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King: Next president needs to unite nation
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I know from experience that all I have to do to get a response from readers is to mention the word, "abortion." My last column, headlined, "Woman chosen for wrong reason," was no exception.

What I said in the column was this: "Palin was chosen ... because she is anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, and anti-evolution." But as far as the McCain campaign goes, she was chosen for the right reasons. She has energized Christian fundamentalists and through them, the rest of the party.

Suddenly, Palin is a star. She is smart, ambitious, a great speaker, and it doesn't hurt that she is one very good-looking woman. Right now she is even outshining John McCain, which may be why nobody seems to notice when McCain says one thing and she says another.

Appearing on ABC's "The View," McCain told the audience that Palin had not sought $200 million for pet projects in Alaska. At the same time, Palin, speaking to a different audience, defended the fact that she had requested money for these projects. It's hard to get away with these gaffs when they are recorded on YouTube for all to see.

But let's get back to "Woman chosen for wrong reason." It is always interesting when reader response actually confirms what I was trying to say. One after another, writers praised Palin for her "values" and damned me for mine. In other words, they were anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage and anti-evolution.

If McCain's reason for choosing Palin as a running mate was to lock in the religious right, he did a good job. But he also has widened the division in an already divided nation. The most important job for the next president, no matter who it is, is to bring the country together again.

Honesty should be a bedrock value in anyone's religion. This means being truthful even when it is not convenient. This is why I tried to point out that anti-abortion and similar positions held by fundamentalists are not going to change public behavior, not unless they are written into and enforced by U.S. law.

When I last checked, 77 percent of the American public wanted abortion to remain legal, at least in the early trimesters. The public understands that insisting every pregnancy be brought to term is not in the best interests of the family or the nation. Yet that hasn't stopped the Republican Party for pushing an anti-abortion agenda.

Has anybody asked Palin if she would uphold Roe v. Wade should she become president?

High on the list of candidates for the V.P. position were two men McCain has known for years: Joe Lieberman, a veteran senator and fellow maverick, and Tom Ridge, a former governor and Homeland Security secretary. Both are good experienced men, but unfortunately both favor abortion remaining legal. So McCain turned to someone he knew next to nothing about, except for her credentials with the religious right.

The McCain organization wasn't given time to vet Palin with anything like the nitpicking diligence both parties have applied to everyone else. McCain met Palin at the National Governor's Association meeting in July where they chatted for about 15 minutes. He spoke to her just once again, at his ranch shortly before announcing that she would be his running mate. Two meetings, that's all.

As a media ploy, the choice was brilliant. It has sucked all the air out of any serious discussion of domestic issues or international policy, but it also exposed McCain's impulsive nature when it comes to decision-making. Even when he was in the Naval Academy, McCain was known to be erratic and hot-headed.

Dr. Phillip Butler was with him at the Academy and with him again in the prison camp in Vietnam. Read his assessment of McCain on the Web.

We all want to identify with our leaders. We want people who make us comfortable, people like us, but think about it for a moment. The leader of the free world needs some rather unique qualities: a calm and introspective head, the ability to relate to other heads of state, an understand of history past as well as the global nature of the world today. Above all, the next president needs to solidify the nation, not divide it.

Remember, a U.S. president has his or her finger on the nuclear button.

Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesville

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