Democrats vs. Catholics

New York Roman Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan (formerly of Milwaukee, and I attended one of his Masses once upon a time):

It’s been a rough time for faithful Catholics recently in our state government’s frantic rush for “progressive” ideas.

I’m thinking first of the ghoulish radical abortion-expansion law, which allows for an abortion right up to the moment of birth; drops all charges against an abortionist who allows an aborted baby, who somehow survives the scissors, scalpel, saline and dismemberment, to die before his eyes; mandates that, to make an abortion more convenient and easy, a physician need not perform it; and might even be used to suppress the conscience rights of health care professionals not to assist in the grisly procedures. All this in a state that already had the most permissive abortion laws in the country.

As if that’s not enough, instead of admitting that abortion is always a tragic choice, and that life-giving alternatives should be more vigorously promoted, the governor and his “progressive” supporters celebrated signing the bill. At the governor’s command, even the lights of the Freedom Tower sparkled with delight.

Those who once told us that abortion had to remain safe, legal and rare now have made it dangerous, imposed and frequent.

Then our governor insults and caricatures the church in what’s supposed to be an uplifting and unifying occasion, his “State of the State” address.

The bishops of this state have long supported a reform of the inadequate laws around the sexual abuse of minors. Yes, we and many others expressed reservations about one element, the retroactive elimination of the civil statute of limitations, but urged dramatic reform that, in many ways, was tougher than what was being proposed by legislators. A month ago we renewed that stance, and even dropped our objections to the “look-back” section if all victims would benefit. The governor was aware of all this.

Why, then, would he use his address to blame the church, and only the church, for blocking this bill? Why would he publicly brag in a political address about his dissent from timeless and substantive church belief? Why would he quote Pope Francis out of context as an applause line to misrepresent us bishops here as being opposed to our Holy Father? Why did he reduce the sexual abuse of minors, a broad societal and cultural curse that afflicts every family, public school, religion and government program, to a “Catholic problem?”

I’m a pastor, not a politician, but I feel obliged to ask these questions, as daily do I hear them from my people, as well as colleagues from other creeds. I’ve been attacked in the past when I asked — sadly and reluctantly — if the party that my folks proudly claimed as their own, the Democrats, had chosen to alienate faithful Catholic voters. Now you know why I asked.

As an American historian, I am very aware of our state’s past record of scorn and sneers at Catholics. It used to be called “know-nothings.” Now it’s touted as “progressivism.”

Genuine progressives work to pass a “DREAM act,” a “voters rights act,” a “prison reform act,” and we pastors of the church pitch in to support them. That’s government at its best. I pray that spirit returns.

The New York law that allows abortion up to birth should disgust even those who consider themselves to favor abortion rights.

 

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Axis of Evil values

Jerry Bader:

The group Milwaukee rapper WebsterX was to have performed with has been pulled from Governor-elect Tony Evers’ inaugural gala after the Evers organization was informed by Media Trackers of offensive tweets by the artist, whose real name is Sam Ahmed. In tweets from 2011 and 2012, Ahmed jokes about killing police, Republicans, and committing rape.

Media Trackers sent the tweets to Evers organization spokesman Brandon Weathersby, who told us late Friday afternoon that the group New Age Narcissism had been pulled from the lineup: “Upon the discovery of offensive statements made by a member of New Age Narcissism the group will no longer be performing at the Inaugural Gala. These statements are not reflective of our values.”

Here are some of the tweets:

You can view more tweets here: WebsterX Tweets

The Cap Times reported on Ahmed’s inclusion in the line up Wednesday:

Also on the lineup is New Age Narcissism, a musical collective that includes some of the city’s biggest ambassadors of hip-hop and R&B. Among them is Lex Allen, an R&B singer who was recently featured this year as a performer at Summerfest, and WebsterX, a rapper who has had his music featured on NPR and whose single “Feels” was highlighted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as one of the year’s best.

Because, you see, in Milwaukee and Madison joking about killing cops and Republicans is not merely OK, but applauded and expected. This is what a majority of this state’s voters voted to have for the next four years.

 

A dog of an opinion

Jonah Goldberg:

I  wanted to write this column about dogs. If you follow me on Twitter or have read my work elsewhere, you probably know that about me: I like my dogs. Though truth be told, I probably like your dogs, too. Because I just like dogs.

It’s a common sentiment. Dog ownership has been going up markedly for a while now. There are some who worry that dogs — and even cats — are replacing human children as the objects of our devotion.

There’s evidence to support the claim. Many young couples are more eager to have pets than kids. Expenditures on pet insurance have soared. One often sees dogs referred to as “furbabies” on social media. Two decades ago, my wife and I struggled to find hotels on our cross-country drives that would accommodate dogs (at least at a reasonable price). Now, many hotels compete for the attention of dog owners. Some businesses eager to hire skilled young workers have generous bring-your-dog-to-work policies, and some even provide “pawternity” care for new dog owners.

A survey by SunTrust Bank found that 33 percent of first-time home-buying Millennials said the desire for a better space for their dog was a factor in their decision. Only 25 percent said marriage was an issue, and just 19 percent said children were.

Psychologist Clay Routledge makes a persuasive case that dog ownership is a symptom of America’s very real loneliness crisis. As our society becomes more individualistic, Routledge observed in National Review, “pets may be appealing to some because they lack the agency of humans and thus require less compromise and sacrifice.”

