Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Debate Watching With My High Schoolers Again!

  I had really intended to post on a non-political topic last week, but life has been extremely busy as I juggle my various responsibilities as husband, teacher, father, pastor, and writer.  By the time I got through Sunday, I realized that it was past time for a new blog post, but almost time for the next GOP debate!  Since I had already told my students we'd be doing another watch party, I figured I'd just wait and post my reactions here for this week's post.

   First of all, my hearty thanks to the nine students who came out tonight to share this time with me.  High school kids are incredibly busy these days, and the fact that they were willing to come and spend this time with their government teacher outside of normal school hours makes me very happy and proud of them.  Every day, my students fill me with hope for the next generation.

   Secondly, shame on CNBC for NOT providing free streaming video of the debate like EVERY OTHER network has done!  It just wasn't nearly as interesting not being able to see the candidates interact, although I did try to overcome the situation a little bit by setting up a slideshow with pictures of all the candidates and flipping to whoever was speaking at the moment.  (That got a little difficult during the more rapid-fire exchanges!)  Double shame on CNBC for the blatant bias of the moderators.  Every other question was some sort of "Gotcha" moment, and some of the follow up questions were so obviously loaded that the audience actually booed the moderators.  (Good on you, audience!)

   Briefly, I want to mention the "undercard" debate.  I only caught the last half of it because I was busy setting things up for the kids, but I will say that Lindsey Graham did dominate the part of it that I heard.  I was a bit torn during the whole thing though - on the one hand, I firmly believe that any of these men would be a better President than the current occupant of the White House.  On the other hand, not one of them currently has 2 per cent support in any poll.  Seriously, guys, you gave it a good try, now drop out already!  (That being said, Lindsey Graham NEEDS to be Secretary of State.  His foreign policy knowledge is truly impressive!)

   Now, for the night - Most of the candidates got in at least one or two good licks, and none of them imploded on the stage tonight.  The moderators did (to give them credit for the one thing they did well) try to give roughly equal time to the candidates.  I  think the spread between the one with the most talking time and the least was maybe two or three minutes, so that's pretty egalitarian.  So here are my winners and losers:


MARCO RUBIO - What a night my man from Florida had!  I've always liked him, and he really shone this evening.  He handled the questions well, and when the moderators tried to spring a "gotcha" moment on him about his absenteeism from the Senate, he turned it around on them and delivered a huge applause line.  I was very impressed with his performance.

TED CRUZ - I have never been a fan of this guy - his "do it my way or I will shut down the government" style leaves me pretty cold.  That being said, I will give him the courtesy of saying that he is one of the most consistent candidates on the stage, and he gave a bang-up performance tonight. He is in this for the long haul.

CHRIS CHRISTIE - I can't help but like this guy.  He's funny, quick to jump on opportunities, and genuinely compassionate for those who are hurting.  He is not my first choice as President, but I bet he jumps up a few places in the polls next week.


DONALD TRUMP - I've made no secret of my dislike of Trump, but that being said, he didn't have a bad debate, or a particularly good one.  He was mellow, made some good points here and there, and generally refrained from the abrasive mannerisms that are the hallmark of his style.  But, on the other hand, he had very little new to offer, and honestly, I still hear "I-I-Me-Me!" every time he opens his mouth.

CARLY FIORINA - The feisty lady from California had the most talking time of anybody on the stage, and she was solid, as she always is, but she didn't shine tonight like she did in the first two debates she took part in.  She'll probably stay in 5th place or so.

BEN CARSON - It is virtually impossible not to like this calm, unflappable man.  He is genuinely nice, undeniably brilliant, and has a sincere charm that has served him very well.  But, while he gave a couple of very good answers, he just came across as sounding almost sleepy.  I don't think he'll get a huge bump out of the evening.

MIKE HUCKABEE - I voted for him in 2008, even though he had actually dropped out of the race by the time it got to Texas.  I've lost some respect for him this time around because of some of the extreme positions he has embraced, but at the same time, he had a pretty good night and may stick around a while longer.


JOHN KASICH - The Ohio Governor is a very solid candidate, but he's spinning his wheels at this point.  His brand has not caught fire, and despite his impressive resume, I think he's not long for the race at this point.

RAND PAUL - Go away already!  No one is buying your brand of isolationist, libertarian Republicanism.  You may have been the darling of the Tea Party at one point, but now you are just an annoying gadfly using up airtime that could go to a worthier candidate.

