Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Searching for a president


By DICK DORWORTH

During the seemingly interminable lead-up to the actual presidential election next November, there is certainly ample opportunity to take the measure of each of a plethora of candidates. Those of us who believe that the current president and vice president are the worst in America's history and who in a just world would first be impeached and then tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity are prone to say things like "anyone will be better than what we have."

Yes, but be careful what you wish for. That sort of thinking shouldn't skip over the history of unpopular presidents and the public's scorn that long ago got rid of Lyndon Johnson and ushered in Richard Nixon, or the tongue-in-cheek maxim that George W. Bush has made us yearn for the good old days of Richard Nixon. Few dinner conversations go by these days without the subject of the next president taking center stage. And for good reason. The next presidency may be the last chance to ever salvage what remains of the American dream, or at least fantasy. I keep searching for candidates who will address issues with the same verve that they use to attack opponents and expound on their own good qualities. I'm more interested in what a candidate is thinking of doing with a presidency than in what he or she thinks of him- or herself and the opponents.

The current crop of candidates keeps stumbling all over themselves and each other to establish in the public mind the private matter of their religious credentials and relationship with a higher power. That's nice, and everybody certainly should take care of their own, private spiritual needs, but I keep searching for a candidate who is adamant about the separation of church and state and who answers to, listens to and works for the people who elected him or her, not to his or her concept of a higher power. The theocratic governments of the world are not role models that the United States wants to emulate, to say the least. In a secular society and system of government like ours, the president works not for the dominant religious faith or belief system but for the people.

And the people have made it abundantly clear they want the United States to get out of Iraq—now. Not in a hundred years. Now. I keep searching for a candidate who will say unequivocally something like, "The U.S. does not belong in Iraq and never did and went there on the basis of a presidential lie, and I will end the American presence in Iraq and bring the military and its entire baggage home—now." The money and lives that have been wasted in Iraq and are continuing to be wasted as you read these words have done more to destroy America's economy, prestige, goodwill and moral standing in the world than anything in history, and stopping the hemorrhaging of blood and money into the bottomless pit of the Iraq war would, among other things, do far more to help America's economy than, say, a George Bush stimulus package to help out an economy that was doing OK before he steered into that bottomless pit.

I keep searching for a straight-talking candidate with the courage to talk about and deal with the 800-pound gorilla in the living room of American politics, the corruption that finances all political campaigns. Without campaign finance reform, American government will continue to be, as it is now, in the pocket of special interests, not in the hands of the people. No candidate is talking about what the real price tag will be of the contributions to their campaigns, but those "contributions" are not without strings and it is both naïve and cynical of both the public and the candidates to pretend otherwise. Corruption is insidious and like cancer it tends to grow and spread throughout its host. Abramoff was not an aberration.

And then there is the 8,000,000-pound global warming gorilla heating up the living room of the world that American politicians in general and presidential candidates in particular appear to view as something to take care of by trading a few carbon credits. I keep searching for a candidate with the candor to point out the obvious—that global warming and its currently unknowable but catastrophic consequences are linked to and will exacerbate every problem and issue facing the world: war, war profiteering and the business of armaments, famine, drought, flood, pestilence, economic collapse, environmental degradation, immigration, pollution, clean water and air, sanitation and ... on and on.

Of course, there is the "issue" of the 8,000,000,000-pound gorilla of human overpopulation in the literal living room of Earth and gaining weight every day. I keep searching for a candidate who will even acknowledge the 8,000,000,000-pound gorilla. It is probably just another American dream to fantasize that a presidential candidate would have the right stuff to actually address such a weighty issue, but I keep searching.

Each of these issues is connected to the others and to every other issue and problem facing America, humanity, the Earth itself. Each of them is of far more significance to the health of the world than whether a candidate ever inhaled, changed an opinion or position, regularly attends a church, speaks unkindly or even unfairly of an opponent, has endured adversity and hard times, masters the sound bite, looks good on TV, has enough experience, has too much experience and too much ambition, is patriotic enough or even if their election will strike a blow against gender and/or race discrimination.




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