Skip navigation


It was only a matter of time. Another fissure in the Republican party. The social conservatives are not going to take this lying down.

WASHINGTON — Dozens of prominent Republicans — including top advisers to former President George W. Bush, four former governors and two members of Congress — have signed a legal brief arguing that gay people have a constitutional right to marry, a position that amounts to a direct challenge to Speaker John A. Boehner and reflects the civil war in the party since the November election.

The document will be submitted this week to the Supreme Court in support of a suit seeking to strike down Proposition 8, a California ballot initiative barring same-sex marriage, and all similar bans. The court will hear back-to-back arguments next month in that case and another pivotal gay rights case that challenges the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The Proposition 8 case already has a powerful conservative supporter: Theodore B. Olson, the former solicitor general under Mr. Bush and one of the suit’s two lead lawyers. The amicus, or friend-of-the-court, brief is being filed with Mr. Olson’s blessing. It argues, as he does, that same-sex marriage promotes family values by allowing children of gay couples to grow up in two-parent homes, and that it advances conservative values of “limited government and maximizing individual freedom.”

Why did Romney lose to Barack Obama by an electoral landslide? Because beneath that beady-eyed smile beats a heart as cynical and cold as his 47% comments. Once again, Mitt Romney unplugged:

“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift,” Mr. Romney said. “Free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008.”

The president’s health care plan, he said, was also a useful tool in mobilizing black and Hispanic voters. Though Mr. Romney won the white vote with 59 percent, according to exit polls, minorities coalesced around the president in overwhelming numbers: 93 percent of blacks and 71 percent of Hispanics.

“You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity — I mean, this is huge,” Mr. Romney said. “Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.”

Sure, you can conquer the world riding an elephant. Just look at Hannibal. But you cannot conquer the human heart that way. It is time that the evangelical church get off the elephant and start reaching out to the people they are so afraid of. It is time they became the friend of sinners, not the friend of Pharisees. Here is a blog post that somebody passed on to me. It says it all:

Many many people are grieving for our country today. My Facebook feed, made up mostly of conservative Christians, is like the day after a bomb dropped. Early polls showed 80% of evangelicals voted for Governor Romney, and many are shocked and grieved by the outcome of the election.

I am grieving for the church.

Many people are posting on Facebook that this win signals people want handouts and don’t want to work, signals the death of our country’s ideals and an electorate who doesn’t care enough to be informed, and is a national endorsement of abortion, gay marriage, and weed. Most of these posts that I saw came from people who are Christians, and to those posts I have to give the following response:

I humbly and sadly disagree. I think this split is about the church. I think it is about the marginalized (the people the church should love and support). The Democrats made a compelling case that they cared about those people. We in the church have not made that same compelling argument. Even on election day, in some of our responses, we demonstrated a lack of care for people and a lack of faith in God’s sovereignty and a lack of obedience to His commands to not fear. I am going to get into the issues and hopefully present a thoughtful view of these things so that we can understand the “other side” a bit better and respond in love instead of rhetoric – but first of all let me say this – Jesus gives hope to each of these issues. We have hope in Christ.

“The Handouts”: On election day, thousands of people tweeted jokes like “Don’t worry if Dems are leading, Republicans will vote once they get off work.” I also saw comments about the over-half of our country that voted for the Democrats that go something like this – “they want something for nothing so they’ll take our country down in debt.” And it breaks my heart. The rhetoric simply isn’t true, and this attitude is what is alienating us from not only the voting world but from the lost world. Our country has one of the highest levels of childhood poverty of any industrialized nation. Over 18% of our children don’t get enough to eat. And the assumption and the rhetoric states that is the lazy parent’s fault. But the facts, according to the Institute of Child Development, are that 75% of poor children have at least one parent who works. The remaining 25%? Mostly single women who cannot afford quality childcare to be able to work. And some call them welfare queens. But guess what, 1 out of 4 of those women don’t qualify for any federal assistance whatsoever. And the ones who do face restrictions to protect them from living off “government cheese.” There are some lazy Americans, yes, but for the most part, the working poor are just that, working poor, and not lazy Americans. These are desperate hurting Americans trying to make a living wage and failing. For example, over 50% of Walmart employees don’t make enough to live and because of this, qualify for food stamps. But they are working. Not full-time, because Walmart fights to keep employees at 39 hours per week. But hard. They aren’t looking for a handout. They are trying. And we as the church have bought into the rhetoric and ignored the reality. Church, we have to quit buying into this political “us vs. them” rhetoric of the working versus the lazy and instead buy into church’s command to love the least of these. Because our command to love is absolute, even when people take advantage of the system and are lazy. We in the church certainly do help the poor – but in the last 20 years we have helped the poor quietly and shouted the rhetoric loudly. Let’s stop the rhetoric and instead let our quiet consistent support of the poor define us.

