Along the Tracks

Wednesday, May 26, 2004
 

A Call to Service



Between the vitriolic partisan vomit all over the media and the President's apparent decision to seek exit rather than victory in Iraq, America's future, at least short term, looks pretty foggy from along the tracks in northwest Ohio.

For this reason, I have decided to take an unusual step - particularly for someone in the media, someone at least considered to be a "journalist." I am making direct pleas to two Americans I believe could lead us through these dangerous times with strength, confidence and an ability to adapt and overcome; while at the same time uniting a nation becoming terribly frayed and sinking into the mud of personal attack and general distrust.

Today, I have sent out the following letters to Senator John McCain and Senator Joe Lieberman, and have also presented them as opinion submissions to several newspapers and other media outlets. Here they are:

Dear Senator McCain,

It is said that in America, one person can make a difference. I am writing you today in the firm belief that such possibilities do exist in our great nation, and with the hope that this letter may spark a larger change in the future.

As a small town newspaper editor, I have watched and written on the troubling descent into political polarization from the perspective of Middle America. That climate was disheartening before 9/11; since that day, it has become a dangerous poison, threatening our success in the War on Terrorism and sapping concepts like "compromise" and "the common good."

Even here in rural northwest Ohio, the mistrust and anger have seeped into many who are politically active. Letters to the editor are often filled with bitterness, conspiracies and accusations of malevolence, not only directed toward elected officials of the opposite party, but even against other letter writers. Issues are slipping to the wayside as politics becomes personal.

Unfortunately, President George W. Bush and his subordinates have often pushed this polarization with calculated actions, dismissive secrecy and an inflammatory arrogance toward the roles to be played in American government by voices in Congress, the courts and among the opposition.

Don't get me wrong - the rancor has been building over time, and many Democrats gleefully pick up each gauntlet thrown by the president and join the fray. However, this letter is not about "who started it," but rather, how to end it.

Even with the president's failure to lead toward common ground and respect, I might yet have remained a loyal Bush supporter. The War on Terrorism is that crucial. Yet, as the post-major combat portion of the Iraq War drags on, it has become painfully clear that even on this historically vital issue, President Bush will allow politics to trump policy decisions. Thus, we entered Iraq with too few troops to establish stability, and despite month after month of warnings (including, notably, from yourself), refused to make the crucial choice to build forces and guarantee success. The "plan" for postwar Iraq did not adapt sufficiently to the scene on the ground, and the erosion of security made its goals unattainable. Today, men who just a few weeks ago sympathized with those shooting at our Marines are now re-imposing their military control over Fallujah, awaiting America's exit to claim political control as well. Terrorists find havens anywhere American forces are too thin to adequately patrol. Shi'as note both the resurrection of the Fallujah Baathists and the success of the al-Sadr standoff, and believe America cannot guarantee their protection from future subjugation. Meanwhile, the al-Qaeda cancer spreads in places we cannot (Pakistan, Iran, Syria) or will not (Saudi Arabia) go.

The contrast of the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal (failure to establish proper control in the chain of command) and the Nicholas Berg beheading (demonstrating both the blood thirst of our enemies and our own failure to build security in Iraq) have convinced me that President Bush is fatally bound by his political agenda and may well be incapable of leading to victory in the War on Terrorism.

This cannot stand.

It is for this reason I call on you, Senator McCain, to step forward in the face of chaos, division and danger, and offer your service to all Americans in our highest elective office: The President of the United States.

Senator McCain, you are one of the precious few voices of calm, strength and unity to which Americans can turn. Your credentials for this high office are impeccable; your independence and character unquestionable. Your positions on issues demonstrate thoughtfulness, compassion, leadership - and a devotion to the American ideal few others can match, and none exceed.

As an aside, I might note I do not always agree with you. Yet the clarity of your thought and consistency of your goals, joined with your commitment to liberty as the birthright of all Americans, and a beacon to the world, leads me, like so many others, to trust you to make the right decisions when we as a people reach a crossroads.

