Friday, December 26, 2008

Yes, Virginia, there will always be Christmas

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, December 19, 2008

Come on people; join in, let’s all sing along. “It’s beginning to look a lot like the Winter solstice…” Hmm…it just doesn’t have the same ring, does it?

As we trudge through the stores and malls during another Christmas season, we can be sure that we will hear all those old familiar tunes and a few new ones as once again memories of Christmases past mix with the images of Christmas present. We can also be certain that we will hear or read another news story about some controversial act by a school, store or municipality that has decided to alter the nomenclature of this holiday to represent a more politically correct (PC) stance. The tendency to refer to this season as The Holiday Season and to re-name Christmas Trees and Christmas pageants as either Holiday Trees and Winter Pageants reflects the attempt to not offend those in our society who do not believe in God and/or the birth, death and resurrection of His Son.

This act inevitably will result in a splurge of newspaper ink, TV time, and/or some Internet traffic as representatives from both sides of the issue voice their opinions and outrage. Some have gone as far as to describe this controversy in militaristic terms, claiming that there is an all-out war on Christmas and they call upon their disciples to mount campaigns against stores or businesses that wish people Happy Holidays instead of wishing them a Merry Christmas.

I am sorry, but I have never felt the gain or loss of my personal happiness or merriment depended upon a half-hearted salutation from a harried cashier nor have I ever decided to have a particular emotion because I spotted a window banner commanding that I have a Merry something or a Happy something. In other words, I am not about to boycott a business or mount a letter-writing effort. I feel that my energy is better spent upon other more worthwhile activities.

Now, to those who fear the above-mentioned PC attempts to soften the message of Christmas will soon lead to the demise and eventual evaporation of Christmas altogether, let me paraphrase that ancient reply from the editor who calmed the fears of a pre-adolescent girl who had doubts about the existence of Santa Claus: “Yes, Virginia, there will always be Christmas.” And, to those of you who are on the side of the secularists who have had just about enough of all this emphasis on the birth of Jesus Christ and somehow feel threatened by the reminder that God exists, let me assure you that I am not proposing a theocratic society.

I’ll explain. There has always been a concerted effort to extinguish the Christmas message, and there has never been a moment of “those good old days” when everyone shared a common belief about the birth of Jesus Christ. There will never be a golden moment in the future when we all agree about the person or deity of Christ. The reality is that we live in a secular – meaning a non-religious – society and despite my own personal faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior, and my belief in His Divine nature and my assurance of eternal life with Him in heaven, I do not want or need my faith, beliefs and assurances imposed upon others involuntarily. The whole beauty and efficacy of faith in Jesus is based upon the fact that it should be a personal choice of the heart, not a reaction to social pressure.

The facts of Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection have been documented and verified by both biblical and extra-biblical sources. Even if we do not know the exact dates of those events, we cannot dispute that He exists and that His life changed our planet forever. To assume that a person, a business or a whole society can somehow threaten the memory or celebration of Jesus Christ would be to admit that He is somehow less than what we, as Christians, claim He is. Likewise, to assume that by removing the mention of His name from the classrooms of our schools and the window displays of our businesses we will somehow shield some innocent, vulnerable child from some terribly offensive concept that might scar her/his tender psyche forever is also laughable.
In conclusion, I would wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year, but I think you can decide for yourselves how merry and happy you want to be. So I will instead leave you with a simple message. I am happy that I live here in this nation. I am glad that we are still free to recognize Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or the Winter Solstice or any other holiday that makes us feel like smiling and extending kindness toward others.

Yes, Virginia, there will always be Christmas!

The Spirit of Christmas

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, December 19, 2008

Every year around this time a spark is struck in a talk radio studio or on some set at Fox News or in someone’s e-mail inbox. It grows into a fire of outrage about how Christmas and all of Christianity is under attack by secularists, atheists and liberals. Every year this outrage is used as a springboard to unify a certain base of conservatism and propagate a fear among this base that there is always a concerted effort to extinguish the Christian message.

The fact that there is no organized front taking up this agenda matters little. This backlash of fury is by definition a political movement and not a religious one. Its purpose is to maintain a stark divide in social politics and sustain an environment that will continue to support partisan us-vs.-them warfare.

This same tactic is used to polarize the populace over other social issues. One of the most striking similarities between the Save Christmas campaign and other issues like marriage and patriotism is a blurred perception that accepts a false reality.

In order to mask the fact that opposition to same-sex marriage comes from a dark core of prejudice and hate, opponents tout the sacred and traditional definition of marriage (most often grounded in biblical precedence). The fact that there is no such commandment in the Bible defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman is immaterial. Hard core believers will point to the relationship between Adam and Eve and a few words spoken by Jesus about relationships as a definition of marriage. But “nontraditional” forms of marriage and marital relations abound in the Bible, ranging from polygamy to incest. And a religious tradition so fond of commandments that it committed to law such matters as dietary restrictions and parental obedience seems to have omitted marriage from its official rulebooks. It appears that society’s current emphasis on marriage’s holy nature is a recent phenomenon, and more about political expedience than traditional homage. Still the premise of marriages sanctity is accepted as indisputable fact by the majority, and remains the basis for a movement that seeks to limit the rights of a growing sector of Americans.

This blurring of reality and perception is often applied to efforts to assign patriotic prominence to one group while defining another as innately unpatriotic. Inevitably a vocal outcry will soon reemerge over the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. Listening to the debate, one would assume that Thomas Jefferson or another storied forefather of our great nation had a hand in penning this oath. Most forget that it wasn’t even written until the late 19th century or that the words “under God” didn’t appear in it until the second half of the 20th century. Still the Pledge is held by some in higher regard than the Constitution that is the basis for our laws.

Likewise, the fevered response over the perceived threat to Christmas is a symptom of a blurred sense of reality. Christmas, as it is celebrated today is not exactly a Christian holy day. Atheists and agnostics alike refer to the holiday as Christmas and celebrate it with as much vigor as do devout Christians. In fact, the timing of the Christmas season has more to do with the celebration of Winter Solstice than with any religious event (check Wikipedia,, or other such informational sources). While some speculate about the actual date, it is accepted fact that December 25 was not Jesus’ birthday. And few can deny that in our current commercialist climate, the focus is more intently on the Wii under the tree than the story of the Christ child.

That said, I must strongly assert that Christmas is not among my favorite holidays. Christmas IS my FAVORITE holiday. My brother’s argument that there will always be Christmas is valid because it is a special and powerful season. Despite the consumer frenzy that led to the recent trampling death of a Walmart worker even in the bleakest retail cycle in recent years; despite long lists to Santa for fickle fantasies that will be discarded within a week of Christmas morn; despite the season’s impending transformation into a Hallmark holiday like St. Valentine’s Day, there remains at the heart of Christmas a spirit of good will.

The spirit of Christmas compels us to drop a dollar in a bell ringer’s kettle. The spirit of Christmas helps to fund and supply food pantries throughout our community. The spirit of Christmas inspires our involvement in causes that transcend our usual narrow focus. This spirit of Christmas brings the smile to our faces and the “Merry Christmas” to our lips as we greet total strangers. In fact, the spirit of Christmas is part of what makes “Save Christmas” campaigns work.

The spirit of Christmas ensures that there will always be Christmas.

The Obama Cabinet and Transition

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, December 5, 2008

President Elect Barack Obama has wasted little time in getting the transition rolling as he prepares to succeed George W. Bush in the Oval Office. The current lame duck president is already shrinking into the background as Obama’s plans, strategies and proposed solutions are highlighted in the media as though he were already occupying the White House. Bush seems all too happy to assume the fading identity amid the struggling economy and the strife of foreign affairs. Wearied and concerned, the American public is poised and focused on the early moves in Obama’s game of chess, hoping the news will be good.

Not all the attention being paid is anticipation. Critics abound. Those on the progressive side scrutinize each pick looking for traces of the Bush administration’s policies. Those on the right overanalyze decisions looking for any nugget that might prove the hype surrounding Obama’s election campaign was undeserved.

