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Monday, November 01, 2004

John Kerry For President

Tomorrow the American public is faced with a clear and stark choice when it comes to the Presidential Election. I make my appeal based not so much on stances on the narrow hot-button topics that often sway the electorate as I do on prudential grounds.

Senator John Kerry is not always adept at explaining his policy positions, but has consistently been on the side of consumers, workers, the environment and the public interest. He helped expose, much to the chagrin of some of those in his own party, the BCCI scandal, and took a major role in investigating the Iran-Contra scandal.
He is perhaps too cautious for some people's tastes, but the disadvantaged, who lack the millions to hire influential lobbyists, have long had a friend in Sen. Kerry. The ordinary citizen concerns with the deficits we will leave to future generations has a friend in Sen. Kerry.

In his four years in the White House, President George W. Bush has had the opportunity to make large numbers of choices. When the time came to choose between the public interest and the health insurance industry, Bush came down squarely on the side of the insurance industry. When the time came to choose between the public ratepayers in Western states being soaked by a largely bogus power crisis and the energy trading firms robbing them blind, Bush sided with Enron, his biggest corporate benefactor. When asked to choose between keeping the national debt from crippling the hopes of the next generation and tax cuts for his wealthy friends, Bush again sided with his friends. Workplace protection, consumer protection, environmental protection have all been eroded significantly as a result of Bush's decisions, with the help of a compliant Republican-controlled Congress. Together, they are the living embodiment of a big-money corporate lobbyist's dream run amok, and this is all before the burden of facing another election is lifted from Bush's shoulders. The job of minding the henhouse has been left to the foxes.

And this administration are also foxes in the henhouse when it comes to the Constitution. Not content with seeking a blank check for ever more intrusive powers to snoop and detain massive numbers of people at home and abroad, they want to leave their mark on the Consitution itself, with not only an Amendment containing a silly prohibition against "flag desecration," but an Amendment that would prohibit states - and possibly even private entities - from recognizing same-sex partners.

Not only has Bush made one choice after another for one well-connected special interest after another, he has often tried to hide and cloak his choices. From an initiative called "Clear Skies" that puts more pollutants in the air to a "Healthy Forests" initiative that allows many more forests to be clear cut, this Administration is Orwellian in its attempts to hide its true agenda. To this day, the administration is still hiding the truth about exactly who had key input with Vice President Cheney and his task force. Bush cannot face his critics in public, and his campaign rallies, paid for by public tax dollars, can only be attended by those who sign Loyalty Oaths. All of this gives the lie to Bush's well-crafted image as a strong and bold leader.

On September 11, 2001, Bush was handed, in the form of a horrific act of mass murder and a general declaration of war on American civilization, a golden opportunity to smooth over our differences and to prove to the skeptical among us that he would be a president for all of America. Instead he used every last ounce of his newfound popularity to maximize short-term political gains, to sell the American public on an ill-conceived set of foreign and domestic policy goals. Both at home and overseas, he has squandered all the goodwill that he accumulated due to tragic world events. Even after 9/11 brought us together, Bush has led the way in ripping us apart again. His legacy will forver be that of a polarizing president, more than Clinton, more than Reagan, more than Nixon. There may not be a nation left on earth where a leader standing with Bush and America is not incurring a major political liability, by the end of a second Bush term.

For these machinations Bush was rewarded with a stronger Republican dominance in both houses of Congress. We must not make this mistake again.

Chief among Bush's many misdeeds in office is the instigation of an unecessary war with Iraq, his advisors ignored the warnings of many military leaders and drew up a plan for Iraq so weighed down with ideological baggage as to be laughable - that is, if it hadn't led to the deaths of over 1,000 American soliders, the wounding of thousands more, and the deaths of more nationals at a rate that would have made Saddam Hussein at his worst envious. His surrogates insinuated a connection between Iraq and the terrorist attacks of September 11 to the point that as much as half the public still believe there is a connection. The administration trumpted before the world claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that have been proven spurious at best and flat-out mendacious at worst. Every justification for the invasion as rung hollow, and each new reason offered up by the administration is more and more desparate.

This is an uncertain world, fraught with dangers that are all too real; a complicated world, full of shifting allegiances and innumerable flashpoints. It is by no means clear that John Kerry has all the answers. However, it is very clear by now that George W. Bush does not. I trust Kerry to subordinate his ideology to the practical needs of American policy, while I belive the Bush administration, some of whose members scoff what they call the "reality-based community," will not allow facts to get in the way of its opinions. History warns us of the dangers of having leaders who place their ideology above all else.

More than ever, we need to become one nation to overcome the many challenges that await us. It may be that our divisions are so great that only short-lived compromises and unstable equillibria will hold the nation from breaking apart. Whether John Kerry has what it takes to bring us together in that context remains unknown. However, it cannot be clearer that George W. Bush does not.


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