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Perry not a complicated man.

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The Texas governor was speaking Wednesday at the Western Republican Leadership Conference. He was telling the audience, “you won’t hear a lot of shape-shifting nuance from me.”

No shit. You don’t strike anyone as a terribly nuanced in your political views.

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Written by Christopher ZF

October 19, 2011 at 15:57

Posted in Rick Perry

Mormons, Christians and American Presidents.

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We are in the throes of another presidential primary season, which means, among other things, that religion and politics are being uncomfortably joined together, and candidates are enduring the headaches that result from tearing them asunder. Last time it was Christianity as understood by white Americans in suburbs clashing with the Christianity of urban African-Americans. This time the contrast is evangelical Christianity and the cult of Mormonism, or the Religion of Mormonism, or the Christian Denomination of Mormonism, depending on whom you ask.

Front-runner for the GOP Presidential Nomination, Mitt Romney, is a Mormon. Everyone knows this. Some people, like evangelical Christian and former front-runner for the GOP Presidential Nomination, Rick Perry, may not be comfortable with Romney’s Mormon faith. There is wide swath of opinions, apparently, on whether Mormon’s belief in Christ makes them Christians, or whether their religion is outside the bounds of Christianity, and is thus a false religion.

Growing up in the Midwest, I knew several Mormon families, and they seemed to be generally viewed as slightly odd if not kooky, but certainly not as a threat.  They were our friends and their Mormonism was known and not commented upon. It was just kind of weird. (Originally I wrote down some of the beliefs of the Mormon Church that seem strange, but when you write them side by side, Christianity’s beliefs really aren’t any less kooky.) This is not news to the Mormon Church, which has been making great strides to advance its image of normalcy in the US in recent years. I’m sure you’ve seen the commercials (which I’m not going to link to, but you can watch them all at mormon.org).

But the Midwest tries hard to be nice. There’s seems to be a little more worry regarding the Mormon Church in other circles, such the centers of the Evangelical Church. It seems fair to say that (correct me if I’m wrong) Evangelical Christianity does not accept Mormons into the fold, and as Evangelicals have a strong voice in American Politics, problems are bound to appear when someone, like Mitt Romney, tries to blend the two. The most recent uproar comes from Pastor Robert Jeffress, who introduced Rick Perry at a speaking engagement. Jeffress described Mormonism as  cult, called Planned Parenthood a slaughterhouse, and asked, ““Do we want a candidate who is a good, moral person — or one who is a born-again follower of the lord Jesus Christ?””

Small uproars ensued. Mitt Romney asked Perry to publicly decry the claim that Mormonism is a cult, which Perry did not do, because Jeffress is not an associate of Perry’s, which then turned out not to be the case, so Rick Perry did acknowledge his belief that Mormonism is not a cult, shortly after describing Jeffress as having “knocked it out the park” with his introduction. These are the binds one will inevitably find in the mixture of presidential politics and religion.

Many journalists/bloggers/rabble-rousers ran with the Perry-Romney-Cult dust-up, since they love writing about the consequences of these kind of religious intervals into presidential politics. And who doesn’t? It’s great fodder for complaining; that’s what we’re doing right now. The question I have and I haven’t seen addressed is: why should anyone be surprised that a Southern Baptist Pastor believes, and would say, that Mormonism is a cult? Of course that’s what Jeffress thinks, along with a lot of evangelicals around the world. Because Mormonism isn’t Christianity, at least not to Jeffress. What else does it take for a religion that is not Christianity to be considered a cult by Christians like Jeffress? This is religion we’re talking about. It’s not acceptable (possible?) to dispute the Truth when one’s religion has a different capital-T than another religion. Overlapping Truths, I can understand, and promote. But exclusive Truths don’t overlap. And if you are outside, your options are few and unpleasant.

Remember that uproar over Reverend Wright and Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign? I wondered the same thing about that issue. Why wouldn’t Reverend Wright, a black preacher in a black community in Chicago, preach what he preached? And why wouldn’t white suburban Christians not feel threatened? That makes perfect sense. It’s all considered Christianity, to the Christian who believes it.

So here’s a little rant: The shock people feel at the exclusivity or the rigidity or the offensive nature of someone else’s beliefs is either false, or misplaced. Religion has no place in politics, whether you think Mormonism is a cult, or think that evangelical Christianity is oppressive, or Reverend Wright’s Christianity is anti-white, or that Religion impedes the progress of society. If you adhere to the strict notion of capital-T religious truth, then  the others have to be wrong, by necessity, and you are free to condemn them to hell or to accept the differences. Either way, it shouldn’t matter, because none of this has a place in politics. The only way that these conversations serve the presidential process is to demonstrate how candidates handle bad press. If you are President Obama, you give a speech on religion and race and handle the problem with poise and grace. If you are Mitt Romney, you keep your hands clean and stay above the fray. And if you are Rick Perry, you continue your fall from relevance, because, unfortunately, religious discrimination in politics does not play outside of a small community of religious hardliners.

