Feb 15

He will be remembered for a robust array of  aspects of his legacy.

“But his abiding contribution was in trying to stem the tide of government by judiciary.” That succinct summary by National Review editors captures the essence of Scalia’s place, time, and body of work, on the Supreme Court.

Judicial imperialism is a cancer in the body politic…

It has been for a very long time. Justice Scalia wasn’t gone from this life 24 hours before operatives in media and politics were spinning his vacancy on the court as a pivotal motivating factor that would, depending on the commentator, help the Democrats or Republicans depending on who the president nominates to succeed him and what the Senate does about the confirmation process when that nominee is named.

This election season, the Republican candidates for president — especially the eventual nominee — must place the politics of the judiciary squarely before the people, showing them that the only way toward a less political Supreme Court is through a more openly political debate about its future. If this happens, Antonin Scalia will have done, in death, one last great service for his country, rescuing American voters from a binge of silliness and sobering them up about their great responsibility as a self-governing people in a constitutional republic.

Moving “toward a less political Supreme Court…through a more openly political debate about its future” is exactly what this nation needs, along with a serious, sober, reasoned political debate instead of the ideologically divisive one that drives everything else.

One can hope.

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Feb 09

High profile surrogates sound desperate, reach a new low.

That’s saying something for a woman candidate for president who earned and embraced the enthusiastic endorsement of the largest abortion provider in the world. But since that endorsement last month, Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers have continued to drop.

So over the weekend before Tuesday’s first election of the long primary season, two very high profile women of Hillary’s generation came out to stump for her, one on the campaign trail and the other on a popular liberal television show, and both in tandem delivered a memorable message that was shocking, revealing, and ultimately counter-productive. They were both condemnations of young women who don’t support Hillary Clinton. And did more than opposition candidates to damage her and the cause of women’s best interests.

The New York Times calls it a “rebuke” in the headline over the story of a generational clash, in which two “feminist icons”, Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinam “called on young women who supported (Democratic Socialist candidate Bernie Sanders) to essentially grow up and get with the program.” As the caption on the photo tells it:

Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of state, told young women it was their duty to support Hillary Clinton in her presidential run at a rally in New Hampshire on Saturday.

That alone is, these days, unwise and unhelpful enough. But then she said this:

“We can tell our story of how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women think it’s done,” Ms. Albright said of the broader fight for women’s equality. It’s not done. There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”

That was a stunner. Over the years, I’ve occasionally noted or lamented the final public end of a notable and esteemed public figure in broadcasting, other media, sports, politics or elsewhere where that person had made a name, record and reputation for a long time, only to go out sadly repudiated and disgraced by a random remark that was politically incorrect. Though I didn’t always agree with or appreciate Madeleine Albright’s statements or actions on a given policy, she served nobly and honorably at times for ‘the least of these’, as in her tenure as Ambassador to the United Nations under the Clinton Administration, when she issued a stinging rebuke to the UN Secretary General and the U.S. for their neglect to engage over war crimes in the genocide in Rwanda. She said then:

My deepest regret from my years in public service is the failure of the United States and the international community to act sooner to halt these crimes.

Which reflected deeply held principles about human life and the protection of vulnerable, innocent people.

That’s a far cry from what she said over the weekend to scold young women who don’t back Clinton’s candidacy, and warn them of the consequences.

“There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”

How threatening, extreme and desperate that sounds. And how revealing of the whole false feminist, “pro-choice” agenda of Planned Parenthood and establishment abortion activists who actually only contend that there’s one choice, and it’s theirs. If your choice is pro-life, another candidate who didn’t get the endorsement of Planned Parenthood, you’re not only wrong and need to be rebuked, you’re going to hell.

Women are smarter than that, they know that they really do have choices and will make them according to what they determine is best for themselves, their health, their future and family, and without the dictates of angry, authoritarian women who tell them that women still need to follow ‘groupthink’ to be empowered. That just doesn’t work anymore. Years ago, former NARAL Pro-Choice America president Nancy Keenan watched the March for Life on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, saw the tens of thousands of enthusiastic participants and said “There are so many of them and they are so young.”

They are not about to buy into threats of damnation for not backing the abortion movement’s godmother, Hillary Clinton, to be president of the United States.

And especially not responsive to ridicule by feminist movement founder Gloria Steinam, who appeared on the Bill Maher show and said that women become more active in politics as they get older, and that young women were supporting Sen. Sanders because the young guys were.

“When you’re young, you’re thinking ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie,’”…

To which Maher instantly replied that if he’d said that, he’s be smacked for such an offensive remark.

This is not helping women and women know it. They’ve either been through the feminist movement and had abortions and suffered the damage of that, or they’ve learned from those who have. They know they have choices and the best place to find options and alternatives for their health is with the true women’s movement of these times, in pregnancy health centers, and women’s health clinics, and organizations like Women Speak for Themselves.

One Democratic network news contributor said the barrier to the White House had been broken by Barack Obama. Then she shrugged off the Hillary Clinton candidacy saying it wasn’t necessary to vote for her just to prove a point that’s been made.

