Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

Much has been written comparing the present health care reform effort to prior struggles for the same thing.  But this week’s passage of the Senate’s version of Obamacare brought to mind another recent political circumstance that, for me, says more about the political risks in play than does the failure of Hillarycare in 1993.

I speak of the impeachment of President Clinton, 1998. Of course, the process and the subject matter have nothing to do with health care.  But the politics do.  You may remember that the House vote to impeach President Clinton was the last thing Congress did before adjourning for Christmas in 1998.  I recall this distinctly, because I was driving south to Georgia from Washington with two of my friends and fellow Congressional staffers, listening to the debate and then the vote in favor of impeachment on a scratchy car radio.

It was a moment full of mixed emotions.  We wanted to be happy, because we all felt strongly that Clinton’s presidency should end after a year of lying and political manipulation.  We also knew that the public wasn’t so sure.  Polls had shown for months that Americans were largely against impeachment, but Republicans had resolutely pushed forward, certain that their solid factual and legal case against the President would carry the day in the end.  In fact, there was almost a morose, melancholy, martyred feeling to it all — while Republicans felt they were doing what they had to do, and that it was in everyone’s best interest, those who should be the most appreciative were instead rejecting them.  Even members of their own party were beginning to question the wisdom of impeachment.  In the midst of the Christmas season, the  impeachment managers’ doomed quest took on a bit of a religious tinge.

Compare this to today’s mood in Washington and the country at large.  In Washington, Democrats are throwing themselves victory parties, trying to gin up public support for a plan that average Americans have considered a boondoggle since September.  Democrats have long since given up saying that the public wants what they are selling (setting aside Harry Reid, of course, whose brain is so fried he voted against his own bill).  Instead, they insist on extolling the historic moment, promising that great things will come of this, even if Americans don’t agree with them today.  It also became obvious that Reid was desirous of a Christmas Eve vote, to give his caucus the chance to talk of the Senate’s present to the nation.

The impending political consequences of the two big votes are also similar.  While neither the impeachment vote in the House nor the Senate’s passage of Reid’s bill could independently yield practical results, they both presaged the focus of debate in Washington in the coming year.  In 1998, new political organs, like Moveon.org, were emerging to fill the void left by months of Democrats’ stunned silence in the wake of the Lewinsky allegations.  Those groups, which would become the dominant liberal political force in the country for the next decade, were already promising electoral armageddon against the House impeachment managers.  Even rank and file Democrats had begun to find their voice after months of feeling chastened by their unchaste President’s peccadilloes.  No one believed that impeachment, regardless of how it came out in the end, would benefit Republicans at the polls in 2000.  The only question was whether the Senate would compound the Republicans’ political error.

Health care, by comparison, has mobilized conservatives in ways considered unthinkable in early 2009.  New groups, such as the Tea Party movement, took up the slack in the beginning when Republicans were overcoming their post-Bush hangover.  Now, those groups appear ready to fund and support serious candidates and causes in the coming year.  At the same time, Republicans have retaken the mantle of fiscal sanity, and independent voters have rallied to them.  No one believes that health care reform, whether successful or no, will be a boon to Democrats next November.  The question remaining is whether Obama and Congress will push too many too far out on the plank so as to lose the majority entirely.

As a final comparison, I’d remind us all of what was being ignored in both cases.  At the same time impeachment was dominating the Washington scene, Osama bin Laden was plotting to take down the World  Trade Center.  The last seeds were being sown for the tech bubble to burst in 1999 and 2000.  And the poisonous atmosphere that developed in the wake of impeachment gave license to both sides to unleash a wave of ethics investigations, smear campaigns, and over-the-top theatrics that continue to dominate our politics.

Here we are, 11 years later, and after a year of campaigning on an end to such tactics, Democrats are using every trick in the book to pass what amounts to a regulatory takedown of one-sixth of the American economy on a party-line vote.  Rather than seeking to bring the country together, Democrats are content to go it alone, castigating those in their own party who refuse to go along.  All the while, unemployment hovers around 10%, real estate appears headed for a second collapse, the dollar is falling precipitously, and no one appears to know how to solve our budget crisis.  The selfsame Osama Bin Laden continues to plot his next attack.

