U.S. electing a president, not a messiah

October 5, 2011


Listening to some establishment Republicans grousing about the field of GOP presidential candidates should serve as a warning. Republicans, if they are not careful, are in danger of catching the same virus that infected Democrats in 2008.

That would be a messiah complex, the belief that one man (or woman) can deliver us from our collective economic, social and foreign policy “sins” and bring redemption to a nation from the consequences of too many wrong-headed choices.

Perhaps a Republican president with a 60-vote, veto-proof Senate majority and an expanded House majority might be able to revolutionize government, but only if squishy Republicans in both bodies went along, which seems problematic, especially on big issues.

Even if they did go along, does anyone believe Congress — even with a large Republican majority — would dismantle the Department of Education, as Ronald Reagan called for in 1982? Would Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid finally be restructured in a way that allowed current and soon-to-be retired people to stay on these programs, while offering a market-based, choice alternative to younger workers? Maybe.

Would the hard left and their acolytes in the media stand for this? Unlikely. Would Republicans, who too often have cowered at their own shadow, retreat from doing the big things because of demonstrations in the streets? Quite possibly. Would the amoeba wing of the party retreat in the face of charges they are “heartless” and “cruel”? Predictably.

There is a way to accomplish all of these things and more. The strength and heart of America is not in Washington. It is in “we the people.” Where is the Republican presidential candidate who will say, “I am not your savior; I can’t do more for you than you can do for yourself”? Why aren’t they telling the stories of Americans who have overcome difficult circumstances with hard work and right choices, urging us to follow those examples? Ron Paul gets close, but he’s the crazy aunt in the attic on too many other important issues.

We must relearn the virtues that prospered in previous generations. Forgetting them has contributed to a growing underclass and bloated government. No politician, no government, can shape a life better than the individual living it. Class envy doesn’t start a business, or grow one.

Tearing down the wealthy and successful because they lived by principles that made them that way is not a prescription for building up others so they might become wealthy and successful. Why don’t more people understand what politicians are doing to them and how they are harming their chances to achieve their American dream?

We know what works. History has taught us, or would, if we paid attention to its lessons.

Republican presidential candidates should be talking about what they will not do and then speak of plans to clear a better path to success for those who would get up and walk it. Tell people to stop waiting for the government bus that will drop them off where they started with little to show for the journey; build wealth, don’t steal it from others; eliminate unnecessary regulations; reform the tax code so that everyone contributes something to America because we all benefit from freedom; learn again to live within our means and stop envying others. All these are good for starters.

They should also promise, if elected, to require every agency and program to justify its existence. If any work currently being done by government can be done better and at less cost by the private sector, it should. If any are outdated, inefficient or unnecessary, they should be ended and the money saved applied to our crushing debt.

Most of all, Republican presidential candidates should tell Americans they can’t save us. Only we can save ourselves, at least in the secular sense. The Founders gave us a great document — the Constitution. Now the question is, to paraphrase Ben Franklin, can we keep it? You people aren’t messiahs, anymore than President Obama, but you might be apostles of the Constitution.

Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services. His email address is tmseditors@tribune.com


Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 1 month ago

The whole world needs a Messiah right now.

And we're all going to hope that He's going to be on our side.

Wadde 4 years, 1 month ago

   ' We the People" I somewhat disagree with this document how can the common man knows how government is ran without a Constitution this is why I disagree( the people) would run the government without a Constitution.

MarcoPogo 4 years, 1 month ago

The correct term would be "Flavor Aid" but nobody seems to care about being wrong.

TikiLee 4 years, 1 month ago

THANK YOU. I know this is a small detail- but it really was Flavor Aid not Kool Aid! :)

labmonkey 4 years, 1 month ago

I usually vote Republican, and will be forced to vote for whoever comes out of the Republican primary mess, but Gandalf is actually correct. The only one I thought could stand a chance was Christie and he refuses to run for some reason.

jafs 4 years, 1 month ago

I like your comment.

But, nobody's "forcing" you to vote Republican - that's your choice.

usnsnp 4 years, 1 month ago

That comment about cost of running thing needed to be looked at. There would be a large number of Defense Contractors put out of buisness, they charge two to three times the cost of running things compared to when the military did many of these jobs, but you would have to expand the military. So you either have overpayed civilian contractory or a draft.

