Here lies two lost souls

Here lies two lost souls

Welcome to the funeral of Common Sense and Personal Responsibility. We’re glad you could join us for such a sad occasion.

It really is a shame what happened to these two. They did so well for so long. They were loved by so many people, and you really got the feeling that there was something special about them.

But not any more. It’s almost as if they wore out their welcome. You see, they were of a different time. They were in their prime years ago, decades even, when people use to rely on them and even hold them in such high regard. But someone said it well the other day: maybe they just peaked too early.

Aren’t the flowers nice? Common Sense and Personal Responsibility were still loved by quite a few people. Some even considered them friends, and it used to be a badge of honor to know these two. It makes you wonder what the Old Timers are going to do now.

You don’t know the Old Timers? I’m not really surprised. They were from a different time, too; a different era when Common Sense and Personal Responsibility were almost like Rock Stars. The Old Timers always talk about “the good old days,” but frankly, I’m not so convinced how “good” they were.

The Old Timers were a hearty bunch. They accomplished so much on their own that you wonder what they think of the way things work now. I mean, they did so much with the help of Common Sense and Personal Responsibility. The Old Timers relied on them, and spoke about them with reverence.

And things just ran smoother when the Old Timers had Common Sense and Personal Responsibility around. Common Sense would never encourage a bus driver to buy an $800,000 house. And Personal Responsibility would never ask Big Government to stop all the foreclosures on Bad Decision Boulevard. You didn’t really need Big Government when you had those two around. They just took care of so much.

Common Sense and Personal Responsibility suffered for so long, it’s almost a relief now that they’re gone. I like to think that they’re in a better place.

What’s that? You mean you don’t know how they died? You really don’t know much about these two, do you?

It was actually very hard to watch—a slow death for both of them. First, people just stopped believing in Personal Responsibility, almost as if their actions didn’t have consequences. There were rarely repercussions for mistakes that people made, and more often than not, they actually benefited from those mistakes. Eventually, no one really believed in Personal Responsibility, because there was always Someone Else to clean up after you.

Common Sense faced a similar fate. It started becoming inconvenient to keep both common sense and Temporary Pleasure around at the same time. Those two were almost mutually exclusive. You couldn’t really have them over together, what with Temporary Pleasure advocating for things that Common Sense just would go along with. And who can blame them? Temporary Pleasure always seemed like more fun, even though you couldn’t really rely on him for much.

But when you get down to it, people just began to think that they didn’t really need Common Sense and Personal Responsibility anymore.

And now they’re dead. Gone for go. We’ve really lost a lot with the passing of these two.

It’s just sad.

But hey, at least Temporary Pleasure and Someone Else bought that place down on Bad Decision Boulevard. I think those two will be around for a while. They’ve really gotten to know the neighbors quite well.


a master class in political communication

For political junkies, the past few weeks have been priceless with rich topics like President Obama’s cabinet nominees and his pushing of the economic stimulus package. For those of us more acutely interested in political communication, it was better than a Red Rider BB Gun on Christmas morning.

One almost wonders where to begin analyzing the communication hits and misses of the current administration and our leaders in government. But a cursory search must begin with President Obama’s brilliantly eloquent Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs.

I honestly thought it would be harder to make Scott McClellan look like a genius, but Gibbs has seemed to do it single-handedly. Rarely answering a direct question, Gibbs often comes across as pompous, annoyed or evasive, sometimes appearing disrespectful of the journalists—which is never good.

Admittedly, the news over the past few weeks has been rough for the Obama White House, but Robert Gibbs has the opportunity to shape the message (if not dictate the message) better than anyone. Unfortunately for Team Obama, Gibbs seems to be riding the coattails of the news, rather than being on the frontlines, and that will never serve his boss well.

As an example, take a look at this gem of an exchange between Gibbs and ABC Chief White House Correspondent Jake Tapper, who’s evidently positioning himself for a future primetime slot on FOX News.

I guess you really can’t blame Gibbs. After having worked on a campaign that never took a tough question for two years, this White House press corps must really be annoying.

Then there is President Obama himself. The President and his team had to be astute enough late last week to realize that they were losing ground on his stimulus plan. So how do you turn the tide of sinking public opinion and get Obama on the evening news in a more favorable light? Campaign rallies!

