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November 5, 2004

A Golden Opportunity Not To Be Missed

John W. Ashbury

We embark on a new beginning with the end of the war between Democrats and Republicans over who will guide this nation for the next four years. We have spoken and our leaders have been chosen.

During the campaign harsh words were spoken by both sides. The greatest relief came with the end of the lies, distortions and exaggerations from all parties. George Soros and the 527s can put away their checkbooks and we can return to sensible conversations without the rancor of partisan politics.

Well, at least for a while on the national scene. We'll have to wait and see as what promises to be a long and bitter campaign for mayor of Frederick begins in earnest before spring.

Our nation is torn apart by those unwilling to even listen to the opinion and suggestion of others. There are those who object to proposals of people they don't like before they are made.

On Wednesday morning, just after 11 A.M., Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic challenger to George W. Bush, called the president, conceded defeat and offered his congratulations. About three hours later he repeated the conversation and said:

"We talked about the danger of division in our country and the need, the desperate need, for unity and for finding the common ground, coming together."

The sentiment could not have been said better. It was perhaps the most gracious the Massachusetts senator had been in two years on the campaign trail. His criticism of the president had been harsh, but, in defeat, he demonstrated the inner person that he concealed as he crisscrossed this country.

And Senator Kerry is right. And so was President Bush, when he said at his victory celebration to those who voted for the senator: "To make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support, and I will work to earn it. I will do all I can do to deserve your trust. A new term is a new opportunity to reach out to the whole nation."

Now we will see which of these men lives up to the promise of their remarks Wednesday afternoon. We can only hope that both of them will.

The path for the president is littered with potholes, though. Yes, he is now dealing with a larger Republican majority in the U.S. House and Senate. But to accomplish his goals he must reach across the aisle to those who have expressed disappointment and dissatisfaction with his agenda.

Looming just beyond the horizon are perhaps as many as four appointments to the U. S. Supreme Court. Highly partisan nominees will be met with rancor. The men and women whose names are sent to Capitol Hill must be above reproach.

The Bork disaster of a generation ago comes to mind. And it was Senate Democrats who demonized the nominee for his views, expressed in judicial writing and elsewhere.

Perhaps this was the pinnacle of discord from which we have not descended. We began climbing toward it as the Vietnam conflict escalated in the 1960s. And we have remained on top of the mountain since the Reagan years.

It is time to begin the healing. It is time to move together to a more sensible society where differences of opinion can be accepted, so we can carry forward, agreeing to disagree.

President Bush will replace members of his cabinet in the coming months. And this will be a good place to start. Certain members have become lightening rods, and that can't be good for a new administration.

In Congress the president must be careful not to push too conservative an agenda. Far reaching expectations of the radical right will be met with just as much resentment as proposals leaning in the opposite direction.

An olive branch must be offered; and not only to Democrats like Sen. Ted Kennedy, but to the more moderate members of the Republican Party as well. If the members of the world's greatest deliberative body can come together in bipartisan compromise for the improvement of the lives of all Americans, then so can the rest of us.

"Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished."

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