Please share this post and the links below. May we not forget the men and women who sacrifice so that we may live and live freely.
Ambassador Chris Stevens, Dohetry, Woods, and Smith were killed in a terrorist attack on 9/11/12.
On September 11, 2012, the eleventh anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack in American history, another terrorist attack on American soil occurred. The attack happened under cover of darkness in Benghazi, Libya, a very unstable region of the world. Our consulate was attacked, and four American diplomats were killed, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. It was the first time in about 40 years that a US ambassador had been killed.
With the 20 links below, from a diverse group of 12 different news sources, I hope to demonstrate that 1) the death of four Americans was preventable and unnecessary, 2) the Obama Administration mishandled rescue operations AND Obama was absent in the midst of this crisis, and 3) President Obama himself lied about the details of the attack for approximately 17 days.
Why did the State Department deny Stevens requests for additional security, even to the point of pulling security out in the months leading up to the anniversary of 9/11 in a very unstable region, even while other consulates were given luxuries like smart cars?
Why wasn’t a sufficient amount of help sent in a timely manner to the consulate? Even more troubling: Where was Obama during the attacks? Was he not even curious about how things were going?
If the White House knew that militant groups were responsible for the attacks, why did they blame a YouTube video and “unplanned protest” for at least 17 days?
Mistakes were made before, during, and after the attacks. The families of those who lost their lives, and the American people, deserve answers.
The following is the first draft of a critique of the film Lincoln which I wrote for a cinema class at Regent University.
Steven Spielberg has fashioned a film of tremendous historical import and timeless, masterful artistry. The film envelopes the viewer in the story with its density of pertinent plot points, meaningful imagery, emotional performances, and incredible attention to detail as a legitimate period piece depicting the final months of the life President Lincoln and his political battle to both end slavery and end the Civil War.
Lincoln has been well-received by critics, scoring a positive review from 145 critics, a 91 percent rate, according to the website Rotten Tomatoes. Claudia Puig of the USA Today gave it three and a half stars out of four, calling it “an absorbing intellectual look at the political machinations involved in abolishing slavery,” adding that Tony Kushner’s script is “perfectly-calibrated.”
The film begins with the sounds and images of a brutal battle in the American Civil War. Soldiers from the North and South are depicted in hand-to-hand combat on a mud-soaked battlefield. Within seconds, Spielberg has captured the ugliness that is war, particularly a Civil War that pits fellow countrymen against each other. The first image we see of President Abraham Lincoln himself is an over-the-shoulder shot that captures his slumping figure, looking out upon a Union camp. Immediately we see that this man of impressive physical and historical stature has become weary and frail yet still seems to tower above it all like a mythic figure.
Lincoln narrates a dream sequence in which the sixteenth President is upon a ship racing at high speeds to an unknown destination. Mrs. Lincoln suggests that this has something to do with his pursuit of the Thirteenth Amendment, but one wonders if it doesn’t have more to do with Lincoln’s impending death and reaching the shores of Heaven; or, perhaps it is suggesting that Lincoln is leader of a nation that was racing quickly toward the shore of freedom and equality for all.
The lighting in the film seems realistic yet strangely surreal, with dim light in several interior scenes where the only lighting would have been fire-related, like candles and oil lamps. Often, the frame contains smoke imagery from the cigars of politicians and bureaucrats, recalling the smoke-filled battlefields of the Cvil War with its cannons and gunfire.
As Anthony Lane writes in The New Yorker, “Janusz Kaminski, Spielberg’s cinematographer, veils events in such a rarefied and sifted haze that they seem already poised halfway to myth. Just look at the President, haloed and framed against a window, in semi-silhouette, as he sits in a rocking chair reading to his young son Tad . They could be in a picture book themselves.”
Lincoln’s son studies photographs of slaves by flickering orange firelight, recalling images of the Holocaust. Other than the orange glows from candles and fires, muted and cool greens, grays and blues seem to dominate the picture, contributing to the cold atmosphere of nineteenth century winters in Washington. Lincoln is often shown with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. His top hat aptly becomes a character of its own in the movie, often garnering close-ups.
Equality becomes a central theme in the movie, as it is traditionally understood (equality in terms of personhood). Thaddeus Stevens asserts before Congress that he holds all men be “equal before the law.” The very first scene with Lincoln depicts him speaking with a pair of African-American Union officers, one of which is boiling over with the frustration of slow progress in attaining economic equality in the eyes of white men. The man’s frustration is righteous, but Lincoln could do little about the prejudice in the hearts of men, and he says as much: “I suppose that they will learn to tolerate each other.” Spielberg’s Lincoln acknowledges that with time and limited government action, the nation could be united wherein men of all skin colors could enjoy equal liberties as well as associate with each other without reservation or prejudice.
In another scene, Lincoln tells two men that he used to read a lot as a young man, and he brings up Euclid’s rule that “Things which equal the same thing also equal one another.” Lincoln seems to be saying that if both a black man and a white man are human, then they are equal. Thaddeus Stevens later makes the argument that he may look at another man and think him an idiot or full of corruption, but that does not make him any less human. Lincoln therefore makes both moral and logical arguments for the Thirteenth Amendment and irrationality of slavery built on racial prejudice.
It is Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance as Lincoln, though, that truly mesmerizes the viewer. Lou Lumenick of The New York Post explains: “Adopting an odd, high-pitched voice, Day-Lewis thoroughly inhabits the part of a war-weary president who’s fond of telling long and folksy autobiographical stories.” Daniel Day-Lewis is so convincing and riveting as the most beloved political figure in American history, that it is hard not to be completely enraptured by his authentic, layered, and moving portrayal of the often melancholy, introspective, self-deprecating, somewhat peculiar, thoroughly human, yet passionate and attention-commanding figure.
In an interview Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays Lincoln’s older son Robert, even remarked that he did not actually meet the actor Day-Lewis until after filming for the movie had wrapped; apparently, the Academy Award-winning actor never broke character during production of the film. Daniel Day-Lewis may have been the only actor on the planet who could have delivered the gravitas to the character of Abraham Lincoln in such a thoroughly engrossing way.
