Jan 19

Like him or not, the office is bigger than the officeholder. It’s time to rise to the occasion.

For the moment, let’s put aside the divisions and differences and for one, major, historic occasion that comes along only every so many years in a lifetime, come together as a nation of free citizens. And be grateful, together, and respect each other, for our shared dignity and humanity.

That’s not a lofty goal, it’s reachable. I knew that from earliest childhood, seemingly innately but surely also because of the upbringing I had in a good, strong family and my classical education in a Catholic school, where discipline, order, morality and service were in the air we breathed.

Growing up, I soaked in news and politics because that’s how things were communicated and run in this country. I asked questions and listened, keenly, to what was said. By my parents, other extended family, news reporters, politicians, the nation’s top leaders. I read the daily newspaper cover to cover from a very young age, cutting out the photos but writing my own story in the little newspapers I made. But I made them especially for the big stories of the day, for posterity I think. Stories about political conventions when they lasted much longer and politicians were longer winded (believe it or not). About the aspirations of some big name people and desperation of little known people, especially those in the path of danger or despair.

The presidential cycles were always big, because of the big ideas debated and promises made and plans offered. No matter who won, the swearing in of a new president was a Very Big Event in America, and in my life.

So I really appreciated the commentary I heard earlier this week from newsman Neil Cavuto at the end of his news hour, brief as it was, because it said what I felt, and I suspect a lot of Americans do as well. At least I hope so.

Honoring the institutions that define us.

This is, for the most part, what he said.

This peaceful transfer of power is what we’re all about. We are free not to like our presidents. It’s our business. But it’s our country. This isn’t so much about honoring the man who is assuming the office, but the office itself. This is not so much about the president, but the presidency.

It’s about what unites the vast crowds who brave the Washington cold every four years to witness history, to see something historic, no matter who is being sworn in. Just to be there. To feel it. To witness it. To be a part of it. Whether it’s about a retired General without a lick of political experience [Eisenhower], or a peanut farmer from the Deep South without any Washington experience [Carter]. Or an Illinois backwoodsman who takes command of a nation just as it’s coming apart [Lincoln], or a ridiculously young Massachusetts senator emerging from the closest American election to that date [Kennedy], or an African American drawing record crowds [Obama] to witness that moment, whether they voted for that man or not, because it’s not about the man, nor someday soon I hope, the woman, not the officeholder, but the office.

It’s about not just the house, but the White House. The institutions that define us are so much bigger than the passing occupants who come and go before us. Inaugurations are about honoring that, all of that, and all of us, that space in time we give space to each other, even as many are packed on the Mall, vast numbers, like sardines, with eyes fixed on the Capitol, some so far away they can’t even see who the heck is being sworn in. Just that they swore to be there to see it as it all played out…

What really matters is our American rite of passage, whether we like what’s passing before us or not. This is the day we give the benefit to our doubts, even as history shows, we doubted in our darkest moments whether we’d see any benefit at all. Yet we did, we do, it is our constant, our core. It is our right to celebrate, or not celebrate at all. As long as we step back and recognize this day, that it’s not about our next leader. It’s about us, the people he is leading.

Let’s celebrate, somehow, together. And then take up our responsibilities as citizens to make ourselves, our families, our communities and our nation better.

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Jan 18

From Martin Luther King Jr. to his followers in Congress, the rights movement has changed.

In a providential alignment of historic dates on the national calendar, Monday of ‘Inauguration Week’ was the annual celebration of the great civil rights leader Rev. Dr Martin Luther King Jr., news reports circulated that early civil rights activist and now senior Representative John Lewis and a growing company of protesters would not attend the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, which shared attention with reports that a Women’s March on Washington the day after the inauguration would bring hundreds of thousands of protesters to DC to repudiate the new president and what they expected would be the damage wrought by his perceived policies.

Dr. Martin Luther King delivered one of his lesser known talks, ‘Our God Is Marching On’, in 1965 to encourage engagement in public policy and the political process, with a timeless message.

Let us march on ballot boxes until we send to our city councils, state legislatures, and the United States Congress, men who will not fear to do justly love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God.

Let us march on ballot boxes until brotherhood becomes more than a meaningless word in an opening prayer, but the order of the day on every legislative agenda.

Let us march on ballot boxes until all…God’s children will be able to walk the earth in decency and honor…

And yet, this week is a snapshot in a ‘what’s wrong with this picture?’ look at the setbacks King’s aspirations have suffered in the modern day splintering of the movement into diverse ‘rights’ groups, many based on identity with redefined terms and redirected energies.

Here’s one, based on the new activism of Congressman John Lewis against President-elect Trump, with Lewis leading a boycott of the inauguration by members of Congress who don’t see the incoming president as ‘legitimate’.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) on Tuesday accused Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) of resting on his status as a civil rights icon, arguing he has done little in Congress.

“I have long contemplated the idea of just going to the [House] floor and saying, ‘John Lewis, thank you for your contribution to civil rights during the Civil Rights era. I would appreciate it if you would contribute something since then…

King also criticized Lewis and other Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) members for sharpening divisions in Congress.

“When they formed the Congressional Black Caucus back years ago in the aftermath of or in the immediate beginning of the civil rights movement, the shape of that, I looked at it even then and said, ‘How can you form a caucus that’s established on race?’” he asked. “And now, the Congressional Black Caucus, I just openly say it – they’re the self-segregating caucus.”

“I mean, the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. – as [this week] we celebrated his birthday – wasn’t about segregation, it was about de-segregation,” King added, citing Monday’s holiday for the civil rights leader.