Kendall Simmons 4 years, 1 month ago

It's easy for private companies to claim they can provide their services more cheaply than the government. And people fall for it regularly, forgetting that private companies need to make a profit Of course, once the private company gets the contract...well...things don't turn out as rosy as they had sounded. In addition to defense contractors, private prisons come to mind. As does privatizing city water (Atlanta's experience ought to serve as a warning to all).

jhawkinsf 4 years, 1 month ago

Maybe it is Democrats trying to elect a messiah and Republicans trying to elect a puppet. Perhaps it's time we all looked at candidates that are neither Democrat nor Republican, neither messianic nor puppeteer.

Getaroom 4 years, 1 month ago

....Math: More racist blabber. The Party of NO is doing a fine job of undermining itself and well it should considering the hypocrisy under which they clearly operate. All this conservative banter among the Christian Right about who is most conservative reminds me of the Abolitionist movement of the 20's and their unwillingness to reach compromise and remember that Repubs controlled it all then. And what a fine job they did indeed by ushering in the Great Depression. Remember Hoverville in Central Park - something to be proud of? All this political theatre at the expense of the American citizens, who are already struggling. Oh, with perhaps you being the exception, since you are so high and mighty on the socioeconomic ladder - right?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 1 month ago

Sounds like a Republican "messiah" is precisely what Cal wants. Or, perhaps, just a dictator.

Flap Doodle 4 years, 1 month ago

The MSM will never go in the tank for a Republican like they did for the Democrats in 2008.

beatrice 4 years, 1 month ago

Fox is the most watched "news" channel. That seems pretty mainstream to me.

beatrice 4 years, 1 month ago

I'll agree with you on msnbc. Just as bad as Fox. It is difficult watching either one. I don't agree with cnn, cbs, abc or nbc. PBS is actually rather balanced, in my opinion.

jafs 4 years, 1 month ago

He has a point - many people seem to idealize political candidates, and look for them to do more than is even constitutionally acceptable.

That's how they generally get elected, by telling voters they'll do what they want.

jafs 4 years, 1 month ago

Sure - it's the flip side of idealization - demonization.

Interestingly, that's a primary trait of borderline personalities - perhaps as a nation we suffer from borderline personality disorder?

verity 4 years, 1 month ago

First off, I will say that I didn't read the article, just skipped to the comments. Usually have a really hard time making myself read Mr. Thomas.

We, the people, are the ones who are going to have to make the changes that need to be made in our country. Neither party is going to do it and the chance of a third party becoming viable any time soon is pretty low.

Hence, we see the demonstrations and occupations. You may not agree with those but I think that is the only way we are going to see any change. I just wish that instead of people making a knee jerk reaction to "liberals" or "conservatives" or investing in ideologies, they would actually think about what works, whether it fits their preconceived notions or not.

voevoda 4 years, 1 month ago

Cal Thomas kept warning--the working poor, I suppose--against "envying" the rich. He would have done better to pair that warning with a couple of others. To the working poor: stop idolizing the rich. They aren't morally superior; in fact, too often they are outrageously self-indulgent, expending for personal frivolity funds that could be used to better our country. To the rich: stop being greedy. Content yourself with a comfortable, but not ostentatious, lifestyle, and remember your obligations to your country and to the less fortunate. Usually Cal Thomas is so keen on invoking his Christian faith; why not follow Christ's teachings here?

jafs 4 years, 1 month ago


Wasn't one of Jesus' disciples a tax collector?

And, "render unto Ceasar that which is Ceasar's"?

jafs 4 years, 1 month ago

The question occurred when he was asked about taxes specifically, and whether people should pay them.

Render unto Caesar's, etc. is clearly advice to pay one's taxes.

The rest of the quote is as you say.

jafs 4 years, 1 month ago

Well, there are different interpretations of Bible stories.

He was asked about payment of taxes, and it is a bit of a tricky question either way he answers. He then points out the face on the coin, and says the famous line.

It's clearly advice to pay your taxes, and also to turn your spiritual attention elsewhere.

He certainly wasn't advocating the sort of right wing - "It's my money, and the government doesn't have any right to it" stuff that people throw around these days.