Regardless, keep your religious muck out of the political process. There is plenty of muck gumming up politics as it is.

Written by Christopher ZF

October 18, 2011 at 11:54

Economic Recovery in two pictures.

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In my last post, I made this comment about the potential differences of the 2012 GOP presidential field: The difference is not so much ideological as it is how these individuals would represent political difference to the nation; their politics aren’t terribly far apart, but how they would hold the office of the presidency might be.

Now I want to illustrate that point. Here are the cover images of the economic plans of the two leading GOP candidates.

Romney:

Perry:

Written by Christopher ZF

October 6, 2011 at 13:35

Ruminating on 3 scenarios for 2013.

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Who will win the next presidential election? I’ll put it on record that TRC thinks it will likely be  Barack Obama, re-elected to a second term. Why? Here’s two reasons. 1) It’s really hard to defeat a sitting president, and, 2) TRC would really prefer an Obama victory. That’s all I really have on why.

There are various and sundry reasons that President Obama could lose the upcoming election: for example, an economy that, to put it lightly, has yet to begin a noticeable recovery, anger at Obama, fake scandals, etc. And there are many more reasons Obama could win, such as, the GOP field is uninspiring, the devil you know…, and there’s always that pesky detail that Obama has been quite a successful President in terms of the liberal Democratic agenda.

But what’s been ruminating here is not will Barack Obama win the upcoming election, but what happens if he loses? The world will turn, the GOP will have the presidency, and the United States will…what? It’s an interesting thought experiment, because variables are many and scientists who are irresponsibly funded by the government have yet to discover a way to read the future. Here are 3 situations that are not out of the realm of possibility. It’s some situational speculation, for fun, and to remind myself if no one else, this too shall pass.

1. Rick Perry Wins the nomination (somehow) and the Democrats keep the Senate, while Republicans keep the House. What happens?
For comparison, imagine that the current situation exists, only flipped on party lines. Well, politics remains a major CF, and very little is achieved. Gridlock, as they say, captures the president and D.C. despite Perry’s Bush-like announcement that he won Political Capital and  he intends to spend it. But President Perry shows a surprising willingness to compromise. Unfortunately for Republicans, he compromises with the Dems on HPV vaccines and education for immigrant children. The GOP goes crazy, like the Dems did on Obama’s Bush Tax Cuts compromise. But they soon realize Perry is only rope-a-doping. Biding his time until he can spend his capital in years 2, 3, and 4 on tea-party legislation that really grinds the government to a halt because the Democrats, by necessity, feel they must stop the Right-Wing Agenda. Despite the constant near shutdown status of the capitol, several major policy changes occur. Predicting those changes is very difficult. But it could be one of any number of options, like repealing Obama’s Health Care overhaul, ending welfare programs, or the like. Also, Christianity pervades the Presidency making church-and-staters terrified of a theocracy, the EPA regulations really are rolled-back, and US efforts towards climate change mitigation officially becomes efforts towards climate change adaptation. The Perry Presidency represents a mixture of In God’s Hands and Political Expediency that terrifies the Democratic Party, and somehow, the nation’s government grinds to an even more harmful stand-still, resulting in a government shutdown fight over how to fund the needed disaster relief for the now constant wildfires in Texas now that tax rates are lowered, programs are cut, and the government is lean and mean. The government shutdowns and the country burns.

A Perry Presidency with split chambers thus receives 5 Michele Bachmann crazy smiles out of a possible 5.

2. Darkhorse Jon Hunstman pulls a John McCain 2008 and wins the nomination. He asks Chris Christie to be his running mate, who agrees, and the two are victorious in 2012. Due to the reasonable-natured appearance of a Huntsman/Christie ticket, the GOP rides the coattails, and retains the House majority and gets a slim majority in the Senate, giving the Republicans control of all three houses. What happens?
Democrats tell themselves it’s going to be okay; at night they remind themselves who could have been president, it could have been the crazies of Perry or Bachmann or Paul and remind themselves that, at the end of the day, at least they got a moderate Republican who worked for Obama. This lasts about 3 months, as President Huntsman slowly unrolls his vision of America. Then, Huntsman unrolls his vision of America, and the Democrats, realizing they were tricked by their own optimism, remember that Huntsman was the GOVERNOR OF UTAH!  They remember, there is probably no more a Right-Wing job in the United States than the GOVERNOR OF UTAH! Panic strikes. Huntsman begins tinkering with everything, deregulating industry despite his acceptance of climate change (markets can do it, he’ll say),  cutting taxes on the wealthy while cutting programs for the poor (unfair burdens, no nanny state, he’ll say), meanwhile, the most conservative GOP Chambers since history has ever seen (or 1994) will be pushing an agenda that moves America towards isolationism in North America with continued interventionist policies in the middle-East and Asia. Advances towards gay and lesbian equality will stall. Events will transpire pretty much as you would expect when a very conservative majority governs the nation, which sparks fear in the hearts of every Democrat, and rejoicing to the Lord for every Republican. But the American public will tire of a lack of checks and balances, and this will only last 2 years. The Democrats will win the House, but the damage will have been done. Democrats around the country will have nightmares about how, years ago, in a debate that didn’t matter, when asked who would not accept a budget deal with 10 dollars in cuts to 1 dollar in revenues, there was Jon Huntsman, raising his hand, as conservative as anyone else on the stage. And they will crumble at the remembrance that they all fell for one stupid tweet.

A Huntsman Presidency with both chambers for the GOP thus receives 5 pro-science tweets will actually undo science nightmares out of 5.

3. This brings us to the most likely scenario of an Obama loss, as TRC sees it. Despite the craziness of the GOP primary process, and the bonkers nature of the cast of candidates, the expected winner wins the nomination.  Thus, President Mitt Romney takes office in 2013. He is accompanied by VP Huntsman, and welcomed before split Chambers. What happens?
Romney does not unroll “Obamacare.” He believes in the model, since, well, he created it. Democrats start to look at President Romney a little differently. Maybe he’s a pragmatist, they say to themselves. Besides, Democrats have a majority in the Senate, and can prevent the most outrageous tea-party legislation that everyone knows will be brought forth. But the nation will yearn for compromise, after a miserable 2012 of US Politics, and President Romney will side with Speaker Cantor on almost all the social issues of the day, keeping favor among many of Republicans (while knowing most won’t pass the Senate), while remaining pragmatic regarding the economy, pleasing some Democrats (though not most). The economy will improve, and the parties will fight over who gets the credit (It was Obama’s Policies that started it! NO! Obama ruined everything, Mitt did Itt!). Things start to improve economically, and the costs of the recession start to move the background, bringing traditional concerns back to the front. And as that happens, President Romney reveals himself to be a disaster at foreign relations. But VP Huntsman and Secretary of State Whomever are more than up to this challenge, enough at least to soothe potential war with China, which the Republican Party still seems to think is an inevitability, despite this being totally impossible and without any reason to expect for at least decades. The country does not destroy itself over party differences, the Tea-Party resigns itself to the realization that it did NOT win the presidency, and Eric Cantor, now the speaker, realizes that his earnest desire to drive the country all the way to the Right doesn’t actually mean that it will happen.

A Romney Presidency with split chambers turns out only to receive 3 Tea-Party exasperating protest signs out of 5.

I could live with that. I think. Maybe. Obama in 2012.

Written by Christopher ZF

September 28, 2011 at 11:12

Just like Galileo, I am leaving town for the Woods

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Rick Perry, during last night’s GOP Presidential Primary Extravaganza Debate # 2 of 148, was asked about his anti-science positions regarding climate change. Here’s the exchange:

Q: Gov. Perry, Gov. Huntsman was not specific about names, but the two of you do have a difference of opinion about climate change. Just recently in New Hampshire, you said that weekly and even daily scientists are coming forward to question the idea that human activity is behind climate change. Which scientists have you found most credible on this subject?

PERRY: Well, I do agree that there is — the science is — is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans’ economy at — at — at jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet, to me, is just — is nonsense. I mean, it — I mean — and I tell somebody, I said, just because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said here is the fact, Galileo got outvoted for a spell.

So basically, Rick Perry was asked: “You said scientists are questioning climate change. Who are they?” At this point, with nothing intelligent to say in response, Rick Perry’s brain likely started searching for the name of a scientist, any scientist, and until it found one, it babbled on about nothing. Then it hit the mark: DING! Galileo was a scientist! So to make his point, he put Galileo’s name into a sentence that communicates absolutely nothing.