The cabinet choice that has received the most attention at the start is probably Obama’s tapping of Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State. Many have questioned whether two warring camps in such a hotly contested primary race could reconcile to produce a working relationship. Some have pointed to differences in stances on the war in Iraq as obstacles to relations between the White House and the State Department. A few have spotlighted an election season faux pas, in which Clinton misrepresented a Bosnia excursion as proof that Clinton is ill-suited for the post. Still others claim that Bill Clinton has conflicts of interest or business partnerships that pose roadblocks to his wife’s confirmation. I am confident, however, that Hillary will survive the vetting process and will be an asset to Obama’s foreign policy team. In fact, a Secretary that does not share the president’s brain (similar to Colin Powell’s moderate resistance to Bush’s hawkish enthusiasm) will be a welcome contrast to the “yes man” role of Condoleezza Rice.

Also generating some concern among liberals was Obama’s decision to keep Defense Secretary Robert Gates on board in the new administration. A Bush pick, Gates sparks some fear of a continuation of failed policy in Iraq and Afghanistan, and heightens fears among some that an Iran invasion may be on the horizon. It also represents a contradiction to some that Obama preached change throughout his campaign and is now populating his cabinet with individuals who represent the old guard. But Gates’ selection represents an open-minded approach that is in keeping with his promise of Change. It stands in contrast to George W. Bush’s scorched earth transition, which sought to expunge any evidence of his predecessor’s regime. Gates also provides some stability NS continuity as adjustments are made to troop levels and missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I don’t agree with every pick I’ve seen so far. Janet Napolitano is a little hawkish for my taste as head of the Homeland Security Department. Support from Republicans like Senator John McCain and Senator Jon Kyl give me some pause. But her role as governor of a border state does give her a unique perspective on potential external threats. Unfortunately that role also gives her a hard-line approach to immigration that concerns me.

The most attention should be paid to Obama’s picks for positions that have a bearing on the economic crisis currently afflicting the U.S. Again, there have been criticisms from both sides on Obama’s choice of Timothy Geithner to succeed Henry Paulson as Treasury Secretary. I am unqualified to endorse or attack Geithner or his qualifications, but I will compliment the speed with which Obama has begun to stitch together his economic team. It is undeniable that the situation is dire and that due urgency is needed to build a task force that can begin to address the crisis on the new administration’s first day of service. While Obama has and will be criticized for dipping into Clinton’s toolbox, or trading change for old-school Washington politics as usual, the hope is that these tools are sharp and represent the intellectual horsepower needed to pull the country out of its current mess.

It should also be noted that Obama has mentioned Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Lincoln biography Team of Rivals, which examines the way that Lincoln filled some of his cabinet positions with his staunchest opponents. While the current announcements don’t present a mixed bag of candidates, the retention of Gates as Defense Secretary and transition team head John Podesta’s promise of “multiple Republicans” does give us hope that Obama will surround himself with dissenting voices as well as loyal advisors

Reality Television Meets Reality

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, December 5, 2008

The best example of an oxymoron is the genre of entertainment referred to as “Reality Television”. It seems, however, that many loyal viewers really buy into the idea that the cameras and the producers and the grip people running around do not alter reality. Perhaps they also believe that the reactions and emotions depicted on that tiny silver screen would be the same if the people involved were not being observed by the masses. I’m sorry to disappoint any of you who fall into the above category, but the truth is that most of what you view as “Reality” on TV is not reality. Sorry.

While I am in the mode of bursting bubbles, let me also inform you that much of what you heard during the 18 months of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign was not reality either. This is becoming more evident each day as the man who stands behind the bogus, concocted seal of “The Office of the President-Elect” disappoints his loyal supporters with his cabinet choices and broken promises. Just as the viewers of Big Brother, Survivor, Greatest Race and similar shows must sooner or later acknowledge that amateur actors are still actors after all, followers of Mr. Obama will soon realize that politicians are still politicians after all.

The recent appointments to Obama’s cabinet show little change – or at least very little change. What it does show is the harsh realities of leadership as opposed to the fantasies of campaigning. Promises to end the war in the first sixteen months of his administration have now been put on the shelf. As Obama met with President Bush, (who, by the way, stands behind the official Seal of the President for at least the next several weeks) I believe he was introduced to the very real need to finish the liberation of Iraq and to do it with the least amount of disruption as possible.