Also, my take on his hanging around with prostitutes and tax collectors is different from yours. I take it as a sign that he didn't agree with the general social view of them, seeing them as valuable people in their own right, regardless of social disapproval.

To answer your last question, I believe Caesar set the tax rates - Jesus just told people to pay them. So, the analogy would be that our government sets the rates, and we pay our taxes. And, then, turn our spiritual attention elsewhere.

Of course, it was a different time, and a different sort of government, etc. so any conclusions drawn about what Jesus might have said today may be hard to draw accurately.

jafs 4 years, 1 month ago

Well, I suppose my degree in religious studies is no match for your opinion.

I bow to your greater wisdom.

voevoda 4 years, 1 month ago

Mustrun80, Try these passages; the New Testament unambiguously directs Christians to pay taxes--even if they don't think those taxes are legitimate. Luke 3:12-13: "Among those who came to be baptized were tax-collectors, and they said to him, 'Teacher, what are we to do?' He told him 'Exact no more than the assessment.'" Matthew 17:24-27: "On their arriavel at Capernaum the collectors of the temple tax came up to Peter and asked, "Does your master not pay temple tax? 'He does," Peter said. When he went indoors Jesus forestalled him by asking, "Tell me, Simon, from whom do earthly monarchs collect tribute money? From their own people, or from aliens?' 'From aliens,' said Peter. 'Yes,' said Jesus, 'and their own people are exempt. But as we do not want to cause offence, go and cast a line in the lake; take the first fish you catch, open its mouth, and you will find a silver coin; that that and pay the tax for us both.'" Matthew 22:15-21: "Then the Pharisees went away and agreed on a plan to trap him argument... 'Teacher,' they said, 'we know you are a sincere man; you teach in all sincerity the way of life that God requires, courting no man's favour, whoever he may be. Give us your ruling on this: are we or are we not permitted to pay taxes to the Roman emperor? Jesus was aware of their malicious intention and said, "You hypocrites! Why are you trying to catch me out?' They handed him a silver piece. Jesus asked, "Whose head is this, and whose inscription?' "Caesar's," they replied. He said to them, 'Then pay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.' (See also Mark 12:13-17) Romans 13:6: "That is also why you pay taxes. The authorities are in God's service and it is to this they devote their energies." Sometimes anti-tax folks try to make something different out of Christ's message, but their reasoning really is like that of the Pharisees--convoluted and duplicitous.

jafs 4 years, 1 month ago

See my response above.

It would be easier, and more pleasant, to discuss things with you if you didn't have such a quick trigger, and didn't use such loaded terms and insults.

jafs 4 years, 1 month ago

Many on the right espouse the kind of rhetoric I mention.

You can see some of them on this very site, if you like.

voevoda 4 years, 1 month ago

mustrun80: Pay tax and levy, reverence and respect, to those whom they are due. Leave no debt outstanding, but remember the debt of love you owe one another...Love your neighbour as yourself. You, then, why do you pass judgment on your fellow-Christian? And you, why do you look down on your fellow-Christian? Romans 13:7,9; 14:10.

beatrice 4 years, 1 month ago

It was the frustrated Republicans, knowing they weren't going to maintain the White House after the great unhappiness the nation felt over George Bush, who came to calling Obama the messiah or the anointed one (a phrase that totally dismisses American voters). They were desparate and trying to throw anything at Obama in the hopes it would stick. I can understand why they did this, and why they are trying to resurrect it. The writing is already on the wall of how uninspiring the current group of Republicans is, hence the desire to keep looking for the next great candidate -- first it was Perry, then Christie, now ... nobody. The desperation is beginning to show, just at a time when Obama might have appeared vulnerable.

Democrats certainly don't call Obama a messiah, and certainly no one of any credibility would repeat it. What Cal mistakes for hysteria was a massive sigh of relief to finally be past Bush's presidency. It just felt like such a monumental change because Bush was just that unpopular, adding to it the collapsed economy in the last months of Bush's watch.

It is only Hannity, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Thomas and the religious conservative (in a different way) Farrakhan who call Obama a messiah. Democrats just recognized him as the seemingly best candidate at the time.

jafs 4 years, 1 month ago

None of which indicates a belief in Messiah-hood.

Were people excited about his candidacy and presidency? Sure.

