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Oglesby: On Congress, debt limit, Obama and travel
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Reader Paul Gaernter Jr.'s letter to me after my last column totally agreed with my stance that Congress should be paid when they do their job of passing a budget by the Sept. 30 deadline, but should permanently forfeit their pay every day until the president signs it.

He had a question: "Who is going to bell the cat?"

Good question. They would have to tell voters they were going to be fiscally responsible enough to do it to themselves and do it individually. Another alternative: Replace them with others who promise to do so.

Congress finally, at the last minute, increased the debt limit. It was satisfactory only in that it avoided immediate default.

It didn't avoid reducing our credit rating from its top rank for the first time since 1917; it only kicked the can down the road for a few months to try to find some more balance via a special committee. It will have equal party representation but requires a majority to send its recommendation to the full Congress.

It is possible the credit downgrade can motivate some of the spoiled kids into heeding the grown-ups in both houses of Congress and doing what is needed? This may be the last call. Voters are fed up and likely to elect replacements who will.

I think the president is honestly trying to lead but seems to have little idea how. Many readers laughed in 2008 when I wrote that my first, second and third choices for a Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Hillary Clinton. Of all the Democratic contenders, I thought she was best qualified.

I later wrote that of the four candidates ultimately on the ballot (president and vice president of each party), Obama was the least qualified. I then, and still, believed that John McCain was best qualified, and Democrat Joe Biden best qualified for vice president. Even Sarah Palin was more qualified for president than Obama.

Republicans don't seem enthusiastic about any of the announce candidates. It seems they were waiting for someone like Texas Gov. Rick Perry to jump in. I still think Newt Gingrich has the most proven experience needed, which requires compromise, but also realize his personal baggage may be too heavy and financial backing too weak for him to win the nomination. Time will tell.

Having spent considerable time out West, I loved Harris Blackwood's column about his recent trip to Wyoming, Yellowstone Park, the Dakotas, etc. I have traveled that area several times, and one of my Oglesbyisms says travel here and abroad broadens one's horizons, world understanding and improves perceptions.

I have spent at least one night in every state except Montana and West Virginia, but I have been in both. I have spent a total of more than 200 nights in Alaska; more than two years in Minnesota; several whole summers in both Virginia and North Carolina; every Canadian province, several of them numerous times; every Central American country except Costa Rica; every South American country except Chile; every European country except the Scandinavian area; and most Caribbean islands.

I have been on every continent except Australia, Antarctica and Africa.

Another friend, also a times columnist, and several of her friends soon leave for their first trip to Paris. I want to hear how they liked it, particularly what I consider to be absolutely the worst airport in the world, DeGaulle. She's sure to write about it.

By deliberately seeking out and talking with the natives, I have learned a lot about their histories, cultures, ambitions, challenges, perceptions, etc. Travel as much as you have time for and can afford.

I was stunned to learn of and mourn the death of longtime friends Curtis George and Bill Sellers. Curtis seemed so vibrant when we talked the preceding Tuesday. Seller was a local radio legend, train enthusiast and 40-plus year official weather observer for the U.S. Weather Service.

Ted Oglesby is retired associate and opinion page editor of The Times. You can reach him at P.O. Box 663, Gainesville, GA 30503. His column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com.

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