“But now, they self-segregate and use the vehicle created as the self-segregating caucus in order to advance a leftist political agenda that is not at all reflective of Martin Luther King [Jr.’s] memory.”

This is all a shame. Dr. King and his family who continue his work today have long referred to ‘the Beloved Community’ based on ‘love and mercy, peace and brotherhood, decency and honor’. That’s pretty much gone in this post-election transition time, as it was through the campaign and election season.

And about “God’s children”, not only does this week fall within a week of the anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court law legalizing abortion on demand – which King’s niece Alveda never stops reminding the country is the new civil rights movement – this year the annual March for Life in DC is preceded by a Women’s March on Washington to protest the presidency of Donald Trump and the perceived harm his administration will do to women’s rights.

But can’t they walk together, as Dr. King asked in his day, especially of fellow clergy in Letter from Birmingham Jail? Isn’t there some common ground?

The stated goal of the March for Life is “a world where every human life is valued and protected.

The vision statement…of the Women’s March pledges a commitment to nonviolent solutions, noting that there is “no true peace without justice and equity for all.

Furthermore, even though the women who are organizing the Women’s March had only two months to put their event together, they have created a diverse, enthusiastic and eager community.

Since those words were written in that article, the women planning this event narrowed their community to those who shared the core belief in abortion as a woman’s right. So the Women’s March grew less diverse, when organizers disinvited New Wave Feminists and other pro-life organizations. Though some enthusiastic and eager pro-life women plan to go anyway.

But that’s January 21st, a full news day away from all the planned protests in DC of the inauguration, the parade and celebrations scheduled for those historic events. If only those who celebrate King’s legacy actually tried to live it, we would have more decency and honor.

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Jan 12

The practically peerless legend leaves his great defense of life to others. What a challenge.

Great human rights activists tend to know each other. Wednesday, Wesley J. Smith joined me on radio to talk about life, Nat Hentoff, and Wesley’s tribute in National Review Online last weekend.

We have lost a great writer, civil libertarian, free speech absolutist, jazz historian, and pro-life advocate, Nat Hentoff, who died today at 91.

As an atheist, Nat took much heat from his fellow liberals and rigid fundamentalists among the “free thinking” crowd for standing against abortion, euthanasia, and opposing protocols that would leave babies with spina bifida and other disabilities to die without attempts at curative treatment.

The conversation was both joyful and a little sad, because Wesley was one of many who knew Hentoff as an original and one of a kind, who has no immediate, obvious successor with his pure brand of civil engagement and reasoned, clear thinking.

At the end of that tribute, I noted with some sadness, Wesley wrote “We will not see his like again.”

He called Hentoff “a superb writer and first class public intellectual…a man of consistent, steadfast principle, a moral purist in an age of hand-wringing accommodationists. This unyielding consistency has made him an iconoclast’s iconoclast.” In fact, Wesley noted, Hentoff described himself as “a Jewish, atheist, civil libertarian, left-wing pro-lifer.”

One could disagree with Hentoff’s politics but appreciate his sincere humanitarian principles, we both admitted. Wesley’s tribute noted that ‘his style was as individualistic as were his principles. In an age of shouters, he was quiet. In an era of facile talking heads, he remained profound. Where others agitate and self-aggrandize, he relied on steadfast cogent argument to persuade. Where contemporary pundits often tailor their views to cater to the powerful or popular, Hentoff courageously remained a challenger of orthodoxies.

Hentoff’s advocacy cut a wide swath across what are often called ‘the life issues.’ Indeed, his unyielding stand over many years against abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, unethical human medical experimentation, and the ongoing bioethical construction of a “duty to die” has made him a moral beacon for those who believe that universal human liberty depends on society’s embrace of the intrinsic equality of all human life. And for decades he…connected the dots for his vast audience, expertly charting the consequences of our steady, but. not always slow, slide down the slippery slope toward a veritable culture of death.

NRO ran this piece the next day, by Jack Fowler, who also knew Hentoff and called him “a unique advocate for the humanity of the unborn child.”

He was also a champion of free speech, and the two issues collided in 1992 when he hosted Pennsylvania governor Bob Casey, a pro-life Democrat — denied a spot at his party’s presidential convention earlier that summer — for a speech and discussion at New York’s historic Cooper Union. The topic: Can a liberal be pro-life. On hand: plenty of Leftist radicals.

(Sounds like a very fitting commentary for today.)

Fowler published a snip from Hentoff’s column on what happened at that ‘free speech discussion’ at Cooper Union, on whether a liberal could be pro-life.

As moderator, I started what would have been the discussion by pointing out that this was an evening about free speech — not only that of the governor of Pennsylvania but also that of anyone in the audience who wanted to challenge him. The hooting, screaming, pounding and whistle blowing began. Strategically located at both sides of the hall — disruption by stereo — a preening array of hooligans made all speech except their own inaudible. They reminded me of the domestic brown shirts breaking up Jewish meetings in my youth, but these were howling soldiers of the left…

At least 80 percent of the audience wanted to hear Casey and said so, as best they could, by applauding his attempts to get started. But they were no match for the speech muggers. After several tries, Gov. Casey yielded. “The Democratic Convention suspended the First Amendment,” he tried to say, “and tonight you did the same thing.” Casey walked off the stage as the shouters congratulated each other.

Fowler says

It was an infamous event that has seen itself repeated many times, and with great intensity, over the years; and over them, Hentoff was on hand to bear witness to the assault on free speech in places where open debate and discussion were supposed to be the rule, and to call out those who were supposed to be protectors of the First Amendment.

