Ranking the Candidates

Back in ’96, I remember having a political discussion with a Republican Party operative, and I told him I was terrified that Pat Buchanan would get the nomination. Pat had just won the New Hampshire primary, and I was left with the terrifying prospect of having to choose between Pat Buchanan and Bill Clinton. Yikes.

My operative was more confident than I was that Buchanan wouldn’t go the distance –  he was proven right, of course – but I asked him who he would vote for if forced to make the choice. He sighed and said “Clinton, I guess.” I agreed with him.

That’s not to say I like Bill Clinton. It’s to say I loathe Pat Buchanan. The election of 2000 was a beautiful thing, because Pat managed to destroy the political future of Ross Perot, the Reform Party, and Pat Buchanan in one fell swoop. Amid all the recount nonsense, that little kernel of goodness is often overlooked.

So we then played a game. I would propose two loathsome candidates, and my friend would have to choose between them.

Sample results:

Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter? Bill Clinton.

Bill Clinton or Richard Nixon? Richard Nixon in a walk.

Pat Buchanan or Anyone Else? Anyone Else.

Pat Buchanan became the gold standard for vileness. I threw up any number of wretched candidates up against Mr. Go Pat Go, and my heavily Republican friend always chose the non-Buchanan. I finally asked, “Is there anyone you wouldn’t vote for instead of Pat Buchanan?”

He thought about that for a long time. Ultimately, the only name he could come up with was Adolf Hitler.

I’ve started to play that same game in considering this year’s political candidates.

Here’s my list, in order of preference, each with a rating from 1 to 10. Those above the line are candidates I could support without throwing up. Those below the line would have to be running against someone even lower and/or Hitler in order to get my vote.

So without further ado:


Mitt Romney – 9.
A little bloodless, but decent, conservative, and a primo executive – would likely be a great prez.

Fred Thompson – 8.
Might have been in first place if he hadn’t snoozed his way through the campaign.

Duncan Hunter – 6.5
Seems like a decent, conservative guy, but his border fixation makes him somewhat tedious. And he has no shot whatsoever.

Rudy Giuliani – 5.1
If I had to. I like him as a proven conservative leader, but the judiciary stuff makes him almost unacceptable. If I truly believed he’d appoint the strict constructionists he talks about, he’d be in first place.



Joseph Biden – 3.7
A decent human being with relatively moderate political instincts, as far as Democrats go. Also a tedious blowhard.

Barack Obama – 3.4
Another decent human being who wouldn’t make me want to throw something at the screen every time he came on television. Yet, Oprah notwithstanding, he’s not the Messiah – he’s a by-the-numbers Great Society liberal.

Bill Richardson – 3.0
Seems like a good guy, and one of the more moderate Democrats. Still a Democrat, though, and offers no real reason to vote for him.

John McCain – 2.6
He opposed the Bush tax cuts, inflicted the unconstitutional campaign finance nightmare on the nation, and destroyed all conservative bargaining power on judicial filibusters. Except for his support for the war in Iraq, he is, in my estimation, not recognizably Republican. He’s also the Manchurian candidate who, I’m afraid, might drop a bomb on France if he lost his temper at any given moment.

Tom Tancredo – 2.5
Maybe this guy’s a conservative on the issues that matter. Who knows? All he ever talks about is the border. It’s as if he’s never, ever thought about anything else. Not interested in a single-issue president who skews a bit wacky.

Alan Keyes – 2.2
Yikes. I actually voted for this guy in the Utah Republican Primary in 2000. I’m not sure when he crossed the line from passionate orator to full-blown loon, but he’s there now, and there’s no going back.

Ron Paul – 2.1
Another loon, albeit more dangerous because he has more money than Keyes.

Chris Dodd – 2.0
Mr. Ted-Kennedy-Waitress-Sandwich claims to have reformed his ways – he’s even married to a Mormon – but he’s a tired liberal hack who comes off as smarmy and partisan.

Dennis Kucinich – 1.2
You’ve got to sort of respect a guy who knows he’s a nut and makes it a selling point. You don’t, however, have to vote for him. Nor should you.

Hillary Clinton – .03
An opportunistic, corrupt, vindictive shrew with no core principles other than a lust for power.

John Edwards – .007
An opportunistic, corrupt, vindictive shrew with core Socialistic principles that scare me to death.