I do not present this comparison as a way to suggest that impeachment was right, or even that health care is wrong.  Instead, it is a worthwhile reminder that sometimes doing what one party believes is right doesn’t mean it’s right for the moment, for the nation, or even for the party itself.

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There isn’t much going well for the Obama Administration right now, and that’s kept the White House from riding its favorite rhetorical metaphor: the high horse.  But when all other moral high grounds fail, they never get tired of flogging Hondurans.

This year, we’ve had North Korea launching missiles at our allies, shipping military supplies to our enemies, and renewing its nuclear weapons program; Iran hiding its own nuclear weapons program from the world; Russia strengthening its hold on territory in Georgia; Libya celebrating a terrorist’s homecoming; but the only nation whose actions warranted harsh punishment from the U.S. government was Honduras.

First. when Honduras acted to protect its constitutional system and remove a president unrepentant in his treason, the President called it a “coup,” and the State Department ordered the interim Honduran government to allow former President Zelaya to return and finish his term.

When Honduras refused the Administration’s edict, it struck back, withholding all non-humanitarian aid from Honduras ($32 million) in an effort to force a change in policy.  When the Honduran democrats refused to budge, the U.S. revoked the visas of all officials who participated in Zelaya’s removal and exile.  The grounds?  That Zelaya should be allowed to finish his term in office as the elected leader of Honduras.  Apparently Democrats believe that once you’re elected president, there’s nothing you can do that makes your ouster appropriate, but we already knew that.

Then, the White House threatened not to recognize the outcome of Honduras’ November presidential elections.  Mind you, these elections were planned long before Zelaya was removed from office.  In fact, it was these same elections that Zelaya was trying to hijack, by holding a referendum intended to allow him to run for president again.  But nevermind that – the Obama Administration apparently believes that all democratic activities in Honduras are tainted by Zelaya’s ouster — even though he couldn’t participate in them even if he had remained in office. State Department officials called this maneuver “putting [Honduras] in a box,” which may or may not be like putting Baby in the corner.

So, you might have thought the State Department was pleased by the news last week that Zelaya had sneaked back into the country and was hiding out in the Brazilian Embassy.  But no – that, too, was an occasion for tut-tutting in Foggy Bottom.  After initially calling for “restraint” from all sides, the U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States unloaded on Zelaya:

“The return of Zelaya [without] an agreement is irresponsible and foolish. He should cease and desist from making wild allegations and from acting as though he were starring in an old movie,” said Mr Amselem at an emergency meeting of the OAS.

“Having chosen, with outside help, to return on his own terms, President Zelaya and those who have facilitated his return, bear particular responsibility for the actions of his supporters,” he added.

Of course, in the spirit of indiscriminate disdain for Honduran government officials, the good Ambassador didn’t hesitate to take the interim government to task for refusing to allow his buddies in the OAS to intervene and for declaring a state of emergency in the country.

Once again, we are left wondering exactly what the Obama Administration wants out of Honduras and its leaders.  It tries to uphold its democracy by removing its treasonous president, and it loses economic aid.  It tries to defuse the situation by removing the ex-president from the country, and it’s called a coup.  Its leaders continue to operate as a democracy in the weeks and months since the president’s ouster, but their visas are voided by the United States.  It continues to plan for elections in November, but the U.S. refuses to recognize them.  The U.S. demands that the ex-president be allowed to serve out his term, but when he returns to the country, he’s called a fool.

We recognize no constitutions, no elections, no rule of law, no leaders worthy of respect.  Sounds like the White House is desperate to install a banana republic in Honduras.

But that can’t be right, because

[n]o one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold. The traditional divisions between nations of the South and the North make no sense in an interconnected world; nor do alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long-gone Cold War.

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As this blog has previously noted, President Obama has a bad habit of invoking the Almighty in unfortunate and inartful ways while seeking support for his agenda.  While speaking to moderate and liberal clergy today, Obama took on those who he said were “bearing false witness” against his health care plan, and then explained why his opponents are immoral:

“These are all fabrications that have been put out there in order to discourage people from meeting what I consider to be a core ethical and moral obligation: that is, that we look out for one another; that is, I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper,” the president said. “And in the wealthiest nation in the world right now we are neglecting to live up to that call.”

That turn of phrase, “I am my brother’s keeper,” has to the ear a tinge of Biblical truth about it — many of us can at least recall that we first heard it or something like it in Sunday School.  A closer look, however, demonstrates that Mr. Obama’s theology is assembled to fit his politics, not the other way around.

To start with, Obama gets the quote wrong.  In Genesis 4:9, when asked by God, “Where is your brother, Abel?” Cain replied, “I don’t know.  Am I my brother’s keeper?”  Of course, Cain knew exactly where is brother was – he was dead, murdered out of envy by Cain himself.  Note that the quote was not by God, telling us how we should act, but by Cain, a fratricidal maniac who was talking back to God.

In fact, the Cain/Abel drama has a lot to tell us about the sin of envy and God’s will for those who want greater favor from Him.  When Cain’s sacrifice to God did not yield God’s respect, and his brother’s did, Cain grew angry.  God then asked Cain why he was angry, and had this advice for him: “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

In other words, when one of God’s children is disappointed that her work is not shown favor by God, God tells her to work harder and to follow His will; then her work will be accepted.  To do anything else, we risk sin.  In the case of Cain, he failed to master his envy of his brother, and it overtook him.  Rather than asking himself what he could do to earn God’s favor, Cain hated his brother for having gained His favor, and he punished him for it.

Cain was certainly not his brother’s keeper.  But neither did God want Cain to be.  Cain believed his brother’s success was bound up with his own — that there was a zero-sum game at work, and that his brother’s success meant his own failure.  Thus, rather than prepare a better sacrifice, Cain attacked his brother.  God just wanted better from Cain.  Instead, Cain gave him much, much worse.

Consider, then, the moral of this story in the health care debate.  (more…)

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Senator Jim DeMint has highlighted a nasty little morsel in the Democratic stimulus legislation:

(2) PROHIBITED USES OF FUNDS.—No funds awarded under this section may be used for—

(C) modernization, renovation, or repair of facilities—

(i) used for sectarian instruction, religious worship, or a school or department of divinity; or

(ii) in which a substantial portion of the functions of the facilities are subsumed in a religious mission; or construction of new facilities.

That’s right — the Democrats are insisting that if stimulus funds are used by a university to repair or renovate a campus building, that building is forever banned from housing “sectarian instruction, religious worship, or a school or department of divinity.”

Think about that for a minute.  If a Syracuse dining hall has its windows replaced by the bill, students will be prohibited by federal law from saying a prayer before their meals.  If Duke University builds a classroom building to house its art department with stimulus money, in the year 2120, the local U.S. Attorney can go to court to enjoin the school from moving its Divinity School into the structure.  If the University of Georgia so much as changes a lightbulb purchased with stimulus money in its Chapel, it can arguably never host another marriage ceremony.  And perhaps most importantly, no sectarian university could ever contemplate receiving funds from the stimulus bill, because the bill would require it to establish a “no God allowed” building in the middle of its campus.

It’s an outrageous violation of the free exercise clause of the First Amendment, which any Senator should understand upon first reading.  Established Supreme Court precedent has plainly prohibited government entities, such as public schools, from preventing individuals from exercising their religious liberty in orderly ways on public property.  But Sen. DeMint has already tried to remove the language via amendment, and the AMENDMENT FAILED.

In case you wondered if liberalism had truly run amok in this bill, this should decide the matter for you.  Even I never expected the Democrats to sink this low in week 3 of the Obama Administration.  Get on the phone, folks, and put an end to this madness.

Campus transit during the Obama Administration?

Campus transit during the Obama Administration?

Update: Malkin and the Corner are all over this.

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