To insinuate, or worse, to state it as blatantly as Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinam did so unwisely, that it’s now the necessary duty of women of all ages to vote for Mrs. Clinton to get the first woman president, betrays the agenda and ideology of the false women’s movement that promotes the idea of true freedom of choice, without backing it, no matter what women choose for themselves.

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Feb 08

“It’s hard to overstate how extreme Mrs. Clinton’s new position is.”

But Bill McGurn does a good job conveying the idea.

Today Mrs. Clinton’s formula is safe, legal, unlimited—and federally subsidized. We saw this new Hillary Clinton at a Planned Parenthood rally in New Hampshire this month, where she said she favored “safe and legal abortion” and denounced the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortion.

“I will always defend Planned Parenthood and I will say consistently and proudly, Planned Parenthood should be funded, supported and protected, not undermined, misrepresented and demonized,” Mrs. Clinton said. In return, Planned Parenthood rewarded her with the first presidential primary endorsement in its 100-year history.

This is not where American women, in the majority of the general population, want to go.

I began this post a while ago, had no time to finish it, and now the New Hampshire primary is here. Mrs. Clinton will by all accounts lose it to Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders, no pro-life advocate himself. Because of her falling poll numbers across the board of pollsters and demographics of those polled, she’s taking a page from Barack Obama’s playbook, and instead of moderating closer toward the ideological center, she’s tacking left. He had nothing to lose when he did it, and he’s enjoying the last months in the office of the presidency. She has everything to lose, namely that office which she seeks wholeheartedly.

This is how to lose it, or at least…it doesn’t help.

Amy Chozick of the New York Times recently described the relationship this way: “the Clinton campaign has functioned almost as a marketing arm for Planned Parenthood.” Remember, this is an organization that reports performing 323,999 abortions and taking in $553.7 million in subsidies from Uncle Sam in fiscal year 2014-15. Though these tax dollars are not earmarked for abortion, money is fungible.

It’s a curious reversal. For one thing, Mrs. Clinton’s shift comes at a moment when even some pro-choice advocates admit to queasiness over Planned Parenthood after undercover videos were released last year showing its officials sipping wine as they chat about prices for, say, an intact fetal heart. The pro-choice community also includes those who support abortion rights but do not believe either Planned Parenthood or abortion should be subsidized with tax dollars.

It’s also a big shift from last July, when Mrs. Clinton repeated her safe, legal and rare formula to the New Hampshire Union Leader and said she found the Planned Parenthood videos “disturbing.” But plainly not so disturbing that she would let it get in the way of the $20 million Planned Parenthood will spend this election cycle.

It calls to mind the old saying ‘Dance with the one who brought you.’ Even if steps get entangled, and you both fall.

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Feb 02

“Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders locked in dead heat in Iowa.”

That headline very late on the night of the Iowa Caucuses, before a few final counts came in, declared a big and early setback for Hillary’s aspirations for the presidency yet again. In 2008, she and her campaign were shocked by a third place finish in that first of many primaries.

“I think Hillary Clinton is going to eke this out in the end,” said a longtime Democratic campaign manager, strategist and news commentator.

‘A 74 year old Socialist candidate is giving Hillary Clinton the run of her life’ said the correspondent assigned to the Sanders campaign.

So, once again, this won’t be a ‘waltz to coronation’ in the Democratic Party for Mrs. Clinton, as many political writers have dubbed it for so long now. No, it’s starting off on a bumpy road, that’s headed next to Sanders’ territory in New England.

It’s been evident for some time that Clinton supporters have been having a hard time supporting her, especially as more revelations have emerged. The congressional hearings on what really happened in Benghazi further damaged her credibility as a member of government.

By the evening hours of September 11, 2012, the Obama administration knew that the deadly assault on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, was a planned terrorist attack, yet for several days afterward top administration officials attributed the attack to a spontaneous protest of an anti-Muslim video. Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state, participated in that cover-up.

Getting away with having a private email server, while serving as Secretary of State, has finally run out of facilitators, and she’s not getting away with what investigators have been able to recover from that server, even after her attempts to destroy evidence.

A new report that Hillary Clinton’s personal server contained information about “special access programs” makes her handling of sensitive material “worse than what Snowden did,” Charles Krauthammer said tonight.  “What people have to understand is that there is nothing higher, more secret than an SAP,” Krauthammer said on Tuesday’s Special Report. “From some people I have talked to, this is worse than what Snowden did because he didn’t have access to SAP.” “The reason it’s [so sensitive] is if it’s compromised, people die,” he said. “It also means that operations that have been embedded for years and years get destroyed and cannot be reconstituted. This is very serious.”

The New York Times reported it with the gravity it deserves.

That the Times turned around and endorsed Clinton for president was not surprising, but not that convincing.

The Clinton campaign’s relationship with the Times has been troubled at times over the past year following the revelations that she maintained a private email server while leading the State Department.

Which, the Times noted most recently, had emails not only heavily redacted before they were turned over to federal authorities for investigation, but 22 of them “withheld entirely” because they contained top secret information.

Hillary Clinton has been losing support from her own base for a long while, and these problems only exacerbated that core weakness of her candidacy as the Democratic Party nominee for the presidency in 2016. The first cracks in that foundation came in 2008. The New York Times explains best, in this revealing piece, out just ahead of the Iowa Caucuses, about the women who should be Clinton’s most staunchly ardent supporters.

