Tag Archives: make a difference

Remedy for A Killer Disease

They call it Potomac Fever. Named after the river that borders half of Washington, like a moat around a castle, this disease is prevalent: affecting both political parties, many (though not all) lobbyists, and even faith-based groups headquartered in our nation’s capital. A lack of consistent physical symptoms make it difficult to diagnose, as all indicators are moral and ethical: Deception, manipulation, hidden agendas.

It’s a cancer that eats away at the soul, a hunger for power, control, money and recognition that decays one’s character and decision-making ability. Its spread is rampant, its damage deep … and the Cure little-known.

Reality looks bleak. “What can men do against such reckless hate?” as King Theoden mourned in The Lord of the Rings. Is there no place for people of conviction and courage in the halls of power?

Unbeknownst to them, a group of Washingtonians were recently introduced to Potomac Fever’s antidote by a former White House staffer named Tim Goeglein. Though advertised as a premiere for his book The Man in the Middle, they were in for much more. Tim spent his half-hour in front of these experts and government officials (plus a few stragglers like me) sharing what few had ever heard in a public speech: A confession without excuses.

Tim had worked for eight years in the White House, serving at the pleasure of President George W. Bush. Those years teemed with God’s work in and through his life. Tim saw firsthand a friendship develop between the President and Pope John Paul II, directly influencing our nation’s shunning of embryonic stem cell research and partial-birth abortion. When two Supreme Court vacancies came up, Tim had a hand in ensuring these two new justices would be leaders who upheld the original intent of our Constitution.

And in America’s darkest hour, the president called on Tim to plan a remembrance service at National Cathedral. On Sept. 14, 2001, a truly red-letter day, Rev. Billy Graham consoled the grieving with God’s Word and preached the Gospel to hundreds of millions worldwide via every major TV news network.

Yet a decade later here was Tim, speaking not of these great deeds but revealing his own dark night of the soul.

In 2008, during the heightened political tension of an election year, a reporter sent Tim a simple e-mail on a Friday. He asked about a column Tim wrote for his hometown newspaper: had he taken the work of other writers and passed it off as his own? Yes, he had. Tim knew his own pride and self-interest had caught up to him. He knelt at his desk and prayed. His life was about to change.

Tim resigned from the White House after nearly eight years of working for President Bush, a tenure stretching back to campaign days in Austin, Texas, and the election recount debacle in Florida. Now the media sharks smelled blood in the water. Evidence of their feeding frenzy can still be seen on Google.

That weekend he grieved, both the shame he caused the president and his loss — as he expected the plagiarism scandal meant an end to any connection with the Bush family. But that’s not what happened.

Going back to his old office to retrieve personal items the next Monday, Tim was stopped by the Chief of Staff: “Could you come to my office in the West Wing?” Surely this would be the woodshed moment.

Not long after, Tim found himself standing once again before President Bush in the Oval Office.

“Mr. President, I owe you a …” he began.

The president stopped him. “Tim, I want you to know I forgive you.”

He pressed on: “But, Mr. President, you should take me by the lapels and toss me into Pennsylvania Avenue. I embarrassed you and the team; I am so sorry.”

“Tim, you are forgiven,” President Bush said again, “and mercy is real. Now we can talk about this, or we can spend some time together talking about the last eight years.” They did. And before his former staffer left, the president had only one request: For Tim to come back with his wife and sons, so they could hear personally how he felt about Tim’s years of service.

A hush fell over the Washington crowd as Tim recounted his story of forgiveness. It wasn’t political maneuvering, clever marketing or anything he did that gave him that glorious moment of redemption. It was undeserved, only received in a place of humility. Once again, the Gospel was preached by an unlikely mouthpiece in unexpected circumstances.

No one is immune from Potomac Fever. Thankfully, God gives us forerunners who’ve gone ahead to tell their stories, make us aware when we’re susceptible to the disease and identify certain mindsets as “quarantine” for His sons and daughters.

Salvation is the only Cure. And it’s a process, not an event.

Cross-posted at Crosswalk.com

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The Religious Right Grows Up

Two weekends ago, over 3,100 Americans from 49 states descended on Washington, DC for the sixth annual Values Voter Summit. As expected, the media conjured up controversy from the event—centered around the seven presidential candidates who addressed the summit—yet a larger narrative was at play.

All the major presidential candidates addressed the 2011 Values Voter Summit

While summit attendees came from all walks of life and a cross-section of generations, they held certain core values in common. Marriage and family are to be protected. Each human life is sacred. Families (and nations) should live within their means. Religious freedom and the ideas of the Constitution are to be upheld.

