Returning competence to the White House
On Tuesday and thereafter we will have an administration that will restore integrity to the presidency, renew and strengthen alliances, and regain a new respect for our country around the world. Decisions can now be based on the country's best interest instead of a very narrow agenda based on greed and cronyism. Gone will be decisions predicated on contempt for the rule of law.
The president of the United States has the single most important job in the world. We should never again forget that intelligence matters, intellectual curiosity matters, communication skills matter, a belief in science matters, history matters, and competence matters. Sadly, this country has lost much as a result of eliminating those skills from the job.
President Bush should qualify as the worst U.S. president if for no other reason than the deception involved in his decision to go to war in Iraq and the incompetence displayed once involved. No amount of proselytizing about "spreading freedom around the world" will ever justify the individual pain caused or collective harm done to this country.
Add to that the overt indifference shown to returning veterans, the ineptitude in the Katrina debacle, a more than 70 percent increase in the national debt, the harm to the environment and his blatant narrow-mindedness to follow no counsel but his own (and Dick Cheney's) and it only reinforces the truth that he has been the most ineffectual president ever. A title does not make one a leader and he will rightfully be relegated to the "ash heap of history." Now decisions going forward will be based on intelligence, integrity and the nation's best interests.
Don Gibson, Pinellas Park
From now on, let us judge people on character
As the swearing-in of our next president approaches, I think back to Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial some 45 years ago. In that speech, he expressed hope that he would live to see the day in this country when his four children would be judged "not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
That day came on Nov. 4, when the American people, in a free election, chose President-elect Barack Obama to assume the highest office in the land.
Though King did not live to see that hope realized, he and all those who labored and sacrificed so much to see the hope come true can know that their efforts were not in vain.
I hope as we move forward that we can eliminate the term "black" and "African-American" to describe someone's achievement and focus instead on the content of their character that led to their success.
James A. Beier, Plant City
Once again we'll be a nation of laws | Jan. 11 Robyn Blumner column
Look forward, not back
In Robyn Blumner's column, she reports that Dawn Johnsen (President-elect Barack Obama's choice to head the Office of Legal Counsel) is going to call for a complete reckoning of the wrongs committed by President Bush.
I can't begin to tell you how tired I am of these reckonings. Every time there is a change of party in the presidency, there is a reckoning. Reckonings are for historians. And I'm sure that they are already on the job digging up every bit if dirt they can on the latest occupant of the White House.
In my opinion, all reckonings do is create more bitterness and division between the parties that must work together to govern this nation. They cost enormous sums of money, money that could be spent on much more productive pursuits. They suck up the nation's energy and attention, which could be used to help the average citizen.
If President-elect Obama truly wants a fresh start for this nation — if he truly wants to change government — he will dismiss this effort as not worthy of his administration. He will break the cycle and set a new standard. He, and we as a nation, will look forward and not backward.
Pamela Treme, Land O'Lakes
Harsh interrogations sometimes required Jan. 14
Torture has limits
Debra Saunders' column glides around the ugly secret known by interrogators for millennia: Torture and terror aren't much use in extracting useful information, but they are very useful in extracting usable confessions. Extracting confessions (and terrorizing people) was, after all, what the Gestapo, the Soviet NKVD, the Inquisition, and those men in the Tower of London were good at.
Solid police work involves comprehensive and repeated interviews, careful examination of forensic evidence, and organizing the information (which often points in different directions).
Solid intelligence involves getting multiple sources to check (often unsound) sources of information, organizing and sifting vast amounts of (often contradictory) data, and a lot of shoe leather.
Despite her fondness for TV shows like 24, Saunders should know that Jack Bauer-type shortcuts lead only to the sort of bad intelligence and bungled terrorism prosecutions that the Bush administration gave us during the last few years. Whatever Jack Bauer or James Bond or Batman may do, in real life there is no substitute for competent professionalism.
Gregory McColm, Temple Terrace
Harsh interrogations sometimes required Jan. 14
Realities can be harsh
To Debra Saunders' piece regarding "coercive" interrogation techniques, I can only add one word: Amen. I must also give credit to President-elect Barack Obama for both softening and distancing himself from the campaign rhetoric fueled by the clueless liberals at the New York Times who have consistently labeled all forms of interrogation tactics as "torture." (Waterboarding is debatable perhaps, but apparently effective in saving American lives. Cold temperatures, sleep deprivation, loud AC/DC music, are not even close.)
I can only surmise that since his election, Obama has received an eye-opening education from the daily briefings he has received from Homeland Security officials regarding ongoing terrorist activities aimed at killing innocent Americans.
I only wish that Jack Bauer could actually confront the equally clueless Democrats in the Senate who are now demanding an investigation into President Bush's post-9/11 national security decisions for possible criminal charges.
Perhaps agent Bauer could enlighten the president's misguided critics as to the harsh realities those in authority must deal with in the real world — a place those who run the New York Times apparently neither acknowledge nor choose to reside in.
Robert Heyman, St. Petersburg
Choice for Treasury failed to pay taxes Jan. 14, story
Getting away with it
The small article in the paper Wednesday about Timothy Geithner, the nominee for Treasury secretary and his delinquent taxes, reflects the obvious bias of government to the so-called "elite." If I had been audited and found to have omitted paying taxes on income, the case would not have been handled as slowly and inefficiently as was reported in the paper.
Regardless of whether his business manager or accountant was the person responsible for doing the paperwork, he was still responsible for checking the returns for accuracy.
To have to have others call this failure to his attention is ridiculous. How can someone who can't handle his personal finances be an effective leader and handle the U.S. Treasury?
Elizabeth Keith, St. Petersburg
This was no mistake
During the presidential campaign, Joe Biden lectured us that paying taxes is "our patriotic duty." Where does this put Timothy Geithner, Obama's choice for secretary of the treasury?
Please don't tell me that Geithner "made a mistake" in his failure to pay his taxes for four years. He received quarterly statements from his employer (the International Monetary Fund) indicating how much he owed. To make matters worse, the IMF sent a check to cover his tax bill in order to compensate.
From all information we have learned about this incident, Geithner didn't make an innocent mistake. He he rolled the dice that the IRS wouldn't find out and/or he would figure out later how to deal with this. Fraud is fraud, cheating is cheating.
Think of what would have happened if this had been a Republican in the Bush Cabinet! He or she would have been politically drawn and quartered. But Geithner gets a pass because he is Obama's guy.
Denise Browsky, Tarpon Springs