“The Gays”: What if, in the early days of AIDS in the 1980s, the church had embraced homosexuals as they struggled in terror to understand this new disease that was wiping them out? What if we had been the ones known for our care for them? What if instead of fighting them on every right and constantly reminding them of their “terrible sin,” we remembered how Jesus treated the tax collectors and sinners and how he got to know them and ate with them, and they followed him because they loved him and knew he loved them? Dr. Stanton Jones, provost at Wheaton College, said at Dallas Theological Seminary that the church has failed in the treatment of homosexuals by treating “them” as our enemy in the culture war, and considering “their” sin as irredeemable while failing to consider our own sin and brokenness. A study by the Barna Group showed that when asked, 91% of non-Christians defined Christianity as anti-homosexual (in fact, this was the first word they used to describe the Christian faith). We have failed. We have defined the grace, love, and death of Jesus Christ to a lost world as “anti-homosexual.” Father, forgive us. Do you think they would still seek protection in a political party if we had been their ally instead of declaring “war” on them? I think that is what this election was about for them. They were aligning themselves with the party who demonstrated care for them.

“The Illegals”: The Hispanic vote overwhelming went Democratic, despite their dominate Catholic pro-life worldview (much more conservatively pro life than even most evangelicals). Why? I think it was more “us versus them” rhetoric. What if we were the ones fighting for immigrant children, brought here because children have nothing to eat in the place where they live, instead of the ones calling them “illegals” and demanding their deportation, many of them to a place where they don’t know the language and have never lived? What if we not only supported but demanded programs like the Dream Act? And I know there is a legal path to immigration, but I also know it is broken and takes sometimes decades and that path is terribly narrow and needs to be fixed. My friends in ministries like International Friends and refugee ministries, you are doing great work – and we need to partner with you more in those ministries as we seek to reach out to and love on our minority population in this country.

“The Stoners”: What if, instead of seeing the weed legislation movements as “slacker stoners” wanting to toke in public, we recognized the reality that our “war on drugs” has not raised the price of drugs or limited access, but instead only succeeded in imprisoning more Americans than any other country in the world? We have a broken legal system that criminalizes the social and medical problem of addiction. In 2010, 1.64 million people were arrested for drug violations, 80% of those were for possession. A friend’s son took his own life before a mandatory minimum sentence would send him away to prison after a repeat possession charge. The cost of that to my friend is unmeasurable. Over 2.3 million people in the United States are imprisoned, over half of those for non-violent drug offenses. This is devastating the African American community (which plays into both the poverty and abortion problems in that community). I’m not saying legalization is the answer – in fact I think it isn’t, but maybe if we looked at the problem with sympathetic hearts and a willingness to work together toward solutions instead of cynical political goggles, we would join together to find a better solution. Big Brothers and Sisters does great work on the mentoring front, which helps prevent this problem, and Prison Fellowship does an excellent job once people are in prison, but there is room for us to minister alongside these groups to help this marginalized group.

