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Friday, December 24, 2004

The True "Spirit" of Christmas

Recently my lovely wife was leaving a local retail establishment. On her way to her vehicle she had one of those trying little moments that reveals what kind of a person we are. Right after the incident she called me, slightly shaken. Some of the first few words out of her mouth were “you’re not going to like this,” “parking lot,” and “minivan.” My mind immediately envisioned a large dent somewhere on the body of our relatively new “child taxi.” Thankfully, that was not the case.

As Michelle was walking toward the van, a group of four young twenty-somethings, unaware of her presence, preceded her by about 10 yards down the parking aisle. This gaggle of young folks consisted of only one male. As he slinked passed our parking space, he glanced over at our vehicle and proceeded to spit upon it. My wife was startled and then just plain-old mad. Many things ran through her mind, but thankfully, none of them jump-started her tongue.

As our phone conversation progressed and I became aware of the offense, thoughts ran through my mind as well. My tongue, however, did begin to wag a little, especially after Michelle revealed that the most likely target of the lad’s spittle was not simply our van, but the political sticker that adorned the rear window. Now, I’m not going to reveal whose name was on the sticker, because that doesn’t really matter. (Those of you who have happened to read some of my previous columns could probably make a good guess.)

My words consisted mostly of the acts of vengeance that I could enact upon the young “loogie launcher.” I boldly stated that I wished I had been with her, and proceeded to describe what I would have done. I imagined myself asking the fellow to wipe off his saliva, and if he refused, picking him up and using him as a squeegee.

After several minutes of discussion my “Spirit overcame my flesh” and I concluded that the things that I were describing were not what Jesus would do. Michelle also revealed that after she was a few minutes removed from the scene she decided that the best thing she could do at that time was pray for the young man.

Later that evening over dinner with our two young boys (ages 2½ years and 9 months) we talked about the matter in more detail. My thoughts went not only to the words of Christ, but also to what kind of example I need to be setting for my boys. What if they had been on the scene? Do I want to exemplify the kind of man who lets such trivial things go—in other words, “turns the other cheek”? Or do I want to model the “sometimes you’ve got to fight to be a man” man? After all, if I can’t turn away from such a thing as that, from what can I turn away?

Michelle pointed out that as Jesus went to the cross, He Himself was spat upon, and, of course, much worse. His example was to forgive and to pray for those tormenting him.

I believe this incident is all the more significant given that we are only days away from Christmas. One of the many clich├ęs tossed around this time of year is “Spirit of Christmas.” Folks interpret this to mean many things, but I believe that it is the “Spirit” I spoke of earlier: the “Holy Spirit” that lives inside all those who believe in Christ.

This Spirit is active not only during Christmas but all year round. Every day, as we face whatever life throws at us (or spits at us), the Spirit of Christ can be there to guide us down that “narrow path of righteousness.”

When Christians truly celebrate Christmas, we’re celebrating not only a birthday but the beginning of a sequence of events that changed the world forever. Jesus was born, He lived, He died, He arose, He sent His Spirit to us, and now He is preparing a place for all of those who believe in Him. Just as sure as all of the other events took place, we who celebrate Christmas look forward to His return and we will celebrate for all of eternity.

Have a truly merry Christmas.

Copyright 2015, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
www.trevorgrantthomas.com
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com

Friday, December 3, 2004

Bust the Filibustering

Now that the current election cycle has come and gone, what are the talk shows going to talk about? What are Rush, Hannity, Al Franken, and Michael Moore going to do with their time? What are editors going to editorialize about? I believe one of the more interesting things to watch politically for the next several months will be the battle over the federal judiciary that will take place in the U.S. Senate.

There has been much talk lately concerning the process of approving federal judges. The president nominates judges at the federal level, and the senate must approve them (by a simple majority). As has been frequently noted in the media recently, democrats in the senate have been filibustering some of the nominees, not allowing them to come up for a vote. Republicans, with a slight majority in the senate, have had the necessary votes for approval, so the democrats see this as their only method to keep certain judges off the bench.

Republicans have been unable to muster the 60 votes necessary to break the filibuster, so they have been at the mercy of the democrats when it has come to particular judicial nominees. However, the dynamics of the recent election may bring an end to this filibustering.

I don’t think the fact that Bush won the election, with a majority of the popular vote, is the most significant factor in sending a message to democrats in the senate. I think it helps, but I think the fact that republicans gained four seats in the senate, and defeated Tom Daschele (the minority leader and chief architect of their policy of blocking judicial nominees) in the process sends the most powerful message to democrats. That message is: democratic senators from largely conservative states, as Daschele was, may not want to find themselves labeled as Daschele was—a liberal and an obstructionist.

The republican gains still give them only 55 senate seats—not enough to overcome a filibuster. The measures they take to combat the filibustering will be very fascinating to watch.

President Bush won 31 states in his successful reelection bid. These states represent 62 senate seats. In addition, there are nine current republican senators from states the president lost. That means, of the 55 republican senators, 46 are from states he won. Therefore, there are 16 senators that are democratic but are from states that Bush won. Five of these won in this past election, so that leaves 11 as targets to pressure to stop the filibustering.

Five of these 11 will be up for reelection in 2006, so they will be the ones really feeling the heat. They are: Nelson (FL), Conrad (ND), Nelson (NE), Bingaman (NM), and Byrd (WV). Not all of these represent states won soundly by Bush, but the senators from Nebraska and North Dakota will probably especially take note of what happened to Senator Daschele. The remaining six, up for reelection in 2008, are from AK, IA, LA, MT, SD, and WV. So, most of these 11 are from states that went solidly for Bush. It would appear that the president might find it a little easier to get the 60 votes it seems he now needs to get his judges approved.

However, there are other factors to examine. Some of the nine republican senators that are from states Bush lost are not solidly behind his agenda. Republican Lincoln Chafee (RI) reportedly didn’t even vote for George W. Bush. In protest of some of the current Bush’s policies, he said he would cast his vote for George Bush I. Nevertheless, when it came to judicial nominees these nine always backed the president.

Also, it may not be easy to sway voters in certain states based solely on how their senator voted in the judicial nomination process. What they’ve done for their state will weigh heavily. However, the defeat of Daschele almost assuredly emboldens republicans when it comes to their efforts to defeat democrats in solidly red states.

There is still another option open to republicans. If they are unable to sway enough democrats to their side they can invoke what has been called the “nuclear” option. Under this procedure, the senate's presiding officer, Vice President Cheney, would find that a supermajority to end filibusters is unconstitutional for judicial nominees. Democrats would certainly challenge this ruling. But it takes only a simple majority—or 51 votes from the senate GOP's new 55-vote majority—to sustain a ruling of the chair. This is a rarely used maneuver and has explosive potential, hence the “nuclear” tag.

Whatever method the republicans use to push through Bush’s judicial nominees, the political intrigue should be high. Stay tuned.

Copyright 2015, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
www.trevorgrantthomas.com
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com