Whatever I'm Thinking

Archive for the month “February, 2012”

Santorum on “Absolute Separation” of Church and State

February 26, 2012

“Santorum:  Separation of Church and State Not Absolute”

That’s the headline coming out of an interview between Presidential candidate Rick Santorum and George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week”.

(video of both today’s ABC “This Week” interview and NBC’s “Meet this Press” interview here.)

Santorum’s exact quote was:

“I don’t believe in America the separation of church and state is absolute,” Santorum told host George Stephanopoulos. “The idea that the church can have no influence or involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country. This is the First Amendment. The First Amendment says ‘free exercise of religion,’ that means bringing everybody, people of faith and no faith into the public square.”

(decently in-depth story quoted above can be found here.)

The Constitution guarantees every American what they deserve — the ability to exercise their religion freely. So Santorum is absolutely correct in his statement, and he extends his respect outside of his own religious persuasion to “people of faith and no faith”.

However, the media, seeking a big story, (and perhaps his opponents as well) will likely try to spin this statement into something dictatorial. Don’t participate. Save the thrill of feeling scared for the latest Wes Craven movie or even an old Alfred Hitchcock black and white flick. That way you can enjoy entertainment for entertainment’s sake without falling for some broadcaster’s sales pitch.

In Santorum’s words :

the First Amendment says ‘free exercise of religion,’ that means bringing everybody, people of faith and no faith into the public square.

Again, he’s correct. That’s what freedom of speech and religion are about. Freedom of religion means speaking your mind in a pluralistic society. It applies to politicians as well.

The Associated Press version of the story (link here) badly misquotes Santorum by leaving out the word “absolute”. The AP actually ran the story under the deceptive but more titillating headline “Santorum says he doesn’t believe in separation of church and state.” The Associated Press has a near monopoly on print news stories in this country, so they often unabashedly distort their coverage — sometimes out of bias and sometimes simply to drive sales.

Finally, as we all know, the term “Separation of Church and State” is a phrase coined by Thomas Jefferson in a personal letter. The phrase does not have the force of law because it does not appear in the Constitution itself. Instead, the First Amendment bars the “Establishment” of religion using these words:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I ask that you consider the difference between “establishment” of religion (prohibited) and “separation of church and state” next Christmas when we have our annual spate of lawsuits about whether decorated spruce trees on public property are “Christmas trees” or “holiday trees”. What foolishness! Christmas trees have never established any religion nor forced any citizen to worship or not worship in any way shape or form.

We can avoid the “establishment” of religion in America but we cannot, in any practical way, “separate” church and state. That is because we cannot “separate” our religious thoughts and opinions from our understanding of right and wrong and good and bad. These ideas are intertwined at their very roots. Absolute separation is not only undesireable as Santorum said, it is impossible.

Manistique — The Battle for Michigan

February 25, 2012

The Michigan primary is next Tuesday. Since political talk can sometimes become dry I thought I’d combine a travel post with some thoughts about the upcoming contest. In fact, my first blog post was such a combination — “Mennonite Pastries Banned in Cimarron Kansas” — and I thought it came out well, photos and all, so here goes. (All photos are my own, taken in February 2009.)

Manistique, a town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula along the Lake Michigan shoreline, is so small that it reminds me of an Alaskan town, or what I imagine an Alaskan town might look like.  Few of the buildings here are as tall as two stories and there are just a couple of those.  Streets are lined with piles of shoveled snow that can dwarf the cars parked next to them. In fact, in the wintertime snowmobiles become as common a means of transportation as cars. When I was here in February 2009 the noontime temperature struggled to reach 17 degrees, and that was on a sunny day.

Manistique, Michigan, February 2009

At the turn of the 20th Century Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (known as the “U.P.”) was famous for its Jacobsville red sandstone, a burgundy red stone in demand worldwide. Architects loved to use Jacobsville for the facades of their best structures since artisans could carve intricate designs into the stone without compromising its strength. Jacobsville was used in the Tribune Building in Chicago and at the original Waldorf-Astoria in New York among many other places.  Manistique has one such Jacobsville building — it originally housed a prominent bank but now a home health agency occupies the first and second floors.

Corner bank building, Manistique, Michigan, February 2009

Manistique is the seat of Schoolcraft County. The courthouse here is a fairly new ranch-style building that does not photograph well.  The only markers are the county’s war memorial in front of the adjacent sheriff’s office.

Schoolcraft County Courthouse, Manistique, Michigan, February 2009
Schoolcraft County in the state of Michigan

Behind the courthouse, I saw two official Schoolcraft County Sheriff’s Department snowmobiles parked in a trailer.  So — the local police chase ne’er-do-wells on snowmobiles! Can you imagine if Hollywood was to make a tv show called “The U.P.”?  These cop snowmobiles would be on the opening credits tearing paths through the wilderness with sirens blaring and emergency lights blazing red and blue over the snow trails! Wouldn’t that put Erik Estrada’s old CHiPs motorcycles to shame?

Official Schoolcraft County Sheriff’s Department Snowmobile Cruisers (“Sheriff” emblem on visor)

I ate lunch at the Cedar Street Café and Coffee House. This is a fine place, built into one of the refurbished older business buildings in the old town business district. Such cafes are becoming common in small Midwestern towns. Yet they shouldn’t be called “mom and pop” places because typically they are run entirely by women entrepreneurs. The inside decor was inviting — festive Mardi Gras beads bedecked the wooden tables while oil paintings (for sale by local artists) decorated a wall of exposed brick.  Painted on the opposite wall was a country mural covering over 20 square feet from the hardwood floor to the antique pressed metal ceiling. By the way, the sausage gumbo here was just fantastic — rich brown gravy with chunks of sausage and spices over rice.  Of course, I don’t know if any Louisianan would call it “gumbo” but being authentic doesn’t matter if you’re just plain good.

What’s interesting about Manistique politically is that it sits in the heart of former Democrat Bart Stupak’s 1st Congressional District, most of which was on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The majority of the people in the U.P. are the descendants of German and Polish immigrants who came here in the late 19th century to work the iron mines and rock quarries. It is a heavily Catholic, heavily Democratic, working-class region. Bart Stupak has represented the district since 1993. Obama won this district 49%-48% in 2008.

Yet Michigan’s 1st District went Republican in the elections of 2010 for the first time since 1933. Here’s what happened. During the Congressional debate over Obamacare in 2009, Stupak led a group of pro-life House Democrats wary of passing Obamacare since they feared the bill would mandate government funding of abortions. They held out for a while, but long story short Stupak and his gang finally caved to pressure from Speaker Nancy Pelosi and voted for the legislation. In return for their votes, they were given a pledge that Obamacare would not fund abortions, but the pledge turned out to be phony and Bart Stupak became very unpopular with his Catholic, working-class constituency. Stupak decided to retire rather than run for re-election in 2010 and has since taken up the lobbyist’s trade.

In Tuesday’s primary, the focus will be on Romney versus Santorum, although Ron Paul will get some votes. Gingrich isn’t campaigning in Michigan, choosing instead to concentrate his energies on upcoming primaries in the South.

Romney is the home state guy, of course. Mitt’s father George Romney was Michigan’s governor for many years. That will mean a lot. Residents of the U.P. (called “Yoopers”) are proud to be from Michigan. Local radio broadcasts Detroit Tigers games, not the Milwaukee Brewers even though Milwaukee is a shorter drive than Detroit for most yoopers.

At the same time, these are exactly the kind of voters Rick Santorum is banking on. They are Catholic, working-class, rural, Democratic historically but not afraid to switch parties.  Michigan’s is an open primary, meaning that registered Democrats can cross party lines to vote in the Republican primary. This might boost Santorum’s turnout in the U.P., and apparently, his campaign has picked up on this possibility and has scheduled a Santorum campaign rally in the U.P.’s largest town of Marquette. (Info here. The link was good as of 2/25/12)

The Michigan Primary will put to the test two competing opinions of Santorum’s campaign strategy.  On one side is demographics expert Henry Olsen of the American Enterprise Institute. (Henry is an old graduate school colleague of mine — he’s a very bright guy and has an unstoppable hook shot.) He wrote a piece a few weeks ago called “Two Decades Too Late” in which he described Santorum’s campaign strategy as an attempt

…to resurrect the Reagan general-election strategy of 1980 — first and foremost, to win over the conservative base on fiscal and social issues by portraying himself as a man of principle, the only candidate who will not waver.

But, according to Olsen, Santorum’s strategy is doomed to failure because the demographics of 1980 have changed during the past 30 years — a resurrection of the coalition with the old “Reagan Democrats” is no longer possible. In a nod to the timeliness of Olsen’s piece, the archetypes of the 1980 Reagan Democrats were Michigan voters.  We’ll see how many Reagan Democrats turn out for Santorum Tuesday night.

On the other side of the strategy, argument is Jeffrey Bell, an “early supply-sider” and author of the forthcoming book, “The Case for Polarized Politics.”  In a recent interview with James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal (“Social Issues and the Santorum Surge“), Bell argues that social conservatism is a winning strategy for the GOP because its appeal is strongest amongst not the wealthy but the working class:

Mr. Bell notes that social conservatism is largely a working-class phenomenon: “Middle America does have more children than elite America, and they vote socially conservative, even though they might not necessarily be behaving that way in their personal life. They may be overwhelmed by the sexual revolution and its cultural impacts.”

Mr. Bell squares that circle by arguing that social conservatism is “aspirational” and “driven by a sense in Middle America that the kind of cultural atmosphere we have, the kind of incentives, the example set by the government, is something that has to be pushed back against.”

In an ironic twist, Santorum has become identified with the social issues mostly because of the media’s portrayal of him as such. He has not actually campaigned on contraception, abortion, or gay marriage. I can personally attest to this fact as I’ve attended four Santorum events and at none of them were these issues part of the candidate’s speech. Not once.

So, Michigan will be a test. Romney has the home-state advantage while Santorum tests his campaign strategy.  We’ll see what happens in Manistique.

Snow-bound church, Manistique, Michigan, February 2009

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

I’m trying to travel to all of America’s county courthouses, and each month a post about my visit to the most interesting county seats. It’s only a hobby — but donations are greatly appreciated to help defer my costs.


Make a one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount


Or enter a custom amount


Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

Letter from a Young Man Seeking Office

February 24, 2012

On some days I feel at a loss for words. At those times I try to find a good book, hoping that the glibness of its author might transfer such talent to me.

I found a letter from a young man, aged 23, seeking office for the first time. He addressed a public letter to his electors, the people of Sangamo County, Illinois. He concluded it as follows:

But, Fellow-Citizens, I shall conclude. Considering the great degree of modesty which should always attend youth, it is probable I have already been more presuming than becomes me. However, upon the subjects of which I have treated, I have spoken as I thought. I may be wrong in regard to any or all of them; but holding it a sound maxim, that it is better to be only sometimes right, than at all times wrong, so soon as I discover my opinions to be erroneous, I shall be ready to renounce them.

Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say for one that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem. How far I shall succeed in gratifying this ambition, is yet to be developed. I am young and unknown to many of you. I was born and have ever remained in the most humble walks of life. I have no wealthy or popular relations to recommend me. My case is thrown exclusively upon the independent voters of this county, and if elected they will have conferred a favor upon me, for which I shall be unremitting in my labors to compensate. But if the good people in their wisdom shall see fit to keep me in the background, I have been too familiar with disappointments to be very much chagrined. Your friend and fellow-citizen,

New Salem, March 9, 1832

Indeed every man has his peculiar ambition. With my only voice I ask that the good people choosing their preferred candidates next Tuesday and the following Tuesday, and again in November, weigh the peculiar ambition of the men and women on their ballots, and ask themselves which among those listed has “no other [ambition] so great as that of being truly esteemed of [his] fellow men, by rendering [himself] worthy of their esteem.”

Won’t Get Fooled Again

Since I’ve been travelling the past few days I haven’t been able to write much. What I have been able to do is to check the musings of another obscure blogger who goes by the moniker The Sage of Mt. Airy. I’ve never met “the Sage” but through friends I hear he is a retired military man who later became a professor of medieval philosophy for a while, and then retired a second time. Nice resume.

In “The Real Cost“, the Sage pulls the covers off the recent mortgage shake-down of five large banks by the Obama administration:

But first folks, please understand that no bank will ever pay any part of the $25 billion settlement.  Basic economics:  It’s their customers who will pay; it’s only their customers who can pay.

Let me be clear. If Obama ordered Archers-Daniels-Midland to give everyone “free” corn on the cob it wouldn’t really be free. Their customers would pay for it. Let me be clear. Some would praise the President for “helping alleviate hunger” or some such, but it wouldn’t really be free. Let me be clear: You Got Fooled Again.

Announced around the same time as the $25 billion sleight of hand was what the Wall Street Journal’s “Best of the Web Today” called the Abortifacient Shell Game (topic occurs halfway down the article):

 “If a woman works for an employer that objects to providing contraception because of its religious beliefs, the insurance company will step in and offer birth control free of charge,” ABC reports.

It’s not clear who will “step in” if the institution self-insures, and in any case this sounds like something of a swindle. Unless insurance companies have access to magical abortifacient trees, somebody has to pay for this stuff. One way or another the benefits will be priced into the cost of insurance, and even if insurers give Catholic institutions a discount and pass the cost on to everybody else, the former will still be purchasing a package of benefits that includes what they find abhorrent.

Let me be clear. Insurers can’t “step in” and give away things for free. Let me be clear: that’s as basic an economics lesson as “there is no free lunch.” Insurers do not have access to “abortifacient trees.” Let me be clear: You Got Fooled Again. First Amendment be damned.

So Meet the New Boss: Lord of the Banks, Lord of the Insurance Companies, Lord of the Car Companies, Lord of the Churches, Lord of Religious Correctness, etc. etc. We heard all about him 40 years ago and we all swore We Won’t Get Fooled Again.

Rather than electing one New Boss after another to rule over one industry after another (while the bottom line is I pay for it all anyway) — I’d prefer “A Servant.”

Mention of ‘The Servant’ at CPAC

February 10, 2012

Foster Friess introduced Senator Rick Santorum’s critical speech this morning at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). At 2:10 of his 5 minute introduction he mentioned me and my recent post “Rick Santorum — The Servant.”

I’d like to thank Foster Friess for mentioning me in his speech.

This is all very amazing to me.

A little over a week ago I decided I would try to see all the candidates as they campaigned here in Colorado. Santorum’s event was first. But when I arrived at the specified place at the specified time I found that no one was there. Angry that I had driven several miles for nothing, I called the number on the flyer I had and they told me the event had been moved to a larger location to accommodate an “overwhelming outpouring of interest.” Nevertheless I was still angry and felt put upon, and I almost went straight home instead.

I didn’t.

Ten days later I’m watching a man I’d never met before give a speech on the Fox News Channel and he’s saying my name and reading my words to a crowd of thousands with millions more watching all over the world via multiple satelite uplinks and whatnot.

We make dozens of little decisions every day. You just never know how things will turn out.

Blogger Conference call with Rick Santorum

February 9, 2012

I got an e-mail this morning from the Rick Santorum for President Campaign inviting me to attend “an Invitation-Only Question and Answer Session with Conservative Blogs.” I’ve never before had the chance to interview a major Presidential candidate. Cool.

This all happened because the internet noticed my publication of Rick Santorum — The Servant last week. A number of bloggers re-posted my post. Even the Santorum campaign noticed my article and added me to its media e-mail list.

The session was done by conference call at noon (Eastern Time). I’m not a professional reporter, and I didn’t have a tape recorder, so I’ll just have to do my best to recap some of the questions and answers of the session. I’ve limited my post to the questions and answers that I feel comfortable reproducing.

After a brief introduction by a moderator, Senator Santorum gave a short recap of his campaign position and then opened “the floor” for questions.


Question: Senator Santorum, what is your response to the charge made in the blogosphere and on Twitter that you are anti-Tea Party?

Answer from Santorum: Of course I’m not anti-Tea Party. The charge stems from those, mostly libertarians, who have a certain view of the Constitution whereas I believe in both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. In short that we both rights AND responsibilities.

Question: Where does your campaign stand on the national debt?

Answer: I’ve signed up with the plan offered by Representative Paul Ryan but my critique of it is that it needs to happen sooner. We need to cut the debt now and not wait ten years from now to do it. We need to start now to spend less money, cut a trillion dollars from our spending — not just in inflation-adjusted terms nor as a relation to the current spending baseline.

Follow-up question: What about earmarks?

Answer: Earmarks are specific allocations within existing appropriations. They are not monies spent ON TOP OF appropriations and I’ve always voted to cap those total appropriations so I’ve never been in favor of increasing the debt to spend money on earmarks.

Question: With the Arizona Primary coming up, what is Obama’s biggest failure in the issue of immigration?

Answer: Obama’s biggest failure is that the border is not secure. No immigration policy of any sort can be effective unless we can control the border.

Question from me: Senator Santorum, have you seen the article published today by Henry Olsen on National Review Online entitled “Two Decades Too Late” (link here) and if so do you have a comment on it?

Answer: No, I haven’t seen that. Why don’t you recap it for me?

Follow-up question from me: Henry Olsen is a demographics expert from the American Enterprise Institute. His basic premise is that your campaign’s attempt to reconstitute the Reagan Coalition of 1980 cannot succeed because of demographic changes which have occurred since then.

Follow-up answer: Of course there have been demographic changes since 1980 but I believe my basic message of personal and economic freedom has a universal appeal to voters. So while demographics change the political landscape I’ve found that my message appeals to growing demographic groups such, especially Hispanics.

Question: What is your position on the single-rate flat tax?

Answer: Well I like the tax simplification aspect of the flat tax. Where I disagree with the single-rate people is they themselves don’t really like everyone, both rich and poor, to actually pay at one single-rate so they add all sorts of exemptions and deductions to make up for that. When you do that you end up back where you started with a complex tax code. I’d rather lower tax rates for everyone while removing all the complexity that people hate in the tax code.

End of session recap.

I’m very new to this. I had little notice beforehand and although I was pretty nervous I think the session went well. Usually our information gets filtered by what major media outlets tell us. I think it’s fantastic that Senator Santorum would take some time from his schedule to speak to a group of amateur bloggers like me.

I chose my question from a friend’s Facebook post I had seen that very morning. It seems to me that you get the best from people when you challenge them and the article referenced in my question challenged Santorum’s campaign strategy.

The author of “Two Decades Too Late” is Henry Olsen, whom I know from my days as a Ph.D. student at Claremont Graduate School in California. Back then Henry knew California politics so well that he could point out legislative district lines on the ground while flying at 30,000 feet from Los Angeles to Sacramento. He now works in a Washington think-tank and has published some excellent articles on American politics. My favorite is his highly accurate prognostication of the 2010 election results (“Day of the Democratic Dead“) published a few days before Election Day 2010. Be warned — it is 8 pages of detailed explanations of different American voting groups and their concerns, but if you have an interest in American politics it is well worth your time.

In my opinion, any time Henry Olsen offers a candidate advice it would be wise for that candidate to consider his words carefully. So in the end even a challenging question can be a favor in disguise.

Rick Santorum — Blue Collar Campaigner

They just finished counting the votes in Colorado and confirmed that Senator Rick Santorum had won the state Romney carried with 60% of the vote in the 2008 primary.  The Colorado win completes a tri-fecta for Santorum; earlier he had won both Missouri and Minnesota with a strong showing. In Missouri Santorum won each and every county in the state.

How did this happen?

I can speak for what happened in Colorado. Over the last week I trekked between Colorado Springs and Denver to attend live events with Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Senator Santorum. The curious can read my accounts of those events at the links below:

Santorum — The Servant

Romney — The Executive

Gingrich — The Visionary

I actually went to a second Santorum campaign rally just to confirm to myself what I had seen after the first one.

Rick Santorum out-worked the two better known and better funded candidates. He does Blue Collar campaigning.

Newt and Mitt did campaign rallies and gave speeches filled with laundry lists and applause lines. Santorum spoke to people in a coherent thematic way. He explained to them that we are losing our Freedom and he explained how and why.

Audiences at the Newt and Mitt events cheered at every bullet point and punch line. Ba-dum-bump…Yay! The applause from the last one-liner barely ended before it was time to cheer at the next one.

Rick Santorum’s audiences listened to an orator. They listened with rapt attention. They wanted to hear and digest his message, and consider it the way a free people deliberates about important issues.

At Santorum’s events the crowd became so quiet and attentive that at times one could hear a baby crying far across the room or the dull hum of traffic on the street outside. That is what I saw and heard.

After their speeches Newt and Mitt would spend ten minutes shaking hands and posing for photos. Then they left.

Rick Santorum stayed to shake ALL the hands offered; the whole crowd left before the candidate went home. I saw that happen…twice.

That, that is Blue Collar campaigning.

Senator Rick Santorum at Denver University

Newt Gingrich — The Visionary

As the 2012 campaign season comes to my state with the Colorado Caucuses on Tuesday the 7th, I’ve decided to attend as many of the candidates’ local speeches as can be managed.

I attended a Rick Santorum rally last Wednesday the 1st. You can read my comments at this link: Rick Santorum – The Servant.

I attended a Mitt Romney rally last Saturday the 4th.  You can read my comments at this link: Mitt Romney — The Executive.

In past posts I’ve described the remaining two candidates in a single word: Gingrich is The Visionary and Ron Paul is The Ideologue.

This article will discuss Newt Gingrich — The Visionary.

Unfortunately I missed Ron Paul when he was here last week and it looks like he won’t be coming back to Colorado any time soon. So there probably will never be a post for Ron Paul — The Ideologue and my series is no doubt the worse for the omission.

Dateline: Marriott Denver West Hotel, Golden, Colorado, Monday February 6, 11:30 am.

I’m not a professional reporter. First I’ll do my best to recapitulate the speech objectively and then offer my opinions of it at the bottom of the post.

The hotel ballroom was only one-quarter full. I overheard someone estimate the crowd at 300 but I think it was less. Although both Santorum’s and Romney’s crowds were much larger this fact must be discounted since today’s event was announced only last night and was held on a weekday afternoon.

After an invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance, Newt Gingrich approached the podium in a suit and tie with his wife Calista at his side.

He spoke without notes.

Newt began by offering a few pleasantries and recognizing some of the dignitaries and family standing behind him, including some children. He said “this race is about the children’s future.” “We’ve been trying to rethink the campaign,” Newt continued. “We need to break through the news media by talking about the children.”

