My Druthers

A rather irate reader of my column has sarcastically suggested in a letter to the editor that since I don’t like President George W. Bush, I should tell folks who should replace him.

Well, in the first place, I don’t dislike Bush; I think he’s a disaster as a president, but as a human being, he appears to be likable.

In the second place, you must understand that I will express my druthers, but that’s all they are — druthers, not a prediction. I have no idea who will be the Democrats’ nominee, much less how the vote will go in November.

But if I had my druthers, I’d choose Howard Dean as Bush’s replacement. Unfortunately, the very qualities that would make him a great president make him a poor candidate in today’s hyper-media world. He tells the truth, pleasant or unpleasant; he speaks briefly and bluntly; and he shows his emotions. All of which do not play well on the cool medium of television.

My second druther would be John Edwards. Having served only part of his first-ever term in a political office, he is still enough of an outsider to make some needed reforms. His campaign theme — that there are two Americas, one for the rich and influential and one for the rest of us — is a bull’s-eye truth. Behind his boyish grin is a very intelligent, much-disciplined and very ambitious man. Many a corporation paid dearly because big-shot lawyers underestimated him in a courtroom during his trial-lawyer days.

My third druther is — and may my Confederate ancestors forgive me — Sen. John Kerry. He is a somewhat-stuffy rich guy from New England, but he was a rich kid who volunteered and fought hard in the Vietnam War. Then, when he came home, he had the guts to oppose it publicly. I would probably disagree with many of his policies, but I would feel comfortable that he would not stupidly lead us into a disaster.

Joe Lieberman is just another Bush with a different religion. Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich are running on ego with no chance of winning and should drop out.

That brings us to my final druther. If the choice in November is between Gen. Wesley Clark and George Bush, I’ll vote for Bush. Better an amiable empty-head than a mean-spirited egomaniac of questionable character. Look at Clark’s eyes. There is something strange about this guy, and I don’t trust him any farther than I could throw my piano. Don’t forget, he was fired by the Clinton administration. Don’t forget, another retired general took the unprecedented step of saying publicly that he would never vote for Clark for reasons of "character and morals."

Well, as you can see, my first three druthers are all liberals, while I’m a conservative. That’s because there are no conservatives in the race. Bush is not a conservative. No conservative would give the middle finger to long-time allies, declare war on the world, run record budget deficits and record trade deficits, fail to secure our borders, offer an incentive for even more illegal immigrants to come in, pour pork into the hands of big corporations and ravage the environment. It’s an indicator of how far left the political spectrum has shifted that of all the candidates, Bush included, Dean is the most conservative.

I agree with Oswald Spengler, who wrote The Decline of the West in the early part of the last century. We are transitioning from what he called an age of money to the age of Caesars. The old, cherished ideal of minimum government and maximum freedom will not be realized in our or our children’s lifetimes. John Adams said the Constitution was written for a moral and virtuous people, and for the most part today, we are neither.

All that is left for us to do is to try to choose a ruler who has brains and a good heart — an Augustus Caesar or a Marcus Aurelius rather than a Nero or a Caligula.

So be careful, voter. Be very careful.

Charley Reese has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner.