Madison County Opinion...

JULY 9, 2003


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
July 9, 2003

Frankly Speaking
We need to help Liberia
As I write this, President Bush is touring Africa where he is being urged to send the Marines to help stabilize the fractured nation of Liberia.
With our nation’s military involved around the world, we are running short of forces. In order to help this small African nation, we must determine that it is in our national interest to do so.
I have always held that history and culture are important. That includes the historical and cultural connections between the U.S. and Liberia. Liberia was founded in the 1820s by a group of American abolitionists and the former slaves they helped free. After administering the settlement for a number of years, Liberia was given its freedom. The fledging nation adopted a constitution similar to that of the United States. They named their capital Monrovia in honor of President James Monroe. They adopted a flag consisting of the 13 stripes of the U.S. flag with a single star in the blue field. English was their legal language. And for many years the U.S. dollar was their official currency.
Until 20 years ago, Liberia was America’s strongest ally in Africa. They provided space for a powerful “Voice of America” transmitter and opened their ports to U.S ships. But a bloody revolt overthrew the constitutional government and resulted in the breakup of the nation into several warring factions. According to news reports one family in three has lost members to the violence.
Now, all sides in the conflict are asking the United States to send in the Marines to restore peace and order so that constitutional government can be re-established.
Because the nation of Liberia was founded by Americans, even though descendants of former American slaves make up less than 10 percent of the total population, we have a cultural and historic responsibility to come to their aid when asked. And all sides, including the current dictator, are asking for our assistance. Mr. Taylor has agreed to step down as President and accept an offer of refuge from a neighboring nation. But he insists that he can only do so if the United States provides security during the transition.
I agree that we, the U.S. must take steps to assure the return to constitutional government in Liberia. I am not sure that we have to do it with overwhelming military force. Nor is it necessary that we do so. A number of African nations have offered to provide peace-keeping forces if the U.S. provides funding and coordination of the effort. That may be the way to go.
Liberia is a central part of American history. We do have responsibilities for its future and well being. We need to do what ever we can to stop the violence and guarantee a legal government agreeable to the people of Liberia. But we need to do it in a way that does not risk our own security.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His e-mail address is frankg@mcga.net.

Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
July 9, 2003

From the Editor's Desk
The legacy of Clinton in the South
The flag gets a lot of people riled up. The issue of abortion does it for others. For many, it’s the gun debate.
But hardly anything fuels fires in the conservative Southern psyche like Bill Clinton. He’s been gone a while now, but many still curse “Slick Willie,” saying he was a superficial, moral abyss, representing everything wrong with government.
Whether you liked Clinton or hated him, you must recognize that Clinton’s sex scandal is still haunting the Democratic Party in the South.
Clinton’s misdeeds turned stomachs and led many to switch parties as quickly as one can jump from shirts to skins on a ball court.
Though he is largely despised, Clinton is still, by far, the most notable Democrat in America, even though he holds no office.
But let’s not exaggerate. Clinton is not the sole reason for the demise of the Democratic Party in our region. It’s just that the scandal of the late 90s quickly accelerated what was already happening in the South, a move from a Democratic agrarian base to a GOP suburban-development region. The Old South Democrats are dwindling as the suburban Republicans grow in number.
Meanwhile, the Republicans have softened the elitist “trickle-down” image of yesteryear. (Though the “trickle-down” tax policy — which, ironically, the elder Bush once famously called “voodoo economics” — remains in effect, the ugly catch phrase is no longer associated with the party.)
The Republican image now appeals to the Joe Six-Pack working man, who wants a straight shooter, not some Bill Clinton-type who wants to please everybody. The blue collar element of the Republican Party was lacking in the old days when more people believed the party favored the rich over the poor. But not anymore. That’s happened in large part because people aren’t choosing parties based on economic differences as much as they used to. Now it’s a matter of morals and the growing belief that the Republicans have more moral fiber than their opponents. And luckily for the Republicans, this shift in party persona was manifested in one man, Bill Clinton.
On the flip side, the Democratic Party has no one to wipe the Lewinsky lipstick off their cloaks. There’s no person who has taken the reins as party leader in the wake of the scandal. The well-spoken former General Wesley Clark has toyed with the idea of running for president as a Democrat. As of now, he seems the only one who would stand an outside chance of unseating Bush in 2004.
But the anti-Clinton demand still rules the land. And the Republicans are better at being the anti-Clinton than the Democrats. For most of the country, Bush, the straight-shooter of black and white moral clarity, is preferable to the man who tries to accommodate all sides.
And with war, with uncertainty, with 9/11, with Clinton’s undermining of the Democrats’ authority to fingerpoint, the Bush Administration is free to do as it pleases before an agreeable public and complacent television media. Many TV news organizations are now afraid to alienate a growing conservative market served by Fox News and all those who now try to emulate them.
Consider this analogy to illustrate the administration’s free rein: A man runs a construction company, then resigns as its leader. He then becomes a county commissioner. That county has a multi-million dollar courthouse construction plan that it awards to the commissioner’s former business without any bid process and despite the fact that the business has been reprimanded for overcharging the government in previous projects.
This would be a scandal in Madison County. If any county commissioner did this, the conflict of interest would surely infuriate most reasonable people in the county.
Then why when we switch to the national level is it different? Our vice-president’s former company, Halliburton, received a multi-billion dollar contract in Iraq under the same circumstances — with no bid process amid clear evidence of price-gouging by the business in past endeavors. Still, our nation is generally silent.
Those who do complain are not rebutted on facts, but on partisan grounds. The retort is a reprimand for even pointing out the indiscretion.
Likewise, Bush’s State of the Union address included information about Hussein’s attempt to get uranium from Africa, a report proven fallacious by intelligence officials even before the speech. If this was known to be false, but then disregarded by Bush or his speech writers because it would get in the way of the war, are you comfortable with that?
I suspect most of you are fine with that, reasoning that even if the information presented is not entirely or even remotely truthful, well, at least Bush is not a liar like Clinton.
And that’s the legacy of Clinton.
His presidency gave us so many scandals that most of the public is indifferent to any questionable actions by the current adminstration. In fact, many people are angered by the mere mention of something less than admirable from the Bush team, regardless of whether good facts back up the point. It’s the nature of politics today, we’ve become so accustomed to each party criticizing the one in office that there’s virtually no merit to any criticism. Founded or unfounded, any criticism is now simply viewed as partisanship. Facts are irrelevant; motive is everything.
But conservatives can take heart when they hear Bush criticized. In the South, at least, Clinton’s legacy is Republican prosperity.
And that’s not likely to change anytime soon — especially in 2004.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.

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