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  Potpourri of Practicalities

by Bill McGaughey

  I figure that I can achieve one, maybe two, major goals in my term of office. If elected, I would plan on the basis of serving only one term.

My chief goal would be to push shorter-workweek legislation through the Congress. In conjunction with this, I would work to change the trade system to introduce a work-time component to global economic development. The International Labor Organization (ILO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) are the relevant international agencies.

While the U.S. Government cannot dictate international arrangements, I do believe that other nations would welcome its leadership in cooperative measures to improve living standards around the world. Reductions in work hours must be introduced as broadly as possible to counter the tendency for businesses to move to places where labor costs are lower. Although this is my top priority, I would exercise caution in introducing measures that are untested in recent years. I would consult widely and be willing to pull back if experience requires it.

With respect to the social/ cultural issues, I would rescind executive orders pertaining to affirmative action, socially disadvantaged businesses, and the like. I would pledge to do this before the end of my term, but, to allow preparation, not before my fourth year in office. I want to give racial minorities and others some assurance that, despite the elimination of preferences, they would be economically better off following the course set by my administration. Legislation to reduce work time would, I believe, give reasonable reassurance of that fact.

Generally, I see the social and cultural issues as ones less suitable for being addressed by legislation than by individual effort in refusing to submit to intimidation. I know this intimidation can be tough. Some of us may have shameful feelings about it. But the bottom line is that we each have the ability to say "no" to such things, even if it costs us our jobs or that next promotion. My own campaign for President would illustrate what I'm doing in this area. That"s just as important as anything I could do as an office holder. The shorter workweek is another matter. Few working people can effectively set their own hours. There is pressure to contribute more time to work so as to be a "team player". Here I think government needs to step in to set standards from a human standpoint.

The current Presidential debate has brought forth a host of other issues which candidates must debate. Frankly, I'm ill-informed on some of them. As President, I think I would have many able advisors who could make recommendations. So, if I don't jump nimbly through all the hoops posed by debate questioners, I'll do the best that I can, making clear that my current positions are subject to revision. If I'm so lucky to be included in the Presidential debates, I may simply answer, "I don't know", to some questions. My core issues I'm willing to discuss at length, but the rest is a media game that political candidates have to play.

Even so, there are some issues that need to be addressed now. First is the Iraq war and the generally belligerent course which President Bush has followed in the aftermath of September 11th. I opposed the war. Even though the Iraqi people and humanity are fortunate to be rid of Saddam Hussein, I still think it was a mistake. The problem is legitimacy. Even though we are the world's only military superpower, the world's people have not authorized the U.S. government to "liberate" the people of another country. Of course, the United States did not need U.N. approval to invade Iraq, but neither does the thug on the street need approval to assault you. Of course, there was a moral justification for invading Iraq but it is not enough. We will continue to pay for this military undertaking.

I, of course, applaud the courage of the U.S., British, and other armed forces who effectively prosecuted the war against Saddam Hussein's government. I have problems with the political and public-relations aspect of the war. First, it was foolish to mention an "axis of evil" in a State of the Union address. This simply tells the world that the U.S. government keeps an enemies list and is bent on going to war, whether or not there is justification. Second, the "shock and awe" PR theme was a mistake. If you say that the enemy will be so shocked and awed that its will to resist will be sapped, you'd better be prepared to back up that claim. In this case, there was some Iraqi resistance and it was only by the pluck and grit of U.S. soldiers that we were able to push through to Baghdad and win the war.

Even so, the claim that we went to war because of "weapons of mass destruction" appears now not to be as strong as the Administration claimed. We start to look like a bully in the eyes of world opinion. My general belief is that, if you are the world's only military superpower, you need to act with a degree of restraint so as not to alarm other people. For the U.S. military to throw its weight around actually makes us less safe as a people because force inevitably breeds counter force. We don't need to make enemies unnecessarily.

I support the internal war against terrorism, however. I support reasonable measures to keep track of the activities of alien residents who might pose a threat to U.S. security. I would use my political capital as President to crack down on unlawful activities and name names, even if it costs me votes from immigrant groups or the Islamic community. This epidemic of ID fraud, fake documentation, and other illegal activities is unacceptable. While I'm for traditional civil liberties, I will not allow lawyers and others who raise such concerns to cry discrimination and derail legitimate efforts to protect the security of our people. I would immediately fire anyone in my administration who lets political considerations override public safety. I'll profile just as aggressively as the Bush administration has done to break Al Qaeda terrorism if that's what it takes.

At the same time, the government should not bully religious or ethnic groups. While recognizing that Islamic fundamentalism is the primary source of terroristic activity directed against the American people, the government should try to cultivate friendly relations with the Islamic community, both at home and abroad. If elected President, I would initiate a dialogue with this religious community - perhaps hold an international conference - in which views would be frankly exchanged. I would do anyone the courtesy of sitting down with him, even a terrorist, to discuss our differences. Demonization is not the answer.

Another big issue is government assistance to buy prescription drugs for seniors. There"s a strong bipartisan consensus in favor of that approach. While I wouldn't rock the boat to upset a done deal, I have to admit discomfort about this. Can Medicare afford another $400 billion entitlement program on top of its current deficit-ridden operation? I don't think so. The medical industry is financially out of control for the simple fact that insurance companies pay most of the bills. When you have one person ordering the service and another person (the insurance pool) paying for it, there is no limit on the quantity of product ordered. And now we want to throw prescription drugs into the mix? It just doesn't make sense. (Politically, it does, of course.)