Then, with the tinge of resignation that Wesley Smith expressed at the end of his tribute to this singular, Fowler posted a 1967 video of Hentoff in debate with the inimitable William F. Buckley on an episode of Firing Line. It was priceless. Though the topic of that was ‘Black Power’ and civil rights, defense of the vulnerable and our duty to the poor in need, some of Hentoff’s remarks were remarkably relevant to this very day’s news of politics and ‘culture wars’.

“Liberals seem to be amused by their own language” he said. “It’s not a conspiracy, they’ve just stopped thinking. They don’t think about things after they’ve talked about them.”

He was sincere, knowing from whence he spoke. Continuing to explain the liberal mentality, Hentoff added: “You don’t really do things, you plan things.”

In that column with that video, Fowler left the reader this note, presuming readers would watch two great intellects speak, and listen, to each other for genuinely civil discourse, with conviction and respect.

Enjoy, as you will, but be warned: You will despair that the quality and level of public discussion on display is in our rear-view mirror. RIP Nat.

We don’t have a Lincoln, a Martin Luther King Jr., a Reagan or Buckley, a Hentoff still among us. But we have their legacy and model and witness. And it’s our right to choose to carry it on.

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Jan 09

Planned Parenthood is doubling down.

Last Wednesday, a Select Investigative Panel in the U.S. House of Representatives released a report accusing Planned Parenthood of serious abuses and possible criminal violations in transactions between abortion businesses and fetal tissue harvesters. This came after months of hearings and investigations into a series of undercover videos showed abortion clinic workers in different parts of the country discussing ‘fetal product sales’ and the value of different baby body parts, especially if obtained intact after an abortion.

Congress started this investigation months ago and with the election year frenzy, it was probably forgotten by anyone not somehow involved with a vested interest. But it’s a whopper (full report here), finding a range of abuses in a number of clinics across the country. That same day, the Charlotte Lozier Institute and Alliance Defending Freedom issued this report on waste, abuse and potential fraud by Planned Parenthood affiliates and other abortion providers in billing for Medicaid reimbursement.

The next day, Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced essentially the defunding of Planned Parenthood and reallocation of those funds to federally qualified comprehensive community health centers for women. Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser responded quickly.

“Planned Parenthood is America’s largest abortion provider, performing over 300,000 abortions per year. Today’s commitment by Speaker Ryan to re-direct the abortion giant’s taxpayer funding to community health centers is a victory for women’s health care. Community health centers provide far more services than Planned Parenthood and outnumber them 20 to 1 nationwide…

“Polling in 2018 Senate battleground states shows that voters support re-directing Planned Parenthood’s funding to community health centers. Vulnerable pro-abortion Democratic Senators need to do a serious gut check, especially following the 2016 election outcome, and decide if they will stand with their constituents and women’s health care or continue to funnel money to big abortion.”

President-elect Trump has made key, distinct promises to the pro-life coalition of advisers he assembled and consulted over the final months of the presidential campaign, and in their messages of thanks and congratulations after his victory, they assured him and their nationwide followers that they look forward to seeing him follow through on those promises. Some of his top aides are pro-life, and his party platform was built partially on pro-life planks.

After the the House Select Panel issued its report last week and then Speaker Ryan announced the intent to redirect federal funds to community health centers for women, Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins was my guest on radio to talk about these and other developments in the lead up to the Inauguration and the March for Life DC just days later, which grows larger and younger and more exuberant every year. She said Planned Parenthood is on a major new, urgent campaign to raise funds and build support, and the abortion giant is taking its appeal to every social media platform and major media outlet where they can reach the most people to convince them of the importance of Planned Parenthood’s work and necessity.

It’s a battle for hearts and minds, with directly competing narratives. We will be talking and hearing a lot about abortion, and we should, for everyone’s sake. This will be a very big year for the test of scrutiny.

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Dec 01

The presumption is revealing.

‘We, the media, should have known better’ was the message and the admission, or confession, in some cases. Confession, because some now see how they treated, or disregarded, the people who decided.

Some commentators in various types of media went at least as far as admitting to arrogant bias all along, and the need to learn from such (egregiously) flawed dissemination of information as they were practicing in their various outlets throughout the whole, long campaign for the presidency.

This wasn’t a new self-awareness by the entire pack. Back in May, New York Times’ columnist Nicolas Kristof wrote this ’Confession of Liberal Intolerance’. How prophetic it would turn out to be. “We’re fine with people who don’t look like us, as long as they think like us.” It was mostly about American universities, disciplines like the Humanities, the (apparent) lack of conservatives on campuses. But it prevails over the political culture.

It’s easier to find a Marxist in Academia, studies found, than a Republican, Kristof wrote. And he admitted that “bias on campuses creates liberal privilege”. It shows. And whole populations of Americans across the country, ‘flyover country’ so often sneered at among cultural elites, not only noticed, they kept their resentment in check for years.

In the aftermath of Election 2016, I’ve been traveling a lot and abroad, working on other news stories but gathering an interesting collection of post-election analysis pieces that reveal ‘out of touch’ media trying to reckon with their stunning failure to know or even notice such a wide swath of America and the Americans who live there.

This CBS News commentary just after the election captures “The unbearable smugness of the press”.

This is all symptomatic of modern journalism’s great moral and intellectual failing: its unbearable smugness. Had Hillary Clinton won, there’d be a winking “we did it” feeling in the press, a sense that we were brave and called Trump a liar and saved the republic.

