Jim Geraghty of National Review and Chad Benson of Radio America reflect on the progress we have made since the Manson era. How will Democrats respond now that a second accuser has come out against Al Franken? Hillary Clinton has not made progress in her decades-old complaint about the “partisan advocacy” of Fox News.
Archives for November 2017
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Chad Benson of Radio America read the political tea leaves (juniper leaves?) for three men in the national spotlight. Some of the people calling for resignations, and a new Fox News poll, may surprise you.
The U.S. Army is rescinding its recently announced policy of allowing people with a history of mental illness to get waivers in order to serve in our military, a welcome move but one that should never have been necessary according to a former U.S. Army special forces commander.
Earlier this week, the Army announced it instituted a policy in August that allows waivers to be issued so that potential recruits could circumvent the ban on service members with a history of mental illnesses ranging from bipolar disorder to depression to self-mutilation and alcohol or drug abuse. The Army admitted the move was designed to boost sagging recruiting numbers.
On Wednesday, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley said the Army is reversing course. Milley says the policy on waivers was never actually implemented but was being debates with the Army’s leadership.
Retired U.S. Army Lt. General William “Jerry” Boykin, who spent most of his career in special forces, says the Army is making the right call after entertaining a terrible idea.
“I will take the chief of staff of the Army’s word for the fact that it was still being studied but it’s disturbing that we’re even studying this,” said Boykin, who believes the Army’s sudden shift is due more to public relations than because it believes this was a terrible idea.
“I think they were unprepared for the blowback. I’m appalled that in a world that’s so transparent today you’d think you could do something like this and that this is not going to be a major story,” said Boykin.
He says the idea of allowing people with mental illness to serve in combat arms has never been embraced even when manpower was desperately needed.
“We didn’t even do this in Vietnam,” said Boykin, who says the biggest shift in standards was allowing GED recipients to serve rather than insist upon high school graduates.
“This is as low as the Army has ever dropped in terms of a lack of focus on readiness and quality people,” said Boykin. “It’s hard to brag that we have the highest quality people that we’ve ever had in our military – which our Army does regularly – and then look at the fact that we’re bringing people in that have a history of self-mutilation.”
Boykin says combat already takes a great toll on the mental health of our soldiers and that putting people with mental health problems into the fray is a recipe for disaster.
“Combat itself is probably the most stressful thing that a human can do. It;s not just the fear associated with it but it’s the long-term effects of seeing people that you care about die and be wounded in severe ways. That marks you.
“That has an effect on an individual that is different for each individual but ultimately becomes a very emotional thing. To bring people in that are already struggling is just insanity. It makes no sense,” said Boykin.
Boykin says the very top of our military’s chain of command can and must do better.
“I’m disappointed in the leadership of our military. Also, our president needs to step in and say, ‘Stop this nonsense. We’re not going to do this. We’ll do whatever we have to do to recruit a professional Army but we’re not going to do this nonsense,” said Boykin, who adds there is no way recruiters could weed out all the people with mental health issues who might pose a threat to themselves or members of their units.
One reason the military brass did not immediately kill the waivers idea is because they wouldn’t be tasked with dealing with problem recruits or the punishments related to their conduct.
A retired senior non-commissioned officer who served in Operations Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom who prefers to remain anonymous says it’s young officers and enlisted men who would be tasked with diagnosing these issues.
“The lowest level leadership are corporals, SGTs, SSGs, SFCs, lieutenants. All guys 18-24 years old, have no inkling how to spot a potential suicide or mass shooter. They’re also the guys that the command is going to hang out to dry if something happens for being “poor leaders” and not spotting something in time,” the Army veteran said.
He also says there is no protocol for dealing with mental health issues once a person is in the service.
“The low level leadership hasn’t been trained to deal with these people. There is “suicide prevention training” which is a joke, but it’s more oriented towards a normal guy that’s had too many deployments, combat stress or family issues – it’s not tailored at all to somebody that already mentally ill,” he said.
Boykin also also appalled that at the very time when mental health problems tend to be an issue in many mass shooters, yet the Army either decided or was close to deciding to give guns to people with some of those same diagnoses.
Boykin also says this slide in standards is an ongoing symptom of the way the Obama administration treated the military.
“It is a reflection of eight years under a commander-in-chief who paid no attention whatsoever to readiness of our military. That’s why you’re having trouble recruiting,” said Boykin.
“It’s because moms and dads during those eight years, when their son or their daughter had to give up their faith for example, or had to come in a military that was being used for social experiments, people got turned off to coming into the military,” said Boykin.
