Any politician can pander to the voters by offering them the good life, hiding from the problems or making fuzzy promises and tossing out easy solutions.
But it takes courage to look the voter square in the eye and say, "No, life isn't always easy, sometimes it is hard. And sacrifices have to be made, comforts surrendered."
It seems President Bush has just made liars out of those who had accused him of not having the courage to tell people these painful truths.
In life, choices have to be made. And Bush has told us that we must make a difficult choice. We can endure some hardship by accepting our responsibilities as citizens of this great land. Or we can be weak and self-indulgent.
Bush did this when he asked the American people to choose between watching a World Series game on one or two Sunday nights, or presidential debates instead.
Other presidents, especially those historians say are the great ones, have called upon the people to make sacrifices, to put aside their individual needs for the good of the country.
But Bush is the first to ask them to give up a World Series game to watch two politicians sneer, squabble and squirm.
So the question is, what choice will Americans make?
For the answer, I went to Dr. I.M. Kookie, a noted expert in lots of stuff.
"First of all, it is too early to tell, which it usually is. But that problem aside, yes, it is true that no other president has ever asked the American people to make this choice. And while it took courage on Bush's part, he also has the advantage of being president at a time when we have more TV zappers per capita than at any other time in our history.
"It would have been political suicide for a president to have made such a request when the zapper was a luxury item or before it was invented. People would have had to be jumping up and down, twisting the knob from channel to channel. The emergency rooms of hospitals would have been crowded with people suffering from crackly knees.
"And in those days, if you changed channels, you had to always adjust the horizontal or the screen flipped and pretty soon your eyes were rolling up under your forehead, and without your eyes you looked terrible and scared the kids.
"Even now it is a risky move. While most people have zappers, some of them have what I call Zapper Battery Panel Syndrome."
That sounds terrible. What is it?
"It's when that little piece of plastic in the back of the zapper comes loose and the battery falls out and rolls under the couch and you can't find it and don't have a spare battery and so you can't zap."
Yes, I have suffered from that.
"Then you know how terrible it is because the only way you can turn the volume up or down or change channels is by messing with the TV set and most people can't find the controls. And when they do, the controls are so tiny you hit the wrong one and instead of changing channels, you turn the set off and the Nintendo on. So some people would think that they are looking at Bush and Bill Clinton when actually they would be watching Mario and Luigi."
But will people watch the World Series or the debates?
"That will depend on many factors that are sociological, geographic, demographic, political and economic. For example, do they have a few bucks to bet on the World Series or the election? Is there a rain delay in the ballgame? Are the candidates talking about something boring like Clinton and that blond cutie or are they talking about something exciting, like peace talks in the Middle East? Are the bases loaded or are they waiting for a relief pitcher to take the long walk in from the bullpen? And did they order out for pizza?
"A scientific study has shown that anybody who orders out for pizza will watch a ballgame instead of a debate. In Watergate, the word was 'follow the money.' In this question, my advice is to follow the pizza truck."
Then you think people will choose a baseball game over a debate?
"Yes, but there is a way this conflict can be resolved."
By changing the dates and times of the debate?
"No. By making the debate part of the baseball game. In baseball, there is a lot of dead time. You know how pitchers walk around, and look at the horizon, and scratch and spit between pitches. So the announcer could say: 'He's looking in for the sign. And while we're waiting for him to get the sign, we have President Bush here in the broadcast booth. Mr. President, how about those Pentagon cuts?' And after Bush answers, and the pitch has been thrown, he could say: 'Gov. Clinton, what about all those jobless workers?'"
That could work. But what if the candidates can't agree to that format?
"Then I think the presidential debates will have the lowest ratings of any debates in history, including Lincoln and Douglas, which weren't even on TV."
Won't that be a grave disappointment for President Bush?
"Disappointment? He's counting on it."