At this point some of the media in attendance took a breath, hoping to hear details of a rumored “new campaign approach” to be offered by Newt. That was not forthcoming; instead the rest of the speech was similar to his standard stump speech.

The rest of Newt’s speech was delivered a train of consciousness style, mixing standard themes with tidbits of breaking news. He was interrupted by cheers every second or third line.

What follows is a close approximation of his actual cadence based on the notes I jotted down on my I-phone:

We need very large changes in this country. Beyond the Republican debates and the November voting, even if we win, the Left will still remain. They will oppose us in the courts and through picketing and protests. We need huge changes in America. The number one difference between me and others in the race is the scale of change needed. We need a whole team running in this election, not just one candidate. George Soros said it doesn’t matter to him if Obama or Romney win the election because either way government policies will remain largely the same, only the people in the administration will change. Romney is only small change. He accommodated the liberals by choosing liberal judges in Massachusetts. As President he will accommodate the liberals in Washington as well. We need fundamental change instead.

Today is Ronald Reagan’s birthday. As I was taping an interview with Sean Hannity this morning I heard that Egypt will try the American hostages [Newt’s exact words–my note] they are currently detaining. The Pakistanis arrested the doctor who helped us find bin Laden. The Muslim brotherhood in Egypt is now the moderate of the two ruling parties there, yet our own State Department is holding a conference with representatives of Islamic countries about our how to curb anti-Muslim rhetoric. This is just like the Carter years. We need Reagan’s change.

The main stream media wants to re-elect Obama so they are pushing for a moderate to win the GOP nomination. We don’t need to nominate another moderate like John McCain or Bob Dole — we need to nominate a conservative. Do you know what Reagan’s foreign policy strategy was? “We win; they lose.” One of Reagan’s first actions was to eliminate Jimmy Carter’s gas rationing programs. Gas prices started to fall within six months. We need an American energy strategy. The President of the United States should never again bow to a Saudi King. We should create so much domestic energy that we won’t care about Iran blockading the Straits of Hormuz.

On the afternoon of my inauguration in January my first executive order will be to eliminate all of Obama’s czars. On the same day I will authorize the Keystone Pipeline. The Canadians can count on it. It’s a three-pronged win for us. We will gain 20 to 50 thousand jobs building it, we will be safer because our oil supplies will come from Canada instead of from some country that hates us, and we will create refinery jobs in Houston that will last a generation. On my first day in office I will direct that the American Embassy in Israel be moved to Jerusalem. Our economic recovery will begin late on election night when the markets realize that Obama will be gone.

I will propose reforms to teach the judiciary and the bureaucracy their proper role in regards to the country and the Constitution. In our schools we need to give our kids a sense of American history & American exceptionalism. American exceptionalism is the reason that people came to this country in the first place. I’ve written books, and Calista has written a children’s book, explaining to kids that we are an exceptional nation.

America is built on truths, not ideology. ‘All Men are Created Equal’ is an ideal and it took us a long time to reach that ideal. [This was Lincoln’s position in the Lincoln-Douglas debates — my note.] We are endowed by our Creator; each of us is sovereign. Each of us loans power to the government. This means that no politician can come between your rights and God. You have the right to Pursue Happiness but you are not guaranteed happiness. By the way, Happiness in the 18th Century meant a life of wisdom and virtue, not a life of hedonism.

I have a profound disagreement with Governor Romney who says he does not care about the poor because they have a safety net. The safety net is actually a safety web because it traps people into dependence. I want to convert the safety net into a springboard. I favor work. I had an argument with Juan Williams a few weeks ago who thought that something was wrong with young people working. The Obama administration has lowered the unemployment rate recently primarily by reducing the number of people in the job pool. That’s not the same as getting people working. Instead of food stamps we want programs that help people rise. Children should learn English which is the national and international language of commerce and success. We must rethink from ground up. The safety web actually denies people the opportunity to pursue Happiness.

I need your help tomorrow. If I become the nominee I will run a truly American campaign. I want to go to every ethnic neighborhood in every part of this country and tell them that if you believe in the Declaration and not in Saul Alinsky then come exercise your American citizenship with us.

After long applause Newt went to the crowd, shaking hands and signing autographs. He posed for some photos also. Newt had spoken for about 15 minutes.

Newt speaks easily and extemporaneously. He draws from a deep well of facts, figures and anecdotes which feed his stream-of-consciousness presentation. As a listener I felt like a runner trying to keep up with a faster runner ahead of me as he jumped hurdles and twisted around obstacles.

Newt’s general theme was that America needs bigger, more fundamental change than what is being offered by Mitt Romney. Neither Rick Santorum nor Ron Paul was mentioned. Like Romney’s speech two days ago, and unlike Santorum’s, Newt’s speech was filled with applause lines.

In a previous post (Rick Santorum – The Servant), I described Gingrich as The Visionary in the following terms:

Gingrich is The Visionary. He has wondrous ideas every minute of every day. However, we end up bickering as to which of his ideas are brilliant and which are idiocy.

I describe Gingrich as a Visionary and I use that term in the more restrictive sense that he is a man of many ideas who is motivated by those ideas. Making those ideas workable or getting them implemented is another matter entirely.

It is clear from Newt’s speech that he favors an activist government in many instances. For example he has said many times that the current Environmental Protection Agency should be replaced with an Environmental Solutions Agency. He is a strong advocate of finding better means of children’s education with the goal being an education to lift up children from the poorest neighborhoods.

