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| Guest Columnist | Harry M. Covert | Hayden Duke | Jason Miller | Ken Kellar | Patricia A. Kelly | Edward Lulie III | Cindy A. Rose | Richard B. Weldon Jr. | Brooke Winn |


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November 1, 2004

The Power of Discernment

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

Tomorrow millions will visit their local polling place to exercise our nation's single most powerful right under this blessed constitutional republic.

We will choose our national leaders, the president, senators, and congressmen who will give voice to our thoughts and breathe life into our hopes and dreams.

Americans will be united in a single purpose, but with very different desires regarding the outcome. These pages have eloquently described the differences between individual candidates, and every voter has their own thoughts, feelings, and expectations.

In my relatively short tenure in elective office, I have witnessed the manipulation of opinion that occurs by politicians focused on winning elections. Selective use of facts, distortions of opponent's statements, and employment of fear-inspiring imagery are all tools of modern, large-scale political campaigns.

Our republic depends on thoughtful, inquisitive citizens to make this thing work as crafted by our founders. Unfortunately, the two national political parties, aided and abetted by hundreds of pundits and spokespeople, do their best to undermine the work of the thoughtful citizen.

Panels of experts, armed with miles of videotaped footage of rallies, parades, and speeches, consume every available hour of cable television time. CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, and Fox News compete for America's political attention, often in mind-numbing and repetitive fashion.

Talk radio does the same thing, but lacks the punchy images to accompany the yak masters. Conservatives like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck appeal to the GOP base, while liberal stalwarts like Diane Riehm and Al Franken satisfy the Democrats.

Newspapers and news magazines fill the newsstand with editions featuring President Bush, Sen. John Kerry, or some combination thereof. Inside the pages are filled with the same type of analysis and opinion filling the TV and radio airwaves.

Recently, a national GOP spokesman stated that all of the "national" newspapers leaned towards Senator Kerry in their coverage, while many local, rural papers favored President Bush. Likewise, most talk radio stations favored the Bush agenda.

You can even play the game at Blockbuster. Rent Fahrenheit 9/11 to see Michael Moore call President Bush a liar. Then rent Fahrenhype 9/11 to see everyone else call Michael Moore a liar. A big bowl of popcorn, a tall glass of lemonade, and a rocker/recliner, it just doesn't get any better than that!

More locally, incumbent Senator Barbara Mikulski and challenger State Senator EJ Pipken are using major media buys to broadcast their message to Maryland voters. Senator Mikulski dismisses Senator Pipkin as a former Wall Street junk bond trader and public service neophyte, while Mr. Pipkin counters that Ms. Mikulski is too liberal for most Marylanders, and has taken voters for granted for too long.

On the congressional side, incumbent Rep. Roscoe Bartlett hasn't had to spend much money campaigning, as his Democrat challenger, Kenneth Bosley of Baltimore County, has run a campaign reminiscent of Claude Rains in The Invisible Man.

My email "In Box" has been crowded with mail urging me to vote for one candidate over the other. Oddly, I get mail from both parties, so it's fun to compare and contrast the competing viewpoints.

>From the Sierra Club to the National Rifle Association, from the National Education Association to the Christian Coalition, from organized labor to the Chamber of Commerce, it appears that everybody knows better than I do who will best represent me and my family.

A long-held tradition in our country suggests that voters will use their powers to discern the truth from political distortions. We can watch videos, listen to pundits, hear campaign speeches, and read pamphlets, and then we can clear our head, focus on what really counts, and cast our ballots (oops, I mean touch the screen).

Both the Bush and Kerry campaigns are saying that this will be the most important election in my lifetime. By my estimation, this the 10th time in my lifetime that we've been told that we faced the most important election. In fact, they're all critically important, but the "most important" claim is a little like Peter and the Wolf.

I intend to vote for the candidate I think will best represent my beliefs, hopes and vision for America. The other night, I asked my daughter Morgan if she knew for whom she was voting. I think she thought I expected her to tell me the name of the candidate. I didn't!

I wanted to know that she had access to the knowledge she felt she needed to serve as a discerning voter. From her explanation, it sounded as thought she did. Whether I agreed with her choice is of less significance than the knowledge that she has been raised and educated to research, investigate, and draw her conclusions based on what she truly determines to be in her best interests.

Mission Accomplished!

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