The Last Word

The following is the text of a citizen’s letter mailed to the White House on Christmas Eve.

Dear Mr. President:

I am writing this on December 24th, as I am finally in “the spirit of the season.” So if it is truly “better to give than to receive,” permit me, please, to give my president the thoughts of a candid friend.

I presume to call myself your “friend,” though we have never formally met. Our one brief encounter came when you graciously autographed a baseball card for me at the annual Baseball Dinner in Manchester, N.H., in January 2000, when you were still the governor of Texas. You said that night that your biggest mistake was trading Sammy Sosa when you were managing partner of the Texas Rangers. Obviously, you’ve gone onto bigger things since then.

I know you’re extremely busy, so I’ll try to be brief. I’ll make no mention, for example, of deficits exceeding $400 billion a year, except to say that they greatly surpass the previous record, set by the previous President Bush. Money doesn’t grow on trees, even in Washington. But deficits surely grow under Bushes.

Your defenders are quick to pin the deficits on the war on terror and, especially, the war in Iraq. But that overlooks a good deal of your budget, including your lavish spending on the U.S. Department of Education, a department Republicans were still promising to abolish until you came along with your “No Child Left Behind Act.”

With all due respect, sir, have you ever actually read the 10th Amendment? It might be a good idea, since it’s part of the Constitution you have sworn to “preserve, protect and defend.” You might want to brush up on it a bit before you take that oath again in a couple of weeks.

I am also troubled by the claim, repeatedly put forward by your former attorney general, that the president has the right to detain anyone, foreign or U.S. citizen, without trial and without even a formal charge, simply by designating that individual an “enemy combatant.” That doesn’t leave much room for the Bill of Rights now, does it, sir?

Finally, Mr. President, I wonder if you have had the beginnings of a second (or, better yet, a first) thought about invading Iraq, a nation that had not attacked and posed no threat to the United States. For this is not a conflict that was “forced upon us.” No, Mr. President, it is a “war of choice.” And the choice was yours.

The “blessings of liberty” that you are eager to spread around the world surely include the right of a mere American citizen to offer his unsolicited opinions to the recently re-elected President of the United States and two-time winner of Time magazine’s “Man of the Year” award. You are, no doubt, one of the world’s great men. But beware how the world measures greatness. Someone long ago described it in verse:

    “He took cities and towns; he cut short limbs and lives.
    “He made orphans and widows out of children and wives.
    “This course many years he triumphantly ran.
    “And did mischief enough to be called a great man.”

Merry Christmas,
Jack Kenny, Manchester, NH

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