Age has got its advantages, says Dole- Abdullah Ahmad

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I know I will see less fatcats, less private jets but more Hollywood celebrities and attend more tinselled fetes and entertainment in Chicago than in San Diego. That will be the easiest comparison between the two political parties.

Dole is a veteran politician of considerable experience and he claims old age has its advantages. I agree with him up to a point. He wants to be the bridge to America that only the unknowing would call a myth.

Last week, Russel Baker, a columnist of the New York Times begged children to believe him that things were not better in the old days.

Bakers said he was there too, (as old as Dole I suppose) just like Dole, and he was shocked to hear Dole claim that things were better in the past. They were not. He distinctly remembers bathing out of a tin basin by a coal and oil-lamp. He recalls Negroes (and other coloured people) riding in the back of the bus, that summer was a season of fear because summer was when polio stalked the neighbourhood, crippling and killing.

The columnist hopes dole will drop the silly argument that the country is in a worse shape now than back then.

Today, Wall Street is booming, the middle class is far richer now than in 1940 when hope of owning a house and two cars would have been pure fantasy. Russel, I imagine, has said what the average American seems to feel: I feel that the good feeling is quite widespread.

Dole is trying to reach out to middle America, so he talks about trust, minorities, immigration, strong defence, family values, less tax, less government, and fiscal prudence.

As President, he states he will not allow the UN secretary general Boutros-Boutros Ghali or any other UN secretary-general to give orders to American armed forces.

Another columnist, A.M. Rosenthal, writing in the same paper stated that the US is the chief political and military beneficiary of the UN and also earns a pretty penny from having UN Headquarters on US soil. It is also the chief defaulter with more than US$1 billion (RM2.5 billion) behind in dues payment (as usual).

He reminds Dole that if he wins, and when the day arrives to commit US troops to action, he will surely not fail to seek UN endorsement that could help US forces win.

Many guests at the convention said quite loudly that Dole's wife, Elizabeth, a former cabinet secretary, would arguably have been a more popular candidate. Clever, charming, rich, a seasoned operator and a polished political performer, Elizabeth is key to Dole's reaching middle Americans for she does, unlike her husband, exude warmth; she smiles and laughs a lot while Dole is rather cold. When Dole does smile, which happens occasionally, it unfortunately almost always comes out crooked.

Dole is catching up, according to various polls. Whether the climb is strong enough to make any difference is another matter, but if by Labour Day Clinton still maintains even a 10% lead, Dole is in trouble. No doubt, Dole was a hero at San Diego. He was at times eloquent, earning thunderous applause, cheered and appreciated by his buoyed republican soldiers. Many people I spoke to in New York, in hotels, on and off the convention floor at the seaside-convention hall and in La Jolla, where I stayed, desperately wished him well but few would bet the nominee would win.

Clinton is a cunning incumbent. He will do what it takes to retain his free residence on Pennsylvania Avenue. Today he has started giving out his economic baits, one of which is raising the minimum wage which will benefit at least 10 million voters. The raise is from US$4.25 (RM 10.63) at present to US$5.15(RM 12.88), an increase of 50 cents (RM 1.25) an hour effective Oct 1. He has a few more tricks up his sleeves, and, for good measure, the right political rhetoric. William Jefferson Clinton is a damn good campaigner!

Dato' Abdullah Ahmad is Malaysia's Special Envoy to the United Nations

(This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Sun )