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Get ready to give thanks--or you may be in breach of Patriot Act
Political food for thought at the Thanksgiving table

RICHARD AMRHINE
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Date published: 11/18/2007

By Richard Amrhine

AS WE GATHER around for our Thanksgiving feasts, let's consider our good fortune to be Americans--free to criticize our government while hardly ever being rousted from our beds at gunpoint under the auspices of the Patriot Act.

Current surveys show that only 33 percent of Americans approve of the job President Bush is doing. Approval is even lower for Congress, at 28 percent. These numbers are not much higher than approval ratings for household vermin infestations, if you count the pets who like having the critters around as playmates or snacks.

Here's another dinner-table conversation topic: Why are those approval-rating figures on par with voter-turnout percentages from this month's state and local elections? I don't think people earn the right to complain unless they participate in the process at every opportunity.

The turnout reports will, of course, be much higher a year from now. But even then about a third of registered voters can be expected to sit out a presidential election--not to mention all those who don't even bother to register.

Given that you have turned to the newspaper's Viewpoints section, and have read down to here, your political exchanges across the dinner table will probably be livelier than those whose testiest debate involves jellied cranberry sauce vs. the chunky kind. Diplomatic hosts can circumvent that by serving both.

Just in case your turkey isn't as moist and flavorful as you'd hoped, here are some juicy chatter-starters that go beyond the menu selections.

an impotent congress

Disapproving of what?

The reason Congress is rated even lower than President Bush these days is that it hasn't made him pay for his incompetence and arrogance.

The voters turned both chambers of Congress over to the Democrats a year ago, but the troop surge for Iraq was approved, efforts to bolster health care for poor children fell short, needed repairs to No Child Left Behind have been left behind, sensible solutions to illegal immigration issues remain at large, and the administration continues to enjoy a free pass on prisoner torture and wiretapping.

We're still waiting for someone to show some leadership on the housing crisis, climate change, and the price of gasoline.


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