Mike Huckabee – .0000666
This is a man who smiles, and smiles, and is still a villain. He sees himself as called by God to destroy my faith, and he’s so deeply disingenuous about it that it scares me to death. His record on fiscal issues is abysmal, and he would do more damage to my party than Hillary Clinton ever could. I’d vote for him over Hitler, but not too many others. Actually, scratch that. If that were my choice, I’d probably just not vote. 

Or vote Libertarian.  (Same thing, really.)

Huckabee Lied; Mormons Sighed

Do Mormons believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers?


Would Mike Huckabee accept that answer? Probably not. 

The query came up in a discussion with  New York Times reporter, and it was accompanied by a statement that Huck “did not know much” about the Mormons. Yet he asked a leading question designed to make Mormons look freaky, and he did so presuming that he already knew the answer. So if I had been there and said “no,” he would likely have accused me of being evasive. 
The reality is that he’s the one who’s warping the truth in order to smear my faith, and the twit knows damn well what he’s doing.

The “Jesus/Satan Brotherhood” question, as the spokesman for the LDS Church stated, “is usually raised by those who wish to smear the Mormon faith rather than clarify doctrine.”

Because we don’t believe Jesus and Satan are brothers. Jesus had no brothers. 
He was the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh.
The New Testament does imply that he had half-brothers – and probably sisters, too – who were children of both Mary and Joseph. One of those half-brothers, James, wrote an eponymous epistle that is part of the scriptural canon.

None of those brothers was Satan. And my Church has never said, implied, or believed otherwise.

“Wait a minute!” the Huckster might answer. “You believe that both Jesus and Satan lived in heaven before the creation of the Earth, and that both are the spirit children of God, don’t you? Deny that, you lying Mormon cultist!”

Ah, so the question is deeper than it appears, isn’t it, Hucky? Which belies your own smirky little lie that you don’t know much about my faith. Because to even ask your smarmy question, you have to have a basic understanding of the LDS doctrine of preexistence, and the idea that all of us are sons and daughters of God, at least as far as the soul is concerned. So in that sense, yes, Jesus and Satan are brothers, as much as I’m a brother of, say, Manuel Noriega. But if you were to ask me if Manuel were my brother, I’d say no, because I only have one brother – in the flesh. And when people ask me about my brother, I usually answer without thinking theologically or spiritually. Manuel never figures into the equation.

When you asked the question, you intended it to be heard one way even when you knew you were insinuating something else. It’s the same tactic that puds like you employ when you go around saying Mormons aren’t Christians. Using specific theological constructs – i.e. Mormons are not a part of the historical Christian tradition, or Mormons deny the Nicene Creed – you define Christian in an exclusive way that is lost on the casual listener, who hears “Mormons aren’t Christians” and concludes that we worship Joseph Smith or Brigham Young or a head of polygamous lettuce and not Jesus Christ.

Both “Christian” and, in this case, “brother,” have both a common definition and a theological one. When you slander us as “non-Christians” or “Jesus/Satan/Brother” types, you are thinking theologically while, at the same time, intending the hearer to associate the accusation with the common definition.

In other words, you are deliberately attempting to be misunderstood. Or, to put it more bluntly, you’re being dishonest.

You, Mr. Huckabee, are excrement. 

Interpret that how you will. 

Indiana Jones and the Denny’s Senior Discount

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull opens in theatres on May 22 of next year, but all of the movie sites have been buzzing about it for what seems like decades. Before the title was announced, everyone was trying to come up with the cleverest new moniker for the film while at the same time mocking Harrison Ford’s advanced age. (My favorite was Indiana Jones and the Confusing Bingo Card.) But all the footage of Harrison/Indy has been encouraging – he looks older and grayer, yes, but he’s still fit and Indiana Jones-esque – so people have stopped making up geezer titles and everyone’s getting excited.

Except me.

No, that’s not quite true. I’m pretty excited, and doubtless I’ll be there on opening night. I just don’t think I’m going to appreciate where this thing is going to go.

By the way, if you’re scared of movie spoilers, read no further. I don’t know the whole plot of the movie, but I know enough to be dangerous. If you want to be completely and utterly surprised, turn back now.

Still here? Well, I warned you. Except now, you’re probably expecting something really juicy, and I really don’t know all that much. So you’re probably going to be disappointed. (Just thought I’d warn you about that, too.)