Do they, as do many people. say some dumb things about them? Sure.

jafs 4 years, 1 month ago

We don't need more "freaking hyperbole" in polics these days, in my view.

We need honest discussion and debate, without exaggeration and distortion.

I realize this is unlikely - we seem to be headed in the opposite direction.

beatrice 4 years, 1 month ago

If I've said it once, I've said it a million times -- hyperbole is the greatest thing ever!

whats_going_on 4 years, 1 month ago


I don't want a messiah, I want a goddam maverick.

beatrice 4 years, 1 month ago

Remember, a maverick is an unbranded horse. Anyone who calls themself -- brands themself -- a maverick, isn't.

jayhawklawrence 4 years, 1 month ago

Translation: Rick Perry was a major bust.

Other major busts of late:

Sarah Palin Michelle Bachmann Ron Paul

About the only two people left standing are a liberal Republican who will say anythng to get elected and a Black Conservative who says Black people are brainwashed.

You are right Cal Powers. Expectations need to be much lower than they were a couple of months ago.

jafs 4 years, 1 month ago


And, if 95% of whites vote Republican?

The Democratic party has traditionally been the party aligned with lower income, minority voters - it stands to reason they'd vote for Democrats.

jafs 4 years, 1 month ago

Sorry, but I've encountered many white folks that don't seem to be thinking for themselves very well.

There's nothing implying brainwashing for a group of people, whatever that group, that tends to vote for the political party they feel is most aligned with their interests/views.

That's what everybody does.

beatrice 4 years, 1 month ago

What do others think of a Romney / Cain ticket? Is it even possible?

Romney is the odds on favorite pick for the Rs, since Perry likely won't improve in the coming debates. He just doesn't appear ready for politics outside of Texas. Cain, on the other hand, is making a move in popularity and seems rather likable -- I don't agree with much he is saying and probably wouldn't vote for the ticket, but he isn't a disagreeable sort. He might liven up Romney a bit as well. Romney is just way too slick for his own good. (I've always said Romney reminds me of John Edwards in that used-car salesman kind of way. I just never knew Edwards would turn out to be even worse than he seemed.)

In seeking a real conversation, do you think it is possible and do you think they could win?

verity 4 years, 1 month ago

In your dreams. I really doubt that it will happen. Not saying it won't happen, as I don't believe I can see the future as so many here seem to think they can.

beatrice 4 years, 1 month ago

Hillary Clinton absolutely will not be challenging Obama. That is off the table. However, I do love the Republicans (not necessarily you) who were likely part of the "Anyone but Hillary" crusade in 2007 are now on the pro-Hillary bandwagon. Love that!

The only part you have said that is accurate, however, is about no previous incumbent president being re-elected with unemployment higher than 7.2%. Then again, no other president took office at the time the economy was just starting to crash. Most people don't blame the bad economy on Obama's policies. Instead, they may his policies haven't lifted us out of the crash quickly enough. It may not take a miracle for Obama to win re-election.

jafs 4 years, 1 month ago

I always thought and said that Romney was the one to watch.

He looks the part, doesn't get involved in some of the nonsense other candidates do, etc.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 1 month ago

Don't count Perry out just because he's a lousy debater. G.W. Bush was pretty lousy, too, but that didn't seem to bother those who voted for him.

beatrice 4 years, 1 month ago

Yes, but Bush never said that conservatives "don't have a heart" for their extreme anti-immigration views, either.

beatrice 4 years, 1 month ago

Um, now it appears you are just pulling stuff out of a hat. Not only did I not say anything about conservatives being against legal immigration, I didn't say anything about conservatives directly. I was repeating what Perry said at the debate. I don't believe all conservatives think alike, because I know all liberals don't think alike. I know all conservatives are not against immigration. You would also be well reminded that all liberals are not for illegal immigration.

voevoda 4 years, 1 month ago

Romney could make a responsible president, if he stops repudiating his own record as governor of Massachusetts. Imagine the Massachusetts health care system extended to the entire country--it could accomplish more than the watered-down plan Obama finally got Congress to pass. But given how much Romney has backtracked on his middle-of-the-road positions in hopes of placating the Republican right-wing, it's difficult to figure out what, exactly, he might do as president.

voevoda 4 years, 1 month ago

Only Obama's enemies think that he has "worshipers" who don't care about policies. The right-wing doesn't want to believe that a majority of the voters of this country actually want the kinds of policies Obama promised to implement. But it was true in November 2008, and it's still true.