And the problem will like get worse because, as Routledge notes, young people report much more anxiety and isolation in the era of the smartphone, which is why anxious college students increasingly request the support of “companion animals.”

In his book Them, Senator Ben Sasse catalogs America’s loneliness crisis. We have fewer and fewer “non-virtual” friends. Americans entertain others in their homes half as much as they did 25 years ago. People don’t know — never mind socialize with — their neighbors the way they once did.

There’s much to ponder and debate here. But it seems obvious that Routledge is on to something.

Which brings me back to what I wanted to write about. I post a lot of videos and pictures of my dogs, Zoë and Pippa, on Twitter, that distorted and distorting window on the national conversation. I also follow many of the hugely popular dog-focused Twitter accounts (WeRateDogs, The Dogist, Thoughts of Dog, etc.).

Dogs — and animals generally — are among the few things that bridge the partisan divide. Tragedies are a partisan affair. If someone dies in a hurricane or shooting, there’s a mad rush to score political points. Last week, a lovely young woman, Bre Payton, died from a sudden illness, and a bunch of ghouls mocked or celebrated her demise because she was a conservative.

Even babies can be controversial, since babies can touch various nerves, from abortion politics to the apparent scourge of “misgendering” newborns.

But dogs are largely immune to political ugliness. The angriest complaints I get about my dog tweets — from people on both the left and the right — are that I’m wasting apparently scarce resources on dogs when I could be expressing my anger about whatever outrage the complainers demand I be outraged about.

This is one of the reasons I love dogs. Because it is an occupational hazard in my line of work to be constantly drenched in the muck of politics, dogs are a safe harbor. They don’t care about political correctness. They don’t want to Make America Great Again or join the “Resistance.” They just want to pursue doggie goodness as they see it.

It strikes me that all of these things are connected. The increasing nastiness of our politics is a byproduct of our social isolation. We look to politics to provide the sense of meaning and belonging once found in community and religion, which is why everything is becoming politicized. The problem is that politics, particularly at the national level, is necessarily about disagreement, which is why it cannot provide the sense of unity people crave from it.

And that’s one reason why dogs are so appealing. In an era when everything is a source of discord and politicization, it’s good to have something that stands — and sits and fetches — apart. Because they’re all good dogs.

Last point first. Recall that the author of Marley and Me lovingly chronicled all the bad things Marley the yellow lab did. After the column he wrote upon Marley’s death, his voice mail reached capacity with tales, plus additional emails, about the bad things those owners’ dogs did. (Like eat items of clothing and throw them back up whole.) So what is a “good dog” depends on your opinion of what your dog just did.

My general opinion of parenting is that people who don’t want to be parents shouldn’t be parents, so the “furbabies” thing is something that can easily be ignored.

Related to that is this comment:

Dogs are sentient (they think, learn and express emotions), loving, and they really only know how to live in the moment. It’s a great combination of traits for people who are sick of people but don’t want to live in total isolation.

There were also a few buzzkill comments:

  • Maybe it depends on where you live, but when I was in Seattle I saw politics start to creep in about dogs. Seattle is a place where many claim to need an emotional support pet. If you own a purebred dog people also feel it is their duty to lecture you on the value of adopting a pound dog. Speaking of pound dogs, have you noticed that no one just adopts a dog from the pound anymore? Even that has achieved virtue-signaling status. Now everyone “rescues” their pet. It’s subtle, but it elevates the actions of the owner to something more noble.

Well …

… here is Max, our “rescue” dog. This is the puppy we were introduced to one Sunday at church, who then kept inviting himself across the street, probably because his owner was new and didn’t know how to take care of a dog. The owner also didn’t notice the part of her lease that said “no pets,” which made her look for a new home for the former Peanut. We found this out one Sunday and left a note on her door. The following Saturday I was going to announce a college basketball game, but as I was leaving she appeared at the door and wanted to know if we were still interested. I said I was leaving, but talk to the people inside, and sure enough, when I left we had one dog and one cat, but when I got home we had two dogs and one cat. The one thing I did rescue him from was being outlawed by the city, which had one sense-challenged alderman who thought “pit bulls” (however they are defined, something the proposed ordinance did not do) should be banned. Happily, I caught him in a public lie, and that ended not only the ordinance, but eventually his political career.

  • A neighbor told me that they (the couple) had pulled their new puppy from her playgroup because there were Trump owned dogs in the group. They had been doxxed out into the open.
    Really.
  • Dogs are awesome, yes, but don’t kid yourself…politics are alive and well in the dog world. The left is absolutely coming for your pets. I have a competitive dog (shows and herding trials) and have seen first hand PETA and HSUS activists trying to disrupt events. Also, beware of feel good laws that are being passed all over the country that will ultimately hurt all dogs and dog owners.

(Re PETA and HSUS, I bet that misbehavior stops the next time a dog owner pulls a gun on them defending their dog.)

The previous quotes prove the point of those who prefer dogs to humans — there may be no bad dogs, but there certainly are bad dog owners because there are bad people.

The 2018 Presteblog Christmas album

Starting shortly after my birth, my parents purchased Christmas albums for $1 from an unlikely place, tire stores.

(That’s as seemingly outmoded as getting, for instance, glasses every time you filled up at your favorite gas station, back in the days when gas stations were usually part of a car repair place, not a convenience store. Of course, go to a convenience store now, and you can probably find CDs, if not records, and at least plastic glasses such as Red Solo Cups and silverware. Progress, or something.)

