Missing the Allen Bandwagon

Everyday, it seems that I receive another email announcing some other group or elected official who endorses George Allen’s Senate bid.  More and more people are climbing aboard the Allen bandwagon, but I cannot get on board.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I was a very strong supporter of George Allen back in 2006.  During that election cycle, there was nothing that I wanted more than to work for his re-election effort.  Although I didn’t get a job with him directly, through my employment with the Republican Party of Virginia, I did get to spend a lot of time assisting his campaign.  Like most Republicans and conservatives, I was both shocked and disappointed when he lost to Jim Webb by a narrow margin.

When I heard that George Allen was running again in late 2010/early 2011, my first reaction mirrored the same excitement that I displayed back in 2006.  Here is a conservative with almost universal name recognition who can reclaim one of Virginia’s two Senate seats currently held in Democratic hands.  But then, at the urging of a handful of anti-Allen folks (some of whom have since either joined the Allen campaign or who have endorsed him), I delved into Allen’s record when he served as our Senator from 2000-2006.  What I found would make just about every constitutional conservative cringe.

Like many conservatives, as the Bush presidency dragged on, I became increasingly disheartened with George W. Bush for not only failing to rein in the power of the federal government but massively expanding instead, as well as failing to enact conservative legislation.  But it wasn’t just the President who betrayed the conservative movement.  After all, for a huge chunk of the 107th, 108th, and 109th Congresses, Republicans controlled both the United States House of Representatives and the Senate.  For some unexplainable reason, I focused my frustrations on our President, while maintaining a rather rosy view of our legislators.  Nevertheless, as our Congressional representation endorsed and advocated these plans, they should be held just as culpable.

Let me outline what I feel are a few of George Allen’s most troubling votes while serving as our Senator.

He supported passage of the U.S. Patriot Act in October 2001.  George Allen, along with many other legislators voted to strip away some of our civil liberties in exchange for supposed security.  This act vastly increased the power of the federal government by allowing previously illegal roving wiretaps done without a court order and spying on what books folks check out in libraries.  You might be able to merely excuse his vote due to the widespread panic immediately following 9/11, but the fact that he voted to continue the program in October of 2006 meant that he had no qualms placing this country on the path to a police state.

He supported passage of Aviation and Transportation of Security Act in October 2001.  Are you happy with the TSA handling airport security?  Does the idea of aggressively patting down your grandma and your children please you?  How about revealing body scans?  Again, we can thank George Allen for this situation.

He supported No Child Left Behind in December 2001.  The federal government has no Constitutional authority to be involved in the education process.  Why should bureaucrats and legislators in D.C. have any control of an issue that is, depending on where you stand, the role of the states, localities, and most important, the parents themselves?

He supported the Iraq Conflict Resolution in October 2002.  Senator Allen voted to authorize use of force against the nation of Iraq while forces were already committed in another nation.  This invasion set a dangerous precedent for pre-emptive war.  As we all know now, we attacked a nation who posed no threat to the security of the United States.  This action led to the death of over 4,000 U.S. soldiers, over 100,000 Iraqi civilians, and a cost to the American taxpayer of $1.9 trillion dollars.

He supported Medicare Part D in November 2003.  Senator Allen advocated the expansion of federal government meddling in the health care industry by voting for passage of the Prescription Drug and Medicare Improvement Act.  From where in the Constitution does the federal government derive such authority?

He supported raising the debt ceiling.  Over the span of his six years in office, George Allen voted to raise the debt ceiling not once, not twice, but four times.  How is repeatedly driving this country further into debt the mark of a fiscal conservative?

Lastly, one of the defining marks of a limited government conservative is to actually eliminate unneeded, wasteful, or unconstitutional government.  How many federal programs did George Allen eliminate or try to eliminate while serving as our Senator?  Can you name just one of any substance?  I sorely wish that I could.

It is true that there are some good conservatives that voted the wrong way on one of these issues.  One area of disagreement typically shouldn’t scuttle a politician.  However, the fact that George Allen is on the wrong side of each of them is particularly troubling.  Although some of my Republican friends may think openly questioning George Allen’s record tantamount to treason, shouldn’t we resolve these matters now, before both the primary and the general election?

