The Last Lunar Mission

The Apollo lunar landing program ended on this day in 1972, when the last three astronauts to travel to the moon splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean. Apollo 17 had lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on December 7. In July of 1969, after three years of preparation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) accomplished President John F. Kennedy’s goal of putting a man on the moon and safely returning him to Earth with Apollo 11.

From 1969 to 1972, there were six successful lunar landing missions and one aborted mission, Apollo 13. During the Apollo 17 mission, astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt stayed for a record 75 hours on the surface of the moon, conducting three separate surface excursions in the lunar rover vehicle and collecting 243 pounds of rock and soil samples.

It’s hard to believe all that NASA accomplished in just ten years, from the time of Kennedy’s pronouncement at Rice University in Houston, Texas, to the final lunar landing. It has been nearly 45 years since that historic moment. Amazingly, most living Americans have no memory of man on the moon. In this era of modern technology, the generation that trains the rest of us in how to use a smart phone came after what is arguably the most significant technological achievement of mankind – going to the moon.

For those of us old enough to remember Neil Armstrong’s “giant step for mankind,” the Apollo program represents far more than winning the space race over the Russians. It represents everything that is great about the American spirit. Sadly, since that day in 1972, we have never been back to the moon.

So this is a good day to reflect on that incredible day – December 19, 1972.

The Boston Tea Party

The biggest tea party ever took place 245 years ago today. In Boston Harbor, a group of Massachusetts colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded three British tea ships and dumped 342 chests of tea into the harbor. The midnight raid, popularly known as the Boston Tea Party, was done in protest of the British Parliament’s Tea Act of 1773, a bill designed to save the faltering East India Company by greatly lowering its tea tax and granting it a virtual monopoly on the American tea trade.

The low tax allowed the East India Company to undercut tea smuggled into America by Dutch traders, and many colonists viewed the act as another example of taxation tyranny. When three tea ships, the Dartmouth, the Eleanor, and the Beaver, arrived in Boston Harbor, the colonists demanded that the tea be returned to England. After Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson refused, Patriot leader Samuel Adams organized the “tea party” with about sixty members of the Sons of Liberty, his underground resistance group. The British tea dumped in Boston Harbor on the night of December 16 was valued at approximately $18,000.

What the colonists did 243 years ago remains at the heart of the American spirit today. They were all about fairness and democratic representation. As we enter a new year and a new presidential administration, these are unchartered waters. May God bless us with the same spirit and values of our founding fathers.

 

The Rushmore Report – How Trump Can Get His Wall in Three Steps

Last week, President Trump met with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi in the Oval Office, in front of the media. They spatted over his proposed border wall. The conclusion of the meeting was clear. Both sides remained dug in. Democrats won’t agree to the $5 billion request from the president, and Trump is willing to shut down the government until they do. Here’s what’s missing for Mr. Trump – a clear strategy to get his signature campaign promise over the finish line. He doesn’t have a bad plan. It’s worse than that. He has no plan at all. But it’s not hard. The president should adopt this simple three-step plan if he really wants to secure the border.

Step 1 – Address the nation.

President Trump should request 30 minutes of prime time from the major television networks, in order to address the nation. Twitter is a poor substitute for a national, prime time address on television. The networks never turn down such a request from a president. This would allow him to take his message directly to the people, putting the maximum possible pressure on elected officials.

Step 2 – Play the Democrats’ greatest hits.

During this national address, Trump should play clips of leading democrats – including Schumer and Pelosi – voicing their support for a border wall when a Democrat was in the White House. There are plenty of videos to choose from, as Democrats’ support for a wall (pre-Trump) is well-documented. The president should not just say Pelosi and Schumer supported a wall, he should show us. Use their own words against them.

Step 3 – Address the spending issue directly.

When it comes to border security, Democrats enter the proverbial phone booth as big spenders, then exit as fiscal conservatives. They say we can’t afford the $5 billion that Trump is requesting. Never mind, these same Democrats voted to spend $10 billion when one of their own held the White House. When President Trump addresses the nation, he should point out that this $5 billion represents one percent of one percent of the federal budget. Compared to the $7 billion spent on Head Start each year, the border wall would be a bargain. According to the Cato Institute, since the Johnson Administration, the federal government has spent $15 trillion on welfare, while the poverty rate has actually inched up.

Securing our borders is a hill to die on. President Trump is to be commended for doing what so few politicians do. He is actually keeping the promises upon which he campaigned. And he is trying to do what no president has ever succeeded at doing. Of course, the Democrats – being the party of ‘No’ – will only obstruct, because that’s what they do. But that doesn’t mean the president can’t get his wall. He can. But first, he needs a plan. All humility aside, he needs my plan.

The Rushmore Report – GOP Senator Loses It

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch is a team player. Now the longest serving senator in Congress is retiring. You may have heard of the fellow who is replacing him – Mitt Romney. But before he exits the stage, Hatch fulfilled a long Senate tradition by giving a going away speech before his 99 colleagues. And the dapper, always under control Mormon did not hold back. In fact, he lost it on the Senate floor.

Hatch has rarely caused any kind of heartburn or division among the Republican caucus. He has never been the kind of senator to stray from the fold, like Jeff Flake of Arizona.

But Orrin Hatch has had enough, and he is sticking up for the President, whose policies he faithfully supports.

Hatch has had enough of the Democratic Party’s anti-Trump antics. He blasted Democrats for displaying a level of hatred never even demonstrated toward President George W. Bush. He called this a “new kind of crazy.” He said, “The Left will do anything and everything to hurt this president.”

Here’s more of his speech . . .

“I don’t care, all I can say is he’s doing a good job as president. The Democrats will do anything to hurt this president. What happened before he was elected president is one thing, but since he’s been elected the economy has done well, our country is moving ahead. We’re in better shape than we were before he became president. And I think we ought to judge him on that basis.”

What Sen. Hatch did was simply vocalize what most Republicans feel about all of the investigations into the Trump Administration, including the DOJ’s Russia investigation headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. While general practice is to identify a crime in search of a person, they seem to have found their person – President Trump – and are now in search of a crime, Hatch said.

After a long and distinguished career, Orrin Hatch is going away. But make no mistake; he isn’t going away quietly.

The Rushmore Report – The Commercialization of Christmas

Every year around October, I begin preparing myself for the onslaught. The increase in number of emails I receive from businesses, the increase in mail, the increase in money slipping away from my bank account. I’m guessing that I throw away twice as much mail and send two to three times as many emails to the trash before opening in the October to December rush than the rest of the year.

And I don’t really blame the people and businesses sending all of this stuff to me. As the Director of Communications for international non-profit LiveBeyond, I fully realize that this is the time of year when nonprofits like ours meet budgets, businesses meet quotas, and people reach out to each other in ways like never before. It’s a time of sharing and community and…meeting the bottom line.

On days like today, I like to think back to when I was living in Haiti, working in Thomazeau for LiveBeyond. Sure, I still got emails, but my everyday life wasn’t so crowded with advertisements and marketing ploys. Christmas time was just…well Christmas time – a time of year when people made a point to get together. I got to help distribute stockings with toys to local children, hand out gifts to the LiveBeyond Haitian staff, and laugh gleefully at the Haitian v. American Christmas song competitions (The Haitians always won, by the way).

Christmas isn’t so over commercialized in Haiti. In a country where most of the people live on less than a couple bucks a day, who can afford to buy mountains of presents for each other? No new email or billboard was going to encourage one of my friends to make an impulse buy of this year’s big present. So, few companies even bother advertising there.

The holiday in Haiti always gets me thinking about the true reason for our celebration. Mary gave birth in conditions similar to how the women give birth in Haiti. Jesus spent his life in a level of poverty that wasn’t far from what I see in the villages in Haiti. But the Lord chose to use circumstances like these to bring us the absolute Joy of the world! And the advertisements for Jesus’ birth were positively heavenly.

This Christmas season, I encourage you to remember why we are celebrating. Jesus came to this earth to save us all and to show us the true joy we can experience when we are in a loving relationship with the Lord. He spread that to us. Now it’s our job to spread it to the rest of the world. If that means purchasing special gifts or making donations to your favorite nonprofits in honor of our loved ones or buying items on a list for a child in need, then we should absolutely do it. Because that means that one more person is being reached by the Light of the world.

May the Lord bless you this holiday season.

About the Author

Devin Vanderpool is the Director of Communications for LiveBeyond, a non-profit humanitarian organization dedicated to providing clean water, medical care, adequate nutrition and the hope of Christ to the poorest of the poor in Thomazeau, Haiti.

The Rushmore Report – First Iowa Poll Just Out!

The first poll for the 2020 Iowa caucuses has just come out. The first survey of the first state, conducted by the Des Moines Register, CNN, and Mediacom revealed which Democratic hopefuls are in the best position to challenge President Donald Trump in the 2020 general election. One of the themes of the poll is that voters favor experienced politicians over upstart candidates.

Only three potential candidates sit above ten percent in this initial poll, and only one more candidate garners at least five percent. The top four prospects at this point – and this is guaranteed to change a zillion times – are as follows.

1. Joe Biden – 32%
2. Bernie Sanders – 19%
3. Beto O’Rourke – 11%
4. Elizabeth Warren – 5%

The next candidates, all polling less than five percent, are, in order . . .

5. Kamala Harris
6. Cory Booker
7. Amy Klobuchar

The firm that conducted the poll was Selzer & Co., led by J. Ann Selzer, who said, “This is obviously a warm welcome to some people who are really familiar to caucusgoers in the state. But there’s also some welcoming of newcomers who are only now starting to come to the state and get to know the people who could shape their future.”

The Iowa caucuses matter because they are the first polls of the primary season. But while they’re important, there is no guarantee that the winners will win their party’s support. In 2016, for example, Ted Cruz won the Republican caucus, but Donald Trump would win the party’s nomination. The one thing the Iowa caucuses do is to narrow the field.

Conventional wisdom – confirmed by historical results – is that the Iowa caucuses stamp the ticket for the three candidates with the most votes. So the candidates who finish out of the top three will be very unlikely to compete for the nomination. And considering the Democratic field in 2020 will be more crowded than a mall on Black Friday, jockeying for the top three positions will be critical.

So as of today, your three candidates coming out of Iowa will be Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Beto O’Rourke. But check back with us, because there is at least a 100 percent chance this will change.

Birthdays

Today – December 12 – is a big day for birthdays! This is especially true for the entertainment industry, and for those who are, let’s say, among the older among us.

Born on December 12, 1893 – Edward G. Robinson

Born on December 12, 1900 – Sammy Davis

Born on December 12, 1915 – Frank Sinatra

That’s not a bad roster of births. But there’s another big day coming, just over a week away. We call it Christmas. On that day, December 25, we celebrate the birth of our Lord. And Jesus has something very different from the men mentioned above. Let me explain.

Died in 1973 – Edward G. Robinson

Died in 1988 – Sammy Davis

Died in 1998 – Frank Sinatra

See the difference? While Robinson, Davis, and Sinatra are no longer with us, Christ is. The one who was raised on the third day is with us today. So as you play your old Frank Sinatra Christmas album, rejoice that, while ol’ blue eyes is no longer with us, the One he is singing about is.

The Rushmore Report – Think There Are No Dangerous Criminals Among Illegals? Guess Again!

I may gag if I hear it again. Democratic pundit Juan Williams, whom I really admire, is the latest example of a mind-numbing defense of illegal immigration. He recently said, on Fox News, “Undocumented immigrants commit crimes at a lesser rate than native born citizens.” This is an unbelievable statement for two reason – ANY crime is too much, and it’s simply not true.

Let’s start with the first argument. I don’t know why conservative on-air commentators virtually never point this out. Democrats essentially say that as long as “undocumented immigrants” (illegals) commit crimes less often than the rest of us, their crimes cannot be used to argue against the unmitigated flow of illegals. So, if it could be documented that – this is only a mathematical example – 5 percent of American citizens commit crimes, while “only” 4 percent of illegal immigrants do, the illegals must be welcomed in.

So Williams’ defense of the presence of illegals (who have already committed crimes by crossing the border in the first place) is that as long as they kill and rob fewer neighbors than other subsets of the population, we must look the other way. Their crimes are to be tolerated.

But the data actually does not stand in support of this argument, anyway. Let me give you an example.

Last week, the Associated Press reported that ICE arrested 58 illegal aliens during a five-day sweep of Massachusetts, Rhode island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, from November 30 to December 4. Dozens of these individuals either were convicted or had pending charges against them.

“Thirty of the people have prior felony convictions for serious or violent offenses, and 33 have criminal charges pending. Nine had been previously deported, and 15 had been previously released by local authorities despite the agency’s request to hold them,” the AP reported.

Further, two of the illegal aliens arrested were wanted for murders in Brazil. One of these men in question was found in Lynn, Mass., while the other was found in Putnam, Conn.

According to ICE’s Boston Field Office, “Ultimately, efforts by local politicians have shielded removable criminal aliens from immigration enforcement and created another magnet for more illegal immigration, all at the expense of the safety and security of the very people it purports to protect.”

Similar raids throughout New England this year have yielded drug dealers and violent criminals using fake identities to conduct massive welfare fraud. As reported by Townhall in July, “The Department of Justice announced charges against 25 individuals who committed fraud using Puerto Rican identities in an effort to gain government benefits and in some cases even vote. Twenty-two of the 25 charged were illegal aliens, many with records of drug dealing, violent crimes, and some previously deported.”

The AP concluded that it is unclear how many of these illegal aliens arrested will actually be deported.

So what are we saying? Two things . . .

First, ANY crime is too much.

Second, life-threatening criminal behavior by undocumented immigrants is much worse than is being reported.

The Rushmore Report – Tick Tock: Senate Races Clock to Pass Key Measures

With just weeks left until the end of the year, a bipartisan group of senators is working hard to get a major criminal justice reform bill passed before the clock runs out. The goal of The First Step Act is to help prisoners return to society and to address excessive prison sentences. “We have the opportunity in front of us,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA).

Specifically, Grassley said, “We have the opportunity right now where the president’s for something and we have broad bipartisan support in the Senate for it.”

The bill has already passed the House, and Grassley believes more than 75 senators would vote ‘yes’ if it makes it to the Senate floor. He worries that if it’s delayed until next year, it’s over.

“If we don’t do this bill and Democrats come in and control the House, we’re not going to get the broad bipartisan support that we have for this now,” he warned.

In addition to prison reform, lawmakers are also wrestling with President Donald Trump’s demand of $25 billion for a border wall. Legislators must make a decision by Friday to prevent a partial government shutdown.

Grassley said he’s confident Congress can avoid that scenario simply because it costs a lot of money to open and close the government.

“I don’t think with the fiscal situation in our country we should do anything as stupid as shutting down the government,” the incoming Senate finance chairman told CBN News.

Meanwhile, a few senators, like James Lankford (R-OK), are working to permanently remove the threat of these shutdowns.

“When you’re constantly fighting about a government shutdown, then you’re always distracted over what the real issues are,” he said.

Lankford introduced a bill that would require the previous year’s funding to kick in until Congress passes a budget, and only penalizes lawmakers, not the American people, for missing their deadline.

“Let’s put the pressure where the pressure needs to be,” he said.

Congress has until December 21 to reach a spending deal to fund the rest of the government.

About the Author

Abigail Robertson serves as the congressional correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network.

The Rushmore Report – The Three Times I Met President Bush

Like much of America, I was glued to the television for much of last week. President George H.W. Bush was a special man. I always identified with him on a more personal level than most of my generation. Part of that was because he was born exactly one day before my dad – June 12, 1924. And like my dad, he served in the Pacific Theater of the Second World War. But there’s more. I will never forget the three times I met the former president.

Let me say up front, I didn’t actually “meet” the president, in the way some consider “meet.” Though we were in the same rooms (very large rooms), we never actually talked. I never shook his hand. In fact, I was never within 20 feet of the man.

But to observe George Bush up close was to meet him. He was everyone’s father, grandfather, or friend. Maybe that’s why I wept openly so many times last week – when George W. Bush gave the eulogy, when the train made its way from Houston to College Station, and when the Aggie Band played. Through all the speeches, images, and pageantry, Bush’s faith and patriotism were on full display.

But let’s get back to the three times I “met” George Bush.

1. On the tennis court

The year was 1982. I was invited by a close friend to play tennis at the Houstonian Club – a very exclusive country club. When Gary and I approached our court, we were held back for a few minutes. The two men playing on our court played beyond their scheduled time. So we waited – and watched. Who were these two players? One was Texas Democratic Senator Lloyd Bentsen. The other player? Vice President George H.W. Bush. And Bush had a pretty good game. But more impressively, he was playing with one of the leading Democrats in Washington. Bush had made friends with the “enemy.” For Bush, life was more than politics. He built relationships across the political aisle. That said a lot for the character of this very good man.

2. The vice presidential search

I was one of about 25 pastors in the Houston area who were summoned to meet with Vice President Bush. The year was 1988. He was running for president, and at the time of this meeting, his nomination was in the bag. Now, he was contemplating his vice presidential choice. To that end, he instructed his staff to assemble clergy in small groups around the country. He wanted to know who we thought he should name as his running mate. Mr. Bush was unable to attend this meeting. But his faith and priorities were there for all to see.

3. The Astros game

This is my favorite Bush story. The year was about 2012. Bush would have been about 88 at that time. Beth and I were given third-row seats to an Astros game. Our seats were one section removed from George and Barbara Bush. They were 20 feet and two secret servicemen away. But they were close enough for me to observe their every move with my eagle eye. And here’s what happened.

George Bush ordered a bag of candy from the employee assigned to them. He placed the candy on the ledge in front of him, just behind the backstop. Then a fan to his left called his name. He turned to wave. And when he turned back, his candy was missing. We saw what he missed. Barbara hid his candy. He looked around in exasperation. Finally, he turned back to his left to order another bag of candy. And when he turned to the right once again – poof! – his candy reappeared. George figured out what the rest of us sitting nearby had seen. Barbara took, then returned, his candy.

When he figured out what Barbara had done, they shared a laugh and a kiss. What’s my point? The man was human. He didn’t seem to care what anyone else thought. Being “presidential” mattered less to George Bush than supporting his beloved Astros with his best friend by his side.

Conclusion

No, I didn’t actually meet President Bush. I have met two presidents in my lifetime – both very briefly. And I love them both – Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush. But I feel like George H.W. Bush was the only president I ever knew.

Our loss is heaven’s gain. As President Bush’s minister said at the service in Washington, heaven just became a kinder, gentler place.