Monday, March 27, 2017

Some people would prefer getting nothing than something!

Weekly Opinion Editorial

by Steve Fair
     On Friday, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, (R-Wisconsin), pulled the Affordable Health Care   ‘repeal and replace’ bill before it came to a vote on the floor.  President Trump said the outcome of the bill was uncertain, but that ‘it was a very very tight margin.”   One of the first actions the President pledged to do was pull the plug on Obamacare, but it appears that will take some more time.
     While most of the media was reporting on the Republican’s inability to hold their coalition together, little was mentioned about no Democrat member of the House pledging support of Ryan’s bill, even though there are 18 members of the conservative Democrat Blue Dog caucus.  To their credit, Democrats in the House  stick together better than Republicans.  But is there not one of the 193 Democrat House member who doesn’t believe the Affordable Care Act needs to be repealed and replaced?  Group-think is defined as the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility.  The Democrats masterfully practice group-think. 
     The group of members that took the credit for derailing the bill was the House Freedom Caucus.  It’s not clear how many Republican members of the House are part of the caucus because they are secretive.  Led by two term North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows, it is estimated the group has 30-35 members, including Tulsa area Congressman Jim Bridenstine (who said he supported Ryan’s bill).  The Freedom caucus demanded Ryan’s bill include repealing more of the ACA’s insurance mandates or they would oppose.  Even after President Trump met with the caucus and told them there would be political consequences if they didn’t support the bill, they stuck to their guns and opposed the president.  Reasonable and rational is rarely descriptive of the Freedom caucus. Three observations: 
     First, why didn’t Republican leadership have the ‘repeal and replace’ ready to go on day one?  The short answer is they didn’t expect Donald Trump to win.  It caught them by surprise.  They knew the repeal bills the House passed and sent to the Senate when Obama was still in the White House were more about political grandstanding than substance.  When Trump won, they scrambled to draft a bill that would truly fix the ACA, but Ryan’s bill was not acceptable to the Freedom caucus.  If Ryan had added their demands, he would have lost the moderate members of the caucus, so he was between a rock and a hard place.   
     Second, most of the Freedom caucus members could care less about political consequences. In fact, most members relish being defiant to authority.  Their political base would barbecue them if they compromised on anything.  They could care less if nothing gets done in government- in fact they prefer it.  The members who manage to serve long term in Congress proudly point out they don’t work with anyone and have a reputation of being difficult.  For someone like Trump, who has spent his entire career finding common ground in business by negotiating, it has to be frustrating when he finds he is dependent on people who will not move.  It’s not surprising Trump moved on.  That is what you do in business.  If a deal can’t get done, then move on and forget it.  The problem is that is not always possible in government- like a bad penny, the problem hangs around.  At some point, a solution has to be hammered out and it requires finding common ground.
     Third, the Affordable Care Act is self-destructing.  Most of the co-ops are gone.  A large portion of the exchanges have only one plan to ‘choose’ from.  The money the government was giving insurance companies is gone and now premiums have increased at astronomical rates.  The ACA caused health care premiums to rise for middle-class Americans who do not quality for subsidies.  If Congress does nothing, the ACA will eventually collapse.  Instead of staking out their political territory, members of both Parties should hammer out a common sense solution before the collapse.
       President Trump is finding being President isn’t like being the CEO of a business.  To be successful, he has to find common ground with members of Congress, no matter what Party.  He should reach across the aisle to conservative Democrats in Congress(Blue Dog caucus).  They are more likely to support his agenda than the members of the Freedom caucus.  Being dependent on people who love to say no is no way to govern.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Believers shouldn't rejoice when someone falls!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair
     Last week the Oklahoma State Senate unanimously voted to strip Senator Ralph Shortey, (R-OKC), of his privileges as a State Senator.  He can still vote, but he doesn’t have an office, a legislative assistant or a parking place.  Shortey was evidently caught in a motel room with a 17 year old boy and allegedly he wasn’t there to do spiritual counseling with the lad.  The Cleveland County DA charged him with three counts, all involving prostitution.  Social media blew up after the incident was revealed.  Most called for Shortey to resign including the Governor and Lt. Governor.  Others said he should be considered innocent until proven guilty and the Senate’s action was too quick.  Four observations:
     First, those who thump their Bible better be prepared to be thumped harder than those that don’t when they fall.  Shortey claims to be a Christian conservative.  He doesn’t drink and he doesn’t chew and he doesn’t run with girls that do.   His bio says he studied to be a missionary, but abandoned that idea to go into politics.  It seems strange God would lead a man to abandon an eternal calling for a temporal one, but that’s between Shortey and God.  I don’t know Shortey’s spiritual condition before God, but the scripture says there is something known as the ‘fruit of the spirit.’(Gal. 5)  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control flow out of a believer’s heart.   True believers aren’t vindictive, retaliatory, hateful and impatient.  Those actions are the fruit of the flesh.  Sadly, there are more professors than possessors and just because someone says they are regenerated doesn’t mean they are.    
     Second, depravity is universal.  The condemnation of Shortey, by those on both political spectrums reminds me of when the Pharisees brought to Jesus the woman found in adultery.  He told them, “He that is without sin, cast the first stone.”  One by one they left until not one of the Pharisees was there to accuse her because their conscience condemned them of their own sin.  The realized they had a sin nature and except for the grace of God, they were just like the adulterous woman.  Bear in mind, the Pharisees were unregenerate. Even the unregenerate know they are not perfect and that they sin. When Adam fell, all mankind fell.  We have an inherent sin nature and those who claim they don’t sin are either dishonest or ignorant of their very nature.  Depravity manifests itself in many ways and alleged Shortey’s transgression is one that seems particularly grievous, but he that is without sin, cast the first stone.  Depravity misses no man. 
     Third, Shortey should have resigned immediately if the accusations are true.  True Christian believers don’t cover up their sin- they repent of it.  They face the music.  They don’t hire a high powered defense attorney, try to find loopholes and pull legal shenanigans to beat the rap.  They do the right thing and repent.   Everyone sins, everyone misbehaves, but how a person handles themselves when they do is what defines them.   Shortey shouldn’t be concerned about a paycheck or future retirement; he should be concerned about doing what is right.  When professing believers sin and then cover it up, dodge responsibility and act like the world, they hurt the cause of the gospel.  If the allegations are true, he is unfit for office, period.  He should immediately apologize and resign. 
     Fourth, political leaders should be like those described in Exodus 18:21.  Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law gives four attributes of true leaders; able, truthful, those that fear God and hate covetousness.  Most modern day leaders exhibit none of these.  They instead campaign one way and then lead another way.  We need leaders who have conviction and are worried more about the next generation than the next election. 
     Shortey’s situation should humble anyone who is involved in politics- no matter their ideology.  We live in a culture that calls good evil and evil good.  Situational ethics rules the day.  No one should rejoice when someone fails if they recognize they have the same feet of clay.  Shortey should face the consequences for his actions, but the sober man shouldn’t take delight in his shortcomings

