Thursday, October 19, 2006

Wyche Fowler: "America isn't acting like America"

This Marietta Daily Journal article by Amanda Crissup brought back a lot of memories for me. 1992 was my first forray into Georgia politics. I let some friends talk to me in joining two campaigns that spring, the Bill Clinton campaign for president and the Wyche Fowler compaign for re-election to the U.S. Senate.

It was easy for me. I had already decided in late 1991 that Bill Clinton would be who I would vote for in the 1992 Presidential Preference primary. He had the advantage of being a southerner in Georgia. But his election wasn't assured. Thanks to Zell and the state of Georgia, that all changed after our primary.

And I had always like Wyche Fowler. Even my dad, who mostly voted Republican, liked Wyche. As a public servant, he was a knowledgeable man of integrity. He was someone easy to campaign for. But he faced tough opposition for re-election that fall.

That year's elections ended in mixed emotions for me. I worked, went to school, and spent the majority of my free time helping these two candidates. Clinton ended up winning the Democratic nomination, and ultimately, the White House. But we failed to get Wyche an outright victory in the November general election. Because the race was so close, a third party candidate did just enough to help get Paul Coverdell into a general election runoff.

In what seemed like a cruel irony at the time, Barbara Bush, wife of the man that Bill Clinton had just beaten, came down to Georgia and used her influence and popularity to raise a lot of money and votes for Coverdell. Coverdell won the runoff. It was a bitter defeat for those of us that knocked on doors, made phone calls, stood out in the cold rain trying to draw crowds and pass out literature, and put up and take down booths over and over again.

The day that I heard Paul Coverdell had died in 2000, I was far removed from those days. I sent Mrs. Coverdell a sincere condolence card and thanked her for the good things Sen. Coverdell had acheived, even though my list for him was probably a little shorter than her's.

Anyway, back to the article...........

Wyche now works in Washington, D.C. for the Middle East Institute. As his words show, he's more than a little concerned about Bush's Middle East policies. He's also concerned about our military. Take a moment to read the article that has many quotes from Wyche. He makes a lot of sense. But, then again, I thought he made a lot of sense a long time ago.

Nation s image tarnished, says former senator

Thursday, October 19, 2006 3:13 AM EDT

By Amanda Crissup
Marietta Daily Journal Staff Writer

MARIETTA - America's image as a Lone Ranger cowboy figure troubles former Democratic U.S. Sen. Wyche Fowler Jr."If we're the superpower, if we have all the cards - why can't we be like John Wayne and walk into town and talk first before we shoot?" Fowler said.Fowler, an Atlanta native and former Marietta resident who served as U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1987 to 1992, addressed the Marietta Rotary Club on Wednesday about America's international image.

"America isn't acting like America," Fowler said.

As chairman of the board of the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C., Fowler works to bolster American understanding of the Middle East. He said the United States has lost credibility in the international arena largely because it no longer has any regard for the opinions of other nations.

"In my opinion, this must be resolved or the problems of the world and this democracy will not be resolved," Fowler said. "We can't continue to make policy in isolation. We need allies in the world," Fowler said.

President George W. Bush has helped accelerate change in Iraq, but Fowler said he disagrees with the president's line of freedom being a God-given gift.

"I beg to differ with our president because freedom as represented by Western-style democracy is not given, it's an achievement," Fowler said.

That achievement was made 225 years ago Wednesday on the anniversary of Lord Charles Cornwallis's surrender at Yorktown, Va., ending the Revolutionary War.But Fowler said the problem of importing a political system like democracy to Iraq is that the political climate isn't the same.

"I think we'd make a mistake to try and enforce democracy on the cultures and other countries that have had no experience with active citizenship and institution building that true democracy requires," Fowler said.

He has spoken with active military leaders who say the military has done everything it can in Iraq.

"Our military is seriously asking for help, and I'm not talking about more troops on the ground," Fowler said.

Now it's time for democracy, but democracy is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Fowler said Islamic organizations should be directly involved in the process.

Fowler didn't just dwell on problems, but also suggested some solutions.

The key to patch up the past 15 years of a deteriorating public image, Fowler said, is to talk. Continued negotiation with Israel and Palestine is necessary, as well as with North Korea.

Fowler's speech gave Rotarians some food for thought.

Patrick McCord, chief business officer at Southern Polytechnic State University said Fowler's comments gave him something to consider before next month's elections.

"That's not something you want to hear, but it got me to thinking, is that true?" McCord said.

Mayor Bill Dunaway said Fowler's speech struck him.

"We all say we want democracy but what he was saying is be careful what you ask for, you may not like what you get," Dunaway said.

Fowler has a history of civic involvement that predates elected office.

As a boy in 1947, he presented a 5-minute speech to 35 different Rotary clubs across the state on the community chest.

Wednesday's visit with Rotarians was at least his second keynote address to the Marietta club.

In 2003, he shared with the club his perspective on U.S.-Saudi relations and his personal connection to Sept. 11. 2001. His only daughter worked at the World Trade Center and was one of the few who walked away after the attacks.

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