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    Letters to the Editors

    When voting, think about role of government

    © St. Petersburg Times, published October 14, 2000


    Will you be happy when Nov. 7 ends all the rhetoric, name-calling and promises of candidates for political offices at all levels?

    Here's something to think about between now and then: "Just what is the role of government?"

    We used to say that governments existed for the purpose of doing for us what we absolutely could not do for ourselves, providing such things as highways, a postal system, military and police protection, etc. In the last half-century or so, we added Social Security and Medicare, which some people still question.

    More recently, very personal things have been added -- things like feeding our children, saying where, when and how we can pray, etc. We are becoming more and more socialistic with each passing day.

    Several years ago, a young friend ran for public office in one of our northern states. I asked him, "What is the role of government, and what will you do for me if elected?" He replied: "I will spend your money and make you feel like I have done you a favor." I appreciated his honesty!

    Look at your candidate. Is he/she for more control of your life? Or does he/she favor giving more of your life back to you?

    It's a valid question: "Just what is the role of government?"
    -- Arnold E. Kromphardt, New Port Richey

    Government and the people not separate

    I have been listening to George W. Bush's rhetoric in his stump speeches and now his commercials, and I am growing disappointed with his choice of the oft repeated phrase, "He trusts government; I trust the people." I certainly trust my elected representatives to guard our public interest more than I trust the heads of big corporations like Firestone.

    I had the pleasure of listening to a guest lecture at an Eckerd College class a few years ago by retired congressman Durward G. Hall, R-Mo., a distinguished member of our local community. He was discussing the recent public mood of hostility toward government. He went on to differentiate between a statesman and a politician. Has it become somehow wrong in our society to wish, at the cost of personal sacrifice, to devote one's life to public service? I, for one, regret the disappearance of our representatives devoted to innovative ideas and to bipartisanship, such as retiring Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York. We should all welcome the return of the noble notion of public service to our discourse, as vice presidential candidate Joseph I. Lieberman addresses in his book released earlier this year.

    Our elected government representatives are not separate, abstract entities from us. They are "the people" -- and some of our best and hardest-working ones. A Republican and an infinitely greater man than George W. Bush recognized this when he chose to tell the American public of a "government of the people, by the people, for the people." I share Abraham Lincoln's hope and faith that it "shall not perish from the Earth."
    -- Adam I. Orenstein, Clearwater

    Bush displays limited abilities

    George W. Bush displays his full abilities each time he has a chance to speak. Bush reveals in his responses his very narrow frame of reference. He is able to come close on the mechanics of an issue but is unable to grasp the big picture. Clearly, Bush has crammed for his pop quizzes. He often is observed consulting his crib sheets for a few specifics to pump up his very general answers, a sophomoric tactic well known to any kid trying to earn a passing grade without disrupting his schedule of extracurricular activities.

    Benefiting greatly from purposefully lowered performance expectations from media pundits, Bush has been lauded as looking and acting presidential. This is propaganda pure and simple. Intelligent and independent thinkers are able to see for themselves and believe what it is they see. What people see then is that George W. Bush is, at best, well suited for selling automobiles while wearing a plaid jacket.

    Vice President Al Gore, however, has a truly expansive perspective on the issues. Gore is able to consider the myriad intimate and not-so-intimate details that may affect any decision he may be required to make as president, as well as the potential outcomes associated with these decisions. Can we say global perspective?

    Fundamentally, then, Gore has a perspective incorporating vision for the future. This vision considers the vast and increasingly rapid technological and social changes occurring not only in this country, but throughout the world, and their collective impact on the citizens of this country. Gore's Republican opponent has not the experience, interest or intellect to even begin to consider these issues. I hope Americans are not as detached and ignorant of the real issues at play here as they appear.
    -- John T. Russell, Dade City

    The logic of being pro-business

    Re: Democrats favor middle class, letter, Oct. 11.