Another accomplished actor receiving Oscar buzz is Tommy Lee Jones, who is witty, cantankerous, and sincere as the passionate abolitionist Representative Thaddeus Stevens. However, there were no weak links in the entire massive cast; every actor seemed to realize the importance of the film, however small his or her role might be.
The subtle parallels drawn between the final months of Abraham Lincoln and the final days of Jesus Christ are striking. The character of General Ulysses S. Grant tells Lincoln that he looks to have aged ten years in the past year. Throughout the film, Lincoln is depicted as a man under incredible stress and suffering, as if he bears the pains of a nation in Civil War; as if he bears the weight of every fallen American and the tortuous life of every black man still in slavery—as if he were carrying a cross. Even his family life is anything but ideal.
Like the story of Job in the Bible, Lincoln’s wife is represented as unsupportive, divisive, and angry, if not mentally unstable as some historians suggest. We learn that the child they lost still weighs heavy on his heart. His older son is portrayed as constantly pestering Lincoln to allow him to join the army, and Lincoln faces the prospect of both losing another child as well as inviting his wife’s further rage. This suffering is similar to the turmoil that was apparently going on with Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, as well as his physical and spiritual torture leading up to and including his crucifixion.
Just as Mrs. Lincoln says, “No one has ever been so loved by the people;” but perhaps no one had ever been so hated by those among the Confederates. This is yet another similarity with Christ, because Jesus was and is to this day loved and worshipped by His followers, yet was hated enough that he was brutally tortured and killed and is still hated to this day.
In the scene directly preceding Lincoln’s assassination, he says, “I guess it’s time to go, though I’d rather stay.” This obvious double meaning is then followed by his discarding of his gloves, which the black butler retrieves. The black butler then watches as Lincoln and his famous hat are framed in silhouette by a window, as he descends down a staircase out of sight. There seems to be a good deal of symbolism going on in this brief sequence. Lincoln is both leaving this life behind, descending into the grave, a mysterious and legendary man. Historically, Lincoln is known for his dislike of wearing gloves, but there seems to be more to the moment, as if Lincoln was passing the torch to black men and women. Perhaps the moment is indicating that Lincoln’s fight is over, and he is leaving those that he freed to now possess the power to continue the fight themselves. Indeed, the film suggests that the fight to come will be difficult for black people, a likely allusion to the persecution leading up until and through the Civil Rights Movement. Again, this seems to be yet another parallel with Christ, recalling His charge to the disciples, that they might further His mission though they would be persecuted for His sake.
The visual image of Lincoln being cloaked in black from head to toe, except for his hands, also seems to be an allusion to Christ in which He took on the sins of the world so that the world might live and be free. Likewise, Lincoln figuratively took on the sins of a nation—the sins of slavery and violence—by giving his life, both literally and figuratively, so that the slaves might live; so that the words of the Declaration of Independence might be fulfilled: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Just as Christ was killed on a cross, the last image of the film is a shot depicting Lincoln’s second inaugural address in which he is holding his arms out, palms outward, for an extended moment, recalling Christ hanging on the cross before a multitude of onlookers.
Lincoln is truly masterful filmmaking, thick with rich imagery and themes that remain relevant even until today and will likely remain relevant for generations to come. Steven Spielberg celebrates and honors a legendary and heroic man who is loved and revered, perhaps more than any other American historical figure. Indeed, the film is worthy of the man it depicts. As the film transitions from Lincoln’s deathbed to his inaugural address, the man is framed in the flame of a candle, perhaps signifying that the words and work of Abraham Lincoln will continue to burn on as an eternal flame, a light that shines for our nation and nations around the world.
After months of exhausting speculation, Gov. Mitt Romney has announced his choice to be the next Vice President of the United States: Paul Ryan. The fresh-faced seven-term Congressman from Wisconsin has youthful charisma, incredible intellect, and down-to-earth eloquence. Ryan has recently risen as the intellectual leader of the Republican party, authoring budgets that would significantly reduce the debt and save entitlements like Medicare from its current path of bankruptcy. His budgets have been passed through the House of Representatives with bipartisan support and the CBO’s blessing, though the Democrat-led Senate won’t even put it to a vote.
As a consequence of President Obama’s failure to lead, the Senate has failed to produce a budget in four years, and the national debt has increased from $10 trillion to $16 trillion, a trend that threatens the US with the promise of hyperinflation and future economic downturns.
Paul Ryan is a man of vision, character, and courage. He has publicly schooled President Obama and Secretary of Treasury Timothy Geithner on ObamaCare and the national debt respectively.
The fact that Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan focuses this election in a way that a Rob Portman, a Marco Rubio, a Tim Pawlenty, or a Bobby Jindal could not. I am convinced it was the best possible selection. It signals that Mitt Romney is committed to tackling budget issues, and it forces America to have this debate, here and now, instead of kicking the can down the road yet again. The Obama administration and its predecessors have been guilty of burdening my generation with ever-growing debt and the promise of punishment for those who do succeed in the form of tax increases.
Make no mistake. This is not just another election. This is the defining choice in the history of the United States of America: Will the American people go along with the failed philosophies of Europe? Or will it embrace the philosophies that it was founded upon? As Paul Ryan said in his acceptance speech, “America is more than just a place. America is an idea. It is the only country founded on an idea: That our rights come from nature and God, not government!”
But what is even more significant to this election that Paul Ryan offers, even more than his record of character, leadership, and ability to draw crowds, is what this pick means for this election. This is no longer an election defined by the Obama campaign’s attempt to distort and distract from the main issues. Tax returns, contraception, and puppies will no longer be the focus of the networks. Instead, we will have a substantive and critical debate on the future of America, which has been growing dimmer with each passing day.
Romney’s selection of Ryan means that the “Comeback Team” is serious about saving America. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are serious about addressing our 8.3% unemployment with a plan to add 12 million jobs over the next four years. They are committed to tackling the nation’s unsettling budget issues that the Obama administration has been either too disinterested or too incompetent to address.
The CBO says that Medicare will be bankrupt within the next 10 years, which will in turn bankrupt the US. By 2027, our entire economy will be in shambles, on the current path. This represents a clear and present danger to America’s very existence. To ignore this problem would be to our own peril, endangering the future of my generation and beyond. Unfortunately, catastrophically, President Obama has failed to produce a plan to address this problem. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have a plan to save America’s entitlement programs while putting us on track for a balanced budget by the end of the decade. The Obama administration has spent four years proving it is unconcerned with America’s fiscal crisis, and it has no plan.
Like Romney, Ryan is a numbers guy. Together, they make up the smartest presidential ticket in generations. Romney is the brilliant businessman who made a career out of taking failing companies and turning them back into profitable, job-creating enterprises. That’s why he was tapped to lead the 2002 Olympics, which was $500 million in debt before he arrived, and he turned it into a $100 million success. Elected Governor of Massachusetts in the midst of an economic crisis, Romney took a $2 billion deficit and generated a $1 billion surplus while lowering unemployment to 4.6% and cutting taxes 17 times. He did all this while developing a relationship with a 85% Democrat legislature, with which me met with weekly to develop bipartisan relationships and solutions. Romney has defined his life by “turnarounds” and a unique ability to unite people of common goals. He is the right man for the top job in America. We need a turnaround, and we need a uniter.
The Romney-Ryan plan begins with a bipartisan premise that we must reform entitlements in order to not only save these programs, but also to save America itself. As Ryan has pointed out, we are on a path to fiscal disaster by the end of the century, and probably much sooner. Some studies indicate that the American economy would shut down by 2030. We will cease to exist as a free nation if we do not confront our debt woes. We need only to look to Europe to see how debt affects economies. Due to reckless spending and high taxes, Greece is bankrupt and has a 27% unemployment rate.
The Romney-Ryan plan has been dubbed “radical” by the Obama campaign. They’re right. It’s so radical that it would work. What a radical notion that we could actually save Medicare and Social Security from going bankrupt. What a radical notion that we could save the country from economic ruin by putting us on a path to a balanced budget and fiscal solvency. What a radical notion that our government should practice the same fiscal responsibility that average Americans must implement: balancing a budget.
The Obama administration has failed to address the nations two crises: unemployment and debt. Instead, President Obama wasted our time and money by passing a government takeover of health care, a law that cuts Medicare by $700 billion, increases taxes 21 times, and regulates businesses to the point that 80% of business owners are considering dropping health benefits altogether. About 65% of Americans have always been against ObamaCare. For whatever reason, our current “leadership” in Washington D.C. doesn’t seem to care what the people think.
Now, more than ever, we need these two courageous men of vision and intelligence to lead. Never have we had such a clear choice between the socialist philosophies of the Obama administration and the limited government principles that Romney and Ryan hold so dearly. I believe that this is the most important election in the history of the United States. To continue on the path that we are on could lead to an economic crisis that would make the Great Depression look desirable. As Romney has said time and time again, “We have a moral responsibility not to spend more than we take in.”
President Obama likes to talk about fairness. What isn’t fair is my generation being punished for the poor economic choices of the past. The Obama administration likes to talk about taxing the rich, including small business owners, but that will only lead to higher unemployment and could impede growth to the point of another recession. According to a recent study by Earnst and Young, it would lead to at least 700,000 job losses. Obama’s tax increase plan would pay for less than a week of debt. Is this a real deficit-reducing proposal, or just a political ploy via the politics of envy? Since when do we as Americans demonize those who have “made it”? Shouldn’t we applaud the accomplishments of others, not punish them?
Make no mistake, the Obama campaign is concerned about a Romney-Ryan ticket. Charles Krouthammer described him as a young Ronald Reagan, with an uncanny knack to convey conservative principles with an authenticity and empathy that is captivating. However, some have called him “Kennedy-esque” because his youth and passion for solutions reflect JFK in striking ways.
It is time for leadership, it’s time for solutions. Enough of the empty rhetoric, broken promises, and failed polices of the Obama administration. It’s time to embrace a new vision for America, a vision of prosperity and growth for an American century. It’s time to put proven leaders in charge, leaders who have the experience, the intelligence, the character, and the vision to grow the economy and restore fiscal sanity to Washington D.C. It’s time to believe in America, to believe in the founding principles that made us great.
In this election, the stakes could not be higher. And the choice could not be clearer.
*WARNING: This article contains some plot details of The Dark Knight Rises.
The Dark Knight Rises is the must-see event of the summer. Its overarching themes, thrilling action, and gripping suspense transcend the superhero genre and extend to ancient myths, classic literature, and altogether high quality storytelling. So why has this blockbuster been politicized, taking some of the joy out what is otherwise a wildly entertaining epic about the Caped Crusader otherwise known as Batman?
Well, donchya know? It’s an election year! It’s Democratic President Barack Obama in one corner and the Republican nominee Governor Mitt Romney in the other. It’s liberalism versus conservatism, fairness versus freedom, and blue versus red, and they’re always looking to one-up each other by latching on to current events and news. However, most of the political attacks leveled against Romney in relation to The Dark Knight Rises occurred before the movie actually came out. I was privileged enough to see the movie at its midnight showing, and I’ll break down its messages and politics.
In the midst of the Obama campaign’s charges against Romney, Democrats have been especially critical regarding details of his time as CEO of Bain Capital, an investment firm that attempted to turn around struggling businesses or invest in startups. Given that the villain in the new Batman film is called “Bane,” Democrats latched onto the homonym. They saw an uncanny connection between Bane, the merciless mercenary bent on destruction, and Bain Capital, which often closed down factories and cut jobs in order to save a company from complete ruin. (To be fair, Bain Capital has far more success stories of creating profit–and thus jobs–than failures). The Obama campaign is hoping to highlight what they call the “vulture capitalism” of Bain Capital, thereby disqualifying Romney as an elitist who cares little for the people, only for his own financial and political gain.
Christopher Nolan, the writer/director of The Dark Knight trilogy, is a smart filmmaker. According to a consensus of critics and moviegoers, every one of his eight movies are excellent moviemaking (just check out rottentomatoes.com for a list of reviews). Nolan is my favorite filmmaker. The complexity and depth of his movies is on the highest level, with masterpieces like the psychological thrillers Memento and The Prestige, not to mention the mind-bending sci-fi heist movie Inception. Therefore, I do not doubt that Nolan is aware of current events. In fact, he even admitted in an interview that, regarding The Dark Knight Rises, “We were trying to honestly reflect the world we live in.”
