Monday, January 28, 2008

Book Review: "A Mormon in the White House?" by Hugh Hewitt

Conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt is familiar to many. I listen to him locally on KRLA 870 AM (or the parts I want to on his podcast found at When it became apparent over a year ago that Massachusetts's governor, Mitt Romney was going to be a leading candidate for the Republican nomination as President, he wrote this book examining Romney's views and looking at the problems a Mormon would face running for President in the United States.

Hewitt begins the book with a look at Romney's background, including his father's run for the presidency, his life at Bain & Company and Bain Capital, the turnaround of the 2002 Winter Olympics, and his family life. The key elements of the book though are, obviously, the sections on Romney's positions, how the Mormon issue will affect Romney's candidacy, and the advantages Romney has as a candidate.

Pro-Life: Romney readily admits he came around to this position in 1994. This was at the time when he ran for the Senate against Ted Kennedy. Hewitt argues Romney would be for a strict interpretation of the Constitution, thus helping the pro-life movement in the courts. He also points out that Romney, as governor, vetoed four provisions that would have expanded abortion rights and that he kept his promise to not pass any new pro-abortion laws. (Something to keep in mind. If Romney had run saying he would ban abortion, he NEVER would have been elected in liberal Massachusetts. Another thing to consider is this: He took a pro-life stance/change in 1994 when it would have been advantageous to stay pro-choice.)
Traditional Marriage: Hewitt points out Romney strongly attacked the Mass. Supreme Court and their forcing of gay marriage onto the legislature. 
Governorship: Romney frequently hired people from outside of government who brought a fresh, business-like mindset to the Mass. executive office. He also was able to balance the budget within a year without raising taxes. Hewitt also went into detail on Romney's health care plan which utilized private insurance companies, expanded health care, did not raise taxes, and did not create any new government programs.

Mormon issue:
Hewitt brings up three arguments people (and other candidates) would use to argue against electing a Mormon; that Salt Lake City would be calling the shots, it would supercharge Mormon missionary work, and "it's just too weird." Hewitt argues that SLC would not call the shots anymore than the Vatican did during the Kennedy presidency (which wasn't much at all) and that if Romney were to just follow Mormon leadership, it would greatly discredit (and after four years) end his Presidency. He also points out, in regard to the supercharged missionary work, that a President has very little impact on the faith of the individuals of a nation. People come to faith based on the personal witness of individuals, not because their national leader is of that faith. For instance, could you argue that the number of evangelicals has risen in the past eight years due to President Bush? Hewitt's response to the "weird" argument should clearly dispel this point. Hewitt shows that to non-Christians, the beliefs of Christianity would seem pretty "weird" also. He makes this argument not to say Mormons are equal to Christians in saving faith, but to point out that while the argument may be used against a Mormon today, it could be used against a Christian tomorrow.

While Hewitt gave a bunch of other advantages (public persona, ability to fund a campaign, etc) the best advantage he gave Romney is that he IS NOT John McCain. While at the time of the writing of the book, Hewitt did not see Huckabee as a main player, he points out Romney's candidacy is much more appealing to a Republican base that despises McCain's numerous compromises and arrogance. He also shows Romney is much more appealing to the base when compared with Giuliani's liberal social views.

The book got off on a wrong note when it referred to the Korean War starting in 1947 (It started in 1950) and it is already slightly outdated since it does not factor in Huckabee's strong showing. While the date of the war is wrong, the point of the story fits well with the book and it can probably be attributed to editor error anyway. That being said, the book does a great job of showing who Mitt Romney is, and provides a solid argument as to why Republicans should vote for him. If you have not voted yet, I recommend you read this book.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Mike Huckabee: True Conservative?

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has established himself as the leading Republican presidential candidate among "evangelical Christians." I have read some of Huckabee's material and he appears to be a genuine believer, but I believe his support among evangelicals is not so much due to his viewpoints on the issues (with the exception being his strong pro-life stance) but due to the fact he is an evangelical and he is not...

the Mormon (Romney)
the philanderer (Giuliani)
the compromiser (McCain)
or the actor (Thompson).

I have established a voting criteria I use when evaluating candidates for national office. All are consistent with a Republican conservative viewpoint on the issues. Here is my criteria using an alliteration so it can be easily remembered:

1. Strong national defense.
2. Strict constitutionalist.
3. Sealed borders.
4. Supply-side economist
5. Small-government supporter.
(Note: I am sure my fellow pro-life readers will see this and immediately be upset I have not placed "Pro-Life" in my list. In my way of thinking, someone could not be both pro-choice and a strict constitutionalist, since the pro-choice argument reads into the Constitution. I write this because this argument is the only basis for the pro-Huck argument.)

