Supporting the POTUS

Supporting the POTUS

ConstitutionIn a recent online discussion I voiced disagreement with the President of the United States (POTUS) and was reminded that since he is President of my country I must support him.

Yes, the POTUS is the President. But the US Constitution is built upon the separation of Powers – between the President, the Congress, and the Judicial system (the Law).

separation of powersThe President had Congress behind him, in an almost unprecedented way, upon his election 6 years ago. Under his leadership his party has lost “control” of congress, and he is now acting in opposition to Congress. This is one reason Congress invited Netanyahu to speak, to provide a counterpoint to negotiations the President is conducting which specifically do not have the support of a majority of the American population, which many, myself included, deem wrongheaded and reckless, and which endanger the security of America and the world. In the American democracy we have not only the right, but the obligation, to make these views known, in an effort to influence and moderate the President’s decisions.

Further, the global Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty is a legal document.

The President does NOT have the authority to unilaterally change that treaty, which (if the reports are accurate) he is undermining in his negotiations with Iran at this point in time. If he then proceeds to execute an agreement with Iran without congressional approval, he will be acting in violation of the law, and will serve to further destabilize the world which was made a safer place through the execution of that Non-proliferation treaty.

Already other nations are positioning themselves for the new “treaty-violated” world Obama is creating. Exhibit A is the agreement the Saudi’s reached with North Korea.

Thus, while my discussion partner made a valid point, it is pointless. I fully support the President of the US, so long as the President is acting within the constitutional rights we elected him to exercise and also uphold. To the degree he is acting outside those rights, or violating them, we need to support the Congress and the Judicial branch even if it means opposing the President.

That is the nature of the balance of powers which is what, even more than presidential leadership, has made this country great.

Nuclear NonproliferationObama betrayed that trust when he failed to take meaningful action to protect the sovereignty of Ukraine against the Russian aggression in Crimea, and he is apparently proceeding with a disastrous deal with Iran. I am very, very far from being a hawk. I think war is atrocious, and I do not wish to send American’s overseas to fight wars.

But I am also a student of history and geopolitics. As such, I know for an undeniable fact, that when we pursue the path of appeasement so infamously pursued by Chamberlain, vs. the path of opposition so famously advocated by Churchill, the result is more war, death, destruction and chaos, not less.

Unfortunately it has become very clear in the last 4 years that Obama is pursuing a path worse than that taken by Chamberlain. Obama is not only appeasing aggressor states, he is advocating for the expansion of their influence, power and even military capabilities, in the case of both Russia, which his “reset” and more importantly, the entire Muslim world, beginning with his support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which pushed that country towards the brink of chaos, from which it thankfully recovered, from his failure to adhere to his own “red line” in Syria, in favor of letting Russia’s role increase, his withdrawal from Iraq, leading to the rise of Isis, and now his overt efforts to empower, embolden and even encourage Iran to continue it’s aggressive regional expansion.

The story of The Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly comes to mind. We’re about to start choking on the Iranian horse intended to catch the ISIS cow we allowed by ignoring the Syrian dog when we swallowed the cat of withdrawing from Iraq.

The thinking that got us here einsteinDespite the president’s ludicrous claim, just a few months ago, that the world was a safer place, anyone who is able to assess the world objectively understands that nothing could be further from the truth.

Interestingly, the Virtue Card randomly chosen to conclude this blog was Initiative. Here are some of the quotes from the card: “Initiative is originality and creativity in action. When we have initiative we boldly express new ideas, discover a new method, or find a different way to solve a problem.”

We can fix this, America, but given how far we’ve strayed it’s not going to be easy. The time to take initiative is now.

Honor Meltdown

Honor Meltdown

My wife and I spent last weekend in a Virtues workshop, learning how these “internal treasures” can transform us, our family, and the world.  In honor of The Virtues Project, my blogs, going forward will feature a Virtue, pulled at random from a stack of 50, as a lens through which to view the topic at hand.

medal of honor

U.S. Army Medal of Honor

Today I drew Honor, with the following affirmation: I am honorable, I keep my agreements and treat others with respect. I live by the virtues. I care about doing the right thing.

The Topic? The U.S. led negotiations with Iran on Nuclear armaments. What does honor have to do with nuclear discussions?

Apparently not a whole lot…

For starters, the headlines are starting to call out that there is no honor to be found anywhere near these negotiations.  I could pick any number of articles but Iran Cheats, Obama Whitewashes caught my eye.  In this Wall street Journal Opinion piece Bret Stephens maintains that “Iran came to the table cheating on its nuclear commitments. It continued to cheat on them throughout the interim agreement it agreed to last year. And it will cheat on any undertakings it signs.”