Having seen The Dark Knight Rises, I can vouch for its storytelling integrity and greatness as a modern legend. Politics is not at the forefront of the movie. In fact, politics is nowhere to be found, unless you’re really looking for it. Having said that, there are several moments and lines in the movie that speak to the very issues we are debating in this election year. But let me begin with Bain versus Bane.
It’s not just Democrats who have linked Bain to Bane. Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh claimed that the comic book creators or Bane meant it as a criticism of Bain Capital. Nolan called this a “peculiar” notion, in his soft-spoken British-American accent. And in a recent interview with the creators of Bane, both men say they are conservatives who had not heard of Mitt Romney or Bain Capital when they were creating Bane in the early 1990s.
But did Nolan make the connection? Let’s examine the character Bane. He is a foreign mercenary bent on the total destruction of Gotham. He is merciless, he is cold. He hates the world, and he cares for almost no one. In his quest to overthrow the government of Gotham, he destroys the infrastructure as well as roads, bridges, stadiums, tunnels, etc. Having just killed the mayor and imprisoned most of the city’s police force, he tells a stadium full of people and those watching on television to take control of their city, to essentially do as they pleased. There are essentially no rules and no authority. He doesn’t care about money, profits, or people. Only destruction.
Here, I pause. Does Bane sound like anyone that you know? Yeah, didn’t think so. Nor does he sound like an institution founded to turn around failing companies. It appears that Nolan does not compromise the nature of Bane for any political message. I actually doubt that Nolan knew anything at all about Bain Capital either when he and his brother Jonathan were writing the script in 2009 and 2010 or when they were filming it in 2011. Therefore, I have to conclude that connections between Bane and Bain are ridiculous.
However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any political messages at all in the film. There very well may be, but you have to listen very closely. In one of the opening scenes, the cat burglar Selina Kyle tells billionaire Bruce Wayne, “You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re going to wonder why you lived so large and left so little for the rest of us.” Selina Kyle lives in near-poverty, and she steals to provide for herself and those she cares about. Selina Kyle ends up aiding Bane, looking forward to a time where the playing field is even (when Bane eliminates the currency and typical justice).
Clearly, Selina Kyle holds a Robin Hood-like mentality that is similar to that of President Obama. He often speaks of the rich paying their fair share, paying more taxes, etc. Early on in the movie, it’s established that Bruce Wayne had been helping to fund an orphanage. When his company stopped being profitable, the money stopped going to that orphanage. One character in particular confronts Wayne on “paying attention” and “apathy,” regarding his charitable giving. It’s an interesting few moments, but does it indicate the liberal ideology of redistribution of wealth, or voluntary charity? I suppose it’s up to the viewer to decide that.
Later on in the movie, once anarchy has taken control of Gotham, Selina Kyle has a moment in the house of a rich family where she is looking at a picture in a broken frame. “Somebody lived here,” she says introspectively. The moment she had strived for her whole life, when the playing field would finally be leveled, was not as triumphant as she thought it would be. Selina Kyle realizes thats what she considered to be “good” for everyone else, was a tragedy for another family. Her character goes through a long journey of selfishness which is confronted by Batman’s sacrifices. After betraying Batman, she becomes more compassionate and wants to help save Gotham.
In a few scenes that echo A Tale of Two Cities, Dr. Crane (or Scarecrow from Batman Begins) is a judge. Anyone who is brought before his court is either rich or a policeman, and he sentences all of them to death without due process or proper evidence. To be fair, many of the rich are displayed as corrupt, and some of them employ Bane, thinking he will deliver a fortune to them.
In the epic climax, Bane and his mercenaries/convicted felons confront Batman and the police force. This scene was made famous during production, because it was filmed during the height of the Occupy Wall Street movement’s popularity. There was speculation that Bane’s minions could represent the Occupy crowd. It is worth noting that the film would have been written around the time of the Tea Party, however, there had also been several riots in Europe during that time. It seems to me, however, that the fact Bane utilizes a sort of anarchy that leveled the playing field with mass poverty is not a great argument for the Occupy message.
Finally, we come to Bruce Wayne. Billionaire owner of a large company who wants to save his city. If anything, this sounds somewhat like Mitt Romney, who is worth at least $250 million and owned Bain Capital for several years as its co-founder. He often speaks of “saving the soul of America” in his speeches.
I have touched on various aspects of the film in regards to possible political undertones, but I don’t have a definitive answer, only to say that I don’t believe the franchise or this film in particular is motivated by politics, but by story and characters. Connections made between Bane and Bain are ridiculous, but there are echoes of certain themes regarding class warfare.
The theme of the movie is rising. Bruce Wayne rising above his own psychological turmoil, the villains rising out of Hell on earth, orphans rising from poverty, Gotham rising from the ashes. Along the way, there are several places where Bruce Wayne or other characters are helping the needy. Wayne tosses a rope to some prisoners. He donates to orphanages. He helps Gotham’s citizens, which are mostly portrayed as helpless. Selina Kyle helps those closest to her. Alfred helped Bruce as a child. This list goes on.
There is a scene in a dark prison at the bottom of a large hole in the earth wherein it is revealed that only one person has ever climbed to the top, a child. This symbolism would seem to indicate that those in society who rise to the top have a responsibility to help those who don’t. Liberals believe this is accomplished by higher taxes on the rich and more entitlement spending. Obama calls it “giving back.” Conservatives believe in helping the needy, the disabled, the old, and the young as well, but mostly through charitable giving. Or perhaps it is only meant as a metaphorical parallel for the mythological Phoenix, who rises out of the ashes.
I cannot know for sure what the Nolan brothers meant when they wrote it, but I suppose people will read into it what they wish to. Other people can obsess over it, but I just love the movie. It is truly a rare piece of cinema that carries with it a triumphant and inspiring message in these dark, perilous times of economic and political uncertainty.
