. (And to be honest, I think those issues raise real concerns about him too, even though I do not believe he is personally racist.) And even if he could get elected, he would not be able to accomplish anything close to what his supporters think he could accomplish. With almost no institutional support from either party, he would probably be unable to deliver on nearly all of his agenda. You think the outcry is loud now when Republican propose even modest adjustments to Medicare and Social Security? Imagine when Ron Paul comes on the scene and starts proposing eliminating dozens of departments and agencies!

I have tried to explain, in the limited time available to me, the major reasons why I could not vote for Ron Paul. Some of his supporters agree with Paul on most of the points listed above. Many others who support him disagree with many of these more extreme positions and statements, but still support him because they think his integrity and intention to dramatically shrink government make up for his shortcomings. Personally, I am bothered by the personality cult that seems to surround Paul, and the fact that many of his supporters seem to believe he is the only acceptable candidate and the only hope for America (Voddie Baucham does not).

But I also believe that there are many good people supporting Ron Paul, and the Republican party should treat Paul and his supporters with respect and should not take them for granted. Partly I believe this because the Republicans need the votes of many of his supporters in the general election. But I also believe this because the Republican party would do well to follow Paul's lead on many issues relating to our federal spending and our national debt. If he can influence the party to become more focused on restoring our country's economic liberty and fiscal solvency, then our party and our country will both benefit from his presence in the race.

Under no circumstances, though, do I think he should be the GOP nominee!

"Why Ron Paul?"

I have a feeling this will stir things up. But that's ok. This is an excellent post by Voddie Baucham about why he supports Ron Paul. I think he does an excellent job of summing up Ron Paul's positions on many issues. I was also interested to read his discussion of Ron Paul's support/non-support (depending on who says it) of Israel. I am curious to hear what people have to say about this (assuming anyone's reading) so please comment.

Friday, January 13, 2012

New York City's War on the Churches

I first heard about this story this past Sunday, when my grandfather's church brought this up as a matter for prayer. New York City is banning churches from using public schools for worship services at times when the schools are not in session. World Magazine has great coverage of this topic here and here. Because building space is so expensive and hard to find in New York, more than 150 churches depend on using public schools as meeting places. And the schools benefit significantly, collecting millions of dollars in rent that can be used to fund education. Furthermore, many of these churches are located in the poorest neighborhoods in New York and provide valuable services to the community, including caring for the homeless and for children.

So what is the rationale for this decision by the New York Board of Education? They say that "impressionable children" might think the schools are endorsing religious belief. In other words, the board is hostile to religion and thinks it is a negative thing for children to be exposed to it. As I mentioned in my last post, this is a sad distortion of the First Amendment, which prohibits "an establishment of religion." This means that the government is not permitted to establish a national church or to compel people to worship in a certain way or contribute money to a particular religious denomination -- as many of the colonies did when they were under English control. The Founders staunchly believed in individual freedom of conscience when it came to religious belief and practice. They would have been horrified if they had known that the First Amendment would be used by anti-Christian zealots to try to muzzle religious influence in society and government. They themselves constantly alluded to God and used Christian themes in their public speeches and promoted days of public prayer and thanksgiving to God. George Washington stated that "religion and morality are indispensable supports to any society."

Schools in New York City and around the country are constantly renting out their facilities for use by private groups during times when they are not needed for school activities. Everyone knows that the schools are not endorsing the beliefs of every group or organization that may rent its facilities. This is a right offered to both religious and non-religious organizations, and it is a benefit for both the school and the renting organization. By denying religious groups the same right to use school facilities that non-religious groups have, New York City is actively discriminating against religion -- and is doing so at a cost both to its own schools and to its communities. In fact, I would argue the city's action is detrimental to the free exercise of religion, because some of these churches may be forced to shut down entirely if they cannot find another place to meet.

Apparently New York decided to follow up this attack on religion with an attack on free speech as well. Police arrested 7 protesters, including 2 pastors, and held them in custody for three hours. Their crime? Kneeling in prayer and singing 2 hymns outside the city's Law Department office. They subsequently arrested 43 other people who were singing hymns and praying as part of a protest outside of a building in which the mayor was giving a speech. Contrast the treatment of these people exercising their right to speech and to peaceably assemble with the treatment by the police of the Occupy Wall Street protesters, who were permitted to block traffic on a major road and then allowed to spend months camping out in a public park, stinking up an entire section of the city and damaging property, before they were finally removed. Talk about a double standard.

I'm glad that my grandfather's church is standing in solidarity with these churches in New York. I think all of us who are concerned about the increasing hostility of government toward religion, especially public expressions of religion, should do the same.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Victory for Religious Liberty

I was encouraged to read about the recent Supreme Court decision Hosanna-Tabor Church v. EEOC. The high court ruled unanimously that the government does not have the right under the First Amendment to interfere in the choices of churches, synagogues, and other religious organizations to hire or fire their own ministers, teachers, and other religious leaders. If the court had ruled otherwise, religious liberty would be in grave jeopardy. In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that “it is impermissible for the government to contradict a church’s determination of who can act as its ministers.”

Sadly, the Obama Administration argued vigorously against religious liberty in this case -- and was soundly beaten. This is yet another example of how out of touch Obama and his Justice Department are when it comes to our Constitutional freedoms.