The albums featured contemporary artists from the ’60s, plus opera singers and other artists.

These albums were played on my parents’ wall-length Magnavox hi-fi player.

Playing these albums was as annual a ritual as watching “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” or other <a href=”https://steveprestegard.com/2011/12/23/media-of-the-season/”>holiday-season appointment TV</a>.

Those albums began my, and then our, collection of Christmas music.

You may think some of these singers are unusual choices to sing Christmas music. (This list includes at least six Jewish singers.)

Of course, Christians know that Jesus Christ was Jewish.

And I defy any reader to find anyone who can sing “Silent Night” like Barbra Streisand did in the ’60s.

These albums are available for purchase online</a>, but record players are now as outmoded as, well, getting glasses with your fill-up at the gas station. (Though note what I previously wrote.)

But thanks to YouTube and other digital technology, other aficionados of this era of Christmas music now can have their music preserved for their current and future enjoyment.

The tire-store-Christmas-album list has been augmented by both earlier and later works.

In the same way I think no one can sing “Silent Night” like Barbra Streisand, I think no one can sing “Do You Hear What I Hear” (a song written during the Cuban Missile Crisis, believe it or not) like Whitney Houston:

This list contains another irony — an entry from “A Christmas Gift for You,” Phil Spector’s Christmas album. (Spector’s birthday is Christmas.)

The album should have been a bazillion-seller, and perhaps would have been had it not been for the date of its initial release: Nov. 22, 1963.

Finally, here’s the last iteration of one of the coolest TV traditions — “The Late Show with David Letterman” and its annual appearance of Darlene Love (from the aforementioned Phil Spector album), which started in 1986 on NBC …

… and ended on CBS:

Merry Christmas.

A Thanksgiving message

Facebook Friend Gary Probst:

Be grateful, today, that kindness reigns over incivility. According to Harvard psychologist and author, Steven Pinker, today’s new incivility is simply a growing pain for the human race. We are safer, healthier and have more to be grateful for than ever. I agree.
Although people seem to be at humanity’s collective throat, things are much different than a few hundred years ago. The only nations where people are starving are where despots cause the suffering, not from a lack of resources. Modern farming has made it so. Starvation stems from greed and politics, not a lack of supply.

There have always been murders and violence. If you compare what we witness, today, to other times of human history, we are in a time of peace–not where we would like it to be–but better than before.

As life improves, our next goal is, naturally, to make it even better. We face a challenging future, as robotics that replace human jobs are on the horizon. However, we will endure. We will prosper. We will take care of each other. Anybody with parents or grandparents who lived though the Great Depression remember hearing stories of human kindness.
If times become rough, again, we will come together and care for each other. Its in our DNA. Its part of our very nature. According to Dr. Pinker, humanity continues to evolve, not devolve. We’re getting there. However, as with all growth, its never in a straight line of the rise. There are blips and bumps along the way.

Take time, today, to be grateful we live in a nation where we are able to disagree and duke it out on social media. We have a right to be indignant and that is a blessing. Its part of human growth and development. Resistance makes us stronger.

Thank God for each other. The farmers will take care of providing the turkey and the turkeys on Facebook will provide plenty of opportunity for you to grow. The connection between each other, in spite of disagreement and tone, is what makes our creator happy on this day of thanksgiving.

This is also appropriate today:


Salutegate

Ben Bromley:

My journalism professors wouldn’t be proud of me. Not only because I’ve spent my career satirizing the misadventures of America’s weirdos rather than uncovering corruption, but also because last week I cried at a city council meeting.

Reporters are taught to be dispassionate, objective observers. Getting emotionally involved had never been a problem for me before, except at the monthly disgraces they call meetings of the Sauk County Board, a body most politely described as a fly in the soup of American democracy. So tortured are the principles of good government and common decency that even a stoic feels moved to tears.

There isn’t supposed to be crying in journalism, but Baraboo is an emotional place these days, from City Hall to church pews to high school hallways. A photo depicting local prom-goers in an apparent Nazi salute was posted online last week, making international news and tying this community to hate speech. Locals feel outraged, attacked, disheartened and traumatized. We all lost the same loved one: Baraboo’s good name.

As one of the bereaved, I struggled to compose myself during last week’s council meeting. I listened to Jewish friends, good people thrust into a mess they didn’t make, call for healing and education. As the Chamber of Commerce president spoke, I thought of friends on the staff who spent the week fielding angry calls over a controversy they didn’t create, and may spend years working to overcome.

As a friend and alderman whose son appeared in the photo discussed the impact on his family, I thought of my own four children at the school who, despite not being pictured, may see the way they’re perceived — “You’re from Baraboo? Ick.” — change forever. I didn’t once think of the journalism professors who might say I’m friends with too many local newsmakers.

There’s much we don’t know about the circumstances surrounding the shooting and circulation of the photo. Each day, new accounts surface that move me to reject the face-value narrative that immediately spread around the world: “In that picture, the boys seem to be saluting like Nazis. It was taken in a mostly white community that must be a breeding ground for white supremacists.”

No, Baraboo is not.

I don’t believe it’s that simple. Yes, we live in a rural area, but we don’t wear ropes for belts. The shame in seeing Baraboo known only for that photo is that America might be surprised to learn this is a cosmopolitan little town. It supports the arts and public schools, and you can’t live here long without getting to know Jewish people and gay people and other minorities, such as those who think it’s OK to play Christmas music before Thanksgiving.