Monday, March 13, 2017

Long time journalist left great example of how to engage in politics & life!

Weekly Opinion Editorial

by Steve Fair

     Last week Mike McCarville died.  Mike was a long time Oklahoma journalist who maintained The McCarville Report blog.  He had been involved in Republican politics for decades.  He worked for President Reagan, U.S. Senator Dewey Bartlett and others.  Mike was a long time radio broadcaster, hosting Open Mike Live on KTOK for years.  He used to say he had a face made for radio and that he never had a bad day.  I met Mike many years ago for lunch at 50 Penn Place.  At that time, I was co-hosting a weekly radio talk show with former State Representative Dennis Johnson.  The two hour show was broadcast on Saturday mornings on two stations in southwest Oklahoma.  Mike had heard about it and wanted to meet me and offer a little advice.  He gave me some sage advice that day over lunch- ‘have fun on air while educating the public.’  The “Darrell & Leonard’ show heeded that advice- we took the cause seriously, but not ourselves.  Mike graciously agreed to call the show periodically and offer his take on what was happening in the world of politics- always with a pinch of humor and always with common sense insight.  He continued calling in even after Dennis left the airwaves and Georgia Williams replaced him and the show rebranded as ‘The Grapevine.’
     After five years, I left the airwaves and started a blog.  Mike was already online with the McCarville Report.  One day, he contacted me and asked me if he could put a link to my blog on his site.  I was honored.  The McCarville Report was and is widely seen as the source for insider political news in Oklahoma.  I put a link to his site on my blog as well.  Periodically he would post a link to an op/ed I wrote on his site,
     Mike and I were causal friends, not close friends, but we had a kindred spirit because we both believed that being engaged in the political process doesn’t mean you have to walk around with a sour expression on your face.  You don’t need to look like you were weaned on a dill pickle and have the seed hung in your teeth.  Mike had fun.  I have always maintained that if you take the fun out of politics, you lose people who are the most needed in politics- people who are well rounded and understand they aren’t going to get out of life alive.  Two important principles we could all learn from Mike’s life:
     First, he believed in civil discourse. Mike wasn’t afraid to tee it up with you on a controversial subject.  In fact, he loved to debate, but he was always civil, respectful of another’s opinion, and fair.  Far too many journalists, activists, and political leaders believe it is us vs. them.  Debating to them is not quietly listening to another person’s perspective and then presenting your viewpoint, but rather interrupting, yelling and belittling the other person’s view instead of presenting the merits of your own argument.  I was taught when selling my product to sell the features, advantages and benefits of the product, not run down the competition.  Comparison selling was considered a breach of civility.  Civility in our society is being lost because winning has become more important than principle.  Winning is important, but how you win is important.  Mike was unwilling to lie, cheat and steal to win.  He had to win on principle.
     Second, he believed in having fun.  When he was on the radio, he coined clever nicknames for his news anchor, his traffic reporter and producer.  He was jovial, enthusiastic and engaging on air.  McCarville drew people to him because they knew he was having fun.  In our current political environment, people aren’t having fun.   You ask the average citizen about the political climate and ‘fun’ will be the last adjective they will use to describe it.  Some mistakenly think people like McCarville can’t be taking the cause seriously if they are laughing and joking, but nothing was further from the truth.  McCarville’s decades long commitment to conservative causes in Oklahoma is undeniable and while he labored for the cause he was having fun.
     Few too many of our elected officials and Party leaders fail to understand the simple principle that you can take the cause seriously and still have fun.  You can still present your side of the story and be respectful of others who disagree.  Mike McCarville mastered that balance. Please pray for Mike’s wife, Ann, and the rest of the family during their time of loss.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Evil will not be put back in the Box!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair
     According to President Trump, Trump Tower phones were bugged- by the government- just before the election.  The mainstream news media immediately said Trump’s claim was hyperbole and another in a long line of exaggerations.  But it appears there was an order issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorizing some form of electronic surveillance related to Trump and his associates.  Trump’s top lawyer- Donald McGahn – is working to get access to the document.  If in fact the document exists, it would be unprecedented for a judge to allow that without proof that crimes were being committed by the person being bugged.   If it was purely for political purposes, heads should roll.  Four things to consider:
     First, big brother is watching.  In George Orwell’s novel, ‘1984,’ Big Brother is a fictional character who is the leader of Oceania, a totalitarian state where the citizens are under constant surveillance by the government.  We are there in America, but without the telescreens (as of yet) that were described in the novel.  When you post on social media, purchase goods and services with plastic, send an email or go to the doctor, all of that data is collected (mined) and becomes accessible to the government- and others.  Much of the loss of our privacy happened under President Bush’s watch, immediately following 9/11.  The Patriot Act, in the name of keeping Americans safe, sliced American liberties.  As it has happened many times throughout our nation’s history, government took the opportunity after tragedy to expand their powers. 
     Second, we willingly gave much of the information big brother has about us.  The government hasn’t mandated everyone join Facebook or Twitter, use Amazon Prime to ship products, get a loyalty card at a major retailer, or force you to get a credit card, but the vast majority of Americans willingly participate in the information gathering.  Rest assured, not just the government is mining your data- political Parties, retailers, consumer goods companies, and service industries spend billions trying to find out what motivates you to spend your dollars.  While the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of privacy-4th,5th, and 9th amendments- when we willingly give them information, where is the crime?
     Third, big brother will only get bigger.  Those who think we will be able to put the evils back in the jar will be about as successful as Pandora was getting them back in her jar.  The government will continue to use electronic data gathering and surveillance with the citizens willingly participating.  Americans love them mobile electronic toys.  Trump may be able to slow down the speed, but the train will continue down the track.  Some electronic data gathering- like your spending habits- can have a positive purpose if the retailer or manufacturer doesn’t sell your data to other retailers or to the government, but most do so be aware that loyalty cards are not exclusively for your benefit.
     Fourth, many of those who decry the constant surveillance and data collection of government are the first to pull out their cell phone, video private meetings and post the video for the world to see- all in the name of protecting liberty.  They violate the very privacy they claim they want to protect.  They are constantly on social media attacking the overreach of government, seemingly oblivious they are helping big brother keep a watch on them.   
     In a Twitter post, President Trump called President Obama a ‘sick’ man because he tapped his phones.  Yep, Obama is sick but that description fits any man.  All mankind is born with a sin nature, but we aren’t sick- we are dead spiritually.  Like Pandora, we only have hope left- and that hope is not in the integrity of government or electing more conservative leaders.  The only hope of America is the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit.