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    Letters to the Editors

    Americans are responsible for our candidates

    © St. Petersburg Times, published October 25, 2000

    Re: In presidential race, it's not so clear anymore, by Tim Nickens, and He has nobody but himself to blame, by Mary McGrory, Oct. 15.

    Americans are going to have to choose between two levels of mediocrity. How unfortunate, and what a disrespectful condition for a great country.

    But who is to blame? Not the candidates. They are what they are, and the American citizens put them in their present positions. I get tired of the analytical punditry sanctimoniously ripping apart the behavior of both candidates. These two men are our products. They represent what we expect of politicians -- duplicity with charm. Al Gore and George W. Bush met the criteria in varying degrees. They qualified by our standards and not theirs.

    Now here we are scapegoating them. We project on them our own deficits and feel self-satisfied. Isn't this a lousy way for the body politic to seek candidates to help guide a great nation?
    -- Hal Bronfin, Largo

    The specifics of government reduction

    Although I work in private industry I have been troubled by hearing numerous voters indicate that they are voting for George W. Bush because they want smaller, less expensive government. None of the people I've asked can identify exactly what part of our government is too large -- they just sort of think it's too big. So I'd like to ask: What programs would Bush supporters like to see abolished or reduced in size? The Centers for Disease Control? The FBI? The Department of Education? How about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration? The Federal Aviation Administration?

    Advanced societies require a lot of money and a lot of people to function. If you think you want drastically smaller government then it would seem prudent, even conservative, to be sure you know precisely what you're talking about. I'd suggest that before casting your vote for Bush and "smaller government" you make sure you have a concrete idea of what it is you believe should be eliminated or reduced. You also would be well advised to appreciate the full ramifications of that action. I wouldn't care to live in most of the nations that have small and ineffective governments. I suspect that most of the rest of our population wouldn't either.
    -- John Clay, Tallahassee

    Bush has the right vision

    What a clear distinction the debates have given us between the candidates. In Bush, we have a vision that glows with free enterprise, entrepreneurial capitalism, compared to the Gore darkness of government, central planning, socialism.

    In addition to their ideologies, one has to ask, "Who would I rather have on my living room TV every evening for the next four years?"
    -- Bill Hardy, Palm Harbor

    Manipulating the military

    Recently Vice President Al Gore was welcomed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars as one of their own. Did he serve in Vietnam? Yes, for 141 days, assigned to the Bien Hoa area in a relatively safe assignment, as a military journalist! A normal tour of duty in Vietnam was 12 months. Al Gore went to Vietnam to get his "ticket punched" for future "credits," which he now uses in commercials. He enlisted in the Army on Aug. 8, 1969, and arrived in Vietnam on Jan. 2, 1971. He received an early release from the Army and a ticket out of Vietnam on May 22, 1971, to attend divinity school. The "standard" enlistment period for the Army is three years.

    He quit Vanderbilt University Divinity School after only one year.

    This manipulation of our military system for the purpose of furthering careers infuriates this writer, as a career military officer, who served in Korea and two full tours flying helicopters in Vietnam.
    -- William H. Shaw, major, U.S. Army (retired), Palm City

    Offensive responses

    Re: Oct. 19 letters to the editor about Barbara Bush's phone calls and letters.

    So some people were offended that Barbara Bush intruded into their lives. Get a life! When I receive a call from a solicitor, I hang up as soon as I realize what the call is about.

    If you are offended by a telephone call, you can request to be put on a "do not call" list, and your number will be taken off the list. If you're offended by a letter, tear it up and throw it away, or complain to the post office or the letter writer.

    Instead those who wrote to the newspaper were offended that the Republican Party dared to intrude on their lives. They made it sound as though they've never received a solicitation call or campaign literature in their lives. How offensive!
    -- William H. Shaw Jr., Inverness

    Teach the subject, not the test

    I'm so glad that the candidates in the last debate were challenged to present their plans for education. I listened with great interest as Al Gore outlined a very specific and well-conceived plan. My jaw dropped as I realized how very little time George W. Bush seems to have spent thinking about the education of America's children.

    I am amazed that Bush is content to offer testing as the solution to America's education woes. As someone who was in high school during a time when standardized testing was starting to be implemented more and more in Florida's schools, I can tell you that testing does absolutely nothing to improve a student's education.

    What happens is that the schools become myopically obsessed with achieving higher scores, because there are incentives for schools with higher scores, e.g., better funding, notoriety, etc. So teachers are encouraged to teach the test, not the subject.

    These tests are a monumental waste of time for the smarter students, who could pass the HSCT in a coma. And the students who can't pass the test are left with an overwhelming sense of shame and frustration that may eventually lead them to drop out of school.

    These days high school students take more tests than I was required to take when I was in high school just three years ago. Eventually students won't learn English or math at all. They'll take classes called "Florida Writes! Preparation Skills" or "HSCT for Dummies."

    If Bush's solution to the education problem in America is more testing, he may need to take the HSCT a few more times.
    -- Aaron Swan, Sanford

    Voter guides helpful, non-partisan, legal

    Re: Reject voter guide, letter asks churches, Oct. 14.

    The Christian Coalition has unquestioned credibility with thousands of pastors and millions of voters around the United States and the world. We've earned that position of trust. Our voter guides are produced using the highest standards. Most important, they meet the educational needs of the people who use them.

    There are many liberal organizations like the Interfaith Alliance that regularly attack us without cause, most frequently around election time. They don't want people to see the true information that is revealed in our voter guides about candidates' positions. Since our adherence to the rules gives them no cause to attack us with the truth, they use half-truths and outright lies to try and frighten churches out of distributing the guides.

    Fortunately, the 10 years we have faithfully served have shown most pastors and churches that our voter guides are informative, non-partisan, legal and a great help to voters. That's why we'll distribute more than 3-million of them in Florida this year.

    If any pastor or congregation is having questions about these charges, please feel free to contact my office. We'll be happy to share the results of two federal court cases with you. These are cases in which other liberal organizations -- the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission -- were forced to acknowledge that our voter guides are non-partisan, perfectly legal for us and for you, and that we are entitled to tax-exempt status.

    Finally, we believe that most churches appreciate receiving our voter guides as an accurate reflection of the pro-family, pro-life positions of candidates.
    -- Terry Kemple, executive director, Christian Coalition of Florida, Longwood

    A right to distribute or object

    Re: Reject voter guide, letter asks churches, Oct. 14.

    I appreciate the right of the Interfaith Alliance and the Florida Council of Churches to express their opinion, because all citizens of the U.S. have a right to do so under the First Amendment, just as the Christian Coalition has the right to distribute non-partisan voter guides.

    It is also important that both the Christian Coalition and the Interfaith Alliance use only the truth in their letters and publications. The Christian Coalition does not suggest any candidate or party over another, and only uses the candidate's signed position statements on specific questions in their voter guides. Rev. Dale Stewart alleges otherwise, and while he has the right and opportunity to use or reject these guides in the church he pastors, his statement, "It is deceitful and a blatant violation of the trust that religious leaders often place in those who claim religious ties" is itself deceitful and misleading.

    The Florida Council of Churches should emphasize the responsibility of Christians to be informed voters instead of accusing the Christian Coalition of "politicking" when they themselves are guilty of using less than truthful statements to attack the conservative position of the Christian Coalition.
    -- Vance R. Lackore, Madeira Beach

    A gold medal for Tampa Bay in 2012

    The Olympics in Sydney was spectacular. The years of hard work, dedication, teamwork and desire paid off for the athletes and for the Sydney Olympic Committee that started planning 14 years in advance.

    We have the same goal in Tampa. It is called Florida 2012 and represents the city of Tampa's regional bid to become the U.S. Candidate City for the XXX Olympiad. It has already taken over three years' time, money, effort and leadership of John Sykes, Ed Turanchik and involved community leaders who are committed to this ambitious and attainable goal.

    With the involvement, help and support of leaders our bid effort will represent a unique partnership linking the Tampa Bay area and Orlando/Disney World to offer the largest and newest sports, business, convention and tourist infrastructures in the world.

    Florida 2012's goal is to help the Tampa Bay area receive at least $5-billion as a direct economic impact of hosting the XXX Olympiad and to create permanent sports facilities, youth development, urban re-development and an international trade and tourism legacy by hosting the Olympic Games. Florida 2012's regional bid is extremely competitive and was the overwhelming choice in a recent poll of Americans when asked which of the eight U.S. regions vying for the 2012 Olympic Games should host them.

    With support of everyone in Tampa Bay and with our hard work, teamwork and commitment to Florida and America, we will make history by winning the bid to host the Olympics in Florida in 2012. We invite readers of the Times to join us and come with us on this journey. Everyone will win. It will be a gold medal for Tampa Bay.
    -- Mark A. Sibley, M.D., vice chairman, Pinellas County, Florida 2012 Olympics, St. Petersburg

    Share your opinions

    Letters for publication should be addressed to Letters to the Editor, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. They can be sent by e-mail to or by fax to (727) 893-8675.

    They should be brief and must include the writer's name, address and phone number. Please include a handwritten signature when possible.

    Letters may be edited for clarity, taste and length. We regret that not all letters can be published.

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