People don’t hide in terror behind the nearest tree when they approach or burn crosses on their lawns or break their Perry Como albums. Every community has its bigots, but I’d like to think that if we knew our high school was becoming a boot camp for Hitler Youth, the locals would be the first to step in.

We’ve learned this much: The view from the eye of a media — and social media — hurricane is terrifying. The instant a community is associated with hate, it becomes the target of that very thing. Whereas my Aunt Lucille, the Shakespeare of strongly worded letters, labored over her typewriter in upbraiding wayward CEOs and bureaucrats, today’s trolls with keyboard courage can tell you immediately and anonymously that you and your community are a pimple on America’s butt.

I can understand why the photo upset people, and I find calls for sensitivity training and Holocaust education entirely appropriate. I’d just like our knee-jerk, hit-send world to consider there may be more to the story than we know right now. Our modern world of social media and around-the-clock talking heads doesn’t much care for patience or complexity. But it’s best to evaluate events in context and resist the temptation to take them at face value. Maybe I learned something in all those journalism classes after all.

Whether we find out the photo depicts bigotry in action, an ill-conceived joke, a disastrous misunderstanding or something in between, the damage is done. An above-average small Wisconsin town bears a wound that won’t heal without leaving a scar. And that’s a crying shame.

How to ruin your holiday dinner with politics

James Wigderson apparently doesn’t like the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but …

Unfortunately, the non-traditional Thanksgiving is an argument I lost long ago.

Perhaps I should use the process Karin Tamerius, a psychiatrist and the founder of Smart Politics, created for the New York Times. In “How to Have a Conversation With Your Angry Uncle Over Thanksgiving,” Tamerius creates a bunch of no-win (if you’re a conservative) conversation paths similar to the “build your own adventure” books for children. At the end of the process, everyone at the family Thanksgiving table will be in favor of nationalized health care, higher taxes, forced unionization, and even rooting for the Detroit Lions.

You start with a choice.The “Angry Uncle Bot” allows your leftwing family members to practice their bumper sticker psychology and new talking points before actually trying it on a real human being. The “Liberal Uncle Bot” helps conservatives recognize that their facts and figures don’t matter as much as liberal feelings.

No, really. Your liberal uncle will say, “We need Medicare for All. Health care is a human right.” You, as the conservative, have three options:

Of course, choosing either of the first two options are “wrong.” Your only correct response is, “O.K., can you tell me more about that?”

My favorite part of the game was the liberal uncle’s statement, “Many people can’t even afford medications or primary care. If we expand Medicare to include everyone, those people can get the help they need.”

If you respond, “National health insurance is a disaster where it’s been adopted,” you’re wrong again. But not because of Sweden.

“Not a good choice. This response will turn the conversation into a debate over facts and figures,” Tamerius wrote. “Debate is problematic because people tend not be persuaded by evidence and may even end up believing more strongly in their original position.”

Bad: “debate over facts and figures” and “people tend not be persuaded by evidence.” Because why have a factual debate?

Instead, you’re supposed to choose, “So, you think the government has a responsibility to make sure every person has basic health care, is that right?”

Why? “…it’s important to show your understanding by reflecting what you heard. Good reflections paraphrase what the other person said and highlight emotions. Truly exceptional reflections are met with, ‘Exactly! I couldn’t have said it better myself.'”

I know what I could say better myself to the annoying liberal relative who says, “We need Medicare for All. Health care is a human right.”

“Great, we’re going to take your portion of today’s dinner bill and set it aside for the $32 trillion in higher taxes that you want. And just to show that there are no hard feelings, we’ll let you walk home so you don’t have to feel guilty about the burning of fossil fuels. No, don’t take any turkey with you. Meat production contributes to global warming. I want you to feel really smug and warm on that ten mile hike home. The rest of us are going to enjoy our dinner while thanking the Pilgrims for coming to this country, bringing Western civilization with them.”

There will be more dessert for us, and a whole lot less acrimony.

Or you could ban politics from your table and discuss a nice, safe, uncontroversial topic, such as whether Packers coach Mike McCarthy should be fired.

How to handle insults with grace

This first appeared on NBC-TV’s “Saturday Night Live”:

Rather than dwell on the social media storm of reaction, this ran one week later:

Crenshaw then wrote in the Washington Post:

The past couple of weeks have been unusual for me, to say the least. After a year of hard campaigning for Congress in Texas and gradually entering the public sphere, I was hit by a sudden, blinding spotlight. But I have no complaints — it wasn’t as bad as some other challenges I’ve faced, like a sudden, blinding IED explosion. (See what I did there? “Saturday Night Live” has created a comedic monster.)

On the Nov. 3 show, SNL’s Pete Davidson mocked my appearance — “he lost his eye in war . . . or whatever,” Davidson said, referring to the eye patch I wear. His line about my looking like a “hit man in a porno movie” was significantly less infuriating, albeit a little strange. I woke up on the Sunday morning after the show to hundreds of texts about what Davidson had said. A lot of America wasn’t happy. People thought some lines still shouldn’t be crossed.

I agreed. But I also could not help but note that this was another chapter in a phenomenon that has taken complete control of the national discourse: outrage culture. It seems like every not-so-carefully-worded public misstep must be punished to the fullest extent, replete with soapbox lectures and demands for apologies. Anyone who doesn’t show the expected level of outrage will be labeled a coward or an apologist for bad behavior. I get the feeling that regular, hard-working, generally unoffended Americans sigh with exhaustion — daily.

