October 03, 2005

Supreme Question: A Matter of Heart

Who is this Miers? Why should we back her? I think there's a bigger question here.

I believe a lot of the Miers issue comes down to trust - trust that we are expected to have based on Bush's past character record. There have been times when I have wondered how conservative and how "compassionate" Bush really is. His latest pick for the Supreme Court only served to fuel my recent concerns. Being a person who normally asks a lot of questions and does a lot of research before I make up my mind one way or the other, Miers appears troublesome, at best. I greatly enjoyed this article by A Knight's Blog: "Frum on Miers".

Here's a quote:

"The Senate would have confirmed Luttig, Alito, or McConnell. It certainly would have confirmed a Senator Mitch McConnell or a Senator Jon Kyle, had the president felt even a little nervous about the ultimate vote.

There was no reason for him to choose anyone but one of these outstanding conservatives. As for the diversity argument, it just seems incredible to imagine that anybody would have criticized this president of all people for his lack of devotion to that doctrine. He has appointed minorities and women to the highest offices in the land, relied on women as his closest advisers, and staffed his administration through and through with Americans of every race, sex, faith, and national origin. He had nothing to apologize for on that score. So the question must be asked, as Admiral Rickover once demanded of Jimmy Carter: Why not the best?

I worked with Harriet Miers. She’s a lovely person: intelligent, honest, capable, loyal, discreet, dedicated … I could pile on the praise all morning. But nobody would describe her as one of the outstanding lawyers in the United States. And there is no reason at all to believe either that she is a legal conservative or - and more importantly - that she has the spine and steel necessary to resist the pressures that constantly bend the American legal system toward the left."
I have been feeling a bit cornered by ALL government parties, and the fact that they all seem to have their hands deep into some kind of corruption. I hate thinking that I can only vote for the lesser of two evils, when as a Christian, I am to stand morally opposed to evil in any form. For me, black is black, white is white. Grey is sometimes even more fearsomely evil than black... because it desensitizes it's followers (fence riders) to believe that they are immune to "the dark side" while they further the agenda of the devil.

I have had a more personal bone to pick with president Bush recently that has been at the center of this discussion. Even usually staunch Republican Conservative voters like me have our doubts on occasion. I liked the sound of "Compassionate Conservative"... but I have not seen very much compassion towards some of the left behind members of our society dished out by the Bush administration. I realize that a lot of Republicans really give no thought to criminals, prisoners, and those who are serving sentences behind bars. It has long been a political cause of the Democratic party to take up these helpless souls' cases before the nation (although sometimes I fear it has been only for good press). I probably never would have given a thought towards the incarcerated myself, had I not embarked on personal experience with having a family member placed in federal prison.

Agencies like FAMM (Families Against Mandatory Minimums) that rally support for changing our extreme sentencing laws have shown me that this is a cause worth taking up - especially for conservatives. Meeting prisoners and their families during the times I have visited the prison system, and getting to meet chaplains and the precious angels who minister to prisoners families and prisoners themselves has opened up a whole new world of compassion and life-changing purpose to me. I think a Conservative Republican who is morally correct in their stance, yet unable to be truly compassionate towards those who have a harder life can become only a legalist and a detached law-maker given unquestioned support. I think the sentencing issues we have today (which are worthy of our fierce reform efforts) are because of blind support for legalist conservatives with iron hearts. A public candidate sworn to represent his/her constituents should demonstrate compassion and not just smile for photo shoots and appear to have some. It's not just "show-biz" to me. I just haven't been "feeling the love" from Bush.

I ran across this little article today online by CBS News: "President Pardons 14 People". I read this article hoping to see that the Bush I voted for was giving commutation (shortening of sentences) to people who were currently suffering the effects of prison... but it seems these are all stale pardon cases for past-prisoners already back in society that are only good for clearing the person's name. Here's a snip from the article which I found interesting....
"CBS News correspondent Mark Knoller reports that the pardons Wednesday bring to 58 the number of pardons granted by Mr. Bush. By comparison, his father, former President George H.W. Bush, granted 74 in four years; former President Bill Clinton granted 396 in eight years; former President Ronald Reagan did 393 in eight; former President Jimmy Carter did 534 in four. And former President Richard Nixon, who got one of Mr. Ford's 382 pardons, granted 863, reports Knoller. "
Throwing your money at the poor (in light of Katrina) is not the only way to show compassion. Reaching out and touching lives with your understanding, forgiveness and support IS perhaps a deeper commitment. To face critisicm and still act out of mercy requires a solid faith in your value system, and a love for other people. Jesus showed this kind of "guts, spunk and moxy" - eating with sinners and loving the unlovable. With this in mind, we could look at the federal commutation/pardoning arm of the president reaching down to unlock prison doors as a "compassion meter" of sorts. After all, Jesus had a big heart for prisoners. They are mentioned quite often in the Bible in verses like these:
Psalm 68:6 - God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

Psalm 146:7 - He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free...