Now lets evaluate Huckabee against these common-held beliefs of conservatives.

We are at war right now. While Huckabee's website says some good things about finishing the war against terror, what has he done to prepare himself to be commander-in-chief; the most important of presidential roles? You would think he has a staff of national security advisers to keep him updated. According to Rich Lowry in his "National Review" commentary today, he claimed former UN ambassador John Bolton as his advisor, but then later had to reveal he had only emailed him once without following up. I would hope for more from a possible future leader of the world's strongest nation.

Further, Huckabee, as does many "Christian" leaders, (such as Jimmy Carter) uses biblical instruction for individuals and attempts to apply it to government. Take for instance Huckabee's quote regarding Iran;
"We haven't had diplomatic relationships with Iran in almost thirty years, most
of my entire adult life. And a lot of good it's done. Putting this in human terms, all
of us know that when we stop talking to a parent, or a sibling, or even a friend, its
impossible to resolve the differences to move that relationship forward. Well, the same
is true for countries."

No it is not true Mr. Huckabee. Do unto others as you would have done to you is a good, solid, and biblical rule for relationships with others. The government, according to Romans 13, "bears[s] the sword" so we can be free from fear of evil. Having Huckabee as President would only allow Iran to continue to build up their weapons and we know they have a leader who thinks he is supposed to bring down God's judgement on Israel and the western countries. So while Huckabee denounced President Bush for including Iran in the "Axis of Evil" speech, a good argument can (and should) be made that this put Iran on notice and has forced them to back down, at least visibly.

Another instance where Huckabee takes Scripture written to individuals and applies it to governments is his frequent and liberal use of the pardon while governor of Arkansas. He used it more than the three previous governors combined. One of those governors was BILL CLINTON! Because these convicted felons expressed remorse, Huckabee believed it was his responsibility to forgive them. Wrong! Its the responsibility of the person wronged to forgive (and ultimately God can and will forgive for true repentance) but not the government's. Again, the government's job is to protect people from evil. Here Huckabee failed miserably.

Moving onto sealed borders. (I will go back to the strict constitutionalist point). He advocated free in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants. He supported the Bush amnesty plan, which would have put illegals at the front of the line, ahead of law-abiding people who have waited for years to be citizens of this great country. Need I say more? Now Huck will say he is for building the wall, but if the gate is open wide, does the wall do much good?

Is Huckabee a supply-sider (meaning in favor of low taxes and free from government intrusion)? Huckabee raised taxes repeatedly as governor. If he did it in Arkansas, I see no reason why he will not as President, especially with the current Democrat majority who will be itching to raise taxes on the "evil rich" (meaning the people who hire other people.)

Is Huckabee for small government? He helped lead the large expansion of Arkansas' Department of Education. Now he makes the argument he was ordered to spend money by the courts. Fine. Build classrooms, buy books, and expand football stadiums (after all, this is Arkansas). Required spending of money does not mean you need to expand government. Again. If he did it in Arkansas, he will do it as President.

Finally the strict constitutionalist issue. Mike Huckabee is pro-life. I praise him for that and I believe he has taken the strongest stand in defense of the unborn. Now answer this question for me. What control does the President have over abortion? Due to liberal judges, no law can currently overturn Roe v Wade, so there is not a law he can sign.
Many in the pro-life community, MYSELF INCLUDED, support a Pro-Life Amendment to the Constitution. Someone tell me where in Article V it says the President signs this? You cannot, because the President has NO VOTE/VETO/OVERRIDE when it comes to an amendment. An amendment needs to be passed by two-thirds of Congress and then three-fourths of the States. The President can be vehemently against it and it won't matter.

Which leads me to this conclusion on the strict constitutionalist issue. Mike Huckabee will appoint judges to the appeals and/or Supreme Court in the mold of a Thomas, Scalia, Alito, and Roberts. But there are other candidates who will, and believe in a more-conservative manner the other issues I laid out. That is why my vote will not be with Mike Huckabee.

Now that I have said this, there are many in the Christian community whom I agree with 99% of the time, who run some extremely valuable ministries, and who are committed to the truth of Scripture, but support Mike Huckabee. Among these is Randy Alcorn from Eternal Perspective Ministries and Alex and Brett Harris of While I have their websites bookmarked and I frequently read them, there is some misleading information they have put out regarding Huckabee. For instance, in a letter Alex Harris wrote to Randy Alcorn (which Alcorn published on his personal blog) Harris states, "[Huckabee] has more executive experience than any candidate." True, strictly looking at the executive as being a governor, mayor, President, etc. But how can you discount the time Mitt Romney spent as head of Bain & Company as well as Bain Capital? Romney spent nearly twenty years at this company which specializes in saving failing companies and turning them around. (Keep in mind we are talking major, nationally-recognizable companies.) Or for that matter his record as executive of the 2002 Winter Olympics? When he took over, there was talk of canceling the Games. Instead, the Games were, financially speaking, the best ever.

Harris goes on to write, "The mainstream media still refuses to take Huckabee seriously." There is no factual, empirical evidence to support this statement. Every night I see Huckabee on the news and every morning I read about him in the newspaper, on the front page. If by the mainstream media Harris means the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Fox News, Meet the Press, etc. this statement is flat out wrong.

Another Harris quote tells us Huckabee won Iowa "despite a near-consensus among the media that Romney's organization would eke out a several point victory." This is just not true. Every national poll, Rasmussen, Zogby, etc had Huck winning, on the basis of the strong evangelical vote. To claim otherwise is either ignorance or misinformation.

Finally, Harris informs us "[Huckabee] was outspent almost 20-1...He was assailed relentlessly by attack ads and mailers over the past month, even though he refused to run negative ads of his own." Again, a misleading statment. How much did it cost Huckabee to go on "Meet the Press" or the "Jay Leno Show?" The correct answer is NOTHING. It was essentially free advertising. You think Fred Thompson or Mitt Romney would have like the opportunity to be on those shows recently? As for the "attack ads," being critical of one's policies are not attack ads, that is called information I need to properly vote. Did any of these "attack ads" make untrue statements about Huckabee's character, family, or positions? No. While I'm on this topic though, some thoughts on negative campaign ads. (If you have read my thoughts on this before I apologize.)

Say I am a hot young pitching prospect. Scouts come out to watch me and I am consistently throwing the ball 100 mph. The scouts talk to me and I tell them how strong my arm is so they offer me a big contract. Sounds great right? Now I get to Single-A Hicktown and have no ability to throw a curve or changeup and my location is so bad I couldn't throw it in the water standing on the pier. In hindsight, the scouts should have looked at the negative side of my pitching, not just the positive that I highlighted for them. The same is true with campaign ads. I want to know why someone is better than someone else. To do that, I NEED THEM COMPARED TO THAT OTHER PERSON. Hence the need for commercials critical of opponents. It may sound noble of Huckabee to avoid similar ads and to refuse to respond to ads from Romney or Thompson, but really all it is, is an avoidance of the issues at hand.

This blog entry has turned into a term paper so I'll leave it at this. Evaluate the candidates and don't just vote for someone because he is an "evangelical." A final question though. Which recent President was better, the Southern Baptist preacher, or the actor? I'll take actor; Ronald Reagan.

Check back soon for my endorsement of a candidate and the reasons why I will support him.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Book Review: "The Gospel and Personal Evangelism" by Mark Dever

Over our Christmas vacation and our trip to Oregon, I had the opportunity to read Mark Dever's (senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington D.C. and book on evangelism. For me, as I'm sure it is for many of you, evangelism is lot like prayer. You know it is something you should spend much more time in. Dever's book is not only challenging in encouraging the reader to tell the lost the truth of the Gospel, it is very helpful in teaching us how to do it.

Dever begins with the premise that none of us would have a problem telling our friends about a great occurrence in our life, such as winning the lottery, etc. How true that is! I think of how easy it is to converse with people about politics or sports, but shy away from the most important truth there is.

Dever then gets into the heart of the matter, forming his chapters based on common questions regarding evangelism. Chapters include "Why Don't We Evangelize?", "What is the Gospel?", "Who Should Evangelize?", "How Do We Evangelize?", "What Isn't Evangelism?", and "Why Should We Evangelize?" Each chapter was informative and counters any argument you could possibly make to avoid evangelism.

Especially important to me, Dever emphasizes the gospel is not simply that man is neutral toward God and that "God is love", but that man is at war with God. Too often you hear people talking about coming to Jesus for their self-esteem, to have fellowship, or to have freedom from guilt. Dever's point, as the Bible clearly teaches, is that man has offended a holy God and will be punished eternally in hell as a result. Unless of course they come to Christ. This book teaches how that can happen, and how to communicate that truth to others.

Finally, Dever covers three reasons why Christians should evangelize the lost; a desire to be obedient, a love for the lost, and a love for God. I know for myself it is very easy to ask someone to church and let the pastor do the evangelism. Dever reminds us the church is for believers, its our job to tell others the gospel and bring them when they are saved.

Sharing Christ with others can be intimidating. Its amazing to think however that in America the only type of persecution we most likely will face is either some small mocking or indifference to the truth. Its almost unheard of that we face "real" persecution such as torture or execution, yet, as Dever points out, "our fear of man is greater than our fear of God."

I highly recommend this book and hope that you and I will put its wise words into practice.