After shouting about the “failed policies” of Bush during the campaign, Obama now is quietly affirming the fact that perhaps the policy was not so flawed after all. The gains made by Bush and the coalition of like-minded nations by taking the fight against terrorism to those who sanctioned and supported terror was not a failure. It is to Obama’s credit that he has recognized the need to stay the course for now.

Obama’s former disciples from the extreme left have now become his harshest critics. The strident anti-war crowd may be feeling betrayed and dismayed by the appointment of Robert Gates to head the Defense Department and they may even be confused by Obama inviting former rival, Hilary Clinton to lead the State Department. However, they must, sooner or later, realize that harsh pragmatism must take precedence over hasty promises.

One of the most memorable commercials during the heated primary election was the one that pointed out Obama’s inexperience in foreign affairs. The suggestion that some future day, in the wee hours of the morning, the red phone will ring in the White House signaling some dire event on the world stage. It was suggested that a steady hand and an experienced mind must be able to take that call and make the hard decisions for the safety of the little girls and boys sleeping soundly in their beds. Obama will now have the option of having those calls forwarded directly to Hilary’s number.

As we look forward to the administration of the least experienced man to have ever been elected President of the United States, it is at least somewhat comforting to me that he has chosen men and women from former administrations to advise him.

I am encouraged that Obama has already reneged on some of his unrealistic campaign promises. However, I fear that he may soon feel compelled to throw some red meat to those growling critics on the left in the form of a renewed effort to enact the Freedom of Choice bill, which would establish abortion as the law of the land. He could also try to placate the labor unions that campaigned tirelessly for his election by initiating regulations and tax policies that would ultimately force more corporations to relocate overseas.

For now, I am willing to wait and see how Obama reacts to the many crises he will face when the podium he stands behind bears the true seal of the President of the United States of America. The recent attacks in Mumbai, India, and the renewed militaristic stature of Russia prove once again that the Real World is no place for amateurs. It is not enough just to act presidential. After his hand is raised and he takes that famous oath, he must be prepared to lead. And if Obama can’t make those hard decisions himself, he must listen to those who can. That is reality.

The Revival of Fairness Doctrine Could be the Snake that Bites Us All

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, November 21, 2008

There is an old Al Wilson song from the early seventies that was a favorite of mine. It tells the story of a “tender woman” that found “a poor half frozen snake”. She takes pity on the animal and the song tells of how she took him into her home, laid him by the fire and gave him honey and milk. After work she comes home to find him fully revived and healthy. As she snuggles him to her chest, he delivers not a word of thanks, but instead inflicts her with a fatal bite. As she lay dying, she asks him why he bit her and in his reply she realized her mistake. “Shut up, silly woman, you knew darn well I was a snake before you took me in.”

Among the whispers coming from Washington these days is the hint that there are many Democrats who think there is another “poor half frozen snake” that needs revival. This snake is the Fairness Doctrine that lived and slithered its way around every radio broadcast and media outlet from 1949 when it was instituted to “provide a reasonable opportunity for the presentation of contrasting viewpoints”. As with many legislative regulations, its original intent may have been grand and glorious, but as it matured it became an ever-present poisonous reptile, threatening the free expression of viewpoints.

The doctrine was initiated by the FCC based upon the idea that the airwaves were the property of all Americans and should not therefore be subject to the threat of a monopolistic commercial enterprise. Its intent was to ensure a fairness by mandating that if one viewpoint was expressed, effort should be made to allow the expression of a contrasting one. The result was not quite the one intended. Instead of going to the trouble of seeking out representatives from every available point of view, broadcasters chose to go the way of many municipalities that chose to close the public swimming pools and playgrounds rather than go to the expense of meeting every regulation demanded by legislators.

Broadcasters found it easier to shy away from all controversial issues and, in effect, squelched the voices of any who would address a subject deemed worthy of a fair response from a conflicting viewpoint.

