When Governors Were

Campaign in poetry, govern in prose, said former Governor Mario Cuomo.

And here’s his year-old scathe:

Governor Mario CuomoHowever good his intentions may have been, President Bush and his Administration have demonstrated an appalling incompetence in handling the machinery of government.

They started a war that has taken hundreds of thousands of lives on false pretenses, produced a fragmented economy and a devastated budget, showed callousness toward people in need especially after Hurricane Katrina and have been guilty of a shocking disrespect for the Bill of Rights and balance of powers which are the heart and soul of our Constitution. The Administration’s awkwardly elite foreign policy and its Iraq catastrophe have lost us the hard won respect and cooperation of much of the world and increased the hostility of many who were already our enemies. Their reckless tax cuts and spending have created deficits and debt that make it more difficult to deal with the undernourished vital federal programs, including Social Security, Medicare and education.

Those failures were so many and so blatant that all the Democrats needed to do to win back power in the Congress in the 2006 elections was to recount them loudly without having to propose significant and persuasive major policy alternatives.

The elections in 2008 will be a different matter: the burden of proof will be on the Democrats. If they want to hold on to control of Congress and win back the presidency, their candidates must spell out in some detail what they propose to do and how they propose to get it done, including how they intend to pay for whatever costs are involved. Many significant questions must be answered: how do we deal with our loss of jobs to other countries, our increasing inequality of wealth, failing public schools, the threatened insolvency of Social Security, the escalating costs of Medicare, the 47 million uninsured Americans, the terribly ineffective health care system, withering pensions, huge trade and budget deficits, the inconvenient truth of global warming, middle class malaise, 12 or more million undocumented immigrants?

For how long will we continue to be distracted from the war on terrorism in Afghanistan and other parts of the world by the debacle we have created in Iraq? When and how will we be able to remove our troops from the front lines in Iraq? How will we know when it is safe to bring back most of our troops? Should we bomb Iran?

It’s hard to recall a time in the modern history of presidential elections when we had before us as many vital issues.