Some snips:

“Polls don’t quantify doubts, but anecdotally, enthusiasm for her is anemic. Ambivalence is seeping in about her authenticity and the power of her symbolism as a woman. Once again, she has been caught coasting on inevitability by a grass-roots idealist with a universal health care plan. And there’s a sense that those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, from 2008, were historic enough.”…

“I’m feeling Clinton fatigue. Even exhaustion.”…

“A lot of women vote from a compassionate, nurturing place, and those are not qualities you feel from her.”

On her authenticity and her symbolic power as a woman, there is much to say. Especially as it relates to “women who vote from a compassionate, nurturing place”. More on that next time.

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Jan 27

The mission is to protect all vulnerable human lives.

So the old, unworkable claim that being “anti-abortion” (speaking of old terminology) is ‘single-issue’ activism about just saving babies is as incoherent as the claim that being “pro-choice” is wide-reaching activism about comprehensive care for women in need and their families. You can’t stand for the right to healthcare, free or low-cost contraceptive drugs, the personal right to ‘consult your doctor or minister’ (all of which is so often claimed) or the right to anything else if you can’t or won’t guarantee the right to live in the first place.

That is self-evident. But too may people have deluded themselves in the abortion movement, along with willing and compliant facilitators in media, politics, academia and other opinion shaping positions, it’s now a rescue mission for them as well as babies, mothers, their families and society.

This has gone on for too long to comprehend. The anniversary of Roe v. Wade just passed the 43rd year mark, and the toll is beyond breathtaking. When I see a television special, or coverage of the Washington DC March for Life, and the screen has a ticker in the corner upping the number of babies aborted since the start of that program alone, I panic and want someone to do something to stop this madness that’s so rapidly spiraling out of control. But the only difference between that moment and every other over these decades is that the ticker is right there, on the screen, in full sight, digitally ticking up the numbers to tally the latest toll as fast as abortions are happening.

Here’s a screen full of numbers. Look at any box, especially the one tallying the number of abortions since you loaded the page. From the time I opened it to link it here, to mere minutes later, it showed nearly 700 new abortions worldwide. Watching it tick up is horrifying. Every number is a human life. When I started these last few sentences, I refreshed that page and that one number went back to zero with the reload. On quick glance, it’s already up to 154 and I don’t want to look again at what it’s up to since this sentence was started. (Okay,  I just did, 207.)

I just closed that page, not to have to look again. But see, that’s exactly the point. Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life has always said “America will not reject abortion until America sees abortion.” Out of sight, out of mind. Multiply that toll exponentially by the countries that have legalized abortion (hence the worldwide counts on that abortion ticker page) and the genocide of unborn boys and girls is horrific. And not so out of sight anymore, since the trial of notorious late term abortionist Kermit Gosnell in 2013, and the series of undercover videos documenting Planned Parenthood’s sale of baby body parts that emerged in 2015.

Just about every sentence here calls for further elaboration, and that will come in the days, weeks and months ahead. This is a prominent issue in the American presidential election this year, one among many but a very important one for many candidates still in the race in the GOP, their supporters, and  citizens who may be holding out on politics at the moment, but holding stronger views on protecting innocent, vulnerable human life. Democrats have no candidate running for the presidency who holds pro-life views, and Democrats for Life have to hold their own in the party that has forced their numbers to dwindle.

Amazing, the irony of noting the analogy to The Emperor’s Clothes and calling it obvious.

The 2015 March for Life in DC chose the theme ‘Pro-Life and Pro-Woman Go Hand In Hand’. Fr. Pavone explains:

The real difference between those in the pro-life movement and those in the “abortion rights” movement is not that we love the baby and they love the mother.

The real difference is that they say you can separate the two and we say you can’t.

We love them both. And we are convinced that you cannot serve the mother while destroying her child, and that you cannot save the child without helping the mother.

Much more to come on that.

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Jan 14

President Obama’s final SOTU was a ‘what’s wrong with this picture?’ snapshot.

Starting with the political theater of the whole thing. Which is embarrassing for everyone.

Political commentator Ed Morrissey saw it as “a parody of monarchical excess“, altogether unnecessary and irrelevant. Right. Return to the Jeffersonian practice of sending in a report and save us all from the “droning, laundry-list campaign speeches of grand spectacle, but very little import.”

Fact-checkers looked at the speech on paper, and laid out a list of claims the president got wrong.

Bill McGurn had keen foresight of the single visual that would capture what the president got wrong, even before he arrived to great fanfare or spoke, because

a White House teaser reveals one of his planned props for the evening: “We leave one seat empty in the First Lady’s State of the Union Guest Box for the victims of gun violence who no longer have a voice.”

