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Issues take back seat in election page 2
Election speaks volumes about the state of America and its electorate.

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Date published: 11/17/2002



In his day-to-day political rhetoric, whether he's pitching war against Iraq, citing the well-hidden health of the economy, or simply discussing education and the environment, the president fails to persuade me that he really knows what he's talking about.

Maybe he's getting better with experience. But he still comes off as goofy. I can't state with authority that he is goofy, but I can say for sure that he comes off that way. As we sift through the ruins of his English, it becomes clear that he has surrounded himself with bright people, like Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, and is trying to emulate them.

But when he addresses the nation as the commander in chief--as president rather than No. 1 Republican--all of the ideological differences and personal doubts temporarily fade to the background. I'll gather the kids around the TV and we'll listen to what President Bush has to say about Afghanistan and Iraq--just as my parents gathered us around the old Philco to learn what President Kennedy had to say about Cuba and Russia.

I may still shake my head at the way Bush expresses himself, but not without reminding myself that he is the current, democratically elected leader of the free world--and that's nothing to sneeze at.

Still, it is disconcerting how well-suited he seems to today's sound-bite-savvy Americans. If President Bush comes across as superficial, he is supplying Americans with what they want.

The Bush administration's focus is trained on the war on terrorism and homeland security. We are limited to hearing from his spokesman about how well-briefed the president is on everything else, from the gyrations of Wall Street to the needle countdown for the snipers (who have joined Virginia's Alive Until Officially Proven Guilty club).

With so many Americans more concerned about which bimbo "The Bachelor" would select from the harem and who would win "American Idol," who has time to care about politics?

They may have been captivated by the events of Sept. 11, 2001, but most Americans are either too busy or too uninterested to have a thorough understanding of the important issues unfolding around them. As long as they know they're still governed by a president and not a junta, there's not much that deeply concerns them or that they figure they could do much about anyway. That was the case with President Reagan and Iran-Contra, and that's how it is today with Bush and his ties to big business and Enron.

That makes President Bush the right man in the right place at the right time.

RICHARD AMRHINE is a writer and editor with The Free Lance-Star.

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