Huckabee Called for Taking This Nation Back for Christ

Mike Huckabee, the new front runner in the Republican race if you believe the polls, has made the cover of Newsweek with a story on The New American Holy War. With all that has been written on the topic this is not a very memorable story. It deals with both Mitt Romney following his recent speech on religion as well as with Huckabee.

The author did discuss the most controversial portion of Romney’s speech in which he said, “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.” After chastising Romney for his “failure to make a noble public stand for the rights of atheists and skeptics” the article turns to Huckabee with another quote from his past which might now be embarrassing:

After citing Adams, Romney said: “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.” The second part is an ancient theological tradition: without free will faith is not faith but coercion. The first point, however, is arguable, for societies can be secular, free and successful. I asked Romney to explain his thinking. In sum, he believes a republic is dependent on the virtue of the people, the virtue of the people is dependent on morality, and that morality is dependent on religion. To support his case he (wisely) alluded to Washington’s Farewell Address, which says, “of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports … let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.” But Washington was simply raising a “caution,” and it is a mistake to think that one need be religious to be moral.

Romney would have been on safer ground had he said that America has always been largely religious and largely free, and that America’s religious traditions should fight for the freedom of all, if only out of self-interest. Without freedom of conscience, today’s tyrant could be tomorrow’s tyrannized, and the other way round. With freedom of conscience, we come closer to living out the promise Washington made in his 1790 letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport, R.I., in which he said that the government of the United States was “to give to bigotry no sanction … and to persecution no assistance.”

Romney’s failure to make a noble public stand for the rights of atheists and skeptics is tactically understandable if intellectually disappointing. The man he is now trailing in Iowa is smooth on the campaign circuit, appealing to conservative Christians without alienating other kinds of voters. How long this will last is an open question. Huckabee the front runner is only now beginning to face new scrutiny. A speech he gave in 1998 is likely to come up again. Addressing Southern Baptist pastors gathered at the Salt Palace Convention Center, Huckabee, then governor of Arkansas, said that he “got into politics because I knew government didn’t have the real answers, that real answers lie in accepting Jesus Christ into our lives … I hope we answer the alarm clock and take this nation back for Christ.”

Take this nation back for Christ: the phrase echoes the language of Jerry Falwell, who was against ministers’ mixing in politics when the subject was civil rights but changed his mind after the Roe decision in 1973. In a Moral Majority report, Falwell’s organization urged “an old-fashioned, God-honoring, Christ-exalting revival to turn America back to God.” Such talk was precisely what the Founders had hoped to avoid.

Huckabee is facing closer scrutiny now that he has a serious chance of winning. While he has skillfully managed to appear rational and nonthreatening during the campaign, his old statements, including the recent revelation that he supported isolating those with AIDS, show the need to be cautions about electing someone with such a world view. His call to “take this nation back for Christ” will further add to the concerns about Huckabee.

Top Ten Bushisms of 2007

It’s that time when everyone has their top ten lists for the year. Daniel Kurtzman has chosen the Top 10 Bushisms of 2007:

The Dumbest Things President Bush Said in 2007

10. “And there is distrust in Washington. I am surprised, frankly, at the amount of distrust that exists in this town. And I’m sorry it’s the case, and I’ll work hard to try to elevate it.” –interview on National Public Radio, Jan. 29, 2007

9. “I fully understand those who say you can’t win this thing militarily. That’s exactly what the United States military says, that you can’t win this military.” –on the need for political progress in Iraq, Washington, D.C., Oct. 17, 2007

8. “One of my concerns is that the health care not be as good as it can possibly be.” –on military benefits, Tipp City, Ohio, April 19, 2007

7. “Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your introduction. Thank you for being such a fine host for the OPEC summit.” –addressing Australian Prime Minister John Howard at the APEC Summit. Later, in the same speech: “As John Howard accurately noted when he went to thank the Austrian troops there last year…” –referring to Australian troops as “Austrian troops,” Sept. 7, 2007

6. “My relationship with this good man is where I’ve been focused, and that’s where my concentration is. And I don’t regret any other aspect of it. And so I — we filled a lot of space together.” –on British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Washington, D.C., May 17, 2007

5. “You helped our nation celebrate its bicentennial in 17 — 1976.” –to Queen Elizabeth, Washington, D.C., May 7, 2007 (Watch video clip)

4. “The question is, who ought to make that decision? The Congress or the commanders? And as you know, my position is clear — I’m a Commander Guy.” –deciding he is no longer just “The Decider,” Washington, D.C., May 2, 2007 (Watch video clip)

3. “Information is moving — you know, nightly news is one way, of course, but it’s also moving through the blogosphere and through the Internets.” –Washington, D.C., May 2, 2007

2. “There are some similarities, of course (between Iraq and Vietnam). Death is terrible.” –Tipp City, Ohio, April 19, 2007

1. “As yesterday’s positive report card shows, childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured.” –on the No Child Left Behind Act, Washington, D.C., Sept. 26, 2007 (Watch video clip)

John Stossel Plays Softball with Ron Paul


John Stossel has interviewed Ron Paul and portions will be placed on line this week. In the first segment (video above) Paul discusses his views on keeping the federal government out of areas such as drug laws and prostitution:

I think the government’s role should not be involved in personal habits. When you defend freedom, you defend freedom of choice, and you can’t be picking and choosing how people use those freedoms . . .whether it’s personal behavior or economic behavior, I want people to have freedom of choice.