You can read more about this decision on National Review Online's legal blog here and here. One of those links includes the following great quote on the First Amendment:

Church-state separation is often misunderstood and seen as an anti-religious program, or as requiring that “religion” stay out of politics or public life. But this is not the point of church-state separation at all. The idea is to constrain government regulation, not religious expression and practice. Separation is an arrangement that protects religious authorities, institutions, and communities from unjustified interference by governments.

Indeed, the phrase "separation of church and state" is not even in the Constitution. Instead, the Constitution states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." It seems clear to me, both from the wording used and from what we know about the Founders, that the purpose of this clause was to encourage and protect religious practice and expression, not to stifle it. Today, some seem to think its purpose is to keep religious people from holding office or expressing their views in public.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Obama's Mockery of the Constitution, Part 2

I want to follow up on what I wrote last week on Obama's "recess appointments" by linking to this excellent opinion article in The Wall Street Journal by Michael McConnell, the director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School. McConnell ably explains why Obama's unconstitutional appointments matter and refutes claims made by Obama's defenders.

I highly recommend that you read the entire article, as I cannot summarize everything from it here. However, I wanted to highlight one portion of the article in which McConnell notes that Obama's latest appointments merely continue the pattern of callous disregard for the Constitution that has marked his entire presidency. Obama decided to go to war in Libya not only without a congressional declaration of war, but also without following the reporting requirements of the War Powers Resolution that included a 60-day deadline for congressional authorization. His administration is attempting to bypass Congress entirely by imposing cap-and-trade regulations and union card check legislation, despite the fact that the people's representatives in Congress have rejected both.

Obama believes that he is above the law. He believes he has the right to appoint whomever he wants to whatever position he wants without congressional approval, the right to make sweeping new laws apart from Congress, and the right to unilaterally take our country to war with no accountability to Congress whatsoever. If he gets away with this behavior, he will be emboldened to be even more brazen. Democrats don't care; they support Obama's actions. Republicans control only one branch of Congress and so can do little to stop Obama -- and they are not doing a very good job using the power and public platform they do have. The media is far too busy asking the Republican presidential candidates about their views on contraception to bother to keep Obama accountable. It is difficult and time-consuming to challenge many of these things in court.

2012 is a critical year for those of us who value our constitutional system. We have a chance to defeat Obama, and we'd better not screw it up. I read comments on several conservative websites, and it worries me how divided conservatives are and how determined they seem to be to cannibalize each other. We may disagree on which of the GOP candidates is the best, but we should all agree that any of them, with all their imperfections, would be infinitely better than Obama. Romney, Santorum, Perry, Gingrich, Huntsman -- any of them. (Ron Paul is a bit of a special case, and his views are so dramatically out of the mainstream of the Republican party that I could understand some Republicans being unwilling to support him. But he is a niche candidate who has no chance of winning the nomination.) I keep reading comments from supposed conservatives saying they would "never" vote for ___ [insert name of Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, etc]. If conservatives continue with that attitude, they will swing this election to Obama. As conservatives, we should have one political goal this year, and everything we do should further that goal. Obama's defeat is the only thing that will make achieving our other goals possible, including repealing ObamaCare.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Obama's Latest Mockery of the Constitution

This week, Obama appointed Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That's not the problem.

The problem is that this appointment is supposedly a "recess appointment." Recess appointments are a loophole that enables the president to avoid the constitutional requirement for top governmental and judicial appointees to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Recess appointments are only constitutionally permissible if Congress is in "recess." Congress is not in "recess" this week, according to the criteria set forth by Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution and its explanation in past Justice Department briefs. Congress is legally in session, and therefore Obama is not eligible to make recess appointments. But he did it anyway.

This is an open mockery of our Constitution -- and an unprecedented one. Back in 2007, Congress stayed in session for over a year to keep President Bush from making recess appointments. At one point, Congress was called into session for just 27 seconds to prevent such recess appointments. Because President Bush respected the Constitution and the rule of law, he did not make an illegal recess appointment. Now we have a president who doesn't care.

There's a reason the Constitution set up these checks and balances regarding presidential appointments. We live in a constitutional republic with division of powers between three branches of government. The whole point of the "advice and consent" Senate role is to keep the President accountable and ensure that his appointments are broadly acceptable to the public. If the President has the right to ignore such constitutional requirements altogether, he is setting himself above the law.

Obama's new appointee, Richard Cordray, will have tremendous power to influence the economy. The new Financial Consumer Protection Bureau can regulate any and every consumer transaction in this country. Because it is funded out of the Federal Reserve, it has no accountability to Congress. And now all power in this bureau is vested in one individual rather than in a five-member board (which was the original intent when this bureau was set up). Congress was trying to avoid this situation, where one unaccountable bureaucrat was running a powerful unaccountable agency, so it deliberately stayed in session to try to force reforms. Little did they know that Obama would trample on Constitutional and historical precedent to get his way.

People need to know what Obama is doing. The press is not reporting this accurately. CNN's headline is "Obama Recess Appoints Consumer Bureau Chief." You have to read deep into the lengthy article to even find out that Congress is not in recess, so therefore this cannot be a recess appointment. This illegal appointment by Obama continues his past history of avoiding Senate advice and consent by appointing an unprecedented number of powerful, unaccountable czars.

We need a President who respects the Constitution. Right now, we don't have one.