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Rocky Mountain West has cause for hope

As the kids return to school the presidential campaigns should return to reason. No region of the nation has more cause to hope for it than does the Rocky Mountain West.

Although the race for the White House has had moments of rational discussion about the nation's great issues, this summer's presidential politics have been marred with mud slinging. We westerners like our politics straight, no chaser; however we want a rational, civil discussion of those policies which profoundly affect the health, well-being and the very lives of our citizens, particularly those young Americans dying in the rubble of the shooting gallery of Iraq.

We in the West have received early attention from both candidates, who have made campaign stops from New Mexico to Idaho and San Diego to Seattle. Bush was recently in New Mexico and Kerry is headed for Nevada, Colorado and Washington state. When the candidates are out this way we want the campaigns and the media to concentrate on western issues, and leave the nastiness behind. We are, frankly, disgusted by the continuing news coverage given to the surrogate campaign mudslingers.

In the West we have critically important policy to consider and we want to know that Bush and Kerry not only understand those issues, but are also aware of our unique western perspectives. Energy and the environment, jobs and health care are just a few of the national issues that take on unique western perspectives.

Concerning jobs, it is critical that the two candidates and their top advisors understand the historic transition which has occurred here in the Rocky Mountain West and has taken us on a whirlwind ride from the old extractive industries' economy to the current one of restoration, renewal, conservation, and the careful production of our natural resources. We need leadership at all levels, including in the oval office, to help us as we move into this new economy.

A president must also understand that here in the lightly populated cities and small businesses of the West, health care is not only about paying for the visit to the doctor, it is also about our freedom to live and work where we choose. Without some mechanism to assure reasonably priced universal health insurance, we westerners are forced to chase health care benefits. That often means leaving the small towns and having to work for large companies because they are the only ones that can afford to offer health care benefits.

The environment and energy are important to all Americans, but out this way neither are an abstraction. We live, work and play on these lands and waters. Yesterday's abuses and tomorrow's demands have combined to require innovative solutions to protect the stability of this landscape while assuring appropriate production from it. This West is, after all, a supplier of much of America's fuel and power. It is also the last, best place in which we can preserve the nation's biological imperatives.

Let's hope this summer of political nastiness is over. The doctrinaire "Fahrenheit 9/11" is off the movie screens and John Kerry has long ago condemned nasty, third-party attacks. Now that two of George W. Bush's advisors, including his chief campaign lawyer, have resigned because of their connection to the anti-Kerry swift boat ads, and now that Bush has finally agreed that all these ads should be taken off the air, perhaps both campaigns will get back on the issues.

Let's earnestly hope so . . . . but be careful not to bet on it.

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Author info

Rep. Pat Williams Rep. Pat Williams served nine terms as a U.S. Representative from Montana. After his retirement, he returned to Montana and is teaching at the University of Montana where he also serves as a Senior Fellow at the Center for the Rocky Mountain West and is Northern Director of Western Progress.

Tagged as:

Environment, Politics, energy, negative campaigns, presidential campaigns

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