Every time I think this president can’t outdo his audacity, he does. He recently held an emotional press conference to announce executive action on gun violence, choked up over the innocent children gunned down senselessly. Where has this emotion been for the past seven years of his presidency while in his and my hometown, innocent children, women, men, grandparents, teens, promising youth have been shot and killed in gun violence every single day on the south side of Chicago, the very familiar territory of his early days as a community organizer and fledgling politician? Even some community leaders there who hold rallies have called out the president for his lack of presence or voice on this most notorious of neighborhood turf wars by street gangs, year in and year out. I recall once when he virtually phoned in a message to be delivered at the rally, delivered by proxy. Why seven years of the bully pulpit not directed to that, to them, to promising young lives snuffed out by guns and gangs? Only to have the final SOTU address gun violence with an empty chair, for the missing?

How symbolic, McGurn continues.

The spectacle is made for President Obama. After all, this is the man who strode out on a stage of foam Greek columns when he accepted his party’s nomination for the presidency. How appropriate that in his last State of the Union he now opts for the empty chair routine used to such derision by Clint Eastwood at the last Republican National Convention.

Then again, for Mr. Obama the maneuver has always been the message. From his 2008 campaign appearance before the Berlin Wall (where he declared himself “a fellow citizen of the world”) to his decision to accept the Nobel Peace Prize before he had in fact done anything, the stage has always upstaged the substance. Unfortunately, Mr. Obama’s penchant for the beau geste carries a high price for Americans, not to mention other, less fortunate citizens of the world.

Start with foreign policy. Though Candidate Obama inveighed mightily against the U.S. intervention in Iraq, he also campaigned on the idea that Iraq had distracted us from winning “the necessary war” in Afghanistan. When he announced to the American people his own surge of 30,000 troops to Afghanistan in December 2009, the cadets at West Point were drafted to serve as the dramatic backdrop.

Today we can see the same speech shows that more important to him than winning this war was the withdrawal date he tucked in the next sentence. Later his own defense secretary, Robert Gates, would record in his memoir how he came to the conclusion that his boss “doesn’t believe in his own strategy, and doesn’t consider the war to be his.” Meanwhile, Americans in uniform would continue to die for this strategy.

The painful truth.

The domestic side has also been decided by high theater. When Mr. Obama was first elected, such was his popularity (and the low standing of the GOP), he could have done almost anything. On cue he opted for what he called “the most sweeping economic recovery package in our history,” an $800 billion stimulus that never did stimulate.

ObamaCare followed a year later. Notwithstanding lopsided Democratic majorities in both houses, Mr. Obama still had trouble getting his signature issue through. A more modest president might have found ways to address the problem—i.e., the millions of Americans who could not afford health insurance—without upending the entire market…

This has been the steady fare of the Obama years. Overseas his insistence on the grand gesture has led the president to pretend that the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan means we’re no longer at war. This may be popular in the faculty lounge, but in the real world Islamic State beheads Americans, Afghanistan teeters on chaos and Iraqi cities such as Ramadi, liberated from al Qaeda in the original surge, now have to be re-liberated all over again from Islamic State.

At home the president’s Big Ideas (unintended consequences be damned) have seen millions of citizens losing the health-care plans the president promised them they could keep, a record number of Americans giving up on work, and an anemic growth rate of 2%.

The gimmick Mr. Obama has now chosen for his final State of the Union, meant to highlight his end run around the Second Amendment, is fully consistent with this past. But seven years in, an empty chair in the first lady’s box only reinforces images of an empty suit at the podium.

And one more thing, the one thing that got to me more than any other, and there were plenty of others. It was the moment I talked back to the TV, the galling moment when he lectured us all once again, and this time, once too often. Columnist Stephen Hayes had the exact same reaction I did, and expressed it on television in a panel roundup following the speech.

Hayes told Bret Baier he found it a little unbelievable that the president devoted a whole section of his speech to lamenting our broken politics and calling for civility.

Bingo. A jaw-dropper. He was lecturing us on civility.

He brought up a White House advisor comparing the GOP’s fight on the budget to “people with a bomb strapped to their chest,” Obama himself saying Iranian hardliners have “common cause” with the GOP, and the president saying Republican candidates are “doing the work of the terrorists.”

“And now this guy’s gonna lecture us about civility?!” Hayes bewilderedly cried. “The president––it’s not just that he misdiagnoses the problem, the fact that there is this incivility… it’s that he doesn’t understand he’s the cause of so much incivility in our politics!”

There it is. That was the moment when I said the same thing to the television. Our country is more fractured, splintered, divided, intolerant, angry, hostile and uncivil now than it was before he came into office, or so it seems. The president who has used his office in a very unpresidential way, beneath the dignity of the Office of the President, to target for criticism political ‘enemies’, a whole cable news network, particular reporters, the party opposing his party and politics, citizens who hold certain beliefs he opposes, his predecessor, police officers in certain locales, religious groups and others, now lecturing us on incivility in our country, was just too much.

The state of America is actually better than that, but it’s up to Americans to prove it now.

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Jan 12

Or is it the consequence of a crisis of government?

There is certainly a dis-ease here and it has spread for quite a long time. Justin Dyer makes the attempt to diagnose.

On a stage in St. Paul, Minnesota (in 2008), the first-term Illinois senator (Barack Obama) positioned himself as a visionary leader ushering in a new era of American politics, shedding past partisan divisions and uniting a generation around the promises of hope and change.

So what went wrong?

