Vice President Pence is Not an Email Hypocrite

There is one person in the Trump / Pence Administration whose character has never been in question, and whose integrity has remained intact: the Vice President of the United States. Many conservatives who had qualms about Trump still voted for the ticket because of Mike Pence, who has impeccable conservative credentials on social, fiscal, and national security issues. During his twelve year tenure in Congress and his term in the Indiana Governor’s Mansion, Pence lived-up to his self-description of being “a Christian, Conservative, Republican…in that order.” The Vice President has been a dependable lieutenant in the new Administration, who works well with Congress, the press, and conservative activists.

It is because of the Vice President’s reputation that liberals are now seeking to impugn his integrity. One of the lead stories on network news this weekend is that the Vice President, as Governor of Indiana, used a private AOL email account. This revelation is pointed-to as evidence that Pence was a lying hypocrite when he called-out former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for using private email servers to convey classified information. The problem with that narrative is that there is simply no comparison. Being Governor of Indiana and Secretary of State of the United States are not comparable roles. Indiana law does not prohibit the use of private email while an official is in office, so long as private emails pertinent to state business are archived, and the Governor of Indiana is not receiving national security briefings. Governor Pence did use a private AOL account he obtained in the 1990s, alongside an official state email address, and he had both archived per state law.

Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, was given top-secret security clearance and was routinely provided briefings by U.S. intelligence services. From information on CIA assets in the field, to international accords, Secretary Clinton’s electronic correspondence was far more sensitive than information being emailed by an Indiana Governor. Information provided to the Secretary of State is so sensitive that its transmission over non-governmental, non-secured servers is expressly prohibited by federal law. Furthermore, Secretary Clinton sent and received emails on her private servers that contained information about an Iranian nuclear scientist who was working for the CIA. Not long after those emails were discovered, this CIA asset was executed by the Iranian regime.

Governor Mike Pence’s private email usage as Governor of Indiana was both lawful and appropriate given the nature of the information he communicated electronically. Secretary Clinton’s messages were, by comparison, highly classified, by nature sensitive, and the transmission of such information over private servers was expressly illegal. By trying to compare the two, the liberal media is seeking to sully the reputation of the Vice President, while redeeming the reputation of the former Secretary of State. Suggesting that the practices of these two are essentially the same is fundamentally dishonest, and can serve no purpose other than painting Pence as a hypocrite.

Since President Donald Trump has elected not to receive the CIA-led Presidential Daily Briefing, Vice President Pence is receiving the briefing instead. Surely these non-stories about his email usage as Governor of Indiana are designed to undermine his credibility with regard to national security. Unless the Vice President starts emailing intelligence over his AOL account, I think this entire story is much to do about nothing, except for making Pence look worse and Hillary look better.

The Leader of the Conservative Movement

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) wrapped-up this weekend outside Washington, and there are certainly many take-aways from this year’s conservative gathering in National Harbor, Maryland. Of all the newsworthy events and speeches delivered at the Gaylord National Resort, the greatest take-away may be that the Vice-President of the United States is, effectively, the leader of the conservative movement. Pence may not be the President or the head of the Republican Party, but he was the most authentically conservative big-name speaker at this year’s conference.

While CPAC seemed to move away from its traditional defense of limited government conservative values, of religious liberty in public life, and a robust national defense, the Vice-President struck a chord of continuity. While many have declared the Reagan coalition of fiscal, social, and national security conservatives dead, Pence gave new life to the movement. Presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway declared last Thursday “Tomorrow, this will be TPAC.” By Thursday night, however, Mike Pence proved that the C still belongs in CPAC, and that the conservative movement remains bigger than any one person.

Pence’s speech, like his prior speeches to CPAC, was reminiscent of Reagan in its tone and substance. The Vice-President threw-down the gauntlet on issue after issue dear to the conservative cause, ranging from religious liberty, to repealing Obamacare, and rebuilding America’s military. While laying-out a conservative reform agenda on all of these topics, he remained sunny in his optimism about America.

