The Winner of Last Night’s GOP Debate

Last night the Republican presidential candidates squared off for the last time before the Iowa caucuses, which are now just three days away. Each of the leading candidates was there – except for Donald Trump, who stayed away because Fox News moderator Megyn Kelly was mean to him five months ago. So in answering the question of who won the debate we can start with who lost – Donald Trump. By skipping the only debate in Iowa, my guess is he will pay dearly.

As for the winner of the debate, each candidate did a good job of making his point, as did those on the “undercard” event. To pick a winner is very subjective. There were no knockout punches, and each candidate did what they do best. Having said that, it seems these three did particularly well.

1. Marco Rubio – He had the line of the night when he said, “The first thing Hillary will do as president is to pardon herself.” Rubio wins points on connecting with the audience and positioning himself as the generational candidate. He did a good job of being forceful without looking angry. His faith statement was the best he has offered to date.

2. Ted Cruz – He offered the best opening remarks, praising Iowans and connecting with the audience. A master debater, Cruz scored a lot of points, but also looked petty in an early confrontation with Chris Wallace, one of the moderators. He was strong, but came off angry.

3. Chris Christie – The New Jersey Governor was concise, direct, and detailed. He is the only candidate who looks into the camera, addressing the 15 million viewers rather than the three moderators. Christie was strong in his contention that he is best equipped to confront Hillary Clinton on the debate stage.

Fox News did an excellent job in moderating the debate before a rowdy crowd. The questions were balanced and well-prepared. It would have been nice if Mr. Trump had been there, but his absence allowed the others more time to state their cases in a reasonable way. In reality, there were several winners and only one loser.

Atomic Bomb Detonated – 65 Years Ago Today

Forcefully marking the continued importance of the West in the development of nuclear weaponry, the government detonated the first of a series of nuclear bombs at its new Nevada test site. Although much of the West had long lagged behind the rest of the nation in technological and industrial development, the massive World War II project to build the first atomic bomb single-handedly pushed the region into the twentieth century. Code named the Manhattan Project, this ambitious research and development program pumped millions of dollars of federal funds into new western research centers like the bomb-building lab at Los Alamos, New Mexico, and the fissionable material production center at Hanford, Washington. Ironically, the very conditions that had once impeded western technological development became benefits: lots of wide-open unpopulated federal land where dangerous experiments could be conducted in secret.

How has the world changed in these past 65 years? The short answer is, not much. Solomon said there is nothing new under the sun. Since the first post-war atomic bomb was detonated, we have continued to have wars and rumors of wars, just as was predicted in Scripture, as a sign of the last days (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21). Despite the threat of “the bomb,” there have been hot wars and cold wars. Israel still fears for its existence and Russia is still our greatest existential threat. (Mitt Romney got that one right, while his 2012 presidential opponent swung and whiffed.) Muslim extremism is a bigger threat than ever. America is more polarized than ever. President Obama said as much yesterday, in an admission that the divisiveness of the country is his greatest regret of the past seven years.

When the first post-war atomic bomb was detonated, Harry Truman was President and Dwight Eisenhower was about to run. Everyone liked Ike. Those were happy, simple times – except for “the bomb.” Did the atomic age save America? Maybe. But did it save the world? No. Fortunately, we have never had to use that bomb since WWII. While the threat of “the bomb” has been a good thing, at least in my opinion, it has had its limits. The bomb has kept the Russians at arms length while the real enemy has attacked from within. Since that day, 65 years ago today, without a bullet being fired on U.S. soil, 20 million babies have been aborted, prayer has been ripped from our schools, and moral decay has never been more obvious. The enemy doesn’t need a bomb to defeat America. He never did.