Perhaps we were just not willing to work for that vision, to fight for it and believe in it. Or perhaps—as James Piereson suggests in Shattered Consensus: The Rise and Decline of America’s Postwar Political Order—Obama misread the moment, trying to make it into something it was not. In his new book, Piereson, president of the William E. Simon Foundation and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, argues that the Obama presidency marks the end of a political era rather than a beginning.

Intriguing. So far, Piereson posits, American political history can be divided into three major chapters, up to the present time. But now we’ve arrived at a grave turning point.

A major premise of Piereson’s book is that broad consensus “is required in order for a polity to meet its major challenges”; his thesis is that “such a consensus no longer exists in the United States.” (emphasis added) Without a consensus on basic priorities, Piereson predicts, our “problems will mount to a point where either they will be addressed through a ‘fourth revolution’”—ushering in a fourth major chapter in American political history—“or the polity will begin to disintegrate for lack of fundamental commitment.”

At the moment, a “broad consensus” is unimaginable. America is more divided and polarized and at odds than it has seemed to be in a very long time.

Simply put: we have a greying population with fewer workers and no consensus about the purpose and mission of our vast military infrastructure. At the same time, many of our state and local governments face unsustainable pension obligations born of the same demographic trends and short-term political calculations…

One thing both parties generally agree on is maintaining those government programs—Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security—that require massive amounts of money we don’t have. As Piereson suggests, the blueprint for a successful political order in the twenty-first century will require meaningful entitlement reform, pro-growth economic policies, regulation or elimination of public sector unions, and a reinvigorated American federalism. To this we undoubtedly must add a vibrant and healthy civil society.

How to get from here to there? Can anyone running for president right now, among other elected offices, aspire to envision such a plan, embody the leadership to execute it and inspire the necessary consensus so people will really invest in the growth of civil society to something once again healthy and vibrant? Really?

Or, as some people ask, can anyone inspire true hope for positive change?

In Reagan’s 1980 nomination-acceptance speech, he cited a “community of shared values.” He repeatedly paid homage to the power of individuals, in voluntary community, to overcome obstacles. He ran on a platform of bold new tax cuts (when tax cuts were not yet fully Republican orthodoxy), energy development, domestic spending cuts, a devolution of power to states and localities, and a bolstered military. The Republican platform that year called for a firm re-commitment to protecting private property from government intrusions…

Reagan’s announcement speech in November 1979 described an America that was “a living, breathing presence, unimpressed by what others say is impossible, proud of its own success; generous, yes, and naïve; sometimes wrong, never mean, always impatient to provide a better life for its people in a framework of a basic fairness and freedom.”

…Reagan said America could be great again not because he himself was a powerful magician who could make it so, but because the people themselves were resourceful and would succeed if only the government didn’t hamper them. As he said in his 1980 convention speech, “’Trust me’ government asks that we concentrate our hopes and dreams on one man; that we trust him to do what’s best for us. My view of government places trust not in one person or one party, but in those values that transcend persons and parties. The trust is where it belongs — in the people.”…

All of this — and more — should be promoted in terms of unlocking vast human potential, and especially American potential, not by administrative command-and-control but through the incentives and dynamism of ordered liberty in a strong, voluntary, civil society.

These visions are closely related. But how do people feeling adrift and unmoored from once shared principles recover the courage of conviction and motivation to speak out, encourage others and try to re-order liberty together, for “a strong, voluntary, civil society”?

Robert Royal at least offers some sobering thoughts to start this consequential election year.

In 2016, the disproportion between the magnitude of our problems and the smallness of the candidates who claim to be able to fix them is large, perhaps larger than ever before in our history.

(His respected and considered opinion. I don’t entirely share it all. It’s a taller task than in recent memory. One or two candidates may be up to it, “may” being the operative word.)

And here it gets, in his word, “interesting”.

The central difficulty is our core doubt about what America and Western civilization are – or might be – anymore. This is no mere policy question. The feeling is widespread and non-partisan. People across the political spectrum – and, I’ve found, in other developed nations as well – complain that they “don’t recognize” their own countries anymore. An extraordinary, almost unprecedented thing.

We’re like the Israelites in exile, except we haven’t gone anywhere…

Striking line.

Does anyone think that if we only get taxes right, or immigration, or foreign policy, or healthcare, we’ll be back on the right road? Important issues, to be sure, but singly or together don’t address the real problem: a failing national vision…

And we ourselves are deeply troubled. Many particulars need fixing in America, but the thing we lack, the thing no political candidate currently seems to be able to give us, is a renewed and realistic sense of ourselves – something that has to be rooted in a truth deeper than economics and politics, in the “Creator” our Founders invoked and the condition of the American people. Without that spirit of confidence about the foundation, reforms won’t mean much.

So maybe take heart from that Reagan address so filled with hope and inspiration, because inspired, hopeful people can overcome considerable challenges.

I have seen the human race through a period of unparalleled tumult and triumph…

I have not only seen, but lived the marvels of what historians have called the “American Century.” Yet, tonight is not a time to look backward. For while I take inspiration from the past, like most Americans, I live for the future. So this evening, for just a few minutes, I hope you will let me talk about a country that is forever young.