At a time that the Republican Party, and, by extension, the conservative movement, has become more of a confederation of folks who do not like Democrats, the Vice-President made the case for what conservatives support. He proved that he is the most effective spokesperson for the Trump Administration, and that he has the depth of policy knowledge to be a guiding force inside the White House. This depth of knowledge has its roots in Pence’s past life as a political talk radio host, where he honed his rhetorical skills before ever stepping-foot on Capitol Hill.

I said last summer something that I believe even more after this week: the single best decision President Trump has made this far as a candidate or Commander-In-Chief is to pick Mike Pence for Vice-President. When I watched Pence’s speech at CPAC, I knew that I was watching the future of the conservative movement in America.

Conservatism is Patriotic, Not Nationalistic

Is there a difference between nationalism and patriotism? This is a question many of our fellow Americans have been asking over the past several years, and too many political and media leaders blur the line between the two. While nationalism and patriotism are often times portrayed as two sides of the same coin, they are completely different approaches to how an individual relates to his or her country. Nationalism is an allegiance or love of one’s country based primarily on race, ethnicity, and ancestry. Patriotism is love of one’s country based on its ideals, values, and beliefs. In short, nationalism is tribal while patriotism is principled and philosophical.

Conservatism has always fostered patriotism, not nationalism. Patriotism leads to freedom while nationalism leads to uniformity. As George Orwell wrote in an essay over 66 years ago “Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism…By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power.” Patriots want peace, but will fiercely defend their country, while nationalists are less tolerant of any deviation from their point-of-view.

American history has been marked by a deep-seated love of country based on our ideals and values, thus by deeply engrained patriotism. This is a key reason why we have continued to make progress as a country, both economically and culturally. Patriots love their country, right or wrong, but are willing to admit when there are reforms that are needed. Love of country, coupled with a deep desire to correct its wrongs, has made America a continual work-in-progress that has made us the wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world. Patriotism is the key to this continual strengthening of our nation, while holding to our founding ideals as enshrined in the Constitution of the United States.

While both nationalism and patriotism are both associated with love of country, patriotism is the more principled and refined of the two. Patriots believe that what unites the nation is not race or ancestry, but commonly held principles and values that are equally true and beneficial for all members of society. Patriots and nationalist alike may oppose illegal immigration, for example, but patriots oppose illegal immigration on the grounds that assimilation is key to the maintenance of American ideals and values, while ardent nationalists are more likely to oppose illegal immigration for racial and ethnic reasons. Conservativism, again, is the promoter of patriotism versus nationalism, because its primary interest is the preservation of values and culture, not racial homogeny.

The election of Donald Trump has brought the continued debate over patriotism versus nationalism back to the forefront of our political debate, but for the wrong reasons. Too many assume that “America First” is a dog-whistle to racists and white supremacists, instead of a sincere desire to advance the interests of the nation. For the record, I do not believe President Trump seeks to advance a nationalistic agenda instead of a patriotic agenda. Promoting American strength and greatness can be patriotic instead of nationalistic, so long as the desired outcome is the improved lives of all Americans regardless of their race or ancestry.

Conservatism promotes patriotism instead of nationalism, because conservativism seeks to conserve the principles that make America, America as outlined in the Constitution of our country. While some cranks and racists try and hijack a patriotic agenda and make it a tool of nationalism, conservativism is not a promoter of rigid nationalism. Conservatives must always make clear that our love of country is not based on race or ancestry, but always on the preservation of the ideals of human liberty that lead to human flourishing. Patriotism is ever-expanding and optimistic, while nationalism normally leads to bitterness and despair. Let’s choose patriotism to make America great again.

Photo of the Constitution of the United States of America. A feather quill is included in the photo.The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America and is the oldest codified written national constitution still in force. It was completed on September 17, 1787.