“The Babies”: I’ve addressed this many times before (here, here and here), and my views on abortion are clear. Abortion is terrible and we are all paying a terrible price for it. But even if reversing Roe was a possibility, which I truly am not sure it will be in our country again, at least until there is a major worldview change, abortions didn’t start with Roe. My family was affected by abortion long before Roe v Wade. Abortions are a consequence of spiritual, family, and economic factors. When marriages are strengthened and divorce rates go down, the number of abortions go down. When women escape poverty, abortion rates go down. When the healthcare and childcare options for women improve, the number of abortions go down. When women are in community with people who care and feel supported and encouraged, abortion rates go down. When women find hope, abortion rates go down. Legislation is not the best answer to the abortion crisis. Jesus and the church is. Our crisis pregnancy centers have done more for life than any legal battle we have ever fought. Well done friends who are part of those powerful ministries. The church is starting to get this right – and we need to continue on that path.

There is a sense that America rejected God in the voting booth yesterday. But I think there is an argument that we as the Church rejected these groups first, either directly or through the party we have closely aligned ourselves to. Church we are not the Republican party. And by the way, we aren’t the Democratic party either. In fact, the parties may be hurting us not only in mindset but also in reputation. I think we need to remember that both political parties, and partisan media sources, have not only financial interest but ultimately derive power from us suspecting each other, fearing each other, and not compromising with each other. And that is the exact opposite of what our faith is about. We cannot let the “us versus them” mindset of the political landscape hijack our message of love for all people and grace by faith in Christ alone.

We also have to be careful not to let extreme personalities like Trump with his “I’m a real Christian” and his honorary doctorate from Liberty, alongside his twitter rants and conspiracy theories about long forms and secret Muslim allegiances, define us. And why do so many I know believe him, but we have a president who has claimed and proclaimed faith in Christ, but people discount that? We should be praying that the Holy Spirit would convict and lead him, not accusing him of secret Muslim religious allegiance. The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord, he turns it wherever he will. Prov 21:1. The President’s heart is in the hand of God – so when we pray, we can affect where it turns. That is power we have in Christ! We should be encouraged by it.

It feels like we have forgotten that Jesus is our hope. Jesus alone.

My former pastor, Brandon Thomas, tweeted today “Bringing people to Jesus will build our great nation to its best days, no doubt! Life in Christ = love God, love others.” I say Amen. Max Lucado tweeted “Lord, please: Unite us. Strengthen us. Appoint and annoint our president.” I say Amen. I am not saying compromise on any of these things – nor are these pastors. I’m not saying change your vote or party alignment. I am saying let’s assume a position of humility in dealing with these really difficult issues and seek to understand each other so that we can reconcile with each other. I’m saying when we are kind, we lead people to Jesus, and we make our country stronger.

I’m visual – so I keep thinking of nuns (habits and all). Everyone knows what they believe. But how do you see them portrayed, even in liberal Hollywood? Positively. Why? Because they are known for helping people – for humbly working toward the good of the people around them. So they are beloved. We could learn from their example. We need better PR and we need a return to our true hope.

America is not the hope of the world. Neither is a political party. Jesus is. Church, let’s return to him and follow His lead in loving the hurting.

The two halls told two very different stories. In Boston, Romney’s victory party was populated by his donors. The wealthy and well-heeled. Each of whom had written ginormous checks to the Romney/Ryan cause either directly or through the political pacts. In Chicago, Obama’s crowd was composed of his donor base. People who had made online donations of relatively small amounts. One crowd thin and tiered, separating the heavy hitters from the mega hitters. The other, expectant and jam-packed. And here is why Romney lost. Those big donors only get one vote. And the wealthy 1% only make up 1% of the electorate. Like Bill Clinton said, it’s all arithmetic. Funny that Republicans no longer understand that. This from the Washington Post.

It was a victory party fit for the 1 percent.

Over in Chicago, the Obama campaign had invited 10,000 to fill the floor of the McCormick Place convention center. But here in Boston, Mitt Romney favored a more genteel soiree for an exclusive crowd.

Romney’s election-night event was in a ballroom at the Boston Exhibition and Convention Center that could accommodate a few hundred. Most men wore jacket and tie; women donned dresses and heels. Secret Service agents blocked reporters from mixing with the Romney supporters as they sipped cocktails and nibbled canapes.

