From SELLOUT: Of God and Caesar

Every now and again, when debating the federal budget, I hear or read a statement similar to this:

"How can conservatives claim to be Christian when they want to cut government benefits to the poor? What would Jesus do?"

Such comments demonstrate their ignorance of the generosity of conservatives vice the stinginess of liberals when it comes to private charity, a gap that is well-documented and empirically defensible.

It also highlights a fallacy that is increasingly prevalent in modern American society, that charity is a primary function of government. In this excerpt from my book, SELLOUT: Musings from Uncle Tom's Porch, I address this fallacy head on.

President Obama...adopts the liberal position that assumes Jesus’ commands to individual Christians and the church are actually calls for government to act as our provider.

Christians fall into the trap of thinking that by promoting the funding of government aid programs, they are doing the Lord’s work.

The only miracle of Jesus that appears in all four Gospels is the feeding of the 5,000, and I’ve always been struck by what He told the disciples when they suggested that He send the crowd away to buy food in the nearby villages: “You give them something to eat!”

His words were a personal and immediate call to action. Christ didn’t tell them to go petition the king for a food aid program, nor did He lead a march against poverty down the streets of Jerusalem. He commands us to personally serve our brothers and sisters, rather than using government bureaucracy as a surrogate.

The Acts of the Apostles is often cited by liberals as evidence of Christianity endorsing government action to provide for the less fortunate:

And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. ~ Acts 2:44-45

To interpret this passage as a divine directive for redistributive government is either naïve or self-serving. These were the voluntary acts of a church community serving one another, not a compulsory government welfare program.

These acts of community and the meeting of needs by family, friends and neighbors are characteristic of a faith that expects its followers to touch people’s lives directly. Such intimacy not only meets a person’s physical needs, but also helps him to heal.

Jay W. Richards, author of Money, Greed and God, illustrates the fallacy of a central government serving as a charity:

Replacing a family or a neighborhood or a local church with a federal program for helping the down-and-out is like trying to have an official in the Department of Commerce guess how much I should pay, right now, for a new pair of size-9 Asics running shoes. At the moment, I wouldn’t pay much, since I just bought a pair. And I’m picky when it comes to colors. That, and I don’t wear size 9!

The official could look up the market price for Asics shoes in the United States… That’s crucial information. He probably wouldn’t know much else, though, so he’d have to guess, and he’d probably guess wrong, and waste his time and mine in the process. That’s the information gap in a nutshell. It’s impossible to fix a problem if you don’t know squat about it.

The principle of subsidiarity, as articulated in Catholic social doctrine, is partially reflected in our Constitution’s Tenth Amendment. It teaches that matters should be handled by the person or group closest to the problem because it’s at that level where we have the most detailed knowledge and the most responsibility.

It begins with individual responsibility or the family if it’s a child or someone unable to take care of themselves. It graduates to the neighbors, then to the local church or non-profit group, after that the local or state government, and then, only as the last resort, the federal government. The farther away the jurisdiction from the specific person or problem, the more general the solution because the knowledge is not as specific.

It’s not that the federal civil servant is heartless; rather,they’re just too far away.

The imposition of the federal government, in Richards' words, “runs roughshod over this intricate web of overlapping responsibilities and assumes knowledge where none exists.”

Community aid is not only more efficient and effective, it’s personal. When you are looking into the eyes of a father who has lost his job and feels the shame of not being able to provide for his family, and you are offering him not only food but compassion, the value of that kind of human interaction is incalculable.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, government officials from the local to the federal level were embroiled in hearings,political posturing, name-calling and finger-pointing.

But individuals from private charities and private companies were hard at work restoring the Gulf Coast region, especially in New Orleans. In particular, faith-based charities made long-term commitments to the wellness of the city. Even churches in my county, including my own, sent people to New Orleans on multiple missions of mercy and love in the months following the disaster, helping to rebuild homes, churches and schools. Church groups provided food, shelter, clothing and medical attention.

Evelyn Turner, a New Orleans resident who lost her home in the flood, found herself in a rebuilt home in her old neighborhood, a blessing made possible by faith-based charities. “The church poured into the city,” she said. “Here it is two years later, and who’s still coming? The church.”

Local aid organizations won’t forget you, lose your file or treat you like a number. You’re not just a case to them. You’re a neighbor.