Donald Trump Needs a Few More Quarts of Reagan

During the 1988 vice-presidential debate Senator Lloyd Bentsen, the Democratic nominee, famously told then-Senator Dan Quayle “I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.” This snarky response was Bentsen’s reply to Quayle’s comparison of himself with JFK. Quayle was attempting to deflect criticism of his relative youth and short service in Congress by comparing his credentials with Kennedy when he ran for president as a senator in 1960. The comparison was actually pretty accurate, but Quayle’s words were still used against him.

Ever since Donald Trump became the GOP nominee last summer, many conservative commentators have likened Trump’s triumph to the rise of Reagan. Trump’s outsider approach and irreverent disposition have been hailed as displays that Trump is the new Reagan and is the next “Great Communicator.” At risk of sounding anything like the liberal Lloyd Bentsen, I have to say that I have studied Reagan, read Reagan’s speeches, and watched Reagan’s press conferences. Donald Trump is no Ronald Reagan.

This is not to say that there are no parallels between the 40th president and the 45th, but they are limited. This is not to say that I do not believe Trump has done some great things his first month in the White House; he has assembled an all-star team to serve in the Cabinet, he has appointed a conservative superstar to the Supreme Court, and he is aggressively rolling-back job-killing regulations. This being said, Trump’s communication style is nothing like Reagan’s, and it will be a liability during his presidency.

While Donald Trump may have written The Art of the Deal, he is no better deal maker than The Gipper. Reagan combined the power of his convictions with the sway of his charm, which could convince even his political enemies to support his proposals. There is no better example of this than his ability to pass the largest tax cut since the 1960’s through a democratic House of Representatives controlled by arch-liberal Speaker Tip O’Neill. O’Neill became convinced that open warfare with Reagan was political suicide after Reagan took his case for tax reform directly to the American people.

Reagan’s style at press conferences and political rallies combined a wonderful sense of humor with serious arguments for his agenda, all wrapped-up in a smile and a nod. He did not lash-out at everyone who challenged him or questioned his ideas. Instead, he convinced them of the merits of his argument and the integrity of his character. As a result, he was remarkably successful in fundamentally changing Washington and reinvigorating America.

Ronald Reagan shifted the American political landscape through the power of his personality. Because he was the “Great Communicator,” he maintained an approval rating average of 54% during his eight years in office, and left office in 1989 with a 65% approval rating. By comparison, George W. Bush had an average approval of 49% and Barack Obama of 47% over their two terms. President Trump’s present approval ratings do not project the sustained popular approval that marked Reagan’s eight years in office, and this could hamper his agenda going forward.

Like Trump, Reagan had to deal with a hostile media and outbursts from liberal actors and entertainers. Unlike Trump, Reagan also had to contend with a democratic congress when he came into office. Even faced with such opposition, Reagan was the happy warrior who challenged the media, ignored the entertainers, and still got his agenda through a liberal congress. After watching President Trump’s press conference this week, I hope he and his team will take a page from Reagan’s communications playbook. Trump’s agenda can make America great again, but he has to start by communicating in a way that it is likely to lead to a successful presidency.

The Liberal “Tea Party” Won’t Last Long

I clearly remember the first Tea Party rally in South Carolina back in April, 2009. President Obama had been in office three months, deficits were stacking-up, and the country was deeply divided. The Obama Administration was rapidly pushing its agenda of bigger government, less freedom, and policies that undermined life, liberty, and individual choice. The American people responded overwhelmingly. At our event in Greenville, over 10,000 South Carolinians turned-out for a peaceful protest of egregious government overreach. The antipathy was bi-partisan; Tea Partiers were tired of politicians in both parties mortgaging the future to pay for short-term political promises.

The Tea Party movement of 2009-2010 may well have been the most authentic grassroots movement in modern American history. Millions of people across the country found their voice, and stood-up to out-of-control government policies. These protests led to the largest U.S. House majority since the 1920s being elected in 2010, and to the majority of statehouses becoming GOP controlled. Here in South Carolina, Nikki Haley, now U.N. Ambassador, became governor by defeating a sitting Lt. Governor, Attorney General, and Congressman all because she supported the Tea Party and resonated with its rhetoric.