These truths animate life everyday for values voters. But how do these values illuminate a vision for public policy and government?

We saw it in how Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, wisely addressed the controversy surrounding Mormonism. When a Dallas-area pastor commented on Governor Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith, reporters took it out of context to show a “split” among values voters.

“We clearly recognize the fact that Mormon theology includes doctrines that are distinct from Evangelical theology and Catholic theology. At the same time, the goal of the values voter movement is not to build a ‘National Church,’” Perkins wrote after the event.

“Our goal is to build a national coalition based on shared values… And when we successfully work together with those who share our values, we are preserving and strengthening our religious liberty, so that we can freely share the truth of the gospel with everyone.”

Perkins’ vision for coming together around common ideals borrows from coalition-builder Grover Norquist. Longtime head of Americans for Tax Reform, Norquist authored a book tellingly titled Leave Us Alone: Getting the Government’s Hands Off Our Money, Our Guns, Our Lives.

Drawing on his decades of experience rallying diverse groups to a common cause, Norquist contrasts America’s coalitions of the right and left.

Conservative ideology is driven by liberty. Home-schooling families desire to teach their children without interference. Small business owners need freedom from excessive regulation to create wealth. Hunters want to exercise their right to bear arms. Churches and religious organizations pray they can freely hire God-fearing people, without Uncle Sam (in the name of “employment non-discrimination”) mandating church staff consist of people who do not share their values.

All these parties are not asking for a piece of the pie, for a special handout from the government. Their driving interest is freedom from Washington control.

The right’s hands-off stance to government contrasts starkly with the left, which delights in trying to “correct” the problems of society and free markets with social engineering. Their “takings coalition” has been on full display in recent years.

Environmental activists want your tax money for windmills and solar subsidies (see: Solyndra). Powerful labor unions can only solidify their influence with public funding (see: UAW bailout). And Planned Parenthood, which has snuffed out over 5 million lives since it began practicing abortion the day it became legal in 1970 in New York, can only keep its murderous mission going with taxpayer support.

Values voters are waking up. Clearly our national budget is tightly linked to the expression of our values in public policy. Why does the left constantly advocate for taxes, even when it’s unpopular as during an election season? Because they must dole out public funding to an ever-increasing cast of shady characters.

I only know of three effective ways to combat this dominant coalition. First, sunlight is a powerful disinfectant. Fearless, truth-telling reporters do a world of good in exposing corruption. Many now work at state think tanks and local watchdog blogs as some newspapers close up shop. Second, we can starve the beast by lowering taxes where possible.

A third vital strategy is encapsulated by Benjamin Franklin: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” In the world of policy and activism, I have met people—even leaders—whose personality, political emphasis and theology are different than my own. While I may not look up to them in every respect, I choose to stay focused on the goals we have in common: life, liberty, limited government and the freedom to pursue happiness.

Politics is rough sport. The key to getting things done is building a solid team, and many candidates will be vying for your support in the coming months. By no means should you get on-board without discernment: examining past votes, knowing present positions, considering future policies.

I would encourage you not to swear off the good guys due to a secondary or tertiary issue. Your voice in the process matters. Your vote matters. Don’t let small differences keep you from making a real impact.

Cross-posted at The Oracle

Capitol Hill Staffer Aaron Welty Faces Life Head-On


This week Emmy Award-winning TV show Facing Life Head-On features the inspiring story of Aaron Welty, a Congressional staffer whose belief in the value of life stems from his own remarkable story. Born with cerebral palsy, Welty has proven that a negative medical prognosis can be proven flat wrong – and quality of life can be limitless in a land of opportunity that respects life.

“I was born in America,” Welty answers when asked how he first felt the pull to work in Congress. “I could’ve been born somewhere else in the early 80′s where I would not have been safe and life wouldn’t necessarily have been as secure as it is. I had to find a way to give back, and friends of mine suggested, ‘Why don’t you go to Washington?’ I grabbed that idea and ran with it.”

Since 2006, Welty has worked for Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), currently as a legislative assistant. Prior to that, he served as an intern at The Heritage Foundation as part of the Young Leaders Program. The FENX, an experimental electric vehicle built for Welty by his father (a carpenter involved in aircraft design), provides him a high degree of mobility in the nation’s busy capital despite his physical challenges. Welty chronicles the origins of his electric vehicle at the FENX Project blog .

Now in its fifth season on air Facing Life Head-On provokes thought and promotes awareness of life issues, from adoption to disabilities to end-of-life care. Watch the complete two-part episode “Turning Disability into Opportunity” at the show’s website.