Having Stossel interview Ron Paul is a lot like having Fox News interview members of the Bush administration. Stossel brings out the best of what Paul has to say but ignores the hard questions. I suspect we won’t hear any questions regarding Paul’s views on conspiracy theories, which would make him unfit to be president even if I otherwise agreed with him one hundred percent on matters of policy. I suspect we will also not hear anything about Paul’s denial of important principles such as separation of church and state or his belief that the founding fathers intended to create a Christian America as opposed to a secular government.

Paul does make a good argument that the war on drugs is ineffective. I certainly agree with Paul’s opposition to the DEA raids on those who use medical marijuana, even in states where this is legal, but all the Democratic candidates for president also share this view.

The interview fails in ignoring Paul’s argument for making regulation of drugs and prostitution matters for the state. Classical libertarian philosophy places rights in the individual, not state governments. To a true libertarian, as opposed to a state’s rights advocate such as Paul, restrictions are no more justified if legislated at the state as opposed to the federal level. Paul’s views on state rights could actually lead to less as opposed to more freedom in much of the country as it is easier to obtain a majority vote to restrict the rights of the minority on a statewide or local level than nationally.

Paul’s views on states right are neither libertarian or based upon fact. I’ve recently quoted from historian Joseph Ellis’ book American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies At The Founding Of The Republic and note that two of the core achievements of the founding fathers, creating “the first wholly secular state” and creating “over-lapping sources of authority in which blurring of jurisdiction between federal and state power become an asset” contradict Paul’s interpretation. Even Paul contradicted his views on states rights when he supported a national ban on so-called partial birth abortions and supported federal legislation which would override state laws which are scientifically accurate in differentiating between a zygote and fully developed human.

Ron Paul does make the race interesting as he does inject views beyond what we normally encounter. An in depth interview with Ron Paul regarding his beliefs could be fascinating, regardless of whether one agrees with him. Unfortunately I doubt that we will see anything beyond the softball questions Stossel has already asked Paul.

Waterboarding Demonstrates Democratic Failure As An Oppositon Party

I’ve noted many times in the past that the Democrats are quite ineffective as an opposition party, and we see new evidence of this today. The Washington Post reports that some Democratic leaders were briefed about waterboarding and provided no opposition:

In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA’s overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said…

With one known exception, no formal objections were raised by the lawmakers briefed about the harsh methods during the two years in which waterboarding was employed, from 2002 to 2003, said Democrats and Republicans with direct knowledge of the matter. The lawmakers who held oversight roles during the period included Pelosi and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), as well as Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan).

Individual lawmakers’ recollections of the early briefings varied dramatically, but officials present during the meetings described the reaction as mostly quiet acquiescence, if not outright support. “Among those being briefed, there was a pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing,” said Goss, who chaired the House intelligence committee from 1997 to 2004 and then served as CIA director from 2004 to 2006. “And the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement.”

While I would wish that the Democrats involved had spoken out, to be fair we don’t know exactly how waterboarding was presented and they did face limitations:

Congressional officials say the groups’ ability to challenge the practices was hampered by strict rules of secrecy that prohibited them from being able to take notes or consult legal experts or members of their own staffs. And while various officials have described the briefings as detailed and graphic, it is unclear precisely what members were told about waterboarding and how it is conducted. Several officials familiar with the briefings also recalled that the meetings were marked by an atmosphere of deep concern about the possibility of an imminent terrorist attack.

“In fairness, the environment was different then because we were closer to Sept. 11 and people were still in a panic,” said one U.S. official present during the early briefings. “But there was no objecting, no hand-wringing. The attitude was, ‘We don’t care what you do to those guys as long as you get the information you need to protect the American people.’ “

This ultimately gets back to the failure of Democrats to make the case after 9/11 that preservation of our liberties must be considered in any response. Responses based upon panic and abandonment of our principles are exactly what terrorists seek. We needed an effective opposition to provide an alternative plan for fighting terrorism which did not violate our principles but Democrats were unable or too frightened to articulate such a view.

If the situation had been reversed, we know that the Republicans would have had no qualms about sticking to their principles (regardless of whether their principles are right or wrong) and would have pushed to oppose Democratic policies without regard for the political consequences. That is why they made a more effective opposition, and why they ultimately took control of the government for so many years despite lacking the ability to govern effectively.