Unfortunately, we have witnessed in our nation an alarming diminution of personal commitment to the well-being of others because we have rationalized that “letting government do it” is equal in moral weight to personally giving of our time, talent and treasure to our neighbors. In effect, we are becoming moral couch potatoes because we are no longer encouraged to exercise our values individually in daily actions of diligence in our work, commitment to our families, devotion in our houses of worship, and charity in our communities. The impact of this shift in our thinking on charitable giving has practical as well as moral consequences.

Arthur C. Brooks, author of Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism, found that people who believe that charity is an inherently governmental responsibility either restrict or curtail their charitable giving even if there is only a promise of government assistance.

In other words, those who believe in the forced redistribution of income through government are less likely to give to private charity even if the government isn’t actually attempting to meet the need. As private giving is withheld, charities find themselves dependent on government grants which bring with them the burden of various rules and regulations on how they distribute the funds, how they advise their beneficiaries and even who they must hire.

Moreover, government disbursements to charity are insufficient to replace the loss of private funds. The net effect is that the people most in need of charitable assistance are getting less of it.

Note: I invite you to read Japan and the Loss of American Charity for more on this topic.

The meaning of liberty

Note: This article appeared in the April 2011 edition of Tea Party Review magazine. Click on the link to the right to order your annual subscription to the nation’s first and only magazine for the Tea Party movement.

If I had to choose one word that defines the foundation, motivation and objective of the Tea Party movement, it would be this: liberty. It is the one word that stands out in speeches, book titles and public pronouncements related to this grass-roots movement of everyday Americans.

Ask any number of Tea Party participants what liberty means to them, however, and you’re likely to get more than one answer. Liberty to a self-described libertarian may not be liberty as defined by a social conservative.

Outside of the conservative/libertarian ideological spectrum, even so-called “progressives” believe they have the answer to the question of liberty, viewing it as they do mankind in general, namely from a material perspective.

It is critical going forward that we arrive at some common understanding of what liberty means to us. Ultimately, it will not be specific policies or programs that benefit America, but our consistent adherence to the principle of liberty as the wellspring from which our ideas come.
How we perceive liberty will shape and guide every decision we make in our exercise of self-governance, to include holding our elected officials accountable. So this is one thing we’ve got to get right.

What is liberty, anyway? Let’s look at how the dictionary defines the word:

  • The condition of being free from restriction or control.
  • The right and power to act, believe, or express oneself in a manner of one's own choosing.
  • The condition of being physically and legally free from confinement, servitude, or forced labor.
  • Freedom from unjust or undue governmental control.
  • A right or immunity to engage in certain actions without control or interference: the liberties protected by the Bill of Rights.

At first glance, the dictionary definition doesn’t present anything to which anyone would object. Every human being on the planet wants to be free to live as they choose. But there’s more:

  • A breach or overstepping of propriety or social convention. Often used in the plural.
  • A statement, attitude, or action not warranted by conditions or actualities: a historical novel that takes liberties with chronology.
  • An unwarranted risk; a chance: took foolish liberties on the ski slopes.

Now we’ve introduced the concept of social order, in that one can take too much liberty and overstep their bounds in the process. Therefore, liberty isn’t necessarily license to do whatever we wish without regard for “propriety or social convention.”

The Book of 1 Corinthians in the Bible sums up this concept well:

"Everything is permissible"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is constructive. ~ 1 Corinthians 10:23

A different translation of this verse is more direct:

“We are free to do all things, but there are things which it is not wise to do. We are free to do all things, but not all things are for the common good.”

The founders understood that liberty without virtue was anarchy, which is why they were opposed to pure democracy, and why we became a constitutional republic:

"Democracy will soon degenerate into an anarchy; such an anarchy that every man will do what is right in his own eyes and no man’s life or property or reputation or liberty will be secure, and every one of these will soon mould itself into a system of subordination of all the moral virtues and intellectual abilities, all the powers of wealth, beauty, wit, and science, to the wanton pleasures, the capricious will, and the execrable [abominable] cruelty of one or a very few." ~ John Adams

Fisher Ames, a representative from Massachusetts in the first U.S. Congress, wrote, "The known propensity of a democracy is to licentiousness [excessive license] which the ambitious call, and ignorant believe to be liberty."

John Adams, who declared the U.S. Constitution to be “wholly inadequate” to any population other than “a moral and religious people,” spoke and wrote eloquently on the non-severable nature of liberty and virtue:

Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private, and public virtue is the only foundation of republics. There must be a positive passion for the public good, the public interest, honour, power and glory, established in the minds of the people, or there can be no republican government, nor any real liberty: and this public passion must be superior to all private passions.