He says parents will have the same reaction to the Army considering allowing to people with a history of mental illness to take up arms.
Boykin urges the military to make all decisions based on one simple criteria.
“No decision regarding our military should be made until the question has been asked, ‘How does this impact the readiness?’ Is it a positive? If it’s a positive, it’s OK to do it. Is it a negative, it’s not alright to do it. If it’s neutral, then it could go either way. In this case, you have to know that this is a negative,” said Boykin.
But what if recruitment numbers aren’t met? Boykin says there are more important things.
“I’d rather go into combat with ten good men that were reliable that I could trust than a thousand that were questionable,” he said.
Boykin says a laser focus on readiness will make the U.S. military the dominant fighting force it always ought to be.
“We can turn this around. Stop the social experiments. Change the rules of engagement, where men and women can go into combat to win and restore the military budget to where they know that they have the necessary equipment to fight the nation’s wars and be victorious,” said Boykin.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America breathe a sigh of relief as the U.S. Army announces it will scrap a rule that would allow waivers for people dealing with depression, bipolar disorder or self-mutilation to apply to serve. They also slam Minnesota Sen. Al Franken after one of his colleagues on a 2006 USO tour accuses Franken of a forced kiss and provides a photo of him groping her while she is asleep. And they respond bluntly to a New York Times op-ed from a Christianity Today writer who thinks the Mike Pence policy of a man never being along with a woman other than his wife is a damaging to women’s careers and is actually a “sanctified cousin” to “Weinstein-ian behavior.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America celebrate the coup that no one in Zimbabwe will call a coup, as despotic leader Robert Mugabe is placed under house arrest. They also fire back at Joe Biden as the former vice president either suggests the hero who stopped the church shooter in Texas should not have been able to have a semi-automatic rifle or he ignored a perfectly good question about him wanting to restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens. And they scratch their heads as Rush Limbaugh points out that Roy Moore was a Democrat at the time his alleged sexual assaults took place and other Democrats at the time said nothing about him.
Are politically active Christians a critical force in changing public policy towards a more biblical perspective or are they getting drawn into ugly political infighting that distracts them from sharing the gospel and ultimately damages their witness to unbelievers? America’s most widely syndicated columnist fears it’s the latter.
In his latest column, longtime conservative activist and writer Cal Thomas says many Christian conservatives get so immersed in politics, they become convinced they are indispensable to God’s plans.
“There is an unstated conceit among some evangelicals that God is only at work when a Republican is elected, even a Republican who does not share their view of Jesus, or practice what He taught. It is the ultimate compromise, which leads to the corruption and dilution of a message more powerful than what government and politics offer,” writes Thomas.
In an separate interview, Thomas says the endless flurry of controversies and scandals keeps believers away from their primary mission.
“The first thing we learn about Satan in scripture is not that he’s evil – that comes later – but that he’s subtle or crafty. And I think there’s a lot of effort in this country to get evangelicals especially off their focus on Jesus of Nazareth and onto the kingdom of this world,” said Thomas.
While the debate plays out over the allegations against Alabama U.S. Senate Roy Moore, some Christians in Alabama have used scripture to defend Moore even if he did engage in sexual contact with a 14-year-old., with the state’s auditor comparing the alleged relationship to Mary and Joseph and other likening the offense to stealing a lawn mower.
Because of the political, cultural, and moral issues at stake, Thomas says many believers they have no choice but to vote for Moore no matter the facts from 38 years ago. Thomas disagrees.
“The argument I’m getting on Facebook and other social media is, ‘Well, the Democrat opponent is pro-abortion and you want to continue the murder of babies and Judge Moore is pro-life.’ Well, I don’t think that’s the real issue.
“Even if Moore got elected, one more vote in the Senate is not going to stop the killing of babies in this country. The pregnancy centers and sharing the gospel for a changed life is what’s going to change them. And that’s the greater power,” said Thomas.
The bottom line, says Thomas, is that too many Christians are looking to politics for the solutions to life’s problems.
“Too many of us are worshiping at the shrine of Washington politics and especially the Republican Party. That is always bound to disappoint, as we’ve seen with a Republican majority in both houses of Congress and a supposed Republican in the White House that [are not] getting anything done,” said Thomas.
Thomas has plenty of experience at the intersection of faith and politics, teaming up with the late Rev. Jerry Falwell in the late 1970s to urge evangelical Christians to get involved in politics and to make a positive difference.
He says he learned some hard lessons from that experience.
