Of Risk and Reward

  In 1972, then-President Richard Nixon wanted to campaign across the country for congressional candidates. Bob Haldeman, then-Chief of Staff, and I almost had to lock the president in the Oval Office. He wanted to campaign, and we didn't want him to. We wanted to protect his mandate and didn't want him campaigning against Democratic senators who would be elected and whom he would have to deal with in the next Congress. So we took no risks, the president won big, and we lost Congress. This year President Bush proved himself a great leader by doing exactly what I convinced Nixon not to do. He campaigned all over the country, and my hat is off to him for his courage. His actions show that he is a leader who is willing to expend political capital to accomplish what he believes in, and his victory made political history. The election results have turned out to be an extraordinary vote of confidence by the American people in his leadership. And this is important for domestic policies, but even more as a signal to the rest of the world. I'll be surprised if Saddam Hussein isn't badly shaken today and if he doesn't change his stance toward the United Nations and inspections as a result of this election. No one ought to doubt now America's resolve to prosecute a war against Iraq. The election also signals a real repudiation of the old "gotcha" brand of politics that has marked the Senate over the past two years. This was particularly obvious in the way good, qualified, conservative judges were kept off the bench by partisan votes in spite of a shortage of federal judges that Chief Justice Rehnquist calls "alarming." The "gotcha" game was also glaring in the Senate's inability to pass homeland security legislation -- a problem pulled into sharper focus by events in Bali, Moscow, Washington, D.C.'s sniper, and by the North Korean nuclear weapons. Now, as the dust settles on the election, what should we expect out of the 108th Congress? Tired of political wrangling, the people want the business of government done. So the Senate will get right to business, right? Well, not so fast. We forget that the Senate was deliberately constructed by our founding fathers to be a great deliberative body. It takes sixty votes to cut off debate. So even with fifty-one seats in Republican hands, a few senators can still slow or stop legislation. So we shouldn't expect overnight results. It will take more than an election mandate -- it will take a miracle for senators to put aside politics long enough to pass the bills the country needs. But we should be praying for just such a miracle -- maybe a ninety-day moratorium on politics as usual. Wouldn't that be refreshing? And Christians ought to be praying for our leaders -- both Republican and Democrat -- whether we're happy with Tuesday's results or not. The Bible tells us to pray so that we may live peaceable lives. These are dangerous times. We're at war, vulnerable to terrorism. The people didn't vote this week on taxes and the economy. They voted to support our nation's security. So let's hope and pray our leaders will read the political tea leaves, quit wrangling, and stop blocking the essential business of government. That's not a partisan issue -- Democrat versus Republican. It is a question of politicians pulling together for the good of the country. Election day was a good start. Let's pray the winners take the cue. For further information: John Fund, "Sobering Thoughts: The GOP's cup runneth over? No, it's half empty," Wall Street Journal, 7 November 2002. George Will, "Close, but in Control," Washington Post, 7 November 2002, A25. Dick Morris, "Americans Rally to Bush," National Review Online, 6 November 2002. Fred Barnes, "Winners! (And Losers) -- 2002 Edition," Weekly Standard, 6 November 2002. The November issue of BreakPoint WorldView magazine includes articles illustrating why Christians must engage in politics. Get 10 issues (one-year subscription) for $25! Thanksgiving is coming: Get your child Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving (Thomas Nelson, 1999) so he or she may learn the meaning behind this important holiday.


Chuck Colson


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