Grow up, America!

August 23, 1996|By Cal Thomas

WASHINGTON -- Last month, I wrote a column suggesting that Bob Dole step aside and allow someone with more passion and vigor to be the Republican Party nominee.

Last week, that Bob Dole did step aside, and a new Dole VTC emerged. This Dole was energized by Jack Kemp and delivered a message you don't usually hear from a political figure: Grow up, America.

Mr. Dole's acceptance speech reads better than it sounds, but just because he is rhetorically challenged is no reason to dismiss his message. It was directed at a generation noted for its personal peace, affluence and ''feelings, nothing more than feelings,'' and he admonished the self-indulgent ones that they have squandered the inheritance the senator's generation bequeathed to them.

How to face adversity

He reminded those who refused to pay any price or bear any burden about the higher things: honesty, integrity and the two ways one can face adversity -- with a whine or with courage. Echoing George McGovern in another context in 1972, he said, ''Let me be the bridge to a time of tranquillity, faith and confidence in action. To those who say it was never so, that America has not been better, I say, you're wrong, and I know, because I was there. I have seen it. I remember.''

Many critical of his speech failed to notice that Mr. Dole attempted to use the moral authority of his generation -- forged by the Great Depression and World War II -- to point out our collective guilt. Laugh at the ''Ozzie and Harriet'' generation if you will, but is ''Beavis and Butt-head'' an improvement? His generation has very few actions to defend; those who followed have much explaining to do. By jettisoning ''obsolete'' values, we have reaped the long list of social ills the candidate enumerated.

A call to individuals

Some critics suggested that Mr. Dole wants government to be the agent of change that restores honor and liberty, individual accountability and the family. I didn't take it that way. When he said, ''Only right conduct distinguishes a great nation from one that cannot rise above itself,'' he was issuing a call to individuals, whose right decisions would collectively lift the nation off the floor.

Politically, the proposed 15 percent tax cut is at the center of the Dole-Kemp strategy, but without a moral reawakening, that strategy would only add to the materialist excesses he described in his speech. ''All things do not flow from wealth or poverty,'' he said. ''I know this first-hand, and so do you. All things flow from doing what is right. The triumph of this nation lies not in its material wealth but in courage, sacrifice and honor.''

How near is danger

Will those for whom feelings are supreme get the message from Senator Dole's generation, for whom character is everything? For some, drugs have been easier to swallow than truth. King Richard said in Shakespeare's ''Richard II: '' ''Tell us how near is danger that we may arm us to encounter it.'' That is precisely what Mr. Dole attempted to do in his acceptance speech.

If you prefer a more modern source, hear the words of another Kansan and World War II hero, Dwight Eisenhower: ''The most powerful weapon we have -- indeed the most powerful weapon that any people can have -- is truth. If we ever find ourselves in a position where we cannot tell the truth, or where we feel that the telling will injure us, we will have sacrificed that most powerful weapon.''

Bob Dole spoke truth about what we have become. Will we listen, or will we choose to believe the lie that things aren't that bad and, besides, it's not our fault? We'll get our answer November 5 because, as Elizabeth Dole has noted, this election is more about us than it is about the candidates.

Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist.

Pub Date: 8/23/96

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