JEB BUSH - It saddens me to write this.  I love the Bush family; I have enormous respect for Bush 41 and genuine affection for "W".  But while there may be another President Bush someday, it's not going to be Jeb.  He needed to hit a home run tonight, and he got a double AT BEST.  His campaign is entering the "circling the drain" phrase; the only question is how long its death throes will drag on.

   So that's how I felt about the evening.  Tomorrow I'll ask my students to give me their essays on who won; I look forward to reading them. 

NEXT WEEK: Non-political, I promise!!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


Well, I'm proud of myself. I sat through an entire Democratic debate. It wasn't easy - I disagree so profoundly with so much of what the Democrats say that I have a hard time not throwing stuff at the screen. But, I am a government teacher, and it's important for me to hear both sides. Here are my takeaways:
First, the "Forbidden Words."
NATIONAL DEBT. Not one candidate, not one questioner, not one journalist ever mentioned the fact that Barack Obama has accumulated more debt than all previous Presidents combined. Every single one of them is proposing more government programs, more spending, more regulatory power, and higher taxes. Are we ready to owe $30 trillion five years from now? That's where they would take us in a heartbeat if it meant they could control the Presidency and the Congress.
Second, the "name your enemies" question at the end.
With the exception of Jim Webb (who incidentally had the worst performance of the night), every one of them named their fellow Americans. Whether it be the Republicans, the corporations, the banks, every one of them named groups of Americans as the enemy whose hostility made them the most proud. The Democratic party is a party of never-ending class and race warfare.
Third: Biggest cop-out of the night - the answers to the question "Do black lives matter or do all lives matter?" Shameless pandering from every one of them. If all lives DON'T matter, then how CAN black lives matter?
NOW - Winners and losers.
Hillary Clinton - she had a strong, solid performance, she never lost her cool, and gave fairly strong answers to most of the questions. I'd just as soon chew my arm off as to vote for her, but she didn't have a terrible night (and let's be honest, she couldn't afford one right now!). I'd call her the winner.
Bernie Sanders - Holy cow, I REALLY do not like this man. Every word out of his mouth breathes hatred for the rich. He wants to make every American successful by destroying every American who succeeds! He is closer to communism than socialism IMO, and his policies would double our debt even faster than Obama managed to do it!
Jim Webb - This guy put up a horrible performance. He spent most of his limited air time complaining about his lack of air time rather than making his points. I thought this might be his breakaway night, but he really did not debate well.
Martin O'Malley - This may be the rising star in the polls next week. He was clear, lucid, and reasonable, gave solid answers, didn't whine about his time constraints, and is rather likable.
And, finally -
Lincoln Chafee. Can you say "self-righteous"? How many times did he refer to his lack of scandal and high ethical standards? That's the kind of thing that other people should say about you if it were true. I seriously doubt he'll gain much ground after tonight.
Last of all . . . the BIG LIE, repeated in one form or another by every single Democrat on the stage: "There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." How did Saddam Hussein gas 20,000 Kurds then? By farting on them???? But don't believe me - here is the proof, from that famous conservative rag the New York Times. Thousands of chemical weapons were found in Iraq. Admittedly, the program was dormant. But that which has been deactivated can be reactivated, and the leftist mantra "Bush lied, soldiers died" is as false today as it was when first uttered - and THIS proves it!

