Making Mexico pay for the wall

So let’s assume that Donald Trump gets the Republican presidential nomination, which is probable, and that he is elected President, which is possible.  How would he carry out his promises?

Consider his vow to build a wall between the United States and Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants, and, furthermore, to make Mexico pay for it.   The government of Mexico has said, defiantly, that there is no way they would pay for a wall.  Trump responded that he would therefore make it ten feet higher.

(My brother says that Mexico would indeed build a wall and pay for it in order to keep out the hordes of Americans who would flee the country if Donald Trump were elected President.  My sister said that she heard that joke from Jimmy Fallon.  My brother said that while that might be, he came up with it independently.)

But how would President Trump make Mexico pay for the wall? [Read more…]

Presidents Day

Today is Presidents Day.  Would you say that this holiday has lost something?  Has the presidency lost its grandeur, even its respect?

Presidents Day was a mash-up of the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but that plural (not possessive) honors them all.  Most of our presidents, beyond those great two, were far from paragons.  But as we contemplate the current presidential election and the candidates we have to choose from, do you find the prospects for that office rather depressing?

Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) says that we have defined the presidency down.  He gives some choice and rather funny characterizations of four of the contenders, which I quote after the jump.  But his analysis of why our standards have sunk so low is thought-provoking.  I’ll try to summarize it. [Read more…]

My prediction has already come true

On January 1, one week ago, I predicted in our annual exercise that someone would propose amending the Constitution to allow Barack Obama to serve a third term.   It has already happened:

Democratic New York Rep. Jose Serrano reintroduced a bill in Congress Friday to repeal the 22nd Amendment, which places term limits on the U.S. presidency.

The bill, which has been referred to committee, would allow Barack President Obama to become the first president since Franklin Roosevelt to seek a third term in office.

H.J. Res. 15 proposes “an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to repeal the twenty-second article of amendment, thereby removing the limitation on the number of terms an individual may serve as President.”

via New York congressman introduces bill to abolish presidential term limits | The Daily Caller.

The presidential election was held yesterday

The Electoral College cast its ballots on Monday.  The results won’t be official, though, until Congress counts the vote on January 6.

Electoral college set to vote on President Obama’s reelection – The Washington Post.

Is this an anachronism or wisdom from our nation’s Founders?  Could the process for choosing a president be improved?  What if state legislatures simply chose the electors from each state, cutting the public out of it, as was apparently the original intention?  Would this result in a de-politicized chief executive, and might this be a good thing?

Why do we even have a president?

Historian Kenneth C. Davis looks at the origin of the office of the President, something our Founders went round and round about at the Constitutional Convention.

In that steamy Philadelphia summer of 1787, as the Constitution was secretly being drafted and the plan for the presidency invented — “improvised” is more apt — the delegates weren’t sure what they wanted this new office to be. To patriots who had fought a war against a king, the thought of one person wielding great power, at the head of a standing army, gave them the willies.

Still, Hamilton asserted in the Federalist Papers that this experimental executive must have “energy” — a quality characterized by “decision, activity, secrecy and dispatch.” Hamilton knew that the times demanded bold action. Operating under the Articles of Confederation, a weak Congress had dithered through crisis and conflict, unable to collect taxes or raise an effective army. And the presidents of Congress — 14 of them from 1774 to 1788 — wielded nothing more threatening than a gavel. They couldn’t even answer a letter without congressional approval.

As the delegates to the Constitutional Convention sweltered behind closed windows, in the same Pennsylvania State House where the Declaration of Independence had been adopted 11 years earlier, they disagreed about many things. But no issue caused greater consternation than establishing an executive office to run the country.

Would this executive department be occupied by one man or a council of three? What powers would the executive have? How long would he hold office? How would the executive be chosen? And how would he be removed, if necessary? (Without an answer to this question, Ben Franklin warned, the only recourse would be assassination.)

On these questions, the record points down a tortuous path filled with uncertainty and sharp division. While some delegates feared creating a presidency that could become a “fetus of monarchy,” others called for an executive who could negotiate treaties and make appointments — or command an army if the nation was threatened. Or at least answer the mail. . . . [Read more…]

Is the President our national pastor?

No, the president is most emphatically NOT a national pastor, such an understanding betraying a deadly confusion of God’s Two Kingdoms and completely distorting the nature of the pastoral office.  But the normally circumspect Christianity Today has two articles that say, yes, the president kind of is a national pastor.

See Owen Strachan,“Our American President: The ‘Almost Pastor’ of an ‘Almost Chosen’ Land” and  Judd Birdsall, “Is the President America’s Pastor in Chief?“.  A sample from the latter:

Ironically, the curious American integration of piety and the presidency largely stems from our separation of church and state. Without an established religion led by an archbishop, ecumenical patriarch, or grand mufti, the President acts, for better or worse, as the nation’s senior religious figure.

Cambridge University professor Andrew Preston makes this point in his massive, 815-page work Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy: “There is no official hierarchy in the American civil religion, but as the nation’s head of state as well as its chief executive … the president has acted as its de facto pope.”

What exactly are the President’s papal duties? Preston explains: “Since George Washington, the president has been the interpreter of rites, symbols, and meanings of the civil religion, with some—particularly Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry Truman—significantly recasting it under the pressure of war.”

Obama’s and Romney’s faith-infused interpretations of the Aurora shooting are case in point, and the most recent chapter in the long history of the presidential pastorate. Both politicians denounced the killing as “evil,” and both turned to the Bible for meaning, solace, and hope.

In his public statement after meeting with victims’ families in Aurora, Obama quoted the famous eschatological promise found in Revelation 21:4: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more. Neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Focusing on the here and now, Romney encouraged his audience to “mourn with those who mourn,” a reference to Romans 12:15. In poignant remarks packed with Christian language, Romney expressed his prayer that “the grieving will know the nearness of God” and “the comfort of a living God.” Citing the apostle Paul by name, Romney quoted from 2 Corinthians 1:3–4, “blessed be God, who comforteth us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble.”

Many commentators applauded Romney for sounding “presidential.” Especially in times of tribulation, Americans expect their President to be their pastor—not in any formal sense as a leader of a church but in the general sense as a provider of spiritual care and theological perspective for the nation.

The president as our archbishop, since we’re not allowed to have a state church?  Our pope?  A provider of our spiritual care?  These writers, of course, are speaking by way of analogy.  The workings of the “civil religion,” not to be confused (though it often is) with Christianity, though I’m not sure these articles finish that point.  They describe how the presidency functions and how the public responds, not how things should be.  But still. . . .

What is wrong with this picture?

HT:  Paul McCain


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