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Jewish World Review Sept. 27, 1999 /17 Tishrei, 5760

Chris Matthews

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Here's a millennial checklist for candidates -- I SENSE A VAST MENTAL DISCONNECT between the year 2000 and the election 2000. People keenly alert to the turn of a century and the onset of a new millennium appear numbed by the prospect of yet another political season.

Between now and next November one of the major party hopefuls — George W. Bush, Al Gore, Bill Bradley, John McCain, Elizabeth Dole — may find the right wiring. He or she may shock us by actually talking about the things we are all thinking and worrying about.

The economic future

The boom has been great, but what next? How about a reality check? This has been the only presidency since the 1930s not to suffer a recession. What happens when the business cycle takes its inevitable turn downward?

What should we do then, Mr. or Ms. Presidential Wannabe? Start pouring the red ink again? Begin another rampage of big deficits like we had in the '80s? Bloat up the national debt and hope interest rates won't spike? Pray that inflation won't come roaring back?

Finding economic justice

How about a living income for people who work? The Democrats talk of a higher minimum wage. But does anyone think $6.15 an hour adds up to a living income?

And what about health coverage? Hillary Clinton blew the issue in 1994 with all the hubris about granting "universal coverage."

How about a humbler ambition: a living income (and that includes adequate health care) for the families of those who work?

Yes, I think it would sell.

Getting old

Everybody with a brain cell can see the aging of our population. Which of the candidates is going to dare say what needs to be said: That there aren't going to be enough young people working in the 21st century to pay the living and health costs of the older people retiring?

And what about the social differences between the two groups? Today, you see middle-aged and elderly white people who resent paying for the public schooling of minorities. Tomorrow, we'll see a lot of young Hispanics and blacks who might just resent paying for the Social Security and Medicare of old folks.

Getting together

Is there any sign in your neighborhood that racial integration, that dream of the early '60s, is happening? I can't see it.

Sure, there are the small areas of progress — you see it oftentimes among school kids, sometimes at the workplace — but an aerial view of American life would show a quilt-like country with people returning each evening to their separate racial lives at nightfall.

Economic differences add to this nightly segregation that leaves millions of blacks living among millions of blacks, marooned in their own country.

Who among the candidates has produced a hard agenda for closing this chasm, which threatens to widen exponentially as laptop computers increasingly sit on the laps of whites?

Finding peace

Whether the Democrats are in or the Republicans are in, the swift pace of small, bite-sized wars continues. Reagan sent troops to Lebanon and Grenada, sent bombers to Libya. Bush ordered the invasion of Panama and led the posse against Iraq. Clinton, chased out of Somalia, has sent bombers to Sudan, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia. Not since Jimmy Carter have we had a president who thought the goal was to avoid war.

Peace. What happened to that national objective?

Saving the planet

How can anyone have peace of mind watching an endless line of cars hit the highway each Saturday morning? Does anyone think the gas is going to last? Or the air? Or the climate?

Again, I'm thinking about Jimmy Carter, the last president with the guts to talk about saving the planet.

The millennium politicians — Bush and all the rest — should stop boring us with all the bromides about "our children" as if we were the children. They should begin talking to us grown-ups as if they were grown-ups.

JWR contributor Chris Matthews, chief of the San Francisco Examiner's Washington Bureau, is host of "Hardball" on CNBC. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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09/15/99: Don't rule out Beatty
09/13/99: The man with the sun on his face
09/08/99: W. vs. Jr. on dope and the draft
The FALN: Hillary's Willie Horton
08/26/99: Bill's guilt fuels Hill's race
08/25/99: The seemingly inexhaustible strength of America's free enterprise
08/23/99: GOP candidates are weak also-rans
08/16/99: Bubba on Bubba
08/11/99: Hillary's agonizing attempts to understand
08/09/99: With warm regards, Richard Nixon
08/04/99: Weicker: real third party is on the Left
08/02/99: Dubyah's last hangover
07/27/99: Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh; capitalism is gonna win

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