Bush and Quayle

PRESIDENT Bush's quick return to work after a brief hospitalization was welcome. He made his Monday meeting with former Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze, his collaborator in shaping a more cooperative East-West relationship. He'll be meeting with leaders of the independence-bound Baltic republics today. Middle-East challenges still clamor for attention: securing the safe zones for returning Kurdish refugees in Iraq and restarting the Arab-Israeli peace process. At home, the US economy sputters as experts debate the timing of recovery.

With responsibilities like these on the president's shoulders, it's no wonder that even a brief absence causes concern. Though Mr. Bush seemed little impressed by his indisposition, the American public has been given every conceivable medical detail, replete with diagrams.

The president's robust approach to his job - and to his recreation - appear undimished, however. He may be told to slow his pace a bit, but perhaps that will give him some time for needed reflection.

One thing he may have to ponder is his choice of vice president. The weekend's events rekindled that issue.

But those moments of concern should also have served to clear away, for a time, the often gratuitous criticism and sarcasm that pursue Dan Quayle. If circumstances ever put him in the president's chair, Americans' sense of fairness will rally them to his support - regardless of what the polls say about levels of confidence in the vice president.

Presidential decisions affect the lives and well-being of millions. But the responsibility of governing does not rest on one person. It's shared, from the advisers at a president's side, to elected lawmakers in Congress, to the people themselves.

Part of that duty, for those who trust in God, is prayer that the president - and the vice president - are protected by, and responsive to, a wisdom that far exceeds their own.

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