Sunday, October 29, 2023

The challenge Johnson faces is the same as what McCarthy faced- holding the GOP caucus together!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair

     On Wednesday October 25th Rep. Mike Johnson, (R-LA) was elected the 56th Speaker of the U.S. House on the fourth ballot of voting.   He received 220 votes- 217 are required for election.  Johnson was the 4th Republican nominee after the successful motion to vacate the speakership of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, (R-CA). Johnson is the second least experienced Speaker in U.S. history.  He has served in the House just 6 years and 10 months.  Three observations:

     First, who is Speaker of the House Mike Johnson?  He is a Louisiana lawyer.  He served two years in the Louisiana legislature before being elected to Congress.  He is the first Speaker from the Bayou state.  Johnson worked in private practice and founded Freedom Guard; a nonprofit legal ministry designed to represent Christian clients in lawsuits. 

    Johnson, 51, has served as vice chairman of the Republican caucus.  He has been a member of the Judiciary and Armed Services committees.  He is a past chair of the Republican Study Committee, a conservative group of House members.  Rep. Kevin Hern, (R-OK) is the current chair. 

     Johnson is a Southern Baptist.  He and his wife have been married for 24 years and have four children.  He has said, ‘my faith informs everything I do.”  He and his wife co-host a podcast ‘Truth be Told,’ in which they discuss public affairs from a Christian perspective.  In an interview with Sean Hannity after his Speaker election, Johnson said he believes in the core values of American conservatism; individual freedom, limited government, the rule of law, peace through strength, fiscal responsibility, free markets and human dignity. 

     Second, what will Speaker Johnson do?  The duties of the Speaker of the House are outlined in the U.S. Constitution.  They preside over the House, maintain order and govern the administration of House business.  The challenge Johnson faces is the same as what McCarthy faced- holding the GOP caucus together to get anything accomplished.  The nation is in the midst of a budget crisis with the Continuing Resolution (CR) expiring in less than three weeks.  Johnson has said he would start by negotiating with President Biden and Senate Democrats about funding bills.  He has floated the idea federal funding be cut by -8%. 

     Johnson also favors changing House rules to make it more difficult to remove the Speaker.  He supports helping Ukraine and Israel.  He wants Congress to be consulted before use of military force in the middle east.  If the Republican House caucus unifies and stays together, they could get concessions from Biden and Senate Democrats and actually govern. 

     Third, what will the Crazy Eight do?  The eight so-called Republicans who voted with the Democrat minority to remove McCarthy can sabotage Johnson.  With a razor thin majority, the tail (the Crazy Eight) can once again wag the dog.  There is no evidence the Crazy Eight learned a lesson in the last three weeks.  Don’t expect them to now be team players.  Expect them to disrupt, derail and to not cooperate  with the other 200 plus GOP members. 

     Johnson appears to be a principled conservative.  The task before him is getting  the 221 Republican caucus members to stay together.  It’s herding cats time.  Collaboration is the action of working with someone to produce or create something.  Republicans struggle to do that.  It’s past time to pull on the same end of the rope at the same time.  Playing tug of war with ourselves ain’t working.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Iran snookered the Biden administration!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair

     The situation between Israel and Hamas has prompted the Defense Department to send a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense(THAAD) to the Middle East.  Two U.S. aircraft carriers and 2,000 Marines have also been deployed to the region.  Iran backed terrorist group, Hezbollah has threated to join the fight against Israel, but Israel has vowed to ‘cut off the head of the snake,’ should that happen.  Countries across the world are picking sides and WWIII could be right around the corner.

     The present conflict started on October 7th (a Jewish holiday- Simhat Torah) when Hamas fired over 5,000 rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel in the span of 20 minutes.  That attack killed 1,400 people and injured 3,300 more.  Both Jews and Palestinians were killed.  Hamas, who occupies the Gaza Strip, is upset over the expansion of Israeli settlements in Gaza and general Israeli policy, especially their recent attempts to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia.  Three observations:

     First, the U.S. has historically been a strong supporter of Israel.  The state of Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign aid.  U.S. taxpayers send $2.67 billion each year to help Israel with their military defense. The United States is Israel’s largest trading partner.  The U.S. has used it’s UN veto power 42 times against resolutions condemning Israel.  That’s more than half the vetoes the US has exercised.    In 1948, when Israel became a nation, the U.S. was the first country to recognize the new state.  Since the attack, President Biden has repeatedly stated his support for Israel, but his actions just a month ago likely help fund Hamas.

     In September, Biden arranged a prisoner release deal with Iran, which saw five Americans exchanged for five Iranian citizens held in the U.S.  Part of the deal was the transfer of $6 billion in frozen Iranian money from South Korea to Qatar without fear of U.S. sanctions.  Prisoner for prisoner wasn’t enough to seal the deal.  Iran snookered the Biden administration and, in the process, helped get money to Hamas.  

     Second, are we living in the last days?   Biblically, the last days are the period from Christ’s ascension to His return, so we are definitely living in the ‘last days.’   But are we seeing the book of Revelation playing out before our eyes?  It’s certainly possible.  All the players are on the stage.  But Christ said no man knows the hour when He would return.  His command was for believers to ‘occupy’ until He returns.  Martin Luther was asked what he would do today if he knew Jesus was coming back tomorrow.  Luther responded, “I would plant an apple tree today.”  It’s human nature to gander into the future, but being obsessed with signs and wonders accomplishes little.

     Third, God gave Gaza to Abraham.  Some 4,000 years ago, Abraham traveled from the Chaldean city of Ur (present day Iraq) to Canaan.  God then told Abraham, the land was his and his offsprings.  Therein, lies the problem.  Both the Jews and the Palestinians are the offspring of Abraham.  The descendants of   half-brothers- Isaac and Ishmael- have been fighting for centuries over this same piece of ground. 

     The land in dispute is the Gaza Strip, a narrow piece of land on the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea.  It borders Egypt on the southwest and Israel on the east and north.  It has a total land mass of 141 square miles- an area about the size of Seattle, Washington.  Over 2 million people live there- both Jews and Palestinians.  It is the third most densely populated area in the world.  Since 2007, Hamas, a militant Islamist group, has ruled Gaza.  Because Hamas invaded Israel, expect Israelian ground forces to counterattack.    

     U.S. foreign policy should always include support for Israel.  Two thirds of the American people agree with the US supporting Israel, according to a recent poll.  No nation has stood with Israel more consistently or been a better friend than America.  That is- until September 2023, when President Biden was out negotiated by Iran.  Unsettling times, but while the rapture may be tomorrow, today plant an apple tree.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Those who preach principle don’t always practice it!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair


     On Wednesday the Republican caucus nominated Rep. Steve Scalise, (R-LA) current Majority Leader in the U.S. House, as their nominee for Speaker of the House.  The vote was 113-99, with second place finisher Rep. Jim Jordan, (R-OH) endorsing Scalise after the vote.  GOP members appeared to be united behind Scalise after the conference and a floor vote was expected on Thursday.  But, the CRAZY EIGHT representatives, who partnered with the Democrats to oust Speaker McCarthy, reneged and refused to support Scalise. This was after they had vowed to do so in caucus.  Scalise then withdrew himself from consideration for Speaker. 

     On Friday, the House caucus met again to select a Speaker nominee.  Rep. Jordan won the first ballot 124-81 over Rep. Austin Scott, (R-GA).  On a second ballot, a vote on who would support Jordan as the Party’s Speaker nominee, the vote was 152-55.  Republicans control the chamber by a slim 221-212 margin.  With the GOP conference spilt/fractured/splintered, they can afford to lose no more than four votes within their ranks to elect a Speaker.  Three observations:

     First, who is Rep. Jim Jordan?  Prior to entering public life, Jordan was the assistant wrestling coach at the Ohio State University for eight years.  He served in the Ohio state legislature (House and Senate) for ten years prior to running for Congress.  He has served nine terms in Congress. All told, Jordan has been an elected official for 29 of his 59 years.  He is a career politician. 

     Jordan is credited with ousting former Speaker of the House John Boehner eight years ago.  A founder of the House Freedom caucus, Jordan was a thorn in the side to Boehner, who describes him as a ‘political terrorist.’  “I just never saw a guy who spent more time tearing things apart- never building anything, never putting anything together,” Boehner says about Jordan.

