I will not fear

On an internal discussion board at my workplace today, a co-worker (who is a Christian, though a bit of the far-right cynical type) posted this:

Full up your gas tank today. And any other necessary purchases. Once the elections are over, anything that they’ve been holding off on can now be done. I expect that the repercussions of this economic meltdown have been held at bay and international moves that will make us unpopular have been tabled until after the election.

To which I have (and posted) this response:

I refuse to live in fear.

Political parties, bloggers, cynics, and conspiracy theorists of all stripes use fearmongering as a motivator to try to get us to do what they want. If you’re on one side, it’s fear of gays, liberals, taxes, big government, and athiests. If you’re on the other side, it’s fear of theocracy, invasion of personal privacy, neocons, and big oil.

No more.

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

Election Eve

It seems like this election cycle started a LONG time ago. We had our caucuses in Iowa back in January, and even at that point it seemed like the campaign was getting long. By tomorrow night, though, (Lord willing,) it’ll all be over except for the mopping up.

We’ve managed to avoid most of the pre-election harassment that comes in the form of door-knockers and phone calls; either Iowa is polling too strongly Democrat to make it worth canvassing or our party affiliation makes us unappealing targets for last-minute solicitation. Whatever the reason, I won’t complain.

Tomorrow we’ll walk over to our neighborhood polling place (at a church only three blocks away) and cast our ballots. I’ll cast the most mixed ballot I’ve ever cast, supporting Obama at the top of the ticket and a mixture of Democrats and Republicans further down.

I’m mildly optimistic that our local House race might go Republican; the incumbent, Dave Loebsack, took the seat two years ago by running out the political equivalent of a check-swing ground ball, and making it in safely as the voters kicked out long-time nominal Republican Jim Leach in a fit of anti-Bush pique. I heard the Republican candidate speak back at the caucus in January, and she’s a fireball. While Dr. Marianette Miller-Meeks has a name that might (unfortunately, for a politician) suggest that she has strings to be pulled, she would be a fine representative for Iowa in Washington.

That’s the end of Chris’s endorsements for the election. Now, just because it’s more fun this way, a prediction or two.

  • Obama will win the election handily, with massive voter turnout making the difference.
  • The Democrats won’t quite hit 60 seats in the Senate, driving them to woo Joe Lieberman back to the Democratic caucus in spite of the fact he endorsed McCain.

In the end, regardless of who wins, I will pray that God grant our new leaders wisdom and integrity. There is peace to be found in knowing that God is sovereign.

Book Review: How Would Jesus Vote? by D. James Kennedy

cover artHave you heard that there’s an election coming up soon? So has WaterBrook Publishing, apparently, because they timed this blog review giveaway to fall just before the 2008 presidential election. Which brings me today to review How Would Jesus Vote? A Christian Perspective on the Issues, written by the late Dr. D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe. Kennedy was the senior minister at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and Newcombe is a television producer for Coral Ridge and a frequent co-author. I will admit to being skeptical about the book when I was invited to do the review; in general I feel that the “Religious Right” has done far more harm to the name of Christ than it has accomplished with its political machinations over the past 20 years. But I figured it was worth a read.

Chapter One of HWJV? asks, appropriately enough, would Jesus even have His followers vote at all? Unsurprisingly, it concludes that yes, He would, based primarily on the “render unto Caesar” command in Luke 20. Taking it even a step further, the authors claim that it is primarily the Christians’ fault that America’s morality has taken a downturn in the past century; if only Christians had been more involved politically, they say, and been more effective at “legislating our morality”, things would be much different today.

Part Two of HWJV? addresses “The Issues”, devoting a chapters to:

  • Matters of life and death (Abortion, stem cells, suicide, euthanasia)
  • The Death Penalty
  • War – can it ever be justified?
  • Education and the schools
  • Economic Concerns
  • Health-care issues
  • The environment and climate change
  • Immigration and racial predjudice
  • Protection of marriage
  • Judicial Activism

This is a pretty fair swath of topics that surround most elections, and I was looking forward to having them dealt with in a thoughtful manner. I was quite disappointed, then, to read the chapters and find that they are little more than a regurgitation of the “Religious Right” talking points that you would hear from Focus on the Family, the Christian Coalition, or any similar religious conservative political group. Some examples:

  • After telling us in Chapter 3 that he will never tell folks who he’s voting for, Dr. Kennedy says in Chapter 4 that he “cannot support [a] person” who is “for the pro-choice position”, saying that “this one issue of life trumps all others”. Doesn’t leave much question who he’s supporting now, does it?
  • After saying, though, that the “issue of life trumps all others”, he goes on to conclude that the death penalty is an appropriate deterrent for crime and that “only by misunderstanding the Bible… could one conclude that Jesus would oppose the death penalty.”
  • In the chapter on education, the authors detail the decline of the public education system in America and stunningly conclude that “as long as God continues to be barred from our public schools, the public-education system will continue to falter.”
  • On health-care, the authors conclude that Jesus would “be concerned” about the plight of the uninsured, but that He would not favor government involvement in health care, not only because of government inefficiency, but also because it would “impose an anti-Christian ethic, such as forcing abortions on handicapped unborn children or forcing euthanasia on the weak”.
  • On the environment, I’ll give them credit for a slightly more nuanced position than I would’ve expected; the authors say that it’s important we care for our environment, but suggest that there are more practical ways to do that than the massive programs proposed to stop “global warming”.
  • On immigration, the authors pull a fair number of examples from the Old Testament claiming that God had Israel deal with two groups of immigrants differently, treating those who came to adapt and become Israelites as Israelites, while opposing those who came in as “aliens”.
  • On judicial activism, the authors speak harshly against the Senate that railroaded Robert Bork and tried to destroy Clarence Thomas, but in the end conclude that they can’t say “whether Jesus would prefer judges who hold strictly to the constitution”.

One of the most disturbing things to be in HWJV? was the way the authors mangled Scripture interpretations in support of their views. No place was this more evident than in the chapter on the economy and taxes. After arguing the standard Republican platform (that big businesses are good because they create jobs, and that it’s damaging to tax them more heavily) for the better part of the chapter, they then stunningly support this by quoting Matthew 23:11: “The greatest among you will be your servant.” So, they say, look at Henry Ford as an example. He was a great, rich man, but in doing so he enriched the lives, and thus served, many others.

I want to explore that a little bit more. Matthew 23 is a chapter in which Jesus chastises the Pharisees and religious leaders for their pride, ambition, and hypocrisy. In context:

8″But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. 9And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ.[b] 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

– Matt 23:8-12, NIV

That’s right, the authors picked a single verse from a chapter in which Jesus is telling us that the values of the kingdom are inverted, that status and position don’t matter, but that humility and servanthood do… and they use that single verse to try to prove that God would have us reduce taxes on “big business”, because those rich are doing us all a service. Did they completely miss the irony here?

I had hopes for How Would Jesus Vote?, hopes that it would be a thoughtful consideration of the issues, a step beyond the talking points that are rehashed on the radio and the blogosphere every day, hopes that the authors would acknowledge and consider that there are Christians, deeply devout, serious, thoughtful Christians, who disagree with nearly every “Religious Right” tenet. Instead the book turned out to be just more of the same stuff we hear every election cycle from those would would have us believe the lie, as Derek Webb wrote, that “Jesus was a white, middle-class Republican”.

The link to Amazon is included here because it’s part of the reviewing agreement; however, I’d suggest you spend your money and time on some other, more thoughtful book.

[How Would Jesus Vote? on amazon.com]

Who, Me?

My brother Ryan has been working full-time as an Obama campaign volunteer for the past few weeks, and likely will until the election. He wrote this op-ed and asked if I’d want to post it here. So here ya go, bro.

Feel free to interact in the comments. I’ll try to get Ryan to come around and answer questions.

—————

Who, me?
by Ryan Hubbs

Barack Obama has repeatedly made the statement that “this campaign is not about me.” McCain’s call to “Country First” echoes a similar sentiment. However, each candidate, by virtue of their negative attacks in recent weeks, seems convinced that the election is, at least in part, about their respective opponent. Which presents the question: who is this election about, anyway?

Senator Obama has an incredibly compelling – and uniquely American – personal narrative that transcends some of our deepest national scars. Senator McCain has a long and honorable record of service and sacrifice for his country. And both candidates, despite their magnified circumstances, are simply two Americans among millions of others who have fought, struggled, worked, and sacrificed against the odds.

