Wanting Heroic Courage, Needing a President


“No, you can’t wear your Power Rangers suit to kindergarten,” I reasoned with our five-year-old son. “I know it makes you a samurai but your teacher just won’t allow it,” I shouted behind him as he stomped toward his room.

A parents’ struggle between needs and wants this time of year is real. The kids need new shoes, a few pairs of (old looking) new jeans and a handful of crisp shirts as they head back to school. What they want, however, is something totally different. Yes, Gucci belts and Big Baller Brand shoes would be nice to have, but are completely unnecessary. And sure, your Power Rangers suit is super cool, but it’s wholly impractical. It’s as if back to school shopping perfectly encapsulates the barest fundamentals of a parent/child relationship—they want the world, and we give them all we can.

Inversely, we, as parents, want to give our children more than they need. We need to give them food, shelter and the occasional pair of (old looking) new jeans. But we want to give them the moon and stars. We want to make their dreams come true. We want them to believe in Santa Claus and we want them to have heroes.

And it is that last point that makes recent events, for me as a parent of three children, all the more disappointing. Our children want to believe in the idea of America. They want to believe that we, as a country, are fundamentally good. From a very early age they look for that—children from Seattle to St. Petersburg look for that.

Amidst the fireworks and patriotic bunting of early summer; amidst the small American flag they’ll soon stand and pledge their allegiance to in a stuffy, late-August classroom; they want a leader that embodies that spirit. They want a national leader to be proud of. But, as the aftermath of Charlottesville has sadly shown, right now there is no one there. And worse yet, it might be a long time before anyone with the heroic courage to stand up for what is right, to stand against a Nazi murdering a young woman—even if it angers his base—occupies the White House again.

President Trump’s immediate response to the tragedy in Charlottesville was a disgrace. And his Tuesday afternoon rage-filled impromptu infrastructure/tacitly supporting racism press conference was shameful. But that is who he is. That man, bereft of moral compass pointing him toward the light is who my children—our children—are looking to as the leader of the free world. And it sickens me.

Of course in this tinder-box environment everyone must choose a side. Every opinion, every word spoken and written, is sucked into a political vortex, shredded before crashing into the rails on one side of the spectrum or the other. You, as the reader, are at this precise moment deciding whether I am merely a concerned father or a Never-Trumping cuck, whining that the state isn’t doing enough to raise my kids for me. “Turn off the TV!” you’ll yell at your computer screen, convinced that I’m putting way too much thought into who my kids view as heroes. “You should be their damn hero!” I can almost hear you say.

But that’s where the sadness is. My kids don’t need a hero, they want one. They want to be proud of their president. My wife and I can raise our kids devoid of any mention of politics, or current events, or what insult the president of their country tweeted this morning. But that’s not America. That’s not the idea that we all so inherently believe in.

Look around Washington D.C. at all of the monuments constructed in remembrance of great men. That’s who we are. Individually, we are responsible for our own destiny. But collectively, we share the same idea.

The Christian author C.S. Lewis once wrote “Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.”

I want to tell my children of brave American knights, I really do. But then I look around and am reminded why that’s not something I need to do today.

Sympathy For Ann Coulter

Ann Coulter has long been one of the right’s most controversial, yet effective, provocateurs. She was also one of the first to recognize what so many of us missed—that Donald Trump’s third-grade grasp of the English language could somehow effectively convey to his supporters promises of his own greatness that they so wanted to hear. He was the only one that could make their lives better.

The great wall along the southern border would be majestic and quickly constructed. Millions of illegal immigrants would be booted. Everyone would have beautiful healthcare, taxes would be cut, airports would be glorious and the nation’s debt would be wiped away, big-league. Coulter cared little for most of Trump’s promises, save for issues of immigration and border security. On that, she pledged to Trump her unwavering support. She wrote a book, “In Trump We Trust,” during the 2016 presidential campaign and professed her blind loyalty, the same way North Koreans worship their Dear Leader.

So the White House had to notice Coulter’s interview with The Daily Caller on Sunday. It was a “canary in the coal mine,” moment from one of the most visible figures representing the right’s far edge. “Where is the great negotiation? Where is the bull in the china shop we wanted? That budget the Republicans pushed through was like a practical joke… Did we win anything? And this is the great negotiator?” Coulter asked Alex Pfeiffer during his interview with her.

If you listen closely enough, you can almost hear Mick Jaggar softly singing Trump’s favorite campaign song in the background. “You…can’t…always git whatcha waont…but iffu try sometimes…ya git whatcha neeid…”

Coulter continued:

Trump was our last shot. I kind of thought it was Romney, and then lo and behold like a miracle Trump comes along. I still believe in Trumpism. I have no regrets for ferociously supporting him. What choice did we have?

We had no choice. Yeah, I mean, my fingers are still crossed. It’s not like I’m out yet, but boy, things don’t look good. I’ve said to other people, “It’s as if we’re in Chicago and Trump tells us he’s going to get us to LA in six days. But for the first three days we are driving towards New York. Yes, it is true he can still turn around and get us to LA in three days, but I’m a little nervous.

The entire interview is worth a read, particularly when she returns to her North Korea/Dear Leader comparison, only this time with a new, surprising twist. I vehemently disagreed with Coulter in her support of Trump, but the despair in her words almost deserves sympathy. As a proud Never-Trumper, the words WE TOLD YOU SO! rages inside me, but we can be better than that. Personally, I’d like to convey to Coulter my understanding. That discombobulating feeling borne from a Trump presidency fell over some of us sooner than others. But make no mistake, it will hit everyone in due time. Let’s just hope there are more Coulters out there—canaries brave enough to warn the less-informed of the coming discombobulating, toxic Trump air.

 

Mel Gibson’s Quiet Quest for Redemption

Mel Gibson will take your second chance, whether you want to give it to him or not.

He’s an accomplished Hollywood actor, responsible for enduring characters like the iconic Mad Max, “Lethal Weapon’s,” troubled Martin Riggs and his unforgettable performance in “Braveheart,” as William Wallace. When he sits on the opposite side of the camera, Gibson has directed 2004’s deeply moving “The Passion of the Christ,” 2006’s “Apocalypto,” and last year’s Academy Award nominated “Hacksaw Ridge.”

Gibson is also one of the few people on earth that Charlie Sheen can look at and say, “man, that dude is crazy.”

But Gibson, it seems, wants to change Charlie’s mind. In January, USA Today chronicled Gibson’s turbulent past and the steps he’s made toward redemption.

Gibson’s first directing effort in 10 years marks the polarizing director’s return after a public fall that began with his infamous drunken-driving arrest in Malibu in 2006, during which he hurled anti-Semitic slurs.

But “Hacksaw Ridge” has been a worldwide hit with nearly $158 million in box office. Praise for the film started with a standing ovation at Venice Film Festival in September and has carried into awards season result.

(“Hacksaw Ridge” actor Andrew) Garfield told USA TODAY he’s excited to see Gibson overcome his troubled past.

“I know Mel in a personal way, and I know that period of time has haunted him for the past 10 years,” Garfield said Tuesday. “I think people are finally starting to let go of (it), as he has. He’s moved on from it.

“He’s done so much work internally with himself and externally with those he needed to do it with, that I admire maybe more than anything,” Garfield added.

 

As cynical as we’ve become, it’s not surprising that many still doubt Gibson’s turnaround. There are those that will never believe Garfield’s words. And that’s ok. But as our friends at The Blaze recently reported, perhaps Gibson’s reboot goes beyond press releases and glowing praise.

Actor and director Mel Gibson has been quietly aiding Holocaust survivors for several years.

The “Hacksaw Ridge” director has been working with the Survivor Mitzvah Project to provide “emergency aid to Holocaust survivors in eastern Europe who are in desperate need of food, medicine, heat and shelter” as well as “friendship and hope,” Zane Buzby, founder of the charity, told Extra last week.

“The goal of the Survivor Mitzvah Project,” Buzby said, “is to make sure that no Holocaust survivor who has endured the darkest days of human history will ever be hungry again or suffer or be forgotten or neglected.”

 

For most of us, Mel Gibson is one of those figures far off on the horizon, a man in our periphery that we spend little time concerned about. I think about Mel Gibson about as often as I think about the kid I sat next to on the bus in third grade with the Buck Rogers lunch box. But still, in this era of perpetual motion and never ending noise, it’s nice to see someone making the most of his chance for redemption, both on the screen and off. Well done, Mr. Gibson.