ThePilgrim 4 years, 1 month ago

Hillary will switch places with Biden on the Dem ticket. Mark my words.

verity 4 years, 1 month ago

That's exactly what I've been thinking. Never figured out why Biden was chosen in the first place.

verity 4 years, 1 month ago

Surely there were other people with foreign policy experience who could speak without putting their foot in their mouth. And I don't give much creditability to someone who calls the President of the United States "Barry."

beatrice 4 years, 1 month ago

It is about being an American and showing a little respect for the office, if nothing else.

beatrice 4 years, 1 month ago

Even if a sitting president doesn't respect the office (think Nixon, for example), the people still must respect the office. I disagree strongly with your view of Obama not respecting the office, just so you know.

I never said he is vilified more than Bush. the things people wrote about President Bush were horrible. However, what a few of us are trying to do on here is not pile on with the verbal attacks. They add nothing to anyone's argument. I would much rather try to disagree with someone's points by not having to also call them (or their preferred politician) a doodie-head, as it were. That is all.

jafs 4 years, 1 month ago

Politicians play political games.

That's not limited to any particular brand of politicians, as far as I can tell - they all do it.

It has to do with power, and the corruption of it.

Aiko 4 years, 1 month ago

again Bea? "However, what a few of us are trying to do on here is not pile on with the verbal attacks." Really?

You are the Queen Bea of verbal attacks while being inconsistent with your views. Period.

beatrice 4 years, 1 month ago

Aiko, I have sworn off the personal attacks since January. Feel free to read through past posts. There might be one or two slips over that time, but I have made the attempt. Sorry if you haven't noticed it. I also will state exactly what I am thinking at a given time. I'm not really concerned with staying on message and being consistant. Period.

beatrice 4 years, 1 month ago

Amazing how repeating only part of a sentence can completely change the context. In your first, partial quote, I was referring to loving Republicans who did promote the idea of "Anyone but Hillary" back in 2007 & 2008, and I am saying that it does not necessarily mean that the person I was addressing had done this, hence (but not necessarily you). Otherwise, are you saying that I claimed I loved all Republicans except this one person? That would be silly of me to say, don't you think?

The second part is correct. Pointing out that someone is not accurate is not a personal attack. If a child says 2 + 2 equals 5, and you let them know it isn't accurate is not an attack. Calling that person a liar or some such would be an attack. Sorry if you can't recognize the difference.

beatrice 4 years, 1 month ago

The office has earned the respect of the people.

verity 4 years, 1 month ago

Whether you respect the president or not makes no difference to me. Calling the President of the United States "Barry" doesn't say anything about him---but it does say a lot about you.

beatrice 4 years, 1 month ago

Why are you playing the race card when others are not?

verity 4 years, 1 month ago

Is that all you've got? That's not what I said. Don't put words in my mouth.

beatrice 4 years, 1 month ago

He called himself Barry back in college, which was some time ago. You and others calling him Barry are trying to show a degree of familiarity that you do not have with our President.

beatrice 4 years, 1 month ago

No, I am not trying to guess at what you are thinking. I'm making an educated assumption based on your posts that you do not actually know President Obama, that the two of you are not familiar with one another. Feel free to correct me if my assumption is wrong.

verity 4 years, 1 month ago

"Kinda like calling James Carter Jimmy."

Not even remotely close. Jimmy Carter chose to go by that name. Barack Obama chooses to go by that name.

Using a diminutive when it is not what that person wishes to be called is really just a childish attempt to diminish that person. Argue on substance if you will but when you use "Barry" you only diminish yourself.

tomatogrower 4 years, 1 month ago

"That would be a messiah complex, the belief that one man (or woman) can deliver us from our collective economic, social and foreign policy “sins” and bring redemption to a nation from the consequences of too many wrong-headed choices."

Yet all the conservatives are blaming Obama for not doing all this. Why can't we expect a Republican to do all this?

verity 4 years, 1 month ago

Perry seems like G W Bush on steroids. I think he would be more dangerous than Bush. I don't believe that he believes in Christian fundamentalists principles---I think he is an opportunist and will say anything he thinks he needs to say to be elected. Perry's debate performance may actually be a positive for him---just a good ol' boy, not one of those East Coast Elites.