Thursday I was off from work. So I set my alarm and woke up early to watch coverage of the Supreme Court’s decision on ObamaCare, officially known as the Affordable Care Act. I was elated as members of the media announced, “The individual mandate has been struck down, we repeat…”
But then people started talking in their ears, mumbling to each other, exchanging confused looks… “We are now getting word that the individual mandate has actually been upheld…”
I was only one of the millions of Americans who were devastated by the news that the Supreme Court had upheld ObamaCare’s key provision, the individual mandate, in a 5-4 decision.
Shockingly, the pivotal fifth vote was not the moderate Kennedy, but instead it was the supposedly conservative John Roberts. Roberts authored the majority opinion, stating that “The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax.” He also wrote that the Individual Mandate was not constitutional under the Commerce Clause, which is generally how President Obama and Democrats have defended its constitutionality.
Many were appalled that Roberts sided with the liberal judges on the court, as was I. Perhaps Justice Kennedy said it best in the dissenting opinion: “To say that the Individual Mandate merely imposes a tax is not to interpret the statute but to rewrite it. Judicial tax-writing is particularly troubling… Until today, no federal court has accepted the implausible argument that §5000A is an exercise of the tax power.”
However, I believe Roberts, along with the liberal justices on the court, ironically enough, gave Mitt Romney the firepower to completely destroy President Obama on November 6. Time after time, Democrat legislators as well as Obama himself insisted, emphatically, that ObamaCare is not a tax (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_-qh9XDbgE).
Guess what? The Supreme Court has ruled that ObamaCare is only constitutional if read as a tax. That means that Democrats and the Obama campaign will have to defend the law to the people as a tax, contributing to the narrative that Obama is not just another tax-and-spend Democrat, but that he is the worst offender of extending overreaching government control in the history of the United States. According to the Supreme Court’s decision, President Obama is now the biggest taxer and spender in the history of the world.
In 2009, when Obama and his Democrat Congress were ramming through the original 2500+ page legislation, it stirred an uprising that America has not seen in decades. Voters lashed out at their representatives in town halls, and the Tea Party was formed, sparking hundreds of gatherings and millions of protestors who favored limited government. Their message: NO new taxes. NO more spending. NO ObamaCare.
ObamaCare barely passed the House of Representatives, 219-212, with 34 Democrats voting against it. In November of 2010, voters came out in droves to send dozens of Democrats back home, giving Republicans an overwhelming majority in the House. The people did not want ObamaCare then, and they do not want it now. Recent polling indicates that about 60% of likely voters want a full repeal of ObamaCare.
I believe the Tea Party is coming back. Only this this time, they’re not just coming for Democrats in the House and Senate. They’re coming for the White House. Mitt Romney has pledged on hundreds of occasions to repeal ObamaCare: ”On day one, I will issue an executive order to grant waivers to the 50 states. Then I will call on Congress to repeal ObamaCare.”
In his written opinion, Justice Roberts wrote that “Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness,” indicating that just because they ruled it constitutional does not mean they deem it good law.
He goes on to say that “Members of this Court are vested with the authority to interpret the law; we possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our Nation’s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them. It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices” (emphasis added).
He’s right. It’s up to the people to decide if they want a $500 billion tax increase and an unrestrained federal government. It’s up to the people to decide if they want taxes raised 21 times. It’s up to the people to decide if they want government to continue to tax and spend and gain power without consequence.
On Thursday June 28, 2012, the Supreme Court voted. On Tuesday November 6, 2012, the people will vote.
Nagging dissatisfaction with Romney as the Republican nominee has led many to clamor for an exciting candidate to help rally the base. Chris Christie could be Mitt’s “attack dog,” while possibly making up ground in northeastern states. Paul Ryan would be the young face with a mind for economics who could deliver Wisconsin. Marco Rubio, by far the most popular, is the young, Hispanic Floridian Senator who could not only deliver Florida, but could also make up ground with younger and Latino voters. Mike Huckabee would win over Evangelicals who are skeptical of Romney’s Mormonism. But who will Romney choose?
And the winner is, drum roll please…
Rob Portman? Few have even heard of him, but he might be Romney’s choice. On the surface, he’s a boring, old white guy. Let’s look at the factors that I believe will lead Romney to select the Senator from Ohio.
OHIO, OHIO, OHIO…
Hey, did I mention he’s from Ohio? Ohio has a large electoral pot, and is a must-win. Only six Presidents did not win Ohio, and the last President who did not carry the state was John F. Kennedy. Romney is running neck-and-neck with Obama in Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina, which all went for Obama last time. But they are all winnable without help. In Ohio, meanwhile, the polls have Romney down between 4 and 7 points, which is well outside the margin of error. Portman is fairly popular in Ohio, with a solid approval rating; only 23% of Ohioans disapprove of Portman’s job performance. If Romney is to win in November, he MUST win Ohio, along with the previously mentioned states. Romney is likely to win North Carolina, and the more accurate pollsters have Romney winning Virginia, while Florida is a dead heat and will probably swing for Romney. But in Ohio, Romney needs help. If he sweeps all four key states, Mitt Romney’s new home will be 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
CALMING CONCERNED CONSERVATIVES
Many conservatives view Romney as moderate, untrustworthy, and politically motivated. Although I have hoped to largely dispell this notion with a previous article, the fact remains that some Republicans just don’t care for Romney very much. That’s why it’s important to select a Vice Presidential candidate who is conservative to give the base some confidence. Romney formally joined the pro-life movement in 2004, but Portman has always been against abortion and holds a 100% pro-life voting record. According to votesmart.org, Portman receives very high marks on budgetary issues, gun rights, and being conservative. He stands on the side of traditional marriage, believes in preserving the fundamental principles of the Constitution, and has a great record when it comes to limited government and fiscal responsibility. Speaking of finances…
“THIS IS STILL ABOUT THE ECONOMY, AND WE’RE NOT STUPID”
Romney’s quote that deflected the distractions of the Obama campaign epitomizes the nature of the 2012 campaign: This election is a referendum on Obama’s handling of the economy. Romney has built his campaign on his business and executive experience in turning around enterprises and even the state economy of Massachusetts. Romney has repeatedly attacked Obama for out-of-control spending; Obama has helped push American debt from $10 trillion to $16 trillion in less than four years. Romney needs to put his money where his mouth is and select someone who would be an important partner in tackling budget issues, not just an exciting personality like Palin was for McCain.