     Jordan is conservative on policy.  He is pro-life, pro second amendment and an ally of former President Trump.  Trump has endorsed Jordan for the Speaker’s job.  

     Second, Americans don’t need to see how the sausage is made.  The GOP conference should conduct the Speaker vote in private.  The floor vote should be a mere formality.  Every effort to avoid the January 2023 15 ballot vote should be avoided.  That was a circus and the world doesn’t need to see the clown show.

     Third, those who preach principle don’t always practice it.  The CRAZY EIGHT voted with the Democrats to remove Speaker McCarthy based on principle.  But those same ‘principled’ members are pressuring the 55 members who voted to not support Jordan to violate their values.  They have rallied Trump supporters, through social media and the airways and the releasing of private phone numbers of members, to threaten the 55 with the rage of the Party’s base voters if they stand in the way of Jordan’s election.   Threats, ultimatums, oppression are the tactics of terrorists, not people of principle.  There is no respect for the principles/values of the 55 who disagree? 

     Intimidation and browbeating to get Jordan the Speaker’s post may work short term, but it won’t long term.  There has to be true unity in the GOP conference or the House will remain paralyzed. Bullying fellow members could win Jordan the Speaker’s race, but it won’t work in governing.  With a razor thin margin in the House, the next Speaker will still be herding cats. 

     The GOP proudly declares it is a Party of principle.  A great deal of the Republican Party platform is supposedly based on Biblical concepts.  Yet little of the Party’s conduct in the Speaker’s race resembles those precepts (no fruit of the Spirit). 

     Situational ethics, arrogance, threats, bullying and justifying bad behavior have served to make the GOP look like the Party of the devil.  Until the bombastic rhetoric is dialed down and the Party begins to practice what it preaches, voters will question their trustworthiness and that will result in defeat in 2024.

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Until Republicans are able to govern with a majority, America has little reason to give them one!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial

by Steve fair


     The U.S. House is without a speaker, who according to the Constitution, is required to be its leader.  Until one is chosen, the lower chamber is essentially in a holding pattern.  Rep. Patrick McHenry, (R-NC) is serving as Speaker Pro Tempore until a permanent speaker is selected.  Speaker Kevin McCarthy, (R-CA) was removed from the speaker’s position on Tuesday after he lost 216-210.  208 Democrats were joined by 8 Republicans to kick McCarthy to the curb.  All 210 votes to retain were cast by Republicans.  No Democrat crossed the aisle and voted for McCarthy.  Three observations:

     First, Republicans can win elections, but regularly fail at governing.  They can’t/won’t unite or come together.  Democrats don’t have that problem.  Even when they disagree, they stay fused.  Not the Rs.  Some elephants are furiously independent and demand absolute total agreement with their views.  There is no wiggle room. They are willing to walk away from the negotiating table with nothing instead of something.  That strategy always results in nothing for the average American. 

     The eight ‘principled’ Republicans who crossed the aisle to vote to remove McCarthy were willing to partner with people who agree with them only 20% of the time so they could show those they agree with 80% of the time how ‘principled’ they are.  Their action will not result in any significant change in the direction of America.  Until Republicans are able to govern with a majority, America has little reason to give them one. 

     Second, the eight members who voted with the Ds should join the Democratic Party.  Clearly, they ‘identify’ with the Ds, so give the Democrats the pleasure of dealing with these so-called principled people.  The CRAZY EIGHT should be expelled from the GOP caucus and begin their ‘walk of shame’ before their constituents.  Each should be willing to explain to the voters/citizens in their district why they voted with the other Party and practiced situational ethics.  These Brutus types should be proud to defend their backstabbing.     

     Third, the new speaker will face the same challenges.  No matter who is elected to the post, the difficult duty will be to try and unite the caucus.  Several candidates for speaker have emerged, including Rep. Kevin Hern, (R-OK)- a good choice.  But how long will the next speaker last?  Only until the CRAZY EIGHT decide to join the Ds again and make a motion to vacant?   The new speaker will walk the same tightrope of McCarthy.  There are two ways to fix this bedlam: (1) the CRAZY EIGHT recognize something is better than nothing and start to work and play better with others, or (2) Republicans win more House seats, get a larger majority, and render the CRAZY EIGHT irrelevant.  The first is not likely to happen.

