Stump Speech 

Whoever says this and means it gets my vote for president.

My fellow Americans,

Relax and go about your business. Enjoy your children. Travel. Have some fun. Buy what you need when you need it. Invest in companies you trust and understand. Have confidence in the future of America. You are safer than any other population in the history of the world, and the events of September 11, 2001, did not change that.

Yes, there are terrorists out there. But that's nothing new. From John Brown and John Wilkes Booth to Timothy McVeigh and Osama bin Laden, there have always been homicidal fanatics, and there will always be homicidal fanatics. But in the grand scheme of things, you are in much more danger from automobiles and cigarettes, from fast food and indiscriminate intercourse.

So forget the gas masks. Instead, drive defensively, give up smoking, eat better, get plenty of exercise, and practice safe sex.

You might also keep track of who in your family and which of your neighbors owns a gun. They are much more a danger to you than Osama bin Laden and his gang.

Meanwhile, as your next president, I will keep a close eye on who and what passes across our borders and enters our harbors. I will make sure cockpit doors cannot be opened in flight, and I will closely monitor who is allowed to pilot a plane. I will consider anyone who brags about killing Americans to be fair game for American retribution.

As your next president, I will spend most of my efforts spreading the gospel of secular democracy. I will speak to the peoples of the world honestly about America's virtues and shortcomings, its wonderful freedoms and occasional missteps. I will share our prosperity -- our food, our funds, our resources, and our technology -- with the poor of the world, and I will use our natural resources responsibly.

And as your next president, I will not let the fearmongers rule the day. I will not let terror paralyze our nation. We must not be like the knight whose horse collapsed under the weight of his armor. Let us not collapse under the weight of our own anti-terror measures. Let us not, in some deluded effort to achieve perfect security, weigh down our transportation, trade, and immigration systems with so many supposed safeguards that the nation comes to a standstill. Let us not protect ourselves to death.

Nor will I use the events of September 11th or any future terrorist attacks as a pretext to create an imperial presidency. I will not undermine our system of checks and balances in the name of some self-declared "war" on terrorism which somehow allows me to give myself perpetual war powers. I will not whisper the magic words "war on terrorism" and expect Congress and the courts to submit meekly to my will, allowing me to jail whomever I want for as long as I want wherever I want, or to hold secret trials, or to start real wars without congressional permission.

Because, you see, I cannot be trusted. Whatever you do, do not trust me. Don't trust anyone with the kind of powers some will try to claim in the name of fighting terrorism. Demand public trials. Demand congressional and judicial oversight of all presidential actions. Insist that the press have access to all governmental actions except those whose revelation might directly and immediately endanger our military men and women in time of congressionally declared war. Insist that your next president adhere to fundamental democratic principles: the presumption of innocence, the balance of powers, an empowered press, the right of citizens to remain free from government spying. Demand your freedoms, and demand them loudly.

My fellow Americans, I tell you today what you already know: We're strong. We're prosperous. We're as safe as any nation can hope to be. Don't give in to your fears. Don't let anyone try to frighten you into voting for them.

Please vote for me. Then put aside your worries, and go live your lives.

Ed Weathers is a former editor of Memphis magazine.

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