Donald Trump Is Forcing Barbra Streisand To Gorge On Pancakes

Lost in the weekend’s whirlwind news cycle—where the sitting president of the United States essentially implicated a former president in the commission of felonious activities—is the deleterious impact said sitting president is having on the health and well-being of a washed-up actress, singer and avid supporter of Hillary Clinton. In short, Donald Trump’s actions, primarily via Twitter, are forcing Barbra Streisand to gorge on pancakes.

In a series of tweets on Saturday, Streisand laid bare her anguish:

“Donald Trump is making me gain weight. I start the day with liquids, but after the morning news, I eat pancakes smothered in maple syrup!” Streisand tweeted.

Then later:

“Trump just accused Obama of tapping his phones,” she lamented. “Seriously crazy times. Time for more pancakes.”

Without discounting Streisand’s despair, which appears to be profound, there is a legitimate opportunity here for enterprising capitalists. There is the call to make breakfast great again.

So take heed, Denny’s. Answer the call, IHOP. Take advantage of this national, liberal despair. Whenever President Trump tweets, offer a stack at half price. When he attacks Arnold Schwarzenegger, get crazy with the syrup offerings. When he declares war on Australia, double down on the Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity supply.

The time for action is now, pancake moguls. A gift has been handed to you by the president’s nubby little tweeting thumbs. The anxiety he causes for millions has opened the door for breakfast tycoons to make millions. Take advantage of this opportunity today.

As for tomorrow? Well, it’s National Pancake Day.

 

Is Laura Ingraham Having Second Thoughts About Trump’s SCOTUS Nominee?

Long before she was a successful radio host, author and Editor-In-Chief of the conservative website LifeZette, Laura Ingraham clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In 2007, she described to Bill O’Reilly on The O’Reilly Factor the impact Justice Thomas has had on her personally and professionally. “I think a lot of us who’ve gone through really dark moments in our own lives, we can take a huge amount of inspiration and encouragement from his candor and from his absolute perseverance in the face of unending criticism,” she explained.

So it would be beyond interesting to learn what Justice Thomas thinks about Ingraham’s current worldview, which includes, above all else it seems, a full-throated defense of Donald Trump–regardless of the circumstance. Ingraham was one of the earliest to recognize the power behind Trump’s nationalistic message and its appeal to the white, working-class voters that would eventually catapult him to the presidency. For that, she deserves credit.

But her seeming inability to ever find fault in any of the new president’s actions or words should be viewed skeptically, particularly when she weighs-in on matters of the judiciary–the branch of government where she got her start.

If you’ve just awakened from a coma, let me quickly bring you up to speed: President Trump has been relentlessly criticizing the judges who’ve delayed his Executive Order calling for a temporary halt in immigration from seven countries deemed hotbeds of terrorism. In a meeting with Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal on Wednesday, Judge Gorsuch called Trump’s attacks “disheartening,” and “demoralizing.” In a tweet later that night, Ingraham expressed concern that Judge Gorsuch had spoken on the matter.

Perhaps Ingraham is correct in that Judge Gorsuch should “know better.” But shouldn’t the president be held to the same standard by both his critics and supporters? What does Justice Thomas think of the president’s continual shots over the bow of the branch of government he represents, a branch of government co-equal to the presidency?

In all of this I’m reminded of a tweet I saw earlier this morning, laying out a new rule that we’d all be wise to agree to. 1. Trump is not ALWAYS wrong. 2. Trump is not ALWAYS right.

If we can somehow agree to that, maybe we can finally make some progress.

Snake Bites Governor

Chris Christie should’ve seen it coming.

At various moments during his seemingly never-ending campaign, Donald Trump could sense his audience getting bored. It was during those times that he’d employ two tricks to get them to reengage: Often, he’d talk about building his beautiful, southern wall and then ask the crowd who would pay for it. MEXICO! they’d yell, gleefully (as an aside I’ve always wanted to try this out in a restaurant after a meal my family or I didn’t particularly enjoy. I hand the bill to the waiter, yell “who’s gonna pay for it?” and my kids scream MEXICO! Envisioning the joy on their faces contrasted against the confusion in the waiter’s eyes is almost too much to pass up).