Cross-posted at The Foundry

Get Up 40 Minutes Early on a Tuesday

Originally published by New Man eMagazine

As Americans, we are blessed to be living in the richest country in the history of the world. Undeniably, one of the key reasons for our prosperity is our many freedoms – notably, the liberty to vote for our leaders.

And in my experience, all it takes to exercise this freedom is to get up 40 minutes early on a Tuesday morning, get to a local polling place, maybe stand in a line for a bit*… and make a decision that will directly impact the budget, policies and personalities who will direct government for at least two years. What a country! Our representative democracy is a unique and powerful system, the first of its kind you could say – only existing today thanks to the blood and sacrifice of America’s finest.

In light of this, it always shocks me when I run into people who proclaim, even proudly: “I don’t vote.” Really? So you’re part of those 40% of American citizens who banter and complain about political leaders or parties or “the system” like everyone else, but can’t take 40 minutes to do the one thing you can do constructively to make a difference? Unbelievable.

Now I know cynicism stops many people from voting. I’ve felt that too. Having moved from Texas to Washington, DC in the past year, it’s actually been heartening to find many talented, visionary people working in politics… but even more discouraging to see their good ideas trampled by the Big Government parade.

True, both political parties are responsible for those spending increases, those new programs, those supposedly “good” things that only serve to part you with more of your hard-earned money. Now that I’m more aware of who’s calling the shots here in DC, I know that I know that I know we are all better off if you choose where your money is spent** – including what charities, places of worship, and good causes to support.

Putting a politician in charge of spending your money presents a scenario which has compromised the best of intentions. It means that some CEO came to Mr. Congressman and made a convincing case as to how to best send your money “back to our hometown.” Unfortunately, that CEO’s small-business competitor did not have the funds to come to Washington.

So the smaller company lost, it missed getting the advantage, and perhaps even shut its doors. Maybe a few dozen jobs were lost… which adds up when you think about 9,499 back room deals (earmarks) that were made in Congress just last year. What happens in Washington, DC really does impact America’s heartland.

This culture of earmarks, or “corporate welfare” as some call it, is not easy to change. But it’s possible. The current political climate has led some of America’s brightest minds in business, community outreach, medicine, the clergy, and even rocket science to seek voters’ support to represent them in Washington. These men and women know how to read a profit-and-loss statement, how to balance a checkbook… how to innovate when an organization has lost it way. Most of our current lawmakers don’t have the first clue about these basics.

I am inspired by many new leaders seeking office. It’s why I am spending my Saturdays lately walking door-to-door, talking to Virginians about who will be on the ballot. It’s why I am listening closely to what candidates are saying about the big issues of our time, from the national debt to the rise of China.

And it’s why I will get up 40 minutes early on Tuesday, November 2. What a great privilege paid for by the bravery of past generations – that in itself makes my vote count.

*Of course, American citizens must be registered to vote. Not sure if you’re registered? Go to the helpful website CanIVote.org for state-specific info.

**There is a small, Constitutionally-limited role for government to play. George Washington was perhaps the first patriot to realize that taxes are necessary for our freedoms to exist. Yet currently government is bloated beyond anything resembling the Constitution.

Channel Your Anger

Never before have I heard my brother so worked up about politics. The week of the health care vote, he’d just gotten back from Haiti—where he’d seen how billions in government aid made only a small difference (but that’s another story… or is it?)

All 2,409 pages of the final health reform bill

Now, returning home, he was mad. Every conversation led back to this 2,409-page health bill. “They really pulled one over on us,” my brother said of the powerful politicos who ignored Americans’ opinions about this bill. “I just feel helpless.”

I know the feeling. This monstrosity has hounded me since I arrived in Washington last year. As an intern in Congress, I scanned thousands of constituent letters on health care. When pro-life concerns began boiling up among both Republicans and Democrats, a letter of protest was drafted and I walked it around to get Representatives’ signatures.

The process was a disaster. The heroes were the “party of no” villains – men and women who fought tirelessly against a

Tom Coburn Nikki Haley Allen West Paul Ryan

Senator Tom Coburn, M.D., Governor Nikki Haley, Rep. Allen West, Rep. Paul Ryan

powerful majority. Still the bill passed. Some of us despise how new programs will take our freedoms with new government mandates; some care most about the theft of more personal income via taxes; some rightfully fear how time and courtesy will be lost to greater bureaucracy; and, having dealt with Medicare, health care providers detest the bill for all of the above.

But we’re not helpless. Truth is, our nation has a grand tradition of changing and even repealing laws that do not work. We have a clear, Constitutionally-mandated ability to take away political power from irresponsible leaders: it’s called election day.