Was I really outraged by SNL? Really offended? Or did I just think the comment about losing my eye was offensive? There is a difference, after all. I have been literally shot at before, and I wasn’t outraged. Why start now?

So I didn’t demand an apology and I didn’t call for anyone to be fired. That doesn’t mean the “war . . . or whatever” line was acceptable, but I didn’t have to fan the flames of outrage, either. When SNL reached out with an apology and an offer to be on the show, I wasn’t fully sold on the idea. It was going to be Veterans Day weekend, after all, and I had events with veterans planned. I asked if another weekend might work. No, they said, precisely because it was Veterans Day, it would be the right time to send the right message. They assured me that we could use the opportunity to send a message of unity, forgiveness and appreciation for veterans. And to make fun of Pete Davidson, of course.

And that’s what we did. I was happy with how it worked out. But now what? Does it suddenly mean that the left and right will get along and live in utopian harmony? Maybe Saturday’s show made a tiny step in that direction, but I’m not naive. As a country, we still have a lot of work to do. We need to agree on some basic rules for civil discourse.

There are many ideas that we will never agree on. The left and the right have different ways of approaching governance, based on contrasting philosophies. But many of the ultimate goals — economic prosperity, better health care and education, etc. — are the same. We just don’t share the same vision of how to achieve them.

How, then, do we live together in this world of differing ideas? For starters, let’s agree that the ideas are fair game. If you think my idea is awful, you should say as much. But there is a difference between attacking an idea and attacking the person behind that idea. Labeling someone as an “-ist” who believes in an “-ism” because of the person’s policy preference is just a shortcut to playground-style name-calling, cloaked in political terminology. It’s also generally a good indication that the attacker doesn’t have a solid argument and needs a way to end debate before it has even begun.

Similarly, people too often attack not just an idea but also the supposed intent behind an idea. That raises the emotional level of the debate and might seem like it strengthens the attacker’s side, but it’s a terrible way to make a point. Assuming the worst about your opponents’ intentions has the effect of demonizing their ideas, removing the need for sound counter-reasoning and fact-based argument. That’s not a good environment for the exchange of ideas.

When all else fails, try asking for forgiveness, or granting it. On Saturday, Pete Davidson and SNL made amends. I had some fun. Everyone generally agreed that a veteran’s wounds aren’t fair game for comedy. Maybe now we should all try to work toward restoring civility to public debate.

The Post adds:

Dan Crenshaw’s good eye is good enough, but it’s not great. The iris is broken. The retina is scarred. He needs a special oversized contact lens, and bifocals sometimes, to correct his vision. Six years after getting blown up, he can still see a bit of debris floating in his cornea. His bad eye? Well, his bad eye is gone. Under his eye patch is a false eye that is deep blue. At the center of it, where a pupil should be, is the gold trident symbol of the Navy SEALs. It makes Dan Crenshaw look like a Guardian of the Galaxy.

But he can’t catch a baseball very well anymore. He misses plenty of handshakes; his arm shortchanges the reach, his palm fumbles the grip. He has trouble with dumb little tasks — he needs to touch a pitcher to a cup to properly pour a glass of water, for example. But nothing major. Nothing that would prevent him from coming out of nowhere, unknown and underfunded, to vanquish seven opponents in a Republican primary, then squash a state legislator in a runoff, and then on Tuesday, at age 34, win his first-ever general election to represent his native Houston area in Congress.

He’ll join a freshman class with two dozen other newly elected House members who are under 40 and, at least, 15 who are veterans. Yet, Crenshaw seems poised to stand out. His potent life story, his striking presence and his military and Ivy League credentials have set him up as a rising star for a Republican Party in bad need of one, after losing what could turn out to be three dozen seats once the dust settles.

Thirty-six hours after his election-night triumph, Crenshaw still hadn’t caught up on sleep. There was some stale cake sitting in his campaign office, and he was juggling phone calls and a haircut he was going to be late for. He just left a luncheon with business leaders and was due early the next morning for a veterans ceremony. In two days, he would make a surprise appearance on “Saturday Night Live” before heading to Capitol Hill for a two-week orientation.

A whirlwind to everyone else, it seemed, but not him.

“It’s life,” Crenshaw said, sitting at a conference table in his Houston office last week. “It’s not a challenge.” He was the picture of calm. The eye patch was off. The gold trident sparkled. Behind him was a large framed photo of Ronald Reagan. Ahead of him was the next mission. ..

Crenshaw’s father’s career in the oil and gas industry took the family to Ecuador and Colombia, where Crenshaw went to high school and learned Spanish. Captivated as a child by the SEAL memoir “Rogue Warrior,” he was commissioned as a naval officer in 2006 and underwent SEAL training, fracturing his tibia during its infamous “hell week” but completing the challenge on his second go-round. He deployed twice to Iraq and then, in 2012, to Afghanistan.

On June 15, 2012, when Crenshaw was 28, he and his platoon helicoptered into Helmand province on a last-minute mission to support a Marine Special Operations unit. At the time, Helmand was littered with improvised explosive devices. Bombs were so present in some areas that it was safer to crouch in place during oncoming fire — and wager on a sniper’s uncertain aim — than to dive for cover onto uncertain ground.