     After the House passed the Continuing Resolution (CR) two weeks ago, the handwriting was on the wall- McCarthy had to go- according to the Ds and the CRAZY EIGHT.  Passing the CR- and keeping the government from shutting down- was akin to committing the unpardonable sin.  Never mind the CR is only good for 45 days!  With the clock ticking for the House to get a real budget completed in a little over a month, valuable time that could be used to identify waste and make spending cuts is being taken to conduct a speaker’s race.  Republican voters should be outraged by the actions of the CRAZY EIGHT.     

Sunday, October 1, 2023

A balanced budget amendment appears to be a 'continuing resolution' of elected Republicans!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair

     On Saturday, the U.S. House voted 335 to 91 to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) that will keep the federal government open.  A CR is a temporary spending bill that allows the federal government operations to continue to operate when final appropriations have not been approved by Congress and the President.  Without a CR or a final appropriations bill, funding for government could stop.  126 Republicans voted for the CR- 90 against.  209 Democrats voted yea and just 1 voted nay.   Rep. Mike Quigley, (D-IL) was the lone Democrat who voted against it.  His reason was because the CR didn’t include aid to Ukraine.  The CR is good for 45 days, so expect this whole process to be repeated before Christmas.

     The Continuing Resolution passed the Senate by a vote of 88-9.  All nine no votes were Republican.  Oklahoma U.S. Senators Lankford and Mullin both voted for the CR. 

     The Oklahoma House delegation was spilt on the vote. 1st and 2nd District Congressmen Josh Brecheen and Kevin Hern voted no.  3rd, 4th and 5th district Congressmen Lucas, Cole and Bice voted for the CR.

     Brecheen, a former staffer for budget hawk Sen. Tom Coburn, said he voted against the CR because it did not include real budget cuts or border security that is enforceable. 

     Congressman Frank Lucas, who represents the 3rd district, and voted for the CR said, “I serve with a lot of well-meaning people who believe we need to spend less money and they’re exactly right.  But blowing the process up doesn’t achieve that.  I serve with a number of sincere people who believe we don’t spend enough.  I disagree with them, but they are just as stubborn.” Three observations:

     First, the government uses an expiring CR to scare Americans and to spend more money and the media willingly cooperates.  Tax and spend liberals claim the sky will fall if the government shuts down and it’s all the Republican’s fault.  Seniors on fixed incomes fear their social security checks won’t be mailed.  Americans on disability worry their check will not arrive.  Government services are threatened to stop if the CR isn’t renewed.  The masses are petrified and Congress- always at the very last minute- is forced to capitulate and pass a CR.

     Second, expect passage of this CR to trigger drama in the U.S. House.  Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy faces blowback from House Republicans who call themselves the Freedom Caucus.  Rep. Matt Gaetz, (R-FL) said he will file a motion to vacate the chair this week.  McCarthy responded to, “Bring it on!” The Speaker appears weary of trying to persuade the Freedom caucus to accept something instead of nothing.  It is impossible to negotiate or reason with unreasonable people.

     Third, the federal government should pass a balanced budget amendment.  In February, Senators Tim Lee, (R-UT) and Chuck Grassley, (R-IA) introduced an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would require the federal government to balance its budget each year.  It would limit federal spending to no more than 18% of GDP and require a supermajority vote in both chambers before raising taxes on raising the debt ceiling.

     In July, Rep. Nathaniel Moran, (R-TX) and Sen. Michael Braun, (R-IN) introduced what they call a Principles-Based Balanced Budget Amendment.  Similar to Lee and Grassley’s proposal, it appears both proposals lack the support to get passed. Virtually every state in the union, including Oklahoma, has a balanced budget amendment, but not the feds. 

     Republicans, including former President Trump, have campaigned for decades on passing a federal balanced budget amendment, but it has never happened.   Just like Congress kicks the can down the road with budget CRs, the balanced budget amendment appears to be a continuing resolution of elected Republicans.