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People get tired of the presidential primary election season. They get tired of pols (politicians) and polls, innumerable debates, campaigning, and the actual primaries, the political equivalent of “running for the Roses” (Garden).

I’ve read a number of articles proposing a reduction in the current number of primaries and caucuses. Some call for a limit on the time candidates can campaign. Others want to put all the primaries on one day. Still others yearn for a national primary, get it over in “one swell foop.”

But there’s value in multiple primaries over several months leading to national nominating political party conventions and ultimately the general election.

A long primary season wears us out, but more importantly it wears candidates out. We, therefore, get to see candidates under physical and emotional duress. How do they handle the stress? Are they healthy? Do they lie? What really is their character like? Do they have the stamina, the intellect, the experience to lead? Can they raise sufficient support? Are they likeable, trustworthy? Do they have a vision for the country?

In 1972, Sen. Edmund Muskie gave a speech during the presidential campaign defending his wife and demonstrating a high degree of emotion and even tears. The latter, though possibly understandable, nevertheless effectively ended his campaign. In 1992, Sen. Paul Tsongas dropped out of the Democratic primary race due to ill health. He died in 1997 at age 55, days before his first term as President would have ended had he been elected in 1992. Sen Bob Dole ran for President in 1996 as the Republican nominee. During the campaign the American public discovered the war hero and effective senator with an acerbic wit did not possess a temperament especially suited to the presidency.

In 2004, Gov. Howard Dean celebrated his good showing in the Iowa Democratic caucuses by issuing what became known as the “Dean Scream.” This bit of emotion made Dean look like a wild man and quickly eroded his support. Prior to his run for the presidency in 2008, Sen John Edwards conducted an affair, denied it when it became public, had a baby with the other woman, denied this too, and eventually admitted everything. His political future hit a dead-end. He’s still under indictment for allegedly misappropriating campaign funds to pay for the woman’s expenses. In 2011, Herman Cain suspended his campaign due to a growing list of women alleging sexual harassment and affairs.

These negative samples represent only a few examples of things we learn about candidates during presidential election primary campaigns. We also learn positive things. In 1980 and 1984 we learned even more about Ronald Reagan: that he was a leader, that he had moral courage, and that he held a well developed vision for the country.

Presidential primaries may be many and at times mundane. But they serve a purpose to democracy. They help us figure out who is who, what we want or are willing to put up with, and who might—hopefully—be a good person to whom we can entrust the future of the body politic.

Presidential election primaries are messy, but other non-democratic countries should be so blessed.

I like the primary season. It’s political theater and political sport. It’s like a long political playoff leading to the political Super Bowl every four years on Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

"There is no controlling legal authority that says this was in violation of law."

Remember that one? Vice President Al Gore repeated variations of this interesting ethical argument several times during a press conference in March 1997. The issue was whether the Vice President had violated any laws by making partisan calls in the White House to solicit campaign funds. The Vice President’s against-the-wall defense was, to paraphrase, “It’s not specifically illegal (which by the way wasn’t true), so it must be OK.”

I thought of this last week listening to Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain announce he was “suspending”—a soft word for quitting, running for cover, or I have no idea what may come out next—his campaign for the Republican nomination.

Why did Cain suspend his campaign? “I’ve got to think about my family first. That is absolutely my #1 priority.” Really? Since when?

I’m not suggesting I know whether Herman Cain is a philanderer. I don’t, at least not for sure. But there was a lot of smoke and more coming: his wife apparently didn’t know anything about the woman (an alleged 13-year affair) to whom Cain had given money and spoken on the phone repeatedly over months, he apparently never talked to his wife about all this until he made a trek home to “reassess” his campaign, and his wife, perhaps tellingly, never publicly came to his defense. Sad.

What’s worse, like “no controlling legal authority,” before Cain threw in the towel, Cain’s lawyer issued this statement in an attempt to defend him: “...This appears to be an accusation of private, alleged consensual conduct between adults—a subject matter which is not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public. No individual, whether a private citizen, a candidate for public office or a public official, should be questioned about his or her private sexual life….”

Are you kidding me? If this were you, do you really want your lawyer making a lawyerly statement like this? Why didn’t Cain or his wife or his lawyer scream to the high heavens, “It ain’t so”?