The plot is centered around a crystal skull, which is presumably constructed by aliens. And that’s what bugs me. Every other movie has focused on religious artifacts, requiring Indy to suppress his worldly skepticism and take a leap of faith. Each movie ends with a mystical denouement that is both unexplained and unexplainable. And that’s the way I like it.

Science can’t give us the reasons why the Lost Ark melted off all the Nazis’ faces, or why the Shankara Stones burned through the bag and killed Mola Rum, or why the Last Crusader Knight lived for hundreds of years reading the Bible by himself with all those fake Grails. What’s more, if there are scientific reasons, we don’t want to know what they are. It’s fun to watch the utterly rational Indiana Jones get his comeuppance as he encounters spiritual forces far greater than he is.

So along comes this alien crystal skull, and suddenly everything is going to get explained. And that just plain sucks.

From what I’ve heard, the Lost Ark was tagged in a box and, according to this new movie, sent to a warehouse – in Area 51. That’s just a rumor, but there’s some indication that the Ark is going to figure prominently in the story. If you look at the teaser ad, you’ll see Indiana Jones’ hat and bullwhip resting atop a large wooden crate with the same number – 9906573 – as the crate they put the Ark in at the end of the first movie. In addition, John Hurt is going to be playing Abner Ravenwood – Marion’s father and an Ark fanatic who was presumed dead in Raiders. Every indication is that the Ark and the Crystal Skull are going to be spending some quality time together.

After reading the tea leaves, I’ve concluded that we’re going to be told that aliens dropped off the Ark to ancient Israel, and now they want it back. So it wasn’t the power of God that fried the Nazis – it was some bug-eyed dudes from Alpha Centauri. And all of Judeo-Christian tradition was planted here by weirdos from another planet. Suddenly, Indy is vindicated – the world is rational after all. It’s no fair, and it’s no fun. I’m not too thrilled about an Indiana Jones universe where there’s no room for wonder.

That’s not to say that I don’t like the Chariots of the Gods motif when done properly – I’m a huge Battlestar Galactica fan, which covered this ground well, and certainly elements of my own faith have been interpreted in a “weirdos from another planet” way. (I think we Mormons get a bad rap on this, though, but I digress.) The problem is that these ideas are being inflicted on established Indiana Jones continuity, and they’re going to inform how we view the previous films. I don’t think the Raiders ending is as much fun if we learn that the Ark’s “unspeakable power” comes from the planet Vordon. The series was built on a different premise, and KOTCS is coming along and changing the rules in the middle of the game.

In the end, though, I’ll still be cheering. There will surely be great action sequences, and it’s going to be fun to see Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood again. I’m not sure if I’m as excited to see Shia TheBeef as Indy’s son, but I’ll reserve judgment. That’s a plot change that could work. Aliens drinking out of the Holy Grail is not.

Of course, all that could go out the window when they finally get around to making Indiana Jones and the Unpleasant Prostate Exam.

Kicking Back at Huckabee

In my first month as a 19-year-old Mormon missionary in Scotland, I remember standing outside a grocery store, and a two or three year-old rugrat came up to me, kicked my leg as hard as he could, and said, loudly, “Get a f$&*ing job.”

It was then that I learned, if I didn’t know it before, that Mormons are universally less than beloved.

As the Mitt speech gets ingested into the national consciousness, I’m reminded of the fact that my faith makes me weirder and more of an outsider to the world at large than I want to admit. Almost everyone agrees the speech was terrific, but it doesn’t seem to be translating into support. The action line is “Mitt gave a great speech; he’s still a freak, though.” Swell.

Consequently, I’m becoming increasingly annoyed with Huckabee for reasons that are only partly rational. He’s been very Clintonian about the whole religion thing. He has to know that he’s riding a wave of anti-Mormon sentiment that he welcomes because of its usefulness. In my mind, he’s not very far removed from that stupid little Scottish kid, and I get the feeling that if Mike Huckabee had a chance to kick me in the leg, he probably would.

It turns my stomach that my so-called political allies are made up of people that are willing to spread distortions, slander, and outright lies to destroy my faith. Every time I go to a conservative website that allows comments – lucianne.com comes to mind – my fellow Republicans rail on my church with barely contained fury, and I wonder if Hillary and her ilk could be any worse. Harry Reid doesn’t seem to get this kind of treatment from his fellow Democrats. Are we really so intolerant as a party? It boggles the mind.

