One of the best parts of this job is the way people react to my scribbles. Sometimes they are erudite. Sometimes they are funny. Sometimes they are from outer space.
Only spacey-ness can explain a comment I received the other day on "Levey Live," the twice-weekly chat show I host on washingtonpost.com, The Post's Web site.
Believe it or not (and I still don't), my "caller" accused me of being a "liberal" because he disliked a piece I wrote about a cross-country truck trip. If you ever figure out how to drive a truck in a liberal way, please let me know.
Another "Levey Live" fan figured my wife must cut my hair because I'm such a notorious tightwad. My wife found that idea even funnier than she finds our eight-digit Visa bill.
But the funniest notion of all has to do with Old Bob's next career (if any). A couple of times in recent weeks, "Levey Live" questioners have wondered if I'd ever consider running for public office. They claim the electoral world could be my oyster.
It could also nip like an oyster. So for that reason and many others, I'm planning to remain on the sidelines. If I kiss babies, they'll be my babies, thank you very much.
Still, as Gores blunder and Bushes waffle, vagrant thoughts keep drifting into my brain. What would a Levey platform contain? The other day, wracked by sleeplessness at 3 a.m., I picked up a pad and began doodling.
A draft -- again: I'm sorry if this interferes with beer drinking at college or early entry into the NBA. The greatest cementing experience this country has ever had was common service in the military. Yes, a renewal of the draft probably should include nonmilitary service. I wouldn't object. Regardless of specifics, when the only common national experience in 1999 is grousing about the IRS, we need this.
Tolls on interstate highways: Yes, tax whiners, I know that your dollars built these roads. Now we need additional dollars to rebuild them, and tolls are the best way to collect the scratch. Or should we wait for the scaredy-cat Congress to pass a general roads tax? We'll all be great-grandparents. It'd be much fairer if we tax users. A nice byproduct: Backups at some toll plazas will be so enormous that some car-heads will try public transportation. One or two might even like it.
A mandatory pre-divorce cooling-off period: You'd be able to separate, but you couldn't divorce until you went to couples counseling for at least three months. Those sessions might cram a few realities into both thick heads: Divorce harms children terribly, it leaves a trail of blame and hate, and it is unbelievably expensive, regardless of who did or didn't do what to whom. Bump the mandatory counseling to six months whenever children under the age of 6 are involved.
A national parking tax for solo drivers: If you really think it's your God-given right to drive a car into a major city, all by yourself, and leave it in a lot all day, then you should pay for the privilege. All parking tax revenue would go to build public transportation (Note to Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore: Here's the political cover you were looking for).
Serious tax credits for stay-at-home parents: We cluck sympathetically whenever we read that children of stay-at-home parents have healthier starts. Why don't we legislate sympathetically (and realistically)? When a parent drops out of the work force to care for a child, the family takes a huge financial blow. Shouldn't we subsidize that decision at least as readily as we subsidize chinchilla incubation?
Taxpayer-sponsored higher education for the military: The GI Bill simply has to return. Great law, great results. But we need in-service education, too. Our military can certainly fight, but more and more, they are pawns in a game of international chess. Our soldiers need to understand international politics as well as they understand how to fire a rocket.
Campaign finance reform: Some day, a researcher will prove that campaign commercials don't sway the minds of any voters. Then candidates won't want to raise zillions because they'll know that the zillions buy nothing. Until that shining day, a limit on "soft money" would be effective -- and easy to arrange. And please don't tell me that showering a candidate in money is a legitimate use of the First Amendment. You can enjoy freedom of expression in plenty of ways besides writing a check.
Stiff federal fines for companies that block unionization: There are many ways to kill a union in the cradle -- implied threats around the water cooler, selective firings, harassment campaigns. Big employers know them all. But they are penny wise and pound foolish. It would be cheaper for them in every way to make and keep peace with their employees. And they'd probably pay less in taxes over time. The country wouldn't be agitating quite so hard for national health insurance, for instance, if more employees could win it at the bargaining table.
Re-regulation of the airline industry: It all sounded so sweet when Jimmy Carter explained it -- free enterprise would bring lower airfares and better service. In fact, it has brought higher fares and horrendous service. I hate price tinkering by bureaucrats as much as the next guy. But when it costs more to fly to Rochester, N.Y., than to Hawaii -- and when you'll sit on the runway for three hours before either flight -- somebody has to step in.
A workable plank? Maybe. But once a writer . . . If nominated, I decline. If elected, I will not serve.