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February 10, 2009

Travels with Uncle Chet: An open letter to Obama

COLUMBUS _ ``Dear President Obama,'' Uncle Chet read from a yellow legal pad.

``Looking for a job?'' asked Hon, opening cartons of ice cream.

``Just a job well done,'' said Uncle Chet.

``You're not on him already?'' I asked.

``In the words of that half-baked Alaskan, `You betcha!'''

``Give him a chance,'' I said. ``He's only been in office two weeks.''

``But he's digging in deeper in Afghanistan and you know that's a mistake,'' said Uncle Chet. ``That's why I writing him: `Dear Mr. President: Get out of Afghanistan. We have no business being there. Afghanistan did not attack us.

"Some criminals, mostly Saudis and Egyptians hiding out in Afghanistan, did attack us several years ago, and international police agencies should arrest them and hold them for trial at the World Court.

'Mr. President, after the United States was attacked on 9/11, almost every political leader on Earth, including Saddam Hussein, offered condolences and assistance. If we had worked with our peers around the world then, the guilty would have been caught, tried and punished and the ideal of human cooperation greatly advanced. Imagine, every nation on Earth going after just the guilty, led by that Saudi, Osama bin Laden, a former "freedom fighter," armed by the Reagan administration.'''

``I think we're going to sing 'Happy Birthday,''' whispered Alice, who's retiring this spring.

But he was wound: ```Mr. President, if you want to stimulate the economy, let everyone opt into Medicare. Then let Medicare drive down the outrageous cost of health care by using the bargaining power of say, 280 million customers. If people want to keep paying insurance companies 30 cents on the dollar, let them. But let the rest of us _ like you and the senators, like the Army, Navy and Marines _ have single-payer Medicare and make that the best plan in the world.

``Mr. President ...'"

``We're singing 'Happy Birthday!''' Alice interjected. ``The candles are lit!''

``Oh, sorry, Buddy,'' he said as he put the pad down.

``You can finish after this,'' said Buddy. ``I'm going to write to Obama, too. I saw him dancing on `Ellen.'''

``That was on YouTube,'' said his older sister.

``Yes,'' he said, then focused on the eight lights before him, burning on a Saturday afternoon.

We sang and cameras flashed as he blew out the candles. Then Hon and I dished up cake and ice cream.

``Now that you're 8, do you feel any different?'' asked Alice.

``This isn't my real birthday,'' said Buddy.

``When was your real birthday?''

``Tuesday,'' he said and passed a plate to his sister on its way to the end of the table.

``Did you feel any different on Tuesday?''

He considered this. ``I think so.''

``I hit him with the stimulus, too,'' said Uncle Chet. ``It's got to be more than a hodgepodge. We need to get something as a nation, something worth a trillion dollars, like high-speed rail or universal broadband. With rail, fiber optic and government-run health care, the economy would boom again.''

``You betcha,'' I said.

``We're going to open presents now,'' said Alice.

``The problem with this economy isn't money,'' said Uncle Chet. ``There's more money now than last year. They can't print it fast enough.''

``I heard that,'' I said.

``The problem is distribution; some people are gobbling up too much, and that leaves too little for everyone else."

``And how do you solve that?'' I said.

``You put a tax on assets, on everything over $100 million.''

``Why $100 million?'' I asked.

``Shh.'' Alice shook her head.

Then Hon said, ``Why don't you open that one first?''


Cooperstown News Bureau Reporter Tom Grace is traveling with his Uncle Chet, who he says is imaginary. Grace's column appears every other week.