There was a time when empires were defined by land mass, subjugated peoples, and military might. But the United States is unique because we are an empire of ideals. For two hundred years we have been set apart by our faith in the ideals of democracy, of free men and free markets, and of the extraordinary possibilities that lie within seemingly ordinary men and women. We believe that no power of government is as formidable a force for good as the creativity and entrepreneurial drive of the American people.

Those are the ideals that invented revolutionary technologies and a culture envied by people everywhere. This powerful sense of energy has made America synonymous with opportunity the world over. And after generations of struggle, America is the moral force that defeated Communism and all those who would put the human soul itself into bondage.

For a host of reasons, we seem to be seeing a lot of human souls in bondage again, in one form or another.

A fellow named James Allen once wrote in his diary, “many thinking people believe America has seen its best days.” He wrote that July 26, 1775. There are still those who believe America is weakening; that our glory was the brief flash of time called the 20th century; that ours was a burst of greatness too bright and brilliant to sustain; that America’s purpose is past.

My friends, I utterly reject those views. That’s not the America we know…Whether we come from poverty or wealth; whether we are Afro-American or Irish-American; Christian or Jewish, from big cities or small towns, we are all equal in the eyes of God. But as Americans, that is not enough, we must be equal in the eyes of each other. We can no longer judge each other on the basis of what we are, but must, instead, start finding out who we are. In America, our origins matter less than our destinations and that is what democracy is all about.

So, wrapping up that moment in time and hopefully inspiring future generations…

I want you to know that I have always had the highest respect for you, for your common sense and intelligence and for your decency. I have always believed in you and in what you could accomplish for yourselves and for others.

And whatever else history may say about me when I’m gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence rather than your doubts. My dream is that you will travel the road ahead with liberty’s lamp guiding your steps and opportunity’s arm steadying your way…

May each of you have the heart to conceive, the understanding to direct, and the hand to execute works that will make the world a little better for your having been here.

Does that sound outdated considering the times we’re now facing, and all that’s gone on since then, and all that fills the global news cycles now? We face an existential threat, we’ve grown so diverse (it was inevitable and can be good) and splintered (which is always bad) that recovering such values expressed not that long ago, but a lifetime ago, is daunting for some and undesirable for others.

However, as Justin Dyer wraps up his diagnosis of Our American Illness:

Now—before the next revolution—it is time to think on a practical level about what it will take to restore health to the American political system.

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Jan 11

The known, the feared, and the unforeseen.

Over the holidays, my son and I got a laugh out of a television promo for a major network special program feature ’2015: The Year That Was’, saying that’s about as generic as you can get. It’s an annual ritual to do a retrospective on highlights and low points of the year just ending, many do it, some do it well, I don’t spend time focusing on it aside from personal recollection for what can be learned from it.

Of the year ahead, it’s another matter, given what we know going in. We know this will be a presidential election year in the United States, another general election cycle claimed to be ‘the most consequential of our lifetimes’, and it well may be. That will be a huge story and one that will gain momentum and import all year long. There will be no slow news weeks on the political front alone.

We know how fresh the pain and horror still are of the most recent terror attacks and the shock , also still fresh, that they seem to be coming more frequently and randomly. Paris and San Bernardino remain in current news cycles as investigations into both continue to turn up new headlines. Smaller scale but still random violent attacks claimed to be for the sake of jihad have been occurring across the States and around the world. And there’s so much more we aren’t even hearing about, happening every day beyond where cameras and news crews reach. Experts predict with certainty there will be much more this year.

While putting away Christmas decorations yet again recently, I recalled the time as a young child when I helped my father with this same ritual, wrapping lights from the tree and tucking them into boxes to be put away, when he said ‘I wonder what will happen in our lives between now and the next time we take these out to decorate for next Christmas.’ It struck me at the time, the profundity of that thought, and stayed with me from then on.

Especially in these times, I take even more seriously the unknown nature of the year between the holiday ceremonies and celebrations, the uncertainty of what the months will hold for us all. But we do have the choice to make every day, every hour, the best we can according to what is in front of us and what we have the power to do and how we choose to use it. No matter what circumstances we each and all are in, we have that, the freedom to choose the true and the good, and how to act on that choice.

It will be put to the test a lot this year. That’s a given. How we seize the opportunity to shape events and impact their outcome will determine everything.

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Dec 14

It passed, it was a big deal, but far from a done deal.

It had barely happened, barely got attention, when the San Bernardino violence erupted the next day and dominated news and attention for days and still does.

What was the deal that went almost unnoticed? The U.S. Senate passed a bill that would, among other things, freeze federal funding to Planned Parenthood for a year.

The House passed similar legislation in September.

The House vote represents the first time that congressional Republicans have approved legislation to defund Planned Parenthood in the wake of this summer’s undercover video controversy. The vote is largely symbolic, as Democrats are expected to block the bill in the Senate.

Right. It was expected that such a measure would never pass the Senate. Thursday evening, it did.

“The Senate is right to recognize that taxpayer money should go to fund local community health centers, not to subsidize a scandal-ridden, billion-dollar abortion business. Americans shouldn’t be forced to give their money to Planned Parenthood, which has a long track record of abusive and potentially fraudulent billing practices, not to mention that it has also been caught in authenticated undercover videos trafficking aborted babies’ body parts and has repeatedly failed to report the sexual abuse of girls. That tax money should be redirected to trustworthy health care providers.”

