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It's time for a fireside chat

By E. Ralph Hostetter
web posted December 5, 2005

Few are alive today who have the vivid memories of the fear that gripped the people of America in the Great Depression during the decade of the 1930s.

Photographs in the newspapers and magazines of the time showed thousands lined up for blocks in the cities, often awaiting a bowl of soup from a sidewalk soup kitchen.

Many of the homeless lived under bridges and in roadway culverts.

Unemployment rose far into the double digits.

Hardly a home did not experience, at some time, a person at the door begging for food, especially those living near railways where a new class of citizenry, the hobo, gained prominence.

For those without jobs there was fear of no food or shelter, and for those with jobs the fear of losing their jobs.

Many banks failed, and therefore, closed. Checking and savings accounts were lost. The stock market crashed and entire fortunes were wiped out. Suicides increased dramatically.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, elected in 1932, immediately stepped into this breach to calm the fears of the people.

Franklin D. Roosevelt during a fireside chatThrough frequent radio addresses, which the President called "Fireside Chats," the American public was kept informed of measures the Executive and Legislative Branches were taking to return America to economic stability.

Equally important were President Roosevelt's messages of encouragement, dispelling fears of the nation. He reminded Americans that the greatest fear was fear itself.

Shed of the adversities and the accompanying fears of the Great Depression, the ensuing 65 years have been a period of economic growth, national and individual prosperity and freedom unheard of in history.

President George W. Bush's adoption of President Roosevelt's "Fireside Chat" idea may be the answer to his critics' charges that he doesn't keep Congress and the Nation informed on a timely basis regarding strategy and progress of the Iraqi War and the rebuilding of Iraq's infrastructures of schools, hospitals, utilities and oil production. There is much good news to be reported

Furthermore, the American people need reassurance, as they did during the dark days of the Great Depression, that leadership at the highest level in the Nation fully is engaged in protecting their best interests on a continuing basis.

More importantly, a very real sense of fear has re-entered the American mentality. International terrorism is at the root of this fear.

It began with the New York Trade Center bombing in 1993, followed by United States Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, Africa, in 1998, and the attempted sinking of the U.S.S. COLE in Yemen in 2000. All these acts of terror cost many human lives during the Clinton Administration. No strategy for retaliation or defense against terrorism was forthcoming.

On September 11, 2001, the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City were destroyed by suicide bombers using commercial aircraft loaded with passengers.

George W. Bush, newly elected President of the United States, took immediate action against what he identified as an act of war against America. He rightfully decided that the United States would fight the war against international terrorism on the territory of the terrorists rather than wait for repeated attacks at home.

The armed forces in two countries, Afghanistan and Iraq were quickly defeated. Both actions were undertaken with full Congressional approval.

International terrorists have now focused on Iraq, killing tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens and nearly all of the 2,000 U.S. military forces who have perished in the war.

Politically, here at home, the extreme left is second- guessing its own commitments to enter a war against terrorism and is accusing President Bush of manipulating the intelligence upon which the coalition of nations relied, and today re-affirms, that was the basis of the decision to go to war.

Rhetoric to withdraw from the Iraqi War was reaching a fever pitch recently. Many were calling for immediate withdrawal. In a "put up or shut up" vote, the Republican Leadership in the House of Representatives offered a resolution for immediate withdrawal from war.

The extreme left dissenters were called upon to show the courage to support their own rhetoric — that courage failed. The vote was 403 - 3 against the call for withdrawal. Dissension, defeatism, distortions, deceit and downright hate is entering the American culture in increasing magnitudes. The majority of the mass media is magnifying these problems with a constant drumbeat of hatred towards President Bush.

There is much good news regarding Iraq that the mass media refuses to make known.

President Bush must resolutely answer his critics. He must continually remind those who forget so easily what his strategy was and still is in prosecuting the war in both Iraq and Afghanistan and what the good news is regarding the rebuilding of Iraq's culture, its schools, hospitals, infrastructure and oil production.

The use of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Fireside Chat idea by President George W. Bush for a weekly program during prime time on TV and radio will go a long way in defusing the charged atmosphere in the nation, thereby diminishing fear.

E. Ralph Hostetter, a prominent businessman and agricultural publisher, also is a national and local award-winning columnist.

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