“There’s a sense out there that Washington is careening down a path toward a fiscal catastrophe,” Portman recently said. He authored at least twelve bills that became laws, including legislation that reformed the IRS and confronted unfunded mandates. He also wrote a bill that sought to eliminate capital gains taxes on homes. Portman was a member of the Committee on Ways and Means, vice chair of the Committee on the Budget, served as a communicator between the Bush Administration and Congressional Republicans, and was named Director of Management and Budget for about a year under Bush. Portman’s experience with budgetary issues is just what Romney can use.
UNITY, NOT DIVISION
President Obama talked a good game about bipartisanship, but he will likely go down as the most partisan President in American history. Not only does he ignore Republican efforts to help confront problems, but he has separated himself from Congress altogether, trying to paint it as “do-nothing” while he threatens to use executive “authority.” He is still blaming Bush, and he frequently refers to Republican ideas as “extreme” and “backward.” While Obama hypocritically preaches bipartisanship, Mitt Romney has lived it. He regularly met with leading members of a Democrat legislature when he was Governor of Massachusetts. He held these meetings on a weekly basis, not in his own office, but in the office of the Democrat legislators. This is why Romney was able to accomplish so much for the conservative cause, even while battling a legislature that was 85% Democrat.
Likewise, Portman has a history of bipartisanship. According to Democratic Representative Stephanie Jones of Cleveland, Portman, “compared to other Republicans, is pleasant and good to work with.” His work with the IRS earned him praise from Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union: “He set a professional work environment that rose above partisanship and ultimately gave taxpayers more rights.” Clearly, Portman has experience with budgetary issues and bridging the gap between the executive and legislative branches, while working with both parties to actually get productive things accomplished.
I think it would be a mistake if Romney picks someone like a Christie or a Rubio. I have great respect for both men, but they would probably upstage Romney, since they are popular, outspoken, and nationally known. It would make Romney appear weak, as Palin did to McCain in 2008. Palin, not McCain, became the star of the campaign, and McCain’s image suffered for it. It’s one of the reasons that Joe Biden is Obama’s Vice President, not Hillary Clinton. The more boring the candidate, the better it is for Romney. I would prefer a man who is accomplished, who would work well with Romney, not a person that would make a big splash. That would come off as cheap, desperate, and too politically motivated.
I think Rob Portman is the logical pick. Romney is a no-nonsense, get-things-done kind of guy. Rob Portman fits that bill perfectly.
Controversy and confusion surrounded Liberty University’s announcement that Governor Mitt Romney would be the keynote speaker at its 39th Commencement ceremony. The decision was immediately labeled a political move by local and national media. Liberty students took to Facebook and boycotting in order to protest the decision. Questions of whether Liberty was compromising on its fundamental principles, whether it was legitimizing Mormon theology, or whether this signalled political support for Romney from LU administration, all became topics of debate. I found myself defending both Mitt Romney and Liberty’s administration, on Facebook pages and on Lynchburg’s local ABC station WSET. I also wrote a rather lengthy article that can be found on this blog. Mitt Romney is a nationally known person, so it’s no surprise that there was no shortage of opinions on this matter.
When I walked out onto Liberty University’s football field, surrounded by over 6,000 of my peers all dressed in the regalia, as well as 25,000 guests, I wasn’t surprised to sense some tension in the air. CNN and other news outlets had already published stories on the controversy, and I knew they would find a few in the vast crowd who would protest the school’s decision in front of news cameras. I somehow found my parents in the vast crowd, waved, and found a seat. I waited anxiously for the speech that had been the topic of conversations since mid-April.
But before Romney spoke a word to the 30,000 in attendance and hundreds of thousands more watching online, Mark DeMoss gave a stirring introduction. DeMoss is an Evangelical longtime donor to Liberty University, which is the largest Evangelical Christian university in the world with over 80,000 enrolled in its residential and online programs. DeMoss has also been an adviser and friend of Romney’s for the past six years. In his introduction, he described his relationship with Romney and his family. “There’s a difference between knowing about someone and knowing them,” said DeMoss. To emphasize his point, DeMoss asserted that, “Over the years, we have prayed together, shared Scripture together, and talked about life together. And here is what I found: I do not have two better friends than Mitt and Ann Romney.”
It was as if DeMoss was trying to cut through the public perception of Romney as a robot politician and to introduce, to the mostly Evangelical audience, the person Mitt Romney, not the politician. It was then that I realized that although I was familiar with stories of Romney’s heart and service, though I do not know him personally, the vast majority of Evangelicals know him only as what the media has labeled him: a Mormon, Republican politician. Today, I realized, might be bigger than I could know.
As DeMoss continued to speak, Romney appeared to be getting emotional as he sat waiting for his time to speak.
“I trust him,” DeMoss said with conviction. “I trust him to do the right thing, to do the moral thing, to do what’s best for our country. I trust his character, his integrity, his moral compass, his judgment, and his perfect decency. Finally, I trust his values, for I am convinced they mirror my own.”
Clearly, DeMoss believes that Mitt Romney is someone worthy of respect and counts him as one of his most trusted friends, and he wanted to help ease the concerns that some Evangelicals have. Before DeMoss could return to his seat, Romney stood and embraced him.
I wondered what Governor Romney would say. Although the administration would present him with an honorary degree, he had earned three previously, including two Masters degrees: He graduated with honors from Harvard University with MBA and law degrees. Perhaps he would speak from his college experiences. Or maybe he would reflect on his 25 years in the private sector, in which he built a fortune for himself and others by taking on businesses that were failing, addressing the problems, and turning those failures into successes. Perhaps he would point to his experience in fixing the 2002 Winter Olympics as a testament to overcoming great obstacles. Maybe he would talk about taking on a secular culture with stories of how he confronted the liberal establishment in Massachusetts and won. Or would he reflect on what he considers his greatest achievement: raising his five sons with his wife of 43 years, Ann. Surely this wouldn’t be a political speech as some feared. Or would it?