    The letter writer states, "It is a well known fact that the Democrats have always been concerned with the welfare of all Americans, and the Republicans are concerned with big business."

    Wrong! Democrats have always been concerned with Democrats and maintaining power in government. They will support anyone as long as it helps them achieve that goal. Republicans are pro-business because they know that business drives this great economy and is responsible for the prosperity that most of us enjoy.

    I am neither rich nor a business owner, but I am voting for the man I know will provide the best plans and policies for this country. And that man is George W. Bush.
    -- David Manning, Dunedin

    Support for Gore built on bias

    Re: The Oct. 11 paid political advertisement: "Under the George W. Bush Tax Plan, the Rich Get Richer. Eight Nobel Laureates and Over 300 Economists Agree: The Bush Plan is Bad for America's Working Families."

    The advertisement causes me greater concern for the well-being of our institutions of higher learning in America than it does for anything in regard to the presidential race.

    The ad is fraught with fallacious reasoning. It does this by ignoring the fact that most Americans are relatively rich. The ad appeals to the basest of human motives: envy, an approach to living that all Americans should avoid, especially those American educators in positions of powerful influence over the young minds of the future.

    The ad ignores the fact that the Bush plan cuts taxes for every economic class of individuals. The ad implies that middle-class families will suffer as a result of Bush's proposed tax cuts. In praising Al Gore's proposed middle-class targeted tax cuts, the ad makes no mention of those same promises made by the Clinton-Gore administration over the last eight years and never kept.

    The educators' endorsement of the ad suggests to me a refusal to look at all the facts and a willingness to adopt generalizations based on preconceived templates of political ideology: a position most unworthy of scholars worth their salt. Their position does not do credit to the great institutions they represent and should give Americans pause before they decide which university to attend.

    The style of the ad itself can be misleading as it is qualified only with the small print stating "paid political advertisement." I am reminded of a similar "paid advertisement" that was headlined "New Cars: $100." Readers must read carefully to determine whether the piece in the newspaper is advertising, commentary or news.

    In regard to the best candidate for president of the United States, I will place my trust in the wisdom and knowledge of the American people.
    -- Kevin D. Murray, professor of applied ethics, St. Petersburg Junior College, Tampa

    When nation building was real

    Re: Bush/Gore debates.

    Al Gore defends the administration's current policy of "nation-building" by comparing it to the vast and successful infusion of economic aid into Europe right after World War II. This is like comparing apples to pomegranates. Both presidential candidates were not adults during this era, so this probably accounts for Gore's silly comparison and Bush's probable discomfort with setting himself up as an expert on Gen. George Marshall's European Recovery Program. (The so-called Marshall Plan for which George Marshall was awarded the 1953 Nobel Peace prize.)

    The comparison makes no sense because we and our allies had occupational troops on the ground in Europe. This is hardly the case now. We had just beaten the Axis powers, and Europe was in ruins. The same situation existed in Japan. The United States even had Army military government units in place in Europe and Japan since there was no effective democratic civilian government. (Talk about "nation-building.") The Allies could hardly release all those prisoners of war into countries that were in ruins, with war criminals ready to take over again -- and then walk away from this mess.

    Those were different times. Occupying enemy territory is quite different from being global police officers in countries where we have not been invited and with which we are not at war.
    -- John Reiniers, Hernando Beach

    Bush is like a used-car salesman

    Re: Round 2: Friendly start, foreign policy, Oct. 12.

    While Al Gore and George W. Bush have a definite difference in their approach on many key issues, they also differ quite noticeably in their public presentation. While Gore explains his views using examples in an articulate manner, Bush's speech and mannerisms are very jumpy. He does not cite examples as Gore does to clarify his statements.

    At times, Bush speaks much too quickly and I find it difficult to understand what he has said. His rapid dialect leaves me with the impression that he is trying to hide something and in doing so, he tends to remind me of a fast-talking used-car salesman.
    -- JoAnn Lee Frank, Clearwater

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