When listening to Newt speak the question arises as to whether government power once established, even with good intent, can be trusted to be the people’s servant rather than its master? Newt says he wants to instill into the bureaucracy a “collaborative” rather than a “dictatorial” attitude. That’s a nice idea, but eventually doesn’t power tend to corrupt? Even if Newt is successful implementing this new attitude the bureaucracy will remain in place after he has left the Presidency. A new administration will take control with the instruments of power still available for their use. This particular idea lacks the structural basis for permanent change. Newt’s position does not add the Checks and Balances to the Executive bureaucracy that would mirror the Constitution’s own structure and which has worked so well for the country over two and a half centuries.

Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney serve as an interesting contrast. Each one has the virtue the other one lacks while carrying the defect which is the other one’s forte.

In Mitt Romney — The Executive I explained that Romney was an executive by temperament. He is a high focus, action- and achievement-oriented individual. His virtue consists of achieving what he sets out to do. His weakness is that he is not a thinker. His flip-flops on so many positions tell us that he lacks the deep understanding needed to lead the country.

Newt Gingrich by contrast is a thinker and a writer and a bit of a dreamer. He is versed in a million subjects. He can offer facts and bits of historical wisdom faster than a Wikipedia search. But he has no focus to be an executive. He flits from one place to another as fast as his curiosity takes him and in so doing he often leaves behind details which become fatal flaws. Re-read my recapitulation of his speech above and notice how often he moves from one subject to another. That’s the way he thinks — a little of everything but focused on nothing.

Here are some more examples. He says he will propose reforms to teach the judiciary and the bureaucracy their proper role. How would those reforms work? He doesn’t say. Would a Constitutional Amendment be needed for these “reforms” or just legislation? He doesn’t say. Newt says we need massive, fundamental change but he doesn’t explain why that statement can sound so much like Obama’s rhetoric yet be a repudiation of Obama.

With Mitt I am concerned he will not know which things to do; with Newt I am concerned that he will not be able to any things at all.

Newt and Calista Gingrich

Mitt Romney — The Executive

As the 2012 campaign season comes to my state with Tuesday’s Colorado Caucuses, I’ve decided to attend as many of the candidates’ local speeches as can be managed.

I attended a Rick Santorum rally last Wednesday the 1st. You can read my comments at this link: Rick Santorum — The Servant. In that post I also described each of the other three candidates with a single word: Romney is The Executive, Gingrich is The Visionary, and Ron Paul is The Ideologue.

I plan to attend a speech by Newt Gingrich on Monday the 6th. Today I am fortunate to be able to attend a rally for Mitt Romney.

Dateline: Springs Fabrication Plant, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Saturday February 4, 2:45 pm.

The event was held inside a manufacturing plant owned by a Romney supporter. There were no seats; event-goers stood behind a makeshift stage amidst various cranes and manufacturing equipment. The usable area was jam-packed but actually smaller than the space used by Santorum a few days earlier. I estimate the crowd to have been about one thousand, roughly the same size as Santorum drew. Romney’s people told me that no one was turned away for lack of space.

(No food was offered to the crowd at the Romney event; Santorum’s people provided a plate of homemade cookies (snickerdoodles) next to their sign-up sheet. These were much appreciated.)

Attending the Romney event were several significant GOP office-holders and endorsers such as Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, El Paso County Commissioner Wayne Williams, and Colorado State GOP Vice-Chairman Leondray Gholston.

Gholston introduced an Iraq War veteran who led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance which was followed by an invocation (led by Gholston). Gholston then introduced United States Senator John Thune of South Dakota, who introduced Mitt Romney.

I’m not a professional reporter. First I’ll do my best to recapitulate the speech objectively and then offer my opinions of it at the bottom of the post.

Wearing a white shirt and jeans, Mitt Romney spoke with a microphone in one hand and no notes.

Romney began by thanking the owner of the Springs Fabrication plant who hosted the event. He then introduced some members of his family behind him, although Mrs. Romney was not among those present. He thanked members of the nearby US Air Force Academy, and recognized dignitaries present including Colorado Attorney General John Suthers.

Romney then launched into current issues, reminding the crowd that it is nearly three years to the day since Obama told an interviewer that he would only serve a single term if he was unable to turn the economy around. Romney reminded the crowd that these are tough times in America and then reeled off a series of statistics to buttress that claim. He remembered that it was Thomas Paine who said “lead, follow, or get out of the way.” Romney then delivered the punch line: “Obama has shown he can’t lead, he won’t follow, not we must get him out of the way!”

The crowd cheered.

The build-up and the punch line of the opening remarks clearly showed me that Romney was reciting a well-practiced stump speech. This is of course the norm at such campaign rallies. Romney’s cadence is smooth; he delivers his facts and statistics dexterously.

Referring to recent positive jobs data Romney said he is happy that the American economy is slowly improving. However, he insisted, this is thanks to the entrepreneurship of businessmen like the owner of the Springs Fabrication plant and not to the policies of Barack Obama. Obama is borrowing too much money and that will never grow an economy.

Romney then reeled off a laundry list of promises and slogans after which each was met with loud cheers from the crowd. “Government is too big.” Cheers. “I will not slow government growth; instead I will cut the size of government entirely.” Cheers. “I will cut programs.” Cheers. “It is immoral to pass along debt to our kids for them to repay.” Cheers.

Romney decried Obama’s record of “crony capitalism” including the federal government’s 500 million dollar loan lost to bankrupt Solyndra. He then contrasted Solyndra with his successful shepherding of start-up company Staples, where “we invested only 5 to 10 million dollars and built a great business while holding our meetings in cheap, rented offices.” He asked the audience to compare his capitalistic successes to Obama’s delivery of car companies to the control of the UAW.

“With regard to health care,” Romney said quickly changing subjects, “I will repeal Obamacare as my first act. In energy I will expand drilling, the use of coal, and natural gas.”

