Iconoclast from Colorado Lamm's candidacy: Telling RTC Americans what they don't want to hear

July 10, 1996

ROSS PEROT's Reform Party has already performed a useful function by giving Richard D. Lamm a chance to proclaim himself a presidential candidate. The former governor of Colorado takes great delight in telling the American people what they don't want to hear.

He accuses the present generation of a "self-indulgence" that endangers its progeny. He warns that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are going broke unless the affluent elderly are denied benefits they don't need. He questions costly medical procedures to prolong the lives of the terminally ill. And he is even for higher taxes, including a 50-cent gasoline tax.

Mr. Lamm knows as well as anyone that a politician who goes out of his way to offend old folks, pro-lifers, protectionists, anti-taxers, businessmen, liberals, lawyers, doctors, New Dealers, PAC-men and legions of Americans addicted to various entitlements and subsidies is not going to the White House.

But since Mr. Perot has been good enough to spend his millions to create the Reform Party tuous continent-sized country, third parties provide an opportunity to promote issues that need a good airing. Nothing is more pertinent to U.S. society in the 21st century than the financing of its retirement and health systems. Yet even though major party leaders know decisive action cannot be long postponed, they will carefully hide any planned initiatives until after election day.

Not Dick Lamm. And not Ross Perot when, as expected, his money bags shove the iconoclast from Colorado to the side and -- perhaps -- to No. 2 spot on the ticket. Mr. Lamm is a lot more thoughtful and intellectual than Mr. Perot. He is a free trader rather than an economic nationalist. Though he loves to provoke, he lacks the paranoid tendencies that caused the country to cool on Mr. Perot in 1992.

So while there is time, let Americans listen seriously to Mr. Lamm. Much of what he says makes damned good sense.

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