The MEXICO! tactic always worked; it always revived his crowd. But sometimes, Trump would try something different. Sometimes he’d pull a piece of paper from his jacket containing the lyrics to Al Wilson’s The Snake and dramatically read the song’s dark words.

On her way to work one morning

Down the path along side the lake

A tender hearted woman saw a poor half frozen snake

His pretty colored skin had been all frosted with the dew

“Poor thing, ” she cried, “I’ll take you in and I’ll take care of you”

“Take me in tender woman

Take me in, for heaven’s sake

Take me in, tender woman,” sighed the snake

The action was meant to alert Trump’s audience to the dangers of not addressing the United States’ porous borders and lax immigration policies. But I always imagined it to mean something more. I always imagined his referencing The Snake was a warning to those closest to him (excluding his family, of course) that in the end, everybody is gonna get bitten.

So Chris Christie was the first. By now we are familiar with his story. He was the first major Republican candidate to drop out and endorse Donald Trump. He worked tirelessly for the man in hopes of landing the VP slot. He was passed over and put in charge of “transition planning,” when it appeared that there was little chance in hell that there would ever be a Trump win, requiring a transition plan to be implemented. And when the impossible happened and Trump won, Christie was almost immediately removed from the role and subsequently passed over for every available cabinet position, including Attorney General, a post in which he fiercely and frequently “auditioned,” for.

And now here we are. Whether it’s a grudge held by Trump Sr. Advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, for Christie sending his father to jail, or for the Bridgegate Scandal, or simply because Christie doesn’t look like a government official sent straight from central casting—a characteristic very important to President Trump—Christie is a man alone. A Quinnipiac poll this week shows that just 17 percent of New Jersey voters approve of Christie. He’s rapidly approaching congressional levels of disdain. And on Tuesday night, hours after President Trump announced Neil Gorsuch as his choice to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, there was Chris Christie, appearing live on television to give his opinion on the nation’s state of affairs. On MSNBC.

She stroked his pretty skin again and kissed and held him tight

Instead of saying thanks, the snake gave her a vicious bite

“Take me in, tender woman

Take me in, for heaven’s sake

Take me in, tender woman,” sighed the snake

“I saved you,” cried the woman

“And you’ve bitten me, but why?

You know your bite is poisonous and now I’m going to die”

“Oh shut up, silly woman,” said the reptile with a grin

“You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in”

Senator Sasse Uses a Potato Phone

Anxiety and anticipation is heavy in the air these days. Yesterday, for better or worse, our country and the world was forever changed when Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. There is much to be anxious about.

But on this historic weekend, there is a more pressing concern for those of us still clinging to a hope for a more conservative America. One of our leaders, one of the more entertaining and enlightening figures that has given a voice to smaller government ideas, is struggling just to get by. He’s probably too proud to admit it, but the evidence is overwhelming.

I am, of course, referring to noted Uber driver and Senator from Nebraska, Ben Sasse. The Cornhusker State’s junior Senator seems to be unable to afford an acceptable smart phone, a tool often used by our citizenry to document history with pictures posted to social media. Yes, the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that Senator Sasse uses a potato to snap pictures and post them to Twitter.

Observe:

Are those Christmas lights?

This appears to be Chris Christie sitting in Santa’s tiny sleigh.

Here, we see the love of life in Lindsey Graham’s eyes.

And finally, from New Year’s Eve, Senator Sasse tweeted a picture taken from his potato phone of a scene from either a busy Nashville street, or from somewhere under the sea on a road to Atlantis.

So, my friends, the situation is obviously dire. Senator Sasse needs our help. Until he secures an adequate phone, capable of taking even the most perfunctory of pictures, we have to ask ourselves: if we can’t discern historical events because they were taken by a Senator with a potato phone, did those events ever really happen?

Trump, Bush and the Meaning of Sacrifice

“Sacrifice,” is a word whose meaning has been watered down over time, particularly when considering the personal sacrifices our leaders have made in defense of, or in allegiance to, this wonderful country of ours.