Putting on my Archie Bunker hat, I must also confess a general dislike of drugs and of the unholy alliance between doctors and the drug companies. My 91-year-old father in a nursing home is so drugged up that he can barely get out of bed. I've had brothers who were or are heavily drugged. Is this really necessary? Aren't the doctors, too often, protecting themselves by offering visible "treatment", acceptable to insurers, when the better course might be to let the human body do more of its own healing?

Drugs and medical service could bankrupt our economy. Why should the government pay tens of thousands of dollars per year to provide medical help to a particular individual when millions of people are without health service of any sort? I would support a single-payer, government-run program if it could contain costs, stress prevention and healthy living, and decouple employment and health-care coverage. Old Archie won't treat these lobbyists too kindly from the drug companies, insurance companies, medical industry, trial lawyers, and others with a stake in big, expensive medicine when they come calling. Beyond such fulminations, I'll defer to Howard Dean if asked to provide intelligent proposals in the health-care field.

As for issues like abortion and gun control, I'd like to duck them because I think they are essentially state issues. Extremists control these discussions and, I'm sure, would not let me get away with trying to strike a moderate position, which is my inclination.

Instinctively, I mistrust having a large quantity of guns on the street. I live in an inner-city neighborhood of Minneapolis and instinctively cringe whenever I hear a gun shot outside my window. Guns plus violent people are a disaster; it would be better if people fought with fists. On the other hand, there are legitimate sport interests in owning a gun and Constitutional guarantees of the right to bear arms. I also have a certain sympathy with residents of high-crime areas who are given a song-and-dance by law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and the courts as gun-toting criminals continue to run wild. (See website page titled "Arson in Bill McGaughey's apartment building.) Vigilantism has a certain appeal in such circumstances. Other than doing what I could to control domestic crime, I as President would generally defer on such matters to state and local communities.

The abortion question should be decided by the states. Let me say that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun (of Minnesota) did the nation a disservice when he established a national policy on abortion based on a woman's Constitutional right of privacy. I am quite sure that there is no such right written into the Constitution. The Constitution is not whatever the judges say; it's what the words in the document say. All Blackmun accomplished by his Rorschach-like interpretation of the Constitution was to place this issue under a cloud of mistrust. While I wouldn't appoint justices to the Supreme Court with their abortion positions in mind, I must express my dismay as a citizen when judges undertake to decide questions like this on their own. To my way of thinking, those public officials who are closest to the people - first the House of Representatives, then the President, then the Senate - are the ones with legitimate authority to initiate important new policies. The judges should be more removed from the process.

I also take umbrage at feminist women who take a self-righteous, absolutist position about abortion based on "a woman's right to choose." In a marriage, I think the husband should have some say in the matter. The idea that abortion is a question to be decided between a woman and her doctor, completely ignoring the husband's or father's wishes, is personally repugnant to me. I think these self-centered, strident women need to go down politically to crushing, ignominious defeat.

The decision whether or not to become a mother has a social as well as personal context. I also think that the human fetus, at some point, has viability as a sentient being; it does have an existence independent of the mother. Therefore, the state does have a legitimate interest in banning abortions against the woman's will beyond a certain number of weeks after conception.

Having said all this, however, I would not support banning abortions based on phrases like "the right to life", whether cloaked in religious authority or moral judgment. Even if abstinence is the best prevention, many young girls do become pregnant against their wishes and are in no position to raise children. To criminalize the abortion procedure not only adds to the stress of the situation but helps to wreck young lives and create a host of complications. So if there is a moderate position on abortion, I'm for it. But basically this is a state issue.

There are, of course, other issues. I think growing traffic jams in urban areas are a national as well as local problem. I'd fund experimental programs to address it such as Ed Anderson's "personal rapid transit" and Bob Behnke's "smart jitney". I'd accelerate spending on research for vehicles powered by electricity or by hydrogen fuels and more generation of electricity by wind power - but so would dozens of other political candidates. I have a career background in mass transit and in housing, and so would be up to speed on many questions in those areas. Regarding international policy, I would be hesitant to flex the U.S. military muscle but would not retreat precipitously from military engagement in the world so as to create a dangerous power vacuum. Maintaining the status quo would be my policy here until or unless compelling circumstances forced a change in direction.

Politically, the most sensitive area would be my stance on issues of gender and race, such as opposition to affirmative action. A President needs to have the confidence of all citizens. Therefore, as much as I dislike quotas, I would pledge to pick an African American or Hispanic as a running mate if I am nominated for President. I hope to find someone of stature and ability to fill the Vice Presidential position who might be willing to run with me on such a ticket. Together, we could smooth out the social rough edges of the new administration and, hopefully, defuse resentful attitudes that might otherwise arise.

Whether or not I am elected, I will not become a white male who speaks badly of other white males or hangs his head in shame about what white males have generally done. No one else, of another demographic nature, should be forced to abandon their self-pride either. We can all be proud of ourselves as we are with the nature given to us by our parents, and, in this way, give the word "diversity" a new, more positive connotation than in the present discussions of gender and race. 

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