Senator Obama, I believe, holds the better position on the issues; he recognizes that we have the opportunity to lead the world in developing the future of energy, that we have a moral and economic imperative to improve the access to and efficiency of our healthcare system, and that our current foreign policy is misguided and counterproductive. All of which are ideas the American people largely support – and Obama unquestionably possesses the superior ability to articulate his positions.

Some I’ve spoken with abroad – with the “outsiders perspective” – are surprised that the race is as close as it is. Many McCain supporters back the candidate due purely to their support for his political positions. But there is a large segment of America wants to vote for a candidate who is “like them,” and there are millions of Americans who will never be able to identify with Obama’s Harvard-educated, multi-racial, professorial persona. But even the person who can identify the least with Obama possesses a keen sense of the motivations that a candidate is trying to tap into in order to gain their support.

His impressive abilities aside, Senator Obama’s ideas and outlook are what brought him from the relative obscurity of the Illinois legislature to the world stage in a few short years. His appeal to our better instincts – the “Audacity of Hope” – and assertion that “what is wrong with America can be solved by what is right with America” mirrored his own personal story and tapped into something profound in the American psyche, giving us reason to believe that we could, against the odds, escape the infighting and cynicism that is suffocating our country and achieve something better. Because of this appeal to our better instincts, though, Obama – consciously or not – dedicated himself to playing by a better set of rules. McCain has not.

The McCain camp is currently banking their success on the appeal to peoples’ baser instincts. The absence of positive advertising in swing states mirrors the negativity demonstrated at his town halls, which has been tipping from frustration to mob-like anger. Even the head of McCain’s Virginia campaign compared Senator Obama to Osama bin Laden, stating, “they both have friends who have bombed the Pentagon.” A comparison this ludicrous would be laughable if it were not so potentially dangerous. The assertion that Obama’s participation on a charity board with Bill Ayers – a current university professor and former Chicago “Citizen of the Year” who was a violent ‘60s radical during Barack’s childhood – links Obama to bin Laden is as ignorant and baseless as suggesting that Chairman Mao and John McCain are comrades because of their mutual ties to Vietnam.

The Obama campaign, good as it has been, has missed some opportunities. When McCain first aired his now infamous “Celebrity” ad painting Obama as nothing more than a tabloid starlet, disparaging his energy plan and casting doubt on his leadership abilities, Obama had a great opportunity to elevate the situation by focusing on the issues and refusing to get drawn in to the politics of personal destruction. The retaliatory ad dubbing McCain a “Washington Celebrity” showed a willingness to let McCain set the tone of their campaign, which didn’t help burnish Obama’s still developing leadership credentials. Obama is taking a higher road than his opponent by continuing to run a large number of positive ads – but his campaign is also running several times more TV spots than McCain.

The prevailing wisdom of campaign strategists – one of our more cynical classes – is that failing to respond to attacks in-kind is political suicide. Attacks are inevitable though, and whether we are governing a country or simply ourselves, our response to unfair and malicious attacks can do more harm than the attacks themselves. Iraq and Guantanamo, for example, have cost us more in lives, money, moral authority, and, arguably, national morale than the attacks of 9/11. There is a way to respond to destructive actions without emulating the outlook and approach of the attacker, and the leader of the free world can’t wait for their opponents’ consent to work towards something better.

While I believe that Obama has the superior solutions to our national problems, the starkest, most accessible distinction that Obama can draw in this final push is to take every available opportunity to encourage people to vote for him rather than to against his opponent. His appeal to our better instincts has propelled him to one of the highest positions in the country, and personal story and skills have given him a once-in-a-generation chance to transcend some very deep-seated divides, change the nature of the political discourse, and to repudiate the prevailing Lee Atwater principle that “people vote their fears.” Acquiescing to the prevailing political norms, while it may not change the outcome of the election, could reduce his potential to that of an above-average national politician and hurt his ability to inclusively govern once in office, which will be essential in creating lasting, positive change in America.

The simple answer is that this campaign is about us. While there are a regrettably large number of exceptions, most Americans want the chance to believe in something better, to have a reason to cast their ballot in support of their hopes rather than their fears. It’s why Obama is where he is. And I sincerely hope that he takes the “risk” of giving America every opportunity he has to do that the rest of the way. After all, it’s not about him anyway.