President “I-feel-your-pain” Obama traveled to Elkhart, Ind., and Ft. Meyers, Fla., to push his economic stimulus plan to hurting Americans—you know, the ones living in their cars and working at McDonalds for four and half years during college that just happen to be strategically placed in the audience. But sandwiched between those two photo ops was the president’s first press conference since assuming office.

I was curious to see how President Obama would do, and I was doing my best to stay as objective as possible and concentrate on his message and delivery. Admittedly, President Obama is an excellent speaker, talented at reading an audience and comfortable in front of a teleprompter. So I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had made this a home run.

Unfortunately, it felt more like a double, at best. Not terrible, but it certainly could have been better. President Obama seemed annoyed, and focused on “talking down the economy.” The “hurry up and pass my bill already!” routine did not come across as presidential, and the continuing references to “Elkhart” (the RV capital of the world!) was transparent and reminiscent of Joe the Plumber during the debates.

His “answers” during the Q&A with reporters were more like mini-speeches (the answer to the first question took more than 8 minutes). He read from a list of approved questioners and often seemed disconnected. But overall, the press conference just felt like a formality and was largely forgettable, which will work in the President’s favor this time.

Now, back to those revival services (or “town hall meetings”/campaign rallies) I mentioned earlier. There are so many counterpoints to be made about this clip, but I’ll let this one speak for itself:

“Gracious God!”

At first I thought perhaps I was being too hard on President Obama, but since he can walk on water, I’m sure a little criticism can’t do too much damage to his psyche.

One of the best clips from the past several weeks came late Friday night in the House of Representatives. House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner addressed Congress displaying a righteous anger dwarfed by the emotions felt by a majority of Americans about the stimulus bill.

President Obama got his bill, Robert Gibbs has a job (for now), but some of the real political winners over the past several weeks have been House and (most) Senate Republicans. Though they may have lost the battle, they haven’t lost the war. They have focused on exposing ridiculous provisions of the bill that have infuriated many across the country—predominantly their base of supporters and energizing conservatives in the process. They have showed tremendous resolve in sticking to their convictions: not one single House Republican voted for the package. And they have managed to be on the front of the story, playing offense more than defense.

I only hope they can keep this up for the next two years.


let’s see how far we’ve come

My hunch is that Dr. Franklin would not be too happy right now. Upon the passage of the largest transfer of wealth and power from the private sector to the government, one couldn’t possibly say that we’re doing our part to “keep the republic.”

As I consider the motivations of our founding fathers (and yes, we do know these motivations: read anything by Jackson, Hamilton and some guy named Publius) I shudder to think how far we’ve drifted from those original ideals. Our country was established by people literally running from a government that was taking too much control. The very reason that most of us are here is largely due to the fact that people sought individual freedom and liberty. They did not want government intruding in every decision of their lives. They sought a land and formed a government with specific, enumerated powers for what could and could not be done by those in authority. The institution of government, as it were, was specifically designed to “establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and ensure the blessings of liberty.”

But look how far we’ve come. Our elected leaders just passed the largest bill in the history of our country—not just in monetary value, but in the power and authority it gives our federal government. My arguments against the “stimulus package” are not entirely with the size of the legislation. Though I am no economic expert, I do believe there are macroeconomic theories that went into determining how much would be “spent” by the government. The fact that the bill ended up just short of $800 billion dollars is a secondary complaint to how that money will be used. Since no one actually read the final compromise bill that was voted on by the House and Senate on Friday, it’s tough to say exactly what was included, but here are some highlights from the bill’s previous versions that we can be proud of:

-Funding to create a government bureaucracy that will move to put all medical records online. While this may sound like a swell idea, it also comes with its own “comparative effectiveness” council that can decide which drugs are too expensive or not effective enough to be worth prescribing. Consider the equivalent of the Department of Motor Vehicles telling you when you can have that biopsy you’ve been asking about. If you think I’m joking, just read this.

-$30 million for wetlands conservation in Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco, allegedly to protect a mouse living near the ocean. Again, I wish I was making this stuff up. (But it’s not an earmark, or a pet project, for that matter.)

-At least $4 billion for groups like ACORN for “community redevelopment” programs. That name should sound familiar: ACORN is the same group currently under investigation in 14 states for voter fraud during the 2008 election. It’s also the group that President Obama began his career with as a “community organizer,” so there’s absolutely nothing improper or resembling a “payback” here.