This, Senator McCain, is one of those crossroads. Party machinery and special interests have entrapped both Democrats and Republicans, to the point that neither nominee for president at this crucial time is willing or able to lead all Americans - rather, each seeks to lead only those already devoted to the candidacy, and casts aside those seeking more than way worn platitudes and empty promises.

Senator McCain, I believe you can help lead America back to a time of unity and resolve, where disagreements are truly friendly and based upon issues, rather than vindictive and based upon party affiliation.

For a unified candidacy to offer a transparent and trustworthy choice, one other great American must join you in rising above purely partisan loyalties to the higher calling of patriotic leadership. In that spirit, today I am writing to Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman as well. Together, you and your fellow public servant would truly represent the best of both political parties, the best combination of experience and leadership, and the best hope for our great nation to heal from its wounds and face the difficulties of the 21st Century with the confidence and vibrancy we all inherit from our fathers and mothers back through time to the very formation of the American experiment.

As two eminently honorable men, I am confident you and your colleague can work out the details of primacy on the presidential ticket and your relationship after election to mutual satisfaction.

I know what I ask is not a simple thing. It is a difficult thing. But Senator McCain, you have overcome many difficult things - many things more difficult than this - in the past. I hope you will prayerfully consider my request. And though I am but one man, I offer to you my devoted service in the effort to unite voters behind a McCain-Lieberman or Lieberman-McCain ticket.

Sincerely and respectfully,
Paul A. Miller
Bryan, Ohio


Dear Senator Joe Lieberman,

I write to you today as a very concerned American. I am fearful for friends and relatives serving in the military. I am worried about friends and relatives in New York, in Detroit, in Albuquerque, in Fort Collins, in Santa Barbara. I am anxious about my children, and their children.

Senator Lieberman, I fear three things as I write this letter. I fear faltering resolve in the War on Terrorism will result in a dropping of the guard and, inevitably, in another catastrophic day like 9/11. I fear my children's generation will be called upon to fight a far more widespread, deadlier war than the struggle we face today. Finally, I fear dissension will turn to vitriol and hatred inside our own shores, and the America of our children and grandchildren will be a pale ghost of its ideal.

From your insightful statements, intelligent writing and firm commitment demonstrated in the Democratic primary campaign, it is clear you understand the nature of the enemies we face. One enemy is human, and evil - those of bloodthirsty ideology who seek to pile innocents in heaps with ever greater killing power. The second enemy is subtle, lurking among us - division. Either has the potential to destroy our country.

Fortunately, I believe both can be defeated, and the answer to these dangers is the same.

During the primaries, Senator Lieberman, you were a voice in the wilderness, committed without question or nuance to an American victory in the War on Terrorism. Your criticisms of the policies of President George W. Bush were harsh, yet clearly guided by a firm resolve to see this effort succeed. You were an unwavering supporter of the ouster of Saddam Hussein. You avoided politicization of the intelligence failures concerning weapons of mass destruction, and noted their danger until we could ascertain their final disposition - a prescient point proven by the sarin-laden roadside bomb recently found in Baghdad. You have consistently called for increasing the number of troops in Iraq to establish and maintain security.

Today, we see a president tied so closely to his political machine, he cannot change course in a manner which would assure achievement of our goals in Iraq. President Bush cannot or will not challenge Saudi Arabia to end its funding of extremist madrasas, hate-filled mullahs and front groups for terrorists. In the international scene, he has taken a justified position of resolve and turned it to unjustified obstinance. Domestically, he has overburdened our children with debt while failing to answer the yearning in Americans for common sacrifice, and the ownership in our goals such sacrifice brings. In sum, he has demonstrated his limitations as a leader.