Romney attacked Obama on foreign policy. He said Obama thinks America is in decline and so he reaches out to appease dictators: Ahmadinejad in Iran, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Kim Jong-il and now Kim Jong-un in North Korea. He said Obama plans to cut the military by 1 trillion dollars yet we have fewer ships in our Navy and fewer planes in our Air Force than we’ve had in decades. I (Romney) will add 100,000 troops and expand our Air Force and Navy building and modernization programs.

Obama, Romney said, wants us to become like Europe.

Finishing his speech, Governor Romney reminisced about the time in his boyhood when his parents “drove us across the country in a Rambler.” “It was then that I fell in love with this country and its people.” He referred to the patriotic song “America the Beautiful,” quoting a number of the lesser known verses full of paeans to the American experience. (Full lyrics here.)

Unfortunately Romney failed to mention the fact that “America the Beautiful” was written here in Colorado Springs. Had he done so it would have proved that he was truly attentive to his audience. The crowd didn’t seem to notice, but I did.

As a denouement Romney reminded the crowd that in the Declaration, God endowed us with Rights, that among these are the Right to the Pursuit of Happiness as WE choose, not as the government directs. These principles make us who we are. “Hold true to principles of the Constitution and the Declaration and we will overcome all obstacles!”

The crowd roared and some chanted USA! USA! as Romney waved in appreciation.

The speech had taken 21 minutes. The Governor spent the next nine minutes shaking hands in the crowd. I noticed that Romney spent less time chatting with individual well-wishers than Santorum had a few nights earlier.

Then I noticed Romney smile an odd clownish smile and zigzag from one edge of the stage to its opposite. Apparently he was trying to show a new segment of outstretched hands that he had even greater enthusiasm for them than he had for the previous bunch. In this gesture I think I detected an act. Let me not be misunderstood. I do not believe Romney has a veiled hatred of people but rather fakes sentimentality to please them.

This speech as a whole was an exercise in crowd participation like the holler and holler-back of a cheerleading routine. Mitt would offer a line, a fact or situation, and then a promise to do differently. Then the crowd would cheer.

I didn’t find myself disagreeing with much of what Romney said. Furthermore the positive statements Romney made outnumbered the negative — the speech was more about what he would do as President than what Obama had failed to do. Nevertheless it lacked a central theme beyond “I’ll do what we all think will improve us all” and so I wasn’t drawn along by his enthusiasm. Without such a central theme I left the rally with only a vague understanding of how Mitt Romney might react to future circumstances yet unrevealed to us. These will come. They always do.

In my previous post (Rick Santorum — The Servant), I described Romney as The Executive in the following terms:

Romney is The Executive. Give him a job like running the Olympics or building big companies and he gets the job done. Unfortunately he is incapable of knowing which job to do. He’s been on both sides of so many issues (abortion, cap and trade, health care mandate, global warming, gun control, etc. etc. etc.) that he obviously will need some direction as President.

Please discard the Hollywood notion that an Executive is a fat, greedy, worthless and ultimately lazy leech upon society. Such a view is a caricature made for the purpose of comedy. I’ve known a few executives in my years in the business world. They are always sharp and focused people and because of this can seem aloof and unsentimental. Yet executives come in many types. Some I have known were scrupulously honest and charitable while others were not. Some were religious while others were not. Some friendly while others humorless. But in every case the executives I’ve met were highly attentive, goal- and achievement-oriented people. That of course does not mean they were always right; sometimes their extreme focus causes them to lose sight of the bigger perspective.

Such executive characteristics have important advantages for one seeking to become the chief executive of the United States. A sharp focus combined with an energetic perseverance will get things done. The Executive is driven by the prospect of achievement and is abhorrent of failure. However, the Executive performs best when his or her goals can be empirically measured and demonstrated. In Romney’s case he has such experience when he made the Olympics profitable and built successful companies.

In the speech at the rally Romney specifically mentioned “cutting government” (not just slowing its growth) and “repealing Obamacare.” Such specifics are great news for conservatives since this means he accepts these items as personal goals to be achieved. History suggests he will actually try to achieve them rather than just move in such a direction. The more specificity that can be drawn out of Romney the better.

However, because of his focus on measurable goals, Romney will have difficulty understanding abstractions such as “the good of the country.” He may lack the prudence (judgement) to address important issues in a non-economic way. Romney has had difficulty choosing sides on social issues such as health care mandates, gun control, abortion, gay marriage and the like. His approach to the theoretical danger of Global Warming is confused. As such issues confound his focus he may seek an escape, opting for the path of least resistance rather than the path of the greatest good.

This may be most troublesome for the country. Americans are greatly divided on social issues and a Romney election will be seen as merely an economic victory for the Right and not a referendum on other issues. Romney therefore will not be capable of leading the country in this respect, and the American Culture War will continue.

Executives are often seen as obtuse. I believe this is both true and fair in the sense that their extreme focus on achievement blinds them to other concerns. For Romney, working a crowd is probably more a part of the job to be endured than an enjoyment of the moment. People will recognize that and he will certainly be attacked as distant and cold.

Unlike previous GOP “moderates” John McCain and Bob Dole, Romney is at heart a businessman unhabituated to accepting Washington gridlock as the norm. He is a determined man with a history of achievement and will be a formidable opponent during the election campaign and in the White House should he get there.

Mitt Romney (with unknown supporter waving back to him)

Rick Santorum — The Servant

As the 2012 campaign season comes to my state with next Tuesday’s Colorado Caucuses, I’ve decided to attend as many of the candidates’ local speeches as can be managed.

First up, Rick Santorum.

Dateline: Mr. Biggs Event Center, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Wednesday February 1, 7:15 pm.  The event was moved to this location at the last minute to accommodate a larger crowd than was originally expected.  The hall was full, standing room only, and I estimate the crowd to have been about one thousand.