Trump Pulls Out of Fox Debate – Afraid of Megyn Kelly

Last night Donald Trump announced he will not participate in tomorrow night’s final debate before the Iowa caucuses because one of the moderators, Megyn Kelly, “isn’t fair to me.” The man who says he will “fight for America,” “stand up to Putin,” and “make the Mexicans pay for the wall” has broken his pledge to participate in the Fox debate because Fox is sticking with their plans, announced months ago, to keep Megyn Kelly as one of the moderators. That leaves us with two debates to score: the official one, Monday night, which we will cover in our Rushmore Report next week, and the Fox vs Trump debate. We’ll be the first to cover that one this morning. Here are the winners and losers.

The Winners

1. Ted Cruz – The Texas Senator has been running neck-and-neck with Trump in Iowa for the past two weeks. By pulling out of tomorrow’s debate, held in the middle of Iowa, Trump is taking the Iowa voters for granted. He’s not the first to do so. Ronald Reagan did the same thing in 1980, for different reasons. And he paid dearly, suffering a huge lost to George H. W. Bush. Iowa voters will hold this against the Donald – at least enough of them to cost him enough votes to swing the vote to Ted Cruz.

2. Roger Ailes – The CEO and Chairman of Fox News Channel offered this defense of Megyn Kelly: “Megyn Kelly is an excellent journalist, and the entire network stands behind her.” Trump claims Ailes is “playing games,” in response to Ailes’ rather mocking comment. “We learned from a secret back channel that the Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president – a nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the Cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings,” Ailes was quoted as saying. While his sarcasm might be a tad overboard, Mr. Ailes has refused to let Trump dictate the rules of the debate. For that he is to be congratulated with a standing ovation.

3. Iowa – By not showing up, Mr. Trump is making a statement about his ego, values, and ability to work with others when he can’t dictate the rules. It is better to know someone before you marry them. Iowa voters have been dating Trump, but now know more before the wedding date next Monday. Trump says Fox isn’t “fair.” That’s true. “Fair” would mean giving him 40 percent of their coverage since he is polling 40 percent of the Republican vote in national polls. But Fox has given him 25 times more coverage than all the other candidates combined. Iowa has learned a lot about the spine and temperament of Donald Trump this week. That makes them a winner.

The Losers

1. Donald Trump – There is a lot to like about Donald Trump. He owes no one anything. He is an independent thinker. What he has proven is that he can’t work with others unless he is in charge. He has gone on record as saying that when he even thinks that someone won’t play fair with him, he won’t show up to the meeting. News flash, Mr. Trump! The Democrats in Congress aren’t going to play fair with you. The media won’t play fair. The message you have sent the nation is that we should not expect you to meet with Congress or have a press secretary, because your standard for participation is that the other people in the room “play fair.”

2. Trump supporters – I have close friends who are big Trump supporters. They are big losers. They won’t get to hear his views Thursday night. I hope Fox puts an empty podium on stage where he should have been. Here’s the odd thing. I watch hours of political coverage every day, from FNC, CNN, and MSNBC. I know this first hand – Megyn Kelly is a fair reporter. If Donald Trump had watched her at all these past few months he would know that she has treated him very fairly, heaping much praise on his rise in the polls. And many of Trump’s supporters watch The Kelly File. They know this. They are big losers.

3. The American people – Trump was supposed to be above the fray, the non-political politician. He has demonstrated an amazing lack of strength and fortitude in the light of a slight headwind. The American people are starving for the kind of man many thought Trump was. Tomorrow night, he is not just stiffing Fox. He is stiffing the American people.

Can Donald Trump recover from this miscalculation? Yes. His supporters will still love him. They have already proven that his recent positions of pro-choice, pro-Hillary, pro-Obama Care, and anti-Second Amendment don’t matter to them. But it’s hard to see how pulling out of a debate out of fear of a conservative-leaning reporter will position him more clearly as the most qualified person to lead the free world.

We won’t know who won tomorrow night’s debate for a couple of days. But we already know who lost. His name is Donald J. Trump.