From Jesus' own mouth:

Luke 4:18 - "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed,..."

Hebrews 13:3 - Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.


Matthew 25:31-46

The Sheep and the Goats
31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

So how does Bush measure up on the "compassion meter"? You be the judge. Looks to me like Reagan, a man I greatly respect, and even Clinton (yes, folks - a conservative can admit it) are worlds ahead in this kind of compassion towards the less fortunate and those who's lives are in shambles. A historical chart of pardons per president (by date and by amount of pardons) can be found at this link. You can see that there were only 5 presidents who pardoned less people in history than our current president so far.

The Supreme Court Justices are a big topic, and rightly so - their tenure in office will affect us for years to come. We would do well to judge not only their conservatism, but their ability to display mercy towards fellow human beings. Judges should have heart - not just intellect and a conservative record regarding moral issues and the law. Do they see only the black and white of the law, or do they also see the faces of the people it will effect? Are their actions towards others different in light of public opinion - are they swayed by pier pressure and public scrutiny? Or are they genuine and consistent? How can we as citizens and voters effect how our government will respond to it's public? Should we blindly follow the lead of a president who claims to be compassionate and yet has been in office six years with a very minimal pardoning record? Even his father pardoned prisoners. The supreme question is: Where is the compassion?

I know a True Christian Conservative should have some. So... "Show me the mercy" - then maybe I can extend the trust to get this administration's agenda accomplished.

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Jan said...

So glad you're recovered from your exhaustion. You're in fine form today!

Sprittibee said...

Thanks Jan. I read an article online today and my blood started boiling, so I decided to write while I was "in the mood". Now to take my shower, pack our bags, and head out! Hopefully I can check in again tonight after we get back to our in-law's house!

Anonymous said...

By reading your post, I feel relieved, for it is proof that there is still intelligent life out there, and people that actually THINK with their heads.

Thank you, and God's blessing to you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Sprittibee. Great article - very thoughtful and thought provoking on an issue that nobody seems to talk about.

Praying that things settle down soon for you guys,


Rhonda said...

I so agree with you on this. As someone who has been through the legal process with a family member, I find that I am not truly "Republican" on this matter. It saddens me that we have left the Democrats to take up this cause.

Pilgrim said...

Good post, sprittibee. I have also become interested in the welfare of prisoners, since my husband served on the jury of a poor, abused young black man this summer. It was traumatic.

Sprittibee said...

Thanks Don. Glad to know I'm not the only one.

Cindy - thanks. Thanks for the prayers too!

Rhonda - yeah, it's time the conservatives truly demonstrate some compassion.

Julana - yes, the "system" is traumatic, and people don't realize that even the nicest of prisons are no picnic - there is no mythical "country club prison".

Admin said...

This is a good subject and I felt I had to comment on it.

You said should judges just see the letter of the law or the faces of the people the sentence will affect? I believe most judges do know the affect sentences have on the person in jail as well as their families. But we do have laws and we have to uphold those laws.

I write this from 2 perspectives - my husband is a jailer at the county jail and my brother is a repeat drug offender and has been to jail on 3 occasions for the same offense.

From the viewpoint of a jailer - my husband sees the same people over and over again for the same things. They do not accept responsibility for their actions - it's the fault of the police or the friend they were with or someone else's fault, never theirs. Many people say "I'll never do this again!" while they are in jail, then they get out and do it again - or their crimes escalate.

From the viewpoint as a family member of a person who has been to jail - yes, it was hard. It was hard on my mom especially. She kept wondering what she did wrong with raising my brother. There is nothing she did wrong. My brother is an adult. He chose to get involved with drugs and people who do drugs. He chose to blow off his probation and get back into the lifestyle. Even though these were his decisions, though, he blames my parents for him being in jail.

I also have to speak from a victim viewpoint. I have not been a victim of a crime personally, but I cannot imagine what someone must feel like after being robbed or having a family member hurt or even killed, then finding out the person who committed the crime is in and out of jail very quickly. While I don't agree with excessive sentences, I do believe that punishment should fit the crime and that repeat offenders should serve maximum sentences.

