Thursday, January 20, 2005

Dropping The F - Bomb

Some commentators heard echoes of Natan Sharansky in yesterday's Inaugural Address. Others, like Fraters Libertas, discerned the source of much of the Left's hatred for George W. Bush. Their remarks are worth reading in their entirety:

Why does the Left feel such a visceral hatred for George W. Bush? Look no further than today's Inaugural Address for the answer. It isn't because he's a unilateralist cowboy or that he believes in God and isn't afraid to say so. And it's not because of the "lies about WMD" or because he didn't sign the Kyoto Treaty.

No, it's all about one word. The F word. I imagine that your average Lefty would have been apoplectic if they actually listened to today's speech and heard Dubya drop the F-bomb twenty-seven times.

You see, as much as they would seek to deny it, FREEDOM is a dirty word to the Left. Oh sure, they like to spout off about how they're all for it, but when it comes down to the heart of the matter, most of their core beliefs contradict it. Can someone please tell me what anyone on the Left has done to advance the cause of freedom in the last thirty-five years?

Were they really interested in the freedom of the people of Vietnam? Or Laos or Cambodia? No. They were more interested in damaging the United States than actually helping those who would fall under the boot heel of communism in Southeast Asia.

What about the freedom of people behind the Iron Curtain? What did the Left's moral relativism during the Cold War do for them? Nada. Again, it wasn't about spreading freedom to oppressed people, it was about reflexively opposing the United States.

The same could be said for the people of Nicaragua and El Salvador. Or the Kuwaitis.

Today, it's the fate of the Afghanis and the Iraqis whom the Left pretends to be concerned about. But how much Leftist outrage did you hear about Afghanistan under the Taliban? And, other then the grossly exaggerated suffering that was attributed to sanctions, did you ever hear a peep from the Left about the brutal suppression of the Iraqi people under Saddam?

What of the Iranians? The North Koreans? The Left loves to kiss Castro's ass and strut around in their Che Chic outfits, but do they care about real freedom for the Cuban people? Hell, for that matter does anyone honestly believe that most Lefties would give a damn about the Palestinians if their cause wasn't a tool to use against Israel (and thus indirectly the United States)?

I'm not saying that Bush's crusade for freedom is based solely on the virtue of helping others attain what we so greatly cherish. There is obviously an American self-interest in seeing the world become more free (the rarity of democracies going to war and all that). But, the fact of the matter is that, whatever his motivations may be, George W. Bush has done more to advance the cause of freedom in the world than any president since Ronald Reagan. And like Reagan, the Left vilifies him for it.

And it's more than just the international front. While Bush's record is far from perfect on domestic matters, his push for tax cuts, reform of Social Security, and creating an "ownership" society are all about freedom. Freedom to keep more of your money. Freedom to invest for your retirement. Freedom to choose your health care options.

What do we get from the Left? Restrictions on what we can eat. Where we can smoke (if we're even allowed to smoke at all). Where we can live. What kind of car we can drive. Where are education tax dollars can be used. What we can say on college campuses. The list could go on and on.

The bottom line is that the Left despises George W. Bush because of his embrace of the one word that they can't abide: Freedom

Despite being marred by what seemed at times an awkward delivery, the content of today's speech was historic. Not just because of the principles the President articulated, although they were truly inspiring, but because unlike most speeches delivered by politicians, the world knows now that what George Bush says, he means.

The Left will object, as Jeannene Garafolo did tonight on MSNBC's Scarborough Country, that Bush's rhetoric about freedom rings hollow because he opposes a woman's right to kill her unborn child or because he opposes granting gays the freedom to marry, or because the Patriot act imposes onerous restrictions on Americans, or because the incarceration of radical Islamists in Guantanamo shows that Bush doesn't really care about freedom at all.

These cavils give further evidence, if any were needed, of the Left's increasing self-imposed irrelevance. People like Ms Garafolo would have us believe that unless one advocates letting everyone do anything they please one doesn't really favor liberty and justice at all. Americans, we are to assume, are toiling under the lash of oppression because we are denied gay marriage and other freedoms that truly liberated people enjoy. Perhaps Ms Garafolo might ask twenty five million Afghans, especially Afghan women, if they have a greater degree of liberty now, even though they don't have gay marriage and abortion on demand, or whether they were freer under the Taliban. Perhaps she might ask twenty five million Iraqis, particularly the Shi'ia and the Kurds, if they are freer now, even though some of them were wrongfully abused at Abu Ghraib, than they were under Saddam Hussein. We suspect that many of them would regard the inquiry as the question of a hopeless naif, and refrain from laughing in Ms Garafolo's face only out of courtesy and pity.

George Bush's speech yesterday raised the anxiety level of oppressors everywhere and gave hope to millions of people who still groan under the weight of tyranny. It was a speech for the ages.

On the Democratic Fringe

Not many Democrats understand that America is still largely a Christian nation and that explicitly secularist agendas will not play well with the majority of voters. Hillary Clinton is one of the few who does, however, and she evidently intends to play her understanding to advantage over the next few years as she seeks to position herself for a run at the presidency in 2008. The following excerpt is from a Boston Globe story:

On the eve of the presidential inauguration, US Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton last night embraced an issue some pundits say helped seal a second term for George W. Bush: acceptance of the role of faith in addressing social ills. In a speech at a fund-raising dinner for a Boston-based organization that promotes faith-based solutions to social problems, Clinton said there has been a "false division" between faith-based approaches to social problems and respect for the separation of church of state.

"There is no contradiction between support for faith-based initiatives and upholding our constitutional principles," said Clinton, a New York Democrat who often is mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2008.

Addressing a crowd of more than 500, including many religious leaders, at Boston's Fairmont Copley Plaza, Clinton invoked God more than half a dozen times, at one point declaring, "I've always been a praying person."

She said there must be room for religious people to "live out their faith in the public square."

The issue of faith in politics has been at the center of debate following the presidential election, with some arguing that Bush's strong identification with religious values was a key to his victory over Senator John F. Kerry.

Whether Senator Clinton is sincere or not is another question. Right now she seems to be at least saying the things which will distinguish her from the Michael Moore/Ted Kennedy wing of the party. We look for Hillary to continue to define herself well to the right of the Democratic mainstream. It really will be ironic if, two years from now, her political opponents in her own party start hinting that Hillary Clinton is a fringe candidate and an extremist.

Most Influential Spokesperson

The Barna Group has the results of a survey that asks Christian pastors to name the individuals who have the greatest influence on the Church in the U.S., and who they regard to be the most trustworthy spokespersons for Christianity. Here's a summary of just part of their findings:

Greatest Influence On Churches:

The 614 Senior Pastors interviewed were asked to identify up to three individuals whom they believe have the greatest influence on churches and church leaders in the U.S. Pastors named more than 300 different individuals, but only 10 of those leaders were listed by 4% or more of the clergy. Billy Graham was chosen by 34% of the pastors, with Rick Warren (pastor of Saddleback Church and author of the multimillion-selling book, The Purpose-Driven Life) second with 26%. The only other individuals listed by at least 10% were President George Bush (14%) and radio broadcaster and family advocate James Dobson (11%).

Other influencers who were among the ten most frequently listed were Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church (9%); Bishop T.D. Jakes of The Potter's House (7%); author and motivational speaker John Maxwell (6%); researcher and author George Barna (5%); Pope John Paul II (5%); and author and speaker Max Lucado (4%).

Most Trusted Spokesperson:

Billy Graham also led the pack as the most trusted spokesperson for Christianity, garnering the support of six out of ten pastors (58%). James Dobson was a distant second, with 20% naming him, followed by the 14% who identified Rick Warren. T.D. Jakes placed fourth (7%), followed by veteran pastors Charles Swindoll and Jerry Falwell, each at 6%; and by Bill Hybels and author and prison ministry pioneer Charles Colson (5%). Pastor D. James Kennedy, President Bush, broadcaster Pat Robertson, and author Max Lucado rounded out the top ten individuals, each mentioned by 4% of the clergy.

Billy Graham has had an enormous impact on Christianity in this country and around the world over the last half century and his legacy will ripple and reverberate throughout this century and doubtless into the next. Indeed, it may be that no one since St.Paul will have had a greater impact for the Gospel than has Graham.

Even so, it seems that at the present moment the nod for most influential has to go to Rick Warren. No one has done more to energize the Church in the last few years than has Warren. His influence is different than Graham's because his ministry is different, but millions of people have been inspired by his books and their participation in the small fellowship groups that use them to reorient and recommit their lives to Christ.

We would not be at all surprised to learn that Rick Warren is not only one of the most influential leaders in Christianity right now, but that he has also been one of the most influential people in our society as a whole for the last three or four years.