So much for that. The audience for our glib analysis and contempt for much of the electorate, it turned out, was rather limited. This was particularly true when it came to voters, the ones who turned out by the millions to deliver not only a rebuke to the political system but also the people who cover it…

They hate us, and have for some time.

And can you blame them? Journalists love mocking Trump supporters. We insult their appearances. We dismiss them as racists and sexists. We emote on Twitter about how this or that comment or policy makes us feel one way or the other, and yet we reject their feelings as invalid.

It’s a profound failure of empathy in the service of endless posturing.

That line captures it well.

But the admission continues.

There’s a place for opinionated journalism; in fact, it’s vital. But our causal, profession-wide smugness and protestations of superiority are making us unable to do it well.

Our theme now should be humility. We must become more impartial, not less so. We have to abandon our easy culture of tantrums and recrimination. We have to stop writing these know-it-all, 140-character sermons on social media and admit that, as a class, journalists have a shamefully limited understanding of the country we cover.

What’s worse, we don’t make much of an effort to really understand, and with too few exceptions, treat the economic grievances of Middle America like they’re some sort of punchline. Sometimes quite literally so, such as when reporters tweet out a photo of racist-looking Trump supporters and jokingly suggest that they must be upset about free trade or low wages.

We have to fix this, and the broken reasoning behind it. There’s a fleeting fun to gang-ups and groupthink. But it’s not worth what we are losing in the process.

Fun? To gang up on people, fall in with groupthink, chuckle and snicker at ‘those people’ who ‘don’t think like us’?

You’d think that Trump’s victory – the one we all discounted too far in advance – would lead to a certain newfound humility in the political press. But of course that’s not how it works…

Journalists exist primarily in a world where people can get shouted down and disappear, which informs our attitudes toward all disagreement.

Journalists increasingly don’t even believe in the possibility of reasoned disagreement, and as such ascribe cynical motives to those who think about things a different way. We see this in the ongoing veneration of “facts,” the ones peddled by explainer websites and data journalists who believe themselves to be curiously post-ideological.

That the explainers and data journalists so frequently get things hilariously wrong never invites the soul-searching you’d think it would. Instead, it all just somehow leads us to more smugness, more meanness, more certainty from the reporters and pundits. Faced with defeat, we retreat further into our bubble, assumptions left unchecked. No, it’s the voters who are wrong.

As a direct result, we get it wrong with greater frequency. Out on the road, we forget to ask the right questions. We can’t even imagine the right question.

He, they, should go back to this intention, admitted several paragraphs earlier:

Our theme now should be humility. We must become more impartial, not less so. We have to abandon our easy culture of tantrums and recrimination. We have to stop writing these know-it-all, 140-character sermons on social media and admit that, as a class, journalists have a shamefully limited understanding of the country we cover.

Emphasis added.

Such self-examination cut across different levels of media. Take this blogger, for example.

It was all a lie.

Time for some truths: America’s governing class is bound together more by geography, education, and manners than anything else; it does not understand and cannot relate to the lives of most of their countrymen. Socially and economically the led and the leaders are distinct. In less than two decades, this elite has launched this country into three wars, and lost each of them. None were punished or held accountable for doing so. They plunged the earth into recession, a recession entire regions still feel–but none were punished or held accountable for doing so. This class is fundamentally unaccountable: bankrupt Americans, bankroll cartels—in the end, none of that matters if you’ve made the right connections and you speak the right shibboleths. The gateways into this class are shrinking. The privileges it claims grow larger…

It is time to destroy the lies.

This stinging rebuke of fellow travelers is almost hard to read. Almost.

The Democratic Party is without a leader. The President and his administration are packing up shop…The DNC is a mess. A civil war is brewing. The battle for your party’s soul is coming—and when it is over, the winners must be people with better judgement than those who ran the last campaign.

That is only the first part. The second may be more important—the cadre of “thought leaders” who led you all into this mess must be cast aside…

These men and women…built an echo chamber and mistook its confines for the world outside it. They sold their self-deceptions to you as fair and reasoned truths—but they are and always were deceptions. You and I were fed a diet of lies. Now the liars and those who believed them both find themselves locked out of power, utterly unprepared for the age about to dawn. These people need to be held accountable.

‘The New York Times publisher vowed to rededicate the paper to reporting honestly‘. A lot could be said here. The publisher says enough, for now.

It’s rather rich that he promises readers to rededicate the paper to its mission of journalism that will strive “always to understand and reflect all political perspectives and life experiences” in the stories the paper carries, given its record on some political perspectives and certainly some “life experiences”. And “to hold power to account, impartially and unflinchingly”. Now that a wild card Republican will be in the Oval Office.

You can rely on The New York Times to bring the same fairness, the same level of scrutiny, the same independence to our coverage of the new president and his team.

The same as what? I would have liked to have seen Arthur Sulzberger Jr. finish that sentence, or that thought, that comparative assertion. I’m a subscriber, a reader, therefore one to whom the publisher penned that letter, asking for our “continued loyalty”. I’m not going anywhere, I like to read the Times and will continue to for its smart and especially international reporting, where and when its found in those pages, and the arts and culture and book reviews and entertainment culture features, and food and film and sport. The crossword puzzles. The editorial and op-eds, and very often especially the op-eds.

But we want to see improvement.

New York Post columnist and former Times reporter Michael Goodwin wrote, “because it [The Times] demonized Trump from start to finish, it failed to realize he was onto something. And because the paper decided that Trump’s supporters were a rabble of racist rednecks and homophobes, it didn’t have a clue about what was happening in the lives of the Americans who elected the new president.”

