SEVERAL weeks ago in this column (June 30) I created a mythical President, one Robert Bellwhether Armstrong (RBA), a ``short, lumpy man of great integrity.'' Disappointed with the lack of politically imaginative and moral leadership of our presidents beginning with Richard Nixon, I thought my mythical RBA could do much better. I listed a number of decisions RBA had taken since he ``took'' office in 1964, and I invited readers to comment. To date 48 readers have responded with comments and ideas, including several who thought RBA was real, and some who sent clippings from other sources. Here is a sampling of responses (many thanks to all who wrote):
Joellen Faucher of Shirley, Mass., and Kay Lilland of Tumwater, Wash., suggested that instead of Robert, I should have made the President ``Roberta.'' Ms. Faucher said she would ``actually go out and campaign for a Roberta.''
Ethel Claire Werner of San Diego, concerned about world alcohol abuse, wants all United States embassies and military bases ``to stop serving liquor [there] at taxpayers' expense.'' She suggests ``they lift their glasses to toast with clear, pure spring water'' to call attention to environmental needs.
In a seven-page letter, Edward H. Tonkin of Bridgeport, Conn., concluded that RBA was a ``potential dictator and proto-totalitarian.'' Mr. Tonkin created his own President, Mark Oliver Robertson, who did the following and much more: Initiated a free-market banking system, replaced the income tax with ``a flat 5 percent tax on income, dividends, and interest, with no tax on capital gains''; created a ``commercial union'' in the Middle East; overturned drug laws to allow ``recreational use'' of drugs; and suggested that ``women [should] stay at home and care for our most important business, our children.''
Linda M. Maccione of San Francisco likes the idea of federal taxpayers indicating what agencies and projects they want their taxes to support. She thinks it would help solve the deficit problem. ``We all own this country,'' she wrote. ``[We] are not ignorant young children whose decisions on how to spend [our] money must be made by a parental Congress. It's time each citizen breaks the maternal/paternal bonds with Congress'' and ``accept a par share of the responsibility.''
Environmental issues concerned Patrick Smith of Denver. ``You sell it, you recycle it,'' is the way he suggested that large companies respond to the need to recycle. Mr. Smith wants all stores to have procedures to accept ``empty plastic, aluminum, and glass containers.''
Children and their needs are at the top of the list for William Boyd (no address): ``Children should be placed front and center, with their needs met first when we establish our national priorities. ... We would soon become a better nation for having done that.''
Gerald Boyack of Kalamazoo, Mich., thought RBA's threat to ``outlaw handguns would be laughed at - look at drugs,'' wrote Mr. Boyack. He says, ``Guns for protection are essential in our increasingly violent society,'' and ``licensing must be federal because it would be more stable....''
Responding to RBA's idea to create a citizen's task force to write a Bill of Responsibilities (to accompany the Bill of Rights), Merrily Cummings of Glendora, Calif., exclaimed, ``Yeah Team!''
And Joseph Fabry, writing on behalf of the Institute of Logotherapy in Berkeley, Calif., said that Dr. Viktor Frankel has been suggesting for 30 years that a Statue of Responsibility be built on the West Coast to balance the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast. The island of Alcatraz, in San Francisco Bay, is the place to build, he says.
No issue drew more emotion than Israel's role in the Middle East. ``Perhaps it is not in [the US's] interest that the Middle East dispute be settled,'' wrote Mr. Boyack from Michigan. ``Perhaps Israel is keeping Islamic nations off-balance; settlement might bolster an Islamic federation that would really `oil mail' us.''
And May Mansoor Munn from Houston wrote, ``I feel strongly that the unbridled and uncritical monetary and moral support of Israel, right or wrong, works toward its intransigence, and in the long run, toward its detriment.''
Advocating working together toward a gentler, kinder nation, Connie P.C. Claire of Dallas wrote: ``I recommend that President [Bush] give a speech in which he encourages Americans to send their original ideas to the White House. From the inevitable flood of letters, he would glean some astoundingly wonderful ideas.''
Agreed. Over to you, George.