Some folks (like my brother) have been politically active for years. If Washington has motivated you to make a difference, here’s some ideas on how to be effective…

1. Vote Every Time. The value of your vote cannot be overstated. Considering all the money spent on election campaigns, lobbying and the costs of running Congress, your vote is easily worth hundreds of dollars. Casting your ballot is not only part of your wealth as an American citizen – it’s the right thing to do, every time. And never forget: the 2000 Presidential election was decided by just 537 votes in Florida.

2. Dialogue with Your Friends. It’s easier to talk about the weather and your health instead of politics and religion. Trust me, I know. Agreeing to disagree is common even among conservative allies, as a friend told me recently: “She knows what I think, and I know her side – we just don’t bring up those issues where we disagree.”

I find the best teachers are people I trust. Whether or not we agree, it’s revealing to ask: what do you believe on these big issues… and why? Through this practice, including plenty of lost debates among friends, mostly I’ve learned how much I have to learn. Which is good.

3. Support Candidates You Believe In. Traditional media is shocked at the effect Tea Partiers are already having on primary elections. Polls, conventional wisdom and even fundraising figures cannot explain how some candidates are coming “out of nowhere” to win races.

That “nowhere” is a place called the heartland of America. We need hard- working average Joes to hold power in Congress, just as we need some current leaders to stay. Rather than complicate your voting decision, here’s a simple suggestion: examine the candidates’ positions and voting records carefully. Then vote for the one who is most consistent with your values. If you want to multiply your impact, volunteer for the campaign. You will not regret it.

On that final health care vote weekend, Washington became a circus of everyday Americans who descended on DC to raise their voices. I waited in a line of hundreds for the opportunity to sit in the House gallery and watch the debate firsthand. During a lull, I learned the folks seated next to me were activists from New Orleans.

“My first rally was outside the ACORN offices,” the man said. “A thousand people showed up to protest them. And I read the paper the next day, not a single mention of it! I knew something was up because even a few animal-rights protesters get front-page coverage. I’m from Nicaragua originally, so freedom is not something I take for granted. I saw how socialism starts small – then it takes over.”

If politics is making you steamed, join the party. Take action to truly make a difference.

Out of the FOXhole, Into the Battle of Ideas

When it comes to getting the news, we live in an incredible time. Americans in the 1800s had to rely solely on what stories came down the telegraph wire. Or fast forward to the 1960s, when three news networks reported the same events in the same way. Today, we are overwhelmed by options: satellite radio, hundreds of TV channels, millions of blogs and entire books that can be sent to an iPad in seconds.

To quote Spider-Man, with great power comes great responsibility. We in the conservative movement have unfortunately given one network the power to begin every conversation, to set the tone and essentially draft the agenda on what matters to us.

Roger Ailes, President of Fox News Channel (FNC)

I respect the media empire Fox News Channel (FNC) has become. Roger Ailes, president of FNC since its start in 1996, says his guiding values are “God, country, family.” No wonder his network appeals to hard-working, everyday Americans.

However, it’s a dangerous thing to end your news-gathering at one media source.

After seven months on Capitol Hill, I see the love-hate relationship Congress has with Fox News—even a strongly conservative office like the one I served as an intern. The network is helping more than anyone to rally the right together. But to what end?

Fox News, like most TV networks, depends on revenue from advertisers to exist. Advertisers pay more if your audience is larger. Which means that, apart from any noble goal of truth-telling, FNC producers care most about increasing their audience. As Roger Ailes said recently on ABC News: “I’m not in politics, I’m in ratings.”

And Fox has figured out better than any other news/entertainment operation how to bring in more viewers: create an emotional connection with TV hosts, tell stories with clear-cut heroes and villains (when reality has more gray), always keep the drama high.

Bigger issues are also at stake. Every dialogue with your liberal friends (I hope you have many) is an opportunity to give new insight. Since they get news from the mainstream media, that’s your “in.”

For instance: if I started discussing President Obama’s connections to Mao, my Democrat friends would tune me out. But if I engage them with respect, talking up the stories they follow—mentioning relevant facts they perhaps missed—they’ll listen.

“It’s easier for me to watch Fox News,” a busy working mom recently told me. “At least they don’t have a liberal bias.” No need to abandon FNC entirely; even the New York Times assigned a reporter to watch Fox so the paper would not miss stories like why Van Jones resigned.