Which is what the reconciliation bill the Senate passed intends to do.

“Tonight’s vote is a landmark victory for all who prioritize comprehensive women’s health care over abortion industry profits. We thank Senate Leadership for following through on their promise to advance this defunding provision to the President’s desk,” said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser.

“The debate over the reconciliation process has continued the national conversation on Planned Parenthood and established an important precedent for the next administration,” continued Dannenfelser. “If Americans elect a pro-life president next year, and safeguard our pro-life majorities in Congress, this bill – and many others – could be law by 2017.”

That’s the sizable significance of this bill passing the Senate, to the pro-life movement.

Abortion advocates and complicit media and politicians tried to pitch it differently.

The bill is not expected to become law.

It now goes to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass. The House passed a similar version on Oct. 23, but must vote on it because the Senate made changes to adhere to budgetary rules.

The White House has already said that President Barack Obama will veto the legislation once it reached his desk, and Republicans do not have the two-thirds majority needed to override that veto.

However…

Two attempts to save funding for Planned Parenthood failed. One attempt was made by Senate Democrats and the other made by a group of moderate Senate Republicans.

It’s becoming increasingly well known that federally qualified health clinics proliferate across this country, serving women with comprehensive health care far better than Planned Parenthood. Shifting taxpayer funds to them would better serve women, better than Planned Parenthood ever did, even with so much money pouring into their coffers.

So what exactly are taxpayers getting for the $528 million they provide to Planned Parenthood each year? And more important, what could they get if that money were spent instead at the thousands of federally qualified health centers around the country that do provide a full range of services and diagnostic screenings, as well as birth control, pap smears, and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases?

In fact, women have the most to gain from a congressional decision to reallocate money away from Planned Parenthood and to community-based health centers that already serve their localities. The quality of women’s health care will be improved by shifting money to medical providers that focus on the health and well-being of the whole woman; the priority should not be funding an organization that treats women’s reproductive health in isolation.

Women’s access to health care will improve, as well. There are more than 13,000 qualified health centers providing a full range of health-care services to women, including 4,000 in under-served rural areas.

Take a look at the map on that site. Now that’s real choice.

For those who want to argue on behalf of Planned Parenthood, here’s more to discuss.

…Planned Parenthood can absorb the cut considering its relationship with private donors and its excess revenue, while on the other hand, community health centers have the capacity to acquire and serve new patients. Proposals in Congress to “defund” Planned Parenthood, therefore, merely reallocate women’s health expenditures to agencies that offer women a full menu of primary care.

After all

Government funding of various social welfare and public health programs is meant to advance the common good. But intentionally killing innocent human lives is never good; and that’s why the federal government has rightly insisted that no funding through the Department of Health and Human Services may be used for elective abortion. Unfortunately, Planned Parenthood receives government funding for other services it provides. This is morally bad public policy. Planned Parenthood and other providers of elective abortion should not be eligible for any government funding. No matter how beneficial the other services they provide may be to a community, their participation in the unjust ending of innocent human lives should prevent them from receiving any governmental funding.

The landmark vote in the Senate, together with the House bill, got little attention and continues to get none outside the pro-life media, though the presidential debates and campaigns going forward will thrust the issue back into the spotlight, which where it should be.

As SBA-List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said about the Senate vote following the House version, it should fortify voices in the national conversation over federally funded abortion, and the resolve of pro-life citizens feeling defeated for so long.

Live Action’s Lila Rose said as much.

“The voices of millions of Americans were heard: Taxpayers should not be forced to fund an organization that kills over 320,000 preborn children every year and hurts thousands of women and young girls.

“While President Obama may veto this bill, we’ve proven we have the pro-life votes to get a defunding bill through Congress and to the president’s desk. It is clear that there is now only one hurdle left, and that makes 2016 even more critical for pro-life Americans.

“I still hold out some hope that Mr. Obama may finally realize that whatever his views on abortion, it is indefensible to continue to force taxpayers to fund a corporation that has been complicit in covering up sex trafficking and the sexual abuse of minors, that lies to women about the complications of abortion procedures and how developed the babies are in their wombs, that has had hundreds of documented health and safety violations, and that has been caught on video promoting illegal race- and sex-selective abortions.”

There it is. The truth in one brief statement. With violence to innocent humans at an alarming level and frequency, every sane, intelligent, and especially powerful person should be searching for ways to protect and defend people, and build safe havens for their well-being. This provides the occasion for both.

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Dec 02

A shooter with a gun thrust Planned Parenthood into the spotlight.

Human lives are ended every day in abortion clinics. Millions of them every year. Whole populations of human beings have been deprived of life every year for decades because of abortion, various types of procedures that did some sort of violence to the most vulnerable young lives in the womb. Silently and out of sight. And over four decades of these daily ‘terminations’, made legal by judges and more acceptable by Planned Parenthood’s considerable PR and marketing resources, the pro-life movement has just as resolutely and steadfastly worked to make pregnancy under any circumstances more bearable by offering every assistance a frightened mother (every pregnant woman is already a mother) needs. And to show and tell the harm to women, men, families and society when the ultimate harm to innocent human life is done on purpose and under false pretenses.

