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Americans must agree to cure for country's ills

Published Oct. 12, 2005

Historically, when a physician came into the house, the ill person began to feel better. Here was the solution. The doctor would cure whatever was wrong. Americans are seeking the doctor. It probably is the reason for the flare of hope that Ross Perot engendered across the nation. Here was the white knight who couldn't possibly want the presidency for personal gain. Perot is trying to insist that there is to be a definition of issues.

Where is the doctor we need? We are very ill. We have just returned from a house exchange with a couple in England. England is ill. Our dollar bought half as much here, and gasoline was around $4 a gallon. We are kidding ourselves if we don't face the fact that we need to place a tax on gasoline to improve our roads, rebuild bridges and increase participation in public transportation. That would provide jobs that pay a living wage. It would provide a taxable income and start the necessary cycle to bring us out of this recession. We are kidding ourselves that welfare doesn't need reform. We are kidding ourselves if we do not accept that it will take enormous sacrifice on all our parts to undo what we allowed to happen the past 12 years. We need a president to say with honesty: I am going to insist that you listen to what is happening to this wonderful nation.

When George Washington refused to be considered for a third term, he set a pattern that was broken only once and that by Franklin Roosevelt. It was his fourth re-election that fostered the constitutional amendment to limit presidents to two terms. Since then, we have had few presidents who could even make it to the second term. And these second terms have not been very successful.

It might be very refreshing to have a candidate appear who would say, "I'm not going to seek re-election. I am offering myself to do what needs to be done in the nation today." We have placed our nation in a perilous situation by shutting our ears to the bitter truths that now confront us.

When one talks about values, I have to talk about honesty. Probably the most honest thing said this year by President Bush is that he will do everything necessary to win the election. George Bush in his speech accepting his party's nomination said, "Forty-four years ago in another age of uncertainty, a different president embarked on a similar mission. His name was Harry S. Truman. And as he stood before his party to accept their nomination, Harry Truman knew the freedom I know this evening, the freedom to talk about what is right for America and let the chips fall where they may." Truman was paraphrasing President Roosevelt and gave him credit that Bush did not mention. Nevertheless, if the chips are to fall where they may, we need to know how we can reconcile the enormous increase in White House support staff in light of his promise to decrease the size of government. If the chips are to fall, how can we equate Bush's statements that he was not "in the loop" on the Iran-Contra affair when George Shultz places him squarely at the Jan. 7, 1986, meeting? Or the strange manna from the sky that is dropping on Texas as the president changes his pledge to China and sells planes to Taiwan, on the Dakotas for wheat subsidies, on Homestead Air Force Base even though it is targeted for closure.

In 1640, Charles I of England revived old laws that offended all the propertied classes who had never before been realistically taxed. It must give pause to all who came later as Charles I paid with his head. I'm glad that President Bush relented a bit on taxes in his term, but where was his leadership in getting something done with the money? One-item veto may be a good idea no matter who wins the election. However, the record of vetoes that President Bush has does him no honor. He needed to show leadership and learn to work with Congress, which is also a group that needs to have the chips fall where they may.

Gov. Clinton comes in for his own problems with honesty. There are few of us who don't have cousins, brothers, sons or husbands who did not feel that the war in Vietnam was a mistake. We simply can't blame either Vice President Quayle or Gov. Clinton for trying to avoid this travesty. Both of them join hundreds of others. If we are going to dwell on this issue, we will lose many future able politicians. The only sure way will be to nominate a woman.

Let's show our leaders that we are big kids now and can swallow bitter medicine. Let's not reward the failures of the past 12 years by a blanket endorsement.

Jan Nussbaum is a retired English teacher, writer and poet.