Kudos due here.

Sulzberger’s letter was released after the paper’s public editor, Liz Spayd, took the paper to task for its election coverage…

Spayd wrote, “Readers are sending letters of complaint at a rapid rate. Here’s one that summed up the feelings succinctly, from Kathleen Casey of Houston: “Now, that the world has been upended and you are all, to a person, in a state of surprise and shock, you may want to consider whether you should change your focus from telling the reader what and how to think, and instead devote yourselves to finding out what the reader (and nonreaders) actually think.”

Maureen Dowd tasted humble pie at Thanksgiving. Good for her.

But already, the Times is in a quandary (along with other media, apparently) over how or whether to cover Trump’s tweets, if he keeps posting them (and one hopes he doesn’t, for everyone’s sake).

It was a rare and unexpected surprise to see Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi publish this column, although the title ‘President Trump: How America Got It So Wrong’ seemed to signal a blame piece coming, against Americans who voted for Trump. There was plenty of blame alright, but self directed, for a change. Though Taibbi gets his shots in there, he takes plenty himself, on behalf of his style of writers with influence. Who didn’t seem to notice when things were wrong if their guy, or their party, were the ones in charge.

On President-elect Trump…

He takes office at a time when the chief executive is vastly more powerful than ever before, with nearly unlimited authority to investigate, surveil, torture and assassinate foreigners and even U.S. citizens – powers that didn’t seem to trouble people much when they were granted to Barack Obama.

Right.

Trump made idiots of us all. From the end of primary season onward, I felt sure Trump was en route to ruining, perhaps forever, the Republican Party as a force in modern American life. Now the Republicans are more dominant than ever, and it is the Democratic Party that is shattered and faces an uncertain future.

And it deserves it. The Democratic Party’s failure to keep Donald Trump out of the White House in 2016 will go down as one of the all-time examples of insular arrogance. The party spent most of the past two years not only ignoring the warning signs of the Trump rebellion but vilifying anyone who tried to point them out. It denounced all rumors of its creeping unpopoularity as vulgar lies and bulled anyone who dared question its campaign strategy by calling them racists, sexists and agents of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

But the party’s willful blindness symbolized a similar arrogance across the American intellectual elite. Trump’s election was a true rebellion, directed at anyone perceived to be part of the Establishment. The target group included political leaders, bankers, industrialists, academics, Hollywood actors and, of course, the media. And we all closed our eyes to what we didn’t want to see…

Those of us whose job it is to cover campaigns long ago grew accustomed to treating The People as a kind of dumb animal, whose behavior could sometimes be unpredictable but, in the end, almost always did what it was told.

Whenever we sought insight into the motives and tendencids of this elusive creature, our first calls were always to other eggheads like ourselves. We talked to pollsters, think-tankers, academics, former campaign strategists, party spokes-hacks, even other journalists…

And the whole time, The People, whose intentions we were wondering so hard about, were all around us, listening to themselves being talked about like some wild, illiterate beast.

Yes, he’s finally got something right.

When Barack Obama was elected president, a great many Americans felt that their voice would finally be heard, that he represented them and their beliefs and best interests. Now, a great many other Americans feel the same thing about Donald Trump. President Obama has handled the election outcome and beginning of the transition of power with gracious dignity, crediting President George W. Bush for doing the same for him, and vowing to carry on the tradition seamlessly and with the same goodwill.

It would be nice, to say the least, if the press corps “who should know better” would rise to the occasion as well, and serve “The People” whose trust they need to earn again. If they ever will.

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Nov 09

Another vote that stunned pollsters and pundits.

‘Can you hear me now?’ should be the headline.

Establishment, inside, elite politicians and media have heard and are still stunned. They don’t quite know yet what to make of the results of Election 2016 in America because as of the moment this is being written, the results aren’t yet fully in. But from what we do know, they’re realizing that they didn’t see it coming. At all. And some of them fear these strange, almost foreign people in this country who went to the polls Tuesday. People they have dismissed for so long, they never took the time to listen to them and their concerns in this major election year, or longer.

This NYT opinion piece, published ahead of the long night of election returns, had a pretty good idea that something was happening that would require a reckoning.

Whatever the result of the United States election, politics has been “changed, changed utterly,” to use the words of the poet W.B. Yeats on Ireland after the 1916 Easter Rising. And not just in America. Across the Western world, there is a rising anger at “the system.”

That nails it. It’s spreading across the world, including the United States, but was hardly noticed and certainly not for what it was given elite media coverage of the election cycle and the Trump v. Clinton race for the presidency. “The center is struggling to hold” the Times op-ed piece continues. Why? Because the battles, political and cultural, have been between the left and right, sometime the further flung of the two. Bernie Sanders was left of Clinton, who is left of Obama. On Election Day in America, it turns out that many Sanders voters, feeling disenfranchised by establishment politics, voted for Trump, exit polling showed.

What happened?

Establishment politicians, economists and policy makers know something is happening, but…they don’t know what it is…The source of much of the anger is the very social system that they have created these last 40 years – globalized, neoliberal and destructive of the social contract between governments and peoples on which the political center rests.

The piece keeps referring to “the angry”, which is a stronger way of saying ‘the fed up and determined’, or better yet, ‘the fully engaged’. We are, after all, a Representative Republic, and the time has come to stand up, speak out, and collectively activate to make a difference that’s been long promised by politicians but never delivered. Things have only grown worse for the left out and left behind, the jobless and over-regulated and over-taxed, the everyday American trying to serve and survive and meanwhile, earning less and being strapped with higher prices for fewer choices for healthcare, if they’re working at all. Paying more property taxes and sales taxes and other costs companies have had to add to pay for the over-regulation, themselves.

