Jewish World Review Jan. 21, 2004 / 27 Teves, 5764

Peter A. Brown

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Can whiners ever see positive side? | We would all be better off if professional public-policy critics had to offer their own solutions in order to get their names in the newspaper.

Of course, that is unrealistic, but it's tiresome to see creative policy ideas immediately dismissed by those who see all through the narrow prism of their own agendas.

Unfortunately, it's a lot easier to criticize than to create.

Obviously, you can't please everyone, and some of President Bush's recent initiatives, especially on illegal immigration and space travel, are not polling well with the American people.

But that reaction and the flood of institutional opposition to his series of proposals make one wonder whether, in fact, complaining has supplanted football as America's favorite spectator sport.

It is clearly true that an industry has emerged to lobby through the media, taking advantage of the truism that heat gets a lot more news coverage than does light.

Bush has made positive efforts to deal with the nation's immigration problem, offered a new approach to the plethora of social ills that stem from family deterioration, sought to mend relations with the black community, and reinvigorate the space program.

Of course, give and take is part of a healthy political dialogue. Especially in an election year, criticism comes with the territory.

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But relatively little of it about these ideas has come from the Democratic presidential candidates. Instead, they have been focusing their fire on one another of late.

And, not surprisingly, although there's an army of critics, few, if any, have innovative suggestions about how actually to solve problems.

Bush's plan to allow illegal immigrants to work in the United States legally has drawn fire from the far right and the far left. Democrats and many Hispanic groups - including some in Mexico - don't like it because it would not automatically make undocumented workers eligible for citizenship and voting.

Some on the right want the millions of undocumented workers and their families shipped home immediately, even though that is logistically impossible and would be economically ruinous to the U.S. economy, which depends on their labor.

While neither side likes the status quo, neither extreme offers a workable alternative.

Bush's plan to commit the country to return to the moon and begin human missions to Mars has brought the inevitable complaints from those who earn their money trying to increase spending on domestic programs. They call it a waste of tax dollars that could better be spent on the same social programs that have failed to bring about the greater society they seek.

Also, there are those whose futures are linked to the space industry, who say Bush is not setting aside enough money for the idea.

Give the guy a break.

It would be really foolish to decide not to see what is out there.

It's a good thing Christopher Columbus didn't have that view.

Then, there is Bush's reported plan to spend $1.5 billion to promote marriage, especially among low-income couples.

It has generated the predictable response from the secular left that government should not have any connection to religious organizations that might be involved in trying to reduce the divorce rate and the legion of associated family problems.

Organized religion is not a subsidiary of organized crime. It is a force for good.

Courts have found that the wall between church and state does not preclude efforts to involve religious groups as long as they don't proselytize. If the programs help stabilize families and improve their lot, as studies have shown about some limited similar programs funded through the private sector, then what's the big deal?

Ironically much of the criticism comes from those who go to Hillary Clinton's "it takes a village to raise a child" school of thought.

There must not be any churches in their villages.

And, please, don't get me started on the critics who oppose the initiative because help would not be open to gay couples. Don't forget that the Defense of Marriage Act was signed by that well-known right-wing nut William Jefferson Clinton.

Then there was Bush's visit to Atlanta to commemorate the birthday of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Every president since Ronald Reagan has made that trip at least once. Bush has been scorned by much of the black leadership for his policies, and many loudly complain that he pays too little attention to the needs of blacks.

But should he stop trying to reach out to blacks in ways - even in symbolic visits like that one that do not involve policies he opposes - one can only imagine the critiques.

Being president has great perks, but all the whining the commander in chief has to endure would probably get to me.

Peter A. Brown is an editorial page columnist for the Orlando Sentinel. Comment by clicking here.


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05/20/03: Lawyers' party hits a new low
05/13/03: Bush mimics Nixon, Reagan by going against the political grain

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