While Crenshaw’s platoon moved to secure a compound, an Afghan interpreter named Raqman, who wanted to become a Navy SEAL himself, responded to a call and crossed in front of Crenshaw. Raqman stepped on a pressure plate, triggering 15 pounds of explosives and suffering fatal injuries. Crenshaw, who was a couple of paces back, said he felt like he was hit by a truck while a firing squad shot at him. He was on the ground and his eyes were numb. The rest of his body screamed like it had been scratched open and doused in Tabasco. He reached down and felt his legs. Good sign. He had no vision, but assumed his eyes were just filled with dirt.

A medic friend began assessing the damage.

“Dude, don’t ever get blown up,” Crenshaw said to him. “It really sucks.”

He refused to be carried on a stretcher, because he didn’t want to expose comrades to enemy fire for no good reason. He walked to a medical evacuation, where he was put into a coma. He woke up in Germany a few days later, blind and swollen. The remains of his right eye had been surgically removed; eventually a copper wire would be pulled out of his left. Doctors said there was a chance he might see again, but, for Crenshaw, it was a certainty. Seeing again became his mission, and that sense of mission helped him endure the hallucinations, the surgeries, the weeks he had to spend — face down and sightless — while his eye healed, and the two years it took for a medical bureaucracy to get him to a place of relative comfort. He remembered how his mother, who died of cancer when he was 10, never complained during her five-year struggle with the illness. He held fast to his sense that life is about mission: You need one to live and to live productively.

Just over a year after his injury, he married his longtime girlfriend, Tara.

He deployed twice more, to Bahrain and South Korea, as troop commander of an intelligence team.

In various commendations, the Navy cited him for his “zealous initiative,” “wise judgment” and “unswerving determination.” Medically retired in 2016, Crenshaw then earned a master’s degree in public administration from the Harvard Kennedy School.

In 2017, he returned to Houston — for the first significant chunk of time since he was a child — to help with recovery after Hurricane Harvey.

While Crenshaw was looking for a policy job on Capitol Hill, an adviser to Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) took one look at him and, before they even sat down to talk, told him to run for office. The day before, Rep. Ted Poe (R) had announced his retirement from Texas’s second district, which starts in Houston and curves around the city like a tadpole. It was kismet.

“He said he wanted to run for office one day, but wanted to get policy experience first,” said a Capitol Hill aide who ended up advising the campaign (and requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly). “I was like, ‘Have you paid attention to some of the people we have up here? You don’t need that.’ . . . And he went all in. It’s the SEAL ethos. It was amazing to watch.”

The campaign started in November 2017, four months before the Republican primary.

“I had never heard of him before he arrived. I would venture to say most people had never heard of him,” said Vlad Davidiuk, communications director for the Harris County Republican Party. “The district has changed demographically, and is no longer as solid red as it used to be. It required a candidate who was willing to campaign hard . . . What distinguished Dan Crenshaw most is his ability to engage with voters.”

Over five days in February, Crenshaw laced up his sneakers and ran 100 miles through the district, campaigning along the way. Thanks to a surge in day-of voting for the crowded primary, he sneaked into second place by 155 votes, besting an opponent who had spent millions of her personal fortune. By then, his personal story was resonating. His face was recognizable and symbolic.

Most Texas Republicans aren’t very exciting, said Mark P. Jones, a political-science professor at Rice University in Crenshaw’s district. “None of them are very compelling or appealing. They’re just sort of random old white dudes, and Dan Crenshaw was something new and different.”

He had schooled himself on border security, health care and flood-control issues — a big concern for a region still smarting from Harvey. He met with engineers to discuss infrastructure and with young Republicans to energize new voters. More than one yard in the district was adorned with both a Crenshaw sign and a “BETO” sign, in allegiance to Beto O’Rourke, the Democrat challenging Sen. Ted Cruz (whom Crenshaw outperformed by 12 percentage points in Harris County).

“He’s just tenacious,” Poe said of the man who will be his successor. “I don’t think folks are going to know what to do when he gets [to Washington], and I mean that in a good way.”

In a 2015 Facebook post flagged by one of his opponents, Crenshaw called candidate Donald Trump an idiot and referred to his rhetoric on Muslims as “insane,” according to the Texas Tribune. Three years later, Crenshaw says he supports the president’s policies, save for the trade warfare, but prefers to comport himself in a manner that is the total opposite of the commander in chief’s.

“His style is not my style,” Crenshaw says. “I’ll just say that. It’s never how I would conduct myself. But what readers of The Washington Post need to understand is that conservatives can hold multiple ideas in their head at the same time. We can be like, ‘Wow he shouldn’t have tweeted that’ and still support him . . . You can disapprove of what the president says every day, or that day, and still support his broader agenda.”

On Tuesday, he was the only true bright spot for the GOP in Harris County, where O’Rourke’s candidacy brought Democrats to the polls and flushed out Republicans down the ballot. Crenshaw won 53 percent of the vote, but reached out to the other 47 percent during his victory speech in downtown Houston.

“This life, this purpose, this American spirit that we hold dear — we are not alone,” he said, sharing the mission: “We do it together.”

Stupid student tricks

James Wigderson:

The latest internet outrage du jour is the photo of a bunch of boys from Baraboo High School posing for a photo before prom while possibly giving the Nazi salute.

From some accounts, the students were asked by the photographer Pete Gust to give the salute in the photo and most students complied. Gust claims he told the students to wave goodbye, but supposedly understands why the photo was interpreted the way it was. At least one of the students publicly disagrees with Gust’s statement.