Now we have a new one: “Sex between consenting adults is no one’s business.” OK. I can buy the freedom and privacy part of this argument. But I can’t buy the implication that anything two people decide to do is by definition “right” or “moral” and, by the way, no one else’s business. And oh by the way, society, morality, children, family, friends, organizations, and nation-states that happened to be affected by these consenting adults be hanged.

Bill Clinton tried this. He said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” lying through his teeth to the American people as he said it. Later under oath he debated the definition of “is.” Look in the dictionary under “weasel words” and you’ll see a picture of Bill Clinton, or maybe Al Gore, or maybe Herman Cain—I know, I know, we don’t know for sure about Cain. OK. If he didn’t conduct an illicit affair(s), then why did he suspend his campaign?

Not illegal doesn’t make something right, moral, or necessarily even advisable. Vice presidents, presidents, and candidates don’t seem to have learned this along the way. Ask John Edwards. For that matter, if he were still around, ask Ted Kennedy. Ask too many American political leaders. Will Newt Gingrich be next? I don’t know, but I do know his personal past is checkered at best.

Sex, lies, and presidential politics are becoming an all-too-common evil triumvirate. Wonder what it would be like to listen to presidential candidates who had high principles of ethics and actually held to them?

Wonder what it would be like to hear presidential candidates who actually told the truth? Especially to their spouses.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

 

Disagreeing agreeably is a talent a lot of people haven’t mastered. This is particularly evident in politics the world over, but the American presidency seems to attract more than its share. Politics is always wont for critical thinkers who are not critical.

Every American President knows he’ll be condemned if he does and condemned if he doesn’t. It comes with the territory, so as Harry Truman said, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

But there’s something especially perverse, particularly from a Christian point of view, when the loyal opposition disrespects not only the policy but the person.

Recently, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain referred to former Speaker of the House Democrat Nancy Pelosi as “Princess Nancy.” We all know “sticks and stones will break our bones, but names will never hurt me.” But really, is calling another national leader an intentionally sarcastic name “presidential”? And Cain of all people, who is battling stories about old sexual harassment allegations, should avoid commentary that smacks of chauvinism.

President Obama is, as president, regularly excoriated in the Republican, conservative, and sometimes general press or social media. Again, this comes with the territory. President George W. Bush certainly caught more than his share of the same. But what’s disturbing is the number of times the President is attacked as a man not as a political leader with particular policy views.

Talk show conservative Rush Limbaugh has called President Obama “Pharaoh,” “Jackass,” “Triple Double Oreo,” and worse. You expect this from an info-tainer, but not so much we’d hope from political leaders. Republican presidential candidates have a list of their own derogatory names for the President and for each other, and the President’s been known to use a few of his own for them.

The point, though, is not silly names but an attitude of genuine disrespect toward the individual and by implication the Office. Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and Fox News commentator and comedian Dennis Miller are both known for a no-holds-barred approach. But in terms of the President, both men have consistently expressed respect for the Obama the man. Both men have repeatedly said on television that they like the President, appreciate how he treats his wife and daughters, are glad for him and the country in the sense that this democracy did indeed elect a Black president, and actually enjoy being with him. This respect in no way prevents them from slicing and dicing, daily, President Obama’s political views and actions. Sadly, O’Reilly has actually been criticized by his conservative constituency for expressing favorable views of Obama the man.

Respecting a political leader, no matter who they are, and particularly the President sets a tone for disagreement, discussion, and debate. It sets a tone for potential common ground, agreement, a working consensus, governance.

I for one am glad President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner have golfed together. President Ronald Reagan and Speaker Tip O’Neill used to do political battle throughout the day, than meet for drinks and stories at day’s end. They were political foes and personal friends.

I like how President Obama carries himself, projecting an image of sophistication and class. I’m especially glad that his relationship with his wife and daughters, like President Bush before him, is genuine and a good model. I like it when President Obama gives eloquent speeches, even when I often disagree considerably with his policy perspectives.

I will likely vote for someone other than President Obama in the next election because I do not agree with the direction he is leading or non-leading the country. I do not embrace many of his philosophic or political/economic views. But I like the man and I respect the Office.

So I’m weary of character attacks leveled at the President by people who should be able to martial more astute arguments supporting their views than cheap name-calling or ad hominem jibes.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

There’s something inherently problematic in the term “Christian politics.”