“I was vice president of Moral Majority. I was there. We thought we were going to organize conservative evangelicals and conservative Catholics and Orthodox Jews into a voting bloc that would give trickle-down morality from Washington. It didn’t work because none of that changes the human heart. The gospel of Jesus Christ changes human hearts, and when hearts are changed, nations are changed,” said Thomas.
So what is the proper role of Christians in the public square? Thomas says there are some things they should be doing.
“We should vote. We should pray for those in authority, but we shouldn’t expect more from government than it can deliver,” said Thomas.
What believers should not do, according to Thomas, is mistake earth for their permanent home.
“This is not our kingdom. This is not where we’re going to spend eternity. The world is going in the direction that the scriptures forecast. These people who say they’re going to make the world a better place, no you’re not. That’s left up to Jesus when he returns.
“He’s the only one who’s going to make the world a better place because he’s going to restore it to the way it was. We’re not going to be able to do that through the political system,” said Thomas.
Many Christian conservatives push back on that argument by pointing out they are active precisely to resist movements antithetical to scripture, including abortion, the changed definition of marriage and other secular movements aimed at culture and their children.
Thomas says Christians have always been persecuted, including the crucifixion of Christ Himself, and urges Christians to live out the gospel rather than responding in kind in contentious debates.
“We should turn the other cheek. We should be respectful and kind to our enemies. We’re to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, visit those in prison, care for widows and orphans, feed the hungry and clothe the naked.
“Not as a social gospel as our friends on the left do – salvation by works – but as a means of demonstrating God’s love for the physical self so that you can share the greater message of their greater need, which is transformation, not reformation,” said Thomas.
Thomas says embracing Christ’s commands to love God with all our hearts, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourself would give non-believers a radially different view of what it means to be a Christian.
“The average unbeliever looks at believers today and what do they see? We’re against all kinds of stuff. We’ve got a long, long list of everything we’re against, but what are we for? Who are we for? [Jesus’ commands] are the greatest evangelistic tool that Jesus ever gave us. But how many people actually apply it?” asked Thomas.
“If we obeyed the calling of Jesus and His instructions, this world would be turned upside down,” said Thomas.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America are glad to see many liberals suddenly coming to the realization that Bill Clinton’s behavior towards women was inexcusable and his accusers were treated badly when they came forward during his presidency, but they also note that this epiphany comes when Democrats want the moral high ground in the Roy Moore saga and when the Clintons are of no use to them anymore. They also welcome the idea of a special counsel to investigate Hillary Clinton, the Clinton Foundation, and Uranium One. And they note Rand Paul has hired a personal injury lawyer as the legal process unfolds against the neighbor who assaulted him, even as Sen. Paul asserts the two of them haven’t spoken in years.
The U.S. Army is lifting an ban on recruits with a history of mental illness as a means of boosting recruiting numbers, a unilateral decision that could damage readiness and actually hurt the effort to recruit quality young Americans into serving their country in uniform.
The Army made the decision in August, but is only making it public now as it fears efforts to recruit 80,000 new soldiers by September 2018 may fall short. Americans who deal with bipolar disorder, depression, self-mutilation or drug and alcohol abuse are not eligible to be recruited although the Army insists it will screen such applicants vigorously to ensure they are fit for service.
That’s not good enough for Center for Military Readiness President Elaine Donnelly.
“This is not a good sign,” said Donnelly. “At least one expert quoted in the USA Today story said that when you induct people who have psychological problems, it is definitely a red flag. Those psychological problems often get worse in the military. Rates of suicide in the military are much higher than in the civilian world.”
She says one of the recruiting headaches is that a growing number of young people are not physically fit for the military, but she says that shouldn’t trigger a sliding standard on mental health.
“Issues of mental competency also are important. Mental conditions that detract from readiness to deploy, that interfere with unit cohesion, that contribute to stress and controversy within a given unit, these issues also are important,” said Donnelly.
She it’s not the first time the military has gone down this road.
“We have pressures to include transgenders in our military. Gender dysphoria is one of those mental conditions that render a person unqualified for military service. It’s one of many. Now we see the list being edited to include some mental conditions in the same way,” said Donnelly.
Donnelly says the policy decision makes life more difficult for others in the military, starting with the recruiters, who may soon be urged to accept applicants that ought to be rejected.
“I think the pressure will be on to meet the quotas,” said Donnelly.
She also says problem cases who slip through recruiting and training have and could again become major headaches for battlefield commanders.
An in an ironic twist, Donnelly says the effort to relax standards may actually hurt recruiting of the people the military want and need to sign up.
“The military is a very special institution. It requires special young people to join. If you start playing games with standards and making excuses for including people who are not suited for military service, that’s only going to make the problem worse,” said Donnelly.
“We have to be very careful. Not everybody is eligible to serve in the Armed Forces. And if you pretend like it is an equal opportunity employer, then you put everybody’s lives at greater risk,” said Donnelly.
So why is the Trump administration allowing this? In short, it may not have much of a say at all. Donnelly says the Army can change the policy without any input from Congress. Furthermore, she says President Trump’s people still aren’t on the job.
“It was only last week the new Secretary of the Army was confirmed. So this was a decision made by people from the Obama administration, not the Trump administration,” she said.
“The person in charge of personnel matters in the Department of Defense hasn’t even been confirmed yet, the Trump appointee. So this may be an open issue that may be revisited and I hope it will be,” said Donnelly.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America discuss President Trump’s Asia trip and how most of the visits suggested a good working relationship with key leaders. Jim offers his take on the Roy Moore saga, pointing out that we often think we know political figures and are shocked when allegations come forward, but he says the truth is we know very little about them at all. And they shake their heads as Sean Hannity fans publicly destroy their Keurig coffee machines after the company pulls advertising for Hannity’s TV show over his coverage of the Roy Moore story.
As America pauses for Veterans Day this weekend, a leading advocate for improving the VA system that cares for those who have served this nation in uniform says the VA system has made made some important improvements in the first year of the Trump administration but she says some badly needed reforms are happening far too slowly.
Jessie Jane Duff served as a gunnery sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps. She is now a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research. She gives the Trump administration a ‘B’ grade thus far in improving the health care system for veterans.
Duff says Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. David Shulkin has made progress on some bureaucratic issues, including closing down 430 vacant buildings around the nation and another 284 that were underutilized.
“That can save $23 million a year. That money can now be going to health care or receiving mental health care for these veterans,” said Duff.
She says other efficiencies are also now in place.
“They have improved same-day services for primary and mental health care at all of their medical centers. They’re making it easier for veterans to file online health care applications. They’re receiving eight times as many online applications this year. That’s good,” said Duff.
Duff also applauds collaborative efforts with the private marketplace to allow veterans to get minor health care needs, such as flu shots, taken care of outside of VA facilities. Veterans living in rural areas more than 40 miles from a VA hospital also have greater access to private sector health care.
She is also encouraged that Shulkin is informing the public of any disciplinary actions within the VA in real time.
“They also became the first agency to post information on employee disciplinary actions online. That’s a must. How many times did we hear about disciplinary actions after the fact, after they had either resigned from a position or transferred to a new job. They had covered up in the past,” said Duff.
But while those positives are making life easier for veterans, other major priorities are moving at a glacial pace. Duff says is taking entirely too long to implement a modern system to seamlessly transfer medical records from the Department of Defense to the VA.
“This ordeal, which should have been corrected ten years ago, has fallen on President Trump’s lap and on Secretary Shulkin’s lap, is apparently going to take another eight years,” said Duff.
Another major frustration is the slow turnaround on veterans’ health care claims. She says in a digital world, the kind of backlog we see at the VA is simply unacceptable.
“There should not be any kind of backlog. A backlog means you’ve been waiting over 125 days for your claim to be addressed. In my opinion, it should be no more than a 30 to 60, no more than a 90-day turnaround,” said Duff.
“We’re not sending anything by the Pony Express anymore. We’re not even sending anything by the Postal Service anymore. Everything is electronic. Everything should be expedited and that should immediately shave off 30 days,” said Duff.
While Duff is adamant about the turnaround times, she admits forcing standards on bureaucrats often leads to the scandals we saw just two years ago.
“The problem when you give these deadlines is you start having people fraudulently putting down numbers. That’s what created the basic backlog in the first place,” said Duff.
So while progress has been made at the VA in 2017, Duff says there are still great concerns.
“It’s just very dismaying to me to see that these things still are going to take long to happen. How many more veterans are going to die waiting? How many more veterans are not going to get adequate care?” asked Duff.
While she hopes to see rapid improvement on issues like claim turnarounds and record transfers, Duff warns that a federally-run health care program is always going to have problems.
“The fear I have is that government health care is always going to be muddied down with government bureaucracy,” said Duff, once again urging the VA to partner with outside health care providers.
“Let Blue Cross or whatever health care system that’s willing to take on veterans that are away from hospitals. Let’s get this moving,” she said.