Faced with the realization that talk radio has become the safe harbor for many on the right to speak, and for their listeners to get unfiltered and unfettered information, Nancy Pelosi and others on the left are looking back at that old snake with increased interest. Asked directly by an interviewer in June 2008 if she would personally support revival of the Fairness Doctrine, Speaker Pelosi responded: “Yes, without hesitation.” Chuck Schumer has also mentioned the need for its revival, even going as far as suggesting that talk radio is not much different from pornography.

So, why should we be concerned if the government steps into the broadcast booths of our radio stations and begins to monitor the content of talk radio? Wouldn’t it be a much better world if an agency such as the FCC could filter and regulate what is said on the air? After all, so much of the talk radio medium is currently dominated by conservative voices and if the government doesn’t step in, the liberal/progressive voices will be forced to the cable news networks and the pages of the struggling New York Times and LA Times.

Today we have more than the three major TV networks as our source of information. There is no fear of monopolization any longer. We have over 2000 AM radio stations broadcasting various talk shows, we have countless web blogs in operation and more being added by the second. Information has never been easier to access.

Like the lyrics of the song remind us, snakes are not easily tamed. If we allow the Democrats to revive this snake, its bite may soon reach to other mediums as well. In fact, a recent article on dated August 13, 2008 mentioned that the newly proposed Fairness Doctrine (although it will most likely be called by a different name) will also extend its fangs into the Internet. By claiming that they are trying to achieve fairness and “net neutrality” they will soon wrap their scaly body around every form of speech.

Our forefathers were prescient in their determination that the protection of free speech is essential for the preservation of all the other freedoms. We cannot tell the person standing on the street corner that he cannot voice an opinion without finding a person with a contrasting opinion to stand next to him and voice the opposite view and we should not place that burden on radio programmers or Internet bloggers.

Let freedom rin

Much Ado About Nothing

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, November 21, 2008

As my brother’s column illustrates, there has been buzz gathering over a potential revival of the long-dead FCC Fairness Doctrine. The concern is that media voices from one side of the political spectrum would need to have a balanced reflection from the opposing side.

Now that the Democrats are securing even more power in the House and Senate, and now that we are on the threshold of a Democratic presidential administration, talk of bringing back the FCC rule is growing louder.

The interesting fact is that almost all of the talk is coming from right-wing bloggers, pundits and talk radio personalities. Few on the left have done more than briefly give the Fairness Doctrine lip service, and to my knowledge, no one has seriously mentioned instituting a like policy when the FCC dynamic changes under President-Elect Obama. In fact, the June 2008 report Gordon mentioned in his column was the result of carefully worded questioning by conservative blogger John Gizzi to illicit a specific response from Speaker Pelosi.

So, from where does the idea that the Fairness Doctrine is a top liberal priority come? To answer that question, it helps to examine the voices shouting the loudest about its threats to free speech. Newt Gingrich, who is skilled at focusing the political narrative to favor the conservative agenda, has spoken recently of the doctrine and a potential “attack” against media personalities like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh. With Rush driving the story, word spread like wildfire through talk radio and in sites on the right side of the blogosphere. A conspiracy is born.

Why would the right want to generate fervor about the Fairness Doctrine? Well, as Rush did in 1993 when rumors were circulating about a revival, the right seeks to use this “threat” to mobilize the base and maintain ideological divides.

The fact is that talk radio finds itself in territory that it hasn’t visited for eight years. It represents the voice of opposition. After preaching during the Bush administration that the test of patriotism is the defense and support of the sitting president and his policies, it must now attack the principles and values of the sitting president and do it without sounding like it is guilty of “blaming America first.” Inspiring fear among loyal listeners that government intervention threatens their favorite icons lays the groundwork for opposition against the Democrats in power. This animosity is key to future advancement of conservative agendas and any shift in power two or four years down the road.

While there has been some talk of conciliatory transitions, the Republicans and the right seem to have little interest in bridging any political gaps. One need only look at the names rising to the top as Republican Party leaders met recently to lick the wounds and regroup. Among the hopefuls for Republican nomination in 2012 are superstar Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich himself. If George W. Bush is seen as a great divider, he is small potatoes compared to these two professional partisans.

