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PRESIDENCY MAY SKIP OVER A GENERATION

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I appear before the committee as a witness for the Bypassed Generation.

That's those of us born during the Great Depression, more or less 1930-1941, although that comes up short of a generation. I guess we could include some folks born in 1942. Generally, we are those who were too young to serve in World War II and mostly too old or too settled to get drafted for Vietnam, although a lot of us made it to Korea and even more were peacetime soldiers or reservists or whatever.But it is not military experience that sets us apart. I'm not sure what it is. Perhaps the fact that ours is not a numerous generation, much outnumbered by the boomers who came along after us. Or maybe it is the inherited (or sometimes quite firsthand) memory of the Depression. Or maybe it is something about growing up while the nation caught its breath in the postwar era and the Eisenhower years. Or perhaps for some of us it was the exhilaration of voting for John F. Kennedy in our first presidential election and later feeling let down. Or voting for Richard Nixon and later feeling let down. Take your pick.

Lacking proof that would stand up in court, I maintain that we are, as a generation, somewhat cautious and generally pretty traditional. At one time we were called "apathetic."

Anyway, ours is the generation that has not, and I predict will not, produce a president of the United States.

This thought came to mind when I realized that if Bill Clinton, a postwar boomer, loses the presidency next year, it most likely will be to Bob Dole, the last of the World War II veterans' generation. My generation was skipped over in going from George Bush to Clinton and now stands a good chance of being skipped over in the opposite direction, from Clinton to Dole. We're always looking the wrong way.

Perhaps this should be no surprise. As I look at the ranks of nationally known politicians of my generation (some a little older than I, some a little younger) many seem to be people who arrive at the cusp of greatness but never quite make it over the last hurdle, for one reason or another.

Mario Cuomo (b. 1932) is an example. So, differently, is Ted Kennedy (also 1932). So is Jack Kemp (1935). And Sam Nunn (1938). And Pat Buchanan (1938). And, I predict, Dick Lugar (1932), Lamar Alexander (1940) and probably Dick Gephardt (1941) and Phil Gramm (1942).

We're the left-out generation. Scanning the ranks of the huge freshman class in Congress, some (none notable) are contemporaries of mine (Sonny Bono, for instance). But most of them are babes of the postwar era, some born even in the late 1950s, which, as my generation knows, was only yesterday. Hey, in the mid-1970s I was a 40-ish sportswriter when now-Rep. Steve Largent, R-Okla., visited TCU as a possible football recruit.

It is pointed out to me by some of my younger friends, worried about their futures, that my generation has it pretty soft by comparison.

Those upstarts do have a point. It is true, my generation profited (with our parents) from living through the sustained economic growth and steady inflation of 1946-80. We had jobs. We bought houses, sometimes at remarkably low interest rates.

But now we are having our own problems with our approaching retirements.

I mean, how do you plan when you don't have the foggiest idea what the lunatics in Washington are going to do with taxes, which affect everything?

If mortgage interest deductions are scuttled in the name of simplification, will house values plummet? The value of a long-owned home is a big part of our generation's net worth.

How much might Social Security be changed in the next few years? How about Medicare, which risks being "saved" to death? We counted on these things.

Those are concerns for the Bypassed Generation, along with cholesterol (no one heard of it until we were in our 40s) and trifocals. To even things out, you'd think we could at least have a president who shares our memories of the Clovers and Cushman Eagles, but n-o-o-o-o.