Outside the ballroom, waiters in black tie tended bar, and Jumbotrons showed the election results on Fox News. Downstairs, Romney’s big donors assembled in private rooms for finer fare; guards admitted only those whose credentials said “National Finance Committee.”

“We’re going to have a great celebration here tonight,” Romney adviser Ed Gillespie told the crowd as early results trickled in.

But the election results, even filtered through the rose-colored lenses of Fox News, were not promising.

Michigan fell to Obama, and then so did Pennsylvania and Minnesota. Obama was holding his own in Florida and Virginia, and things were looking grim for Romney in Ohio. The ballroom was as quiet as a library as the audience listened to the Fox personalities on-screen.

“Romney would have to draw to an inside straight” at this point, pronounced Brit Hume, who predicted “an awful lot of recriminations.”

Some of those with the “National Finance Committee” badges went to freshen their drinks. Other attendees headed to the coat check. “I have a son who has a test tomorrow,” one woman explained.

“It literally hurts my soul,” one man said as he headed toward the exit. Others lamented their wasted labors (“We did so much for him”) and fretted about a second Obama term (“I don’t want him to feel like he has a [expletive] mandate”).

Among those who remained in the ballroom’s thinning crowd, one man looked at the screen and saw the Ohio count. “Uh-oh,” he said.

Romney had spent nearly two years, and hundreds of millions of dollars, trying to convince Americans that he wasn’t an out-of-touch millionaire unconcerned about the little people — that he was more than a caricature who liked to fire people, who didn’t care about the very poor or the 47 percent who pay no income tax, who has friends who own NASCAR teams.

He very nearly achieved it: Polls showed him neck-and-neck with Obama in the campaign’s closing days. But his final day in the race showed why he couldn’t persuade enough working-class Americans that he spoke for them.

On the final flight of his campaign Tuesday afternoon, Romney ventured to the back of his plane for a chat with reporters and discovered that — horrors! — the poor wretches were seated in coach accommodations.

“I thought you had bigger seats back here,” he told them.

Fortunately, this discovery did not distract the Republican nominee from making some salient points before rejoining aides at the front of the plane: his lack of regrets (“I’m very proud”), his delight at the crowds (“When you have 10,000 people cheering you, you get a real boost”), his confidence (“I just finished writing a victory speech”) and how he would reward himself in victory.

“Assuming I win, one of the benefits is . . . to get another Weimaraner,” he disclosed when asked about puppy rumors.

So, one of his first gestures as president-elect would be to purchase a pricey hunting dog once bred by European royalty?

In that sense, Romney’s election-night celebration was a fitting coda to his presidential bid: It abandoned any pretense of being a campaign for the common man.

On election night in 2000, George W. Bush hosted an outdoor rally for thousands in Austin. In 2008, Barack Obama addressed a mass of humanity in Chicago’s Grant Park.

Then there was Romney’s fete — for which reporters were charged $1,000 a seat. The very location set the candidate and his well-heeled supporters apart from the masses: The gleaming convention center, built with hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, is on a peninsula in the Boston harbor that was turned into an election-night fortress, with helicopters overhead, metal barricades and authorities searching vehicles. Only a few gawkers crossed the bridge from downtown to stand outside.

Massachusetts, the state Romney once led as governor, was among the first to be called for Obama.

But many other states followed. At 11:14 p.m., the thinning crowd here heard Fox’s Bret Baier project that Obama had won Ohio. “That’s the presidency,” he said.

“The president has won reelection,” Hume affirmed.

From Obama headquarters in Chicago, Fox’s Ed Henry described “pandemonium.”

And in the ballroom in Boston, the Romney supporters stood in silence.

For the record, I’m not a big Rachel Maddow fan. But here, in one of her calmer rants, she is mostly making sense. (Why, if I were a lesbian I’d kiss her!) The Republican party doesn’t need to become less conservative. It just needs to become less crazy. Please, GOP, stop killing your party!

Glenn Beck, take a bow.