But when Mitt Romney stepped up to that podium, he did exactly what he should have–he made it about the graduates. “Today, thanks to what you have gained here, you leave Liberty with conviction and confidence as your armor. You know what you believe, you know who you are, and you know Who you will serve. Not all colleges instill that kind of confidence.”
He reminded us of our mission, and he acknowledged the difficulties ahead while expressing hope in our future. “Your values will not always be the object of public admiration. In fact, the more you live by your beliefs, the more you will endure the censure of the world. Christianity is not the faith of the complacent, the comfortable, or the timid. It demands and creates heroic souls.”
He emphasized service, love, family, and hard work. “Moral certainty, clear standards, and commitment to moral ideals will set you apart in a world that is searching for meaning.” In just 19 minutes, he put the lives of 6,000 attending graduates accompanied by some 25,000 guests, all in perspective. And, I believe he did something even more important: he won our trust. Although he garnered several standing ovations and more than a dozen rounds of applause, one simple line won him the most raucous reaction: “Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.” The stadium’s occupants jumped to their feet with hoots and hollers, many knowing quite well that President Obama had just days ago told the world he had changed his mind and was now in favor of legalizing homosexual marriage.
Romney quickly moved on to trusting God with our lives. “All you have heard at Liberty University about trusting in God and in His purpose for each of us makes for more than a good sermon. It makes for a good life.” He spoke from his own personal life, noting that often we will have to choose between professional life and family life. “I never once regretted missing a business opportunity to spend time with my family.” Later, he would again affirm the conviction that the eternal outweighs the temporal. “The best advice I know is to give those worldly things your best, but never your all. Reserve the ultimate hope for the only One who can grant it.”
After it was over, I stood and made my way to the stadium’s exits along with everyone else. The graduates were abuzz with Romney’s speech. “Mitt Romney seems like an amazing person,” I overheard one young lady say. “He’s going to be a great President,” another graduate said. “I’m glad he made it about us,” one young man said. That’s when I realized: Even though these graduates disagreed vehemently with Romney on theology, they recognized that, more often than not, they are going to agree with him.
Like him, we stand for our first freedom: the freedom of religion. Like him, we stand for traditional marriage. We stand, together, on the side of life. We stand, together, in shared values and worldview. We both recognize that God, not government, is the giver of all good things, including freedom. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder when it comes to putting God and the people in our lives ahead of worldly responsibilities. We believe in personal responsibility and hard work and character.
That’s why Mark DeMoss could call him his most trusted friend. That’s why Jerry Falwell Jr. introduced him as “the next President of the United States.” And that’s why I can count him as one of my great heroes.
To watch Mitt Romney’s speech, please go to one of the following links.
For the graduates, this moment marks a clear ending and a clear beginning. The task set before you four years ago is now completed in full. To the class of 2012: Well done, and congratulations. Some of you may have taken a little longer than four years to complete your studies. One graduate has said that he completed his degree in only two terms: Clinton’s and Bush’s.
In some ways, it is fitting that I share this distinction with Truett Cathy. The Romney campaign comes to a sudden stop when we spot a Chick-fil-A. Your chicken sandwiches were our comfort food through the primary season, and there were days that we needed a lot of comforting. So, Truett, thank you and congratulations on your well-deserved honor today.
There are some people here who are even more pleased than the graduates. Those would be the parents. Their years of prayers, devotion, and investment have added up to this joyful achievement. And with credit to Congressman Dick Armey: The American Dream is not owning your own home, it is getting your kids out of the home you own.
Lately, I’ve found myself thinking about life in four-year stretches. And let’s just say that not everybody has achieved as much in these last four years as you have. That’s a theme for another day. But two observations. First, even though job opportunities are scarce in this economy, it is not for nothing that you have spent this time preparing.
Jerry Falwell, Senior, long ago observed that “You do not determine a man’s greatness by his talent or wealth, as the world does, but rather by what it takes to discourage him.” America needs your skill and talent. If we take the right course, we will see a resurgence in the American economy that will surprise the world, and that will open new doors of opportunity for those who are prepared as you are.
Of course, what the next four years might hold for me is yet to be determined. But I will say that things are looking up, and I take your kind hospitality today as a sign of good things to come. I consider it a great life honor to address you today. Your generosity of spirit humbles me. The welcoming spirit of Liberty is a tribute to the gracious Christian example of your founder. In his 73 years of life, Dr. Falwell left a big mark. For nearly five decades he shared that walk with his good wife Macel. It’s wonderful to see her today. The calling Jerry answered was not an easy one. Today we remember him as a courageous and big-hearted minister of the Gospel who never feared an argument, and never hated an adversary.
Jerry deserves the tribute he would have treasured most, as a cheerful, confident champion for Christ. I will always remember his cheerful good humor and selflessness. Several years ago, in my home, my wife and I were posing for a picture together with him. We wanted him to be in the center of the photo, but he insisted that Ann be in the middle, with he and I on the sides. He explained, by pointing to me and himself, “You see, Christ died between two thieves.”
Maybe the most confident step Jerry ever took was to open the doors of this school 41 years ago. He believed that Liberty might become one of the most respected Christian universities anywhere on earth. And so it is today. He believed, even when the first graduating class consisted of 13 students, that year after year young Christians would be drawn to such a university in ever-greater numbers.
And here you are. Today, thanks to what you have gained here, you leave Liberty with conviction and confidence as your armor. You know what you believe. You know who you are. And you know Whom you will serve. Not all colleges instill that kind of confidence, but it will be among the most prized qualities from your education here. Moral certainty, clear standards, and a commitment to spiritual ideals will set you apart in a world that searches for meaning. That said, your values will not always be the object of public admiration. In fact, the more you live by your beliefs, the more you will endure the censure of the world.
Christianity is not the faith of the complacent, the comfortable or of the timid. It demands and creates heroic souls like Wesley, Wilberforce, Bonhoeffer, John Paul the Second, and Billy Graham. Each showed, in their own way, the relentless and powerful influence of the message of Jesus Christ. May that be your guide.