It's just too early to tell who the Republican candidate will be---remember 2008? May be someone we haven't even heard of yet.

kugrad 4 years, 1 month ago

Cal bleats, "Tearing down the wealthy and successful because they lived by principles that made them that way is not a prescription for building up others so they might become wealthy and successful. Why don’t more people understand what politicians are doing to them and how they are harming their chances to achieve their American dream?"

Ohh, the poor ultra-rich! They worked so hard to inherit their money. Those nasty politicians just keep giving them such a hard time! Tax cut after tax cut after tax cut. How can they stand it! How will they ever reach their American dream - you know, to be ultra-rich? Can't those crazy politicians see that asking them to pay their fair share, or, gasp, even a tiny bit extra, that restoring their taxes to the previous level, an increase of less than 3% would just cause them to be torn down and give up? Ohh, the misery, the injustice.

beatrice 4 years, 1 month ago

The headline should read "U.S. re-electing a president, not a messiah," rather than just "electing."

Thought I would correct that little typo.

beatrice 4 years, 1 month ago

"closet commies"?

Sure, calling fellow Americans "closet commies" isn't a sign of stress at all. Really. You have convinced us. (sigh)

verity 4 years, 1 month ago

Seems to me that it's the "right" that is getting hysterical and throwing out all sorts of name-calling when they can't refute the facts. I guess it's just the perspective one has.

kugrad 4 years, 1 month ago

There has to be some irony in someone who favors candidates like Bachmann or Paul or Perry speaking of "irrationality" in reference to others.

voevoda 4 years, 1 month ago

"closet commies" is such a retro phrase--right out of the 1950's. How can anyone take the opinions of a person who doesn't even realize that the Cold War ended over two decades ago and all his favorite name-calling epithets are out of date?

beatrice 4 years, 1 month ago

Sure, because anarchists and socialists are really one and the same. (face palm, sigh)

I think your statements made more sense when you just seemed dated.

kernal 4 years, 1 month ago

Regardless of whether or not I agree with the content of Cal's opinion, that headline is spot-on!

Flap Doodle 4 years, 1 month ago

CNN and CBS are both beginning to devote some attention to the high crimes of the current administration. We may yet see Holder behind bars before the 2012 election.

jafs 4 years, 1 month ago

But I thought the "liberal blamestream media was in the tank for Obama"??

jafs 4 years, 1 month ago


So, one or the other has to be incorrect.

Either they're "in the tank" for him and don't report anything negative, or that's not true.

Most of the ownership of media outlets is in fact conservative, as far as I know - it took several weeks for the Wall St. protests to show up in the mainstream media.

verity 4 years, 1 month ago

". . . it took several weeks for the Wall St. protests to show up in the mainstream media."

You should add the "United States" before mainstream media. Just like the protests before the Iraq war, it was reported by the media in other countries. One often has to go to foreign media to find out what the "liberals" are doing in the United States.

verity 4 years, 1 month ago

"‎The 'Occupy Wall Street' movement has basically been a four-week downtown Manhattan live-in, which has spread to cities all around the country, causing the media to move its coverage dial from 'Blackout' to 'Circus.'" - Jon Stewart

jayhawklawrence 4 years, 1 month ago

No one has yet been able to explain to me how the Tea Party austerity plan for America makes any sense and ending your economic analysis by calling Obama a socialist is not a convincing argument.

In fact, none of the arguments put forth by the Republicans makes any sense. Therefore, the longer a Republican candidate is under the microscope of political analysts and the American people the less attractive they will appear as a President.

My prediction is that Romney will continue to lead because he is the closest to being a normal person and the VP candidate will not come from this field.

I would also predict that Obama will probably not win the election but his best days will come after leaving office.

verity 4 years, 1 month ago

I've been wondering if President Obama even wants to win reelection.

verity 4 years, 1 month ago

It wouldn't come as a complete shock to me if he announced, like President Johnson, that he wasn't going to run again.

verity 4 years, 1 month ago

You're trying to put words in my mouth.

whats_going_on 4 years, 1 month ago

Wait, you mean that Hermie is NOT the Messiah? fml.

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