I could go into martyr mode, I guess – the Savior talked about how blessed we are if people persecute us and such. Looking through history, I can’t seem to find a time when the Lord’s people were treated with respect by the rest of the world. I should take solace in that. But it bugs me all the same.

I’m a Mitt guy, but I could support Thompson. Or, holding my nose, Rudy. McCain? No. He’s nuts. Huckabee? At this point, no. I just don’t see how I can back a guy who encourages slanders about my faith. How could he be any worse than Hillary?

Dumb question. Of course Hillary’s worse, and of course I’d vote for Huckabee if he were the nominee. But I sure as hell am not going to be happy about it.

Maybe I’m not a Christian, after all. When Huckabee rallies his anti-Mormon army, instead of turning the other cheek, I kind of want to kick back.

Bad Sportsmanship

Thursday night was Corbin and Cornelius’ first basketball game. If you read the sad-but-true story of their last practice, then you won’t be surprised to learn that the actual game wasn’t all that pretty. The final score was 12-10 – and my boys were on the losing side.

My boys do not like to lose.

The started to tear up when the score was announced, and one of the mothers on the team noticed and said, “Look! Isn’t it great how emotionally invested they are in the game? How cute!”

To which Mrs. Cornell, who knows our sons all too well, said, “It won’t be cute in a moment.”

And then the moment came.

“CHEATERS!!” screamed Corbin at the top of his lungs. “DIRTY ROTTEN CHEATERS!!”

Cornelius got in on the action, too, both of them hectoring the winning team, who stared at my boys with looks ranging from befuddlement to barely stifled laughter. As the two losers were dragged forcibly down the stairs of the gym and out to the parking lot, the screams continued and amplified in intensity.

The boys went to bed two hours early, and still, they cried themselves to sleep. “Why can’t we just play soccer?” Cornelius asked. “We always win soccer.”

The Cornells need a lesson in sportsmanship. They should probably learn at the feet of my daughter Chloe, who played her basketball game this morning. They lost, too.

The score was 54-4.

Chloe came home cheerful and went off and played with her American Girl dolls. (If you are looking for the NBA stars of tomorrow, I would advise you not to turn your attention to the Cornell family.)

I asked Cornelius how he knew the other team cheated. “Because they won,” he answered. 
It’s worse than I thought. Not only is my boy a bad sport; he’s also a Democrat.

Romney Speech Reaction…

…is better than I think the Romney campaign could have hoped for. Rush Limbaugh has spent his entire show praising the speech, and he keeps having to remind people that he’s not endorsing any candidate for the primary. Although if he were to endorse someone, I doubt Rush could match the glowing accolades that he is showering on Romney.

That’s the good stuff. But much of the NRO Corner contingent is upset that the speech left out atheists, which strikes me as a pretty petty criticism. David Frum, who wrote such a persuasive analysis of why the speech would fail, is convinced it did, because he thinks Romney opened the door to questions about the loonier aspects of his faith. (I think he was dead right with his first article and dead wrong with this one.)
Every indication in the evangelical community seems to suggest that the speech was well-received. Two evangelical leaders in Iowa have had good things to say, and the folks at evangelicalsformitt.com have called it a grand-slam home run.
Three-plus hours after the speech, I remain convinced that my initial impression was right. I also think it makes my initial election predictions more likely. After this speech, Romney stands a good chance of winning Iowa again, and if he does, that will effectively end the Huckaboom, defy expectations, and get Mitt the momentum he needs to power through the primaries to the nomination. He’s ironically in a better position than he was when he was the presumptive Iowa caucus winner, because now an Iowa victory will actually mean something. (I also think that Romney’s organization is so superior to Huckabee’s that he could very well have won Iowa without this speech, which would have shocked the world, too.)
Good day for the Romney campaign.

Mitt just finished his speech…

Watched it on TV. Haven’t seen the pundit’s reactions yet, and I should probably wait to let the thing sink in before I render my own final verdict. 