The Unabomber Speaks from Prison – 20 Years Later

Ted Kaczynski is the name that gets stuck in the throats of decent men. In the 1980s and 1990s he brought terror to a nation. He spends 23 hours a day in a 12-by-7-foot cell in the most secure wing of the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, Colorado. From 1978 to 1995 he sent a series of fatal mail and package bombs. Now he has been rewarded with a 12-inch television in his cell, for good behavior.

Though imprisoned for eight life sentences, Kaczynski has not gone silent. He maintains a vast handwritten correspondence with hundreds of friends, supporters, and curiosity seekers. The collection dates back to April of 1996, just days after he was arrested at his secluded cabin by federal agents acting on a tip from his brother.

Today, when he receives letters he feels are worthy of mass readership, he rewrites them and sends them to the University of Michigan library, where they can be read by the public. And he writes his own, rather bizarre letters, mixed in. Among his musings are tips on how to win the lottery. He also writes about gardening and offers relationship advice.

What does this tell us about human nature? How it is that one of America’s most notorious killers, locked away for the past twenty years, now at age 73, has something to say that the masses want to read or hear? What does it say that the man whose rage went unstopped for twenty years has anything to say that we want to hear?

Winston Churchill said, “If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – with a tremendous whack.” Ted Kaczynski has turned his pen into a pile driver. But I ask again, why is anyone listening? Paul said we should avoid “foolish talk” (Ephesians 5:4). But not all men are listening to the Apostle Paul. The heart of the Unabomber is captured by Solomon, who said, “The mouth of the wicked pours out evil things” (Proverbs 15:28). Ted Kaczynski has become what the Bible calls a “babbling fool” (Proverbs 10:8).

If you drive to the store today and see a kind gentleman walking a lady across the street to your right, and another man clubbing an innocent citizen over the head on your left, which way will you look? As long as we are more drawn to evil than good, there will be a place in the public library for men like Ted Kaczynski. That he is still writing letters from an unrepentant heart twenty years later doesn’t tell us much. But the fact that hundreds are still reading tells us everything.

Dead Man’s Obit – In Lieu of Flowers, Don’t Vote for Trump!

A Pittsburgh chiropractor’s last wish was clear. “Don’t vote for Trump!” His obituary read, “In lieu of flowers, don’t vote for Trump!” The ad was actually placed by the sons of Dr. Jeffrey Cohen, who died at age 70 one week ago. His oldest son, Jason Brown, wanted to make a statement. So he took out the space in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Jason and his brother decided to include the line because they felt it represented the way their father felt, and the move was inspired by a similar effort in August, when Elaine Fydrych, of New Jersey, requested that her obituary state her final wish – that people vote for Hillary Clinton.

Since when did we make politics a matter of life and death? Where did we get this idea that a change in the White House would be the change that ushers in a spiritual utopia? If that were true, I’m guessing Jesus would have endorsed a candidate for Emperor, as did Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas when he spoke on behalf of Mr. Trump in Iowa two days ago. But Jesus had bigger fish to fry. He was all about the kingdom of God.

Does God care about the White House? Yes. But he cares more about the church house. And he is especially interested in your house. You see, the two great institutions of God are the church and the family. For those of you who see a Republican victory in November as the key to national revival, I will remind you that some of our greatest spiritual revivals came during Democratic administrations.

It might actually be better for the wrong candidate to win. Read the Book of Judges. When times went well, the Israelites tended to relax their faith and turn to false gods. It was mostly in the bad times that they turned to God. While I’m amused at the obit for Dr. Cohen, I’m not sure life is that simple. We should absolutely work for the election of the leaders we feel best represent the values of our faith. But in the process, remember that God is bigger than the next election. It just might be that the wrong thing for American could turn out to be the best thing for America.