Yet Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry has failed as well. He stood with all other 98 senators who voted for the Patriot Act, yet now bashes those who implement the standards he approved. Senator Kerry voted to give the president the authority to go to war, yet has backpedaled from that solemn commitment time and again - even stating he was "misled" by the Bush administration - rather than standing in brave defense of his vote, which was, after all, the correct choice. Last fall, as the anti-war campaigns of Howard Dean and Wesley Clark rose in stature, Senator Kerry made the greatest reversal, voting against funding the very war he had approved. Today, Senator Kerry teases those activists who do not seek America's victory in the war, and emboldens them to further efforts at demoralizing America's families and America's troops. On the domestic front, Senator Kerry has abandoned the ideals of opportunity and independence for the easier, interest-driven path of handouts and class-division - failed policies which you, Senator Lieberman, have fought to remove as obstacles to the advancement of those Americans most in need.

Senator Lieberman, your long career of public service amply demonstrates your
commitment to fellow Americans. Your friendly demeanor and calm, confident presence speak to those of us in Middle America who worry that the divisions now apparent in our nation will harden into angry mobs, lobbing insults at each side and battling for everything from council seats to Congressional seats, always looking to win and never looking to lead. Today, the unswayable zealots on the left and right remain small, despite their noise. Yet as each vocalization is vomited on their fellow Americans, they knock three people from the political process: One who joins their hate, one who hates them and joins the other side, and one who gives up on American democratic dialog. And as Americans fall away from the good cause upon which we have embarked - to end the threat of terrorism and with it, the oppression which has subjugated most of the Islamic world for decades - the nation will fall to the three dangers with which I opened: The horrible carnage of another terror strike; the path toward a war fought on many fronts with well-armed enemies; and the loss of American freedom and strength due to security crackdowns, crippling debt and mutually suspicious and resentful factions vying for control.

This cannot stand.

It is for this reason, Senator Lieberman, that I call on you to step forward in the face of chaos, division and danger, and offer your service to all Americans in our highest elective office: The President of the United States.

Senator Lieberman, your sincere commitment to America's ideals, to the protection of our own people and the freedom of all the world, and to the guarantee of opportunity for all people regardless of class or color, make you a trusted voice of reason in troubled times. You are a uniter, in a time when these states need to be united.

To be honest, my political views in the past have tended toward the Republican Party. Yet, as a newspaper man, I have noted your honorable service and intelligent argument for quite some time. I don't always agree with you, but your long record, sensible stands, confidence and warmth assure me that my trust in your leadership ability is well placed.

With the War on Terrorism in danger of failure for lack of strong guidance from either party, our finances of state certain only to get worse, and our people encouraged toward base emotion rather than thoughtful consideration, now is the time for a presidential ticket to bring together Republicans and Democrats who make up the great, hopeful middle, and to lead and inspire all Americans with humility coupled with resolve, toward a bright and hopeful future.

For a unified candidacy to offer a transparent and trustworthy alternative, one other great American must join you in rising above purely partisan loyalties to the higher calling of patriotic leadership. In that spirit, today I am writing to Arizona Senator John McCain as well. Together, you and your fellow public servant would truly represent the best of both political parties, the best combination of experience and leadership, and the best hope for our great nation to heal from its wounds and face the difficulties of the 21st Century with the confidence and vibrancy we all inherit from our fathers and mothers back in time to the very formation of the American experiment.

This will require a special kind of sacrifice on your part, Senator Lieberman. You will need to decide if the fate our nation faces overrides the position of honor and influence inside the Democratic Party you have so richly earned. As a fellow American, I ask you to join Senator McCain, rising above party loyalty to lead America into a free, safe and prosperous 21st Century. As two eminently honorable men, I am confident you and your colleague can work out the details of primacy on the presidential ticket and your relationship after election to mutual satisfaction.

I hope you will prayerfully consider my request. And though I am but one man, I offer to you my devoted service in the effort to unite voters behind a Lieberman-McCain orMcCain-Lieberman ticket.

Sincerely and respectfully,
Paul A. Miller
Bryan, Ohio


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