Saturday, October 3, 2015


   Once more, an armed gunman comes onto a gun-free campus with multiple loaded weapons.  Once more, innocents are brutally killed and maimed.  Once more, the cowardly monster (whose name I refuse to write) kills himself when the sirens begin to sound.  Once more, the police arrive in time to identify the dead and help paramedics treat the wounded.  And once more, before the bodies are cold, our President goes on the air and demands tougher gun laws.
    Then the Facebook wars begin.
     I am a historian by training and an observer of humanity by choice.  I'm an avid consumer of cinema of nearly all genres.  I've been a pastor since I was 24 years old (I'm now 51.)  I've taught school at the same campus for 20 years now; I also teach night classes at our local community college.  I'm a navy vet and a published novelist.  In short, all things considered, I have a variety of real world experience and would probably be considered "smarter than the average bear."  But this phenomenon has me stumped.
    Americans have ALWAYS been a heavily armed society.  The founders wrote the Second Amendment into our Bill of Rights for a reason, and it certainly had nothing to do with hunting.  They wanted our country to be an armed society, both to fend off possible foreign incursions, but also to protect liberty from the tyrannical overreach of government - something that they knew a thing or two about.  So Americans have always owned guns.  And America has always had a reputation for violence - a reputation that newspapers and the entertainment industry have always exaggerated in order to sell newspapers/books/movies.  Every single movie about the Old West features a gunfight, if not multiple gunfights.  But actual study shows that the Western frontier was considerably less violent than the cities back East were in the late 19th century.  Even today, listening to the news, you would think we were in the middle of a horrific spike in violence, when in fact violent crime in America, according to official FBI crime statistics, is at a 40 year low.  That's right - the 1970's were much more violent that the second decade of the twenty-first century.  The number of gun deaths per 100,000 population is about 3 - in 1993 it was about 6.  So we've cut gun homicides in half just in the last 20 years.
   Something else to chew on:  there were no restrictions whatsoever on the ownership of firearms in the 19th century.  Yet to my knowledge - and I do know a thing or two about history - there was not a single mass shooting of school children during that time (black schools were the target of violence in the South during and after Reconstruction, but that violence was primarily directed at the teachers of black students and the school buildings themselves, which were often vandalized or torched).  For the first half of the  Twentieth Century, there were very few restrictions on gun ownership - and again, to the best of my knowledge, there was not a single case of a person coming onto a school campus and randomly shooting students.
   Even in the 1980's, when I was in High School, there were guns everywhere.  During hunting season, many of the pickup trucks in the High School parking lot had rifles or shotguns in the gunracks attached to the back window.  We never worried about someone grabbing one of them and using us for target practice. We knew the story of Charles Whitaker, the 1964 University of Texas tower sniper (I knew it better than most because my parents and siblings were there that awful day), but we also regarded that as a crazy fluke that, God willing, would never happen again.
   Then came Columbine, that horrible day when two evil Goth students came onto their campus and murdered 13 people, then killed themselves.  And since then, with depressing regularity, these psychotic monsters have invaded our campuses, military bases, theaters, and churches, slaughtering innocents and then usually ending their own lives.  And this week, the latest outrage.  This fellow had a deep-seated hatred for organized religion and primarily targeted Christians.  The Virginia Tech guy had it in for women.  The Fort Hood shooter was out to kill American soldiers.  The Columbine pair were out to avenge their lack of popularity on the "beautiful kids."
   It's easy to blame the gun.  Frankly, that's a cheap out.  We've always had guns, but we haven't always had school shootings.  No one has yet explained to me how more gun laws will prevent episodes like this from happening.  I guess some folks want to ban handguns altogether, but there are two huge problems with that: 1. Addictive drugs are banned, but addicts get their hands on them anyway. How will a ban on handguns be any different?  2.  It goes completely against the clear language of the Constitution.  Our Founders were a pretty bright bunch, and setting aside their wishes is risky business.
   On the other hand, it's much easier to envision how one student with a conceal and carry permit and a steady hand could have stopped this tragedy in its tracks.  That being said, he could also hit an innocent bystander, get shot by the police by mistake, or simply miss his shot and get killed by return fire.  Personally, I would argue that this theoretical gun owner has a better chance of stopping the next mass murder in progress than some legislative solution coming out of Washington.  But who knows?
   But both these standard talking point positions miss a larger point:  What is making these evil young people (only the Fort Hood shooter was over 40)  think that the best solution to their problem is to pick up a gun, kill a dozen innocent people, then shoot themselves or commit "suicide by cop"?  Some point to psychotropic medications.  It is true that many of these shooters were on meds, but were they psychotic because they were on meds, or were they on meds because they were psychotic?  That's the problem - no one can distinguish between correlation and causation. It's easy to blame guns, because guns were used in all these  cases.  But guns don't fire themselves!  Others point out the pathetic state of America's mental health care system - it's virtually impossible to have an individual involuntarily committed until AFTER they kill someone under current law. By then it's too late.
     There simply are no easy solutions.  If there were, we would have found them by now.
    Some Americans simply have a sickness of the soul.  That's the bottom line.  There are wretched, evil people out there.  Some of them need medical and psychiatric help, with which they can possibly lead normal lives.  Some are so purely evil - or so deeply sick - that they simply need to be locked up for the safety of everyone else.  But above all, what we need is a return to the values this country was based on, that all men are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights - especially the right to life.  We have devalued life across the board in this country, in our politics, in our entertainment, and in our laws.  If all of us cherished life more, there would be fewer tragedies like the events in Oregon.  At least, that is this writer's opinion.