-$1 billion (yes, that’s a “b”) for Prevention and Wellness Programs, including STD education. While I’m all for fewer STDs, does that really stimulate the economy?

And please don’t post comments about the “tax cuts” that are included in the bill. I’d rather you spend time figuring out what you’re going to do with your extra $13 dollars a week. The possibilities are endless. The real tragedy of it all is that government programs are notoriously impossible to get rid of. So get ready to be saddled with these costs for a while—if not for good.

When one considers the role that government will soon play in each of our lives, we must question how far this march toward centralized control will go. When the federal government is able to tell me what prescriptions my doctor can prescribe, I’m afraid our country faces a diagnosis that could be fatal.


Defending life

For those of us in central Florida, and for many around the country, the Casey Anthony case has been a near-constant media story for months. News outlets cover Casey’s every move on the way to the next court hearing. The scene around her has been described as a circus, with paparazzi-like interest in this sad drama.

Casey Anthony is a young mother accused of killing her two year old daughter, Caylee, whose remains were recently found in a wooded section of east Orlando. While much remains to be determined in this tragic story, public opinion seems to hold that Casey is guilty of taking the life of a young, beautiful, innocent little girl.

I overheard an interesting conversation recently about what sentence Casey should receive if she is convicted of the crime of which she now stands accused. One individual was almost certain that Casey would face life in prison, while another argued that she should receive the death penalty.

But then an interesting question came to mind: what if Casey Anthony had aborted her daughter Caylee three years ago? What if the decision she (allegedly) made months ago could have been made while she was carrying Caylee? I find it ironic that the same people condemning Casey for her alleged actions also passionately defend the “right” of women to “decide” whether a baby will make it to delivery day.

How is it that we have gotten to this point? How have we accepted such a warped value of life? How is it that some cannot tolerate a parent killing their child but claim that it’s a “woman’s choice” whether to keep a child full term?

Though there may be differences among the two situations, countless women every day struggle with a very similar decision as Casey did (again, allegedly). We do not know Casey’s motives (though the numerous pictures of her partying after Caylee’s disappearance surely don’t help her case). We don’t know what Casey’s life was like around that sad day. We don’t know much of anything about Caylee’s father. But these are things we’re supposed to accept as a woman’s reasoning to abort a child? Am I the only one who sees a sick double standard here?

Last Tuesday, our country celebrated the Inauguration of our 44th president. It was an event bathed in more pomp and pageantry than any other in our country. Millions filled the Mall in Washington, DC, with even more watching on TVs around the world. People waved flags, children sang patriotic songs, and Aretha Franklin wore a slightly awkward leftover Christmas bow during her presentation of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” It seemed as though everyone in the country was on the same page at the same time—whether you voted for President Obama or not.

But what a difference a few days make. Late Friday afternoon, with no media in the room and little attention in the press, with no fanfare or pageantry or silly hats, President Obama signed an executive order reinstating what’s come to be known as the “Mexico City Policy.” The order essentially allows aid groups and other nongovernmental organizations that are receiving funds (read: tax money) to provide abortions and abortion counseling to people overseas.

“Forty million abortions, at what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?” This was a question asked of President Obama by Pastor Rick Warren at the Saddleback Presidential Forum in 2008.

“I think that whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade,” then-candidate Obama said. Unfortunately, Mr. President, you have now assumed one of the only offices (or “pay grades”) with the authority to make this “human rights” distinction, and you chose to answer a profound question with one of the most glib responses of your entire campaign. For a candidate applauded for the use of words, perhaps you could have chosen those words a bit more wisely.

“What I can do is say, are there ways that we can work together to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies,” Obama said. Fair enough; now how does President Obama plan on “working together to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies” (not unwanted children, mind you).

In addition to reinstating the “Mexico City Policy,” President Obama has also signaled his support for the so-called “Freedom of Choice Act,” a measure that would eliminate most state-sponsored restrictions on abortion. Those provisions include removing informed consent laws, restricting Medicaid funds from being used for abortions and removing parental involvement measures—three components that have been proven to reduce the instances of abortion. His exact words were “The first thing I’d do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act.”

With all due respect, Mr. President, your words and actions do not result in the same outcome. Removing restrictions on abortion domestically and allowing tax-payer funded abortions overseas is no way to make the practice “more rare.”

The Constitution is designed to protect the least among us, yet here it appears that the strong are sacrificing the weak for the sake of convenience. If we so casually disregard the value of a young life, who’s next?


a response to the speech: part two

Here’s the second part of my reaction to President Obama’s Inauguration speech. Following the same format as my previous post, I’ve quoted passages of the speech with critiques and rebuttals following, with a summary at the end.

  • “For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act – not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.”

This is the most sweeping rhetoric the President has used so far in this speech, and it’s fitting for the subject matter. But beyond the style points, I question how effectively President Obama will accomplish these promises, like “harnessing the sun and the winds and the soil” to solve our problems. However, this is the language that his audience responds to and what catapulted President Obama into office, so one must expect it somewhere in his address. But to insinuate that science somehow needs restoring is another unnecessary departure from the tone of unity and harmony that President Obama has prided himself on.

  • “We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort – even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.”

Finally, I’m glad the President decided to address what many Americans have forgotten thanks to seven safe years under President Bush. Terrorism is still a real threat (and no, talking about it is not “choosing fear over hope;” it’s choosing reality over delusion).

  • “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West – know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist. As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment – a moment that will define a generation – it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.”

Here the president begins to move into the real focus of his speech that I touched on earlier: the power of the collective and the faith in man-made institutions like government. A theme of President Obama’s campaign was the call to civic duty—often placing this vocation as high as military service. While I certainly believe in civic responsibility, my idea of cleaning up a park on a Saturday morning doesn’t begin to compare to the sacrifices of my fellow Americans who have given their lives so that some no-name “journalist” in Iraq can throw his shoe at my Commander-in-Chief. I applaud the President’s concern for social justice and the responsibility of the individual, but at a certain point these become extensions of the government and not purely altruistic or civic actions, making them almost compulsory rather than voluntary, at which point they lose their effect for being part of the “greater good.”

  • “This is the price and the promise of citizenship. This is the source of our confidence – the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.”

I take great issue with this statement. With all due respect, Mr. President, I am not confident because God has called me “to shape an uncertain destiny.” I am confident because His destiny is, in fact, certain, and He has called us to play a part in that. It is only in this deliberate and constant effort to discover that destiny that we find our proper course of action. The president seems to believe that it is up to us to “shape” this “destiny.” In fact, it is up to us to discover this destiny, and shape it according to God’s Will and His plan—not our own goals, ideals or agendas.

The president concludes his speech with a quote from George Washington and a fitting reminder of how far America has come over the past several decades.

Overall, I found the speech to be weak and employing too many expressions that are trite or cliché.

Additionally, based on further examination, the president seems to put great faith in the individual—the worker, the solider, the parent, the community leader—as well as the power of the institution (namely, government). His speech is an appeal for greater individual responsibility and communal concern, all at the prompting of the government and our leaders. While these are noble and worthy ideas, we must be sure that we are taking our actions from the One whose destiny is certain.

But it is President Obama’s obligation now to lead the country as he believes right. If the bipartisan tone and appeals to the middle weren’t just words and speeches, President Obama could leave a decisive mark on the country. But his hints at the expanding role of government and civic involvement indicate that the “change” he has in mind could, in fact, be more than our country has ever seen.

While some have the need to change things, there are some things that just don’t need changing.


A response to the speech: part one

When I began entertaining the idea of a blog dedicated to promoting and discussing the political ideals that I believe are foundational to our country, I struggled with how exactly to begin such a project in an effective manner. My goal is to provide a forum where healthy discussion and debate can take place while current events constantly provide material for dissection.

As such, I’ve decided to provide a rebuttal of sorts to President Obama’s Inaugural address. I’ve always enjoyed political speeches (with dreams of one day writing some of them myself), and my comments below take two forms: first, a purely semantic reaction to the way the speech itself was conducted. Secondly, an ideological reaction and rebuttal to many of the points I find arguable.

Know this: I fully recognize that it is far easier to criticize someone’s work than actually produce something yourself. My critiques are not meant as a slight against the President. They are simply rhetorical suggestions that may or may not improve the overall quality of the speech. But I feel they warrant some consideration.

So join me as we begin the first of (hopefully) many examinations of the President’s political dialogue and policy decisions.

I will say at the outset that I don’t believe this was one of President Obama’s finest or most effective speeches. While the delivery was spot on, it seemed that he was trying almost too hard to set a somber and serious tone—a tone in contrast with most of his other speeches from the campaign. Although he tended to stay away from the flourishes and soaring imagery of previous speeches, the ultimate result seemed to fall flat.

