- The Washington Times - Friday, June 6, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Well, dear readers, we now begin that journey we take every four years toward an awesome responsibility - choosing the leader of the Free World - and none of us should take it casually. Parents owe it to the younger generation to have a conversation to explain why voting is more American than apple pie and why this year’s elections are or are not different from the others.

Hillary Clinton stood before the cameras the other night and asked, “What does Hillary want?” She should have asked, “What do Americans want?”

What’s foremost on the minds of Americans? The economy.

If the question is are we better off today than we were four years ago, most Americans would respond with a resounding “no.”

Where are we hardest hit? At home. We pretty much had nearly two decades of low food inflation for pantry staples like bread, milk and eggs. But that has changed with egg prices rising 40 percent in the past year and milk prices increasing by 26 percent. Look at it this way, in 2006, the average cost of a dozen eggs was $1.46, but it now is $2.18. A loaf a bread that cost $1.05 in 2006 now costs $1.28. These surging food costs present a greater threat to the average American household because we spend a larger share of our household budget on food (about 13 percent) - than we do on gas (about 4 percent).

How, exactly, does John McCain plan to turn this around? And what about Barack Obama? Can either do anything or are they both part of the problem. Mr. McCain didn’t help himself when he said the economy is not one of his strong suits. If he hasn’t gotten it by now - after serving 25 years in the House and Senate - then it is too late.

But Mr. Obama, who served seven years in the Illinois State Senate before a U.S. Senate seat, stands as poorly as Mr. McCain - tinkering with tax rates and stimulus checks do not begin to address Americans’ economic woes.

What Americans wantis a president who shares their core values and has the wherewithal to lead this nation in peace not just war.

Ever since September 11, 2001, we have been in a bunker - and rightly so. The thought of terrorists using American airplanes to bomb American icons never crossed our minds. When it happened we were devastated - struck not only in our heart of human hearts, but forced to reckon with the fact that those bombs hit our financial and military districts. Ironically, it was only yesterday - nearly seven years later - that the mastermind and co-conspirators of that fateful morning stood before Lady Justice to begin facing their own fate.

As we continue along the path of recovery, we must look deeply and deliberately beyond the rhetoric of the candidates and their surrogates, and the party loyalists and ask a simple question: What are we doing to ensure our fellow Americans will be better off tomorrow than they are today.

We can look to the heady 1960s, the “progressive” 1970s, the “Me Days” of the 1980s and the troubling 1990s for what not to do.

Americans are certainly better off having passed major civil rights legislation, and having ended the Vietnam War (though we failed to offer gratitude to our troops once they returned home). And while many of us still regret that both President Nixon (who created the Environmental Protection Agency) and President Reagan (who reneged on his promise to get rid of the Department of Education) often colored their policies blue instead of red, we certainly were better off with them in the White House.

Much changed in the 1990s. We began to look at our president, Bill Clinton, not as a leader, but as an unworthy, sex-thirsty buffoon. “Impeach him,” we said to the world, which, with the benefit of the Internet, replayed our chants around the globe. We painted the White House black.

Have we changed our minds?

Unless something unimaginable happens between now and Inauguration Day 2009, all roads are leading to a 111th Congress in which Democrats are the majority and a president who is either a Republican and a war hero or a Democrat who has served not one day in the military. There are no assurances that partisan sniping will disappear. The Republican candidate reaches across the aisle when his politics dictate, and the Democrat reaches across the aisle, too. Indeed, that’s the American way.

But election-year politics, like apple pie, are not always what they appear to be.

French apple, anyone?

Deborah Simmons is editorial page editor of The Washington Times. dsimmons@ washingtontimes.com

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