My initial reaction, though, is that he nailed it. He was certainly more passionate and sincere than I’ve ever seen him, very near tears at a number of points. He seemed very much like a human being. Indeed, he seemed like a President of the United States. He had a gravitas that I hadn’t seen before – he didn’t look like a bloodless CEO.
As for the content of the speech, it’s hard for me to judge. He made the right promises – interesting that he said his oath “on the Bible” would be his “highest oath.” Thought it was a little risky to say we’re all “children of God,” as that plays into a Mormon theological criticism. I initially thought he was going to avoid using the word Mormon, and I’m glad he didn’t. He didn’t try to downplay his faith at all, although I didn’t expect him to, and he looked like someone with real convictions, which is not how he often appears in debates. 
There was a bit of an implicit assumption that those who reject him on the basis of faith are bigots, but it appealed to the better angels of our nature, in the sense that he included evangelicals and others in the “great symphony of faith.”
All in all, I don’t know if he or anyone else could have done any better. The question still remains, though – is it enough?

Mind Lint

There is some sinister force in my home that burns out lightbulbs before their time. 

Changing poopy diapers never gets fun. 
THe iSight camera on my Mac doesn’t work. This is probably the fifth time I’ve had to take it in. If I hadn’t bought AppleCare, I’d have spent more money on repairs than on the computer. 
Dyson vacuums are worth the money. 
Eating a piece of Little Caesar’s Pizza is like eating the side of corrugated cardboard box. 
Nintendo ought to come up with enough Wiis to meet demand by now. I saw one sell on eBay yesterday for $640, plus $50 shipping. 
I could live for years on nothing but tortilla chips and Pace picante sauce. 
The Simpsons remains funny. Family Guy is too crude. 
I have no respect for Kwanzaa or for those who observe it. It’s a made-up holiday designed to insult Christmas, and I say phooey on Kwanzaa. I’ve never met anyone who observes Kwanzaa, but I know, in advance, that I don’t respect them. 
Every time I think Scientologists are freakin’ weirdos, I remember that people say the same thing about Mormons. Then I go right on thinking that Scientologists are freakin’ weirdos. 
I don’t consider “damn” and “hell” swear words. Both are intensely Biblical, and they ought to be given a pass. “Ass” is borderline. 
They just shut down a business in Utah that sells edited versions of movies. The fact that Hollywood refuses to release the airline versions of movies for sale and rental proves they are the Satan’s minions. Or Scientologists. Or Kwanzaa observers. Same thing, really. 
Doonesbury used to be funny about twenty years ago. Now it’s didactic, mean, and ignorant. 
I have never laughed aloud when reading a Family Circus cartoon. Ever. And I never will. 
I never learned how to type. I can type pretty fast with my hunt-and-peck method, but it’s not the right way to go about it, according to the professionals. I type primarily with the first three fingers of my  right hand, and I use the index finger on my left hand. That’s about it. 
I’m very anal about making sure that burned out Christmas lights are replaced. I climbed up a ladder in the snow to replace a bulb right below the second-story eaves. I’m not really anal about anything else. If anything, my anus is disturbingly loose. 
Hugo Chavez will rig a vote and become dictator-for-life before he’s supposed to leave office.
The proof that Western-style government is superior to communism/totalitarianism is Mahatma Gandhi and/or Martin Luther King. Both of them would have been executed quickly and discreetly if they did the same thing in China or the Soviet Union. 
I don’t believe in conspiracies. Remember, the same government that supposedly faked the moon landing, ordered the Kennedy assassination and covered up the alien landing in Roswell is the government that attempts – and fails – to deliver the mail in a timely fashion. 
Correction: I do believe in one conspiracy, if you can call it that – William Shakespeare is the pseudonym of Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. Yes, I believe Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare, just like I believe Mark Twain wrote Mark Twain. I also believe that Twain and Shakespeare were both pen names, and that the plays and poems were not authored by the butcher’s apprentice from Stratford. 
A messy trumpet is always funny. 
The end. 

Giving “Christmas Shoes” the Boot

Imagine I’m standing in line and some filthy urchin sings the following song to me:

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please

It’s Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there’s not much time
You see she’s been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight
– “Christmas Shoes” by NewSong

Here’s how I would answer.

Excuse me, son, but what is your problem?

If your mother is dying tonight, why the Sam Hill aren’t you at her bedside savoring your last moments together instead of standing in line at JC Penney buying shoes? And if she’s bedridden, what does she need your stupid shoes for? And do you really think when she kicks the bucket, Jesus is going to look down on her corpse and say “Whoa! Nice shoes!”

I’m not a very sentimental fellow.