Indeed, setting the tone was probably deliberate, but there were no discernible “sound bites” that I could quickly recall: those rhetorical gems that will be played on the evening news and recorded to memory almost instantly (think JFK’s “Ask not what your country can do for you…” or FDR’s “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”). Granted—both of these speeches were written in a different time employing different stylistic techniques, but for an orator heralded for his speaking ability, I was frankly expecting much more than what I received. (On a side note, Peggy Noonan, former speechwriter for President Reagan, doesn’t seem to put too much stock in this whole “sound bite” idea. But I think Ted Sorensen might disagree.)

Here are some of the more prominent parts of the speech, and my subsequent reactions:

  • “I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.”

A nice gesture to the man he spent more than a year running against. Say what you will about President Bush,  but he has been more than gracious throughout the last several months and even on this historic day.

  • “Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America – they will be met. On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.”

This was one of the first “applause lines” of the speech, largely because the first few thousand attendees close enough to actually hear the speech heard the word “hope” and—just on cue—remembered the drill from President Obama’s campaign. What an audacious theme to build your campaign upon, and even more so to use in your Inaugural address! This hole idea of “hope” is really going out on a limb. Who would actually promote voting on fear? “Choosing fear” is what liberals tend to say when conservatives try to point out the actual challenges—both home and abroad—that Americans face; or, to put it another way, what President Obama has been doing for most of his speech thus far.

  • “For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life. For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth. For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn. Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.”

This is a very strong passage, perhaps the strongest of the whole speech, recognizing a host of people who have contributed to our great county, from the Pilgrims to the settlers, slaves and soldiers. While the repetitive “for us” could be stronger, the idea and style is commendable. The President nearly erodes this literary success, however, by hovering precariously close to the over-used theme of “synergy” and touching on a topic that will become more apparent throughout the speech: the power of the collective to solve problems. I’ll address this later.

  • “This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions – that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.”

After all this talking about “workers,” “minds,” “goods and services” and “capacity” being “undiminished,” one might go so far as to say that “the fundamentals of our economy are strong,” no? If the idea of “putting off unpleasant decisions” is an attack on President Bush, President Obama may want to revisit the last several years, when President Bush’s tough decisions cost him popularity both with Americans generally (the Iraq war), and even within his own party (the bailout plan). This attack is unwarranted, and President Obama should pray that he has courage in the face of adversity like President Bush did to make the decisions he will no doubt face. But again, President Obama drifts in to cliché territory, encouraging us to “pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off…” It’s so cliché that it’s used in pop music, and President Obama and his speechwriting team are better writers than this.

Check back later this week for part two of my reaction to President Obama’s Inaugural speech.


The first of many


I’m honored you’ve stumbled upon my microscopic corner of the universe. For a while, I’ve been contemplating this idea to begin writing a political blog, not because I’m a great writer or a big thinker or harbor any sense of self-aggrandizement. I choose to write this for my own sanity. You see, I can become somewhat of a political junkie, and the most logical outlet for releasing many of the thoughts and ideas that often flood my mind seemed to be a blog. The fact that people might actually read it is a nice bonus.

The genesis for the name Keeping the Republic comes from a quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin after the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Upon the completion of the day’s deliberations and the establishment of our government, Mrs. Powell is said to have asked Dr. Franklin outside Independence Hall “Well, doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarch?” To which Benjamin Franklin said without hesitation “A republic, if you can keep it.”

The idea is that it is our obligation to hold true to the values and beliefs of our founding fathers in establishing the United States of America. We cannot expect our country to continue flourishing without the active participation of its citizens. But that participation must always reflect the spirit of the republic, aiming for goals of limited government, a strong defense, an economy that promotes prosperity through free-market ideals and protects each guaranteed freedom for every citizen.

Because you’re still reading, I would guess that you hold these values, as well, or you’re at least open enough to participate in respectful discussion about topics important to this great country. I’ve been blessed with friends and acquaintances who also share these philosophies, and I look forward to their contributions here, as well.

While I can’t promise you a constant, everyday source of material (I do have an actual, full-time job, by the way), I can say that I look forward to sharing my ideas and critiques on the prevailing news of the moment in the spirit of debate. I love this country, and this is but one small way that I’m “keeping it.”

God bless America.

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