Thinking through the presidential politics

I’ve had an easy time deciding who to support for president for pretty much every election cycle since I turned 18. This year, though, the choices are not so easy. I’m a life-long conservative with a distrust for Democrats but a growing distaste for the Republicans. Which makes this next sentence a very difficult one for me to say: unless something drastic changes between now and November 4, I’m voting for Obama.

Now, let me work out some of the reasoning behind this, for my own mind if nothing else. Let’s group it around three broad areas: economy/domestic policy, war/foreign policy, for lack of a better term, “morality” issues, and, finally, general personality issues.

Economic/Domestic Policies

  • I have a huge distaste for the tax-cut promise pandering. Both sides think that they’ll get me to vote for them by promising me more money (i.e. “tax cuts”). I’d rather they told me why they need to spend my money, and then we’ll figure out if I can pay a little less.
  • I’m not much of an economist, but it’s clear that things are pretty hosed up right now. That’s probably the fault of both the Bush administration and the Clinton administration before that. I don’t think anybody has a magic bullet to fix it right now.
  • Short conclusion: this area doesn’t really make me favor either candidate over the other.

War/Foreign policy

  • As far as the war goes: I think both candidates will have to more or less do the same thing – slowly withdraw troops as Iraq becomes more stable. Both sides know that leaving immediately would cause big trouble in Iraq, so they won’t do it. So they try to recriminate each other to score political points. Ick.
  • Maybe I’m foolish here, but I think an Obama win would force the rest of the world, Europe especially, to take a long, hard look at themselves. It’s been too easy for the past decade to just blame George W. Bush’s America for all the world’s ills. When the European’s darling is in the White House and there are still problems in the world, they’ll have to start looking further for how to fix problems. (Or, they’ll just still blame GWB for everything… )

“Morality” Issues

  • The biggie here is abortion. I have a real difficulty wanting to support anyone who is in favor of legalized abortion. But we have to look practically at it, too. Aside from appointing Supreme Court justices, there’s not a lot the president can do about abortion law. I may need to just hold my nose here.
  • And about those Supreme Court justices. The traditional right-wing position is that a liberal president will get to make several appointments, thus turning the Court to the left. But let’s look at who’s likely to retire from the USSC: Stevens, Rehnquist, maybe Breyer? Liberals all. Which means even if Obama replaces them with liberals, the Court’s ideological balance won’t change much. The conservatives Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito are comparatively young and healthy, unlikely to leave their seats any time soon. So, I see this as a non-issue.
  • Another thing I want to lump into the “morality” bit: health care. This is one place where I’m increasingly convinced the hard Right has gotten it wrong for a while. We have a moral obligation to provide health care for those who can’t afford it. Now, I’m skeptical about the effectiveness of government-run health care, and I don’t think the USA will end up with a fully-socialized system akin to the Canadian or British ones for a while yet, but we should find a way to make sure people are cared for. i think Obama will have a better focus in that regard.

Miscellanea

  • The VP candidates: the debate last night cemented it for me. Palin isn’t totally incompetent, but she isn’t ready for the number 2 position, either. Let’s put it this way: if something happened to Obama, I wouldn’t be afraid for my country to have Biden in the White House. If something happened to McCain, I’m not sure I could say the same thing. I like Sarah Palin, I like the idea that someone like her could make it to this point, but the hopes that she was the great savior of the Republican party have been dashed over the past few weeks. If she wants a political future, I propose this: get that corrupt Senator Stevens out of office and let Palin replace him. Give her some time to get used to the national limelight and bone up on the issues. Then let her come back in 4 or 8 years.
  • John McCain. I respect his years of service to the country, but I’m not really sure that we’d get anything different from him than we’ve had from the previous administration. All the talk of “reforming” is great for the stump speech, but much harder to do when you’re in office, especially if you’re dealing with a Congress controlled by the opposition party.
  • Barack Obama. For whatever it’s worth, I like the idea that America could elect a non-WASP to be president. I like his notion of change, though again I’m skeptical of just how much of it will translate from the stump to the office. I don’t think for a second that he’s the messianic non-politician that some want to make him out to be (can anything non-corrupt come out of Illinois politics?), but I think he’s different than the Harry Reid-Nanci Pelosi school of Democrats we’ve been afflicted with for lo these many years.