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

I think you might take a closer look at just who Clinton pardoned, and when before you decide he beats Bush on this particular compassion meter.
And last I checked, Chuck Colson was a Republican and he's been working with prison ministries for decades.

Sprittibee said...

Christina - I certainly understand your viewpoint. I also completely agree with harsh REPEAT offender sentencing. I agree that MURDER, RAPE and VIOLENT KIDNAPPING charges should be harsh, also. The problem I have with the current sentencing guidlines are that the WORST sentences are given to NON-violent offenders. Read these statistics:

"In 1990, the number of people sent to state and federal prisons for drug offenses exceeded the number of offenders sent to prison for violent crimes. Federal drug cases increased 280 percent during the last ten years and now account for more than 62 percent of the federal prison population (U.S. Sentencing Commission, 1995.) Drug offenders currently make up 62 percent of the federal inmate population, up from 22 percent in 1980. In fact, sentence lengths for first time, nonviolent drug offenses often exceed sentence lengths for violent offenders."


"In 1990, more than half of the federal inmates serving mandatory minimum sentences were first offenders. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sourcebook 1991 p.542)"

I am not talking about pardoning or commuting prisoners who are going to go out and kill people, rape people, or hurt people. I am talking about pardoning people who have been put in jail because they possessed narcotics or laundered money (and then lost everything they owned to the government - including their house, business, dignity, job, and family... PLUS multiple years - sometimes decades of their LIFE).

(link: http://www.pixi.com/~itmc/Sentencing.html#anchor3869401)

I find it funny that they call it a "correctional" institution. Our current sentencing policies only create HATRED, DIVORCE, FATHERLESS CHILDREN, and FINANCIAL PENALTY TO GUILTY AND INNOCENT ALIKE. It is YOU, I, and the INNOCENT families of inmates who pay for the injustices of our current system.

All the while, companies like UNICORE use prison labor to manufacter goods for as cheap as they could make things in India or Mexico. Prisoners make .26 cents an hour to build name-brand sofas, sew together name-brand school uniforms, and tear down recycled DELL computers. They live in un-airconditioned buildings and have to pay for their clothes, shoes, toiletries, fruits, phone-cards (in excess of 30 cents a minute even if it is local calling), and writing supplies out of commissary accounts that they work to fund. If they have no family, they have to steal other people's underwear and shampoo to survive. They trade stamps as money. A divorce decree arrives practically every 30 minutes.


I am sorry that I'm on such a soap box, and I KNOW that a LOT of the men in prison DO DESERVE to be there. But there are many - and I have seen so many of them that I can put FACES to this statement - that really do deserve a second chance, and WOULD HAVE TRULY CHANGED had they been offered a lesser sentence and maybe some counseling instead of a five-ten year sentence (on their first-time, non-violent drug offense).

I know that God is a GOD of SECOND CHANCES. That is why non-violent offenders who are first-time offenders should NOT be forced to serve out unjustly long sentences.

I'll get off my soap box now! :) I tend to get passionate about this issue because I have seen this up close with a family member, and it has been heart-breaking to me and everyone in the person's immediate family. My relative was a first time drug related offender... completely NON VIOLENT... and a Christian. This person is now helping lead other inmates to Christ... which is wonderful. But the sentence was ELEVEN YEARS. I call that MORE than UNFAIR.


Headmistress... I certainly agree that Chuck Coleson has done great things. I support his ministries. I have read some of his books. I know that not all republicans are corrupt. I am simply admitting that (as a conservative republican voter) we are not immune to scrutiny, and are all sinners. I know that many of the beneficiaries of the UNICORE are fellow Republicans. I also know that the judge who placed my family member in prison for such a harsh term was one. Believe me, it saddens me more than it does you to believe that I voted for some of these things... but we are all human, and I know that at the time, I truly believed that I was making the best choice I could in light of the alternative.

As for Clinton, you are correct in questioning his motives. Over 75% of the people he let out of jail were during the last few weeks of his presidency, and a lot were questionable! I am just saying that at least he was willing to look at the case and make a decision. I don't see that there is much compassion coming from our current white-house. I have been a BUSH SUPPORTER all the way... and have stood by his decisions. My husband is not in the military, but did work overseas in Bagdad during war-times for two months. I support our military efforts there, and I don't regret voting for Bush. I just would like to see him show a little more mercy and compassion. I feel that our citizens deserve a second chance. Prisoners of WAR in Iraq who SHOT AT US will most likely get treated better than our own non-voilent offenders here in the USA. Prisoners are people, too.... they are somebody's brother, father, husband, son, mother, wife, sister and daughter. :)







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