Sometimes I see the recurrent sign on social media saying something like ‘Would abortion bother us more if they used guns?’ Of course that’s both uncomfortably challenging to a culture that doesn’t tolerate being uncomfortable with challenges, and ineffective, because the culture is so desensitized to what abortion is and does and means to, well, the culture.

But while the abortion industry has continued to enjoy its political backing, the pro-life movement has continued to grow, offering women a true choice, for their own thriving and the good of their children.

Then the undercover videos emerged, released over time by the Center for Medical Progress. Congress called for an investigation of Planned Parenthood and government (taxpayer) funding. Pro-life groups highlighted what the videos starkly showed, what goes on in the abortion industry out of sight or mind, not only ending small, vulnerable human lives but marketing their body parts. Planned Parenthood cried foul, claiming the videos misrepresented what they did, and they were being unfairly treated.

Then came last Friday’s shooting in Colorado, at a Planned Parenthood clinic.

While it was still an active shooting scene, with nothing known but the location, pro-life leaders were quick to denounce violence and call for respectful restraint. Bryan Kemper, Youth Director at Priest for Life, was quick to say this:

“Although we do not know the details behind the gun violence at Planned Parenthood in Colorado, it is important to say that we are against all violence against our fellow human persons. From the abortionist, the workers, the patients, the children scheduled to die or anyone at that Planned Parenthood, all of their lives are precious and worth saving. All of them are loved by God and deserve our prayers. I am sickened by the violence there today just as I am sickened by the violence there every day.”

Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said this:

“We strongly condemn the violence carried out at Planned Parenthood. Our condolences and heartfelt prayers go out to the victims and their families.

“Violence is never justified. The actions of the shooter are in complete contradiction to the aims of the pro-life movement. Public policy debates regarding abortion – including defunding abortion businesses and protecting women and children from late term abortion – can and should continue to be discussed calmly, with conviction and civility.

It was a pro-life police officer who raced to the scene to save lives.

Garrett Swasey, 44, the University of Colorado Colorado Springs police officer who was shot and killed while responding to a shooting at a Planned Parenthood office, was described by his fellow church members and friends as a courageous man and loving father…

Dannenfelser added

“Officer Garrett Swasey embodies the spirit of the pro-life movement in this tragedy. He may not have agreed with Planned Parenthood, but Officer Swasey charged headfirst into danger to protect lives inside their clinic.  He believed, as we do, that all lives are equally valuable and worthy of protection.”

Then Planned Parenthood quickly reacted by blaming the pro-life movement for ‘domestic terrorism‘. And Christians.

To which blogger Matt Barber responded:

The fact is that the pro-life movement is an overwhelmingly peaceful movement, despite our profound and deep objection to abortion on demand and despite the deplorable practices of Planned Parenthood. As blogger Matt Walsh noted, “Interesting fact: Planned Parenthood kills 100 times more people in a day than alleged ‘anti abortion extremists’ have killed in 40 years.”

As for those “anti-abortion extremists,” their actions have been condemned by all major pro-life groups as well as by all major Christian leaders involved in the pro-life movement, since, by murdering another human being, they violate the very spirit of being “pro-life.”…

That’s why it was no surprise to learn that the alleged shooter in last week’s tragic attack was completely unknown to the pro-life movement…

In fact, who was that shooter?

…the picture emerging of the man who allegedly opened fire at a Planned Parenthood facility Friday is one of a deeply disturbed recluse who, though opposed to abortion, had little interest in and no known history of active involvement in the abortion debate, with a long spate of run-ins with the law and a pattern of bizarre behavior that left some of those who encountered him fearful for their safety, and many convinced that he wasn’t in his right mind…

“You know how whenever someone goes crazy, the neighbors say he was so quiet and normal. That wasn’t the case here. He was weird. Everyone kept an eye on him.”

“He was really tightly wound,” said another resident. “You could see that from the stress on his face, from the way he acted.”

Still another went even further, telling the Post, “He was just always saying, ‘I know the U.S. is trying to kill everybody’ and do this and do that. He [said he] was an undercover [agent]. Just craziness. Just pure, right-out craziness all the time.

However, take note of this part of that story:

One anonymous source, reportedly with the police, told the Washington Post that in a confusing rant following his arrest Dear did make mention of “baby body parts,” suggesting some connection with the recent series of undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood staffers harvesting and selling the body parts of aborted babies.

However, the source added that this was but one topic among many mentioned by Dear in a speech that left investigators unclear as to his specific motivation.

Planned Parenthood has issued a statement saying that based upon eyewitnesses they believe Dear “was motivated by opposition to safe and legal abortion.”

So, attributing this to an “anonymous source” is questionable enough. But how did a clearly out of touch recluse who “spent some of his time living in a cabin in the woods in North Carolina, without running water or electricity” even hear anything about Planned Parenthood videos, or “baby body parts”?

Time will tell.

But meanwhile, the effort to defund Planned Parenthood continues, and to shift federal funds to community health centers that provide life-saving health care for women, men and children.

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