One thing we can all do is change the channel more often to hear what other credible voices are saying. Some places you can start:

TELEVISION

C-SPAN. It’s boring at first, I admit. But after a few dozen hours watching Congress in-session, you’ll begin to recognize Congressional leaders and how they discuss current events. I’d say at least 20% of current legislators are standing for conservative values; C-SPAN is the #1 source for getting to know them firsthand.

Morning Joe. A former Republican Congressman, Joe Scarborough hosts a casual panel of liberals and conservatives every weekday morning on MSNBC. Morning Joe provides a different sort of “fair and balanced”—where the right isn’t always guaranteed to win the debate. That’s a good thing.

RADIO

NPR. Without question NPR leans to the left. (Of the infamous exchange between Terry Gross and Bill O’Reilly, an NPR spokesman said: “…the interview only served to confirm the belief, held by some, in NPR’s liberal media bias.”) But no one does radio news better than NPR. No one.

Dennis Prager and Michael Medved. These two conservative Jewish hosts break the mold of talk radio, giving religion and culture as much airtime as the political battles of the day.

WEBSITES

The Wall Street Journal (wsj.com). With its accurate reporting and “big tent” of conservative opinion, WSJ has recently become the most-read newspaper in the nation. Be wary, though, of a corporate bent that can get out-of-hand; in late 2008, the paper was flush with pro-bailout editorials and not a single opposing viewpoint.

The Hill (thehill.com). Congressional staff read The Hill everyday, in print or e-newsletters. Despite a left-leaning perspective, it’s a valuable source for news on Congressional legislation, election fundraising and political stories that matter.

WORLD Magazine (worldmag.com). Some faith-based voices subtly assert that their worldview perfectly matches that of God Himself. Talk about dangerous. Thankfully, the journalists at WORLD Magazine cover politics, culture and international news with professionalism – recognizing the Bible is neither Democrat nor Republican.

PODCASTING

So how do I make time for all this media and still get on with life? The secret is podcasting. All the media sources listed above have an audio or video podcast – a program you can download for free onto your computer or portable device. Learn more about how to enjoy podcasts at www.apple.com/itunes/podcasts.

A few other programs not to miss if you get into podcasting:

Cato Daily Podcast (cato.org). For advocates of limited government, there is no more reliable or thorough source than The Cato Institute.

Sunday talk shows (search iTunes). It’s like watching presidential debates, only better. Each of these shows—Face the Nation, Meet the Press, etc.—feature guests from both left and right every Sunday morning. Thanks to podcasting, you can subscribe  online and enjoy the shows after whatever weekend worship service you attend.

Like a soldier leaving his safe foxhole, enter the battle of ideas. Have you found other news media with solid reporting and centrist analysis? Share them below.

[cpac recap] Priority #1: Your Message

We all have Alzheimer’s because your mind retains basic ideas for only 16 days. It takes 7 repeated impressions for a message to be absorbed. — nationally syndicated columnist Joel Mowbray

Mowbray, an energetic speaker in his 30’s, is a media expert: he knows how much to tell the press, and precisely when so it makes the greatest impact.

Combine that knowledge with preceding speaker Christopher Doss, whose campaign work and historical studies collide in his talk on how to best craft your political message… What you get is uncommonly useful ideas for public activism.

A Leadership Institute veteran, Doss kicked off the morning with a selection of quotes from our Founding Fathers:

“Even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” – Thomas Jefferson

“I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” – James Madison

“The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history, whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite.” – Thomas Jefferson

Freedom must be worked out in each sector of society. There is no shortage of ideas to increase freedom—but how can we mobilize others around that message and make it viable? Doss and Mowbray use a simple formula.

M = E*C³ or Message = Emotion multiplied by (Credibility x Contrast x Connection)

Here’s how that formula works in real life…

Say your Message is limited government. How can you rephrase that? Coining the phrase “partial-birth abortion” and getting the media to use it won that debate for the pro-life cause.
– A Congressman can get his emotion into shrinking the state, because it’s directly related to individual freedom in America.
– To have credibility, this Representative must refuse the subsidies that many in his district demand.
– Such a bold stand also shows the contrast between this leader and the opposing candidate. (Republicans had no contrast with Democrats in ’06 and ’08, thus they lost.)

– Where many fumble is connection. To sustain your message, the folks who care about what you say need reminders on what it is, why it matters and how it’s playing out today.

Once you’ve thought through the Message Formula, dealing with the media becomes easy. Just stay on message. Reporters are not the enemy, but their goal is to put words in your mouth… through their questions.

It’s a balancing act to answer questions satisfactorily, while not giving the press much selection about what to print. Your message should make it into any answer (President Obama is a master at this).

Bottom line: stay on offense with your message and it will go a long way.