Well, here we go. The race is on – and truly, may the best man win. Please, God.
The candidates have been selected, the platforms have been detailed and the basic themes have been spelled out. Barack Obama has described himself as “a citizen of the world,” and Mitt Romney says he’s an American who wants to “help you and your family.” That’s pretty much the choice.
I was at the Republican convention in Tampa, moving down radio row, being interviewed by radio and talk-show hosts from all over the country. And I found myself groping for analogies to explain my feelings about the predicament the country is in and how we might work our way out of it. In a campaign like this one, with so many complex issues to think through and try to solve, it can help to put things in very simple terms.
Jesus did that, you know. He purposely wrapped deeply profound things in simple parables, little stories or images that even children could grasp and understand. In fact, lots of children did understand his stories, while the meanings seemed to elude the older, more scholarly religious leaders. A curious phenomenon.
So, on the subject of entitlements, Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, and how either candidate can save those cherished programs and keep promises made to seniors – without bankrupting the country – I offered this image:
“You can’t keep giving cookies to children when the cookie jar is empty. And you can’t put any cookies back in the jar unless somebody makes the cookies. That means you have to have a healthy economy, with people working, earning and making more cookies!”
On the constant bashing of Mitt Romney’s wealth and success in business, as if that were borderline criminal, and the president’s persistent demand that the “top 1 percent pay more taxes,” I offered this:
“The president has become quite wealthy and joined the top 1 percent in just the last four years, since he became president. Amazing, isn’t it? It took Mitt Romney 25 years of hard work, risk and tremendous skill. As one of his rewards, he and the rest of the 1 percent, now including Obama himself, get to pay 40 percent of all taxes already! Reminds me of the old ‘pot calling the kettle black’ analogy.”
I heard one talk-show host proclaiming that he just couldn’t support Romney because he was rich and successful, and therefor couldn’t identify with the ordinary working Joe. Plus he didn’t have an outgoing, garrulous personality that he could like. So I countered with: “Let’s assume tonight you experience sharp, crunching chest pains. You know you need a heart specialist. Will you call a ‘nice guy’ with an enjoyable personality … or would you rather see a real specialist, regardless of his likability, one whose patients usually go on living?”
That’s the choice we have. I had another analogy, a parable, for the choice we made four years ago:
You’re seated comfortably in a brand new Boeing 777 Stratoliner for its maiden flight. As it begins to taxi out to the runway, a friendly voice announces, “This is your captain speaking. Welcome aboard the first flight in this magnificent aircraft. Sit back and relax, you’re in good hands. I’m Captain Barack Hussein Obama, and I promise you I’m going to fundamentally transform the whole experience of flight for you! I’ve never flown this particular craft before. To be honest, I’ve never actually flown any plane before … but I can figure out how all these buttons and switches and gauges work as we go. Don’t worry about a thing, I’m the captain, and I’m in charge.
“Now, let’s see … how do you start this thing?”
In this parable, I see virtually every passenger clawing at the windows and rushing the exit doors, screaming to be let off! And that pictures just one aircraft – the reality it represents is the largest economy, the strongest nation and military, the most complex and successful government on the planet, handed over to a charming man who had absolutely no experience managing any of those things, or anything like them!
On immigration, a very complex, sensitive issue, I’ve shared this parable before, but a short version bears repeating in my effort to make the choices clear.
Mr. and Mrs. Middle America wake up one morning to find 16 strangers sitting in the kitchen, waiting for breakfast. They came in through a basement window, and one of them who can speak in broken English explains they came from very poor circumstances and just want to share in the obviously better life of the America family. They offer to do odd jobs in the yard, wash the car, even do some housework – and all they ask is permanent residence, schooling for the nine kids, three square meals a day, medical care when needed, driver’s licenses, credit cards and citizenship IDs.
The stunned America family, compassionate toward the interlopers but knowing they simply cannot afford to do what they ask, call the police – as any of us would. To their further chagrin, they’re told the police have been ordered to just look the other way and not enforce the laws about breaking and entering, home invasion, burglary or private property. When Mr. America demands to know who gave such orders to the police, he finds it’s our own U.S. Justice Department, on even higher orders from the president!
When the outraged homeowner demands an explanation from the president, asking, “Whatever happened to the law and your constitutional duty to preserve and defend our laws?” he gets this response: “Look, I’m the president and you’re not. I can use my executive privilege pretty much how I choose, and I’m doing it. I’m facing a tight re-election, and I’ve got to placate my base voting blocs, like homosexual and abortion activists, all the unions and minorities and peace and pot and green folks. I’m going for every vote I can get, and I’m keeping my security forces close to protect my administration in case the citizens decide to barricade the White House!
“Leave me alone. I’ve got to look out for myself. What if I were to lose this election?”
Exactly. Let’s think about that. And get to the polls.
Simple enough, isn’t it?