And all this time, the meritocracy has had a lot of disdain for the everyday people.

The Times op-ed continues:

The striving middle class is pushed into the ranks of the poor as well-paying jobs, and the social mobility they bring, disappear, sometimes overseas, sometimes as a result of trade deals the establishment parties insisted were in the popular interest. Communities have been devastated, as the civic ecology on which a politics of the common good depends for most folk has been shattered: stable work on which to build a home and a family, pride in identity and place, and a network of supportive institutions and relationships cultivated across generations.

This U.S. election has been compared so much with the Brexit Referendum, British experts have been brought in for analysis on what’s happening in America. In recent months, I’ve commented on radio, along with guests, how similar the two are in the divisive atmosphere that grew around them, to the point where husbands and wives turned on each other for their fervent political differences, neighbor against neighbor, and friendships even ended over these splits in political views, so deeply have they run.

It’s been a year of global judgment on such people, too, which caused further resentment, cast in a string of pejoratives, and lumped together in a “basket of deplorables” by candidate Hillary Clinton at one point, which struck deeply into the base of Donald Trump supporters.

U.S. media and reporters, writers, bloggers and commentators here and abroad have spent months talking about Trump with a disclaimer that to say anything even remotely open about him didn’t mean they actually accepted this bombastic, repulsive, disgusting creature, but ‘hey, let’s give him a break because he’s come so far for a reason, and maybe has something to say’. Everything was thrown at the man, including the ‘creepy, crawly’ imagery of the atmosphere and mindset in which he dwelt. But it was he who said he wants to drain the swamp that was so much of the inside establishment of government and enablers in media.

So some voters who wanted a pro-life, pro-family, religious freedom defender who at least promised good laws and good Supreme Court Justices, who may not have even voted for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton but hoped somehow, better government would prevail, went into election night waiting with dramatic tension to see what the pundits never could predict.

And they all got it wrong, in that even as Tuesday turned into Wednesday, Donald Trump was actually close to the threshold of securing the electoral votes to become the next U.S. President. Against that prevailing wisdom that was just demolished.

As I write this, the deal just got sealed. Mr. Trump was just declared to have won the presidency. This is historic. Now, a lot of healing has got to follow.

Fuller election coverage will follow as it comes out in the next day or so. But for now, I think of a few different things. One, I saw remarkably few (maybe historically few) yard signs or bumper stickers for any candidate, and if there was one here or there, it was for a local county or state office. Not the presidential race. That is unprecedented in my lifetime.

Another is the recall I had on Election Day of President Gerald Ford’s first line of his hastily arranged inauguration address, succeeding Richard Nixon, saying “My Fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.” As I approached my polling place, I wondered if that would be true on this day. But then wondered, what would be over, and what would be about to begin?

We’ll soon find out, but it is a pivotal moment in our history. And just as the people have spoken in the only poll that mattered, the people will need to work together to heal a wounded, divided nation. That is up to each and every one of us.

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Nov 07

Talk is bubbling up about potential legal challenges over results.

This sort of thing came to mind when I heard Donald Trump’s response to Fox News moderator Chris Wallace in the final debate with Hillary Clinton, when asked if he would accept the outcome of the election. Given what happened in both of George W. Bush’s elections (recalled in the article), and the many and assorted charges of ballot mishandling and reports of glitches in all the elections of modern times, this one in particular seems destined for extra scrutiny.

Yet Trump’s response about a ‘wait and see’ attitude became the one headline of a 90 minute debate about so much else. Media made it scandalous (in quite a season of scandal). The New York Times called it “a remarkable statement that seemed to cast doubt on American democracy”. The Washington Post noted that Clinton called his response “horrifying” and added that he was “talking down our democracy”.

Now NRO has this simply factual piece suggesting that a close finish would likely trigger legal challenges, of the sort we’ve seen before.

We almost went into a Bush v. Gore–like election overtime in 2004 because of provisional ballots. Voters in every state must be given a provisional, or conditional, ballot if for any reason they are unable to cast a regular ballot (if, for instance their name is not on the voter rolls or they lack voter ID, or if an election official brings a challenge). The provisional ballot is then cross-checked with public records to see if it’s valid.

How times have changed even on these basic requirements. My sister in Ohio cast an early-voting ballot and was not asked for any identification. Which should astound those of us who have, rightly, gone to the polls and after being found on the roster of registered voters, been asked for some ID to prove who we are as the correct voter assigned that ballot.

However, John Fund states in the NRO piece,

This year, the election could be close enough in one or more states to bring one or both sides into court. “The risk of that happening is higher than it used to be — and higher than most of us realize,” Edward B. Foley, the director of an election law center at Ohio State, and Charles Stewart III wrote in the Washington Post today. They note that votes counted after Election Day can easily determine the outcome of a close election.

So why the shock and horror over Trump’s ‘wait and see’ response about the election outcome?

Especially since…

In addition to the issue of provisional ballots, our local election systems use a patchwork of inconsistent rules, operate often antiquated machines, and can turn a blind eye to voter fraud. There are also jurisdictions that harbor incompetent bureaucrats. During the infamous recounts of the 2004 governor’s race in Washington State, Seattle’s King County mysteriously managed to “find” uncounted ballots on 18 separate occasions. America’s voting system is “a bit like trying to measure bacteria with a yardstick,” and we often can’t figure out who really won ultra-close races, mathematician John Allen Paulos mournfully noted after assessing the 2000 presidential results in Florida.

So, Fund concludes,

It’s said that the fervent wish of every election official is “Lord, please don’t make the election super close.” But if several of Tuesday’s races are tight, we could enter a quagmire of recounts, lawsuits, and protests outside government offices. If you thought the election campaign was ugly, just wait in case there is a post-election legal contest.

All of which is why I don’t put stock (especially this year) in political pundits, pollsters and political analysts. They really don’t know what will happen on Tuesday, but have to fill time with commentary. It could be a landslide one way or the other. It could be very close and then followed by the drama of the above scenarios of legal challenges.

We have to stay calm and clear minded about this election. After the June Brexit referendum, my friend and radio show guest Austen Ivereigh shared how contentious and divisive that campaign had been, hot it even pitted neighbor against neighbor, husband against wife, families unable to talk with each other anymore.

And meanwhile, none of the polls and predictions really got it right.

Something similar has happened here in the U.S. during this long, trying election season. It will play out as it will, come Tuesday night, Wednesday morning, or whenever it comes to a conclusion. But in the remaining hours, we have the time to be level headed about what’s at stake, and what we’re about to do to determine America’s future, and how we define ourselves.

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Nov 01

How to summarize?

This unprecedented election cycle stretches back as far as the Clinton Administration era, ran throughout the Obama Administration era, continues the thread that Hillary Clinton wove through both, and got entangled with the new threads of an outside the Beltway, outside politics, unlikely wild card that Donald Trump proved to be, and it all has defied the odds and conventional wisdom to land us in this strange situation of facing an election for president between two very flawed and distasteful, disrespectful, unethical and unlikable candidates.

We, the people, could have done much better. And we’re to blame for arriving at this point with these two candidates at the top of their tickets. ‘Politics are downstream of culture’ we hear often, and it’s true. We make the culture, or buy into it willingly and without giving it proper thought. So those who do the social engineering of marketing ideas and working ideologies into entertainment media and news media and politics gain ground when citizens come to accept the ‘mission creep’ of ideas spread in attractive packaging and sold through socially appealing marketing, and all sorts of changes have happened to our nation and its institutions and laws. So now the landscape is scary to a lot of people and hostile to others, or some of both to most people.

The next week has utmost importance for America and the world. I’ve been watching and covering on radio what’s most helpful for voters, and the watching world beyond, and hope to bring light to that in these days leading up to the day of decision. It’s not just the US presidency at stake, though that’s most important. The Senate and House seats in Congress are pivotal in the decisions that will continue on into the years ahead, some with ramifications for generations.

Meanwhile, an interview I did Monday on my book, for a television news webcast program, recalled the timelessness of first principles and the truths the founding documents of this nation established. Which are more or less summarized here.

“The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.” – George Washington…

“Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.” – Abraham Lincoln…

We have such a rich heritage both in the Church and in our nation’s founding documents, among other historic and timeless teachings. But people, generations, will forget if they are not taught or reminded, and truths will be eradicated from our collective memory if we don’t hand down our narrative of inheritance. George Washington is widely beloved, as is Abraham Lincoln. But ask people why and they may be hard pressed to cite what these early presidents represented in their personal beliefs, lived in their personal character, and stood for in their political battles to carry out their understanding of natural law and moral order. To “get” Washington or Lincoln, you have to get them right, and in full….

People need heroes. The world needs the bright lights of those who spared nothing and braved anything to stand in the gap for their brothers and sisters anywhere who were marginalized, oppressed, mistreated, abused, and dehumanized. William Wilberforce, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa and…Fr. Richard John Neuhaus are standouts among many others inspired by them who worked tirelessly and unceasingly for human rights for every single human being who exists, and those who will in future generations. History books and museums and legendary narratives record the great heroes of history who made a difference in civilization, thankfully. We owe a debt of honor and gratitude to them all — but also the duty to carry the mantle they handed down to those who come after and are inspired by the cause of protecting, defending, and advancing human dignity and rights. Many of the benefits recognized by law that we inherit and enjoy today are the result of their life’s work.

It’s what’s at stake now. We are up to the task of making clear the truths of human dignity and human rights to our neighbors, communities, larger public and sphere of influence. We just need to call upon our courage.

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Oct 16

He pledged reform. Her campaign planned revolt.

For half of this election year, ‘the Catholic vote’ got virtually no mention or attention in media coverage of the campaigns, while the Evangelical vote got plenty. Just before the summer conventions, Hillary Clinton named Tim Kaine as her running mate for VP, and the press featured his Catholicism in a usually laudatory light, even casting him as a ‘Pope Francis’ Catholic without understanding what that even means, and how wrong that portrayal is considering his willingness to support abortion, the repeal of the Hyde Amendment protections against taxpayer funding of abortion, and same sex marriage law which he celebrated. He said he believed his church would change its teaching on that, in time.

And then there’s his life changing mission trip to Honduras, and involvement in liberation theology there,

an explicitly Marxist political ideology cloaked in Catholic teaching that was planted in South America for the purpose of stirring up the poor to violence against their government.

At the time, this was a theology radically at odds with the Church and condemned by the Vatican, Pope John Paul II, and political leaders in the United States. The Marxist elements of the theology are still condemned by the Church today, including Pope Francis.

So the new prominence Catholicism gained in the elections by late summer was colored by Tim Kaine’s practices and stated beliefs. And ‘the Catholic vote’ suddenly became a focus for media and campaigns.

