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Letter to a New President: Commonsense Lessons for Our Next Leader Paperback – January 6, 2009
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A legendary Senator advises our new president on the commonsense values necessary to lead our nation.
United States senator Robert C. Byrd is the longest-serving member of the Senate in the history of our great Republic. He has lived through two world wars, the Great Depression, the civil rights movement, the Cold War, the resignation of a U.S. president, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and traumatic military conflicts around the globe, including Iraq and Vietnam. Now, Byrd extends a helping hand to the next president of the United States as only he can. He shares a wealth of knowledge from his remarkable life and unique vantage point in history. In Letter to the New President, Byrd has written a valuable and insightful collection of lessons for our countryâs next leader.
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Beyond cautions to the new president, whether Republican or Democrat, about what "he or she" will inherit from George W. Bush, I found this book to be a very balanced, long-sighted view of the history of this nation and the principles on which it was founded. Stating the truth of where we now stand is not "name-calling"; the reality is that the Bush/Cheney administration and its enablers have very seriously undermined and damaged America and her Constitution. We the People, her lifeblood, have become so perilously anemic and "unmoored" from history and reality that the U.S. citizenry is hardly capable of the kind of debate and reflection required for self-governance. And yet we have little trust in our leaders.
Senator Byrd lays out a number of important approaches the new president must take to restore the confidence of the American people in her leaders and--most importantly--themselves as citizens who, in the final analysis, must be informed enough to self-govern, as the Founding Fathers intended.
Here are the steps Byrd urges our new president will take:
1. Bring back the fireside chat.
2. Teach the people about the Constitution.
3. No life stands outside history.
4. A big lie is still a lie; tell the truth.
5. Build your presidency around accountability.
6. Let the press do its job, even when that might sting.
7. We can do better than photo-op diplomacy.
8. A new approach to the rest of the world: influence.
9. Less partisan warfare, more real debate.
10. Don't forget the basics: Have the patience to reflect.
Each section includes the rationale for why that approach is critical to this nation's survival. The book is full of the thoughts and actions of presidents and other leaders during our long history--the good, the bad, and the ugly. Throughout, Senator Byrd urges an awareness of the fact that history does repeat itself, and how.
Senator Byrd's mind is still sharp and his spirit still mighty, even if his body is inexorably declining. In his nineties, it was shocking to me to realize (as Byrd mentions in one of many interesting asides) that he actually served for four years in the Senate with PRESCOTT Bush, George W.'s grandfather. A telling tale that every Legislative Branch member ought to consider carefully follows:
"I was considered stubborn in some quarters and eccentric in others when I flew to the Soviet Union in 1979 to meet with Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev in my role as Senate Majority Leader. I went to reinforce upon him the constitutional importance of giving the Senate ample time to thoughtfully review an important nuclear-arms treaty of the day, SALT II.... By the end we had reached an understanding. I drank a toast to him, and he toasted me, too. Brezhnev understood that he must respect the role of Congress and give us time for thorough consideration of the treaty."
If only George W. Bush had had the same respect for Congress (and they for each other and for the American people) instead of bums-rushing them into authorizing him to invade Iraq right before the 2002 mid-term elections! Many thousands of lives and many billions of taxpayers' dollars might have been far better spent.
Senator Byrd's perspective on history and governance is wide and deep, tempered by decades of struggling to stay true to his moral sense and calling as he has fought tirelessly to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution. Unlike many, he has demonstrated the capacity to take time to think, to change, to grow. I will always remember him pulling that little red copy of the U.S. Constitution out of his breast pocket on the Senate floor. I hope the next president will also carry one, not as a prop but as a reminder as Byrd does, ever-mindful of its import.
It must be for Senator Byrd--and for any American who is informed enough to understand the implications of the last eight years--terribly saddening to think he may not live long enough to see a new president rouse us all once again to fight for our country's heart and soul: our hard-won Constitution and rule of law; our honesty, integrity, humility, values, and transcendent ideals. His heart must be breaking a second time now.
I thank you for your service, Senator Byrd. May God be with you always.
I honestly tired of reading his attacks, throughout the book, and I'm a registered Democrat and I live on Byrd Lane in Clarksburg, WV. This kind of literature should have come with a money back offer if not completely satisfied.