Citizen-Times, 1/2006

[My shopping list for 2008 election.  Note highlighted sentence]

Headline: The 2008 elections are rushing toward us, a time for national rebirth

 I count only 1,000 shopping days to the 2008 presidential election — not much time, considering what’s at stake. In 2000 and again in 2004 our two parties gave us two bad choices.  Clearly, the media-hyped primary system doesn’t work, so it’ll be up to us grassrooters to get it right next time.  Here’s my two cents worth.

 But first, if the only thing that matters to you in choosing a president is what your pastor says, we’ll pause here and let you get off.   This is for people who realize that national oblivion waits beyond the 2008 election if America makes another bad choice.

 What I’m looking for, bottom line, is another Harry Truman, with or without the fedora.

 Truman had deep beliefs, but he isn’t rated “great” because of his stances on issues. He’s great because, again and again, he met the challenges of his day.  He was more than just “pro-defense”:  he initiated “containment” of Communism, founded NATO and stopped the invasion of Korea.  He was pro-civil rights as early as his 1940 senate campaign in racist Missouri, but he’s called a great president because he dared to integrate the military.  He carried out the Berlin airlift against all odds.  Truman was a man for his time…and for ours.

 That’s the first thing I’m looking for in a candidate for 2008: someone committed to solving the country’s problems, even if the solutions aren’t popular.  These are desperate times for America.  Everything with George Bush has been Republican politics.  He’s pushed problems off to the future.  In 2008 the future will be us.  

 I’m looking for somebody strong enough to bring about energy independence when American drivers want gas guzzlers and big oil roars back with lobbyists and televisions commercials. Somebody strong enough to chop spending, including defense, and realign priorities.  Somebody strong enough to instill patriotism in corporate boardrooms.  Somebody strong enough to cut government waste, veto pork, raise taxes if necessary to achieve economic stability.

 Second, I’m looking for knowledge. I didn’t say “intellectual.”  I want someone intelligent, yes, but mostly someone committed to understanding the fine print of government.  Truman became expert on every issue before him.  David Lilienthal said he preferred working for Truman over Franklin Roosevelt because, “I got answers from Truman.”  He understood the core issues.  His decisions were sound.

 Third, I’m looking for someone who’s real. I’m weary with presidential image, manipulation of voter perceptions, half-truths and bull.  I want an honest person, not a phony-baloney p.r. man like we have now.  A democracy ceases to work when the government spins its people into bamboozlement. 

 Fourth, I’m looking for a bridge-builder, somebody who can work across party lines and national interests. 

 Fifth, I’d like someone who will lead us back to the national morality that the Founding Fathers assumed would be our character forever. I want a true leader – a gathering place for other good people, regardless of party, who love their country and want to see it returned to former glory.

 So who’s out there like this?   A few personal observations.  Russ Feingold and Mark Warner seem to be tough men of principle.   I think Hillary Clinton would make a great president – she’s tough, she’s a renowned bridge-builder and she understands – but she’d also make a fat target in the general election for the Swift-Boat smear-mongers.  John McCain is a puzzling hybrid:  part bulldog, part toy poodle.  I wish Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm hadn’t been born in Canada.  I wish Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel were a Democrat.  Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina fits many of my criteria and might be a great candidate someday.  John Edwards?  He’s got to show me more grit and less grin. 

 We have no meaningful primary in North Carolina.  So we who care will have to be creative – writing letters to Iowa and New Hampshire newspapers urging voters to get off hot-button bandwagons, hounding our state party chainmen, even writing to candidates urging principle over position.  I hope others will draft their presidential criteria and try to tilt the primary system.

 I’m also going to plant the idea of a one-term presidency. Reelection doth make cowards of them all.   

 OK, I’m naïve. But I also love my grandchildren.