The preservation of liberty depends on our ability to be responsible for ourselves and our fellow citizens. When we abdicate those responsibilities, we create a moral vacuum into which government flows and ultimately usurps our liberty.

Government becomes our parent, our provider, our faith, our village. In effect, it replaces family, charity, church and community as our sources of strength and provision.

What, then, are the tenets of liberty that will help us build the foundation we need for action? I offer the following:

Life, liberty and opportunity are inseparable – The unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were ordered and joined with deliberation and forethought. There is no liberty without life and the pursuit of happiness is impossible without liberty. We should never try to separate them in our pursuit of policy solutions.

Liberty's objective is not equality but opportunity – It is wrong to compromise liberty for equality of outcome, not because we are insensitive to the needs of others but because achieving such a goal would transfer power from the individual to the state, which poses the greatest threat to liberty.

Liberty means responsibility for ourselves and others - I am passionate about how essential personal responsibility is to the preservation of liberty. Those moments when we don't practice our liberty responsibly give ammunition to those who would deprive us of it. Playwright and satirist George Bernard Shaw said "Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”

Defend the rights of others. Take ownership of our decisions and the outcomes of those decisions. Stay informed and never stop learning. Love one another. These are the indispensible labors to which each of us is called so that liberty may live.

Memo to Reid - Shut Up

I saw the news reports about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's appearance on Face the Nation, and I regret that he wasn't really facing the nation, especially me. Had he been in front of me at that time, I would have shut him down within minutes of his uttering the following comment about the GOP's proposed FY 2012 budget:

“This is more than numbers...This involves people. What they did with H.R. 1 is this bill did such mean-spirited things, not to cut the debt, but to send an ideological message. For example, little kids, Head Start, these are the poor little children around the country, little boys and girls, who want to get a head start.”

Mean-spirited? Send an ideological message? What unmitigated gall you have, Senator Reid, to wring your hands in mock agony over the "poor little children around the country, little boys and girls, who want to get a head start," when it's you and others of you ilk that have your heads so firmly planted up the backsides of the unions that you will sell Washington DC's "poor little children," mostly black, down the river by denying their parents the choice of where to send their children to school.

Let me tell you about these parents, Senator Reid. Most of them are single mothers who see their children about to be swallowed up by a culture of drugs and violence. They may not hold the exalted position that you do, from which you see all and know all - they may not even have a high school education themselves - but they do know they love their children, and they couldn't care less about your unions or your fake fealty to public education. Let me tell you what they care about.

They care about sending their children to schools where getting through the day without being attacked or killed, not learning, is the greatest challenge.

They care about the fact that while you extol the virtues of the hellholes to which they're forced to send their children, nearly 40 percent of the last Congress sent their children to private schools. The president you revere for being  a "light-skinned" black man "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one" went to private schools. He sends his girls to a private school where, before you and your colleagues killed the D.C. voucher program, they would have had some of those "poor little children" as classmates.

They care so much that when their children were selected for scholarships under the D.C. voucher program, their relief that their children would be in a safe and nurturing environment was so overwhelming that they wept uncontrollably, as did those mothers whose children were unable to benefit from a scholarship.

Their children aren't fooled, either. When a black child asks a school choice advocate, "Why don't the congressmen who look like us want us to go to better schools?" after witnessing non-voting DC delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and her sellout colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus, save one Rep. Allen West of Florida, argue vociferously against restoring the D.C. voucher program, you know you've been found out for who you really are.

You want to know what mean-spirited and ideological is, Senator Reid? It's having the chutzpah to cry crocodile tears over Head Start, while you are actively and aggressively seeking to bring the futures of underserved black children right down the street from you to a screeching halt by denying parents the right to determine their child's educational destiny. That dog doesn't hunt here, Senator.

Face the nation? No, just be quiet. You have nothing to say that any of the parents of Washington, DC can hear - your actions are drowning out your lies.

The Morning After

As I write this, it's 1:35 am in Solomons, Maryland. It's a bittersweet time for me because some of the races in which I was personally invested didn't turn out as I'd hoped, but the overall outcome was historic, and a repudiation of the radical direction in which President Obama has taken this nation the past two years. It remains to be seen if he has the humility of a true public servant and accepts the verdict of the people as a directive to change his current course.

Frankly, I'm not hopeful. He has already indicated he thinks we are bitter, misinformed, angry and therefore not thinking clearly, incapable of grasping the complexity or appreciating the goodness of his agenda – he’s stopped just short of calling us ignorant, uneducated hillbillies. If he attempted to process the fact that Americans do indeed understand his policies and reject them, I believe his brain would short-circuit.

Perhaps the most painful loss for me personally was that of Charles Lollar, who fought a hard yet uphill battle against 29-year incumbent and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

Charles is a man of great personal integrity and impeccable qualifications to be a citizen legislator - Marine combat veteran, successful businessman, devoted husband and father of four girls, and a man of unshakeable optimism and faith. His charisma, magnetic personality and powerful presence on the stump made him an irresistible candidate. The Republicans haven’t fielded a candidate of his caliber in Maryland for many years, and this was our best shot to take down a man who has come to personify the arrogant career politician who elevates himself above the people.

Charles made Steny Hoyer work harder than he has in over a decade, and the passion of Charles’ supporters was genuine and unmatched. He didn’t win, however, even though he improved on the party’s 2008 results by 10% and won three of the five counties in the district. I was pleased to hear Charles suggest that this was just the beginning, and he strongly implied that he would challenge Hoyer again in 2012. We have much work to do to overcome the advantages incumbency brings to Hoyer, mostly his ability to buy votes with taxpayer dollars.

Our tendency to vote for whoever is more generous with other people’s money has to change. We are out of money, so all the pork sent our way is deficit spending, not actual dollars, and with the national debt at more than $13 trillion and rising, our nation is paying dearly for our collective greed. Our piles of pork will be meaningless if our country becomes a debtor nation.

As of right now, the Republicans look like they’re going to pick up 65 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, an historic number. By way of comparison, the 1994 takeover of Congress by the Republicans during President Clinton’s first term, the standard by which historic shifts in power are measured, saw a gain of 54 seats by the GOP. The 2010 results represent the largest swing by either party since 1948, when the Democrats won 75 seats, and the largest in a mid-term election since 1938, when the Democrats lost 72 seats to the GOP because the voters had lost confidence in President Roosevelt’s New Deal, a radical leftist agenda not unlike Obama’s.

The Republicans also are expected to pick up six to eight U.S. Senate seats, short of a majority but a significant pickup that could moderate the votes of senators seeking reelection in 2012. The Republicans won a majority of the governorships, a critical outcome with redistricting on the horizon, and governors exert a lot of pull in presidential election years. As of now, at least 16 state legislatures flipped from Democrat to Republican.

Thumbs up to Rand Paul, Ron Johnson, Pat Toomey and Marco Rubio, all of whom will bring the fervor and agenda of the Tea Party movement to the U.S. Senate chamber.

A hearty salute goes out to Daniel Webster, who decisively defeated one of the most demagogic and mean-spirited men in American politics, freshman Democratic congressman Alan Grayson.

The 112th United States Congress will have not one, but two black conservative Republicans, Tim Scott from South Carolina and Allen West from Florida. This will be the first time two black GOP congressmen have served together since 1996, and the first time any black Republican has served in Congress since 2003. My hope is that these two men will reveal to the nation that black people think for themselves and don’t follow the herd, and will give black conservatives, of which there are millions, the courage to come out and make their voices heard in the public square.

I was disappointed to see Harry Reid escape the wrath of the voters in Nevada. Not only has he sold out the people of his state and the nation to be President Obama’s willing lackey, his dependence on the SEIU and other unions is unseemly. The fact the people who maintained the electronic voting machines were SEIU members, and that Harrah’s, the Las Vegas hotel and casino chain, supposedly strong-armed employees into supporting Reid, just makes me want to wash my hands repeatedly.

Nevada leads the nation in unemployment and mortgage foreclosures, and the voters’ inability to make the connection between failed national policies promoted by Reid and their own circumstances boggles my mind. I blame union leadership, who are among the most selfish people in America. They are obsessed only with their own agenda, the nation’s well-being be damned, and they will do anything to advance it.

Besides the fact I wanted to see him punished for running the country and his state into the ground, I didn’t want to endure another year of Reid mangling the English language, saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, or making some racially insensitive or sexist comment. The former boxer who loves to use boxing metaphors to describe his political career clearly took too many blows to the head.

In the category of “you get what you vote for”, California and my home state of Maryland, one insolvent and the other going down the same path, elected tax-hungry and spendthrift Democrats to the governorships of their respective states. Only California could reelect a former governor from more than three decades ago who was then known as “Governor Moonbeam”.

In addition, California reelected a long-time U.S. Senator who even the San Francisco Chronicle couldn’t endorse, proclaiming she “failed to distinguish herself during her 18 years in office” and would bring nothing but “more of the same uninspired representation.” That’s not even damning with faint praise, and Californians elected her anyway. A state that is literally broke has a bleak future ahead of it.

I love where I live. Calvert County, Maryland is a beautiful rural county with great people and a high quality of life. We love the schools and we love our church, and we live in a beautiful home in a safe neighborhood.

Despite a roughly 50/50 split between Republicans and Democrats, the voters gave Republicans the keys, with a first-time GOP candidate, Mark Fisher, unseating an earnest and likeable Democrat who still couldn’t restrain her impulse that government is good and holds all the answers. A county commission with a 3/2 Republican/Democrat split is now all GOP for the first time in its history, should the current order hold after absentee ballots are counted. Our Republican sheriff won reelection to a third four-year term, and House of Delegates minority leader Tony O’Donnell was reelected as well.

What is frustrating, however, is that our oasis of red is surrounded by a sea of blue, which means we will continue to fight fairy tale policies that defy reality and common sense. The governor and the 150-year plus one party monopoly in Annapolis will continue to yoke our county to other counties whose priorities differ from our own, leaving us underrepresented in the General Assembly.

We will continue to struggle under nonsensical leadership that claims to want jobs but does everything legislatively possible to drive job creators and wealth builders out of the state, that decries high teenage unemployment but creates a sanctuary state for illegal aliens who steal low-wage jobs from Maryland teens, and that wonders why the state’s economy struggles despite our proximity to the federal government when billions of dollars are transferred from the private sector, which creates wealth, to the public sector, which drains it.

We are overtaxed and overregulated, and despite the fact that higher taxes, among the highest in the nation, have actually resulted in less revenue, they will continue to try to tax and spend their way out of billion dollar annual deficits, and beg the federal government for more money which it doesn’t have. They’ve already telegraphed that gasoline and alcohol taxes are going to go up, among others, so even if we can’t drive anywhere, we can’t afford to drown our sorrows in adult beverages. I’m glad I rarely drink!

I don’t intend to take government’s presumption of ownership of the people’s money lying down. I want to continue living here, and I will be a pain in the backside of every elected official who presumes they know better than the people how to conduct their business and spend their money.

It’s now 8:19 am. I’m going to take some time to rest, but not a lot. I have two years ahead of me to annoy tax-and-spend liberals and embolden conservatives who have been given a new lease on life.

Memo to Steny: Bush Doesn't Live Here Anymore

SUBJECT: George W. Bush Has Left The Building ATTN: Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Majority Leader, U.S. House of Representatives

Rep. Hoyer:

It's pretty clear that you never spent any time on active duty. You and many of your fellow Democrats have a difficult time accepting responsibility for - well, anything.

When I was in the U.S. Air Force, If I had started babbling like you do about how the current deficit spending and the voter's anger over it is everyone's fault but your own, my commander would have stopped me and said, "Lieutenant, are you making excuses?" The right answer? "No excuse, sir."

I heard your voice on the radio a couple of days ago, talking about voter anger and how it's justified. Just when I thought I might run off the road because His Highness the Majority Leader was about to speak the truth, you snapped out of it and blurted out the same tired line about "the depth of the recession inherited by the administration and by this Congress."

Enough already, Mr. Majority Leader. If you think the voters are mad at you now, just keep that up. We're not stupid or blind; we can see who's spending what and when.

Yes, President Bush increased the national debt by $3 trillion dollars over eight years. We know President Obama's term began in the shadow of a major economic crisis for which every one of you, and millions of us, bear responsibility.

From politicians in both parties who loosened the terms of mortgage lending to burnish their populist credentials, to the banks who made risky home loans, to the financial firms who took these securities and played the market like it was Las Vegas, and to the borrowers who bought more home than they could afford, there is no one that isn't to blame. If anything, the only voices warning of the dangers these risky mortgages could bring on the economy were -- wait for it -- George W. Bush and John S. McCain.

Incidentally, during the last two years of the Bush Administration, the Congress was controlled by the Democrats, but you were all either on an extended martini lunch break or running for President, because you accept no responsibility for deficit spending in that time frame.

Fine - saying you were asleep at the switch and derelict in your duties under Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution is much better than taking ownership of your actions.

Now you've got the whole ball of wax - the White House and both houses of Congress. You can look under the beds if you like - that bogeyman George Bush is gone. Every action you've taken from January 19, 2009 forward belongs to you. How're you doing so far?

According to projections by Obama's own Office of Management and Budget, by the end of fiscal year 2010, this administration and this Congress will have increased the debt by $3.3 trillion - in 20 months!

Let that sink in, people - by October 1st of this year, Obama and the Democrats will run up as much debt in 20 months as President Bush did in EIGHT YEARS!

According to the Congressional Budget Office, Obama's initial budget blueprint will add to the national debt by as much as $14 trillion over the next decade, which is more than the entire national debt as it stands today, and more than all previous Presidents COMBINED.

Unless President Bush is hiding in the Oval Office curtains by day and rewriting budget documents by night like some malevolent elf in the shoemaker's shop, you own every single penny of spending that's occurred on your watch.

The $787 billion stimulus package, heavily slanted toward the public sector and political allies like the labor unions, rather than the private sector where jobs are truly created, and that claimed it would keep the unemployment rate below 8 percent but, in the end, couldn't stop it from reaching 10 percent? Yours.

The $410 billion appropriations bill and the proposed fiscal year 2010 budget totaling $3.69 trillion? Yours.

The proposed $1.9 trillion increase in the debt ceiling, a record increase and an amount that will allow the government to push the national debt to $14.3 trillion? Yours.

As an officer in the United States Air Force, a new duty assignment always presented me with challenges, not the least of which was the situation my predecessor left behind for me. From the moment I assumed command of my unit, however, everything that happened going forward was my responsibility - no excuses and no blame. That is the code of the leader.

Democrats whine that they are being punished for doing something about the economic crisis. No, you are being punished for doing something stupid.

You don't dig out of a deficit by digging a larger hole faster than anyone in history. You don't stimulate the U.S. economy or create jobs by stimulating primarily yourselves and your cronies.

Most importantly, you don't call the American people who oppose what you're doing "un-American," "brownshirts," "Nazis," "racists," "Astro-Turf," or "tea baggers," a vulgar term of which I was completely unaware until you and your allies brought it to the nation's attention. Leaders are expected to know better and set a positive example for others.

I agree with almost nothing Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley does in the policy arena, but I respect his statement when asked about the large protest that recently occurred right outside his public residence in Annapolis - "We welcome dissent, and we welcome the exchange of ideas." Good for him.

President Bush was always conciliatory toward those citizens who opposed him in public, expressing support for their First Amendment rights of speech, assembly and petition and extolling the virtues of our nation's freedoms. He would never have admonished them as this President has done ("Don't do a lot of talking"), nor would he have used the aforementioned vulgar term from the White House podium to categorize his public opposition.

Public servants are supposed to show deference to their constituents, for they serve at the consent of the governed; in short, we're the boss - you are not.

You clearly don't believe that. People who attended your town hall meeting this summer to express their concerns about the health bill - I refuse to use the words "care" or "reform" because it is neither - were dismayed by your open display of arrogance toward them. You created a lot of energized people dedicated to your defeat on that day.

Your recent suggestion that the American public was mistaken in 1994 when they swept the Democrats out of power in the Congress, and mistaken today in their anger over the President's agenda, is further evidence that the people's opinions mean nothing to you.

If a leader isn't successful in persuading those he leads, that's not a "them" problem, it's a "you" problem.

You haven't made a compelling enough case to the American people despite controlling every branch of government, and the pervasive liberal presence in the opinion-shaping institutions of the press, academia and the entertainment industry.

I have learned to trust the common sense and integrity of everyday Americans regardless of their credentials, economic status, or social standing. You have lost your intuition toward anyone outside of the echo chamber in which you, your contemporaries and your dependent constituencies reside.

Your title itself imbues you with the mantle of leadership, and one of your party's notable leaders from the past, President Harry Truman, summed up leadership in a nutshell; "The buck stops here."

Apparently, you and your allies believe the buck stops at Daria Drive in Dallas, Texas.

Reid's Words Fully Vetted

The national discussion on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's racially charged comments about then-Senator Barack Obama is still going, but I chose to wait and think about it before publishing my thoughts. I'm currently writing a book on race in America from the perspective of a conservative who happens to be black, and Reid's comments dovetailed nicely with a topic that's at the forefront of my mind.

I think it's simplifying the issue to take either the "Reid's a racist" or "Reid's a saint" position. There are too many factors that need to be discussed candidly, and it would be simplistic to boil it down to an either/or question.

This isn't the first time Senator Reid has made comments that could be interpreted as racially insensitive. When asked if he thought Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas should be nominated for the position of Chief Justice, Reid declared him "an embarrassment to the Supreme Court" and said "I think his opinions are poorly written. I just don't think he's done a good job as a Supreme Court Justice."

In that same interview, he called Justice Antonin Scalia, Thomas' ideological companion, "one smart guy" and someone whose nomination for Chief Justice he could support.

Thomas is black; Scalia is white.

When asked to cite an example of Thomas' "poorly written" opinions, he cited a 2003 case about California milk regulation and equated Thomas' opinion to "an eighth-grade dissertation." Eighth-graders in my experience don't write dissertations, but that's just an observation.

He praised Scalia's dissent as "well reasoned" and compared its composition to a brief written by "somebody who just graduated from Harvard" - except that Scalia never wrote a dissent in this case. He joined the majority opinion.

Here is Thomas' dissent in full and, if that is how eighth-graders in Nevada write, then I'm highly impressed:

"I join Parts I and III of the Court's opinion and respectfully dissent from Part II, which holds that §144 of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996, 7 U.S.C. §7254, "does not clearly express an intent to insulate California's pricing and pooling laws from a Commerce Clause challenge." Ante, at 6-7. Although I agree that the Court of Appeals erred in its statutory analysis, I nevertheless would affirm its judgment on this claim because "[t]he negative Commerce Clause has no basis in the text of the Constitution, makes little sense, and has proved virtually unworkable in application," Camps Newfound/Owatonna, Inc. v. Town of Harrison, 520 U.S. 564, 610 (1997) (Thomas, J., dissenting), and, consequently, cannot serve as a basis for striking down a state statute."

So you have a U.S. Senator and incoming Majority Leader who goes out of his way to criticize one Supreme Court justice and praise another. Neither are ideologically aligned with him, so that isn't the basis for his comments, and in the one example he offers of a poorly written opinion, he disparages the dissent of one justice and praises that of the other, even though the other justice didn't write one. It appears that his criticism hasn't much of a basis in fact.

Even so, he went out of his way to question the intelligence of a Supreme Court justice who was an honor student in high school, where he was the only black student, and who graduated cum laude from the College of the Holy Cross and received his law degree from Yale Law School. Even Thomas' ideological foes have never questioned his intelligence, so why would Reid?

Were his comments racist? The Congressional Black Caucus, no friends of Clarence Thomas, thought they could be interpreted as such. Representative Melvin Watt of North Carolina, then the incoming caucus chairman, said "We wrote a letter to Sen. Reid cautioning him about his comments...I think all of us ought to focus more on substance and less on stereotypes and caricatures."

Perhaps it was Justice Thomas' dark skin and "Negro dialect" which make him, in Reid's mind, "an embarrassment to the Supreme Court." In my opinion, the two statements from Reid of which we are aware suggest he has some curious notions rattling about in his head about race in general and blacks in particular.

Does that make him a racist? It depends on how you define the term. If hatred is a prerequisite for racism, then I don't think he is. Patronizing? Yes, but that's a common liberal trait when it comes to blacks.

If you believe, however, the typical liberal condescension toward blacks which places blacks in the role of victim and whites in the role of savior constitutes racism - and, to hear some blacks complain about the hit movie, The Blind Side, in which a rich white family takes in a homeless black teen and "rescues" him, it does - then yes, Senator Harry Reid is a racist.

Like a lot of subjective and emotionally charged topics, your conclusions depend on where you stand.

As for Senator Reid's specific comments about Obama, they elicited a shrug of the shoulders from me. The idea that white voters find well-spoken, light-skinned blacks more attractive than dark-skinned blacks who speak "Black English" isn't news to anybody - or shouldn't be.

Colin Powell was "The Great Black Hope" for President long before Obama came on the scene, and when asked about his appeal to white voters, he said, "I speak reasonably well, like a white person," and, visually, "I ain't that black."

As a light-skinned black man with precise diction and no trace of a "Negro dialect" due to my upbringing in a military family that traveled the world, I know that my appearance and speech patterns have opened doors for me that might otherwise have been closed. I don't think of it generally until the topic of race comes up and some well-meaning person blurts out, "I don't think of you as black."

As someone who wants to see race eradicated as a measure of character or capability, I am generally pleased to elicit such comments from my white friends. Other blacks who are less focused on the goal and more on the current circumstances find such comments offensive, and they are entitled to their opinion.

Even the black community has its own color caste system. My grandfather, who was black as coal, would tell me to marry myself a nice light-skinned black girl with good hair. My grandmother was fair-complexioned and had dark wavy hair, so he followed his own advice.

My sister is darker than me and my two brothers, and we used to tease her mercilessly about it when we were younger, which might explain her temperament toward us today!

Black fraternities and sororities, historically black colleges, nightclubs and other social venues had their "brown paper bag" test which excluded anyone who was darker than the bag from admission.

Light-skinned, fair-featured blacks were more acceptable in the early days of Hollywood than those who were not.  Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte and Lena Horne are primary examples of this preference, and Ms. Horne was well aware of it:

"I was unique in that I was a kind of black that white people could accept. I was their daydream. I had the worst kind of acceptance because it was never for how great I was or what I contributed. It was because of the way I looked."

Psychological studies show that black and white participants perceive light-skinned blacks as more intelligent, wealthier and happier than those with darker skin. Garrett Morris and Julian Bond even did a skit about the topic on Saturday Night Live when Morris, the dark-skinned host of a black-themed talk show, was taken aback by Bond, his guest, when Bond stated matter-of-factly that "light-skinned blacks are smarter than dark-skinned blacks":

Julian Bond: That's an interesting point. My theory is that it's based on the fact that light-skinned blacks are smarter than dark-skinned blacks.

Garrett Morris: [ not sure he heard that right ] Say what?

Julian Bond: I said I think it might have grown out of the observation that light-skinned blacks are smarter than dark-skinned blacks.

Garrett Morris: I don't get it.

Julian Bond: It's got nothing to do with having white blood. It's just that descendants of the lighter-skinned African tribes are more intelligent than the descendants of the darker-skinned tribes. Everybody knows that.

Garrett Morris: This is the first time I've heard of it.

Julian Bond: Seriously? It was proven a long time ago.

Garrett Morris: Well, I still don't quite understand. We're out of time right now, but perhaps you could come back on the show again and explain it further.

Julian Bond: There's very little to explain - it's just like I told you.

Garrett Morris: Well, we are out of time. Good night. [ to Julian ] If you could repeat it just once more...

Most whites would name Halle Berry and Shemar Moore as representative of black beauty today, although that is changing with each succeeding generation. I know of few whites who wouldn't find Denzel Washington or Angela Bassett attractive, even if they don't pass the paper bag test.

The bottom line is that Harry Reid was telling the truth about Obama's appeal, even if he used an archaic term - Negro - to express it.

The last issue that comes to mind in this morality play is the reaction of liberals, black and white, to Reid's comments. The swiftness and unanimity with which they closed ranks around Reid was astonishing - and two-faced.

It's not hypocritical - that word is overused and used incorrectly for the most part. A hypocrite is an actor - someone who pretends to be something they are not, and they know they aren't what they pretend to be.

A lot of people who strongly believe one thing and, in a moment of weakness, do another, may be sinners but they're not hypocrites.

In this case, I believe Reid's defenders are, for the most part, sincere in their belief that he did nothing wrong. Bad choice of words, perhaps, but not racist in their intent.

It is a widely held perception among conservatives, however, that a similar statement uttered by a conservative public figure would be met with the full wrath of the liberal establishment and the black orthodoxy. It is this perception that is at the heart of the continued tension over this episode.

If a conservative were in Reid's shoes, those making condemnatory remarks wouldn't have changed their perception of the words themselves, but they would have leapt to judgment because of the ideology of the perpetrator.

Forget about the comparisons with Trent Lott; there are too many extenuating factors in that episode to draw any parallels to it.

I can say with confidence, however,that were the circumstances the same and the Senator was named McConnell rather than Reid, there would be no groundswell of affirmation from the black community. Indeed, the reaction would be precisely the opposite.

In 2006, Lisa Gladden, a black state senator here in Maryland, was asked why blacks and their white enablers were crossing the line of propriety in their attacks on then-Lieutenant Governor and U.S. Senate candidate Michael Steele, in one case portraying him in blackface with the caption, "I's Simple Sambo and I's running for the big house." Her answer was instructive.

"Party trumps race."