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Newman decides against running for president.

by Mel Lorentzen
March 27, 2004

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When Newman Peregrine drops by the other day, he says something that lights a fire under my stilts. “I’ve decided not to run for president.”

Whew! What a relief. Then I realize I didn’t even know he was planning to run for president. Besides that, I don’t have a clue what he would run for president of — the United States or the PTA!

I decide to play dumb, so I just ask, “How come?”

He shrugs, squints, and grunts: “Religion.”

I recall what Calvin Coolidge said about a preacher and sin. “Are you for it or against it?,” I query.

“Both!”

“You sound like a political mugwump, “ I tell him.

“What’s that?”

“Your mug on one side of a fence, and your wump on the other.” (He doesn’t laugh at my pun on an 1884 campaign term.)

He says: “All this hassle over separation of church and state gets me confused. If we’re one nation under God, how come our children are allowed to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag in the classroom, but aren’t allowed to pray in school to the God we claim to be under? How come He can’t be mentioned in our legislation? How come His laws aren’t cited by our courts? How come an atheist can use his right of free speech to challenge a believer’s claim to the same right? How come the government subsidizes religious groups by exempting them from property tax? How come our money says ‘In God we trust’? How come the Senate always chooses a Protestant minister for its Chaplain? How come the President can end a speech saying ‘God bless America’ but we are supposed to say ‘Happy Holiday’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas’? How come persons being sworn into office put their hand on a Bible?”

Yeah, I think to myself, how come? I’ll listen to what candidates in the next election say to squirm their way through a maze like that. Newman may be pretty smart not to run for president or any office.

“On the other hand” — as Tevye says in Fiddler on the Roof — somebody always will run… on a party platform whose planks probably will be platitudes and promises. Will any candidate have the courage to campaign without compromise of conscience and conviction?

Come to think of it, someone with Newman’s hang-ups might be good for the nation, forcing us to face up to our favorite fallacies and to forsake fancy footwork in favor of fearlessly fair fundamentals.

Hmmmm… Would I qualify? I don’t think so. I don’t have what it takes. I better shut up. Then, when I go into the polling place on the next election day, I may write in Peregrine for President. Even if Newman doesn’t have all the answers, at least he’s asking solid questions. That’s leadership.

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