You enter a world with civilizations and economies that are far from equal. Harvard historian David Landes devoted his lifelong study to understanding why some civilizations rise, and why others falter. His conclusion: Culture makes all the difference. Not natural resources, not geography, but what people believe and value. Central to America’s rise to global leadership is our Judeo-Christian tradition, with its vision of the goodness and possibilities of every life. The American culture promotes personal responsibility, the dignity of work, the value of education, the merit of service, devotion to a purpose greater than self, and, at the foundation, the pre-eminence of the family.
The power of these values is evidenced by a Brookings Institution study that Senator Rick Santorum brought to my attention. For those who graduate from high school, get a full-time job, and marry before they have their first child, the probability that they will be poor is 2%. But, if those things are absent, 76% will be poor.
Culture matters. As fundamental as these principles are, they may become topics of democratic debate. So it is today with the enduring institution of marriage. Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.
The protection of religious freedom has also become a matter of debate. It strikes me as odd that the free exercise of religious faith is sometimes treated as a problem, something America is stuck with instead of blessed with. Perhaps religious conscience upsets the designs of those who feel that the highest wisdom and authority comes from government. But from the beginning, this nation trusted in God, not man. Religious liberty is the first freedom in our Constitution.
And whether the cause is justice for the persecuted, compassion for the needy and the sick, or mercy for the child waiting to be born, there is no greater force for good in the nation than Christian conscience in action. Religious freedom opens a door for Americans that is closed to too many others around the world. But whether we walk through that door, and what we do with our lives after we do, is up to us.
Someone once observed that the great drama of Christianity is not a crowd shot, following the movements of collectives or even nations. The drama is always personal, individual, unfolding in one’s own life. We’re not alone in sensing this. Men and women of every faith, and good people with none at all, sincerely strive to do right and lead a purpose-driven life.
And, in the way of lessons learned, by hitting the mark or by falling short, I can tell you this much for sure. All that you have heard here at Liberty University – about trusting in God and in His purpose for each of us–makes for more than a good sermon. It makes for a good life. So many things compete for our attention and devotion. That doesn’t stop as you get older. We are all prone, at various turns, to treat the trivial things as all-important, the all-important things as trivial, and little by little lose sight of the one thing that endures forever. No person I have ever met, not even the most righteous or pure of heart, has gone without those times when faith recedes in the busy-ness of life. It’s normal, and sometimes even the smallest glimpses of the Lord’s work in our lives can reawaken our hearts. They bring us back to ourselves – and, better still, to something far greater than ourselves.
What we have, what we wish we had – ambitions fulfilled, ambitions disappointed … investments won, investments lost … elections won, elections lost – these things may occupy our attention, but they do not define us. And each of them is subject to the vagaries and serendipities of life. Our relationship with our Maker, however, depends on none of this. It is entirely in our control, for He is always at the door, and knocks for us. Our worldly successes cannot be guaranteed, but our ability to achieve spiritual success is entirely up to us, thanks to the grace of God.
The best advice I know is to give those worldly things your best but never your all, reserving the ultimate hope for the only one who can grant it. Many a preacher has advised the same, but few as memorably as Martin Luther King, Jr. “As a young man,” he said, “with most of my life ahead of me, I decided early to give my life to something eternal and absolute. Not to these little gods that are here today and gone tomorrow. But to God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
In this life, the commitments that come closest to forever are those of family. My Dad, George Romney, was a CEO, a governor, and a member of the President’s Cabinet. My wife Ann asked him once, “What was your greatest accomplishment?” Without a moment’s pause, he said, “Raising our four kids.” Ann and I feel the same way about our family. I have never once regretted missing a business opportunity so that I could be with my children and grandchildren. Among the things in life that can be put off, being there when it matters most isn’t one of them. As C.S. Lewis is said to have remarked, “The home is the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose, and that is to support the ultimate career.”
Promotions often mark the high points in a career, and I hope I haven’t seen my last. But sometimes the high points come in unexpected ways. I was asked to help rescue the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. I’m embarrassed now to recall that when this opportunity was first presented to me, I dismissed it out of hand. I was busy, I was doing well, and, by the way, my lack of athletic prowess did not make the Olympics a logical step. In fact, after I had accepted the position, my oldest son called me and said, “Dad, I’ve spoken to the brothers. We saw the paper this morning. We want you to know there’s not a circumstance we could have conceived of that would put you on the front page of the sports section.”
The Olympics were not a logical choice, but it was one of the best and most fulfilling choices of my life. Opportunities for you to serve in meaningful ways may come at inconvenient times, but that will make them all the more precious. People of different faiths, like yours and mine, sometimes wonder where we can meet in common purpose, when there are so many differences in creed and theology. Surely the answer is that we can meet in service, in shared moral convictions about our nation stemming from a common worldview. The best case for this is always the example of Christian men and women working and witnessing to carry God’s love into every life – people like the late Chuck Colson. Not long ago, Chuck recounted a story from his days just after leaving prison. He was assured by people of influence that, even with a prison record, a man with his connections and experience could still live very comfortably. They would make some calls, get Chuck situated, and set him up once again as an important man. His choice at that crossroads would make him, instead, a great man.
The call to service is one of the fundamental elements of our national character. It has motivated every great movement of conscience that this hopeful, fair-minded country of ours has ever seen. Sometimes, as Dr. Viktor Frankl observed in a book for the ages, it is not a matter of what we are asking of life, but rather what life is asking of us. How often the answer to our own troubles is to help others with theirs. In all of these things – faith, family, work, and service –the choices we make as Americans are, in other places, not choices at all.
For so many on this earth, life is filled with orders, not options, right down to where they live, the work they do, and how many children the state will permit them to have. All the more reason to be grateful, this and every day, that we live in America, where the talents God gave us may be used in freedom.
At this great Christian institution, you have all learned a thing or two about these gifts and the good purposes they can serve. They are yours to have and yours to share. Sometimes, your Liberty education will set you apart, and always it will help direct your path. And as you now leave, and make for new places near and far, I hope for each one of you that your path will be long and life will be kind. The ideals that brought you here … the wisdom you gained here … and the friends you found here – may these blessings be with you always, wherever you go.