What’s perhaps worse, is that the article makes the case that this cheating is common knowledge, and key named officials, including the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, in particular know it.  The same John Kerry who said, in 2012 “We’re not going to pass another treaty in the U.S. Senate if our colleagues [in the administration] are sitting up there knowing somebody is cheating.”

In the Virtues Workshop one of the facilitators, from Virtues Village, stated “Virtues are the golden thread that unites Humanity.”  Given the above quote, and the appalling vacuum of virtuous leadership today, it is a small wonder that the world is in such disunity.

Hassan_Rouhani_and_Vladimir_Putin_(1)Honor is indeed a virtue, but there is virtually none in evidence on the global scene today.  The 1994 agreement on Ukraine is a compelling reference point: “On December 5, 1994 the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Britain and the United States signed a memorandum to remove nuclear weapons in Ukraine. They all signed six agreements for Ukraine, the first two of which are reproduced here:

1) The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine;
2) The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defence or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations

American Exceptionalism vs. Putin

American Exceptionalism vs. Putin

Does Vladimir Putin have a point about American Exceptionalism?

The idea that all men are created equal is a founding principle of the United States. Is the belief in American Exceptionalism inherently contradictory—or even dangerous?

Russian President Vladimir Putin thinks so. In his recent New York Times op-ed piece, he wrote that American Exceptionalism is “extremely dangerous” and that “we must not forget that God created us equal.”

American Exceptionalism is the view that the United States has a special role to play on the world’s stage because of its national ethos and provenance. Within this country, this view is prevalent. It is also balanced with the other principles upon which this nation was founded. Our Constitution has stood for a progressive stance on individual rights. We have become a world leader, in part, by embracing a sense of fairness for all.

So our national identity faces a fundamental dilemma today.

Why would I venture into discussing this topic? The People of the Sign is a kind of literary memoir recounting my life, much of which I spent within the Worldwide Church of God (WCG). The WCG under Herbert W. Armstrong was prosperous and growing, with a global reach and an astounding influence. And it was built on the idea that its members were divinely exceptional.

But the WCG was ripped apart by an identity crisis that crystallized under new leadership. Is this the fate of our nation?

That remains to be seen, but we can draw an important lesson from the WCG about American Exceptionalism.

One of the church’s fatal flaws was the hubris of Herbert W. Armstrong, his lieutenants, and many of the church’s members. While faith is good, and the book of Hebrews states that God rewards those who diligently seek him, we need to beware the mindset of divine superiority. Pride comes before the fall.

I am not a supporter of Putin. I find his comments both insulting and insincere. I was in Leningrad in 1991 during a coup by hard-line communists, which included the kidnapping of Mikhail Gorbachev. Boris Yeltsin then came into power, signaling the end of the Soviet Union. At the time there was certainly no dearth of Russian Exceptionalism. Yet their hubris led to ignominy on the world stage, and ultimately to the implosion of their empire.

In the wake of that collapse, the U.S. has been largely unchecked on the global scene. Today, some of the problems that confronted the Soviet Union during its twilight are in evidence here. And Russia’s recent geopolitical coup on the subject of Syria, followed by Putin’s comments, indicate that Russia feels the time is right to challenge the U.S.

When it comes to geopolitics and political strategy, I share in a sentiment recently raised in the media about this issue: Russia plays chess and America plays monopoly. We’re playing two different games, and at least in this Syrian crisis, Putin’s chess is winning.

Historically, Russian leaders have been the masters of gray, whereas U.S. leaders continue to define things in black and white. But what’s black and what’s white is changing. A belief in American Exceptionalism can easily work against finesse and diplomacy, which are much needed in navigating this predicament and an increasingly integrated world.

I do not reject the idea that God has a special purpose for the United States. But what is important to realize, especially for those who believe as I do, is that God also has a special purpose for every person on the planet. That includes the aggregate political entities that they are a part of as well.

To hold the idea that we are exceptional can be healthy. I have a five- and a two-year old, and they respond well to verbal encouragement and high fives. Yet I’m aware that this type of motivation needs to be balanced out with the teaching of virtues and spiritual principles like love, kindness, humility, gentleness, and respect for others.

A balanced approach that includes spiritual qualities worthy of a nation that claims to reside “under God” will lead to an American Exceptionalism that can stand the test of time. And the jabs of our enemies, like Vladimir Putin.


American Exceptionalism - two boys salute their respective flags

The Russians love their exceptionalism too