Also, there is little political will to reign in the media. Even those who would support some government intervention don’t believe in its viability. Most legislators who would endorse a new Fairness Doctrine admit there are many far more pressing matters and higher priorities to be addressed. Taking up this banner – even with control over the presidency and both houses of Congress – would be political suicide. There are just two many dire challenges to address.

I certainly oppose censorship and don’t believe that the state has any business making broad strokes toward controlling information. That said, I do think that the media has an obligation to inform. I think they also must take care not to blur the lines of objectivity. When listeners tune to Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly they usually expect a conservative viewpoint, just as those who tune to Rachel Maddow or Amy Goodman expect a liberal view. However, it is not always easy to discern news from editorial, and some outlets choose to make the difference harder to distinguish. When I watch Fox News, I expect the right’s talking points to be the thrust of the coverage. I wonder, though, if there are viewers who take its tagline of “Fair and Balanced” as a pledge. I understand that it is a case of “buyer beware” but we do have rules that require truth in advertising. Is truth in information any less vital to our citizenry?

In any case, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the United States have little to fear from the FCC during Obama’s watch. Censorship is not at hand. Free speech will remain free.

Challenges facing the next President

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, November 7, 2008

Many of our readers may not be aware that time constraints and the rigors of newspaper production demand that most articles and columns be submitted to the Broader View Weekly well before each issue finds its way to the newsstand. That and the fact that our effective “press time” is several hours before anyone confidently called the results of this past Tuesday’s election leaves BVW staff and writers in an unfortunate position. We can choose to ignore the elephant in the room (the topic on the lips of most our readers even days after the victory celebrations and concession speeches); we could make predictions (a dangerous proposition regardless of how conclusive any spread in early opinion polls might appear); or we can accept our lot and offer commentary on the challenges our new president will inherit in January 2009.

One thing that is certain even before November 4, is that the president elect will inherit great challenges in both domestic and foreign policy arenas. Economic declines indicate that by almost any standard, the U.S. is in the midst of a recession. The ranks of poverty are growing as the ranks of the middle class are shrinking. Unemployment is on the rise, as are the costs of healthcare and higher education. Abroad, policies of preemptive aggression and unethical interrogation techniques have endangered our reputation and moral standing in the world. The war in Iraq continues to claim American lives. The Taliban is regaining strength in Afghanistan. North Korea and Iran are flirting with nuclear arms.

Change has become a buzzword during the past election season but a change in direction is needed.

The next president needs to look at the troubled economy through the clear lens of future idealism, not through the clouds of past ideology. The saying may go “capital is king” but in our current economic culture capitalism is king. We are so indoctrinated into equating capitalism with democracy that we have clung to a self-destructive mechanism that is collapsing upon itself. We are clinging to a philosophy based on terminology that no longer has meaning but which has dramatic sociological impact. It is preventing us from fixing a broken economic system.

We need to reevaluate our economic model. If we are to apply principles of personal responsibility we must hold those at the top of Corporate America as accountable as we hold those at the bottom rung on the economic ladder. We have to stop catering to those who have much, while treating those who have little as parasites – especially when many below the poverty line are working hard to build a better life and fulfill the promise of the American dream.

We need to be candid about that dream. Instead, most often, we sell big lies to those who can least afford to believe them. The big one is the Horatio Alger lie that hard work will bring prosperity. Unless we can come through with the rewards for hard work – the preservation of healthcare benefits, reliable jobs and the promise of retirement income – an economy built on the backs of hard workers will crumble.

Another lie is that of “trickle down” economics. One need only look at the way the dollars poured into the financial market (through the Bush administration’s bailout package) are being spent. We already see banks using that money to buy up other banks and pay executive bonuses, while credit remains frozen. Prosperity at the top does not improve the economic situation for those at the bottom, no matter how actively politicians proclaim it so.

Change is needed in foreign policy as well. We have lost the moral authority we once claimed. The U.S. cannot condemn Russia for its aggression on Georgia, while our doctrine and policy is to strike sovereign nations before they become a threat.