Oh Rick Perry, you drive me crazy. I try to look at you and see someone that wouldn’t ruin our country, but I just can’t do it. Not because you are stupid, but because you are cunning, and smart, while still being stupid.

So in an effort to break from your inane anti-science, anti-environment, anti-secular ramblings, I am headed off the grid, where hopefully I will forget all about you.

BWCA! Here I come. I shall return a better man, having washed myself in the waters of the boundaries, cleansed myself of the muck of the political world, and bathed in the soothing exuberance of Walt Whitman and Sigurd Olson, who shall by my traveling companions (along with my actual traveling companions).

If you need me, I’ll be somewhere around here:

Whitman said this: “I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.”
Olson said this: “When in the wilds, we must not carry our problems with us or the joy is lost.”
Rick Perry said this: “I mean, it — I mean — and I tell somebody, I said, just because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said here is the fact, Galileo got outvoted for a spell.”

Written by Christopher ZF

September 8, 2011 at 13:59

A Ramble on the Boring Nature of Ideological Battling

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The United States once again is drawing near that ever-sacred year of madness: The Presidential Election. You would be forgiven for thinking that we’ve already been in the throes of this process–candidates have already left the race, joined the race, the candidate selection has taken its final shape, panic has kicked in because the candidate selection is unsettled–but we really haven’t reached Presidential Election mode. Just the silly season that comes immediately before.

Fall is just around the corner, though, and the reality of Primary Presidential Nomination and Presidential Head-to-Head is just weeks away. I love it and can’t wait, because TRC loves (LOVES) politics. But I am already weary of the boring, boring ideological battling that will eventually accompany the madness. This is not just liberal v. conservative, but it will be conservative v. conservative as well, as candidates seek to find the perfect ideological portfolio to convince the party he or she will be just the thing that everyone is looking for. (It is not liberal v. liberal, of course, because the liberal is the incumbent). The nominees must battle out their ideological bona fides, because their policies, in all likelihood, are pretty much the same. Hopefully in the countless discussions about science and Christianity, and Christianity and Mormonism, and small government and small businesses, and how Liberals are terrible, we can learn something about how the candidate will govern. I doubt that we will learn much, because political ideology, in my opinion, has little to do with how one will act as an elected officially. At least that is what TRC hopes beyond hope. Because when ideology becomes policy-making in a divided government, no one makes any policy (see debt ceiling, and everything else the past year). And so, I dread the ideological battling.

Why do I dread ideological debates? Because ideology is boring. Some Americans are political animals, and some are not. Some people are religious, some are not. The world influences us through our experiences and our genes and our education and through a million other factors and the adult human grows into the kind of person that has an ideology that best suits their vision of the world as it is, and how it should be. That’s it. I am no more interested in your ideological pinnings than I am in your personal secrets. Don’t try to convince me to change and I won’t try to convince you. Because it won’t happen. You or I might change our ideological worldview, indeed this happens all the time. But I think it rarely occurs because someone of the other ilk convinced the other. It was probably a further combination of the factors listed above, leading an individual to reassess for themselves what she values, and why.

So don’t worry about me and my values, and I won’t worry about you and yours.  My worldview is carved out of my life, it has been given much (too much?) thought, and it works. For example, I don’t believe in god, I do believe in progressive taxation as the best way to take care of all the needs of the United States, I appreciate the value of welfare programs even though I know people take advantage of them, I think science explains the universe better than Religion, but I think stories are how we understand the universe, and I still have a viable morality that imbues my worldview. These are things that inform my ideological worldview. You might be an evangelical conservative, who swears by the Bible and by small government and the smallest taxes imaginable, rejects all science as hot-air, thinks handouts to the poor are a waste of money, and believe that if you are not a Christian you are going to hell. That’s fine. The wasted time spent trying to convert the other is boring and fruitless.

I can imagine that some readers of TRC are wondering, if ideology is so boring, why this blog reports about things like the views of science of the Republican candidates. What does it matter if Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann believe humans were created by a god rather than biological evolution? (if they do, I have no idea). This is an excellent point, and makes the valued distinction this whole post is about. Bachmann and Perry are free to reject all the science they want. That’s their right. But when Michele Bachmann starts a charter school with the intent of mixing the lines of school and religion, or when Rick Perry claims that the state of Texas teaches both creation and evolution, the conversation is not about ideology, it is about policy. This is a fine line, and it is why political and religious ideology can never fully be removed from government or policy-making, and the expectation that they would be completely removed is unrealistic.

