THE THINGS THAT MATTER MOST by Cal Thomas. (HarperCollins: $22; 256 pp.) It's easy to see why many people take refuge on the lovely tropical island of black-and-white pronouncements where every issue can be resolved by applying the same number sun block. I myself am often guilty of this, and understand, only too well, the emotional comfort and security that comes with knowing all the answers. Cal Thomas has written the book (no joke intended) on Draconian, simplistic solutions. If homosexuals would only change their behavior and have "normal" relations, the country might take a step toward wiping out this moral rot. If women would just stay where they belong, at home with the kids, our families would be much stronger. If television would only clean up it's violence, people might not kill each other. And who would have thought that all these problems stem from the same place. Apparently one decade has caused our country to be on the brink of destruction. You guessed it. The Sixties.

The tricky thing about Thomas' ideas is he has many valid points, it's just impossible to receive them through his bullying, paternalistic presentation. For example here is Thomas quoting psychologist Barbara Hunter: "Hunter indicts feminist leaders like Gloria Steinem . . . who, she says, are products of dysfunctional families. . . . Because of their own inadequate childhood experiences. . . . They have led women to make wrong choices that have adversely affected their lives as well as the lives of their children." Whether or not you think women should stay home with their children is a separate issue from why Gloria Steinem came by her beliefs. It shows an astonishing lack of respect for other people to use their childhood experiences as a way of dismissing them. Thomas has some good points. It's too bad that no one except those who already agree with him are going to listen.

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