The Tea Party was successful because it tapped into the soul of America. America is an inherently Judeo-Christian, center-right nation that supremely values liberty. When government programs and policies threaten that liberty, and personal autonomy, the American people respond. During the Tea Party movement, millions of soccer moms and storekeepers, corporate executives and auto mechanics came-out to confront threats to the American way of life. Protesters weren’t being paid, and props weren’t financed by George Soros, Inc. The movement was authentic because the values were deeply held.

The political Left was paying attention during the Tea Party wave, and now they are seeking to create their own movement. Groups like Planned Parenthood, NARAL, Code Pink, etc, are trying to cobble-together a coalition of causes to thwart the Republican agenda the same way the Tea Party put Republicans on the path to retaking both chambers of Congress and the White House. They will fail. They will fail because while the Tea Party was appealing to American values and middle America, the liberal “tea party” is trying to pull an already too-far-left Democratic Party even further to the left. Instead of making liberal values mainstream again, as the Tea Party did for conservative principles, this movement is likely to further rupture the Democratic Party.
It is undeniable that the conservative movement is undergoing a transformation, and that true “three legged stool” conservatives, like the author of this article, will have to work hard to maintain the Republican coalition of social, fiscal, and national security conservatives. It is also true, however, that the conservative coalition, at this point in our political history, is far more unified than the all-out civil war that has engulfed the Democratic Party. Moderate democrats are quickly becoming extinct, and the party of JFK has become the party of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Al Franken. The emerging movement to create a liberal tea party is pushing an agenda of more government spending, more nationalization of our economy, outright hostility to religious values and liberty, and that opposes free thought and expression. These are not values that will resonate with American voters.

The Tea Party movement of 2009-2010 succeeded, and the liberal “tea party” movement of 2017 will fail, for the exact same reason: America remains a center-right country that values personal liberty and personal responsibility. The longer liberal protesters fire-bomb storefronts and trash the venues of their protests, the clearer the contrast with the conservative movement in 2009-2010 will become. There is no replicating a liberty-driven Tea Party movement with a secular-socialist scream fest. Americans will not buy-in.

Trump-ing the Nuclear Deal

Donald Trump vowed on the campaign trail to scrap President Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran, calling it “one the worst deals ever made by any country in history.” The so-called P5+1 agreement, which refers to the UN Security Council’s five permanent members, including China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, plus Germany, is the bad deal that the Obama Administration rammed-through in 2015. This deal has been widely panned by Democrats and Republicans, because it all but ensures that Iran will be a nuclear power within a decade. Iran agreed to the deal only as a stop-gap measure that will buy them time to complete their nuclear program like North Korea did under President Clinton in the 1990s.

Most national security experts have long expected Iran to violate the P5+1 Agreement, but Iran’s recent flagrance has surprised even the most skeptical of observers. Tehran’s decision to test-fire a ballistic missile last weekend certainly ups the ante in the rising tensions between our two countries. It also represents a clear defiance of both the nuclear agreement and UN Security Council Resolution 2231 that was passed 2015 as part of the nuclear deal, which states that “Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.” It seems to me that the Trump Administration is now free to revisit the P5+1 Agreement and take a tougher stance on Iran.

The Trump Administration responded this week by slapping new sanctions on Iran and having National Security Adviser Michael Flynn put Iran “on notice.” Flynn’s comment was intentionally vague, presumably to leave Tehran guessing as to America’s next move in this rising crisis. While the Treasury Department’s new sanctions against 13 Iranian officials and about one dozen Iranian companies is still compliant with the Nuclear Agreement of 2015, the Agreement is all but void based on Iran’s actions.

