Columnist: A call for unity? |

Columnist: A call for unity?

During the 1984 democratic primaries, Sen, Gary Hart used his trademark phrase, “New ideas,” in a televised debate with his chief rival for the democratic nomination”former Vice President Walter Mondale. Mondale was tiring of Senator Hart’s platitudes and ridiculed him by saying: “When I hear you say, ‘new ideas,’ I’m reminded of that ad ‘Where’s the beef?'”

For those not old enough to remember the ad Mondale referred to, the phrase “Where’s the beef?” became an icon of TV advertising during the early ’80s when a commercial for Wendy’s hamburger chain depicted an elderly woman ” played by actress Clara Peller ” looking at a competitor’s burger with a massive bun and very little meat and saying in a deep gravely voice, “Where’s the beef?”

Like Gary Hart, Sen. Barack Obama has propelled himself from a dark-horse candidate to a viable contender. Also like Hart, Obama has fashioned his own clarion call, especially for younger voters. While Hart called for new ideas, Obama’s mantra is about change and unity.

For a relatively inexperienced politico on the national scene, Obama is certainly giving the Clinton machine a run for its money, just as Hart did to Mondale 24 years ago. And while most of us can appreciate and even admire the junior senator from Illinois’ compelling and charismatic style, many Americans are beginning to ask: Where’s the beef?

Perhaps it’s still too early in the campaign for Obama to move away from platitudes and embrace specifics. Nevertheless, sooner or later Mr. Obama’s deft navigation of the political waters will have to be supplanted by substantive solutions to the issues of the day.

Syndicated talk-show host Dennis Prager wrote an interesting piece on this topic. His logic was exquisite when he opined that the truly mature yearn for unity only on a handful of fundamental values such as: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and pursuit of Happiness.” Come to think of it, beyond that extraordinary and historic locution, about the best we can hope for in the public square is civil discourse, open-mindedness and tolerance.

The word “unity” has noble ring to it, but Americans would be wise to ask just how the senator going to bring unity to contentious issues like Iraq. Regardless of whether or not the invasion was justified, Americans are about evenly split regarding an exit strategy. Most Americans want out of Iraq; but even of those who do, the majority also recognizes the dangers of leaving too soon, making it highly doubtful Obama is going to get both camps to agree on this issue.

As Mr. Prager suggested, take any important issue that divides Americans and ask exactly how unity can be achieved without one of the two sides giving up its values and embracing those of the other side. What is the “unity” position on abortion or same-sex marriage? Will Americans who believe we remain a melting pot suddenly embrace the liberal notion of multi-culturalism if/when Sen. Obama takes the oath of office?

For the last seven years, many have labeled the Bush Administration’s policies divisive. But is there really an inherent “rightness” or “wrongness” in the administration’s policies, or are there just differences of opinion subject to legitimate debate? Will Mr. Obama’s policies, (the ones we can discern) ” which lean as far left as Mr. Bush’s do to the right ” be any less divisive?

Does the fact that Obama stated a willingness to meet with America’s enemies ” despots such as Hugo Chavez, Kim Jong-Il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ” during his first year in office while refusing to appear on Fox News create an atmosphere conducive to welcoming conservative thinking Americans into his “unified” political tent?

If the good senator is going to unite Americans in a quest for energy independence, it would probably be beneficial if he were to disclose the specifics; but somehow I question if such a “unifying” plan exists, or why else would he keep it to himself? But perhaps the most telling aspect of the hollowness of Sen. Obama’s unity message is the fact that six of seven Americans polled want English to be the official language of government; yet Sen. Obama adamantly opposes this measure. So let me ask you, what could possibly be more unifying than an official common language?

In the absence of specified policies embraced by both Democrats and Republicans, it appears what Mr. Obama is really saying is “Let’s jettison the right-leaning ideology of the current administration and replace it with a left-leaning ideology of an Obama Administration.”

The Founding Fathers fully expected political divergence on the issues of the day. They understood that disagreement and healthy debate was essential to a functioning Republic. But substituting one set of ideas and values for another hardly qualifies as a call for unity.

Quote of the day: “A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.””George Bernard Shaw

Butch Mazzuca is a business consultant and writes a column for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at

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