Where Have All the Statespeople Gone?

Last Wednesday night, while speaking to students at the Kennedy School, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) praised Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) for discouraging Democrats from attempting to pass bills when the party temporarily holds a Senate majority between Jan. 3, when the new congress takes office, and Jan. 20, when the president is inaugurated. Kerry noted that the Democrats decided to act like "statespeople." There's a word that hasn't been needed in the past month. Webster's Dictionary defines "statesman" in part as "one who exercises leadership wisely and without narrow partisanship in the general interest." Could there possibly be any better to term to describe how the two presidential aspirants have not acted?

Every time one of the candidates opens his mouth about why we need to stop or restart recounts for this or that reason, they are really saying, "Let's do it this way because I really want to be president." When Vice President Al Gore '69 called Texas Gov. George W. Bush to retract his concession, Bush acted amazed. Imagine that--Gore wanted to make sure he really lost the election before giving up. Bush didn't care whom the voters voted for as long as he won the race. So Gore asked for a recount. Then he wanted another recount and so on. Gore has shown the country that he wants to recount the votes in Florida until he wins the election. He maintains that many votes were not counted that would potentially propel him over Bush. Never mind the fact that there is a margin of error all across Florida--let's just look at heavily Democratic districts. Bush counters this by bringing the case to court. Gore files a counter-claim and all of a sudden a court will be deciding the next President of the United States.

In the most recent display of bipartisanship and honor, Bush's lawyers are attempting to force a recount of the entire Miami-Dade county if the Florida Supreme Court rules that Gore's request for a manual recount of 14,000 disputed ballots is justified. If Bush can counter that over 1 million votes need to be manually recounted, there will not be enough time to count the votes before the electors must vote on Dec. 12--Bush will win by default. Pretty clever Dubya, a great way to win an election indeed. What was that you said about being "a uniter and not a divider?"

What happened to the idea that a president should be our country's most dignified statesperson? Is this how George Washington, the sacred idol who first defined the presidency, would act if he were one of the candidates? The presidency should be filled by the best and the brightest America has to offer, not by the most popular member of the two major political parties. Where have all the statespeople gone?

Bush and Gore have shown that, like their most ardent supporters, they only know how to act as partisans. One acts like a nave little kid who thinks that he can win the election if he just starts moving in to the White House right now--as if the presidency was just a glorified game of "king of the hill." The other appears like the sorest of losers who won't stop crying until he gets his way. Next time, how about we vote for someone whose love for the country exceeds his or her ambition to win the presidency?

--Shan P. Patel