Consider our 41st president, George Herbert Walker Bush. Over the weekend, President Bush was admitted to Houston Methodist Hospital for complications resulting from pneumonia. Sadly, former First Lady Barbara Bush was admitted alongside her husband for precautionary measures. It is times like this when a nation’s gratitude, like an emotion long buried, comes rushing back. His sacrifice for his country is something to behold.

This, from a 2003 profile of James Bradley’s book, Flyboys in The Telegraph:

The former President George Bush narrowly escaped being beheaded and eaten by Japanese soldiers when he was shot down over the Pacific in the Second World War, a shocking new history published in America has revealed.

 The book, Flyboys, is the result of historical detective work by James Bradley, whose father was among the marines later photographed raising the flag over the island of Iwo Jima.

Lt. George Bush, then a 20-year-old pilot, was among nine airmen who escaped from their planes after being shot down during bombing raids on Chichi Jima, a tiny island 700 miles south of Tokyo, in September 1944 – and was the only one to evade capture by the Japanese.

The horrific fate of the other eight “flyboys” was established in subsequent war crimes trials on the island of Guam, but details were sealed in top secret files in Washington to spare their families distress.

Mr. Bradley has established that they were tortured, beaten and then executed, either by beheading with swords or by multiple stab-wounds from bayonets and sharpened bamboo stakes. Four were then butchered by the island garrison’s surgeons and their livers and meat from their thighs eaten by senior Japanese officers.

Decades later, President Bush returned to the tiny Pacific island for a CNN documentary. He described his thoughts after escaping to Mr. Bradley. “Why had I been spared and what did God have in store for me? In my own view there’s got to be some kind of destiny and I was being spared for something on Earth.”

The young Lieutenant went on to marry Barbara, raise children and build a distinguished resume as a successful businessman, Congressman, UN Ambassador, Director of CIA, Vice President and the 41st President of the United States. His sacrifice was real; his lifetime of work in making America a better place is almost unmatched.

So it is a sad irony that President Bush’s health is failing—and perhaps his bright star is fading away—at this exact moment in time. Because we are at the dawn of a new era of sacrifice; a new era of difficult choices and struggle we expect from our leaders.

Yes, we are two days away from the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States, and the blood of sacrifice we expect from our presidents grows thinner still.

In July, following the appearance of Khizr Khan at the Democratic National Convention, Mr. Trump spoke of the things he’s given up, the hard things he’s done to make this country better. “I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve had tremendous success. I think I’ve done a lot,” he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. Tasks not exactly equal to getting shot down in a war, but impressive nonetheless.

And in an interview aired this morning on Fox and Friends, President-elect Trump admitted that his incessant (and often early-morning) tweeting is not something done by choice, but rather a necessary chore. A sacrifice, if you will. From The Hill:

“Look, I don’t like tweeting,” Trump insisted during a Fox News interview scheduled to air Wednesday. “I have other things I could be doing.”

“But I get very dishonest media, very dishonest press. And it’s my only way that I can counteract. When people make misstatements about me, I’m able to say it and call it out.”

Trump additionally promised he would reduce his Twitter activity once the press treats him more respectfully.

“Now if the press were honest, which it’s not, I would absolutely not use Twitter,” he told host Ainsley Earhardt on “Fox & Friends,” adding, “I wouldn’t have to.”

So, you see, as we approach one our nation’s most hallowed traditions, the peaceful transfer of power, these next few days are a time to reflect on the past and to pray for a brighter tomorrow. And whether one defines sacrifice as narrowly escaping a beheading, or tweeting insults at Meryl Streep as a means to “counteract,” it is those great acts of heroism that we’ve come to expect from our leaders.

Tonight I’ll pray for President Bush and Barbara, and offer a word of thanks for their lifetime of service. And I’ll pray for President-elect Trump, hoping that the sheer power and responsibility of the office he’s about to occupy—an office whose duties are in a continual state of construction, pieced together by honorable men like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and yes, even George H.W. Bush—will humble him enough so that he can see with clear eyes the enormity of the task he has before him.

And if President Trump succeeds, in the words of President Bush, then maybe there was something in store for him, maybe it was some kind of destiny. If so, that will have been sacrifice enough.