The Trump Administration is set to ratchet-up pressure on the Ayatollahs in Iran, which may soon include the threat of military force. The Israelis will certainly welcome any move to scrap the 2015 P5+1 Agreement that ensures that Iran, left undeterred, will have the capability to launch a nuclear holocaust before the decade is out. The Trump Administration should seek to counter any further aggression by Iran, including having the U.S. Navy shoot-down any future ballistic missile test.

America is playing hard ball with the mad regime running Iran, and we will need a heavy bat. Thank goodness we have a Defense Secretary nicknamed “Mad Dog.”

Congressional Republicans Should Remember that Addictions Can Kill

It is common knowledge that addictions can kill you, and this is true in life and in politics. Former Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) once famously stated that earmarks are “the gateway drug to Washington Spending Disease” and they are the addiction that may kill the Republicans’ congressional majority. For the second time since the November elections, some congressional republicans are seeking to revive the loathsome practice of earmarks being inserted into spending bills. For decades, earmarks were the favorite tool of incumbent members of Congress who used these appropriations measures to insert spending favors into omnibus bills to bring home the bacon for their “constituents.” This practice allowed congressmen to use taxpayer dollars to curry favor with donors and special interests, who, in turn, raised money and support to keep them in office.

Such pay-to-play politics was the catalyst for the Tea Party movement in 2009 -2010, which swept Republicans back into power in Washington. Original Tea Party activists used TEA as an acronym that stands for Taxed Enough Already, and these conservatives rightly viewed earmarks as the embodiment of corruption in Washington. In 2011, shortly after retaking the House, congressional Republicans passed a ban on the practice, which set the tone for greater transparency and restraint with regard to spending. Members had to vote on spending bills on their merits, not just because an earmark contained goodies for their donors.

The earmark ban of 2011 was widely hailed as a major step forward by conservative groups ranging from the Club for Growth to The Heritage Foundation, and have given congressional Republicans moral authority on fiscal matters in Congress. This makes the continued effort of some Republican leaders to repeal the ban all the more baffling. Nevertheless, Rep. John Culberson of Texas, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, is trying for the second time since November to reinstate the practice of earmarks. Culberson claims that earmarks are necessary in order for Congress to use the power of the purse to reign in the executive, something that conservatives called on Congress to do while Barack Obama was forging-ahead with his spending spree. Culberson says that earmarks are necessary if “We want to be able to have some input on what these bureaucracies are doing in secret.”

I find it more than a little suspicious that Culberson didn’t attempt to reinstate earmarks during the Obama presidency, but, instead, waited until the 2016 election was over to make his move. If politics is perception, then it appears Culberson and other GOP House members want to reinstate earmarks now that Republicans control both chambers of Congress and the White House, so that they can start paying-out goodies to their donors again. Earmarks absolutely are not necessary for Congress to restrain the actions of the executive branch, or any federal bureaucracy. House Appropriations can write the budget for bureaucracies and can also conduct oversight hearings and investigations into their operations. In short, Culberson’s lame excuse for bringing back earmarks simply doesn’t hold water.

If Congressional Republicans suddenly have amnesia about out-of-control spending and our crushing national debt now that Republicans run the government again, then they should be prepared for Speaker Nancy Pelosi come 2018. Americans have given the Republican Party once more chance to prove that it is serious about putting our fiscal house back in order, and if they blow it they will return to the minority party in Congress. It is my hope that Speaker Paul Ryan does now what he did in November, which is to tell Culberson and other spendthrift Republicans that they are not going tone-deaf to American voters and engaging in a spending spree to buy votes for incumbent congressmen.

The Resurgence of Sovereignty

What we are witnessing in American politics today is a debate over national identity and sovereignty that has building for over twenty years. In 2004, during President George W. Bush’s campaign for reelection, Samuel Huntington wrote a book on American immigration and assimilation policy titled Who Are We? In this seminal work on American identity and culture, Huntington wrote about an agenda of “de-nationalization” in which liberal, open-borders advocates call for mass immigration without a cohesive policy to assimilate new immigrants into a distinctly American culture. Everyday Americans reject the de-nationalization agenda of political elites who seek to merge America into a globalist / internationalist cabal of open borders and multiculturalism. ‪The clash‬ between the two factions is now exploding into bitterly divisive politics and protests at airports and on the streets of major cities.

