Telling President Bush How It Is

Americans living along length of US Highway 1 express their concerns

HEALTH-CARE reform.It was the key issue in Harris Wofford's upset victory over former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh in Pennsylvania. As a major concern for many Americans, health care could become one of the main issues in the presidential campaign. Recently on a trip up and down the East Coast from Key West, Fla., to Fort Kent, Maine, this writer asked dozens of people in cafes, gas stations, and stores the following question: "If you could sit down with President Bush for a few minutes and ask him to do one or two things for the US, what would you ask him?" The top three requests could be a blueprint for victory in a national campaign: 1. Initiate health-care reform. 2. Help the homeless. 3. Spend money on domestic programs instead of sending it abroad. Other issues of concern included: a crackdown on drug use, change the tax system, improve United States education and protect the environment. "I know people who pay $300 a month now for health care," said Lee Thompson, a city employee in Key West. "Other people I know put off having an operation because it costs so much. Any national health-care program has to take care of the people who exist now as well as in the future." Bob Hamilton, a plant foreman of a waste transfer station near Key West, said: "We need some form of socialized medicine. I had an operation which cost about $8,000, and if I didn't have county employee insurance, I don't know what I would have done. I still had to pay $1,000 of my own pocket." In Robbinston, Maine, Ed Brooks, a lifelong auto mechanic, said he would ask President Bush "to stop spending so much money in other countries and spend it on programs in the US," including health care. The Rev. Tyrone Jones of the Isle of Patmos Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., joined the health-care chorus. He also shared his concern about inner-city problems. "I would ask for some kind of tax incentive to help rebuild our inner cities," he said, "along with a training assistance act for our young people because most of them have given up hope. "During the Desert Storm operation, 148 Americans were killed. "During 1990, 436 people were killed in Washington, D.C. I question where the real war was." From Susan Pratt, an artist and part-time waitress in Peery, Maine, President Bush may receive something in the mail. "He should go into the inner city and have a meal with the people on the streets," she said. "But he won't do that, so I'm making life-size figures of homeless people out of papier-mche. I'm going to send them to Bush with empty bowls so they can sit next to Bush when he eats. I'm actually going to do this." When Lois Legendre, a duck decoy artist from Richmond, Maine, was asked for her request for President Bush, she responded: d rather talk to Barbara Bush. "She's my idea of a really warm and caring person. I would ask her to do more for homeless people." To George Hannon, a clerk in a store in Portsmouth, N.H., Bush is "one of the worst presidents in history, the man who conducted a prime-time war in the Middle East and it's still not settled." To Valene Bennett, a banker in Alma, Ga., Bush "will be one of out greatest presidents" for being strong on defense. Mr. Bennett, concerned with lowering standards in education, wants Bush to continue "placing education as a top domestic priority." Liz Hall, who owns a roadside art store in Florida and the two mountain lions in cages behind it, wants more help for the homeless. "Who made us the keeper of the world?" she asked angrily. "We need to take care of our own family first, then we can help other countries." For Margaret Nicholas, a 95-year-old Passamaquoddy Indian living on the Pleasant Point reservation in Maine, her concern is the status of Indians. She said: "I picture myself sitting across from [President Bush] and asking him for more help for my people, for our programs. Why do we send so much money overseas? Why do we send people in the sky [the space program]. What good is that?" Jeff Porteous, who owns an Army-surplus store in Allandale, Fla., said Bush should "revise the federal tax system so the rich don't get all the tax breaks. "The small businessman takes it on the chin when it comes to taxes." While he moved a metal detector back and forth across a Key West beach, Stanley Clem said he would ask Bush "to get the dope out of the country and away from kids. It's destroying our country. "But I'd tell him that Desert Storm was the greatest thing he's ever done, but don't forget Saddam. Then I'd ask Bush to go fishing with me."

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.