The Endorsement Better than Palin’s

Sarah Palin has endorsed Donald Trump for president. That should help him with conservatives, and more importantly, hurt Ted Cruz, whom Palin had endorsed for Texas Senate not so long ago. For those of you scoring at home, Cruz is a reliable conservative, as demonstrated by his voting record in Congress. And Donald Trump is not a reliable conservative, as demonstrated by his support for the likes of Mario Cuomo, Bill Clinton, and even Hillary Clinton. But most of you aren’t scoring at home.

America is angry. We are angry at high taxes, record debt, and a record number of unemployed and under-employed citizens. About 80 percent of us think the country is on the wrong track. Here’s what’s working for Trump. People don’t want conservatives or liberals. They want change. And Trump equals change. But first, he must secure the Republican nomination. That’s where Sarah Palin comes in. A hero to tea party-type conservatives, she will boost his credentials in states like South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Utah – the most conservative states in the Union.

But Sarah Palin is not Trump’s most important endorsement. Trump has one objective. Win Iowa. If he does that, he will have a lock on the nomination, with wins in New Hampshire and South Carolina likely to follow. Enter Phyllis Schlafly, the iconic 91-year-old political organizer from the last generation.

Known for her opposition to the ERA in the 1970s and her pro-life work in the 1980s, Schlafly represents something Trump needs in Iowa – a comfort level among older caucus-goers. Veteran Iowa political organizer Steve Scheffler says that though Iowa is perfectly suited for Ted Cruz, with its older, evangelical base, a Schlafly endorsement would be just the thing that might bring enough of these certain voters over to Trump’s side.

Schlafly goes way back. In 1964 she wrote a book supporting Barry Goldwater. Over the past 50 years, her positions have not moderated. So when she agreed to a recent interview on the right-wing Breitbart website, eyebrows were raised. She said Trump is “America’s last hope.” She said, “It sounds like Donald Trump is the only one who has any fight in him. He will fight for the issues we really care about and are very hot at the present time, such as the immigration issue.”

James Dobson is with Ted Cruz. So is Glenn Beck. So are 28 U.S. congressmen and hundreds of state legislators. But Trump has Phyllis Schlafly. She may be the ultimate “Trump” card.

Oldest Man in the World Dies

It took 112 years, but it finally happened. It always does. Yasutaro Koide was the world’s oldest man – until he died. Suffering from chronic heart problems, Koide said the secret to a long life was to not smoke, drink or “overdo it.” Born on March 13, 1903, he died two days ago, just short of his 114th birthday.

In the year of his birth, the Wright brothers made their historic flight to Kitty Hawk and a modernizing Japan was embroiled in a dispute with Russia over Manchuria that would eventually erupt into the Russo-Japanese War in early 1904.

The man who made his living as a tailor was recognized as the world’s oldest man by Guinness World Records this past August. The Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare said he died in a hospital in Nagoya, Japan, where he had been treated for his heart condition. Japan’s oldest man is now Masamitsu Yoshida, of Tokyo, born May 30, 1904. At age 111, it is not yet known if Yoshida is the world’s oldest man.

Japan is a rapidly aging country, with 61,000 centenarians. Nearly 90 percent of them are women. Meanwhile, the oldest woman in the world resides in Brooklyn, New York. Susannah Mushatt Jones is 116.

When he turned 99 my grandfather told me he thought he would never die. He reasoned, “Less than one percent of the world’s population dies after the age of 99.” Six months later, my grandfather made history. The Bible says, “The soul that sins shall surely die” (Ezekiel 18:20). Newsflash – we all sin. the Bible also says, “It is appointed to man once to die, and then comes the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Yaasutaro Koide lived to be twice my age. It seems to me that 112 years is a really long time. I’d be happy to just hit 110. But in the economy of God, 112 years is a drop in the bucket, a blip on the radar, one calorie in a happy meal.

Here’s the definition of insanity – spending time you cannot save and money you do not have on things you cannot keep. Rick Warren writes, “You weren’t put on earth to be remembered. You were put here to prepare for eternity.” Life is short. Oh, what I’d give for one more day with my dad, who died when I was 19 . . . or with my mom, who died seven years ago. Life is short. Even the longest life is short. Quit chasing success and pursue significance. Spend your life, not on what you know will eventually end, but on what you know will forever last.

Response to the State of the Union Address

Article II, Section 3, Clause 1 of the Constitution states, “The President shall from time to time give to the Congress information on the State of the Union.” George Washington delivered the first such address on January 8, 1790 in New York City. From Thomas Jefferson to Woodrow Wilson, the address was written, but not delivered in person. Initially referred to as “The President’s Annual Message to Congress,” Franklin D. Roosevelt coined the phrase “State of the Union,” which has been used ever since. And since 1966, the opposition party has delivered a rebuttal.

Last night, President Obama sought to offer an upbeat celebration of his administration’s achievements, while setting the stage for the 2016 elections. He pointed to job creation numbers, low unemployment numbers, lower gas prices, a higher stock market, and withdrawal from unstable states in the Mideast. He made his final pitch for action on climate change, gun control, immigration, and income inequality. “Last year, he spoke to Congress,” said Jennifer Psaki, the White House Communications Director. “This year, he spoke more to the American people.”

Critics point to a failing strategy to defeat ISIS, record numbers who have left the job market, and a sobering poll that reveals 68 percent of Americans feel the country is on the wrong track. Further, they attack the president’s positions on gun control (rightly saying none of his new executive orders would have stopped any of the recent highly publicized shootings), immigration (correctly pointing out he had two years to pass anything he wanted, when the Democrats controlled all of Congress, but did nothing), and his assessment of climate change as our greatest national security threat.

There is much in Obama’s speech to criticize. His cynical, often rude response to his Republican opposition has grown predictable and tired, beneath his office. The assent of Donald Trump, which he routinely ridicules, is the result of the political environment and ineptitude which he has, at the very least, failed to solve.

But rather than offer a point-by-point rebuttal of the president’s speech or policies, let’s be grateful for the way our system works. A democratically elected leader, along with co-equal branches of government, represents the people. Does the American democratic experiment have its flaws? Of course it does. But in the entire history of organized government, no better plan has been put forth. There will be plenty of time to assess the speech itself. But let’s pause and rejoice that we have a president and not a dictator, a representative government and not a monarchy.

Vikings’ Kicker Blows Playoff Game – Says “It Was My Fault”

It was their chance to knock off the defending NFC champions on one of the coldest days is NFL history. With a temperature of -2, kicker Blair Walsh lined up to kick a routine 27-yard field goal to win the game. The kick sailed wide left. The Vikings lost the game 10-9, and their season was over.

Walsh sat in front of his locker after the game in a state of disbelief. Overwhelmed by pain and failure, he cried into his arm. He is one of the league’s best kickers, going 37-for-42 this season and 10-for-10 inside 30 yards. “I have no idea what happened,” he said. “But I can tell you this. It is my fault.”

The ball was set up improperly, with the laces facing in, by holder Jeff Locke. But Walsh shrugged that off and repeated, “I am to blame. It was all on me. It was my fault.”

Head coach Mike Zimmer said, “He’s got to make that kick.” All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson said, “I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was fake.” Yet, player after player sought out their kicker, patting him on the shoulder, telling him to keep his head up, and offering the comfort that did little to lift their teammate in the moment, but provided unspeakable encouragement for the days to come.

Linebacker Anthony Barr said, “He’s the reason we were in the game in the first place,” referring to three made field goals earlier in the game. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said, “He’s won a ton of games for us.” And defensive end Brian Robison added, “There are plays throughout the game that you can pick other than that. You can’t put the whole game on him.” Given one more opportunity to respond, in light of the words of his teammates, Blair Walsh repeated his prior assessment. “It was on me. I cost us the game. It was my fault.”

This could be a story about encouragement, as Walsh’s teammates offered great support. Or we could talk about how we win as a team and lose as a team. Or the story could be of a kicker who accepted too much of the blame.

But I actually like his comment: “It was my fault.” That is the missing element in most of our lives – the ability to accept the blame. No excuses. Walsh didn’t blame the unbearable wind chill of -16 degrees, the strong cross wind, or the bad hold of the ball. He accepted the blame.

The Bible says we all have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6), fallen short (Romans 3:23), and come up short (Romans 3:10). There is help, provided by Jesus on the cross. There is encouragement, provided by the body of Christ. But first, we must come to the point discovered on a bitterly cold football field Sunday. Kicker Blair Walsh missed a kick. And he said, “It was my fault.” Those may the be most refreshing four words of the day.

NCIS Losing Key Star

Michael Weatherly is exiting the top rated television show in the world after the current season ends. NCIS will have to survive without Special Agent Tony DiNozzo, who is among the four remaining original cast members on the military crime show that has enjoyed an amazing 13-year run. CBS announced the departure of the 47-year-old actor on January 5. This will be his final season.

The network said, “After 13 years on NCIS, Michael Weatherly is leaving the show at the end of this season. He is a valued part of the CBS family, and the immense charm and talent he brings to the screen as “Very” Special Agent Tony DiNozzo has helped make NCIS what it is today – the No. 1 drama in the world. We thank Michael for all of his contributions to this successful franchise and look forward to continuing to develop projects with him as part of our ongoing development deal.”

Weatherly addressed the news on Twitter, expressing his appreciation for his colleagues and the show’s viewers. “I will miss the amazing crew and cast who are like family to me and to the fans all over the world – THANK YOU, it’s been a fantastic ride!”

This comes three days after it was reported the Weatherly pled no contest to a DUI charge stemming from a November arrest. All parties claim this had no effect on the actor’s imminent departure from the show.

In an interview with Vulture Hound, published Monday, January 4, NCIS actor David McCallum (Ducky) said that DiNozzo’s departure at the end of the season has long been in the works. Weatherly leaves McCallum, Mark Harmom (Gibbs), and Pauley Perrette (Abby) as the series’ only remaining original cast members.

I admit it. I’m an NCIS addict. Beth and I watch the show every week. I used to watch the show with my mother at her home every Tuesday night in Dallas, until her death in 2008. I’m attached to the show on many levels. And I will miss DiNozzo and the regular head slaps applied by Gibbs. As I watch every week through the end of the season, I have a few thoughts.

1. For Americans, entertainment is huge.

If the pastor of the nation’s largest church resigned, it wouldn’t be national headline news. If the head of most Fortune 500 companies quit, we wouldn’t hear nor care. But we live in a fantasy world. We follow every move of our favorite stars. And I’m not sure that’s a good thing. As long as we continue to watch 30 hours of television per week, much kingdom work will be left undone.

2. Nothing in this world lasts forever.

The greatest show ever, Gunsmoke, had a 20-year run, but it ended. Law & Order had a 20-year run, but it ended. Though 60 Minutes has been on for what seems like 60 years, it too shall one day end . . . I hope. The same is true of sports dynasties, dynamic companies, and even democracies. Nothing in this life is permanent. Tony DiNozzo was on NCIS for 13 years, but like everything in this world, the run had its end.

3. The real is better than the unreal.

I’m not one of those stuffy types who condemn television viewing. I watch television every day. I rely on it for some news, entertainment, and simple pleasure. But there is very little on television that is real. NCIS is scripted. It’s not real life. Life isn’t that simple, wars aren’t ended in an hour, and most people aren’t that beautiful – because it’s not real. But what is real is actually better. My 32-year marriage is real. My 25-year-old son and his wife are real. My good health is real. And my personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ is real. My life story won’t ever be aired on television. But the next time I watch NCIS, my greatest pleasure will not come from the television screen across the room, but from the opportunity to watch it while sitting with the most beautiful, wonderful woman in the world.