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Letter from the Editor

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So I'm watching Larry King (don't ask) interview Miss USA, Tara Conner. Conner, in true reality-show fashion, is confessing that she used cocaine and marijuana and generally misbehaved after her ascension to the Miss USA crown. And she, like so many others who've been caught misbehaving in recent months, used the "get out of trouble free" card and went to rehab.

As I was watching (shallow fellow that I am), I kept thinking, Why is this person Miss USA? I see prettier, smarter women than Tara Conner every day. The reason, of course, is that Conner entered the contest and beat out a few dozen other women who thought being Miss USA was a good idea. The women I know wouldn't think of doing such a thing.

It's similar to what happens in government. I know lots of smart, honest, charismatic people who would make great mayors, city councilmembers, senators, even presidents. But they don't "enter the contest," so we're stuck with those who do, and, by and large, they tend to be mediocre. Or, even if they are outstanding folks going in, they become corrupted by the system and lose the common touch -- and, often, common sense.

It's how we get a George W. Bush. He's inarticulate, inflexible, and apparently listens only to the sycophants and sociopaths he's surrounded himself with, but he entered the contest, so for better and mostly worse, he's our president. Likewise, with our senators, who despite receiving a clear message from the electorate, refuse (with few exceptions) to deliver that message to the president.

We desperately need leaders, here and in Washington, to speak for us. We need a mayor who will call the Toyota company and personally invite them to tour Memphis rather than offering "no comment" about the proposed auto plant in Marion, Arkansas. We need senators to show the kind of courage being displayed by our soldiers in Iraq. We need leaders who will stand up for what's right. Otherwise, the whole country will be in rehab.

Bruce VanWyngarden

brucev@memphisflyer.com

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