While God’s will is stated in Scripture, good people, including Christian people, disagree on scriptural interpretation. While God’s perspective on moral issues like lying, stealing, or murdering is abundantly clear, many other contemporary issues are not directly addressed. So which position on a non-addressed issue is the Christian view, and thus, who has a corner on Christian politics?

Of course politicians use Christianity, or at least some affirmation of their fidelity, to promote their agendas and their opportunities for electoral office. These are the “Political Christians,” politicians who glom onto the faith for perceived political advantage. Perhaps some do this out of genuine commitment to the faith, but surely many others do so disingenuously. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to ascertain in which category a politician falls.

Whether or not politicians openly declare faith or how they do it varies with the political culture of the times. JFK downplayed his Catholic heritage. Jimmy Carter campaigned and won as a southern believer. Four years later, many Christians jilted Carter for Ronald Reagan, thinking he was a better man of faith because of his political views. Both George Bushes and Bill Clinton publicly affirmed their Christian faith. Barack Obama and his 2008 Republican opponent, John McCain, did so as well. For the record, I doubted the latter more than the former, but neither one makes much of a believable case.

All presidents, beginning with George Washington, publicly asked God to bless America, even LBJ and Richard Nixon, two of the most morally bankrupt men ever to hold the presidency.

Perhaps we’d generate more light if we talked about Christians in politics, rather than Christian politics. I believe my political views are consistent with my understanding of the Christian faith, but I must admit that on many issues I cannot prove this. I can only say what I believe. I am a Christian trying to live out my faith, but I cannot claim to live it perfectly. So it is with everyone else.

Seems to me Christians in politics is ideal, while Christian politics is an ideal.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

 

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

America needs more than jobs. It needs leadership that truly believes in the innate greatness of America's original ideals and its people. We don't have that on either side of the aisle.

We only have politicians-as-tacticians, people more adept at talking political minutia than vision and destiny. A person who got his or her jollies talking about political processes and various government activities used to be called a “Policy Wonk”—think Bill Clinton. Now, it seems, pols running for office, including the presidency, have all become Policy Wonks, arguing on the stump and in debates about which Republican or Democrat approach to governing is going to—wait for it—“create jobs.” Like that’s going to happen.

Americans need a recaptured sense of who we are and a recast sense of what we’re capable of doing. Not Pollyanna platitudes but, still, some bottled optimism based upon a keen understanding of why life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness produced for decades a culture, country, and economy attracting immigrants from around the globe.

We’ve lost confidence in who we were and who we are. Worse, a lot of Americans, at least media, intellectual, and political elites, don’t believe in who we were.

We have a sluggish economy, but America isn’t so much in an economic crisis as a leadership and hope crisis. We really don’t believe anymore that there can be a “better tomorrow.”

Add to this a crippling debt, which is rooted in our moral decline more than simple economics, and you get our current dilemma. We’re in over our heads and we don’t know what to do next. One thing's certain, though to listen to pols running for President you wouldn't know it: we cannot right the ship without sacrifice. Few wanna-be Presidents are willing to say so.

So, what do we need? America needs leaders with moral character and courage, men and women who believe in what’s best about America so they can help us do what’s best for America. Who will be our Joshua?

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

A host of Wanna-Be-President politicians have declared their candidacy or are expected soon to do so. We don’t know which one will ultimately become their party’s 2012 nominee, but I suggest that the candidates will have a better shot at maintaining (Democrat) or getting (Republican) the nod if they observe these commandments:

1—Thou shalt not claim religious commitment for the sake of poll numbers.

2—Thou shalt not commit adultery, have affairs, hook-up, etc.

3—Thou shalt not mention, much less affirm or encourage, “birther” or “truther” conspiracy theories.

4—Thou shalt not ignore the national debt or the budget deficit.

5—Thou shalt not attack political rivals, Americans all, using vitriolic, vehement, vituperative, vicious, vulgar, or otherwise vile language.

6—Thou shalt not lie.

7—Thou shalt not steal.

8—Thou shalt not use double-talk to avoid answering questions.

9—Honor your father and your mother and every other elder.

10—Thou shalt not equate your political views with The Christian way of doing things.

There’s more, but this is a start. If candidates would just do this much, actually demonstrate that character is not dead, both candidates and the electorate would be the better for it.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.