In conclusion: most of it’s a wash. Obama takes it just based on health care, VP, and general “change”. So, that’s my ramble. I’m sure this will greatly please some friends and family and greatly shock others. Feel free to agree, disagree, argue, whatever. I’m just hoping that next time around there’s a candidate I’m actually enthusiastic about voting for.

Watching our tone

Over the past two weeks’ political conventions I have watched most of the major speeches and then headed to my computer to check Twitter, the blogs, news sites, and online forum that I frequent. What has astonished me these past two weeks is the amount of bitter, vitriolic tone that has come not from the politicians (where I expect it) but from supporters of both sides.

Now, I’m not talking about people complaining bitterly about the other side misrepresenting their candidate’s positions (which both sides do). I’m not talking about people finding creative ways to describe their opponents’ apparent inexperience or lack of qualifications. (Both sides do it, and both have their share of inexperience.)

I’m not talking about people you’d expect the worst from, people like Hannity and Limbaugh on the right and The Huffington Post and The Daily Kos on the left. I’ve done my best to tune all of them out for a while now.

I’m talking about Christians. People who I know are good, kind people. The kind of people you’d want to sit down and have a beer with and discuss life. The kind of people who you’d want serving in your church, ministering to you or your friend in need, teaching your kids in Sunday School. And these last two weeks the things I’ve heard and read from these folks have surprised me. Name-calling. Making fun of candidates for their “creepy laugh” or their funny accent or the way they dress. Things that they wouldn’t ever in a million years think of saying about a friend… or a visitor to their church… or someone they met on the street. But because that person is the current representative of a political view that they disagree with or fear, there seems to be no limit to the insults that can be hurled.

Professor and author Gene Veith today on his blog asks “Why the vitriol?” He asks, in part:

We’ve discussed controversial theological points and complex moral issues on this blog and stayed friendly. Why do we lose it when it comes to politics? There may be good reasons, but I’d like us to think about what they are.

With due respect, Professor, I’m not so sure about good reasons. In fact, I want to go a little further and say this:

It’s wrong.

If it would be wrong to make fun of your co-worker’s funny-sounding name, it’s wrong to make similar fun of Barack Obama.

If it would be wrong to derisively mock your neighbor’s creepy laugh, it’s wrong to mock John McCain’s.

If it would be sinfully unloving to deride the parent of an unwed teenage mother who visited your church last week, it’s just as sinful and unloving to deride Sarah Palin’s current circumstance.

Why do we think that because there’s a presidential election on that we’re suddenly exempt from 1 Peter 3?

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For,

“Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from deceitful speech.
He must turn from evil and do good;
he must seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

I’m not calling for the end of all political debate. I’m not saying that Christians shouldn’t have strong political views, or endorse candidates, or argue the issues.

But we should keep it to the issues. There are plenty to discuss and argue. If we listen instead of bluster, we might just learn something from the other guy, too.

So, friends, we shouldn’t be mocking John McCain because he has a weird smile and laugh. We shouldn’t be making fun of Barack Obama because he has (compared to recent political candidates) a strange-sounding name. We shouldn’t be deriding Sarah Palin because she sounds like an extra from Fargo. And all that jesting about Joe Biden’s hair plants? At least do it in good cheer.

How much experience have presidential and VP candidates had?

A warning to my casual readers: this post is going to get more than a wee bit nerdy, and probably a bit political, too.

OK, with that out of the way, let me note that one of the things that’s been bugging me ever since John McCain’s announcement of Sarah Palin as his VP choice last week is that while there’s been a veritable chorus describing her as “inexperienced” and “unqualified”, no one has really bothered to set down what they thought a VP’s experience should be. I had this discussion with a guy who is a big Obama supporter over on a forum I frequent, and even he was unwilling to suggest a criteria other than that it should be “the same as if they were running for president”.

I decided it was time to give myself a history lesson. How much experience, exactly, did our various candidates for president and vice president have? Geof suggested plotting that data against their presidential ratings to see how it panned out. So I did that, too. To bound the problem a little bit, I decided to limit my study to the more modern presidential era (starting with 1960). Then I headed off to Wikipedia to do some data collection.