Richard Mourdock is running for Senator in Indiana. He was going strong, too. He had defeated the man who had held this seat for thirty some years: Dick Lugar, who––funny enough–– is also a Republican. But Mourdock has done the politically unthinkable. He has formed a sentence with two words that should never be put in the same sentence, especially by a white male Republican running for office. Forget the fact that Murdouck was expressing his strongly held pro-life belief. Forget the fact that he called rape a horrible act. He did the unthinkable by putting God and rape in the same sentence. Dude, not cool! And when he returned to the green room his staffers let him know that he had done the campaign no favor by asserting the sanctity of human life even in rape. It was especially not cool to bring God into the equation. Sure, you can say you are staunchly pro-life. That gets out the evangelical vote. Sure, you can say you have a deep and abiding faith. Even new age hippies can grove on that. Say “God bless America” that even makes agnostics feel warm inside. And in the right crowds you can let rip the insinuation that God sent Hurricane Sandy to judge homosexuals and godless liberals on the east coast. Sic’em Jehovah!  But never, never, never say that God can sovereignly work in a rape that results in a pregnancy. Yeah, that’s pretty much a non starter. You can bet Dick Lugar never said anything like that. You see, you learn a thing or two when you’ve been in Washington for four decades. But, then again, the tea party Republicans are not exactly about learning.

A truly pro-life agenda should encompass more than what happens to a fetus in the womb. Right? Thomas Friedman explains:

In my world, you don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and be against common-sense gun control — like banning public access to the kind of semiautomatic assault rifle, designed for warfare, that was used recently in a Colorado theater. You don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and want to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency, which ensures clean air and clean water, prevents childhood asthma, preserves biodiversity and combats climate change that could disrupt every life on the planet. You don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and oppose programs like Head Start that provide basic education, health and nutrition for the most disadvantaged children. You can call yourself a “pro-conception-to-birth, indifferent-to-life conservative.” I will never refer to someone who pickets Planned Parenthood but lobbies against common-sense gun laws as “pro-life.”

“Pro-life” can mean only one thing: “respect for the sanctity of life.” And there is no way that respect for the sanctity of life can mean we are obligated to protect every fertilized egg in a woman’s body, no matter how that egg got fertilized, but we are not obligated to protect every living person from being shot with a concealed automatic weapon. I have no respect for someone who relies on voodoo science to declare that a woman’s body can distinguish a “legitimate” rape, but then declares — when 99 percent of all climate scientists conclude that climate change poses a danger to the sanctity of all life on the planet — that global warming is just a hoax.

The term “pro-life” should be a shorthand for respect for the sanctity of life. But I will not let that label apply to people for whom sanctity for life begins at conception and ends at birth. What about the rest of life? Respect for the sanctity of life, if you believe that it begins at conception, cannot end at birth. That radical narrowing of our concern for the sanctity of life is leading to terrible distortions in our society.

Respect for life has to include respect for how that life is lived, enhanced and protected — not only at the moment of conception but afterward, in the course of that life. That’s why, for me, the most “pro-life” politician in America is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. While he supports a woman’s right to choose, he has also used his position to promote a whole set of policies that enhance everyone’s quality of life — from his ban on smoking in bars and city parks to reduce cancer, to his ban on the sale in New York City of giant sugary drinks to combat obesity and diabetes, to his requirement for posting calorie counts on menus in chain restaurants, to his push to reinstate the expired federal ban on assault weapons and other forms of common-sense gun control, to his support for early childhood education, to his support for mitigating disruptive climate change.

Now that is what I call “pro-life.”

Billy Graham was the last holdout. An immovable Christian. A champion of orthodoxy. But the pastor to Presidents has become a political operative. He has gone from America’s preacher to a doctrinal deviant. The protestant Pope has spoken. Mormonism is no longer a cult. Why? Cuz Billy says so. Once again conservative Christians have happily sold out their religious convictions for their politics. I’m sure Billy Graham would be turning in his grave if only he had the decency to die sooner. This from Christianity Today:

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association removed language labeling Mormonism a “cult” from its website after the famed preacher met with Republican nominee Mitt Romney last week and pledged to help his presidential campaign.

The removal came after a gay rights group reported that the “cult” reference remained online even after Graham all but endorsed Romney, a Mormon, last Thursday (Oct. 11).