Throughout human history, particularly since the rise of the nation-state concept in the 16th century, it has been assumed that nations would control their borders and set rules and limitations on immigration and assimilation within those borders. While most nation-states in human history have been largely defined by common ancestry and race, America is a nation-state defined by commonly-held ideals, constitutional principles, common language, and a shared concept of human liberty. As such, American immigration policy has not historically been, nor should be, driven primarily by race or ancestry. Instead, American immigration policy has primarily been driven by the willingness of new arrivals to assimilate into American culture, and our national security interests.

Since September 11th, 2001 we have had to carefully balance our commitment to our identity as a nation of immigrants with defense of our distinct national identity and the homeland. Radical Islam poses an existential threat to our nation, both physically and culturally. While our nation does not impose a religious test on citizenship, we are a distinctly Judeo-Christian country. This Judeo-Christian identity is the source of our commitment to individual rights and political liberty, which are the cornerstones of our republic. This identity is something that both animates the animus of radical Islam toward America, and is something that jihadists want to eradicate from our culture. This is achieved, in part, by mass migration into historically Judeo-Christian cultures as we have seen in Europe.

America is welcoming to all people, from anywhere in the world, who want to become part of the American experience. This means, among other things, accepting our nation’s commitment to the Constitution and the rule of law that our constitutional system cultivates. Historically, the largest portion of our new immigrants have arrived from Europe or Latin America, both of which share Judeo-Christian cultural foundations with the United States. Only recently have large numbers of new arrivals begun coming from predominantly Muslim countries, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. This presents a unique dilemma for our country in terms of assimilation and security. By no means are the majority of Muslims terrorists or radicals, and many love the ideals of American liberty, but there remains a significant cultural chasm between many predominantly Muslim nations and our own.

The Judeo-Christian Ethic is a tolerant worldview that encourages and fosters religious liberty. The fundamentalist Islamic worldview, by contrast, does not provide for religious dissent or differences of doctrine. Additionally, fundamentalist Islam prescribes theocratic government that is inconsistent with American Constitutional law, particularly with regard to religious liberty. A 2013 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey found that more than four in ten Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa hold that Sharia Law should be the “law of the land” for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. This cultural belief certainly stands in contrast with the American notion of equal justice under the law, and is diametrically opposed to a democratic-republican form of government.

Several of the nations in the Middle East, which are sending the largest number of refugees to the United States, are also nations beleaguered by radical Islamist elements that are seeking to carry-out attacks against American targets. As such, it is prudent for the United States to increase screening of individuals seeking asylum / refugee status in our country from these countries. While most individuals even from nations known for terrorism are peaceful and intend no harm, Islamist organizations have long taken advantage of American generosity to infiltrate the American homeland. If even a small percentage of asylum seekers are radical or become radicalized, we will see more attacks like we’ve witnessed in San Bernadino, Orlando, and Boston.

Americans are pushing-back against open borders and the lack of assimilation of many new immigrants from around he world. We are a welcoming nation, which appreciates the uniqueness and value of all cultures, but we also expect new immigrants to weave into the American fabric of one nation out of many. It is incumbent upon all Americans to continue to uphold and maintain our nation’s commitment to being a nation of immigrants, while maintaining our uniquely American identity and commitment to individual liberty. We can be a nation both of secure borders and a color blind society, as sovereignty and acceptance are not mutually exclusive concepts.

Our nation, like every other nation, has a right to determine who comes into our county and on what terms. Fully vetting new immigrants and refugees from nations long known to harbor anti-American sentiment does not make our nation calloused, but it may well make it safer.