We’re going to use a lot of “supposedly” here because none of us were there, and none of us are mind readers. However, that hasn’t stopped the speculation on the supposed origins of the photo and the sudden supposed appearance of anti-Semitism in Baraboo.

One of the favorite targets of suspicion is the President of the United States. Esquire is the model of this. “The gap between trollism and Trumpism online is increasingly hard to distinguish, particularly among the kind of young people who joined the movement through 4chan or Reddit,” Jack Holmes wrote for the website. “But when the president speaks, the kids are listening.”

State Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton), who represents the area in Madison, was even more direct.

“There is no place for hatred, intolerance and racism in our society. Unfortunately, based on what these students see coming from the White House, some of them may believe what they have done is acceptable,” Erpenbach said. “It is absolutely not. Leaders, from the President on down, need to condemn racism in all its forms and work toward a world where we learn from the mistakes of history.”

However, the ready answer that Baraboo is a den of Trump-loving, Alt-Right Anti-Semites just isn’t true. The city of Baraboo voted 55 percent to 45 percent for Hillary Clinton and gave nearly 60 percent of the vote to former Sen. Russ Feingold in 2016. The city repeated that performance in 2018 by voting for Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison), Governor-elect Tony Evers (D-Madison), Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul (D-Madison), and so on.

Unless Erpenbach has been hiding his true politics from his fellow Democrats, he’s a pretty fair example of Madison-style liberalism, yet Baraboo is a bastion of support, too, for the state senator.

However, if Erpenbach is right that political leadership is responsible for the supposed behavior of the Boys from Baraboo in the photo, perhaps he should look at the supporters within the Democratic Party for “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” (BDS) targeting Israel, or the amount of contributions his party receives from J-Street lobbyists who promote a foreign policy hostile to Israel’s security interests. We’re looking forward to hearing the results of his phone calls to Baldwinand Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI02), who represents Baraboo in Congress, on that subject.

As for the photographer, Pete Gust, who was supposedly the responsible adult taking the photo, he was a regional director for the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), the state teachers union, hardly supporters of the Alt-Right and Trump. (By the way, how did Gust get the contract to be the photographer for the event?)

If Gust is correct that the photo was supposedly the children waving goodbye, it’s a shame that he wasn’t faster in getting that side of the story out. The children, and they are children, are already suffering the repercussions of Gust’s photo.

However, if Gust was trying to take the photo he described and some students hijacked the photo instead with the Nazi salute, he still had the obligation as the responsible adult to a) not take the photo, b) tell the students to knock it off, and c) not publish the damn photo online. And if Gust really did encourage the students to make the salute, then he’s the one responsible and will likely be the target of lawsuits, especially from the parents of students who have lost scholarships and other opportunities as a result of the photo.

There is also a lack of responsibility on the part of the media, too, which went with the story – spreading the Boys from Baraboo worldwide – before contacting Gust for what actually happened. Whether Gust’s story should be believed, the media had a responsibility to actually ask him first what happened before running with the too-good-to-check story that fits the editorial narrative of “Trump’s America.” (Of course, they could have also did the research to find out that Baraboo is actually Clinton’s America, too, but that would have made the story less interesting to the media.)

As for the children themselves, they’re learning a harsh lesson that is probably unintended by their persecutors – internet hysteria works to destroy people. Many of these children will probably be haunted by this photo for the rest of their lives even though the responsible adult on site was the one who let them down.

This is not the first time these kids were let down by the responsible adults. If the students indeed were raising their arms in a Nazi salute, then clearly the school district did a poor job of educating them about the horrors of the Holocaust.

But this is hardly surprising in a high school that scored a 59 on student achievement on the most recent Department of Public Instruction report card, or “meets few expectations.” That roughly compares to a grade of D. The school district has asked the police to investigate the photo incident. Instead of looking for a Gregory Peck-like figure trying to create little Hitler clones, the detective work should start in the history classrooms of Baraboo to see what little Johnny is reading, if he can read at all.

A view of enough manhood

Greg Gerber, my former Boy Scout senior patrol leader, now writes and blogs (and after this we’re going to call him Bullet Point):

Men have been getting a bad rap in recent years. They are blamed for almost all of society’s problems. Triple that if they are white men. Double it again if they are conservatives or Christians.

I think we need to cut men some slack.

Much of the problem with men is that they are exhausted – emotionally and physically – because they really don’t know what is expected of them. The bars for achievement are routinely raised like he’s an Olympic pole-vaulter, and the goalposts defining success are pushed further and further back.

Let’s not overlook that the paradigm is also shifting to hold men accountable in 2018 for things they did as teens and young men back in the 1970s and 1980s.

Deep inside, men know that whatever they are doing now isn’t enough, it hasn’t been enough in the past, and they will likely fall short in the future.

That feeling of inadequacy starts early in their life, continues through adulthood and culminates as heavy regret in their later years. Let’s look at the life of a typical guy, starting in elementary school when he is told he is not:

  • Studying enough
  • Quiet enough
  • Polite enough
  • Artistic enough
  • Organized enough
  • Athletic enough
  • Listening enough
  • Clean enough

He is told that because he fidgets too much, he really needs to be medicated. He gets the impression that if only he’d behave more like the girls in school, he would be considered successful. But, his genetics don’t allow that to happen and his best attempts to meet expectations fall short. It’s a rare boy who doesn’t enter his teens thinking he is incapable of doing anything right.