Ken Barun, the BGEA’s chief of staff, confirmed the removal on Tuesday.

“Our primary focus at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has always been promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Barun said in a statement. “We removed the information from the website because we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign.”

Surveys show that most evangelicals do not consider Mormons to be Christian, but most still support Romney’s candidacy. The GOP nominee will need a strong turnout from evangelicals, who tally a quarter of the electorate, to defeat President Barack Obama on Nov. 6.

I think I’ve seen this movie. Two men––polar opposites–– are throw together in the wake of a major storm. The one, fat and emotionally needy. The other, cool and distant. Men with completely different agendas. But by the end of the movie, they are sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner together. It’s amazing to contrast the Chris Christie of a week ago who characterized Obama as an inept leader stumbling around in the dark with the Chris Christie of today who enthusiastically sings the President’s praises. It’s amazing how small government Republicans sing a different tune when they need the assistance of the federal government. That’s right, “government assistance” that great Republican bugaboo. I guess that’s why buddy movies are usually comedies. This stuff is so damn funny!

Obamacare has been demonized by the right. It has been characterized as a government takeover of healthcare. Romney has vowed to kill it day one of his Presidency. One of the many things that have been attacked in the Obama plan (or as I like to call it, Romneycare for the rest of us) is the so-called public option. Because this is something few of us understand, the Obama camp has put together a clear, concise explanation of what it is, how it works, how will reduce the escalating cost of healthcare and how no one will force you to elect it, if you don’t want it.

Of course, he is doing well. He has embraced every side of every issue.

Mitt Romney– who’s foreign policy can best be summarized as “I will not apologize for America” and which has recently been expanded to include “I’m going to get to the bottom of this Benghazi business”–is using Bush’s old advisers to flesh out his foreign policy (scary thought). So since he could use some advice that doesn’t include things like “Let’s invade Iraq, spread democracy so the Shia majority can embolden a USA-hating Iran and make sure you tell the British that they are lousy at holding a Summer Olympics,” here’s some free advice on tonight’s debate:

GO EASY ON BENGHAZI Governor, in one of the few foreign-policy moments of the second debate, the discussion of the attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, you blew an opportunity to cast doubt on Obama’s record as the scourge of terrorists. Your problem was not the argument over when the president identified the attack as an act of terror. Your real mistake was playing political gotcha with a national tragedy. You turned a fair question into a cheap shot, and you got your comeuppance. This time, try to remember that you are not campaigning for a job at The Weekly Standard.

SAY SOMETHING NICE ABOUT THE PALESTINIANS Everyone knows you are devoted to the security of Israel. But if, as you told the audience at Virginia Military Institute earlier this month, you are committed to work for a democratic Palestinian state, you have to get past some big obstacles of your own making: your slavish affection for Bibi Netanyahu, your private assertion to donors in the infamous video that Palestinian statehood was “almost unthinkable,” your suggestion that there is something defective in Palestinian “culture.” Why not tip your hat to the moderate modernizers like Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad, the president and prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, who have struggled, despite the intransigence of Israel and the intransigents in their own ranks, to tamp down the violence and build the rudiments of a state? It might not maximize your Jewish support in Florida, but it would enhance your credibility as a peacemaker, currently nonexistent.

AND WHILE YOU ARE AT IT, EXTEND A HAND TO MOHAMED MORSI He may be a product of the Muslim Brotherhood, but he is Egypt’s first democratically elected president, and he’s torn between the forces of virulent Islamism and tolerant secularism. He needs, and may respond to, our help and encouragement. Morsi is nobody’s idea of a model democrat, but he has stood by Egypt’s treaty with Israel, called for the overthrow of Syria’s murderous regime, and seems to want good relations with the U.S. And in Egypt the likely alternative is much worse. This won’t tip any swing states into your column, but it won’t hurt, and it would be, pardon the expression, presidential.