Last week, I heard that conservatives should support Allen because he has learned from his mistakes and now shares our values.  I haven’t seen sufficient evidence to back up this claim and thus I don’t really believe George Allen 2011 is much different from George Allen 2006.  Need proof?

If you will recall, from my article on May 27th of this year, I wrote each Republican candidate for Senate asking, “therefore, as a Republican candidate seeking to represent us in the United States Senate, the burning question on my mind is, if elected, what federal programs, agencies, or departments will you work to eliminate?”  Although George Allen stated that he planned to streamline a number of agencies and programs, unlike the other candidates he did not mention completely eliminating anything with the exception of Obamacare which is important, but not nearly enough.  Read my article and decide for yourself.

Now some people will point to Tuesday’s news of supposedly 100 tea party individuals who have endorsed George Allen’s campaign.  Although I’m certain a handful of partiers will do so, it is becoming apparent that this claim is a hoax.  From what I’ve read, quite a few of the people listed did not give their blessing and some of the people on the list aren’t even associated with the tea party.  The Virginia Tea Party Patriot Federation, of which I am a member, released a statement dispelling the claims of the Allen camp.

Nevertheless, I’d very much like to join with my friends and elected representatives who have endorsed George Allen.  After all, Virginia needs a strong conservative voice who will stand up for the Constitution, our principles, and the people of the Commonwealth; we need a man or woman with strong convictions who will do what is right even if that means sometimes standing against the President and his or her own party.  Given his track record from 2000-2006, like so many people in the tea party movement, I’m just not convinced the George Allen is the suitable person for the job.

Sure, George Allen has more than established his credentials with the officeholders, but that fact alone doesn’t win either the GOP nomination or the general election.  The challenge for both George Allen and his campaign is to prove to the tea parties, conservatives, Republicans, and average Virginians that he is the most principled candidate.  Despite what some outlets are reporting, so far, they have not succeeded in doing so.

I prized my A Team pin when it received back in 2006, but I guess it will continue to gather dust.  How unfortunate.

Conversion by the Sword

Recently, I thought back to an event here in Harrisonburg with Dinesh D’Sousa.  At one point during the speech, he mentioned how it was a good thing that his ancestors were converted to Christianity (presumably not as a result of their own wish) as it resulted in his faith today.  Regardless of whether or not I remember this moment and its implications correctly, I wanted to discuss the issue of conversion by the sword.

Some people claim that when it comes to Christianity, it is perfectly acceptable to convert people using any and all methods possible, including force.  I completely disagree.  Although this tactic may, on the surface, appear to accomplish your goals, such an act actually damages both the convert and the faith as a whole.  Where, I ask, does it recommend the use of threats and/or force to spread the Christian message?  Can anyone find me a quote from Jesus advocating such a plan?  Shouldn’t one’s religious choice be made through spiritual desire as opposed to duress?  Now certainly, as a Christian myself, I believe that Christianity is the one true faith, but far too many have committed wicked acts to supposedly advance the cause.  History is replete with examples of supposed Christians forcing their beliefs on others through compulsion.  The Crusades, the Inquisitions, colonization, and imperialism all spring to mind.  Even Christian groups violently fought each other: the Thirty Years War, the Huguenots against the Catholics, the Spanish versus the French, and Northern Ireland, just to name a few.  How, as Christians, can we condemn the radical elements that advocate violent conversions and executions in Hinduism, Islam, and other religions when we do not reject the practice in Christianity too?  But wait, Joshua, it’s ok because we know that we are right!  Really?  What would Jesus say?  More importantly what would Jesus do?  Did he tell his followers to convert by the sword, or did he say, “Those who use the sword will be killed by the sword”?  (Matthew 26:52 NLT)  If one of the two most important commandments is supposedly, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:40 NLT) how can you justify persecuting your neighbor and promoting bodily harm should he or she either not be Christian or happen to follow a differing denomination?  Would you do the same to yourself or your own family?  Is killing adults so that you can raise their children as Christians acceptable?  How about kidnapping or starvation?  Is perverting the original message through violence right if it swells the ranks of the faithful?  When it comes to Christianity, do the ends justify the means?  Although one can point to numerous examples of such behavior in the past, I cannot condone violence done in the name of Jesus.

For some reason, it seems perfectly socially acceptable to promote the ideals of democratic governance through force as well.  In World War I, we were supposedly fighting to make the world “safe for democracy”.  In the civil wars in Vietnam and Korea, we were fighting to preserve a democratic government from the forces of Communism.  In a more recent example, the conflict in Iraq, we were fighting to promote freedom and democracy in the Middle Eastern nation.  As George W. Bush stated in 2005, “So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world…America’s belief in human dignity will guide our policies, yet rights must be more than the grudging concessions of dictators; they are secured by free dissent and the participation of the governed.”  Although Americans would likely agree that democratic government (or, at least, what we think of when we say democratic government) is the best form of government, how should we go about promoting this belief?  Early in our nation’s history, we thought that leading by example was the best method.  John Quincy Adams, while Secretary of State, echoed American thought when he stated in 1821, “She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart….Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force.”  Unfortunately, American leaders began to break free of this historical mooring and fought not for their own freedom, but sacrificed her children for the sake of others.  For examples, one need not look further than the conflicts mentioned in the early part of this paragraph.  Promoting democracy aggressively became a sort of religious zealotry.  Did, as Wilson suggested, the world need to be made safe for democracy?  If we had not entered World War I, would our government and way of life been either constantly imperiled or destroyed?  We held the same mistaken beliefs during the struggle against Communism with the Domino Theory.  Despite the logic of some leaders, the rise of Communism in some far eastern country would not necessarily lead to Communism in America.  After all, less than twenty years after losing the Vietnam War (or achieving “Peace with Honor” if you prefer), the entire Soviet Union collapsed.  And yet, this downfall did not come with some great and heroic military victory over the Red Army, but rather through the inherent weaknesses of the Communist system coupled with the desire for freedom from many of the nations and citizens trapped under such a regime.  Rather than learn from history, our leaders, such as President Bush, prefer to repeat past mistakes.  Although I would agree that a democratic government in the Middle East would be of value, some people pushed for war to establish such a government.  They pointed to the murderous atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein as justification, and then created a conflict that took the lives of about a hundred thousand Iraqi men, women, and children.  When we push our government on others (especially the unwilling ones), do we not lower ourselves to the level of tyrants, dictators, and imperialists?  Is democracy so great that an outside power can create it militarily and not create resentment regarding its bloody birth?  I certainly think not, though history shall prove the final judge.

In closing, I would just like to reiterate my earlier points.  Even though there are many differing viewpoints in this world of ours, and the prevailing trend is to remain silent, one should not be hesitant to properly promote and articulate one’s own thoughts.  Nevertheless, when it comes to the issues of both personal and state religion and politics, one should not and must not resort to the temptation to use the sword to convert one’s neighbors, be they either foreign or domestic.   To do so would be a gross perversion and betrayal of the original principles of both Christianity and American democracy.  Can’t these pillars stand upon their own merit or should we drag them through the mire of coercion, tainting them and their adherents further?  Don’t the notions of freedom, liberty, and love teach better?

The Disappointing W

(Not a reference to the movie of the same name)

From the time of my political awaking back in the mid 1990’s, politicians have come and gone, rising to great power and falling from glory.  However, one leader on which I pinned such wistful hopes has so resoundingly disappointed me.  That leader was none other than President George W. Bush.  Back in 2000 when he was running against the liberal leaning John McCain, I strongly supported his election.  After the 8 years of Clinton, we needed a strong conservative leader who supported the ideals of limited government and exhibited strong moral values.  Very early in his administration, pundits criticized President Bush for taking time off and not accomplishing anything, but I didn’t mind in the least.  After all, he was our president, not the “leader of the free world” like the president has come to be viewed.  True, we are the greatest nation on earth, but other nations have a right to govern themselves rather than be controlled from Washington.  I figured that other conservatives and southerners agreed with this viewpoint.  One of my favorite quotes came from George Bush.  He said that in 2001, “I just don’t think that it’s the role of the United States to walk into a country to say, ‘we do it this way, so should you’”.