Recently, Donald Trump sent Catholic Vote president Brian Burch a letter promising to protect religious freedom, conscience protection and the rights of Catholics. Within two days, Catholic Vote issued a statement after a 2005 video was released with what Burch called “disgusting and simply indefensible” comments. He said what needed to be said at that moment.

Then came another. The first of the Wikileaks revelations of emails exchanged within the Clinton campaign at the highest levels revealing a deep disrespect for Catholics and the teachings of the Catholic Church, and ideas to back dissident Catholic groups that would agitate for a change in Church teachings. Those emails revealed insulting language and therefore, attitudes, about Catholics, as well as Latinos, showing a deep disregard for the people and their faith, and instead reflecting a strategy of seeing them as identity groups to be dealt with in politics.

HotAir.com pointed out the ‘silliness’ of calling the Church’s teaching a ‘middle-ages dictatorship’ and the call for a ‘Catholic Spring’ highly insulting. Crux noted that those emails were seen as hostile and mocking.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops found a teaching moment in this unprecedented assault on Catholics from within the political hierarchy to issue a statement.

And scholars like Princeton Professor Robert George published opinion pieces like this, casting this moment in our political culture and history in a clarifying light.

…I can’t say I’m surprised by the noxious anti-Catholic bigotry contained in emails exchanged between leading progressives, Democrats and Hillary Clinton operatives. These WikiLeaks-published emails confirm what has been evident for years. Many elites, having embraced secular progressivism as not merely a political view but a religion, loathe traditional faiths that refuse to yield to its dogmas.

The election is just weeks away, and people of faith – already caught in a quagmire for so many months over the choices for president – are deliberating deeply over this extremely pivotal moment in our history. They are anxious and worried and wondering who to trust and what to do.

Somewhere in all these years, we largely have lost the ability to trust ourselves, our understanding of truth and justice, honor and virtue, and leadership. It won’t be a ‘top down’ answer that will save the Republic in some magical turn of events. It’s time to find the courage within our own ability to shape the future, within our families, our communities, our most local networks of influence.

People in alleged ‘power’ do not define us and cannot subvert what we stand for or believe, what ‘hill we would be ready to die on’ as some put it, to fire the imagination. We will decide ourselves.

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Oct 03

It’s not as complicated as it’s made out to be.

How the U.S. presidential election came down to two distasteful candidates in the end is a matter for historians. But it’s now a decision between what scholar Hardley Arkes calls “a matter of a wild card versus a brutal sure thing”, with many dividing issues but a singular and essential defining one that matters the most in grounding all others.

Clinton is staunchly pro-abortion. Trump identifies as pro-life, has made promises to defend life at all stages regarding legislation and name pro-life judges regarding law, and has named a pro-life coalition of advisers to assist his trajectory to what he hopes is the position to turn promises into protections. That hasn’t convinced a lot of conservatives. And commentators in media, if not outright hostile to Trump and defensive of Clinton, at the very least have the almost universal tendency to express their anti-Trump bona fides before saying, essentially, ‘but let’s give him a look, a chance, a listen.’ If they even get to that point.

That first presidential debate last week was a disaster, just about wrapping up now in its week long play in prime time media and late night comedy for its wince-worthy moments. But even that aside, Arkes says this about the longer term race and consequences at stake.

My friends who are concerned about national security worry about the temperament of Donald Trump. But what is it that the national defense is supposed to “secure”?

…if our main interest lies in protecting the lives of our people, why do the mavens on national security show no concern for the 1.2 million innocent human lives taken each year in abortion? Does it matter that 177 Democrats voted against the bill to punish surgeons who kill babies who survive abortions? The Democratic position, led by President Obama, is that the right to abortion is not confined to pregnancy; it entails nothing less than the right to kill a child born alive. That is the position that Hillary Clinton should be called upon to defend right now. Have we suffered such an erosion of sensibility as a people that this killing of children born alive is no longer worth noticing?

Important question to consider and answer. When will Clinton be asked about the right to live, before talking about what a good and just and respected life requires? Nobody in media is asking her.

Will it come up in the vice-presidential debates Tuesday night? Doubtful. Big media coverage of Democratic VP candidate Tim Kaine has focused on his resume, and featured his Catholic commitment to social justice and his life-changing mission work in Honduras earlier in life.

But here’s what the media aren’t reporting.

During his stay in Honduras, Kaine openly embraced liberation theology, a controversial political ideology cloaked in Catholic teaching, but radically at odds with the Catholic Church and with the United States. At the time, this extremist ideology was adopted by activists and even some clergy who were openly hostile to the Church, the Pope, and the United States. The Marxist elements of this ideology were condemned by the Vatican in the 1980’s and 1990’s. During his time in Latin America, Kaine was surrounded by radicals and their influences took root in the version of Christianity he adopted. According to the New York Times, it was this theology that set him on a “left veering career path” influencing his politics to the present day.

Although the Marxist roots of liberation theology were condemned by the Church, the new theology did have the support of another superpower – the Soviet Union. Scholars of the period, and the top Cold War defector to the West, have shown the Soviets created liberation theology to undermine the Church and advance the Soviet cause against the United States. In Honduras, the phony Marxist-tinged theology was planted to manipulate poor Catholics, instigate terrorism, and stir up a violent revolution in Honduras — then the key ally of the United States opposing Communism in the region.

Will the debate between the vice-presidential candidates draw much attention from voters, especially those drawn by Kaine’s Catholic identity? Media will try to frame that as much as anything. But it’s important to know. And it’s out there to learn.

I’ll be covering these issues on Tuesday’s radio program, trying to get to the heart of the matter.

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