CONCEDE THAT THE WAR IN IRAQ WAS A MISTAKE You have a case to make that Obama quit Iraq badly (and that he risks doing the same in Afghanistan). But you lack standing to make that case. You endorsed the war, and one of your main foreign policy mentors, Dan Senor, was complicit in the worst failures of the occupation. Admitting that you were wrong is not easy. (Trust me.) But I think voters would respect something along these lines: “Like most Americans I supported President Bush’s decision to intervene in Iraq. That was a mistake. It distracted us from the more important mission in Afghanistan, and on top of that we botched the occupation. But we should learn from our mistakes, not run from them. And President Obama was in such a hurry to get out that he left Iraq in serious danger of a civil war that could do as much harm as Saddam Hussein ever did.”

DON’T RUSH INTO SYRIA A lot of voters — including this one — agonize about how to deal with the civil war in Syria. We are horrified by the humanitarian catastrophe and would rejoice in the downfall of a monstrous regime. But (unlike some of your neocon cheerleaders), we are wary of being drawn into another regional war, or making matters worse by unleashing sectarian reprisals or empowering a Syrian version of the Taliban. Your proposal to arm the rebels carries a real risk that those weapons will be turned on us. Resist the temptation to be too bold: “President Obama is right to be cautious about Syria. It is an immensely complicated, dangerous problem that menaces half a dozen other states in the region. But on Syria, as on so many other problems around the globe, the president’s response to a complicated problem has been to turn away, to play it down. I have no intention of taking America to war in Syria, but the best way to avoid that is not to sit back while the situation deteriorates. As president I will invite Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey, other NATO leaders and our Arab allies to Camp David for an urgent summit aimed at bringing the Syrian civil war, and the Assad regime, to an end.”

OPEN THE DOOR TO A DEAL WITH IRAN On the subject of Iran’s nuclear program, you have been all bluster. You attacked Obama for offering to negotiate, when it was precisely that willingness — foolishly rebuffed by Tehran — that earned the president sufficient credibility to enlist a broad alliance behind really tough sanctions. In the past you have said Iran should be denied not only nuclear weapons but the right to enrich uranium for civilian uses, a deal-killer. Most important, you sound not just ready to use force, but eager. Now there is talk of one-to-one negotiations. Tell us that as president you would plan to bargain from strength, but bargain seriously. And don’t take civilian enrichment off the table.

APPLY SOME BAIN RIGOR TO DEFENSE Your proudest credential for the presidency is that you have worked in the private sector, turning bloated enterprises into models of efficiency and productivity. The one place you have failed to capitalize on that is our national defense. On the contrary, you have advocated that the military be guaranteed a minimum of 4 percent of our national wealth. You’ve got it backward: “Here’s your money, now what do you need?” The better Romney line: “I will not stint on national security or shortchange the men and women who serve their country. But I will apply the discipline I learned in the private sector to make sure our defense dollars are spent wisely. The U.S. military will be a lean, mean fighting machine.”

COOL IT ON CHINA You wouldn’t be the first candidate to pummel China on the campaign trail and make nice in the White House. But the stridency of your protectionist rhetoric — your promise to formally label China a currency manipulator, clearing the way for a tariff war — makes many of your supporters cringe. O.K., blaming China is a time-tested applause line. But you’ll sound smarter if before you start the spanking you try this: “A prosperous China is good for America. It is a market for our exports, a source of capital, a moderating force.”

In short, I advise you to demonstrate that you understand the world is a complex, unpredictable, subtle and rapidly metamorphosing place. Obama won’t be expecting that. Frankly, neither will I.

After two national debates, it is obvious who is winning. The candidate with a heart brimming full of  passion. In both debates the candidate on the left side of the screen had a ten-inch smile and a feisty pugilism. Whether it was Romney on week one or Biden during the VP face off, it wasn’t calm, cool and collected that was won the day. Obama’s famous lack of drama may be a great asset in the Oval Office, but it reads as weariness and aloofness in a debate. The wonky Ryan suffers from the same disease. We don’t want to listen to an accountant recite actuarial tables in a Presidential debate. We want a fighter. Hopefully, Obama will get the message. Because jolting Joe Biden will not be able to save him in the next round.