I thought that, like Communism, after the Clinton failures, the ideas of nation building and military interventionism were thrown on the ash heap of history.  In addition, for the first time in my life, Republicans controlled the House, the Senate, and the Presidency.  Can you imagine it?  We could finally roll back government spending and taxes.  How about eliminating a few unconstitutional government agencies?  Or even take steps to end the genocide of abortion?  Just about anything was possible.  Unfortunately, as they say, 9-11 changed everything.  Rather than fighting to restore our government, President Bush pushed for the so-called Patriot Act which further stripped away our privacy and liberty in order to gain a little temporary security.  American citizens, in their fear, willing gave up their rights in order to try to stay safe.  After all, if you weren’t guilty, you had nothing to fear, right?  Then came the terrible conflict in Iraq.  I say that it was terrible because it was the first time that we preemptively provoked a conflict (unless you want to argue about either the Vietnam and the Spanish American War, though in both those cases the government came up with a rational explanation that later turned out to be false).  Rather than focusing on punishing Osama Bin Laden for 9-11, we instead took over a sovereign nation, first in the name of weapons of mass destruction and later to spread democracy and freedom.  To die to maintain and enhance the freedom and liberty of one’s own people is a noble goal.  To fight on behalf of another nation or people’s freedom should be a choice made on a person-by-person basis rather than by our leaders.  European monarchs of old and today’s dictators treat their soldiers like pawns in a chess game, sacrificing them to gain territory or aid allies, but I would like to think that the lives of our soldiers hold far more value.

Back to domestic concerns, rather than fight against federal involvement in education, President Bush pushed for No Child Left Behind.  Also Bush failed in his duty to defend our borders by not punishing illegal immigration and refusing to pardon the border patrol agents who were imprisoned for doing their jobs.  What about his delay in firing Rumsfeld, which likely cost Republican seats in 2006?  Then we have the issue of the bailout.  Normally, a rational fiscal conservative would have realized that government intervention caused the problem, but instead George Bush supported massive corporate welfare at your and my expense.  On the other hand, what socially conservative programs did George Bush push?  Has abortion been curtailed?  Do we have greater school choice?  He squandered away so much political capital on his war on terror, that he either ignored his opportunities domestically, or even worse, steadily moved us in the wrong direction.

True, I did campaign and vote for George Bush in 2000, but I didn’t repeat my mistake in 2004.  I pinned so much hope on W. and he has disappointed on just about every front.  He is not a small government advocate on either fiscal or foreign policy issues and he tricked the moral wing of the party into supporting his flawed plans under the banner of God and Country.  Think John McCain is a fresh conservative change from the likes of George Bush?  Think again.  Until Republicans rediscover and embrace the constitutional conservative soul of the party they not only should lose, but they also must lose.  As even the questionably conservative Mitt Romney noted, “When Republicans act like Democrats, America loses”.  Demand better.  Otherwise get used to more crappy leaders like Bush and McCain.

Oh, the Scandal!

Last year, before I worked for the Ron Paul campaign, I spoke to Virginia candidate about his upcoming race. He was searching for a campaign manager and thought I might be a good choice. As part of the interview process, he asked me for a writing sample. I wracked my brain, but I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to send him. At the time, I was working primarily on fiction and didn’t want to send him my work. After all, if I couldn’t convince an agent to publish the work, how could I impress him with the same material? Alas, much of my political writings were outdated, a remnant from college. Therefore, I decided to create something new…something that highlighted a very important topic to me, U.S. foreign policy.

I labored for a handful of hours on the piece and then submitted it to the candidate. After he was finished reading it, he asked if I had ever had this work, or something on the same topic, published. I told him that I hadn’t but, intrigued, I asked him why he wanted to know. His reply was quite blunt. He told me that if I had, he would certainly not consider me for the position. It was not so much how it was written (although I think I can improve upon it), but rather the beliefs that I held. Nevertheless, he later offered me the position assuming I agreed to not discuss this issue further, but I declined to accept.

Well…I’ve kept you in suspense long enough. Here is my writing, as it was sent back in 2007 (with one and only one spelling correction) in all its scandalous glory. Enjoy.

“Although I know that I differ greatly with other Republicans that I know, (and my position could cost me personally) I feel compelled to write about the important issue of the conflict in Iraq. Although I think that just about everyone agrees now that the military strategy was mishandled, the larger question we should be asking is, should we have been over there in the first place? I think the answer is no.

If the reader is to recall, after 9-11 and the conflict in Afghanistan, Americans awaited news of the capture of Osama Bin Laden. Certainly any person responsible for the horrid attacks on the world trade center and related targets must be held accountable. As the sweeps of the caves of Afghanistan proved, Osama was a difficult target to catch. It was, during this time, that strong rhetoric from the White House called for the removal of Saddam Hussein. They claimed that he was a threat to national security for he possessed weapons of mass destruction which he was intending to use on the United States, and that he aided to some extent in the 9-11 attacks. If these arguments were correct then certainly one could make the claim for an attack on Iraq. There was just one small problem. As I suspected then, and most everyone now knows, these two premises for conflict proved to be false. Once this realization was made public, the reasons for conflict supposedly changed, stating that instead we wished to free the people of Iraq from the tyranny of Saddam and work to protect the free world and democracy. Although these goals sounded lofty, neither is a proper use of our military.

I believe that it is an extraordinary act for a man to lay down his life for his country as our soldiers do, and, in accordance, we should not and must not ask him or her to do so lightly. If, and only if, our people are truly in danger, should this request be made. As events planned out, it was shown that such was simply not the case in Iraq. Although perhaps sounding harsh, the life of just one American soldier is worth more than the supposed freedom of the Iraqi people. That is not to say that I do not support the freedom of the Iraqi people, because I do, but such a movement must come from within, not be delivered by a foreign power.

On another point, one can point to the Constitution rightly claiming that it is our government’s responsibility to protect the citizens of this nation from all threats. One cannot find where it is allowed the same power in regard to the citizens of another sovereign nation. I do not understand how supposed conservatives can embrace the policy of nation building when such a power, to the best of my knowledge, is not enumerated by the Constitution. Are we not strict constructionists? Do we not believe, with a couple exceptions, that the best government is that which governs least? Do we not understand that a continued policy of foreign interventionism, such as the one in Iraq, vilified the United States in the eyes of many, had the potential to create new enemies, and ultimately served the opposite goal of weakening our security? In September of 2000, before 9-11, President Bush spoke against the policy of nation building. I think he phrased it well when he said, “I just don’t think that its the role of the United States to walk into a country to say, ‘We do it this way, so should you.'” It was greatly unfortunate that, as a result of the crisis, this earlier wisdom was abandoned.

Therefore, for the precious lives of our soldiers, the moorings of the Constitution, and the desire for greater security and peace, I believe that most Republicans and all conservatives should have been against the conflict in Iraq before it even began.”

So what do you think? Shocking isn’t it? Despite the fact that a significant majority of Americans agree with my viewpoint, holding such beliefs makes one a quasi-pariah in the Republican ranks. To give you some additional information, the candidate from above mentioned that my writing was more akin to a Democrat that a Republican. Now, I can’t recall the last time that I heard a Democrat call for a limited, constitutional government, but maybe I just missed that somewhere along the way. Let us not forget that the first conflict which called for making the world “safe for democracy” was waged not by a Republican, but by a Democrat, Woodrow Wilson. Nevertheless, I know that a great number of Republicans, even many who consider themselves conservatives, hold a differing viewpoint that I do on the issue of foreign policy, but I think it is quite sad that they are not open to discuss this issue either openly or in private. You think not? For example, several months ago while at a Harrisonburg GOP function, Bob McDonnell stated that Republicans disagree all the time, but if we agree at least 80% of the time, we should be united and work together. He then went on to say that we must continue to support the war in Iraq. Was his discussion about unity merely empty rhetoric? Come on Attorney General…I agree with you on more that 80% of the issues, why must I be forced to sit quietly in the corner? Is this issue not up for debate? Have the neo-con hawks kicked the rest of us out of the party? Oh well. Life goes on I suppose. The fight for the party as well as the fight in Iraq goes on. We can’t let them win that easily.