I’m not a professional reporter. First I’ll do my best to recapitulate the speech objectively and then offer my opinions of it at the bottom of the post.

Santorum spoke with a microphone in one hand and no notes.

He began his comments by reminding the audience of the importance of the Constitution to American life. The Constitution exists to ensure our enjoyment of those freedoms and rights espoused in the Declaration of Independence, which Santorum referred to as “the Soul of America”.

Santorum went on to mention Alexis de Tocqueville, who journeyed to America to compare the American Constitution with the new French Republic created by the French Revolution. While the French Constitution espouses liberty, equality and fraternity, America substitutes “paternity” for “fraternity”.  This paternity, Santorum says, is the paternity of God the Creator. Such paternity means that rights are given by God, as the Declaration says, and they do not come to us through the fraternity of our fellow citizens or our governments.  Indeed, even equality is to be understood as our equal standing with each other to God.

At this point Santorum switched from the philosophical underpinnings of American government to the specific issues of the day.  He says he entered the presidential race for one reason — Obamacare. Obamacare changes the relationship between people and government by giving government control over your health and thus your very life. With government controlling health decisions Americans will no longer be able to say that their rights come from God as the Declaration declares but, to the extent Americans still have rights, these rights will come from the government.  Such rights can be taken away by men as easily as they are conferred by men.

Next Santorum took up the subject of his standings in the polls, and specifically whether he could win the nomination. He explained that in Florida he had higher favorability ratings (60%+), than either Romney or Gingrich, but that since people were convinced he couldn’t win they voted elsewhere.

To finish, Santorum returned to his opening themes.  He is running on a slogan that is also an equation: Faith + Family = Freedom. He accepted the moniker “social conservative” and explained that he will gladly wear that moniker because it accurately describes him — even though many in the GOP say that what is needed is an economic conservative rather than a social conservative. But Santorum went on to argue that it is social conservatism that ultimately leads to economic prosperity. He reminded the audience that the word “economy” comes from the Greek meaning “household management.” Thus we need to have strong families (households) at our core to have a prosperous economy. When we have weak families we suffer. The poverty rate in single parent families is 40%. As marriage rates decline we can expect poverty to increase. Here he receives a standing ovation.

At this point Santorum introduces Dr. James Dobson as one of his endorsers.  Dr. Dobson states that as in 1980 “we’re not gonna vote for someone who people say can ‘win’, we’re gonna vote for someone who can govern.”

Dobson then posed a number of questions to Santorum:  Will you get the government off our backs? Will you get rid of Obama’s executive orders? Santorum replied that he will fire all of Obama’s czars. He will repeal regulations which cost business over $100 million per year.

Santorum finished the event with two personal stories.  When he lost his last Senate election in Pennsylvania he did so while “[standing] up for my principles even when they were not popular. Abandoning your principles is the one thing that is worse than losing. ”

Then Santorum recounted the story of his daughter Bella who was born with a genetic defect called Trisomy 18. Most children with this condition die shortly after childbirth but Bella is alive today at age 3. Santorum explained that Bella’s condition means she cannot walk or talk and never will, that she can do only one thing — love. That, he finished, “is the same relation I have with my Father in Heaven: I can do nothing for Him but love Him, yet He loves me unconditionally.”

Rick Santorum received a loud round of applause. He stayed near the podium to shake hands and take photos with dozens of well-wishers.

Upon reflection, I was struck by the fact that Santorum received only one standing ovation through the entire speech.  To be sure there was nothing in his presentation that was disliked, yet he doesn’t generate adulation the way some other candidates do.  In fact, most candidates package their stump speeches around key words and phrases specifically designed to make the audience swoon: Hope! Change! No New Taxes! 9-9-9! and the like.  Santorum is different from them, and I don’t believe his difference is an inadequacy or a failing.

Thinking of the current four remaining GOP candidates I think we can now apply a single word description to each.

Romney is The Executive. Give him a job like running the Olympics or building big companies and he gets the job done. Unfortunately he is incapable of knowing which job to do.  He’s been on both sides of so many issues (abortion, cap and trade, health care mandate, global warming, gun control, etc. etc. etc.) that he obviously will need some direction as President.

Gingrich is The Visionary. He has wondrous ideas every minute of every day. However, we end up bickering as to which of his ideas are brilliant and which are idiocy.

Ron Paul is The Ideologue. He doggedly sticks to his Free Market economic policy and his Non-Interventionist foreign policy like a Swiss watch sticks to its timing.  Unfortunately he cannot conceive of any flexibility in his ideology even when confronted with practical problems such as killing Bin Laden.

That leaves Rick Santorum.

Santorum is The Servant. He is the Servant of his Country, of his Constitution, of his Family and of his Faith. He was the Servant to the people of Pennsylvania when he voted against a national right-to-work law because he would not approve of a federal law which overturned his state’s law. He’s been criticized for that vote and indeed it went against his own politics, but he would not abandon his role as Servant to the State of Pennsylvania.

People stood up for Santorum only once tonight. He is more soft-spoken than dramatic and people politely listen to him speak as if he were their neighbor next door. He is not a Napoleon by character or temperament. You will never cheer Santorum like a purple-clad Roman conquering hero; you will never faint at his feet. He will never become a despot.

Santorum will never present himself as your provider. He will expect people to pursue happiness and he will see his role as service to that pursuit by securing those natural rights we all deserve as people. In this way he will endeavor to be the Servant to Freedom.

Throughout this process we’ve seen that we live in an age of great egos. We see pundits and journalists and presidents vying with each other for our accolades. Santorum is the exact opposite, a Servant, and that difference may be what the country needs right now.

Rick Santorum

Post Navigation