The Setup

A person’s experience is, in some ways, difficult to quantify, but I settled on the following categories of experience:

  • Years of college education (I also tracked whether it was Ivy League and whether they got a law degree)
  • Years of military service
  • Years in a state legislature
  • Years as a state governor
  • Years in other federal government service (i.e. cabinet or civil service positions)
  • Years in Congress
  • Years as Vice President
  • Years as President

The tricky part, then, is how you choose to sum these up; let’s just agree that, for instance, years served as Vice President or as a governor are more valuable, year-for-year, than those served in the military or in a state legislature. I settled on some multipliers to try to help even things out. Feel free to argue over these if you want to.

  • Years of college education (I also tracked whether it was Ivy League and whether they got a law degree) – 0.25
  • Years of military service – 0.25
  • Years in a state legislature – 0.25
  • Years as a state governor – 1.0
  • Years in other federal government service (i.e. cabinet or civil service positions) – 0.5
  • Years in Congress – 0.75
  • Years as Vice President – 1.0
  • Years as President – 2.0

So, for example, George H. W. Bush, in 1984, had 4 years of college, 4 years in the military, 5 years in government service, 4 years in congress, and 4 years as VP. That gives him a score of ((4*0.25)+(4*0.25)+(5*0.5)+(4*0.75)+(4*1.0)) = 11.50.

With those multipliers in place it was easy enough to get Excel to do some sums and give me some totals. (You can download my spreadsheet here if you want to.)

What I found was fairly interesting.

The Data

The average experience score for a presidential candidate: 16.8.
The average experience score for a VP candidate: 12.9.

Highest score for a presidential candidate:
28.75, shared by Bob Dole in 1996 and Gerald Ford in 1976.
Highest score for a VP candidate: also 28.75, Joe Biden this year.

Lowest score for a presidential candidate: 5.25, Barack Obama, this year. (second lowest: George W. Bush’s 7.50 in 2000.)
Lowest score for a VP candidate: 3.00, Sarah Palin, this year. (second lowest: Spiro Agnew’s 3.75 in 1968.)

Highest POTUS/VP combined score: Dole/Kemp in 1996 (45.75)
Lowest POTUS/VP combined score: Reagan/Bush in 1980 (17.25)

So that’s a lot of data, how about some analysis?

Analysis

I did a plot of the experience ratings against some presidential performance ratings (as found here, which claim to be amalgamated from several different ratings on Wikipedia), but found that to be a mixed bag. There were experienced presidents who ranked poorly (Nixon) and well (LBJ) and inexperienced presidents similarly (Reagan ranked high, Jimmy Carter much lower). Result: Inconclusive.

Next, I noticed an interesting trend. If you throw out the few elections where strong incumbents were running for second terms (LBJ in 1964 after finishing JFK’s term, Nixon in 1972, Reagan in 1984), in each of the other cases, the POTUS/VP pair with the lower experience score won the election. Result: If that trend holds through this election, McCain/Palin will win.

If you want to do a little more hardcore statistical analysis,

POTUS Standard Deviation: 6.59
VP Standard Deviation: 5.82

Just for sake of argument, this means that Obama’s POTUS score (5.25) is 1.75 standard deviations below the mean, and that Palin’s VP score (3.00) is 1.70 standard deviations below the mean… which means that, per these ratings, Obama is slightly more relatively inexperienced as a presidential candidate than Palin is as a VP candidate. (Only slightly, though.)

Conclusions

Well, this is great data for us dataheads who like to ponder such things. What it really shows, I think, is that there are far more factors that play into the election (and the subsequent job performance) than just experience.

I’ll also conclude that I still haven’t answered the question regarding “how much experience is enough?”. Yes, Palin is the least-experienced VP candidate in the past 50 years. But Obama is also the least-experienced POTUS candidate. Hey, the nature of number is that somebody will have to be least-experienced. So until somebody can give me some quantifiable other measures, I think it’s still gonna come down to gut feel and politics… like usual.

Just another hazard of living in Iowa…

OK, so there aren’t too many hazards living in Iowa as compared to anywhere else in the USA, but one, for sure, is that every four years we get some ridiculous media attention leading up to the caucuses. They’re coming up this Thursday, and then, please God, maybe we can be done with the attention and the advertising for a while.

