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Dan Hall: A plea for sanity in this year’s election campaign

Dan Hall

Dear Sens. McCain and Obama:

When it became obvious last spring that you would be the nominees for president in November, I was delighted. I thought the two of you were your parties’ best choices to undo the corrupt, hyper-partisan style of governing we have seen in the White House over the past eight years.

From spring into mid-summer, I was excited about both of you. I switched back and forth several times as to whom I would vote for.

Then came a global financial tsunami, and instead of showing leadership, you turned to the same the small-minded, opportunistic political machinations that you earlier had decried.

In last week’s debate, a 78-year-old woman asked this question:

“Since World War II, we have never been asked to sacrifice anything to help our country, except the blood of our heroic men and women. As president, what sacrifices will you ask every American to make to help restore the American dream and to get out of the economic morass that we’re now in?”

You, Sen. Obama, suggested that families do more to save energy. You, Sen. McCain, suggested that Congress spend less on pork.

Neither of you is speaking honestly about the choices we face. Moreover, your campaigns have turned into a race for the bottom, propelled by deceitful, sometimes even demagogic attempts by one to attack the character of the other.

Both of you are mired in pre-meltdown mindsets. You point fingers of blame while you glue yourselves to the same competing proposals on tax cuts, health care, and issues such as development of alternative energy that you began with two years ago.

Neither of you has offered any suggestion of where you would find revenue to pare down the federal deficit, which is now more than double what was expected last January. That does not include the additional $700 billion that Congress borrowed to pay for the Wall Street rescue.

Charles Gibson asked you directly, during the first debate, which of your campaign promises you would be willing to delay. Both of you dodged the question. The next president is going to have to make some tough choices, just as families all across America are doing right now.

It is easy enough for most to tighten their belts on spending for such items as a new television or a family vacation — “pork,” in government parlance. Other choices are not so easy.

Consider, for example, a family’s “Department of Education.” Should they send their daughter or son to the university they had planned on next year, or should they choose a less expensive community college?

How about their “Department of Transportation?” Well, one of their cars has just about reached the end of the road. They may have no choice but to spend some big money there.

The deficit? They’ve got debts to pay off, and their retirement savings have crashed. They need more “revenue.” Mom and dad will have to work longer than planned before settling into retirement.

Those families are trying to cope in a world that has changed. Senators, please tell us what changes you will make if you win the White House.

On the subject of the character attacks you have injected into your campaigns, senators, it is traditional for journalists to demonstrate “fairness” by blaming both sides equally.

In this case, though, Sen. Obama deserves some blame, but not equal blame. Sen. McCain, your campaign fired first, and you are using weapons of mass destruction.

Sen. Obama has made some outrageous maneuvers, such as his attempt to dredge up your tenuous connection to the “Keating Five” scandal 25 years ago. That does not begin to compare with your television ads and your running mate’s rants that Obama “pals around with domestic terrorists.”  

William Ayers was indeed a terrorist 40 years ago. Today he is, as a Chicago rabbi who knows him and Obama said, “a toothless old radical.”

Regardless, he has won respect as an expert on education reform at the University of Chicago. He was named Chicago’s “Citizen of the Year” in 1997. Obama came to know him through their work on a $50 million education project funded by Walter Annenberg — a close friend of Ronald and Nancy Reagan.

Sen. McCain, think about this: For a long time now, Sen. Obama has endured wingnuts on the Internet and radio talk shows who have essentially labeled him the “Manchurian Candidate,” planted by Islamic radicals bent on destroying our country.

Your campaign, in effect, is giving them credibility, urging them on. If Sen. Obama does win the White House, his presidency will have been poisoned even before it begins. You have done this the midst of the biggest financial crisis we have faced since the Depression of the 1930s.

Senators — both of you — enough! You have only a little time left in this election campaign. Please use it to return to the promises of “a new kind of politics” you espoused at the beginning.

Sincerely,

One Worried Voter

Dan Hall is the former editorial page editor of Messenger Post Newspapers. E-mail:  danwriting@aol.com.