Nationalism has become a stumbling block in U.S. foreign policy. It has allowed us to perpetrate acts of violence that betray our proclaimed principles. And we as American citizens have accepted the ideology that security is only a matter of military might. Again, terminology has bound us as we equate diplomacy with weakness and discard it in favor of military action. We should exchange nationalism for patriotism and let our love of country drive us to do great things, instead of commit atrocities.

There is hope that we can once again earn the respect deserving a superpower. But it will require a change of direction. Challenges lie ahead, but whomever is at the helm must steer us away from the perilous course of the past 8 years.

Challenges facing the next President

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, November 7, 2008

While I do not know whose name will be called on Inauguration Day 2009, or whose hand will be raised to make that solemn oath, I do know some of the heavy challenges that await him behind the doors of the Oval Office. Based upon the knowledge of the latter, I hereby offer my suggestions to the next President of these United States.

Each leap year brings an extra day in the month of February and another hotly contested and divisive presidential election, therefore, the final days of each election cycle also bring to the victor the first heavy challenge of re-uniting our nation. One of the great virtues of our American society is its ability to flex. As certain alloys allow steel to be strengthened by adding a measured amount of resiliency, so too does our diverse mixture of cultures and values add strength and tenacity to our republic.

The next president must appeal to the unifying issues. There has always been, and always will be, many things that separate us into various camps and associations. The current campaigns have illustrated quite vividly that differences exist. Different views about the role of government in our daily lives, different views about the role of the United States in foreign nations, different views about the future sources of energy; have all been shouted from podiums, pasted on bumpers, whispered from websites and argued in debates. Now is the time to initiate the proper process for resolving these many issues through the legislative channels prescribed by our founders. The next president must possess the maturity and wisdom to reach across the aisle and include the voices of his most vocal opponents in the decision-making process. He must also directly address and condemn those who misuse the freedom of speech to spread falsehoods.

Another major challenge facing the next president is the preparation for and the prevention of future terrorist attacks. We have been blessed with the leadership of President George Bush during these past seven years, since that fateful day in September when our sense of safety was forever changed. We need our next president to carry on with the same vigorous defense of our nation. He must continue to use whatever means are at his disposal to intercept the plans of the terrorists and to continue the hard work of diplomacy that has brought us within sight of an independent democratic state in Iraq. He must continue to fund and support the efforts of our military and Intelligence Agencies as they work to weaken Al Qaeda and their cohorts.

The next president must also surround himself with courageous advisors who will be willing and able to give him sound advice rather than just nodding in agreement or – even worse – advising according to the wishes of the highest bidding lobbyist. There is truth in the Biblical adage: “… in the multitude of counselors, there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14 KJV) Many mistakes have been made in the past when advice and sound counsel has been ignored, however, the next Commander-in-Chief DOES have to eventually command and he will be sitting behind that grand desk when the buck finally stops, so he needs a double dose of discretion and judgment.

The current economic troubles will undoubtedly be just as current in January 2009, therefore our next leader must spend the few weeks in the interim determining the necessary from the unnecessary in his spending proposals. In other words, he should be able to “man up” and tell his loyal supporters that perhaps he was too free with his promises and that reality sometimes bites – and bites hard. Neither of these candidates can deliver on the grandiose plans they have proclaimed in this campaign, and they know it. I, for one, would appreciate honesty and straightforwardness above the “tickling of my ears” with sweet promises that aren’t attainable in this present economy.

A hard look at the budget as a real, solid object rather than a fluid, amorphous gel that can be stretched and twisted to accommodate every crisis is very necessary for our next leader. Numbers that end in “illion” are still real numbers and they represent real dollars. That is real TAX dollars that come from real Americans working real jobs with real families and real bills that really have to be paid. The government should be as accountable to its creditors (us – and well, I guess, the Chinese and us) as American families are to theirs.

In conclusion, I may or may not have my choice in the White House in January 2009. I may not agree with the new leaders or their decisions in the coming years. However, I still believe that this nation will survive the next four years as it has for the past 232 years – with differences and conflicts hidden beneath the uniting colors of our red, white and blue banner. Long may she wave!