A couple of weeks ago a reporter from Newsweek contacted an elder at Noelridge and wanted to know if she could come interview some of our folks to do an online piece on Iowans in preparation for the caucuses. The end result is a three-minute video that most prominently features our pastor, Richard Marsceau. You can also hear me plunking away at the piano and singing through the last minute or so. Pretty cool stuff.

Watch the video here. Sorry, Mom and Dad, it’ll probably be impossible to watch via dial-up. I’ve got it saved, though, so remind me next time you come visit.

Hypocrisy

I’m not planning to write on that topic today, but Jonah Goldberg did, and it’s worth reading his column.

Written in response to the hubbub over the recent coming-to-light of Sen. Larry Craig’s actions in an airport bathroom, Goldberg notes that the Left’s condemnation isn’t typically over the (im)moral act, but rather over the hypocrisy that is demonstrated. Goldberg notes, however, that the Right hasn’t cornered the market on hypocrisy. He sums it up this way:

The point is simply this: Hypocrisy is bad, sure. But it’s a human failing that should fall upon the individual in question. What the left wants to do is use hypocrisy as a cudgel to declare that conservative ideals are categorically illegitimate because some conservatives fail to live up to them. But we all fail to live up to our ideals sometimes (just ask John Edwards, who wants get rid of everyone’s SUV, save the one in his driveway). That’s sort of why we call them “ideals.” Most of us don’t fall as far as Larry Craig seems to have fallen, but that’s not necessarily an indictment of his arguments, it’s an indictment of the man.

It’s worth reading the whole article.

I skipped the State of the Union

I understand from reading the news that President Bush gave the State of the Union address back on Tuesday night. I skipped it. I actually even avoided it – when I turned the TV on, it was in progress. I flipped to ESPN. This is a departure for me. I have long held great interest in State of the Union (let’s just call them SOTU for short) speeches. When I was in high school I used my boom box to record them off the radio onto a cassette so I could listen to them again later. In past years I have sat with rapt attention to the network of my choice and had a thrill of excitement as the Sergeant-at-Arms would walk in and declare, “Mister Speaker, the President of the United States!”. But not this year.

I have become disenchanted with politics these days. Not uninterested, mind you; nor would I say that they are unimportant. But I have become disappointed with all of my political leaders and the very system that they operate in. I am not excited about any of the political topics they are pushing. Gone are the days when I thought they might actually do something about Social Security reform. Gone are the hopes that some serious income tax reform might be in the works. Now we’re supposed to get excited about a higher minimum wage and even more money for education and social programs.

I have long been a supporter of President Bush. The first ballot I ever cast, back as a high-school student in Texas, included a vote for him to be Governor of Texas. I have voted for him twice in presidential elections. He’s made some decisions I’ve been very happy with. (Nominating John Roberts to the Supreme Court is one of my favorites.) But on fiscal and governance issues, he has disappointed me greatly. Gone are Reagan’s conservative ideals of less government, less spending, and lower taxes. Now we just have more programs. Gone are tightly-held ideals of less government regulation and free speech; we just sign McCain-Feingold and let the Supreme Court sort it out. And then there’s the war.

I haven’t written much about the war here. Initially I was in favor of it. I don’t really want to debate that case here now; I thought the president presented a compelling case, and it was good for us to go get rid of Saddam. But the mess we are in now seems more and more troubling. The sad part is that I don’t see a good exit strategy. I’m not convinced that sending more troops will help subdue things and finish off the war. (I’m not saying it won’t, I’m just not convinced that it will.) But cutting and running isn’t a viable option, either. At this point, I’m about out of ideas, other than to pray for wisdom for the leadership and safety for the troops.

I don’t know what it’s going to take to get me excited about political goings-on again. I’d like to see a real conservative candidate from the Republican party for the 2008 election. If there were some real conservative principles championed, rather than just “my programs will be better than their programs”, maybe I’d be more interested. At least the Republicans have a better record on moral issues, though who knows how long that’ll last. The key difficulty here is that in our two-party system, my choice is either to vote for the Republican I’m unexcited about, or the Democrat I am even less excited about. And don’t start on me about third-party candidates – I know a wasted vote when I see one.

So this is probably as close as I’ll come on this blog to a political rant. Feel free to respond and interact. Tell me why I’m wrong (or right), and what suggestions you’d have for me. I am increasingly thankful that God’s priority is with individual hearts, not political influence.