Nevertheless, we have laws about what is allowed in the the science classroom, and we have a tax code, and we have programs that are funded by the government, and they operate regardless of your ideology. If you claim that you want to teach creation in the science classroom, you are talking about policy (unconstitutional policy, by-the-by, at least as of now) and I am happy to have a heated debate about history and how educational policy should be decided and whether the previous Court rulings rejecting Creation Science and ID were correct. That sounds like a blast. If you want to argue that science leads children away from salvation and into atheism, or that anyone who wants to raise taxes is against freedom and liberty, or that liberalism leads to fascism by making taking away individual choices and providing a nanny state, then you are just talking political ideology. And as much as those sentiments are perfectly absurd and incorrect and ignorant, it is your right to claim them. See why ideological battling is a waste of time?

What is interesting is what you want to see the government do, and how you think the government should do it. The US has voters like me and you, and everyone else, and the government will have to operate regardless. This is the question that is worth the fight: how should we govern a nation where there is no unified ideological majority? There is probably not even an ideological majority within each of our two parties, let alone nationally. But we have parties, and they have general outlines of what the values and beliefs of their party are, and the parties work through an often contentious process to bring about a candidate, and those candidates face off, and hopefully the winner will be able to govern the nation towards my side, because my side is a better way to run a country. Of course, you want the opposite of that, because you and I don’t agree on political ideology. Oh well.

How should we run the country anyway?

Written by Christopher ZF

August 30, 2011 at 12:52

one more time, for good measure: Science and the GOP

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Here’s a sentence that is maddening, but potentially important for conservatives:

Although an overwhelming majority of scientists agree that carbon pollution is contributing to global climate change, and virtually all accept that an evolutionary process of natural selection explains the emergence of human life, polls show that most Republican voters second Perry’s rejection of both beliefs.

TRC won’t beat the same drum forever on this issue, but there are too many interesting pieces to read and write about surrounding the science v. not-science argument in the GOP right now (I don’t want to say it is a science v. faith issue, because it really isn’t). Today’s story, The Great Divide, comes from the National Journal. One of the central points it makes probably sounds familiar to Democrats. As this politicking  divide between the pro-science Huntsman and not-science Perry continues, the GOP will have the higher educated, elite wing of the party squaring off against the blue-collar, religious wing of the party.

Even so, Huntsman’s championing of science over faith and ideology offers him an opportunity to raise his profile with what his campaign increasingly acknowledges is his natural constituency: the overlapping circles of the party’s best-educated, least religiously devout, and moderate elements. At the same time, Perry’s staunch defense of unwavering hard-right positions on both questions helps him appeal to unvarnished social and economic conservatives as a “battle-tested conservative warrior,” as his campaign described him in a fundraising solicitation this week.
By solidifying those identities, the argument could benefit both men. But, if it persists, their debate could also highlight the differences between the GOP’s college-educated and less devout managerial wing and its more blue-collar and evangelical populist wing. The two camps converge in support for cutting taxes and spending, but differ on cultural questions, sometimes in their views but more in how much they emphasize them.

The GOP is, one might say, at a bit of a political crossroads. The future is going to come, and there are a some things are likely to happen. Evolution will stay the best explanation for the origin of species, climate change will continue to wreak havoc around the globe. Also, taxes will eventually require an increase for some reason or another and marriage equality will continue to spread across the nation. The Republican Party will have to figure out how it will identify itself politically in relation to each of these issues. There are factions of the GOP that dispute the politically central Conservative position on each of these issues, and those groups aren’t going away. But for the sake of the 2012 election, now is probably not the time do air the dirty laundry.

Said Alex Lundry, a Republican voter-targeting expert who is neutral in the 2012 race (though others in his firm TargetPoint work for Mitt Romney)[,] “There are a couple of core debates that need to be had in the next 10 years—over gay rights, immigration and the role of science. But in order for Republicans to win this election, it has to be a referendum on Barack Obama … and his stewardship of the economy. To the extent any debates are had in the party that diverge from that goal, that’s bad.”

If the candidates don’t start talking about policy, and eventually they will, but if somehow Perry overtakes Romney as the front-runner, and continues to wrangle about in agitating the faithful by demeaning science, how can he expect to win a general election? The NJ sees this possibility:

[These arguments] highlight one of the core Democratic hopes for 2012: that Republican positions on social and environmental issues will repel some white-collar suburban voters otherwise economically disenchanted with President Obama.

This is not unfamiliar to the Democrats. Painting too narrow a picture of oneself in the primary usually results in a real picture making one a cartoon. When all is done with the GOP infighting, the winner might just end up like John Kerry, wind-surfing to nowhere.

Written by Christopher ZF

August 24, 2011 at 09:40