Eventually, he winds up in high school where all the prior inadequacies are multiplied. He also discovers he is not:

  • Attractive enough
  • Smart enough
  • Creative enough
  • Practicing enough
  • Thin enough
  • Tall enough
  • Hairy enough
  • Serious enough
  • Funny enough
  • Friendly enough
  • Tough enough
  • Helping enough
  • Learning enough

By the time he graduates, his feelings of inadequacy are firmly established — especially if he doesn’t think his father is on his side. To escape the pain, he turns to pornography, alcohol or drugs and begins to isolate himself from others, which further fuels his sense of inferiority.

If Satan hasn’t already wounded him badly enough to take him out of the game, he continues trying to prove himself to others, and especially to himself. The only way society allows him to do that is at work, where he hears the message loud and clear every day that he is not doing:

  • Enough contributing
  • Enough planning
  • Enough prioritizing
  • Enough selling
  • Enough reporting
  • Enough traveling
  • Enough fixing
  • Enough recruiting
  • Enough emailing
  • Enough budgeting
  • Enough prospecting
  • Enough projecting
  • Enough producing
  • Enough writing
  • Enough calling
  • Enough scheduling
  • Enough collaborating
  • Enough research
  • Enough supervising

If he has any commitment to any of the above, one thing is certain, he is told he isn’t committed enough to doing it fast enough to make everyone happy.

So, after the stress of working 50 to 60 hours a week in a glass gerbil cage running on a treadwheel going nowhere, he visits his doctor and the “not enoughs” start all over again. His physician reprimands him for not:

  • Eating healthy enough
  • Exercising enough
  • Walking or running enough
  • Relaxing enough
  • Sleeping enough
  • Flossing and brushing enough
  • Medicating enough with vitamins and supplements
  • Drinking enough water
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Smoking too much
  • Eating too much high-fat food

After stopping at the pharmacy on his way home to pick up a stronger blood-pressure medicine, which only makes him more tired and gives him less energy, he arrives home and his doubts pick up steam. From the moment he walks through the door, he feels he is not:

  • Earning enough
  • Listening enough
  • Speaking enough
  • Caring enough
  • Cleaning enough
  • Mowing enough
  • Shoveling enough
  • Weeding enough
  • Raking enough
  • Picking up enough dog poop
  • Cooking enough
  • Romancing enough
  • Washing enough
  • Folding enough
  • Sorting enough
  • Carting enough kids
  • Spending enough
  • Investing enough
  • Visiting enough – especially the out-of-town relatives
  • Parenting enough
  • Playing enough
  • Repairing enough
  • Disciplining enough
  • Teaching enough
  • Coaching enough
  • Reading enough to the kids
  • Helping enough with their homework
  • Remembering enough – especially the details of the exact words he wrote on the card he presented to his wife with a specific type of flower on their first date at the certain restaurant twenty years earlier

When he tries to follow doctor’s orders to relax more, he discovers he is:

  • Watching too much television
  • Fishing or hunting too much
  • Playing too many video games
  • Spending too much time with his friends
  • Not committed enough to quality family time

When he seeks sex from his wife as a reaffirmation that all is right in his world, that he is loved, and that all of his battles are noticed and appreciated, he is told that sex is all he thinks about.

And we wonder why men walk away from their families and look to start over hoping for an opportunity to redeem themselves. But, that never works out the way they expect and only serves to bury them in more problems, more debt, more work and more feelings of inadequacy.

By the time Sunday rolls around, the pitiful, wounded warrior limps into church (or, in some cases, is dragged in) and crawls to a seat where he learns just how inadequate he really is, especially with helpful elbows to the ribs from his wife and children. He is told he’s not:

  • Worshiping enough
  • Praising enough
  • Evangelizing enough
  • Attending enough
  • Giving enough
  • Serving enough
  • Reading enough
  • Studying enough
  • Praying enough
  • Fasting enough
  • Singing enough
  • Thankful enough
  • Committed enough
  • Leading enough
  • Growing enough
  • Helping enough
  • Loving enough
  • Meeting enough
  • Sponsoring enough
  • Forgiving enough
  • Teaching enough
  • Spending enough time “in the word”
  • Spending enough time with his wife
  • Spending enough time with his kids
  • Spending enough time with his parents
  • Spending enough time alone with God

Through sermon after sermon, he is reminded he is:

  • Too angry
  • Too lustful
  • Too selfish
  • Too sinful
  • Too broken

to be of any real use to God’s kingdom. If only he would slow down the hectic pace of his life, then he would find “genuine rest.” The fact he doesn’t make time to enjoy a Sabbath rest is further proof as to how depraved and worldly he really is.

By the time he gets into his sixties, the idea of eternal rest is tremendously appealing.

Do you want to know why women tend to outlive men?

Really?  It’s ugly!

I firmly believe that men get so tired of fighting one battle after another and having life-long feelings of inadequacy reinforced at every turn that they finally give up. They bow their heads and utter “It is finished.”

We need to do a much better job of affirming men, believing in them, and supporting them through all the trials and tribulations they face.

They need to be told that success isn’t defined as a fat wallet, beautiful home, fancy car and perfect children, but rather by the long-term impact they have on people closest to them.

For heaven’s sake, let’s stop giving men the impression that a happy wife leads to a happy life. Nobody can be responsible for another person’s happiness and it is only adding to his stress if he senses his wife is unhappy and the world — and church — blames him.

We need to understand men are human, not supermen — and help them understand that, too.