Critics of Bob Dole's presidential candidacy say that he is weak, has no vision, and stands for nothing. They say he is too old, can't possibly compete in debate with President Clinton, or match his campaign style. Mr. Dole doesn't have to. He has an asset that Bill Clinton cannot steal. It is his generation.
When that generation left to fight in World War II, they were in the dark about what a mess their sons and daughters would make of our country. Would they have died and been maimed in such great numbers in order for their children to experiment with recreational sex and drugs and their government to tax and spend its citizens into record debt so that many families need two incomes just to survive? Would they have fought so hard if they had known the traditional American culture would be shot down like so many planes by enemy fire?
In the coming campaign, Bob Dole should play the part of a parent who has returned home after a long absence to find his house in shambles. Who is responsible, he should ask, for trashing the home he spent so much time, effort, and money to build? Who should be held accountable for the destruction of such foundational principles as duty, honor, and country? Whose values produced children born out of wedlock to children, deadly venereal diseases, rampant crime, and broken homes? While Dole's generation was liberating Europe and defeating Japan, what force invaded and occupied America? And what will it take to expel that enemy from our midst?
If a cultural crimes trial were held, like the war crimes trials 50 years ago, the testimony of victims would be damning: an abandoned child, an overdosed teenager, a trapped welfare mother, an ignorant student, a young woman with syphilis and worse. The generation that followed Mr. Dole's has nearly destroyed what the heroes of the '40s fought to preserve. We have defaulted on what they loaned to us. It is time for accountability. It is time we learn how to rebuild our cracked foundations.
Mr. Dole should not debate on the president's terms about programs and budgets. He should set the agenda by asking what has happened to make so many souls so sick. And he should remind us all that political and social order is the public evidence of private conscience. If there is disorder in the culture, it merely reflects the disorder in our souls.
The world may have changed in 50 years, but standards such as integrity and virtue are timeless. A president's job is to call citizens to something higher and better than themselves. He can start with the baby boomers. They now show a growing interest in things they initially rejected but their parents took for granted-including spirituality, integrity, and financial responsibility. Mr. Dole should remind them of such things. Bill Clinton couldn't credibly touch these subjects, since he is part of a generation that largely trashed these ideals. Bob Dole should remind us that no power on Earth is greater than a mind and soul reawakened. Our Constitution begins "We the people," not "us the government."
A Dole campaign should be about telling Americans how to rediscover the power within them and to make decisions that benefit not only themselves but their nation. Ask not what "entitlements" your government can give to you; ask what you can do for yourself and your family.
These were the sentiments of a generation that survived the Great Depression and won World War II. What was it that gave them the resolve to sacrifice so much for so many at so young an age? What were they given by their parents that contributed to such bravery and honor?
Bob Dole should not play defense in this campaign. He should ask who and what has brought us to the brink of disaster, and he should point the way back for the many who wish to go-back to the principles of his generation's leaders, back to what people then knew to be right and wrong, back to honoring one's word, back to personal responsibility and moral integrity.
Mr. Dole should take us back to the past to pick up what we left behind-the virtue of another generation-so that we might rescue ourselves from our present predicament and redeem our nation's future.